The Noble Coachman – Chapter 21

 

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Chapter 21
The Brotherhood

 

To Squeaks, it felt like hours since Sarah hopefully escaped the house. Suddenly, her door burst open. Whoever it was, did not have a lantern with them.

Squeaks coward in a dark corner of the room, hoping the open window would not be noticed.

“Where is she?” Came a booming voice.

Squeaks could hear him moving about the room as if searching for her or a missing charwoman. That must mean that Sarah escaped, she thought. Being in a crouched position, she could see a dim light coming from the open door. She debated whether to run or not. The other man was somewhere. She had heard him return. Squeaks sensed the man in her room was coming her way and made a dash for the door. She was quickly subdued with her nightshift being ripped from her body. The man put his rough hands on her breasts.

“What have we here,” he asked in a playful voice.

“Nothing that belongs to you.” Squeaks started kicking his shins. She remembered her father telling her what to do if any man approached her with violence. As she swung her foot into his groin area, she felt her arm snap. He hollered louder in pain than then she did. The second man entered the room carrying a lantern.

His brother was writhing on the floor while Squeaks tried again to slip past him to the door. He easily caught her by the throat and lifted her onto the bed. “Did my brother try to have his way with you, pretty lass?” Placing the lamp on the table, his hand still in a stranglehold around her neck, he felt her breast, finally resting his hand between her thighs overtop of her undergarment.

“You know, my brother is selfish. He took both lasses first. I had to take second. That won’t work three times. He began to rip her underwear off but not without a fight.

Squeaks tried to fight back with her one arm, but she wasn’t succeeding in her own defense.

“Brad, you idiot,” came from the brother on the floor, “that charwoman you hired has escaped. We don’t have time for the wench.”

Unclenching fingers left her neck and private area. Brad backhanded her, knocking her unconscious against the wall. Her mouth bled badly from her teeth cutting the inside of her lips. The two men left the room.

It took Squeaks a few minutes to focus. She struggled with the pain in her arm, face and was gasping for air. She would never survive the next round. She felt like she was going into a coma. Her mind whirled. Any of the hundred drivers she had met or seen was capable of doing what just happened to her … and she hadn’t seen the worst. She knew men were much stronger, but the power they could actually wield against a woman fighting shattered her image of how she could protect herself. Why are women so weak? Now, she understood Kip’s obsession with protecting her or any woman. She’s not sure if she fainted again.

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Kip heard his kitchen door open and men talking. Kyle returned with Inspector Marshall.

“Kip, you seem to have a plan. Do you mind sharing it with me or shall I endeavor to find her with my men?” Marshall cautioned.

Before answering, Kip looked at Kyle, who was holding a bag. “Stokes is gathering what he has in the house,” said Marshall.

Kip took the bag from Kyle and opened it, first pulling out a hank of her beautiful black hair that he loved so much. The apostles silently flinched in sorrow for Kip. Unable to grasp the enormity of what he was holding, he laid her hair in front of her sketch on the mantel. It looked like a shrine to those who saw it.

“There’s a note, Kip.”

Dropping the bag to the floor, he unfolded the note and read it. Mary swirled in his mind, bidding for his attention. He fell into the nearest chair. Holding his head, seemingly in a trance, he watched the images she produced for him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Asked the Inspector.

“We don’t know, but he’s done this before. Just wait. He’ll tell us something after he faints.”

“Faints?”

“Just wait.”

Kip closed his eyes, and the room went silent. First, she showed him the one-eyed man in the room with Squeaks. He jumped to his feet, pacing the floor with his eyes closed, fingers rubbing his temples. Everyone took a step back giving him room. As the image broadened, the one-eyed man was holding her bloodied nightshift. All went blank after that except for the number twenty-seven. Without realizing it, he kept repeating 27, 27, 27. Kip collapsed to the floor after that. Matthew and Lucas rushed to him as he was opening his eyes.

“Give me a few seconds, men.” Kip laid there and collected his thoughts and strength. Everyone was staring at him.

“The one-eyed man has her; he has a glass eye,” he said, looking at Marshall. She is still alive, but she’s been injured in some way, and I believe she’s stripped of most of her clothing. Excuse me for a minute or two.” Kip took the steps, three at a time, to the upstairs.

“Dear God, what he must be going through.”

There was silence in the room.

“Did anyone hear him say twenty-seven? I thought I heard him repeat that.”

“Me too.”

“Can someone explain what’s going on with him,” inquired Marshall.

“We don’t know. He just showed us this tonight. See these drawings; this came from his head, he said. He says they are exact drawings of who we are looking for. Kyle can testify to the coach.”

“So what did the note say?” Someone asked.

“The Inspector picked it up from the floor and read it to them.”

“It sounds like she may still be alive,” Marc replied.

“I am sure Kip, and I put no credence in that part of the statement.” The inspector added.

Kip came down the stairs asking what time it was.

“Quarter past 2:00 a.m.”

 

Hiding in dark doorways, because of the increasing streetlamps, Sarah felt she was finally in the better part of town. The streets were full of coachmen ferrying home the society after their evening out. She tried hailing a few coaches, but no one would stop for a person dressed as her.

Sarah would have to think of another way.

One coachman, having delivered his riders, was coming through town and saw a body lying in the road under a street lamp. Quickly pulling on the reins and setting the brake, the horses stopped in time. Another coachman coming the opposite way saw it, too, and stopped.

