ALL HALLOWS EVE by Marla F. Fair

           A Young Rebels Ghost Story

            Chapter Six

 

 

“Oh God.  Oh God.  Oh God.  Do something!  Henry, do something!”

            “I have done all I can, Elizabeth.  There is nothing more.  Perhaps if I was a physician.  If I knew more….  Mayor Larkin.  Mayor Larkin?  Sir?  Elizabeth help me!  Fetch some water while I help him to a chair.”

            “No.  No…  My son.  My only son.”

            “Elizabeth!  Now.  Move.  Jeremy’s father you can help.  There is nothing more you can do for Jeremy.  It is over.”

            It was over.  He was back, but….

Jeremy lay trapped in a body on the verge of dying.  He could not move.  His vision had shut down.  He was not even certain if he was breathing.  All he could do was lie there, listening helplessly to the chaotic scene unfolding about him. 

            “Jeremy!  No!  I won’t believe it.  No!

            Desperate fingers gripped his arms and drew him upwards.  Hot tears fell on his cold cheeks.  Elizabeth sobbed as she cradled his dying form in her arms.

            “Dear merciful God!  No!”

Henry spoke.  His voice, though it trembled, unlike Elizabeth’s remained calm.  “Elizabeth.  Dear Elizabeth.  Come away.

“Jeremy is gone.”

            No!  No!  I’m not!

Jeremy struggled within the prison of his flesh to give his friends some sign thatF

he could hear them.  He concentrated on shifting one finger –  just one –and using it to brush Elizabeth’s hand.

Nothing happened. 

It was as though he had been allowed to return, only to say goodbye.

            “Jeremy.  Please.”  Elizabeth’s voice was hoarse.  She pleaded.  “Come back to me!  Don’t leave me.  I can’t live without you.”  Her lips touched his own.  Her fingers ran wildly through his sweat-soaked hair.  “Jeremy.  Please….

Please!

            Unexpectedly the darkness that veiled his eyes was drawn back like a curtain and he could see.  First the ceiling.  Then Elizabeth bending over him, her beautiful face streaked with tears.  The trailing ends of her near-black hair dangled just above his face, out of reach.  He wanted to touch her.  To reassure her.  To tell her that he was alive.

            But it was hopeless. 

He couldn’t.

Then, just as despair threatened to drag him back down into the darkness, Jeremy noticed someone behind her.  At first he thought it was Henry, but then he saw that it was a tall figure with a halo of golden blond curls.  He recognized it as the spirit of his brother. 

            “Robert?” Jeremy breathed, raising his hand toward the one who had guided him for so long.  “Robert?” 

            “Jeremy?  Oh God!  Henry!  He spoke.  Jeremy spoke!”

            “Elizabeth, that is impossible.  His heart has stopped.  He can’t – ”

            Jeremy blinked.  He licked his lips and tried to focus on his friend.  Somehow, he managed to give Henry a rather pathetic smile just before unbearable pain exploded through his head and shoulder and he cried out.

            And fell into blackness again.

 

                                                                    ###

 

            “Jeremy?”

            A soft voice intruded.  Jeremy moaned and tried to shift.

            “No.  Lie still.  It’s a miracle you are alive.”

            He blinked and fought for focus.  The face was familiar if fuzzy.  Round, with rounder glasses and capped with thick auburn hair. 

“Henry?”

            His face smiled, but Henry’s voice was troubled.  “Yes.  Yes.  Dear Lord, Jeremy!  We thought we had lost you.  I still….  Well, I don’t understand how we didn’t.”

            “Why?”  Jeremy drew a breath and shuddered as a second wave of pain rolled through him.  “What…happened?”

            “You were shot.  Through the sidelight of your front door.  A shard of glass struck your temple – you have quite a gash.  The ball entered through your back and exited through the chest.  The blood….”  Henry fell silent for a moment.  “God, the blood….”

            Jeremy closed his eyes gathering strength and, with great effort, managed to weakly grip Henry’s hand which lay beside him on the bed.  “Henry?”

            His friend met his gaze.  There were tears in his eyes.  “Yes, Jeremy?”

            He had to know.  “Was I dead?”

            Henry’s brows sky-rocketed toward the reddish-brown hair falling in a gentle wave across his forehead.  He gnawed his lip.  “Dead?  Well, technically –”

            “Just answer…yes…or no.”

            His friend’s hand shook beneath his own.  “For several seconds.  Yes.”

            Then it had happened.  Robert had been there.  In their home.  That fact should have frightened him.

            Instead it gave him an incredible peace.

            “Jeremy!  My boy, you’re awake!”

            Jeremy looked past Henry and saw his father.  Samuel Larkin was standing in the doorway to his room, clapping his hands.  His father was pale and exhausted, but the sight of him awake had made the older man dance with joy.  Henry shifted aside to allow him to take his seat, but before he did, his father leaned over him and kissed him on the forehead. 

