Callum lay on the settee in the parlor, he was opening his eyes slowly and he saw Dustin was sitting next to him on the floor, looking over at the new mattress. Some women were moving about bringing things as Martha was knelt beside an older man. Lamps were being held by a couple of men from the village, they were looking away as they held the lamps.
“What is going on?” Callum asked softly and Dustin turned and looked at him.
“The doctor is working on Thomas.” Dustin said as he smiled.
“Where is Christian?”
“He and Owen are tending to his father and the other two men with some of the men from the village.” Dustin said. Callum felt something touching his hair, he rolled his eyes up and saw Henry was at his head behind Dustin, petting him like he does his dog.
“Henry, are you alright, my lad?” Callum asked softly. He nodded his head slowly. “Good.” Callum smiled and looked back at Dustin who was smiling back as he held Callum’s left hand and arm stationary.
“You are not to move, do you understand?” Dustin asked, “Dr. Stivers is very forceful, far more than Dr. Crawford could ever be.”
“Really, does he carry a whip or a cat of nine tails?” Callum asked with a slight smile.
“I believe he does.” Dustin said with wide eyes, “He gives orders far more forcefully than you or Captain Powers ever thought of.”
“Hmmm, he may be a good man to have about then.” Callum smirked.
“Hold that lamp still!” The older man said loudly, “I’m trying to save this lads life! I can’t do it with you bouncing the light all about.” His tone settled to a mummer.
“I see what you mean.” Callum said softly, Dustin nodded.
“Christian, I don’t know what to say.” Owen said softly as he was standing beside him.
“There is nothing to say, Owen.” Holt said flatly, “The man is dead. I killed him.”
“No, it’s alright,” Holt said and let out a breath, “it’s probably the way he wanted to go out in this life, in a battle. My only regret is I didn’t see his eyes when I ran him through.” Holt said as he turned away from the end of the cart, “I must return to see about Thomas and Quintan.” Holt took a couple of steps away and stopped, lowering his head a bit, “I thank you for your help, Owen, you and the others.” Holt said and walked away from the Magistrates’ office, leaving Owen to watch him. Owen turned back and looked at the men who were with him, and then looked down into the cart, seeing the bodies stacked together in the bottom.
“My friend, Doctor, how is he?” Callum asked softly.
“He’ll live.” The older man said flatly, looking over his spectacles that rested on the end of his nose, he cut Callum’s shirt open with a larger pair of shears, pulling it back to see all of the scars on Callum’s chest and stomach, and then looked at the new deep wound. “I see that you are very familiar with surgery.”
“Yes, unfortunately.” Callum said softly. He watched the doctor pull the cork on a small brown bottle and held it out in his hand.
“Hazards of your profession, I am sure.” The older man said, “Your friend did me the courtesy of being unconscious while I sewed him, however you are very much awake. I will need to go inside of you rather deeply to repair and close this wound of yours. I want you to drink this, it will make you sleep for quite a while.” He said and handed the bottle to Callum, he took it in his right hand and put it to his lips, “As you are familiar with surgery, you are probably as familiar with what this will do to you.” Callum pulled the bottle back from his lips and handed it back, “I will begin after you are asleep.” The older man said and looked about the room, “Alright, let’s get this room cleared out of some of these people, I need room to work, get this boy out of here as well.” The older man said in a firm tone.
“Come along, Henry, we’ll go and tend to the horses.” Dustin said, taking Henry’s hand, “I’ll be close by.” Dustin said to Callum, who nodded and started to feel sleepy. He knew not to fight it, even though it was his first instinct. He looked up and saw Martha standing next to the older man and felt his eyelids getting heavier.
“I think it’s about time.” Callum heard him say and then blackness.
Callum woke, his eyelids felt very heavy. It was a struggle to move them at all. He was trying to focus. He could hear talking, but couldn’t understand what they were saying. He felt dry in his throat and it was scratchy to him and his mouth had a very bad taste to it. He licked his lips and finally was able to open his eyes. His surroundings were familiar to him, he was in their room, upstairs. He didn’t remember how he got here. He lifted his head slightly and saw his shoulder was bandaged in white linen as it was wrapped around him. He lifted his left arm a little, which was also bandaged in white linen, and then lowered it. He was alone but could hear voices talking. He closed his eyes.
“Quintan? Can you hear me?” Martha asked. Callum opened his eyes. She smiled and he smiled in return. “You can hear me, good. I have some broth prepared, would you like some?”
“If only to remove this foul taste from my mouth.” Callum said and let out a long exhale, “Who do I hear talking?”
“Christian and Dustin are having a bit of an argument downstairs. Was it them that woke you?” She asked.
“No. Is everything alright with them? What are they arguing about?”
“Christian is leaving in the morning.” She said in a flat tone as she helped him to sit up.
“What? Where is he going?” Callum asked.
“He is taking his father home to Cambridge for burial.” Martha said, Callum looked at her with wide eyes.
“He can’t,” Callum said as he tossed back the covers, not realizing he was naked, “it will put him in further danger.”
“My heavens, Quintan, you have no clothes on, and you shouldn’t be out of bed.” She looked away and rolled her eyes.
“Not like you haven’t laid eyes on me before, my dear.” Callum said as he swung his legs, he went to the chest of drawers and opened the top right drawer and pulled out a pair of underclothes and went back to the bed and sat on the edge, “No doubt this was Dustin’s idea of trying to keep me in bed, with no underclothes on. One of my ship’s surgeons tricks that he has learned.”
“Well, I suppose, if you have no modesty...” She said as she looked away.
“Here, give me a hand with this.” Callum said as he had no use of his left arm. She turned and helped him get them up the rest of the way. She reached down and tied the strings in a slip knot. Callum smiled briefly at her and went for the door, in a roundabout weave, but he made it, he opened the door and slid along the wall as he went down the stairs. He came into the parlor, seeing Tomlin on the new mattress, the parlor had been rearranged a little, and Tomlin was sleeping on his back, propped up a bit with what looked like new pillows as Callum did not recognize them. He went toward the voices in the kitchen.
“…I’m simply saying, Christian, to think about it first,” Dustin said as they were standing almost nose to nose in the middle of the kitchen, “if Thomas were able, he would be saying the same thing as I am right now to you.” Dustin said loudly, as he was pointing a finger at the floor. Owen was leaning against the small table under the back kitchen window, his arms folded over his chest, his head lowered a bit. Callum leaned against the doorway, looking at all of them, little Henry was sitting at the table next the back door watching Dustin and Christian as they argued.
“And what is it be that Thomas would be saying right now, Dustin?” Callum asked and all eyes looked him. “I apologize for my attire, gentlemen, someone seems to have removed all my clothes.” Callum gave Dustin wide eyes.
“What are you doing up and out of bed?” Dustin asked as he regrouped.
“I heard loud voices up in our room, I thought I would come down and see what all the shouting was about.”
“I’m sorry, Quintan.” Dustin said rolling his eyes.
“I apologize, Quintan.” Holt said lowering his head a bit.
“It’s alright. What is it that has you two at each other’s throats?” Callum asked as he leaned on the table with his right hand, and slowly sat down in a chair, Martha standing behind him.
“He is going home to Cambridge.” Dustin said, pointing a thumb toward Holt as they stood side by side.
“He thinks I’ll be in danger.” Holt said, holding his own thumb, pointing back at Dustin.
“He’s right, Christian, you will be.” Callum said calmly as Henry came over next to him.
“What makes you think so?” Holt asked.
“Let’s think about it a moment. Your father is having you poisoned, by the housekeeper, who was probably romantically involved with him, I’m sorry to say, and there is that doctor from the Orient that you said was providing the poison. Your father is now dead, which will make the housekeeper even more dangerous as her livelihood is now in question, and the doctor, God only knows what may be going through his mind. Do I need to go on?” Callum asked dryly.
“There is my father’s estate to settle as well.” Holt said with a frown.
“And his burial, I’m sure as well. Do you think he may have had a solicitor?” Callum asked.
“Yes, I know he did.”
“Do you think that you could possibly trust in him?” Callum asked.
“I can, he was a friend of my mother’s, a distant relation, I believe.” Holt said.
“Then he can finalize the estate for you after you set things in motion, if you wish.”
“I suppose he could.” Holt said, giving a soft nod.
“So, in that event, do you still feel it is necessary to go to Cambridge, other than the burial?”
“If only to just say goodbye, with a visit to my mother’s grave site, yes.”
“I can understand that,” Callum said as he looked up over his shoulder at Martha and then back at Holt, “then I suggest that you not go alone in this trip, unless you plan not to return?”
“I do plan to return. We have all had too many talks about that very thing, and Thomas,…”
“Yes, our poor dear Thomas, he certainly would be heart sick if you did not return, another reason to have an escort.” Callum smiled.
“Who would you suggest accompany me?”
