The thunderous volley of musket and pistol fire filled the still air. Men cried out in pain and agony in the center of the drive, horses whinnied and grunted as they either died or were wounded along with the men that rode them, there was also the sound of bodies hitting the gravel, the grunts of exhale from the impact as the last breath was expended. Smoke hung all around like a thick cloud in the drive blocking all view of the carnage that was apparent but yet unseen. Callum himself grunted as he rose up from his crouched position. He dropped the spent pistols to the gravel below him, pulled his sword from the scabbard and stepped forward, ready for whatever might be coming next. He could see movement within the cloud as he drew closer.
The men of Dover, officers and crew alike that had answered the call, came over the fences on both sides of the drive they were lined up on, leaving their spent muskets at their firing positions, pulling their pistols or swords and stepped forward to join their Captain. They moved cautiously toward the center of the drive, watching Callum and what was in the now thinning cloud of smoke. Everyone concerned in this felt as if they were taking an enemy ship, boarding her decks, being very cautious and wary.
Callum stopped his approach and was at the ready with his sword, tip up slightly. He could now begin to see the men in black, the Guardsmen, all of them were down on the gravel in a tangled heap in and amongst some of the dead horses and themselves. The horses that had survived the volley were standing or backing away out the cloud. Callum waited just another moment as his men came and spread out around and behind him. Callum heard a grunt and then a pained groan and was able to see where it was coming from. He stepped two steps closer.
“Paupling,…you still live. How unfortunate.” Callum said dryly, sword pointing toward the man that was pinned to the gravel by his dead horse. Another set of hooves from the closest dead horse was at Paupling’s head.
“Captain,…” Paupling said softly in obvious pain as he looked up at Callum. Callum shifted his eyes toward the first man in black that had started all of this, the man that had been set free this morning. He was dead, lying on his back with arms splayed out, eyes wide open and staring blankly skyward.
Callum felt someone next to him on his left, someone close, barely touching him. He could feel the warmth coming from him, he knew it was Dustin without having to look. Callum heard the cocking of the pistol next to him and then saw it raised and pointed down at Paupling.
“This did not have to happen, Captain.” Paupling said in a strained and very pained voice.
“You are right in that, Paupling. I warned your man there this morning when I released him, not to return. This is all a result of his actions, he fired the first shot, and the fault in all of this is all yours for leading this group, following your master, Upton, and his orders.” Callum said.
“I am not here because of that, Captain.” Paupling said, as he tried to get out from under the dead horse, but could not. Callum narrowed his eyes at him but did not move his sword point away. He put his left hand on Dustin’s forearm and gently pushed the pistol down.
“This is all his fault, Quintan,…all these dead here.” Dustin whispered.
“Perhaps.” Callum said softly without looking at Dustin, “Check the rest of them, take their weapons, find out if any of them have survived.” Callum said loudly to the crew, he looked quickly about at his men, “Are any of you hurt?”
“Everyone is well, sir.” A young Talon said as he stepped forward, pistol in hand and pointed toward the group of men in the gravel of the drive. Amos, Brewer, Hawkins, and Hartman stepped forward and started to check the men in black. Callum shifted his eyes back to Paupling.
“Two of them are alive, sir.” Amos said aloud, “I don’t know for how long though.”
“Pull them out of this and get them clear.” Callum said toward Amos and then looked right, Thomas and Christian were moving and coming close to Callum.
“It looks as though you are bleeding, Quintan.” Thomas said looking down at Callum’s right side at his waist. Dustin came around the front of Callum and looked as well with widened eyes.
“It’s just a scratch.” Callum said as he looked down at his waist, he lifted his eyes and met Dustin’s and smiled briefly at him. Callum looked over to his right, “Christian, would you be good enough to go and fetch Dr. Stivers again for these wounded men?”
“Of course, Quintan.” Christian said as he looked at Callum raising an eyebrow, “Perhaps I should have him pack some clothing and have him stay here for a bit at the house. It might save some time and trips into the village.”
“Very amusing.” Callum said dryly then rolled his eyes a bit. Christian went toward one of the horses that belonged to the fallen Guardsmen stepping around the bodies. He took the reins in hand and swung up into the saddle, wheeled the horse and rode off down the drive toward the front gates, kicking up gravel. Callum stepped around Dustin and went to the pinned Paupling and stood over him, “Now, Paupling, finish what you were going to tell me, why are you here?”
“I will tell you, but,…first can you have me freed from this?” Paupling asked as he tried to push against the dead horse with his right boot but he could not move the heavy body at all.
“Tell me first, then we will see about it.” Callum said flatly.
“Please,…Captain,…” Paupling said in obvious pain, “I think my left leg is broken.”
“More than likely it is. Tell me first. The doctor should be here in a bit and can tend to you and your leg, which gives you the time to tell me.” Callum said.
“Where shall we put them, sir?” Amos asked aloud about the wounded men. Callum looked over at him.
