SS novice field agent
Posted - 02/09/2009 : 13:29:23
| SCENE THIRTY EIGHT
the living space of the guest house at Singer’s Mirandahl the same night and following morning.
Half an hour later most of the team was gathered in the Guest House, keeping their prisoner well away from the party that was just dying down. They were tired, they were ansty, and they were angry as hell. Because after his fright below stairs, Boudin clammed up tighter than any crustacean ever seen. He had nothing to say, in support or denial of anything he might have previously said. He asked for nothing but another dram or two of brandy, ‘the Armagnac, if you please’.
And he could not be moved from his stance of utter ignorance regarding their other questions, about Aynsley, about Liesl, about the Courier plot, or the false imprisonment of Jim West in a Baltimore madhouse. The team members huddled to discuss their next move, wondering if the one they’d planned would even turn a hair on Boudin’s immaculately groomed head of thick stone grey hair. And then the Georgian surprised them all by gasping in evident terror and trying to escape them … or to escape something that really did frighten him.
Gideon, Gideon old friend. its not like you and not considerate at all to keep me waiting. We had an appointment over an hour ago, Gideon. But you chose instead to visit with James Randolph. And that seems to have accomplished nothing but your imminent incarceration. I am quite at a loss to understand you these days. And I am still waiting for you, Gideon, in the Realm of the Dove. Indeed I shall have to demand you attend me there, post haste. A booming, Viennese voice rolled through the room like thunder announcing a coming storm. Except that looking about, Boudin couldn’t help noting that no one else remarked on the return of Aynsley’s ghost!
“Stephan! Stephan, my very dear old friend.” Boudin offered. “I’ve merely been temporarily detained here. I shall be with you immediately I am finally done with these Federal nincompoops. My word on that, Stephan! Only, will you be good enough to tell me where in that … realm I am to find you waiting for me?”
Waiting and watching for you, Gideon. Waiting and watching for you, just as I’ve long promised you I would be. Aynsley’s shade seemed to answer. But be not alarmed. If need be, I will be a good host and send someone to help you reach your proper destination. See to it you do not ignore or disrespect the personage I send for you, Gideon. That would be a lethal error on your part. One I would have no choice but to exact just recompense for, old friend.
Boudin turned ashen now and jumped off the chair he’d been carried to. Shaking badly he made for the open doorway and fell his full length on the thick carpets. Apparently he’d forgotten completely the wound to his leg. “Stephan, Stephan, please practice a bit of patience, won’t you? I’m in some difficulty here, old friend! Stephan, Stephan!” The Georgian cried out, but this time he got no reply.
“Oh brother!” Artie suddenly exclaimed. “ And I thought you were stubborn, Partner!”
“You don’t think I’m… Artemus, what’s that odd, scratching sound?” Jim demanded.
“That’s our favorite King Spider over in the corner, trying to curl himself out of sight! He’s practically crawling across the carpet, and throwing the odd glance back over his shoulder. But with that bum leg, thanks to Frank, he can’t even try to sidle out of here the way he otherwise might.” Artie replied, and gestured to Mairtin and Terry to prevent Boudin’s ‘flight’.
Jim waved to the younger agents to but Boudin on the chaise he’d abandoned for a favorite balloon chair. Then he turned towards where Boudin was busy protesting being cuffed to his new resting place at ankles and wrists.
“You truly shouldn’t have done that, Remy. You shouldn’t have even tried. You’re only bein’ restrained now because you’ve made two tries already t’night to get on out of here, when you know that’s purely not gonna happen now. So now, you set there and don’t move so much as one muscle so much as one inch. So, you just settle back, boy, and settle in.” Jim said leaning back in the round topped chair, as he once more did a pitch perfect impression of Jimmy Randolph’s voice.
“Jimmy? Jimmy, have you come back to see your old Remy? Jimmy, are you here? And does that mean we … we can leave? I don’t much care for this … party, after all.” Boudin called out, sounding thoroughly confused and exhauste by now.
“No, Remy, not yet. Not quite yet.” Jim as his namesake answered. “We’re expecting another group of friends who’ve come a long way, a very long way to see you, once more.”
“A group of my friends, Jimmy? A group of my friends, coming here? Well, wherever are they and … when will they arrive and … Jimmy, I don’t understand, who did you say these friends of mine are?”
'' Long lost friends, Remy, scores and dozens of them, all told. We’re just now beginning to call them into the room, so just keep shut a while, if you possibly can. And when it's over, you can purely … rest, I suppose.” Jim was tired too, and found himself shaking with frustration as Boudin seemed to be trying his not-all-there-routine again.
'' Jim, your blood pressure's higher than his, right now if he has any at all..'' Artemus warned. ''Take it back a peg or two. C'mon now, we’re going to read him the roster, the one he helped write in blood himself!''
'' Alright 'm alright, Artemus But if everything we've already done hasn't gotten to him…” Jim sighed.
'' It just goes to show he's got nothing inside to be touched much less any kind of human heart. Okay, one more script revision: I'll call this roster, you go ahead and rest a minute. James, will you please? Because, if you don't, Jacques will come looking for MY hide, not yours''
''He purely will, won't he?.'' Jim chuckled.
''Mais certainment I will, mon enfant.'' Jacques agreed, joining them.
'' Alright, I give, Mon docteur d'ami. Go ahead, Artemus.'' the younger man agreed.
''Go ahead? Go ahead with exactly WHAT?'' Boudin abruptly asked.
''With this, Mr. Boudin.'' Artemus answered, holding out a sheaf of papers. '' These are the names of former Confederate soldiers, men who were murdered between the beginning of November, 1868, and the middle of December, 1869. And this list was not originated by anyone on this team. No, Mr. Boudin, this list I’m about to read off was kept with great exactitude by those who ran a torture chamber, and a death factory in an old house a quarter mile south of Baltimore on the Old Washington Road.
I’m referring to Stephan Johannes Sebastian Aynsley, who as far as we know now, died four years back, when that house went up in flames, Reinhard-Peder Branoch who helped conceive the means of torture used on the men there, but who died at Vicksburg in June, 1863, Liesl Marguerite Amalie Branoch, who went mad when her family died in Atlanta, and who died herself on September 19th, 1870, and to you, Gideon Alexander Remiel Boudin. So, as you can readily see, you’re the only survivor of that lethal band.
The total of soldiers you murdered in those thirteen months, stands at sixty one. Eleven were found in Washington and Baltimore’s poorer districts, with their throats cut, as if to suggest they died in a brawl. Twenty three more of those former Confederates were found during the same period, shot or stabbed or beaten to death, some of them mutilated in ways too atrocious to describe. And another twenty seven Conferate veterans were discovered where they were dumped in a mass grave behind the burnt out remains of Aynsley’s house and lab. That last group, when they were found, nearly a year on, still showed evidence of torture, of degredation and nightmarish abuse like the worst examples from Andersonville and Elmira Prisons, during the War.
Here are the names of those murdered men and boys:
Rafael Cooper, Paul Madison, Jimmy Madison, Andrew Pierce, Gabriel Pierce, Samuel Pierce, Benjy Cooper, Robby Munroe, Nathan Spencer, Alec Munroe, Julian Spencer, Benjamin Pierce, Louis Spencer, Richard Henry Morrissey, Zachary Taylor Lee, Toby Zimmer, Sammy Randolph, Charlie Randolph, Jed Munroe, Spencer Lee, Denny Pierce, Danny Pierce, Jake Harrison, Matthew Singer, Michael Torrance, Tad Alexander. Neddy Ashton, Timothy Stacy,Jack Ashford, Tom Harper, Jr.
Matt Deveraux, Tim Ashton, Joel Stacy, Jimmy Ashford, Lee Deveraux, Ben Harper, Nicholas Cooper, Danny Lawrence, Liam Tiernan, Lucas Powell, Sean Ryan Mcbain, Martin Cooper, Owen Williamson, Joel Paine, Peter Lowell, James Allan Stacey, Seth Elias, Noah Elias, Phillip McCullough, Rob McCullough, Jesse Mohler, Timothy Albright, Benjamin Rowan, Kyle Phillips, David Bryant, Albert Jensen, Peder Jorgensen, Eugene Corbett, Daniel Pedersen Morrissey, Christian Daniels, and last of all… my friend from Augusta, Shimon Danielson.” Artie read.
And in a scene similar to another time and another roll call, as he read each name, a ragged, half starved, scarred, limping or otherwise maimed young man or boy entered the room and lined up at the center, standing, albeit wearily at attention, until every name was called. They were ashen and painfully thin, some were blinded, some missing an arm, a foot or an ear. They were all ages soldiers could be in their time, from nearly forty to nearly fourteen. All their faces bore a heart-rendingly similar expression, of being forever cut off from the hearts and lives they loved. And there was something ephemral to their appearance, as if every one in this band was only partly in the living world with those watching them now, and partly in another place entirely.
“What? What in hell have you… what are you trying to …” Gideon Boudin stammered and stumbled and nearly fell off the chaise, as he tried to pull back, to pull away from the figures who’d wordlessly ‘answered’ the roll. “You only just said all of them died! You only just said all of them were murdered … starting … five years ago! What… what exactly are you up to now, Actor? What game is this? I have no idea what you’re talking about, nor who these scarecrows truly are. However I’m as aware as any logically thinking person that dead men do not walk, do not stand and certainly do not answer to their names any longer! They don’t! They can’t!”
“Try to calm down, Remy. You really should calm down, now.” Jim insisted, dropping his characterization of Jimmy Randolph for now. “We’re just trying to make a point here, one any logically thinking person could surely comprehend. I know that only makes it harder for you. But give it a go, just to please me. How about that?”
“Tor… Torry, dearest boy, you must… you simply must make them stop this appalling charade!” Boudin demanded, but without much strength behind his plea. “I have nothing to do … nothing at all to do with … any such ragamuffins as these! Clearly they’ve been culled from the streets and out of the almshouses of Raleigh to take up just this sort of macabre display. I am … I am not in any way, shape or form connected to whatever your associates seem to believe Stephan guilty of. I knew nothing of his odd theories or practices. I knew only that he was always in need of more funds for his beakers and bottles and vials, for his chambers and cubbies and … other odd devices…”
Jim sighed and shrugged, genuinely laughing now. “Alright. Alright, fellows, you can stand down now and go hit the chow line. Sari and Ani have one set up just in the next room over. You did really well, by the way, gentlemen. You did a grand job tonight. Companies, Dismissed!”
The soldiers started laughing and cheering, dropping their gear and their morose demeanor in an instant. “Thanks, Torry!” “That was grand fun!” “Yeah, that was a grand joke on him, warn’t it?” They chorused on their way out the far door.
“Satisfied now, Remy?” Jim asked, turning back towards the Georgian. “We were, like I said, just trying to make a point. You know as well as I do that sixty one men and boys were murdered in thirteen months time while Stephan thought he was searching for a new Courier Candidate, and you were only waiting the chance to abduct me for that job! You know as well as I do that it was by the merest chance that Artemus Gordon wasn’t on that roster as number sixty two! And you would have been just as well pleased to find him on that particular roll call, wouldn’t you? Well, wouldn’t you, Remy?”
“ I am not in a court of law here. I am not properly arraigned or indicted. I am not legally sworn in or correctly charged with any crimes whatever.” Boudin insisted. But he was still shaking after that last demonstration. The men and boys who’d lined up before him had such a ghostly demeanor, such an other worldly affect that he couldn’t grasp what he’d seen at all. “I have done nothing criminally liable, ever in my long life. I am an officer of the court. Such behavior is totally outside my … my abilities or my wont.”
“Nothing… criminally liable… ever?” Jim echoed. “Well, alright, if that’s your story.”
