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Posted: Nov 8 2011, 03:27 AM
Map Maker's Guild
Member No.: 343
Joined: 20-January 10
Inspired by Napoleon's question about a sequel for A Midnightt Rendezvous, I decided to continue the story. This installment will be a lot longer than the last one, but it'll still be a short story.
This is just part of the first draft, which I have yet to finish. If this changes by the time it makes it to the website. don't be shocked.
Here it is:
Benedict Arnold threw the letter on the ground and grunted with distaste. It was André again, writing to inform that he hadn’t received their regular correspondence. Benedict swore a vicious oath, cursing all bad luck. Something, or someone, had to be interfering with his curriers. Most of André’s letters were getting through, but his never seemed to make it past his own perimeter….
A knock on the door interrupted him from his reverie. He sat back down behind his desk. Mustering a calm expression, he told the visitor to come inside.
John Miller, one of Benedict’s best captains, entered the room. Tall, strong, and calm, he walked confidently to the front of his commander’s desk and patiently awaited his orders.
“Sit down,” Benedict told him. “Do you know why you are here?” He asked knowingly.
“No, sir,” said John, his eyes never averting his commander’s gaze. John never let any man intimidate him, even if it was King George himself.
Benedict sighed. “I’m suffering from a unique problem, John. I don’t think the fort’s perimeter is being patrolled as often as it should be. Since you’re in charge of West Point’s outer securities, this responsibility falls back on you.”
John looked both annoyed and alarmed at the same time. “Sir, you originally requested for three patrols a day. Our borders have experienced no infringement. I had no idea you weren’t satisfied.”
“It’s not your fault, John.” Benedict rubbed his creased forehead with
his sweaty palms. “I’m just…I’ve been under a lot of stress. Things haven’t been working out for me lately….” Suddenly Benedict rised straight in his chair and slapped his hand on the table. “But, that’s my personal problem, not yours. Just increase the patrols to five a day, and I want them to travel further and stay out longer. Also, I want firewood detail doubled. Who knows what this winter may bring.”
John frowned at his commander’s logic, but he nodded his affirmation before he left the room. Doubling the firewood patrols didn’t make any sense. It was the middle of August, and the men would be sweating like dogs if they cut that much lumber. No, firewood detail was something best left to September, when the hot summer sun starts to weaken and fall begins to arrive. However, John knew it was fruitless to try to persuade Benedict—you might as well try to tell King George that the Boston Tea Party was a harmless prank.
As John set about implementing Benedict’s changes, one thought constantly bugged his conciseness. He knew that Benedict was finally starting to notice the interference in correspondence. It wouldn’t be long before he decided to investigate the matter himself.
Ever since William, Robert, and John had killed Benedict and his secret correspondent’s curriers, John had personally ensured that every secret letter was intercepted. Often this meant long nights galloping through the countryside for several miles before ambushing the carrier and sneaking back to the fort.
The result was a visible difference in John’s health and personal appearance. Sometimes William, Robert, or one of John’s closest confidants would execute the task, but John knew who he felt most comfortable doing the task—himself. An expert marksman and the commonly excepted best horseman at the fort, there was nobody else more qualified for the grim task of midnight chases and long-distance shots in the dark. While proud of his skills, John constantly worried that Benedict might start putting two and two together… Now, it seemed like the game was almost up. He knew it wouldn’t be long before Benedict started sending two curriers instead of one. After all, a musket can only hold one bullet.
C & C welcome! I haven't double-checked historical accuracy yet...in reality, Andre was captured by three "patriots" (according to Wikipedia), not officers within Washington's army. However, I guess you clould say I'm taking an alternate-history approach to this, si I can make up the rules as I go along.
Posted: Nov 13 2011, 01:59 AM
Map Maker's Guild
Member No.: 343
Joined: 20-January 10
The final draft of this story will probably be much shorter. Anyways, here's the extended version :
Once John had finished relaying the colonel’s orders to his lieutenants, he searched the fort looking for Robert and William, the two officers who had helped John on the very first mission to intercept Benedict’s riders. He quietly told each of them to meet him in his room at nightfall, and to tell no one else of the gathering. Both requests were acknowledged and fulfilled by both men.
“I suppose it’s inevitable that he eventually catches on to us,” said Robert as he paced John’s room. The one oil lamp created a single bubble of orange light, illuminating the oak table and little else. John sat on a stool and leaned against the wall meditatively, while a somber William stood by the doorway and Robert walked back and forth like a caged animal. “I mean, his pen-pal, whoever he is, couldn’t go for three months without receiving a letter and not notice.”
“We don’t know for sure whether he has caught on to us,” said John. “All I know is that he’s caught on to the simple fact that someone is messing with his mail. I am worried, though, that he will eventually trace it back to us three.”
William, who had been mostly silent during the beginning of the conversation, spoke up. “Why haven’t we put a stop to his plan to begin with? All we’re doing is nipping the weed at the stem, instead of pulling it from the root like we should be.”
Robert nodded his head. “A very good point, and one I haven’t thought of. What do you think of it, John?”
John shook his head. “I’d love to storm Ben’s room and hang the dirty
coward, but we don’t have enough evidence. The letters are written in a code that I haven’t broken, no matter how hard I try. Believe me, when I’m not out galloping around the countryside ambushing Tories, I’m sitting in my room reading these confounded letters.”
Robert spoke up. “John’s right. If one of us confronts Benedict, he could just order us all to the brigs. The best way to stop his plan is to kidnap his secret correspondent when he tries to visit the fort.”
