THE SHADOW THAT PASSETH AWAY

 Chapter Eleven

 

  

Sergeant Daniel Boggs stared in amazement at the catch his foray through the woods outside Chester had netted.  They had been heading for the village, intent on finding the missing Robert Larkin and the French youth, Lafayette.  Instead, they had caught a young woman barely past a girl and, well, he wasn’t sure exactly what else they had caught.  It was obvious the ebon-haired stranger was military in the way he held himself, and in the manner that he withstood, and responded to questioning.  His quiet confidence and mask-like face revealed nothing of what he was thinking.  The only time a flicker of emotion had crossed the man’s face was when Boggs had ordered the young woman – Elizabeth Coates, she said she was – to be taken to the medical tent so the camp’s surgeon could look at her. 

The stranger had appeared gratified.

Boggs circled him now, taking note of his clothing.  The style and cut of his breeches and shirt indicated some amount of wealth.  The seaman’s coat most likely was stolen.  From what the woman had said, they had escaped from a British ship and were on the run.  If he hadn’t known better, Boggs would have thought the man was British – his use of the language was impeccable, easily outshining even His Excellency’s.  But there was no accent, and no arrogance.

Well, Boggs thought as he came around and looked into his captive’s serene face, maybe just a hint of arrogance.

“Who are you?  Why are you here?” Boggs asked for the third time.

“Further questioning will elicit no other response than the one I have given you.  I am Spock.  I came to Chester in search of a colleague.”

“What is his name?”

“Happer Clayworth.”

Boggs had never heard of the man.  “Did you come alone?”

“No.  There are two others.”

“Where are they?”

The man’s near-black eyes met his.  “I do not know.”

“You expect me to believe that?” Boggs challenged.

“It is the truth.  It makes no difference to me whether you believe it or not.”

Maddening.  That was good description of this one.  Boggs stifled a sigh.  “What were you doing in the woods at this hour of the morning?”

“As Miss Coates informed you, I was taken prisoner and incarcerated on a ship harbored on the Delaware.  The young woman helped to effect an escape, during which time she was wounded.  I escaped with her from the water, coming ashore close to where you found us.”

“What ship was it?”

“The Beagle.”

There was no hesitation.  Boggs was inclined to believe him.  But there was something.  The man was just…odd.  He looked at him again.  Spock stood at attention with his hands clasped behind his back, his shoulders slightly at ease, as if it were the most natural pose.  The sergeant’s eyes traveled over his prisoner’s lean frame, to his somewhat severe face and short, ebon hair.  The bandage on Spock’s head covered his forehead and the tips of his ears.  There was a dark stain on it as there was on his coat.  Probably blood, though the dried color of it was odd.  If it hadn’t been for the fact that there was so much at risk – when General Washington had found out that no one knew where the French marquis was, the explosion of his anger had rocked the entire corps – he would have simply let the man and the woman go.  But he couldn’t.  Not until he understood completely who they were.

Boggs pulled a chair away from his field desk and sat in it.  When he spoke, his voice was infinitely weary.  “Look, Master Spock, I would like to believe you.  But there is too much at stake.  You will have to give me something more to make me trust you.”

The tall, alien looking man gazed at him serenely.  “I am afraid there is little I can offer you, Sergeant Boggs.  I was only in Chester a matter of hours before being abducted.”

“Where did it happen?”

“I believe the establishment has the curious appellation of ‘Old Man Morris’ inn’.”

“The crimpers’ place?” Boggs asked, surprised.  “Whatever made you go into that den of iniquity?”

One black slash of a brow lifted.  “Thirst?”

Boggs actually laughed.  “You are a cool one.  You know that?”

There was amusement in the dark stare.  “Indeed.  I have been frequently informed that this is true.”

“Tell me who and what you saw there.”  Boggs had been in Chester many times, reconnoitering.  He had been in that inn and watched the queen or it – Maeve McGinnis –ply her various wares.  God would reserve a special place in hell for that one, he thought, peopled by the families she had torn apart and the men she had sent to their deaths.

