Life Aboard Justinian - parts 9 thru 11
Warning: contains violent scenes
Archie tried hard to do his duty. Though, he didn't always prevail. He was not the natural sailor that Reggie was. He missed having Reggie around to talk to and ask how things should be done. Clayton tried to take Reggie's place. He saw that Archie was slowly going into his shell. He could not let that happen. There was always light behind Archie's bright blue eyes and he wanted that to stay there.
Clayton knew what sort of man Jack Simpson was. When he first came to the Justinian, he faced Simpson's wraith. He saw Simpson destroy men for mere enjoyment. Now, with Lowe and Fleet gone, Clayton feared that Archie would be next. He wanted to warn Archie to watch out for Simpson, but he didn't know how. So, Clayton escaped the only way he knew how -- in a gin bottle.
One night Clayton was sitting in the midshipman's berth with Archie, Hether and Cleveland. Everything seemed peaceful -- until Jack came into the room.
"Gentlemen," Simpson announced. "It has been a while since we had an inquisition. Our standards have become deteriorated. I believe we should have one, before we disgrace ourselves completely. Don't you agree, Hether?" Hether looked at Simpson, dumbfounded. Before he had a chance to reply, Simpson said, "Yes, we should do one now. We will do it on. . . Kennedy."
Archie knew this inquisition would not be a good thing. He was a bit shocked that he was picked and stuttered, "Me?"
"Hether, Cleveland, grab his hands and lay him on the table," Simpson ordered.
Cleveland, who never witnessed an inquisition before, asked "Why?"
Simpson snarled, "Do it or you will be next!"
Hether jumped up and took hold of Archie. He shoved one of Archie's arms in Cleveland's hand and held on to his other, as they pushed him on the table.
"What are you doing? Let go of me!" Archie shouted as he struggled to free himself.
Archie looked over at Clayton, who stood there and did nothing. Thoughts ran frantically through Archie's mind. ëWhat is going on? Will anyone help me?'
Simpson leaned over Archie and sneered, "Now, Kennedy, I don't have to ask you what your dirty little secret is. Hether and Cleveland have graciously done you a favor, they volunteered the information. You *are* quite a talker, aren't you, my sweet boy."
Archie spit at Simpson. "Let go of me!"
"Kennedy, spitting is not that sweet. I heard you like to watch women undress. I guess that is why you wanted to be an actor, isn't it? So, you could kiss the girls and make them cry. You will be the only one crying when I get through with you!"
Archie kicked Simpson in the leg. Simpson gave a slight grimace, yet when he spoke, he sounded amused. "Really now, that wasn't that smart of you. I knew you were never really bright to begin with, but that was rather stupid. I think we will make you a lot less pretty, boy!"
Simpson beat Archie within an inch of his life, yet Archie didn't fight back. This seemed to spoil a little of the fun for Jack. He kicked and punched Archie and yelled at him to fight back. When Simpson noticed that Archie would not match him punch for punch, he decided to goad him to a fit with words.
"I was told your big brother would pick on you. I am surprised you were too stupid to learn how to fight. I guess, once a nancy boy, always a nancy boy."
Archie was out of breath, his ribs ached, his left eye was swollen shut and blood dripped from his mouth. However, he got a second wind when he heard Simpson call him a nancy boy.
Archie remembered how his brother would berate and tease him with that phrase. Archie sprang at Simpson with a burst of energy, yet Simpson just jumped out of the way with a laugh. Archie's body slammed against the wall and fell to the floor in a heap. He was finished fighting. He wanted to cry, but didn't want further heckling.
Cleveland had enough of the inquisition. He liked Archie, and was ashamed that he had a part in why Archie was being abused. But he thought that the real reason that Archie was being abused was his friendship with Reggie Fleet. When he confronted Simpson with Reggie's death, Archie took Reggie's place as Simpson's favorite target. Cleveland didn't want to become a victim of Jack Simpson, but he didn't want to see Archie hurt more.
"You have done enough!" Cleveland shouted at Jack. "Let the boy be."
Jack snarled, "I am not through with our sweet little boy, yet. If you don't want to witness it, you can leave."
Hether felt the same way that Cleveland did. He got up from his seat and said, "Let's leave, I have seen enough."
Archie sat huddled in the corner of the room. Simpson stood over him, saying nothing as Hether and Cleveland left. Archie noticed that Clayton had stayed. He looked at him and quietly called out, "Help me, please."
Clayton wanted to help Archie. He was just afraid of what would happen to him. For Clayton, himself, knew what it was like to be abused. When he was young, his stepfather would beat him and his younger brother. When Clayton ran off to the Navy, sailors thought him to be a weakling and tormented him with beatings and worse.
