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The Highwayman: Legacy

Started by Blackjack Roberts, September 12, 2008, 01:36:29 PM

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Welsh Wench

"So what are you going to name the horse, Jaimie?"
She pet her mane as she continued to brush her. "Nimue."
Jeremy snorted, "What kind of a name is that for a horse?"
She stuck her tongue out at him.
"While you were kidnapped, Uncle Andrew would tell me stories before bedtime. He told me all about King Arthur who ruled England like no other. And his magician was Merlin. Nimue turned him into a tree."
Jeremy looked doubtful at her. "Are you sure? I mean, a tree?"
Jaimie nodded. "If Uncle Andre says so, then it is true. He told me he would take me to Tin--what was the name? Oh yeah..Tintagel someday."

Jeremy touched the saddle on Nimue. "How come you got a new saddle and I---"
"Master Jeremy? Your da said to put this on your horse."
The stablehand heaved a saddle of dark brown leather with copper trim on Jeremy's waiting horse."
Jaimie said triumphantly, "Told you! Da never gets me something and not you! Are you ready to ride?"
Jeremy leaned over and whispered conspiratorially in her ear, "And I know just where we are going to go, too!"
As he whispered it in her ear, her eyes widened in amazement.
"Are you sure?" she whispered back.
"Of course! You forget, Miss Smartypants, that I have been all over England by myself."
She retorted, "Only because you had no choice."
Jeremy held out his hand and spit in it. "Secret?"
She spit in her own and whispered, "Secret!"
And they smacked hands together.


Marley, the stablehand, rode a ways back from the twins. The two of them handled their horses with ease, never mind the fact that their feet were hardly reaching the barrel of the horse. Yet the horses seemed too busy getting to know each other to notice.
As they rode to the edge of the meadow, they both looked up at the imposing grey stone manor. Jeremy looked at the stable hand and said, "Mister Marley, sir, my sister left her coat on the steps in back. We need to find it."
Marley looked at them doubtfully. "Ye ain't gonna be tryin' to sneak off, are ye?"
They both glanced at each other and said in unison, "No, sir."
He picked his teeth with a small twig.
"Then ye better stay in my sight as I am responsible fer ye."
Jaimie sighed and whispered, "I don't think Marley is dumb, Jeremy. How can we look in the house?"
He dismounted. "Get off and let me have your reins."
She slid off Nimue and handed it to him. "I hope you know what you are doing, Jeremy."
"I do. After all, I hid those papers for Da."

Jeremy tied both horses to a tree and shouted, "We will be back as soon as we find the coat, Marley."
He nodded and dismounted. "I'll be taking my horse down to the creek for water. Now don't you mount and ride off on me."
"We won't," they both spoke together.

As soon as Marley was out of sight, Jeremy grabbed Jaimie's hand. "C'mon! We are going to get a look. Maybe we will see the old man who owns it. I bet he is drooling and has popped eyes."
Jaimie hunched closer to Jeremy. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
He grabbed her hand and jerked her along. "Hush! You want to 'splore, let's 'splore!"
"But Jeremy...."
Going around the back, Jeremy found an old box and stepped up on it, holding onto the window ledge.
Jaimie hopped on one foot. "Jeremy, I'm scared!"
He looked down on her. "Jaimie, I swear you act more and more like a girl every day! Now let me look up so I can see if there is a portrait of the monster that lived here and----"

Just then, a shadow crossed the wall and Jaimie stifled a scream. Jeremy went sliding down and landed in the bushes. The two little Roberts children looked up into a face.
"Who are you? And just what do you think you are doing on my property?"
The man stood there with his hands on his hips.
"Pleases, sir, we were just---"
"Ah! And I know who you are. You are Robert Johnson's children, aren't you?"
They both nodded.
"Yes, the eyes give you away. No other children in the shire have the turquoise eyes."
He pointed at Jaimie.
"And pretty as your mum, you are."
Jeremy scuffed his shoe on the ground and then raised his head and met the man's gaze directly.
"And who might you be, Sir?"
He chuckled. "I might be Raymond."
He nodded at the children.
"And I am pleased as punch to meet you."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Blackjack Roberts

"Now, My young scallywags." Raymond smiled as he set the tray of sweet cakes down on the table within easy reach of the twins. "You've still not answered my question. Why were the two of you sneaking about my property?"

Under less favorable circumstances the question would have seemed a reprimand, but the warm smile and twinkle in the elder man's eye belied any ill intent. Jamie and Jeremy shot each other a quick glance and the boy looked up to Raymond with guileless eyes.

"Well, Sir, we had heard of a man who used to live here." He began as his sister reached tentatively for one of the tempting pastries. "We had heard that he was supposed to have been Mama's husband once, and we thought you might know about him?"

"We heard he wasn't very nice." Jamie chimed in between mouthfuls.

