I Killed Him – pt 22

Chapter Twenty Two

 

That sat together in silence. Margaret knew beyond all doubt that pleading with John would be hopeless. She would do the same thing if she were in his place. Actually, she realized she could do the same thing in her own place. She knew that she could lose John for the sake of herself. Margaret couldn’t live with that. She had to find a way to keep him from possibly being hurt or worse. He could be killed. He could be hung. Begging, pleading, crying, groveling, sulking, threatening to commit suicide, may all have to come into play, if she felt he was on the verge of committing such an act, in her name.

 

Margaret was eventually trotted off for her exercises. John said that he would ride over to the Milton Grand and see if could find Bell, who could lead him to Frederick.

Branson would normally have the horses harnessed by now, and today was no different. John didn’t bother calling him to the front, he just found Branson at the stable.

“Guv, I’ve wanted to ask you, and I feel stupid in a way doing this, but now that you are married, does the Mistress have control over me as you have these past years?”

“She may ask to be driven anywhere at any time. If it comes to a decision about the stables or the horses, I would like to confer with her, and we may make a joint decision.”

“Can she let me go?”

“No. I can’t ever see that happening, but should that unlikely event come up, then, come to me. I am the only one to discuss that, and I will tell her so. She will have a say with her own maid. Although I do not believe you met Dixon the last time, Miss Hale lived here, she had been with the family before Margaret was born. Staff, with service longevity, are extended extra courtesies for being faithful and discreet regarding the family.”

“Suppose she asks me to keep a confidence from you?”

John paused with that question. “Right now, I am asking you to keep my confidence on what our plans are for Hartford. I hope she hasn’t asked, has she?”

“No, Guv.”

“Keep her confidences as you do to me, unless either one of us could be severely injured. Understand?”

“Yes, Guv. Where to?”

“The Grand, Branson, the Grand.”

 

Margaret was reflecting on having no shoes when she was reminded of Bennington, the cabby that aided in her rescue. She would ask Branson first if private service paid more than a London cabby. If the answer was yes, Margaret would ask John if he knew of a Master that needed a good driver. If Branson said no, he would ask John to reward him, which would mean a trip to London. It was very likely that he had saved her life that night and he should not be forgotten. Margaret always saw Nicholas with a small buggy and wondered if he had a driver. Could the Thornton household find a use for a second driver? A second driver could give Branson some relief from always being on duty. It may enable him to propose to the woman that he loved. According to John, Branson may not allow anyone to rein his horses. Perhaps, he could be persuaded to enjoy his lady and let another experienced driver pull the coach.

If John had no news about Frederick when he arrived home, she would like to try a short drive into the country or more likely a place to buy dancing slippers. She wanted out and in the sun away from the smoke.

 

The porter rapped lightly on the door of Mr. Bell’s room. After several moments and no answer, he repeated the knock. Still, no one came to the door. He returned to the reception area.

“Mr. Thornton, no one is answering the door.”

“Thank you, I will try the dining room” John walked in and saw Bell with the Shaw’s and Lenox, enjoying a leisurely late breakfast. Walking over, he decided not to join them but just have a word with Adam Bell.

“Good morning, everyone,” John said in a pleasant voice.

“Good morning, Mr. Thornton. How is Margaret this morning?” asked Mrs. Shaw.

“Quite honestly, it’s a bit rough for her today,” John spoke in earnest. “I would like to find Frederick if anyone here knows where he can be located.”

“Is anything wrong, John?” asked Bell.

“Could I speak with your for a moment? Excuse us,” John said, as Adam stood and walked a few paces away from the table.

“Margaret has begun to fear retribution by her brother or myself, against Hartford. Naturally, she worries for our safety. She asked me directly about my possible involvement in revenge. I could only tell her I would protect her if the man came here. I’m afraid that has set her back. I’d like Frederick to talk with her since I cannot speak for him.”

“John, I do not know where he is, but I know he had plans to find me here or Marlborough Mills, sometime this morning.”

“Higgins is back with good news about moving Lisa, and I am sure he’s anxious to hear that. Send him my way, if you see him. I hope he’s not out hunting. If I do not see you before then, I will see you at the police station at four. I have some ideas that we can discuss in an empty courtroom after we’ve heard what Boyle has to say.”

Adam, trying to smile for those that looked on, said, “I will see you later . . . before Boyle, and I will certainly send Frederick over when I see him.”

“Thank you, Adam.”

John turned to the table. “Mrs. Shaw, I hope you have a pleasant trip home. Your niece is strong, and we will get through this together. She would like to see her brother this morning. Please excuse my interruption. Good day, everyone.” John turned and left.

Except for Margaret’s brother, he wished she could be left alone. She had much turmoil to work through, both good and bad. Until she was alone, she couldn’t settle into a comfortable state of being. She wasn’t even able to set priorities in her life as yet. John was confident that before Margaret was healed physically, the other problem would have been eliminated.

 

John was anxious to return home. He did not like leaving her alone, ever, but especially now.

“No news from Frederick?” Margaret asked as John came into the room.

“No, but Adam seems to feel he will come forward sometime this morning. How are you doing?” John asked as he went to sit next to Margaret on the sofa.

John looked over at her lovingly, wishing the night would hurry so the house was quiet.

“I’m starting to feel like I am getting well. I have not taken the pain medication, yet. I want to see how I am really feeling. It’s a bit uncomfortable but bearable. John, I know Frederick might arrive, but could we take a ride in the coach.”

“Whatever you wish, my love. Where do you wish to go? Any place in particular. I will not take you over the old roads, just yet.”

Margaret stretched out her feet and wiggled her toes.

John grinned. “Oh! I’ve been so wrapped up with other things on my mind, I completely forgot. Let me tell Branson to bring the coach to the front, and I will carry you down the steps.” John laughed, “I could give you a pair of my boots until we go somewhere to purchase a pair of shoes for my waif.”

“Yes, I will wear your shoes.”

“You will? Are you serious about this?” John asked in bewildered fashion.

“I think anything is better than bare feet, don’t you?”

“I am not so sure you will be able to lift your feet with my boots on,” he smiled. “But I will get a pair.”

Returning, he placed his lightest pair of shoes on the floor in front of Margaret. He helped Margaret stand and held her hands while she slid her small feet into his big shoes. He couldn’t help but grin as it seemed her foot would never find the toe of the shoe.

He lifted her out of the boots, and swept her gently into his arms and carried her to the stable.

Branson surprised to see his new mistress shoeless, rushed to the coach door.

“Sir, does the Mistress know she doesn’t have her shoes on?”

“Branson, I am here. You can talk to me, you understand. I am not that ill.” She laughed.

“Branson, my wife has no shoes. I’m starting out to be a very poor husband, it would seem.”

“Do you want to go to the cobbler?”

“No, Branson,” Margaret said. “There must be a fancy dress shop in town. They should have some soft dance slippers. I hope your master doesn’t know of any lady’s dress shops, but possibly you do.”

“I do, indeed, Miss.” Branson opened the door.

John carried her inside and once again placed her on his lap. It wasn’t long before Margaret noticed his lap had stiffened.

“John?” Margaret said, shyly.

“I can’t help it,” John said before she teased him.

“I wasn’t going to mention that, exactly,” Margaret said.

“What do you mean by exactly? You have my undivided attention.” John beamed.

“No, I would say it’s divided.”

John pulled her lips to his, fiercely. Margaret eased her arms around his neck. John parted her lush lips and fed from her. He slowly searched the recesses of her mouth, allowing her tongue to engage with his. He moaned. Margaret pulled back momentarily to breathe, and then she resumed the passion that had ignited.

Margaret pulled John’s hand gently to her breast for him to soothe the ache she felt beginning. Without stopping his kiss, John tenderly, controlling his eagerness, cupped her heavy bosom and rubbed his thumb across her nipple. A light soft moan escaped through their kiss from her. John felt the coach come to a stop and set her away, knowing Branson would be at the door. He did it for her. Branson, being a man, would not be surprised at him.

“I guess we will talk later,” she said breathlessly.

Branson opened the door so John could carry his new bride into a Lady’s accessory shop.

Later, having found two pairs he wanted her to have, they returned to the coach. Both were surprised to see Frederick waiting in the coach.

“Good day, sis, John. I hear there is news of Lisa. What can you tell me,” he asked.

The ride that John was hoping to have going home would have to wait. John began to tell Frederick all that he knew. He withdrew the bit of paper that Nicholas had handed him and gave it to Margaret’s brother.

Frederick, anxious for the information, hardly took notice that his sister was sitting on her husband’s lap. When he finally looked up from the letter, he asked John with his eyes, why this seating arrangement?

John had anticipated the question immediately. “Your sister sits on my lap so that I can absorb the bumps in the road for her.” John, not wanting to look into Frederick’s eyes, looked out the window, knowing what any normal man would be thinking.

Frederick smiled and wanted to ask him about his bumps. His sister really had come of age, he thought. He was happy for Margaret. She would be well taken care of while he could not be with her. He liked John, too.

“I have something very important to discuss with you when we get home,” spoke Margaret.

Frederick caught a glimpse of John’s face and had a feeling of what was coming.

“Of course, sis. Do you think I just stop by to say ‘hello.’”

“I will have an appointment to keep at four this afternoon.”

“An appointment?”

“Yes. For the few days that Detective Boyle will be in Milton, he would like to have a meeting with all concerned about any further news on Hartford. We all are interested in the progress to apprehend him so he will inform us daily on what they know.”

“John, will you go?” Margaret asked, assured of the answer on her own.

“Yes. I will go. We had this talk this morning. I have nothing further to add.” John didn’t like being this firm with her especially in front of her brother, but Frederick was soon to be the same way.

“I want to go,” demanded Margaret.

“I would not let you go,” John stated sternly. “He will be captured and punished. You need to start putting that behind you. I’ve been thinking of talking with Donaldson about that. There are doctor’s, well . . . I don’t know if they are doctors or not, but are trained to help people through exceedingly tough times, such as a death and other misfortunes.”

“And you think I need some help?” Margaret looked down into her lap, feeling like a slight failure to her husband. “I’m sorry . . .”

John was embarrassed with this conversation while her brother was there. “Don’t say that word. Margaret, I love you so much that I am too close to help you properly. I cannot see my way through your feelings as my own intermingle. I think our marriage has put pressures on you that may cause you to feel guilty and I cannot have that. I cannot say ‘I understand’ strong enough for you to believe me.

“John, I do think one of us needs to see a doctor of the mind. I just think it might be you.” Margaret said, surprising John. “I think you are the one who has to put this behind you.”

“Can we continue this discussion another time?”

Branson stopped the coach. John lifted Margaret out and up to the porch. “Did you want to try the steps with your new shoes, or can I carry you.” John couldn’t help but wonder what her brother was thinking of his sister’s husband and that rather personal conversation.

“I would like to try.”

Frederick, would you mind walking in front of your sister, while I stay behind her?”

Frederick bounded in front of Margaret and stepped backward up the steps. “You’re doing fine, sis.”

Í am going to make it . . . and without help,” replied a cheerful Margaret. “I’ve accomplished one of my goals.”

“I think we need to practice that a few more times before I will let you do it on your own,” John stated.

Frederick could easily see the love for his sister from John Thornton.

 

John hadn’t realized it was nearing 1:00 in the afternoon. He saw the table set for the midday meal and hurried to the kitchen to have Jane set a third place at the table.

Arriving back in the parlor, he saw Frederick pouring two glasses of scotch. Handing one to him, Frederick turned to Margaret. “Sis?”

“Not now, thank you.”

“I guess it is my turn to hear your words of admonishment. No doubt you have had this conversation with your husband, too.” Frederick began.

“Yes, I have!”

“And?”

“He will not listen to me.”

“I am your brother. I love you, too. I will not listen either. Do not worry about me, sis. I have a lovely woman somewhere in France waiting for me. I will not be frivolous with my life.”

“Somehow, you are not saying what I want to hear,” Margaret looked her brother in the eye. “Tell me you won’t go to London to seek him out.”

“I won’t go to London to seek him out.”

Margaret thought back if her brother had ever lied to her for her own good. She couldn’t remember such a time.

“I’m relieved to hear that. How long can you stay?”

“Oh, a few days. I am not sure.” Frederick hedged.

“I think you both are hiding something from me. You two are going to some meeting with the detective. Frederick, you are staying longer than I would have expected. Who else is going to this meeting?” Margaret looked toward John.

“I believe Maxwell is interested before he may face him in London when he returns, “John skirted. “And you know that Adam would be interested, too. Now that Nicholas has returned, I do not think I can keep him away from the rest of us.”

“Frederick, are you still worried about being watched by those men . . . not the Navy.” Margaret was starting to look pitiful, John thought, with her worries for the two of them.

“Margaret . . . sis, Hartford has lost you. He does not need me any further. I have no worries there.”

“Could he come and find me here,” asked Margaret, eliciting the question that neither, John or her brother wanted to answer.

John cleared his throat. “Margaret, it would seem he has no reason to seek you out, now. He cannot marry you. He’s lost track of Frederick, so just pure blackmail seems a lost cause if he has any sense at all. There has been no mention of your attack anywhere, in any paper. He must feel that you are keeping it a secret, still fearing for your brother’s life. That’s really to our benefit, while we wait for him to be apprehended by the police.

“That sounds good when you say it fast, but I’ll have to do more thinking on this. Things do not feel right with your actions. You will tell me what the detective says tonight.”