That was when he found solace in alcohol. When he drank gin, the pain seemed to go away. He liked the feeling that the bottle gave him, it numbed not only his body, but his soul. Clayton wished he was drunk now, but he was stone cold sober. His soul was crying as much as Archie's was. He bent down to lend Archie a hand, but Simpson leered at him. Clayton jumped back as if Jack had slapped him.
Clayton watched as Archie tried desperately to get up and away, but Jack just pushed him back down. Then an occurrence so foul, Clayton could not believe. He couldn't watch and turned his head away. Then he heard Archie scream out in pain and agony.
His mind shouted denial, but his soul knew the truth. Archie was suffering the same fate and agony that he did. Archie's screams echoed his own. It was too much to bear, especially when he heard Archie scream again. Clayton turned his back and covered his ears. He wanted to believe it was no longer happening.
After an eternity, the commotion had ceased. Clayton uncovered his ears and turned around. He saw Simpson leave the room, and bent over Archie.
"Archie? It is all right. Everything will be all right. Talk to me, Archie," Clayton called out to him.
Clayton had to fight the urge to pull out his flask, but instead he took Archie to the sick berth.
Life Aboard Justinian - part 10
When Clayton entered the sick berth with Archie, Dr. Hepplewhite rolled his eyes. "Really Mr. Kennedy, I am beginning to wonder if you like it in here. Clean him up, Mr. Clayton, while I tend to his injuries."
Clayton took a clean, wet rag and tried washing the blood off Archie's face, but Archie pushed his hand away.
"Archie, I am truly sorry this happened to you, please let me help you," Clayton said as he gently cleaned off Archie's face and hands.
Archie stared at him in disbelief. "I asked you for help earlier and you would not give it to me. Why? Why didn't you help me when I really needed it?"
Clayton held his head down in shame. He thought the same thing. He should have done something to help, but he was afraid of Jack Simpson. He had seen Jack's wrath and rather then facing it, he decided to pretend it didn't happen. But, it did happen and was still happening. How could he answer Archie's question? What excuse could he give him?
Clayton mumbled something unintelligible. Archie assumed that Clayton didn't care about him or what had happened to him. Archie turned his face toward the wall.
Clayton saw bloodstains on Archie's breeches and gasped in horror. He could not deny what had happened any longer. The evidence was staring him in the face.
Archie heard him and turned around. "It does bother you, doesn't it?"
"I never said I wanted this to happen to you. It should not happen to anyone, but, what can I do?" Clayton pleaded.
"What can you do? You can leave me alone." Archie turned his back on Clayton, he was in utter desolation.
Clayton reluctantly left the sick berth. Archie never felt so alone in his whole life. He curled up into the fetal position and cried himself to sleep.
The next day, Archie felt even more isolated. He blamed himself for what had happened. If he had not confronted Simpson about Reggie, maybe he would not be in the situation he was in right now. Why didn't Simpson only beat him? He could not, for the life of him understand why anything so disgusting could have happened to him last night. What sort of human would watch as a man forced himself on another man? The thought made Archie sick to the stomach.
People are supposed to help other people, aren't they? Why didn't anyone even try to help him? Were they afraid of being sewn up in sail cloth like Kevin and Reggie? Archie wondered if surviving two of Simpson's attacks was a good thing or a bad thing. Was it a testament of his will? Was he more adept at dealing with Simpson then others? Archie didn't want to deal with anything. What he wanted and what he knew he would get were two different things. Why was he the victim? Why didn't anyone punish Simpson? Not only do they not punish him, they backed him up -- continuously.
Archie's theories about Simpson were proven correct when he heard two voices across the room. He turned to see Simpson and Hepplewhite talking together. They were too far away to hear what exactly was said, but he assumed it was something about him when they both leered at him. Archie curled himself up into a ball.
That was how Clayton found him a little while later.
Clayton gently spoke to him, "Archie, are you all right?"
Archie jumped out of his skin and stared at Clayton with wide eyes, "Get away from me! You don't care, no one does!"
"Archie, you are being irrational. If I didn't care, do you think I would be here?" "You just feel guilty. Guilty, because you didn't help me. Well, it is too late to help me now. Bridget told me what happens sometimes. But I only thought that men did it to women, not other men. I am not condoning the action; I think it shouldn't happen to anyone!"
"I told you I was sorry. I heard he did this to Reggie, but I didn't think he would do it again."
