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Started by Welsh Wench, May 10, 2008, 12:41:08 PM

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Blackjack Roberts

Andrew Morely stared down at the still form of his sister. He still could not bring himself to look at the ruined features of the corpse that lay before him on the mortician's slab. Silently he promised himself that he would ruin every man who was in The Crossbow that night. Somehow, someway he would see them all destroyed. Especially Sir Peter Culpepper.

Unbidden tears began to slide down his cheeks. In one horrible night fate had taken both his sister and his brother in law.

Reaching for the small cold hand he spoke softly. "Don't worry, Sis. As soon as they find Jack's body I will personally see that he rests beside you. I hope that the two of you will find each other in eternity, never to be parted again."

Suddenly he stopped and stared intently at the hand he held. Could it be? Quickly he picked up the other hand. Perhaps in his grief he remembered the wrong hand. No, the scar wasn't there either. Now he knew for certain. Whoever this was laying before him it most definitely was not Cecily Morely!

From the moment he had regained consciousness Jack had not spoken a word to Annie, or the two men who now held him there against his will. They had securely tied him to the couch he lay on and he knew from the bonds that they were not about to allow him the freedom he so craved. The freedom to slowly murder the men responsible for the death of his beloved wife.

The bruise above his heart had settled into a sickly yellow and the initial pain had subsided, with the aid of the Gypsy witch's potions, to a dull ache. He had slept for the entire day before, dreaming dark and bloody dreams of what he would do to his enemies, only to awaken and find himself incapable of carrying them out. Tight lipped and sullen he did nothing more than to stare at the ceiling and plot someway to escape his bonds.

Annie gave up trying to communicate with her old friend. Though it broke her heart she knew it was useless from the look in Robert's eyes. The death of his beloved had pushed him over the edge of sanity. The only change in those blue green eyes were a fluctuation between a grief that no man should suffer and a hellish rage that chilled her to her very bones. Even her offer of food went ignored. It was almost as if he lay there alone in the world, as if he didn't know she or her friends were there with him.

"Do we dare release him?" Gregario had asked her in Romany. "Even I know the look of madness when I see it."

"We are in no danger." Annabelle assured him. "His heart seeks only those who took his life's love from him."

"And when will we allow him to seek that which he desires?" Rasa demanded. "It is not right to keep him here like this, wounded or no."

"Soon." Annie spoke sadly. "My potions and poultices are healing him far more quickly than I would have guessed. Then Jack Roberts will be free to seek his revenge, and his death." A tear slid down the Gypsy's face. Tim, her son, would be heartbroken at the news.

Still, in her own heart she wished for nothing more than to release Jack. She knew that keeping him like this was torture for him. The redcoats and her cousin had taken her two best friends from her in one night and her own desire to see them in their graves pushed at the edge of her mind, prodding her to do what she knew she should not. Jack Roberts was as good as dead the moment he had learned of Cecily's fate, but she could not let him free like this. He deserved a fighting chance to right the terrible wrong they had done to him.

On the third day Jack looked at her with pain filled eyes, eyes that tore at her very soul. For the first time he spoke to her in a voice so low and agonized she could not withstand the pity welling up within her.

"Annie. Please. Let me go to join her." Was all he said.

With tears clouding her vision Annie reached for the knife that lay on the table beside the meal he had left uneaten. She cut the ropes that held him fast and her two tribesmen stood respectfully back as Jack rose from the couch for the first time in three days. With slow determined precision he pulled the black silk hood over his face, placed his cavalier's hat on his head, and donned his weapons.

Black Jack Roberts opened the door to the orange glow of the setting sun. Framed in the streaming light like a silhouette that made him look even darker he said the last words she ever expected to hear from him. "Thank you, Annie. Thank you for everything." With that he left, followed a few moments later by the sound of Raven's hoof beats fading into the shadowy woodland. Annabelle Peterson put her head down on her arms across the table and sobbed.

