I Killed Him – pt 1

Chapter One

 

I Killed Him 250x375John sat alone in his chair one evening, thinking that it was nearly two years ago, that he lost all hope of happiness. Margaret Hale was the light of his life that seemed to have flickered out. He was seven years her senior at her young age of twenty two. She was small, well proportioned, and beautiful to him, but not a raving beauty by most standards. Educated and independent, the woman of his dreams had been swept away and he had never heard from her after that. He remembered the worst day in his life. Two years ago, he had thought they could iron out their differences and Margaret would fall in love with him. She was the only woman that he had ever loved and she was abruptly pulled away from him by family. At that time he had thought there was hope for them, but Margaret seemed to be keeping secrets which only enabled more distance. John vividly remembered the hurt he felt when coming to visit the Hales to find that she had a gentleman caller. The real bitterness from Margaret, and his own heartbreak, came when he saw her at the train station wrapped in the arms of a handsome young man. What was he to think? Before he knew it, his hopes had come to an abrupt end when her father passed away, leaving her a young woman alone in Milton. It seemed she would never be his wife. At the time he had thought that all the women before Margaret were simply auditions before his leading lady walked into his life. She was perfect in every way. She was a man’s woman. She seemed spirited and scrappy as well as educated and intelligent. Their short conversations were never riddled with the prattle of homemaking as most of his lady’s seemed to aspire to. Below her surface, he felt she was his soul mate. Margaret seemed to care greatly for his workers as he had come to realize was important to him, too. She had taught him more about their suffrage over his profit, but he still had to keep the mill running so they did have some income. He knew she was the other half of him. She succeeded where he failed. There would be no other woman in the world for him, but Margaret Hale.

John roused from his nightly melancholia and searched for his newspaper. Not finding that, he did discover a note from Adam Bell, which was unusual. He carried it to his chair and brought the lamp closer to read it.

The letter contained a rather cryptic note from Bell in regards to Margaret. He asked to visit. John was eager to hear anything about her and replied immediately.

 

John received Adam at the door and bid him to enter and settle down to the urgent business, the note had indicated. He was more than anxious to know anything about Margaret and Bell was the one to tell him. Although, he had seen Adam several times since Margaret left, her name was never mentioned when they spoke.

Both men sat with their drinks of scotch, while Bell began his fantastic story.

“John, you know I had a great friendship with Richard Hale and I feel a duty to watch over Margaret for the short time I have left. I had planned to spend my days in the warmer climates and live carefree for the rest of my days.” John interrupted.

“I’m sorry to hear that Adam. I never knew.”

“Of course, you didn’t John, no one knows but my doctor and Margaret. Several months ago, I finished getting my life in order, leaving everything to her. She was quite upset and it was hard saying goodbye, which seemed to extend my stay in London longer that I had planned. I am glad that it did.”

“And Margaret; how is she?”

“I’ll get to that. First let me say that I know you loved her then and love her still. It is plain for all those who know you to see this. That’s why I have come to you. I am sure in Margaret’s heart she holds you in the highest possible regard but circumstances prevented her from revealing her awkward behavior which you took for indifference in the final days before she left. I know why she did it, but I could not tell you. She did not want to impugn your seat as a Magistrate and she had made a promise to her family that she dare not break. She made the decision to give up her only happiness for someone else and that was her secret to keep. I could not interfere, although, I saw the heartbreak from both of you. Knowing you, I felt you would understand her secret that she carried, but I dared not insist myself into her decision.

“Are you here to tell me that you can tell me now?”

“No, I cannot tell you; nothing has changed, but I am going to tell you, regardless . . .  to save her.

“Adam, please get on with it. Is she in some danger?”

“She could be in danger but she is definitely in danger of being unhappy in marrying Captain Grant Hartford.”

“Marrying? If she has an attachment, I daren’t see where I can do much about that. She’s had two years to rethink what we had once perceived to be heading towards us, and I never heard from her.”

“As she never heard from you.” Bell feigned a condescending look in his direction. “We have had some serious conversations since she’s known of my illness. I’ve tried to convince her to contact you and begin again. I thought I had Margaret assured of your confidentiality, when Captain Hartford entered her life. I remained to be the one to walk her down the aisle. For awhile I thought she might be happy, finally – putting you behind her, but I was wrong.”

John refilled their drinks. He was ready to begin pacing the floor if Adam didn’t get to the point. If Margaret was in trouble he would do everything in his power to free her. If his being a Magistrate had prevented her from saying words to him over two yeas ago, he would resign. Nothing meant more to him than she.

“John, let me tell you what has just come to light and we don’t have much time to correct it.”

“I wish you would get to the point, Adam.”

“I was sure you still felt the same about her and I can see that you do.”

“Adam, she was and is still the world I live in. I have been an empty shell since her coach rolled out of this mill yard. Whatever this is, I will fix it. I’m not sure how much more of this life I want to live knowing she is in it and she is not mine.”

“It’s going to take more than you and I with the time before she marries.”

“Then get on with it.”

“Let me go back. She seems most upset about lying to the police about her being at the train station and that you knew about it. She was never sorry that she lied, but sorry that you knew and she couldn’t explain. You chastised her because of her actions. That broke her. She couldn’t explain and you turned from her. I admit, there was nothing for either of you to do. It was very hard for me to watch. John, you will understand all when I tell you.”

“Tell me what, Adam? Bloody hell!”

The person, who you saw her with that night, was her brother.”

“Her brother? That can’t be.”

“He had come because their mother was dying.”

“Why didn’t Mr. Hale or Margaret tell me she had a brother?”

“John, he is being hunted by the Navy for treason. Several years ago, he and the other officers mutinied against a cruel Captain, as he tells it. I’ve known Frederick since he was born, and I cannot seem to find fault in what he did, after hearing the story, but the Navy did, which is expected. Several of the crew have been caught and hanged. His fate is no different. The Hales were devastated. I think that’s when Richard started feeling his faith was letting him down. He left his parish and moved here at my urging.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Knowing the Hales’, I should think her brother was brought up with a pious leaning and only the greatest of circumstances could have forced his hand. Go on.”

“I think you see it as it was, John. With her father’s passing and her situation with you, nothing had really changed. She still could not put you in a position to choose between her and your standing as a Magistrate and her promise. Knowing you had turned away from her, even when she said she could not explain, she felt lost to you. So she left for London, leaving her love behind, I feel sure.”

John hung his head. So much heartbreak had happened for both of them over his inability to believe her. Seeing her in another man’s arms had sealed his own fate.

“What is this marriage that you speak of?”

“When this Captain, in the Infantry, found interest in her, I began to feel some relief but it soon became clear it was anything but that. As you know, it would not be hard to love that woman, and I thought his feelings to be sincere, but I soon saw a difference in him. I believed him to know of my endowment to her and began to feel that he was after the fortune she will receive in the months to come. I watched the situation for a few weeks as he talked about their coming wedding. Note, I said he, not she.”

“Adam, I am going to become a madman soon, if you don’t tell me what we can do.”

“John, I can only go in the order in which I know and then what I think. Please be patient. It’s not like we can do anything tonight.”

“I know you’re right. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry for you because this is going to get much worse for you before it can hopefully get better.”

“Whatever it is, I will face it.”

“It did not take me long to see the difference in Margaret. She seemed to be under a strain; her conversations were stilted when he was near. Even when it was just she and I, she was quiet and withdrawn, totally a different person. She should have been happy. I started to visit her daily, ensuring to myself that something was dreadfully wrong. Should she have realized that he was after her money, it would have hurt, if she loved him, but she would have put an end to it – and she hadn’t. Then, I felt sure that there had to be more; he had some hold over her but I was at a total loss as to what. My wildest imagination was that she was no longer chaste and he would announce it to all her London friends if she did not marry him. I began a campaign to get her to tell me what it was.”

“And that was . . . ?”

“He told her he knew about Frederick, her brother, and knew where the Navy could find him. It took weeks and finally a drive into the country, and a near breakdown, for her to tell me of his coercion.”

John dropped his head again, in disbelief. He became quiet. “I want to go to her at once. I want to face this man.” John finally said, standing quickly as if he were to leave that instant.

“John, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and have come to you but you cannot do that. He would have no compunction to keep her secret if he thought you were going to interfere in her marriage. I have an idea for us to consider.”

“Don’t keep it from me, Adam. What is it?” John pleaded as he sat down.

“First you must not see Margaret. She must not know that you know anything about this. She could find hope and her countenance may change, sparking his curiosity. I believe our major move is to find Frederick and fast, so she can back out of this blackmail. We must find him and get him to another country. He may be being watched, I don’t know, but we need to remove the bullet from the Captain’s chamber before he can shoot. And there is no evidence to believe he will not take the chance to make himself the hero in Her Majesty’s eyes and to advance his career by telling where Frederick is, after their marriage.”

“I see your point. Do you have any idea where he is? Where do we start? When is this marriage? If we cannot find her brother, I will take matters into my own hands. She will not wed him.”

John walked to his window and looked out into the dark. He could feel his blood surging him back to life. His own broken heart was now pounding in his chest.

“I am the only one to have kept in touch with Frederick and that is by design. I will report to Margaret now and again about how he is doing. I do not have an exact address. He goes by a new name and he is somewhere in Paris, at least that’s where his mail is posted from. I reply to a box at the mail station. The wedding is three weeks away. If you and Mr. Higgins, your driver Branson, plus myself, can get away, perhaps we can locate him.”

“We must.” John stated, while trying to keep his hopes at bay. “Tomorrow, all of us will talk and begin to devise a plan. Can you be here at 10:00 am?”

“Yes. I will leave you now, as I am sure we both have a lot to think about.”

“Goodnight, Adam. I will call Branson, and Nicholas together and get their input. I will see you tomorrow, then.”

 

Margaret was crying in her bedchamber; a habit that had formed lately and wasn’t abating as time grew near. Today she was to have her first gown fitting and she worried she could not endure it with a smiling face. Grant was lavishing money on her dress and the all of the plans for the ceremony, since he knew he would be wealthy within the year. Nothing was too good for Margaret right now. Margaret had spent a lot of time figuring ways to escape this horrendous man that was about to ruin her life, but she had yet to come up with anything worthwhile and keep Frederick safe. Trying to stand up to the man had only produced welts and bruises to her body that no one could see. The thought of his body next to hers, on their wedding night, would send her to the chamber pot to vomit. One of the ideas she had thought of was asking Mr. Bell to reverse his endowment to her. Perhaps, even putting it in a trust for her where Grant had little control over it. He seemed to know the exact reading of Bell’s will but if anything changed now, it would outrage him and put her brother in danger of his life. That wasn’t a risk she was willing to take. She sincerely hoped that Frederick never heard of this for he would no doubt give up his life for her. She wanted to contact Mr. Bell and have him warn Frederick through a letter, but he didn’t seem to be in London.