"Ah, yes." Raymond frowned for a moment at the memory of his former master. "Lord Peter Culpepper." Leaning forward in his chair he replenished the children's cups of tea as well as his own before continuing. "He wasn't your mother's husband. He was her fiancé. And, no, he was not a nice man at all. That was before your mother met your father. A fine man your father. As a matter of course were it not for Bla...Robert Johnson I would not be enjoying my elder years quite as much as I do, I'm quite certain."

The twins shot a second look at each other. Both not quite sure that their kindly host had nearly spoken their father's true name.

Brigadier Rupert Barclay rode stoically down the South Hampshire rode deep within his thoughts. The soft thud of the hooves of his own horse, and those of the three men he had brought with him providing a soothing rhythm that did little to ease his inner turmoil.

His meeting with King George, and the few of his trusted advisers who were privy to the secret had not gone well at all. It was hard enough to inform his king that not only had the documents not been found, but that the man he had working on the job had to remain anonymous. He could have imagined the fox in the chicken coop reaction that would have ensued had he informed his majesty that the fate of his kingdom was in the hands of a resurrected outlaw. Worse, that the said outlaw was none other than Black Jack Roberts.

In the end he had been successful in convincing them that to protect his man from the vengeance of the Jacobites it would be better that none but himself know the agent's true identity. Fortunately, the ploy had worked and now all hinged on the success of his former adversary and friend.

"Dear God, I pray you were able to recover those damned papers, Jack." He whispered to himself.

"Sir?" The sergeant closest to him queried.

"Nothing, Sergeant. Merely thinking aloud."

"Very good, Sir."

Suddenly the wood around them exploded into a hail of gunfire. Stunned, Barclay jerked his pistol from it's holster as he saw two of his men fall from their horses into the dirt of the road.

Discharging his pistol into the foliage closest to him Barclay shouted for the Sergeant to follow him as they made a break for their lives. A split second before he saw the polished wood of the Sergeant's club, half heard the sickening thud of the weapon, and fell backward from his horse to join the remainder of his men on the road.

From both sides of the ambush site came several darkly dressed figures, one pointing his freshly charged rifle at the unconscious Brigadier's head.

"Stay your hand, Fool!" Sergeant Rowland Giles barked. "We need him alive for the moment!"

The brigand lowered his weapon dutifully. "He be the one then?"

"Aye, make no mistake, Rupert Barclay is the key to finding those documents." Giles swung down from his horse and began rubbing road grime on his face and uniform. "Take him back to Blackwood Estate, but make sure none see you do it."

"You there!" He pointed to one of the larger men. "Strike me!"

"Sir?!" The man looked up at the redcoat in total confusion.

"I can not appear to have escaped this unscathed, Lout!" Rowland growled at the man's ignorance. "It would leave too many unanswered questions! Now, strike me! But mind you, curb your blow a bit!"

Welsh Wench

"Mr. Raymond, sir, we forgot to tell our stablehand we are inside! We have to get out there before he gets mad and tells Da we disappeared. Then we won't be able to ride anymore--like maybe even forever!" Jaimie fretted.
"Not to worry, young Miss. I had one of my grooms find him to tell him you have been invited to tea. If you look down the hallway, you will see he is in the kitchen having a scone with my cook."
Jeremy and Jaimie tentatively walked down the hall and saw Marley dipping his scone in clotted cream. He gave them a wave and went back to his tea.
The children resumed their seats.
Raymond leaned back in his chair.
"You know my name but we haven't been properly introduced now, have we?"
"I'm Jeremy Johnson."
"And I am Jaimie Johnson."
Raymond offered his hand to them each in turn.
"I am very pleased to meet you, Master and Miss Johnson."
"You know our Mama and Da?"
"Indeed I do. A very lovely couple. And I can see they are raising fine children with manners."
Jeremy smiled and Jaimie blushed.
"Please, Mr. Raymond, how do you know Mama and Da?" Jeremy asked.

Raymond took a sip of his tea.
"It was before you two were born. The man who lived here was my nephew. His name was Lord Peter Culpepper. His brother was my older brother.  And when Sir Peter died, he had no children or siblings. So, I inherited the house."
Jaimie's eyes grew wide. "Just like a fairy tale! Did he keep you chained in the dungeon?"
Raymond chuckled. "No, it wasn't quite that bad! I ended up...working for Sir Peter."
"Was he really that mean?" Jeremy asked.
The older man's face grew thoughtful. He reflected on all that Lord Culpepper had done, from murder to kidnapping and Lord knows what in between.
Finally he said, "Yes, children, he was not a nice person. Especially to your mother and father. But let's talk of happier times. Tell me about yourselves."

Jeremy and Jaimie chattered on about their new horses and the brother or sister they were going to have.
"And then Jeremy got kid---OW!"
Jeremy had subtly pinched Jaimie's backside to get her to shut up.
"..and you were saying?"
Jeremy recovered by saying, "She was saying that I got a kid goat that eats everything."
Jaimie rubbed her sore spot and glared at Jeremy.