“Thomas?” Callum asked as his eyes were on Amos and then shifted back to Paupling below him.
“Take them into the house, Amos, put them in parlor for the doctor, on the floor and not on my furniture, if you please. I don’t want blood everywhere on the upholstery.” Thomas said.
“Aye, sir.” Amos said and turned to the men about him, “You heard the Captain.” The men picked up the two surviving Guardsmen, carrying them toward the house. The rest of the crew waited for instructions. Thomas saw it and looked toward Callum, who was beginning to kneel next to the trapped Paupling. Thomas turned and looked at the men.
“Take these dead and place them over there near the fence. I would think Captain Holt will be summoning the Magistrate as well after he sees about the doctor.” Thomas said and pointed to where he meant to place the dead.
“He can’t do that, Captain, the Magistrate.” Paupling said as heard Thomas. He touched Callum’s shirt sleeve and gripped it.
“And why not, Paupling?” Callum asked.
“The local law,…it could make this far more complicated than it is.” Paupling grunted and lay back in the gravel letting Callum’s shirt sleeve go, “Please,…this pain is becoming unbearable.”
“I have no doubt that it is, Paupling. Tell me what you were going to tell me and I will have my men remove this horses body from you.” Callum said.
“Alright,…” Paupling said almost out of breath, he hissed through his teeth and looked at Callum with burning eyes, “the boy was what we were sent after, yes, but it was also you.”
“You have vital information,…information regarding the treaty,…” Paupling said and closed his eyes.
“You are mistaken, Paupling. That treaty is at the bottom of the North Sea in the Dutch merchant ship. I never saw it, except for the copy you had.” Callum said.
“You didn’t have to,…you don’t understand,…Captain,” Paupling grunted and then moaned loudly, “please,…this is becoming far too much to bear.”
“Alright.” Callum said and stood, he lifted his head, “Some of you, lend a hand here to free this man.” Callum said and swung his sword a bit. Some of the hands came over, bending down, grabbing the saddle, straps or placing hands under the edge of the body itself near Paupling while one of the crew came around and hooked his hands under Paupling’s shoulders and readied as Paupling moaned out loud in pain. The hands lifted and moved the dead body of the horse while Paupling was pulled out, “Good. Leave him there for the moment.” Callum said and came close and knelt again as the crew backed up, “What do mean, Paupling, what don’t I understand?”
“Something you saw, Captain, something on the merchant ship,…” Paupling grunted as he put his hands to his twisted leg, he grunted as he touched himself.
“I saw nothing, save the boy and dismembered bodies, a sight I shall never forget as long as I live I assure you.” Callum said.
“You must have seen it, it must have been in the hold of the ship.” Paupling said with great pain in his voice.
“I saw only boxes, a few scattered crates that were small, and not that many, along with the body parts that were placed there by the boy.” Callum said and thought for a moment, “Perhaps what you seek was taken from the merchant ship when the Avion attacked them.”
“A thought to be sure, Captain.” Paupling said with great strain and then grunted and eased back into the gravel resting on his elbows and exhaled. He was closing his eyes and his color was changing a bit going to a pale color.
“What is it that you think I know? And what is it that you search for?” Callum asked, “Paupling? Paupling?!” Callum asked as the man faded and fell back to the gravel.
“Is he dead?” Thomas asked as he looked over the top of Callum.
“No. He is only unconscious. The pain of his leg took him finally.” Callum said and stood slowly. Callum and Tomlin looked as they heard the coming of hooves. It was Christian coming up the drive. He reined the horse to a halt and then climbed down off him, dropping the reins.
“Dr. Stivers is gathering his supplies and will be coming directly. I told him that there were wounded here and you needed looking at again, Quintan.” Christian said as he stepped close to Callum and looked down at the man below him, Paupling, “Is he dead?”
“No, not yet.” Callum said.
“I passed the Magistrate in the Square, I told him to come as well when he can.” Christian said as he looked at Callum.
“I hope you did not blurt it out for all the village to hear, did you?” Callum asked cocking his head a bit.
“Quintan,” Christian said as cocked his head a little in the same manner and raised an eyebrow, “you should know me better than that. Only a few maidens and a couple of old women were within ear shot when I spoke to him.” Christian said. Callum gave Christian a look. Thomas stepped close in between them, Dustin was close behind Callum.
“I thought I was bad.” Thomas said and shook his head a bit and looked at Christian, “You know, he is going to beat the hell out of you for that and I just might let him.” Thomas rolled his head a bit at Callum. Christian chuckled.
“You two are simply beyond me sometimes.” Christian said as folded his tight muscled arms over his chest and looked back and forth at them, “Rule number one, never give your enemy information that could be harmful to you or your position. You really think I would let anyone hear me, if you do, you’re both as dense as wood.” Christian said and looked back and forth at both of them again. Callum chuckled and then so did Thomas, Christian raised an eyebrow, “I see, turn the joke back on me, will you? You two cannot be trusted together. What shall we do about that, Dustin?”