“He stands next to you, if he wishes to go.” Callum said, “What say you, my love?”
“Of course I would go,” Dustin said looking at Holt, “if you would allow me?”
“Well, yes, I suppose I really should have someone with me that I could trust.” Holt said softly.
“Excellent, then the decision is made. I am going back to bed, now that the shouting is over. I feel a bit light headed for some reason.” Callum rolled his eyes as he slowly got to his feet. He went to the stairs and started to go up.
“Christian?” Tomlin asked quietly in the dark. Holt opened his eyes hearing his name and rolled over to touch him.
“Thomas, you’re awake?” Holt asked softly.
“Yes. At least I think I am.” Tomlin said softly.
“Just a moment, stay still.” Holt said as he rolled off the mattress to the candle stand. He reached around and found a match and struck it. He put it to the candle and shook out the match. He looked over as the light of the candle glowed brighter. Holt could see Tomlin was touching his left side and was lifting the covers and looking down at the bandages that wrapped around him. “How are you feeling?” Holt asked as he climbed back on the mattress next to him, sitting on his knees.
“I’m not sure, actually. I had a terrible dream that woke me.”
“What was it?” Holt asked.
“Incredible pain, like I have never known.” Tomlin said softly.
“Do you hurt now?”
“My side does, yes.” Tomlin said, “I am a slight bit confused about what happened.”
“One of my father’s men ran you through with his sword.”
“I seem to recall that. I thought I was dead.” Tomlin sighed.
“Nearly, but you held on. I’m glad you did, Thomas.” Holt said as he took his hand in his, “Very glad.”
“Dead.” Holt said, meeting Tomlin’s eyes, “I killed him.”
“Christian, I’m sorry.” Tomlin said softly, squeezing the hand the hand that held his.
“It had to be done. He was about to kill Quintan, I had to stop him.”
“Where is,…?” Tomlin started to ask.
“He is resting. His wound is quite deep and required a great deal of time to sew.”
“He’s wounded?” Tomlin asked.
“Yes, but he will be alright. Dustin is with him now.”
“Where is Henry? We are in the parlor,…”
“Henry is up with them. Dustin took his bed up there when we brought you both into the house.”
“Oh, I made a mess of this, didn’t I?” Tomlin asked, and licked his lips and winced from the discomfort he felt.
“No, my valiant warrior, you did not. You saved Dustin’s life actually with your actions. You distracted my father’s men long enough for me and the other’s to arrive and stop them. You’re the hero in all of this.” Holt said with a soft smile.
“I don’t feel like one. I feel as if I have been trampled by a herd of stampeding horses.”
“The doctor left something for you to ease your discomfort should you wake.” Holt said and reached for the small bottle on the candle stand. He uncorked it and turned back, “Here, drink some of this but not much, it will ease you.” Tomlin took it and looked at it, he put it to his lips and tilted it up, “That’s enough.” Holt said and took the bottle back. He put the cork back in it and set it on the stand, and took Tomlin’s hand again, “Thomas, I am taking Dustin with me in the morning, we are going to Cambridge.” Holt said, and Tomlin looked at him with wide eyes, he started to say something, but Holt held up his other hand to stop him, “We will be gone but a few days’ time. I need to settle the estate and have him buried. I will set things in motion and will return. Everything can handled through the post, after that. Owen has provided me with a cart and one of the mares to take my father there.”
“But the housekeeper,…”
“That is why Dustin is going with me, to keep a watchful eye. I have to do this, Thomas, you must understand that.”
“I do, Christian, I do. It just makes me feel like when we parted at the Garrison, that’s all.”
“Yes, only the roles are reverse. I was the one that was wounded then.” Holt smiled.
“I remember.” Tomlin blinked hard a few times and his vision blurred.
“Let’s get you down in the bed, the medicine is taking you very quickly.” Holt said and helped him. Tomlin slid down and closed his eyes and was taken into deep darkness. Holt watched him for a while as he sat with him in silence.
Morning came and Callum woke. His chest ached and his left arm was very stiff. He tried to move it but couldn’t. He looked down at it and the bandages, they were spotted with brown from what he could see in the dim dawn light. He used his right hand and lifted the covers and swung his legs slowly and sat up on the edge of the bed, putting his feet on the floor. The dog looked at him and thumped his tail on the little bed as he lay at Henry’s feet. Callum lifted a finger to his lips and the dog groaned softly and stopped his tail.
Callum stood and felt a bit light headed still and waited a moment. His head cleared and he stepped toward the door. He opened it and went down the stairs slowly and went into the kitchen quietly. He sat at the table and Martha looked over at him from the stove. She cocked her head slightly and came toward him. He smiled briefly at her and she reached down and looked at his arm as he was just letting it hang there.
“I noticed brown spots on the bandage and I have no feeling in it.” Callum said softly as she untied the knot and started to unwrap it. She lifted it toward the lamp on the wall, looking it over, some of the stitches were weeping dark blood.
“What should we do?” She asked as she looked at it.
“I saw Arthur do this a couple of times aboard ship,” Callum said and looked beyond her to the stove, “is that water warmed?”
“Yes, it was boiled last night and it’s warmed now.”
“Do we have any clean linens?” Callum asked.
“Yes, those that we did not use yesterday for your bandages.”
“Good, if you would get some of those we can soak them and then apply it to the stitches. It will make them swell and it should stop the bleeding.”
“Alright, wait a moment, I’ll get them.” She said and went into the parlor. Callum looked down at his arm. He used his right to pick it up and move it over to the table, laying it on the surface. She came back in and went to the stove, putting the linens in the water, using a spoon to stir them. “It’s very hot, Quintan.”
“They can sit out a minute and cool.” He said as he watched her, as she used the spoon and lifted the linens out of the hot water. She moved them over to the dry sink and tried to wring them, but they were too hot for her hands. “Careful, my dear, I would not want to see you burned.” Callum said.
“But your arm…”
“Will be fine for another few minutes if need be. You must be careful. Do not rush.” Callum said.
“What’s going on?” Holt asked as he came in barely awake. He looked at Callum’s arm and saw it. He became fully awake with the sight. He came to the table. He moved and went to the lamp, taking it off the wall, bringing it back to the table. He looked over his shoulder at what Martha was doing. “You want the wet cloths to swell them?” Holt asked, “I saw Crawford do that in the surgery once aboard the ship.” Callum nodded in reply. Holt went to the sink and put his hands on the linens and grabbed them off the spoon, he wrung them lightly and walked as he winced from the hot cloth. “Ready?” Holt asked and Callum nodded and grit his teeth as Holt put them over the stitches. Callum hissed inward through his clenched teeth. “It might be blood poisoning, Quintan. You know that as well as I.” Holt said as he looked at Callum, “I will go into the village and summon the doctor to come here. Hold these here.” Holt said, then looked at Martha. “Get some more linen ready to soak in the hot water. We will have to do this a few more times to him until the doctor arrives.” Holt said to her and she nodded and went to the stove, “Pull it away and let me look.” Holt said and Callum slowly pulled the linen away, it was dark brown in color, “I wonder if his cord for stitches has gone bad.”
“Is that possible?” Callum asked.
“I think it is, it must be that.” Holt said, “I will dress and be off.”
“Thank you, Christian.” Callum said. He walked into the parlor and Martha walked up to him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“Haven’t you been through enough already?” She asked.
“Well, this certainly wasn’t my choice, as you well know.” Callum said. Holt came back in and stood next to Callum as he pulled his shirt over his head and let it drop down, he was in his pants and boots already.
“I’ll go saddle the stallion and go for the doctor.”
“Do you know where he is?” Martha asked.
“Yes, they showed me yesterday when we were at the Magistrate’s office. I’ll be back shortly, keep changing those linens. Keep the stitches wet and warm.”
“We will.” Callum said as he winced from touching it. Holt went out the back door and ran down to the stable.
Dustin felt something next to him in the bed. He smiled, thinking it was Callum. He rolled over and went nose to nose with the dog. Dustin blinked hard seeing the sad eyes and all the fur. Before he could pull back he got a lick on the tip of his nose. Dustin sighed.
“What are you doing up here? Your bed is down there, go on now, go on.” The dog groaned and moved and got off the bed and onto the floor, he went over to Henry’s bed and lay down and sighed. Dustin cocked his head at him. He heard something else, and cocked his head more, listening and then heard it again. It was a groan, like a pained groan. Dustin could see that Callum was not in the room and leaped out of bed and went for the door, he opened it and heard it again as he went down the stairs and came into the kitchen, seeing Martha putting wet linens on his arm.
“Dear God, what’s happened?” Dustin asked standing next to Callum in only underclothes.
“We don’t know.” Callum hissed through clenched teeth, “Christian went for the doctor. It might be blood poisoning.” Callum said and grit his teeth as more hot wet linens were put on his arm. Dustin looked over at the table at the linens lying there, spotted with dark brown color.