The loud, urgent knocking at his door brought Sergeant Major Barclay's head up from his desk where he had passed out a few hours before. His head pounded from the drink he had imbibed in his desperate attempts to wipe the events of three days ago from his guilt ridden thoughts. His eyes were red rimmed, and he now wore a disheveled, unshaven appearance that was a mere shadow of the disciplined soldier he had once been. Only the dulling effects of alcohol provided him with any comfort now.

"I said that I do not wish to be disturbed, Corporal!" He drunkenly shouted out to the polished wood. Grimacing at the throbbing the act set off in his skull.

The door burst open. "I do not give a damn what you said, Barclay!" Andrew Morely strode into the room to the astonishment of the redcoat. "What I want to know is what did you blackguards do with my sister and you damn well better answer me!!"

Black Jack emerged from the wood in a flurry of torn underbrush and flying leaves, turning Raven toward Devonshire. If anyone would know where the rest of the redcoats and Peter Culpepper were it would be Rupert Barclay. As he thundered openly down the clay road he laughed madly to himself at the thought of wringing the information from the officer, and God help anyone who stood between him and the redcoat now.

Welsh Wench

The carriage pulled up to a small inn just outside of Bramber. The delay arriving was only brief as Foster had stopped at a leathergoods shop for a new whip. He kept fuming and fussing about the theft.
'Ain't the same....a whip becomes a part of you...reacts to your touch....'
How well she knew it!  A whip in the hands of Black Jack Roberts was surpassed by none.

Sir Culpepper held his hand out to Cecily and she reluctantly took it. 'May as well give him a false sense of security', she thought.
His eyes swept over her and she felt revulsion.
"Tonight we shall dine in the tavern room, Cecily."
Anything to delay being in the same room with him.

He had Foster take their trunks upstairs as he held the door open for her.
"What shall it be, Guv'nor?"
Culpepper inwardly grimaced at the casual air of the innkeeper.
"Lodging and a hot meal in your dining room."
A rotund woman appeared and smiled merrily, "This way, please."

Seated and within fifteen minutes, Cecily had a steaming bowl of stew before her. The bread was fresh and the butter freshly churned. She ate more than she thought she could.
Culpepper smiled, "Good to see your appetite return, Cecily,"
She buttered her bread lavishly. "Even you couldn't take my appetite away, Peter."
He grabbed her by the wrist and hissed, "I've had about enough of your insolence, Cecily Morley!"
She jerked her arm and said disdainfully, "It is Cecily ROBERTS, you horse's arse!"
He raised his hand but realized they were in a public place.
"Finish your meal," he said coldly.

Within a half hour, they were back in the room. Culpepper had locked the door as usual and Cecily sat on the edge of the bed.
He stormed over to her and yanked her to stand in front of him.
"How DARE you disrespect me in public!"
She had never seen such fury in his eyes and for a moment it startled her. But she was not only a Morley but a Roberts too. And Jack would expect her to show her mettle to this bully.
"Get your hands off me, Peter Culpepper!"
He grabbed her arm and shook her like a rag doll.
"You'll learn respect if it is the last thing I do, you tramp!"
Cecily lashed out with her hand. Five fingernails raked down his face and he instinctively backhanded her and then put his hand up to his face.
"That will cost you, Cecily Morley! I was prepared to be merciful to you but now you will feel my wrath!"
The look he gave her chilled her to her very core. But she put on an air of defiance and retorted, "And what do you intend to do, Sir Culpepper? No more beef stew for me? Take away my breathing privileges?"
His face became a ruthless mask.
"Oh, no, my dear. I have a little surprise waiting for you when we get to my estate in Kent. Just for your viewing pleasure."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, my dear Cecily. I can't give it away. You just have to be there for it."
He walked over to the chest with a shaving mirror on it and then turned to her.
"Yes, this my dear, is going to cost you dearly."
She held her hand up to her face. She could feel the bruise already starting on her cheek. Which made her hate Sir Peter Culpepper all the more.
He drew the covers down and said, "Keep your chastity, Cecily. I shall not take you until we are properly wed. No child of mine will be conceived on the wrong side of the blanket."
He took off his boots and shed his clothes, putting on a night shirt. He faced the wall as he said, "You can stand there all night long, Miss Morley. Makes me no nevermind."
She walked over and took a blanket out of the drawer. Defiantly she walked over to the chair, curled up in it and went to sleep.