“I think we should take a long trip together, Christian, to get away from these two, they are nothing but trouble it seems.” Dustin said as came up next to Christian, standing the same as Christian was, arms folded over his chest.
“I would have to agree with that.” Christian said.
“Alright you two,…” Callum said and looked over at some of the men that were standing nearby, “Would you lads lend a hand, please? Let’s get this man into the house, put him with the others in the parlor.”
“Gentlemen,…I cannot begin to thank you enough for what you have done for me, my family, my home. You being here and acting on my behalf in defense of my property has left me completely in your debt, a debt that I may never really be able to fully repay. You have risked life and limb to answer my call for help, and you went beyond the call of service in His Majesty’s Navy. To simply say thank you is nowhere near enough, but I do say that to you,….thank you to you all. We might not have survived this without you being here.” Callum said as he stood on the second step up on the staircase in the house known as Harbroughs, looking at each and every one of his crew from Dover.
Amos, the large muscular man that had acted as Boson aboard Windsong looked about at all of those gathered around him and stepped forward. He lifted his hand, made a fist, putting it at his mouth and cleared his throat behind it, his eyes making contact with Callum’s, Callum smiled slightly at the big man. Amos stopped near the bottom of the stairs.
“Beggin’ your pardon, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand to Callum, “On behalf of the lads, sir, I,…I mean, we,…wanted to say, to let you know, sir, if there was anything that you ever needed, sir, all you need to do is ask, sir.” Amos said and cleared his throat again, “We have been through so much together with you, sir. You have taught us, led us, and there is nothing in this world that we would not do to help you, sir, you can count on that.”
“Thank you, Amos.” Callum said and smiled warmly at him, then looked out at the men gathered around the stairs, “Kind words. It means the world to me, I assure you.” Callum said and cleared his own throat, choking back the emotions he was feeling at the moment, the love he had for these men, his men, his crew, his ‘family of Dover’ as he always called them, “I don’t know what will happen after this, but I assure you all that we are not done yet. That being said, I know you all have your families or sweethearts to go to and I shall not keep you any longer. The danger here is passed for the time being, and it was with your help that we were successful in this. Without you, all of you, I have no doubt that it might have had a different outcome to be sure.”
“Captain,…may I see you for a moment, please?” Stivers asked from the wide open doorway of the parlor. Callum looked over at him and came off the stairs. The crew parted out of his way as he came through them, watching him walk by them all to join the older man.
“What is it, Doctor?” Callum asked as he came close to the older man, who looked at Callum over the top of his spectacles on the bridge of his nose.
“One man is dead. I was not able to save him. He had too many bullet wounds. The other will live. He is drugged and is sleeping for now. The man with the broken leg,…” Stivers said
“Paupling.” Callum said quietly.
“Yes,” Stivers said and looked back into the parlor, “he has bleeding inside of his body from the break. I have to take the leg to save his life.”
“Does he know?” Callum asked.
“I have not told him as of yet. He wishes to speak with you and is quite adamant about it I must say.” Stivers said, “I have him placed up near the front window of the house for the moment and have given him something to make more comfortable.”
“I see.” Callum said, “I shall speak with him then.” Callum walked away from Dr. Stivers, came around the settee and walked over to the desk and where Paupling was lying on the floor in front of it. Callum knelt, resting one arm on his bent leg and looked down at Paupling, “Can you hear me, Paupling?” Callum asked seeing that Paupling had his eyes closed. They opened in a flash but were glassy.
“Olaf,…you must have seen it, he was there.” Paupling said as he clutched the shirt sleeve of Callum’s closest arm.
“Who is Olaf?” Callum asked, grabbing the hand that clutched him, “Paupling, answer me, who is Olaf?”
“He was there, you had to see him.” Paupling said, his eyes glassy.
“Paupling,…Dr. Stivers said he has to take your leg. Do you understand what I am saying to you?” Callum asked, “It will save your life.” Callum said and felt the hand clutch him tighter on his sleeve. Callum grabbed it tighter with his own hand to free it.
“No!” Paupling growled through clenched teeth and sat up a bit with wild eyes. Callum took his hand and put it to Paupling’s shoulder.
“Easy man, easy now.” Callum said and pushed him back a bit, “You’re in good hands. Dr. Stivers is an excellent surgeon, I assure you.”
“He can’t,…Captain, please.” Paupling said above a whisper, “You must tell me, did you see Olaf?”
“Who is this Olaf, Paupling? I only saw the boy, he was the only one on the ship, we searched it. What are you talking about?” Callum asked as Paupling lay back on the floor and closed his eyes.
“He can’t take my leg. I must be on my way before the Magistrate….” Paupling whispered and faded. Callum watched him and then looked up at someone behind him, it was Stivers who shook his head.