Marley stood in the doorway.
"Are you all ready to leave? I have to get you back before your mother starts to worry. It will be dark before long."
Jeremy and Jaimie stood up. Jeremy wiped his hands on the front of his pants and Jaimie delicately dabbed a napkin to her mouth.
"We want to thank you for a lovely time, Mister Raymond, " Jaimie said.
Raymond took the hand she offered and he kissed it. "It was my pleasure, Miss Jaimie."
Jeremy shook his hand. "May we come back to see you, Mister Raymond?"
He smiled at them. "Nothing would delight me more, young man. Provided it is alright with your parents."

Marley led them out towards the horses. Hermes and Nimue were patiently waiting, gently pawing the ground. As the mounted the horses, Jaimie said, "That was fun! Mister Raymond isn't a monster."
Jeremy whispered, "We aren't done 'sploring on our own, Jaimie. Not by a long shot!"
Her eyes grew wide. "We aren't?"
He shook his head no. "I want to see alot more of that house. And find out about the man who was almost our papa."

Marley called out, "What are you two whispering about?"
"Nothing!" they both said in unison.
The groom frowned, "Then see that it stays that way!"
The twins exchanged looks, an expression of devilment on Jeremy's face. Jaimie frowned. She always knew that Jeremy got that look when he got a notion.
Haven't they been in enough trouble?


Jaimie and Jeremy came running into the parlor. Cecily's face broke out in happiness to see her two healthy and happy twins.
"And just where have you been to, my poppets?"
Jaimie looked at Jeremy. He was their official 'spokesman' when it came to beguiling their mother.
"We went riding in the woods. Marley stayed with us." Jeremy thrust out his hand that had a bunch of wildflowers in it.
"And I picked these for you, Mama."
Cecily exclaimed, "How lovely! You are such a dear to think of me!"
Jaimie crawled on Jack's lap. "I didn't have any flowers for you, Da, but I brought you this."
She took her handkerchief out of her pocket and presented him with her small gift.
Jack opened it and tried to keep the mirth from his voice.
"My goodness! For me? All for me?"
She nodded.
"I swear, Jaimie, love, no one has ever given me a gift like this before."
She looked over into his hand and said solemnly, "It's a caterpillar."
He nodded. "Yes, I can see. And you picked him up all by yourself?"
She got a shocked look on her face. "Oh, no! I used a stick!"
She shuddered, "I'd never pick him up!"
He took it carefully over to an empty bottle. "I'll have Lucius get us some milkweed. And as soon as we get him home, we shall put him in the garden by the arbor. We can watch him eat to his heart's content and when he is fat and full, he will spin a chrysalis and we shall watch him become a butterfly."
She clapped her hands. "That will be fun!"
Jeremy glared and whispered, "Show off!"
Jaimie gave him a smug look.

Just then a servant came in.
"Yes, Jasper, what is it?"
"Mr. Geoff from the Crossbow to see Mr. Johnson."
Jack nodded imperceptibly to Cecily. She picked up on it.
"Alright, my children, let's go to the stables to visit your fine horses!"
She hustled them out with a worried backward glance at her husband.
As soon as they left, Geoff came in, taking off his cloak.
"Geoff, what is it?"
Andrew handed him a brandy and he accepted it gratefully. "Redcoats were in the tavern. A contingent is being formed. Seems a few of their men were attacked, a few dead. And Rupert Barclay is missing."
"MISSING?" Jack practically shouted.
Geoff nodded. "And I daresay you will be called again to help out...Black Jack Roberts!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Blackjack Roberts

Barclay awoke to find himself in what he took to be a dungeon. His hands were securely bound to the stiff-backed chair he sat upon, and with the exception of a single candle setting on a lonely table, not a bit of light entered through what could be mistaken for a window.

"Well, I'd say you've bloody gone and gotten yourself into a right pickle barrel now, Rupert." He said to himself. "The question now will be who, and where, I've a right jolly idea as to the why."

No sooner did the words pass his lips than the weathered door opposite to him opened and three large bully lads entered, followed by a hooded and cloaked figure.

"Well now, my fine cocker." the largest of the three smiled evilly. "Tis good at see ya up and about, like. The master has some questions about some property 'a his ye have in yer possession."

"I haven't the foggiest what you men are talking about." Rupert returned with all the official imperiousness he could muster. "I am a servant of The Crown, and you would be well served to release me at once!"

A quick sharp backhand that crossed his eyes for a moment was the immediate reply to his command. Rough hands grasped the lapels of his uniform, and he found the brute's face mere inches from his own once his vision cleared.

"Oh, ye know right well what we want, Dog." The rough voiced hissed. "And, mark me, ye'll be spillin' yer guts a'fore the hour passes.

Jack saddled Raven, his mind in a turmoil. Not only had Rupert been taken, but Dagget and his man had been freed by the orders the sergeant brought back from London. Unless he missed his guess, he had a fair idea just where the Brigadier had been spirited off to, and most likely Dagget would make a bee line for the location. Blackwood Estate.

