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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (11th Installment)

March 10, 2018 06:07PM
NOTE: With this installment, I've caught up with myself. I won't be able to post the next installment until I actually write it. And, just lately, it's been very busy at my new job, so I just haven't been able to carve out the time to write.

But I'll add updates as often as I can from now on. It just won't be every three days, as it has been to this point.


O”Brian knocked on the door of Jane’s townhouse and was ushered in by one of the footmen. O’Brian noted the extra weight creating a bulge in the right pocket of the footman’s uniform, glad that Jane was taking his advice on security seriously.

He’d fingered the letters he’d been given by Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and by Miss Bennet. He hadn’t read them, but was assured that they all expressed their approval of his courtship of Jane. He’d discussed one of the obstacles to their going forward, his desire to be married in a Catholic ceremony, frankly with them, but, hadn’t yet discussed it with Jane herself. That was probably kind of bass-ackwards, but it’s easier to discuss reasons not to go forward with the parents of the one you love than with the one you love. But now there was no avoiding it, in light of the Bennets’ acquiescence.

Jane entered the parlor where O’Brian was waiting, a bright smile on her face.

“How nice to have you back, Michael.”

She left the door open, and a maid was posted discreetly outside the door, far enough away so that their conversation would be private, but near enough to make sure all interactions were respectable. O’Brian was finding all this concern about proprieties onerous, but when in Rome.

He stood up, took her hand, bowed over it, and kissed it.

“You look lovely, as always, Jane.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I have some letters, from your dad, mom, and sister. Before I show ‘em to you, I think it’s time I revealed one of those troubling elements you don’t know about yet.”

With that, he explained to Jane why he felt it was necessary that they marry in Scotland. Not an elopement, but a regular wedding, with all the trimmings. Just held in Scotland, so that they could marry in a Catholic ceremony and have it count legally.

“But, Michael, can we not be married in a ceremony at the Established Church, and then simply repeat it before a Catholic priest? That is what Catholic couples usually do.”

“Because they have no choice. They can’t afford to take a trip north just to get married. I can. And, while I am more than willing to repeat the vows before an Anglican clergyman. I absolutely refuse to allow myself to be forced to. It’s the difference between having a choice and having no choice. If we marry in Scotland, in a Catholic ceremony, it counts both legally and religiously, and renewing our vows in an Anglican church down here is something we would do because we wish to, not because we're legally obliged to.”

“I never thought of it that way. It is just always been the way it was. But I see your point. If we do decide to move forward, I will agree, tentatively, to a Catholic ceremony in Scotland, providing that as many of my family as can come are present.”

“There’s more, Jane. You’d have to agree to raise any children we have as Catholics.”

“Oh, dear,” said Jane. O’Brian knew her well enough to know that “Oh, dear” was as close as she came to saying “I’m really disturbed.”

She looked up at him and asked, “What did my parents say?”

“They told me they had no objection if you didn’t. Here, you can read what they had to say yourself.”

With that, he handed over the letters he’d brought from Longbourn.


She read them each in turn, pleased that Michael had won over both her parents and her sister.

Then she looked up at the man who was courting her. She was comfortable as a follower of the Church of England. She had been raised in that denomination. She had grown to love its liturgies and the rites. Yet she had always been uneasy about its origins, which Michael had so bluntly described during his verbal altercation with the Marquess of Sholto.

She had also, secretly, always been an admirer of Mary, Queen of Scots, particularly of her steadfastness in the Catholic religion, and believed that her execution, upon the orders of Queen Elizabeth, was a reproach to both that royal lady and to her ministers.

The fact was, she had, in some respects, always been somewhat partial to the Roman Catholic religion. Its priests appeared, in general, more devoted than many of those of the Church of England, who so often seemed to have chosen the profession more so that they could have an easy living than because they wished to dedicate themselves to the care of souls. And the followers of the Roman Church, stubbornly hewing to their Faith despite the persecutions they had endured for centuries, seemed, to her, almost heroic.

Yet it was one thing to admire Catholicism from afar, and even to agree to marry according to its rites, but quite another to agree to raise one’s children as Catholics. She would be subjecting them to that very persecution she admired Catholics for enduring. Could she do that?

“I appreciate your being so forthright about this, Michael. Of course, you are always forthright. But I will need time to consider this.”

“Of course.”

“Will you stay for a light luncheon? Gentlemen seem to prefer to take their midday meals at their clubs, but the children would love to see you.”

“Let me think about that. Eating lunch with the woman I love, and her two wonderful kids, or with a bunch of near strangers at a club or a pub. Tough choice. But as long as I’m already here . . . ”

She smiled.

“Any chance I could have a few minutes alone with Thomas before we eat? Need to have a man-to-man chat with him.”