Gideon, this eternal prevarication, this ceaseless mendacity of yours serves nothing now and will not carry the Work forward by so much as a single step! The voice of Aynsley’s ghost called out, but once more Boudin could see he was the only one to hear it. You are delaying the Work now, you and you alone. Delay it no longer than you possibly can, Gideon. Such matters as we have to resolve will not wait on your dalliance forever!
“Stephan! Stephan! I am not … Stephan, your patience is required in this situation. Your monumental patience, the kind you showed with so many … subjects, show to me a little longer!” Boudin cried out and once more found no answer forthcoming. Turning back to West, he found the younger man shaking his head as if to say the Georgian had finally come unhinged.
“Torry, Stephan was, as you may not know, an EXTREMELY SECRETIVE SOUL! Why, why he even wrote his journals and his letters using the most bizarre ciphers known to science. No one understood a syllable he put down, certainly not… that is, as far as I ever heard. Why, I never set foot in his rambling old domicile! Why, he’d never permit any one inside there, save his tragic niece, of course, and his… his patients, and some…some few … house maids, as far as I ever knew. I never knew what he did in that attic, no one truly did!”
Jim stood with his face in the direction of Boudin’s abruptly whining voice and almost laughed. But he contained that urge and merely rolled his eyes towards the high ceiling of the parlour they’d taken over. “Remy, sometimes you… you’re really… amazing to listen to, you know? You can make more things up out of whole cloth more easily than half the con men I’ve ever known. Seems to me you may have missed a real vocation there. But, on the other hand, they have a pretty tough union, don’t they Artemus? They probably wouldn’t let ol’ Remy in the door.”
“That’s a safe bet, I’d say.” Artie agreed. “Also, his memory seems to be failing him by leaps and bounds tonight. Didn’t you tell me, some months ago that Boudin was up in Stephan’s attic so often he had his own leather Windsor chair and pipe stand set aside that no one else dared even touch?”
“Sounds about right, yeah.” Jim nodded. “Remy, the point here isn’t so much where you were or weren’t. The point really is what you did or didn’t do. And I’m only one witness to the latter, even more than to the former. And just because sixty one men died before they could testify against you, that doesn’t mean my friends and I can’t stage a very similar ‘demonstration’ to this one, in front of any Federal judge and jury you’re gonna face.
Now I couldn’t really see these fellows. But there won’t be anything wrong with the eyesight of the people in that courtroom. Nothing at all. And some of the fellows these guys are standing in for actually were very bright. And a lot more of them than you might think, could read and write. So, although it may surprise you, some of the men you murdered or ordered murdered wrote letters to their surviving families before they up and disappeared. Artemus, why don’t you page through your papers there and find just a sampling for Remy to hear?”
“Glad to, James m’boy. Glad to.” Artie grinned coldly and pulled out the sheets he wanted. “We have at this point a total of twenty letters, four journals, and seven journal pages in the documented handwriting of the decedents in this case. Additionally we have nine more letters others in that group signed with their personal marks, once a literate friend took their words down. And the stories told in each of these documents are … heartbreakingly alike.
Each man wrote his kinfolk or friends with what he believed was his first good news in several years. Each man said he’d been contacted by a ‘charitable and scientific organization’ with operations in Baltimore, Frederick, Silver Spring and in Washington as well, an organizatioin calling itself The Society for Loyal Confederates and their Survivors. Each man said he’d been promised a warm, dry shelter for several months time, especially needful in the winter as you might guess. Each man was likewise promised decent food, hard liquor, medicine as needed, new boots, warm coats, and finally some cash if they would take part in a ‘scientific study’ meant to determine what could reasonably be done for the veteran population of the District and the general region there.
They wrote of hoping to be able to send some of their much needed cash earnings home. They wrote of hoping for some medical care, or assistance in finding long term work. They wrote that they expected at the least to be able to afford a flying trip home, when the ‘study’ was done. And as we now know without question, none of them were ever seen alive again, outside the walls of Stephan Aynsley’s ‘rambling old domecile’.
But there was no study done there. There was no genuine experimentation, there was no knowledge being gathered there. Instead they entered into a ‘study’ of how much useless cruelty, brutal depravation, bitter isolation from all forms of human contact and insane torment one already troubled mind and weary body could undergo. Instead they entered that attic laboratory, or the dungeon like cellars beneath the house and stables, only to be tortured like souls in hell, without benefit of clergy or any sort of relief, until they died.
And there was no real expectation of finding among those young men the assassin-automaton you, Mr. Boudin, still wanted to send against Ulysses Grant all the more as he was now President. Of course there wasn’t, since you, Mr. Boudin already knew what Courier Candidate you would insist on using for your plot, none of those sixty one men were ever genuinely considered for that role. The late Professor Aynsley apparently believed he was testing for a Courier Candidate all that time. But you knew better already, Mr Boudin.
You knew already that the best Candidate, as you thought him, was still alive and in the District: You knew the man you were determined to place in that role, the man you were obssessed with turning into a walking weapon, a barely alive automaton was living and working in the District: James Torrance Kieran West. Which means all the suffering, all the terror and all the madness those men and boys went through, as bad or worse than anything they’d bravely faced during the War, and all their families’ despair, went for nothing, nothing at all! That whole nightmare circus went for nothing until now, Mr. Boudin, when the records left by those sixty one will finally bring them justice at long last, bringing you either to a life long prison term, or a gallows’ tree.”
Gideon! Gideon Boudin! Gideon Alexander Remiel Boudin! Aynsley’s ghost once more thundered out. You had me once more wade to my upper extremities in blood and horror, for nothing? You discarded, disallowed and disregarded every one of those former Southron heroes, so that you could bring West in as the only Courier you wanted from the start? Sixty one boys and men, we took in during that time: starvelings from the gutters, drunkards from the taverns, some half mad already, some half dead by that time, but all still as brave as they had been from First Manassas to Gettysburg and back down to Appomattox Courthouse!
You had my only family, Liesl Marguerite Amalie expose herself to the Work and to the means Reinhard-Peder and I invented for tormenting the living hearts and minds out of their owners for no cause whatever? I almost cannot believe it of you! Perhaps the most horrific part of all is that I can! And that it deprived my beloved sister’s cherished only remaining child of both her sanity and her life? And why you have this lunatic passion for destroying orphans, Gideon I will never, never comprehend!
Boudin twisted madly on the chaise and struggled wildly against his bonds, his eyes fixed on a stern, dark eyed figure only he could see or hear. “Stephan, that’s not so, not so at all, old friend!” Boudin shrilled. “That’s another of these damned Yankees damnable lies! They’ve been trying one antic or another all evening with me, as if something of this grave import was nothing more than a game of twenty questions liberally mixed with musical chairs! The girl was never to be a part of the matter at all, Stephan, never! The girl was, and you know this is true, because you said as much yourself, the girl was already unbalanced by the tragety of Atlanta and her family there!”
Abruptly, one of the cuffs on one of Boudin’s ankles cracked, and then one on his left wrist broke, causing every agent in the room to groan, and mutter for one fraction of an instant about the Service’ budget cuts. The Georgian leapt to his feet, but amazing them all again, only stood and held out his arms imploringly to his delusion of the Austrian scientist.
“Stephan, the girl was terribly ill before you ever brought her to Baltimore. You know that‘s the case. You know it, my dear old friend. She was always fragile, as I recall both you and Reinhard noting. She was often ill as a child, you told me that yourself! She was the delicate flower of young Southron womanhood, brutally crushed beneath the boot of a conqueror who boasted he would ‘make Georgia howl’! What was there to do? What was I to do, Stephan? The girl was patently insane! Whatever was I to do?” Boudin asked, and then seemed to partly recall himself, only to look more frightened than before in the next instant.
Now every sighted person in the room could see the reason the Georgian had turned his gaze to the same doorway all those ragged ‘Confederates’ exited by. A broad shouldered male figure stood there, with a mane of coarse, grizzled hair that had once been midnight black, and deepset, clear, dark brown-hazel eyes that flashed fire. He wore a cashmere suit of fine European styling in a well known Scot’s plaid blend, over a gleaming silk shirt, under a spotless linen duster. He bore around his neck a stethyscope, of recent European model, and carried a sheaf of documents and leather bound notebooks under his powerful left arm.
That was where his resemblance to Artemus’ earlier ‘audition’ ended. This newcomer leaned heavily on a heavy metal crutch, propped under that same left arm. His right arm hung uselessly elbow bent, as if in an unseen sling, and his right hand was thickly scarred as only direct exposure to burning chemicals could scar flesh. His right leg was apparently not as damaged, but his left foot wore a leather boot with a thickly built up sole. And this man’s face was etched with scars similar to Jim’s, indicating they occurred in an explosion, but showing signs of better, earlier treatment.
“STEPHAN!” Gideon Boudin called out, his face as grey as the ash-colored silk gloves he favored. “Stephan, old friend, that is, I mean to say, My very dear Herr Professor Doctor Aynsley… I … had no… no idea… I had no … idea whatever that you might … even possibly have … have lived.”
“SCHWEIGEN! SEIN DURCHAUS UND ABSOLUT STUMM, ALT BEKANNTER!” The figure addressed as Stephan Aynsley bellowed. “ Ich wirst erzahlen Sie wenn ICH WUNSCH zu heraushoren mehr uber ihrer albern unerhort selbst-portion ansspruche! Ich habe menge verdachtig dieses anhalten, hochst wust verkehrt kann sein legte direkt am ihrer turstufe, Gideon, alt, bekannter. Aber nun jetzt sie haben alle aber beichtete zu Liesly’s ermorden! Genug, ich stehen! Genug sie blutig reichte, blutig gewilt Architekt uber nichts al vernichtung! Ich wille aufhalten mein stummheit null langer!”
Gideon Boudin now emitted a sound somewhere between a frog’s croak and a cartwheel’s squealing. Then he swayed on his long legs and fell face down in the deep piled carpets, unconscious.
The whole group viewed this ‘tableau’ for another half a minute. Then Artie snapped his fingers like a maitre d’, and sighed. “Will somebody please come over here and get this poor shlemil up off the Persian carpets?”
Ori and Mairtin immediately complied with their mentor and once more Gideon Boudin lay on the chaise, bound hand and foot with ropes this time and with everything in place if a gag was called for.
“Wow, Eli, that was something else!” Jim laughed, turning in the direction of the speaker in the far doorway. “I can’t even see you but I can surely feel your theatrical presence across the room, my friend. Artie, why haven’t you recruited your cousin into the Service, yet? I must have a dozen of mine already in the line by now!”
“Umm, James, my friend, I appreciate the compliments …and the offer of steady work. Any working actor would.” Eli Morgan answered, but from the opposite corner of the room. “I did some of the shout outs… like the one that got Boudin to go ‘ghost hunting’ earlier. But that’s not me. I pulled out all the stops when Boudin came upstairs. But now, I’m whooped, I’m just over here playing pinochle with Thomas… and losing.”
“No, no, no you’re not. Mac’s cheating. He can never win a single hand if he…” Jim started to argue, shaking his head and then stopped stock still.
“Your pardon, Colonel West.” The figure in the doorway said. “And my profound congratulations on your promotion, and your apparent recovery, sir. Ich bein… I am Stephan Johannes Sebastian Aynsley, of Vienna, Newport News, Baltimore, and more recently, the Pennsylvania State Penitentiary. Perhaps that last address will explain my tardiness in reaching you and offering what I may to your investigation of the Courier Conspiracy. I’ve just completed a two year sentence there for practicing medicine without the proper license, I’m afraid.”
“You’re … “ Jim said and fell silent again, blinking and shaking his head in pure bewilderment. “Somebody want to … check this out? I’m … I’m not fully equipped here.” The Virginia raised agent noted and sat down hard.
“Will you come and sit here, Herr Doctor?” Miguel asked the Austrian, plainly fascinated to meet this particular mirror of his old life, before Micah was born well and whole.