“No, I will not. You are going to have no more talk of this. We will get on with our new life together and let the police do their job. We will be notified when he is caught.”

Margaret did not have any more of an argument and knew it to be futile if she had. She would have to work things out on her own.

“Dinner is served,” announced Jane.

 

After dinner had been consumed, Margaret was glad to see John and Frederick talking together about each other’s lives. Frederick seemed interested in walking through the mills to see the process. John invited him, and they left the house, but not the grounds. John told Frederick that he could easily live in Milton under his assumed name. The local officials had no interest in him, and the Navy was never here. Frederick didn’t know if he was ready to risk capture with a wife coming along. However, the feeling of being with family felt very satisfying.

In the next hour when they returned, Maxwell, Edith, and Adam were comfortable in the parlor. Edith was admiring Margaret’s new shoes when they entered. John felt a rush come over him, anticipating a repeat of the questions Margaret had talked about earlier, only this time with Adam and Maxwell. But it did not happen. It appeared to John that Margaret had uncharacteristically abandoned those thoughts for now.

One last round of drinks was served before the men headed to the police station. Nicholas had arrived too, looking clean and gentlemanly. He had words with Frederick. Margaret saw her brother vigorously shake his hand.

I Killed Him – pt 16

 Chapter Sixteen

“Good morning, Margaret. You look happy this morning. It must be because you are going home with that handsome husband of yours.”

“Yes. Do you know he spent the whole night with me in that chair, holding my hand? I woke in the middle of the night and found him still here.”

Outside the room, Branson heard that endearment about the Guv, and it reaffirmed that his boss was a passionate man. Those were sides he’d never shown to anyone, but Branson had always felt were there. He hoped to be that way, himself.

“I’ve brought you a frock today. I wasn’t sure about a corset, but I brought one along in case.”

“I’m afraid I have a hospital corset looking thing bound about me that I shall wear for a few weeks, I suspect. I’m waiting on breakfast and the doctor. John should return soon.”

“But, wasn’t that his driver?” huffed Aunt Shaw, which drew a stern look from Edith.

“Yes, that is Branson outside the door, listening,” she laughed. “I am sure he is here as my guard. I have a suspicion that John does not want to leave me alone or unwatched.”

“Well, I would hope so!” said her aunt, which sparked a chord in Edith.

i-killed-him-268x179“Mother, you see that Margaret is recovering. We know she’s happy about her marriage to Mr. Thornton. It might be best for you to return to your committees and teas in London. I know you care dearly for Margaret and she knows it, too, but you will soon be an unwelcome guest in their home if you continue these snide outbursts.”

“Snide, you say! Humph. I will see Margaret today, get settled into the home she will live in and then I will take a train home. God seems to have forsaken this part of England.”

“Aunt, nothing will ever compare to London and the circles you move in. You will find that nowhere else within this land. You are comfortable there. I am comfortable here. Let that be something we will both learn to live with.” Margaret gently spoke.

“Well, if you are sure you are happy?”

“Very happy, aunt.”

“I hope that wicked man does not come looking for you when I return. I’ll have my butler bar him from the house.”

“That is very wise, aunt. Perhaps, you should tell the police if he pesters you.” Margaret suggested.

“Oh, they know about him. Edith and Maxwell have seen to that.”

Again Edith snapped a frown at her mother.

“Oh, you went to the police, Edith?”

“Of course, we did, when you didn’t return home. We had no idea of the abuse you had received; we just wanted to find you.”

“So, how did you find me?”

“Mr. Bell wrote to us. We even went searching for you at his quarters on campus, but he’d been gone a day or two. He was here, perhaps. It seems you confided in him about the coerced marriage and not us. Margaret, I don’t mean that the way it sounds. It’s perfectly obvious why ” Edit said as she looked towards her mother. “Mr. Bell would have been in a better position to advise you.”

“Advise her of what?” boomed John as he entered the room. He didn’t know if he would ever warm to her aunt. The cousin was still undetermined in his mind.

“Advise Margaret of what?” he asked again.

“Edith and I were discussing why I confided in Mr. Bell before them of my difficulties with Captain Hartford, forcing me to marry him. That was part of the conversation we did not cover yesterday.”

“Here are you clothes, Margaret. We will leave, now, and see you later this afternoon, when you are settled into your new home.”

“I will look forward to it. Good bye, aunt.”

“Good by Margaret, and to you, Mr. Thornton.”

“Good day ladies,” John returned.

John picked up on Margaret’s look. “I’m sorry, my love. I’ll try harder to get along with your aunt. I just cannot forgive her insistence that you return with her to London. I know, you could not live here alone. We were not, yet, in a position for a second proposal. It was her attitude towards me, the city, and the fact that she didn’t respect you to have a mind of your own.”

“I never looked at it that way, before.”

“I know you didn’t. The loss of your family took all your thoughts and buried them to stave the hurt. I understood that but was powerless to intervene. Certainly, no one, including you, would have listened to me. But I felt I knew you and knew what was best for you in your future. I finally had to let go and hope you found your real feelings. I know that sounds a bit conceited on my part, but that’s how much I loved you. I knew you could and would love me if we only had more time.”

“Now, we have all the time in the world.”

“Thank God for that. Have you been served breakfast yet, or seen the doctor?”

“No, I’m afraid there is a bit more waiting. Tell me, are Branson’s horses still well? Is the coach in one piece or do I go home in a cab?”

John laughed and ruffled her hair. “He told you about that, did he?”

“Yes, he was quite funny about it.”

“He thinks those horses belong to him because he selected them. I do admit, he made a very wise choice, and I have never been sorry for what they cost, but they are still mine,” John smiled.

“Do not ever tell him that. Did you wear his little livery cap?”

“Only while I was within his view. I will admit, it took a bit of handling, and I certainly admire his skills more than I did, but I made it there and back.”

“Some day in the future, I wish to have a conversation about him, with you. He and I had quite a talk when we were alone.”

“Oh, you did, did you? Did he tell you he is an experienced driver and needs a raise in his salary?”

“Nothing of the kind. You will just have to wait and see.”

“I love you, Mrs. Thornton.” John sat down beside her.

“We discussed that, too.”

“What? You were discussing our love with our driver?”

“John, you know he’s more than a driver. He is almost family. You own horses that he belongs to; I think that makes us related, somehow, don’t you?” Margaret laughed, forgetting her rib, again.

“You see, that’s what you get for discussing personal things with our friend, the driver.”

John waited for her discomfort to ease and explain what she had meant.

Margaret knew he was waiting and kept silent.

A moment passed.

“Well, Mrs. Thornton?”

“Well, what?”

“You know very well, well what.” John returned.

“You said, ‘I love you, Mrs. Thornton’ and I said that he, Branson, and I had discussed that.”

“Mrs. Thornton,” John soothed, with a smile on his face. “I know very well what I said, and I distinctively heard what you said.”

“And then you said, ‘You were discussing our love with our driver,’ I do not believe I heard a question in there. Was there suppose to be one? Being your wife, does that include being a mind-reader?”

John sighed, pulled a bit of paper with writing on it from his pocket. He reached for a pencil near Margaret’s chart and scribbled on the back of the paper. He replaced the pencil and put the paper in his pocket, sat back and folded his hands in his lap.

Margaret watched his actions, trying to figure out what he was doing, knowing he wanted her to ask.

Another moment passed. John, now, had the upper hand. She put on her pouty face and looked at him with sad eyes.

It didn’t work. He just smiled back at her.

Another moment passed.

“Well, so much for not denying me anything!”

John almost doubled over laughing; instead, he moved to the bed and held her in his arms as he had last night. “I love you, Mrs. Thornton, and you can discuss that with the whole world if you care to.”

“All right you two love birds; it’s time for some food,” announced Nurse Pickering, as she entered the room.

“Margaret, your food will be a little more solid this morning. You know what that means; don’t you?”

Margaret looked bewildered.

“Didn’t your husband show you the list?”

“No, what list?” Margaret asked, looking at John.

“Margaret, it was a list of items and foods you should have at home, which includes, drinking prune juice daily.”

Margaret turned red. John beamed. “Did you have to tell me that with him in here?” she frowned.

John got up and walked out the door. He was bursting inside. If discussing natural body functions was an embarrassment to her, he’d give her time to adjust.

Nurse Pickering watched as John left the room. “Margaret, you are married, now. These things are a part of life. You almost act as if you have just met the man.”

“I have, really,” she said, looking at her eggs and toast.

“What do you mean, you have just met him?”

Margaret explained the two year’s separation and just returning to him only a week ago. “We hadn’t even kissed until a few days ago.”

“My, that is a story. It’s a beautiful love story if you had found a different way to be together than being beaten by another man. That explains a lot to me about your reluctance on these personal matters and his failing control to keep his hands to himself. You two make a sweet couple. I’ve heard about your husband, being a Milton native myself for 10 years, but I see a different man than I thought him to be. He’s very loving.”

“Nobody would recognize the man that loves me,” Margaret said.

“You are a very lucky woman,” replied Nurse Pickering.

“He’s already lied to me, though. What do you think I should do?”

“Lied to you? That’s unfortunate.”

“Yes, he said he would deny me nothing, and he just did.” Margaret waited for the laugh outside the door. It was there. She finally heard his booted steps move away from the door.

“Was he listening?” asked the nurse.

“I thought he might be, that’s why I said what I did. Of course, I was kidding.”

“The doctor should be in within a half an hour. He’s on the floor. You may dress and leave after he’s seen you unless he tells you different. Do you want me to come back and help you dress?” Pickering smiled.

“I don’t know. I might try it myself behind that screen first. I’m steady on my feet this morning. I’ll send my husband after you or another nurse if I need help.”

“All right, MISS Thornton,” the nurse said for amusement.

Margaret thought about her little joke and realized she was right. If her rib was not bound, they would be past the initial lusts of a newly married couple. She would have lost her virginity by now. That had not occurred to her, but she thought it must have occurred to John. Well, maybe not because of her injuries. He was being terribly kind and patient with her. She knew he really loved her.

John saw the doctor headed towards Margaret’s room and caught up with him. The doctor stopped to talk with John before going in.

“Mr. Thornton, I am sure this does not need telling, but it is my duty. I can hardly imagine what it must be like for you to bring your new bride to your bed but you must exercise great care.”

John felt like a child being admonished. Who did he think he was? “There are no needs for such words, doctor.”

“I am sure of that, too, but I cannot pick and chose who and what to advise. There are rules, and I am at their mercy.”

“Proceed, doctor,” John replied.

“There should be no pressure against that rib for a few more days. It won’t be fully healed for another three weeks, she may begin to move and lift as she feels fit. Unfortunately, she will feel good before she is completely healed and may try things beyond her capacity. Just take note of today and keep her from hurting herself for the next three weeks. I would like to see her in my office, each Friday morning for the next month.”

“I understand.”

John and Doctor Wagner entered Margaret’s room as Pickering was leaving.

Margaret noticed the doctor had closed the door behind him and John came to sit beside her. He held her hand.

“Mrs. Thornton, are you ready to leave this place? We’ve enjoyed having you, but I’ll bet you would rather be somewhere else,” said Wagner.

“Yes, I am anxious to go and sit and walk and see the sun,” Margaret replied.

The doctor pulled another chair to her other side and placed her chart on his lap. “First we will talk a few minutes and then I will check that rib one last time. All right?”

“Yes, please.”

“I’ve talked a bit with your husband about how you will feel well before you truly are. Take one more week of rest. After that you may begin to move about as you feel you can, but under no circumstances must you lift anything more than your handbag for three weeks. You will need assistance in and out of the tub for washing. And definitely, someone else must wash your hair.”

Margaret could feel John squeezing her hand in delight.

The doctor fished in his pocket for a packet and handed them to John. “Those are pills to ease the pain. Take one twice a day for the next week and then take them as you need after that. As I told your husband, I will see you for the next four Friday mornings in my office and any time you find you have any problems. The rib corset can be removed to wash it when you bath and if you feel at ease, it can be removed at night. Otherwise, keep it on during the day. Do you have any questions?”

“How about using the steps?”

“Have someone with you for a week or two. You will exhaust yourself quickly. There is nothing to prevent you from using steps, but you’re own strength. You must remember, you had internal bleeding for at least seven hours that we know of. It will take approximately, six to eight weeks for your body to build back to its normal level. You will be weakened from that alone. Your bed rest for these 5 days and a few more to come, plus the damage to muscle tissue; you will not be strong. The medication will hide that from you, so you use your head. Anything else?”

Margaret looked at John to see if he had questions. “I do not believe we have any more questions.”

“Are you ready for me to check your rib? I will push a bit on it to gauge your discomfort.”

“Yes, I am ready.”

“Do you mind your husband being here?”

Margaret thought that an odd question and quickly said, “No, of course not.”

John continued to hold her hand.

The doctor lifted her head and removed the pillow, so she was laying flat. John turned towards her to watch for her pain.

The doctor then proceeded to pull down the sheet and lift her gown above her breasts, exposing everything except her corseted rib area. Margaret was mortified, but it was too late. John was stunned.

John quickly looked at what God was about to bless him with and squeezed Margaret’s hand firmly. He knew she was in shock. He hadn’t expected that either, but after his quick perusal, the large blotches of bruises brought watering to his eyes. He squeezed his eyes tightly and brought his thumb and forefinger to wipe away the evidence. She was a man’s dream in body, but the nightmare she suffered was all too apparent. He wanted to look away but didn’t for fear Margaret would think he found dissatisfaction. She was firmly holding on to his hand as the doctor prodded her rib area. John heard her inhale through her teeth with a hissing sound. He lowered his forehead to her shoulder, so she knew he wasn’t staring at her nakedness. He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek while the tears began seeping from the corners of her eyes.

