John Thornton was ready to storm Margaret’s hospital room if the doctors didn’t finish with her soon. A million things had crossed through his mind while he waited. One was how loved he felt that she had found her way back to him when she was barely alive. The other was how slowly could he kill a man. Not so much the slow death, but how he would go about it, kept whirling through his head.
Finally, Donaldson came from her room.
“I’m going in there, not matter what you say.” John started to walk that way and Donaldson grabbed his arm.
“Let’s sit for a few minutes and then you can go in. She is not awake but that is on purpose. I will tell you the findings.”
John hung his head. “Is there more I don’t know? I’m not sure I can take much more.”
“Did you want to know or not?”
“All of it.” John said, as he stood to start his pacing again.
“One of the things I know worries you most or any man in love, is the fellatio assault. There was no presence of his semen, but a small piece of skin was removed from her front teeth. Her mouth has been thoroughly cleansed, so you may kiss her as I know you will. She fought hard, John. There were finger prints on the back of her neck and arms.” Donaldson paused.
John flopped down in the chair in the waiting area and slumped over, averting his eyes. Donaldson could hear his attempts to keep his weeping silent.
“She does have a slight fracture to one rib, and it did cause internal bleeding. That is our major concern right now. She has stopped coughing up blood, so I think that is slowing down. We will keep a close eye on that for a few more days. He did not break her cheek, however he did loosen a few back teeth, which is hard to do, but they should stabilize quickly. You saw the black eye. That is only the beginning. You know they last a week or more.”
“And the fists to her body?”
“I’m afraid we found evidence of about 9 or 10 punches, several in the kidney area, which is of moderate concern. Until we can get some urine out of her, we won’t know how extensive that damage is. There is a very small chance that getting with child could be difficult, but far from impossible.”
Still sniffling and refusing to look Donaldson in the eye, he asked, “Is there more? I cannot believe there can be more and she still is alive.”
“I believe her best recovery lies with you, now. Her body will heal. Continued beatings and torturous stress could have taken a mighty toll on her. That yet remains to be seen. It may not manifest itself right away, either. It could be a year from now. Much will depend on what happens with her brother, your commitment to her, of which I have no doubt and the outcome of the man that is responsible for this. I have to ask, John, do you have any reservations about saving her brother from the hands of the Navy, being a Magistrate?”
“None. None at all. I plan on resigning before there are any questions about where my actions will lie. She is my whole world now. I’ve waited over two years for this and nothing will deter me. What is important to her is important to me. That’s all I need to say on that subject.”
“I know it must be a difficult position to put you in but . . .” Donaldson was interrupted.
“No, you are wrong. There is no difficult decision. It’s one of the easiest I will ever make. I will sacrifice all for her. I may do that this morning. Once I’ve seen her and spent some time with her, I will go home and we will make plans to rescue her brother from this madman. When I know he is out of danger, I will go after the man that did this.”
“John, just remember what you sacrifice for revenge, you do so for two of you.”
“I have to do it. I cannot live with myself otherwise. I am already being consumed by this man. Someone has taken the most precious person in my entire life and played with her until she broke. And it’s all been due to his greed and an apparent enjoyment of torture. He is a dead man to me.”
“So, do you know your immediate plans? Where do I contact you for any changes in her condition?”
“I will know in a few hours. You will be informed. I’m going in there now.”
John stood and walked to Margaret’s room, pausing at the door, bolstering himself to weather what he was to see; he opened the door and then closed it behind him.
With Adam Bell having written Frederick a few days ago; their chances of him having moved on looked better than normal. The three men felt that they could handle the search for Frederick and leave John here. He had Margaret and the man in London to contend with. Adam was sure they could locate Frederick, but doing so without being followed was his concern. The other two did not know what Frederick looked like and how could they approach him with him thinking people were after him. Mr. Bell felt he would be the bait. His hope was that Frederick would keep his head if he happened to have heard all that his sister had endured on his behalf.
John spent the next half hour with one arm wrapped around Margaret’s head on the pillow, as if, in his arms, and the other wiping her brow or kissing her fingers. He spoke soothing words of love and told her she was safe. She would never see that man again.
John wept at her bedside.