“The usual flotsam and jetsam of humanity,” Spock remarked.  “The man, Morris, and…Maeve McGinnis….”

Did Boggs detect a note of embarrassment in that usually unflappable tone?  “Go on.”

“There was a shadowy man near the counter, whom I believe was one of the men who kidnapped me.”  He paused as if reviewing a book page by page.  “There were four British soldiers.  Redcoats, I believe you call them.  And a Frenchman accompanied by an American soldier out of uniform.”

“A Frenchman?”  Boggs stiffened.  To hide his interest, he added, “And how do you know the man who was with him was out of uniform?”

Spock’s head tilted.  “I presume, by your method of questioning, that you have drawn the same conclusion about me – that I am a man of the service, dressed as a civilian.”

The sandy-haired man leaned back.  He nodded.  “Yes, I have.  It isn’t ‘Master Spock’ is it?  It’s – ”

“Commander.”

“Navy then?  What ship?”

Was there a note of longing in that even tone?  “Once of the Enterprise, though I and my comrades no longer serve the king,” Spock answered.

“A fine ship from what I hear.”  Quite impressive, Boggs thought.  “You said there were others with you?”

He nodded.  “My captain, and the ship’s surgeon.  I imagine they are searching for me even now.”

“Yes.  But back to this Frenchman.  Can you describe him?”

“Tall.  Lean, with an aristocratic bearing.  A somewhat pallid complexion, accented by dark brown hair and eyes.”  The commander paused.  “Someone you are searching for?”

Boggs permitted himself a sigh.  “Dear God, yes.  So he was still in Chester….  When were you taken?”

“Early yesterday.  Before noon.”

“More than twelve hours ago.”  Boggs rose to his feet.  “But it is the first lead we have had.”

“He is important.”  It was a statement, not a question.

“To His Excellency, yes.  And perhaps to the Cause.”

“Would this be the Marquis de Lafayette we are speaking of?”

The question surprised the sandy haired man.  “Why would you think that?  There are many Frenchmen in the colonies.”

Spock’s upper lip quirked in the slightest imitation of a smile.  “Not many who are dear to General Washington.”  When Boggs failed to reply, the commander continued.  “I have certain…skills.  Allow me to assist you in your search.”

“Skills?”

The man hesitated.  Something flashed through his eyes.  Again, it appeared as if he was paging through a book.  Then he said, “If you will take me back to the tavern, I might be able to…elicit information from one of the patrons who were in attendance yesterday.”

“How?”

Spock drew a breath.  “Sergeant, have you heard of the Committee of Secret Correspondence?”

 Boggs swallowed.  He had.  “Yes.”

“Then you know what I have sworn, that I will not directly or indirectly divulge any manner or thing which shall come to my knowledge.”

He knew the words.  They were the ones sworn to by Congress and by any man working in the intelligence community.  General Washington had many such spies whose methods were, to say the least, suspect if not at time downright unprincipled.

 “Your methods….”

Must remain secret.”

The sergeant ran a hand over his chin.  It was a judgment call and he knew it.  Out here, there was no one but him to make the decision – a decision that might well mean the difference between life and death for the young Frenchman.

Boggs moved even closer.  Commander Spock did not flinch.  “Master Spock, can I trust you?” the sergeant asked simply.

The dark head tilted and one black ink-slash brow lifted.

“Sergeant Boggs, can you afford not to?”