“Here, let’s have a look.” Dustin said and rolled the hot cloth away, one of the stitches ripped away and part of came with the cloth. Dustin leaned closer and sniffed it. He wrinkled his nose and looked at Callum, “It smells rancid. Christian went for the doctor?”
“Just a couple of minutes ago, he took the stallion. This truly hurts worse than all the others that I have had. I wish to hell Arthur was here.” Callum said in a pained voice.
“Perhaps we should move his surgery here so he can be close by.” Dustin said and lifted an eyebrow, “I know the doctor left something for Thomas for discomfort when he woke up. Let me see if it’s in the parlor.” Dustin said and walked away. He came back a few moments later, “Here, just a sip. That’s what the doctor told Christian for Thomas.” Dustin handed the bottle to Callum after he uncorked it. Callum looked at it and put it to his lips and tilted back a bit. He lowered the bottle and handed it back to Dustin.
“Ugh.” Callum said and shook his head, “That was as bad as the taste that I had in my mouth yesterday. It’s worse than dirt. Ugh!” Martha removed the linen and another stitch came with it.
“I’m certainly glad that these stitches aren’t bleeding that are falling out.” She said.
“It might be better if they did.” Callum said.
“Why?” Dustin asked.
“They might cause gangrene, and he would have to take the arm.” Callum said.
“You think that he might?”
“We’re getting to it pretty quick,” Callum paused as another set of hot linen was applied, making him wince, “besides we may end just boiling it out of me.”
“I’m sorry, my boy, I don’t wish to hurt you.” Martha said.
“And you are not, my dear, you are doing what you can to help the situation. It’s not you, it’s this damned stitching. My God that hurts.” Callum said and rocked his leg from the pain, “It didn’t hurt near as bad that night that sharpshooter shot me.”
“As I recall, you were on a mission to save the ship when that happened, you had little time to think of anything else.” Dustin said.
“As I do now, it seems. I am feeling a bit…lightheaded, …again.”
“Quintan?” Dustin asked him as Dustin looked him in the eye. Callum was blinking hard and long, “Quintan, sit back in the chair…”
Callum opened his eyes and was staring at the white ceiling that had beams running through it. He knew he was in the parlor. He felt sick to his stomach and he took in a slow deep breath in through his nose and out through his mouth. He did not move but only licked his lips. He felt something next to him on his right side.
“Go and tell her he is awake.” Callum heard a voice say as he tried to focus a bit more.
“Well, it seems as if you might live after all, Captain.” The voice leaned over him and Callum felt a hand touch his forehead, “You have no fever, that’s a good sign.”
“Who are you?” Callum could not recognize him at first as he was trying to clear his bleary eyes.
“Dr. Stivers. I was here yesterday. Do you not recall?”
“I do, however I am having a bit of trouble trying to focus on your features.”
“That is understandable. It will clear shortly now that you are awake. I would ask you not to move for a while. If you sit up, you will feel faint more than likely.” The voice said.
“I feel as if my insides are spinning about as well.”
“That is to be expected. You will be yourself soon. I must apologize to you, Captain, it would seem that my stitching material in your arm is rancid. I had to bleed you a bit and resew you. It is not often that I have to tend to such wounds as were suffered by you and your companion.”
“I can understand, Doctor, knowing the community that we live in, and it being peaceful here for the most part.” Callum said softly.
“Yes. Rest easy now. I shall come back tomorrow morning and see about you both.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Callum said and closed his eyes and growled softly in his throat. The Doctor took his things and left through the front door.
“I never thought I would be sharing a bed with you, Quintan.” Tomlin said.
“Well, there is first time for everything, Thomas, isn’t there?” Callum said with his eyes closed and smiled briefly, “I hope I am not crowding you.”
“Not at all. But I will tell you, and I mean no insult, but you are not as warm as Christian.” Tomlin said. Callum chuckled.
“Well, so far, you move less than Dustin does.” Callum said, making Tomlin chuckle, “Are they here about somewhere?”
“No, they left about two hours ago. Dustin wanted to delay longer, but Dr. Stivers told him that all would be well as your knitting was being taken care of before it became any worse. They waited until he was done resewing you.”
“Good, sooner there, and sooner back.” Callum said and smiled briefly again without opening his eyes.
“Yes, I agree.”
“Where is Henry?”
“Right here.” The little voice said and Callum felt a little hand touch his left hand.
“Are you alright, my lad?” Callum asked. Henry was nodding but saw Callum’s eyes were still closed.
“Yes.” Henry said.
“Good.” Callum smiled briefly again, “Well, Thomas, it looks as if we will be bedfellows for a bit. I hope you are alright with that?”
“I am, Quintan,” Tomlin chuckled and touched Callum’s good shoulder, “I only ask that you not curl up next to me.” They both chuckled together.
“Well, I see that the remaining men in the house will be in one spot and easier for an old woman to manage.” Martha said.
“If only to ease your burden, my dear.” Callum said softly.
“Do lay still and keep quiet, Quintan Callum. I cannot ride that stallion to go off and fetch the doctor such as Christian did this morning.”
“After this, my dear, I don’t think any of us will need to go anywhere for a while.”
“Well, I am running short of a few things. I will need to go into the village a bit later. I’ll have Henry sit with you both while I’m gone.”
“Hmmm, perhaps Henry would like to help carry things for you instead.” Callum said still with closed eyes, “He is very strong, you know, isn’t he, Thomas?”
“Indeed he is for being his size. He actually carried my trunk for me the day I purchased it, didn’t you, Henry?” Tomlin asked.
“Yes, I did, Aunt Martha. I am very strong.”
“Yes, my boy, I know you are. Alright, you can go with me if you wish.” She said, “But, there will be no doing anything while I am away from either of you, is that clear?”
“Perfectly.” Tomlin said.
“Aye, aye, my dear.” Callum said raising his right hand to his forehead to salute.
“Scamp.” She said and walked back to the kitchen.
Callum opened his eyes and turned his head right a bit, seeing Tomlin was next to him. Callum reached down and pulled the blanket back and slowly sat up as he rolled to his left, using his right hand to push into the mattress.
“If she catches you getting up…” Tomlin said. Callum groaned as he sat up.
“Have they returned yet?”
“Not as of yet. They have been gone some time, and should be returning shortly, I would think.” Tomlin said. There was a knock at the front door and then it opened. Callum and Tomlin looked as Owen came in, closing the door behind him.
“Well, there is a sight.” Owen said as he crossed the room toward them.
“And what would that be?” Callum asked as he looked at him coming closer.
“Two officers of His Majesty’s Navy in their underclothes, sharing a bed.” Owen chuckled.
“I’m not an officer any longer, you know that.” Callum said and held up his right arm, “Here lend me a hand to help me up.” Owen grabbed him with both hands, pulling him up slowly.
“And pray tell where are you off to?” Owen asked.
“The privy. My insides are feeling as if I were in a violent storm at sea.” Callum said through an exhale, “Your timing is perfect actually.”
“Whatever I can do to render assistance.” Owen smirked.
“Better hurry, Quintan, before she returns and finds you up and about.” Tomlin said.
“Yes, or she might cane me with a wooden spoon.” Callum said as he rolled his eyes and walked toward the kitchen slowly. Owen chuckled and looked down at Tomlin.
“I suppose you need to get up as well?” Owen asked.
“If I can.” Tomlin said pulling back the blanket and started to move slowly. Owen reached out and pulled on him gently.
“Here, let me help you, Thomas.”
“Thank you.” Tomlin groaned as he got to his feet with Owen’s assistance.
“Now that we are alone for a moment, I was hoping I could speak with you.” Owen said softly.
“Oh, what about?”
“The house, the other house.” Owen said with lowered eyes.
“What about the other house?” Tomlin asked softly.
“I was wondering if…there was something that…”
“We might have come across?” Tomlin asked as he saw Owen was struggling. Tomlin gave him soft eyes as Owen lifted his, “We did.” Owen blushed and turned red, “They were left in that front bedroom. The four of us saw them, but only us.”
“And what have you done with them?” Owen asked.
“We left them where we found them, and they will remain there. Quintan wishes to burn most of them, the ones of the younger lads especially, and I agree with that.” Tomlin said.
“I wish to have those of me burned as well when you do that.”
“Owen, I would ask that you reconsider that.”
“What?” Owen asked with narrowed eyes.
“Well, I would ask that at least one be spared.” Tomlin was blushing now.
“Christian and I,…we felt,…feel…strongly about…one of them.”
“You do?” Owen asked with a puzzled look now.
“Yes. We would like to keep it, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t know about that, Thomas, or how I feel about that.”
“Well, think about it, and let us know. Nothing is going to done for a bit to the house anyway, and its safe there, and always will be with us.” Tomlin said softly.
