The Noble Coachman – Chapter 19

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Chapter 19
Abduction

 

Kip left the railway coach and hired a cabby to take him home. When he arrived, a curious sight of three other coaches parked by the stables met him. He was sure the carriages belonged to Marc, Lucas, and Matthew.

“What the bloody hell has happened?” He mumbled, paying the driver whom he knew. He speculated as he walked to his door. Jonathan’s had an accident. They didn’t know he went home to Norcaster. Surely, they were here to tell him about Lilith Caldwell. He remembered Mary’s swirling anger. Mary’s anger had now infused him. She followed him here, still full of wrath. Coming through the back door, his friends stood.

“What has happened? You three look pathetic. Has something happened to Jonathan?”

Nobody could speak.

“Speak someone!  I know about Lilith being found. I wanted to follow up on her demise, so I hunted her family.”

“The Caldwell girl was found? We hadn’t heard that.”

“Then what the bloody hell is wrong? Someone say something!” Kip was in a bad mood, and he let the men see his annoyance, a scene rarely witnessed by anyone among his family or friends.

“Kip, I don’t know how to say this except to say it,” declared Marc.”

“Just say the words, whatever they are, before I go mad.” Kip’s voice rose in tenor as he shouted at Marc.

“Squeaks has been missing for a day and a half.”

“Sorry?” Kip barked with incredulity.”

“Squeaks has been missing from Stokes Castle since yesterday morning. We have been looking for her since we heard. Jonathan is out searching now. Please go to see Dorset and His Lordship as soon as possible. We know you’re fond of her. Tell us what to do.”

“Give me a moment.” Kip flopped down in his reading chair. He leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees and holding his head. “Could you wait outside for me?”

“Of course, Kip.” The men noticed the portrait of Squeaks standing as a rear footman that was on Kip’s mantle and knew instantly that this was more than a fondness.

When the door slammed shut, Kip slid to the floor, allowing the tears to flow. “I will kill the bastard who has done this. Why Squeaks? Where could she be? Where do I start? I cannot live without her.”  He felt a trembling inside of him that had been absent since he lost his sister. It was a sickening helplessness.

Mary, tell me what to do. Where do I begin?

He knew who had kidnapped her and violent anger roiled inside of him. Kip didn’t care if he lost his life, he would find her.

Kip dried his face and headed towards his stable. He had no time for the agony anymore. Action with leadership had been the mainstay of his learning. All rules, regulations, legal maneuvers, politeness, and nobility weren’t words he recognized anymore.

“If you chaps would canvass the other drivers for any news. Be back here by 7:00 p.m. and bring Kyle. Tell the others, they may soon be called upon for a rescue.”

“Aye, Guv,” said Lucas. The three took to their benches and rolled out of the yard.

Kip looked heavenward and shouted at God and shook his fist. “Why Squeaks, God? Why her? I have only just found her, and you let them take her. This is my fault, not hers.”

Kip went to his stable and loaded his two pistols. While harnessing his horse, a swift pain came to his stomach, causing him to bend at the midriff and vomit. It was pure fear for the woman he loved.

Mary was back. Thank God. He stopped and closed his eyes trying to catch what she wanted him to know. She no longer was angry, but saddened. He glimpsed his image of Squeaks riding footman. He didn’t know why but he went back for his sketch pad.

As Kip began his twenty-minute journey on horseback to the Stokes Castle, he thought about Mary appearing after the discovery of Lilith. “Is she trying to confirm to me that the men that had killed her, had Squeaks?” The intent seemed obvious, as he raced to see Clyde Dorset.

Kip thought that once Lilith was located, Mary would find peace. Nevertheless, with Squeaks being taken, it would explain her angry images yesterday. And he knew, because of him, she would be their next victim. He couldn’t bear to think past kidnapping. He needed his head, and dwelling on something unknown would hinder him, right now.

“The killers know who I am. They must! There would be no other reason for Squeaks to be captured.” Now he knew why he brought the sketch pad. He would visit with Lucy Blevins and draw a picture, from her memory, of the two men who were at the ball. Resolving that gave him hope, but a whole day and a half had passed.

 

Squeaks woke, not knowing where she was. It was a bare room with only a bed, small table, chair and no oil lamp. Her head ached and feeling her scalp, there was a large lump up there. The last she remembered was talking to her father about her picnic day and then going to bed. It was a day she would never forget. She became Kip’s lady. She remembered being so happy when she told her father who did not look very surprised. However, he was moved when hearing about Kip saving her life from that racing carriage and team. She wondered if that coach rode hard toward them for a purpose.

Squeaks walked to the window, which was boarded from the outside. She could peek through the slats that didn’t fit well. It seemed to be afternoon. There was an old poor tenant flat next door and another across the street from that. Seeing all she could, she went to the door to listen.

Two male voices and one female were heard, but not what was being said. It was only a moment later when she heard footsteps coming closer and then a knock on the door.

“Deary, can you hear me?” Came the elderly voice.

“Who are you and where am I?” Squeaks replied.