            “I thought I had lost you.  Like your brother,” his father remarked as he dropped wearily into the chair.

            “I am here…sir,” Jeremy answered.  He drew a breath and winced.  Fatigue and a slight nausea washed over him.  “As was Robert –”

            His father reached out and placed a finger to his lips.  “That is quite enough talking for one day, young man.  I order you to be quiet.” 

            “But, sir….”

            “Tomorrow will be time enough, Jeremy.”  Samuel Larkin leaned forward and patted his hand.  “Now, we have all the time in the world.”

            Jeremy’s eyes closed involuntarily.  Seconds later he jerked awake and looked for his father, meaning to plead his case further.  But Samuel Larkin was not there.  Hours had passed.  The room had grown dark.  Outside the moon shone through his bedroom window.  There was a candle lit on his bedside table and the chair by the bed was empty.

            For the moment.

            A lean dark-haired figure clothed in a deep brown suit emerged from the darkness to occupy it.  As the man sat down, he leaned forward and took his hand.

            “Bonsoir, mon ami.  I am glad to see you alive.”

            Jeremy blinked, surprised.  It was Lafayette.  Here.  In his home.   “General?” he asked.

            “Oui.  How are you, Jeremy?”

            “Sir.  You…shouldn’t be…here.  It is…dangerous.”

            “And you should not excite yourself, Jeremy.”  Lafayette released his hand and leaned back.  “I have come under cloak of darkness.  Your father is at the church, praying.  Only Henry and Elizabeth are here.”

            “Elizabeth?  I meant to…ask Henry.  How did they – ”

            “Come to be here?”  Lafayette drew a deep breath.  “Elizabeth and her uncle met your father coming from the All Hallows service last night.  They were walking toward the house together.  They did not hear the shot for all the noise in the street, but your father saw the broken pane as he came to the door.  He glanced in and saw you laying on the floor.  While John Coates went for help, Elizabeth and your father entered and tried to revive you.”

            Lafayette’s voice was grim.  Even though the words were spoken with precision, as a general giving a report of a battle, they rang with horror and – strangely enough –guilt.

            “Henry?” Jeremy asked.

            “Coming from his shop as John Coates’ ran past spreading the alarm.”  Lafayette paused.  “Henry said you almost died.”

            Jeremy did not reply.  How could he?  He had died, but Lafayette would believe that.  The general would think it a delusion of the wound and the ensuing fever.

            Lafayette shifted and rose to his feet.  He clasped his hands behind his back and went to look out the window.  “Isak was sent to tell me you had been shot.  He pried the bloody ball from the plaster of one of the walls in your home.  He also found a rifle, abandoned in the snow nearby.”  The general stopped and turned to look at him.  “Jeremy, it was of military issue.”

            “British?”

            Lafayette shook his head.  “One of ours.”

            Jeremy frowned, both with pain and confusion.  He tried to sit up.  “What?  Who….”

            “I am tiring you.  I should not have come.”  Lafayette walked over and placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Lay back down.  Rest, my friend.”

            “I will…only be able…to rest….”  Jeremy gasped, raising his voice.  “When I…know what has…happened!”

            Unexpectedly Henry poked his head in the door.  “Trouble, General?”

            Lafayette met Jeremy’s eyes.  “What should I tell him, Jeremy?  Is there?”

            Jeremy knew he had better calm down or Lafayette would order Henry to sedate him.  “All…right.  I’ll lie back.  But you will…tell me….  Please.  Henry, I’ll…rest better when I know.”

            Henry shrugged his shoulder’s at Lafayette’s questioning glance.  “Most likely that is the truth, sir.  You know our Captain,” he added with a smile.

            Lafayette returned to the chair.  “Yes, I do.”  He waited until Henry disappeared into the hall and then began by asking, “How is your ankle, Jeremy?”

            “My ankle?” Jeremy frowned.  Oh, that was right.  He had twisted it.  This new pain had driven it from him mind.  Still, the general’s question seemed foolish at best.  “Mending.  Why?” 

            Lafayette squared his shoulders and met his inquiring gaze.  “I should not have let you go on that raid.”

            “It was my…decision, sir.”

            “It was not.  As your superior, it was mine,” the general snapped.  “I lost two good men that night.  And now, I will lose another.  When I heard the Redcoats had intelligence about our movements, I should have removed the matter from your hands.”

            “You’re speaking…of Abel Collins and myself…I take it, sir?”  Jeremy frowned.  “But who…is this other you will lose?”

            The general’s face was haunted.  “Josiah, Abel’s brother.”