She saw Raven coming towards her. A familiar figure clad in black dismounted and walked over to her. She smiled happily and "Jack!"
He took her in his arms and threw back his hood. There before her eyes was a skull, the rope still around its neck and the eyes were vacant in their sockets. The bony fingers reached out to grab her.
"NOOO!" she screamed as she was jolted awake..
Culpepper stirred but never awoke.

The perspiration dripped from her as a wave of heat and despair came over her. Her breath came in short ragged gasps. She felt the babe within her move.
Cecily tried to stop her heart from beating wildly within her. She gently rubbed her stomach and instinctively rocked back and forth, trying to reassure the chid within.
'It's alright, little darling. Your papa will be here soon enough and take us away from here. We just have to wait a little longer, my precious.....'
Cecily shivered to herself. 'Jack will never let anything happen to me or the baby...he'll be there waiting for me..waiting to take me away from all this.'

She fell back into a fitful sleep, wishing she were back in Devonshire in her own cottage.
In her own bed.
And Jack Roberts would be by her side.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Blackjack Roberts

"Explain yourself, Sir!" Barclay half slurred. His head throbbing from the effects of the whiskey, he was confused and slightly agitated by the brashness of the young nobleman. "Your sister died in a most tragic way three nights ago!"

"Poppycock!" Andrew shot back angrily. "That woman laying ready to be buried in my family's grave is not my sister!" Grasping the edge of the Sergeant Major's desk he leaned as far as he could into the half drunk officer's face. "I want to know exactly what you and that bastard Culpepper have done with her, and I demand to know this moment!"

Rupert withdrew deeper into the cushioned leather of the chair, putting a more comfortable distance between himself and Andrew. "I'm telling you, Sir Morely, that she died trying to free herself from her bonds." His voice broke with his pent up emotion as he swallowed hard and continued. "The musket was never supposed to have been loaded. I had thought one of my own men had fired prematurely at Jack Roberts. I only discovered the truth after we lost him in the wood and I returned to the Crossbow to free her. I am so sorry."

Andrew raised up from the aggressive position he had taken. He had assumed that the Sergeant Major had been at Jack's tavern the whole time. This news threw a different light on the matter altogether. "Then you could not have known." He said half to himself.

"Known what, Man?!" Barclay asked, more confused than ever. "How can you know that the unfortunate woman is not Cecily Roberts? Her Face was ruined beyond recognition!"

"The scar." Andrew replied. "When we were children we use to play a game where I pretended to be Black Jack Roberts and she my victim. One day it got a little out of hand and the stick I used for my sword caught her on the left hand. It left a small scar between her thumb and fore finger. Not a very noticeable one, but a scar never the less. Who ever that woman is, she has no such scar and can not be my sister."

Rupert Barclay's eyes widened and he nearly leapt from his chair at the news. "You are certain, Sir Morely?!" The man's excitement took Andrew by surprise. "You must be certain of this!!! Please!!"

"Of..of course I am certain, Sergeant Major." Andrew stammered slightly in his confusion. This was the last reaction he had expected. "Father took my riding privileges from me for a week over the incident."

The disheveled redcoat slumped back wearily. "Thank God!!" he whispered. "Thank God!"

Halfway to Devonshire Jack Roberts regained enough of his senses to leave sight of the main road. If he were captured now there would be precious little chance for him to discover the identity of the other footmen responsible for his beloved's death. Not to mention the where about's of the walking dead man named Peter Culpepper. The erstwhile Sergeant Major would tell him all he wished to know before he begged Jack to end his miserable life.

Roberts idly stroked Raven's nose as he watched the buildings that made up the compound for the king's men. The two chips of turquoise ice that made up his eyes scanned the area for any hint of a trap, or danger. Something was not quite right. It was almost as if the place were deserted. The few guards on duty slumped against walls and occasionally yawned with boredom. The last time Jack had infiltrated the place security was as tight as the head of a drum.

