THE SHADOW THAT PASSETH AWAY
Spock leaned against a fence rail affecting as nonchalant an attitude as his rigidly trained Vulcan muscles would allow. The human female had led him to the area of a stable not too far distant from the tavern, most likely the one where guests’ horses were quartered. He had scanned enough late 18th Century Terran novels to formulate a theory as to what Maeve might anticipate as the expected outcome of such a clandestine encounter and, in spite of the good doctor’s beliefs to the contrary, was enough of a gentlemen that his desire was not to hurt or humiliate her. He would not have come had her words not been so startling.
She had called him an ‘enterprising man’ and offered to ‘give him what he wanted.’
While he was well aware of the obvious dual nature of her words, and the fact that the choice of phrase could have been effected merely as innuendo in the hopes of commencing sexual relations, he reasoned it was quite logical to accept her offer and see what came of it. There had been no time to inform the captain of either his purpose or his reasons, and bearing the outcome of any small annoyance on Jim’s part for taking action without orders would prove well worth it – if only for the look his actions had engendered on Dr. McCoy’s face.
Maeve had gone into the stable to see if it was ‘safe’, or so she said. Spock’s left eyebrow peaked upon her return. Apparently it was not. Her appearance had altered considerably. Where before the tavern attendant had been quite neat and entirely kempt, she was now disheveled. Her copper colored hair had come loose of its ribbons. Her crimson gown was unlaced and falling off one shoulder. And there were traces of straw and other organic matter clinging to her now exposed white petticoats.
When she saw him looking, she smiled and crooked a finger.
The Vulcan pursed his lips. Perhaps a revision of his original theory was in order. He cleared his throat and straightened up. “Madame – ”
“Maeve,” she purred.
“Maeve. I regret….” He cleared his throat again. “I apologize if my actions led you to an erroneous conclusion. It is not my intention to engage in any sort of act of sexual procreation. In fact, such an action would prove extremely deleterious to you – perhaps even fatal.”
The human female had frowned with concentration as he spoke. At his last statement, her eyes brightened and she smiled. “It’s too late.”
Maeve sidled over to him and laid her hand on his chest. “Whatever you’ve done to me, it’s already fatal. Tis dying, I am, to get to know you better.” Her words were soft and spoken with a lilting Irish accent. The eyes focused on him were green as the virgin world about them. Spock shifted uncomfortably. Somehow, he didn’t think that last term applied to the woman confronting him.
Taking her hand in his, he moved it away. “I am interested in information. You said you could give me ‘what I wanted’.”
“And what else could you be wanting but me?” she asked, pressing in closer.
Spock sidestepped, but didn’t quite escape her. “Your mention of an ‘enterprising’ man. What did that signify?” he asked, seeking to place a watering trough between them. “Was there any reason for your particular choice of words?”
Maeve skirted the wooden structure and backed him up against the fence. “No more so than for my choice of you,” she responded, her voice husky and, again, filled with hidden meaning.
“Come into the stable, and I’ll give you what you want. There’s too many eyes abroad in the night. Too many tongues to wag.”
The study and interpretation of the female of the species – whether Vulcan or human – was not one of his strongest subjects. Subterfuge and duplicity were foreign to his nature when worked for personal gain. Spock’s keen mind raced through the possible scenarios and arrived at the only logical conclusion – whether or not Maeve communicated anything of import to him, the worst that could happen was that he would insult her by refusing her attentions and she would retaliate by striking him across the face and then making some kind of a threat, most likely, that she would never speak to him again.
An eminently practical and entirely satisfying conclusion to the episode as far as he was concerned.
“Very well,” he replied at last.
She held out her hand and waited.
“You may proceed,” he said.
Maeve’s fingers wiggled.
Stifling a feeling of frustration that arose from somewhere deep within his buried human half, Spock permitted himself a sigh. Then he took her hand and let her lead him toward the stable door.