Margaret had been a guest at her Aunt Shaw’s residence in the London society area. She wasn’t prime society but her daughter and Margaret had enjoyed the best of London’s ton where nobility did not attend. Aunt Shaw was most happy with the wedding that her own daughter seemed to anticipate, marrying another Captain and thought his friend, Captain Grant Hartford to be made from the same cloth as her future son-in-lay, Maxwell. Before the year was out, she would see both her daughter and niece nicely married into good families and with men who had earned their fortunes.

As time went on, Aunt Shaw began to see despondency in Margaret and talked with her daughter, Edith, about her thoughts. Edith, herself, was also noticing Margaret’s quiet demeanor and that her independent spirit, so admired by Edith, had seemingly departed her cousin. Everyone seemed to be seeing the change in Margaret with the exception of Grant but only Edith and her mother were starting to talk about it. Edith was not only going to talk with Margaret but also with her fiancé Captain Maxwell Lenox. Perhaps there was something in Captain Hartford’s past that Margaret had found and Maxwell knew about.

As it was, Margaret struggled to put on a good face for the household. If Mr. Bell had wheedled her secret out of her, could the others be far behind. She trusted Bell, but although the others were loving and devoted to her, she didn’t feel they could remain silent. It would just be like her aunt to storm the battlements and confront Grant about why Margaret seemed disturbed over this forth coming nuptial instead of being happy about it.

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I Killed Him – pt 2

Chapter Two

I Killed Him 250x375John called Branson and Nicholas to the house that evening and gave them a brief summary of what Bell had told him and hoped to enlist their help. John was assured of Branson, as he was always first in line for dangerous or clandestine actions. John was thankful that there had been few in his life, but Branson was his second in command in situations just as this. Nicholas was always there for him but John knew he had a wife and children, and John would never think any less if he ever declined. If he was in that position, he would think twice, himself. To John’s reckoning, there didn’t seem to be any physical danger in this unless Bell spoke of other things tomorrow. Both men agreed immediately, but John asked Nicholas to talk it over with his wife, as this could take two weeks or more away from home.

John was starting to come alive again as he felt his emotions resurrecting from the dead. He would sacrifice all he had to stop this marriage, bringing everything to bear that he could. He began to form a last plan of attack if all else failed. He would hope to convince Margaret to marry him ahead of her planned marriage, therefore creating an impediment. He would offer an annulment to her when he felt she and her brother were safe. If he couldn’t save both, at least, he would save her. He prayed that she still held him in some regard after all her time spent in London and could see the merit in his offer, at least for safety measures. He would tell her that he did not expect their vows to be consummated. John didn’t feel the others should know. As much as he would want that for himself, being selfish of her love, that still didn’t settle his worry for her brother. He gave little thought to what it could do to his Magistrate position. That was worth nothing to him where she was concerned.

 

Captain Grant Hartford had come to the acquaintance of Maxwell Lenox quite by accident, or so it was thought. As their friendship began to grow, Maxwell had begun to think of Grant as a possible suitor of Miss Hale. He knew Edith was concerned that they would go out for the evening, always leaving Margaret home. Maxwell had no knowledge that he had been used as a pawn in this game of blackmail that Grant was bringing to bear. Grant felt confident that Margaret would never stop at anything to save her brother’s life, so he had free reign over her. How he had marveled at the hints, from a friend of his, who worked in the law office where Bell had recently divested his holdings. Grant paid dearly for the information of the net worth that Miss Hale would bring to him. Between his pay as a Captain and her money, life would be good. Mr. Brimstock from the law office would be handsomely paid when everything came to fruition. Grant had also enlisted young Lieutenant Gathers should other work be needed which he could not do himself: delivering notes, picking up packages and the like. Lt. Gathers was not privy to the dark side of the work being done but wanted to impress his Captain if he were needed.

 

Margaret had completed her exhausting day which began the long process of fitting a bolt of cloth to the curves of her body. The day seemed endless due to the fact that she did not want this wedding, the dress, or the man paying for it. While standing on the small platform for the seamstresses, she wondered how she ever came to meet with Grant at the beginning, but it was eventually all too clear it was with the urging of her cousin and her fiancé at a group setting. She liked Maxwell and never doubted that Edith was a happy bride-to-be. Margaret couldn’t conceive that Maxwell would have had any knowledge of what Grant was doing. She was sure Maxwell had been told of the family history with Frederick, which no one seemed ashamed of and Margaret didn’t even think he would turn him in if found.

There was no pretense anymore between her and Grant. He would heap upon her affection and the most admirable politeness and compliments, but when they were alone, he became a different man.

Margaret readied herself for another evening out with Grant. There would be little conversation unless there were people about that knew Grant. Margaret made every attempt not to be alone with him, but tonight she would take advantage of the coach ride to inquire about her brother. She was not completely set in her mind that he was telling the truth. Where was Adam Bell when she needed him most? He could write to Frederick and warn him of the impending dangers. Since he now knew of her situation, she was sure he would help all he could. Margaret wondered if his absence could have something to do with Fred. Mr. Bell had taken the news quite badly when she finally broke down and told him of her plight. He did what he could to assuage her but never spoke of any action he could take. Surely, he would write to him, even if the marriage had to go on.

Captain Grant Hartford was at the door when the knock came. Edith and Maxwell had already begun their evening of dinner and the theater. Margaret was fortunate to only have a dinner planned, as far as she knew. Wherever their dinner engagement was this evening, it was not at one of the nearby restaurants.

“What are you surprising me with this evening, Grant?”

“A place you have never been Margaret. We are going to dine at my home. The cook has worked all day to prepare you a fine meal.”

To Margaret’s recollection, Grant did not have a home but stayed with his men in a barracks, although, he had private quarters.

“I am very surprised at that. I thought you stayed on post,” she said, beginning to feel very uneasy.

“I’ve always had a home, Margaret. I rarely stay there. A small staff tends to the manor during the day, and I try to alert them when I will be spending time there. They hire more staff for my holiday. I sent a note as soon as you accepted my invitation.” Grant cheerfully acknowledged.

Margaret grew more uneasy. He was too overtly cheerful for her comfort.

“Margaret, you appear quiet this evening. Is anything wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, Grant. I was hoping to discuss my brother this evening that was all. It seems we will have the time alone to permit that. There are staff in the house, are there not? It would be quite improper without them, you know. Even though you have me bound to you, I do expect the proprieties and conduct of a gentleman.”

“Margaret, you do worry too much. In a few weeks time, we will be man and wife. I will be glad to relieve you of that feminine burden you have carried all of your life.”

“Grant, I wish not to hear such vulgar talk.”

“Margaret, you should know by now, that I don’t care what you think,” he said with a smile.

She felt like jumping from the carriage. Margaret knew she would be defenseless against him. Certainly, the driver would be on the premises to take her home if the other staff left for the night. Would he hear her if she screamed? Would he come to her aid if he did? Margaret thought about slipping a knife from the table in her reticule.

The evening began in his parlor with his subtle hints to ply her with wine. Margaret drank slow and would only drank water at the dinner table.

“Margaret, what is it that you have on your mind that we have not covered repeatedly? Surely, you know the fate of your brother’s life is squarely in your hands. You control his destiny.”

“Grant, is it merely the money that I am to inherit driving you to this act of insanity? You can have it all but without me. What would your senior officer say should he hear a hint of this? You could find yourself in a great deal of trouble. I could tell them that this business about you knowing my brother’s whereabouts is a trick to blackmail me when even I do not know where he is.”

Margaret never saw the blow coming. She felt the air in her lungs gush out as she tumbled to the floor from the sofa. She lost her focus as the room swirled, causing her to bend forward and fall. Quickly she thought this was the end of her life. She was unable to inhale as it was too painful. She hoped she would not survive the attack, this time. Her body could not take these hits anymore, and her mind seemed to want to bring it on, causing a final assault by Grant. In the blink of an eye, she thought of Frederick and then John. Every time he attacked her, John came firmly into her delirium. In the distance, she could hear a voice, speaking to her.

“Margaret, you will be all right.”

She felt him dab the blood which she had coughed up. He had to have broken a rib this time. Grant pulled her back to a sitting position and began his soothing talk about her silliness, once again.

“Margaret, I have been trained in interrogation tactics. I could do this to you all night, and you wouldn’t die. I will not even break a bone. When are you going to learn?”

Margaret had little air to speak. All she could do was try to fill her lungs. Gasp after gasp came upon her. She thought of shouting out. Perhaps, the cook would know what her master was doing. She tried but failed.

“I would not shout if I were you, Margaret, my love. You haven’t begun to see my wrath, my dear. There, there. See you are feeling much better, are you not?”

“I need a doctor,” Margaret whispered.

“You just think you do, dear. I believe our meal is being laid on the table. Come.”

Grant helped her to stand, but Margaret was definitely leaning to her left. The pain was intense on that side. She acknowledged to herself that if she married this man, she would be dead within a month. She had to write Bell and get him to change his will so that Grant would not inherit at her death. She had to endure this until Bell could write to Frederick and have him move on and watch for followers.

Margaret was seated at the table but couldn’t eat. Grant enjoyed his meal and did not bother her much about her not eating. He liked hearing himself talk.

“Margaret, I hope this is the last time that you force me to do this. I do not particularly like beating a woman, especially one who is as beautiful as you and will soon be my wife. You should taste this food. The cook will be disappointed if you do not.”

Margaret decided it was best to try a bit so that her eating utensils were scattered and he would not miss the knife amongst the other dirty pieces.

“Grant, I am sorry. I wish you would just kill me and get it over with. You are driving me to the point where I am ready to do it myself. I will just have to call your bluff; that is all that you are leaving me.”

Margaret saw the swift backhand coming to her face, and she could not get out of its way. She was able to remain in her seat, but he had made a big mistake hitting her where it was visible. What would be his next move? He would probably throw her from the coach on the way home regretting the unforeseen door closure that the driver had not fastened properly. The longer she sat there, the more she plotted. She would just have to disappear when she arrived home tonight.

They finally adjourned their dinner back to the parlor. Grant handed her a brandy. Margaret took it, feeling she had to gird herself for what might follow. The far away dim noises of plates and pans being washed had died away. She wondered if they were alone.