“You feel strongly about it?” Owen asked. Tomlin smiled and nodded in reply, “And so does Christian?”
“I don’t know what to say, Thomas.”
“As I said, think it over for a bit.” Tomlin said and heard the back door close.
“I see that the three of us may have to have a conversation when Christian returns.” Owen said softly. “Why hasn’t Quintan said anything?”
“He was waiting for you to say something first. You know how he is.” Tomlin said softly with a soft smile. Owen smiled back and nodded.
“Well, I feel better.” Callum said as he came back into the room.
“I need to tend to the horses.” Owen said, looking at Callum, “I told Dustin that I would come and tend them while they were away.”
“Good.” Callum said, looking at the two of them, knowing he interrupted something, “I am sure they will appreciate you caring for them until I can be up and about to help.”
“That may be a bit of time, Quintan. You should not push yourself, you know that.” Owen said, as Callum lowered himself onto the mattress.
“I see how this is going to go then. Dustin had a word with you, did he?”
“He did, and you know he did, as he should.” Owen said, “I am reminded of that time in Portsmouth when you had that brawl at the inn. You were trying to be stubborn then as well. You recall where that got you?”
“I do.” Callum said with a groan as he settled on the pillow. He pulled it up behind him so he could lean against the wall. Tomlin shook his head as he staggered out toward the kitchen, Owen watched him and then looked back at Callum. Owen was silent until they heard the back door close.
“Thomas told me what you found in the house.” Owen said, “I am ashamed, Quintan, and I apologize that you discovered them. He told me that some of them were going to be destroyed.”
“Do you agree with that?” Callum asked, Owen nodded his head in reply.
“It is your property now, they belong to you.”
“No, Owen, those that are of you belong to you. If you wish them to be destroyed then it will be done. There should no shame in what you feel, Owen. I was actually rather taken with more than one, we all were. The decision is yours.”
“Thomas just asked me to spare one that he and Christian wish to keep.”
“Really, well that’s not surprising, and if I were you I might feel rather proud to be the object of their desire.” Callum raised his eyebrows and then smiled as the front door opened. Henry and Martha came in and Martha closed the door. She looked over at Callum and Owen as he stood near the mattress. Henry was carrying a large basket loaded down and he struggled with it into the kitchen out of their sight.
“Hello, Owen.” Martha said, as she came close, “I see that you have been up and about, you scamp.”
“Yes, with the help of my dear friend here and his timely arrival.”
“And why were you up?” Martha asked.
“Only to make a trip outside, unless you move the privy into the house.”
“You,…honestly.” She said as she looked down at him, making him chuckle, she looked at Owen, “Would you care to stay for supper?”
“Very kind of you, my dear.” Owen said.
“You might be able to sit on the both of them and keep them still for me, so I can turn my back for once.” She bugged her eyes at Callum.
“Now, now, my dear, there is no need to rustle your feathers. There are certain things that must be attended to.” Callum said.
“I can see that caning is about to take place. I’ll go and tend to the horses and leave you two to it.” Owen said.
“Coward.” Callum said with a smile. Owen returned the smile.
“And with good reason.” He said, Martha swatted him on the butt.
“Now don’t you start, one scamp about is quite enough.” She said, making Owen jump a bit. Callum chuckled as Tomlin came staggering in.
“Quintan,” Tomlin chuckled and put a hand over his bandages, “do not make me laugh, it makes me hurt.” Tomlin said, Callum chuckled himself, and looked at Tomlin.
“Well Thomas, now that you have joined the ranks of the wounded, a little pain through laughter can be a good thing.” Callum smiled.
“You truly can be a devil, you and your jokes.”
“What else have I to do, laying here waiting to heal.” Callum said and pulled the covers off him. He moved his legs off the mattress.
“Where are you going?” Owen smiled as he watched Callum.
“I need to get up for a bit.” Callum groaned softly, “I feel the need to move about.”
“That caning you spoke of may be coming if she sees you.” Owen said softly and smiled.
“Well, better her than Dustin.” Callum said as he got to his feet. Tomlin and Owen laughed, “He can be quite forceful when he wishes to be.”
“I find that hard to believe.” Owen said and got to his feet as well. “However, he did surprise me when he was lecturing Christian.”
“He does do that quite well, doesn’t he?” Callum smiled, “He has actually lectured me a time or two as well.”
“Well, I’m going to tend to the horses and put them away for the night.” Owen said, he nodded toward Tomlin, who nodded back, “I’ll be on my way home after that.”
“Thank you for all your help, Owen.” Callum said softly.
“My pleasure, Quintan.” Owen smiled putting a hand to his good shoulder, “I’ll see you in the morning. Good night. Good night, Thomas.”
“Night, Owen.” Tomlin said and watched as he walked toward the kitchen. Callum looked at the little one.
“Alright my lad, you should go up and get ready for bed yourself, then you can come back down.” Callum said. The little one nodded his head, getting up and walking to the stairs. Callum walked into the kitchen, seeing Martha there at the dry sink. Callum came up behind her, putting a hand on her shoulder. She looked over her shoulder and gave him a stern look.
“What are you about?”
“I felt the need to move around. I hate just lying there.” Callum sighed.
“I thought as much.” She said and went back to what she was doing, “Is there something troubling you?”
“I am concerned about Dustin and Christian.”
“With those two, I think they can deal with whatever they come across. Both of them have good heads on their shoulders as you know.” She said.
Callum took Henry up the stairs and got him into bed, the dog was with them as well. Callum got down on the floor next to the little bed seeing the sad look on Henry’s little face. Callum smiled softly at him and then brushed back a couple of soft locks off the little forehead.
“Are you alright, Henry? You look sad, my boy, what’s wrong?”
“I miss Dustin.” He said softly as he lay on his side.
“I do as well. But, he and Christian will be back soon. We just have to wait for them.” Callum said softly. He heard the dog sigh and then groan, Callum looked at him and then back at Henry. “I think tomorrow that I will feel better. How about you and I go for a bit of a ride on the mare?” Callum asked and the little one smiled and nodded on the pillow, “Good. I need to get out of the house for a bit. Aunt Martha won’t say much about it, if you were to keep an eye on me.” Callum winked a long wink, and the little one nodded again on the pillow, “Alright, you go to sleep now, I’ll be up in a bit.” Callum bent down and kissed the little forehead, and pat the shoulder of the boy and got up off the floor. He grunted softly to himself and went to the door, looking at the boy and the dog and left the room. Tomlin was lying on the new mattress and looked up at Callum as he came off the stairs. Martha came into the room and stood next to Callum.
“Are you off to bed, my dear?” Callum asked. She pat his good arm and nodded, “Good, you look a bit tired this evening.”
“I am. Your young lad had me going all day long.” She said, and then looked at Tomlin, “Do you need anything, Thomas?” She asked.
“No, my dear, thank you. I will be alright for the night.” Tomlin smiled at her and she nodded and went to the stairs.
“Good night, my dear.” Callum said as he watched her go up the stairs. He turned and looked at Tomlin and went over to him and sat on the edge of the mattress. “You sure you’re alright, Thomas?” Callum asked softly.
“Yes, I’m fine, Quintan, thank you.” Tomlin said and smiled briefly, “What is troubling you? Could it be the same thing that troubles me perhaps?”
“Missing Christian, are you?” Callum asked.
“Yes, as I know you are missing Dustin.”
“Yes, I have grown more than accustomed to having him next to me at night, despite his constant moving of his legs.” Callum flashed his eyes. Tomlin smiled wide.
“I hope they will return soon.”
“As do I. I told Henry that I would take him for a ride tomorrow on the mare.” Callum said.
“Do you think it wise to do that?”
“Not that I don’t enjoy your company, Thomas, but I need to get of the house for a time.” Callum smiled.
“Yes, it does get a trifle dull just lying about, doesn’t it?” Tomlin asked, and Callum nodded.
“You know, Arthur threatened me more than once to having me tied in bed.”
“He actually succeeded once as I recall.” Tomlin said, folding his arms over his chest.
“I suppose you’re right. I had forgotten.” Callum said. He shifted and got to his feet, “I guess I’ll be off to bed myself. Good night, Thomas.”
Holt had the reins in his hands as the mare pulled the cart into the cemetery outside of Cambridge, the early morning light was filtering through the leaves of all of the trees. Dustin was beside him on the seat, being very quiet and looking around nervously as it was so quiet. Dustin had never been in a cemetery before in his life. Holt could see the anxiety that Dustin was feeling written all over his face as he would give him side glances from time to time. The cart stopped near the groundskeeper’s house and Holt reined the mare to a halt. He wrapped the reins about the frame of the seat and put a hand on Dustin’s arm.
“I’ll only be a moment, if you want to wait.” Holt said softly. Dustin nodded only in reply. Holt got down off the cart and walked by the head of the mare toward the little house hearing the door creak open, and an older man stepped out and waited.