 

James T. Kirk breathed a sigh of relief.  They had escaped the docks and headed to a small farm outside of Chester owned by someone named John Coates.  Apparently it was a prearranged meeting place for the three young men they had fallen in with – Isak Poole, Henry Abington, and Jeremy Larkin.  Isak had not said so, but Kirk had deduced that the trio had formed some sort of secret society.  Together they committed clandestine acts and operated as insurgents, with the sole intention of disrupting the plans of the English king’s occupying force.  From what he could tell, they were unknown as yet to the Continental Army.  At least, the young French aristocrat, the Marquis de Lafayette, seemed to have no idea what they were up to.  Kirk stared at the Frenchman, amazed to be standing within arm’s reach of one of the men he had admired all his life.  There were so many of them in this war – Generals Wayne and Greene, the Baron von Steuben, Lafayette, and of course, George Washington himself.  These were men who had made the country he sprang from, who had formed its backbone and given it flesh with their dedication and selfless lives.  Lafayette had always amazed him.  There was no man in whom the word liberté had evoked greater zeal and courage. 

A sudden thought struck the starship captain.  What if Lafayette was the focal point of the change Happer Clayworth had made?  Spock had not told them much of what the Guardian had shown him.  All they knew was the fact that George Washington died in September of 1777.  The Vulcan had seen more, but there had been no time to brief them before he disappeared.  Washington had apparently died of a seizure or stroke brought on by…what?  The Battle of Brandywine was looming on the horizon.  If all went as it once had, it would happen the following day.  Kirk thought through the facts.  Major General Lafayette had been there.  He had held the ground against a mob of ragtag continentals fleeing in fear at the power of General Howe’s military machine.  The Frenchman had been wounded in the leg and nearly died.

Nearly….

What if the young major general did die?  What would that do to history, and to the older man who had proclaimed him his son?

Thank God, Lafayette was here with him – safe and alive.

“Jim.”  It was Isak Poole.  The black man caught his sleeve and pointed ahead as he grinned.  “That’s Elizabeth’s farm.”

 The blacksmith had explained that Elizabeth was Jeremy Larkin’s girl.  She was an unofficial member of their society and often helped them out, mostly by providing them with a safe haven.

It seemed to Kirk that he was destined to spend the majority of his time in the 18th century in odiferous environments.  First the tavern, then the stable, now a barn stocked with hay and plenty of animals.  The 23rd century man sighed. 

Hopefully Bones had some hay fever medicine in that black bag of his.

When they arrived, they found no one there.  Isak, uneasy, left them shortly, returning to Chester to see if he could discover what had happened to his companions.  Kirk would have gone with him – he was worried about McCoy – but a sense of history, of the necessity of keeping the young man who was with him safe, overrode his own needs and desires.

Kirk was sitting on a bale of hay.  The Frenchman was pacing.  The starship captain watched him for several minutes and then made a suggestion.  “If you picked up a pitchfork, you could toss some hay while you make those rounds.”

Lafayette looked at him.  Quoi?”

“I don’t think you are accomplishing anything but wearing out the soles of your boots.”

The brown haired man with aristocratic bearing pulled himself up to his full height.  “I do not take to inaction well.”

“I can identify with that.”

“But look at you!  You are so calm.”

“I may look it,” Kirk smiled.  “Inside, I’m pacing with you.”

The Frenchman pursed his lips and then glanced at the door.  “I must return to my men.”  He paused.  “To the men I left behind.”

“Sir,” Jim said, rising and crossing to him.  “There is no need for pretense.  I know who you are.”

Lafayette’s dark brown eyes were as sharp as Spock’s and, like the Vulcan’s at times of highest stress, in them he sensed deep currents of emotion barely held in check.  “And how is that?” the young man asked.

“I can’t really tell you, sir, but I know you are the Marquis de Lafayette.  The youngest general in George Washington’s army.  If you don’t mind my asking, General, what were you doing in an occupied town?”

“I am known for being imprudente et d'éruption cutanée – how do you say it, reckless?”  Lafayette sighed.  “I set out to prove His Excellency’s generals wrong, and only succeeded in showing that they were right.  Deus Merci.  I am l’idiot.”

“You are not an idiot, sir.”  Kirk smiled.  “You are…merely young.  A condition from which we have all once suffered.”

That brought a smile to the young man’s face.  Merci, Capitaine Kirk.”  It lingered a moment, but the Frenchman sobered quickly.  “What I did was unforgivable.  Robert Larkin was wounded because of me.”