“Grant, I feel it is time for me to be home if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, but I do, my love. The evening is young, and you need your fiancé to love before this night comes to an end. I need my sweet woman to pleasure me.”

“Grant, you told me that you would not take me until we were married. You did swear that if you have any decency at all.”

“I really don’t have any decency whatsoever, Margaret. But I did not lie to you. You do not have to lose your virtue in order to please me,” Grant said, moving towards her.

Margaret almost vomited on the spot. The thought of him touching her was too ghastly to think about.

“So now, you are resorting to rape and torture? What kind of a man are you?”

“Margaret, my dear, I am not going to rape you. What kind of officer and gentleman would I be?”

That statement gave Margaret no solace. She knew there were other hideous acts that could be done to an unwilling woman. She felt for the knife in her sleeve as he moved closer to her on the sofa.

“Don’t look so afraid, my pet. It won’t take long. I just want you to touch me, that is all. There is no pain for you, but there will be pleasure for me. You have been my bride-to-be for several months now, and I have not asked for anything from you except a kiss now and then. A man cannot live on kisses alone, and I have been faithful to you. You shall know this soon enough.”

“You mean you want me to touch you? Touch you there?” Margaret wished she could faint. A refusal would mean another blow possibly knocking her out entirely. She would be totally at his mercy if that happened.”

As she saw Grant begin to unbutton his trousers, he said to her, “Margaret, you can give me the knife before we start. I know it’s in your sleeve, and you might be tempted to injure me. When this is over, I will take you home. You can think about that while you pleasure me. This ordeal will finally come to an end for you.”

Margaret handed over the knife in defeat. She turned her head as Grant continued his partial disrobing until she felt him grab the back of her neck.

“Just close your eyes, dear, and touch me with your mouth,” he said, pulling her face to his groin.”

Margaret struggled vehemently, but he was too strong. He rubbed his manhood across her face as she pushed against the sofa to be away from him. She waited for the punch but instead he pinched her mouth open and proceeded to place himself in her mouth. She started to wretch and choke, and all she heard was his laughter. He tried to grab her hand, encouraging her to stroke him but he finally gave that up and stroked himself. Margaret was beating his thighs with her fists, but that only seemed to inflame his excitement. She only had once choice left, and as his moans of lust increased, she took both her hands, ripped his trousers, and bit down on his manhood as hard as she could. Margaret jumped to her feet, forgetting her injury and flew to her escape while his pain lasted. She ran out into the dark and started looking for lighted streets. She ran as far and as fast as she was able. Eventually, she would see his coach patrolling the streets as she hid in the darkness of the night. If she could only get a few more streets over, she would find a cabby to . . . what . . . she wondered. What could she do now? Going home was not an answer, but she would get close to home. With any luck, Aunt Shaw would be abed, and Edith would not be home yet. She could sneak in the cellar coal door and up into the house. She knew where her aunt kept spare money, and she would take that and a small satchel of a few needed accessories. The train. She would head for the train.

Margaret checked the streets carefully before she stepped out to hail a cabby. One stopped for her quickly and saw the distress she was in.

“Miss, How can I help you? You look a fright.”

Margaret asked if he would drop her off one street over from her home, ride around the block once or twice and come back to pick her up. He seemed very amiable to come to her rescue and understood she could not pay him until she came back.

Margaret slipped in and out of the Shaw residence with little problem. She made her way back to the street behind their home, and her cabby was just coming down the cobblestoned road. She thought she saw the Captain’s coach turning the corner and spoke to the driver.

“Sir here is your money. I may have to leave in a hurry. There is a coach behind you, and it may be the man that has tried to force his attentions on me tonight. I ran away. I want to go to the train station eventually but not if we are being followed. Could you get away from that coach if you had to?”

“Yes, Miss. In the city, that is no problem. Out where his two horses could have their head, I could not. I can turn corners faster, and I know all the back streets. I can pull into dark areas while they pass. Do not worry, Miss. They will never suspect you in this carriage, and if they try to gain on me, I will lose them. Rest yourself. Do you have a time for the train station?”

“No, I don’t even know where I will go, but I have to get away. I fear he is dangerous. You should know that he is a military man and quite proficient at tactics.”

“He does not have the skill of a London cabby, Miss. Do not worry.”

Margaret held her breath as the cabby took his time, as he normally would. It was either a false alarm or they had given up on this cabby, but eventually, there was no one behind them.

To insure it, the driver made some instinctive moves that Margaret thought were very intelligent, in case they were being watched. He stopped the coach once, in front of a house of a friend, and went to the door and knocked as if he were picking up a passenger. Margaret finally felt safe, but her next concern was would Grant have men at the station. What story could he have told his troops as to why they were to collect her if they found her?

Thanking the driver profusely, they arrived at the station, and he pulled into the darker recesses of the trees to let her out. Margaret handed him an extra tip, but he refused.

“No tip, Miss. I was glad to help. Would you like me to wait until your train departs?”

“I think I’ll be well if I stay away from the gas lights. Thank you so very much. You may have saved my life tonight. What is your name, sir?”

“My name is Bennington, but I am just called Ben.”

“Thank you, Ben. I hope to see you again.”

“I wish you the best, Miss. Goodnight.”

Ben reined his single horse cab away from the station when he saw her take cover under the trees.

Margaret slowly worked her way around to the platform side of the station and looked for red coats. There did not seem to be any. It would not be unlike Grant to have friends who did not wear red coats.

She slipped up to the platform ticket door.

“Where to, Miss?”

“Milton,” she said before realizing it.

 

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I Killed Him – Pt 3

Chapter Three

I Killed Him 250x375John spent the night thinking and packing. He had been thinking so long, he had to unpack things he hadn’t meant to pack. He was going to get a marriage license first thing that morning, before his meeting. He had determined to marry Margaret and save her first. He had no idea what she would think of that, but Bell had given him the barest of hopes.

He was encouraged that Adam Bell had a post office number that could be watched until Frederick arrived at it. John felt sure that this Hartford man would know Bell, but his lads who might be watching for Frederick would not know him on site. John decided that the first part of the plan was for Bell to write Frederick and tell him of the situation. They would decide on a new city to meet in and finalize Frederick’s safe exit from France. Somewhere in there he would find Margaret and steel her away to marry her.

 

John was having his early breakfast when a weak knock was heard. He shouted to Jane, his housekeeper, that he would get it. No one was expected this early, but the others probably couldn’t sleep either.

He opened the door, and his breath left him as he saw a frail Margaret, bent in pain with a swollen face and the burgeoning colors of a black eye.

“Oh God, Margaret.” He didn’t ask her anything. He stepped out, picked her up in his arms, and shouted for one of the yard men to get a doctor.

His eyes filled with tears as he carried her upstairs. Looking into her face, he saw his little angel was broken. If he hadn’t needed to tend to her, he would go and end the man’s life. It would happen, but just not right now.

Margaret looked at John through exhaustion.

“Margaret, I have never stopped loving you. I would have done anything to have prevented this.”

“I know you love me. I know I have loved you since first, we met. John, I killed him. I have killed my brother.” Margaret said as she collapsed.

 

John held her in his arms until Donaldson arrived. After her statement, she closed her eyes, and they had not opened since.

Donaldson opened the outside door and shouted up.

“Up here,” John said, as he carried her to his guest room.

Donaldson took one look at her and wanted to take her to his clinic immediately. “John, get one of your nightshirts, will you?”

“I want you to examine her here, first. I want to know what we are dealing with. Disturbing news, of her being coerced into a marriage, came to me late last night. I am to have a meeting in about an hour and want to know what’s happened to her, and I mean everything.” John looked at Donaldson sternly.

“John, I will be a while. Get the tea brewing.”

John first ran across to the office as he’d heard Nicholas’s coach. He asked him if he would go find Bell at the hotel and bring him here. They had an emergency on their hands, now. He went for Branson, himself, returning as quickly as he could.

He had Cook prepare a tea pot and told her to keep them coming for the next several hours. John, also, mentioned that Margaret was here, in the guestroom.

Cook smiled but saw that her Master was completely overcome with worry.

As the men gathered, they all began telling John that she was out of danger now. He needed to calm down, but John knew they hadn’t seen her.

Donaldson called John into Margaret’s room. John walked in, closing the door behind him. Donaldson didn’t like what he was about to tell him.

“John, she’s alive. She will live, but she’s been badly and repeatedly beaten. It appears it’s been going on for some time. She has a newly fractured rib, and I will have to look closer at her cheek. I think she has internal bleeding. There are signs that this man forced her to perform fellatio. Do you understand that word?”

“Yes.” John began to let the tears fall as he folded himself onto the foot of her bed. He looked at her unconscious body.

“She has not been raped.” Donaldson continued. “She appears to have about six large areas of bruising from, I would think, a fist, in various stages of mending. There are some small signs that there have been more, but they are healing. Whoever this was, took great care to beat her where it would not show. Tell me the story on the way to the clinic.”

The men heard the door open and stood.

“Branson, get the coach.”

“It’s ready out front, sir.”industrial-darcy

All the men witnessed John’s tears dropping onto the lifeless form he was carrying in his arms.

Branson rushed ahead, while the other two walked to John.

“Is she . . . ?” Nicholas started to ask.

“She’s alive.”

“You two talk and I’ll send Branson back. I’ll be awhile.”

“John, take care of her.”

Mr. Bell was quite near tears himself. Beside her swollen face, he noticed a bit of blood oozing from her mouth and saw John lick that from her face. He broke down at the sight.

“I should have known,” Bell berated himself. “She never told me she was being mistreated only that she was being forced to marry in order to secure her brother’s safety.”

Bell felt a nudge on his shoulder, and looking up, saw a glass of scotch. He was glad to see it. “This is better than tea after what I just saw.”

“What did you see that I didn’t? I saw John’s face. I’ve never seen that face in all my years. I saw glassy eyes when his mother passed, but nothing like just now,” said Nicholas.

“Nicholas, Margaret had blood running from the corner of her mouth, and John licked it off of her face. That’s when I broke down.”

“I am sure I would have too, had I seen that.

“As bad as this situation is, it just got worse,” said Nicholas. “John will not be denied his revenge, but that still doesn’t mean that Frederick is out of the woods. Have you given this, much thought?”

“Much thought? That seems that’s all I’ve done for weeks. I finally sought out John for help. Margaret did not know I was coming here, but she found her way here under some horrific circumstances. I think we know she has finally figured out where her love lies. You know, Nicholas, it was the love of her brother and the love of John that kept them apart all this time. She felt she couldn’t tell John and break her promise to the family. John felt she was hiding something from him. He’d seen them embrace at the station as Frederick left after his mother passed away. John, I believe, was devastated seeing that. He lost hope. What a mess this has been keeping this secret for her, but I had promised. I watched both of their hearts break.”

