Red Sky at Morning, part 7b
by Sarah B.
Horatio leaned against the base of the foremast and crossed his arms, staring at the sea morosely and listening to the familiar creak and chatter of the Indefatigable mixing with the low voices of Terry Whitehall and Matthews, who were sitting about ten feet away and talking.
The morning had turned into afternoon, and now as Horatio scanned the dark, cloudy skies he guessed it would soon be wending into evening. He and Terry had spent the entire day questioning people, seeking answers, and Horatio was surprised at how exhausted he was. The combating emotions of joy at Archie's possible redemption and tremendous fear that it might not come about were taxing his tender spirit, and Horatio cast his eyes to where Terry was sitting on a barrel with Matthews close at hand, and shivered. He had promised his friend that he would not bargain with Captain Morgan for Archie's life, but Terry did not know the man. He had not seen the rage that terrible night, or the greedy fire in his eyes when he looked at Horatio and said, "I would be very honored if you would accept a commission..."
And Terry had not looked into Archie's eyes either, not in happier days when Horatio had seen in them blazing energy and a newfound reason for living. That pearl had grown out of great pain - how great Horatio had only just realized - and if there was any way to do it, Horatio vowed to himself that it would not be lost. It was worth any price to save it.
The ship rolled and sang beneath his feet, and Horatio lifted his head and squinted at the yards gently turnng to and fro in the light wind. While they had been ashore and on the Courageous, he had been moving about so much and so consumed by emotion he had not had time to check his physical state; but now, standing still with nothing to do but watch, it was becoming clear to Horatio that he was teetering on the edge of exhaustion. His perception was altering, and as he looked about him it seemed as if the whole world had decided to turn melancholy and repaint itself in pale shades of gray. The sky, the ship, even the clothes the men wore, nothing had color or depth in this foul, slate-like weather, only a flat dull consistency and a strange indifference to life and death. Horatio wondered at it, then thought that perhaps he was becoming disoriented, and needed to get some sleep. But no, not until this business was done. He could not rest until Archie was freed.
There was a sound at his elbow, and Horatio looked up to see Captain Pellew standing just behind him, an inquisitive look on his face. Straightening himself hastily, Horatio gave a quick salute and said, "Captain Pellew, sir."
"At ease, Mr. Hornblower," The captain returned, and taking Horatio's arm drew him away from Matthews' interview. When they had gotten to the railing he stopped and said in a low voice, "How goes it with Mr. Whitehall's enquiries?"
Horatio couldn't make up his mind how to answer that, and finally said, "As well as can be expected, sir. The witnesses ashore saw little that is useful, and the men of the Courageous are all bent from fear or loyalty."
Pellew's brown eyes took on a softer tone. "And Mr. Kennedy?"
Horatio sighed and cast his eyes down to the deck, although he knew that was tremendously disrespectful.."Mr. Kennedy still maintains that his is an indefensible case."
Did Pellew let out a sigh just then? Horatio thought he did, and when he looked up his captain's face bore an expression that reminded Horatio of Quiberon. Pellew pursed his lips for a momoent, then said, "I have been granted a delay in the court-martial by Admiral Lord Hood, but only until tomorrow. I'm afraid the sands are quickly running out for Mr. Kennedy unless he chooses to defend himself."
Horatio glanced toward the town, a misty gray watercolor in the murky afternoon. "Yes, sir."
There was a pause, then Captain Pellew said, "Mr. Hornblower, take yourself below and get a decent meal in you. Have the cook prepare something for you if nothing is ready. Then confine yourself to your cabin until you've gotten at least four hours' sleep."
Meal? Sleep? Horatio's eyes widened as he opened his mouth to protest his fitness.
"Not a word, sir," Pellew said, still quietly but in slightly sterner tones, "Mr. Bracegirdle tells me you've had little food and less sleep since this whole affair started, and by the looks of you a strong wind would knock you over right now. I have already lost one valuable officer, I am in no way prepared to lose another as well."
Horatio's shoulders drooped as he once more looked down at his feet. "Sir, I apologize for my appearance, but I assure you I am only concerned - "
"I know, Mr. Hornblower," Pellew replied, with a sympathy so keen Horatio decided he must be imagining things. "But Mr. Whitehall has taken that burden from you, and like it or not I have given you an order. Is that understood?"
Horatio met his captain's eyes then, and surrendered. "Aye aye, sir. Understood."
Pellew smiled then, just a little, and turning on his heel walked back up the forecastle deck and away from Horatio's sight.
Horatio adjusted his hat and looked down at the deck. He was a little embarrassed that Pellew had seen through his fatigue so easily, but beneath that was the reluctant gratitude that he always felt when he knew he was being looked after by a man he respected above all others. Glancing over at where Terry was now standing up and thanking Matthews for his time, Horatio suddenly realized that that fatherly concern would be gone if the worst came to pass, and he was forced to join Courageous to save Archie's life. In its place would be Morgan's arrogance and corruption, the devious, ambitious brute who handled men's lives like children's toys and whose wife's face bore an unfathomable sadness so like Archie's...for a moment Horatio imagined himself on that ship, with that man for a captain, and found himself nearly overcome with revulsion. Frantically he grasped at the railing, and missed it.
Then Terry was at his side, and Horatio felt strong hands on his shoulders. "Horatio? Are you all right?"
Blast! Horatio shook his head and came back to himself, somewhat. Blinking at Terry's openly concerened face he said, "Oh - yes, Terry, I'm just - Captain Pellew seems to believe I need some rest and - and food."
"Smart man," Terry said archly, then led Horatio away from the railing. "Come on, let's get you taken care of. The men will wait for me to come back."
The men! With a start, Horatio shrugged Terry's hands off his shoulders and stood up straight. Fixing Terry with a fierce look he said loudly, "Thank you, Mr. Whitehall, I am quite myself again. Carry on and I shall see you after I have retired for a while."
Terry took a step back, a little surprised. Then he gave Horatio a lopsided grin and said, "Some things never change, do they? Very well, my Lord Impervious, I won't help you down to your cabin! But you won't stop me from going in the same direction, nevertheless."
Horatio paused; Terry's eyes said that Horatio wasn't fooling him at all, and Horatio cursed the smaller man for knowing him so well. But Terry held Archie's future, and was perhaps saving Horatio from a future too terrifying to contemplate. For that, Horatio decided to forgive his friend the impertinence of offering him help, and did not stop Terry from following him down the curiously bobbing stairs to food, and sleep, and the fulfillment of Captain Pellew's wishes.
Afternoon wore on, softened, began to turn into early evening as the daylight faded. In the streets of Plymouth, people complained about the bad weather and wondered if the rain would ever let up. The businessmen extinguished the lamps they had had to light to combat the gloominess, and locking up their doors headed for home. The innkeepers and tavern owners lit their fires and candles, and hoped that the chill and rain would not keep thirsty patrons from their doors. And in the midst of the crowds of people walking through the hazy violet-colored streets, Dr. St. John walked with his head down, alone.
He could not stay on the Courageous. After Hornblower and Whitehall left, he saw a few more patients and then felt suffocated and knew he had to get off of that ship or die. It would not be for long - he was bound to the Courageous body and soul, and he knew it - but it would be enough time to breathe clean air and feel the rain on his face, and know that life existed beyond the darkness that he knew. He could take a few deep breaths of uncorrupted air, and then return to do his work.
St. John meandered slowly, knowing he could take his time and not be missed. Captain Morgan would not return for hours, if at all that night; doubtless news that Kennedy had a solicitor had upset the great captain, and he had gone to his home to sort the situation out. St. John could almost see him looming over his dining-table, with his friends gathered about it shaking their heads, and his voice deep with indignation and anger as he swore vengeance on anyone foolish enough to cross him. He would have his vengeance, St. John knew, one way or another. He had seen what happened when people tried to stand in the way.
St. John thought about all this, not even paying attention to where he was going. The gray afternoon was slowly melting into a grayer evening, and without realizing it the doctor looked up and found himself not too far from the small whitewashed gaol where Kennedy was being held until the trial. There was a small crowd of curious people around, but St. John saw that instead of the lone Marine he had seen the previous evening, two were now standing guard, their bright red jackets brilliant against the encroaching gloom. Their bayonets looked sharp and they were not smiling; the townsfolk took this as a serious warning, and were not going near.
Dr. St. John sighed and hung back in the shadows. Kennedy's hurts sprang into his mind, and he almost winced at the thought of how they might be paining the young man now. The gaoler certainly didn't care to tend them, and without proper attention...
But there was nothing to be done. Morgan had ordered him to stay away from Kennedy, and the gaoler had heard him. In any case, the marines wouldn't let him pass without permission. St. John recognized them both as being from Courageous, and even though they weren't under Morgan's direct authority they knew very well what serving on Courageous meant - and so did their captain. None of them would compromise that for the sake of a broken-down doctor and a youth who was already dead.
St. John shuddered, and pulled his cloak about him. The air was becoming close and suffocating, almost alive with the treachery in it. He felt the crushing mantle of shame, heavy enough to break bones if it were a physical thing, and still he could do nothing. Morgan's words wrapped around his heart again - "All I would need to do is tell your secret, and it's the dirtiest, darkest, foulest prison in England for the rest of your miserable life. And you're still young, so what would that be, thirty, forty years? You do remember I hold that power over you, don't you, St. John?"
He remembered. And that remembrance, and his fear of it, was still stronger than the shame he felt at watching silently as this young man was violated by the hands he had trusted to save him. Violated -
- stop it -
No. Dr. St. John swallowed and looked down, cursing his weakness but somehow perversely comforted by it. He knew his duty, and would do it. Stay away from Kennedy, turn a blind eye to his hurts. And keep his mouth shut.
The unexpected voice so startled St. John that he would have jumped out of his skin if he'd had the strength. Instead, he merely let out a gasp and turned around. Out of the murky shadows someone was coming. In a moment the form solidified, and became the young lawyer from the Indefatigable, Whitehall, a bundle under one arm. Chagrined, St. John nodded quickly and then stood still.
As Whitehall approached, a concerned look came to his dimly-lit face. "Are you all right, sir? You don't look very well."
"I'm fine," St. John replied gruffly, not liking the scrutiny at all. "I'm merely - taking the evening air."
"Oh." Whitehall straightened up, the concern fading from his face and being replaced by a harder expression.
He's remembering how I was on the Courageous, St. John thought, and decided to leave quickly before the boy could ask any questions. "Well, good evening, Mr. Whitehall - "
"Just a moment, before you go," Whitehall said quickly, putting a hand on St. John's arm. St. John stopped, a little surprised, and looked up to see that the young man's expression had changed again, to one of almost pleading. "I - don't suppose you've been to see Mr. Kennedy."
St. John looked back over his shoulder, toward the gaol, and shook his head. "They won't let me in."
Whitehall leaned back a little. "Won't let you in? I don't understand. He definitely needs a doctor."
Damn it, more arguments! Was that all this youth was full of? With a shrug St. John looked at the ground and mumbled. "Captain Morgan is letting the gaoler tend to him. I'm not asked for."
Whitehall's eyes grew bright with anger. "Morgan again! Now what can he possibly gain by letting that poor man suffer needlessly when there's help available?"
St. John knew the answer to that, but he didn't think Whitehall would understand it. He pursed his lips, and kept his eyes on the ground.
"Well, I'm not about to stand for this," Whitehall fumed, shifting the bundle to his other arm and pointing at St. John as he spoke, "Dr. St. John, does Mr. Kennedy require medical care?"
St. John blinked, looked up to see Whitehall staring at him intently. "What?"
"Medical care. In your opinion, could he benefit from your expertise?"
Trapped in the intensity of Whitehall's gaze, St. John found himself nodding. "But - "
"Never mind the 'buts'. In your opinion, is that gaoler as qualified as you to treat the sick?"
St. John snorted. "No."
Whitehall nodded, his curly hair bobbing about his face and almost into his eyes. "Fine then. As Mr. Kennedy's solicitor I'm ordering you to accompany me into that gaol and tend to whatever Mr. Kennedy requires to recover from his wounds. Come on."
He strode past St. John, who was so stunned he merely stood there.
After a few steps, Whitehall turned back around. "Doctor?"
St. John shook his head. "You don't understand, Mr. Whitehall. My captain has - "
"Your captain," Whitehall exclaimed as he walked toward St. John, "has been a gigantic pain in my ass - pardon the language - since I arrived here!" he put one hand on St. John's arm and looked straight into his eyes. "Now I'm taking full responsibility here, and if Morgan has any complaints he can appeal to me for satisfaction. Believe me, I'll be happy to oblige! Furthermore, if he threatens you with any physical harm I can prosecute him for denying Mr. Kennedy the care he is entitled to as a member of the British Navy."
St. John remained rooted to the spot, staring at Whitehall with huge, frightened eyes. "You don't know who you're dealing with."
"Oh, don't I!" Terry snapped, dropping his hand and walking a few steps away from St. John. He paced back and forth a few times, as if working off some great anger, then stopped close to the doctor and spoke in a low voice.
"Doctor, I don't know what kind of a man you are. Your manners are cold and detached, but I saw your eyes just now, when you were looking at the gaol. I don't believe you care nothing for what happens to the young man inside."
Suddenly afraid, St. John dropped his gaze to the glistening cobblestones.
"But I also know how desperate my cause is," Whitehall continued, "Mr. Kennedy has confessed, and your Captain Morgan has a grip on his soul, and on the men of your ship, as hard and fast as iron. I am not a fool, Doctor. I know even my best efforts may not be enough."
Dr. St. John winced at the forlorn determination he heard in this young man's voice. But he kept his eyes to the ground.
"But I also know this," Whitehall said, a little louder, taking a scraping footstep towards the doctor, "I have only recently left a man, a man I am proud to consider my friend, sleeping off an exhaustion of body and spirit that have not left him since this ordeal began. He is weary to death, Doctor, and looking at your face I can tell you know what that is. But he will not take rest, because he thinks - he believes in every fiber of his being that Mr. Kennedy should live, and that a way can be found to save him. And now that I am here, he is trusting me to find that way. But if that way remains closed, if Mr. Kennedy..." Whitehall paused for a moment, clearing his throat. "...the guilt Horatio...Mr. Hornblower will feel, it will kill him, doctor, I am certain of it. And anything I can do...any word of comfort I can give him, any reassurance so he knows that his friend did not face the night alone and in pain, I am willing to do. I will bind Kennedy's wounds myself, if I have to."
The determination now had an edge of pity or contempt in it, and Dr. St. John looked up to see Whitehall gazing at him steadily.
Whitehall shook his head and said, "I am not afraid of your Captain Morgan, doctor. I have faced nightmares that are much, much worse."
They stood that way for a moment, two men standing in the glimmering dark of rain-washed street with the sounds of the city all around them. Then Whitehall turned and walked away, hunching his cloak over his shoulders as he began to fade away into the gathering mist.
Dr. St. John watched him go, his thoughts disjointed and confused. The boy was foolish - if Captain Morgan found out, neither of their lives would be worth a shilling - it was a lost cause in any case, what good would comforting do? Retreat was the wise thing, leave Whitehall to his folly and return to the Courageous. There was guilt and shame there, but it was familiar, and St. John was used to it. He turned, and took a step forward.
Thought of the serious dark-eyed lieutenant who had called him sir, had worried over his friend, and risked his life to protect him. And would surely risk more.
Anything I can do, I am willing to do...he is weary to death, but he will not take rest...
Weary to death. St. John sighed; he did know what that was like. To awaken numbed to a world you could not bear to feel emotions in, to have your soul locked away because you risked too much to bring it out. St. John stared at the cobblestones as if they were souls themselves, souls of men he knew, lives changed and trapped forever, crowded together, close enough to touch, yet alone. All alone...
Alone and hurting.
No. Not this time.
St. John shook his head, felt a strange lump of fear in his chest and forced it down. Morgan's shadow was over the gaol, swallowing the day and making it night; St. John lived in that darkness, but somehow Whitehall and Hornblower were walking through it unaffected. St. John had thought that Kennedy would be abandoned, but Whitehall was fighting for him and Hornblower -
St. John closed his eyes, knowing what Hornblower would exchange for Kennedy's freedom. He prayed it would not come to that. Honor and virtue died on the Courageous every day, and men turned into stone. And became alone.
It was not right. It was not fair. But until that night, St. John had not believed it could ever be challenged, or changed. Until the first time he had looked into Hornblower's eyes, he had not believed that anyone abandoned could be found again. And Whitehall's eyes burned with the same light. As for himself -
- he was growing weary of feeling ashamed.
With a gruff snort of dismay at his own cursed foolishness, Dr. St. John fought every instinct of self-preservation known to him, and turned to catch up with Whitehall before that young man vanished into the mists entirely, and was lost in the deepening dark.
It was growing late when Lieutenant Christopher Stephens heard that Captain Morgan was coming back aboard the Courageous after being gone all day and part of the night. Stephens was sitting in the wardroom playing cards and exchanging dirty jokes with his fellows when one of the midshipmen, a tiny lad of perhaps thirteen, dropped in and announced that the captain was approaching, and it was all hands on deck.
Bloody hell, Stephens thought angrily, because he had a good hand of cards. But he folded and went topside anyway.
The men were assembled, the marines grouped, the pipes were brought out, and it was all the same as before. Stephens tried to stifle a yawn, and hoped that none of his fellows had peeked at his cards before they came abovedecks. Captain Morgan came looming over the side of the ship, swept past, and was gone, and Stephens shrugged and turned to go, his mind already spending the money he was certain he'd win.
As soon as he turned, he very nearly bumped into the same midshipman, and pushed him aside to get back to his game.
"Captain wants to see you," The midshipman piped up, and he sounded a little afraid.
Stephens stopped, gave the boy an angry frown. "Me? Now? What for?"
The midshipman shrugged, with a distinct "Better you than me" look in his eyes. Then he hurried off.
Stephens knew he had to go, when the captain sent for you he didn't take to excuses or tardiness. But his stomach was in knots as he walked toward the cabin, because he hated being on Morgan's bad side, and he'd already been yelled at once that day. Well, not yelled at precisely...actually, Stephens wasn't sure what that conversation had been about. It had something to do with the letters Lafferty had found in Creps' room...Morgan had summoned him into his cabin - why did that cabin always seem dark, even in the daytime? - and Stephens was terrified he'd done something wrong, but all Morgan wanted to know was whether he'd seen what was on the letters and whether he coudl count on Stephens' discretion. Well, Stephens wasn't stupid, and said of course, and he didn't know what those letters were. He didn't, but he was so relieved that he wasn't in trouble that at that point he didn't care. He was just happy to get out of Morgan's sight with his skin intact.
And now he was being summoned again. He wished his stomach would stop knotting itself.
The captain's cabin door. Stephens knocked and waited.
The deep voice within: "Come in."
Stephens swallowed, took a deep breath, and went in. There were lights in the cabin now, but it didn't seem to make the place brighter - it only filled it with shadows, and Stephens didn't like that at all. But he went in anyway, and stood by the door, ready to bolt.
Captain Morgan was standing by his desk, looking like a contemplative bear. He was reading some papers and glanced at Stephens, but he didn't look mad. Stephens relaxed a bit.
"Lieutenant Lafferty is on shore leave until further notice," Morgan said, amiably enough, "I am promoting you to my first lieutenant until he returns."
A promotion! Stephens swallowed his surprise and nodded. "Aye aye, sir."
"I have your first assignment," Morgan continued, putting the papers down and picking up another one. He paused, and looked at Stephens with his piercing eyes. "Was there any talk while I was gone?"
Stephens felt a little confused. "Talk, sir?"
"Yes, lieutenant, talk, anything about the court-martial, or those letters? You kept your silence?"
"Oh! Yes, sir, I mean no, sir, I mean - nothing was said about the letters, captain, you can depend on that."
Morgan's eyes flicked down to the desk, then back up again. "And the court-martial?"
"Well, about what you'd expect, sir. We all want Kennedy hanged. There isn't a soul on this ship that wouldn't give good money to pull on the rope."
Morgan pursed his lips, then handed Stephens a sealed envelope. "Take this over to the Indefatigable, and deliver it to Lieutenant Hornblower. Don't come back without his reply."
Stephens frowned at the envelope, studying it. He'd never held a sealed envelope from his captain before, and wondered what it said.
"You have your orders, lieutenant," Morgan said, snapping Stephens out of his reverie. "You are dismissed."