“It must be the Laudanum in him.” Stivers said, “Captain, I will need a table to work on to take his leg.”
Callum stood and looked at Stivers, “Of course, Doctor. I will ask Thomas and Christian. If you will excuse me for a moment.” Callum said and Stivers nodded and then looked down at his patient and narrowed his eyes.
“You fool.” Stivers whispered down at the unconscious man.
Callum was standing along with Dustin at the back of the house known as Harbroughs. He and Dustin, along with Thomas and Christian had watched as the crew of Dover loaded up in the two large carts that had brought them all here. They were going to be going back to Portsmouth. Callum stepped forward and handed an envelope to Amos, the large muscular man that Callum had come to respect deeply.
“This is for all of your trouble, Amos, all of you.” Callum said, “As I said earlier, I thank you all very, very much for what you have done.”
“Sir, we can’t,…” Amos started to say and hold out the envelope, Callum put his hand on his and stopped him.
“You can, and you will, Amos. Go to the Heritage Arms, see Farrow Dunhill the proprietor, give him my compliments, and tell him to send me the bill for everything. You all will enjoy my hospitality through him. Do you understand?” Callum asked with a smile and twinkle in his eye.
“Yes, sir, but,…” Amos said.
“It is done, and make sure you tell him what has been done here today and why.” Callum said and gave Amos a nod.
“I will, sir.” Amos said softly.
“Off with you now.” Callum said loudly. The carts started to move and to go around the house on the gravel. Most of the crew gave brief waves, Callum smiled and waved back as the carts moved toward the corner of the house. He stepped forward before his group behind him, Dustin, Thomas, Christian, and another, Darin Talon. Callum continued to smile and gave a brief wave back to those in the carts. He turned back to his small group as the carts went around the corner of the house.
“What do we do now, I wonder?” Christian asked, standing between Thomas and Talon.
“All pistols that are spent need to be gathered and reloaded.” Callum said, “I wonder that if someone does not report back from the Guardsmen sent here, that more will be coming to replace them. We must be ready just in case and remain on our guard.”
“Understandable, Quintan.” Thomas said and looked over at Talon beside Christian, “But, I wonder if there may be a respite in the meantime.”
“Oh, you mean that item that is in the village that needs tending to?” Callum asked and raised an eyebrow. Talon was looking back and forth between the two of them with a questioning look. Callum smiled and stepped forward toward Talon.
“Yes, you know the one that I mean obviously, Quintan.” Thomas said. Callum stopped in front of young Talon.
“I need to send you on a mission, Mr. Talon,” Callum said, “do you think you are capable?”
“I am ready and willing, sir, of course.” Talon said, his eyes a bit wide and filled with duty.
“In the village, just beyond the Square on the north side, you will find a livery stable. There, the man that owns it will be waiting. His name is Clyde Muir. Ask him to send a cart for those that have fallen here, tell him it is in the name of the Magistrate, and mention my name as well. Can you do that?”
“Certainly, sir.” Talon said with his soft young voice.
“There will be another there as well, I’m sure. Give Mrs. Muir my best regards and also regards from my aunt as well. She will be in the house. Can you pass that along as well?”
“Of course, sir.” Talon said.
“Excellent. Be on your way then. Take one of the horses in the drive that is already saddled. I shall see you back here after your business is concluded then.” Callum said. Talon nodded once and walked away. He went toward the corner of the house as the group watched him. Dustin came up next to Callum and put his arm around Callum’s waist.
“Does he have any idea what he is walking into?” Dustin asked as he put his head to Callum’s shoulder.
“Absolutely not.” Callum said.
“I cannot believe how bad you can really be at times, Quintan Callum.” Dustin said softly.
“I surprise myself sometimes.” Callum said.
The Magistrate stood in the drive at the edge of it looking down at the bodies of those men that were all dressed in black. He walked up the row of them at their feet, looking to see if he possibly knew any of them, but he did not. He turned and looked at Callum, who was there waiting with Christian at his shoulder, both standing in the gravel. Callum had a very serious look on his face.
“Captain, I took your word about last night at face value and left it as a simple break in as you inferred,” The Magistrate said as he shook his head slightly, “but this, …this is something more. I will ask you to explain it, sir, or I will have no choice in the matter but to send for a higher authority, and that will mean Regulars that will be dispatched.”
Callum sighed and side glanced at Christian and then looked at the Magistrate, the look Callum had was still serious, but so was the Magistrate.
“Your Honor, I did not lie to you or attempt to deceive you. There was a break in here last night, perpetrated by those men that you saw. There were six, one survived as you know. I sent him on his way this morning at dawn.” Callum said and shifted his arms even tighter in their grip over his chest, “He returned this afternoon late, but with the company that you see here. I had suspicion that they would come and sent word to my crew in Portsmouth to ask for their assistance in stopping them. They arrived very quickly before those that are dead, answering my summons.”