“Adam, you need another scotch. I need another whiskey. This tale is one for the books. It seems that literature is writing its story in front of us. All the elements are here, and I know we have not seen nearly the end of this. John is going to be a handful, and I am not so sure I want to talk him out of it. I think it’s one of those rare times in a man’s life when nothing matters but revenge. He can’t be the man he is and let this pass no matter how much you, I or Margaret try to reason with him. He has seen the devil’s work today.”

“I hope he can keep his head enough and not destroy what he and Margaret have waited a long time to begin. If he destroys himself, he destroys her.”

Branson came up the stairs, shaking his head. “The Guv is in a bad way. I waited for a while with him until he felt embarrassed and sent me home. He went from kneeling on the floor trying not to weep to pacing the room like a bull. I don’t know how bad Miss Hale is, but it must be bad for him to show those emotions to me. I’m to pick him up in an hour and if he isn’t there, they’ll be at the hospital.

 

Edith finally decided to inquire why Margaret was sleeping so late and went to her door. Knocking she received no answer. “Margaret!” Still no answer. “I’m coming in.” She looked about the room to find Margaret missing; the bed hadn’t been slept in, and a few drawers were left open. Edith cheerfully skipped down the stairs to her mother.

“Mother, I think Margaret and Grant have eloped. It looks like she left last night and took a few clothes with her. I wouldn’t have thought Margaret would have done such a thing, but if she’s happy . . .” Edith began to remember how unhappy Margaret had seemed of late.

“I see that look on your face, Edith. My thoughts, too. She hasn’t been the example of a bride-to-be as we would have expected. I don’t like this. Can you get a hold of Maxwell? I think we need to contact Captain Hartford.

“Yes, Mother. I’ll take the buggy to the fort.”

 

Captain Grant Hartford didn’t know which hurt more: his loss of Margaret or the loss of skin. “Bloody hell,” he shouted from the confines of his leather chair, unable to walk around easily. He and his driver had waited several hours for Margaret to appear at her home. She had no money as her reticule lay on the couch and she wouldn’t have brought money in any case. If she walked home, it could have taken over an hour in good daylight. He didn’t know what to think she could be doing. Was she at the authorities, calling his bluff or had she come to her senses in regards to her brother’s life. Either way, she would marry him, but he just may not see her until the wedding. He did have the one ace up his sleeve. He did know where her brother was. He was in Paris.

 

“Sir, a Captain Lenox, and his fiancé are here to see you.”

“Did you tell them I was indisposed?” Grant asked, relieved to hear it wasn’t his Commander.

“Yes, Captain, but they said it was urgent.”

“Give me a moment and let them in.” Grant grabbed a small blanket and threw it over his lap. Just as they were being let into his study, he noticed Margaret’s reticule on the sofa, but not very prominently displayed. He wouldn’t ask them to sit down. Due to women’s large full frocks, they usually sought the sofa.

“Do excuse me for not rising. I am a bit ill. Maxwell, to what do I owe the honor of your presence?”

“I’m sorry to interrupt your morning. I am sorry you are feeling unwell.”

“It’s nothing that a few days rest will not cure. How can I help you?”

“We have a concern for Miss Hale. It seems she did not sleep in her bed last night, and she is missing this morning.”

“Missing?” Grant said with great surprise.

“I was wondering if you could remember the circumstances of taking her home last evening.”

“Why, yes. Missing you say? Let me think. We had dinner here. After, we talked about our wedding and other things for about an hour, when she asked to go home. She seemed to have something on her mind, but would not permit me to help. I believe I left her at her door around 10:00 p.m. What is being done to locate her, Maxwell? I am quite disturbed by this as you can well imagine.”

“It has just come to our attention when she did not come down to breakfast only a short time ago. We were hoping that she may have said something to you of plans she might have had at the last minute. Could I ask if you two had any kind of quarrel?”

“It seems I have been caught out. I was hoping to convince her to move the wedding up, and we may have had a few unpleasant words, but nothing that I could ever feel would cause her to flee. Leaving it, as it had been planned, was the final word, and she seemed relieved that I had given up for an earlier nuptial.” Grant saw Miss Shaw’s eyes start to wander around the room.

“Miss Shaw, she gave you nothing to concern yourself about?”

“No, but we have all been in agreement lately that she has seemed quiet and reserved; not the spirited, independent Margaret we love. I guess it is just pre-marital nerves. Those are always common, never really any worry in them.”

“If that were the case, my conversation last night could have brought more pressure to bear than I had thought it would. I hope she’s not gone somewhere to think about changing her mind. It would not have seemed so last night. My cook made a special meal for her. She seemed to enjoy that. Maxwell, keep me informed. Let me know immediately of any new developments.”

“I will, Grant. Sorry for interrupting so early in the morning. I hope you are fit in a day or two. We will see ourselves out. You shall be kept informed. Good day.”

“Good day to you both and I certainly hope it is a good day. I will worry now.”

Edith and Maxwell turned to leave the room. Out of the corner of her eye, Edith noticed Margaret’s reticule. She almost stopped to say something, however, refrained, wanting to tell Maxwell first.

As soon as they were out of the house, Grant hobbled over and collected Margaret’s small bag and threw it in his desk drawer.

As the carriage pulled away, Edith told Maxwell what she had seen.

“Are you sure? Are you positive it was Margaret’s?”

“I’ve borrowed it enough times to be sure. Maxwell, she would never leave without that. Wherever she is right now, she doesn’t have it with her. Do you think he acted overly friendly?”

“Yes, I do. Margaret’s bag was left on his couch. He was sitting with a blanket over part of his lap. Hmm …”

“Maxwell, what are you thinking?”

“I know I would have been out of that chair if someone had brought the same news to me about you. His less than enthusiastic concern bothers me. I don’t like what I am thinking, and I’d rather not say at the moment.”

“But you can’t hide things now. Could he have harmed her? He could not have her hidden away, could he?”

“No. If he had her, you would not see signs at the house that she left. My guess is he was too forward with her, and she ran if you must know.”

“In what way? He’s an officer.” Edith thought about Maxwell noting the small lap blanket. She couldn’t believe such a thing could have happened. “Even if he was that vulgar, why would Margaret run away?” Edith asked, letting Maxwell know she knew what he was thinking. She would have come home, even if she walked.

“I find it hard to believe what we are supposing, but still, Margaret is missing, whether voluntary or not, I don’t know.”

“Maybe we should contact Mr. Bell. They are close friends. She could be hiding over there until she can sort things through in her mind.”

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I Killed Him – Pt 4

Chapter Four

John Thornton  was ready to storm Margaret’s hospital room if the doctors didn’t finish with her soon. A million things had crossed through his mind while he waited. One was how loved he felt that she had found her way back to him when she was barely alive. The other was how slowly could he kill a man. Not so much the slow death, but how he would go about it, kept whirling through his head.

I Killed Him 250x375Finally, Donaldson came from her room.

“I’m going in there, not matter what you say.” John started to walk that way and Donaldson grabbed his arm.

“Let’s sit for a few minutes and then you can go in. She is not awake but that is on purpose. I will tell you the findings.”

John hung his head. “Is there more I don’t know? I’m not sure I can take much more.”

“Did you want to know or not?”

“All of it.” John said, as he stood to start his pacing again.

“One of the things I know worries you most or any man in love, is the fellatio assault. There was no presence of his semen, but a small piece of skin was removed from her front teeth. Her mouth has been thoroughly cleansed, so you may kiss her as I know you will. She fought hard, John. There were finger prints on the back of her neck and arms.” Donaldson paused.

John flopped down in the chair in the waiting area and slumped over, averting his eyes. Donaldson could hear his attempts to keep his weeping silent.

“She does have a slight fracture to one rib, and it did cause internal bleeding. That is our major concern right now. She has stopped coughing up blood, so I think that is slowing down. We will keep a close eye on that for a few more days. He did not break her cheek, however he did loosen a few back teeth, which is hard to do, but they should stabilize quickly. You saw the black eye. That is only the beginning. You know they last a week or more.”

“And the fists to her body?”

“I’m afraid we found evidence of about 9 or 10 punches, several in the kidney area, which is of moderate concern. Until we can get some urine out of her, we won’t know how extensive that damage is. There is a very small chance that getting with child could be difficult, but far from impossible.”

Still sniffling and refusing to look Donaldson in the eye, he asked, “Is there more? I cannot believe there can be more and she still is alive.”

“I believe her best recovery lies with you, now. Her body will heal. Continued beatings and torturous stress could have taken a mighty toll on her. That yet remains to be seen. It may not manifest itself right away, either. It could be a year from now. Much will depend on what happens with her brother, your commitment to her, of which I have no doubt and the outcome of the man that is responsible for this. I have to ask, John, do you have any reservations about saving her brother from the hands of the Navy, being a Magistrate?”

“None. None at all. I plan on resigning before there are any questions about where my actions will lie. She is my whole world now. I’ve waited over two years for this and nothing will deter me. What is important to her is important to me. That’s all I need to say on that subject.”

“I know it must be a difficult position to put you in but . . .” Donaldson was interrupted.

“No, you are wrong. There is no difficult decision. It’s one of the easiest I will ever make. I will sacrifice all for her. I may do that this morning. Once I’ve seen her and spent some time with her, I will go home and we will make plans to rescue her brother from this madman. When I know he is out of danger, I will go after the man that did this.”

“John, just remember what you sacrifice for revenge, you do so for two of you.”

“I have to do it. I cannot live with myself otherwise. I am already being consumed by this man. Someone has taken the most precious person in my entire life and played with her until she broke. And it’s all been due to his greed and an apparent enjoyment of torture. He is a dead man to me.”

“So, do you know your immediate plans? Where do I contact you for any changes in her condition?”

“I will know in a few hours. You will be informed. I’m going in there now.”

John stood and walked to Margaret’s room, pausing at the door, bolstering himself to weather what he was to see; he opened the door and then closed it behind him.

 

With Adam Bell having written Frederick a few days ago; their chances of him having moved on looked better than normal. The three men felt that they could handle the search for Frederick and leave John here. He had Margaret and the man in London to contend with. Adam was sure they could locate Frederick, but doing so without being followed was his concern. The other two did not know what Frederick looked like and how could they approach him with him thinking people were after him. Mr. Bell felt he would be the bait. His hope was that Frederick would keep his head if he happened to have heard all that his sister had endured on his behalf.