“Yes, he was.  But if you learned from your mistake, then it was not wasted.  ‘We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience,’” Kirk quoted.

Mon general’s words,” the young man sighed.

“Yes.  Intelligent words.  Great words.  You must heed them.”

Oui, I shall.  Now captain, as I was saying before – ”

Lafayette’s sentence went unfinished as the door to the barn opened and a tired and exhausted looking Jeremy Larkin dashed in.  “Sir, thank goodness I have found you.”

Lafayette frowned.  “Sir?”

“I know your secret, General,” Jeremy said as he came to their side.  “In time two and two always make four.”

The Frenchman scowled.  “So I have fooled no one?  There goes my career in espionage.”  A moment later he grinned.

“What is it, Jeremy?” Kirk asked, cutting to the chase.

“The British are on the move.  It seems some time today they will marshal and attack at Chadd’s ford.  We must get the general back to his troops.  My brother,” Jeremy’s voice faltered, “Robert made me swear to protect you, sir.”

“How is Robert?” Lafayette inquired.

“Alive when I left him, sir.  I can say little else for certain.”

“And your father?” the Frenchman asked.

“Unharmed for now.”

James Kirk watched the young man closely.  Jeremy was uneasy, almost nervous.  But then, that was to be expected, wasn’t it?  His father and brother were imprisoned and war was on the horizon.  So why did his actions and words make the starship captain’s hackles rise?

“Are you all right, Jeremy?” he asked quietly.

“Aye.  I am weary, to that I will admit.  But then little sleep and littler food will do that to a man as you no doubt know, James.  There has been little time for amenities since this whole thing began.”

That was true enough.

“What do you propose to do?”

Jeremy drew his pistol and handed another to Lafayette.  “I am armed.  I will see the general through to Washington’s camp.  I am…not unknown to some of the soldiers. After that, I will return to Chester in the hopes of freeing my brother and father.”  As he paused to draw a breath, his gaze shifted to Kirk.  “Sir, I stopped by my home on the way here.  Dr. McCoy is gone.”

“Gone?  Gone where?

“It was a most curious sight, sir.  There were three British soldiers stumbling in the street before the house, walking as though drunk, telling a high tale of being bewitched by the doctor and his apothecary apprentice.”  A rare smile lifted the corner of one of the young man’s lips.  “The apothecary would be Henry, I am sure.  Together they must have engineered an escape.”

James Kirk felt relief wash over him.  Bones was all right.  Now, if they could just find Spock and then, together, Happer Clayworth.

The starship captain thought for a moment.  “While you see the general to camp, I will return to the town and see if I can find Doctor McCoy.  We still need to find our other friend and then, we will lend you all the assistance we can to make certain the events of this day play out the way they were meant to.”

“As Providence intends,” Lafayette said with a nod of his head.

Jeremy nodded.  “That is the hope of us all.”  He smiled again and indicated the barn door with his hand.  “General, after you.”

The Frenchman nodded.  Gripping the pistol in his fingers, he started out the door.  James Kirk followed him closely.  It only took about five seconds to realize that the choice to do so had been a mistake.  Jim heard the whispered words even as the butt of a flintlock pistol came down hard on the back of his neck.

“Forgive me, Captain Kirk, but we must do this my way if my father and brother are to survive.”

“Jeremy, no!” he started to shout, but there was no time.

Seconds later Kirk collapsed to the straw covered floor and the world went black.

 

Spock stared at the eastern horizon, checking his internal clock to note the time.  It was 08:45.6 a.m.  Approximately three and a quarter hours before the British, according to history, began to move, and five and a half hours before the Battle of the Brandywine was joined.  There was a palpable sense of fear and anxiety in the small coastal town of Chester.  Like electricity it crawled along his Vulcan sensibilities, nearly unnerving him.  Applying the mental disciplines, he shut out 99.4% of it.  He would have succeeded in shutting it out completely had it not been for the fact that his physical condition was compromised. 

