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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 21-23

March 17, 2023 10:00AM
Chapter 21

Darcy, who constantly watched Lizzy, saw her freeze, her face go white and her eyes widen. “Are you well, Miss Elizabeth?” he asked with concern.

Lizzy forced a smile to her face. “Of course, a thought just crossed my mind of something I had forgotten to do. I'll take a note to be sure I don't forget.” She reached down to the floor for her bag, in the process glancing at the man seated at the bar.

She was almost surprised to not see him in the clothes he was wearing when she had been attacked. Instead he wore a grey wool jacket over grey pants, of newish appearance. He had thinning grey hair and a grey beard, recently trimmed, with weather-beaten skin and wrinkles around his eyes, indicating he'd spent most of his days out of doors. It made sense if he had come into money that he would get new clothes.

Lizzy grabbed her notebook and pencil from her bag. She scribbled a note then interrupted Richard’s conversation, lightly placing a hand on his arm. “Colonel, what your sister said the other day was so outrageous, I dare not repeat it out loud. But I'm certain you would be greatly entertained by what she said.” Lizzy ripped the page out and passed it to Richard.

All the men had stopped and were looking at Lizzy with concern and wondering if she was suffering some strange, delirious, side affects from her trauma the other day, as all knew that she had never met Richard’s sister before.

Richard took the note and his eyes widened in surprise.

“Do not make a scene. The man who just walked in and is seated at the bar is the leader of the thieves.”

Richard cautiously looked up at the man at the bar. Towards Sir Riley, he said “you must read what my sister said. It is the most ridiculous thing that I dare not repeat.” Richard passed the note to Sir Riley.

Sir Riley acted in much the same way. Lizzy saw it and said softly. “Stay your hands, Sir Riley.” Sir Riley cautiously showed the note to the others at the table.

She leaned in to whisper in Richard’s ear. “If we arrest him now we'll never catch the others. They will all disappear. He might be their leader, but he didn't kill the carriage driver or directly cause my Aunt’s death. He should be followed and he will lead us to the others.”

Richard leaned back and gasped. “I can't believe she did that.” He leaned in and whispered Lizzy’s message to Sir Riley, who nodded in acknowledgement at Lizzy.

Sir Riley leaned in and everyone else leaned in too. “Are you certain that man is the leader?” asked Sir Riley softly.

“I can never forgot what he said- it is burnt into my mind. ‘If we find her, we kill her and dump the body.’ I have no doubt that man is the leader of the gang of highwaymen,” said Lizzy softly but firmly.

“I wonder if he stayed the night here and how much longer he intends to stay?” speculated Sir Riley.

“How about we find out?” asked Mr Bennet. More loudly, he turned to Lizzy. “Charlotte dear, do you still feel like you need to rest and can't proceed further today?”

Lizzy caught on to her father’s scheme. With an raised eyebrow, she replied “I'm far too tired to carry on, Papa.”

Mr Bennet rose and approached the counter just as the waitress disappeared into the kitchen. He stood next to the leader at the counter. “Excuse me, I'm not very familiar with Derby at all. You’re not staying here, by chance? Can you recommend this inn to stay at over night? My daughter feels too distraught to carry on further today.”

“Sorry, I'm just here for lunch. Never stayed here before.“ The man noticed Mr Bennet’s mourning attire and glanced at Lizzy, though her back was turned to him. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Mr Bennet just nodded. “My wife’s mother has passed away. We’re travelling to Salisbury for the funeral. I can't say I'm upset. I was never good enough for her daughter. However, she and my youngest were very close.”

The waitress appeared. “Hello, I don't suppose you have two adjoining rooms available for the night?” asked Mr Bennet. The waitress disappeared again to check with the manager. “I don't suppose you could recommend the place you stayed at last night?” asked Mr Bennet.

The thief leader looked down into his glass of ale. “No, I stayed with a friend.”

“Very well, I'm certain the rooms here will do well enough for a night and my daughter won't turn her nose up at the accommodation.” Mr Bennet leaned back against the counter and looked at Lizzy’s back, indicating at Lizzy with his head. “I don't suppose you’ve been cursed with daughters?”

The man mouth tweaked slightly into a smile at Mr Bennet’s deprecating manner. “No, only two sons. I was not blessed to have any daughters that survived past their first night.”

Slightly more seriously, Mr Bennet said “sorry, I have four daughters which are of course a blessing, even if they don't feel it. My youngest there insists she cannot proceed from distress, but I suspect she wishes to spend more time taunting the gentlemen, whom she knew would be in Derby for business today. She insisted we stop even though we've not gone half the distance we should have today.”

The waitress returned with room keys, which Mr Bennet paid for. He turned to the thief leader. “How rude of me not to introduce myself, William Collins at your disposal.”

The man hesitated a moment before shaking the outstretched hand. “Smith, John Smith.”

“Are you staying in Derby, or proceeding on?” asked Mr Bennet.

