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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (12th Installment)

April 10, 2018 02:56PM
I'm sorry it's been so long since there's been an update, but it's been incredibly busy at my new job. And I did warn you that real-life police work would have to take precedence over the fictional kind.

Thank you all for your patience.


PART THIRTEEN

The day after O’Brian’s visit, Jane welcomed another male caller to her home. This one was happily married, however, so there were no romantic inclinations on either person’s part. Jane had invited him in order to seek his advice.

“You see, General,” she said to her visitor, “you are really, now that I come to think about it, the only person I know who is a member of our Established Church married to a Catholic. Mr. O’Brian has asked for a courtship, to which I have consented. But he has also insisted that, if this courtship ends in a proposal which I decide to accept, we must marry according to Roman rites, and that any children we have together must be raised in the Roman faith. You and Mrs. Fitzwilliam seem so very happy, but did you not feel resentful at putting your wife’s faith above your own? And are you comfortable knowing that your children will face the disdain of so many of their countrymen for being Catholic?”

General Fitzwilliam, in mufti rather than uniform, nodded in understanding.

“First of all, Mrs. Bingley, you are not one of my subordinates, and we are, after all, cousins after a fashion. Feel free to call me ‘Matthew.’”

“Thank you, sir. Please call me ‘Jane.’”

Fitzwilliam nodded, and went on, “For me, it was a simple question. I am not particularly religious. I wouldn’t regard myself as irreligious, but I don’t have the level of commitment to the Church of England that, for example, my cousin Darcy has. Maria is much more devout in her practice of Catholicism than I ever was in my own religious practice. Since it clearly meant so much more to her, it was easy for me to give way. You strike me as far more devoted to the Established Church than I, so the decision might not be as clear for you. But it comes down to the same question, ultimately. Does the Church of England mean as much to you as Catholicism does to Major O’Brian? If Major O’Brian seeks merely to impose his will on you, that’s one thing. But if he is truly devout in his beliefs, this is not merely a battle of wills that he is determined to win, but a part of his life that he regards as being of supreme importance. Does he know that Catholic marriages are not valid in England? That you would have to be married according to Anglican rites in order for the marriage to be legal?”

“He does. And, for that reason, he insists that we marry in Scotland, since any consensual exchange of vows there is legally valid.”

“So he refuses to marry in an Anglican church at all?”

“Not at all. He has said that he has no objection to going through an Anglican ceremony in England once the Catholic ceremony has taken place in Scotland, if that would please me, but he refuses to be forced to do so by a law he regards as unjust and insulting to his beliefs.”

“Well, Jane, that suggests to me that he does have respect for your beliefs, if not agreement, and is willing to acquiesce at least to the degree that the regulations of his Church allow. Frankly, I can’t really blame him for not wanting to be forced to marry outside of his Faith.”

“But what of bringing up our children as Catholic?”

“Does he insist that Thomas and Beth convert?”

‘No. He would be happy if they chose to convert once they were of age, but, though he already loves them as if they were his own, he doesn’t feel he has the right to impose that on children who were fathered by another man.”

“Again, that suggests that he is willing to bend as much as his Church will allow him to. So this is not a case of his imposing his will, but of his trying to balance the devotion he truly feels toward his Faith, with the respect he knows he owes to you and your own beliefs.”

Jane nodded, and said, “I had concluded as much myself, Matthew, though I hadn’t quite put it into words, yet. It was more something I felt in my heart, than something I had reasoned. But your reasoning, combined with my feelings, have made my course clear.”

At that moment, her butler announced her brother Darcy. He stepped into the parlor, looking terribly distressed.

“Jane,” he said, “I bring terrible news. O’Brian was attacked yesterday, just outside his lodgings. His attacker inflicted a terrible wound with a pistol. His colleague, Mr. Grant, felt the best course was to notify you by sending me an express, and letting me bring you the news. That was, perhaps, overly scrupulous in the circumstances, but I can’t criticize his desire to preserve the proprieties. Unfortunately, I was away from town yesterday on business, and didn’t see the note until I arrived home today.”

“Dear Lord, tell me he still lives!” cried Jane.

“He was still alive yesterday. But it was a belly wound, and those are terribly dangerous.”

Jane shivered, remembering the highwayman O’Brian had comforted who had died slowly and painfully of a belly wound. She stifled a sob and blinked back tears as she imagined O’Brian dying such a death. Try as she might she couldn’t chase the image from her mind.

“Brother, I must go to him!”

“I will escort you, Jane. Elizabeth awaits in the carriage outside.”

“We will both escort you, Jane,” said the general, “if my cousin has no objection.”

“None at all, Matthew,” said Darcy.

“Then let’s be off.”

*

Though less than twenty-four hours had passed since O’Brian had been wounded and Jane had been informed of the injury, O’Brian himself had experienced two full weeks since the attack thanks to the technology of time travel.

A soon as Grant got him up to the rooms they shared, with the help of other bystanders, he sent a messenger off to fetch a physician. Once O’Brian and he were alone in the apartment, he got the time machine out of its hiding place, and opened a portal to an emergency medical station in the headquarters of the American time travel center in the 21st Century US.