That was it? Stephens relaxed. He'd escaped. "Aye aye, captain. I'll return as soon as possible."
Morgan nodded, apparently deep in thought. He walked over to the windows and stared out of them, as if Stephens had already left.
Stephens took this as a good sign and made his swift exit out the door, rejoicing in his heart that it had been nothing, that he had been made first lieutenant, and that he was being given a chance to make the captain proud of him. He vaguely remembered Hornblower from the previous night, and wondered what Morgan wanted with him. From what Lafferty had said, Hornblower had already been offered a commission, and had already turned it down. Stephens knew Morgan would get the man eventually, but had figured he'd wait until after the court-martial to do anything about it. It didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.
But then...Stephens shrugged, and made his way toward the jollyboats. What did it matter? He wasn't in trouble, he'd gotten a promotion, and when he got back he had a winning hand of cards and a long night of carousing ahead of him. So Christopher Stephens didn't much care about what happened to Hornblower, or anyone else.
Terry Whitehall knew he'd have a fight before he even approached the battered door of the gaol. The two marines were eyeing him warily, frowning in a combative way. Oh well - David was pretty small too, wasn't he?
Footsteps behind him. Terry spared only the quickest of glances, and saw the doctor from the Courgageous slip into the shadows at his heels. Terry suppressed a sigh of relief; he had come to the jail not knowing how he could talk to Kennedy, or help him beyond the few meager preparations he had been able to make. Dr. St. John's presence was providence itself. It might make all the difference in the world.
Looking the bigger marine straight in the eye, Terry cleared his throat importantly and said, "I'm Mr. Kennedy's legal representation, and I have been granted permission to see him."
The marine looked him up and down, as if he were a garden slug. "What for?"
Terry pulled out the bundle and held it up. "His captain issued a clean uniform for him, and provisions for the trial tomorrow. I am to see that he gets them."
The marine shrugged. "Leave them here. No one is to see the prisoner before tomorrow."
Terry tilted his head and smiled. "That's only half of my mission." He tipped his head toward St. John, "I have also been asked to ensure that Mr. Kennedy is fit to stand trial tomorrow, to see that his wounds are tended to, and to prepare him for what I am certain will be an absolute carnival."
The marine's eyes slid over to St. John, and he smirked. "You trust that drunk?"
Terry didn't move, although he could almost feel St. John flinching behind him. "This man is a doctor, and right now he seems sober enough to me."
The marine's smirk grew more insolent. "You've never seen him on the ship."
"And I've never seen you rolling out of a prostitute's bed at two in the morning either, but as long as you do your job that's none of my business," Terry snapped, "Now I have an obligation to perform, and it's growing late. Let us by, please."
The marine's eyes narrowed, but with a reluctant glance at the other soldier he knocked on the door and stepped aside. Terry shifted the bundle back under his arm and glanced behind him to make sure the doctor was still there. He was. Then he heard the rough rasp of the door being unbolted and the rusty click of a key being turned, and the door opened to reveal the dimly lit interior, and the disheveled form of the gaoler, who was more than a little drunk.
"Eh!" The gaoler started with a hiccup. "You again."
"Yes," Terry said with a tight smile, "I have a fresh uniform for the prisoner, and I've brought a doctor to examine him. If you'd be so kind as to wait outside, I will tell you when we are through."
The gaoler made a face as he scowled at the bundle. "'ow d'I know you ain't got somethin' in there? I ain't stupid y'know!"
Terry eyed the man evenly. "Sir, a retort to that remark would be beneath me. However, you are welcome to open the bundle and examine it if you wish."
He held the bundle out to the gaoler, who snatched it from his hands and turned to saunter toward his desk. Terry took the opportunity to wedge his way into the little room, the doctor at his heels. The gaoler was too busy cutting the twine around the bundle and yanking it open to even look at them. As soon as Terry's eyes adjusted to the gloom, he was able to look around him and see what he was up against. The sight was not encouraging.
The gaol was steeped in darkness and depression, every crack and slip of straw was wrung with it. The two candles burning fitfully on the wall seemed to begrudge the light they gave. Kennedy's cell was so dark that at first Terry couldn't even see into it; then his eyes adjusted a little and he saw that Kennedy was sitting huddled on his cot against the wall his legs drawn up and a small red book held in one bruised hand. Terry saw Kennedy's head move, and noticed that he was looking at them. But he could not easily read his face.
Terry turned back to the gaoler, who had wrenched the clean uniform out of its cocoon and was squinting at it distrustfully. "Well?"
The gaoler looked up, disappointment evident on his ugly face. "Aw right."
Nodding in satisfaction, Terry gently tucked the uniform back into the bundle. Lifting it from the grimy desk he eyed the gaoler coolly and said, "Send the marine in here and wait outside, please."
The gaoler hunched his shoulders and spat at the floor. "Wastin' yer time."
:"I'll be the judge of that," Terry said in a whispered growl as the gaoler resentfully snatched up the keys and unlocked Kennedy's cell. He then lurched past the two men toward the door, and after he had passed Terry looked at St. John and said quietly, "Come on."
St. John nodded, and Terry noticed an unlit candle sitting in a holder on the desk. Picking it up, he lit the wick on one of the other candles and moved toward Kennedy's cell. The unaccustomed light made all of them squint for a moment, but Terry noticed that Kennedy seemed very affected by it. Pausing in front of the opened cell door, Terry said, "Mr. Kennedy?"
Kennedy looked at him warily, and Terry's heart sank at the look in the young man's eyes; he'd seen it before, and dreaded it. "Yes?"
Terry held up the bundle. "Captain Pellew sent me. He brought you a clean uniform to wear tomorrow."
For a moment Kennedy didn't move; then he turned his eyes back to the book, even though it was obviously too dark to read. "Thank you."
"May I bring it into your cell? I don't trust it out here with the gaoler."
Kennedy shrugged, and Terry slowly stepped inside, setting the bundle tenderly on the end of the cot as if it were a fragile thing. Kennedy was studiously ignoring him, and it only took a few moments before Terry had had enough of that. "Mr. Kennedy?"
The youth looked up again, slowly, and Terry saw the fearful suspicion in his eyes. Taking a deep breath Terry said, "I've brought Dr. St. John here to make sure you're feeling all right for the trial tomorrow. Will you allow him to examine you?"
Kennedy ducked back down towards the book, something desperate fluttering through his eyes, almost too quick for Terry to catch. "You shouldn't be here."
"I have every right to be here," Terry responded, "Your welfare is of interest to me, as my client if nothing else."
Kennedy closed his eyes and sighed slowly. "It's dangerous for *both* of you. For all of you. Please leave me alone."
It might have worked, but just as the words left his mouth Kennedy raised those tortured blue eyes to Terry's and they met. There was still something in them, and this time Terry saw it clearly: a childlike need to be comforted in the dark, hiding beneath a monstrous fear.
Terry looked straight into that fear, and didn't blink. "Mr. Kennedy, when I took your case I knew it wouldn't make me popular. Morgan wants you to suffer, and die, and the rest of us to tremble in fear before him. But I sat by my little sister's bedside when I thought she was going to die, and after that nothing scares me much. As for the rest of us being in danger, I don't have to tell you that Horatio would eat fire if it would take away any of your pain."
Kennedy's eyes flickered down, toward the book, and he pursed his lips.
"What's more," Terry continued in his gentle convincing tone, "Dr. St. John has kindly and unselfishly offered his help. Now. I would very much like to go back to Horatio and ease his mind by telling him that you were looked after and doing all right, so allowing the doctor to examine you would make us all happy and incidentally, you'll feel better too."
Kennedy's eyes closed briefly, as if he was thinking it over.
Terry leaned in a little closer and said in a low voice, "Come on, Mr. Kennedy. Wouldn't it feel wonderful to know Morgan didn't get *everything* he wanted?"
When Kennedy opened his eyes again, his blue eyes looked almost startled. Then he looked at St. John, and just to make sure the previously reluctant physician was still there, Terry glanced over his shoulder.
Surprisingly, Dr. St. John was regarding Kennedy with unfettered concern, his expression so sympathetic Terry was taken aback. This was not the closed-off doctor of the Courageous, or the timid man he had met on the street. This was a man who knew Kennedy's anguish, and what was revealed in it. For that moment, he could have almost been another part of Kennedy's soul.
Whatever passed between these two men, Terry was grateful for it, because after regarding the doctor for a few moments, Kennedy slowly put the book down and gave a small nod.
"Capital," Terry smiled, and rose from the cot. Looking at the doctor he asked, "What do you need?"
Dr. St. John began removing his coat, "Some clean cloths and warm water, if you can find it."
Leaving the marine standing guard inside, Terry walked to the closest tavern and with a warm smile and a sixpence for the kitchen girl procured some steamed rags and a small pot of water that had only recently been put on to boil. Hastening back to the gaol, he found Kennedy lying on his stomach on the cot, his shirt removed, and Dr. St. John frowning as he stood over him.
"Here's the water, " Terry said in a quiet voice, but as soon as he came close enough to get a good look at Kennedy's back he fell silent. There were bruises there, and healing scratches, along with a nasty-looking gash that had been covered by a dirty bandage. Kennedy had folded his arms and laid his head on them, his eyes closed.
Pitching his voice low so Kennedy wouldn't hear Terry asked St. John, "Creps did this?"
"Mostly. Mobs did the rest."
Terry shook his head and set the pot of water and the rags down, then as Dr. St. John was wetting one of the cloths in the warm water fetched the small chair the gaoler had been sitting on into the cell, and quietly placed it near the top of the cot. Then he sat down, leaning forward and clasping his hands to look into Kennedy's face.
"I'm going to take care of these stitches," Dr. St. John said to Kennedy, and Terry saw the boy nod understanding. Regardless of the preparation, however, Terry still saw him flinch a little when the warm cloth was applied. Then the blue eyes opened again.
"How is Horatio?" Kennedy asked in a husky, low voice.
Terry leaned toward Kennedy and quietly answered. "He's exhausted. Your captain had to practically order him to get some food and rest."
Kennedy's eyes closed again, as if this news hurt him more than the undeserved injuries inflicted by the mob. "Tell him I'm sorry he should suffer on my account."
Terry considered Archie's mournful words. "I think what he's suffering from most is the lack of your company."
Kennedy's eyes came open a little.
"I've heard little else except what an exceptional friend you are," Terry continued, "And I'm sure he misses you a great deal."
Kennedy set his head down a little further into his arms and blinked his eyes shut once more. "I never meant for this to happen."
"I know," Terry answered, then paused for a moment. "Mr. Kennedy?"
The head came up a little, the eyes slitted open.
"As your solicitor, I must be sure that you are prepared for what will happen tomorrow. Do you know what's going to happen?"
Kennedy shivered a little, and put his head back down. "I'm going to be tried for killing Creps."
Terry swallowed and looked at Kennedy earnestly. "Yes, but I need to make sure you know what that means. Court martials are usually public, although I'm sure Hood will want to keep as many people out as he can. The charges will be read against you, and then witnesses will be called - "
The eyes came open quickly. "Witnesses? I pled guilty, and there were no...there weren't any..." he seemed unable to finish the sentence.
Terry sighed. "No, Mr. Kennedy, I couldn't find anyone who saw what happened between Creps and you. And you did plead guilty, but because you could be executed for this crime there has to be a trial, it's the law."
Kennedy began to sit up on his elbows, slowly, as Dr. St. John worked.
Terry marked his movement, then said, "There weren't any witnesses, but there were people there that night who can be character witnesses for you, and against Creps. They might turn the court in your fav - "
"No." Kennedy began shaking his head rapidly. "No, please, I don't want that. The court will never believe them, and it won't help. Not against Captain Morgan."
Terry stopped and thought for a moment. Behind him, he could see out of the corner of his eye that St. John had paused in his work to eye the two of them uncertainly, as if he was holding his breath. And Kennedy...Terry took another breath and spoke very quietly. "Mr. Kennedy, if you believe in your heart that you are guilty and should hang I can't stop you - I won't stop you - but I've been learning about the Courageous, and the men who sail on her, and - and I think some things need to be said."
Kennedy's eyes blinked slowly, his expression guarded. "What do you mean?"
Terry sighed and laced his hands together. "You told me you killed Creps and deserve to die. I can't alter that. But from the men I talked to on the Indefatigable and at the tavern - not to mention my own observations - I'm gettng the impression that the men Creps kept company with are not like Horatio. They're bullies, drunks. They're not honorable men. But they are free to do as they choose."
Kennedy's eyes shifted downward, and from the corner of his vision Terry saw Dr. St. John looking at him even more warily.
"I know you don't remember what happened that night," Terry plunged on, "But from everything I've seen it was terrible. And I'm afraid that if no one knows - if nothing is said.. someone else might be pushed to a desperate act tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or the next time the Courageous is in port."
The doctor had been wringing out another cloth, but now stopped and looked at Terry even more suspiciously. Undaunted, Terry went on, "Morgan has power, but the truth is even more powerful. All of his money and influence can't stop the anger over what might be known. If I tell Admiral Lord Hood that you've changed your plea to not guilty, I can call witnesses, have them give testimony. I've got everything prepared. Even if it doesn't change the outcome, Morgan's men will be exposed for the ruffians they are."
Kennedy's eyes widened at this, and he shook his head. "I must go quietly, and alone. If I fight, I am not the one who will suffer most."
"I know," Terry pleaded, "You're afraid of what might happen to Horatio, because of Morgan's influence, but you don't know what he's already prepared to sacrifice for you. I'm certain Morgan will offer him a commission in exchange for your life, and if things get black enough Horatio will take it."
Kennedy's head came up sharply. "No."
"I don't want that either," Terry responded quickly, "But it won't even happen if Morgan's influence is lessened. And it would be, if Horatio only knew what kind of a ship - what kind of men - he would be sacrificing himself to, he would see what a fiend's bargain it is. And the court, the people of this town...they wouldn't stand for such behaviour if they knew, I'm sure of it. But they don't *know*."
Kennedy's head lowered a bit, and he stared at the bruises that marked both his arms.
Terry leaned in as close as he could. "I won't put you on the stand. Nothing you've said yourself has to change. All I'm asking for is the opportunity to prevent this from happening to someone else. Whatever happened, however the murder took place, Creps hurt you. I think his friends hurt people too. And the next time it might be woman. It might be a child."
Kennedy's breath went in sharply just then, and for a long moment nothing moved. Then Kennedy squeezed his eyes shut, tightly, and drew in another ragged, shaky breath. "You'll make certain ...Horatio stays clear?"
"You have my word on it. His welfare is as precious to me as it is to you."
"And you think," Kennedy turned his head a little, fixed Terry with those bottomless blue eyes, "that it might change something?"
"If I have any skills worth mentioning," Terry smiled, "You have my word on that, too."
Kennedy swallowed, hard, and Terry could see he was still wavering. There was such safety in remaining silent and going to his grave - but there was only one truly right way out of this nightmare, and Terry knew what it was. And it did not involve Kennedy's death. If only he'd been persuasive enough...
A nod. Was that a nod? Terry looked closely and saw Kennedy move his head again. Very tentative, not at all sure, but...
Kennedy sighed again and whispered, "If it will save just one..."
Terry leaned back and nodded to himself as Kennedy sank his head back into his arms. "It will, Mr. Kennedy, I promise you."
As Terry leaned back in his chair, feeling drained and guilty for causing Kennedy any grief at all, he heard the slosh of water and looked up. The doctor was wringing out another clean rag and, folding it in half, he laid it on Kennedy's back, just below his neck. Terry could tell by Kennedy's expression that the warmth was soothing and relaxing - probably the best feeling he'd had in three days.
Terry bit his lip and watched Kennedy's expression soften and ease, and impulsively whispered, "Mr. Kennedy, I'm very sorry any of this happened to you."
He thought Kennedy was almost asleep, but those blue eyes came open once more, just a little, and focused on Terry intently.
"You'll keep him safe. He won't go on the Courageous." Kennedy said thickly.
Terry's heart sank at the burden in those words, but he shook his head. "He won't, Mr. Kennedy. Not if there's power on earth to prevent it."
Kennedy nodded, seemed to relax more. Dr. St. John laid another of the warm cloths on his back, lower than the first, then wet another cloth and gently rubbed it over Kennedy's hair, which was becoming tangled and filthy. When he was finished, Terry could tell that Kennedy had fallen completely asleep.
Standing up as quietly as he could, Terry gathered up his belongings and looked at St. John. The doctor's face seemed cast in stone as he looked at Kennedy, the earlier sympathy either fading or tucking itself back under, like a turtle hiding in its shell. Picking up the pot and a few stray rags, the doctor quickly left the cell without another look at Terry, and Terry followed him out into the night.
The gaoler wasn't about when Terry and the doctor went outside, but soon appeared, hitching up his pants and coming out of a dark alleyway. Scowling at the two men he said, "You done?"
"Yes," Terry replied, looking at the gaoler in a stern way. "You may go back in now."
The gaoler snorted and pushed past Terry, bumping his shoulder as he went past. "Thanks so much, yer bleedin' highness."
At once Terry's hand shot out and caught his arm. When the gaoler stopped, surprised, Terry gave him a lethal look and said, "He's sleeping. Wake him up and I'll have you arrested."
The gaoler's face went slack. "For what?!"
"I promise you I'll think of something."
The gaoler made a face, but when Terry dropped his arm only moped away sullenly, without protest. Terry watched him go, then shook his head and turned his attention to Dr. St. John, who was staring at him from a few paces away.
Approaching the older man, Terry gave him a slight bow and said, "My thanks to you, Dr. St. John. Thanks to your excellent work, Mr. Kennedy will sleep easier tonight."
St. John's expression was dour. "It won't do any good. And you're insane to call witnesses against Morgan."
"They're not against Morgan," Terry argued as he began to walk toward the Dove, St. John beside him, "They're against Creps, and the information they provide might save lives."
St. John was unconvinced, and shook his head ruefully. "Morgan won't see it that way. He'll make you sorry."
"I'm used to the prosecution not liking me." Terry said lightly.
St. John glanced behind him, frowned, then turned his face forward again and said quietly, "You're being followed."
Terry laughed, and dug a pipe out of his cloak. "I know. He was following me earlier too." He noticed St. John's surprised expression and shrugged. "He's not very good at it."
They took a few more silent steps together, then St. John said, "I have to get back to the ship. You should have a marine escort."
"I'll have one tomorrow," Terry replied, "But there's little that can befall me tonight. Captain Morgan is certain the trial will go his way, and until that changes he would never risk possible exposure by having me attacked. Tomorrow...ha! That might be another story."
St. John sighed hugely and shook his head. After a few more steps Terry remarked, "I take it by your attitude that most people don't cross the great Captain Morgan."
"They don't," St. John replied firmly, "Not and live to tell about it."
"Well, perhaps it's time for that to change," Terry suggested, "Perhaps - "
"I don't understand!" St. John suddenly snapped, coming to a halt and grabbing Terry's arm to stop him from moving further. "Why do you care? Why does your friend care? What is it about this one that would make his life worth risking everything over?"
Terry looked at him, waiting for more.
St. John took a deep breath. "You don't know, he doesn't know, but Morgan can make certain that Kennedy dies, fast or slow, at his discretion. He can make Hornblower's life miserable, trap him in that 'fiend's bargain' you mentioned and make him wish he were dead. Or if Hornblower refuses, he can fix it so he never makes captain, ever. And he can make certain that you never practice law again, anywhere, from here to the Americas. He can ruin you, ruin you! And Hornblower too! Why can't you both just let Kennedy die and be done with it? Why in God's name do you *care*?"
Terry waited another long, quiet moment, then drew a steady breath and looked at St. John with unflinching eyes. "Because I can't walk away from injustice, doctor. Because there's too much of it I can't help, too much sadness and brokenness that can't be mended. I have a little sister who will never walk right again, never have children, and to make things right with her I promised that I would make things right in the world, wherever I can. Because we both know there's more to this story, and the wrong people are winning right now. Because despite the rain...despite the rain there will be birds in the morning, and they have a beautiful song, doctor. They really do."
Dr. St. John gazed at Terry, his eyes full of frightened uncertainty.
"You're asking me why I care," Terry said, his voice almost a whisper. "I wonder why you don't care, doctor. There's got to be something in you that wants to fight this. I know you can't be dead inside, not yet. You helped Kennedy, you've been kind to Horatio. Morgan's a powerful man, and he'll be difficult to bring down, I have no delusions about that. But the thickest walls have the most to hide, don't they? And if that's what it takes to get Kennedy's story told, I'll bring Morgan down, and there won't be one brick left on another, I promise you."