“Danke, Herr Doctor. Danke.” Aysnley nodded and sat on a wide divan halfway across the room from where Boudin still lay unmoving.
“You will understand that we have more than a few questions to ask you, Doctor Aynsley.” Thomas Macqullan added, leaving his pinochle game behind to study this newcomer.
“Naturally you do. And I have more than a few answers. Hopefully the matching ones we can find, in concert, mein Herren.” Aynsley agreed.
BE SILENT! BE UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY SILENT, OLD FRIEND! I have much suspected this last, most terrible wrong could be laid directly at your doorstep, Gideon, old friend. But now you have all but confessed to Liesly's murder! Enough, I say! Enough you bloody handed, bloody minded architect of nothing but destruction! I will keep my silence no longer!
SS novice field agent
Posted - 02/09/2009 : 13:32:08
| SCENE THIRTY NINE same night/morning, same place
“Go on with your statement, if you please, Herr Professor.” Frank Harper, who spoke German as well as Jacques and nearly as well as Artemus asked. Aynsley had been speaking almost half German mixed with English and Dutch during this informal deposition, leaning heavily on his crutch and far more heavily on his native tongue than he had when Artie and Jim first knew him.
“I don’t think we’ll be interrupted again. Not before you can finish this … rough documentation of what happened, at least.” He was sitting with Aynsley on one side of the parlour, along with Mac, Jacques, Jemmy, Eli and Miguel, the seven of them guarded by Mairtin, Rand, Andy, Thad and Mick Spencer.
In the opposite corner, the rest of Ori’s team stood watch in shifts around Gideon Boudin. The Georgian seemed to waver in and out of consciousness, as their long night turned towards dawn. And since Boudin more than once started cursing and calling out imprecations against all of them, he was now tightly gagged. “If only so some of the boys can get some decent rest!” Terry Hawks explained to Mac.
On the other side of the parlour, Jim sat with his partner, alongside Jeremy, Ori, Antoinette, and Travis Madsen. And the man they were all watching, Artemus Gordon, sat with his chin propped on both fists, scowling at the chess table in front of them. He wasn’t angry about a chess match, though and everyone in the room, excepting only Boudin was well aware of that.
“You seriously need to take it easy, Pal.” Jim advised. “You almost blew a valve all the way out, from what I heard a few minutes ago. And you didn’t win any points blowin’ your stack that way, with our Quaker, who whether he hates it or not, is gonna be the next Director.”
“Benjamin Franklin Harper, Director of the Secret Service?” Artie muttered. “ Someone please just tell me: Why in the very devil would James Richmond take this moment in history to retire?”
“ First you tell me something, Chum.” Jeremy interjected. “What’s wrong with having a fellow we’ve worked with and know as well as we know Frank as Director?”
“That’s it right there. That’s the problem.” Artie shot back. “He knows us that well, too. And that’s waaay too well. Chum.”
“And that’s not what you’re really mad about, Partner.” Jim insisted. “You’re only mad because Frank told you that you can’t interrogate Aynsley while you’re still shouting your lungs out at him.”
“James, there are… I’m very sad to say …some things you will always have trouble understanding about me.” Artie complained. “But I surely thought by now that you understood how little I care for wasteful military style organizations issuing completely arbitrary orders that only, ever, slow things down!”
“No, I think I got that one, Artie. I think all of Wake County here and parts of southern Tennessee got that, just now.” Jim chuckled. “And you’re still not gonna get anywhere if you can’t pull that ‘Cossack’s temper’ all the way back in.”
“This isn’t funny, Jim. And you … I would surely think you got that. Maybe I should just try explaining this whole thing to you, especially some parts you might have missed along the way.”
“Hey, I’m all…” Jim laughed, very glad to hear even a hint of Artemus’ native ironic wit in his partner’s voice.
“Ears, yeah, I know.” Artie scoffed. “Well, you know we thought there were only eleven former Confederates murdered in the District at first. It was only as things went on that we learned how many more there were. And what none of us even guessed, because Boudin and I THINK Aynsley both carefully hid that core truth, was that you were their only real target all that time. The rest were… I have no idea really, some sort of grisly dress rehearsals. And, Jim, nobody hates that idea more than I do, excepting maybe you.
So it seems to me now, with perfect hindsight, that they were going to go after you next Jim, as what we so wrongly thought was number twelve on their list of people to kill and just throw away. But, they got stymied. They had to switch gears and switch targets, because your grandmother Randolph was dying that November, of ’69. So, they had to change their plans at least a little bit, and they had to hold off, at least a little while. And that was because you went down to N’folk in November and stayed through most of December, too, after Jean Randolph died.
So they tried a different tact. They abducted Shimon Danielson, from Augusta, who’d been a sergeant in a Georgia Volunteers regiment. Not sure why, probably he and his wife Zarah needed the pittance they got back then. And we don’t really know if they ever took Shimon to Aynsley’s house or his torture chamber. But we know they carted him out into the countryside around Alexandria. And they gave themselves and Shimon over to the kind of brutality no one in those parts had seen since the War, if then, if THEN! They beat him, abused and mutiliated him. And finally they pegged Shimon to a farmer’s fence and let him bleed to death, with a placard right out of the Middle Ages pinned to his chest!
And then the real games began, okay? Because then they sent word back through our own informants in the District, that Shimon was missing, that he’d been trying to find out about the murdered Confederates himself so he could let me know. Because they’d found out we were friends! They’d found out Shimon helped on a couple of cases around that same area, and down around Augusta, too. They sent word of Shimon going missing through people I’d used for information time and time again. They sent word I might catch up to Shimon at some farmhouse or other between Alexandria proper and Arlington. And they did all that so that I would find him, so that I would fly into a rage, so that I would go out after anyone who could help me get my hands on Shimon Danielson’s murderers. I didn’t care anymore when I got that message if this was to do with the other dead men. I didn’t care that all these other men were found brutually murdered, obviously with malice aforethought. I had to go find my young friend. And I did!
I found Shimon Danielson, twenty three years old that winter, married for ten years, the young father of three, a RABBINICAL STUDENT in Alexandria. I found Shimon, who had almost nothing in common with the other men murdered in that case. They had only one thing in common, really. They’d all served the Confederacy with honor and bravery, conspicous bravery in Shimon’s case. But they needed to lure me out there. They needed to trap me the same way they meant to trap you next, Jim. So they murdered Shimon even more brutally than any of the others.
And I ALMOST WISH I BELIEVED THAT WAS DONE WITH THE PLACARD AND ALL, BECAUSE THEY NEEDED ME TO STOP THINKING AND GO OUT ON THIS CASE WHILE I WAS STILL HALF OUT OF MY MIND OVER MY YOUNG FRIEND! But I can’t believe that. I really can’t, because I saw the placard they left with Shimon, out against that fence. I SAW HOW THEY PEGGED EACH OF HIS ARMS UP AND OUT TO EACH SIDE! So, I know they killed him and left him that way because to them, to those brutes and to Boudin and Aynsley he was nothing! He was just a Hebe. He was just another Yid, a baby-eating, G-d killing, blood thirsty, swindling, inhuman, greedy, remorseless, bloodless, envious, faithless, filthy, dirty YID!
They murdered Shimon that way so that I would find him myself and go out on that case, Shimon’s case, not carrying very much if I lived or died. It didn’t matter a damn to them, not to those thugs, not to Boudin, not to Aynsley. NO! Because they’d still get what they wanted one way or another. Because either I would live and kill Jim for them or die in Aynsley’s lab and bring Jim West as sure as day brings night into their bloodied hands. And what happened to me, or to Shimon NEVER MATTERED A DAMN, because we were only dirty Hebes and stinking Yids, filthy Jew-dogs, cheating, money-grubbing, baby-eating, lying, faithless, G-d killing JEWS!”
“Artemus, Artemus, easy. You got it out now. You said it. Easy, my friend.” Ori Hoynes said, now, just barely touching his mentor’s shoulder.
“Artemus, y’ gotta purely let them bastards hang themselves when we get ‘em inta court now. Y’ purely gotta.” Travis added.
'' Mon plus cher ami, Mon Capitaine-Lieutenant Athos, s’il tu plait, be at ease, we have l’ Roi du Araignee now caught in a webb of his own making, be at ease.'' Ani said, quietly but sternly.
'' Artemus, for the love of G-d, stop, stop, please.'' Jim asked, finally getting his friend’s full attention. “This is almost over, Partner. But we need you here a whole lot more than we need to go back inside that nightmare circus. You get that, right?”
''Yeah. Yeah. I just want him to admit it '' Artemus sighed, turning his gaze back to Jim and seeing full understanding in the younger man’s blind eyes. “I just want him to admit what they did to Shimon and why.”
“Herr Gordon,” Aynsley said, crutching over to the smaller group and directly up to Artemus. “Herr Gordon, I am not an eavesdropper by any means, mein Herr. But hearing in some part what you have said, what you have asked, I know I can in some part answer, if only where I am myself concerned. And I should be glad if you would allow that.”
Artie turned on the Austrian so suddenly Jim thought for an instant that the older agent was going to strike Aynsley to the floor. But that didn’t happen. Instead the younger man could almost feel Artie studying Aynsley, the way he might peer at a bug, a leaf, or a scrap of paper under his microscope. “I’m listening, Herr Professor.” was all Artemus said in reply.
“Danke, Danke Herr Gordon. Danke mein Herren allen.” Aynsley said and cleared his throat. “To in the briefest way put it, you are correct. The young Herr Danielson was taken, was brutalized, was murdered, so that you would become quite personally involved in the early part of your investigations. You, in turn, Herr Gordon were taken, were put through the beginnings of the Memory Work. And you were to be murdered, in order that Herr Colonel West would similarly… I believe the phrase is… throw himself into the work of finding your killers.
I am grieved, greatly grieved, mein Herren, now, as I was then, that the young Danielson died, and at the way he died… the way he was murdered. He was a fine young man, and a tremendously brave one. That is something you most likely knew. I only state it now as something that he taught me. I am gladdened, Herr Gordon, now, as I was then, to know you did not expire as a result of the beating administered to you. And Herr Colonel, I am bitterly ashamed of how you and your friend and his friend … first came to know me. I am bitterly ashamed of how all those young men died and of how innurred I became to their … torment and to their dying.
I am, as I have been for some time, since the day Liesly died, in fact, more than willing to accept the punishment I have surely earned at your hands or at your Law. It may be at one time I thought her loss was all the punishment I could withstand. But that is not the case. I have lived this long, surviving my injuries because of what I only came to know months after Herr Grant was to be assassinated. I believe your case will benefit by learning this as well: My niece did not die in Baltimore at the Maryland House, as you may still believe. Instead Liesl Marguerite Amalie Branoch was murdered at our home and thereafter ignobly hidden from discovery.”
“Herr Professor, there are many things I still believe you capable of doing.” Jim said when Aynsley fell silent. “But none of them are murdering that sad little girl. I believe you loved her. I nearly came to love her myself, in a way, in the time I remember being … in that house with her.”
“Danke schoen, Herr Colonel. And your consideration is thankfully correct. I could not have taken her life, I doubt I could have done so even in extremis. No, Liesl Marguerite was murdered by our mutual acquaintance, Gideon Boudin. And I have a living witness and a written record stating the facts of that tragedy.” The Austrian replied
“Then who did die in … that hotel corridor?’ Artie asked, shaking off his own numbness. “Who was she? She claimed to be Liesl Branoch of Atlanta. The President and several other witnesses heard her say so.”