“I have brought you some stew. I want you to sit on the edge of the bed, while I unlock the door.”

Squeaks was starved, she complied. “I’m ready. She heard the lock click.

The door opened a fraction barely before swinging open. The old charwoman carried a tray to the small table. She quickly closed the door and then sat on the bed. Squeaks went to the small table and pulled up the chair.

“Who are you and why am I here? Do you know who I am?”

“Listen, deary. It makes no never mind to me who or why you’re here. I’m being paid to see that you are fed, and your chamber pot is emptied. It’s under the bed.” The woman checked it. “It’s still empty. Don’t you piss, Deary?”

“How long have I been here? I only just woke.”

“Well, I gots here after dark last night, and you was up here by then. I think those two  men down there, are up to no good. ‘Tis you worth somethin’? They says I will be paid real good, enough for a fancy frock.”

Squeaks kept quiet and allowed the charwoman to wax on about this task she was hired to do. “They makes me stay in the kitchen. They been talkin’ about a ransom note all day. Your pa got money?”

“No. I am in service. I know my Lord would pay you a lot more if you let me out.”

“Awe … deary, I can’t do that. They might kill me.”

“They will probably kill us both. You’ve seen their faces. They won’t let anyone live who has seen their faces.”

“One sure is an ugly cuss. He only be havin’ but one glass eye. I gotta go. They be wantin’ their dinner.”

“I don’t know your name, but think about my Lordship paying you more coin, even a whole lot more if you can find a way to free me.”

“I’ll think about it, but I thinks I likes livin’ more. Stay where you are.” Sarah, watched Squeaks closely as she unlocked the door and slipped out. “My name is Sarah,” she locked the door.

Squeaks sat there eating her stew, wondering why she was taken. She wasn’t worth anything unless they wanted money from His Lordship. They were foolish to try that. She thought of Kip and could make no connection there. She began to worry about her father, and Lord Stokes. They would be most upset by now, yet; she was still unharmed except the bump on her head. Squeaks noticed she had a night shirt on. She finished her food and water and went back to the window. Although it was nailed shut, she took her fork prying out the two nails holding it closed. She was able to raise the window only a little which left her room to knock out one of the slats of wood. That seemed as far as she could go unless she smashed through it all with her chair. She closed the window and slipped the two nails back in the holes.

The slat of wood fell to the ground leaving more light coming into the room. She was thankful that dusk was near. She sat on her bed and looked at the window. “What else can I try? I can wave my arm outside. Someone might notice.”

Suddenly, she heard heavy boots coming toward her door.

 

As Kip came up the drive to Stokes Castle, he jumped off his horse and threw the reins to a stable boy headed towards him. Without asking or saying anything, he walked into the servant’s area and asked which room was Clyde’s. He was told that Clyde was with His Lordship.

“Where is that, again? Take me there immediately.”

The housekeeper led him through the labyrinth of staircases until she met Morgan.

“This gentleman …” she was interrupted.

“I know who he is. It’s all right. Follow me, Mr. Kipling.”

“How is the family? Has there been any word on Squeaks?” Kip was frantic.

“No word, sir. The entire household is quite worried. We all love her as I am sure you know.”

Morgan knocked on the door to the study. “Mr. Kipling, your Lordship.”

Kip passed into the room, and the sight looked worse than he imagined. A doctor was attending His Lordship, who apparently was having chest pains, and Clyde was distraught with worry.

“Kip, Thank God you are here.” Both men tried to speak at once. “Go ahead, Clyde. You tell him what we know.”

Kip was handed a glass of scotch to which he declined, but he did take a seat close to Clyde.

“Please, Clyde. Everything you know and what you think?”

“No one on the property has seen Squeaks since the night she returned from the picnic with you. Upon waking, we found her bed empty. The police think she was taken during the early hours of the morning. We are still trying to find out how that could have possibly happened. Our only conclusion is that this Castle has never been broken into for centuries. We are sure a window was unlocked, but the back door was wide open—perhaps to carry her out. No one at the stables heard anything. The police believe she was moved further down the lane to some other transportation. They also think she was unconscious at that time, as there is a spot of blood on her pillow.

Kip had taken to his feet long ago and was pacing the room. As he stopped and peered out a window, Clyde stopped talking. “Please proceed,” he said with his back to the room and water in his eyes.

“Our first thought was that the two of you may have run off to be together, but that was quickly dismissed. However, the police did find that you had left London the night of your picnic. I think you were under suspicion for a while since you both were gone so soon after having been together.”

Kip turned to see if they were expecting an explanation. They were.

“Kip, I am sorry. I had to break your confidence with me, but only to Clyde.”

“I see. In such matters, it is entirely understood. As for leaving London, we had a rider from our estate come to my father’s apartment, telling us of the discovery of Lilith Caldwell’s body. She was found where my sister was found. I left on the train that night to represent the family and settle the staff – my brother was visiting here. I returned only an hour ago. I am worried there is a connection from me to Squeaks. What is being done?”