John quietly whispered in her ear, “You are exquisite, my love.”

Finally, the gown was lowered, and the sheet returned. John moved back as the doctor returned the pillow under her head.

“I think we can let you go, Mrs. Thornton. I believe it best if you take her through the back entrance where there are no stairs. When she is dressed, open the door, and a nurse will bring in the rolling chair and wheel her to the door. Mr. Thornton, you may want to sit her on your lap to absorb the bumpy ride.”

“I am eager to help,” he smiled at Margaret.

“Thank you, Dr. Wagner, for tending to my wife so well. I have been impressed with your courtesy and medical knowledge throughout her stay. We will see you on Friday.”

“Yes, doctor thank you so much,” Margaret added.

The doctor left the room, and Margaret was speechless over what had just happened.

“John, I didn’t expect . . . I mean . .I”

“Shh . . . Margaret. That took us both by surprise. I’m sorry your surprise was upsetting, but mine was magnificent. I am fortunate to have someone with such a beautiful body as yours. You are far lovelier than I deserve and expected. I’m afraid you have a few extra colors that I had never fantasized about, but we will heal them. I would have preferred to kiss you naked for the first time, but that still waits.”

John leaned in and kissed her lips passionately. He lifted her to his chest and ran one hand down her body over top of the sheet. Then he held her with both arms.

“I love you, John.” Margaret whimpered.

“I hope so because I would never give you up.” John kissed her again.

I Killed Him – pt 15

Chapter Fifteen

Grant Hartford began to assess the damages. He was damned to know how everything had gone wrong so quickly. It was the backhand to her face and the forceful sexual performance he had expected. That had worked in the past, but this time he’d gone too far with a woman who was a lady.

He pulled a sheaf of paper from his drawer and thought he’d start with a list of ‘irons in the fire.’ He sat there for a while. The list was blank. The only thing he knew for certain at that time was that Margaret was alive, now in hospital and married. The beatings to her body were no longer a secret. Maybe his ‘ace-in-the-hole’ was still playable. She never had known for sure that he did know of her brother so now that he didn’t have him anymore, it made little difference.

No one had yet to come after him for offenses against her, so perhaps she was still silent, covering for him, in order to maintain the safety of her brother.

On the other hand, her family would know of her injuries, and Captain Lenox and the Shaw’s knew that Margaret had been seeing him. Therein, lay the problem. Even if Margaret never spoke his name, the assumption would be there. Still, perhaps, they could do little with assumptions, legally.

Her husband could be a thorn in his side. If he was any man at all, he would seek some retribution. It would not matter if his wife admitted it to him or not, he would come after the man that had inflicted the fists to her body.

Grant thought, perhaps, this man, being only a mill master, may be willing to forego his revenge for a price. That was a long shot, but he had no worries about her husband in any regard. He could easily be dispatched, too.

Yes, Margaret had beating marks to her body, but until she told the world what happened to her, nothing was provable. He couldn’t believe a lady would admit what happened to cause his own injury. Margaret was the key. If she could never testify, he could get past the rumors as he’d done once before.

Grant knew he could put on a good act. He’d had Margaret and her family all fooled from the beginning, which included Captain Lenox. It would not be too hard to convince his Commander of his innocence if he tried hard enough. He would ask for reassignment and start over.

He drew up his battle plans and pulled out a map to see where Milton was located. No one in Milton knew what he looked like except Margaret and her family, who would be at the hotels or thereabouts. He would leave for Milton to reconnoiter the playing field and finalize his plans, once there.

He wrote the name, John Thornton, on his paper.

 

i-killed-him-268x179Margaret awoke in the middle of the night with a nightmare. Quickly she became aware that John was sleeping in the chair beside her with his hand on hers. She wondered if she was worthy of this almost unreal man and his love for her. How could she be so blessed?

She laid back down and began to think about the conversation they had never finished earlier about him staying the night. Why she asked herself. She was coming home tomorrow. There had to be more to his wanting to be close than he was saying.

“He feared for her!” swiftly bolted through her head. John loved her, but he was there for protection. That was the only thing that made sense. Why she asked herself again. Grant Hartford would never come seeking her in Milton, would he?

Margaret tried to step into Grant’s mind and see this situation from his perspective. A kaleidoscope of ideas cascaded through her mind. The colored chips of glass would change with every thought. She couldn’t put anything together. Were the police involved; no one had even asked her about informing the police. That was strange in and of itself. Aunt Shaw should have been hounding her to go to the police. John was handling her as delicate as was possible. He had shown no signs of anger or revenge. She would not wish him to be obliged to harm her perpetrator but not speaking about him at all was . . .

“What are you thinking, my love?” John whispered in the dark.

“I woke, not expecting you to still be here and found you holding my hand. How am I so lucky to be the woman of your choice? You’ve had many women to select from over the years, and I wonder what makes me special.”

“It would take me a long time to list all that I love about you. We shall save that for a time when you are healed.”

“Would you ever lie to me,” Margaret asked.

“Now, where did that come from?” he asked. “Do you think I have lied to you?”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

John pulled his hand from hers long enough to right himself in the chair. She was serious. Something was pressing in on her to have any doubts about him.

“Do you have doubts about marrying me?” John asked with a trembling voice held at bay.

“No. I have no doubts about being your wife or your love for me or my love for you.”

“Then, what is this?” John rubbed her arm with one hand and intertwined his other fingers in her hand.

“I guess I don’t mean ‘lie to me’ but hold something from me?”

“Such as?”

“Your being here tonight. I think you fear something and you are here to protect me.”

“Margaret, I will protect you all my life.”

“Is that a yes? I am the happiest woman in the world, John, being loved by you. I only have one fear and that is behind me now. I will move on. You will help me through the rough times, I know. By your sleeping in that horrid chair beside me, I feel there is something else happening that I know nothing of. It is a feeling, I have. Everyone is walking on eggs around me. No one has suggested going to the police. That seems strange. It occurred to me that my aunt did not once suggest I do something about that Captain. You know her well enough to know that is not her normal behavior. Talk to me, my husband. Where is your fear?”

John moved to her bed and sat beside her. He kissed her tenderly in the night. He held the sides of her face with both his hands and licked her lips. He kissed her eyes closed.

Margaret raised her arms gently to ensconce his face in her own hands. She couldn’t see him, but she ran her fingers through his hair, down his face, across his lips and pulled him back for a deep kiss that she could feel through her body.

John wrapped his arms carefully around and drew her to his chest, holding her there. He could feel her heart hammering as was his. There was no talking, only feeling. He pulled her braided hair lose and raked it with his fingers. Margaret moaned softly.

“Am I hurting you my love?” John whispered into her ear.

“Quite the contrary. Why do I feel your fingers pulling through my hair all the way to my toes?”

“That’s what love is all about, my Margaret.”

“I think we’d better stop. I’m feeling as if my body is light-headed all over. My nerve endings are tingling.”

“Oh God, Margaret, how I love you.” John made love to her mouth once again and then laid her back on her pillow, but stayed on the bed.

“I’ve had a cot put into our room for me to sleep away from you, but I think I’ll have to move to another room, altogether. I can’t help but want to touch you all over, and you’re still in a hospital. I have no control around you, it would seem.”

“I think I will be glad of your weakness very soon. I cannot think of what my own actions are going to be like after this.”

“Margaret, don’t think. At times like this, when we are moved to an emotional and passionate place, you don’t think, you just do. You draw from me and I from you. We want to become one, that is natural, that is love. You hold nothing back from me. You forget all that you were ever taught as a child, and you give yourself to me as I give myself to you. Never think, just love me. Be one with me.”

“John, that is beautiful. I am not sure I would even have the willpower to hold back if you make me feel like I just did.”

“That is beautiful to hear, too. You have just given me the pride to be the man to make the earth move for you of which I have only dreamt about. It’s within my reach, now.”

John could hear Margaret beginning to weep. He leaned down and swept away the new tears with his mouth and kissed her once again.

 

Captain Lenox was on the train platform to Milton by 6:00am. He carried with him a satchel with his uniform and other clothes as well as a portfolio of all gathered information. He had sat and tried to draw a picture of Grant, but that wasn’t one of his specialized skills. His training was more into ‘infiltration,’ where Grant’s was setting a battle field with logistics and strategy’s. Lenox had brought his small personal arsenal of two pistols, ammunition, but left his dress sword behind. To his way of thinking Grant had one recourse and that was to silence Margaret before she accused him directly of her mistreatment. Maxwell had to bring the man to Army justice or bring him down. He was an embarrassment to a proud and centuries old tradition of brave men, stemming back to the knights of old. Women were always championed, never mistreated or worse.

 

With the exception of a daylight cargo voyage across the channel, Frederick had traveled by night, mostly on foot, with the occasional merchant wagon giving him a lift on their way to market in Milton. After three years of running he didn’t feel the Navy was actively pursuing him, but would always be on the lookout should he ever be spotted by forces that knew of such wanted seaman. He felt more at ease from how he managed entry and exit from England, now almost two years ago. No one knew him in Milton. He would only be recognized in Helstone. It would not be beyond the Navy’s realm to check on his sister now and again to ensure that he had not taken refuge with her.

 

Margaret insisted that John go home and clean himself up and have a meal and hopefully she would be nearly ready for him when he returned. With his hesitation, it took constant prodding by Margaret for him to leave.

“I thought I once heard you say – and it was very recent – that you would not be able to deny me anything. Has that gone away?” Margaret smiled.

John kissed her for the fourth time that morning and did her bidding. He was surprised to find Branson waiting outside. Branson seemed to be nodding off in the box. John woke him by getting into the box himself.

“Master, I’m sorry. I haven’t even been waiting that long.”

“I didn’t expect you, but I’m glad you are here,” John said. “I would like you to go in the hospital and keep an eye on my wife while I run home for a short time.”

“I’ll be glad to, but wouldn’t you want me to drive you home first?”

“I’ll take the team,” John said, trying very hard, not to show his trepidation. It had been a long time since Branson had taught him how to handle a team and turning a coach.”

“You, sir? You’ll pull the coach?” Branson wanted to laugh.

“I see that smile you are hiding. Go ahead, laugh. I will permit it this time because these are unusual times.”

Branson took his Master at his word and burst out laughing.

“You know, Branson, I really didn’t think you would do that.” And then John laughed.

“Here Guv, take my cap. I’d be too embarrassed for anyone noticing it was you driving my team. They are used to an experienced driver.”

“Give me the damn cap and get out of the box,” John laughed.

From ground level, Branson shouted, “It’s WHOA to make them stop and WALK ON to make them start.” He turned his back on his master, almost in a fit of hysterics.

As Branson mounted the hospital steps he heard his master say, “Walk on . . . . walk on.”

“Guv, you have to ruffle the reins at the same time.” Branson didn’t have the heart to watch any longer and entered the hospital. He went to the registration desk to find where Mrs. Thornton was located. He wondered to himself, what should he call her. He’d have to see what Jane and Cook called her.

Branson found his way to the room and the door was open. He knocked lightly to get her attention before proceeding inside.

“Branson! Come here and give me a hug.”

Branson was stupefied. What planet was he on? The master driving the team­-the mistress wanting a hug.

“If you wish,” he babbled out.

“It’s very good to see you, Miss,” Branson gently put his arms around her, like an old friend. “My heartiest congratulations on your marriage. Besides being very happy because my boss is finally happy, you will now be saving me long hours of waiting for him.”

“You mean as he visits his past lady friends,” Margaret smiled, putting him at ease for the words he realized he’d misspoken.

“You have a real shiner, there, Miss. I’m not sure what to call you. Do you have a preference?”

“Hmm… you won’t call me Mrs. Thornton, I don’t want that rigid formality in our home as I am sure your master wouldn’t either. What do you call, John?”

“I usually call him Guv, which he has never seemed to mind. Once in a while, I’ll call him Master like everyone one at the Mill does.”

“Let me think. I would imagine Mistress would be most suitable, but you can leave it at Miss, short for Mistress, as far as I am concerned. If ‘the Guv’ says different, we’ll negotiate.”

Branson knew his Master had met and married the perfect woman for him. He almost loved her, himself, in a brotherly fashion.

“We all have been waiting for you to come home.”

“Home . . . that has a nice sound to it, Branson.” Margaret became a bit maudlin, and Branson didn’t know what to do.

“Did you pass John on the way here?”

Branson started with a big smile, and it turned into a chuckle.

“What has you smiling like that? You are going to make me laugh, and I don’t know why.”

“The Guv sent me in here, and he took the team home.”

“And why is that funny?”

“He really doesn’t ever drive the team. It’s been years. We’ll be lucky to see the coach return in one piece.”

Margaret started to laugh and then held herself around the ribs. “I’m sorry. That is funny, but right now, I have a hard time laughing.”

“Miss, we are all terribly upset about the . . . the horrible experiences you’ve been through.”

Margaret had to wonder if everyone knew everything.

“Thank you, Branson. That’s all behind us now,” Margaret said as she saw Branson’s serious face appear.

“What is it, Branson? And just why did your Guv send you to me, when we would meet again in a few hours?”

“I just obey him.” Branson worried that he couldn’t recover from the sense that she just picked up on.

“He is so happy today, he’s acting like another person from the one I’ve always known. I didn’t ask why I just did and am very happy to see you recovering. Do you have a bag packed or can I help you with anything?”