"He did it to Reggie? You knew, yet you said nothing? Did nothing?" Archie whispered in disbelief. It was as if a knife was twisting inside his soul. "What kind of man are you!"
"You don't know what kind of man, Simpson is. You have seen what evil he has done. Cleveland tells me that he gave you a choice to be on his side, I see you chose not to."
"And you? What did you choose? It seems to me that you are more for him than against him."
"That is a harsh thing to say. What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say to make it up to you?"
A voice from the doorway cut in. "Why don't you go hide in your gin bottle?" Simpson stood there as he leered at his victim.
He and Dr. Hepplewhite walked slowly over to Archie and Clayton and started a little play to show that they weren't partners in crime.
Dr. Hepplewhite stood face to face with Simpson and pretended to chastise him. "What you have done to this lad is a crime! I'm going to turn you in to the Captain."
"I rather doubt it. We don't want to disgrace the illustrious Kennedy name any further than it has been disgraced. What would Lord Bridgeleigh say if he learned that his son slept with other men? Archie most certainly would be put to death. Article 29 of the Articles of War state it all quite plainly."
Clayton could no longer stay quiet. "What you are implying is a lie. You raped Archie! You are the one who went against the articles!"
"True enough, my gin soaked sot. I think we should let Archie decide for himself. Archie do you want to prosecute me? Just let me tell you, what I did to you was a crime, but you would pay for it as much as I." Jack smugly said. "I will let you think about it a little while."
Archie shook his head in despair. He was living a nightmare and he couldn't wake himself up. Bridget was right - life was purgatory. He wished she were here right now. He looked up at Simpson. "No. I don't know. Just do what you want. I know you will anyway."
"I see I beat sense into you. Now you know who is Caesar, right?" Simpson gave a cruel smile, which were worse than his glares. He left the sick berth well satisfied.
Archie shook his head as he looked at the floor, "I think Kevin and Reggie are the lucky ones. Their torment has ended and mine has only begun. He won't stop, even if you come between us, will he?"
"That is what I have been trying to tell you, Archie. I want to help you, but I can't. Whatever I do would just make it worse for you. I will to help wherever I can, but, when it comes to Simpson, I can not help you. I am truly sorry, Archie." Clayton left Archie's side.
Archie knew that he was still alone, yet, not completely lonely. Could he trust Clayton? Could he trust anyone? He wanted so much to have someone as a friend. Would he find one?
Life Aboard Justinian - part 11
The Orlop deck was silent as Archie intently checked on the extra sails. He thought he heard footsteps behind him, but paid no heed. Suddenly a cold, bony hand clamped over his mouth. This startled Archie and he jumped up, straight against his assailant.
The voice of Jack Simpson rasped in his ear. "It looks as if you are taking over the Admiral's place in more things than one. Did you know this is where he and I used to meet? We would have some fun here. Do you want to have some fun, my sweet boy?"
Archie felt Simpson's clammy breath against his cheek and tried to pry Simpson's hand off his mouth. The more Archie tried pushing Simpson away, the tighter the embrace became.
Archie felt himself sweating with apprehension as Simpson licked Archie's cheek. "That whore was right, you ARE a sweet boy. Now, it is MY turn with you."
Archie was speechless with fear as Simpson pinned him to the floor of the deck. He sneered, "Make a sound and you will regret the day you were born. Relax and enjoy it, I know I will."
When Simpson was finished with Archie, he left. Archie lay on the floor and stared at the ceiling. He felt stunned. He felt used. Why was he the chosen one? Archie thought it odd that it didn't hurt this time - well, not as much as it hurt the first time. Perhaps it was because he didn't fight Simpson this time. This time there was no hitting or punching, but he did bite Archie. Little love bites, Simpson joked. Archie felt as if he had become Simpson's captive. That thought made him feel nauseated and dirty. Archie recalled what his brother, Joe, said about the Navy.
The Navy was nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash. Archie had drunk the rum, and expected the lash, but not the sodomy. Until now, he had not understood that part. Simpson was nothing if not a determined teacher. He made nightly visits to Archie's bunk. Whenever Archie
was alone, it seemed as if Simpson knew exactly where and how to take advantage him.
Archie began to wonder if this was how he would spend the rest of his life. Why didn't anyone bother to help or even say anything? Archie feared Simpson's visits. He never knew when Simpson would strike. When Jack was in a foul mood, he would take it out on Archie. It was bad enough to be forced to submit to another one's will, but so much worse when he had to take the brunt of Simpson's failures.