The first coachman knelt down to discover it was an older lady who may be injured. Suddenly, the driver felt his lapels being yanked, shocking him to the point of almost dropping her. The second coachmen assisted him in the carry.

“Do either of you know a driver, names Kip?”

The two coachmen looked at each other. “Yes, we do. What is it you have to say about him?” They inquired as they placed her on the curb.

Sarah pulled out a scrap of paper and handed it to the second man.

“It seems to be from Squeaks, saying she has been kidnapped. She is on Hanbury Street but gives no number. Zac put the lady in your coach,” said Perkins. “We must find Kip.”

 

“Let’s get to the park, lads. Inspector, are you coming with us? You will likely need to arrest me before the night is over.” Kip proclaimed with unfaltering resolve. “Just don’t get in my way.” He walked to Warrior like a knight approaching his noble steed. He was ready.

Arriving at the park, many drivers were waiting. There were over fifty, talking in groups. Some had horses. Others had their coaches. Everyone seemed to be armed, which surprised Kip. Again, tears came to his eyes in the darkness. This friendship overwhelmed him more than they could possibly imagine.

All the drivers parked and tethered their horses. They made a circle around Kip. There were in-service and independent drivers coming together for Squeaks.

“Thank you, gentlemen, for the help you are extending tonight to find Miss Dorset. To let you know what we know, I’ll start with telling you that Lord Stokes has a doctor with him because he has had chest pains. Clyde Dorset is going to have a breakdown, I fear. We have just received a ransom note, so there is hope that Squeaks is still alive. I know that she has been kidnapped by the same men who murdered Miss Caldwell. We have narrowed our search area to Whitechapel. I hope you may have seen the sketches of the men or coach we are looking for. If not, Marc has them in his coach. We do not have an address, but we do have an hour, and we do have Squeaks’ Army. She once said to me with all the help offered to her, she felt like she was building an army. Little did she know how true that would come to be. Detective Inspector Marshall shall be riding with us tonight. Is there anyone here that knows the Whitechapel District well?”

Several drivers raised their hands.

“Please come forward and help coordinate the search areas. It seems we have about 50 men here.”

“There are two coaches approaching. They are traveling fast.” Someone shouted. Everyone turned in that direction. The two coaches entered the park but had to park far in the rear. “That’s Zac. It looks like he has an old woman with him.”

“Make way,” Zac was heard shouting. He had to hold up the woman, so another driver took her other side.

“Kip, this woman has brought a note from Squeaks. She was hired to feed her, but Squeaks made her escape for her life. Here is the note. Her name is Sarah.”

Kip took both of Sarah’s hands in his as he faced her. “Was the lady alive when you left her.”

“She were, yes. They cut off her hair and broke her nose.”

Gasps came from the crowd surrounding them.

“She ain’t going to be alive long, though. I overheard them. They gots some kind of ransom note. I heard them say she and I would be dead before morning. They was going to hang me in the stable.”

“So they have a stable?”

“Aye, it’s around back. It’s really a shed. There are no doors on it, only a roof. You has to go down the back alley to get to the opening in the back.”

“Thank you, Sarah.” Kip read the note out loud.

“How long has it taken you to get this to us?”

“Maybe 2 hours. I didn’t know which way to get to the good drivers as the little Miss called you blokes. She told me to look for the brighter streets with many lamps.”

“You will be well rewarded. I’d like you to rest in the carriage you came in. We must find the young lady immediately.”

“You better hurry before they have …their way … with her, is whats they said. I knows what they meant.”

Kyle stepped up and took the lady by the arm and escorted her back to Zac’s coach.

Unexpectedly, Kip was overtaken by his sister’s swirling image. He stopped speaking in mid-sentence and held his head. He fell to his knees and closed his eyes. Mary was beautiful. She looked gay and happy as he had remembered her. “What do you want me to see? Show me what you wish me to see?” The drivers heard him pleading.

The drivers milled around talking among themselves at this strange sight.

“He’ll be all right in a moment,” shouted Matthew.

Just before Kip fainted, the number twenty-seven returned. Round and round it went in his mind, like a carousel. He collapsed. Lucas and Matthew ran to him and pulled him into a standing position. It took him a moment to focus. He pulled out Squeaks note.

“Listen up, men. I believe we will find her at 27 Hanbury Street.”

“What happened, Kip,” someone asked.

“I have a small gift of sight. It’s only recent but it has been steady and true, For the second time today, I kept seeing the number twenty-seven. Squeaks note says she’s on Hanbury Street. Where are the drivers that know Whitechapel?”

Kip had a street map ready from when he was learning. The former Whitechapel drivers showed everyone where Hanbury Street was.

“If I could have everyone’s attention. We will fast-pace from here to Hanbury Street. It’s unfortunate that people are abed. We should be a sight. When we get within one block of Hanbury, I would like to hear everyone whistle sharply, like we hear all day. That is intended to get their attention and move away from Squeaks to the windows. This should buy us another minute or two. We will encircle the block to prevent any attempted escape. Myself, the Inspector and several others will go through the front door. Those near the back, break that door down. Inspector, do you have anything to add?”

“These two men will be armed and prepared to fire. As will be expected, they will know they cannot escape the house and will find Miss Dorset and use her as a shield. We may have to negotiate, but I doubt that. We just want to be able to prevent them from shooting her. They will have no compunction about pointing a gun to her head, hoping we will let them go. I’m asking everyone here not to act hastily. That is all.”

“Tomorrow, the world will see us as more than mere drivers. All set men? Let’s drive.”

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