St. John simply stared.
"And when that wall does come down," Terry said, his eyes glittering stars in the misty night, "Ask yourself, doctor, which side of the wall is the right side to be on. And whether you can call on the goodness inside you to help me push."
With that, Terry gave St. John another, stiffer bow, and walked quickly away,leaving the doctor standing alone to ponder disquieting thoughts, and do his best to ignore the shadow that skulked by him and followed Terry down the street, another soul like his, lost in the rain and the gathering darkness.
With a start, Horatio awoke.
It was dark in his cabin, dark and deathly still. Horatio lay there for a moment, his brain so foggy he struggled to remember where he was, and why his sleep had been so heavy and dreamless. He felt as if he had been unaware for weeks.
Then he remembered - Terry - the captain - himself, almost fainting from lack of decent food and sleep. And then Terry half-leading and half-carrying him to his berth, saying something about going ashore, what was it? And then...
Horatio didn't even remember taking off his shoes. And now he had been asleep for almost five hours.
Dressing hastily, Horatio smoothed back his hair and tied it haphazardly, thinking as his brain woke up that he should report to the captain, or try to find out what Terry had been doing. And Archie...
But he couldn't see Archie, not until the court-martial, and talking to him was out of the question. Horatio tugged his ribbon tight and stared at his reflection in the mirror with a sinking feeling. The helpless feeling was coming back, a frustrated pain that reminded him of Muzillac, but no, he thought as he stared into brown eyes that held a world of guilt in them, not this time dammit. Archie isn't lost yet, and I won't lose him, by God I won't. There is still much that can be done...
And I will do it. Or else Simpson will win at last.
There was some water in the basin, and Horatio splashed some on his face and made his way to the wardroom, where he noticed Bracegirdle sitting near the door, as if he'd been waiting for him. Sure enough, as soon as their eyes met Bracegirdle rose and approached him.
"Mr. Hornblower," Bracegirdle said with a slight smile, "Feeling rested, eh?"
"Very much, thank you, Mr. Bracegirdle, " Horatio replied, too drowsy yet to hide his puzzlement, "Have you been sent for me?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes," Bracegirdle answered, holding up a small folded piece of paper, "While you were in the arms of Somnus this was sent aboard by Mr. Whitehall, to be directed into your hands. The boy who delivered it said that you were to open it immediately."
Immediately! His heart jumping, Horatio quickly broke the seal and opened the paper, tilting it toward the light to read it better.
Mr. Kennedy forwards his felicitations and warmest regards for your health and well-being. He has been seen to by myself and an attending physician, and is doing well. I have spoken to him, and it is my professional opinion that the birds may sing tomorrow. Yours, T.
Horatio read the note again, and felt the burden on his heart ease. Of course, Terry would make certain that Archie was looked after and comfortable, since he knew that was what Horatio wanted. And the birds may sing tomorrow...whatever black storm had fallen over Archie's heart might be lifted, and this nightmare ended. Perhaps Terry had convinced Archie to tell his story, or at least consider it. And of course, once that happened - once Archie described Creps' cowardly attack, and how he was merely defending himself from it - the trial would be over. Archie would be freed. God bless Terry, the man could work miracles!
Horatio read the note one more time, and smiled. Archie might be back at their table tomorrow night -
Horatio blinked, good heavens, he'd forgotten Bracegirdle was there! He flashed a quick smile. "Yes, Mr. Bracegirdle."
"Good news, I trust?"
Horatio tapped the letter against his other hand, and didn't try to hide his smile. "The very best, sir. Mr. Whitehall believes the court-martial will go well tomorrow. He talked to Mr. Kennedy tonight, and he's...he's doing well."
Bracegirdle returned the smile warmly. "That is good news. I do need to tell you, however, that you have a visitor."
Bracegirdle pointed, and Horatio turned around to see a somewhat stocky young man with thin blond hair sitting at one of the tables, staring at him nervously.
Horatio turned back to Bracegirdle with a frown. "Who is he?"
"His name is Stephens, from the Courageous," Bracegirdle responded unhappily, "He's been sitting here for almost three hours. He says he has a message for you and he can't leave without your answer."
A message! Horatio knew who it was from, and a hot anger lit within him. Of course, Morgan. Morgan would do such a thing, push a letter into a junior officer's hand and force him to wait for an answer. And of course, the officer would have to do it. No one said no to the great Captain Morgan, after all. No one dared -
Well, that was going to change, Horatio thought, gripping Terry's letter in one hand furiously. Starting tonight.
Horatio gave Bracegirdle a salute, and turned to walk toward Stephens, his blood rising at every step. By the time he reached Stephens, he was seething. "Lieutenant Stephens?"
Stephens had been watching him, and now stood, his expression at once relieved and somewhat insolent. "That's me. You're Lieutenant Hornblower?"
Horatio nodded. "The same."
Stephens looked him up and down quickly, then pushed a piece of folded paper at him. "Here. I'm supposed to return with your answer, so don't make me wait any longer."
Horatio thought of a hot reply, but why bother? Snatching the letter away, he opened it and scanned it quickly. Captain Morgan desired an audience. Morgan, who had doubtless bullied and intimidated Archie into silence. Morgan, who had bred a ship full of men trembling for their lives and profligate scoundrels. Morgan, whose arrogance and smug dominance was at this moment reminding Horatio of Simpson, and the frightful images that invoked almost made Horatio exclaim aloud.
He didn't. Instead, he calmly folded up the letter and looked at Stephens with smoldering eyes. "I will return with you, Mr. Stephens. At once, if you desire it."
"Huh!" Stephens snorted. "Compared to the Courageous this place is a bloody church! How do you stand it being so dull around here?"
Horatio bit his tongue, then said, "I will get my jacket, and join you on the quarter-deck."
Stephens' eyes narrowed, but he nodded and walked away. Horatio met Bracegirdle on the way back to his cabin, and the older man's eyes were full of worry. "Something I should tell the captain, Mr. Hornblower?"
Horatio glared at Stephens' back for a moment. "Only that I am attending Captain Morgan on the Courageous, and I shall return shortly. Please thank him again for his help earlier."
"I will, but - " Bracegirdle looked down the passageway, where Stephens was now only a dark shadow. "Going to the Courageous? Are you certain that is what you wish to do?"
"Oh, yes," Horatio said softly, his voice hot with conviction as he pressed the two letters he carried in his hands together until his fingers hurt. This will end, starting tonight. "Yes, sir, I must. Or else I will die."
The Courageous glowed its jewel-like tones into the misty waters of the surrounding harbor, but Horatio barely glanced at its beauty as the jollyboat neared the entrance ladder. He was brought aboard swiftly, Stephens almost pushing him onto the ship, as if he was terrified of being late.
It was a terror Horatio remembered all too well, and it infuriated him that it still existed. It hung over Lafferty, and Dr. St. John, and Morgan's wife. He was sick of it.
Stephens hurried him to a place just outside Morgan's cabin, and put a hand on the door, turning his gaze toward Horatio one more time. "Wait here."
Horatio saw the nervousness on Stephens' candlelit face, and nodded.
Stephens knocked, went in, and Horatio stood in the entranceway and waited, pushing his hat in his hands with impatient anger. He began to pace back and forth, and did not stop pacing until the door opened again, and Stephens emerged, his face unreadable. "He wants you to come in."
Does he, Horatio thought, but did not say it. Instead, he nearly nodded curtly, brushed by Stephens in a manner he hoped was not too rude, and found himself standing in the opulent day cabin of Captain Julius Morgan.
The cabin was beautiful, all gilt and fine woodwork lit by a dozen candles. Morgan was seated at his desk like an icon in a church, still and silent. He was somewhat in shadow, which Horatio knew was inclined to make him mysterious and intimidating, but Horatio was beyond that. He was reminded of Simpson, who lurked in shadows. He went before the desk, hat in hand, and waited.
He did not have to wait long. Morgan leaned forward on the desk, his handsome face now lit with golden candlelight. "Ah, Mr. Hornblower. Please have a seat, sir."
Horatio hesitated, but decided it was best to do as his duty dictated and follow orders. He sat down. "You sent for me, sir?"
"Yes, I did," Morgan rose and began to walk around the desk, his uniform gleaming, his shadow thrown against the windows behind him like a looming second soul. "Mr. Hornblower..." He looked at Horatio and paused. "I'm sorry, are you feeling well?"
Horatio blinked. "Sir?"
"You look fatigued, wrung out. Are you all right?"
Horatio kept his guard up. "Yes sir, it is only...recent events have conspired to disturb my routine, but I am fine I assure you."
Morgan nodded, his large eyes searching Horatio's like a hawk. "Oh, yes, of course. Muzillac, the failed uprising, dreadful business. And now your friend's in gaol and likely to hang. Yes, a very sad state, sir. Very sad."
Horatio closed his eyes briefly, felt his impatience strangling him. "I am fine, captain. You did send for me."
"Yes," Morgan repeated, resuming his leisurely walk around the desk, "Mr. Hornblower, I would like to offer you...an apology."
Horatio didn't move. Morgan's tone had a ring to it similar to Simpson's, just before he convened a mock inquisition on Horatio and beat him to within an inch of his life. Never again. "Indeed, sir?"
"Yes," Morgan stopped just to one side of the desk and leaned a little against it, folding his arms. "I've been thinking about our conversation, the one we had last night, do you recall it?"
Horatio had to fight to keep the contempt he felt from jumping out in his voice. "I believe so, sir."
"Do you remember what we talked about?"
Horatio slid his eyes to Morgan's face, and tried not to glare. "You offered me a commission, sir."
"Exactly! I knew it, you have an excellent memory," Morgan said almost cheerfully, and began to pace behind the desk again. "Yes, I offered you a commission, Mr. Hornblower, and you turned me down flat. Flat! You spurned me, sir, and I must tell you now not many people do that. It takes - well, tremendous courage or outrageous foolishness, depending on who you talk to."
Horatio let his gaze drop to his hands. "I meant no offense by my refusal, sir, only that I must be conscious of my duty to Captain Pellew."
"Of course. Of course!" Morgan nodded affably as he walked behind the desk, "And as I said last night, very commendable indeed. You have the true heart of a British sailor, I could see that right away, and that's why when I was thinking about our conversation last night I thought to myself, Julius, you're a damned fool if you let this young man get away because of your rash impulsiveness."
Horatio felt a small knot of confusion grow in his stomach. "Sir?"
"This is where my apology comes in," Morgan said contritely, crossing to the left side of the desk and leaning against it, "Mr. Hornblower, I'm afraid I didn't give you enough time to properly contemplate my proposal before I demanded an answer. It's my nature, you see, whenever I see something I want, I want it right away. It's a weakness I suppose, but it's how I acquired my wife, and the fine trappings you see here. Something to consider, for any ambitious young man. When you see something you want - " He reached out one open hand, then snatched it closed. " - take it! Understand?"
Horatio suppressed a shudder, for a moment felt Simpson's hand clutching his hair. "I understand, sir."
"Well, but I'm afraid it failed in my acquiring you," Morgan sighed and shrugged, "I made a mistake, and I admit it. I said to myself, that young man is smart as a whip and he knows how the world works. You offer him a commission, and he'll be on it like a seagull on a dead fish. I was certain you'd leap at the chance, sir. I was counting on it."
"Then I'm sorry to disappoint you, sir."
"Ah, but!" Morgan lifted a finger in admonition, and began to pace again, "Do not say that so fast, young sir. When I thought about it, I decided that in all probability you didn't understand what being aboard the Courageous could mean for you."
Horatio could feel his temper slipping, and struggled to contain it. "If you mean the quick rise, the heavy prize purse, and the swift and certain fame, yes sir, you detailed that to me last night. And I fully comprehend it."
Morgan's eyes snapped to him quickly. "Be careful with your tone, Mr. Hornblower. This is a civil conversation, but I am still your superior officer, and I demand some measure of respect."
Curse it! Horatio took a deep breath and looked at the floor. "My apologies, sir."
"Accepted," Morgan said, and Horatio cringed at the smugness there. Then Morgan resumed his pacing. "Yes, I did mention those things, and again I congratulate you on your ability to remember them. And they're not small things, Mr. Hornblower, not to be tossed away lightly! A ship of your own before you hit twenty-five, enough money to retire by forty...who knows, perhaps sit in an admiral's chair someday? I daresay you wouldn't mind that, would you?"
Horatio opened his mouth, but Morgan cut him off. "Now before you scoff at this and throw that old stick Pellew at me, consider! Pellew can't offer you anything but the dull, unimaginative training he offers all of his men, and I can't tell you who any of them are or what became of them. He's brave enough, but he doesn't take what he wants, and so he has nothing to offer you except these ridiculous missions where you're likely to get killed, like Muzillac. Now I can tell he thinks highly of you, and I'm sure he'd want you to have the best opportunities, so I daresay Pellew himself wouldn't encourage you to turn this opportunity down. Do you think he would?"
Horatio looked up again, at Morgan almost standing over him, that huge shadow hovering like a hawk over the entire room. As calmly as he could, Horatio replied, "I think Captain Pellew would want me to do the honorable thing, sir."
"Oh, not that again!" Morgan scoffed, shaking his head. "Mr. Hornblower, do you think the entire British navy runs on honor and duty and Christ-like sacrifice? Are you honestly that naive? It's politics, boy, politics and back-scratching, and the fact that Pellew never learned that is why he'll still be pushing a ship around the ocean when he's ninety-five." Morgan paused, then looked at Horatio steadily. "It's also why he can't give your imprisoned friend one ounce of real help."
At the reference to Archie, Horatio's anger was tempered with a sudden wariness. He returned Morgan's gaze questioningly.
"Yes, it's sad really," Morgan sighed again as he moved to sit down at his desk, "I've had men accused of such things, not many this heinous mind you, but I've always been able to take care of their problems without too much trouble. If Kennedy had been on my ship, he wouldn't have sat in that filthy gaol for half an hour, never mind the humiliation of a court-martial! But Pellew just can't pull the strings."
"And you can," Horatio said, satisfied that they were getting to the reason for his visit at last.
Morgan paused, and laced his hands together. After a long moment he raised serious eyes to Horatio and said, "Mr. Hornblower, Kennedy murdered one of my men, and I frankly hate him for that. I can't get him acquitted, for moral reasons if nothing else. He's confessed, and the law demands a punishment. Pellew can't alter that, he doesn't have the power, and he doesn't have the savvy to move Hood to anything but execution. If nothing is done, Kennedy will be dead by this time two days hence."
Horatio wondered if the trembling he felt inside was visible. He stared at Morgan and said nothing.
"Now Kennedy is guilty," Morgan continued in the same low tone, "And we both know that by the code of honor you prize so highly, he should die. But there are things I can do - people I can talk to - ways I can help him after the conviction. Mr. Hornblower, your friend doesn't have to die."
Play it out, Horatio thought, and cleared his throat. Even so, he was only able to talk in a whisper. "What do you want?"
Morgan's eyebrows raised a fraction. "Isn't it obvious? I want you, Mr. Hornblower, I want your talents and your ambitions aboard my ship. I want the best, and I could tell that's what you are the moment I set eyes on you. Come aboard the Courageous, and I can offer you the voyage of a lifetime and the naval career of your dreams. And I can also offer you your friend's life."
Horatio wondered how Morgan could not see the contempt in his eyes. "How?"
"Well," Morgan leaned back in the chair and stared at a nearby candle, "As I said, I can't halt a conviction, but the sentencing is another matter. Instead of death, I can probably bargain for, oh, say, twenty years, maybe fifteen, in a prison someplace. He won't be fit for service when he's released, but I'm sure you'll be able to find each other again. I can even help you with that, when the time comes."
"Would you." Horatio almost hissed.
"Certainly." Morgan replied, and if he heard Horatio's venom he didn't reveal it.
"And are you so sure that Mr. Kennedy will be convicted?"
Morgan's eyebrows came up again, and he almost laughed. "Come now, Mr. Hornblower. Even a romantic such as yourself must know that Kennedy cannot possibly be acquitted, even if he has found a lawyer stupid enough to defend him. Do you still think he's innocent?"
Horatio didn't blink. "I think there were circumstances that he is reluctant to discuss."
"I'm not surprised!" Morgan replied with a snort. "If even half of the tales circulating about his proclivities are true - "
"Mr. Kennedy is a wronged and honorable young man," Horatio said sternly, feeling his composure slide dangerously, "And superior or not, sir, you must know that I will brook no slander against him."
Morgan stared at Horatio for a beat, then said, "Mr. Hornblower, I admire your loyalty, but I'll tell you right now that Mr. Kennedy is doomed, even if every syllable breathed against him is a lie. His conviction is certain...and that is precisely why you should think my offer over very carefully before you give me your final answer."
Horatio didn't move, didn't blink, simply stared at this broad-shouldered man with the gleaming uniform who crouched in the darkness of his opulent cabin and gazed back at Horatio with avaricious eyes.
"You see, Mr. Hornblower," Morgan said softly, his voice almost a silky whisper, , "If what you say is true and Kennedy is the victim here rather than the criminal, than his death will be a terrible tragedy. But you can prevent it. You can save his life, free him from the noose. I may even be willing to see to it that he doesn't go to prison at all, perhaps get him a passage on one of the lesser ships. What do you think? Maybe you can meet up again in five or ten years, after you've made Rear-Admiral perhaps, and you'll scarcely know he's been gone. Now isn't that better than letting him hang for the sake of Pellew's pride? Think of it, Hornblower - say the word, and your friend is practically a free man, and his suffering can be over. And you can be famous, the prince of the Royal Navy, and never have to suffer another Muzillac again. That's what you want, isn't it?"
For one wild, unguarded moment, Horatio hesitated. Archie's freedom - a high command - freedom from the crushing guilt and despair he had been feeling since he held Mariette's lifeless body in his arms...it was so tempting, his sore and weary heart almost bent. He was so tired -
Morgan's eyes glittered as he leaned forward on the desk. "Mr. Hornblower, you are an exceptional young man, and to acquire your services I am willing to offer you not only the commission of your dreams, but an opportunity to help your friend that I can promise you will come from no one else." He held out one gold-ringed hand, his gaze steady and all-consuming. "Here is my hand, Mr. Hornblower, for you and for Mr. Kennedy, whatever either of you needs. Do me, and him, and all of England a great service, and take it."
Horatio stared at that hand, all golden light and darkest shadow. Then he blinked, and truly looked at it. Morgan's hand was strong and thick, the rings like trophy skulls entwining each finger. It was not like Pellew's, gentle and guiding - Morgan's hands pushed, they hurt, they grabbed, and suddenly Horatio felt Simpson's hand tighten on his scalp and smash his head into the table, once, twice, three times, and by God that would never happen again!
With all the strength he had Horatio pushed his chair away from Morgan's desk and stood up, his eyes blazing.
"I regret - " Horatio stopped, took a deep breath, and began again, "Sir, I regret very much that I cannot accept your offer."
Morgan closed his hand and frowned. "Mr. Hornblower, I advise you to think very carefully about what you are doing. I will not be extending my hand again."
"If you did offer it again," Horatio replied, his breath coming in pants of anger, "Or ten times, or a hundred, the answer would remain the same. I cannot serve with you, sir."
Morgan leaned back in his chair, his eyes glittering obsidian. "And why not, Mr. Hornblower? I'm offering you more than that old plow-horse Pellew could ever hope to."
"Because the path you endorse is wrong for me," Horatio replied, his anger rising at hearing Pellew slighted once again, "Just as the path set by Pellew is right. Because the easy path leads to corruption, to deviance, to a future that would be dark if it were lit with a thousand suns. I could not prosper in such a future, sir. It would destroy me."
"Are you so sure?" Morgan asked, "It's served some men well enough."
"It has not served them at all," Horatio rejoined, "For such a commander cannot gain officers except to spin webs and trap them, and the men who serve on such a ship serve out of fear rather than loyalty." His eyes narrowed at Morgan, so there could be no mistaking his meaning. "It is a loathsome way to live."
Morgan rose slowly out of his chair, his shadow looming once again behind him. "Take care, Mr. Hornblower. Remember I am still your superior officer."
"Superior in rank," Horatio cried, "But not in spirit, never. You sneer at Captain Pellew for his humanity and his compassion, but I would rather serve with him for a hundred years than be your lieutenant for a single day."