As they entered the damp, dark area that smelled of hay matted with excrement and watered with urine, his Vulcan ears twitched at a familiar sound. The captain had left the tavern across the street and was seeking him, calling out his name. Not surprisingly there was a note of annoyance in Jim’s tone. Spock considered turning back, but decided against that course of action as the entire progression of events from the time he had left the inn until now was about to come to fruition.
Maeve led him around a stall wall and stopped, allowing him to proceed into it. There was an area of clean straw matted down, topped with a somewhat worn woolen blanket. Suddenly keenly aware that Jim Kirk would have known precisely how to graciously extricate himself from this situation – and probably had a thousand times – Spock turned back, intending to do his best to imitate his commander.
Only to find himself on the firing end of a Starfleet issued regulation phaser.
“I told you I’d give you what you want,” the Irishwoman remarked as her finger moved and the weapon began to build toward an energy discharge. “Now, darlin’, sleep with the angels. When you wake, I’ll keep my word.”
After calling Spock’s name twice, James T. Kirk halted just outside the tavern and looked left and right. The building that served as both local watering hole and inn was situated on one of the main streets of the village of Chester. As it was near noon, the town was fully awake now and the avenue filled with passersby, wagons, and even a few carriages. A pair of British soldiers paraded the street, stopping the occasional disgruntled citizen to question them. There were a great variety of animals wandering about loose, including a cadre of grunting pigs rooting through the garbage on the street. They seemed to serve the same purpose as a squad of sanitation robots. But there was no Spock. Kirk frowned. It had been unlike his first officer to go off without a word, though he couldn’t have blamed the Vulcan if he had really felt a need for fresh air. As much as he loved Bones McCoy, the surgeon could try one’s patience from time to time. Still, what Bones had dished out tonight had been mild in comparison to other days, so he doubted that was it. Whatever the lusty Maeve had whispered in Spock’s ear must have been worth investigating.
But where were they?
Turning in a circle, Kirk examined the grounds surrounding the tavern. There were several houses and what appeared to be a shop of some kind nearby, as well as a carriage house with an attached stable that sat across from the property. The captain suppressed a grin at his next thought. If he had been looking for a place to hold an amorous assignation, a nice stable replete with hay would be just the ticket. After tipping his hat to a pair of older white-capped women who walked by, the starship captain moved across the narrow street toward the wooden building. He halted just outside the stable door. It was slightly ajar. What was it Bones had told him? Be sure to knock?
Leaning slightly into the opening he called softly, “Spock? Are you in there? Spock?”
As the door opened inward abruptly, Kirk jumped back. The copper haired beauty from the tavern halted within its frame, staring at him. She held a pair of saddlebags in her arms and was the picture of propriety, with the exception of a good amount of straw clinging to her crimson skirts and a few stalks of it in her red hair.
“Sir,” she asked, “may I help you?”
“I’m looking for my friend,” he answered, as casually as his unease would allow him. “I assumed he was with you.”
She looked puzzled. Then her lips lit with a rueful smile. “The…gentleman in question was not interested. He said there was a matter of urgency pressing, and he took his leave shortly after departing the inn.” Kirk’s look must have been skeptical. Maeve answered it with a frown. “Is it lying you think I am, then?”
“No, mistress. It’s just that I’m worried about him. It’s not like him to take off without letting me know where he’s going.”
“Is he a grown man then or a child, that you need to be about his business?” she asked, her lips quirking with a smile.
“To be honest?” he answered with one of his most winning smiles. “A bit of both.”
Maeve’s green eyes narrowed and lit with some inexplicable emotion. “You care a great deal about him.” It was a statement of fact.
“He’s my friend,” he said, as if that said it all. Kirk stared at her for a moment longer and then asked, smiling again. “You mind if I take a look inside?”
“Minding your step is what you should be about in there,” she said as she pushed past him. “Now if you’ll pardon me, Master….”
He hesitated. Finally, he used his real name as it was common enough. “Kirk. Jim Kirk.”