“An actress, Herr Gordon, a young woman who … befriended Gideon and through him met secretly on numerous occassions with Liesl. I’m given to understand she used the name Catherine Breckinridge, purporting to be the granddaughter of the former Vice President and General. She learned enough of Liesl’s life and past to impersonate her, albeit briefly. My witness tells me the young woman was as insane as Gideon and perhaps even more so than my sad niece. In any case, she walked into that place in a full mesmeric trance, entirely believing herself to be Liesl Branoch and acting accordingly. And she died, accordingly.”
“Not Liesl.” Jim murmured, hardly knowing what to think. “Not Liesl… I was right. I told… I told the President, she barely knew me… Ah, G-d! Ah, G-d! Remy! Wake the hell up, Remy! Get up and face me, damn you!” Jim shouted, making his way somewhat clumsily across the parlour. “GET UP, BOUDIN! GET UP AND TELL ME WHY YOU MURDERED LIESLY!”
“JIMMY!” Mac Macquillan shouted, rushing to stop his protégé from bodily attacking the prisoner. “He’s bound and gagged. So he’s not going anywhere, especially not if Aynsley really does have evidence of the girl’s murder.”
“Jim, stop. Just stop and think a second.” Artie added, joining them. “You want Boudin taken down in a court of Law, in fact a couple of them, not here. You want him indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced. We all do. On the other hand, one of the things that King Spider would love right now is for any of us to attack him. And you know it. Or wasn’t something like that going to be your next argument with me, about a minute ago?”
“Yeah it was.” Jim admitted. Then he turned towards Mac. “Can we at least take his gag off … for a minute, Prof?”
“For a couple minutes, sure.” Macquillan agreed. “Terry, go ahead, get Boudin sitting up and take the gag off.”
No sooner was the gag removed than Boudin began to shout and curse and protest his current undignified status. Then he seemed to take note of Aynsley again and nearly choked on his own words.
“Stephan, Stephan, my old friend. You simply cannot be here. You cannot be alive at this juncture.” The Georgian insisted, staring at Aynsley. “No, no, this is another trick, another trap, another Yankee deception! Stephan Aynsley died within … three days of his mad young niece… in mid September of 1870. He burned to death in a fire of his own making, up in the attic… up in the laboratory … in his attic. You cannot be that person. You bear him almost no resemblance. You sir, are a fraud, and just possibly another damnable actor brought here to entrap me. Stephan Johannes Sebastian Aynsley is quite dead at this point.”
'' Gideon, we need now to talk about those dark days, about those former times We need to resolve these matters between us and go on Gideon try to pay heed to me, now. Try now. You really must. I did not die when my home burned. I was half mad and longed to be rejoined with my hearts dearest family once more. But I inadvertently saved my own life, by sitting inside the small study, next the laboratory. You may or may not recall it was rather heavily panelled, considering it was on the top floor of the house.
And I had one other unlooked for piece of … what might be called good fortune. Someone came to the house that very day seeking for you, Gideon. Someone in your employ then and for some time after. It was that person who pulled me from the wreckage of all my work and all my own schemes and conspiracies. He was kind enough to bind my burned limbs and take me to a hospital associated with the University there. I then asked him for one further kindness and that he clearly granted. I asked him to tell me what had befallen Liesl. And I asked him to keep my own survival, and the truth of Liesl’s murder in perfect confidence until I released him from that promise. When he helped me make the journey out here this evening, I did so release him.”
“Indeed, did you?” Boudin scoffed. “Well, my curiosity is certainly piqued. Who is this mysterious savior?”
“Saul Lawson.” The Austrian said. “You do know the gentleman I refer to, don’t you, old friend?”
“I know absolutely no one by that name whatsoever.” Boudin insisted, seeming to get back some of his earlier bravado. It didn’t last, as he turned towards the hallway. “Who, who is that coming in here ask more foolish questions and supply more foolish answers?”
“That’d be me, Mister Boudin.” Saul Lawson answered, walking into the parlour, grinning tautly at the Georgian. “ Ladies, Gents, we ain’t met. I’m Saul Lawson. I used to do some work for this here piece of glorified Georgia white trash. I done a lot of rotten things. And I’m standing up to them now. But I ain’t done half as much as this … fellow you got trussed up over here good and proper. And one of the things I ain’t done was the killin’ of some people that never needed killin to begin with. And what brung me to tell y’all this is one of them killins. That long legged bastard over there, he done killed my right hand man and my friend, ol’ Ezra Smith, from right around here in Wake County. He done that only two months back, when ol’ Ez had the bad luck to get back inside of Boudin’s long reach.”
“ I, sir?’ Boudin shouted. “I killed that wretched fool? That is beyond the realm of any possibility outside popular fiction! He merely drank himself to death, or fell down a flight of stairs in some seamy Richmond tavern.”
“ Keep talkin’ you old bastard!” Lawson laughed harshly, folding his arms across his chest. “You just keep talkin’. We won’t even need a damn all Prosecutor. Ezra was down with a bad fever, two months ago, and laid up at that tavern he favored, down at 12th and Carey, on the outside edge of the Burnt District. He warn’t drinkin’ and he warn’t walkin’ around a bit. But wouldn’t y’ just know it, one mornin’ early they found ol Ezra with his neck broke, at the bottom of the tallest stairs they got there, the damn back staircase.
An’ come t’ find out some fellas th’ night b’fore they seen a real tall, real thin fella half hid inside a fancy-like op’ra cape, they seen him goin’ up … up there after distin… after real clear askin’ after his ‘old friend Ezra Smith! An’ come t’ find out some other fellas got themselves a pile a cash money fer helpin’ some rich fella do somethin’ damn awful. An when they was pressed they tol me just what they got that cash for and they tol’ what the fella looked like that paid ‘em off. An they was pretty skeered but they trucked off t’ the County lockup thinkin they’d be safe as houses inside there. An’ come t’ find out they was found dead as doornails, next mornin’!”
“You are trying to implicate me in a heinous crime with no actual witnesses to it? You, sir are a fool, a liar and a traitor!” Boudin called out. “I have never taken a life, any life in all my years. I have done nothing of the kind nor occassioned anyone else to do such things. You are slandering me, sir. You are committing libel! You will certainly see the inside of a prison cell directly! I shall sue you for the rags off your back and put you into debtors prison if there is no other recourse at Law.”
“No, Gideon you will do no such thing to Mr. Lawson. He is freely surrendering to these authorities and offering his testimony with no anticipation of any gain on his part. He has been a great deal of help to my own investigation and I am convinced he will be as much help or more to these gentlemen and ladies. You have gone too far, Gideon. You have finally destroyed too many innocents, and too many harmless people. You have a due bill as long as both your legs by this time, old friend and you shall certainly pay, at almost any time now.” Aynsley argued.
''I don't understand half of what you're saying, Stephan. But that's not really important now. Are you sure you aren't about to be arrested by our Federal friends? And are you really sure you aren't dead? I saw the burnt out shell of your old house. And … all the papers said you'd died !''
No, Gideon, no. I have yet to taste death even though there have been days when the taste of ashes was strong in my mouth. And we have yet more to resolve. So you will indeed hear me and these gentlemen and ladies out in full measure. You are reckless, Gideon, and you are egregiously lustful, with all the self control of an infant, if that. And I ignored for many reasons, for many years the harm you are naturally capable of, knowing your own cowardice would get the better of your ire, even as it's doing now. But when Liesl died, I understood that you were not just mad but violently insane.
When I found my niece, my only remaining family dead by poisoning I realized that you were not just dangerous but deathly so. And when I re-buried Liesl in a makeshift crypt in that wine cellar, I finally grasped the truth I had been avoiding for years that you would and you will destroy anyone in your path with not the least thought for consequences, good or evil. And I realized my own culpability in her death. And that was even more bitter a pill to swallow. But I have accepted my part in Liesl's murder, Gideon, and I come here tonight after twenty years, two months and six days to make certain that you accept and pay the price of yours. I allowed into my home and into Liesl's last home a sociopathic, possibly schizophrenic madman, with no care for the rest of the world, unless it was somehow useful to his ends.
I allowed into my life and hers a person with no remorse, no conscience and no motives other than his own aggrandizement and satiation. And I allowed that maniac to take Liesl out of my sight to her death at his hands, at YOUR hands, Gideon. It was then September 19th, 1870. It was then, approximately 8: 29 in the morning. You were getting ready to follow our automaton, our Courier to his final destination. You were getting ready to wait for him there and spirit him away once more when his work was done there, if in fact he remained alive himself.
And you were speaking with someone, a young woman, Gideon. She was my niece, Liesl and you were contending with her on the matter of who should go after Courier and who should not. I was trying to heed your conversation but truthfully, I was almost numb with the exhaustion of working for most of ten months time and years before that to send our Courier on his way at long last. And your conversation became and argument and your argument became a quarrel and you asked me if I cared to intervene. But I shook my head never dreaming what would come of that ''
'' The girl was screaming. She was incoherent and hysterical. Stephan, you agreed with me. Silence gives assent anyone knows that! You assented to her fate And you know that as well as I! You gave your assent you agreed that she was too dangerous too uncontrolled. You gave your assent that she should do as she was told or do nothing! She was a danger to the Work!'' Boudin rasped out.
'' She was a nineteen year old girl.'' Artemus contradicted him, frowning sadly.
'' She would have made the thing impossible to carry out.'' The Georgian shouted, but he was looking increasingly confused again.
'' The thing, being the assassination of Ulysses Grant, was impossible for me to carry out, Remy. And you should have known that, if you knew me so damnably well. But Liesl. Liesl surely would have made a gifted doctor, if any real help could have been found for her own illness.'' Jim added.
'' Jimmy you …why it's …not.. It’s… Torry, you look exceedingly well, rather suddenly, dear ...'' Boudin said, sounding very mixed up now.
'' Rumors of my impending death have been greatly exaggerated, Remy. In fact I'm not doing so badly at all tonight, all things considered. But we're not quite done here, so maybe you should relax and let the thing play out.'' Jim interrupted.
'' I am not discussing this with you, Torry.. I am discussing this with Stephan so if you will be good enough to let your betters finish a civilized debate.'' Boudin insisted.
'' Surely, Remy, go ahead.''
'' Stephan, as I was going to say before these people interrupted us You agreed that I should quell her madness and stop her incessant protests and make certain she could not throw another of her surprisingly well aimed monkey wrenches into the plan at that late date! You gave your assent and now, now at this late date you seek to deny it. You seek to deny that you agreed there was only one way we could , I could protect the Work. There was only one way and it couldn't be anything protracted or overly violent, lest too much evidence be left behind.
Stephan, YOU GAVE YOUR ASSENT AND I TOOK IT AND I TOOK HER DOWN TO THE WINE CELLAR AND I STOPPED HER STRUGGLES, I STOPPED HER MADNESS, I STOPPED HER BREATH! SHE WAS A YOUNG WILDCAT, BUT I STOPPED HER STRUGGLES, I SMASHED THE LOCK-BOX OPEN, AND I ADMINISTERED THE ONLY DISCIPLINE THAT WOULD POSSIBLY HAVE HAD THE DESIRED EFFECT! SHE FOUGHT AND I FOUGHT AND THE VIAL WAS AT HER MOUTH AND SHE FOUGHT AND SCRATCHED AND BEGAN TO WRITHE IN MY HOLD AND I POURED THE ARSENIC DOWN HER THROAT AND I HAD NO TIME LEFT SO I HID HER BEHIND THE STILLROOM. AND YOU GAVE YOUR ASSENT!” Boudin screamed and only then seemed to realize what he’d said, at least for an instant.
'' No, Gideon, I did not give my assent that you should murder my niece, Liesl Marguerite Amalie Branoch, poisoning her with arsenic, on September 19th, 1870. No, I did not assent to her murder, then or ever. She was a vibrantly living soul and possessed of a troubled but questing intelligence, and keen awareness of the world. And you murdered her in cold blood. But I thank you now, Gideon, for openly admitting, freely confessing your actions, your murder of my only remaining family I thank you. Now perhaps Liesl's restless spirit and my own deep remorse may both find some surcease.''
