Pass the Pen

Part Two - The Truth Revealed
by Binkie

 

Archie Kennedy opened heavy eyelids to the dim light of the Sick
Berth. He could make out vague shapes through the residual blurriness of
sleep and he had to blink a few times in order to clear his vision. Once all
was crisp, he took note of Doctor Hepplewhite sitting at a small desk that
was against the opposite wall, scribbling something in a journel-like book.
Archie was sure he'd be in for a prodding if he were to say anything, so he
decided against it. He desired only to be left in peace for a few moments,
perhaps to try and sort out the events of the previous evening. These
thoughts didn't last as long as he'd hoped, however. The last he remembered
of last night was sitting silently in one of the Indefatigable's boats
thinking that he wasn't going to make it off the Papillon alive. Whether his
life were to be taken by the hand of a Frenchman or by the hand of Jack
Simpson he wasn't sure.
Archie's hammock swayed gently with the motion of the ship and he was
suddenly reminded of home. The rocking chair in the library of his family's
home where he'd spend countless hours reading...how peaceful...
"Mr. Kennedy!"
Archie's eyes snapped open and he was greeted by the rather pudgy face of
Doctor Hepplewhite. He almost burst into laughter at the sight of his
hair...the doctor's dark curls were sticking out in odd angles. The man had
obviously been through some sort of stress.
"How's your head feeling?" he asked.
Archie rubbed at his face tiredly and he mumbled his answer through his
fingers.
"Shall I take that reply as a 'my head hurts like hell and I wish the
damn doctor would leave me be?'" Hepplewhite smirked.
"Doctor, I didn't mean--"
"It's all right, Mr. Kennedy. Just drink this..." He handed Archie a cup
of water. "and rest."
Hepplewhite left Kennedy's side and went around to the next hammock.
As he did this, Kennedy watched in curiosity. He frowned when he caught
sight of Simpson's sleeping face, which was just able to be seen over the
canvas sides of his hammock. Archie settled himself back against his pillows
again, staring up at the knotted wood above him as he worked through his
thoughts, taking the occasional sip at his water.
"What was it that I missed last night?" he thought. The last person he
expected to see here in the Sick Berth was Jack Simpson! He sat up a little
so he could see the faces in the other hammocks. "Horatio isn't here! Where
is he?" he practically shouted within his head. As he scanned the room, he
discovered the vague shape of Doctor Hepplewhite leaving to go above decks,
to update the report of the injured crew to Captain Pellew, Archie suspected.
He looked away from the door and back to his right at Simpson as he
placed his cup of water on a small folding table beside him. As he stared at
him, he tried to locate the physical evidence that had landed the wretched
man a position in this dark and dank deck. With a sigh, he began to settle
himself in his hammock once again.
"Archie!"
Kennedy was sitting up again, searching for the source of the voice from
beyond the reach of the candlelight. "Horatio!" he greeted. "I was beginning
to think you had been killed! Or taken prisoner, or--"
"Yes, yes. Thank you, Archie. I am fully aware of the possibilities which
could have led to my demise!"
Archie smirked as well as he could through the dizzying cloud of pain
that enclosed his head.
A few moments of uneasy silence passed between them before Archie spoke
again.
"May I ask a favor of you?"
"Of course! By all means!"
"Could you...would you speak to Hepplewhite for me? Ask if he can't have
me moved to another portion of this berth!"
Horatio stared at him. "But, why should I ask for--"
"Because Hepplewhite won't listen to * me *. I'm just one of his *
patients *. If I were to ask such a thing of him, he'd either say that I was
overreacting or that I was delusional and forcefully pour laudanum down my
throat!" He said this last part dramatically.
"Would you permit me to ask you the reason for your anxiety?"
Archie simply looked back at Simpson.
"Oh, yes. I see." Horatio nodded in understanding now. He wet his lips
before speaking again. "Archie, I asked to be notified about when your
condition changed because I felt that I should be the one tell you about
this."
"Go on," Archie pressed after a moment's pause.
"We're still not sure what caused it. Hepplewhite and I believe that it
has something to do with the head injury he acquired during the action
against the Papillon." He fell silent now as he tried to sort out how to form
his next words.
"Horatio--"
"Mr. Simpson has amnesia."
Archie blinked. "What?"
"It's true. He can't remember a thing. He didn't even know his own name
at first! We had to tell him what it was!"
Archie's gaze fell and he searched his blanket as if his next words were
written there. "My God..." he muttered. "How--how did this happen?"
"Well," Horatio sighed. "If one receives a blow to the head that has just
enough force behind it, it can cause something to happen within the mind
that's called amnesia. It results in various stages of memory loss. The
effects may be only temporary--" He glanced over at Simpson's still sleeping
form, Archie's gaze following "or they may be permanent. However, Mr.
Simpson's condition isn't what prompted me to come here. It was more...of
what he said."
Archie raised his eyebrows as he waited for a continuation to Horatio's
statements.
"Among the first words he spoke after he was brought back here from the
Papillon was, and I find this strange, 'where is the man in the boat?'"
Kennedy frowned. "What does THAT mean?"
"I feel that I should make a few explanations and an...apology. You were,
in no way, involved in the taking of the Papillon. I do not know what the
last you remember is, but I am the cause of your...headache."
"Horatio, what--"
"As we were rowing to the Papillon, you had a fit. Being ordered by
Lieutenant Eccleston to do something, I did the only thing I could. I knocked
you out with the tiller. You were left in the launch as we took over the crew
of the Papillon. I am truly sorry for what I did, Archie, but I was under
orders."
"It's all right, Horatio, I forgive you." Archie swallowed hard. "And one
of the first things Simpson said after his return here was, 'Where is the man
in the boat?'"
Horatio nodded. "For whatever reason, Mr. Simpson wanted to...protect you
from harm."
Neither of the two men noticed it, but Simpson had awakened and had been
listening to these last few exchanges, a twisted smile beginning to appear.

* * *

Two days passed before Archie Kennedy was able to return to his duties.
He stood beside Mr. Bracegirdle on the quarterdeck that evening as the
sun began to set and the early evening slowly faded into dusk, a breeze
gently fluttering over the outer decks of the Indefatigable.
When the sun was but a crescent on the horizon, Bracegirdle glanced up at
the darkening sky and gray clouds with a slight frown. "Looks like we may be
in for some rough seas later on," he said matter of factly. "Mr. Kennedy, be
so good as to go below and see if you can't secure the hold."
"Aye, aye, Sir." Archie swiftly saluted and descended from the
quarterdeck.

* * *

Doctor Hepplewhite crossed the Sick Berth towards Jack Simpson's hammock
with another dose of medicine. He placed the small vile and glass of water on
the small folding table, then turned his attentions to the hammock beside
him. He paled when he discovered that the freely swinging bunk was unoccupied
by Mr. Simpson.

* * *

As the men worked in one compartment on latching the crates and barrels
and things down, Kennedy drifted into the next compartment to see if the same
work needed to be accomplished there. He held his lantern high, casting the
orangey glow of the contained flame as far as he was able, squinting in the
dimness. Once he was through with his assessment, he turned towards the door,
preparing to return to the men next door. He stopped abruptly when he caught
sight of a form, arms crossed, leaning lazily against the bulkhead.