Margaret did not want to put Branson on the spot any longer.

“I’m waiting for a final visit and last minute directions from the doctor. Then, I believe, my cousin should be here any moment, to bring me a frock to dress in. Now, I am just waiting for me breakfast. Why don’t you sit down in that chair and so we can talk. Where’s your cap? Don’t you always wear a cap?”

Branson smiled. “I made the master wear it so no one would notice him. You don’t know how flustered I am at him driving my team.”

“Are they really your team? Is that common for a driver to be hired with his own team?”

“The master bought them, of course, but they’re mine, and he knows that. Besides my lady friend, they are my life.”

“Tell me about your lady friend. Is she pretty?”

“As pretty as they come. She’s about this high,” Branson indicated a few inches shorter than himself, “and she’s a little bit of a thing. She has black hair like the Guv, unlike my yellow hair.”

“Does she work at the mill?”

“Oh, no. She works for a lady in a ribbon shop on the main street.”

“Are there any thoughts by you for a future attachment to her?”

Branson began to squirm in his seat. “I’m not sure how that would work. I will never leave the Guv, and I don’t know how she’d feel living over a stable in two small rooms. I haven’t yet talked with the Master if there was any other answer.”

“Well, Branson, don’t worry. I am now half of the decisions being made in regards to the house. I might be able to have him see my way about some changes. Not in the very near future, mind you, I have to break him in gently . . . like a horse.” Margaret laughed, again, holding her ribs. “I’m sure he would not want to lose you, either. Let’s keep that in mind.”

“Thank you, Miss. I can see where a lot of things are going to change for the better when you are well.”

Edith came through the door with a small parcel in her hand. Aunt Shaw was right behind her.

“I’ll be outside the door,” Branson said and left the room.

I Killed Him – pt 12

 

Chapter Twelve

Twilight was falling, and so were Margaret’s eyelids. John could see her fighting sleep and knew he should leave. It was difficult to pull himself away. He wanted to lie beside her. He lifted her hand, kissing her palm and bent over to kiss her slightly parted lips. He could feel her breath as she slept. His emotions were becoming undone. He would seek out the doctor and see when she could come home with him.

John inquired at the registration desk as he neared the hospital doors.

“Mr. Thornton, I will check for you. He may have left by now. Please wait while I look for him.”

As John was waiting, he noticed journalists out front, still waiting after five hours. They were a determined lot, he thought.

A few moments later, Dr. Wagner came strolling into view without his white coat. “Congratulations, Mr. Thornton.”

“Thank you. I wanted to ask when I can take my bride home.”

“She is doing well. No doubt she has had incentive,” he said smiling. I think one more day should do it, but you and I will have to have a talk about this before she leaves.”

“I understand and had expected such. I surely understand there will be physical limitations if that is what the talk is mostly about.”

“I felt like I would not have needed to go over that with you. Your love shows strongly for her. I know you would do nothing to cause her the least bit of pain. No, there are a few other issues to discuss. See me tomorrow afternoon, anytime before five in the evening. And I think we can let her go the following day.”

“Very good then. I shall speak with you tomorrow.” John said.

As John walked out of the hospital doors and began his descent of the stairs; the journalists rushed him. Knowing this was inevitable, he said, “Today, at I Killed Him 250x375two this afternoon, I happily married the former Miss Margaret Hale, once a resident of Milton. That’s all I have to say.”

As he looked out, he saw Branson bringing the coach to the center front. He waded through all the journalists as Branson came to move them out of his way. Questions were being shouted at him, but he looked straight ahead in his normal stoic manner ignoring them all. Reaching his coach, he removed his top hat and stepped inside. Branson scampered into his box and whipped the team to a fast start before the reporters could run alongside.

 

Adam Bell was waiting in his sitting room when he arrived home. John hardly remembered getting home; his mind had been more agreeably engaged.

“Good evening, Adam. I think I need a drink too,” he smiled. “I’ve never had a better day in my life. My wait has been rewarded. All the heartbreak and loneliness has reversed itself. I feel whole for the first time in many years.” John poured his scotch and sat in his favorite chair.

“Cheers, my friend,” said Adam. It’s a bit of a sad time for me as I have had to hand her away from me. I did so in great confidence knowing she is where she wants to be and will be well loved and cared for.”

“Yes, she will. You know me well enough to have no doubts there. I spoke with the doctor before facing the journalists outside. He says Margaret will be able to come home the day after tomorrow.”

“That’s good news, John. She looked the happiest I’ve ever seen her, today. I must admit we were all taken aback at her injuries. I noticed the finger marks on her neck and upper arms. She may be mentally delicate for a long time.”

“I am prepared for that. I am prepared to see her through whatever it takes. There is no sacrifice I will not make.”

“Are you still resolute in your actions against the man who did this?” asked Adam, worried. “She’s going to heal. Isn’t that the most important issue?”

“Yes, of course, it is, but it is not the only one. I will have some redress to her abuse. Adam, maybe you can’t understand this, but if Margaret walked away from me tomorrow, I would still do what I am planning. I cannot be the man that I want to be for her if I let this pass. I do it for myself. She will not know.”

“And if you get caught?”

“I won’t.”

 

The coachman carried the Shaw bags to the platform and handed them to a porter. Edith and her mother walked to the ticket counter and bought their fare to Milton. Captain Lenox still had made no appearance, but Edith was assured he’d know where they were when he could not find them at home. Edith could only wonder what he was doing. Maxwell, she knew, had taken a great interest in this other Captain and the mysteries that surrounded him.

Maxwell had traveled to a small hamlet that rumors alluded to having been a part in Hartford’s abandonment of a woman he begat with child. Thinking ahead, he left his uniform home for fear that the townsfolk would shun him. He talked with the constabulary, but with little reason to know the facts, was told nothing. However, he did know the name of the young woman involved.

It took him half a day to locate the family. They lived a little way out of town. Several years ago, Ellen had worked in the local tavern but was now raising a two year old, while living with her parents.

Knocking on the door, he asked to speak with Ellen’s father in private. The two men walked away from the small cottage while Maxwell pled his case against Captain Hartford, and the father believed him. Everyone in town knew the circumstances, so the father had little compunction to hide anything.

The two men sat under a tree and talked for two hours. Maxwell learned that his daughter had been raped but it was her word against the Captain’s and nothing was done about it. Her betrothed went mad and eventually sought out Captain Hartford, and whether it was a fair fight or not, was killed. He had been left for dead, without witnesses and it had always been assumed that Hartford had murdered him. Being a young man, only carrying a knife against a trained military man with a gun, it couldn’t be seen in any other light, as the father told it. Again, that seemed to be common knowledge in the small town but who could go up against the Army.

The father went on to tell Maxwell that a detective from London had been there the day before asking the same questions. He said he was happy to see that the man may not get away with what he did.

Maxwell was surprised. He thanked the man for being so candid and apologized for the intrusion in bringing this up, but promised that he would see that something was done about it. He never spoke of his fiancé’s cousin. It was almost a day’s ride home, and he slept under a tree that night. He was determined to see that justice was carried out. He would contact Detective Boyle at the Met on his way home.

 

That morning, John had breakfast with Adam in the hotel. Adam told John that he hoped to hear from Frederick today and would find him at the hospital if it arrived.

“John, also, be prepared for the Shaw’s to arrive a little after midday. I am sure they will go to the hospital from the train and send the bags along to the hotel. I cannot say that I envy you their visit. Mrs. Shaw will hover and insist this, that and the other.”

“I have anticipated that. It shall not last long.”

“If you are a gentleman, I’m not so sure how well that will work.”

“I do not intend to be a gentleman. I intend to be a husband, and they will see it that way.”

“You’ve become a study to me, John,” Bell admitted.

“In what way?”

“You are almost a different person. The changes that have taken place in your countenance, over the last five days, have been nothing short of extraordinary. You are still John Thornton, but one I’ve never seen.”

“You have never been in love and cannot know the feeling a man gets when his love has been tortured at the hands of another man. I have usually lived in what I’m now calling ‘middle ground.’ I have been torn to shreds these past days. Middle ground is gone; the John that most people know is gone, for now. I am living either in euphoric happiness or finding the depths of a black soul that must reside in me, right now. I am totally at its mercy.”

“John, you’ve always been able to control yourself. I am sure you will find that with Margaret in your life. Why can’t you control this other half?”

“Because I don’t want to. I can’t explain it. I’ll be glad when it has past.”

“And when might that happen?”

John picked up his fork and ignored the question.

Changing the subject, Adam asked, “Have you seen today’s paper this morning?”

“No, why?” John asked, dabbing his mouth with his napkin while accepting the offered newspaper.

The headline was bold.

 

Mill Master John Thornton of Marlborough Mills Weds Miss Margaret Hale.

 

John Thornton stated for this paper, that he and a Miss Margaret Hale, formerly of Milton were happily wed yesterday at 2:00 pm. When asked to comment further, he declined as he left the hospital steps where he’s been seen frequenting of late. The hospital spokesman has declined to speak. It is unknown if Miss Hale, now, Mrs. Thornton, works or is a patient at The Greater Milton Hospital.

Mr. Thornton, a Magistrate and Mill Master of two Mills, is best known for his leadership in the burgeoning age of the Machine . . .

 

John set the paper down and continued his breakfast.

“No comment, Mr. Thornton,” Adam smarmed.

“I would rather have been left alone,” John replied in a serious tone.

 

Captain Grant Hartford picked up his personal post from the first delivery. The only note was from his man in Paris. He anxiously snapped the seal and sat in his chair.

 

Sir,

I have had it with watching this man. He has disappeared, and so did the woman he was living with. I told you it would take two of us to watch him all the time. Now, he is gone. I’ve spent two days watching the postal station, and he has not returned for any letters. Asking questions has led nowhere. You do not pay enough for this boring work. I quit. If you want him so bad, you come find him. I gave you his address in previous note. Good luck.

 

“Bloody hell!” Grant shouted, drawing attention from the other officers. He crumpled the note and threw it into the fire.

“What’s wrong, Grant?” Someone laughingly shouted. “Did your woman leave you?” There was general laughter throughout the room.

Grant ignored them and they went back to whatever they had been doing.

He’d lost his prey, his only means to keep Margaret Hale fearful. She didn’t know that, but he didn’t know where she was or if she was alive. With the detective sniffing around, Grant decided he’d have to rethink his tactics because his game was about to fall to pieces. Maybe she didn’t need to marry him, he could just blackmail her for the money – or ­­­­­– maybe she just needed to be gone so he could wipe his slate clean and start with someone else.

 

John took the small buggy and pulled to the rear of the hospital. As he approached Margaret’s room, there seemed to be a disturbance in front of her closed door. He ran down the hall.

Arriving, the reporters noticed him and turned to fling questions at him from all angles.

“I will answer two questions. This is my private life, and I mean to keep it that way. I will bring my whole mill down here to remove all of you if I have to. I can, also, call out the guards, if you want to spend some time in jail. This room is off limits to all of you. You will eventually know my wife when she has recovered.

“Mr. Thornton, why is your wife here?”

“Mrs. Thornton has unfortunately been the victim of an attack, which happened in London.

“Is there any reason why you rushed a wedding instead of waiting for her recovery? Another journalist asked.

“Quite simply, I love her and have for a long time. That’s all for the foreseeable future until she is well. Good day.”

John walked to the door and stood with his back to it until the crowd had dispersed.

Dr. Wagner came and thanked him for his intervention. You have a lot of power, Mr. Thornton, I’ve never known a whole lot about you, but I am significantly impressed that you have that much clout. Do you often make threats like that?”

“Only one other time when there was a riot at my mill, years ago. It does not please me to bring all I can bear to a situation, but I will not have Margaret harassed.

“I do believe you accomplished your mission.”

“The door is closed. May I go in?” John asked.

“As of yesterday, Mr. Thornton, you have full privileges in the room anytime. But under the circumstances, Miss Hale may have reservations that she will slowly have to work into. I think I’d knock.”

John knocked. “Mrs. Thornton?”

“Who is it?” Margaret called out knowing well it was John.

“Mrs. Thornton, I hope you know my voice by now.”

“Oh come in John. I knew it was you. I’m having oatmeal this morning. Care to join me?”

“I just had breakfast with Adam but a few moments ago. How was your night? As pleasant as mine, I hope.” John went over and kissed her good morning.

“John you would turn red if I told you about my dreams. These dreams are so new to me. You, for being a man of the world, would probably find them quite dull. I’m too embarrassed to even talk about them with you.”

John broke out in a smile. Margaret, my thoughts, dreams, and plans have never included love, and they no longer reflect the opportunity to assuage my needs. My needs are your pleasure now, not my own.”

“I’m embarrassed to say that I have been remembering my romance novels, the rumors, the learning at school, and the women that talk. If half of them are true, I’m afraid I will be a letdown. I don’t know how to do any of those lustful things. I have no experience.”

“Margaret, your innocence is what I look forward to most. We will create our own world, just for the two of us.”

‘You will not compare me to others of more daring adventures?”

“No. Never. I want us to find our way. That doesn’t mean it’s everything that you have ever heard of. I will love pleasuring you every way that you will allow. I am going to be grateful for whatever you give. Our love will grow. Do not dwell on that.”

Margaret looked into his lap and noticed his trousers were tight. “Am I causing that?” she pointed.

“I’m afraid so. You will have to get used to it, for that will happen for many years. I will never have enough of you.”