'' I think her spirit will, Doctor Aynsley.'' Jim said, very quietly, feeling as if he could almost hear Liesly agreeing. '' I think Liesl will be able to rest now, after so long.''
“And I do, as well.” The Austrian agreed. “I am tremendously grateful for that notion. I am tremendously grateful to all of you. I hope to find some means of … repayment.”
Gideon Boudin strained at his bonds and looked from one enemy’s face to another. Most of the team members barely glanced back, while one or two merely shook their heads in disgust at him.
“Torry? Torry? Do come over here and talk with me for a time.” Boudin asked Jim. “I’m feeling quite unwell now,and I … I desire some friendly companionship. And I did wish to impart something to you. Please, do come over.”
“Not a chance!” Artie insisted, glaring at the Georgian. “James, you are not going back within ten yards of that confessed murderer and madman.”
Jim shrugged. “He’s tied hand and foot, partner. Mac said so. So, what’s your worry?”
“He’s violently insane, partner. That’s my worry. Minds like his don’t run down the usual, expected paths and byways, by definition.” Artemus protested. “Stay away from that … King Spider.”
“Nope. I … think he’s got something more to tell us and I want to hear it, without Remy broadcasting it to all of Wake County. But you come with me, Artie. I’ll be fine, then. Besides that’s Mac’s new policy, right?… Everybody goes out in pairs, these days.” Jim offered, chuckling.
“That policy was new almost five years ago, my friend. So here’s my counter offer. For a change, and for all our safety, do not, I repeat, do not go anywhere near Boudin with anything on you that he could use to stab, shoot, impale, cut or blow you up with. AND I certainly am going with you!” Artie demanded.
“Okay. But if he starts to clam up again, Pal, you’re gonna have to back up a bit. Deal?” Jim negotiated.
“Deal. Let’s go.” Artie agreed and had to chuckle himself when Boudin reacted not at all well to his arrival. Then the Georgian chose to rigidly ignore Artemus and that amused the partners even more.
“Well, I’m here now, Remy. What was it you wanted?” Jim asked, feeling very odd to know the Georgian had so little chance to come at him, except verbally of course.
“Well, Torry, this would be so much easier if I might only sit more comfortably and have another small glass of brandy?” Boudin asked.
“Can’t do that, Remy. You’ve made us too much trouble, and that was just tonight.” Jim shook his head.
“Yes, well, I suppose I have been rather wicked.” Boudin sighed, sounding as if he were admitting to putting little girl’s braids in an inkwell. “I suppose that’s so. Torry, it’s so good of you to visit your old Remy. Do you suppose one might have a cup of tea, with just the merest touch of whiskey?”
“Nope. Remy, you said you had something to ‘impart’. What was that, exactly?” the younger man asked.
“Torry, I’m afraid I’ve been rather … dishonest, now and then. I hope you will forgive your oldest friend for those small transgressions.” The Georgian answered, sounding now as if he were admitting to telling fibs in the schoolyard.
“Why don’t you try telling me what you lied about and we’ll go from there?”Jim suggested, rolling his eyes.
“Well, it’s simply this: I never … particularly cared for poor old Stephan, or Reinhard-Peder. They only thought I did, because I was too polite to dissuade them. And … frankly, I think they’ve had some lapses from complete, well… frankness, themselves. And … I’m dreadfully sorry to bring this up, Torry… But … I can recall several times when even our dear Jimmy was less than forthcoming. And I never told you, Torry, because I greatly feared that would disillusion you badly.” The Georgian complained.
“So, you’re claiming you’ve only lied to James by ommission, to spare his feelings? Is that it, Boudin?” Artie couldn’t keep from asking.
“Please do excuse us, Mr. Gordon. I did not request your presence in the midst of this conversation!” Boudin protested. “Your manners definitely could use marked improvement.”
“Remy, that’s beside the point. What did you call me over to talk about? Or have you forgotten what that was?” Jim asked, to keep from laughing out loud.
“Well, Torry, dearest boy, I am so delighted to find you not… so profoundly unwell… I wanted to ask you … something. I wanted to simply ask you… If, in balance, Torry, you are not truly as angry with your old Remy as you might … might once have been, before all was explained to you, are you? You’re surely not as angry with me as some people would insist you should be, are you, Torry?”
“No, Remy. No, I’m not…that angry right now, I suppose.” Jim answered, wishing he could see the man’s face to get an idea of his more than usually wandering logic.
“Perhaps James would be able to answer more succinctly, if you had actually finished explaining all to him, Boudin.” Artie chortled. “But will you wait a moment for that, Jim? I really need you to work this knot out of my neck. It’s stiff as a board.”
“Oh, okay. Excuse us, Remy. This won’t take long.” Jim agreed and stepped back over to Artie. He’d learned the other agent’s tricks for massage some time ago but hadn’t practiced lately. And that wasn’t the reason for this pause in their bizarre talk with Boudin. Once he was standing behind Artie, Jim began to sign: What the devil do you think he’s up to this time? Is he playing me, or is he finally, finally losing it for good and all? I can only hope!
He looks confused as all get out, James. Artie answered. And at the same time he’s still got one of those smug little grins on his face. We sure as hell know we can’t trust the bastard as far as we could throw this mansion. I can tell you he doesn’t seem to have gotten over that whole exchange with Aynsley.
That’s not surprising, partner. Between that Lawson’s story and Herr Professor we have two direct murder charges to literally hang him with. Add to that Mrs. Fairholm’s correspondence and so forth, add to that Jimmy’s records, and testimony… G-d willing… Jim shrugged.
Add to that your own increasing memories of … all those things you’d rather not remember… Jim, we just might have this King Spider well and truly tangled, just like Ani said. By the way, how’d you ever talk the Companies into lining up in front of Boudin the way they did all done up like Rebel ragamuffins? Artemus asked.
I didn’t, we did. I mean the decision was unanimous, Artie, which hardly ever happens. The feeling was that it was time and past time to look Remy in the eye, as it were. The feeling was that he’s already gotten all the fear from us, he was ever going to get now. He’s done. All that’s done. Like I said, it’s almost over. Jim signed back.
Almost. Yeah. He’s still trying to wangle himself an escape route here, James, and his best bet is still gonna be taking you hostage. Which is why I didn’t want you within arm’s reach of that King Spider. So, put this in your pocket, and use it as needed, especially to get control of especially annoying, lethal arachnids. Artemus signed and slid a small envelope into Jim’s vest pocket.
What in that envelope, partner? Jim signed back. And if it’s arsenic or something like that, how am I supposed to get Boudin to take it?
“Easy, partner. But it’s just a strong sedative, unfortunately. You just offer him some more of his damn Armagnac and slip the dosage in it. Artie answered.
“Torry, can’t you come and talk with me a little while, dearest boy?” Boudin whined.
“Right away, Remy. Right away.” Jim agreed.
“Well then, Torry, you did say you’re no longer in a fit of temper with old Remy?” The Georgian asked.
“ I did. I already said that. What else is … bothering you now, Remy?”
“Well, I simply had a moment’s concern … even a bit of a confusion. I’m not sure I understand why … why you’re not so terribly enraged with me after counting off all the horrible things I’m supposed to have done. Why is that exactly?”The man tied to the chaise asked.
So I can heap burning coals on your old grey head! Jim briefly considered replying. “Because nowadays I prefer doing what really helps, not what hinders. I try to find as many things that will help as I can. It’s… just the way I was raised. So I suspect in some ways it’s the way you were raised, too. You know, Remy, what we were likely both taught about being the sons and grandsons of …our particular families… a kind of … noblesse oblige, I suppose you might say.” Jim answered, thinking here’s where this gambit starts to work or it doesn’t work at all, ever.
“Torry, I believe you are contradicting yourself. You’ve often said, indeed you’ve often insisted to me that your family, your mother’s family particularly, in no way could be considered upper class, much less noble. Do you deny expressing that viewpoint?” Boudin demanded to know.
“No, I don’t. I can’t deny that. On the other hand, I don’t suppse that’s what my grandfather James Randolph, or my great grandfather, Aidan Torrance would have said on the same subject. They were very proud of their families, and so am I. What I was trying to say just then… is that we were surely both taught that having wealth, being well to do, was considered as …conferring some sort of social obligation on us. I was brought up the grandson of a wealthy man, of a wealthy family. But I seem to recall you know that’s true. And I’m sure that your own family, Mr. Boudin gave you the same sense of having some kind of responsibility to the people and places we were born among. To those people who weren’t born the grandson of James Andrew Randolph, or the grandson son of Gideon Alexander Remiel Boudin the first.”
“Ah, you meant to say that as a private person, being born to wealth, one has certain compassionate moral imperatives to follow. And yet, those are so much more difficult to carry out in our cherished Southron culture, one would say. Southrons do not wish for, ask for or ever seek out handouts. We are too proud as a race, one must suppse. At least that is what our enemies have always charged us with, as if pride in one’s family and one’s culture was an act against Nature. Well, we do not share that plebian viewpoint for an instant.” Boudin sneered, shifting into his ‘Royal way of speaking.
“We know that our enemies would be delighted to see us groveling for assistance. We know our enemies envy and fear our strength of will, our strength of character, and our indomitable self-sufficience. But, True Southrons will not, indeed, we cannot ever bow to such uncultivated notions. We will not allow ourselves or our beloved South to become dependent on those who envy and fear us, ever again. We shall not bow to them ever again. No, not even at the point of a sword! And surely there are no martial leaders equal to the task in this bitter, modern age: There are no more Porters, Farraguts, or Meades, no more Chamberlains or Nelsons, no more Sheridans, Thomases or G-d help us all, Tecumseh Shermans waiting in the wings to suppress us! Oh, excuse us, we are quite sure you’d wish us to say as well that there are no more Ulysses Grants in the world to carry out a new conquest of our beloved Homeland.
And yet, there remain those among us, to this day, who would tell you they see the chance, the real chance still for the South to know Her old Glory again. Not in exactly the same ways, naturally. But in ways that will show her sons and grandsons. She never died, She is, in fact, and always will be immortal, beautiful, adored, honored, proud and honorable, grand and eternal. She will be the match and more for Rome, as Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, Mycenae, Carthage, Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Sumeria, and Troy at their height! And those of us, yes, we are one, who worship Her, those of us who know what Her destiny was and is, should have been and will be, are not ever to be disabused of our faith.
We are steadfast. We are without peer. We are indomitable. And we will see Her restored in all Her magnificence, once more. I assure you of that. And we will see that accomplished, Brigadier. Without asking our Western cousins, our Canadien or Latin neighbors, our South American subalterns for so much as and ounce of aid. We will know Her arisen and proud and powerful again, without so much as the thought of help from England, France, Germany, Russia, Austria or any of the other declining, decaying so called powers of Europe. And we will stand proudly, Brigadier, before the world, not boasting because that will be entirely unnecessary, knowing that our Queen, the Fair Lady South is striding in grace and loveliness and the absolute assurance of Her powers, into a new Era. Perhaps even you, will not be entirely sorry to see Her aroused and strong once again, assuming you live to that day, of course.”
“Of course, Mr. Boudin. I was raised in Virginia, as you know. I love the South. I always have. But I wonder, when you talk about this restoration, this resurgence, and sir. When you talk about the South coming into Her own, again, who do you and your …colleagues see as Her …Prince Consort?”
“We have no colleagues, sir. We have no peers. And we will answer your suggestive question despite the fact that we find it somewhat distasteful. Her Chief Advisor, Her Prime Minister, and in some sense, we suppose, Her Consort, can only will only be someone who is found worthy of Her, of course. Only someone truly worthy. And by that, you should truly know by now, we mean someone who is not chasing after Her favors, someone who is not pursuing her as Acteon so foolishly pursued the deer, someone who will come humbly, in the true spirit of self sacrifice She so cherishes, to serve Her however he may.