With nearly as little effort as it would take him to cross the street Black Jack made his way towards Barclay's quarters. The lack of guards outside brought the hackles up on the nape of his neck. This was too easy. Even if they thought him dead there should have been more guards. Especially around the commander's quarters. Every nerve in his body screamed trap. Jack ignored the warning and wrapped one gloved hand around the doorknob.

"I don't understand, Major Barclay. Are you saying you know nothing of what has happened to my sister?" Andrew now sat in the overstuffed chair opposite the officer, a glass of brandy in his hand.

"Perhaps not nothing." Barclay studied his own glass. Now that his conscience was slightly cleared by the news that Cecily Morely may yet be alive he viewed the events of that night in a different light.

"Sir Peter never followed us into the wood to give chase to your brother in law." He swallowed a healthy gulp of the liquor before continuing. "I thought nothing of it at the time, assuming he stayed behind to guard your sister incase Roberts doubled back. Now that I think of it, when we returned Thomas Banks was nowhere to be seen. I now believe that he and Sir Peter may have switched the bodies to kidnap her. If that is the case, they may well have committed murder to cover their tracks."

"I would not put anything past that lout." Andrew scowled. "The man is capable of anything. The question now is where would he go?"

Before Rupert could answer the door behind Andrew burst open from the force of the kick Black Jack had applied just above the handle. Roberts stormed into the room like a black demon, his hands filled with his flintlocks. His eyes locked onto Barclay's with all the elemental force of his rage, sending the very hand of death to caress the man's spine.

"Ye have answers that I want!" Jack thundered through his mask, leveling the deadly pistols at the redcoat's chest. "And make no mistake, Sergeant Major, ye will tell me all I wish to know before you die!!"

Andrew jumped from his chair into the aim of the enraged highwayman. "Jack! Jack, listen to me!! For Cecily's sake, listen to me!!"

"A-Andrew??" Black Jack's eyes softened. The anger and pain replaced with confusion as his revenge filled mind struggled to comprehend the presence of his brother in law. Just as quickly the sorrow filled insanity flooded back.

"Step aside, Lad!" The shadowy figure ordered, motioning with one pistol for emphasis. "This bastard has much to answer for!"

Andrew felt strong hands behind him gently, but unerringly push him to one side. Rupert Barclay stood in front of Jack, a look of calm sadness on his stubbled face. "Indeed I do, Mister Johnson, or should I call you by your given name, Jack Roberts. I do have much to answer for, to you, and to God. But the death of your wife is not among those crimes. Cecily Roberts is very much alive."

"You lie!!!" Black Jack howled, tears of anger staining his hood beneath the eye holes. "I saw her dead with my own eyes!!"

"It's the truth, Jack." Andrew spoke up again with the same tone a man would use to sooth a wounded animal. "I know for fact that the woman who lay at the mortician is not Cecily."

Black Jack stared at Andrew for many tense moments. Had it been anyone other than Cecily's brother he would have shot them for trying to protect Barclay from his retribution. Slowly the insane anger that had overwhelmed his reason faded away before the news that the only woman he loved was still alive. The tears of sorrow were replaced with purest joy.

Shoving his pistols into his belt Jack hugged the young nobleman to him, then held him out to arms length. "Tell me, Andrew! Do you know where she is?!!"

"As near as we can figure she has been taken by Culpepper." Andrew Morely grinned at seeing his brother in law's return to sanity. "But we would be hard pressed to say exactly where."

"Leave that to me, Andrew!" Black Jack said as he spun for the door, his heart soaring with the miracle of his wife being alive. "I'll know in short order, then I will return with your sister alive and well. The same will not be said for Peter Culpepper!"

All but forgotten by Jack, Rupert Barclay watched as the highwayman bolted from the office. His own heart lightened by the knowledge that both Jack Roberts and Cecily still lived. As he heard the sound of a horse race away into the gathering evening he whispered words he never would have believed to come from an officer of King George.

"God bless you, and keep you safe, Black Jack Roberts."