 

John spent the next half hour with one arm wrapped around Margaret’s head on the pillow, as if, in his arms, and the other wiping her brow or kissing her fingers. He spoke soothing words of love and told her she was safe. She would never see that man again.

John wept at her bedside.

He could see the hand prints of long fingers on the sides of her neck. Her arms showed identical bruising. Eventually, he left the room to be sick. He kept telling himself that she would heal. She would live and he would bring her love. He couldn’t love her anymore than he did, but somehow he would make up for the treatment she had suffered.

John wondered if she would fear him in any way. If she had found her way to him under such impossible odds, he hoped that would not stand in their way. He did not care how long it took him, even the rest of his life, he would give her happiness.

“Mr. Thornton, I am surprised to see you visiting here. Is this someone you know?” said a nurse unknown to him.

“And you are?”

Nurse Pickering. I shall be one of Miss Hale’s day nurses.

“And how do you know who I am?”

“Mr. Thornton, everyone knows who you are. The newspaper people are already gathering outside.”

“Thank you for telling me. To answer your question, this is the woman I will marry. I’ve waited two years for her to be my wife.”

“I am terribly sorry for both of you. She is in a bad way, but I believe there is great confidence that her health will eventually return. If this is the woman you have waited to marry, I shall be glad to know her. Even though all of our patients have the best care, I will personally see to her every need.”

“Thank you. How long will she sleep with the medication she has been given?”

“In her current state and the need of absolute rest from physical movements, as well at mental emotions, I believe the orders are to keep her sedated for a full day.”

“A full day? I had not counted on that. I will marry her at her sickbed as soon as she becomes conscious, if she will have me.”

“My heavens, such determination you have. Do you know what or who caused this to her? It’s been a fierce time for her. Did it happen in Milton?”

“No, not here. I know who did this and that’s all I will say.”

“Mr. Thornton, you need not leave the room, but if you could just turn your back for a few moments, I need to check something of this lady.”

John stood, pulling his arms from her and turned his back. He could tell by the rustle of sheets that the nurse was checking below her neck.

“Can I ask if you are checking her dispelling of urine for potential kidney problems?”

“Yes, you may ask and since you will be her husband before she leaves here, I will tell you that is exactly what I am doing. I see no evidence of a problem.”

“Can I turn around?”

“Not yet. Dr. Donaldson did not think she had any family in the area. Are you considered the closest person to her?”

“I believe I am. I will make no decisions without consulting with Donaldson if that need arises. Should you have an emergency and cannot locate him, I will take responsibility for her care. I am a Magistrate and in lieu of no family present, I take full authority. It should take several days for her aunt to be contacted and arrive here from London. Hopefully, we will be married by then.”

“You may turn around now. Mr. Thornton, there will be no changes and nothing to see for at least twenty four hours. You should take that time for yourself, as you will probably be here when she begins to waken.”

“You are mistaken. There is everything to see here. I have not seen her for a two years. But I will take your advice and tend to some pressing matters. I appreciate your close supervision to Miss Hale. Thank you.”

The nurse left, and John returned to loving words and soft kisses to her undamaged cheek. Finally standing, he kissed her gently on her lips, her palms and her wrists. He left the room, and the rage returned.

 

The three men waiting for John seemed to be in deep conversation when he arrived home. They all stood expectantly, wanting to hear about Miss Hale. Unbeknownst to John, there was now a ‘Thornton Watch’ in effect.

“John, may we ask about Margaret,” Adam asked. He had been quite upset seeing her being carried away.

“Let me get one or two scotches into me before I feel I can speak the words.”

“It’s that bad, is it?” asked Nicholas.

“It is worse than bad,” John replied, belting back his first scotch glass at 10:30 in the morning. He didn’t even sit down between refills.

The men looked at each other knowing John was in a bad way, more than they had seen when he left.

“John, I have written to Frederick about his potential danger before coming to you last night. We do have that going for us. Nicholas, Branson, and myself, feel we can locate him somewhere in Paris, as I wrote of a meeting place he should check at a certain time every couple of days to find me. I believe the three of us and Frederick himself can work out a way to move him to another country and let you remain with Margaret. Before we contact Frederick, we will have to watch him and ensure he is not being watched or followed. This hold over Margaret could be genuine therefore we dare not tarry in Milton.”

John put away his second scotch and rose for a third. Again the men looked to one another.

“John, are you sure you want another one of those so quickly?” asked Higgins.

“I will have the whole bottle before this day is over.”

“I’m sorry, John. Margaret’s condition must be devastating. She is still expected to live, isn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“Have you talked to her? Can you relieve her mind that Frederick is in the process of being warned? She should know that she will not have to marry that dreadful man.

“Don’t you mean ­­­– that dead man?” warned John in no subtle terms.

“John, tell us,” Nicholas asked softly. “She’s our friend, too. Let us share this hard time with you. We worry for her but now we worry for you.”

“I see my responsibility, and I will dispatch it. Do not worry for me.”

“Tell us, John.”

John slowly swiveled the scotch in his glass, watching it coat the sides and he began without looking into their faces.

“It appears that Margaret has been beaten many times. There are at least nine or ten fist impacts to her body in various forms of healing. This dead man has taken quite an effort to keep her injuries hidden until . . . last night. I have not spoken with her and probably will not be able to for another day, as she is medicated for that long. It seems last night, she received another punch and a fist or backhand to her face, causing her back teeth to loosen and her eye to swell. The impact to her body has cracked a rib, and there is internal bleeding.” As John was talking, still looking into his glass, he heard the gasps around the room and Adam Bell weeping.

“I want you to keep this to yourselves, as Margaret would be very embarrassed for you to know. I am only willing to tell you the rest, so you understand the man I will deal with.”

Feeling the tears well in his own eyes, he continued the worst part of the story. “She fought hard against him, Donaldson told me. I saw for myself, the finger marks around the back of her neck and upper arms. She was violated orally.” With that, John broke down, but recovered quickly, where his friends did not. Even Branson rose and walked downstairs. Nicholas paced the other end of the room, and Adam wept where he sat.

John drew deep and continued. “That is behind us, now. She will never see anything like that again in her lifetime. And neither will this Captain. What’s his name, Adam?”

“Captain Grant Hartford.”

“And he’s a friend to Edith, Margaret’s cousin?”

Nicholas returned to his chair, and Branson returned from downstairs hearing the new conversation.

“I do not think so. I believe her fiancé, Captain Lenox, met him quite by chance, or so we are led to believe. John, she is alive and will heal. Don’t do anything to ruin what happiness she could have.”

“Adam, surely you have had too much to drink if you think I can let that man walk this earth. How could Margaret ever settle into a comfortable life knowing he was still out there? How could any man let what happened to her, not be avenged? Look how hard you all are handling this and she is not the love of your life.”

“John, couldn’t the military itself sort him out? He’s ruined, when it’s known,” offered Nicholas.

“Higgins, there are two things wrong with that scenario. He still could find some redemption in turning in her brother – some sort of legal bargaining. And two, they probably would not kill him.”

“Adam, not today, but tomorrow will you write her family and let them know where she is? I am going to marry her as soon as she wakes. That will take away the inheritance that he thinks he’s going to receive.”

“John, I can change my will, instead,” Bell mentioned as a matter to be considered.

“Adam, that is generous of you, and I will let you do what you will with your wealth, but I will marry her, regardless of that. I want her under my protective custody. If I should I hang for what I will do, she can inherit what I own, too.”

“What are you going to do, Guv? Can I help?”

“Branson, I’m not sure yet exactly what I will do. It will be slow. He will be scared and then hounded; he will run for his life like a rabbit. I will hunt him, and he will know it. I will have a week or more to plan this out. I can’t do anything until I know Margaret is married to me and Frederick is out of danger. Branson, you might enjoy this too much. I will think on it. Even if I do use you or any of you, remember, he is mine.”

“Do you not fear his formidable men that serve him?” asked Bell.

“They will know most of his deeds before he ever sees me coming. In my capacity as a Magistrate, I will serve papers against him to his senior officer. I am thinking of anonymously tipping him off as to what is coming so he will run.”

“John, I’ve never seen my friend be as diabolical and calculated as you seem destined to be. I’m not sure if I am worried for you or proud of you. If you hang, I will sorely miss you,” said Nicholas.

It was perfectly clear to everyone where they all stood as far as John went. No one could brook an argument against his intended deeds, and no one wanted to, either.

It was decided to meet again in the morning and leave John to himself. For all he had been through in the last eight hours, they knew he needed time to himself. They hoped he could dampen the rage that was building inside of him.

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I Killed Him – Pt 5 (ep2)

John met up with the day’s presiding Magistrate and told him of some personal issues that had to be resolved. He apologized, telling him to fill his bench time for the next few weeks. John had thought over his resignation from the bench and decided that if he wanted to serve papers against this Captain that it would be better to maintain his Magistrate title. It would lend more weight. Knowing of the whereabouts of Margaret’s brother would not cause him to resign in any event. That particular arrest fell to the Navy as far as he was concerned. But as time grew near for him to seek his own revenge on Hartford, he would consider it a matter of pride to withdraw.

“Branson, take me to the chapel.”

John entered his coach still thinking about his Magistrate resignation. He let out a hearty laugh to himself and wondered why did he care about that so much. What difference would it make if he was going to be found guilty of murder? You can’t work pride halfway. Next in line, was speaking with the minister and persuading him to perform a ceremony at the hospital. He knew he could always get another Magistrate to do it, but thought Margaret would be more agreeable to having God in the ceremonial vows.

John found the minister at his rectory and was invited in.

 

John’s coach rolled into the mill yard with Adam Bell behind him. He was anxious to get a plan underway so that he could feel free to spend his day with Margaret.

“Good morning, Adam.”

“Good morning, John. By the look at your red eyes, I see you slept very little last night. Have you come from seeing Margaret?”

“No, I had other matters to tend to. I will go to her after our meeting.” John replied.

As they approached the steps, Adam asked, “Have you calmed down any? You were almost a madman, yourself last night.”

“I’m sorry to say, you find me the same, with the same convictions.”

Adam had little he could say. No one could ever get John Thornton to change his mind. What would Margaret think when she came to find out? There was a fact that possibly Thornton had overlooked.

The two walked up the stairs as Nicholas came behind them. John had tea brought to the dining room table and Branson eventually appeared up the kitchen stairs.