“Then what is this truly about, Captain?”
“These men are Guardsmen, as you know, and they were after something, something that I possessed. I do not have it now. I sent what they were after away, but they would not listen. That man that lies there fired the first shot,” Callum pointed at the body, “my crew returned fire under my orders. These men were all cut down in the volley that was fired.”
“I can clearly see that, Captain. But that does not explain what this is truly about.” The older man said.
“Your Honor, I will tell you that these men were sent and accompanied by a member of the Diplomatic Service. Further, they were sent here under the orders of a man that runs The House of Lords, a man by the name of Upton.” Callum said.
“Roland Upton?” The Magistrate asked as his eyes widened slightly.
“I see that you know of him.”
“I do. He is a radical Whig. His opinions are quite well known, he speaks out against the Monarchy very freely. I have heard him speak in assemblage once when I was in London.” The older man said.
“Did you know that he is a member of one of the royal houses?” Callum asked.
“No, I did not know that.” The Magistrate said in a guarded tone, “He speaks firmly against any Imperial rule.”
“A falsehood to drive support, I would say. I have discovered what his true intentions are, and I must say that they place him on the throne and deposes Napoleon in his rule. He would drag England into a deeper conflict than we are currently engaged in if he has his way.” Callum said.
“And these men, they were sent…”
“To further his ambitions. There is a member of the Diplomatic Service in the house right now that survives, he holds the answers that I need to try to and end this.” Callum said and crossed his arms again.
“There is another member of the Diplomatic Service in the house as well, Captain.” The Magistrate said. Callum looked at him questioningly as did Christian, “Did you not know? Dr. Stivers was the surgeon for the Diplomatic Service, they only recruit the nation’s best. We are blessed to have him here in Birmingham, even though he has retired from the service.”
“Very interesting, wouldn’t you say, Quintan?” Christian asked as he looked at Callum, Callum turned his head and side glanced Christian.
“Indeed it is, Christian.” Callum said and looked back at the older man, “Tell me, Your Honor, has anyone in the village remarked about these men dressed black being seen in the village?”
“No, no one has or I would have made further inquiries.”
“Have you known Dr. Stivers long?” Callum asked.
“About ten years, I think.”
“Does he have a large home?” Callum asked.
“No, he does not.” Christian said, “But he does have a very large stable out behind the house and there is a small cottage next to it, if I’m not mistaken.”
“You are not, Captain Holt.” The Magistrate said.
“Quintan, I think you need to have your ‘scratch’ tended too, don’t you think?” Christian asked.
“I think you’re right, Christian, it is giving me a bit of discomfort all of a sudden.” Callum said, “Your Honor, would you care to join us?”
“What are you thinking, Captain?”
“I am thinking that the end is near at hand. You can be a witness to it, if you wish, or you can remain here while we deal with it.” Callum said with a tone that Christian knew all too well.
“I would suggest that you come, Your Honor, but do not interfere.” Christian said. Callum was already walking toward the house known as Harbroughs. The Magistrate looked toward Callum as he walked away, Christian was starting to follow, the older man looked back at the dead, shrugged his shoulders slightly and followed behind.
“What are you doing, Doctor?” Callum asked as he stepped up next to the older man. They were both looking down at Paupling, who was laid upon the table in the dining room. Lamps had been lit to give the room enough light to rival daylight. Dustin and Thomas were there as well, standing behind Callum and Dr. Stivers.
“I am bleeding his leg, Captain.” The older man said, “You will note the swelling and the bulging from it, here, here, and here.” The older man said as he pointed with only a finger, “If I can reduce the bleeding that is trapped in the leg, I might be able to save it and not have to take it.”
“I see.” Callum said, “Good news for Paupling, I suppose.”
“Yes, quite.” Stivers said as he lifted his eyes at Callum, “What can I do for you, Captain?”
“I seem to have been grazed by a musket ball from the volley that was fired. It’s only a scratch, but it is giving me a bit of discomfort. I was wondering if you could have a look at it.” Callum said.
“Of course. Captain Holt mentioned that you needed tending again.” Stivers said, he held out a hand, “Why don’t you have a chair there and I can look at it. Just lift your shirt if you would?”
Callum went over to the chair, turned and sat down. He leaned a bit, pulled the shirt up out of the waist of his pants and lifted it. He was in the chair next to the table, Stivers instruments were near Callum’s left hand as Stivers bent down a bit to have a look. Christian and the Magistrate came into the dining room, Christian standing beside Thomas, but behind a concerned Dustin that was moving closer to go to Callum. Christian put a hand on Dustin’s arm and stopped him, making Dustin look back at Christian, who shook his head a bit at him.