He could see the hand prints of long fingers on the sides of her neck. Her arms showed identical bruising. Eventually, he left the room to be sick. He kept telling himself that she would heal. She would live and he would bring her love. He couldn’t love her anymore than he did, but somehow he would make up for the treatment she had suffered.
John wondered if she would fear him in any way. If she had found her way to him under such impossible odds, he hoped that would not stand in their way. He did not care how long it took him, even the rest of his life, he would give her happiness.
“Mr. Thornton, I am surprised to see you visiting here. Is this someone you know?” said a nurse unknown to him.
“And you are?”
Nurse Pickering. I shall be one of Miss Hale’s day nurses.
“And how do you know who I am?”
“Mr. Thornton, everyone knows who you are. The newspaper people are already gathering outside.”
“Thank you for telling me. To answer your question, this is the woman I will marry. I’ve waited two years for her to be my wife.”
“I am terribly sorry for both of you. She is in a bad way, but I believe there is great confidence that her health will eventually return. If this is the woman you have waited to marry, I shall be glad to know her. Even though all of our patients have the best care, I will personally see to her every need.”
“Thank you. How long will she sleep with the medication she has been given?”
“In her current state and the need of absolute rest from physical movements, as well at mental emotions, I believe the orders are to keep her sedated for a full day.”
“A full day? I had not counted on that. I will marry her at her sickbed as soon as she becomes conscious, if she will have me.”
“My heavens, such determination you have. Do you know what or who caused this to her? It’s been a fierce time for her. Did it happen in Milton?”
“No, not here. I know who did this and that’s all I will say.”
“Mr. Thornton, you need not leave the room, but if you could just turn your back for a few moments, I need to check something of this lady.”
John stood, pulling his arms from her and turned his back. He could tell by the rustle of sheets that the nurse was checking below her neck.
“Can I ask if you are checking her dispelling of urine for potential kidney problems?”
“Yes, you may ask and since you will be her husband before she leaves here, I will tell you that is exactly what I am doing. I see no evidence of a problem.”
“Can I turn around?”
“Not yet. Dr. Donaldson did not think she had any family in the area. Are you considered the closest person to her?”
“I believe I am. I will make no decisions without consulting with Donaldson if that need arises. Should you have an emergency and cannot locate him, I will take responsibility for her care. I am a Magistrate and in lieu of no family present, I take full authority. It should take several days for her aunt to be contacted and arrive here from London. Hopefully, we will be married by then.”
“You may turn around now. Mr. Thornton, there will be no changes and nothing to see for at least twenty four hours. You should take that time for yourself, as you will probably be here when she begins to waken.”
“You are mistaken. There is everything to see here. I have not seen her for a two years. But I will take your advice and tend to some pressing matters. I appreciate your close supervision to Miss Hale. Thank you.”
The nurse left, and John returned to loving words and soft kisses to her undamaged cheek. Finally standing, he kissed her gently on her lips, her palms and her wrists. He left the room, and the rage returned.
The three men waiting for John seemed to be in deep conversation when he arrived home. They all stood expectantly, wanting to hear about Miss Hale. Unbeknownst to John, there was now a ‘Thornton Watch’ in effect.
“John, may we ask about Margaret,” Adam asked. He had been quite upset seeing her being carried away.
“Let me get one or two scotches into me before I feel I can speak the words.”
“It’s that bad, is it?” asked Nicholas.
“It is worse than bad,” John replied, belting back his first scotch glass at 10:30 in the morning. He didn’t even sit down between refills.
The men looked at each other knowing John was in a bad way, more than they had seen when he left.
“John, I have written to Frederick about his potential danger before coming to you last night. We do have that going for us. Nicholas, Branson, and myself, feel we can locate him somewhere in Paris, as I wrote of a meeting place he should check at a certain time every couple of days to find me. I believe the three of us and Frederick himself can work out a way to move him to another country and let you remain with Margaret. Before we contact Frederick, we will have to watch him and ensure he is not being watched or followed. This hold over Margaret could be genuine therefore we dare not tarry in Milton.”
John put away his second scotch and rose for a third. Again the men looked to one another.
“John, are you sure you want another one of those so quickly?” asked Higgins.
“I will have the whole bottle before this day is over.”