After months of tormented visits, Archie tired of it. He decided to face Simpson and tell him to sod off. Unfortunately, Archie chose the wrong day to do that. A little earlier that day, Captain Keene had yelled at Jack for his mathematical ineptitude. Jack was therefore in one of his foul moods when he faced Archie. Simpson responded to Archie's request by leaving him a bloody heap on the floor.
Archie hurt too much to move and felt afraid to stay. What if Simpson came back? The thought gave Archie a fit. Styles, Matthews and a new seaman, Oldroyd, heard guttural sounds coming from nearby and went to investigate.
"What is he doing?" Oldroyd asked.
"He is having a fit," Styles explained. "It looks like he was beaten again."
"Poor lad, that Simpson really has his number," Matthews said.
"How are you sure it was Simpson?" Oldroyd asked.
"It was Simpson the last time we found him like this," Styles replied.
Matthews kneeled next to Archie as the fit subsided. "Mr. Kennedy?"
Archie opened his eyes. "What happened?"
"You had one of those fits, sir, but you will be all right. Let us help take you to the sick berth," Matthews gently said.
"No, not that place again. Please, just take me to the midshipman's berth."
"All right, if that is what you want," Styles gingerly picked Archie up in his arms.
"Something needs to be done," Oldroyd insisted. "Are you two going to do anything?"
"You are new here, Oldroyd. Nothing can be done, though it should be. What has happened to Mr. Kennedy should not happen to a dog," Matthews grumbled.
The four of them made it to the midshipman's berth only to find Simpson waiting. When Archie saw Simpson, he tried to hide in Styles' powerful arms.
Simpson stood up and commented, "Why, Archie. Are you increasing your clientele? Bridget would be proud of you, I am sure of that!"
Styles carefully put Archie down on a chair and confronted Jack. "I want you to stop picking on the lad."
Simpson laughed. "You are giving me orders? Who do you think you are?"
"A man who could break you in two, if you keep this up."
"Threats? You realize, it would be you, that would be broken in two if you dared to carry through with your threat. You could be flogged, disrated or even hanged for hurting a superior officer."
"Yet, it's all right to hurt a fellow officer, ain't it? You don't scare me, Simpson!"
"You are too dumb to be scared! Don't mess with me, Styles, nor any of your motley crew. If you do mess with me, Kennedy will pay for it. I assure you that his store of riches is far from being exhausted. Take my meaning?"
"Come on Styles, you are just wasting your breath with the likes of him," Matthews said. He and the other seamen left.
Archie nervously looked at Simpson and wondered what Simpson would do next. Archie wondered if he should have gone to the sick berth. Simpson, for his part, just sat there. He
did nothing but smile a very gratified smile.
Over the next span of a week, Styles kept his eye on Archie. He realized that with him nearby, Simpson would not lay a hand on Archie. The last thing Simpson wanted to have was any more witnesses. Simpson was smart enough to know that sodomy was a hanging offense as stated in Article 29 of the Articles of War. Simpson turned to Styles and said, "You think you are so smart, don't you? I could make it be you attacking Kennedy."
"That would not happen," Archie quickly and calmly intervened.
Simpson turned to Archie. He thought he had beaten the resistance out of him, but obviously he had not. "What makes you so sure?" Simpson asked Archie.
"I can say it was not seaman Styles who attacked me," Archie hadn't felt so sure of himself in a long time. "I can tell them you did it, IF they ask me."
For once, Simpson felt at a loss. He growled, "I will deal with both of you, later!" He left the room, slamming the door behind him for good measure.
"Very good, mate," Styles grinned. " We will make a sailor out of you, yet."
"I want to thank you for being there for me. He hasn't attacked me as of lately and I know it's because of you," Archie told Styles.
"You be a good lad, you just need a little back bone. I see it peeking out every now and then, but you should show it more often. Matty says that if you want, he can help ye with your studies. He told me that if you do well, you could get yourself promoted and then you would be Simpson's superior. He would never bother you again, if that happens."
Archie looked at Styles, amazed. "You want to help me?"
"Yes, Matthews and I, both. I could teach you to be surer of yourself and Matthews could teach you of the sea. He knows all there is to know. He'd make someone a great captain, but he is happy just being a seaman."
Archie smiled and said, "I'll think about that seriously. But, we should get back to work before we get in trouble for dawdling."
"Aye, sir," Styles said as he gave Archie a salute.
Archie smiled at Styles as he left. He knew he made an ally. One that could stand up to the likes of Simpson. One that could be his hero. But did he want to put his faith into another human being? Every time he did that, he got hurt. Bridget told him that he should only rely on himself, but Archie didn't want to rely on himself. He wanted someone to talk to -- to turn to -- to lean on.