Dawn broke over the ramparts of the small courtyard casting a yellowish orange highlight to the instrument of death that had been erected at the far end of the balcony where Cecily stood with Sir Peter Culpepper and several officials of the kings court. The townsfolk of Kent gathered around in front of the macabre structure, anxious in their bloodlust. Cecily fought desperately against the tears threatening to overflow her sapphire eyes.

"Remember, My dear," Culpepper leaned close enough for only her to hear. "One outcry, one word of comfort from you and I will have your husband unmasked before all these witnesses. He will stand revealed as Robert Johnson and all your friends will pay the price as accomplices to his crimes."

Cecily's mind reeled. Either she remained silent and watched her beloved hang as Black Jack Roberts, or she would watch every one of their, their family hang as well. She trembled with a sorrow that she wasn't sure she could withstand. Surely this was some twisted game Culpepper was playing to teach her a lesson. She nearly fainted as she saw the guards lead the cloaked, and hooded figure of Black Jack Roberts into the courtyard.

Her fist went to her mouth to stifle the cry that leaped to her lips as they led the struggling figure up the steps to the gallows. Tears flowed down her cheeks. Soon she would awaken from this nightmare. She would find herself safe in their bed in Devonshire, Jack's arms holding her. This had to be some awful dream. "Please! Dear God, please let me wake up!" Her mind screamed over and over again.

The officer of the court mounted the stairs as the hangman tightened the thick rope around Black Jack's neck. Unrolling the parchment he held he read aloud in a voice that echoed off the stone walls for all to hear. To Cecily the words seemed to come from some vast distance away.

"Black Jack Roberts! You stand convicted of the crimes of highway robbery, malicious wounding, murder of the officials of King George in the course of their lawful duty, and high treason against your sovereign ruler! In his mercy the king has decreed that you shall pay for said crimes in the guise that you have committed them in order to spare any family you may have from the shame of your misdeeds."

"You are hear by sentenced to be hung by the neck until dead!

"Do you have any last words?"

The figure in black shook his head violently. A guttural cry like that of a wounded animal rang out from the hood covering Black Jack's face to the jeers and catcalls of the good citizens of Kent.

"Very well." The robed and wigged officer closed the parchment. "Executioner, see to your duty!"

Cecily bit hard on her knuckle as the black hooded figure walked forward and wrapped his hand around the lever. "Please, God! Please let me wake up!!" She begged in her mind. The horrible sound of the trapdoor snapping open resounded across the courtyard. The cheer of the crowded onlookers was the last thing Cecily Roberts heard as she mercifully slumped into the welcoming blackness of unconsciousness.

Welsh Wench

Raven's hoofs pounded through the thick floor of the forest as the black-cloaked demon rider drove his steed onwards. As the coal-black stallion burst through the woods, he reared up. Jack urged him to stand down as he patted his neck.
"Soon, my friend. Soon we shall get the answers."
He trotted up towards the grey stone manner without fear, his left hand tapping on his flintlock. Silently, he dismounted as Raven stood still in the courtyard.
With purpose, Jack rapped on the door with his whip.

Inside, seated by the fire, the old butler sat with a snifter of the best brandy that his employer had to offer. The insistent knocking caused Raymond to heave himself out of the overstuffed chair and away from the book he was reading.
"Hold your horses, I'm coming as quick as these old bones can travel...."
He opened the heavy door and asked, "May I help.........AAAAAHHHH!!!"
He tried to slam the door but Black Jack Roberts was quicker. His right hand was around Raymond's throat as he shoved him back into the manor.
Raymond was choking. Jack shook him as he lifted him off the floor, his feet dangling in midair.
Raymond could barely squeak out, "Have mercy on an old man! I'll tell you everything I know!"
Jack dropped the old man and growled, "You have five minutes or your employer will be looking for a replacement for you!"

Raymond rubbed his neck, his eyes misting.
"Thank God you are alive, Black Jack Roberts. What is happening is wrong. Wrong, I tell you..."
Jack said, "Where is Sir Peter Culpepper and you had better not be lying to me!"
Raymond motioned Jack toward the library.
"Come sit for a few minutes. My legs aren't what they used to be and I need to get off them. Damn gout!"
He led Jack into the library and as Jack sat down, Raymond poured two snifters of brandy.
Jack took it. Even though he didn't want it as he knew time was wasting, something told him not to rush old Raymond.