Morgan's chin came down. "And what about Kennedy? Without my help you know he'll hang."
Horatio could not help smiling. "How little you know of truth and justice! Kennedy's case has been taken by a man who will not be cowed by you or any man living, and once his story is told I have every confidence that he will not hang, despite your best efforts to ensure it!"
"By God!" Morgan exclaimed, making a fist of one large hand. "If you were a rating I'd have you flogged for such words - "
Horatio tilted his chin up, his eyes afire from within. "Beat me to the death, sir, others have tried. But you shall never break my spirit, for it is tempered through trials that I embrace for the strength they have given me. I would not take your easy money and easy life if it cost me but half a sixpence."
Morgan's glare intensified, and for a horrifying moment Horatio thought he might indeed be struck. But Morgan didn't look angry; he looked stunned.
Horatio gathered up his hat and said, "Now if you will excuse me, I need to return to my ship and my captain. Good night, sir."
And bowing his head, Horatio turned and stalked out of the dimly lit cabin, scarcely daring to breathe until he was past the portal, and out in the cool night air.
As soon as he was through the door, Horatio collided with someone going in, and quickly backed up to apologize.
It was Lafferty.
Lafferty! Horatio took another step back and noticed the boy's stare, which was a mixture of surprise and a little fear, but all he could think of was this man had testimony that could help Archie, and withheld it. Another cowardly toady bowing to Morgan's grand power! Lafferty almost looked as if he wanted to speak, but Horatio cut him dead with a lethal glare and pushed past, not trusting himself to be civil if Lafferty said anything to him.
In moments Horatio was sitting in the jollyboat, the hated Courageous at his back and the Indefatigable slowly glimmering from the fog, like a glorious vision. He let out a sigh and allowed a heady sense of relief and triumph to wash over him as he watched the twinkling lamps on the deck grow near. He had spoken his piece, stood his ground, defended his ship and his captain. Tomorrow would bring its challenges, but he felt an almost overwhelming premonition that everything would be all right, and nearly cried with the joy it brought. At that moment Horatio felt on top of the world, and as the Indefatigable drew nigh he felt a profound and desperate sense of gratitude toward whatever force governed the universe that he was on that ship, and serving under that captain, and that tomorrow the world would be as he knew it *should* be, right and just and perfect, come the morning light.
Philip Lafferty stood in the doorway of Morgan's cabin, half in and half out, his eyes glued to the empty space occupied just moments before by Lieutenant Hornblower. He had never been cut so dead in his entire life.
"Lieutenant?" Morgan's stern voice came from inside the dim interior of the cabin.
Lafferty came back to himself, a little. "Um - " He said, but really he was still thinking about Hornblower. That glare was the most vicious thing he'd ever seen! Why did Hornblower suddenly hate him so much? He couldn't know about the spying, Lafferty had been careful about that. But, God! What if he did? Jesus, no one had ever looked at him with such hate -
Lafferty jumped, that tone was one you didn't ignore. Rattling himself to attention, Lafferty brought himself all the way inside the door and closed it, noticing as he did so that Morgan did not look happy at all. Hell. Oh, bloody hell.
Morgan didn't move from where he stood, but looked down at his desk with a scowl. At least, Lafferty thought it was a scowl, why was it so dark in here? In a low growl Morgan asked, "What are you doing here? I gave you leave."
"Yes, sir," Lafferty stammered, hastening to approach the desk as he spoke, "You did, but, well, the lawyer's gone to...well, that is, there's...nothing left to see in town, so I...I thought I would return to prepare for tomorrow."
Morgan's eyes snapped up at him then, two glittering stabs of light. "Tomorrow?"
"Um - Yes, sir, you'll be ashore tomorrow for the court martial and I thought you might have orders for me, since you'll need me here in your place."
Morgan didn't say anything for ten seconds. Twenty.
Lafferty considered this. "Since...I'm...your first lieutenant."
Morgan's head came up a little then, but the scowl was still there. "Mr. Lafferty, I gave you leave. I assume you know what that means."
Lafferty thought, this is some kind of riddle. "Yes, sir, but my duty is here tomorrow, and I want to - "
Morgan's voice was suddenly louder, too much so. "Your duty is wherever *I* say it is, Mr. Lafferty. You will stay ashore tomorrow and keep me informed of whatever merits my attention. Understood?":
Lafferty was flabbergasted. "But, sir, what about the men? Don't you want - "
"God dammit!" Morgan suddenly shouted, and banged one fist on the mahogany desk, "Am I to be defied at every turn? Is there no respect in this fleet anymore that I am beset by upstarts and insolence even on board my own ship? Do you not care for your life here anymore, Mr. Lafferty, that I should find you another?"
Lafferty stared, frightened out of his wits. The captain was hardly making any sense to him at all. After a desperate search he found his voice, but it was practically useless when he rasped, "M-my apologies, sir. I...my only thoughts were of the ship."
Morgan's glare dulled a little, and he turned away to stare out the window into the blackness. "The ship will be taken care of. I have given Lieutenant Stephens your command while you are attending to my affairs onshore."
Lafferty felt his stomach drop. "Stephens is first lieutenant?"
Morgan whipped his head around, his expression like an angry lion's. "Do you have a problem with *that*, too?"
There was a taste in Lafferty's mouth like pewter. He felt cold all over, but there was no helping it. His eyes dropped to the floor and he whispered, "No, sir. As you please."
"Precisely," Morgan responded, very forcefully it seemed, as if he needed to peg that notion to the floor. He turned back to the window. "Now, did you see anything in town?"
Lafferty opened his mouth, closed it again. Stephens was first lieutenant? He was lazy, shiftless, always blamed others when things went wrong. Stephens was first lieutenant?
Morgan's voice gripped him by the hair. "Are you thinking, Lieutenant, or have you fallen asleep?"
Damn it, Lafferty cried to himself, you'll be flogged in a minute if you don't get a grip on yourself! Shaking his head he muttered, "Um...they went to the gaol, but I don't think anything happened there..."
"Who went to the gaol?"
"Whitehall and - " Lafferty stopped.
Morgan turned. "Whitehall and *who*?"
Suddenly Lafferty realized that he did not want to tell Morgan that Dr. St. John went to the gaol to see Kennedy. It was an impulse, unexplainable but very strong, almost painful.
Lafferty blinked very fast, and hoped he was a good liar. "I don't know. I - didn't recognize him."
"Hmph." Morgan turned back toward the window.
Lafferty bit his lip, then began talking very fast. "There's a window in the gaol on the side, it's very narrow, and I lingered there, you can hear what goes on inside. Whitehall - " he stopped again, took a deep breath and commanded himself to calm down. Something was tearing inside hm, and he hated it, but he could not tell Morgan everything he heard. For some reason, the thought of Morgan knowing how downtrodden Kennedy sounded and how Whitehall had had to beg for even a shred of cooperation from the terrified young man made Lafferty want to throw up. And the things that had been said about Morgan..."Whitehall was just telling him about tomorrow. Calling witnesses, and that sort of thing. That's all."
Morgan grunted again, and folded his arms. "Witnesses..."
"Yes, but...well, there weren't any, Whitehall said so himself, so Kennedy's conviction is certain," God! Why did it burn his gut to say that? "So...if you don't need me for anything else, captain, I'll return to the Dove."
Morgan turned around again to face Lafferty with an unreadable expression. "Keep me informed, lieutenant. Your services are very valuable to me."
I *am* going to throw up, Lafferty thought dizzily, and bowed his way out of the room as best he could. "Yes, sir. Good night."
But Morgan was silent, his back to Lafferty before he closed the door.
As soon as the door was shut, Lafferty leaned against the nearest wall and fought for breath. The corridor was unlit and deserted, and he stood there for a long time gasping staccato breaths into the uncaring darkness. Everything was wrong - his world had shattered and rearranged itself as he watched, helpless, and he struggled to understand it.
Why was the captain so angry?
Why did he suddenly want to protect Dr. St. John, who meant nothing to him?
Why did Kennedy's fate suddenly fill him with revulsion and dread?
Why did he feel so sick and betrayed that Christopher Stephens was now Morgan's first lieutenant?
And why was there a part of him - an infant, aching part of him that was tiny but could not be ignored - that hoped that he would never be Morgan's first lieutenant again?
The morning of the trial dawned, and Horatio had never felt so disjointed in his entire life.
The day seemed to happen like cannon shot, staccato bursts of activity followed by tight, unbearable silences where there was nothing to do but wait. Horatio awoke and dressed, and having no stomach for eating, paced the quarter-deck impatiently and listened to the bells toll off the half-hour. Eight, eight-thirty. Archie's court-martial would not convene until noon, ashore, and Captain Pellew said they would not leave for the Admiralty until eleven.
Nine o'clock. Horatio increased his pacing, and time would not go faster.
Every so often his eyes would snap to the Courageous, and Horatio would feel his stomach burn and have to look away. Morgan would be at the trial of course, and Horatio hoped he could be civil to the captain, at least for appearance's sake. That such a man could achieve rank in the British navy made Horatio feel ashamed.
Nine-thirty. Horatio glanced up to see that Styles was on deck, and Matthews. They were mending some rigging in the misting rain, and looking at him queerly, as if they were worried about him. Finally, he could endure their stares no longer and walked over.
Both men became bent on their tasks as soon as they saw him approach, although Styles did sneak a guilty glance upward from his mending. Horatio nodded at his salute and said, "Styles, Matthews."
"Morning sir," Styles mumbled sheepishly before returning to his work.
Horatio hesitated, then said, "I trust you both know all that is to happen today."
They both nodded, and Matthews cleared his throat and asked, "Will they be calling for your testimony, sir?"
Horatio shook his head. "No, I was not there when the attack took place. Most likely Mr. Whitehall will be depending on the words of the innkeeper, some of the other patrons, and Mr. Bracegirdle, since he saw most of the interaction between Mr. Kennedy and Lieutenant Creps."
Both men nodded, and Styles said, "I 'ope somebody exposes the bloody lot of them. And that blowhard captain of theirs too."
Horatio swallowed hard and looking Styles in the eye said, "About your work now, and no more of that talk. Your duty is to mend the rigging, not offer opinions on your superiors."
He could not have Styles talking that way; no, not when there were ears that could hear that insubordination and report it to Captain Pellew. But Horatio hoped Styles could read his eyes, because Horatio hated disciplining his men for having opinions he shared.
Styles stared at him for a moment, then two. Then a ghost of a smile tugged at his lips as he said solemnly, "Aye aye sir. Sorry sir."
Horatio gave another curt nod. "I will return this evening to see what progress you've made." And began to turn away.
"Sir?" Matthews now.
Horatio turned back, eyed them both. "Yes, Matthews?"
The elder sailor's face was deadly serious. "We'd be right glad to see Mr. Kennedy back, sir, if you could tell him. Don't know what a rating's words are worth but..." He shrugged, and looked back at his work.
Horatio gazed at that lowered head a moment, then said quietly, "I'll tell him, Matthews."
Matthews glanced up, then back down. "Thankee, sir."
Horatio took a deep breath, felt the cold air sting his lungs. Turning away he said, "About your work now," and resumed his pacing.
He did not stop pacing until the captain's door opened an hour and a half later, and Captain Pellew emerged with a stone-set face and eyes that told Horatio that no words would be spoken until this business was decided. The shore party made ready to go into the boats, and shortly thereafter sailed away from the Indefatigable to attend Archie's court martial.
As peaceful and quiet as the Indy had been, the town was the complete and total opposite.
Horatio saw people everywhere as he disembarked the jollyboat with Pellew, Bracegirdle, and a small group of marines. A curious throng lined the streets, waiting to see the prisoner on his way to the admiralty courthouse where he would stand trial. As they pushed their way through, Horatio saw an even larger crowd around the courthouse itself, with people gathering around every window and door, hoping to see in. It resembled some kind of carnival, or circus.
Pellew looked back at Horatio. "I've arranged a marine escort for Mr. Whitehall to attend him to the courthouse."
"A very wise move, sir," Horatio responded. He almost had to shout to be heard above the noise of the crowd. God! It was unnerving to him, what must Archie be facing? "May I ask if you have sought similar assurances for Mr. Kennedy?"
Pellew nodded as they neared the door to the courthouse, the marines pressing people to the side so they could get through. "Four marines each, from our ship and the Courageous. If Mr. Kennedy receives so much as a disturbed hair from this rabble someone will answer for it."
"Very good, sir," Horatio replied, and did not doubt his captain's sincerity.
Terry Whitehall came down the stairs of the inn with his satchel in hand, taking deep breaths. There was a crowd outside the Dove Inn as well, but he merely shook his head at them and headed for a table by the fireplace. Catching the innkeeper's eye he smiled and dug a coin out of his pocket, "Bread and cheese, please. And some coffee."
The innkeeper shook his head as he brought the food and set it down. "How can you eat with all of this commotion?"
Terry gave the man a smile and dug out another coin. "You've never lived on a farm during mating season, have you? There you are."
The innkeeper took the coin with a grunt and walked away. As Terry tucked into the cheese, he looked up and saw a young man in a lieutenant's uniform sitting a few tables away, staring at him. As soon as their eyes met, the young man glanced away.
Terry thought a moment, then leaned over and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Lafferty?"
The young man tried to ignore him, but since they were the only two people in the inn he finally looked over with a miserable expression.
Terry smiled at him. "Would you like some breakfast? You don't look like you've been eating very well."
Lafferty looked away, then down at the table, then up at Terry, then finally sighed and rose from his chair. He moped over to Terry's table, but didn't sit down. Instead he simply stared at the bread as if it was a beloved pet who was recently deceased.
Terry noticed this and said, "You don't need to feel guilty, lieutenant. I assure you this loaf of bread had a long and happy life."
The young man smiled in spite of himself.
"Well, that's a little better," Terry observed, "Now would you mind sitting down? It's bad enough I have to crane my neck to talk to people when I'm standing."
The young man looked abashed, and quickly sat down. Terry continued to eat, saying between bites, "If you'll pardon my saying so, lieutenant, you don't look very well. Are you on leave?"
The young man blinked, and looked down at the table with a nod.
Terry took another bite. "Do you mind my asking what brings you to town?"
Lafferty started, looked almost frightened. Finally he said, "Yes. Yes, I mind."
"Never mind, I don't need to ask." Terry swallowed and leaned forward, staring at the young man intently. "Lieutenant, may I respectfully suggest you find another line of onshore duty? When Captain Morgan asked you to keep an eye on me I'm certain he did not intend for you to be so obvious about it."
Lafferty went suddenly pale, and stared at Terry with eyes as big as saucers. After stammering for a moment he managed, "I'm not - how dare you - "
"How dare *I*?" Terry asked. "You're dogging my every move so your captain knows where he can have me jumped so nobody sees it and you're asking how *I* dare? Really, lieutenant!"
The young man sat with mouth agape a moment, then slumped in the seat and muttered, "It isn't like that. He just - he asked me to watch you, I think he wanted to make sure you aren't doing anything - illegal. That's all."
Terry laughed a little. "I'm certain of it! You know, this is the first time I've actually been able to talk to you, lieutenant, and I've been trying to pin you down for some time."
"Because I've been told you were in the courtyard the night Creps was murdered."
Lafferty took a deep breath and shook his head. "I wasn't - I mean I didn't see anything. Nothing."
"But surely you know what kind of a man Creps was? It's not too late to tell me anything you know that might help."
Lafferty's face turned gray, and he slumped lower in the seat, his voice a helpless whisper., "I don't know anything. I think you should forget about defending Kennedy, Mr. Whitehall, and leave town. Morgan's going to win anyway, he always does."
Terry took another bite of cheese, leaned back in his chair and chewed thoughtfully. After swallowing he said, "You know, Mr. Lafferty, a wise man once said that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
Lafferty lifted his eyes to stare at him.
"Now this is only my opinion," Terry continued, "But it seems to me that too many good people have been doing nothing in Mr. Kennedy's life, and letting evil win, for me to turn away from his case in good conscience. Do you know what a conscience is, Mr. Lafferty? It's what makes you stammer when you have to defend something or someone you know is horribly wrong."
Lafferty glanced around as if following something that was moving very fast, then looked down again at the table.
"Now if you'll excuse me," Terry said as he rose, "I have to get to the courthouse and defend the impossible. You're welcome to follow me if you like, I won't even let on that I know what you're doing."
Lafferty didn't respond for a moment, then as Terry pushed the chair in abruptly looked up and said, "What did you mean?"
Terry paused. "About what?"
"When you said that good men had been doing nothing in Kennedy's life? Did something happen to him once?"
Terry cocked his head. "I can't talk about that, Mr. Lafferty, it involves the case I'm trying. You haven't heard any rumors?"
"Rumors? No. What does that have to do with Creps?"
Terry looked at the young man for a moment, and before joining the brace of marines that had just come through the front door said, "Mr. Lafferty, if you don't know, I pray that you never find out."
Rose arrived just in time.
The town was hellishly crowded, even noisier than usual. It didn't really bother her - she had in fact done very well, there were apparently a lot of men about who were looking for ways to pass the time until the trial started - but she did not want to be late. When the time came, she was still a long way off, and so she almost ran, pushing people out of her way as she did so.
And she was just in time.
The area around the gaol was the most thickly crowded of all, and it made Roses's stomach drop when she saw how angry and hostile the people looked. There were beadles, and marines everywhere, and the street itself was clear, although there was a mob standing six deep on either side of it.
A mob that was bloodthirsty, staring at a building that seemed to Rose much too frail and small.
She wormed her way to the front of the crowd, just a dozen feet from the door, and thanked whatever God there was that she reached a good spot just as the gaol door swung open, and the red-uniformed marines came out.
The reaction by the crowd was unanimous. Everyone started booing.
It was a strange sound. low and guttural, and it made Rose wince to hear it, but she didn't turn away. Instead, she looked as hard as she could into the brace of marines, and finally her efforts were rewarded when she spied the prisoner, Archie Kennedy, walking in the middle of a group of four scowling men.
He stared straight ahead, as if he wasn't really there at all. He was wearing a new uniform, and his hair and face were clean, which made the bruises and scratches all the more heartbreaking. His fair face was flushed with intense concentration. Rose thought his eyes looked almost white.
The booing increased, became mixed with vile words. Rose saw that Archie wasn't looking in any direction but forward, and became almost panicked. He had to see her, he had to, and she shifted a little sideways, hoping he'd notice, but he didn't. His lips were pressed together tightly, and she thought he might be shaking, just a little. But his chin stayed up, his stride held not a hint of cowering or fear. He was steadfast.
Blast it, how could she make him see her? He walked past, she drew herself out of the crowd and replanted herself, with some difficulty, a few dozen yards down. The catcalls and jeering were deafening, and a few people threw things. One of the thrown objects hit the front marine in the back of the head, and the procession halted for a moment as he whirled around to try and catch the malefactor. Archie stopped with the rest, and just at that moment he seemed to become aware of his surroundings, and flinched a little. Just a little, and glanced to the side.
Right where Rose was standing. And he saw her.
The marines began yelling at the crowd to maintain itself and fall back, and the crowd was yelling back terrible things, it was a horrific roar, but Rose kept her eyes locked on Archie's, hoping that he was looking at her, really looking at her amid the scowling, hateful, hurting people that were swarming around them, eager to do him harm.
He blinked, the fog clearing from his eyes, and his eyebrows went up in recognition. He was really looking at her.
And Rose smiled at him.
One smile. It was all she had, no other weapon against the pushing, angry crowd that he was being thrown amidst like a lamb to the slaughter. One smile, but she knew he needed it, and she hoped it was enough.
He didn't smile back. But his eyes looked as if they were hoarding what they saw, to use the light there against the darkness they both knew was coming. And the gratitude in those terrified light-blue depths told Rose what she needed to know: it was enough.
The marines went back in formation, and the procession started again. Archie blinked, and was taken away, the baying crowd following at his heels and leaving the street deserted. Rose stood on the street corner for a few moments to collect herself, struggling against the dismal realization that rang true in the hollow echoes of the crowd as it surged away from her: she was a prostitute, giving encouragement to a young man who would soon be dead, borne away in a crowd that neither knew nor cared what either of them had ever suffered.
What she had given him was enough for now. But it would never be enough to last.
With a sad sigh, Rose pulled her shawl around her shoulders to ward off the morning chill, and went down the bleak watercolor-gray alley to ply her trade.