“What are ye be wantin?” The older man called out from the doorway.
“I am in need of your services, my good man.” Holt said as he stopped, “I have someone that needs burial.”
“There be no more room for a new grave.”
“I know that there is, my good man. The site is only waiting to be filled.”
“Who be you?”
“My name is Holt. My father was Colonel Archibald Holt, the Ninth Earl of Cambridge. I have come to have him put to rest in our family’s plot.” Holt said, with a voice of authority and the older man’s eyes went wide hearing him.
“Beggin your pardon, My Lord, I had no idea.”
“Quite.” Holt said, putting a hand on his hip, “My companion and I have come a long way and have been driving all night. We have to attend to other business as well. Do you require assistance with my father’s coffin?”
“There be no one else here with me, My Lord.”
“Fine. Then if you would be so kind as to lend a hand, I think the three of us can get him unloaded.”
“Ye be wishin to just…leave ‘em?” The older man asked with wide eyes.
“I think that’s the general idea.” Holt said flatly.
“That’s not how it’s usually done, My Lord.”
“I have no doubt. However, I am rather pressed for time. I’ll make it worth your while, I assure you. Now, if you would be so kind?” Holt said and turned for the cart. He saw Dustin, who was wide eyed. Holt walked to the cart and went to the rear, dropping the little tail end board as the older man came to assist. Dustin got off the cart and came to stand next to Holt. Holt grabbed the two handles at the end of the box and pulled, sliding the wooden box out. Dustin came closer to help him, taking one side at the end, Holt shifted to the other side. They lowered the end to the ground as the head was still in the end of the cart. The three worked to get the other end of the wooden box out of the cart, spinning it a bit and then lowered it to the ground. The older man stood, looking at the box, then looked at Holt.
“Wouldn’t ye be wantin a better…?”
“Why?” Holt asked, cutting the older man off, knowing what he was going to ask, “He’s just going into the ground, isn’t he?” The older man had a look of shock on his face, “Come now, my good man, do you think he’ll actually mind what type of coffin he’s buried in?”
“Christian.” Dustin said softly, touching Holt’s arm.
“No, it’s alright, Dustin.” Holt said, half turning his head and looking back at the older man, “You know my family’s plot, do you not?” The older man looked at him and nodded, the older man’s eye still had a look of shock in them, “Usually, the husband is placed to the wife’s left, is that not so?” The older man nodded again, “That will not be the case this time, he is to be placed behind her and to her right, understand?” Holt asked and the older man still had that look on his face, “There is a stone cutter about, isn’t there?” The older man pointed a crooked finger, “Good, I shall see him and have a marker ordered. Now, understand this also,” Holt said holding up a finger, “I want the grave dug even deeper than normal.”
“My Lord?” The older man asked now looking confused as Holt was reaching into his pocket. Holt pulled out his hand and looked at the man with a serious look.
“I want him put closer to Hell.” Holt said in a cold voice and the older man looked shocked again, “I shall be back this time tomorrow to check on your progress. Don’t look so shocked. You probably knew of my father’s reputation,” The older man nodded slowly, “and I’m sure that most in this district will be relieved now that he is dead.” Holt held out his hand. The older man looked down as Holt dropped coins into the palm, “This is for your trouble, my good man. We will see you tomorrow.” Holt turned and went to the seat of the cart and climbed up, Dustin nodded to the older man and followed Holt on the other side of the cart.
The cart pulled by Owen’s mare turned up the drive of Holt’s home. Holt tensed and Dustin saw it out of the corner of his eye. Dustin shifted a bit on the bench as if waiting for someone to come leaping out of a hedge or bush. Holt was quiet during the time it took to bring the mare and the cart up to the corner of the house on the gravel drive. Holt tied off the reins on the bench and climbed down.
Dustin looked over the front of the house, the finely manicured shrubs and beds, the brick façade of the house gave it a regal stature and air. Dustin had never been this close to such a fine looking home. The windows were veined in the panes at an angle forming like diamond shapes, but there was something else that Dustin felt, it was a feeling of sadness as if the house itself was lonely somehow. The brick was dark in its color, lending more to that feeling, and with the frames of the windows also being dark, it brought it even more. Dustin looked at Holt, who was scanning about for any movement at all, but it was so quiet, no sound, no birds, nothing. Dustin climbed down on the other side of the cart as Holt came around the head of the mare. Dustin waited where he stood, and only moved as Holt started walking on the walk that ran in front of the house to the wide doorway on the grand brick step.
Holt put his hand on the handle of the door and opened the door, pushing it open wide, an odor was in the air that Holt did not recognize. He looked over his shoulder as Dustin was behind him with wide eyes.
“What’s that smell?” Dustin asked in a whisper. Holt looked back into the house and shook his head in reply.
“My room is to the left, down that hallway.” Holt whispered as he pointed, Dustin was leaning forward, looking in that direction as he was close to Holt, “I want to reach it before we come across her.”
“Why?” Dustin whispered.
“There are weapons in there if we come to trouble.”
“I wish you would have told me that earlier.” Dustin was looking about in the dark house.
“They are in the large wardrobe on the wall, in the bottom drawer.” Holt said as he stepped inside the foyer of the house, he motioned for Dustin to follow with a finger. Dustin narrowed his eyes and followed. Holt went down the hallway quietly and then stopped as he saw the silhouette of a woman standing at the far end of the hall, like a shadow she stood still. Dustin gulped as he stood behind Holt.
“Master Christian,” The smooth feminine voice said as it echoed in the hall, “I see that you have returned.”
“Your father is out searching for you.” She said in her smooth voice. Dustin watched as the figure came closer as if she were gliding through the very air itself, making no noise of any kind as she came closer, “He will be most pleased when he returns.”
“You think he would be? Why, to finish what he started?”
“And what is it that you mean?” The smooth voice said as she stopped.
“You know perfectly well what I mean.” Holt said, turning his head slightly, “Dustin, it’s the door on the left.” Holt said softly, Dustin started to move that way, staying away from her.
“What are you doing? What do you want out of there?” The smooth voice asked as Dustin went by her. He opened the door and the room was almost black.
“What is that smell in the house?” Holt asked.
“It is incense. Dr. Khalif has said it purifies.”
“You must mean mummifies, from the pungent odor that is in here.”
Dustin was doing his best to feel around from what limited light he had in the dark. He tripped a couple of times but did not fall. He put his hand once on the bed and then ran his hand along the wood of the footboard. He could see a sliver of light from a covered window and went toward it and put his hands on a heavy long drapery at the head of the bed. He pulled it back letting the light flood in from the window and smiled briefly and turned, his eyes went wide as the tall man in dark clothes stepped toward him out of the shadows with his hands out, Dustin gasped.
“Are you home to stay?” She asked in her smooth voice.
“No, I will tell that my father is dead.” Holt said flatly, “I just came from seeing his solicitor and I am closing up the house. It will be sold. You are to take your things and leave this house immediately.”
“Your father cannot be dead.” The smooth voice said, unwavering.
“He is. I killed him myself, actually. His body is at the cemetery.” Holt said, cocking his head slightly.
The hands gripped Dustin’s throat tight and spun him off his feet to the bed. Dustin gripped the wrists that held him, choking the air out of him, he struggled and pulled but they did not budge. Dustin was trying to fight back as he continued to pull on the wrists, he got his foot up and put into the hip of the tall dark man and pushed. Dustin was making choking sounds as he tried to call out but couldn’t. He used what strength he had and pushed making the man turn a bit but the grip was still about his throat and getting tighter on him. Dustin got both his feet up and kicked at him, knocking a lamp on the bedside table over, crashing it to the floor, shattering the glass.
Holt heard the crash and leaped forward, pushing her out of the way and charged for the door. He stopped as he saw what was going on and charged forward jumping on the back of the tall man, making him lose his grip on Dustin. He now moved his hands to Holt, grabbing him by the throat and squeezed, Holt choking and looked into the face of the man. Dustin was rubbing his throat with one hand and then shook his head as Holt was punching into the gut of the tall man, but he still held on, and then the man’s lips curled back and his eyes had an insane look to them as Holt was losing air and slumping. Dustin leaped off the bed and onto the man’s back, punching him in the head over and over. He let go of Holt, making him drop to the floor, he reached up and grabbed Dustin and pulled him off him, throwing him over his head, making Dustin hit the far edge of the bed and spring off into the wardrobe, bouncing off it and hitting the floor. The tall man turned and reached down for Holt again.