Adam opened. “I guess we’ve all been giving this some thought since we were here last night. Let me start by saying that Frederick should be receiving my initial warning letter today or tomorrow. So, we do have that going for us. I had told him of Margaret’s coercion,” Adam saw John twist in his seat, “to marry this man for Frederick’s safety. I didn’t spare any words. I explained that I didn’t feel his word was trustworthy no matter Margaret’s decision, as I felt he was after her coming inheritance.”

“I’m sorry, Adam, but you have mentioned this inheritance from you, several times. I’m afraid to ask; is this something forthcoming anywhere in the near future?”

“Nicholas, although there is some concern, a man does not have to pass on to endow someone else with a gift, which I plan to do. I promised Margaret’s father, over a two years ago, that I would see that she was taken care of in the event that he went before I did. He had been quite concerned about her being alone.”

“Thank you for explaining that. Please, go on.”

Again, everyone noticed John’s discomfort.

“John, I know your plans for Margaret, and I know some of your worth, but that will not change my gift. I have no one else in my life to benefit from me.” Adam paused, and John never spoke.

“As I was saying, Frederick will shortly be aware of his situation and make his move. I advised him that I was going to speak to you about how we might help him. He is to respond immediately and let me know of his new situation. If there is someone lurking about, he will be more vigilant. I don’t think we can move as a threesome for another couple of days until I hear from him, but we can plan ways to get him out of the country and perhaps disable those watching him.”

“I’ve talked with my wife and needless to say she is overcome with grief for her friend, Margaret. She has no arguments as far as my involvement is concerned, no matter how long this takes.” Nicholas added.

Branson continued with, “I’m ready where I am needed. I have several weapons and will carry them. I do not have a wife or a wife-to-be, and I am looking forward to this. I’d like to get a little dirty,” he smiled.

That caused half a smile from John. Day in and day out he thanked his stars when he found Branson. The young man was fearless among all of his other fine attributes. He was wasted as a driver, but Branson would have it no other way.”

“How about the running of the mills?” John finally spoke out.

“That’s already been taken care of. I have our trusted foremen in charge for the next three weeks, and they know you will be around for major questions.”

“I’m not so sure of being here all the time, Nicholas. Pick one of them; pick Charles and one of the accountants to have joint spending rights. Neither one can spend money without the signature of the other. I will be here for awhile, but as Margaret improves, I expect to have other issues to dispatch.”

“Guv, do you want me here? You can’t drive that coach,” Branson jested.

John smiled. “Branson, I can harness the small buggy, but I will preferably use a single horse.”

“If I could begin to detail a plan, I’d like opinions and suggestions,” stated Adam. What I see as a logical step is for me to remain in Paris, meeting privately with Frederick, while Nicholas and Branson scout a route and destination for Fred.”

“Adam,” replied Nicholas, “I can do that on my own. Let Branson stay with you because you are more likely to run into anyone keeping an eye on Fred. Like Branson said, he’s got the weapons.”

“We will have to write each day somehow, or pay for a rider between locations.”

“I shall pay for the rider,” John interceded. “Time will be of the essence. Perhaps, two riders will be needed.”

“I will scout around Paris to find someone who speaks English,” spoke Branson, “and set something up where one is waiting in between two locations and other is on the end waiting to take the missive. I can talk among the driving services there. There should be plenty who would want to earn more than what they do as a cabby.”

“Branson, see me for the money before you leave,” John said. “So where does that leave us right now. Nowhere, I assume until we hear from Margaret’s brother.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Bell added. “I have also, just this morning, have written to the Shaw’s about Margaret’s whereabouts. I think I was as delicate as I could be, saying little. I feel, perhaps, I shall follow it up with a second letter today asking them not to reveal Margaret’s location to anyone. It will spark questions in their mind, but does that sound like the best alternative?”

“Yes, Adam, do that. I don’t think I want Hartford to follow her here, although that may make things easier, but I will enjoy it less. I do not want my time with her interrupted.”

“I’ll see to that as soon as we are done here.”

“Men, I thank you for your help in this. I hope none of you finds difficulty along the way. I guess we should all prepare to leave at a moment’s notice.”

“John,” said Nicholas, “we do this for Margaret as well as you. There is no thanks needed. What kind of men would we be if we did anything less for a friend?”

“Thank you, Nicholas, and the rest of you. If you will excuse me, I will be at the hospital.”

John left Nicholas and Adam talking to each other as he nodded to Branson for a trip into town.

I Killed Him – pt 7

Chapter Seven

John took the hospital steps two at a time and used his long legged gait to reach Margaret’s room quickly. Arriving there, he was not permitted entrance. He stood by the door pacing until he knew the reason why. In what seemed like half an hour, Dr. Donaldson emerged from the room.

“Why may I not enter?” John asked Donaldson

“John, she is waking. The doctor is performing some initial tests before she tires. For what she’s been through, I think she looks good. She remembers little right now but knows she is here in Milton. I am afraid that the shock she experienced has been blocked from her memory, but that is likely to be only of short duration. Very soon they shall be completed this first exam and will bring her food. You, and only you, may see her for a short time before she is sedated once more. After this next sedation, she will be put on that new drug and sleep when she wants except for the I Killed Him 250x375nights. We shall medicate her heavily for the nights. She’s liable to have nightmares. In fact, the night nurse told me how she had screamed in the night, but never came awake to pull her out of her nightmare. That is going to be the unfortunate side of her ailments going forward.”

“Thank you, Donaldson.”

Donaldson hurried down the hall to wherever he was going while John turned and began his pacing once more. He thought about how much he wanted to ease her mind about this Hartford man, when her memory returned, but he couldn’t leave her side until she was stable. He had never been torn between two such important elements in his life. But really, there was no choice. Margaret would always come first.

The doctor opened the door and walked out. Seeing Mr. Thornton there, he said, “You may go in. She’s unfamiliar with her recent events. Someone should be by soon to give her soup. Don’t expect miracles right away.”

The doctor left and John could see Margaret moving slightly from where he stood. He was shaking inside. He almost feared showing himself. What if her mind was flung back before all of the abuse and he wasn’t part of her life. He cursed himself for forgetting the flowers. Slowly he stepped through the door.

John spoke her name, not wanting just to appear and startle her.

“Margaret. It is I, John.”

She turned her head and saw him standing there like a god. She was swamped with the feeling of love and protection and she didn’t understand why now. Before she could say a word, tears rolled from the corner of her eyes.

John broke down himself then and let his own tears fall with hers.

“You are glad to see me,” John said more in a statement than a question.

“John,” she whispered, seeing his tears for her. Margaret started to lift her hand to him, but his was there to take hers first.

He could not help himself but pulled her hand to his lips. Curling her fingers within his, he asked, “How are you feeling, my love.”

The endearment of his words and his kiss caused Margaret to weep more tears. John pulled his handkerchief and dabbed lightly around her eyes, allowing her better vision. Then he wiped his own.

“John, you’re here. I am in Milton?”

“Yes, my love. You came to find me. I cannot tell you how happy you have made me.”

“I was helpless I remember, and it appears I’ve had some injuries. John, I’ve missed you something terrible since I left. I love you.”

John wept again. The greatest words he could ever hear were just spoken to him.

“And I love you, Margaret. I have never stopped loving you from the first day I met you. I remember you walking into the milling shed and had the nerve to chastise me. Do you remember that day?”

“I do, John. But I try to forget it. I’m afraid I left with a very low regard for you. Do you know why I am here?”

“Because you have some injuries,” were the only words he said.

“I can feel those. But why? Do you know why?”

“I believe so, but the doctor would rather you remember why when you are ready. Your injuries are an assumption, only. Adam Bell, Nicholas Higgins, and even Branson send you their regards. They will not be permitted to see you for another day or two.”

“But they let you in?”

“Yes, I told them you were to be my wife as soon as you woke.”

“I am? Is that a proposal? I’m awake.”

John let out the biggest grin at her apparent eagerness to belong to him as he placed the back of his hand on her cheek.

Before John could officially offer her a real proposal, a nurse came in to feed her.

“Blast!” he cursed under his breath.

“Sir, would you mind pulling your chair back while I feed Miss Hale. Sir, do you have permission to be in here?”

“Yes,” he heard Margaret say.

John pulled his chair back as requested, reeling from their first words spoken. She had repeated the words that she loved him. That was all he had ever wanted in his life. Today was the pinnacle of his being . . . those spoken coveted words from Margaret.

Dr. Donaldson came into the room while John watched the nurse spoon soup down her. Noticing him, John walked over to Donaldson for a private word.

“Margaret is asking me what happened to her. I’ve told her that it is best for her to remember on her own, but I don’t know if I have spoken out of turn. She seems to be anxious to know. As I’ve been sitting here watching her, I had promised, that if she would have me, I would marry her when she woke. I still want that, but I feel a bit guilty if she makes a decision without all the facts. I cannot believe she had any regard for this man, but I do not know how to be completely sure.”

“John, it will do her more harm than good to keep all we know from her, but I’d like to give her through tomorrow to come to it on her own.”

“If she doesn’t remember by tomorrow, who will be the one to tell her?” asked John.

“If he is up to it, I think Mr. Bell should be the one. He is more familiar with her situation in London than anyone. If he cannot do it, I will talk with her.”

“I’d like to be there.”

“I think you may need to be there, but let’s see how her condition is by then. I hope she can find strength by your reaction to her abuse. I expect her to reject you because she will be too ashamed. Margaret will feel dirty to you in her mind. You have no hesitation there, do you?” Donaldson asked, looking directly at John’s expression when he answered. Donaldson knew only a good man would be able to put something like that behind him.

“None. I want her in my life. There are no exceptions.”

“I was sure you felt that way. I think they will make her sleep again after her feeding. Margaret should wake about 4:00 or 5:00 this afternoon.”

“Are you sending me away, Donaldson?”

“No, you may stay as long as you want. I’ll see about getting a more comfortable chair in here.”

“I’m obliged.”

Margaret had finally finished her thin soup when John heard her call his name. As he reached her side, a nurse was spooning the laudanum into her mouth.

“John.”

“Yes, Margaret. I am here, my love.” John reached for her hand but Margaret pulled his to her lips, kissing the back of it.

John remained as calm as he good, as Margaret did that but he was exploding inside. He was becoming breathless and overwhelmed. This all felt more than wonderful and more than easy. In all good conscience, he understood this may be taking advantage of her.

“John, I think you were talking about marrying me, before the nurse came in. Is there something you wanted to ask me,” Margaret said with a weak smile.

“There is something that I desperately want to ask you but to be fair to you I will wait until the memory of your injuries has returned. I do not want you to have any doubts when you answer me. We have not seen each other for two years and there could be another man in your life. I will wait until you are clear about your past.”