            “Josiah.  He wasn’t….”  Jeremy stopped.  He felt sick.  Josiah shot me?”

            Lafayette nodded.  “Oui.  We have him.  And we have his confession.”

            His heart was pounding.  “Where is he?”

            “Being held – until his execution.”

            “Sir!  No.”

            “He shot a superior officer, Jeremy.”  Lafayette held up a hand to still his protests.  “It is out of my hands.”

            Sinking back into the pillows, weary beyond words, Jeremy asked, “Is there… nothing I can do…for him?”

            The general looked startled, and then a slow smile crept across his face.  “You never cease to amaze me, mon ami.  You would have sympathy for your killer?”

            Jeremy closed his eyes and thought of Robert.  If the man who shot his brother stood before him, would he not have done the same thing?  Opening his eyes, he nodded.  “When?”

            “Soon.  Unless there is some reason to delay.”

            “Can you wait…until I am well?  I would like to talk to him.”

            Lafayette rose to his feet.  “I will see what I can do.”

            “General?” a voice intruded.

            Both men turned to look.  Jeremy smiled.

            It was Elizabeth.

            “Yes, Elizabeth?” Lafayette asked.

            “Sergeant Boggs has come.  The sentries are changing.  It’s time for you to leave.”

            “Thank you for coming, sir,” Jeremy said, his voice a hoarse whisper.  All the talking he had done and the horror of Josiah Collins’ deed and capture had robbed him of what little strength he had gained.

            “There was no way I could not come.  I had to see for myself that Captain Yankee Doodle had indeed returned from the dead.”

            As the general left and Jeremy contemplated his words, Elizabeth slipped into the chair beside the bed.  She looked at him and then rose unexpectedly and crossed to the door.  As Jeremy watched she said a word to Henry and then pushed the door nearly too.  Then she came to his side again and crawled into the bed and lay close beside him.

            “I love you,” she whispered.

            He placed his hand on her arm.  “I know.”

            “I thought I’d lost you.  Jeremy, I didn’t know what I would do.  For a while….”  She paused, and when she spoke again her voice was choked with guilt.  “I think I would have gone crazy.  I had this idea…  I blamed General Lafayette.  I thought….  Well, Jeremy, it was awful!”

            “Shh.  I’m here,” he whispered, “and…I am not…going anywhere.  Elizabeth….”

            “Yes?” she answered, snuggling up against him.

            “You know, don’t you…that I would never…take advantage of you?  I mean.. that I am not…what I pretend to be?”

            “More’s the pity,” she sighed close to his ear.  When he looked at her, he saw she was smiling.  “You have enough strength left to kiss me, Captain Yankee Doodle?”

            Jeremy smiled in return as she leaned over and brushed his lips with hers.

            And then he fell asleep in her arms.

 

                                                                ###

 

            It took some time for him to recover, but with his father and Elizabeth’s patient and continual ministrations, he did.  Lafayette’s surgeon was sent early on to look at him.  He pronounced him a miracle.  The ball should have killed him.

            But he was alive.

            Josiah Collins was not.

            Winter was ended.  Spring was in the air.  On the mound of dirt heaped over the young man’s grave, green shoots were rising, pushing through the bleak brown dirt, heralding new life.  Jeremy knelt at the young man’s stone and laid a handful of early crocus before it.  Tears streamed down his cheeks.

            “I wanted to tell you, Josiah,” he began, “that death is nothing to be afraid of.  But you know that now.  And I know that you are with your brother, where you longed to be.  Just like me.  I’m sorry….”  His voice broke.  Jeremy was silent a moment and then continued on with renewed strength, “I am sorry that your brother died.  But I am not sorry for the command I gave.  This is war.  And if we are to win our freedom, men will die – good men.  Men like Abel.  Like Robert.

            “Like you.”

            Jeremy rose to his feet and wiped his face with his sleeve.  The sun was just setting.  In the west there was a golden glow streaked with finger-thin clouds of pale purple and rose.  Behind him, illuminated by the sun’s dying rays, lay the monument dedicated to his fallen brother, Robert.  Jeremy had asked that Josiah be buried nearby.  And with honors.  He wanted the young man to be remembered for the service he had given to his country, and not for the one last desperate act that had branded him a killer.

            He stood for a few moments, staring down at Josiah’s grave, and then pivoted and faced the reality of his brother’s headstone.

            Behind it was Robert.

            “This is the last time I will be able to speak to you, little brother,” Robert said softly.  “You don’t need me anymore.”

            “I will always need you,” Jeremy countered.

            Robert smiled that smile.  “And I will always be with you.  In you.  A part of you.  Take care, little brother.”

            Jeremy nodded.  He blinked, and his brother was gone. 

            “Goodbye, Robert,” he whispered softly.

            “For now.”  

 

 

                                                             - end -