“I’m sorry, John. Margaret’s condition must be devastating. She is still expected to live, isn’t she?”
“Have you talked to her? Can you relieve her mind that Frederick is in the process of being warned? She should know that she will not have to marry that dreadful man.
“Don’t you mean – that dead man?” warned John in no subtle terms.
“John, tell us,” Nicholas asked softly. “She’s our friend, too. Let us share this hard time with you. We worry for her but now we worry for you.”
“I see my responsibility, and I will dispatch it. Do not worry for me.”
“Tell us, John.”
John slowly swiveled the scotch in his glass, watching it coat the sides and he began without looking into their faces.
“It appears that Margaret has been beaten many times. There are at least nine or ten fist impacts to her body in various forms of healing. This dead man has taken quite an effort to keep her injuries hidden until . . . last night. I have not spoken with her and probably will not be able to for another day, as she is medicated for that long. It seems last night, she received another punch and a fist or backhand to her face, causing her back teeth to loosen and her eye to swell. The impact to her body has cracked a rib, and there is internal bleeding.” As John was talking, still looking into his glass, he heard the gasps around the room and Adam Bell weeping.
“I want you to keep this to yourselves, as Margaret would be very embarrassed for you to know. I am only willing to tell you the rest, so you understand the man I will deal with.”
Feeling the tears well in his own eyes, he continued the worst part of the story. “She fought hard against him, Donaldson told me. I saw for myself, the finger marks around the back of her neck and upper arms. She was violated orally.” With that, John broke down, but recovered quickly, where his friends did not. Even Branson rose and walked downstairs. Nicholas paced the other end of the room, and Adam wept where he sat.
John drew deep and continued. “That is behind us, now. She will never see anything like that again in her lifetime. And neither will this Captain. What’s his name, Adam?”
“Captain Grant Hartford.”
“And he’s a friend to Edith, Margaret’s cousin?”
Nicholas returned to his chair, and Branson returned from downstairs hearing the new conversation.
“I do not think so. I believe her fiancé, Captain Lenox, met him quite by chance, or so we are led to believe. John, she is alive and will heal. Don’t do anything to ruin what happiness she could have.”
“Adam, surely you have had too much to drink if you think I can let that man walk this earth. How could Margaret ever settle into a comfortable life knowing he was still out there? How could any man let what happened to her, not be avenged? Look how hard you all are handling this and she is not the love of your life.”
“John, couldn’t the military itself sort him out? He’s ruined, when it’s known,” offered Nicholas.
“Higgins, there are two things wrong with that scenario. He still could find some redemption in turning in her brother – some sort of legal bargaining. And two, they probably would not kill him.”
“Adam, not today, but tomorrow will you write her family and let them know where she is? I am going to marry her as soon as she wakes. That will take away the inheritance that he thinks he’s going to receive.”
“John, I can change my will, instead,” Bell mentioned as a matter to be considered.
“Adam, that is generous of you, and I will let you do what you will with your wealth, but I will marry her, regardless of that. I want her under my protective custody. If I should I hang for what I will do, she can inherit what I own, too.”
“What are you going to do, Guv? Can I help?”
“Branson, I’m not sure yet exactly what I will do. It will be slow. He will be scared and then hounded; he will run for his life like a rabbit. I will hunt him, and he will know it. I will have a week or more to plan this out. I can’t do anything until I know Margaret is married to me and Frederick is out of danger. Branson, you might enjoy this too much. I will think on it. Even if I do use you or any of you, remember, he is mine.”
“Do you not fear his formidable men that serve him?” asked Bell.
“They will know most of his deeds before he ever sees me coming. In my capacity as a Magistrate, I will serve papers against him to his senior officer. I am thinking of anonymously tipping him off as to what is coming so he will run.”
“John, I’ve never seen my friend be as diabolical and calculated as you seem destined to be. I’m not sure if I am worried for you or proud of you. If you hang, I will sorely miss you,” said Nicholas.
It was perfectly clear to everyone where they all stood as far as John went. No one could brook an argument against his intended deeds, and no one wanted to, either.
It was decided to meet again in the morning and leave John to himself. For all he had been through in the last eight hours, they knew he needed time to himself. They hoped he could dampen the rage that was building inside of him.