Holt saw him coming and got to his feet, fists balled up and started punching as hard as he could into the dark bearded face, each punch making full contact, the face turning only a bit from the impacts, and then the eyes of the man flamed with a rage, he flattened out a hand, and swung, backhanding Holt, sending him staggering back toward the door. He hit the floor and shook his head and got back to his feet. Dustin looked up and saw the man start toward Holt, his hands out. Dustin turned and opened the wardrobe, throwing the full length doors open wide and reached for the bottom drawer and pulled it open, in the drawer were the weapons Holt told him of, he reached in, filling his hands and turned, cocking the hammer back on the pistol.
“STOP!” Dustin screamed. The man froze and then looked toward Dustin, turning and started toward him, his hands out. Dustin closed his eyes and pulled the trigger. The sound of the pistol was incredibly loud, the smoke filled the air. Dustin opened his eyes and saw the man standing there, looking down at his chest, and the insane rage was still there in his eyes. Dustin cocked the other pistol he had in his other hand as the man began to growl deep and came toward Dustin. Dustin pulled the trigger as the hands grabbed his throat again. Dustin dropped the pistol as the grip was more intense this time, and Dustin saw the eyes of the man burning into his own through the smoke. Holt charged and leaped on the man’s back, getting his arms around him, trying to get the grip loose, the man made a move and shrugged Holt off him sending him to the floor.
Dustin was making choking sounds and the darkness was starting to come to his vision, he could feel his tongue swelling in his mouth. Holt got to his feet and kicked at the back of the knee of the tall man and made him go down, Holt bent down and snatched a spent pistol and used it like a club, hitting the back of the head of the man and he weaved as he loosened his grip on Dustin, letting him drop to the floor. The tall man half turned and Holt hit twice more with heavy swings of the pistol and the man fell. Holt was breathing hard as he waited for any movement, holding the pistol up gripped by the barrel end.
Callum saddled the mare and had her outside the stable, tied off. Henry was standing on the path, Martha behind him, her hands resting on the little shoulders. Callum pat the mares flank as he walked by her, going toward the pair that waited for him. He smiled as he came closer to them.
“Are you sure this is such a good idea, Quintan?” Martha asked.
“Now, why wouldn’t it be, my dear? There should be no harm in a little ride. Besides, I have Henry here to watch out for me and to keep me out of mischief.” Callum smiled at both of them, “I promise, we’ll go easy and won’t be jumping any fences.” Callum winked at her, and she frowned.
“Scamp.” She said, shaking her head. Callum looked down at the little one.
“Ready to go?” Callum asked, the little head nodded in reply, “Good. Now, you go down and take the mare, and I’ll meet you at the gate.” Callum said and Henry took off toward the stable. Callum watched for a moment and then looked back at her, “It gives you a chance to catch your breath and me to get out of the house for a bit. I feel fine, my dear, don’t worry.” Callum said as he could see the look on her face, “We’ll be back in a while.” Callum took her hand and squeezed it gently. He let her go and went down the path. He smiled at Owen, who had the stallion out, as the other mare was walking on the knoll. Callum followed Henry and Dustin’s mare to the gate, and then picked Henry up to put him on the saddle. His lifting made his wounds pull a bit and he grimaced as he put Henry in the saddle. Callum took the reins and opened the gate, leading the mare out and then closed the gate behind them. He mounted, getting behind Henry and waved at Owen, as did Henry and they started up the road toward Dudley at a slow walk. Henry was wide eyed and seemed very happy as Callum put an arm around him to hold him in place. Martha watched them go up the road and then turned to go back into the house.
“There’s a little shop in Dudley I heard about, Henry.” Callum said as he leaned forward a bit, “I thought we could take a look.”
“What kind of shop?”
“They make nothing but sweets I’ve heard.” Callum said, “Would you like to have a look?” The little head nodded rapidly, “That’s what I thought.” Callum smiled.
“Are you alright?” Holt asked as Dustin was coming around. Dustin nodded as he gripped his throat with one hand and looked over at the tall dark bearded man lying next to him. Holt stood and reached out his hand, Dustin took it as Holt pulled and got Dustin to his feet.
“Who is he?” Dustin croaked out.
“Khalif, the Doctor from the Orient.” Holt said as he stared at the body.
“Were the pistols loaded?” Dustin croaked out again.
“Yes, they were. I loaded them myself.”
“He didn’t fall. I shot him twice, and he didn’t fall.” Dustin said as he rubbed his throat and leaned against the wardrobe.
“I know.” Holt said as he stepped around Dustin, reaching down into the bottom of the drawer. He pulled out a powder flask and a small pouch containing balls. Holt reloaded the pistol as he looked at the body now and then. There were two large holes in the dark coat and flash burns on one from the close shot Dustin had fired. Holt handed the reloaded pistol to Dustin, then bent down and picked up the other. Dustin was looking around and then back to Holt.
“Where is the housekeeper?” Dustin asked.
“I don’t know. I looked up and she was gone. I was trying to tend to you, and lost track of her. I doubt this is over yet.” Holt said as he loaded the second pistol and handed it to Dustin as well. Holt took the powder flask and the bag and put them in his back pockets.
“What do you intend to do?” Dustin asked softly.
“I intend to find her. She is just as dangerous as he was, and there is probably another danger as well. One of my father’s men may be out in the barn or in the stable. I told her about my father, if she gets to him and tells him, there may be more trouble.”
“Should we go and get some help?”
“From who? The constabulary certainly doesn’t care and there are no regulars here, they were shipped out. We are on our own. If you wish to leave,…” Holt said and Dustin grabbed his arm, looking at him, stopping him.
“I’m not leaving you, Christian.” Dustin said, “I promised Thomas that I would not let anything happen to you. Besides, what kind of a friend would I be if I did not stand with you?”
“A sensible one.” Holt said, “If I were to get you killed,…”
“I know, Quintan would kill you, right?” Dustin asked and raised an eyebrow, “Then we must make certain we survive this.” Dustin smiled briefly. Holt smiled in return. He turned and reached back into the drawer and took the last remaining pistol, checking it, and then tucked it into his belt. He reached in behind his hanging clothes and pulled out a heavy sabre and pulled it from the scabbard, putting the scabbard down.
“Alright, we’ll go and try and find her, stay close, and keep an open ear. She barely makes any sound as she moves.”
“I noticed.” Dustin said flashing his eyes.
“She has a knack for sneaking about. Several times she surprised me in years past.” Holt said and stepped over the body and went toward the door, Dustin following him, pistol in hand. Holt stuck his head out in the hallway and looked, not seeing anything in either direction, and stepped out.
“May I get you anything, Thomas?” Martha asked. She watched as he was getting to his feet and pulled his pants up over his undergarments. Tomlin smiled at her.
“As a matter of fact, you can, my dear.” Tomlin said as he pulled his shirt over his head and let it drop down him.
“What would you like?”
“Something to do.” Tomlin sighed, “I am bored out of my mind. May I help you with something, please?” Tomlin asked, and she frowned slightly toward him, putting hands on her hips.
“Do all of you in the Navy have to have something to do?”
“Yes, ma’am, we do or we go truly mad.”
“Well, I was going to peel potatoes for tonight’s supper,…”
“That would be just fine, thank you.” Tomlin said as he walked toward her slowly. She smiled and shook her head, “The more you teach me how to cook, the more I can do when we move into the other house, you know.”
“You men.” She said, turning and walking into the kitchen. Tomlin came in behind her as she was pointing toward the table. He sat down and she went to the counter at the dry sink and took two large bowls and brought them to him, setting them down in front of him with a slight smile. He looked up at her. She put a hand to his shoulder and then turned away toward the counter again.
Holt crept into the kitchen, Dustin behind him, looking behind them, over his shoulder. Holt could see the back door open and went toward it. Dustin turned and looked to see where he was going. Holt went to the door and looked out. He looked back at Dustin and rolled his head, Dustin came toward him.
“See the grass?” Holt pointed with his sword, “There, the grass is wet, you can see where she went.” Dustin nodded and looked further, there was large low roofed building out beyond, the tracks in the grass led that way.
“Didn’t you say one of your father’s men might be out there?”
“Gamblin. He served under my father. He is a powerful man.” Holt said softly with narrowed eyes.
“Great, another one to deal with, like the last.” Dustin rolled his eyes. Holt stepped out and started to follow the tracks in the wet grass, sword at the ready. Dustin let out a breath and followed him.
They moved along to the fence, a couple of horses were there in a penned area. They went along together, keeping low, heading toward a door at the corner of the building. Holt stopped and pointed toward it, Dustin nodded and followed behind, staying close, looking around as they went. Holt reached the door and saw Dustin was there with him and then opened it quietly, he went slowly inside. It was dimly lit inside the long barn. There were some horses inside stalls that were milling about. Holt looked around, not seeing any movement and pointed toward the far end, at doors that were there. Dustin nodded again and then Holt pointed toward the other side of the barn, showing Dustin where to go. Dustin nodded again and crossed over to the other side, keeping low, they both started moving toward the doors on the far end on opposite sides of the barn. The horses watched them.