Closing his eyes, Spock searched for the location of the foreign object lodged in his body.  The lead ball was buried in the fleshy part of his upper chest, near the center, but toward the left hand side.  At the moment it was no more than an irritant, but he knew enough medicine to understand that it lay perilously close to several major arteries and posed a continued threat.  One wrong move and it could shift and incapacitate him, if not kill him.  Still, as there was nothing he could do about it, logic dictated he act as if it was not there. 

There were greater concerns this day than his individual life.

Elizabeth Coates did not agree with him.  She had been quite upset when he had visited her in the Continentals’ camp and told her he was returning to town to seek out his companions.  She had wanted to come with him.  He had denied her request, of course, and fortunately been seconded by Sergeant Boggs.  In the end the young woman had proven quite logical, accepting the fact that her presence would only hamper their efforts to aid both his friends and hers.

Spock glanced at the stable across the street where he had first been overcome.  Sergeant Boggs and several young soldiers, all in civilian garb, waited and watched there.

They had decided to allow him to be taken again.  He knew Happer Clayworth would be watching for him.  Logic dictated that the historian must either attempt to enlist his aid once more, or try to kill him.  The best contact for Happer would be Maeve McGinnis, and Maeve – most likely – would be found in Morris’ Tavern.  Once the woman made her move and he was once again a prisoner, Boggs and his men would track them.  It had taken Spock some time to convince Sergeant Boggs that this was the proper course to pursue.  Boggs had wanted to set off in pursuit of the missing Frenchman without a plan.  In the end the sergeant had yielded to the logic that Happer Clayworth was the man behind the attempt to either take or kill the young marquis, and that finding the lieutenant commander would, in the end, bring about the desired result.  Spock had, of course, been forced to imply that the knowledge he had was due to his connection to the Committee of Special Correspondence.  In spite of his father’s disapproval, it was a good thing his human half offered him the option of prevarication. 

Otherwise, he would have had to resign his commission in Starfleet.

Spock was standing just to the side of the tavern entrance, leaning on the building, his lean form shielded by shadows.  He watched a patron enter, turned and gave a signal to Boggs who acknowledged it with one of his own, and then followed the man in before the door closed.  Once inside the Vulcan looked for Maeve.  It didn’t take him long to find her.  She was, as usual, surrounded by admiring men who knew nothing of her less attractive attributes.

Spock observed her for a few moments.  An interview with Maeve could go one of two ways.  Either she would set him up again or – and this was his hope – agree to help him.  He had witnessed Happer’s violent treatment of her.  The inevitable end of their pairing must be as clear to the copper haired woman as it was to him. 

Maeve was deep in conversation when Spock reached out and touched her shoulder.  The instant he did, he knew there was no hope.  Through the physical link he sensed, even before her wide green eyes met his, that though she did not wish to betray him, she already had.  She had noticed him outside.  Clayworth had been informed.  In fact –

“I’ve heard you’re the best first officer in the fleet, Mr. Spock,” Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth remarked even as he pressed the muzzle of a flintlock into the Vulcan’s back.  “That implies intelligence.  Coming here was just plain stupid.  Unless, of course, you have a plan.” 

Clayworth’s silence discomforted Spock.  If the historian suspected….. 

“Morris!” Clayworth called.

The old man hustled over, obviously afraid.  “Aye, Happer?”

“You still have that old way out?  Through the back room floor?”

“The one used for the rum runners?  Aye.”

Clayworth moved the pistol’s barrel lower, to where it rested just above his heart.  “Get moving, Spock.  To the back.  If someone is waiting for us to carry you outside, they are going to wait a long time.”

Spock nodded, and then pivoted so quickly the weapon slid across his waist and off the side.  He caught Happer’s wrist in his right hand and reached up with the left, intending to employ the Vulcan nerve pinch.

Unfortunately, it was at that precise moment that the bullet lodged in his flesh chose to move.