THE SHADOW THAT PASSETH AWAY

 

 Chapter Four

  

 

Who was this man, Jeremy wondered, that his brother would be willing to give his life for him?  There was a story here, as of yet untold.  One he intended to unravel. 

Maybe if he could speak to Robert….

At that moment, there was a sharp rap on the door that startled both of them so they jumped in tandem.  A wild look entered the Frenchman’s eyes, but was squelched in a second.  Still, he placed his hand on his pistol as if in preparation for a fight, even as he fell back from the door into the shadows.

Jeremy stared at him for a moment, and then went to answer it. 

It was Isak and Henry.

Good God!  He had forgotten about their rendezvous.

“Jeremy,” Henry began, “is everything all right?”

“We missed you at the tavern,” the black man said.  “If we mean to do this thing tonight, we must….” 

Isak’s voice trailed off as Jeremy shook his head.  “Robert has been hurt,” he said without preamble.

“Is he here?” Henry asked.  “Can I be of any assistance?”

“I don’t know,” Jeremy answered as he stepped back into the room and gestured for them to enter.  “There is a man with him.  I don’t know who he is, but he seems to know something of medicine.”

“His name is McCoy.  He is un médicin.  Forgive me, a doctor,” the Frenchman said as he stepped out of the shadows.

As one Isak and Henry’s heads turned toward him.  “This is Paul du Motier, a friend of Robert’s from the university,” Jeremy explained.  “He was…with Robert when he was injured.”

“The two men who accompanied me are from the navy,” Paul explained.  “A ship captain and his surgeon.  I believe your brother is in good hands.”  This last he aimed at Jeremy.

The fact relieved him somewhat. 

“Jeremy,” Isak began, hedging, “about tonight….”

He shook his head.  “I dare not leave until I know Robert will recover.  You will have to…attend the party without me.”

“It won’t be the same without you,” Henry insisted.  “Perhaps you could join us later?”

“Perhaps.”

“It promises to be a rousing evening,” the black man added.  “I’ve heard there may be fireworks.”

Jeremy glanced at Paul.  The Frenchman was following their conversation with interest, as though not fooled by their subterfuge.  Still, there was no reason for him to suppose they were speaking of anything other than a night’s entertainment.

Was there?

The sound of footsteps on the stair made them turn.  It was the blond man with the sharp eyes; the navy captain, if Paul was correct. 

“Sir,” Jeremy asked, “how is my brother?”

“Weak from loss of blood, but Bones…Dr. McCoy says he will make a full recovery.”  The blond man smiled.  “Still, he’ll be off his feet for a day or two.”

“Thank providence your friend was in attendance,” Henry remarked.  “Is he a schooled physician?”

“McCoy?  Yes.  He knows what he’s doing.”  As he spoke, the navy captain’s eyes flicked to the door and a frown overtook the smile.

“Sir, is something wrong?” the rebel leader asked.

The blond man looked at him sharply.  Then he forced another grin.  “I don’t seem to have caught your name, young man, or to have given you mine.  Captain James T. Kirk,” he said, holding out his hand.

Jeremy took it.  “Jeremy Larkin.”

“Good to meet you, Jeremy.”

“And these are my friends, Henry Abington, and Isak Poole.”

Kirk took each of their hands in turn.  Jeremy noted that nothing in the navy captain’s demeanor indicated he thought any less of Isak than anyone else.  It was a fact that moved the man up in his estimation.

“Pleased to meet you,” Kirk said as his eyes returned to the door.

“Is something wrong, James?” Henry asked.

“Jim.  Call me, Jim.  And yes, there is something wrong.  I came to town with two friends and seem to have ended up with only one.  When your brother was injured, I had to stop searching.”  Kirk rubbed one hand with the other.  “I’m worried about him.”

“Where did he go missing?”

“He left the tavern that’s down by the water.”

“The one run by old man Morris?” Isak asked sharply.

Kirk was instantly alert.  “Yes.  Does that mean something?”

“Probably not,” Jeremy replied.  “Though the British have been known to ‘recruit’ strangers for their ships there from time to time.”