“You seem to need stitches again, Captain. It appears that it is more than a scratch, it is a bit of a valley in your side.” Stivers said as he looked up over his spectacles for a moment, he looked over at the table and grabbed a pair of large tweezers, “It has a bit of cloth in it, it seems from your shirt, I need to pull it out of the wound for you.” Stivers said and went back to put the ends of the tweezers to the cloth fragments. Callum flashed his eyes to the table and saw what he wanted and reached out quickly and in a flash he had the long bladed surgical knife in his hand and was at Stivers throat making the older man gasp as he felt the steel.
“I think it is time for truth, Doctor.” Callum said, Thomas and Dustin went wide eyed, Christian stopped them both from moving forward, “I will ask only once. If you do not answer me, I will cut your throat and end you right here and now, do you understand?”
“What is this about, Captain?” Stivers asked.
“I will ask the questions, Doctor. You only need answer me, and I warn you, it had better be the truth.” Callum said in a cold voice. Stivers gulped hard.
“I have nothing to hide, Captain.”
“I think you do, Doctor, that much is certain. Were you hiding the Guardsmen in the village?” Callum asked.
“I was.” Stivers said and Callum gripped the closest arm to keep him from moving.
“I think you already know the answer to that, Captain.” Stivers said, “I will tell you what you want to know, Captain, while I tend to your wound. Whatever you may think of me, I am a doctor, and you need tending. So, either cut my throat and end me…or let me tend to you and we can have our discussion.”
“Alright, Doctor, we will have it your way. Tend me.” Callum said and took the blade away but held it in his hand at the ready. Stivers cleared his throat and went to the wound and started to pull the cloth from it with the tweezers.
“As you may or may not know, Captain, I was a member of the Diplomatic Service once. I received a special dispatch from our man here, Paupling, stating that Guardsmen were being sent to Birmingham, I was asked to house them and keep them guarded without them being seen. I was told that it was a mission that was most vital to England and its survival. You understand that I love our nation without question.”
“Yes, Doctor, don’t we all.” Callum said as Stivers pulled cloth from the wound and flicked it off the tweezers to the floor, “Why didn’t you say anything, Doctor?”
“I could not…at first, you can probably understand that. But, the more I overheard the more I began to realize how wrong the situation was becoming.” Stivers said and looked Callum in the eye, “That is why I suggested that we go to the Cross to rework your shoulder. I needed to get you alone and tell you, but we did it here, amongst your group.”
“Doctor, understand me,” Callum said as he glared into the older man’s eyes, “there is nothing that I do not share with these men that are here with us. I owe my life a dozen times over to each of them. I trust them implicitly. Without them, England would not be safe as it is right at this moment because of them, Doctor.”
“I see.” Stivers said and reached for a small knife off the table. He picked it up and showed it to Callum, “I need to cut some of the frayed skin, so I may give you a few stitches, Captain.”
“Do what you must, Doctor.” Callum said. Stivers went to it, cutting as gently as he could, using the tweezers to flick the skin away from the wound.
“Would one you fetch me a bit of water to clean this wound, please?” Stivers asked as he focused on what he was doing, Christian turned and went out the swinging door to fill the request, “I overheard them, Captain, several times speaking about a boy and what he meant to their mission, but also about you and their concern about you. You see, they knew that you could stop them, Captain. Some of them had apparently come up against you before, how and where I don’t know, and then there is our man here, Reginald Paupling. He has quite the reputation, you know.”
“I have discovered that.” Callum said as Stivers cut the skin again making Callum wince slightly, “A friend knows of him as well and described him with smoke and shadow.”
“Fitting.” Stivers said and turned slightly, putting the knife on the table. He looked at Callum over his spectacles, “Would you care for something for the pain, Captain?”
“Are there more of them coming, Doctor?” Callum asked.
“I don’t believe so.” Stivers said matter of fact.
“I will be alright, Doctor, but thank you. You can give me something after, if I need it.”
“You are very brave, Captain, I must say, and as I have said before, very resilient.”
“A life at sea, Doctor, it does that to you.” Callum said.
“Yes, as I have seen from all your other scars, Captain. I envy you.” Stivers said.
“Why is that, Doctor?”
“You’re honest, Captain, which is more than I can say for others.” Stivers said and then looked at Paupling on the table.
Callum woke and gave a slight sigh through his nose. He focused his eyes on the ceiling that was above him and saw it was slanted and looked familiar somehow to him. He turned his head to his left and saw the love of his life next to him. The room had a soft glow to it as there seemed to be a candle lit. Callum rolled his head to the right, and he saw the candle, in the holder on the stand next to the bed, flickering as the flame rolled on the wick. He watched the dance of the flame for a moment and then turned his head back and looked at the sleeping Dustin next to him. Callum smiled softly and reached up a hand. He touched the soft face beside him with only his fingertips, feeling the smoothness of the tanned skin, tracing Dustin’s jaw, loving the line that he saw and felt. Dustin opened his eyes slowly and then took in a breath through his nose.
“Are you alright?” Dustin asked barely above a whsper.