The Admiralty courthouse was grand and dignified, but it still
felt like a cage to Horatio.
He stood in the elegant hallway with Captain Pellew and the other officers, waiting for Admiral Lord Hood to arrive so the trial could begin. The small crowd inside the tall-ceilinged building was all brass and white stockings, who milled about with a curious, detached air that struck Horatio as bizarre - why was no one else torn up inside, as he was? Why was no one else on the verge of panic?
The crowd was still outside, and Horatio could see them outlined in the windows, peering in like fascinated patrons at a zoo. He realized he had been pacing up and down the hall, and that this action was drawing stares from those outside, and a few people within. Disgusted, he forced himself to stop pacing and went to stand by Pellew.
Pellew was talking quietly with an officer Horatio didn't know, but tilted his head a little in Horatio's direction as he approached and said, "Calmly, Mr. Hornblower. You have nothing to gain by worrying yourself into the ground."
"Aye aye, sir," Horatio whispered, chagrined that his captain had caught him out. He looked down at his shoes and wished it was tomorrow.
Beside him he heard Captain Pellew say, "Good morning, Julius."
The hackles rose on Horatio's neck. He looked up to see Captain Morgan.
The man was all grim smiles as he shook Pellew's hand. "Good morning, Edward. Well, we'll see this thing out at last, eh?"
"So it would seem," Captain Pellew said evenly, but Horatio noticed that his tone held none of the friendliness it had on other occasions, and the look Pellew was giving Morgan could only be described as cold.
Morgan didn't seem to notice Pellew's icy glare, glanced around the room and adjusted his cape. "At least Hood had the sense to keep the trial private. The talk around the taverns is, the rabble isn't complaining as long as he agrees to hang Kennedy where it can be seen from the docks."
Horatio's stomach clenched, and he returned his eyes on the floor lest Morgan see that his control had slipped, even a little. As he swallowed his anger, Pellew said, "Are you so certain he will be hanged?"
"Edward, we've had this discussion before," Morgan sighed, "Kennedy's confessed, you heard it, I heard it, even Mr. Hornblower here heard it, right, son?"
Horatio's heart jolted and he looked up, the words out of his mouth before he could stop himself. "I am *not* your son, sir."
Morgan blinked in surprise, but merely laughed a little and said, "Didn't get enough sleep, I'll wager, eh? Made you testy. In any case, the point is Kennedy has said himself he's guilty, so I'm afraid this court-martial is a foregone conclusion. After it's over, I'd be happy to entertain you gentlemen at my estate. Just to show there's no hard feelings."
"My God, Julius," Pellew hissed, stepping close to Morgan and pitching his voice low so no one else could hear them, "Have you no shame at all, no pity? We're talking about a man's life, and you're treating it like an inconvenient rain shower at a garden party!"
Morgan made an irritated face, but before he could reply the doors at the end of the hallway opened and a sharp-featured old man wearing a bad powdered wig appeared, with a small squadron of attendants skittering at his heels.
"Lord Hood," Captain Morgan muttered, and straightened his cloak. "Finally."
Horatio stared as the lord came near, fascinated by the attention he commanded by his mere presence. Every chin went higher, every shoulder went back, and a respectful silence enveloped the hallway.
Only Captain Pellew's chin did not go quite as high, and his shoulders remained where they had been, in fact were they slumping a little? He only cleared his throat a little as Hood approached, and it suddenly occurred to Horatio that this was the man who had sent them to Muzillac.
"Ah, Sir Edward," Lord Hood croaked as he came near, and smiled at Pellew as if they were at a social function. "This is your fateful day, eh?"
Pellew nodded quickly, then glanced at Horatio. "My lord, may I present Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower, who you may recall was praised highly in the reports regarding our late action."
Horatio bowed vacantly, his mind seized on one thought: this man sent us to Muzillac. This man cost six lives, and how many more rotting on the French coast or slaughtered by Moncoutant's guillotine. This man killed Mariette. Horatio could not stop staring at him.
"Ah, my boy," Hood smiled, and Horatio almost recoiled; it was a horrible smile, conspiratorial and unfeeling. He put a cold hand on Horatio's shoulder. "You have the makings of great rank about you! Make your choices wisely, and it will happen, I guarantee it."
Horatio was paralyzed, the roar of the bridge at Muzillac ringing in his ears, the awful feeling of Mariette's spiritless body against his. And then, bereft and grieving, he had pushed Archie away with a harsh word and now - now -
Now he could not stop staring at this wrinkled little troll of a man who was so oblivious to the sorrow he had caused. Horatio knew he had to answer the man, but found himself dumbstruck.
Pellew cleared his throat again, a polite warning, but from Horatio's other side a huge hand came down on his shoulder and jarred him awake.
"You'll have to excuse the lieutenant, my lord," Morgan said contritely, "The matters of the day are concerning him greatly."
Hood nodded, although the suspicious gleam in his eye told Horatio he had noted the impropriety. "Quite understandable. Well, gentlemen, I am told the prisoner is on his way, so as soon as the defense and the rest of the court arrives, we will get down to business."
There was a general buzz of agreement, and the officers began to file into the courtroom. Hood drew Pellew aside, and as soon as they were gone Horatio felt the massive weight of Morgan's hand lift from his shoulder. He fought an almost irresistible urge to brush any impression of the man from his person, and instead turned and gave the captain a quick, hot look.
Morgan was almost too close, his face serious as he returned Horatio's glare. "Stow that rebellious look, boy," he snarled in a low, menacing tone, "When a lord admiral seeks your attention, you had better bloody well give it to him. If nothing else I would have thought Pellew would teach you manners."
Horatio could think of no reply that would not land him in irons, so kept silent and turned away.
Morgan caught his arm, and when Horatio whirled around to face him said, "Mind the day, Mr. Hornblower. Despite your foolhardiness of last evening, I want you to bear in mind that my offer still stands."
Horatio pursed his lips for a moment before shaking his head. "Never."
At that moment a side door opened at the other end of the wide foyer, letting in a loud chorus of angry voices. Horatio turned and saw a blur of red, marines bristling with pikes and bayonets, moving like a giant swift snake into the foyer and then into an anteroom beyond it. And in the middle of that group Horatio saw Archie - just for a moment, one swift moment, and then he and the marines were gone, leaving the admiralty attendants to push the door closed against the mob attempting to claw its way in.
Horatio shuddered, and looked down at the floor, drowning in a torrent of emotions. It was only after he had been standing there a few moments that he remembered Morgan, and looked up to see the man still standing where he had been, his face set and dark as a tomb at midnight.
"Mind the day, Mr. Hornblower," Morgan said quietly.
And turning, followed the other officers inside and left Horatio standing in the dreary hallway alone.
"...so you see, Captain Pellew," Hood said conversationally as the two men walked into the courtroom, "All will come out well in that,er, unfortunate affair you were involved in. Never fear."
Never fear! Pellew's eyes swept the large, high-ceilinged room, the cold and efficient place of decision, and wondered how Hood could even think that he would be concerned with Muzillac at a time like this. But the lord had grabbed him almost immediately, insisted on prattling on about the letters he had sent, and the strings he had pulled, all to assure Pellew that no one would be held accountable for the tragedy in France. It would be as if Muzillac had never happened.
Pellew smiled at Hood and nodded his thanks, knowing the lord was expecting it, but all the while his eyes were on the room and the men within it. The weather outside was still gloomy, so lamps had been lit, and although the marines had done their best there were people standing at the large-paned windows, peering curiously at the important men inside. There were no curtains on the windows to draw, but there were shutters outside. Pellew hoped someone would close them before too long.
Hood gave Pellew a final pat on the arm and drifted away, called away by some other gilded sycophant. Pellew took the few moments to himself to survey the room, and saw everything he expected to: The long table at the front of the room where the judging captains would sit, in front of a large oaken door; the chair off to the side for the accused, and the two small tables facing the tribunal, one for the defense and one for the prosecution. Pellew was satisfied to see Terry Whitehall seated at his table, a sea of documents neatly laid out in front of him and his attention focused on Mr. Bracegirdle, who was standing and nodding as if they were going over final instructions.
Pellew glanced at the prosecutor's table, and saw Morgan talking to a tall, very slender man who gave Morgan a confident smile. The prosecution, no doubt. Pellew cast his eyes to the hallway, remembering that he had left Hornblower there, and saw the young man still lingering outside, apparently lost in thought. Doubtless Morgan had attempted to rattle him somehow, but that would have to be attended to later.
Walking quietly to the defense's table, Pellew said, "Good morning, Mr. Whitehall. All in readiness, I trust?"
Whitehall looked in Pellew's direction and smiled. "Good morning, sir. Yes, I was just going over some last-minute instructions with your first lieutenant."
Pellew nodded, and clasped his hands behind his back. "What have we to fear from the tribunal?"
"Well," Whitehall picked up a piece of paper and glanced at the long table, where the captains were sitting down. "We have Captain Rodgers from the Olympus, the ruddy fellow at the far left, the elderly gentleman is Captain Leesworth from the Crown, Captain Maser is the stern-looking one, and then there's Captain Dunnesmore on the end, the dark-haired chap. And of course Lord Admiral Hood."
Pellew scanned the faces. "I wish I could say I knew them. I suppose Hood designed it so the jury would not be too familiar with either side."
Whitehall snorted. "Well, he's already failed on that count. Those men spent the better part of yesterday afternoon at Captain Morgan's house."
Bracegirdle and Pellew exchanged surprised looks.
"But it's not as bad as you might think," Whitehall continued, unruffled. "From what I hear, they're more scared of Morgan than anything else, and pretty much aware that he was trying to buy them off. In fact, one of them was overheard to say he'd be happy to see the court-martial go our way, just to show Morgan he can't have everything."
Pellew looked at Whitehall in confusion. "How do you know this?"
Whitehall's smile was conspiratorial as he shuffled his papers. "Lady Morgan's maid is very - ah - intimate with a young man who works at the Peddler's Pig. You'd be surprised at what a little kindness and a couple of guineas will buy these days."
The door behind the judges' table opened, and a marine stepped out and marched over to Whitehall's table. "Sir, the accused has arrived."
"Oh, good," Terry gathered up a few papers and rose from his seat. "If you will excuse me, gentlemen, I must go do my job."
"Good luck, young man," Bracegirdle said, and gave Whitehall a pat on the back.
"It's not good luck we need," Whitehall said, turning a confident smile to Bracegirdle and Pellew, "It's good lawyering. Fortunately, I happen to have a little of that."
The courtroom was getting quiet.
Horatio lingered in the hallway, listening to the bustle dying down, and looked at the hallway clock. It was almost noon. Archie's trial would be beginning in a very few moments.
Horatio found his breath coming very hard, and did not want to go in.
The feeling of dread that had plagued him since Muzillac was growing despite Horatio's best attempts at quelling it. Of course, Archie would be acquitted. Of course - Terry was an excellent lawyer, and no quitter, and Horatio knew in his heart that Archie could not have done this deed out of anything but a desperate need to defend his own life - no, not even his life, for he would have been left with that, had Creps done what he intended. His soul then.
Overhead, a bell began tolling. Horatio started for a moment, then thought, of course; if they had been on a ship, a cannon would have been fired to mark the beginning of the trial. Onshore, a bell was signal enough.
An attendant appeared at the door, his eye on Horatio as he grasped the handle. Go in, Horatio commanded himself, and took a few steps. He happened to look a little to his right, and noticed that a hallway door had been left ajar and he could see into the room. It was the room behind the courtroom, and Horatio could see Archie, standing by a shuttered window, quietly listening to Terry, who was standing next to him and talking to him.
It was a moment's glance, but Horatio drank it in, noting Terry's serious, focused look, and his complete attention to Archie. Archie kept his eyes on the floor, glancing up at Terry only once, and Horatio saw that he was wearing a new uniform, and his face and hair were clean. His face no longer held despair, but a kind of determination that reminded Horatio of his friend's expression during another conversation, years ago it seemed...
**just stay calm and keep out of their sights, and they cannot possibly touch you.**
Archie had been so anguished then, ashamed that he had panicked, but Horatio's words seemed to give him an uncertain strength. That same look was on Archie's face right now, faltering confidence and not a little fear. But he was not buckling, and he had not given up, at least not entirely.
For God's sake, don't give up, Archie, Horatio thought silently. Your soul is worth the price that had to be paid to protect it.
The bell finished tolling, and Horatio heard the resistant creak as the attendant began to close it. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head to clear it, and slipped around the attendant to go inside.
As soon as the attendant closed the door and Horatio took his seat beside Captain Pellew, Lord Admiral Hood sat down at the long table, in the center with two captains on either side, and picked up the papers that sat in front of him.
Horatio took that moment to look over the room, and his eyes were drawn to an object sitting on the table in front of the captains - Archie's dress sword. Any officer accused of a crime was required to surrender it, and it became a symbol of their fate. Horatio knew that when the trial was ended and Archie was summoned back to hear the verdict, his eyes would go to that sword first, as would everyone's in the room. If the hilt was pointing toward him, it mean he had been acquitted and would go free. But if the end facing him was the point...
Horatio swallowed hard, and tried not to think about it.
"Gentlemen," Hood said in his paper-thin rasp, "the time has come to convene this court-martial trial of one Mr. Archie Kennedy of His Majesty's Ship, Indefatigable. Sergeant, you may bring in the accused."
The marine standing by the door behind the table nodded, and opened the door to admit two more marines, and in between them, his eyes straight ahead and his cheeks flushed, walked Archie. Horatio held his breath.
The marines led Archie to stand before the long table, his back to the officers watching.
Horatio saw Hood's beady eyes squint at Archie's face. "Acting lieutenant Archie Kennedy, you have been accused of the crime of murder. How do you plead?"
Horatio saw Archie's shoulders come back a little, and his voice was quiet but firm as he said, "My lord, I wish to plead - " he paused to take a breath - "Not guilty."
There was a slight murmur in the courtroom, and Horatio glanced over at Morgan and saw that the captain's eyes had narrowed, just a little.
Hood, however, only blinked vacantly and said, "Very well. Do you have anything to say on your own behalf? Some defense, some explanation?"
Archie seemed to shudder a little, and swallowed. "No, sir, I...not at this time."
"All right then, take your seat and we will hear the evidence for and against you. Mr. Uscher?"
Horatio watched as Archie was led to his seat and sat down, his eyes now focused on the floor. He was taking deep breaths, and Horatio was struck with the terrifying thought that Archie might have a fit from the tremendous pressure he was under. But no, that would not happen. Surely there was no god that cruel.
A tall, skinny, well-dressed man in a powdered wig - Mr. Uscher, Horatio assumed - stood up from the table and faced to the side, so he could talk to the judges and the assembly at once. He looked at a sheaf of papers in his hand, and put his other hand on the lapel of his coat with a pompous air.
"Gentlemen," he began in deep tones, "Mr. Kennedy has already admitted, in the presence of two captains no less, that he did take the life of lieutenant Trevor Creps three days ago. If he and his counsel wish to waste our time this afternoon by denying that fact, or making some other claim, they are certainly welcome to try, since this bad weather has made it impossible for me to get any work done on my estate! But the end result will remain that he murdered Trevor Creps in cold blood, and confessed to it. I believe we are all aware of the only possible justice for such a terrible act."
With that, Uscher sat down again, and Horatio noticed that Archie was still staring at the floor. But he was pressing his lips together very hard.
Terry stood up and, unlike Uscher, turned to face the judges. "My lord, distinguished captains, there can be no argument made that Mr. Kennedy did not take the life of lieutenant Creps. Unfortunately, that is fact that is sadly all to clear. But to say he murdered him implies a malicious intent, a desire to end another's life, and I believe Mr. Kennedy is guilty of neither of these faults. He was defending himself from being injured by a young man who was no gentleman himself, but a bully prone to violence and cruelty, protected by an environment that not only did not punish these vices, but encouraged them. That is the fact that will be made known today, and only possible justice that must result from it is the return of this officer to his duties and his life."
Around him, Horatio could hear officers shifting in their seats, and he almost felt the anger coming from where Morgan sat. But there was nothing Morgan could do, especially if he wanted to prove Terry wrong, except listen to the evidence presented.
"Thank you, gentlemen," Hood said as Terry took his seat. Looking at a clerk who was sitting at a small table to the left of the larger one he said, "Now read that back, if you will please."
The clerk nodded, and began to recite, word for word, all that had just taken place. It was interesting to Horatio, who was not aware that all proceedings in a court martial were written down and read back, but he realized that if this were to continue all afternoon, it would be a very long day indeed.
As soon as the clerk's droning was done, Hood said, "Now the first to offer testimony is a Mr. Cobb, the owner of the establishment where the crime took place. Mr. Cobb?"
Horatio watched as a short, somewhat overweight man stood from the seats nearest the table and came forward, holding his shapeless cap in his hands. He stopped directly in front of the table and bowed to the occupants.
Hood sniffed. "Now my good man, tell us what you can."
"Or right," Cobb nodded, and shifting from one foot to the other began, "Well, it was a pretty busy night as you can imagine, with the rain comin' in and all the ships in port. I told Molly to make sure nobody went dry, and sent two more girls into the courtyard where all them officers from the Courageous was." He paused, as if lost for a moment, then said, "I guess it was around eleven o'clock, I just opened the side gate, the one at the top of the stairs on the one side facing the street, and when I went down the stairs to get back inside that Creps was standing there, but we didn't mind each other and I went inside. Next I knew, people were screamin' and I found out he was dead."
Cobb stopped shifting, and after a moment Hood said, "Very well. Mr. Uscher?"
Terry sat down, and Horatio saw the prosecutor rise, like a rank fog from a stream. Gathering up his papers, he strode over to Cobb, who started a little as he came near. Walking around him, Uscher said, "Mr. Uscher, you were the first to come across Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Creps, correct?"
"Uh - yes, sir, I was just inside the door when it happened."
"And what did you see?"
Cobb thought. "Creps lyin' dead on the landing, blood all over'im. Mr. Kennedy was crouched next to 'im, holding a knife, and he had blood all over 'is clothes too, and he was shaking like a shorn sheep in the wintertime. Captain Morgan was just comin' down the side stairs when I came upon 'em."
"So you'd say that Kennedy stabbed Creps?"
"Well - yes, of course."
"Did you hear any shouting, fighting, beforehand? Any signs of a struggle?"
Cobbs thought again. "They were both scratched up a bit, an' Kennedy had that big bruise on his face, only it was just a red mark at the time. That's all."
"No cries for help? No yelling?"
Cobbs shook his head, almost regretfully. "No, sir."
"So if this was an 'attack', it was the quietest attack in English history." Uscher said snidely, and went back to his table.
A few of the officers snickered, and Horatio felt his heart sink a little. Archie had kept his eyes on the floor, and Horatio saw him close his eyes for a moment, then open them again.
After a moment's silence, Terry stood up and without moving from his table asked, "Mr. Cobb, how long have you owned the Peddler's Pig?"
Cobb turned to face Terry, and began to shift again. "Sixteen years, sir. Named it after me neighbor's pet."
"I see. You get a lot of business from the sailors, correct?"
"Oh, yes, sir. Always have, that what I prides myself on."
"And your establishment is well suited for it, I noticed, with plenty of room inside and out. I mean, the sailors and petty officers can celebrate in one part of the tavern, and the higher-ups can drink in the courtyard."
"Yes, sir, them officers love the courtyard. I charge extra for them bein' out there."
"Exactly, so it works out for everybody. Now do you keep track of who uses the courtyard?"
Cobb shrugged. "Not really."
"But when a certain group uses it often, you'd notice that?"
"Aye, I suppose."
"For instance, do the men of the Courageous use it when they're in port?"
"Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, sir, them boys are always comin' with money in their pockets. I make a month's earnings when they're in town."
"And when they are in town, how do they behave? Ever had any trouble?"
Cobb glanced into the gallery, and Horatio knew he was looking at Morgan. Then he looked back at Terry, and Horatio saw his friend lift his chin up a little, as if encouraging the man to speak.
Cobb hesitated only another moment, then said, "Well, there was some. Them...not that I haven't had trouble from other ships, but there've been fights, and a couple of my girls - " He paused and cleared his throat, "Well, there's been trouble. Nothing like this, though."
Terry nodded. "Has any of this trouble ever involved Lieutenant Creps?"
Again, Cobbs seemed to weigh this, then said, "Yes, a few times. I had a hostler's apprentice working at the stable, and one time he and Creps got into some kind of fight."