"Jack, you can't be serious!" Geoff groused as the masked highwayman made fast the straps beneath the black stallion's belly.

"As serious as death, Geoff." Jack frowned under his hood. "These documents are all that stand between Rupert and certain death. His only chance will be if I can barter them for his life, and only the appearance of Black Jack will convince them the offer is true."

"But if those papers fall into Blackwood's filthy hands all will be lost! It'll turn this country into a blood bath, and you bloody well know it!"

Jack looked his long time friend in the eye, his turquoise eyes as steady as a professional card player's. "Would you rather I abandon Rupert to these jackals?" He asked solemnly.

Geoff took a deep breath, and sighed loudly. "Nay. I know you better than that, Jack Roberts. Ye'd sooner sell your soul to the devil than see a friend hurt on your account."

"Exactly." Jack grinned as he swung up into Raven's saddle. Then whirling the great beast towards the hidden exit at the rear of the stable patted the inner pocket of his long coat. "And these are not worth Rupert's life."

Tapping his spurless heels lightly into the stallion's flanks, he bolted from the Crossbow stable and into the deep wood. Geoff staring resignedly after the vanishing figure in black.

"I hope you know what your doing, Jack. For the sake of us all!"

Welsh Wench

Cecily looked at the two horses side by side and smiled.
Hermes and Nimue.
Two fitting mounts for her children.
The twins were behind her, whispering.
She turned to them. "And what are you two whispering about?"
"Nothing!" they both said in unison. Cecily sighed. So like Andrew and herself they were. And the twins would bear watching as she and Andrew never had. Being allowed to run wild did have its advantages though. Their imaginations were left to develop and grow in ways they never thought possible.
Including the play games of Black Jack Roberts.

Both children reached up to pet their horses. Cecily took a curry brush to Aphrodite. She knew she had to talk to her children but how? Best to do it under casual circumstances.
"Jaimie? Jeremy? I think we need to have a talk."
Jaimie pointed to her brother. "It was Jeremy's idea!"
Jeremy glared at her.  "Was not!"
Cecily raised her eyebrow. "What are you talking about?"
"Nothing!" they both said together.
Cecily continued to brush her mare.
"It's about Blackjack Roberts."

She took a deep breath before she dove into a subject she thought she would never have to explain.
'Who was I fooling?' she thought. With as many people who knew Robert Johnson's true identity, it was only a matter of time.
"I know you both know that your father really is Black Jack Roberts. It's not that we are ashamed of it, children, but on the other hand, we don't brag about it. For the protection of your father, we are going to continue to be known as the Johnson family."

Jeremy hung on the stable door, swinging back and forth. "Mama, did you know he was Black Jack Roberts when you married him?"
Cecily smiled in reminiscence. "Yes...yes, I did. In fact, he rescued me. But I'll save that story for bedtime. Now, let's collect your father and...Jeremy? Where is Raven?"
The children both shrugged. "We thought he was in the pasture."
Cecily dropped her curry brush, gathered up her skirts and headed towards the manor.
'Lord, Jack Roberts---I hope you haven't done anything that I am going to regret."

"Andrew? Andrew! Where is Jack?"
Geoff and Andrew exchanged glances. "He left."
"Left for where?"
Andrew stepped forward and took Cecily gently by the elbow. "You'd better sit down, Cec."
She pulled away. "No, I will NOT sit down! Now where is my husband?"
Geoff answered quietly, "He's off to rescue Rupert Barclay."

Cecily drew a sharp intake of breath. "I can't believe it."
She sat down suddenly. Her face registered distress. "This is insane."
Andrew handed her a brandy. "This will steady your nerves, Cecily."
She took a sip and closed her eyes. "Why do I feel he will never live to see this child born?"
Geoff sat down next to her and held her hand. "Cecily, have you ever known Jack to not plan things out? He knows what he is doing."
Her eyes filled with tears as she whispered, "When will we be done with it? When is it enough?"
Geoff started, "Cecily, the fate of England---"
"---has nothing to do with us!" she said angrily. "And if I have to hear once more how it is for the good of the country, I shall scream!"
She laid her head back and covered her eyes with her hand. "I hate this. And we can't continue to be at the beck and call of King George. It's time he fought his own battles and...AH!"
Cecily bent over, gripping her stomach. Through clenched teeth, she gasped, "This can't be! It--it's not time yet!"
Andrew grew alarmed. "Cecily, are you alright?"
"No, I am NOT alright. I have a few more months to go and this baby WILL be born when the time is right even if I have to cross my legs until then."

Geoff stood up and grabbed his cloak.
"I'll be back as fast as I can."
Andrew looked distressed, "You can't leave me with...this. Where are you going?"
Geoff clapped his cavalier hat on his head.
"To get Annabelle. This is her area of expertise and I would feel a whole lot better if she were here."