“Does that hurt?”

“John laughed. I am not going to answer that question. You will answer it for yourself one day soon. Which reminds me, I talked with Dr. Wagner last night as I left. With some training for you and I, today, I can take you home tomorrow. He wants to talk with me about what to expect, sometime later this afternoon. I doubt I will be able to talk with you about it much since your cousin and aunt should be here by then. Margaret, I am going to tell them how it is with you and I, now. You are mine. I am your husband and guardian in a sense. They are resolved of all duties except loving you. Should your aunt try to tell you what is best,,, I am going to speak up. Will you mind that?”

“No, John. I place myself into your hands. You and only you can rule me but only to a certain extent. I will reserve a few of my own rites, you know.”

“Oh, you will, will you. Hmm… We’ll have to discuss that. And to be fair, I expect you to dominate me almost completely. I hesitate in admitting that, but I cannot deny you anything.”

“Do you think we could get the doctor here this morning before my aunt gets here. I am so anxious to leave here.”

“When the nurse comes in, we shall ask.”

 

Adam Bell checked at the registration desk for the first post and was surprised to see a note from Fred. He thought it would be another day. He tucked it into his pocket and strolled towards the guest lounge. This is what they had been waiting for. Perhaps, during the Shaw visits today, he could meet with John and the other men and solidify plans that had already begun on paper. As soon as they could get Frederick out of Paris, or France, the Captain could have no hold over Margaret. She was now married, but he still had Frederick within his grasp. Adam had to wonder what this Captain thought about Margaret’s disappearance. Would he be glad of it, knowing what he did or would he come after her to keep her quiet? Officers in uniform did not take their commissions for granted. He would go far to preserve what he had.

Adam found a comfortable chair and opened the rather long note.

 

 

 

 

AB _

 

Received your note and acted immediately. Still in Paris with friend. I have brought my fiancé with me. We will need accommodations for two. Cannot sleep rough on move. I will be indebted for your help in getting Lisa moved out of Paris.

These past few weeks, I have felt the presence of someone around the periphery of my life. If he was there, I have now lost him. Send help for Lisa at the address below. I am coming to Milton on my way to London to find my sister and this man. If in his coercion of my Margaret, he has harmed her in any way, he will be dispatched. Do whatever needs to done to keep her from marrying him in the next few days until I can arrive.

I will find you or Thornton. Don’t look for me.

My sister is too dear to me, and it is like her to do what she is doing. I will not let that happen.

I am leaving Lisa in the care of my friend Nathan. Any correspondence to her or me should be addressed at…      Randall

 

Adam had not expected Frederick to take such actions as entering England again but then realized that Frederick didn’t know John Thornton or the trust he could feel with him watching over Margaret. What would he do when seeing his sister and learning of her injuries? Finding a new place for his fiancé seemed an easy task since Frederick was taking all the risks, but there was good news to know that he had lost his shadow. That pretty much left this Captain out in the cold; it would seem. This situation, with Margaret, seemed to be growing and growing with revenge being the only issue at hand, of which Margaret knew nothing. What would she think when hearing of Frederick coming to her rescue? It was starting to look like a family reunion in Milton with everyone missing the wedding.

Adam felt there was no way that he could stop Frederick from coming now so their plans to move his Lisa could be done quickly and with only one or two of them leaving.

Frederick was going to need a place to stay while everything was sorted out, and that place had to be somewhere on Marlboro Mills property. He’d better find John immediately. It was likely that Frederick left after posting his letter and could soon be here.

 

I Killed Him – pt 11

Chapter Eleven

If Margaret thought she had been in a weakened state before, it was now officially confirmed when John walked through the door in his exquisite evening I Killed Him 250x375attire. He had a yellow rose in his lapel and a yellow rose nosegay for Margaret. He handed Nicholas and Adam yellow roses for their apparel and went directly to Margaret. Peggy moved away and everyone walked out of the room to give them privacy. Nicholas even closed the door behind them.

John knelt at Margaret’s feet.

“I love you more this minute than any time before. Are you ready to be Mrs. John Thornton?”

“You know I am. John, you are so handsome, you make me want to cry.”

“All for you, my love. Only and forever for you, Margaret. Where is that stunning hospital gown I was expecting? I even wore a white cravat to match you,” he smiled. You look positively stunning. And what are you doing sitting on the side of the bed? Shouldn’t you be sitting up with pillows behind you?”

“I convinced the doctor that there was nothing wrong with me legs. I want to stand beside you for as long as I can. When you kiss me at the end of the vows, just don’t squeeze me too hard. I’ll take a lot of pain for that kiss I want so badly, though.”

“Oh, how I want to squeeze you now. I cannot wait to get you home so that I can serve you and hold you and stroke your forehead and kiss your neck. I am going to stop there, or you will know me better than you should right now.”

Margaret smiled and grimaced once again.

John leaned in and parting her lips gave her a sensual kiss. “I won’t be able to do that with everyone watching. Are you ready?”

“I’ve been ready for two years. I am eagerly waiting to give you my vows. I do so love you, John Thornton.”

John kissed her once again and then helped her to her feet. Do you have a preference where you want stand?”

“I think at the end of the bed. I can lean back on the footboard if I need to.”

“If you need to lean, you lean on me. I want you to lean on me always, Miss Hale. And say goodbye to Miss Hale, now.”

John placed Margaret at the end of the bed and opened the door for the others to take their places.

Margaret was surprised that Adam stood next to her and not John. She realized he was giving her away. She looked up into his eyes, and both had tears welling.

The minister stood facing Adam and Margaret and asked who gives this woman away.

Adam said, “I do.” Adam turned to shake John’s hand and then placed Margaret’s hand into John’s. Adam and John exchanged places.

Peggy collected the flowers Margaret had been holding and Margaret could feel John looking down on her. She peeped up and saw an almost reverent benevolent smile. His eyes were speaking his love to her heart.

Staff from the hospital had drifted in, including Nurse Pickering and Dr. Wagner.

The minister continued into the vows and then Nicholas had to fish out the emerald ring for Margaret’s finger, to hand John. Margaret gasped at its loveliness as John looked into her face and slowly slid it onto her finger, then squeezed her hand. Margaret felt her knees trembling, and John felt that happening, too. He gently folded his arm around her waist and held her up until the final words of Man and Wife were spoken. He had wanted to kiss her tenderly in front of the crowd but found no success there. He kissed her for long moments, to the applause of everyone in the room. John, the passionate man and lover, was finally revealed to all who watched.

As soon as he gave her breath, he escorted her to the chair, where she received all the well wishes and kisses.

 

The doctor was in and out of Margaret’s room until he thought the festivities had gone on long enough. He could see his patient tiring and spoke to Mr. Thornton. John went to his friends and told them of Margaret’s fatigue. To Adam, he said he would seem him later this evening at his home.  Branson carried the minister back to the church and John said he would get a cabby to take him home.

“No, sir. I will be back for you. I will be outside starting at 7:00 pm.

John walked his friends to the hospital entrance while Nurse Pickering changed Margaret back into a fresh cotton gown and got her comfortably settled into her bed.

“Mrs. Thornton, you can’t seem to stop smiling.”

Margaret paused, hearing that phrase for the first time from someone other than John. Her face flushed as the smile grew larger.

“Mrs. Thornton,” she sighed out loud.

“Yes, Mrs. Thornton,” John repeated coming back through the door.

The nurse disappeared knowing that Margaret was settled, perhaps in the best situation of her life.

John quietly pushed the door closed when she had left, not latching it, but hiding them from onlookers. He walked back to Margaret’s bedside and took the chair pulling it close to his new wife.

“Margaret, you have made me the happiest man on this earth today. Even up until you said, ‘I do’, I feared something might interrupt us for what I have waited for since meeting you. I want to make you as happy as I am.”

“You already have. You’ve taken on a woman of reduced circumstances, who treated you poorly, and then left you heartbroken. I am a woman who returns to you when everything in her life has failed her and asks for sanctuary, and you took me in. You give me love and not just abidance.”

“Margaret, stop that. You sound like you are making yourself self out to be a charity case. Had I known there was any regard for me, I would have sought you out long ago. I have done nothing but think about you. I tried to carry on; I saw very few women since you left, but no one could compare to you, my love. Under any condition imaginable, I wanted you, everyday in every way. For the past few months, I have even thought of selling the mills. I had to make some change in my life to get past you or give up living. I could no longer face the world with you somewhere that I couldn’t touch. Don’t ever think there is gratitude in my love for you. You don’t think that I could ever entertain the idea that you returned because I just happen to be a little better than the last man seeking you. Do you? No, I know that you love me and today was something we both wanted. This wedding was not a rescue for either of us. We’re married because we should have done this, two years ago. I know I rushed you into this, perhaps much faster than is proper. Here you lay in a hospital bed, delirious on laudanum and saying you will be my wife. I hope you never come to regret that. I was terribly selfish in gaining your hand while you were willing.”

“John, now you stop talking that way. I was not delirious when I accepted your offer of marriage. It wasn’t long after I was taken from Milton that I knew I had left my heart behind. I felt trapped between the two men I love most in this world. I knew I broke your heart as mine had already done, but my brother’s life could have been at stake and that weighed a bit heavier than my happiness.”

“Margaret, let’s not dwell on the past and the why’s. We have finally reached each other for all time and that’s all that matters, now. We just need you to concentrate on getting you well, so that you can come home with me. You cannot imagine how my mind is carrying me too far off places I’ve never thought of before. You will be loved like no other woman.”

“I hope can live up to your expectations.” Margaret said softly.

“Margaret, you far exceeded my expectations long long ago. I guess I am too anxious to know all of you and I have told you not to think of me being anxious. There is love driving me, not lust. It feels quite different, you know? My desire lies more with me wanting to please you than the other way around. It is a most exhilarating fantasy, waiting to come true. You’re blushing! Black eye, red cheeks, what more could a man ask for?” John laughed.

“I loved our little wedding. Everyone here wanted this for us, too. I am glad it is behind us now, so when I face my aunt, she will have no advice to give me.”

“Yes, I am afraid you have a couple more days of discomfort with visitors. Your aunt and cousin will want to know what happened, why you are here, and why you are married. It will be up to you what you say to them. I will not tell them what I know.” John moved towards Margaret’s lips. It was their first kiss since the ceremony. Margaret was able to manage one arm around John’s neck. John put one arm behind her, anchoring his hand under her bottom and pulled her to him. The other hand stroked her face and neck. He tenderly made love to her with his tongue and hers intertwining. They eventually pulled apart and John withdrew his hand from underneath her. That had been their most intimate contact.

“John.”

“Yes, my love. What is it?”

“This medicine hasn’t dulled all my feelings.”

“I don’t understand. What are you telling me?”

Margaret blushed and smiled causing John to kiss her again, as before.

I Killed Him – pt 10

Chapter Ten

Captain Hartford returned to post with explanations to his Commander. He had entered his Commander’s office with great hesitancy only to be buoyed by the fact that nothing seemed out of order. Surely, there would be a severe questioning session if Miss Hale or Detective Boyle had come to him with any suspicions. Grant wondered how long it would be before Miss Hale was found, dead or alive. She had to have taken her own life as she admitted she had been thinking of doing. There could be little hope of reconciliation after all this time, if she lived. Grant decided to stop worrying about Miss Hale and do something about it. Looking over his shoulder was something he caused to others, and not something he would endure himself. Once he could locate her, he would dispose of her as he had once done to the fiancé of a woman he forcefully bedded. When all doubts of his involvement in her death were well and truly dismissed, he would pick his moment to expose her brother and gain the accolades of the crown.

 

I Killed Him 250x375It was nearing midday when the Shaw household received their post. The housemaid set it on the table in the foyer where it always rested in a silver tray. Edith and her mother were in the parlor still suffering the loss of Margaret.

“The police have had twenty four hours and still no word,” Mrs. Shaw stated as she paced the room. “She cannot have just disappeared off the face of the earth.”

Edith remembered spotting Margaret’s reticule on the sofa in the house of Captain Hartford. She knew the police had that knowledge but her aunt did not. Edith began to think that the waiting was starting to take a great toll on her and her mother. A doctor should be summoned tomorrow to ease her mother’s nerves.

“Mother, how about a cup of tea with me?”

“Yes, Edith, ring for the maid.”

The maid entered the parlor as requested and asked what she could do. Directed to bring a tray of tea, she turned to leave, offhandedly telling the Mistress that the post had arrived.

Edith walked to the foyer and brought the small bundle into the parlor. Noticing a post from Mr. Bell, she handed it quickly to her mother.

Mrs. Shaw snapped the seal in an instant and began to read of Margaret’s whereabouts. Almost with the vapors, she grabbed her heart and shouted, “She’s alive. Margaret is alive. She is in Milton.”

Edith pulled the note from her mother’s waving hands and read it for herself.

“Mother, it says she is injured and in the hospital there. We must go at once.”

“Edith, we will go a first light tomorrow. We will pack. Today we need to inform Maxwell and he will know who else should know of this. Oh, Thank the Lord, she is alive. Do you think Maxwell could have some time to come with us?”

“I hope so, Mother. He’s been very involved in this, much more than I think we know. I will take the buggy to the post right away.” Edith went outside and asked the groomsman to harness the buggy. She returned to the house for her shawl and to calm her mother before leaving.

As Edith reined the light buggy towards the fort, she kept repeating the words ‘particularly injurious condition’. Now, she was sure and Maxwell would be too, that Captain Hartford was hiding something. It did solve the worry that he had her tied up somewhere in his home or other place. Still upsetting to Edith was, why did she not come home that night. Did Hartford drop her home or not? Did her cousin have to run away from him? What took her to Milton?