"How old was this young man at the time?"
"This was last year. The boy was fourteen."
"And where did the fight take place? Not in the courtyard?"
"No, he wasn't allowed to go there. Only up and down the stairs, to fetch horses. That's where I found him."
Cobbs nodded. "At first I thought he fell down the stairs. You can't see the stairway from the street because there's a wall around the stairwell, and you can't see up the stairs from the courtyard because it goes around the side. He'd been there a while, is what I'm sayin', and nobody saw him."
"And he told you Creps had fought with him?"
"Yessir. Well...yes, sir."
Horatio noticed that Archie's color had heightened, and knew what his friend was thinking. Of dark, hidden stairways. And empty holds far down in the bowels of a ship...
"Now this fight that they had," Terry continued, "What time of day did it take place in?"
Cobb frowned. "It was a sunny day, so it must have been middle of the afternoon."
"Not your busiest time, correct?"
"No, sir. Pretty quiet, it's when I clean and take stock."
"So if there had been a fight, you would have heard it, wouldn't you? As the prosecution so ably pointed out, there are very few silent fights."
Cobb colored, and said, "Yes, sir."
"Now," Terry left the table and began to pace, "Since Creps had been in trouble before, it might be safe to assume he knew what he was doing. Would it be possible for someone to be attacked in that stairway and for the noise to not be heard?"
Cobb turned this over in his head and replied, "There ain't a lot to muffle it, but I suppose if you whispered or something nobody would hear it."
"And Creps was certainly larger than a fourteen-year-old boy, correct?"
"Oh, he was bigger than Jimmy, a lot bigger."
"So Creps could corner him, beat him, and tell him not to make any noise while he was doing it, and you'd never hear a thing, would you?"
Cobb lowered his gaze regretfully. "I suppose that's possible. No, I wouldn't hear anything."
Terry paused for a moment, then asked, "When Jimmy told you what had happened, did you confront Creps?"
"After a manner, sir. The boy was beat pretty badly, no good as a hostler anymore. I wanted to see he was looked after, and get compensation."
"And what happened?"
Cobb looked at the floor and made a disgusted face. "I got double what I asked for, if I was never to mention what happened."
Another ripple of comment shot around the room, and Horatio felt a strange sense of triumph. They know you now, he thought as he glanced at Morgan again, and saw how tightly the captain's jaw was clenched. Your hold cannot last forever.
"So what you're saying, Mr. Cobb," Terry said, pacing back to his table, "Is that not only had Creps made trouble before, but he seemed to prefer using that particular stairway to make it in, and he knew how to do it so he wouldn't attract attention?"
Cobb didn't take his eyes off the floor. "Yes, sir."
Terry nodded. "Now, can you tell me if you've ever seen the accused before?"
Cobb turned to look at Archie, who raised his eyes from the floor. After a moment Cobb turned back to Terry and said, "I've seen him maybe once before."
"Does he have the same reputation the men from the Courageous do? Has he ever started a fight?"
"Him? No, sir, I'd remember if he had. He kept to himself, and his friends in the main room."
Terry nodded, this time with a sense of finality. "Thank you, Mr. Cobb."
Horatio sat back, unaware he'd been holding his breath until Cobb sat down, and he expelled it with a sigh. He looked at Pellew, who was regarding Hood with a cautious expression, then at Archie, whose eyes were still on the floor. The reaction of the men around him seemed to hint that the trial was not going as expected; certainly a confessed murderer would be hanged in a matter of minutes! Horatio heard a few surprised whispers at Terry's accusations, and smiled to himself. Perhaps any other lawyer would have laid down and let Archie hang, but Terry was a Whitehall and they did not give up so easily, or even at all. Feeling the dread in his heart ease a little, Horatio leaned back and waited for the next witness.
Phillip Lafferty did not want to go watch the trial.
For a long time after Terry Whitehall left, Lafferty sat at the table in the inn, too distraught and confused to move, let alone go anywhere. He thought if he did not go to the trial he might be missed, but then considered that he had not been ordered to go, and so did not have to go. So he stayed in the inn.
A little time passed, and the crowds in the street outside thinned somewhat. Lafferty ordered an ale, but didn't drink it. Morgan's going to get what he wants, Lafferty thought sourly as he swirled the drink around to watch the pattern it made. When are they going to learn, he always gets what he wants. They're wasting their time.
Kennedy would hang. Then, after Kennedy hanged, Morgan would hunt down everyone who defied him and make them pay for it, starting with Whitehall probably because he was a civilian and a relatively easy target. Oh, he wouldn't physically harm him - that would be too obvious, and too lowly for Morgan unless he was truly desperate - but he might suddenly find it much harder to get clients, and it would impossible to combat the stories about him that might spring up in the newspapers...
Lafferty had seen Morgan do this to other people, and so knew it could be done. And it would be done. No one crossed Morgan and got away with it.
Thank God Creps was dead, Lafferty thought as he took a small drink out of the mug and set it down. If Morgan had found those letters to the French while he was living, Creps wouldn't have even lasted until a court-martial...Morgan would have made an example of him that would have been harrowing to watch. Yes, Creps was very lucky he was dead.
But why had Kennedy killed him?
Lafferty thought back to that night, to the conversation he had witnessed between Creps and Kennedy. It had gone all right for a few minutes, but then Kennedy had turned white and bolted like a frightened rabbit. Then Creps had asked him to go watch for Hornblower, and when Hornblower arrived Lafferty had gone and told Creps. And then...
Well, then for some reason Kennedy had stabbed him to death.
Lafferty shook his head. There was something there that he knew he was missing, but he didn't know what it was, and was angry that he even cared. Creps and Morgan had both turned out to be even worse people than he thought they were, but after all how bad was that? Why did this little lawyer have to show up and goad him with silly talk about consciences and doing the right thing, when it was obvious that no matter what anyone did that Kennedy would hang, and anyone who helped him would be put to a much slower, more painful death? What did any of it matter?
**the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.**
Lafferty frowned and stood, digging a coin out of his pocket and tossing it onto the table. He had been sitting too long and needed to walk around.
It was drizzling out, no help to Lafferty's mood, and he walked with his head down among the people out in the street. Had Whitehall actually had the nerve to call him a 'good man'? Lafferty knew better, he was just as soiled and imperfect as anyone else, a silent bystander to Creps' cruelties, a willing toady to Morgan's authority. He had nothing that could save or even help Kennedy, and wanted desperately to hide somewhere until this was over with. Then he could go back to the Courageous, damned like all the rest, and pretend this never happened.
The streets were not crowded until Lafferty came closer to the admiralty, then it seemed all of the town was there, craning necks and talking to each other. Frustrated, Lafferty wondered if there was anywhere to go to escape this.
"I don't know what he's thinking on," one working-class girl was saying to another nearby, "But 'e ain't bad-looking, so who cares if he stays around."
Lafferty looked at her and touched her arm. "What happened?"
The girl started and looked him up and down, then laughed a little. "Wot, you just fall out of a wagon? Some halfwit officer is bein' tried for murder."
"I know that!" Lafferty said in exasperation, "I mean, what happened at the trial?"
The girl made a face. "Well, so far 'e's pleaded not guilty, and from wot's been said it looks like 'is lawyer's makin' that Captain Morgan and 'is men out to be a bunch of bullies."
"Which they are!" The other girl yelped.
"Well, yer, luv, but who's going to come out 'n' say it? I mean, that Morgan can cut your 'ead off with his eyes! That lawyer's insane if you ask me."
"'e ain't insane! Everybody knows the men off 'is ship is the biggest lot of buggerers this side of London, an' it's time somebody said so."
"Oh, Lottie, hush! Nobody said anything about buggerin'."
"Who needs to? Ain't I got a sister walks the streets? She told me none of the girls could ever get a shillin' out of Creps coz 'e went for the boys instead. An' the more they didn't want to the better."
"Oh, you got a wicked mind!"
"*I* do? Weren't me tellin' these tales, miss. Talk is that's why 'e was murdered. One of 'em finally fought back."
"Well, if it's true, it's a shame they'll hang 'im anyway. Throwing good after bad, I'd say. Say, where'd your young officer go?"
"Who, indeed! The young man who asked you what was goin' on!"
"Oh. Dunno. I saw 'im wander off towards the docks, I think 'e was drunk. D'y'spose that lawyer's married?"
Lord Admiral Hood peered at the papers in front of him and said, "Next we will hear from First Lieutenant Anthony Bracegirdle. Mr. Bracegirdle, if you would be so kind."
Horatio decided he had never seen his superior look more serious as he went to stand in front of the lord and captains. Bowing before Hood and the others, Bracegirdle said, "Thank you, my lord."
"Now, then, sir, what can you offer to this trial?"
Bracegirdle took a deep breath and said, "My lord, I have known Mr. Kennedy for five years, and can vouch first-hand to his character and worth as an officer. The night the - activity - took place, we were dining together in the Peddler's Pig. He seemed somewhat melancholy, but that is understandable as we had just come off a rather intense engagement."
"Understood," Hood said, in a tone that demanded no further elaboration. "Please continue."
"Yes, my lord. Lieutenant Creps came in from the courtyard and invited Mr. Kennedy to join them, and at that time he did not hesitate to do so. After a few moments, however, he came back in a very agitated state. He sat back down at the table, and seemed to be very anxious about something. I stayed with him for a while, but then had to return to the ship."
Uscher stood again, his manner smug and pretentious. "Lieutenant Bracegirdle, you say you've known the accused for five years?"
"But not all five of those years, if I'm correct?"
Bracegirdle gave the man an even look. "No, I'm afraid Mr. Kennedy served some time as a prisoner of war, so there was a period that he was gone from our company."
"And do you recall the manner of his capture?"
Bracegirdle looked confused. "Sir?"
"Forgive me if I am wrong, lieutenant, but was not Mr. Kennedy captured as the result of being left to drift unconscious in a jollyboat because he had suffered a fit and needed to be silenced?"
Horatio curled his hands into fists, suddenly burning with anger. Terry swiftly stood up and said, "With all respect, what does that have to do with this trial?"
"Perhaps nothing," Uscher shrugged, "I merely point out that the accused has a history of debilitating fits, and it would be an incomplete examination indeed that did not contemplate the possibility that his condition may have led to Creps' unfortunate demise."
Horatio felt a strong hand on his arm, and realized it was Pellew's. Forcing his hands to relax, he unclenched them and realized that his jaw was tightly clamped, and relaxed that also. But he saw Archie turn his head away slightly, and could not stop the hot fury in his heart. He did not look at Pellew, or at Morgan or anyone else because he did not trust himself, but thought, cowards. Cowards.
But Bracegirdle, thank goodness, did not betray an inkling of anger. Instead, he simply gazed at Uscher evenly and said, "I am well acquainted with Mr. Kennedy's condition, sir, and I can assure you he showed no signs of succumbing to it that night."
"Then it is even worse for him, isn't it, lieutenant?" Uscher sneered, "For you are telling me he committed this act in full knowledge of what he was doing. Can you tell us what you were discussing that night?"
Bracegirdle smiled a little. "We were discussing his heroism at Muzillac, sir."
"Pardon me, did you say his heroism?"
Bracegirdle nodded, "He rescued another officer from certain death, a very notable achievement."
Uscher frowned and picked up a piece of paper. "According to the reports I've seen, this Mr. Kennedy was responsible for almost causing a massacre by panicking over phantom gunfire. Are we discussing the same man?"
Terry almost leapt out of his seat. "My lord, I must object to this line of questioning! None of this has anything to do the charges before this court-martial, and I demand that Mr. Uscher withdraw it."
Horatio could see Uscher's face burning red with rage, but under Terry's piercing gaze hesitated, then in a tensely controlled voice said, "My apologies, my lord, perhaps I should rephrase the question. Mr. Bracegirdle, have you ever known the accused to panic under stressful situations?"
Horatio saw Archie take a deep breath, but there was no help for it. Bracegirdle answered, "I have only heard of one instance, but I was not a witness - "
"And what was that instance?"
Bracegirdle hesitated, clearly unwilling to condemn Archie in any way. Begrudgingly he said, "During the last campaign, he...mistook a small sniper attack for a somewhat...larger one."
"Precisely what I have heard. He ordered cannon fired, did he not?"
Bracegirdle paused again. "Yes, sir."
"So would you say that under pressure, the accused has proven himself, well, somewhat less than reliable?"
Bracegirdle's light blue eyes blazed. "No sir, I would not say that at all. Aside from once, Mr. Kennedy has always been a very brave young man - "
"But if he did it once, might he not do it again? On a dark night, in a narrow stairway, might someone prone to fi...prone to succumbing to irrational fears, overreact to a sudden and unexpected intrusion?"
Bracegirdle narrowed his eyes. "I'm not sure what you mean, sir."
"I mean, Mr. Bracegirdle," Uscher replied haughtily, walking around the table, "That if you or I were to encounter someone we didn't like in a dark alley, we might turn our heads and continue on our way. But someone who is more - hmm - skittish, he might have a more violent reaction? Perhaps even a deadly one?"
Bracegirdle put his head back and shook his head. "I can't see Mr. Kennedy reacting that way, sir."
"But by your own admission he has fired shots at phantoms, panicked when it was imperative that he keep his head together. Is it not possible that he could in any dire moment suffer a similar fit and commit acts that no reasonable man may excuse?"
Bracegirdle's face grew pink, and he said, "I could never imagine - "
"I am not interested in your imagination, Mr. Bracegirdle. I am only interested in a yes or no answer. Is it possible?"
Bracegirdle looked at the floor, and Horatio thought he had never seen the senior officer look so beaten. "It is not...impossible."
"Thank you, Mr. Bracegirdle," Uscher replied triumphantly, and sat down.
There was a murmur in the courtroom as Terry stood up, and Horatio felt a stirring of uncertainty. Uscher had all but denounced Archie as a crazed lunatic, and Horatio wondered frankly how Terry could recover from it.
If Horatio had doubts, Terry looked as if he owned the world; with an encouraging smile he stood up and said, "Mr. Bracegirdle, tell us what you know about Mr. Kennedy."
Bracegirdle gave Terry a sideways glance, as if he was still rattled by Uscher's onslaught. However, taking a deep breath he composed himself and said, "Mr. Kennedy came aboard the Indefatigable in '93 as a midshipman, and just these past few months has achieved the rank of acting-lieutenant."
Terry nodded, "As Mr. Uscher so charitably pointed out, Mr. Kennedy is not perfect, but surely he is not without his good qualities besides, wouldn't you say?"
"Certainly, sir. During an early engagement with the enemy, he was one of the first to go across when we boarded her. He has always been an able officer."
"In fact," Terry shuffled some papers with a frown, "I understand that after the unfortunate incident that was described a moment ago, that Mr. Kennedy was involved in another action, with a very different ending. What can you tell the judges about it?"
Bracegirdle paused a moment, then stood up a little straighter and spoke so all could hear. "Sir, my information came from a report given by Lord Edrington, commander of the 95th foot during our mission in Muzillac. During the final engagement, it became necessary to destroy a stone bridge by blowing it up with explosives that had been laid earlier. When the time came, the command was given, and the fuse was lit. Unfortunately, one of our officers, Mr. Hornblower, was on the other side of the bridge with the enemy. In a few moments he would be trapped with them."
Horatio noticed the judges were leaning forward attentively. Terry must have noticed this too, and Horatio saw a slight smile at the corner of his mouth as he said, "Then what happened?"
"According to the lord's report," Bracegirdle continued, "A...difficulty prevented Mr. Hornblower from proceeding across the bridge. With the fuse burning, Mr. Kennedy ran across the bridge and brought him safely over, as I understand it sir, with the flames at his very back."
Terry leaned back and smiled broadly. "Hardly the actions of a coward, wouldn't you say, Mr. Bracegirdle?"
"Indeed not, sir." Bracegirdle looked visibly relieved. "Especially owing to the risk involved."
"You mentioned before that Mr. Kennedy was absent for a time after he came to the Indefatigable," Terry remarked, walking around the table, "I understand he was imprisoned, is that correct?"
Bracegirdle's face grew a little darker. "Yes, sir."
"But eventually he returned?"
"Yes, he escaped. along with Mr. Hornblower and a number of his crew."
"How long had he been in prison?"
"Nearly two years, sir."
"What was his condition?"
Bracegirdle thought a moment. "Rather pale and a little thin. Exhausted, I should imagine."
Terry glanced at his papers. "One would have expected a man just released from prison to savor his freedom. How long was Mr. Kennedy free, Mr. Bracegirdle?"
Bracegirdle paused. "A day, sir."
"His escape was due to Mr. Hornblower being allowed to leave the prison to rescue some sailors that were shipwrecked on a reef. Mr. Hornblower gave his word that he and his men would return, and Mr. Kennedy honored that word."
"You're saying he returned to prison?"
"Yes, sir. He was the first to volunteer, despite Captain Pellew's assurances that none of the men were obligated to go. He went back to prison."
There was a little more murmuring, and Archie lifted his head to look straight ahead. Horatio could tell by his face that he was remembering that time, and felt a fresh swell of pride at his friend's loyalty; of all his men, Horatio had not expected Archie to go.
"My lord," Terry said, facing the captains, "I would submit to you that any man is capable of submitting to his baser fears. But only a true Englishman would place such a high value on honor and integrity as Mr. Kennedy has, and surrender his freedom and possibly his life to uphold them. Whatever his challenges, he has risen up to face them. Such a man would not wantonly or dispassionately take another's life when he has so obviously shown such high respect for it. Thank you, Mr. Bracegirdle."
As the clerk read the testimony back in his boring monotone, Horatio studied the faces of the people around him. Archie was sitting almost ramrod straight, as if Terry's words had reminded him of that bright day when he stood on the deck of the Indefatigable, the summit of all that was right and noble in their world. Terry was back at his desk and writing, his face reflecting deep concentration. The captains were in various stages of contemplation, but mostly they looked concerned, as if this trial would not be the open-and-shut affair they had first thought it to be. Once or twice Horatio saw one of them slide a glance in Archie's direction, but it was neither with contempt or sympathy. They were still not sure...
On the pretense of scratching his right shoulder, Horatio risked a look at Morgan. The captain looked very controlled, but not smug or self-assured as he had earlier. He's realizing he may lose, Horatio realized with some gratification, and quickly glanced away to avoid detection.
Morgan may lose. But it was still not a certainty.
Pellew noticed Horatio's movement and for a moment their eyes met. The room was silent save for the clerk's nasal whine, so Pellew said nothing, but his eyes held a wealth of compassion in them that astonished Horatio to his core. He thought that only he felt true anguish for Archie's future, that the gales of emotion that stormed through that lofty room had been felt by his heart alone.
But one look in those great brown eyes told Horatio this was not the case. Pellew's heart had been buffeted by tempests nearly as strong.
The revelation was so unexpected that Horatio felt his eyes begin to well at the sight of a kindred soul. Then Pellew looked away, and Horatio looked down at his own hands, embarrassed that Pellew should catch him so openly emotional. He closed his eyes briefly, and bid himself be calm.
Finally the clerk's voice ceased, and Lord Hood picked up a sheet of paper and squinted at it. "Our next witness is a lieutenant Danford of the Courageous."
Horatio felt his mouth go dry as a tall, aristocratic-looking youth walked to the judge's table and bowed politely. Terry laced both hands under his chin and was watching Danford carefully. Horatio saw Archie look at Danford very quickly. Then he looked down again.
"Lt. Danford," Uscher began, "You were in the courtyard the night the attack took place. Can you tell the judges what you recall?"
"Certainly," Danford replied with a compliant smile. "I was enjoying a pint with my fellows when Trevor - that's Lieutenant Creps - came into the courtyard with Kennedy. They seemed to be getting on rather well, and then suddenly Kennedy became very angry and left."
"What do you mean, very angry?"
"Well, they were just sitting at the table talking and all of a sudden he just bolted up out of his seat. He was white as a ghost. I'd heard about him, that he had fits - "
Terry let one hand drop to the table loud enough for Danford to look over and notice his warning glare.
"Um - anyway, he really did look very upset."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, as I said, he left. Trevor sat and drank for a while, then walked over to the door where you can go into the tavern and stood there for a short time. I saw him go up the stairs, then I saw Kennedy follow him."
Horatio suppressed a shudder as the captains turned and gave Archie a quartet of searching looks. Archie had his head down, staring at the floor with blinkered studiousness.