Kirk frowned.  “Impress them, you mean?”

“I see you have heard of the scurrilous practice,” Henry growled.  “Was your friend in health, and strong in limb?”

“Spock?  Oh, yes….  But I seriously doubt any crimper could get the drop on him.  No, I think this was something else.  I think this had to do with that woman.”

“What woman?”

Kirk waved his hand impatiently.  “Tall.  Red haired.  Works at the tavern.  May?  Mary?”

“Maeve?” Jeremy asked.

“That’s it!  Do you know where I can find her?”

“Oh, everyone knows where you can find Maeve,” Isak answered with a sly grin.  “She runs a nunnery.”

“A nunnery?” the navy captain’s frown deepened.  “I didn’t know there were any nunneries in rural Pennsylvania.  Is there a strong Catholic influence here in Chester?  From what I read…remembered, this area was a mix of Protestant religions”

The black man’s face sobered.  “It’s hard to imagine a navy man who hasn’t been to a nunnery.”

“Where I come from it is called le maison de tolérance,” the Frenchman said, speaking after a short silence.  “Perhaps James knows it by another name as well.  I believe the common term is a brothel.”

“She’s a madam?” Kirk exclaimed.  “Then what was she doing working in the tavern?”

“Where better to find clients?” Henry replied.  He hesitated and then added, “Perhaps your friend was looking for….”

“No.  No.”  Kirk said it so emphatically that Jeremy didn’t doubt him.  “Not Spock.  Something has happened.  If that woman has harmed him in any way – ”

Mon ami,” Paul began, “you and your friend have aided me.  Now, I must aid you in return.  Let us go seek this woman and see if we cannot convince her to tell us what has become of your friend.”

Jeremy sought Jim’s gaze.  “Is my brother truly out of danger?”

“Yes, unless infection sets in, but Bones has…ways of keeping that from happening.”

“Herbs, no doubt,” Henry chimed in.

“Then I will go with you as well.  Henry, you and Isak must go to the party without me.  Once we return, I will check in on Robert and, if he is holding his own, I will join you – if I can.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Kirk replied.

“I insist.  It will allow me to discharge my debt to you,” the rebel leader insisted.  “And I believe you are a man who understands how heavily a debt not discharged can weigh on a man.”

“All right.  Thank you.”  With that, the navy captain headed for the door.  “I’ll wait outside.”

“I will bid fare well to Robert and then join you.”

Kirk nodded and, with Paul following close behind, exited the house.

Jeremy stared after them, both puzzled and concerned.  There was more afoot this night than General Howe’s army.

And he was determined to find out what it was.

 

Spock’s eyes snapped open.  For a moment, he was completely disoriented.  His hands and feet were bound and he was lying on his back in a dark, cramped space that smelled of animals.  The Vulcan closed his eyes and sought to sort through the jumble of images that presented themselves to his waking mind: his first realization that Lt. Cmdr. Happer Clayworth was absent from the landing party on the Guardian’s world.  The discovery of Happer’s assistant, Ensign Sim’s, dead body behind an outcropping of rock.  The fact that several phasers, as well as other equipment were missing from a storage locker.  A flash, like lightning, as the wayward historian stepped through the Guardian into time, quickly followed by the realization that everything had changed and that, once again, they were going to have to make it right.  His fear – yes, fear – that this event might force him to cause Jim Kirk pain again.  And then arrival.  Chester, Pennsylvania, September 1777.  The stolen clothes and obligatory disguise.  The scene at the inn.  The stable. 

Maeve McGinnis. 

An 18th century woman with a phaser.

Spock ran a quick check of his system.  He was unharmed and, fortunately, still wore the uncomfortable wig that covered his telltale ears.  He stifled a groan as he lifted his head in a futile attempt to survey the room.  The last time he had been hit by phaser fire it had only been a glancing blow, delivered by Captain Tracey of the Exeter on Omega IV in an attempt to keep him from contacting the Enterprise.  The blast from Maeve’s weapon had struck him full force driving him to his knees, and then to oblivion.  The weapon had been set on heavy stun.  At such close proximity, the odds were high that it would have caused permanent damage to a human. 