The old retainer sighed heavily. "He's at his estate in Kent. Name of Chittingly. Outside of Whitstable."
"When did he leave here?"
"Two nights ago."
"Was he alone?"
"I think so, sir. He left in a hurry. Took the carriage instead of riding."
"Does he usually ride?"
"Yes, when he goes over there. He has a carriage and horses that he maintains over there. Found it a bit odd."
Jack rose. He softened a bit.
"I'm very sorry I had roughed you up, Raymond. Your information makes some sense."
Raymond rubbed his neck again and took a swalllow of his brandy. "It's a closely guarded secret, Mr. Roberts, that I don't care for Sir Culpepper. I served his father. Fine man. It is a shame that the son didn't inherit any of his fine qualities. Takes after his mother. Bad blood there."
Jack gathered his cloak and nodded. "Raymond, I thank you."
As Raymond walked Jack to the door, he said, "One thing that was odd. Bess Bradford, a tavern wench, was staying here. She left without word the same day that Sir Culpepper left. Perhaps if you find her, she can tell you a bit more."

Jack mounted Raven and patted him.
"I certainly hope, Raven old boy, that you are up for the ride of your life. Because time is of the essence."
The stallion nodded his head and neighed.
"I thought so, Raven. Make haste!"

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

"She's had a terrible shock. What she needs is rest."
"What she needs is to face the fact that she was married to an outlaw and thank the Lord she had a reprieve courtesy of me."

The world around her was foggy and swirled around her. Cecily was regaining consciousness and very groggily asked, "Where--where am I?"
The doctor leaned over and said, "She's coming to."
He took her pulse and said, "Heartbeat is strong."
She slowly shook her head as if to clear it. "Wh-what happened?"
The doctor said briskly, "Miss Morley, you had a terrible shock. I gave you something to sleep."
"H-how long have I been asleep?"
Sir Culpepper answered, "Two days."
She looked weakly over at him and murmured, "Two days."
He nodded to the doctor. "I'll take over the care of Miss Morley, Doctor Jones."
He picked up his medical bag and said, "I'll be back tomorrow afternoon to check on her. All she needs now is a little tender care."
Lord Culpepper walked him to the door and said, "I intend to see that she gets it."
Mercifully Cecily slipped back into a dark sleep.

The sunlight streamed into the room as Cecily lifted her head off the pillow. Her head was still fogged. A nurse bustled forth and said crisply, "Miss Morley, it is good to see you awake again. Time to take some tonic."
It began to dawn on Cecily that she was being drugged. She felt the same way she did when her mother drugged her wine.  She took a sip and held it in her mouth and when the nurse's back was turned, spit it out into a vase of cut flowers.
Just then Sir Culpepper came in and said to the nurse in a low voice, "How is she?"
"Weak as a kitten. But she will be alright. All she needs is rest until she can cope with things again."
Culpepper came over and brushed the hair out of her face.
"My dear, rest is the best thing for you. Just sleep so you can put this nighmare behind you."
She turned her face to the wall, trying to grrasp her mind around the fact that she was now a widow. Had she actually seen her beloved Jack dance at the end of a rope? The tears silently traced down her cheeks as she fought to keep her body from wracking with sobs.
Sir Culpepper stood up and said to the nurse, "Follow the instructions the doctor left. One cupful of tonic every few hours till she regains her strength. I'll be back in a few hours and then you can have the rest of the night off."

Cecily laid there in bed willing the image of Jack's hanging from her mind. She tenderly rubbed her stomach. The child she was carrying responded to her touch with a gentle kick. Over and over Cecily repeated in her mind, 'The child of Jack Roberts must live...'
It was the only thing that gave her a lifeline of sanity.