Cecily took deep breaths and willed the pains to stop, continually rubbing her abdomen as if to soothe the chid within.
"Cecily? Can't--can't you just put your feet up?"
She closed her eyes. "Just get Annabelle here. But I won't be alright until Jack gets here. Damn him. And damn Barclay. Damn this whole situation. I will not have this child pay the price."

Andrew went to the window and looked anxiously to the drive.
'Hurry, Geoff. And Annabelle had better be with you. I don't know if Cecily can take one more miscarriage....'
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Blackjack Roberts

The dagger flew through the open window, embedding itself deeply into the polished oak of the door frame, not six inches from Malcolm Dagget's head. The Field agent of Lord Blackwood started backwards, nearly spilling the brandy in his hand. Sir Terrance Blackwood leaped to his feet, after extracting a charged and loaded pistol from his desk drawer. Cautiously approaching the leaded glass he ventured to part one heavy satin drape from behind, as Dagget pried the black handled blade from its resting place. A sheet of parchment was tied securely halfway down the nine inch steel.

"Nothing!" Blackwood sneered into the gathering gloom. "Damned English weather! Even if there were someone out there, the bloody pea soup fog would hide them all too well! Send for Porter, and have him fetch the hounds!"

"I doubt that would be fruitful, or prudent, Lord Blackwood." Malcolm pursed his lips thoughtfully as he gazed at the letter. "It's from Black Jack."

Terrance Blackwood tossed the pistol carelessly onto the desk. "Well? What does the blackguard propose? I assume it is an arraignment for exchange of the documents."

"Quite so, Sir Terrance," Malcolm looked up steely eyed. "Though I dare say you'll not like the conditions of the proposal."


Jack stood beside Raven at the top of the sparsely wooded knoll, waiting. That Lord Blackwood and Dagget would soon arrive with Rupert in tow, he had no doubt. That they would not honor any commitment to allow the both of them to ride off scott-free he also had no doubt. Still, it was the only option available to him, and he had taken all the steps he could to keep control of the situation. The midnight hued stallion snorted softly.

"If your saying that I've pushed my luck too far this time, Old Friend, I'm inclined to agree with you." He whispered, reaching around to hug the horse's neck for a moment and grinning beneath his hood. 'But, let us hope not, for Cecily's sake."

Cecily. These shenanigans couldn't be easy on her. Nor the babe for that matter. He had hoped beyond hope that his life as a highwayman had died with him the day that Rupert sent the dispatch to London. That he and Cecily could live in peace and raise their family without the shadow of his former life hanging over their heads like a gallows noose. Perhaps such sins were not so easily forgiven as he imagined them to be. He had tried to make up for his crimes by aiding those who needed it most. It didn't seem to be enough, though. For in the end the specter of Black Jack Roberts had again entered his life. He hoped it wasn't to his everlasting regret.

In the small glade below he made out the shapes of three figures riding slowly towards the large oak tree stump in the center. The garish red velvet coat of Malcolm Dagget at least let him know that the play he had set into motion was about to enter its next act. Now if only the players would stick to their parts.


Andrew and Geoff stared worriedly up the long curving stairs that led to the upper halls of Morley Manor. After what seemed an eternity Annabelle Peterson appeared at the top. The Gypsy looked haggard, her salt and pepper black, loosely curled hair seemed more out of place than usual. Yet the soft smile on her ruby lips gave the two anxious men some hope.

"How is she, Annie?" Geoff blurted out as the witch-healer descended.

"She'll be fine now." Annabelle sighed. "But I won't say it wasn't touch and go there for a bit. I was able to stop the contractions, and gave her something to help her sleep a bit. Though I must say all this stress is not good for her, or the unborn one. Such things can cause a premature birthing, and that little bun is not cooked enough to enter this world yet."

"We know, Annie, but..." Andrew began to interject.

"Yes, yes!" The Gypsy waved her bangled arm in the air dismissively. "I know all about the documents, and saving King George, and all the other political nonsense you men have embroiled the Earth in! Bloody foolishness if you ask me! None of it worth the life of a single child! Now if one of you would be kind enough to fetch me a brandy?"

"Certainly, Annie." Geoff slipped into the study as Annabelle followed Andrew into the drawing room.

"I would agree with you, Annie." He said as they sat down. "But the world is not of our making, and we must do what we can while we are here to attempt to better it. One thing I do know about the world. Evil will flourish, when good men do nothing. I would far more have a good man like Jack Roberts do what he can, than to let that child be born to a world at war."


Jack drew both his pistols and shouted down to the arriving trio. "Kind 'a ye ta be joining us, Mates."

Malcolm instinctively drew his own pistol and leveled it at the dark silhouette standing between the trees. Jack pointed both weapons back at the group.

"Ah, ah, Lord Dagget. We'll be havin' none 'o that now!" He barked cockily. "At least not unless ye be a wantin' me ta ride off  with these here papers. I can always sell 'em ta the highest bidder." Malcolm lowered his pistol. "That's better, Mate. Now lets parlay.