Someone of indisputable and untainted Southron stock, must take this role. Someone who cannot be challenged in that post, once She has called him forth. Someone with no designs on Her, other than to serve Her with every atom of his being. Someone with no self interest whatsoever, only Hers. And lastly, most importantly, someone who has none of the revolting, repulsive, animalistic, bestial responses to Her terrible, tremendous beauty, that so many weaker souls among Her offspring have shown. She is an immortal. And anyone desiring an immortal as they might a frail mortal being, will be consumed in Her never-ending fire. That is not the service She requires now. That is not the service the worthy Consort will offer Her. Not now. No, Her choice will be made among those who understand that they are mortal, and wish only to make Her Glory known across the World, once more. Do you understand us, now?”
“I think I do, yes.” Jim nodded. “I believe I actually do. And maybe for the first time. Thank you, Mr. Boudin. What other questions did you have for me. Since I have some responsibility in bringing you here, I’d like to see how I may be of assistance… It does seem odd to me, I think as you said, very odd. But I find myself wishing now that I might be …that this might eventually be of some help to you.”
“We don’t lIke that idea, and we don’t lIke your tone, sir. We never in our lIfe asked for anyone’s help, or needed It!” BoudIn exclaImed, makIng the kInd of lIghtnIng shIft from warIness, to pomposIty, from seemIng surrender to rage that was bItterly famIlIar to JIm, to Stephan, to JImmy Randolph and scores of others.
“We have nothing to say. We have nothIng to say to you or anyone who has so dreadfully dIsappoInted us! We are not a cItIzen of any UnIted States of anythIng. We have not been such a one sInce the GlorIous State of GeorgIa seceded many years ago. We have not broken any laws that we recognIze as bIndIng on us. We have not broken any oaths, we’ve been devoutly careful all our lIfe not to make any! You all are fools, as we saId a thousand tImes before if you thInk you have any power over GIdeon Alexander RemIel BoudIn! We are no part of your flabby, shabby, Impotent, modern world! We are a world unto ourself and always have been. We are nothIng to you and you are most certaInly nothIng to us. We are the dIrect descendant of George WashIngton and the heIr to hIs kIngdom.
We wIll take up the reIns of poIr whenever and wherever and hoIver we choose to. We wIll not be delayed, held, betrayed, benIghted, or otherwIse gulled by the lIkes of you. We do not recognIze your authorIty over me or any of the sovereIgn states of the Resurgent Confederacy we have brought to bIrth wIth our own hands! We were as the mIdwIfe to the old and we are father to the new South. You wIll answer to us, when the tIme Is rIght. We wIll never answer to such as you. You wIll obey us In all thIngs. You wIll kIss our rIng. You wIll serve us and you wIll be our chattel, all of you,
ALL OF YOU, WE DECLARE! WE WILL PREVAIL, AS WE ALWAYS HAVE! WE WILL RULE THIS NATION, AND DESTROY AND BURN AND RAVAGE WHEREVER WE SEE FIT. WE WILL TAKE WHOM AND WHAT WE WANT FOR OUR PLEASURE AND OUR PRIVILEGE. AND WE WILL FOLLOW THE GREATEST, MOST INFLUENTIAL AND LONGEST LIVED CULTURE KNOWN TO MAN, THAT OF THE GREEKS WHICH EVEN MIGHTY ROME COPIED AND ASPIRED TO. YOU ARE MEANINGLESS, HOPELESS, HELPLESS DOLTS! YOU ARE NOTHING LIKE US AND NOTHING COMPARED TO US, ALL OF YOU.
YOU ARE THE DUST OF THE EARTH UNDER OUR FEET. AND WE WILL DO WITH YOU AND YOUR REPULSIVE IDEA OF A CULTURE AND A WORLD POIR AS WE WISH. AND THIS NATION WILL NEVER KNOW A WEAKLING AT THE HELM AGAIN. WE PROMISED YOU THAT, LONG AGO, DIDN’T WE AND IT WILL COME TO PASS. YOU MAY TAKE OUR WORD ON THAT. WE WILL MAKE THIS NATION GREAT, AND WE WILL MAKE IT FEARED AROUND THE WORLD. AND WE WILL KNOW, TO OUR LAST DAY ON THIS EARTH THAT WE HAVE CONQUERED THOSE WHO THOUGHT, WHO DARED THINK THEY COULD CONQUER US! DO YOU, CAN YOU, CAN I FINALLY, FINALLY HAVE THAT CLEAR?”
Boudin’s voice was shaking with the kind of rage that Jim didn’t need anyone’s advice to know could kill the Texan outright where he stood, shouting and finally screaming at the top of his voice. And Boudin was stuttering as if he might go into some kind of seizure at any moment, with the sheer force of his fury. And strangest of all, it seemed to Jim that he could hear what might be sobs, tearing themselves out of Boudin’s throat. After years of plotting, after decades of a tormented, tormenting life, everything Jim heard now told him very clearly indeed that Gideon Boudin was finally breaking down. And hearing that, Jim knew what he needed to do. And it shocked hell out of him. But it was what he needed himself, to do for this madman, that no one else in the Court, maybe no one else in the world could do.
“Your Excellency,” Jim said very quietly, recalling that was the title given Washington. “Your Excellency. Are you quite well now, Sir?”
“Who is it? Who is there?” Boudin murmured, as Jim astonished everyone in the room by freeing his ankles and then his wrists.
“Your Excellency, its me, Sir. Its just Torry, Sir. And I’ve only come to see if you are in any distress, knowing you have taken on so much, very recently, knowing you have added so much to your already massive duties.” Jim answered. “I’ve only come to see if you are … if there is anything I might do for you, Sir. Also, I bring the answer to your question, just now, Sir. And of course that answer is, Yes, Your Excellency. Yes, we surely have that clear, now. We do. So you might … you might rest for awhile now, Your Excellency.” Jim said and was shocked again to find Boudin reaching, with badly shaking hands to take his own and hold on as if the older man was drowning in a heavy sea.
“Rest? Rest? No, no, Torry. We don’t… We are only … slightly enervated… naturally. We are aware, always of what yet remains to be be accomplished, naturally and it is… well, even for us, somewhat taxing, now and then.”
“Yes, Sir. Yes, Your Excellency. Naturally that might be so. And, Sir. I bear the news that you might rest now, for a brief time. Sir, you might wish to … briefly … take your ease now. And it would be … it would be fine. Because, we’re done here, Sir. It’s over now. Its finally over, Remy, oh, please excuse my lapse, I meant to say Mr. President, Sir, of course! I’ve been sent to you with an extraordinary missive, a very special message. Sir, I memorized it by long habit, in case the document was lost, and I deeply regret, Sir… that’s exactly what occurred. May I have your permission to deliver that message now, Your Excellency?” Jim asked, wondering how far he could take this play.
“Well, naturally, Torry. Naturally, You were appointed our Courier. Were you not?” The distracted older man answered.
“Yes, Sir.” Jim agreed, shuddering at that title. “The message, Your Excellency is as it should be, from the Speaker of the House. He asks, Mr. President that you might reconsider the request from the House and Senate leaders, to take up the reins of power for our gloriously reborn nation. He states, Mr. President that in the light of this call, the request made in full session and unanimous agreement of both parties, Democrats and Whigs alike, the now Loyal Opposition loyally silent, it is seen as your destiny to accept this role, Sir, at long last.
He adds, Sir, that in light of the call from the best people in the country, all the very best, Sir, you have a clear mandate from that loyal, well bred citizenry which well understands the heavy duties and real obligations of a true aristocrat. Their petition, Sir is framed in terms of the dire need the Nation stands in at this precarious point. Their belief, Sir… all your loyal people’s belief, Sir, is that only you have the natural gift of rule, by which the ills and errors of our recent, sad, ingliorious past might be redeemed.
He ends, Mr. President, by noting you are clearly the only one remaining of the generation that sought to prevent exactly the present Crisis, foreseeing it as you did. And so you are the only one we can now look to for its long sought resolution. That being the case, sir, the Speaker asks that you agree to accept the temporary position of President, Sir. And that youd understand t it is to be followed in quick order by the dissolution of the Congress, the establishment of the properly Parliamentary assemblage, made up solely of your own appointees, and the further establishment of your Council, which will at your word, announce you as Our Prime Minister…And Leader of the reborn and newly empowered, Continental Confederacy, embracing all points of the continent sir, and all minds and hearts within those boundaries.
Mr. President, the Speaker also desired me to tell you that the Ambassadors of every allied and formerly opposing nation have arrived in the City, to join in our heartfelt rejoicing, as you take your proper position at long last. They expect, as we all do ourselves, Mr. President that you will indeed lead us into a new era of invincible glory and untrammeled power. It needs only your word of acceptance, Mr. President. May I send a messenger back to the Congress with your word, sir?”
Boudin fell silent then, and Jim held his breath, wondering if he’d laid it on too thick, or too thin, for that matter. He didn’t have to wait long to find out. Boudin put one long hand on his left shoulder and patted it, almost gently.
“Torry, you are the one who brings us this message at long last? You?” The Georgian finally asked in a tone of pleased disbelief, with no trace of skepticism.
“Yes, sir. I asked for the privilege, sir. I was eager, sir. I was delighted, in fact, to be the one to give you the news you’ve waited for…for far too long, if I may say so, sir.” Jim replied.
“Well, of course you may. And in all due modesty, our , WE must say…Well, yes, Torry, of course, you may send the messenger to the Congress, to the former members of the former Cabinet and to the Diplomatic Corps as well, that We, Gideon Alexander Remiel the Second, do hereby humbly and gratefully, with full understanding of the Crisis at hand and the Work ahead of us all, accept the post of President of this gloriously resurgent Confederacy. …And with deep humility, We agree to take on the gran adventure we all have waiting for us.
We will lead our beloved Lady South to a new era of grace and charm, beauty and massed power such as the world has not seen since the Golden Age of Greece! And We will establish the reign of right, the reign of privilege, the reign of due justice and true deference for those who serve, not because they are ambitious, but because they bear the destiny of this great country in their blood, in their bearing, in their features, in their hearts and minds and souls!
And of those best of the best, We shall establish a dynasty on this great land, which will take Her onward into the infinitely glorious future She deserves! That is our solemn pledge, and indeed the one and only oath we shall ever make or need to make. We will show Europe and the rest of a saddened, benighted world, what a great nation is and can be! We will make a mark that will never be forgotten or erased from the memory of Man. And we will be the most spectacular, most incredible, and most beloved Leader in the history of the Modern or Ancient World!”
“The messengers to the Congress, to the former Cabinet and to the Diplomats, sir are on their way. I was also sent, Mr. President to urge you to rest, before the necessary meetings and the following celebratory speeches and banquets can begin, later today. We are concerned that even someone as strong and indomitable as yourself, Mr. President, may be overcome and we cannot afford for our reborn Confederacy to lose the man who has been Her heartbeat and her most loyal Son, for so many years. Will you go up to the residence, now, Sir?
“No, not yet, Torry. We know the proper procedures for such things. And until We are sworn in as President, for the short term, and invested as Prime Minister for the long term, We shall keep to a private establishment. You were about to arrange for that suite, in our favorite hotel, We believe, Torry, the scene of our greatest triumph, before today, that is. You recall that day, of course, We know you do, and you helped make it happen. And you survived it. Well, honestly, Torry, that was a surprise to us. But not and unpleasant one. We have a suite reserved and waiting for us there.