Uscher nodded sympathetically. "Then what did you see?"
Danford swallowed. "It was very noisy in the tavern I didn't - hear anything, but after a few minutes I happened to look over at the stairway and I saw Kennedy hunched against the wall. He was shaking very badly, and he had this - this knife in his hand, and he was covered with blood."
"Lieutenant Creps' blood."
Danford's shoulders sagged a little. "Yes, sir. The look on his face - he was like a wild animal. By the time I made it over there Captain Morgan had arrived, but it was too late." The last words were a carefully structured whisper.
Uscher looked at Danford in concern. "All you all right, lieutenant?"
"Oh - yes," Danford sighed, "It's very hard, to see a comrade fall like that. In battle, you expect it, but to be killed in that manner..."
"Yes, I understand. How well did you know Lieutenant Creps?"
"Oh, very well. We served on the Courageous together for almost two years."
"And how would you describe him?"
Danford paused. "A very capable seaman, certainly. First class whist player. Enjoyed his brandy and company I suppose, but not to excess. Excellent friend. He saved my life once."
"How was that?"
Danford smiled. "We had the enemy on the run, and one of them stabbed me with a rapier. I still have the scar from it," He pointed to his midsection, "Trevor took out the blade and made sure I made it home. He was a true shipmate."
"Are you acquainted at all with Mr. Kennedy?"
"Only by reputation. I must confess I'm surprised to hear he's such a gallant fellow."
Danford paused, cocking a wary eye toward Terry. "Well...suffice it to say, he doesn't have quite that sort of standing everywhere. In the circle I travel in he's regarded as sort of ... unassertive? What's the word I'm looking for...submissive?"
Archie's shoulders jerked, just a little, and Horatio felt angry enough to strangle Danford right there. Terry stood up and said sharply, "My lord, may I request that we permit character witnessing only by those who actually *know* the person in question?"
Lord Hood nodded. "Quite right. Mr. Uscher, please stick to the facts as presented."
Uscher did not look chagrined or even disappointed; his slight smile told Horatio that he knew the damage had already been done. "My apologies, My Lord. Lieutenant, do you have anything further to add that would help us understand what might have happened that night?"
Danford shook his head with a serious look. "I am certain that none of us can understand how a man can take another's life, especially when that man is a loyal member of His Majesty's Navy. I only hope that justice is done, and that it is swift."
Horatio noticed as Uscher sat down that for some reason Pellew jolted a bit whenever Danford mentioned Creps' loyalty. He thought it rather odd, but then Terry stood, and Horatio let it pass.
"Lieutenant Danford," Terry began, looking at his notes, "Do you mind if I ask once again how you got your noble war wound?"
Danford eyed Terry warily. "I thought you were only supposed to ask me about Creps."
"I'm getting to that. Please tell the judges again how you acquired that badge of honor."
Danford cleared his throat and said, "We were engaged with the enemy, and they were outgunning us. I lost my footing, tripped and fell. I was stabbed and Trevor helped me up."
"And where was this again?"
"Um - well, it was a land battle actually. I'm not entirely certain where."
"I see. And which enemy? French or Spanish?"
"Spanish." Danford said quickly.
"Then wouldn't that make the location of your battle Spain?"
Danford blinked rapidly. "Not necessarily! There are Spanish people in France."
"But Spain and France have very different coasts, and climates. Anyone can tell the difference."
Danford was starting to color severely. "What are you suggesting, sir?"
"What I'm suggesting is this," Terry said with a gleam in his eye, "That you have a girl named Isabel who works at the Peddler's Pig, who told me how one night you and Trevor Creps got so drunk you attacked each other in the alleyway next to the tavern, and he stabbed you with his pocket-knife precisely where you got your so-called 'war wound'. She also told me that when she bandaged you up, you and Creps swore to each other that if anyone ever asked, you'd say you got it fighting with the enemy in either France or Spain, depending on which country you were farthest away from!"
Danford opened his mouth and closed it again, then fixed Terry with a deadly glare.
Terry returned the look, although to Horatio it seemed his contempt was mixed with pity. Finally he said, "I'm done with this man, my lord."
The silence was thick as Danford gave Terry one final glare and stalked away. The clerk began to read back the testimony, and Horatio once again looked over the faces he saw, trying to read some portent in them.
Archie's head was down, and he was looking at his hands, his face studied but tense. The captains were conferring, and they were shaking their heads, but Horatio could not discern what that meant. Danford had ruined himself by being revealed as a liar, but there was still his condemnation of Archie's character, and his depiction of Archie as a murderous lunatic, and so far no one had come forward to actively countermand it. If only I'd been there! Horatio thought helplessly, remembering that terrible night and his cursed refusal to join Archie in what was then a harmless trip ashore. I would give such testimony that would leave no one in doubt of the courage and honor that are being tested here. Bracegirdle's words had been heartfelt and sincere, but Horatio knew they did not contain the force that would break Archie's fetters. And there were men there who wished to bind him forever...
Horatio bent his head, closed his eyes and listened to the clerk's droning. After a few minutes he felt something being pressed into his hand and opened his eyes to see a piece of paper lying in them. Looking up, he saw Captain Pellew sending another folded piece back down the line of officers they sat amongst, and noticed that Terry was watching both of them. Terry caught Horatio's eye and nodded toward the paper. Horatio opened it.
We will be recessing soon. I have notified the captain, and will tell the judges, I am changing the order of witnesses. The blow must be swift and sure if we are to command sympathy for this situation.
With the captain's permission, I will send to the Indefatigable for Matthews.
Philip Lafferty no longer knew where he was going.
For a long time he simply wandered, his head too full of noise to care whether he was going towards town, towards the dock, or straight into the wharf. His world was rapidly tearing apart at the seams, and every minute seemed to bring something worse.
What had those girls meant, he thought numbly as he walked down a cobblestoned street that was not as crowded as the others. Never mind, he knew what they meant but - no, Creps was a bully and he liked to be in charge but he never did *that* to people. Well, not that Lafferty knew of...
But what *did* he know of? Lafferty stopped walking and leaned against a stone wall, exhausted. The coldness of it roused him somewhat, and he focused on that painful question. What did he know? That Creps was someone you didn't want angry at you. That he drank too much, and when they were younger would often go off with the older midshipmen to places Lafferty wasn't invited. And Lafferty had been jealous of that...
Jealous - why? Because on the Courageous, that's how all the officers were, and Lafferty knew Creps was playing the games that would make him an officer. That Lafferty had been made first lieutenant was almost chance, a decision made by Morgan during a time when Creps had been too wrecked to perform his duties. Lafferty remembered that day, standing in Morgan's office and thinking it smelled like varnished wood and expensive things, and Morgan telling him he'd go far because he knew what side to be on and to do as he was told.
Lafferty always wondered how Morgan knew that. But now he realized, that was how he had been around Creps. He stayed on Creps' good side and he did what he was told. But he was not a drunk like Creps, and thus was more reliable, so Morgan had selected him over Creps when he needed a new first lieutenant. Lafferty was not a drunk. And he was not - one of those kind of men either.
God! Lafferty suddenly sprang away from the wall. Did Morgan know Creps did those things? No, he'd never tolerate it, at least not in public where accusations could be made. Should he be told? Creps was dead, and the only evidence Lafferty had was some titterings between two silly shopgirls. Maybe it wasn't even true. And anyway, Morgan wanted Kennedy dead. No, best to keep quiet and go along.
** the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.**
Damn! Those words again. Lafferty slumped back against the wall and ran his hands over his face. Oh, certainly, what am I supposed to do? Go into that courtroom and tell everyone that in all likelihood Creps was - was trying to - oh Christ, I could never say that! All I could do is tell them about the times Creps would get drunk and come back from somewhere with blood on his clothes, and the strange looks he got from the midshipmen sometimes, like they were afraid of him in a way they weren't of the gratings or a sudden squall. And that night, of course, when he came over to me and said I'll give you two guineas if you go down to the wharf and wait for that Horatio fellow. Tell me when he's on his way. I want to show Kennedy old Jack Simpson's not in the ground just yet.
Lafferty shook his head. Creps had been giddy almost, in a way that made Lafferty nervous, but two guineas was two guineas, and Creps had been on a knife's edge that night; to refuse him would have been to invite a broken bottle against his skull. So Lafferty had done it.
But what had he done? Jesus, all Creps wanted was to give Kennedy's friend a hard time, to intimidate him and show the little upstarts from the Indefatigable who really ruled the seas. All of the Courageous men were like that, even half a challenge was enough to start a brawl. So when Lafferty had spied Hornblower, of course he was excited and ran right back to tell Creps because it meant that they would show those other officers who was on top, who was in charge. Sometimes you had to show them, sometimes they forgot and didn't show the proper respect -
- but oh God! Kennedy had come into the courtyard first.
He had met Creps, just inside the door.
And they had gone around the corner.
Then what happened - oh sweet Jesus -
A sudden cough from nearby made Lafferty start and look up, his heart racing.
It was a prostitute, somewhat familiar, stepping out of the shadows with a suspicious look on her careworn face.
"'Ere luv," she said softly, "You all right?"
Lafferty hugged himself and looked around, amazed that the alleyway they were was almost deserted, and it was quiet. Finally he looked down and blinked. "Yes. Leave me alone."
The prostitute backed up a step, but didn't stop frowning. "You shouldn't be 'ere. This isn't the best part of town, and the trial's got folks stirred up. Can't you go back to your ship?"
His ship! Where Stephens was first lieutenant and Lafferty knew things that Morgan would string him up for just to keep him quiet? The thought made Lafferty nauseated. "No, not - I just need to think. Please go away."
The prostitute frowned. "Hey, I know you. You were with Mr. Hornblower the other night, outside that fancy tavern."
Lafferty took a deep breath and squinted at her. "I said go away."
"Something's troubling you." The woman's tone changed to one of breathless hope. "D'you know something maybe, about that night? Something that could help his friend?"
"No!" Lafferty snapped, giving the prostitute a hot glare before staring at the street again, "I don't know anything about that, nothing, I just want to be left alone! Christ!"
The prostitute backed up a few steps, but it wasn't fear in her eyes that Lafferty saw when he glanced up at her again. No, that wasn't fear.
It was anger, a slow smoldering anger that was thick in her voice as she said, "Captain's got you too."
She could only mean Morgan. Lafferty felt his heart sink.
The woman looked down at the flowing gutters and shook her head sadly. "Won't nobody but me and Mr. Hornblower speak for the lad when he's in his grave. Nobody."
Something in her tone made Lafferty shudder, but before he could think of a reply she turned away from him with a scornful shrug, and went to stand in the doorway again.
He wanted to yell something at her, couldn't. Why did he care what she thought, anyway? Nothing but a lousy prostitute, Creps could snap her in two.
**But Creps is dead. And maybe you know why.**
Lafferty shivered again, and sat down against the cold stone wall. He didn't know, but he had suspicions, suspicions that could destroy him if they were voiced, if not by Morgan then certainly by Creps' friends. And how they might make him pay for his treason...
No. I can't risk it.
It was a shameful thing, Lafferty knew, and he glanced up at the prostitute, unreasonably afraid she had heard his thoughts. She hadn't of course, but she was glancing at him now and then with a stern, disapproving glare that made Lafferty desperate to prove to her that he wasn't the coward they both knew he was. But he could not think of a way to do it that did not involve his own suffering, and that was a high wall he could not climb. He should - he knew he should -
- but he couldn't.
So Lafferty sat in the deserted alley with his arms wrapped around his knees, not looking at the prostitute and miserably waiting for the rain to end. And thinking about how fine it would be to simply disappear.
The afternoon was swiftly wearing into early evening, and Horatio sat in the courtroom and worried because Matthews had not shown up.
More witnesses had come and gone; some for the prosecution, some for the defense. Terry had tried to keep the scales even, had in fact done very well considering the naked contempt some of the witnesses had shown him. They had been from the Courageous of course, full of haughtiness and flowery words about Creps' loyalty and good-heartedness, and darker words about Archie's behavior and bearing that night. There were other witnesses that said just the opposite, and by the end of the afternoon Horatio thought he had never seen so many confused-looking captains in his entire life. They honestly didn't know who to believe.
And time was growing short.
If only Archie would testify on his own behalf! Horatio looked at his friend helplessly, wanting to shake him if it would dislodge whatever fears he had about telling the world about Creps' perversity. What could he possibly be afraid of? Morgan was powerful, but surely after Archie was acquitted his power would diminish. And if Archie testified, he would be acquitted. Horatio was certain of it.
The clerk was reading back the last witness' statement in his usual boring tone, and Horatio glanced at Archie to see how he was faring. The day was clearly wearing on his nerves; he was staring blankly ahead, not moving at all. For a terrifying moment Horatio thought he might have a fit. Then Archie closed his eyes and shook his head, and Horatio realized he was merely spent, spent in his body and soul, like an hourglass with the sand run out. He wished he could do something.
Morgan, in contrast, had seldom looked so smug. He kept his eyes on Hood as the clerk rambled on, and Horatio read arrogant triumph in every line of him. Horatio's heart sank; Morgan knew, as they all did, that if there was any real doubt the captains were likely to go with whichever verdict was easiest to digest. And so far, with the knowledge that several people saw Archie covered in blood clutching the murder weapon, and no evidence to refute his guilt, there was still little doubt over what the easy verdict would be.
Just as the clerk was finishing his reading, the door to the courtroom opened and an attendant appeared with Matthews alongside him. Everyone stopped and looked of course, and Horatio felt a momentary leap of happiness at seeing the honest old sailor, clean-shaven and wearing his best coat and clothes. Then Horatio reconsidered, and was not so sure this was going to work.
He looks so small, Horatio thought as Matthews entered behind the lieutenant. Beside the polished brass and gold braid that surrounded him, Matthews looked small and plain and common, no real match for the expensive opinions and highly-educated words that had been floating around the room all day. The contempt in which he was held by some was obvious; Uscher's glance held a condescending sneer in it, and Morgan's glare was less suspicion than disgust, as if an insect had landed in his claret.
Horatio suddenly felt sorry for Matthews, and hoped that if it went badly the rating would forgive him. And it could go very badly indeed...
Then, as Matthews was quietly led to the table where Terry was sitting waiting for him, Horatio noticed something else. No, a couple of things. Matthews' coat and appearance were indeed plain dun next to the peacocks in the room, but his bearing and manner were as upright and dignified as a cardinal's. Matthews' head was back, and he was not afraid to look anyone in the eye - no, not even Hood! He simply refused to be intimidated.
Then there was Archie's reaction. At the sight of Matthews, Archie sat up a little straighter, as if startled. He regarded Matthews warily, and Horatio was suddenly returned to that dark hold where Matthews had told him the worst, and realized how much of Archie's life might be laid bare that day.
Terry didn't know; he had called Matthews because of what he had seen, but there was that fear in Archie's eyes, the dread that someone might ask a question, or make an insinuation, and Matthews would be required to answer it. There was nothing else he could do.
As if he sensed this, Matthews looked up at Horatio for a moment, and saluted his acknowledgment of him and Captain Pellew. Then he turned to Archie and nodded toward him too, and although Horatio could no longer see Matthews' eyes he could see Archie's, and their expression changed. The fear was replaced with a reassurance, as if Matthews conveyed with his look alone the promise that the private hell they had both experienced would remained sealed beneath the decks of Justinian forever. Archie appeared to relax visibly, but as Matthews turned to confer with Terry Horatio saw that the old seaman's expression hadn't changed; his eyes were grim, and his jaw was set for battle. Hopefully Terry had found the weight to tip the scales.
As soon as the clerk finished reading the previous testimony, Lord Hood coughed importantly and said, "Very good, gentlemen, let us continue with this most important venture. We have our next witness ready, correct?"
"Yes, my lord," Terry answered quickly, standing with his usual self-confident smile.
Hood nodded and squinted at the piece of paper in front of him. "Very well. This is Matthews, is it?"
Matthews started a bit, then stepped forward and bowed a little. "Yes, my lord, that's me."
Hood's eyes snapped up sternly, but he seemed to have no objections to what he saw. "You know the gravity of this situation we are trying at present?"
Matthews' gray ponytail bobbed as he nodded. "Aye, my lord, I do."
"You know this young officer has been accused of murder," Hood indicated Archie, who Horatio noticed was looking at Matthews steadily, with appreciation gleaming in his blue eyes. He didn't even seem to be hearing Hood's words.
Matthews nodded again. "Yes, my lord, I know it."
"You are bound to give this court the truth," Hood admonished, "Do not protect him merely because he is your senior officer. His rank has no hold over you here."
"I understand, sir," Matthews replied soberly.
"Very well. Now I am told you were at the tavern during the night in question."
"Yes, sir, with me mates."
"Now be very thorough, and tell us everything you saw. Hold nothing back, and you will have done your duty."
"Yes, sir," Matthews said, then turned to the side so he could talk to the captains and the officers seated at the same time. He paused for a moment, looking down as if to collect his thoughts, and Horatio was surprised by his calm; it was as if he was aloft in the riggings on a sunny day, not being stared at by forty men who could all order him flogged at a moment's notice. Horatio found himself tensing a little on Matthews' behalf.
When Matthews looked up again, his face was set in solemn lines, his eyes granite-gray. Softly he began, "That night at the Peddler's Pig, I was there with me mates havin' a tankard, and I knew those men from Courageous were there. I kept me eye on 'em, and when I first saw Lieutenant Creps he was standin' in the door that goes out to the court, watchin' Mr. Kennedy. He was drinkin', and more than half drunk by his manner, and when he approached the lad I knew what was comin' because I'd seen it before. A leopard don't change his spots, or a dog the color of his coat, not even after eight year. They went into the courtyard, and I couldn't follow, but it wasn't half a breath later Mr. Kennedy comes to me and my mates and tells us to go lookin' for Mr. Hornblower, and he was white as Dover cliffs when he said it. I knew Creps was lookin' to have a thrashin'."
Horatio's breath went in sharply. A thrashing, that's what Matthews said, but it wasn't what he meant, his eyes said so. Surely no one else was taking that terrible meaning, but Horatio looked at Archie, whose eyes had gone small and painfully focused on some spot on the floor, and knew it had to be true. Horatio decided Creps had died far too easily.
"Mr. Kennedy sent us out," Matthews continued quietly, "He told us there were men there lookin' to harm Mr. Hornblower, and I knew the men he meant. We went and found him, but by the time we made it back Mr. Kennedy was in irons." He glanced around apologetically.
There was a soft ripple of conversation in the courtroom, and Horatio bit his lip as he studied the captains' faces. They still looked incredulous, and Horatio noted with dismay that Morgan had settled back in his chair with a satisfied half-smile on his face. He isn't taking Matthews as a threat, Horatio thought. Perhaps this won't make any difference after all...
As if taking on the attitude of his employer, Uscher uncoiled from his seat and stood, giving Matthews an arrogant sneer. "Mr. Matthews, *sir*."
Matthews blinked at him. "Aye, sir?"
"You claim to know what Creps was thinking, and that he wanted to give this Mr. Hornblower a thrashing, is that correct?"
Matthews nodded. "Aye, sir."
"Well, to make such an assessment you must have a great deal of learning in the behavioral arts. Are you perhaps a scholar?"
Matthews almost laughed. "Hardly, sir - "
"Oh. Well, surely an Oxford man then, or some other institute of learning?"
Matthews seemed to catch on that he was being ridiculed, and his expression went stony cold. "No, sir."
"No education, hm? Nothing to base your opinion of Lieutenant Creps on but your own bleary eyes. Well, I'm certain *that's* something our esteemed panel should consider *very* heavily!"
Horatio reddened as Terry stood to object to Uscher's insolence, but amazingly before a word could be said Matthews fixed Uscher with a razor-sharp glare and, very slowly so everyone could see, removed his jacket and set it on the floor. Then he rolled up one sleeve past his elbow and held his arm up. It was deeply scarred.
"I been at sea over twenty years, sir," He said in a tone of barely-contained rage, "Been attacked by sharks, down with fever, half-frozen to death in an open boat. But them's parlor games compared to what we're talkin' about today. So beggin' your pardon sir, but you'd best consider what I'm tellin' ye, because I wish to the Lord above it weren't true."
Uscher stared at Matthews for a long moment, not moving. Disregarding him, Matthews rolled his sleeve back down and turned his earnest gaze to the officers sitting in the courtroom, glancing from the gallery to the court-martial table. His face burned with passion.