“And how do we know who this secret correspondent is?” asked William. “It could be anybody, and they could enter the fort at any time of day.” A long silence followed his words. There was no noise inside the bare room, nothing to break the silence of thought.
Finally, Robert broke the silence. “We could just murder the bastard.”
Everyone was shocked, even Robert. When the group had first ambushed the two spies in the clearing, Robert had been very troubled by their deed. Now, he was suggesting an even bolder plan of action.
John said “Murder, Robert? Really?”
Robert shrugged. “Why not? We’ll save lives, the fort, and maybe even the revolution. It’ll be a quick and easy way to get rid of him, and Colonel Dowring will do a fine job of commanding in his place.”
William’s amazement crept into his tone. “So you just want to cut his throat in his sleep? Or do you prefer the poisonous approach?”
“You’re all misunderstanding me,” Robert protested. “I’m talking about ambushing him like we ambushed those first two spies. You know, out in the woods while he’s on his horse.” Robert saw that John and William still weren’t impressed. “It’s more than the man deserves,” he said.
“It would be an easy way to dispose of him,” said John.
William grunted. “But still just as sinful. I don’t want to shoot a man in cold blood ever again.”
John knew that William’s shot hadn’t hit any guards, but he didn’t say anything now. “In any event,” he said, “we must decide quickly, for time is running out.”
* * *
John let the cool night air fill his lungs with energy and youth. The land was always so different at nighttime, it was sometimes alarming to view once familiar objects distorted by the mystique of the witching hour. The waxing moon helped lend a touch of normalness to the world around him, but sometimes it only provided enough light to enhance the eeriness of the strange wilderness.
“Here he comes,” John whispered to himself. The thumping of hoof beats echoed down the forest trail, and he checked his musket and pistol to make sure they were ready. He briefly considered using the beaver club he’d brought along, but then threw the thought aside. Stunning the man so that he might live another day would only destroy the mission.
The thumping got louder, vibrating through the forest like a trumpet signaling a king’s arrival. Before the rider got any closer, John cocked his pistol and removed it from its holster. He was careful to keep his finger from the trigger; a misfire would ruin all of his plans.
Even though he’d killed many riders at this same spot, he always felt nervous whenever the critical moment drew near. John fidgeted in his saddle and tried to concentrate on the trail ahead. Any moment now, the man would draw near…
There he was! The rider rounded the corner and drove his horse straight towards John, oblivious to his enemy hiding in the thicket. John lifted his pistol and took careful aim at the Tory, only fifty feet away…
Thud! John felt something hard and heavy slam into his skull and swayed in the saddle, trying to keep his aim. He squeezed the trigger before he passed out, but he was already falling and the bullet merely skimmed the forest branches.
* * *
Darkness consumed John’s world. His head throbbed with a reverberating pain, and his eyes stubbornly refused to open—it hurt every time he tried. He resigned himself to wait for whatever fate would bestow upon him.
He tried moving his hands and found that he was unbound. He stretched his legs, discovering cramped muscles and bootless feet. A sudden pain, like white-hot needles, shot through his thighs and he realized he was having a charley horse. “Water,” he murmured. “I need water.”
“You’ll get your water soon enough,” said a voice from the opposite end of the room. With a sinking dread, John realized it was Benedict Arnold. “First, you have a little explaining to do, captain.” Benedict sneered the last words with complete distaste.
Benedict was like a cat with a mouse in its paw, and John knew he’d have to stretch all of his resources if he was to win this particular game of cat-and-mouse. He decided to test the waters and find out Benedict’s intentions. “I’m glad to see you are well, general. Are the firewood crews cutting enough lumber?”
Benedict laughed. “Oh, yes, and they are traveling quite far, I might add. But enough about the fort; I want to know about you. My dear John, it is most unlike you, my best captain, to be out so late at night? What on earth could you be doing?”
John replied quickly, but he knew the falsehood in his voice shone through. It wasn’t in his character to lie, and it revealed itself in his answer. “Oh, I was just…out on a stroll, you might say. I wanted to make sure our night patrols were doing their job. Often times they grow a little lax when they don’t receive a surprise inspection.”
Benedict smiled briefly at the pathetic lie. He knew he’d easily coax the information out of John. It was only a matter of time. “Well, John, one of my men informed me that you had a pistol aimed at a traveler in the woods. Surely you aren’t interfering with the army’s soldiers, are you?”
John was quiet. “No sir…I heard rumors of Tory spies riding through the woods, and after—” John caught himself and structured his story so as to not leave any holes. He continued, “—before I visited the night patrol I saw a rider coming down the trail. I figured that anybody riding that hard that late at night was up to no good. So, I had my gun ready in case I needed it.” John was going to stop there, but the thought came to him that he should put the ball back in Benedict’s court. “You haven’t seen any Tory spies around, have you?”
Benedict hissed. The captain was on to him for sure; he must be…disposed. “No, captain, I have not. However, you did not have my permission to be out in the woods late at night, and for that you will be punished. I shall have some water sent to you shortly. Rest well, captain.” Benedict spun on his heel and left the room, slamming the door behind him as he left. John merely smiled—his comment must have jibed his commander, and that pleased him. Tentatively, he tried opening his eyes, and this time he found that the small pain was bearable. He though briefly about some form of escape, but the oak door presented the only exit from the building, and the heavy cast-iron lock immediately discouraged his efforts. He simply resigned himself to wait.