We will go to our hotel and have a warm bath and a massage, a manicure and a freshly ironed shirt …not too much starch. And We must have decently thick cotton blankets and towels. That kind of thing is not a luxury for someone as finely, gently bred as ourselves. It is a necessity. We are of the best stock in the country, you know. Our mother was the daughter of Stephen Austin himself! And our father was related to Sam Houston. And I would add, here that had we listened to Governor Houston, early on, that upstart Mississippi idiot Davis would never have had the least chance of the honor he was accorded. That was a disgrace and a disaster and we all knew it would be from the start!
Do you see that? Do you see that someone else had to step in? That someone who understood clearly what was needed, what was essential what the only way we could survive was? Our world was being destroyed by idiots and hooligans and …Do you see? Well, of course you do. You’re very insightful, dear Torry…you’re a very quick and very understanding. We shall go on to our hotel room now and partake of the necessary pleasures of a true Southron gentleman. Wait here, Torry. Wait here and obey us. You must obey use, now, and always, or I shall….”
“You were going up to your suite, now, Mr. President.” Jim said quietly. “You were going up to your hotel room, it’s on the third floor here in the Baltimore House…well, they’ve renamed it now, it’s the Boudin House …in your honor, Mr. President. Will you go up now and rest, sir?”
“Surely. Surely we will. You may join us later, Torry. You are a good…good …” Boudin said and straightening up a bit, blinked and turned from Jim to the others in the parlour. Then he startled them all once more, saying:
“We actually never wanted to be a monarch, well, perhaps we considered it from time to time, we are, after all a direct descendant of several of the Oldest royal families; the Hohenzollerns, the Plantagenets, the Merovingian, the Bourbon, the Augustan, the Macedonian/Athenian/Persian and the Hasmodean kings… all the ancient lines. But this is a Republic, and we have always admired the ideals of a Republic, if only one could get it to work properly, with the proper respect for status and rank and …race and …class, of course.
So we agreed to at the proper time, of course, become a humble servant of the people, a quite reluctantly empowered instrument of their will, and exemplar of what we can be, of what we are meant to be…those of us of a certain class, of course. And so we stand here, proud to be the most recent scion of a line going back to the beginnings of our royal history, humble and proud at once, gratefully and modestly accepting your cries for a strong hand at the helm of statehood, a keen mind guiding the ship of state, a finely, gently raised scion of the best we have to offer.
And we graciously and of course, naturally with all due humility, accept your call to become your newest and most humble of Presidents, in this time of Crisis and Desolation. And we give you our most solemn word, the first and last oath we shall ever make in this life, to take this fine, noble and honorable nation to its proper place in the world. And we will …go …we have a Cabinet meeting to attend as soon as we … rest now. Thank you, thank you all.”’
“Thank you, sir.” Jim said, thanking his own training and experience as Grant’s aide for the deferential tone and manner he’d been able to give this shattered remnant of the man he’d feared so deeply for so long. “Your security detail is here, sir. Will you go up with them, now, sir?” Jim said, as two pairs of bootheels on the carpeted floor told him that two of the younger agents had taken their places on either side of Gideon Boudin.
“Well, naturally we will, Torry. Naturally, we…” Boudin agreed. But then he froze in his steps for several seconds, staring in abject terror at a slender figure, dressed in radiant sky blue silk, with her fiery red hair floating like a halo around her head and dark eyes smiling at the scene before her. The Georgian could not take his eyes from this vision and therefore did not grasp that he and only he saw the spirit of Liesl Marguerite Amalie Branoch, nodding and gesturing to him, as if she invited him to join her.
I only wished to thank you, Herr. Boudin, to thank you after all this time for freeing my beloved uncle from the burden of guilt he took on at my death. It’s brought him the kind of peace I’ve wished and prayed he would achieve for so long now. You have done me and my uncle, indeed our whole family a greatly compassionate service this morning. Danke schoen.. We shall long be in your debt, kind sir… We shall long be in your debt… We shall long be in…We shall long be… The apparition seemed to say.
“NO! NO! NO! NO MORE! NO MORE! NO MORE! I CAN NOT BEAR IT! NO! NO! NO MORE! NO MORE! I CANNOT BEAR IT! NO MORE! NO MORE!” Boudin screamed hoarsely and suddenly moved more swiftly than anyone in the room thought possible. In seconds, the mad Georgian had taken one of his ‘security detail’s’ pistols and put its barrel up against his own head.
“Damn it, Jim, get away from him! He’s taken Terry’s revolver!” Mairtin shouted, in chorus with Artie.
“Your Excellency! REMY!” Jim called out and then twisted around towards Artemus as he felt his partner trying to push between Jim and the madman who now held a deadly weapon. “Artemus, damn it, get the hell out of the way right this minute!” Jim shouted, shoving Artie back until they both lost their balance and went sprawling into the space between several heavy chairs and tables.
I truly only wished to thank you, Herr Boudin. Liesl’s shade seemed to Gideon Boudin to be saying now. You always made me feel as if even a young woman, still almost a girl such as I might still take the Great Work forward. You always seemed to believe I had every right to avenge my beloved family, Herr Boudin. It gave me such a sense of purpose, truly. I should have gone quite mad indeed, sir, without that assurance. And of course I shall always be grateful for one particular gift you gave me, sir. This gift, Herr Boudin, I shall always be quite, quite grateful indeed for this one extraordinary gift you gave me. You must indeed remember the gift you gave me, Herr Boudin. I am still so very fond of it. Truly. See? The dead girl’s spirit now seemed, Boudin believed, as he watched her, transfixed, to lift her delicate hands, palms outward to study them a moment.
Then she held her left hand out to the Georgia and smiled brightly at him, with all the innocence, he thought, of the child she had once been in old Atlanta. But on Liesl’s left hand was a glittering gold filigree ring as delicate as the girl herself had been, as fragile and as breathtaking. This ring had a fine, more decorative, more antique design than the one Boudin had wore for nearly sixty years now. The ring Liesl’s ghost wore was the mate to the one the Georgian still wore on his own left ring finger, and had likewise been a gift from his own lady mother, Helene Terese Beatrice Dupree Boudin of Atlanta,Georgia, Austin Texas, and Port au Prince, Haiti. And like his ring, Liesl’s was set with a deeply faceted, flashing stone that seemed made of pure fire, a padparascha, or Ceylonese sapphire. This ring had been Helene Boudin’s own once, and her son believed, her mother’s before her. It had always seemed nearly a living thing itself, dancing its trance patterns and whispering its secrets within its own shadows and brightness. This ring had been his own introduction to his mother’s hidden world and all the ‘lessons’ she’d ever taught him.
Seeing his mother’s ring, the ring he gave Liesl Marguerite Amalie Branoch once more on the murdered girl’s left ring finger, Gideon Boudin screamed once and fired a single, deadly shot into his own brain. Then he toppled to the floor and shortly stopped breathing. Jacques, Jeremy, Ani, Mac and Miguel were on the floor beside Jim and Artemus in another handful of horribly long seconds. The sprawled pair of partners were duly checked over, and allowed up again, if only as far as the nearest pair of chairs.
Then Artemus stood up, against medical advice and after one glance at Boudin, turned to frown at his partner. “James T West, I’d like to know just one thing, right now! I’d like to know what that grandstanding… that shove you gave me just then was for, exactly, partner.” Artie growled, hiding how glad he was that neither of them had any new bullet wounds to boast about much later.
“I’ll tell you in a second, Artemus. First … what about … what about … Boudin?” Jim asked, pointing in the direction he’d last heard the Georgian.
“He’s dead. This time it really is over, James.” Artemus answered. “So, what do you have to say for yourself for knocking me flat on my face the way you did just now? Well, what on earth made you do something so massively crazy?”
“It really is over.” Jim echoed, wide-eyed and then he cracked a tired grin. “oh and pushin you? That was ... nothin’, Artie. I just thought it might be my turn to get you out of trouble.”
SS novice field agent
Posted - 02/09/2009 : 13:33:54
| EPILOGUE Washington DC, September, 15th, 1874
“No, James, you definitely ARE NOT going to Atlanta!” Artemus Gordon turned around at the other end of the varnish car shaking his head at his partner.
“Yes, Artemus. I definitely am going to Atlanta.” Jim shot back, just as stubbornly, glaring at the older agent. “You seem to forget I have my very own means of transportation now that can’t be ordered anywhere. And since my new commission predates yours by more than a year, why you think you can order me around, Colonel Gordon, remains a total mystery to this date!”
“I was not issuing any orders, Colonel West, sir. I was remonstrating, sir, with the most obstinate, inflexible, unyielding retired officer in the entire Army!”
“Oh, really?” Jim rolled his eyes and bit back hard on a rising burst of laughter. “Artie, stop it, will you? Overbearing authority figures just aren’t your strong point, Partner. And by the way, I am going to Atlanta. Liesly’s whole family is being laid to rest together, finally, with, I happen to be glad to say, the exception of her uncle Stephan. That’s happening in five days. I gave my word I’d be there. So what’s your problem, exactly?”
“What’s my problem, the man wants to know? That’s easy! You only got up here from N’folk a few days ago. You’re still recuperating from that surgery. So I don’t think any of our friendly-team doctors would even consider another train ride this soon.”
“Artemus, that ‘surgery’ was Hi Madsen the third, Trav’s brother, setting my broken leg. I fell off the bannister in the foyer and busted my leg in a couple places.”Jim protested.
“You fell off the bannister? No, no, my friend. You slid down that bannister and could have broken your damn fool neck doing it.” Artie retorted.
“And that was just one of many, many completely reckless stunts you’ve pulled in the last six or seven months now. In fact, you’re only up here in the District right now this minute because you claimed you had to be at some inane ceremony or other. What that was, I really can’t remember.”
“Liar!” Jim finally laughed aloud. “That inane ceremony was you getting promoted, Artemus, and that shiny piece of metal right there on your lapel, from the Congress, and the Man himself. And I am going …”
“To Atlanta, yeah, I heard you the first seventeen times on that one, James.” the older agent grumbled. But he couldn’t hold his bad temper very long these days. He couldn’t
do it at all when faced with any reminder of the multitude of changes they’d all come through. And right now Artemus was frankly studying the most significant of those changes, while being studied in return. Jim West was looking directly at him. And Jim was seeing him.
Two incredibly complex surgeries and dragging, dreary months of waiting for results were over. Jim still wore one of the dark green clerk’s visors in any lighted room or outdoors in daylight, and would do so for another six months, if he followed doctor’s orders. And he would for once, Artie knew because the alternative was wearing a pair of thick, wrap around green glass goggles, which the younger man abhorred. And Jim was enjoined from reading normally printed materials of any sort, for another four or five months. So stacks of wide, thick Braille books littered the train in all directions. But Jim was looking right at his partner and Jim was seeing him.
The partners didn’t talk about those recent months of recovering and waiting much. Jim was still grieving, and probably always would be, for Jimmy Randolph, Jessy Miller and Liesl Branoch. Artie was relieved to know Jim felt no real mourning where Gideon Boudin was concerned. They’d walked around that subject more than once, with all due deference to the bizarre connections between the late unlamented Georgian and James West. They’d walked around Artie’s hesitant respect for Stephan Aynsley’s contributions to finally closing out the Courier case, too.
But there was nothing reluctant about the agent’s response to what they both called ‘their best news in a good year and a half’. That was the birth just over a year ago of Jacquetta Ange de Cervantes y Marais down in Richmond. Antoinette gave birth to her second healthy child on September 19th, 1873. The irony was lost on no one. A life long love affair began as soon as Jim held his g-ddaughter, with Artie falling soon after ‘Angel’ wrapped her tiny fingers around his thumb, and his heart both at the same time.
“Angel was born on the same day and month that I … in many ways, began to die, or so it seemed then. Angel was born amongst a crowd of people who already adored her, on the same day and month that Liesl was ruthlessly murdered in secret and hidden from her only remaining family.” Jim West wrote in a private journal.