The man narrowed his eyes. “I've got to press on as soon as I've finished my lunch. “

Mr Bennet nodded. “Well then, Mr Smith, safe travels to you. You can never be too careful.” Mr Bennet returned to the others at the table, whilst ‘John’ returned to finishing his lunch.

Lizzy was blushing, as she had overheard all that was said. “You appeared to have fun, Papa,” said Lizzy accusingly.

“That is the most fun I've had all week,” said Mr Bennet sitting down.

“So we have a name?“ said Darcy.

“The chance that his name is John Smith is as likely as my being Mr Collins. However we do know he slept somewhere else in Derby last night, either at a friend or family member‘s house. He has a wife and two sons, and if they are still young, I imagine he will want to visit them to give them his ill-gotten gains, unless he has already seen them whilst here.”

Sir Riley leaned in close. “Colonel Fitzwilliam, Mr Darcy, I need to go and fetch my men. I need the two of you to keep watch and if need be, follow him until I bring my men to replace you.” He then looked to Lizzy. “Miss Elizabeth, this was certainly a fortuitous trip. Your role in this is over and you should feel free to rest and recover. We have this in hand now.” Sir Riley rose. “If you need to follow him, send someone back here to report your location and direction.” More loudly he said, with a wink to Mr Bennet. “Thank you, Collins, for shouting us all lunch today. It was very generous of you.” Mr Bennet rolled his eyes at the Sheriff. “I will catch up with you all at dinner.” With that he walked out without looking at the highwayman at all.

The highwayman ‘John’ paid the waitress and left. Richard and Darcy waited for him to exit before rising and following. Mr Bennet paid the bill for lunch and escorted Elizabeth up to the room he obtained. “Rest here for the afternoon and we'll see what the sheriff has to say. Hopefully we'll be able to return to Matlock tonight.”

Exhausted and with a pounding head, Lizzy lay down on the simple bed and was asleep in minutes.

Chapter 22

When Lizzy arose, it was to an empty room. She lifted her head and immediately felt it begin to thump, though not as bad as it had before she went to sleep. She looked around the sparsely furnished room, which held a bed, closet, bed side drawers, two simple wooden chairs and small table.

She rose carefully and went to find her father. On the stairs to the ground, a servant directed her to one of the public rooms that had now been closed off for the exclusive use of Sir Riley.

Her father, who was next to Sir Riley, rose to greet her, as did Mr Darcy. “How are you feeling?” asked her father with concern.

Lizzy managed a weak smile. “Feeling better, Papa. How long was I asleep?”

“Two hours,” answered Mr Bennet.

“What have I missed?” she asked, nodding towards Darcy.

Her father led her to a couch away from Sir Riley and took a seat next to her, whilst Mr Darcy took a seat in an arm chair across from her. “Sir Riley organised a local artist to come and sketch a picture of our ‘Mr Smith’ from the description I provided and I think the artist got a good likeness. The officers are now carrying it about town asking the townsfolk about their interactions with the man. He must have stayed somewhere over the last couple of nights.”

“What of you, Mr Darcy? Before I went to rest, you and the Colonel were following Mr Smith.”

“Yes, he mounted his horse and rode straight out of town. We had to scramble to ready our own horses to follow. I followed for about half an hour, just beyond his sight, then Richard and I decided that I should return to report on our current position and path to the sheriff whilst he would continue to follow. I returned an hour ago, and the sheriff has sent two of his men to replace Richard in following the suspect. I would soon hope to see Richard return in another hour.”

It was at that moment an officer burst in with a woman of around Mrs Bennet’s age. “Sir Riley, I've found a woman who can identify the killer.”

Everyone rose at this. The officer continued. “Sir Riley, please meet Mrs Bates.”

“Oh my, what an honour to meet you, Sheriff,” she said, dropping a curtsey. Her eyes scanned around the room and landed on Lizzy. “Is this the young lady that everyone is talking about? The one who ran and survived overnight in the forest with the broken leg?”

“Arm, broken arm,“ corrected Lizzy.

The officer introduced Mrs Bates to the other occupants of the room.

“Everyone will be so jealous of me when I tell them that I met you,” gushed Mrs Bates.

The sheriff, impatient for the promised information, prompted her. “Officer Craigsley said that you know the murderer. Can I ask how and how certain you are of it?”

“When the officer showed me the picture of the man you are looking for, I said that I had seen him travelling to my neighbour’s house just two days ago with my neighbour’s cousin, Robert Blackwell. They were staying at the Beasley farm, which is next to ours.”

“What does Robert look like?” asked the Sheriff.

“He’s a big man, though not fat, about my age, as we grew up together and played together as children. Black hair, which is now getting thin and grey. He currently has a beard, though he does shave it all off from time to time.”

“Miss Elizabeth, does that align with your memory of the ‘Bob’ that attacked you?”

“Yes, Sir, I believe it does” replied Lizzy.

“What is Robert like?” asked Sir Riley.