“Master Kirk. Old man McCree’ll be wanting his things.” She indicated the saddlebags. “He’s a fine man to give a girl an extra shilling…if she’s willing.” Maeve laughed at her own joke and then tossed a soft ‘fare thee well’ over her shoulder as she headed back to the inn.
Kirk watched her go and then turned sharply on his heel and entered the stable. The stench was strong. He was so used to a sanitized world that the raw nature of Colonial America took a bit of getting used to. Once inside he made a quick survey of the tackle and feed rooms, and then began to look into each and every stall. Something gnawed at him. He didn’t know what. But he had a hunch that Spock had been here and that Maeve, whoever she was, was not telling him the entire truth. Still, there was nothing to see. Most of the stalls either held horses or were empty. One was being used for storage, and another was piled high with hay. A tip of a ragged blanket showed at one edge of the yellow stuff. Kirk’s lips twisted and he pulled at them, thinking. Where would Spock have gone, and why? Had Maeve tipped him off to something important, maybe Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth’s position?
If so, why would the Vulcan have gone alone?
Crossing to the stall that held the crates, Kirk was just about to sit down on one so he could puzzle it out further, when a sharp voice called out his name.
“Jim! Jim Kirk! Damn it man, where are you? Jim!”
No visual was necessary. Rising to his feet, he headed for the door. “Here, Bones! In the stable.”
A figure occluded the light coming in. A second later Leonard McCoy stepped into the open room.
His waistcoat was covered in blood.
“Bones! What happened?” Kirk demanded.
The surgeon looked down, following his gaze. “It’s not mine, Jim. But we’ve got an emergency on our hands.” McCoy hesitated, glancing behind him. “Where’s Spock?”
Kirk shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
“What? He’s vanished?” Bones hesitated. “With a woman?”
“Maeve’s still here. You should have passed her on your way out of the tavern.”
The surgeon shook his head. “That’s not a woman I would forget, Jim. I didn’t see her.”
The starship captain’s frown deepened. He started to push past McCoy. “We need to find her.”
“Later, Jim. There’s a man who’s been stabbed. I need to take care of him.”
“Bones. No interference, remember? We’re in the past.” He kept his voice low. “Maybe the man is intended to die.”
“Well, Jim….” The surgeon looked chagrinned. Like Spock’s left eyebrow, McCoy’s right cheek always gave him away by twitching. “I think he may have been injured because of me. I sort of stumbled into an altercation between a group of redcoats and – ”
McCoy winced. “Stumbled on purpose?”
Another eclipse fell across the stable’s entryway. “Messier?” a light cultured voice called. “Time is of the essence.”
“I have to go, Jim. Until I know it has to happen, I can’t let a man die.”
Kirk nodded. “I know.” He glanced back at the empty stable. “But I’ve got a bad feeling about this….”
Bones hand fell on his shoulder. “You know Spock. You can’t keep a good Vulcan down. He’ll turn up.”
The starship captain met his friend’s ice blue stare. It was true. Spock would turn up.
He just hoped it wasn’t dead.
Jeremy Larkin had returned to his home for a change of clothes. He was grateful to find his father missing. A note the older man had hastily penned informed him that he had been called to a meeting of the town elders; something to do with the current British occupation. The rebel leader scowled as he read it. The violations of the citizens of Chester’s rights were escalating at a rapid pace, as if everything that had happened so far was only a prelude to what was to come. There was an electricity in the air, and Jeremy feared it portended a lightning strike of such a destructive nature that the Cause might well not recover.
He shook himself and put off his womanly fears. Even now Isak and Henry were preparing the apothecary’s creations – the canisters, powder, and wire – that they would use to hold back the British soldiers should the need arise. That was why he was here obtaining a different coat; one of a dark color that would blend in and be suited for fight and flight at night. Their intelligence told them that General Howe intended to move tonight, if not for the final battle, then at least to do what damage he could. They had to take action as if it was true. The fortunes of war were seldom predictable. Victory and defeat, both, were harsh mistresses, and the toll they exacted for their favors, often a heavy one.