“You won’t leave me will you, John?” Margaret was becoming unfocused. Her words were starting to slur.

“Margaret, I will never leave you. You will have to tell me to go away. Never ever think I am not by your side.”

Margaret had closed her eyes before John had finished his words, but she was still holding his hand.

 

The Shaw’s and Captain Lenox arrived at the local constabulary. Reciting why they were there, an officer escorted them into a quiet room.

“Maxwell, will you begin the story. Mother and I are a fright.”

“Yes, Edith.”

A constable entered the room with paper and pencil. He offered the trio some tea, whereupon Edit and Mrs. Shaw accepted. They sat and Maxwell paced.

“Captain, would you care to sit down?” asked Constable Leyland.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll stand for the moment.” Maxwell introduced the women and his association with them. He began with yesterday morning, but Edith interrupted, being more familiar with their exact movements. When she came to the part of calling her fiancé Captain Lenox, he continued with the story. He had related all that he knew from speaking with Captain Hartford but encouraged them to speak with him. He would have to find the constable alone and give him his own theories. He mentioned Adam Bell, but said he seemed to be out of town.

The Constable took a description of Margaret and asked many questions from running away to being abducted. They had no opinion on any reasoning for her actions, but Mrs. Shaw brought up the fact that she had seemed worried or unhappy lately. The three agreed that since Captain Hartford had come into her life was when Margaret’s demeanor started to change.

“Captain Lenox, are you familiar with Captain Hartford?”

“Only several months. We are in different regiments, and we met quite by chance. Sir, could we excuse the women so that I may speak with you alone. I only have suppositions and wish to speak them privately.”

Edith and her mother seemed surprised, although Edith remembered Margaret’s reticule on the sofa and assumed that’s what they would talk about.

“Ladies, I have your address and we will be in contact with you. I believe this may be moved up to the Metropolitan station since it has been over forty eight hours. If you will excuse us, you may wait in the visitor’s area. Thank you. You have been very helpful.”

Edith and her mother rose and left the room. Maxwell held the door for them, telling them he would not be long. Once they were gone, Maxwell sat at the table across from the Constable and told him the rest of the story and Captain Hartford’s ailment. He explained how he had checked with the infirmary on post and Captain Hartford had never been there for medical treatment. He concluded that he could have seen a personal physician. He also explained how it would not be like Miss Hale to run from him unless he had some hold over her, and they were just grasping for anything with that thinking.

The constable wrote everything down and went over it one last time to be clear. “And you or the Shaw’s have no idea where Miss Hale could be. Does she not have any friends in London?”

“Only the gentleman, Mr. Bell, who has seemed to be her guardian since he and her father were college mates. I believe he was soon leaving her a rather substantial endowment to Miss Hale. Whether Captain Hartford knew of that, I do not know. Besides her childhood home in Helstone and her two years in Milton, while her parents lived, I do not know of anyone she may know. Come to think of it, this Mr. Bell has attachments to Milton. I believe he is a landowner there. He could be there, but he is not at his college rooms at the university where he has life rights to two rooms.”

The constable stood extending his hand to Maxwell. “You have given us some very good information and several places to start. I will discuss this with my Chief Inspector and see how he wants to proceed.”

“If I could offer one caution.”

“Please, I will listen to everything thing you have to say.”

“Should Miss Hale be held by this Hartford, he may spook easily and do her harm. In my bones, I do not think he knows where she is, but I think he knows why she left. I believe he tried to force himself on her, therefore the lap blanket. I am finding it hard to believe this of another officer and I am ashamed to think what I do, but I cannot stand by and allow him to mistreat my fiancé’s family or embarrass the army. I think I have told you everything.”

One last handshake and the two men parted. Maxwell ushered the two women out to their carriage. They held their questions until they were inside.

“Maxwell, what could you say to him that you could not say to us?” asked Edith.

“I have heard some rumors that I wanted to pass along. I would rather not say as they could ruin an officer’s career. I have had no time to verify any of this, so I wish to keep it to myself. I mentioned that I wanted to see justice done for Miss Hale’s sake in spite of his rank. The military will not tolerate any embarrassment, should there be merit to these rumors.

Maxwell was glad that Edith and her mother seemed placated with that. He mentioned to them that he reported about her former homes in Helstone and Milton as places she may have gone to.

“It is most unlike Margaret, and I can understand if she were desperate, but I did find that my spare money is now missing. I believe she has taken it, which gives rise that she could have traveled far away. Edith, do you remember the name of the man she found an interest with in Milton?”

“Let me think, Mother. He was a Mill Owner. I believe she called him John, but I would have to think on his last name.”

“I shall get that information to the constable later today. I did not know there was anyone else of interest besides my brother Henry at any time in her life.”

Later that day, Constable Jerome, realizing that the Shaw’s were part of upper society, the matter of the missing Miss Hale would be kicked up to the Met.

 

While Margaret slept, John decided it was time to inform Chief Inspector Mason of the events as he knew them. The one thing he would not reveal was his plan of revenge, although he knew Mason would assume it, knowing him too well.

Mason saw Thornton coming into the station and motioned him into his office.

“Good day, Mason. I came to make you aware . . .” John closed the door and sat in front of the Chief’s desk. An hour and half later, John exited. Mason was powerless to proceed outside of his own district, but he would inform the London authorities of what he had been told. He would alert his men to look for military bearing men asking questions. He also admonished John on taking this situation into his own hands. He had much to lose, if a life was taken. He watched John Thornton silently acquiesce with a nod but had no faith in it. He’d known John a long time, and could only begin to realize what he must be going through. He’d do the same thing he felt John was capable of planning and executing.

Save

Save

I Killed Him – pt 8

Chapter Eight

I Killed Him 250x375Captain Grant Hartford was attempting to move about his study in an upright position. Having his trousers fully closed compelled him to walk stooped over so that the fabric didn’t chafe against his injured manhood. If marrying Margaret Hale was now definitely out of the question, he felt like killing her. Tomorrow he would return to his barracks and resume his duties. His manservant knocked on his door and entered.

“A Detective Boyle to see you, sir.”

“A Detective?”

“Yes, sir. Shall I show him in?”

“Yes, by all means.” Hartford didn’t like the sound of this, but of course, it would be questions about Miss Hale’s disappearance.

The detective was shown into his study and Grant stood in near military bearing as he sucked in wind through his clenched teeth.

“Good afternoon, Captain Hartford. I am Detective Boyle.”

“Have a seat Detective Boyle. I hope you are here with some word about Miss Hale.”

“Captain, I have no word, but I am here in her regard, yes,” Boyle said, taking a seat in front of Hartford’s desk.

“How can I help you, Detective?”

“I am investigating the disappearance of Miss Margaret Hale at the behest of her family. I understand that you were the last to see her Tuesday evening. What can you tell me about it?” Boyle began.

“I picked up Miss Hale that evening around 7:00pm for dinner at my home, here. We had a wine and light conversation before our meal. Afterwards, we adjourned to the parlor, where I regret to say I had a few words that were unpleasant to her. You see, detective, we are engaged. I had been trying to convince her to move the wedding forward. My words were not heated, in any way. I bowed to the lady’s request that they remain unchanged, and that was the end of that. To my knowledge, that was the only unpleasantry of the evening. It was shortly thereafter, Miss Hale asked to be taken home?”

“And you took her straight home, Captain?”

Grant didn’t care for the way this session was going. He had interrogated people enough to know what the detective was getting at.

“Yes.”

“Did you escort her to her door?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did you enter the house?”

“No. Now, see here, Detective, I don’t care for your inference.”

“Captain, I am not inferring anything. I am trying to understand all of Miss Hale’s movements since you were the last to see her. Is there anything else you can remember about that night?”

Settling down before he drew too much attention, Hartford continued. “As I said, Miss Hale and I had a few brief words that she did not care to hear. Aside from that, since that was settled to her satisfaction, I sensed that she was distracted for reasons not known to me. She seemed quiet and appeared inwardly nervous. I attributed that to her being alone with me and my staff.”

“Speaking of your staff, who was in residence that night?”

“As you may not know, I do not come here very often. I do own this small Manor, but I live on post in private quarters. I had a short staff on duty that night. Let’s see . . . there was my cook, my manservant, who served us, I believe a scullery maid and my driver.”

“I may wish to question them at a later time.” The detective noted offhandedly.

“Detective, are you accusing me of improper behavior?”

“Was there any?” Boyle asked.

“Any what?

“Improper behavior?”

“You are impertinent, Sir. I am a gentleman and officer.”

“You still have not answered my question.” Boyle insisted.

Grant was becoming blustery with indignation. “Certainly not!”

“Is there anything I have not asked you that you believe I should know?” Boyle asked as his final question.

Grant was beginning to believe the detective knew more than he was letting on. He wondered for a moment if Miss Hale’s reticule had been spotted by the Captain’s fiancé. He decided that would make things worse if he brought it to light and there was no previous knowledge of it.

“No, Detective. I believe you have all the information that I have. I wait patiently for any word you have on the young lady I am to marry. You will find me at the post. Are we done?”

“Yes, for now, Captain. Thank you for your time. I’ll see myself out. Good day.”

Grant watched as the detective left, feeling like he was losing his footing on crumbling ground. Miss Hale was missing, that was all. She would never force his hand in giving up her brother, he was sure of that. She had endured much, maybe too much, to keep him safe. Eventually, she would return at some point before the wedding, accepting one fate or the other.

 

Boyle walked to his coach with an uneasy feeling as Captain Maxwell Lenox must have had, according to the report. This Hartford man was holding his arrogance at bay. The report, which had reached the Met a short time ago, had some questionable assumptions by Captain Lenox. He decided to put a man on investigating the past of Captain Grant Hartford. Next, he would interview the family and gave his driver instructions.

 

Margaret thrashed in her dream state. She could see Frederick, and she was afraid. He was strolling up ahead, and men in uniform were gathering behind. She started to run because she knew he couldn’t hear her. Maybe if she ran to the men in uniform and created a scene – would it draw their attention away from her brother? There were too many of them, so she continued to run. As she passed the uniformed men, she saw one carrying a hangman’s rope. Could she get near enough for him to hear her? Frederick rounded a corner, and she was thankful to see him out of sight. She did not know this town. Looking back, the men were picking up speed. The sweat was pouring. She had lost her shoes long ago, and the sharp earth raked the soles of her feet. Her full frock kept gathering between her legs as she lengthened her stride for all she was worth. Finally, she was gaining on her brother, but the others were gaining on her. “Fred! Frederick, run!” Margaret rang out with a startled cry which brought John to his feet.