“Yes.” Callum said softly, “I woke up and didn’t know where I was for a moment, and then I saw you, and I knew I was safe.” Dustin smiled and then blushed a bit in the candle light.
“You are the one that makes us safe, Quintan, not I.”
“I would argue that, my love. Since I have returned home, you have shown me things, the way you are, the things you are capable of. I am truly in awe of you, and it make me love you even more.” Callum said as he rolled in the bed to face Dustin.
“You are so sweet when you talk like that, I love it so.” Dustin said softly.
“Like I love you, Dustin.”
“Really?” Dustin asked with a faint smile.
“You think I don’t?”
“I know you do, Quintan, but I think and also believe that I love you even more, if that’s possible. You are everything to me. I know I don’t say it much or have shown it recently,” Dustin said and moved closer to Callum going nose to nose with him, “but, I don’t know what I would do without you. You have taught me so much, shown me so much in our time together.” Dustin was almost whispering, his eyes flashing in the soft candlelight of the room, “I wish this was all over so we could only have each other to be with, no one else.”
“There is no one else, Dustin, only you.” Callum said and leaned forward, kissing Dustin softly, tenderly with only his lips. Callum pulled back, looking him in the eye, “I swear to you, this will be over, and very soon, I know it, I can feel it.”
“I hope so.” Dustin said and moved, putting his left arm over and around Callum, pushing him to his back and lay his head into the pillow. Dustin rested his head on Callum’s chest being careful not to crush the wound to Callum’s left shoulder, “You should sleep.” Dustin whispered. Callum sighed silently feeling the gentle weight on him, wound or no, he wanted to take Dustin, but also he wanted to wait to enjoy him, being with him, loving him without bandages to hamper him. Callum put his right hand on Dustin’s shoulder as he was resting on Callum’s chest, “The morning will be better, you will see after you have slept more. Remember, we need to go into the village to meet with the Magistrate, you will need a clear head.” Dustin whispered and kissed Callum on the firm jaw that was near his face.
“If you are beside me, it will keep me focused.” Callum said with a slight smile.
“I will always be at your side, Quintan, count on that.” Dustin whispered, “Now, sleep, it will help you mend.”
“Good night, my love.” Callum whispered with closed eyes, “I shall dream of you.”
Dustin walked the grey gelding and his mare that Callum had given him through the opening of the stone wall that had been cut through to allow access to both properties. Both horses had been saddled and were ready for the short ride into the village. Dustin tied them to the corner of the stable and walked up the path of the knoll toward the back door of the house. Callum had been watching him through the kitchen window and turned to look at the table. He saw the little one sitting there on his knees in his nightshirt, a plate in front of him with his breakfast that had barely been touched. The little brown eyes were looking right at him. Callum smiled at the boy and came to the table. Martha walked over and set a cup of coffee on the table as Dustin opened the back door.
“Horses are ready.” Dustin said as he closed the back door.
“Henry, you understand that this won’t take long.” Callum said as he took the coffee cup in his hand. He saw that the eyes were sad looking, “What troubles you?”
“Nothing.” Henry said.
“Christian didn’t take you riding yesterday, did he?” Callum asked. Henry shook his head, “Alright, I need you to do something for me, can you?” Callum asked. Henry nodded slowly, “Take care of the colt and the mare while we are gone into the village. Dustin and I have business there, that is why you can’t go, important business. When we return, you and I can take a ride up to Dudley.”
“Really?” Henry asked both with a bit of excitement, but yet guarded at possibly being disappointed again.
“Certainly. But this time, rather than you riding with me, I think you can take a horse of your own. What do you think, Dustin?” Callum asked without looking at Dustin, keeping his eyes locked on Henry.
“He is capable, that much is true. I think that one of the Thoroughbreds from Cambridge, that small bay, wouldn’t you think, Henry?”
“The three sock?” Henry asked with wide eyes at Dustin, “You’ve never let me ride him.”
“Today may be the day for it then.” Dustin said.
“Alright, you need to finish your breakfast, get dressed, and tend to your colt. Make sure that stall is cleaned and there is plenty of water for both he and his mother.” Callum said holding up a finger.
“I will.” Henry said and started into his breakfast, “I will.” He said again with his mouth full. Callum looked over at Dustin and their eyes met, both smiled at each other and Callum got up from the table.
“I’ll just fetch my sword and a pistol as well.” Callum said softly.
“I’ll join you.” Dustin said and followed Callum out of the kitchen.
“Welcome, Captain,…Mr. Perkins.” The older man, the Magistrate said bowing his head slightly as he stepped out of the way of the door.
“Your Honor.” Dustin said in reply with a slight bow of the head and stepped into the cold room that was used as an office for the Magistrate and looked about.