Blackjack Roberts

"What is there to bargain, Roberts?!" Sir Terrance Blackwood shouted up at the lone black figure. "We've brought the redcoat, just as you requested. All that remains now is the exchange of goods, and we part company."

Black Jack chuckled sarcastically. "And earn meself a bullet in me back, eh Lord Blackwood? I've not kept me neck from th' gallows this long by bein' a fool."

"Then why go to all this trouble to protect a sovereign who is trying to stretch it, Roberts?" Malcolm asked. "It would seem to me that you would have much to gain from the disposing of the German pretender to the throne."

"Oh, does it now?" Jack genuinely laughed. "An' what makes ye think I give a tinker's damn who sets the throne? Either way me neck would be bait fer th' hangman. 'Tis th' gold what matters ta me, Mate. Which I'll be hopin' ye also brought."

Malcolm reached for his saddlebags when he heard the distinct sound of the hammers on both Jack's pistols being drawn back. Instantly the retainer of Lord Blackwood froze.

"Now ye wouldn't be thinking at take me by surprise with a pistol in that there bag, would ye, Lord Dagget?" Malcolm glanced up to see the barrels of both French flintlocks glinting in the faint moonlight. "If so, I'd be suggestin' ye lose the thought, and move as slow as me old dodderin' mother! The Good Lord rest 'er soul." The henchman slowly opened the saddlebag, reached in, and retrived a medium leather sack that jingled slightly as he lifted it.

"Now. Let's be seein' the color 'a the gold." Jack barked. Dagget undid the  leather thongs and pulled a handful of the golden coins from the bag, letting them slowly fall back into the sack with a melodious tinkling. "Very well. Leave yer weapons with yer employer, and bring me the gold and redcoat. We'll exchange, then th' two 'a ye can be on yer merry way."

"Why the brigadier, Roberts?" Sir Terrance spoke up. "The gold I can see, coming from a man of your reputation. What is one of the kings men to you?"

"To me?" Jack feigned incredulousness. "Nothing, save perhaps a bit o' ransom. Half the gold I asked for be for the papers, 'tother half fer the trouble 'a taken the dog off yer hands. If I can make a bit extra off 'a his carcass, so much the better."

"I'd say yer expectations be too high, Black Jack Roberts!" The deep voice came from behind Jack, quickly followed by click of a hammer being drawn back. "Now if'n you'll kindly divest yerself 'a them pistols."

"Well done, Marcus!" Lord Blackwood exclaimed. "Now we have the documents, the brigadier, and Black Jack Roberts!"

"Nay! I'd say ye've more trouble than ye can handle, Mate!" The voice behind Marcus was instantly followed by the butt of a flintlock to the brigand's head. As he slumped to the earth Jack aimed both pistols at Terrance Blackwood, and Malcolm. The two noblemen pulled their own firearms, preparing to fight back as the sound of more weapons being readied filled the wood around them.

"Now ye didn't think I'd be fool enough ta meet with ya here alone, did ya?!" Jack growled angrily. "Just fer that bit 'a foolishness, I've half a mind ta send ye both ta the Devil and keep all fer meself!"

"Sounds like a right proper idea ta me, Jack!" The second highwayman said as he walked up to stand at the legendary bandit's side. The sound of 'Aye!' came from several different shadows around the glade. "I say we blow the three 'a 'em ta Hell, and divvy up what's left!"

"Can't say I'm not sorely tempted, Mate, but that's not me way an' ye bloody well know it!" Jack reached inside his coat and produced the envelope. "Here be the papers, Lord Blackwood. Drop yer weapons. Send the bloody redcoat up th' hill with the gold, and I'll tack 'em to this here tree fer you to retrieve once we've gone!"

"How can we be sure those are the documents?" Sir Terrance hissed between his teeth. He had greatly underestimated the outlaw, and the knowledge rankled inside him.

"Considerin' what ye just tried, Mate. It's my word we'll be trustin'. Besides, the way I see it, what choice d'ye have?"

Though it set his guts to churning, Sir Terrance Blackwood knew when he had overplayed his hand. He and Malcolm dropped their pistols to the ground. Malcolm cut the bonds that bound Rupert's hands before dropping the knife as well, and handed the leather sack to him. The officer rode slowly up the small hill where the outlaw stood with his man, and handed the gold to him silently. Jack opened the sack and rummaged through it. Satisfied with the contents, he tossed the bag to his henchman, and whirling rammed his dagger into the envelope and tree, then whistled.

The coal black stallion marched up to his master, and waited patently as the hooded shadow swung up into the silver studded saddle. Jack touched two finger to the brim of his cavalier hat.

"A pleasure doin' business with ya, Gentlemen." He quipped. "Now if you'll be excusein' us, we'll be on our way."

Once the trio had joined with three more members of the gang, Barclay exploded. "How could you do that, Jack?! With those paper in hand that bastard will plunge the whole of England into civil war!"

