Pass The Pen
Chapter Twenty - One
by Roz

 

"We have an escaped prisoner, sir! It's Mr. Simpson! He's gone! And
Mr. Ouimette is dead!"

Sir Edward Pellew stared at the officer, alarm growing inside
him. "My God," he whispered.

"What happened to Ouimette, Halligin? How was he killed, I mean."

"He was shot, sir - through the head. And the cell hatch was left
open."

"When - how did somebody get past the guards - and who? That is the
main question."

"It must have happened in the middle of the battle, sir. There was
chaos below, and at one point all the guards left their posts for a
few minutes. It must have been then sir. And as to the question who -
that sir I am unable to tell you."

"You will reprimand your men for deserting their posts I assume, Mr
Halligin. And as to who - that question will be answered in time. Of
that I have no doubt. Now I will be below presently to see the scene
for myself. You will be so good as to make sure nobody - and I mean
nobody goes anywhere near those cells until I tell you otherwise."

"Aye, aye, sir." With that the young marine officer saluted and went
down the ladder to return to his post below decks.

Sir Edward turned back to the task in hand - that of securing the
enemy ship. "Mr. Bracegirdle. Take half the marines, and 10 seamen
and board that ship. Find out what you can about her, and report to
me. I want to know why she attacked us - a small ship like that would
stand no chance against a frigate, even one as unprepared as we were.
There is something going on here - and I mean to know what it is."
Pellew looked around the quarterdeck and saw Midshipman Heather still
standing with a grin on his face. "Take Mr. Heather with you as well
Mr. Bracegirdle - maybe he can learn something."

"Aye, aye sir" came the response from the lieutenant. "Mr. Heather -
we will take your division if you will get them into boats."

"Aye, aye sir."

Sir Edward tuned out the noise caused by his lieutenant carrying out
his orders and turned to the master. "Mr. Bowles - what damage have
we suffered?"

"Not that much sir. None of the shots hit below the waterline -
or 'twixt sea and air. You can see the damage caused to the gangway -
and the main deck - and that is about the total of it. Unlike most
Frogs, they were not firing into the rigging."

"Very well - I can see you have the repairs well in hand. I will go
below to see the wounded - and to investigate what has happened in
the brig. If Mr. Simpson is found, have him returned to the brig
immediately - that man is a danger to himself as much as to the rest
of the crew."

"Aye, aye sir."

The captain left the quarterdeck and made his way down the ladders to
the orlop deck and the sickbay.

******************************

In sickbay, the young Acting Lieutenant Hornblower had been most
relieved to find that other than the wound to the back of his head,
and the cuts from the cane, Midshipman Kennedy was fine. Head wounds
always bleed profusely, but once Horatio had managed to stem the
flow, he could bandage Archie's head as his father had taught him.
Indeed now the bleeding had stopped Archie's condition had improved -
and his pulse was stronger.

Horatio was still sat beside the hammock with Archie in when the
captain appeared. It was then he remembered the captain's last words
to him "No dawdling Mr Hornblower". In some confusion, Horatio stood
up - remembering just in time to keep his head bent before he hit it
on the deck beams.

"Captain Pellew, sir."

"Ah, there you are Mr. Hornblower. I thought I told you to get back
on deck as soon as you had finished?"

"You did, sir. I am afraid, in dealing with Arch...Mr. Kennedy's
wounds I forgot, sir."

"You forgot, sir did you. Well get yourself on deck now - and report
to Mr. Bowles."

"Aye, aye sir." With a last look at Archie, Horatio made for the
ladder leading to the upper decks. But he was stopped by some quiet
words from the captain - "As soon as Mr. Bowles is happy with the
repairs, you may come back below and see Mr. Kennedy. But I need
every officer - Mr. Bracegirdle is away on the prize - and there is
something about all this that does not sit right. No there is more to
all this than meets the eye immediately. Oh and by the way - Ouimette
is dead and Simpson is missing."

"Sir?"

"No time to explain now - later maybe. No be off with you lad."

"Aye, aye sir." With that Horatio rapidly ascended the ladder back to
the upper decks.

Pellew in the meantime looked about the orlop deck at the wounded.
The surgeon appeared to have just finished dealing with the wounded,
so he crossed to him, and asked: "The butcher's bill Doctor?"

"5 seamen dead, 10 seriously wounded, and 20 splinter wounds and the
like. Only one officer however - young Mr. Kennedy."

"Thank you - how many of the seriously wounded will recover?"

"2 or 3 will die by morning, but the rest will recover in time. I
have had to amputate limbs from several so their recovery depends on
how they take that."

"Thank you Doctor - I will leave you to your work. I have to go to
the cells now - if Mr. Simpson should turn up here please return him
at once to the marine guards."

"Mr. Simpson? .... Yes sir."

With that Pellew turned and made his way further into the bowels of
the ship to the cells.

*************************

Meanwhile in the dark places within the hold, the man Morton Shelley
wandered what was happening above him. He and the man he had rescued
from the grip of the cur Ouimette were in a way stuck until he could
figure out a way to get out of this place. He had overhead some of
the marine guards comments when they found Ouimette dead - and this
man - Simpson was his name - gone. The officer with them had gone off
for a while - presumably to report - and had latterly returned. He
was presently tearing a strip of the guards for deserting their
posts, and allowing this to happen, but so far no search party had
been set up to find Simpson. Shelley wandered why.

Now the officer had finished with the words "And the captain is on
his way down here - I am sure he will have some choice words to say."

"Indeed he will Mr Halligin," came the response as the man himself
appeared. All of the marines braced to attention and Lieutenant
Halligin began to stammer apologies, but Sir Edward brushed them
aside. He entered the cell and looked briefly at the body on the
deck, and then around. Suddenly, he bent down to look closer at some
marks on the deck - and on the bulkheads - "Mr. Halligin, what do you
make of this?"

"It looks like blood sir."

"Indeed it does Mr. Halligin, but from whom. Not from Ouimette for
certain - he only has the wound where he was shot - and he fell where
he stood. And not from his killer I think - looking at the angle of
the shot, his killer must have been over here - and shot him in cold
blood. No I think Mr. Simpson is injured - I wander if Ouimette
attacked him - you can see he broke free of his bonds alright. It is
even more imperative that we find Mr. Simpson now. Set up search
parties and scour every inch of this hold - and post sentries on all
hatchways to make sure nobody escapes up them."

"Aye, aye sir."

"As for your men - I am sure you have impressed their duty on them
again. A week without spirit's should remind them not to desert their
posts again - even in the heat of battle."

With that the captain turned and left. The young marine lieutenant
turned to his men and said, "Well you heard the captain - Cooper,
Harris, Parker - get on sentry duty - the rest of you - lets get this
hold searched."

Shelley who had been listening to all of this with great interest
suddenly realised the danger of discovery that was near to him and
his companion. He looked at the wounded man beside him, and made the
decision - he had to leave him. He silently turned and started to
make his way among the stores - but then one of the guards asked a
question that made him pause, "Mr. Halligin. What 'as 'appened up
top, sir?"

There was a pause for a few moments before the officer - this Mr
Halligin - replied, "The schooner surrendered Tibbs."

This gave Shelley pause for thought - Ramangard had surrendered. This
was most unlike him - what else had he planned after the rescue of
his cousin. What was the larger La Mort Noire supposed to do? And
what should he do - he had fulfilled his mission in dealing with
Ouimette - but could he leave these poor ignorant sailors to their
fate?