Considering the time period he and his companions currently occupied, and the circumstances that had brought them here, it did not take one of James Kirk’s intuitive leaps to determine just who that individual was.  Simple logic would suffice.

He was the prisoner of the historian, Happer Clayworth.

As Spock waited for the effects of the stun to clear, his eidetic memory retraced the steps that had brought him to this unknown place.  Upon entering the tavern he had become aware of a number of interesting individuals, and two in particular: an older man who seemed to be the owner of the establishment, and a young man of a military mien dressed in black who was acting in a clandestine manner.  Both men interacted with Maeve before she turned her attentions to him.  Examining the evidence after the fact, it became clear that she had been in league with at least one of them and that the man, whichever it proved to be, must be in league with Happer Clayworth.  Clayworth had come through the Guardian’s portal alone, so whoever it was that aided him belonged to this century.  The phaser in Maeve’s hand meant that the Prime Directive had been violated and, most likely, would be so again.  His own interaction with Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth had been limited, but it had been clear that the man was unbalanced, so such a development was not to be unexpected.  Spock scowled as he tried the ropes that bound his wrists without success.  Of course, most humans seemed unbalanced to him.  Still, he berated himself now for not noticing that Clayworth’s eccentricities went beyond the norm.

The sound of fabric brushing up against wood alerted him to the presence of someone moving outside of the room in which he was confined.  Seconds later his suspicions were confirmed when a key entered the lock and an inner mechanism in the door clicked into place, allowing it to open.  The door creaked slowly in as an unshuttered lantern was thrust into the space. 

Spock closed his eyes before whoever it was could see he was awake and deliberately slowed his breathing, feigning continued unconsciousness.  He remained completely still as a shadow fell across his supine form.  

“He don’t look so dangerous,” a low, grating voice snarled.  “Looks like a leeward breeze’d blow him away.”

“Looks can be deceiving, Rowland,” a feminine voice he recognized as Maeve’s replied.  “You saw him earlier in the tavern.  You’d better be believing me, this one bears watching.”

“Ain’t been one taken yet could best me,” another male voice boasted.  “I’d like to see him try!”  Both men were English and of a type that Doctor McCoy, in his quaint but articulate manner, would have classed as stupid brutes.

“Tis fortunate he’s still unconscious,” Maeve commented with a sigh.  “We don’t need any trouble.”  Her voice had passed from exasperated to stern.  She spoke as if with some authority.  “Get him into the wagon.  The ship leaves with tonight’s tide.  I want him on it.”

“The boss ain’t gonna like it,” Rowland warned.

“I’m being the boss here,” the Irish woman responded.  “You two will get your cut just like always.  This one is prime merchandise.  He should bring a prime price.”

Listening to them, Spock found himself reassessing his earlier appraisal of the situation.  It sounded as if the purpose for which he had been taken had nothing to do with Happer Clayworth.  Still, Maeve had a phaser in her possession, so the renegade Starfleet officer had to have been in contact with her. 

Was he, perhaps, witnessing a betrayal of some kind?

“Now, show me that all your muscle isn’t in your tongues,” Maeve goaded.  “Shoulder him, Christopher.  Rowland, you keep him covered.  I’ll go outside and make certain the way is clear.  Then, I have to get back.”

Spock listened as the woman’s staccato footsteps beat a determined path to the door.  Circumstances suggested he was still in the stable located across the street from the inn, and that Maeve intended – for whatever reason – to have him transported to the docks.  From the quick survey he had done of the Guardian’s images before he, Dr. McCoy and Captain Kirk had followed Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth through the time portal, he had been able to access several documents describing ancient Chester and its layout.  The village had a workable harbor.  Small packet ships regularly provided service between it and London.  The channel near the town was deep and wide enough to allow vessels to tack and maneuver so they did not have to be towed.  This, obviously, was where Maeve intended to take him. 