Edith thought about the note saying that she had arrived at Mr. Thornton’s home. She had run to him for help, for protection. She still loved the man. It was as plain as day but created more questions than it answered. She could have had nothing to do with Captain Hartford, so why did she? Edith couldn’t wait to get to Milton tomorrow and she hoped Maxwell could attend with them.

 

The guard at the post gate admitted Edith Shaw into the visitor area behind the first gate. He sent a horseman across the fort to fetch Captain Lenox, if he were in his quarters. He was not and knowledge of his whereabouts was not immediately known.

Edith wrote a note, sealing it and handing it to the guard. “Please see that he gets this as soon as possible. It is a family emergency,” she told him, lying just a little bit.

Instead of returning home immediately, she went to see the local constable to acquaint him with the facts that they had just received. Someone should know something before they stepped onto the train tomorrow bound for Milton.

“You say you have had word from the Mr. Bell, who you spoke about before, that Miss Hale is in a Milton hospital?”

“Yes, that’s correct. I do not remember the exact wording but it said she arrived, injured, at the home of Mr. Thornton, a man who she once had feelings for. I believe she ran to the only male she trusted. Mr. Bell was not in London, and my fiancé, Captain Lenox, also, wears a red coat. She may not have wanted to confide anything to him. I’m just guessing, you understand.”

“I know of this Mr. Thornton. He is a well respected Mill Master in Milton. He has done much to place that city on the map. I will get this information over to the Met right away. You say you are leaving for Milton in the morning?”

“Yes, early.”

“Is Captain Lenox going with you?”

“I’ve just come from trying to locate him to see if he could accompany my mother and I, but he couldn’t be located. And should he contact us, I do not know if he would be permitted to leave his post.”

“Do you know where you will be staying when you arrive, in case the need arises?”

“Yes, we will be registered at the Milton Grand Hotel, but will be found at the hospital, I am sure.”

“Since we and the Met have a file started on Miss Hale, someone should be down there tomorrow as well. We will need her statement.”

“I’m glad to hear that. This is all so confusing.”

“Do you have a particular sense of what is confusing to you?”

“She is my best friend, and I believe I am hers. After her father died a year ago, she came to live with us rather than staying in Milton alone. I should rephrase that. My mother insisted that she come and stay with us. As she began to slowly recover from her grief, she talked more about Mr. Thornton, quite a bit more. I could tell that she had loved him, but something wasn’t right between them when the death came and my mother pulled her to London. I’ve been confused since this letter this morning.”

“And why is that?”

“I do not see why she began to see or continued to see this Captain Hartford if her heart lay elsewhere. It’s quite unlike Margaret to do something she does not want to do. Like we said before, when she began seeing this Captain we started noticing a different person in her. She was quiet and withdrawn. That in and of itself was odd, but now, out of nowhere, she runs to her first love. I can’t blame her for that. The note said she was injured. Captain Hartford had to be abusive for her to run so far and not let us know. In her darkest hour she ran to the man she loved.

 

Mr. Bell was Margaret’s first visitor, almost an hour early. Margaret had tears in her eyes after seeing him come into her room and set down his top hat and cane.

“Margaret, my dear.” Were the only words that Adam Bell could say as he walked towards her. He struggled to hold his own emotions back as he looked at her face with the black eye.

Margaret tried to stand from the side of her bed, to hug him, but didn’t make it. Adam knelt on one knee in front of her and wondered how he could hug her. Instead he held her shoulders and kissed her on top of her head.

“Margaret, I have no words and you know that is most unlike me. You cannot know how we have grieved over what you have suffered. Before you ask, I think we have Frederick in a safe position. We will know more by tomorrow or the next day. Your torment is over and here, today, you finally wed the man that you should have, two years ago. Margaret you don’t know how John has been waiting for this day. He will not show it, but he is extremely upset at what this man has done to you, but you have brought him the happiest time he’s ever been in all his life.”

Margaret tried to bend and reach forward to put her arms around him but only found a small success. “I know, Adam. It took leaving him to know how much I loved him. I’m the lucky one that he didn’t have another woman in his life. I’m blessed that he still loves me.”

“I know you couldn’t know, but there was never any doubt in that. It was all too clear to me. You two will make the best couple I have ever had the good fortune to know. So, are you healing as expected?”

“Yes, I am doing well. I think I might even be a day ahead of their expectations or it could be just the good day that started for me today. You see the decorations that the hospital staff did for our wedding. I think John bought the entire flower seller’s wares. Look at this room. I did not think we could get the alcohol smell out of here, but John found away. Oh, Adam, I do love him.”

“And where did this frock come from? You did not arrive with that. I bet someone on the staff brought something from home for you. I must say it clashes with your bright black eye,” Bell laughed instead of crying for his charge.

“Oh, wasn’t that nice of them to do. John will be so surprised. The doctor and nurse worked with me this morning so I can stand for a few moments for the ceremony. I’m glad John doesn’t have to remember this day with me wearing a while sheet,” Margaret laughed and then grimaced. “I can see that laughing will a bit uncomfortable for a few weeks.”

Adam Bell stood and pulled a small chair to her side.

“Adam, who knows about me?” Margaret asked in a serious tone.

“That would be myself, John, of course, Nicholas and his wife, and Branson. Your aunt should be getting my note today about your condition, I didn’t say much, mostly about your whereabouts. I expect them very late tonight but more likely tomorrow afternoon. I have rooms reserved. Only John, Branson, Nicholas and myself, know about Fred. I hope John has told you we are making plans and feel good that Frederick is taking actions now, on his own. We want to help him get to another country. I am sure your cousin and aunt have been to the police about you being missing, but I don’t know what they told them. They didn’t know about this treatment that you were hiding from all of us, from this Captain Hartford.”

“You know about that? All of that?”

Adam, slowly nodded his head and pulled her hands into his. “Margaret we all love you. You can’t hurt and we not know why. It is absolutely unbearable to think of what you endured. He will be dealt with; you can be assured of that.”

“How? I cannot stand in a witness box and tell strangers what I have been through.”

“That is not going to happen. John is going to see to that. You must speak with him after your happy wedding day today.”

Changing the subject, “Margaret, your parents would be so proud of you and Frederick would be too, if he knew John. I hope they meet some day.”

“I want that more than anything. Besides you, Frederick is the only family that I have and who’s opinion I highly regard.”

“Margaret, you certainly have mine. You could not find a man that loves you more, will cherish you, will protect you beyond his own life, than John Thornton. It’s nice that you love him, too, don’t you think?”

“I couldn’t ask for anything better in my life than to have found him. And to think I did not like him when I saw him. The first I saw of him, he was losing his temper.” Margaret paused, thinking of that side of John. What would he do if he came face to face with Captain Hartford? Margaret set that aside for later thought.

Next came, Nicholas and Peggy through the door. Peggy set the cake off to a side cabinet and ran to Margaret. “Oh dear, Margaret. I wish the circumstances could be different but I am so glad to have you back in Milton. I have missed my friend. And now, you are going to be the famous Mrs. John Thornton.” Peggy kissed her on the good cheek followed by Nicholas doing the same thing.

“Miss Margaret, you have finally reeled in the catch of Milton. It’s about time. I’m tired of watching over his life and his moods. It’s your turn now.” Nicholas said.

“You two are scaring me. You mean I will be famous?” she laughed.

“Oh yes, you will need a spokesman to talk with all those reporters outside. They know something is up with John being seen here so many days in row. You don’t know how many hearts you will break today when you take him off the market,” Nicholas continued.

“Look at this room!” said Peggy. The women started to talk as Adam gave Peggy his seat and went to the corner to talk with Nicholas. Both had to admit they were wearing false smiles, when all they felt was sorrow and rage at this initial look at Margaret.

“I think we’ll both do better when we see the happiness on John’s face in a little while. I can’t say it will be worth what it costs, but everyone’s prayers are answered today,” added Nicholas.

 

John finally remembered to tell Cook and Jane that he was getting married today and that Mrs. Thornton should be in the house in a few days. Cook jumped for joy and Jane smiled for the happiness of her employer.

“There will be no celebration here at the house, at least not today. Mr. Bell may come back for a drink or two, and maybe one or two more, but no food will be necessary. I would hope between the two of you, you can stock the house with what a woman needs. I’m not sure of what it all is and Mrs. Margaret Thornton will not be in a position to shop for herself. Cook, since you go home nightly, the live-in nurse will take your room for a week or so. Include her in all meals as well.”

“Master, we are so very happy for you. I’ve been waiting for this day nigh on ten years. I’ve watched ‘em come and go. You and I have had our talks about a few of them, but no one ever measured up to Miss Hale in our eyes and apparently yours, either. Congratulations. We will do everything thing to help her settle in and teach her how to run this house.”

“Thank you, ladies. I couldn’t ask for more. I think you will come to love my lady as I do. I guess it will take some getting used to, to have a woman in the house after the both of you have left for the day. Somehow, I think I will manage that,” John smiled.

“I’m sure you will manage that quit well,” said Cook. The wedding starts shortly and Branson and I must pick up the minister.”

“Do you have the ring in your pocket,” asked Mother Cook.

John tapped his vest pockets and went scurrying back to his bedchamber to the clothes he had on moments ago. Coming back through the kitchen on his way to the stables, he kissed Cook on the cheek. “You saved me a terrible embarrassment. Thank you. Next you see me, I will be married.” John picked up his best top hat and left through the back door.

I Killed Him – pt 9

Chapter Nine

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.”

 

John waited for the room to empty and the door to close. Margaret was clutching feverishly at his arm that held her hand. He could not allow her to back away from him now. Although she hadn’t heard the worst, maybe she didn’t have to.

“Margaret. I am so sorry for what you have endured. This will never happen to you again. I will always be with you and protect you for all my days. Who is this man that has done this to you?”

“Fred. Frederick is in danger.”

I Killed Him 250x375John continued to stroke her and kiss her gently about the face and mouth.

“Margaret, Mr. Bell has written to Frederick about the danger he could be in. He should have received that by now. We should know his situation in about two days. Margaret, can you hear me?”

Margaret nodded almost imperceptibly.

“Mr. Bell wrote to him before your last encounter with this man that beat you. Surely your brother has moved on with caution. There is a plan in action to go to his aid, which will be Mr. Bell, Branson, and Nicholas. They love you and want the best for your brother. Please don’t worry too much. You need to get well, and we need to marry tomorrow. Margaret, I love you more than my own life. I want you forever and beyond. I want to protect you and please you and pleasure you. I cannot live another day with you out of my life. Please, will you marry me?”

“Are you sure, John? I have remembered more about what made me run, and the doctor never mentioned my worst attack. I think you will find me dirty when you know.”

“Margaret, I know all. I know the worst.” John leaned in and kissed her tenderly, parting her lips with his tongue and swept away all her doubts.

“You can still love me knowing that? I can’t stand myself.”

“Margaret, yes, you were violated. Besides the fact that I want to avenge you, I find you are still the loveliest woman in my life. Don’t think of that time. It means nothing to me as far as you are concerned.”

“How can you be so understanding?”

“I love you. How can I not be understanding? You are a victim. You may not remember, but I am a magistrate. I have seen all of the vulgarities that a man can inflict upon an unwilling woman. Just don’t let it change you. You are so very brave right now, and I am overwhelmingly proud of you to not let this crush you. The spirit that I love about you will hold you up, and I will too.”

John kissed her again and again until her tears slowed down.

“Now, you haven’t answered my question. Will you marry me tomorrow?”

“Here?”

“Yes. I want you to be Mrs. John Thornton as of yesterday, but two in the afternoon tomorrow will do fine.”

“I will, John,” Margaret paused, hardly believing that a two year dream was about to come true. She smiled to him.

“I love you. It took me until I left to know I have always loved you. I couldn’t tell you about Fred. I was afraid for both of you.”

“I know, my love. If it bothers you, I will resign as a Magistrate, but how I see, it is: the Navy wants him, not the judicial system.”

“Oh, John. I’ve never been as happy as I am at this moment.”

“I feel the same, my lovely incredible Margaret,” John said, absorbing the moment. “I have your ring with me, but you shall not see it until tomorrow. I will bring Nicholas and Peggy as witnesses.”

“Bring Mr. Bell, too, and I’d like Branson to come.”

“As you wish, Mrs. Thornton.”

“That sounds incredibly marvelous . . . Mrs. Thornton,” Margaret repeated.

“I’ve waited a long time to call you that.”

“I’ve waited a long time to hear it.”

 

While the nurse fed Margaret her nightly meal, John spoke with Dr. Wagner, in the corner, about Margaret’s full knowledge of everything that they knew.

“She’s taking it well, Mr. Thornton. Be watchful of her. I do not think we’ve seen the last of this terrible experience. If that torture germinates, it could manifest itself in any number of ways.”

“What can I do?” asked John.

“Just continue to show her your love for her. If she seems to be despondent, work it out. Do not let her dwell if you see it happening. It’s going to take time, but I’m sure she’ll make it.”

John spent the rest of the evening with Margaret until she slept for the night.

 

Today had been a long and event filled day. For John, it had swung from the lowest to the happiest day he ever had. If they heard all, which Margaret herself seemed to indicate, she and John could put her pieces back together. He couldn’t wait to get her home to kiss her well.

