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Thread: Return to Ballyickeen - chapter 19

  1. #1
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    Return to Ballyickeen - chapter 19

    I discovered this morning that the title - Return to Sender - had been used already.
    So, it is now - Return to Ballyickeen.

    Chapter 19
    As I carefully worked my way to the house, I could see that the information Maura had passed along to me was accurate. Once they were sure the Earl was far enough away that he wouldn't turn back for anything other than an emergency, the guards had relaxed. Some had slipped into the darkness to take a nap, others left their posts and gathered in groups to talk. Judging by the sounds I heard, someone had passed around some drinks among them, adding to their enjoyment of this break from their normal duties.
    Hiding in the bushes by the back door, I listened carefully for activity inside. After I slipped inside the house, it appeared that the house staff had reacted to the Earl's absence much the same as the guards had. There seemed to be no activity, other than the sound of a couple of groups gathered in rooms near the front of the house.



    As I quickly went up the stairs, I prayed my instincts were right. I had no infomation verifying where the Earl's room was, but I had a good hunch. Men with great egos all follow a certain pattern in some ways. They need to be thought of as being at the center of everything in their domain. Unless I missed my guess, the Earl's quarters would be right above the main entrance. I could not imagine him choosing to stay at one end or the other of the building, where he would be removed from what was going on at the other end.
    Just as I reached the top of the stairs, I heard the sound of someone coming down the hallway. Acting out of desperation, I eased the door open on the nearest room and slipped inside. It seemed that the room was already occupied by one of the guards and one of the maids, but they were quite focused on each other. Unless I knocked something over and created a loud disturbance, I doubted that they would notice my presence. Whoever it was in the hallway, had a companion, for I could hear their voices as they passed by and started down the stairs. Waiting another ten or fifteen seconds, I eased out the door and left the occupants of the room to their pleasures.



    The Earl's room was pretty easy to spot, for the extravagant decorations around the entrance could not have been for anything else. After listening at the door for a minute, I eased the door open and quickly stepped inside, pulling the door closed behind me. Being careful to stay in the shadows by the Earl's main window, I could see and hear the groups of guards and some of the staff gathered almost directly below the window.
    Listening carefully for any sounds from the hallway, I explored the room, looking for any weapons that the Earl might have hidden away. I had my own, but I didn't want to be surprised by any he might have access to. I carried my hunting knife and a tomahawk. The knife I kept razor sharp, and the tomahwak was equally deadly both as a club, and as a thrown weapon. I had brought no rifle or pistol. A single gunshot would bring all the guards down upon me, and there would be no chance of escape. Men and women were killing others long before firearms were invented. Things that can make excellent weapons abound all around us. All one has to do is look at them in terms of using them as a weapon.



    Once I had explored the Earl's room to my satisfaction, I picked my spot to wait, and passed the time mentally going over my escape possibilities should I manage to get off the Earl's land without being caught. My mind as usual, also drifted back to Colorado. My thoughts on my wives, Mariska and Senta, my sons, Chance and Patrick, and my friend, Dover. How I hoped that they were all well. Naturally I hoped that I would soon be on the way back to America, but I knew well that the odds were against me. Right now I had to stay focused on the job at hand.
    When the noise from the crowds below started to die off, I knew that it was getting close to time for the Earl to return. Perhaps half an hour later, I heard one of the guards call out, "Here he comes!"
    It wasn't long before I could hear the sound of the team of horses pulling the carriage up to the house. As the Earl entered the house below, I could hear him issuing orders to various personnel. It was another fifteen minutes before I heard him the door open and close behind him. Chancing a look around a corner, I saw that he was indeed alone. The Earl walked further into the room until he was almost straight across the room from me. I saw him uncap a bottle and pour a drink into a glass, then lift it to his lips. As he did that, he saw my reflection in a mirror.



    I'll give the man credit. There was no panic in him. He finished his drink then put the glass back on the table, and turned to face me.
    "So, who are you, and why are you here?" he asked
    "My name is Sean Eaton, and I came to kill you," I answered.
    He laughed. "Well, well. So, you have returned. Now you think to kill me? You have not grown any wiser with the years, for you shall not leave this house alive."
    I smiled in return. "Sure, go ahead. Call your guards. No doubt they will kill me before I can escape, but, you, for all your money and influence, will be dead before they reach the top of the stairs. That much I promise you."
    The arrogance that I remembered from years past was still a part of him. "No, I do not need any guards to squash such an insignificant nothing as you. He reached down for his glass and started to lift it to his lips. Instead, he threw it at me as a distraction, and grabbed at the pistol in the sash around his waist.
    He made a good try, but I had expected such a tactic, and before he could aim the pistol, he was on the floor, with his life bleeding out of him. Wiping my knife on his expensive silk shirt, I slipped it back into it's holder under my belt.
    CONTINUED BELOW