“And when Ani laid her tiny daughter in my arms, it was the most healing thing I’ve ever, ever known. But at the same time I was really glad they hadn’t named her Victoria and nicknamed her Torry. The Ls wouldn’t have stood for that… which viewpoint they made very clear. But at the same time, they already adore their ‘baby sister’. So, I think it’s safe to say this could be the beginning of another beautiful friendship.”
THE NIGHT OF THE WELL OF FIRE!
[ The watch rotation schedule left by the Companies, for Artie, Jemmy and Miguel to find.
The Watch/ The Four
L Company, First Company, First born, Littlers, Tutors. W Company. Second Company, Second born, Witnesses, Watchers, Pickets. D Company, Third Company, Third born, Defiants, Defenders, Dreamers. V Company, Fourth Company, Last born, Veterans, Novices, and Plebes.”
Whisperin’ watches for D’artagnan, who watches for Tin Man, who watches for Scout who watches for Whisperin’
Notalkinup watches for Quiet Tommy who watches for Turncoat, who watches for Attache, who watches for Notalkinup
Noseein’ watches for Blind Beggar, who watches for Seer, who watches for Travis, who watches for Noseein’
Skeered watches for Buckingham, who watches for Richelieu, who watches for Gascon, who watches for Skeered
Genrls Torry watches for West Pointer who watches for DAnius who watches for Alexander, who watches for Genrls Torry
Sojer watches for Athos, who watches for Loyalist who watches for Galahad, who watches for Sojer
Wrigglin watches for Youngster who watches of Doubting Thomas, who watches for Dad, who watches for Wrigglin’
M’hundry watches for Porthos, who watches for Headstrong, who watches for AWOL, who watches for M’hundry
Yowlin’, watches for Monster, who watches for Vengeful who watches for Innocent, who watches for Yowlin
Foal watches for Lead Agent who watches for Lunatic, who watches for PrinceOTWM, who watches for Foal
Runnin’ watches for No hero who watches for His Grace who watches for Black sheep, who watches for Runnin’
NohearAnin watches for Protégé who watches for Cassius, who watches for Brutus who watches for Nohearin
Dutafu watches for Campaigner, who watches for Raider, who watches for Cavalry, who watches for Dutafu
Notelldis watches for Johannes, who watches for Subject, who watches for Emissary, who watches for Notelldis
Shad’o watches for Cyrano, who watches for de Guiche, who watches for Baronet, who watches for Shad’o
Genrls Fraancis MaAni”in watches for Lafayette, who watches for Tarleton, who watches for Partisan, who watches for GFM,
All fi” nows watches for Chevalier, who watches for Exigent who watches for Orphan who watches for All fi” nows
Fourahalf watches for Mute, who watches for PlayActor, who watches for Horatio who watches for Fourahalf Torry.
Natterin watches for Grampa Jaimey, who watches for Orator, who watches for Torry who watches for Natterin
Horsy’s watches for Old Soldier, who watches for Odysseus who watches for Telemachos, who watches for Horsy’s
No botherin’ watches for SAW, who watches for Federal, who watches for Gallant who watches for No botherin,
Saddest watches for Reckless, who watches for Richman’s Grandson, who watches for JimmyR, who watches for Saddest
Dreamin’ watches for Doc Miguel who watches for Émigré who watches for Refugee who watches for Dreamin
P’tectin’ watches for Merlion, who watches for Taliesin, who watches for mon Enfant, who watches for P’tectin
special Little watches for Scarred who watches for Liar, who watches for Schoolboy, who watches for special Little
Pocket watches for de Olvidado, who watches for Quixote, who watches for Caballero who watches for Pocket
Bedien watches for Commanding Gen, who watches for Capt. Torry, who watches for Effective who watches for Bedien
Wondrin’ watches for Subaltern who watches for Adept, who watches for Foursquare who watches for Wondrin’
Hushin watches for Forgotten who watches for Edmond Dantes, who watches for Missing who watches for Hushin’
Hidin’ watches for Anisto, who watches for Carton, who watches for Darnay, who watches for Hidin’
No cryin’ watches for Plebe who watches for Renegade, who watches for Cadet East, who watches for Nocryin’
Wis’fu watches for AALG, who watches for Tough Guy, who watches for Adamech Avishai, who watches for Wis’fu
Rand watches for Horse Handler, who watches for Virginia, who watches for Footracer, who watches for Rand
Huggin’ watches for Aramis, who watches for Firebrand, who watches for Bedwyr, who watches for Huggin
Fassest watches for Regular Army, who watches for Hero, who watches for Reliant who watches for Fassest
Towhead watches for Mourner who watches for Confederate, who watches for Matchless, who watches for Towhead
C’ntraree watches for Assassin who watches for Liberator, who watches for Radical who watches for C’ntraree
Noddin watches for Partner, who watches for Deserter, who watches for Colonel, who Watches for Noddin
Prinslin watches for Ailing, who watches for N’Orleans, who watches for Pony who watches for Prinslin,
Fin lookin watches for Ruin, who watches for Dandy, who watches for Cripple who watches for Fin’ lookin’
Watchfu” watches for Prof, who watches for Stoic, who watches for 12th of 45, who watches for Stayin
See”krit watches for Achilles, who watches for Remy, who watches for Boy, who watches for See”krit
Shinin tar watches for JTKR, who watches for Torrance who watches for Tidewater who watches for Shinin ‘tar
Annie’s watches for Vicar who watches for Circuit Rider who watches for Preacher, who watches for Annie’s
Littler watches for Veteran who watches for Defiant, who watches for Witness, who watches for Littler
Littlest Torry watches for Pendragon who watches for Mordred, who watches for Emrys who watches for Littlest Torry
Babyboy watches for Oldest Torry who watches for Courier/Arthur who watches for Youngest Jaimey who watches for Babyboy!
Cast of Characters: The Night of the Well of Fire
“Mac’s ‘First Team’ [the good guys]
Charles Aidman as Tobias Jeremy “Jere” Pike
Robert Conrad as James Torrance Kieran West
Robert Conrad as Jemison Stephen “Jemmy” Singer, MD, Jim’s cousin
Ross Martin as Artemus Alastair Lachlan Gordon
[ nee Adamech Avishai Tzuriel Gorniak]
Ross Martin as Elias Ariel Benjamin “Eli” Morgan
[nee Elisha Ariel Binyamin Morjanelski,Artie’s cousin]
William Schallert as Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Harper
John Spencer as Thomas Kiernan Anglim Macquillan, JD
William Shatner as Jacques Etienne Merlion D’eglisier MD
Michael Dunn as Miguel Raul Enrique de Olvidado
y Sin Amor de Cervantes aka Miguelito Loveless
Phoebe Dorin as Antoinette Elise “Ani” Marais de Cervantes
“Ori Hoynes’ Second String”
Michael Burns as Liam Christopher “Chris’ McIntire
David Canary as Benjamin Michael Singer, Jim’s cousin
Roark Critchlow as Travis William Barret Madsen
Bryan Dattilo as Randolph Jemison ‘rand’ Alexander
Robert Sean Leonard as Thomas Macquillan Harper, Frank’s son
Tim Matheson as Sean Oriel Liam ‘ori” Hoynes
Denny Miller as Terence Micheal ‘terry” Hawks
Sam Neil as Andrew Jackson Brightwell, Missy’s brother
Tristan Rodgers as Aaron Thaddeus Kuenle, Jim’s cousin
John Smith as Mairtin Kiernan Macquillan [Mac’s son]
Victor Webster as Daniel Webster ‘danny” Hoffner
Michael Weiss as William Michael Lawrence Spencer, MD
Dan Wells as Micah Kuenle, Jim’s cousin
Bradley Whitford as Robert Anglim Harper, Frank’s son
The First Family:
Stockard Channing as Julia Dent Boggs Grant
Martin Sheen as Ulysses Simpson Grant
Antoinette’s companions and servants at Isle d’ Tresor
Renee Goldsberry as Mariamne
Gabrielle Union as Zuleika
Ashlee Holland as Teleri
Jimena Joyos as Mered
Denise Vasi as Jessy – Jessamyn Talitha Fairholm-Miller
Samaire Armstrong as Zeva
The Team’s Family members:
Anne Baxter as Joanna Micaela Ashton Randolph
[JimmyR’s second wife, Robby’s mother]
Olivia de Havilland as Beatrice Terese Helene Boudin McTiernan Parry, Boudin’s sister
Judith Grahn as Danielle Terese Mercant Ashford Randolph,Pauly’s wife
Linda Gray as Sarah Jean Rebecca Rowena Randolph Stuart
[Jim’s maternal first cousin, Jimmy’s dtr
Arthur Kennedy as James Torrance Kieran “Jimmy” Randolph,
[Jim’s maternal uncle]
Bad guys [ and quasi bad guys] :
Joseph Cotten as Gideon Alexander Remiel Boudin
Larry Hagman as Aubrey Edmonds Dupree Lanier
Frank Langella as Henry Percy Meriwether Mahan
Anthony Perkins as Saul Lawson
James Stacy as Ezra Smith
Richmond ‘Society Ladies’
Heather Tom as Jessamyn Thomasina Lanier Buchanan
Lucy Lawless as Leah Rachel Mahan Cooper
Kathleen York as Alexandra Winona Tierney Tobias
Miranda Otto as Alys Regina Grayson Bromley
Alexandra Neil as Thea Ysabeau Conyers Woodson
Julie Pinson as Wilhemina Dove “Willie’ Conyers
Lauren Koslow as Eleanora Dorcas ‘Nora’ Dunstan Cooper
Kate Winslet as Zara Evangeline Rutledge Fairholm
Mary Louise Parker as Eleora Eugenie Regan Burnham
Joanne Woodward as Rowena Victoria Rebecca Edmonson Fairholm
Ashley Judd as Alexandra Rowena Dunstan
Sela Ward as Rebecca Tavia Dunstan Edmonson
Susan Seaforth Hayes as Althea Ariadne Chamberlain
Richmond ladies’ servants:
Marlene McCohen as Missi/Missouri
Zuleika Rivera as Honora
Vanessa Angel as Jerusha
Tatyana Ali as Kezia/Kizzie
Eva Mendes as Querida
Alena Seredova as Madalena
Zoe Saldana as Timandra
Vanessa Williams as Morwenna
Christina Chambers as Cyrene
Zoe McClellan as Nazareth
Zuleyka Robinson as Tabitha
Vanessa Lengies as Roma
Zooey Deschanel as Eugenie
Sanaa Lathan as Rica
Vanessa Simmons as ‘Tennie’ Tennessee
Tamara Feldman as Isaura
Background Characters of TNOTWOF
Barbara Barrie as Rochel Morjaneliski Gorniak, Artemus’ mother
Richard Burton as David Arthur West [Jim’s paternal grandfather]
Ronald Colman as Yakov Morjanelski [Artie’s maternal grandfather]
Alyson Hannigan as Liesl Marguerite Amalie Branoch
Helen Hayes as Rifka Morjanelski [Artie’s maternal grandmother]
Katherine Hepburn as Jean Alys Torrance Morrissey Randolph,
Jim’s maternal grandmother
Vivien Leigh as Jessamyn Annabeth Roisin Randolph West [Jim’s mother]
James Mason as Stephen Arthur West [Jim’s father]
Jeannette Nolan as Miriam Gorniak ‘Miri’Cooper [Artemus maternal aunt]
Elisabeth Taylor as Meredydd Jennet Howlys West
[Jim’s paternal grandmother]
Spencer Tracy as James Andrew “Jaimey” Randolph
[ Jim’s maternal grandfather]
Orson Welles as Stephan Johannes Sebastian Aynsley
#### This “back story” will be further described and developed in TNOT War Dreams, sometime in the new year. RGCB