“You blokes get ready for an officer with a gunshot wound in his lower left torso,” he said crisply. “Through and through. I’ll be reopening this portal and bringing him over fifteen minutes from now.”

With that he closed the portal, changed the setting for fifteen minutes later, reopened it and assisted Mike into the medical station.

His wound was cleaned, carefully bandaged. For the next two weeks, O’Brian was fed a steady diet of antibiotics to fend off possible infection.

The pistol ball was found not to have seriously damaged any vital organs, though the small intestine was nicked before the ball exited out of O’Brian’s back. During his convalescence, he was observed constantly to guard against internal bleeding. At the same time, efforts were made to keep him from going into shock.

Attending physicians determined that O’Brian was a good candidate for SNOM (Selective Non-Operative Management), a treatment that attempted to avoid invasive surgery, since no rounds had to be removed, and bleeding was kept under control.

He was well on the way to full recovery five days later. When Grant came to visit, he asked if Jane had been informed.

“'Aven’t gotten around to it, mate. But I’ll let 'er know if that’s what you want. Should I write 'er a note?”

“They’ve got rules about men writing to women if they’re not related or engaged. Not sure if it applies to widows, though. Or to emergency situations. Geeze, keeping all these rules of propriety straight is a real pain in the keister. Still, maybe you better write to her brother-in-law, and let him break the news face to face.”

“I’ll take care of it, Mike.”

By the end of two weeks, O’Brian was regarded as sufficiently recovered that he could return to the Regency era with little risk, although he’d still have to stay dosed with antibiotics. Accordingly, Grant set the time machine for their apartment, a few seconds later then the time he and O’Brian had traveled back to the 21st Century, and they returned to the time they had departed from, losing only a few moments.

The physician Grant had sent for, impressed at the bandaging job Grant had claimed to have done, declared that there seemed little for him to do, and prescribed rest and easily digestible meals.

The next day, there was a knock on the door, which Grant opened to find Mrs. Bingley, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, and General Fitzwilliam.

*

"How is he?” asked Jane.

“Fine, Mrs. Bingley. Just fine. I promise, ‘e’s out of danger and well on the way to recovery.”

“May I see him?”

“I don’t know what the rules of propriety are in cases like this, but if you don’t mind, I’m sure Mike won’t.”

He stepped back, opened the door wider to let the group in.

The door to O’Brian’s bedchamber was open, and Jane almost ran though it to get to him. Lizzy followed her, but discreetly stayed outside of the door, while making sure she had a view of both her sister and O’Brian inside.

“Mr. Grant says you are fine.”

“‘Fine’ might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I’m recovering nicely. I promise I’ll be able to claim those dances you promised me at the Earl’s ball.”

“Truly?”

“Cross my heart.”

“Come again?”

Damn, thought O’Brian, that must be an anachronism.

“Means I promise.”

“Oh. American English is very colorful.”

“Well, English English is very colorful to Americans. It’s all in what you’re used to.”

“Yes, of course. I imagine that’s true.”

She paused, and decided she would come to the point.

“Michael, I have decided that, if our courtship ends with our betrothal, I will marry you in Scotland, and we will raise the children we have together as Catholics.”

“That’s not a decision you need to make just ‘cause you’re worried about my getting hurt. We’ve got time to discuss that when I’m up and around. But I want you to know it means the world to me that you made a point of coming around here to tell me that.”

"I had already made the decision before I was informed of your injury. I was speaking to General Fitzwilliam about his own marriage, since he has experience with having a Catholic spouse. He was with me when Darcy arrived with the terrible news."

"I'm happier than I can say, Jane. That's the best medicine I could ask for."

“I was so very worried, Michael. Fitzwilliam and Lizzy were not in Town yesterday, so they did not see the express Mr. Grant sent until today. I was afraid that, in the interim, the worst might have happened.”

“Well, it didn’t. But it could’ve. And that’s another thing you ought to be considering.”

“What do you mean?”

“Chasing violent criminals is a dangerous occupation. I might not survive the next such encounter, and you could be left a widow a second time.”

“Michael, when Charles died, I felt awful, but I soon realized I would have felt worse had we not been able to share the few years we did have. I cherish every moment I spent with him. If I ever marry again, to a man I love as much as I loved Charles, I will cherish the moments I spend with him just as much. Can you not say the same about you and your Cesca?”

“You are a very wise woman, Jane.”

“Not so wise as Lizzy,” she replied.

“Se’s wittier. But you’re wiser. And that, I think, is a more valuable quality.”

*

Elsewhere in the Metropolis, the man who coveted Jane Bingley, and who had paid an assassin to kill his rival for her favors, was growing more and more frustrated.

Not only had the man failed to end the life of the pestiferous O’Brian, but the preliminary advance remuneration that he had paid the worthless incompetent was now lost to him forever.

And O’Brian was still alive!

Could no one rid him of this meddlesome cop?

(TO BE CONTINUED)
SubjectAuthorPosted

The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (12th Installment)

Jim D.April 10, 2018 02:56PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (12th Installment)

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Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (12th Installment)

Jim D.April 12, 2018 06:47PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (12th Installment)

KateBApril 10, 2018 10:42PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (12th Installment)

ShannaGApril 10, 2018 04:06PM



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