As Branson pulled the coach to his front step and opened his door, John said, “You are invited to my wedding tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow, Guv? Congratulations, sir. I really like Miss Hale. I take it she is going to recover all right?”

“We had the big break-through in her memory late this afternoon, I will make her well. She asked that you be there, in the hospital room with us. Shall you come?”

“Guv, you couldn’t keep me away even if I wasn’t invited. I’ve waited through many women, thousands of hours waiting outside, and many years to see this day come to you. Of all of them, boss, she is the one for you. She is different from all the others, at least that’s how I remember her last.”

“You remember, right, Branson. I have found my other half. Tomorrow, harness the small buggy. I will start using that one since I am staying long hours at the hospital. In the morning we will have another meeting with the four of us. Get some sleep.”

“Good night, Guv. I bet you’ll sleep well tonight.”

 

John got very little sleep that night, but most of it was spent in joyful wakefulness. Soon he would not sleep alone. He could hold Margaret all night long, once her rib was healing. Tomorrow they would be married. He probably should have offered to wait until her London relatives came, but he was glad not to have them. They had stolen Margaret away from him once before. After tomorrow, he was her family, her protector, her provider, and some lovely day in the future, her lover.

John drifted in out of plans for the dead man. He didn’t know how he would do it yet but planned on luring the man to his home town. He wanted no help from anyone. This man was his. But being in his area gave him a bit of an advantage over a tactical military officer.

 

The next morning, John had all four of them together. They were overjoyed to hear the news of a wedding so soon. It staggered Nicholas, and Branson was still recovering.

“I can’t say I’m going to miss those long evenings waiting outside of some lady’s home for you to return to the coach,” Branson interjected. Everyone was silent. No one knew if it was proper to laugh under such a serious situation. John finally broke out with a laugh and the rest followed.

John was beside himself with a million things to do.

“Men, the wedding is at 2:00 in Margaret’s hospital room. Nicholas, I hope Peggy can attend. Margaret wishes her to stand by her. Adam, would you mind giving my bride away?”

“I’ve waited for this day. Of course, John.”

“Nicholas, you will stand by me as my best man?”

“No one could take my place by you, my friend. This is the second happiest day in my life, I think, or darn close to it. You know the masters will be sorry to be cheated out of this.”

“Perhaps a celebration in the future when Margaret has recovered. Branson, you will stand with Mrs. Higgins as her escort.”

“John, do you have the minister and ring picked out,” asked Nicholas.

“That was taken care of yesterday before I asked Margaret. I need to talk with the minister this morning, buy out the flower shop, and perhaps find a small cake.”

“Let us do that,” said Nicholas. Peggy will want to do something.

Is there anything new on Captain Harford,” John asked.

Adam cleared his throat. “I expect for the Shaw’s to get their note today and be down her late tonight or tomorrow around noon. I hope they can bring some information. I feel it will be another two days until I hear from Fred. We will make final plans at the time, send him a note, and be on our way in two or three days. You, you lucky man, will have Margaret safely tucked away and out of the grasp of that scoundrel.”

“I’m having other thoughts there, too. Should we be successful in moving Frederick on without notice, then Hartford will have lost his leverage against Margaret; he may then see Margaret as a witness and come after her will malice. He’s got to be imbalanced. She will know nothing of this. I think I will plan to lure him here once I know Margaret’s brother is out of his sights. He is a tactical military man. Having him here will give me a small advantage.”

“You still feel strongly about carrying through on this revenge, and there’s no other way to call it, even though Margaret will heal?”

“Yes. In discussing Margaret’s eventual full recovery with the doctor, it will depend on her dependence on my commitment to her and the outcome of this man, even without those added reasons, I need to do this for myself.”

“Boss, the newspaper people, are starting to swarm the hospital every day, and I see new ones coming. They don’t seem to have Miss Margaret’s name, but your visitations are starting to become curious.” Branson reported.

“Let them alone. They will have their story tomorrow. I will be busy through today. See you all at two.”

John had left for the small buggy that he could hide behind the hospital. The other three men knew their plans would go from moving Frederick to the Thornton watch.

John quickly dashed off to the rectory before visiting Margaret to reaffirm to her of their wedding time.

 

“How was your rest last night, Margaret?” John asked, leaning in to kiss her when he arrived.

“Good morning husband-to-be. I’m lying here, still not believing that only a week ago, I was praying to die. And today, I want to live for the rest of your days but only with you. Yes, I had a good night and only needed the pain medication and not the laudanum.”

“I came by to confirm that we shall marry at two this afternoon. I have spoken with the minister this morning who has agreed to come to your room. You will have your first visitors today.”

Margaret looked a bit sad, and John asked her why. “I don’t look very much like a bride, a black eye, and a hospital gown.”

“Now, how could anyone ever forget attending a wedding like ours? You are beautiful in every way to me. Today you will become not only my wife but my woman.” John said tenderly.

“John, I’m sure you understand that part of our marriage will take me some time.”

“Margaret, holding you in my arms is what I have yearned for a long time. Yes, I understand. Don’t ever feel rushed or that I am anxious. You will tell me when the right moment is for us. Let it not worry that pretty head of yours.”

“I have a few errands to run. Is there anything I can get for you while I am gone?”

“Could I have some flowers to hold?”

“That was on my list.

John left the hospital and headed for a flower seller in town.

 

“You look happy this morning, Miss Hale. Was that Mr. Thornton who I saw leaving?”

“Yes. This is to be our wedding day.” Margaret smiled.

“Oh, how exciting! You will marry in this room, I suppose. What time is the ceremony?” asked Nurse Pickering.

“At two this afternoon, but I think my few friends here, who have wanted to see me, will be here earlier than that. I don’t look much like a bride-to-be, do I?” sighed Margaret.

“Let me think about what we can do. I shouldn’t think you can stand up for this.”

“I’d like to try. My legs aren’t injured, it’s just my rib. I’ll have to be careful and need help getting out of this bed, but I want to do it. I want to stand next to John. Could we try?” Margaret was not too proud to beg.

“I’ll ask Dr. Wagner. I think we were going to get you up today, as it is. Your rib is tightly wrapped, but still, I had better ask. Hmm… I wonder what we can do about something other than that white cotton tent you are wearing. I know I can work with your hair.”

“Oh, could you? I would appreciate that so much.”

“Good thing we have a few hours. Let me go talk with the doctor; he’s here somewhere. I’ll be back as soon as I find him.”

Nurse Pickering turned to leave the room when Dr. Wagner came through the door on his morning round. Both women seemed to swamp him with questions that he was unable to turn down in the midst of their merriment. It was the best sign from Miss Hale he could have expected. He found it almost too merry after what she had been through. He still felt there would be more residual to purge.

“Let me check you over, Miss Hale. Then we will practice standing you up, and if you prove successful, you will have my blessing. You are in a weakened state; however, I think you are running on adrenaline right now. You must rest immediately when you tire.”

The doctor and the nurse assisted Margaret to a sitting position and then swung her legs to the side. With the exception of a few grimaces, which were expected, and their aid, she made it to her feet and looked steady. She shuffled her feet in place and then began putting one in front of the other. That was accomplished with little difficulty and a big smile.

“I’m sure the ceremony will not last but a few moments. I can make it. Can I try to sit in a chair instead of getting back in the bed just now?”

“Do you feel like you could sit on a commode? That, of course, would just be for now, but it is one of the hurdles we need to get you over before releasing you.”

“Yes, I will try it. It’s got to be easier than that pan thing.”

Margaret stood holding on to the doctor’s arm and the metal footboard where her chart hung. Nurse Pickering scooted out of the room only for mere seconds, returning with a rolling commode and another nurse was carrying a privacy screen. The doctor turned this detail over to the two nurses and said he would return after a bit.

Although Margaret had difficulty lifting her gown and holding her weight to sit, she finally had success with some assistance.

“Nurse Pickering. I can’t have my new husband helping me with this when I am released. He’s never seen any part of my body.” Margaret fretted.

Laughing, Pickering told her that she would have a live-in nurse for a few days.

“You know, I should have begun my woman’s week by now. Is there more of an injury than we could know?”

“Miss Hale, you have been checked every conceivable way that is possible since you were unable to wake for the first day. What you are experiencing is trauma to your body and physiological system. Everything should return to normal as your body heals.”

“This has been quite convenient in a way.”

“How are you doing back there behind the screen?”

“I think if I could stop talking, I might have better success.” Margaret laughed.

“Well, I can’t leave the room, but I will change your bed while you are quiet.”

“I’d feel better if you closed the door, too. I know I’m hid behind this screen, but it doesn’t feel like enough.”

Pickering laughed again. She was really seeing the improvement in her patient today. After all, it was her wedding day.

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.”

Save

Save

I Killed Him – pt 6

Chapter Six

“Branson, I will be here for two hours. You may hitch the team and come to Miss Hale’s room if you wish, or just wait for me.” John looked at his pocket watch and proceeded up the steps to the hospital doors.

I Killed Him 250x375As he walked the corridors, he thought he would bring flowers the next time. She may not be awake, but they would be there welcoming her back when her eyes opened. He prayed for good news.

Walking into her room, Donaldson was discussing her condition with a hospital doctor. John decided to wait outside and listen even though he knew Donaldson would tell him all there was and the truth along with it. John heard them wrapping up the conversation and walked back inside.

“Hello Thornton,” said Donaldson, almost in a cheery voice. “I think we have good news here,” Donaldson said goodbye to the other doctor, who then left the room.

“What is the good news?”

“We are sure the internal bleeding has stopped. There is a certainty that her kidneys are functioning properly, and no blood is being found. We’ve decided to change the doses of laudanum. Margaret should sleep in four hour intervals during the day. That’s being done because we want to question her about additional pain we are not seeing. Also, she will be fed while she’s awake. Her awake times will be brief, at least through today and begin to increase as the days go on.”

John exhaled an audible sigh of relief. “How about the rib and the other hits to her body?”

“Her rib area is wrapped tightly. That’s all that can be done with that part of the body. She will be released before it is healed, but it will take time. She will have to be severely restricted as to her movements, such as bending and lifting. I should think by the time that is healed, all the other bruised areas will have disappeared and the painfulness along with it. She is doing good, John. She will be uncomfortable for a few weeks, but I expect we can release her in about four days unless she mentions something we do not know about. Although we see no outside injury, we are quite interested in her head. Does she have headaches? Is her eyesight normal? These are why we want her wake now and then. We are going to try a new medication on her which is supposed to help relieve the pain but not keep her sedated. She may look like she wants to swoon, a bit dizzy perhaps, but it should not shut her down to the point of sleeping. How long is your visit, this time?

“At least two hours, unless she wakes,” John replied.

“I think you’ll be in luck. She should be waking, we think, in about an hour. We will need some time with her at that point. I don’t know how long it will take. But if you are willing to wait, we will dispense the laudanum when she feels she wants it.”

“I will wait all day if there is that chance.”

“I thought you might say that. I’ll see to it that you have some time with her.”

“Thank you, Donaldson.”

John proceeded to pull a chair next to her bed, long moments after he stood over her, just looking at the prone angle. Her long eyelashes would flutter, and her hand would jerk, on occasions. He sat and stroked her arm and fingers. The warmth beneath his hand had been a long time in coming, hope had been given up, as his life emptied out. Just his light touch to her sent all the fibers in his body tingling. His mind was struggling to grasp that she was within reach; that she had come to him. His emotions had been unleashed, and they wanted to vault ahead of his actions. He felt such a swelling inside of his chest that he thought his heart would pop out. He began to speak to her, finally standing and kissing her lightly on her forehead.

“Margaret, this is John. You are safe now. You will always be safe with me. I want to hold you gently in my arms. I want to look into your eyes and feel your breath upon my face.” John was sure he was imagining the tiniest lines of a smile at the corners of her mouth. Could she hear him, he wondered.

“Hello, Mr. Thornton. Your Miss Hale had a good night. I guess you have talked with the doctors?”

“Hello, Miss Pickering. Yes, I did just speak with Dr. Donaldson.”

“That’s Mrs. Pickering. I am sure you are anxious for her to open her eyes.”

“Indeed.” John didn’t care for this light talk. He wanted to be alone with her.

“I wish I did not have to do this, but I am going to have to ask you to leave for about half an hour. I need to bath her and change her bed. We expect her to come around soon, and I’d like to get her bath taken care of before she wakes.”

“I’ll see if my driver is waiting. If not, I will be waiting down the hall.” John reached over and kissed her hand, letting it slowly rest where it had been. He left the room.

As he was again traversing the corridor, he considered a wedding ring. Here, he had a minister waiting and no ring. Finding Branson at the curb, he said, “Branson, the best jewelry merchant in the city, if you please.”

 

Captain Lenox arrived at the infirmary and wasn’t sure who to ask to find out who was the doctor on duty three days ago.  Several nurses passed him by giving him their smiles of approval at the red-coated officer. A nice looking young nurse was scribbling on a tablet near the administration area. He decided to start there.

“Hello, Miss. I am hoping to locate the doctor on duty three days ago. Would you happen to know who that was or where I could find out?” Maxwell gave her his most endearing smile.

“Yes, Captain. I can find out for you. Please wait here.”

The nurse disappeared behind the desk she had been standing in front of and disappeared through a door. A few moments later she came back carrying a piece of paper. “Captain, it says here that Dr. Jerome was on duty,” the nurse replied.

“Is he here today?”

“No, I do not believe so. Is there something I can help you with?”