Margaret tried to sit up but fell back, wincing in pain. Beads of perspiration were dotting her forehead.

“John. John, you’re here. Did Frederick get away?” Margaret asked clutching his arm that was extending towards her.

“Shh . . . Margaret, you have had a bad dream. Margaret, can you understand me. All is fine.” John wanted to pull her into his arms, but there was no way to hold her yet. He placed his head next to hers and whispered into her ear while fondling her fingers. Margaret grabbed his one hand with both of hers.

“John, I’ve never been so afraid for my brother.”

“I know, love. I know. Your brother is safe.” John wasn’t sure of that but hoped. Worrying Margaret now would do no good.

“You are safe, too, my love. You will be forever safe and unharmed.” John soothed.

Margaret looked into John eyes, trying to slow her heart beat. She remembered running faster than she ever had. She tightened her grasp on John’s hand.

He leaned over and kissed her.

“John, that’s the first time you have kissed me,” Margaret admitted as wonderment spread across her face replacing the frown.

John smiled into her eyes. “Oh, I would not say quite the first. Perhaps, the first that you are aware of.”

“When did you last kiss me? Was it two years ago . . . why would I not remember that?” she muttered.

“Actually, Margaret, it was only moments ago. I have been collecting kisses from your lips, your hands, and your face that are long overdue.”

Nurse Pickering entered the room, surprised to see Miss Hale awake. She should have slept another hour. John saw the look of bewilderment on her face.

“Miss Hale has had a nightmare that has awakened her only moments ago,” informed John.

“Good evening, Mr. Thornton,” she said, walking towards Margaret. “Miss Hale, can you tell me about your dream?”

John was surprised that should be a medical approach but did not interfere.

“I can hardly remember it now. I was running towards my brother. I think he was in danger. That’s all there is left. They fade so fast. I am sure I am glad that they do.”

“I will get the doctor. He will want to begin his final exams on your eye sight and memory. Mr. Thornton, will you excuse us.”

“No, you may not excuse me. With the permission of Dr. Donaldson, I wish to and have been granted permission to be with her as she remembers her past.”

“Very well. I am sure the hospital doctor will have that in his orders. We shall return directly.” Miss Pickering left the room.

“Margaret, I want you to know that I am here, whatever happens, whatever you remember. Whether your past, that you’ve have blocked, is good news or not, I will never leave your side. I love you, too much. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will drive me away.”

Tears formed once again in the corners of Margaret’s eyes. It broke John’s heart. He girded himself with an expectation of losing her again, but to herself this time, before she would believe him.

“It’s bad, isn’t it, John? I can see it on your face. What have I done, John?”

“As I have said, we only have assumptions. But no matter what those assumptions are, you are innocent of any wrong doing. You see for yourself, what you have suffered at the hands of someone. We don’t know why.”

“What has happened to me, John? No one has said. They won’t let me stay awake.”

“Your doctor will be here any moment. I think it is best for him to tell you exactly the wounds on your body. You are in a delicate condition, and I would assume they will dispense information as you can handle it.” John skirted the words as best he could.

“You know what has happened to me . . . I mean the wounds, John?”

“Yes.”

“I have done nothing to embarrass you?”

“No, love. You could never embarrass me. Even if you were kicked out of a brothel, I would still love you.”

“How do you know about my brother?”

“What do you mean?” John asked, confused.

“You told me as I woke, ‘your brother is safe.’ How do you know about him?”

Dr. Wagner walked into the room and nodded towards Mr. Thornton.

“Miss Hale, good evening. I am Dr. Wagner. I introduced myself once before but doubted you understood me then. I am the doctor in charge of your case, but I am assisted by your own doctor, Dr. Donaldson. How are you feeling right now?”

John stepped to the side but made sure that Margaret knew he was there.

“Doctor, I am sore, especially around my lower chest. I want to know what is wrong with me.”

“Before we get to that, I would like your permission or denial of Mr. Thornton’s presence.”

“He has non-restrictive rights to any information or decisions regarding my person.” Margaret looked for him in the room and saw that he had turned his back with a bent head.

“Fine. I will note that on your chart. We will first test your eye sight, and then we will talk. Nurse, would you bring the chart? Miss Hale, previously, do you remember wearing any type of spectacles to enhance your ability to see or read?”

“I remember that I did not need any such instruments.”

“We have found no evidence of a head injury, or bleeding from the ears or nose, but we want to check your eye sight.”

“I’m ready.” Margaret agreed.

“You may wish you hadn’t,” the doctor smiled, “because we need to get you into a sitting position. To do that will be uncomfortable while we move you. If at any time you feel trouble breathing we will rest you back down, so please speak out.”

John stood at the foot of the bed watching as the doctor and nurse each took Margaret carefully and pulled her forward. One pushed her shoulders slightly, while the other pulled her arms. John anguished as he saw the pain and frowns flow over her face, but she was quiet about it.

Margaret bared the pain until she saw John standing at her feet. The pain subsided as he was taking her pain for her. She saw him wince in her stead.

They immediately propped some pillows behind her and rested her back onto them.

“Doctor, I am breathless,” said Margaret.

“You cannot breath, Miss Hale?” surprising the doctor.

“Not while he’s standing over me,” she nodded towards John with a meek smile.

John was shocked that he had impacted Margaret so and moved out of her sight. Then John heard the doctor.

“I see, Miss Hale, that there has been no injury to your sense of humor. Should we move Mr. Thornton out of your sight,” Wagner laughed?

“Not unless you want me to relapse,” she retorted.

John closed his eyes in grateful euphoria. Where did her spirit come from to say something like that and at such a difficult time? She still marveled him. He returned to the foot of the bed, smiling.

“Unfortunately, I will have to move the gentleman out of the way while I perform my test. Have you ever read eye charts before, Miss Hale?”

“No. I’ve heard about them but have never seen them.”

Dr. Wagner walked to the end of the bed, and John stepped aside with his arms folded, intent on keeping his eye on his bride. He was becoming uplifted with her gaiety during this matter. At one time, he almost felt compelled to laugh at her black eye, that he was sure she didn’t know she had, but soon remembered the cost she paid.

 

“Miss Hale, there seems to be no problem with your vision. I believe that concludes our overall assessment of your injuries. We will keep watch for a couple more days and then release you if you have a place to go which can provide nursing care.”

Before Margaret could speak, John said, “She does. She will be at our home, and a nurse will be hired.”

“Our home? Inquired the doctor.

“Soon to be our home, doctor. She will be Margaret Thornton before she leaves your hospital.” John quickly looked to Margaret for her expression. He still hadn’t asked for her hand in an official capacity, but he saw the answer on her face.

“I see. My congratulations,” Wagner responded in surprise.

The doctor pulled up a straight chair that had been John’s before a comfortable one had been brought to him.

“Miss Hale. Do you feel up to talking?”

“Yes, I want to know what are my injuries.”

John crossed his legs and clasped his hands while peering directly at Margaret’s profile.

Margaret reached for his hand to give her strength and John lovingly obliged. He also stood beside her so she would not see his mournful expression as her chart was read.

“Miss Hale, you have a significant amount of injuries. Do you not remember any of them?”

“No, I don’t think so. I haven’t had time to dwell on it, yet. I only know that my ribs hurt.”

“Whatever had happened to you, and I must say it’s been over some period of time, you may begin to remember, and that could be very unpleasant for you. I hadn’t prepared to speak with you about this until tomorrow, but I understand you are asking questions.

“Yes. I believe I have slept enough. I’m not sure why I’m in Milton,” she said, and John squeezed her hand, “but I think I was seeking to gain protection from this man that I have loved for two years.” John held her hand firmly.

“I will tell you of your injuries, and then we will talk again.”

“Please, let’s get on with it.” Margaret pleaded.

“You do have a cracked rib, not entirely broken. It hurts the same as a broken rib and can labor your breathing in some motions or positions. It will heal within four weeks. A broken rib would be another two weeks. Whatever caused your rib to crack also caused internal bleeding. How you arrived from London with that is nothing short of a miracle. You had great determination to get here. That bleeding has stopped.”

John pulled the chair beside the bed and once again took Margaret’s hand. He knees were weakening.

“You have been slapped or backhanded with considerable force as to cause your back teeth to loosen. They will stabilize quickly but with that came a nice black eye. It’s perfectly black at this point. The swelling is down, and there may be some soreness, but that will take a good week to return to its normal color.”

Everyone saw Margaret reach for her eye and cheek. “It’s really black? Can I see?”

The nurse opened the small cabinet beside her, usually stocked with shaving supplies, and handed Margaret the mirror.

“Both of those injuries, your rib, and your face, seemed to have come at the same time which would have been within twenty four hours of your admittance here.”

The room was quiet as Margaret looked at her face and then seemed to look beyond the mirror.

John prepared for the worst as it looked like Margaret was trying to remember what caused that. She did not succeed.

“There must be something more since you said ‘over a long period,’ isn’t there?” Margaret broke the silence and John exhaled.

Margaret saw their faces and began to think that the worst that had happened to her was not addressed. She held onto John’s one hand with both of hers and asked, “Have I been violated?” She felt him cover her hands with both of his.

“Miss Hale, you have not been raped, if that is what you are asking.”

“Yes, that is what I was asking.” Margaret felt a strange sense in the room. Something was being left unsaid. She would wait until she was alone with the doctor.

“To continue,” began Dr. Wagner, again, “you show signs of nine or possibly ten fist impacts to your body. Two were to the kidney area, but we are satisfied there is no permanent damage. All of these hits to your body have been designed, I tend to think, to be hidden from view. I am not a policeman or a pathologist, but the treatment to you has been nothing short of torturous over several months. We have no way of telling if there had been more that are completely healed. Still no recollection, Miss Hale? We certainly want to find out who did this to you. Was it one or more than one man?”

“I cannot see things clearly, but I remember being knocked to the floor many times. Oh God, it was one man, I think.”

John wanted this to stop but knew that she would have to face this one day. Let it come so she can begin to heal, and their life could start, he thought. He was going to crush her hand if he held her any tighter. He took one hand away and slipped his arm behind her head and neck, holding her other shoulder tight to him.

“Miss Hale, just before you awoke, this time, you were heard to shout, ‘Fred. Frederick, run!’” Does that . . .”

Dr. Wagner saw the break in her face as some or all realization began to sweep over her.

Margaret turned her face into John’s chest and wept loudly. John kissed her softly on her hair.

“Can we have time alone,” he asked. “I want to get her through this part, myself.”

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