By nightfall, Sir Culpepper came into the room. "Nurse Bowen, you can leave now. I'll see that Miss Morley gets all the rest she needs."
"Mrs. Roberts."
Both Nurse Bowen and Lord Culpepper turned. He explained, "She's a bit confused. I'll see to her every needs tonight, Nurse."
"Then I shall leave you then. Goodnight."

When the nurse left, Cecily turned to Sir Culpepper and said, "Peter, I'd like to get something fresh to wear out of my trunk. I have been in this nightdress and would like to change."
"Why, certainly, dear."
Cecily sat up and as she put her feet to the floor, rising, she sat down quickly.
"Would you help me? I feel a bit shaky."
He put on the most sincere smile he could, and said, "It would be my pleasure, dear."
He led her to the trunks that were in the aloove.
"Do you mind, Peter? I'd like to get a few personal things out."
"Oh, of course, dear."

Cecily searched through the trunk and as she reached the bottom, she came across what she was looking for.
The whip.

She took out a simple dress and turnng to Peter she said, "I'm going to wash up and change my dress."
He came forward and said, "Do you need help?"
She shook her head.
"I can manage."

Within fifteen minutes, Cecily emerged. Her hands were behind her back.
Sir Culpepper stood at the window, brandy in his hand. He turned to her and said, "You look quite well, my dear. The colour is coming back into your face."
She said calmly, "I was wrong, Peter. I do owe you a great deal."
He smiled and said, "I knew you would see reason, Cecily Morley."
She walked to the center of the room and stood there.
"It is Mrs. Jack Roberts. And I intend to pay my debt to you, Lord Culpepper. Here and now."
And with that, her hand snaked out from behind her back and the crack of the whip filled the air.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Blackjack Roberts

Peter Culpepper raised his hand in shock as the braided leather flew towards his face. His cry of agony bringing forth a half mad giggle from the woman he had sought to subdue. He stared in pain filled terror at the wide gash the whip cut into the palm of his hand. Then rage filled his gray eyes.

"Damn you, belch!! You'll pay for that, and pay dearly!!" he screamed, reaching for the drawer of the small end table where he secretly kept a pistol.

Again Cecily's arm shot out at him, the whip barely missing his hand as he pulled it back at the last moment.

"Did you think that my husband did not teach me to use his favorite weapon, Sir Culpepper?" He voice dripped sarcasm and venom. "Though I may not be as skillful as he, I believe you will find I am more than practiced enough to pay you in full for his life!"

The nobleman's eyes widened in horror as he realized that she intended to whip him to death and there was precious little he could do to stop her. He glanced at the bedroom door. Even though he had locked it perhaps he could make his way to it, unlock it and flee before the pain of the lash became enough to stop him. His clothing would provide some protection.

Cecily Roberts moved slowly in a circle, divining his intention she placed herself between him and his hope of escape. A wicked smile stretched her full red lips into a tormenting parody of pleasure.

"Oh no, Lord Peter." She spoke mockingly. "You'll not leave this room before I have paid my full debt to you."

Before he could move she had sent the bullwhip slicing through the air again. This time her aim, fueled by her broken heart, found the mark and Culpepper screamed as she opened a four inch gash along his left cheek. Another crack of the black leather and he found himself falling over onto his back. She had wrapped the end around his ankle and heaved with both hands. The wind rushed from his lungs as he landed with a resounding thud onto his back.

Crack! Crack! Crack! The whip snaked out at him in a secession so rapid it sounded as though several rifles were fired one after the other. Blinding pain cut through him with each snap and soon his clothing was as tattered as if some unseen hand had shredded it with a razor. Blood from over a dozen of the whip's stripes on his flesh began to color the material, as he tried to crawl away from each blow. Never before in his life had he felt such mind numbing agony.

Cecily paused to catch her breath, glorying at the sight of the man who had tormented her life for so long on his hands and knees, like the dog he was. Never again would he menace another's life. She would see to that.

Pulling up the last resource left to him Sir Culpepper tried to reason with the mad woman.

"Cecily! For God's sake show mercy!" He whimpered, one bleeding hand held out in front of him as much to ward off another blow as to try to stop her rage. "I'll do anything you want! I'll leave England for good! Make you rich beyond your wildest dreams! Anything!!"