“The police are in the dark. There was nothing similar to Squeaks being found missing and the abduction of Lilith Caldwell. I dare say they do not associate the two cases. Do you?”

“Most certainly.”

“How do you come by that?” Asked His Lordship.”

“It comes from my dead sister. I will explain at another time. I have irons to cast into the fires. I will bring all the London coachmen to bear. We will find her. I only hope we are not too late.”

“Do I see two pistols in your belt.”

“Yes, you do. I have a rifle with my horse. If Squeaks has been hurt in any way, they will find a dead man. I will send a driver over every hour for any communication. I must go. Good evening.” Kip waited for no reply. He turned on his heel and left.

Kip headed for the Blevins Manor.

 

The heavy boots did not call out to her to stand away from the door, he opened it, giving Squeaks no decency had she needed it. He entered carrying an old lamp with a bailing wire handle, holding it high to see the dim room. “There you are. Cute little thing, as were the others.”

Squeaks couldn’t help but tremble. Although dressed as a gentleman, his speech, and unkempt look said differently. She gauged he was twice her weight. “I think you are mistaking me for someone else. I have no worth to anyone.” Squeaks began to plead her case.

“We knows exactly who you are Miss Dorset. You live with His Lordship, isn’t that right?”

“I am only a servant there. I am not a member of the family. I only have my father, and he works as staff. What do you mean, I’m like the others? What others?”

“I guess I can forgive you for not knowing the Caldwell women. You wouldn’t be traveling in the same circles.”

“I heard about Miss Lilith Caldwell if you are trying to scare me. I know there is Lord Caldwell at the House of Lords. I knew neither and have no association with them, and have no value. How can I benefit this scheme of yours?”

“You have a nice young body, like those two. Me brother and I fancy that. First, though, we have decided to get some money for you since you aren’t a noble.” The one-eyed man laughed. “You’re so small, I don’t know if you be worth much.” He laughed again.

“That makes no sense at all,” Squeaks said in her normal spirited attitude.

“Well, you have two Lords that are keen on you. At least one should be amiable to pay to get you back.”

“I don’t know what you mean by two Lords. You have me confused with some other.”

“It doesn’t matter which one.”

Squeaks saw the other brute-of-a-man come through the door with a long kitchen knife.

Squeaks felt the urine running down her leg as she began backing into a corner. She called for help but was quickly subdued.

“Miss, we ‘taint going to kill you yet. We just want some of that lovely hair of yours. They’re going to need proof that we have you.”

In her stuttering voice, “I should think being missed is proof enough for them.”

“We won’t take all of it this time. Brad, I’ll hold her. You cut.”

Squeaks was violently thrust to the one-eyed man, while the other began sawing off her hair with the dull knife, about halfway up. Squeaks started to cry. The seriousness of her situation was pressing in. Would she ever see Kip again?  “Did you kill Miss Caldwell?”

He roared with a laugh. “We got them both. You seem to think we are here to have a conversation.”

“Why?”

“Why? That family killed our sister just as if they shot her. She was young and pretty, like all of you. My brother and I have waited a long time to even the score.”

“How am I involved in this?”

“You are the lady to Lord Trevor Caldwell. But Lord Stokes will pay more for ya.”

“I know no Lord Trevor Caldwell. You want some other woman.”

“Maybe this will stop you from insisting on that.” Hair cutting completed, the one-eyed man punched her in the face, breaking her nose.

Squeaks fell to the floor, staining her nightshirt red while she lay unconscious.

The charwoman came running in when she heard the noise. “You men are brutes. What that young lady ever do to you blokes?”

“Shut up, or you’ll get the same. Clean ‘er up.” The brothers left the room mumbling about getting on with their job.

“I figure we have one more day. We’ll get that ransom note to Stokes and see if he reacts. If he doesn’t send gold or jewels within a few hours, we’ll have our fun with that young thing upstairs. In the morning, you take care of that old woman. I think you can hang her in the back stable.

Unknown to the men, Sarah overheard the end of the conversation as she headed for a pan of water and a cloth to wash Squeaks. “I don’t have no clothes for her,” she said, hoping they didn’t give a thought that she heard anything.

“You can leave her clothes off. We’re gonna tear ‘em off anyway.” The brothers laughed and refilled their glasses.

“So … which one? Stokes or Caldwell?

“Stokes. Hit him while we can. We still have the other Caldwell brother’s lady to snatch and then we can leave this country. After finding that last Caldwell wench, they know the deaths are connected. That inspector may be putting things together. Throwing in the Stokes girl should muddy their thinking for a couple of days. Where’s the coach?”

“It’s around back like you wanted. I put it under the coach shed. Don’t worry, brother. It may be a bit old, but that was an expensive ride at one time. The inspector won’t be looking for a carriage like that down here.”

 

By the time Sarah had cleaned up Squeaks, she had a new opinion on the offer that was made to her. Squeaks regained consciousness. She and the charwoman had a brief chat about how could they live through the next day.

That evening, Sarah folded a piece of scrap paper, along with a pencil, and put them in her apron pocket. She took a food tray to Squeaks.

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