Holt stopped as they reached the middle of the length of the barn, there was a wide set of half doors near to Holt’s right, they were closed on the bottom half. Holt looked about and then across to Dustin, who was watching as well. Holt nodded and they started moving again. Holt came to a set of stalls that had no horses in it, and then heard a growl from the first empty stall, he stood and spun as the body hit him with a tackle and knocked him to the ground. The big man grabbed the wrist that held the sword, the other clenched Holt’s throat, Dustin charged forward and swung the pistol like a club, the big man saw him coming and ducked the swing, Dustin back swung and barely caught the man knocking him loose, Dustin went to swing again, but the big man pushed off Holt and grabbed Dustin around the legs, knocking him backward to the ground. Dustin went to sit up, pistol up as the big man moved quickly, smashing Dustin in the jaw with a fist, spinning his head. Holt was up and leaped on the man’s back, tackling him, and the three were pinned together. The man broke free, and rolled, Holt got to his feet, fists balled, the big man moved forward and Holt punched him once and then again, he growled and came again, Holt jabbed his face hard, and then hooked a punch, sending the head spinning. Dustin rolled and got to his feet and saw something out of the corner of his eye, he looked and she was coming toward them, a pitchfork in her hands, she didn’t make a sound as she moved, Dustin ducked and grabbed the handle of the pitchfork, going face to face with her. Her eyes were calm and very dark, and then Dustin rolled his head away as he felt the pain. She had used her nails and clawed his face, scratching him deep on the cheek. Holt saw it and moved to help, she freed the pitchfork from Dustin’s grip and lunged at Holt, he stepped out of the way and swung a fist, spinning her off her feet to the ground.
“Christian!” Dustin yelled, making Holt spin back as the big man tackled Holt in the mid-section, bringing the two to the ground. Holt was struggling to try and get out from under the big man, and Dustin leaped forward, pulling the pistol from his belt, cocking it and putting it to the man’s head. “HOLD!” Dustin yelled. The man froze. Holt looked up at Dustin, and broke free of the grip. “Get off him!” Dustin said, and the big man moved slowly, the pistol still to his head. Holt got to his feet, breathing heavy, putting his hands on his knees, watching Dustin and the big man.
“I do not wish to shoot you, sir, but I will.” Dustin said calmly, “Now, on your knees.” The big man was looking toward Dustin, seeing where the pistol was and then moved, knocking the pistol with a quick swing of his hand, the pistol going off, horses whinnied from the sound, and kicked at their stalls. The big man swung and hit Dustin in the stomach, doubling him, Holt moved and tackled him again into the dirt and straw. Dustin dropped to one knee, and then pulled his other pistol from the dirt. Dustin cocked it, turning on his knee to raise it, but saw something coming again, the pitchfork, he spun back as she came at him, he pulled the trigger and she dropped. Dustin was horrified that he had shot a woman. He dropped the pistol and then heard the smack behind him and then another one. He pulled himself together and turned around, the big man was punching Holt again and again, knocking him back step after step, one more step and another punch, Holt staggered and fell back, the big man was coming toward him and Dustin moved and dove into the back of the man, knocking him away from Holt and to the ground. Dustin held on for dear life as the big man rolled and struggled to get free.
The man rolled, getting Dustin under him, using his heavier weight to try and free the grip off him that Dustin was trying to maintain. The big man growled and then bounced and Dustin coughed with the wind being knocked out of him and let go, the big man rolled and got on top of Dustin and gripped his throat.
“You’re a good little fighter, boy, but not good enough.” The big man growled and Dustin gripped the wrists as he did with the other man earlier. The big man sat on Dustin’s stomach and had pinned his legs down, and Dustin choked, coughed, and started to claw at the big man. Dustin saw something out of the corner of his eye.
“Shoot him!” Dustin croaked, “shoot…him.” The big man grinned at Dustin’s reddening face.
“Nice try, boy.” The big man growled and then the pistol went off and he slumped off Dustin. Dustin took in a deep breath and coughed, holding his throat. Dustin rolled to his side away from the big man and looked, Holt was standing there in a cloud of smoke, pistol in hand. The horses were whinnying and kicking at the stalls again. Dustin got up to his knees, coughing and rubbing his throat.
“Thanks.” Dustin croaked and looked at Holt, who stepped closer toward him. Dustin sat back on his haunches, “Can we go home now? This is a really rough part of the country.” Holt smiled as he reached out a hand to Dustin.
Callum reined the mare gently to a stop in front of a shop. The sign over the front of the building said it was a candy shop. There were some children looking in the big window. Callum leaned down.
“This must be the place, Henry. See all the other children?” Callum asked, and Henry nodded once. Callum got off the mare and reached up for the little one, pulling him off the saddle. He winced at the pain of his wounds, but seeing the little face made it worth it to him. Callum took the reins and tied the mare to a post. Callum held out his hand, Henry took it in his and followed Callum to the window with the others, they also looked in.
“What would be the favorite to have from inside there?” Callum asked. All the children about he and Henry started to call out their favorites that were in jars or just out in the open. Callum chuckled hearing them all talking at the same time. Henry was wide eyed at just being around more children close to his own age and size. Callum leaned down, putting his hands on his knees, getting close to Henry and the other children. Callum looked over at Henry and leaned close, “Shall we go inside and have a look?” The little one nodded, “Alright then, let’s go in.” Callum took him by the hand and Henry followed. Callum opened the door and the man behind the counter smiled.
“Good morning to you, sir.” The man said and bowed his head slightly.
“Good morning, my good man. We were just marveling at the crowd outside, listening to them talking, and telling us of their favorites here inside your wonderful shop.”
“Thank you, sir. We always have a collection at the window. My wife is always washing that glass of all of their fingerprints.”
“I can certainly see that.” Callum smiled at him.
“What may I help you with today?”
“My young lad and I have a bit of a sweet tooth now and then and heard of your establishment and thought we would have a look for ourselves.” Callum said.
“I am glad to hear that such news of our little shop gets around our small village. Are you from here, sir?”
“Birmingham at the Cross, actually.”
“Callum’s Cross, sir?”
“Yes, I am Quintan Callum.” Callum said and the man’s eyes went wide.
“You are the sea Captain, then?”
“Was, actually. Now, I am retired and enjoying life.”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir.” The man stuck his hand out. Callum smiled and took it in return, “How may I help you?”
“Well, I think we will get a few things for our lady of the house as well as for my lad here. What would you like to have, Henry?”
“I don’t know.” Henry said, looking very lost with seeing everything. Callum looked at the man,
“Perhaps we should go about this a different way, what would you suggest?” Callum cocked his head slightly at the man behind the counter.
“Thomas, that is just fine. You do a very good job with that.” Martha said. Tomlin smiled up at her. Owen knocked on the back door and came in. “Owen, would you care to come in? I have more coffee on the stove.”
“Thank you, my dear, but I think you should come outside for a moment.” Owen looked at both of them, “Perhaps you should too, Thomas.”
Tomlin put down the knife he was using and stood. Martha looked at Tomlin, who had narrowed eyes, as if ready for trouble, came around the table toward the back door and Owen, stepping around Martha. Owen opened the door a bit more and stepped out of the way as Martha followed Tomlin out onto the flagstone. Owen walked out onto the path and looked toward the gate, there was quite a crowd of men, with carts and horses, and the gate was opened, the carts were led into the property, and Martha saw the group of men was led by two, Bockman and the giant of a man, Daultry. Tomlin looked at Martha and then at Owen.
“What is this all about?” Tomlin asked Owen, who just shrugged. They watched as Bockman and Daultry walked up to them, the others stayed back and waited.
“Mrs. Bonnington, is the Captain at home?” Bockman asked.
“No, I’m afraid that he took the lad for a ride this morning, they headed north on the main road.” Martha said. “What is this all about?”
“We have all talked it over, and it was actually Mr. Muir,” Bockman said, looking at Owen for a moment and then back to Martha, “well, ma’am, he said that we needed to come and finish the addition to the house, seeing that work was stopped here to work on their home after the damage from the storm. Mr. Muir told us that we couldn’t come back to the livery until we had these rooms up, for you and the little lad that the Captain has brought, on account of you taking their family in and all.” Martha was dropping tears and was dabbing her eyes with her apron. Daultry stepped forward.
“Ma’am, we wanted to bring most everything here and put it in place. Especially after what has happened with the young gentlemen and the Captain, with those uniformed men and all.”
“I don’t know what to say.” Martha said, her voice trembling. Tomlin stepped closer to her, putting an arm around her shoulders.
“I know the Captain would be pleased, gentlemen, very pleased. And I also know that he will be a trifle upset over what Mr. Muir has said, but knowing the Captain the way I do, he’ll get over it quickly.” Tomlin smiled.