"With those papers in hand he'll be plunging into the kitchen." Jack laughed, pulling the mask from his head. His turquoise eyes sparkling in the moon light. "Those papers are nothing more than the recipes for several bake goods a very dear woman I know sent to my wife. I suspect Lord Blackwood will particularly enjoy the apple tarts, if he chooses to put them to use."

Rupert Barclay stared at the black clad highwayman in shock. "You mean..?"

"Aye." Jack laughed. "You didn't think I would actually bring the documents, did you, Old Bean? They are still safely hidden." Jack turned to the masked man riding beside them. "Cody, take the gold that our benefactor so kindly supplied and divide it with the rest. The brigadier and I will take the back way into Devonshire."

"Aye, Jack!" Cody smiled through the cloth covering the lower half of his face. "Good luck to ye both, and as always, it's been right profitable working' with ya."

Welsh Wench

Andrew knocked softly on the door.
"Come in."
He opened the door to see his sister propped up on pillows, staring out the window.
"Hey, Cec," he said softly.
"Hey yourself."
She tore her gaze from the window to her brother's concerned face.
"You alright?"
He sat down next other and took her hands in his.
"I've been better."
"The cramping has stopped?"
"For now. Annie gave me an elixir and massaged my abdomen to keep the contractions from miscarrying the baby. Andrew, this has got to stop!"
"I agree. We'll keep Annabelle close by and----"
"NO! I mean this foolishness of putting King and Crown before our children."
"But, Cecily--"
"No 'buts' about it! Would King George do it for Blackjack Roberts? No! NO, NO, NO!"
"And would you want England plunged into another civil war?"
"Yes, if it means the life of my child. I will convince Jack to leave this country. England never did him any favors. It hunted and persecuted his parents because his mother was Irish. And may I remind you that Jack's children are one-quarter Irish? His parents had to live off scraps they found discarded from others' tables until they died of consumption and malnutrition. Jack lived by his wits and by the turn of a friendly card, he survived. And his children will never experience what he went through."

Andrew's mouth drew into a tight line."And what of Moreland? Will you see our lands taken from us? The only reason we Morleys kept our lands is that we threw in our lot with the Anglicans. Although the Morleys did play both sides of the coin and kept a chapel hidden."

Cecily closed her eyes. "If I go to sleep, maybe this will all be a bad dream. Just a bad dream that Jack and I can laugh about."
Andrew frowned. "If only it were that simple, Cecily. If only it were that simple."


Jeremy and Jaimie stood in the stalls grooming their horses.
"Do you think Mama will be alright?" Jaimie asked worriedly.
"Of course she will. She's Mama."
"She's mad at Da, I think."
"How do you know?"
"I heard her talking to Uncle Andrew."
"She'll get over it. She's just worried about the baby."
"But Aunt Annabelle will make it all better, won't she?"
"She already has. I heard Mama through the door. She's not really mad at Da. She's upset about the letters that we had. But Uncle Andrew told her everything was going to be alright."
Jaimie smiled. "If Uncle Andrew said so, then it will be. I hope the baby is a girl. I want a sister."
"No way! It's a boy!"
Jaimie's face brightened. "Maybe it is one of each! Like us!"
"Not if Mama has her choice. She said she didn't want to go through that again."
"We weren't that bad....were we?"
"I didn't think so. But then what did we know? We were babies."

Jeremy put his curry brush away.
"You want to do something?"
"Like what?"
"We could go see Mr. Raymond again. I liked his cakes."
'We don't want to wear our welcome out, Jeremy."
"There's always that scary gatehouse at the edge of Mr. Raymond's property. Why don't we 'splore that?"
"Jeremy, the last time we did any real 'sploring--except for Mr. Raymond's place--you got kidnapped. I don't want to put Mama through that again. Not when she is going to have a baby. Until Da comes home, we need to stay right where we are."
"What about trying to find out about that mean old man that was in love with Mama? What was his name again?"
"Mr. Salt?"
Jeremy snorted, "Don't be daft, Jaimie! No one is named Salt!"
Jaimie stuck her tongue out at her brother then said excitedly, "Pepper! Mr. Pepper was his name!"
Jeremy snapped his fingers.
"Culpepper! That was it!"
Jaimie giggled. "We could have been Jaimie and Jeremy Culpepper!"
"But we wouldn't be us...would we?"
"I think we would. But we would look different and--do you hear that?"
The sound of hoofbeats came through the woods.
"It's Da! Let's hide from him!" Jeremy exclaimed.

Jeremy grabbed Jaimie by the collar.
He dragged her into a stall and they both backed up against the boards.
"Can you see him yet?"
"No. But I know that is Raven."
They both peeked out between the board gaps.
And in a minute they saw what they never thought they would see.