There was a desk against one wall near the door they came through, a small window above the desk that did not afford much light at all from any time of the day. Two chairs were on each side of the desk, wooden and simple and appeared to offer no comfort at all. The room was paneled in dark wood, floor to ceiling, the ceilings themselves were a white plaster with small beams running through it lengthwise, a total of six. The floors were wood and were dark and heavily scuffed from years of use and obvious neglect. Dustin noted that there was nothing that hung on the walls, no art or decoration of any kind nor lamps. The one thing that drew his attention almost immediately was a large wooden door that looked very heavy. There were iron slats, three in all that crossed the width of the door as if bracing it or making it very secure, one near top, one in the center, the last was up from the bottom of the door by at least two hands, they seemed to be riveted through. The latch was heavy, a bolt, and there was a ring below that for pulling obviously, but what struck Dustin was in the center of the door, near the top of it, a grating, iron or steel bars, possibly a foot square in its opening.
“I thank you for coming, gentlemen.” The Magistrate said, closing the door behind Callum, “Dr. Stivers will be along shortly. As you may know, he had a rather long night, tending to the man at Harbroughs. He was able to save the leg by the way.”
“And where is Paupling, still at Harbroughs? I have not spoken with Captains Tomlin and Holt as of yet this morning.” Callum said.
“No, the man, Paupling was moved here late last night. There was some grumbling from Captain Tomlin apparently about blood all over the dining room table and having to clean up after it.”
“I see. Leave it to Thomas.” Callum said, “May I see Paupling then?”
“If he is awake.” The Magistrate said. He looked at Callum and Dustin both and noted that they were armed, swords and pistols, “I trust, Captain, that you will give me your word that you will not kill him.”
“Of course, Your Honor,” Callum said with a brief smile, “he has information that I want. I will do him no harm, I assure you.”
“I will take you at your word then, Captain. After you have your talk, I will ask that you give me an accounting of the details of yesterday and the night before. I must put them to paper, you see, a matter of record.” The Magistrate said as he went to the heavy door.
“I gave you the accounting of that already, Your Honor.”
“So you did,” The older man looked at Callum from the door. He produced a key that was put below the bolt into a slot, “However, I need to ask it again from you.”
“As you wish.” Callum said. His eyes went to the hand that held the key and he continued to watch as the key was entered into the slot, turned and the door was pushed open. The Magistrate stepped into the long chamber beyond the door. Callum followed as did Dustin. Callum narrowed his eyes as he saw cells, heavy with rounded bars and steel frames that secured them in place. There were four cells in total. The first held a man, dressed all in black, one of the survivors from the second coming of their group, the next held Paupling, laid out on a narrow rope bed, his leg trussed in bandages and obviously splinted to secure the leg. The first man came to the rounded bars and gripped them, looking at Callum and Dustin with a glare as they passed him by. Dustin gave him a side glance but stayed behind Callum. The Magistrate opened the door of the cell that held Pauling and swung the door inward. Callum stepped around the older man and went inside and came up close to the narrow rope bed and sat on the edge of it.
“Paupling.” Callum said to the sleeping man, “Paupling, can you hear me?” Callum watched as eyes opened slowly and fluttered a bit and then focused on him.
“Captain?” Paupling asked but did not move.
“Yes, Paupling. Can you talk?” Callum asked.
“My head is throbbing, and…my leg…” Paupling said and sent his right hand down his leg, feeling it, mostly to see if it was there or not, “What happened?”
“The good doctor labored long into the night and saved your leg it seems. You owe him a debt of gratitude it seems.” Callum said.
“Yes,…I will have to thank him when I see him next.”
“Tell me…who is Olaf?” Callum asked. He watched Paupling’s eyes flash.
“Do not tell him!” The man in next cell said loudly as he moved to the bars between the cells. Callum looked over his shoulder at the man in black.
“I would suggest, sir, that you go and have a seat and keep quiet.” Callum said firmly.
“Do not say anything, Paupling! It will be your end!”
“Go and sit down…now!” Callum said and got up from the narrow rope bed and faced the man in black.
“You have no idea what you are asking! It is of no matter to you at all.” The man said, clutching the bars. Callum stepped slowly toward him, glaring at him.
“No matter to me at all? You and your group have hunted me, my family was put at risk, you invaded my property, and it is of no matter to me?” Callum asked as he drew near the bars. The man in black did not move at all, but kept his eyes locked on Callum.
“Captain…please.” The Magistrate said.
“Sit down and be quiet, sir, I warn you.” Callum said, their eyes burning into each other.
“Or what?” The man said. His hands clutched the bars tighter and he almost made a growl speaking. Callum moved in a flash, pistol out of his belt, raised it and thumped the man in the forehead with the barrel hard, sending him back away and to the floor, spread out with a thud.
“That.” Callum said and turned, putting the pistol back in his belt, Dustin smirked and shook his head and then chuckled, the Magistrate was wide eyed and walked toward the bars and looked down at the man in the next cell. Callum went by the Magistrate and sat back down on the narrow rope bed next to Paupling, “Tell me, Paupling, who is Olaf? Why is he important?”