“I think I’ll go and have a word with my father.” Owen said, as he looked at Martha, he gave her a wink, “I’ll tell him what a good man he truly is.” Owen smiled and leaned forward and gave Martha a kiss on the cheek, making her blush. Bockman turned and looked at the group.
“Alright now, let’s get this unloaded. Some of you men over here and let’s get this foundation…” Bockman was saying and pointing as his voice carried away. Daultry stepped forward and put out his big hand toward Tomlin. Tomlin took it and it was swallowed up.
“I am told that I have you to thank for saving my life.” Tomlin said.
“No, sir, I was merely there, that’s all.”
“Not by the accounts that I heard. Owen said you showed remarkable courage in taking those two men on.”
“Thank you, sir. How are you feeling by the way?”
“I am doing much better, thank you.” Tomlin said, getting his hand back, “I will always be in your debt, sir. If you ever have need, do not hesitate.”
“I’ll remember that, sir.” Daultry said nodding at Tomlin, he turned and went toward the men and the carts.
“Here you are,” Callum said as he held out three small bags to the group of children that were standing at the window, as he and Henry had come out of the shop, “some of the favorites that you mentioned. Make sure that you all share now.” Callum said and heard multiple thank yous' from all of them and then they all scurried off together. Callum led Henry over to the mare and lifted him up on the saddle. He untied the mare and climbed up and sat behind Henry again. Henry was sucking on a peppermint stick as the mare started to walk slowly back toward home. Callum looked down at him now and then as they rode along down the road, making him smile seeing the little one enjoying his stick and his day.
Holt had saddled one of the horses and led her out of the barn, Dustin following him, and they walked toward the front of the house and the drive. Dustin reloaded the pistols and waited at the cart as Holt rode off into town to summon the Magistrate. It was a bit of time and Dustin heard the clatter of horses and the wheels of a carriage. He looked and saw them all coming up the road. Holt trotted into the driveway, followed by a carriage and some mounted members of the constabulary. None of them were in any type of uniform, and Dustin thought it odd as the carriage came to a halt near the cart. Holt dismounted and waited for the Magistrate to climb down out of the carriage.
“You say that doctor is in the front bedroom?” The Magistrate asked.
“Yes, through the front door to the left, the door to the room is open.”
“And the others?”
“In the barn, Your Honor. This is Dustin Perkins, my companion and shipmate.” Holt said holding out a hand, “Dustin, this is Magistrate Rathmore.”
“How do you do, young sir? I understand you were party to this?”
“Yes, I was. We were attacked by the housekeeper and that…monster of a man.” Dustin pulled his collar open a bit, “He nearly choked the life out of me.”
“Yes, I can see wounds on both of you.” Rathmore looked at the pistols that Dustin still had, and then up at him, “Are you of the thought that there might be more danger?”
“If you have ever been boarded, sir, by the enemy, you can never be too cautious.” Dustin said.
“I see.” Rathmore said, raising an eyebrow. He turned and looked at the five men that were behind him, “You men, go and see about that doctor. The rest of you will come with us and we shall go and see about the barn.” Three men went toward the front door as Dustin and Holt went with the Magistrate and two other men along the side of the house out to the long and low barn. They entered the double half doors and stood, seeing the two bodies on the dirt floor. The Magistrate looked around, seeing the scuffle marks in the dirt and the pitchfork lying next to the dead woman. “Everything seems as you said, Master Holt. One of you, turn her over.” Rathmore pointed, one of the men went over and bent down, rolling her to her back, her eyes were wide open and fixed. Dustin looked away. Rathmore looked at Dustin for a moment, “You did this, did you not?”
“I did.” Dustin said quietly, without looking back at the body, “I have never shot a woman before.”
“That’s understandable.” Rathmore said, looking back at her, “Her eyes, close them.” He waved a couple of fingers.
“Your Honor?” One of the three men from the house came into the barn, stopping as he saw the dead woman. Rathmore turned and looked at him.
“What is it?”
“Your Honor, we can’t find the doctor. He’s not in the room that they said.”
“What?” Dustin asked out loud, stepping forward, Holt went wide eyed as well, “That’s not possible, I shot him…twice.”
“And I stove in his head…with a pistol butt to make him fall.” Holt said, “Is there any sign of him?”
“There is a blood trail on the rug, but it ends inside of the room.” The man said.
“He is in the house somewhere.” Holt said as he looked at Rathmore.
“That cannot be possible, if you shot him twice as you say, and then you hit him as well?”
“Your Honor, I swear to you. He would not fall, even as he was shot less than an arm’s length away. I had to knock him from behind to make him fall as he was strangling Dustin.” Holt said with wide eyes. He looked at the men from the house, “Arms yourselves, he is wounded and will be more dangerous, like a beast. We must search the house and find him.” Holt said, drawing his own pistol, Dustin pulled both of his.
“We have no weapons.” One of the men said. Holt handed his pistol to one, and then drew his saber. The man took it and swallowed hard.
“Wait, he must be dead by now.” Rathmore said.
“Will you take that chance, Your Honor? You did not see him as we did, it took everything we had just to get him to his knees, even with two pistol shots in him. He must be found, dead or alive. You men, come with us.” Holt said as Dustin handed over a pistol to one of the other men, who nodded and checked it. They all walked toward the back of the house, Holt looking for any sign on the grass as they reached the back door, there was no blood or anything. He turned and looked back at the group of men. “No one is to be alone in the search of the house, do not go off without a fellow.” Holt said and went in, sword at the ready, Dustin had his pistol ready, but not cocked. They all entered and started moving from room to room, spreading out. Every room was searched, every possible hiding place until they reached the other side of the house.
One last door to open, her room, the housekeeper. Holt looked back and some of the men had joined he and Dustin at the door. Holt put a hand on the handle of the door as he looked at all of them. Dustin raised his pistol and cocked the hammer back and nodded at Holt. Holt took in a breath and opened the door, he stepped in and Dustin was right beside him, pistol still pointed up. They stopped just inside the room and were wide eyed at what was in there. They heard something. Holt stepped to his left, as he came toward the end of the bed, the sound became a little louder. He held his sword up as if ready to lunge as he stepped again and then he saw the source of the sound, Khalif, the Doctor, was labored in his breathing as he was slumped on the floor, resting against a bedside table. The black eyes looked up at Holt.
“I will see you burn.” The voice said as it rasped out the words.
“Not before I see you hang,…murderer.” Holt said and lowered his sword. Dustin stepped close to Holt, his pistol pointed at the dying tall man. The others came and pointed theirs as well. Rathmore came and looked, seeing the two holes in the chest, the powder flash burns on the coat.
The eyes went still in the tall man and a breath could be heard escaping through his lips and the body slumped a little. “Make sure he’s dead.” Holt said and lowered his sword all the way, touching the point to the rug on the floor.
“Now can we go home?” Dustin asked softly, still pointing his pistol.
Callum came down the road on the mare at a slow walk. Henry was about finished with his peppermint stick. Callum looked down at the little one and smiled softly again as he put a hand over the little chest and pat him gently with his fingers. Callum looked up again. You could start to see Callum’s Cross from where they were now and Callum had never looked at the property from this direction. He saw motion on the side of the house and then people moving about and Callum stopped the mare and just watched for a moment.
“What is going on?” Callum asked. Henry looked and couldn’t see very well.
“What is it, Papa?”
“I’m not sure, my lad. There seems to be some activity going on at the house.” Callum said and nudged the mare. She started walking again as Callum looked toward the house. Callum nudged her again and she kicked her step up a bit more, “Hold on, Henry.” Callum said as he had the mare trotting. He watched as they drew closer to the property and now he could really see what was going on. He trotted her to the gate and slowed her. He reached out flipping the post ring and pushed the gate open and led her through, stopping on the other side, handing the reins to Henry, he swung down and closed the gate and latched the post ring, taking the reins in hand, he led them up the gentle knoll and stopped and watching everyone buzzing about like worker bees. The walls of both rooms were framed as well as the roof over both, glass was being set and planks were being laid out on the roof supports. Callum saw Bockman was pointing and talking to a couple of men and then guided one away with a touch to the shoulder, Bockman backed up a couple of steps as Callum came forward and stopped behind him, holding the reins behind him in his hands, Henry on the mare behind him.
“So, I go for a morning ride to Dudley with my son, I come back and my home is being torn apart.” Callum said, and Bockman turned on his heel.
“Captain.” Bockman said and held out a hand.
“Mr. Bockman, I am overwhelmed, sir, by what I see.” Callum said taking his hand in his.
“Yes, sir. It is coming along nicely, isn’t it?” Bockman asked as he looked back at the construction.
“Yes, but I am at a loss. What is all this about?” Callum asked.
“Mr. Muir, sir, said it was payment of a debt in hospitality.” Bockman said softly. Callum just looked at him, cocking his head slightly.