Jeremy replaced the note on the tabletop where he had found it, and then rounded the stair and began to take the steps two at a time. As he reached the top, he heard the door open. Pausing, he listened, thinking it must be his father. But then he realized it was not. It was Robert and he was calling his name.
The weakness in his older brother’s voice was chilling.
Jeremy retraced his steps to the landing, only to be halted by the scene that greeted him. Robert was being lowered into a chair by the fire. A stranger knelt beside him. The man was digging in a cloth bag he carried as if searching for something of great importance. Two other men – strangers as well – stood just inside the door.
“Jeremy,” Robert breathed again, reaching out to him.
His brother’s words spurred him into action. Taking the last two steps as one, Jeremy raced to his side. “Robert, what is – ”
Only then did he see the blood.
The man with the bag looked up at him. He was older, with grizzled brown hair and a face worn with care. “The wound is in his back. I need to take him somewhere where I can tend it. Is there a downstairs bedroom?”
Jeremy shook his head. “No.”
The older man frowned. “We’ll have to risk taking him upstairs then. Jim, give me a hand.”
One of the men by the door started in reaction to the name. He had golden hair, about the shade of Robert’s, but cut closer to his head. His was the face of a man of action. A pair of deep hazel eyes, sharp as a hawk’s talons, fastened on Jeremy and sized him up with one look. A second later they dismissed him as a threat.
“You’re the brother?” he asked as he moved to the older man’s side.
“Aye. What happened? How was Robert injured?”
The third member of the strangers’ party had been keeping watch at the door. He closed it and moved into the room, coming to a rest directly before him. “I am afraid it is my fault,” he said, his voice breaking with anguish. “Je suis l’enfant terrible.”
“You…you’re French,” Jeremy stuttered.
“His name…is Paul…du Motier,” Robert rasped. “A friend from…the…university.”
Jeremy didn’t remember his brother ever mentioning anyone named Paul, let alone a Frenchman.
“I don’t care if he’s King Louis,” the older man growled. “I need someone to help me get this man upstairs.”
The blond man with the sharp eyes shrugged. “Sorry, Bones.” And before Jeremy could make a move, the stranger had slipped his arm around Robert’s waist and was assisting him up the stairs.
“How bad is it?” he called after the older man.
“I’ll let you know when I do,” came the gruff reply.
For a moment, Jeremy found himself unable to move. Robert was the strong one. He was always there, so sure of himself and of their combined destiny. It had never occurred to him until now that he could lose him.
“Pardonnez moi, mon ami,” a soft voice spoke from close behind him.
Jeremy turned on the Frenchman and all of his worry flashed in a burst of anger. “I don’t recall Robert ever mentioning having a friend who was French. Who are you? And what danger have you brought to my brother? You said this was your fault?”
The young man was stunned and slightly dazed. And pale, though Jeremy thought that might be by nature. His hair and eyes were both brown as chocolate. The Frenchman’s features were refined, his manner and elocution, elegant, and he seemed very out of place in Chester, Pennsylvania.
He was also extremely repentant. “Oui. I am to blame. I lost my temper and your brother paid the price.”
“Lost your temper?”
“In the tavern. I was baited by a group of British soldiers and, like a child, was not man enough to ignore their insults.” The young man’s nostrils flared with disgust at his own weakness. “They are right. I am not fit to com – ” He stopped, as if thinking better of what he had been about to say. “I am not fit to commune with le porc.”
Jeremy thought a moment. “To commune with pigs?”
Paul’s grin was dimpled as well as chagrinned. He shrugged. “It is, how do you say it, an expression from my country?”
The Frenchman’s earnest regret was a calming balm to his nerves. Jeremy drew a breath and released it in a sigh. “Forgive me, sir. I supposed, in my anger, that Robert had no say in what happened.” It was his turn to grin. “Knowing my brother, that is not the case.”
“Non. I would gladly trade places with him.”
“And why is that, sir?”
Paul sighed. “The knife was intended for me.”