"You asked me what I know about what happened that night, and I'll tell you, but I can't start my story there. What I know about the man that was killed goes back longer, to about eight year ago, first time I met the men of that ship. Lieutenant Creps was a midshipman then, not yet fourteen I don't s'pose, but cocky and he knew his way about. We was ashore then, at another tavern, me and some of me mates, and some men off the Courageous were celebratin' in the next room from ours. Them and an officer from our ship named Simpson."
It was a small shock Horatio felt just then, the same tiny jolt he always felt when that name came up unexpectedly. He relaxed, looked at Archie and noticed that Archie had gone pale, and although his shoulders were back he was breathing deeply, as if pulling himself back from some awful place. Horatio willed him all the strength he could spare, and took a deep breath himself to listen to Matthews' next words.
"They were a thick lot, Simpson and those men," Matthews continued, "And when they got together there was all sorts of mischief about. Cockfights. Baitin' officers from other ships into fights." His eyes swept the room fearlessly, "And we're all men here, and I've been ordered so I won't spare you the worst. They'd pick a servin' lass and wager on how many men could take 'er before she'd pass out. Sometimes - she wouldn't wake up again."
In the appalled silence that followed, Uscher found his voice and rasped, "My lord, this is - this has nothing to do with what happened that night - "
But they were feeble words, and it was clear Uscher knew he would not win that fight. Sure enough, Hood's glare was stern as he said, "Let us hear the testimony, Mr. Usher, and then we will decide."
Uscher stood impaled on Hood's gaze for a moment, then slunk down into his seat and said nothing else.
"You wanted someone who'd seen things," Matthews continued in a gravelly tone, "When those men were done with their games, Simpson would send me and the others to clean up their leavings. I could tell you what we did, what we found, but some of it I don't rightly remember. I only know that Midshipman Creps was always smilin' when he left, right on Simpson's arm he was, and never looked behind him."
Horatio felt his stomach turning, could not stop a cold wave of nausea from engulfing him. He needed no imagination to envision Simpson's depravities, but the images that came to his mind made him feel dizzy and sick. And Archie -
Archie's paleness had turned into a pasty white pallor that seemed to envelop his entire body. He was staring down at his hands, clenching and unclenching them, and Horatio realized with a jolt that eight years ago Archie was still on Justinian, still on Justinian and probably not much more than twelve years old...
"Now it weren't every time," Matthews continued, his voice steady as the northern star, "But like as not, if we was in port and the Courageous was too, Lieutenant Creps and the other officers would be in Mr. Simpson's company. It made my blood run cold, still does." He stood up a little straighter, and looked straight into Horatio's eyes as he said, "There ain't a day goes by I don't thank the Lord those days are gone. But as long as men like Creps can do as they please with them that can't fight back, the Lord won't hear me thankin' 'im. There'll be too many other voices beggin' Him for help."
The courtroom was silent, stunned. Horatio found that he had been holding his breath, and let it out slowly. He sneaked a glance at Morgan, and noticed the hot glare the captain was giving Matthews, but he could do nothing about it.
Your wretchedness has been found out at last, Horatio thought with a surge of triumph. A little more, and this will be won at last.
Matthews paused in his words and looked at the captains, then at Archie, whose head was still down, his body motionless as a hare who hears the baying of hounds. Taking a deep breath, Matthews once again faced his audience and said, "You wanted to hear about the lieutenant, and now that I've told you I won't waste another moment thinkin' on him. But there's summat else I should be tellin' ye, and it concerns Mr. Kennedy."
Archie's head snapped up, his blue eyes wide with shock. Horatio held his breath.
Matthews' voice became quieter. "I known Mr. Kennedy as long as he's been at sea, and we all know how the life of a sailor can wear on a lad. He's 'ad his own reefs to cross, but he come across 'em with the stoutest heart any king's man can 'ave. In all the time I been under 'im ain't never heard an unjust word or seen a fist raised agin' anyone, man or woman. 'e's a good man, and I been proud to serve with 'im."
Horatio saw Archie's eyes glistening, and felt a sting in his own. He lowered his head, and cursed his emotional impulses.
Matthews shook his head and said, "Put up against the likes of Creps, ain't no doubt in my mind who was pushin' and who was pushed. I'm know I'm just a simple man, and you can discount me if you like, but me and the Lord, we both know the truth. And I'd like to think the Crown knows enough to act on it."
The courtroom was silent for what seemed to Horatio like centuries. Then Terry stood up, his face beaming with gratitude and relief, and said, "My lord, I can ask no questions that would add to the eloquence of Mr. Matthews' statement."
Hood himself seemed somewhat flummoxed, and blinked at the prosecution. "Mr. Uscher, do you have any further questions?"
Horatio noticed that Uscher seemed somewhat humbled; he stood and said in an uncertain voice, "I would still like to remind your lordship that despite Mr. Matthews' intriguing testimony, he still did not witness anything that would prove Lieutenant Creps provoked Mr. Kennedy."
Matthews' gaze was steady. "I seen enough, sir. More than that."
It was a feeble argument on Uscher's part, and Horatio noticed Morgan's look of dissatisfaction as the lawyer sat down. He wagered Uscher would not be keeping his job very long after this court-martial was over.
Hood cleared his throat and gazed at the papers in front of him. "Very well, since the hour is growing late I suggest we retire for the evening. Thank you, Mr. Matthews, and this court is dismissed until noon tomorrow."
Horatio rose as the room came alive with the sound of chairs being moved and people talking as the assembly broke up. Next to him, Captain Pellew stood also, and Horatio saw the cautiousness in his eyes. A little nervous, he said, "A fortunate beginning for us, sir."
Pellew nodded. "Fortunate enough, in that the day did not end with Mr. Kennedy being hanged. But a panel swayed is not a panel convinced, Mr. Hornblower, and eloquence will not contradict hard facts. We will have to wait and see what the morrow brings."
"Aye sir." Horatio was a bit confused by Pellew's uncertainty. How could the panel not be convinced - Creps was a bully and worse, and Archie had gotten in the way while protecting a shipmate. And Matthews' words would have moved stones across the ocean - who could hear those words and doubt for a moment what the true and just verdict was?
Morgan could. Horatio happened to catch his look, just as the captain was leaving the courtroom, and his breath caught. Morgan was standing by the door, conferring with Uscher, but he was looking at Pellew, at Terry, at Archie, his eyes full of the coldest hatred Horatio had ever seen. He's beaten and he knows it, Horatio thought, there is nothing to do but wait until tomorrow, and perhaps by tomorrow Terry will convince Archie to tell his story, and it will be over then. Everyone will know Morgan's men for the cowards they are, and Morgan will be exposed as the heartless pirate leading them. His ambition and power are conquered, and he is not used to that.
But there was something else...Horatio stood and watched as Morgan's dark eyes wandered the room, and for the briefest moment they came to him, and their eyes met. Morgan's glare was hot and spiteful, but it was not unfamiliar. Suddenly a memory came to Horatio's mind, a day long ago when he had gone down to fetch Archie for the mission to capture the Papillon and found Simpson in Archie's cabin, threatening him. Horatio's presence stopped the attack, and his words -
- These are new times, Mr. Simpson. You have no hold over us here. -
- had been meant to drive home one truth, that Simpson's day was over and he had lost. Horatio remembered he had intended the words that way, but Simpson's reply
- Yes, I can see that -
had held no truth in them. They were words only, and there was heartbreak after, but it was his eyes Horatio thought of, the same expression as Morgan held now, the same taunt coming as if from beyond the grave.
*This isn't over.*
And the last time Horatio had seen it, both he and Archie had very nearly died.
Dr. St. John came abovedecks on the Courageous to allow himself a few breaths of fresh salt air. The sky was still leaden and depressing, but he had been caught in the surgery all day, healing wounds and thinking, and he was tired in mind and body. He needed a few moments' recreation.
The ship was quiet, the deck all but deserted, but St. John knew that would change. The day's proceedings at the court-martial would soon be over, if they had not ended already; then the officers would be coming back, now or later after they'd had a round of tankards. And Morgan would be back as well.
No one seemed to know how the trial was going. He'd asked, slyly, when he came upon someone who'd been ashore, but there didn't seem to be any real news. Not that it mattered; the ending was a foregone conclusion.
If only everyone saw it that way, St. John thought as he stared at the distant, misty shore, he might have some peace. But that lawyer, Terry Whitehall, had gotten it into his head to fight Morgan, against all reason and common sense. He'd even have the nerve to challenge St. John's position, to all but call him a coward for simply knowing that there were certain things in life you let alone. It didn't matter what the truth was, it didn't matter who was innocent, the only thing that mattered was who had the power, how could a man be a lawyer and not know that? St. John hoped he learned it today, for his own sake. Whitehall seemed like a decent man, and St. John did not want to see Morgan destroy him.
"One side," came a voice behind him, and St. John turned just as someone brushed by him, heading for the entry way that led to the ladder off the ship. As that someone turned, St. John recognized Christopher Stephens.
St. John frowned. "Where are you going?"
Stephens barely glanced at him. "Ashore."
St. John looked down, and sure enough a jollyboat waited in the waters below. "Who has command?"
Stephens shrugged. "Lieutenant Bakersfield. What do you care?"
St. John stepped back a little, recognizing Stephens' unfriendly tone. He looked down again and saw that there were three other men in the boat, all ratings.
"Eyes to yourself, doctor," Stephens said sharply as he swung himself onto the ladder.
No mistaking those words, St. John had heard them enough. He gave Stephens an understanding glance and stepped back further from the rail.
Stephens rewarded his action with a smirk. "Good man. Tell the captain we're away when he returns."
St. John nodded and watched Stephens make his way down the ladder, trying to quell the feeling of dread. It could be a trip ashore, it could be a meeting somewhere to discuss the court martial. It could be nothing at all. In any case, if he wanted to survive it was none of his business. No -
*I wonder why you don't care, doctor. There's got to be something in you that wants to fight this. I know you can't be dead inside, not yet*
None of his business at all.
Damn that lawyer!
St. John gave the retreating jollyboat one last wary look, then turned and went back to his surgery.
Terry met Horatio on the steps of the admiralty, and despite the somberness of the mood Horatio was gratified to find his friend smiling broadly.
"Congratulations, Mr. Whitehall," Horatio said with his own solemn smile, "Today no one can say you have not earned your bread and cheese."
"Is there a bottle of port to go with it?" Terry asked tiredly, and shook his head. "Now I know I'm close to the sea, Horatio, I feel like I've been wrestling with sharks all day."
"But you did an excellent job," Horatio said warmly, "Surely you must be satisfied with that."
"I won't be satisfied until the last of those captains is turned." The crowd on the streets had thinned to a mere handful, and Terry squinted down the rainy street. "Your man Matthews was amazing, but it's not a foregone conclusion just yet. Kennedy has a lot of damaging evidence against him."
"I know." Horatio said heavily, then paused. "Do you think you can convince him to testify?"
Terry bit his lip for a moment. "I'm trying, but he's still frightened. I think seeing that his cause isn't lost helps, but he's still afraid of what might happen if he tells the whole truth. Morgan won't like it, that's for sure."
"As if that should even be an issue!"
"But it is, to Mr. Kennedy. Morgan is quite powerful, and I'm certain he can arrange reprisal against Kennedy - and you - if he doesn't get what he wants. Kennedy is going to have to feel very safe to tell what he knows and risk that."
Horatio thought of Morgan's glare - this isn't over - but shook his head to banish it. "He will feel safe, if you're there, I'm sure of it." he paused, then said, "Thank you for defending Mr. Kennedy, Terry. It eases my mind to know that there is someone to fight for him when I cannot."
"It's my calling, Horatio," Terry rejoined, all traces of that smile gone now, "Plus that Captain Morgan's made me angry. I'd wade through fire to defend this case even if you weren't involved, just to show the world that men like him don't always have to win."
"Of course," Horatio rejoined, "You're a Whitehall. Heaven help the blackguard who gets your dander up."
Terry grinned appreciatively, then turned as the side door of the admiralty opened and two marines came out, Archie between them. Turning back to Horatio he said, "I'm seeing Mr. Kennedy back to the gaol. Meet me at the Dove for an ale later?"
"Certainly, once I've seen to my duties on the ship. A pleasant evening to you until then, Mr. Whitehall. And watch your footing in dark alleys."
"Thanks for the warning, Horatio, but I'll have two marines to catch me if I fall. I plan to stay upright, just to save myself the embarrassment!"
Terry bid his farewells to Horatio at the steps of the admiralty and walked with Archie to the gaol, accompanied by the two marines. The crowds were thinning out, their hostility spent by the day's proceedings, and thankfully they received more curious looks than anything else.
Which was just fine; it had been a long day.
The marines proceeded Terry and Archie into the gaol, and as soon as they entered the gaoler grunted and picked himself wearily from the desk where he'd been dozing all day.
"Finally!" He spat, picking up the ring of keys and cramming one into the cell door to open it. "They 'ang 'im yet?"
"No," Terry replied firmly as Archie walked inside, "And if there's any justice to be had, they won't be doing that, ever. I'd like a word with my client please, if you'd be so kind."
The gaoler eyed Terry distastefully, but with a sullen shrug acquiesced, and trudged outside with one of the marines.
As soon as they were gone, Terry faced Archie and said, "You held up very well today, Mr. Kennedy. One more such as this tomorrow and I will call you a free man."
Archie turned in the cell to eye Terry with blue eyes full of uncertainty and, perhaps, a little hope. He didn't say anything.
Terry accepted this. "Mr. Matthews' testimony swayed most of the captains, I think. We will need more voice like his tomorrow. Do you think - is there any chance you could be that voice?"
Archie's eyes snapped up, full of fear this time. "My voice?"
Terry nodded. 'Your testimony, Mr. Kennedy, your own words about what happened that night."
Archie paused, then looked down at the floor. "I'm not sure they would believe me."
"They would," Terry said in encouragement, "Matthews and the others have them half-convinced already. The walls around Morgan are coming down, Mr. Kennedy. I can feel it."
Archie looked up again. "Do you think they can?"
"I'm certain of it. People are talking, they're revealing what a coward and a bully Creps was. They all are. You're not alone in this, Mr. Kennedy, you have people that will help give you the strength to do this, if you're ready. You know Mr. Hornblower will back your every word."
Archie winced and looked away. "He has the most to lose if I fail."
"You won't. Look them in the eye and tell the truth. It's the one thing Morgan won't be able to fight against. Once the sins of his men are revealed, he's finished."
Archie's gaze was pained as he faced Terry again. "And what about you? Can you risk what may happen if I say my part?"
Terry's smile was certain. "Mr. Kennedy, as I've told you before, nothing frightens me much. Even if Morgan took away every ounce of reputation I ever had, I can always start over. I always thought being a fishmonger was an interesting way of earning a living." Terry gazed at Archie steadily. "You can feel safe testifying tomorrow, Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Hornblower and I are your friends, and we won't abandon you."
Archie went pale then for reasons Terry didn't know or understand, and his gaze once again dropped to the floor. "You may not want that, Mr. Whitehall. You don't know - what has happened in the past to my friends. Abandoning me would be safer for all of you."
"If I lived for my own safety my sister would never forgive me," Terry said, his tone a little lighter, and pulled back from the bars with a nod. "Until tomorrow, Mr. Kennedy, and keep up your courage. We'll pull those walls down yet."
"Thank you, Mr. Whitehall," Archie said, and smiled a little through his bruises and the exhaustion that marked every inch of him. Terry walked through the sharp shadows of the gaol into the street, and Archie lay down on the cot, to try to sleep, and forget the friends who had abandoned him, and the price that had been paid by those who stayed behind.
Phillip Lafferty crossed his arms over his knees again and watched the people walking along the misty cobblestone street. He had not moved the entire afternoon, save to get up every once in a while to stretch, and now it seemed his diligence was rewarded. The crowds walking by had been thin, became thicker, and now were thin again.
The court-martial proceedings were over. He could go home.
Not far away, that prostitute was still lingering in the doorway, entertaining customers. She wasn't always there, but every once in a while Lafferty looked over and saw her gazing at him with that same look that was half-anger, half-pity. He decided he hated her.
And he was tired. Spending the day desperately defending what he knew was absolute, craven cowardice exhausted him. I probably should have just gone back to the ship, he thought, but then decided that would have been just as bad, everyone would have asked questions. And even though he could be cagey in answering them, some cursed voice in his head, with the same exact tone as Whitehall's, would have chimed in, asking why he wasn't at the courthouse telling what he knew.
And then, of course, his shipmates would be lusting after Kennedy's blood...
Lafferty winced and continued to watch the alley, unwilling to leave until he was absolutely sure everything was over and his undesired opportunity was past. There were only a few stragglers now, walking at their leisure and talking over the day's events. Lafferty appeared to be immensely interested in his own fingernails, and listened to what they were saying.
"...thought it was all up for the lad, when that one lieutenant talked. He sounded right convincing!"
"Oh, him, yeh. They'd've hung 'im on the spot if he had any say about it."
"But 'e was a liar, the curly-headed chap caught him right out. Just as well, I hated him on sight."
"But wot were they sayin' about that sailor? The old one?"
"Oh, 'e was the best of all to hear the clerk tell! Told 'im all wot a load of scum them Courageous boys are, right out in plain sight. I never liked 'em, I'm glad someone's talkin' of it at last."
"So y'think they'll let the lad go?"
"Maybe. But how can they, him with blood on his clothes and a knife in 'is hand? Wot's that if it ain't murder?"
Then they were gone, and Lafferty didn't hear any more.
So there it is, he thought with a cold feeling in his stomach. There must have been some testimony against the Courageous, Morgan isn't going to like that at all. He probably didn't think there was going to be anyone willing to speak out against him, and Whitehall found at least one. Oh, Jesus. Morgan's going to be in a foul mood tonight.
The light faded a little, suggesting sunset. Lafferty stood and stretched, noticed that the prostitute was wandering back and forth in front of the doorway, looking at her hands. Giving her a scowl, Lafferty straightened his jacket and stepped out into the street.
The prostitute noticed this, and took a few steps toward him. "You're finally going then?"
Irritated, Lafferty gazed down the street and nodded. No one was coming, and it was really getting very dark.
"Well, that's right enough," The prostitute said, "No one's left to see you slink away."
"Be quiet." Lafferty snapped, a sickening rush of guilt coursing through him. Why couldn't she have picked another alleyway? He fixed his sword so it hung properly on his belt, and began to walk down the long alleyway toward the dock, his shoes echoing loudly against the cobblestone and mortar.
He had not gone a dozen paces when he stopped, and listened.
Turned back to the prostitute. Her face said she heard it too.
Not far away, in the next street. A fight - a chance to prove to himself, and this wench, that he was not a coward after all. Lafferty drew his sword and ran.
The alley was dark, and getting darker. As he turned the corner Lafferty saw five men, cloaked and hooded, and their victim, some hapless traveler, fighting them off. He was holding his own, but Lafferty saw that his two companions already lay motionless against the alley wall, and the traveler was losing ground. Lafferty gave a loud warning cry and went in with his sword swinging.
Two of the ruffians broke off right away, and ran. Another blocked Lafferty's sword with his arm, and punched him hard in the stomach. Lafferty reeled back, but the prostitute was rounding the corner and damned if he would let her see him fall! Lafferty took another swipe at the man, and he growled a curse and staggered away.
That left two, and they were attempting to half-drag the traveler out of the alley. The poor man was covered in blood and looked badly beaten, and something in Lafferty sprang out and cried that this should not happen. He jumped forward and slammed his fist into one of the assailant's face, causing the brute to drop his victim and stumble backwards. Lafferty caught the victim by the collar so he wouldn't smash onto the pavement, and used his free hand to swing his sword with a loud cry at the sole remaining aggressor. It was dark, and Lafferty knew if this man attacked he might be finished, but thankfully the bully gave up, and took three staggering steps backward out of the alleyway and into the uncertain light.
As he turned to run, his hood slipped back for a moment, and before he pulled it over his face again Lafferty caught a glimpse of the ruffian's features, and caught his breath as the figure ran away.
My God, he thought, that looked like Christopher Stephens. What - ?
Lafferty's mind reeled in confusion, so violently he only dimly heard the prostitute's cries for help from passerby, only vaguely felt her hand on his shoulder. Then he thought to look down, and saw that the battered, unconscious man he was clutching was not a hapless traveler at all.
It was Terry Whitehall.