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  2. #2
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    Continued from above

    I looked into his eyes, eyes that were filled with the bitter taste of defeat. "Before you die, I want you to know this. What you did to me, only gave me a finer life than I could ever have had here. I had no reason to return for you. You signed your own death warrent when you had Grady killed He knew that I would return and avenge his death, and now you lay dying from your own arrogance. If you have anything to say to your maker, best you do it now. I go now to enjoy the rest of my life. You on the other hand, will be dead before I reach the door." And so he was.


    Knowing the Earl would be eager to rest, the lamps had been put out all through the home, and conversations and activity brought down to a minimum. After listening carefully at the door, I eased it open and finding nobody in the hall, stepped out and closed the door behind me.
    Just as I started to go own the stairs, I saw movement below and quickly moved back into the shadows. From my hiding spot, I saw a man who, by his dress, seemed to be a leader among the Earl's guards, walk up the stairs carrying a handful of papers and a bottle of wine. He knocked softly on the Earl's door then walked in.
    Stealth and deception were no longer options. The shortest route was extremely dangerous, but it was my only chance. As I ran down the stairs, I heard the guard yell from the Earl's room. "Someone has killed the Earl!"
    As the guards at the door turned and faced the sound of his voice in disbelief, I crashed into the group, knocking two of them to the ground. Then it was a mad dash across the open ground. Two rifles fired, but missed their mark. Then, I reached the cover of the trees and bushes, all enveloped in darkness of night.



    I had laid out an escape route on my way up to the Earl's place for just such a need as this. I was able to run and move at a much quicker pace than the guards who pursued me in the dark. The cover was too thick for guards on horseback, and those on foot were delayed by tripping over things they could not see.

    Finally, I reached the barn, and again said thanks to Tim for leaving this horse. Had he not done so, I had no doubt that I would not make it back to the cave alive. I pulled the stall door open, lead the horse out and leaped into the saddle. Then down the road we went. I heard one of the guards yell that I was on a horse, and heard the sound of the horse mounted guards starting out after me.
    It was good that this horse was a racer, for this was the race of my life. The guards had me badly outnumbered, but I was sure none of them were mounted on a horse of this caliber. As if he understood the urgency involved, he ran his heart out, never slowing, as he opened up the distance between myself and my pursuit.
    Then, I was at the bluff overlooking the ocean. After dismounting, I gave that magnificent animal a quick hug and a thank you, then slapped him on the flanks and sent him running off. After what that fine animal had done for me, I had no desire to have him captured by the guards.
    Racing down the trail to the cave in the dark, I risked breaking a leg, but I knew that I was fast running out of time. Reaching the cave, I started the signal fire in the mouth of the cave, and gave the signal to Captain Gage to pick me up. As soon as I saw the return signal from the Galway, I started working my way down to the beach.



    The first few rays of morning were replacing the darkness of night when I reached the flat open section of the beach where the boat was to pick me up. It wasn't long before I could see the boat heading in my direction still proably a couple of hundred yards away. Then I heard the sound of the guards arriving. There was nothing bigger than a pebble to hide behind on the beach where I stood, and it only took a minute for one of them to spot me. "There he is!" he yelled. "He's down on the beach."
    Quickly, I dropped my knife and tomahawk and pulled off my shirt and started to dive into the surf and try to swim out to the boat. Then I stopped when I heard a rifle fire from an area to the right of the guards, and heard the bullet richochet off some rocks in front of them.
    "Stop right there!" A voice yelled out. "We'll not have you going any further. There are twenty rifles trained on you at a distance in which we can not miss. You lads can either turn around or make your fight. Whatever it is to be, make it quick, for we'll not be missing our breakfast."
    I couldn't say for sure, but the voice sounded a lot like the voice of Tim.
    There was some arguing between the guards, but in short order, they turned and rode away.
    Just then my boat landed on the beach. I turned and waved to the men at the top of the bluff, then climbed aboard and took in a deep breath of air as we moved toward the Galway.
    Once aboard, I shook hands with Captain Gage. "Captain, let's set sail for Boston."

    "He smiled and said, "As you wish sir."
    As we turned and headed out into the Atlantic, I leaned against the railing and watched Ireland fade into the distance. Suddenly I felt my legs begin to tremble as I realized that I was really going home after all. The dream of seeing my family again, seemed at long last to be a real possibility.
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