Spock considered his options.  As Maeve had left the area, most likely so had the phaser she carried.  One of the men was armed, but the odds were high that it was with a standard percussion type weapon or a knife or cudgel.  While a projectile fired at close range from what had been known as a flintlock pistol could inflict considerable physical damage, the other two weapons posed no difficulty in overcoming.  Still, if he made his move here, even though he gained his freedom, he would still be trapped in whatever structure Maeve had housed him in.  The odds were high that he would be retaken.  However, if he waited until they reached the dock the odds increased exponentially in his favor that he could make good his escape.

Acceptable.

A pair of sandpaper hands grasped his arms and lifted him up.  Christopher grunted as he hefted him, no doubt surprised by the density of his Vulcan muscle.  None to gently Spock was tossed over the man’s shoulder and carried to the door.  On a signal from Maeve, he was unceremoniously dumped into the back of an open wagon and covered for the most part with a heavy canvas tarp reeking of brine and patently dead fish.  From beneath a fringe of ebon eyelashes he watched her watching him, a curious look on her face.  Then she moved.  Her hand reached into the pocket she wore at her waist.  There was a flash of light and a familiar whine.

And then oblivion.

 

Jeremy stepped back to allow a wagon to pass by.  He had been speaking to James Kirk, trying to pull from the stubborn navy captain something of the circumstances in which he and his party had arrived in Chester.  Not many were forthcoming.  Kirk did not say where they hailed from.  Neither did he admit to any destination.  He did offer a description of his missing comrade which, unfortunately, fit a good many men in Chester.  Master Spock was tall, lean, lightly tan of complexion, with raven-black hair and deep, near-black eyes.  He wore a charcoal coat, black breeches and boots.  Kirk did mention that his friend was only half white; the other half being of an Oriental persuasion.  This alone would make him stand out from others.  Jeremy hoped the missing man had not run afoul of some of Chester’s more disorderly persons.  It had not been all that long ago that a man had been killed on the wharf simply for being half-caste.  Seamen were a rough lot, with their own code of somewhat spurious rules.

Growing frustrated with Captain Kirk’s vague answers, Jeremy had turned and stepped into the street without making certain it was clear.  The wagon missed him by a margin of no more than two feet.  As it pulled away, spewing dust, the driver had let loose a series of curses that still lingered in the air.  Among other things, the man labeled him as a bully fop and the worst kind of idiot. 

“Jeremy, are you all right?” Paul asked as he drew alongside him.

As he nodded in response, Captain Kirk stared thoughtfully after the vehicle and its reckless driver.  “Where’s the fire?” he muttered under his breath.

Dusting off his coat, the rebel leader turned toward the stranger.  “By the stench, I would say at the docks.”  He shrugged his shoulders.  “Seamen are notoriously contemptuous of those of us who walk on the land.”

Kirk’s hazel eyes were narrowed.  “I hope that’s all it is.”

“Why would you suppose anything else?” the Frenchman asked.

“I have a facility for…”  The navy captain hesitated.  “Mr. Spock calls them intuitive leaps.  I think the term you might use is a hunch.”

“And your hunches are usually right?” Jeremy asked.

Kirk’s grin was determined, and just a little bit grim.  “Usually.”

The rebel leader gazed down the street.  The wagon had faded from view, though the dust its speeding wheels had kicked up was still evident.  “And you think that wagoneer had something to do with your friend’s disappearance?”   

James Kirk nodded.  “There’s something I want to check out.  Something I noticed before in the stable, but didn’t have time to follow through on.”

Together they completed crossing the street and entered the facility Morris’ tavern used for quartering its guests’ animals.  The navy captain made a bee’s line to the back and turned into one of the stalls.  Jeremy followed close after him, wondering what it was he had seen.  When he entered the stall, he found Kirk rooting through the hay.  A worn woolen blanket lay near his feet, neatly folded. 

 “When I was in here before, that blanket was under the straw,” he said, tossing piles of the yellow stuff aside.  “There was only a corner peaking out.  I wondered then why it was – ”  Kirk suddenly fell silent.

Qu’est….” Paul breathed.

“What is it?” Jeremy echoed.

The navy captain turned.  He was holding an unflapped black tricorn hat in his hands.

“Damn!” Kirk cursed.  “Spock was here all along.”