Through the clearing, their father emerged on his coal black stallion. But it was not the father they knew.
They were staring at Black Jack Roberts.
Jaimie opened her mouth in surprise but Jeremy quickly covered her mouth with his hand.
"Shhh! Jaimie, I can't believe it!" he said excitedly.
He took his hand away and the two children watched as their father galloped into the yard behind the stable.
His black cloak swirled around him as he took off his mask and stuffed it into the pocket inside his cloak. Jack walked Raven into a stall and stashed his cloak in the bin.
He then led Raven into a stall and started to brush him down. The steed was lathered from the intense ride.
Jeremy whispered, "Now!" and the children came out from the back stall.
"Surprise, Da! Surprise!" They yelled and danced around him.
"Well, my little scalawags! And what have you been up to?"
"Oh, nothing. Just taking our horses out for a ride with Marley."
"Is your mama in there with Uncle Andrew?"
Jaimie nodded. "Yes. And Aunt Annabelle was here because Mama had a few pains. Maybe she ate something she shouldn't have and----"
Jack dropped his curry brush and raced out of the stables.
Jaimie looked at Jeremy and asked, "Was it something I said?"
Jeremy shrugged. "I don't know. But maybe we had better go up to the house."

Jaimie nodded but her eyes shone. With the look of hero worship only a little girl could have for her Da, she stood a little taller.
After all, they were the children of Black Jack Roberts.
And they got to see him.
Mask and all.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Blackjack Roberts

Sir Terrance Blackwood fumed, several papers clenched tightly in his white knuckled fist. Just as he suspected, Roberts had not willingly given up the documents he desperately needed to return England to true British rule. Without proper proof there would be little support for his claim, even from the staunchest Jacobite. He rested his head against the forearm draped across the fireplace mantle while his mind worked franticly to, somehow, retrieve those blasted papers!

Malcolm entered the room slowly, closing the massive oak door behind him as quietly as possible. "Marcus will be none the worse for the wear, I'd dare say, Lord Blackwood. Though he's bound to carry a blazing headache for quite some time." He offered softly.

"The Devil take that halfwit's head!" Sir Blackwood growled lowly between his clenched teeth as he turned around. "He's lucky I'm allowing him to keep that turnip he calls a head upon his shoulders! It naturally didn't occur to that dimwitted blighter to check the surrounding wood for any of Robert's compatriots!"

"My apologies, Sir Terrance." Dagget bowed quickly. "I should have done the job myself, and not have left it to one of such low wit."

"That would have been prudent had the blackguard not insisted you ride there with me!" Blackwood shook the clench papers in his retainer's face. "Now all we have to show for 200 gold sovereigns are country recipes for Shepard's Pie, Lancashire Pudding,...and bloody Apple Tarts!!" He turned and hurled the wadded parchments onto the fire, watching with some small satisfaction as they blazed for a moment before turning to wispy ash.

"Despite his denials, I believe Roberts has some vested interest in that redcoat." Malcolm mused aloud.

"What are you getting at, man?!" Terrance slumped into the overstuffed fireside chair, and began pouring himself a brandy.

"It stands to reason that if Roberts were only interested in the money, he would have handed the documents over with relish." Malcolm leaned casually against the mantle. "No. His main concern, I'll wager, was securing the officer's release. I'd not be surprised to discover they are good friends. And that, Sir, could be the key to the return of our papers."

"How so?" The frustrated lord asked wearily.

Malcolm grinned wickedly beneath his trim black moustache. "Quite easily, Lord Blackwood."


Annabelle looked up from her place on the side of Cecily's bed as Jack walked in. Gently she took the cup from her friend's hand and smiled.

"There. See? Jack has returned safely, so now you can stop fretting, and commence healing, young lady." The Gypsy murmured softly as she rose to leave. "And you, Mr. Highwayman, had better be gentle, or I'll haul you from the room by the ear myself!" She whispered lowly as she passed the newly dressed bandit.

Tears welled in the pale blue-green eyes as Jack looked down at his beloved wife. Why was it always those he cared for above all else who had to suffer for his misdeeds? Surely Providence would be better suited to punish the perpetrator instead of the innocent.

"The baby?" He finally choked out through his emotion wracked being.

"Annie says we are both fine, Darling." Cecily smiled reaching one delicate hand up to him, relieved to have her husband safely with her once more. "But, I wonder if all this stress is worth the result."

Jack Roberts tenderly took the offered hand, and sat down lightly on the bed's edge. Then in a breaking of the pent up feelings he tried so desperately to control, gathered her into his arms.

"I've been wondering much the same, my love." He whispered into her cascading gold curls. "The children caught me riding back into the stables. They now know without doubt that their father is Black Jack Roberts. They do not know why I have done the things I have. The things that have put you, and our new babe at such risk."

"I had agreed to do what Barclay asked me to do to spare them. For I would not see them, nor you, in an England torn asunder. I've seen it in Ireland, and the suffering is nigh unbearable there. Yet, it would seem that no matter the course I would choose, it is you, and they that are destined to pay the price for it."

He tenderly drew away to look into his beloved's eyes. "Is this all that there is for my offspring, and my love. Is pain, turmoil, and strife the only true legacy of Black Jack Roberts?"