“You may be able to do just that. I believe another Captain friend of mine was in here three days ago to be looked at. I am afraid he may be coming down with a fever and wanted to seek advice.”

“What is the patient’s name, sir?” She smiled.

“That would be Captain Hartford. I would appreciate knowing if he came here, or sought his personal physician.”

Once again the nurse left for the door behind her. She was gone a few more moments than before and returned with a frown.

“I’m sorry, Captain. It’s been many months since Captain Hartford has been here for his annual medical exam. Nothing since then, I’m afraid. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, Miss. Can I have your name?”

“Yes, Captain. My name is Amy. Amy Pettigrew.”

“Thank you, Miss Pettigrew. You have been most helpful. I shall seek his personal physician.”

With that, Maxwell walked away convinced there was a mystery surrounding, Captain Hartford. He didn’t have to give his own name, but should Hartford get wind of it, he’d know who was going behind his back and asking questions.

 

Captain Grant Hartford sensed trouble. He did not know where Margaret was, but he felt Captain Lenox was becoming suspicious that he did. Margaret had run somewhere, that was for sure, and he knew why. After his last evening with her, and his lustful enforcements, he had no idea what she would say when found. She did speak about calling his bluff, but she also talked about ending her own life. He began to realize that there would be no wedding. But in the off chance that there was still hope of that, he needed to ensure that his knowledge of Frederick Hale’s whereabouts was still known. Hartford believed if Margaret was going to the authorities, that he could lie his way out of that due to his rank, and then, perhaps, go on to redeem any doubts by producing a wanted man who the Navy had been hunting for several years. He decided to write his contact in France and alert him to a situation that may soon come to be of real value.

 

Frederick and Lisa arrived in the middle of night, knocking lightly on the flat’s door of his friend Nathan. They were admitted, and safe, to all of Frederick’s senses. There had been several times in the past weeks that he felt he was seeing the same man around the postal station, but never followed him home. Slipping out in the middle of the night, Frederick was confident that they had stolen away unseen. He and Lisa were welcomed, and it was decided that the pair would stay a couple days. Nathan would scout out another location across the city and check for Frederick’s mail one last time. Later that day, Frederick would compose a note to Bell at the Milton Grand Hotel and Nathan would take it to his own local mail station for delivery.

 

John started the process to select the ring he felt best fit Margaret’s soul. Nothing gaudy or large but something with fire and brilliance set in a soft mounting.

“Mr. Thornton, I cannot help but feel honored to have you visit our store. I have often wondered if you would ever make such a purchase anywhere. I am filled with pride to have this distinction of selling you, your wedding ring. The other jewelers will envy me, this.”

John couldn’t help but hold at bay the smile he wanted to show, with that remark. It appeared his status as a ‘catch’ would soon come to an end, and more the glad he was of it.

“Mr. Winstone, I would ask for your discretion until this is official. You are the only one to know of this, and I am not certain my suit will be accepted.”

“Mr. Thornton, we never speak of our clients in personal regards unless it is a known fact. I can assure you, you have my personal guarantee of complete diplomacy. May I ask which lady will have the honors to be asked?”

“No. I’m sorry for that, but surely you must understand.”

“I do, indeed. I was too forward to ask. I apologize. Now, that we’ve narrowed down your choices, do you feel there is one of special interest. Of course, we can size the ring at any time.”

John had spotted the ring immediately. He felt it was Margaret set in stone. It was a delicate emerald ring in an oval shape. Around the large stone were pearls and diamonds. It was all set in a web of filigree platinum. John saw it as soft and brilliant. The pearls toned it down from being ostentatious, which would never suit Margaret.”

“That’s a very nice choice, Mr. Thornton, and I do not say that as a salesman but as a friend. Looking at this one, I would say the lady is very feminine and also has qualities of spirit and challenge.”

“Why do you say that?” John asked.

“When one has been in the business as long as I have you get the feeling of the receiver when the purchaser is very discriminating in the time taken to select a wedding ring. Would you like that engraved while you wait?”

John was given a bit of paper to write down his brief statement of love for the inside of the ring. He slid the paper back to the jeweler who disappeared into the backroom. The ring was presented to him in a very small leather slip case, placed in a blue velvet bag. John slipped the ring into his inside pocket and headed back to the hospital.

 

Maxwell had arrived at the Shaw’s to see two very frantic women. They both rushed to him at the door, inquiring of any news.

“I regret to say that I have no news of Miss Hale. However, I have been looking into Captain Hartford’s movements and feel his is not telling the truth. Whether he is knowledgeable of Miss Hale’s location, I do not know. Somehow, I do tend to doubt that he knows of her whereabouts, but something leads me to think he does know why she has vanished. I think it is time to visit London’s constabulary.”

“You do not feel that it should be taken up with the Military constabulary?”

“No, I have no proof of anything. I will give my information to the local officials and let them lead the search. The Metropolitan Police Force are quite skilled at their job.”

“I will make myself ready,” exclaimed Edith’s mother, as she left the room for the stairs.

Edith walked over and received a kiss from Maxwell. Backing away, she said that she would be down in a few minutes.

As Edith left for her room, her nervous condition subsided knowing that something official was about to begin.

 

Branson pulled the coach to the hospital steps. Yesterday, his master had talked to the minister and today he most assuredly had purchased a wedding ring. For the four years that he had been with Mr. Thornton, he thought he might never see this day come. He remembered Miss Hale from a two years ago and had known of his master’s great interest in her. Branson, himself, was let down when she left so suddenly. His master had never recovered. Branson could count on one hand the number of women he had been out with since she left. Although, overjoyed for what could now lie ahead, he knew the dark clouds were forming over this situation. Branson promised himself to do everything possible to aid his master through this treacherous ordeal. He couldn’t let him seek this man alone and destroy a life he’d been waiting for. Branson decided to work on his own alternate plan should it go that far.

I Killed Him – Pt 5 (ep1)

Chapter Five   (ep1)

John did not rise to see anyone out. He did not answer their departing words as they left; he just stared straight ahead.

I Killed Him 250x375He turned his chair around to face out the window, propping his feet on the window sill after carrying the scotch bottle to his side table. For hours he sat there in silence. His meal went un-eaten, the table cleared, and the staff had gone home.

He rose out of his chair only to find another bottle of blessed numbness.

 

John was in his court chambers going through the laws on marriage, before breakfast. Although most marriages were performed in church, he was sure there was no special law dictating that. Digging through his books, he found a section on ‘Clandestine Marriages’ that he had been looking for.
It read . . .

 

While marriages are usually celebrated publicly by priests, in churches where the parties are known, many couples have reasons — among them parental disapproval, religious nonconformity, property considerations and previous entanglements — to marry in other ways. Nor is this difficult, due to there not being a unified marriage code, and a simple exchange of vows can constitute a valid marriage,

 

He only needed a chaplain to execute the vows. John was relieved that would be an easy process to accomplish when she awoke. What would he do if she said, no? She couldn’t say, no. She had been through hell to get back to him. John was sure she had to love him. Margaret had said as much when he carried her through the door.

 

Captain Lenox visited Captain Hartford the next morning and still found him recuperating in his leather chair. Maxwell was starting to feel unsettled as he did not look ill. Something was wrong for him to be placed in the exact position as the day before. With Margaret still missing and Grant keeping his groin area covered, Maxwell did not like what he was thinking.

“Grant, are you feeling better,” Maxwell inquired.

“I am indeed. I should be up tomorrow. Have you any word on Margaret? I’ve been feeling quite guilty over my last conversation with her about moving the marriage up. I only hope when she is found, that is the only reason for her disappearance. I shall begin a search tomorrow, myself. What is being done?”

“I think the family is fairly close to informing the police. Her close friend, that she may have been encouraged to visit, does not seem to be in town. His neighbor said he has been gone for two days, this being the third. That would put him away from home before Margaret vanished. I suppose you have no other thoughts since I was here yesterday?”

“No, and I have been deep in thought about this. I’ve gone over every minute of our time together that night. I have only begun to consider one idea.”

“I would be glad to discuss it with you if you have a mind to, Captain.” Maxwell wheedled.

“I have thought about her being abducted for revenge against me, as a possible motive. I’ve been wondering if I will get a ransom note. I was a rambunctious young man, and there may be things in my past that I hope would not be brought to light.”

“Such as . . . if I may ask.”

“Maxwell, I just said I don’t want them brought to light. But since this is of such urgency, I will say that I have been quite the lady’s man in the past. I am sure I have not strayed from the gentlemanly ranks since buying my commission, but one never knows what a jealous husband or boyfriend can do.”

“I see. You could be right about that.” Maxwell let him think that there was merit in this concocted idea. Since visiting him yesterday, Maxwell had asked around and found some shady rumors about his conduct with women. As an officer, he was allowed to see women as long as they were single, but he heard of other conduct unbecoming an officer. He wasn’t sure how true it was, but another friend in the pub last night led Maxwell to believe he left an unwed mother behind, several years ago. Perhaps, there was something there with that issue. He would scout around for more information on that. It could lead somewhere.

“May I inquire into the nature of your illness, Grant?”

“Well, it’s rather embarrassing. I discovered a small boil on my privates, here. I immediately went to the doctor to ensure I had not come down with any disease. I was spared that, but the doctor chose to lance it. I’m afraid movement is very uncomfortable.”

“I can well imagine. You did right in seeking precautions as soon as it was discovered. That sounds like an awful place to have a cut.” Maxwell’s bad feelings were confirming. He decided to visit the doctor on post and see if Grant had been there recently. He could not mention his worries to the women at the Shaw residence.

 

Dear Mrs. Shaw,

 

I am writing to inform you that Margaret has returned to Milton She arrived at Mr. Thornton’s home in a particularly injurious condition. Dr. Donaldson, a very reputable physician, had her admitted to the Greater Milton Hospital. She only spoke a few words before collapsing, and those were something about her brother. I hope he is well. Miss Hale is under medication to keep her sleeping.

I believe I will be seeing you and your daughter about this and we shall meet at the Milton Grand Hotel. I shall have rooms reserved for the two of you hence one day from your receipt of this letter. John Thornton, acting as a Magistrate, has taken the authority, along with the doctor for any medical decisions. There is no fear for her life.

 

                                                      Respectfully,

                                                      Adam Bell

 

Adam set down his pen and folded the note. No imagination could conjure up what the family would think when they received it. Being a well educated man of the world around him, Adam still could not conceive of any woman or any man being tortured like that. Even though Margaret had once been a hope in his mind to spend her days with him, she was still the most important person in his life, as she was in John’s. If she had endured all that she had, to save her brother, then, his goal was clear. The only help he could be to her was to relieve her mind about Frederick. He would have done that for himself alone, as it was. He knew Frederick to be savvy, and he had been on the run for several years. He had even found away to come back to England for his mother’s passing. If he was being watched by Hartford’s henchmen, Adam hoped he would be shrewd enough to know it. Possibly by today or tomorrow, Frederick should know that a situation had arisen and to move on, and contact him at the Milton Hotel at his earliest time.

 

A slim man with a beard and worn clothes asked if there was any mail for Randall Moyers at the postal station, in Paris. The clerk walked away but eventually came back with a note posted to him. He slid it across the worn counter and asked if there would be anything else.

Frederick Hale, said, “No. That is all.” Frederick placed the note in his pocket and left the small building hearing the overhead bell ring, as it always did whenever the door was opened. As precaution had always dictated and three years of watching over his shoulder, he scanned the street for any suspicious people or faces that he was seeing repeatedly. Paris was a huge city, and it was rare that he should see the same person more than twice, even around a postal station. He had always varied his times of arrival, which were usually once a week.

Frederick had spent most of his past three years in France, but only the last one in Paris. He had learned the language and felt easy moving among the natives. There was very few if any of the British Navy ever seen in France or any soldier of England was hard to find in that country, at least not in uniform. As usual, he took a circuitous route home, actually entering the rear of a building and exiting through the front door. Feeling confident that no one was behind him, he made his way to the flat he was sharing with the woman he would marry.

As he came into the flat, he broke the seal and read the note:

 

Randall,

 

It is with regret that I write to inform you of something that has just come to light. I feel there is danger for you, but from a most unexpected source.

It appears that your sister is being coerced into a marriage from a Captain in the Army, who portends to know your whereabouts. I feel he is aware of my endowment to your sister and wishes to benefit by a marriage to her. Whether he really knows of your location, is not known, but your sister is taking no chances. I wish you to move so we can advise her of your knowledge of this situation.

Today, I will go to Milton and speak with a John Thornton about this. We will protect her from this man if she will allow it. I fear she will follow through with this most unhappy occasion for your safety.

I hasten to say, I doubt a marriage will prevent this horrid man from following through with his promise to her.

Please write at your earliest convenience. I believe we will plan to come and aid you. Let me know how to contact you.

                                                                  A.B.

 

Frederick was alone in the flat. The thought of being on the run again was sickening and this time, he would have his ‘intended’ with him. He immediately began to pack two small satchels of clothes. When Lisa came home, they would continue their evening as usual, so the oil lamps in the house continued to glow at their normal times. Once it appeared they had gone to bed, Frederick and Lisa would leave through the back door. Fortunately, he had an immediate contact with one of the other officers, also on the run. He could stay with him for a few nights, while plans were made to relocate temporarily to another part of the city. There he would await Adam and his plan. Spain was his country of preference, but he could use the help in getting there. Had it been only him, he would not care, but it wasn’t only him. Not only did he have Lisa, but the love of his sister meant a lot to him. Her sense of his safety weighed heavily.

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