“Certainly. What could you need to discuss with a four-year-old?”

“You’ll find out in due course.”


Some minutes later Thomas, after properly knocking, ran into the dining area where cold meats, cheeses, and bread were spread out, and said, excitedly, “Mama, Mama. Mithter Mike theth he is corking you!”

“Courting me, dearest.”

“An’ he theth that if hith . . . court-thip,” emphasizing the “t” sound, “ith thuthuthfil, he will marry you and become mine and Bet’th papa! Our thecond papa here, while Papa is thtill our papa up in Heaven. Ith that true?”

“Remember what I explained, Master Tommy,” said O’Brian.

“He thed that Papa would alwayth be our papa, but he would be watching over uth from Heaven, and Mithter Mike would be our papa here on Earth. Ith that true?”

“Yes, dearest. If Mister Michael and I decide to marry, then he would become your papa, but your first papa would always watch over you from Heaven. So I imagine it would be rather like having two papas.”

“Two papas!” said Thomas, obviously liking the idea.

“Remember to tell her the rest,” said O’Brian.

“Mama,” Thomas said slowly, as if remembering something he’d been called upon to recite, “ath the man of the houth, and your nearertht potekker . . . ,” he paused to recall the rest, which gave Jane time to try to puzzle out what a “potekker” was. She finally realized he was trying to say “protector.”

Thomas recalled the rest of the recitation and continued, “ . . . I want you to know you hab my apoovil.”

“I do?” said Jane.

“Ony if you really want to marry him, though,” said Thomas solemnly.

“Well, thank you, dearest. I would, of course, have wanted your approval before making a decision, so it’s nice to know I already have it.”

“I like Mithter Mike,” said Thomas. “I think he would make a good papa.”

“Out of the mouths of babes,” murmured Jane.

“Did I thay it right?” asked Thomas.

“You did fine, old sport,” said O’Brian. “And since we’ve gotten to be such good friends, maybe we can drop the ‘Mister’ and the ‘Master’ and just be ‘Mike’ and ‘Tommy.’ With your mother’s permission, of course.”

Jane, pretending to look exasperated, nodded, and told Thomas, “You may, if your wish, address Mister Mike as just ‘Mike,' if you would like.”

“I would!” said Thomas.

Later, when they had a bit of privacy, Jane said to O’Brian, “So your conference with my son was to get his approval?”

“His was the last one I needed. I already had your brother-in-law’s, your sisters’ except for Mrs. Wickham, and your folks’. He was the one who’d be most materially affected. Well, him and Beth, but I didn't feel she'd understand. Anyway, I figured he should have a say.”

“Did you really think he would tell you ‘no?’”

“No, I can’t say I did. But I did think he’d like being asked, that it would make him feel like someone whose opinion counted. And that it would probably make nice memory for him.”

“You are already thinking like a father.”

“That’s good, ‘cause I’m hoping to become one. At just about the same moment I become a husband.”


The light meal completed, O’Brian took his leave and made his way to the rooms he shared with Jack Grant. For privacy’s sake, the two time-traveling lawmen used it as much as an office as a residence.

As he approached the entrance to the building on the quiet Westminster street, he felt a whisper of air pass quickly by his left ear, saw a splintery hole appear in the wooden door frame as something chunked into it, and heard a loud report from behind him. He spun, his right hand going to one of his Magnums, and had spied at a man across the street holding a double-barreled flintlock pistol. That assailant seeing that he had missed, and that the man he had been trying to kill was now drawing his own weapon, hastily cocked back the hammer of the second barrel and triggered off another shot, but, nervous that he was now facing an armed adversary rather than an oblivious victim, he jerked the trigger and the shot went low and to his right, smacking into O’Brian’s left, lower torso just he pulled the Magnum clear. He carefully aimed the Magnum.

The assailant, meanwhile had discarded the now-empty pistol, and his hand had gone to the pocket of his coat, where there was a second, which he drew. But, before he could bring it to bear, O’Brian shouted, “Put it down! Now!”

The assailant hesitated, the weapon in his hand, but not pointed at anything in particular.

“If you’re not going to put it down, then use it. But I’ve got dead aim, and I doubt you’ll get a shot off.”

O”Brian’s prediction proved correct when the assailant elected to raise the gun at his quarry and put his thumb on the hammer. O’Brian fired four times, the slugs making a tight grouping in the assailant’s chest. Not having multiple adversaries, O’Brian was not under any constraints to save ammo.

He passed out just as a crowd, including Grant, emerged from the building to investigate the disturbance.


The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (11th Installment)

Jim D.March 10, 2018 06:07PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (11th Installment)

Shannon KMarch 10, 2018 10:54PM


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