Mrs Bates continued. “He was fun as a child but often found himself in trouble. He had a problem with remembering details. He struggled to follow instructions, and would easily fly into a temper. Though I don't know how much of that was due to his own father who would beat him terribly. I recall he had several lumps and bruises to his head when his father got angry. As he got older, he was often involved in fights. He had problems holding onto jobs. He had to leave Derby about twelve years ago after he broke a farmhand’s arm. After that, none in Derby would hire him, so he left. I think he went to work in Sheffield or Nottingham.”

Sir Riley thanked her for her information, and the local artist was fetched again, this time to draw a portrait of Robert Blackwell from Mrs Bates’ memory.

It was as the artist arrived, so did the Colonel. “I followed as far as Ilkeston, and that's when the sheriff's men caught up with me and I turned back. He did not appear to realise that he was being followed yet.”

Mr Bennet turned to Sir Riley. “I don't believe there's any reason why Lizzy needs to stay here any longer. I think it best for her to return to Matlock to rest. What is now your plan?” he asked Sir Riley.

"I believe we have a few days of work here interviewing all witnesses and developing the character of Robert Blackwell. You can use my carriage to return to Matlock, and the carriage can return tomorrow for me. I've a place to stay here.”

“What are your plans, Mr Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam?” asked Lizzy.

Darcy looked at the Colonel. “I believe I'll return with you to Matlock,” replied Darcy, whilst the Colonel stated he would stay in Derby.

As their plans were finalised, the artist finished with Mrs Bates. Lizzy confirmed the man in the picture looked like the man who had shot the gun that killed the carriage driver. With that done, Mr Bennet, Lizzy and Darcy returned to Matlock.

Chapter 23

As a weary Darcy, Mr Bennet and Lizzy were returning to Matlock, a tired and dusty Bingley was trotting up to the front door of Longbourn. He looked up at the pleasant country house with well kept gardens with some trepidation. How would Jane react? Would she be happy to see him or angry at his extended absence?

He dismounted and a slightly surprised servant hurried out to take his horse. Bingley walked up to the front door and knocked, the letter from Mr Bennet in his breast pocket. Mrs Hill opened the door, equally surprised as the other servant. “Mr Bingley, this is quite a surprise! The family is at dinner at present and, I’m not sure if you have heard, as they are in mourning they are not seeing guests.”

“That's alright, Mrs Hill, this is not a social call. I'm here on Mr Bennet’s behalf. Could you tell Miss Bennet that a messenger from her father is here to pass on a letter? Please don't mention my name; I don't wish to excite everyone for no reason.”

“Would you care to wait in the foyer?” She let him in to wait, curtseyed and went to get Jane.

Bingley drunk in the sight of Jane. She wore a black dress and even though he could see the sadness in her eyes, she was still the most beautiful creature in the world.

She stopped short when she saw him. “Mr Bingley!” she blurted out, clearly confused and surprised.

He bowed. “Miss Bennet, I apologise for the late hour and interrupting your dinner. I come bearing a letter from your father, whom I saw in Matlock.” He handed the letter to Jane.

Jane collected herself. “Have you travelled from Matlock today? You must be tired.“

“From Derby, and yes, it's been a long ride.“

“Would you like to have dinner with us? I can have another place set for you.”

Bingley smiled but then looked down on himself. “I'm far too dusty from the road to dine in company. I should continue on to Netherfield.” He paused and then added nervously. “I'm staying there for the summer, as Darcy is staying at Matlock for the foreseeable future and he has no idea when he'll proceed onto Pemberley. It seems silly to lease a property and then not use it.” Bingley stopped as he realised he was rambling.

Jane hesitated, her lip trembling slightly, like she hardly dared to ask the question. “Did you see Lizzy and my Uncle? How are they?”

“The Colonel, Darcy and I were part of the search party that found your sister. She was in a bad way, and it was lucky we found her when we did with the blood loss from her leg. Her courage is remarkable. We got her to the doctor in time and he cauterized her wound. I understand she is suffering from headaches, but they should pass as she gets better. She’s strong, she'll recover from this, Miss Bennet,” said Bingley, trying to provide as much reassurance as he could though he longed to take her hand.

Jane bit her lip. “And my Uncle?”

“He’s in a lot of pain, and breathing is difficult but he should recover. He is getting the best care possible.”

At that point they could hear Mrs Bennet's voice. “What is taking Jane so long? She should be back by now and not keep us waiting in suspense.”

Jane turned to Bingley. “I should hold you up no longer. You must be keen to get to Netherfield to refresh yourself.”

“Yes, I should go. Can I call on you tomorrow ... to provide a proper update on your sister and Uncle and to answer any questions your family may have?”

“That would be appreciated, Mr Bingley.”

He turned to leave, but turned back as he was going out the door. “I'm sorry for the loss of your Aunt. I understand you were quite close with her.”

Jane nodded, with a slight tear in her eye. The door closed behind him.

Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 21-23

Anne VMarch 17, 2023 10:00AM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 21-23

LisaYMarch 23, 2023 03:56AM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 21-23

cfwMarch 19, 2023 12:32AM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 21-23

MichaMarch 18, 2023 08:36AM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapters 21-23

Maria Teresa CMarch 17, 2023 09:11PM


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