"Anything, Peter?" She purred. "Can you give me my husband back? I thought not! Ask God for mercy if you get the chance to see him, for you'll get none from me!!"

Cecily raised her arm, the black blood soaked coils of her whip trailing behind her to the floor. This time she would not stop until the animal breathed his last.

"Take a last look at me, Sir Peter Culpepper!" She shouted. "Look at the woman who you thought to bend to your will. The woman you thought to break! The woman whose husband you murdered!! I'll be the last sight you will ever see!!!"

The crashing tinkle of broken glass scattering onto the stone floor brought her around. Her eyes widened in disbelief at the sight that greeted her eyes. There in front of the billowing curtains stood a figure dressed in black from head to foot. A cocked French flintlock clutched in it's gloved hand. Blue green turquoise eyes gazed tenderly from the eye holes in the black silk hood that covered the face beneath the black leather cavalier's hat.

"Cecily." Jack whispered. "Please, don't do this. Don't stain the hands of our child's mother with murder."

"J-Jack?" The deadly whip dropped from her fingers. "Jack!!!"

In less than the beat of her heart she was in his arms, gripping him like a dream she would not allow to escape her. Soft sobs wracked her body as tears of joy stained the dark cloth of his shirt. Repeating his name over and over. His free hand reached up to gently stroke her disheveled golden locks. Soft sounds of comfort murmured to her as he rocked her to and fro in his arms.

Cecily looked up into the eyes of her love. "But, Jack. I-I saw you die with my own eyes. How could you possibly be here?"

The sound of a pistol hammer brought their attention back to the forgotten Peter Culpepper. Quietly he had crawled to the small table beside the bed and retrieved the pistol, aiming it at Cecily's back.

"Because it wasn't him, you little fool!" The beaten lord hissed. "It was that fool Thomas Banks! I had his tongue cut out and dressed him in one of Michael Fairchild's old costumes! I thought I had killed Roberts in the wood, but I knew you would not believe unless you saw him die."

Slowly, in agony Culpepper pulled himself to his feet, using the table for support. "I don't know how you survived that shot, Roberts. Honestly, I don't care. You'll never defeat me and I'll make certain you will never see the child you mentioned born!!!"

As his finger began to tighten on the trigger Peter Culpepper heard the explosion a split second before the ball struck him in the chest. His pistol fired harmlessly into the floor as he fell backwards onto the bed. The smoke from Jack's own pistol curled into the air as he lowered his hand. Releasing his wife he pulled the hat and hood from his head and strode to where his enemy lay. Jack's blue green eyes burned as he stared hard into Culpepper's own rapidly darkening eyes.

"You have cost me all you ever will, Culpepper." He growled. "You murdered one child of mine and I swore that day I would see you dead. Although it has taken a while I have fulfilled that vow. When you greet the Devil, make sure you tell him who it was that sent you to him!"

Sir Peter Culpepper's mouth worked soundlessly as he struggled to speak. A wheezing gasp was all he managed as his eyes rolled into his head and finally breathed his last.

The carriage pulled into the courtyard of The Crossbow several days later. Jack Roberts stepped down from the open door and held his hand out to help his wife down. Josiah Parker ran from the door to grab him in a bear hug, followed by Molly, Annabelle, and the twins. Cecily giggled, one hand on her rapidly swelling belly, at the exasperated look on her man's face.

"God's teeth, Man!" Jack choked out. "At least leave a man room to breathe!"

"Well it's not like I can be grabbin' yer wife like that, Laddie Buck!" The overjoyed tavern keep grinned as he backed up a pace. "Giving her delicate condition and all."

"Condition be damned!" Cecily wrapped her arms around Josiah's neck, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "I had better have a hug from you before I get Jack's whip!"

"I'd be doin' as she says, if I were you, Josiah!" Geoffrey chimed in past his laughter.

"The same will go for you as well, I'd wager." Jack grinned.

Later as Cecily and Jack sat at the table before the fireplace after telling the tale of what had transpired in Kent, a knock came at the door of the closed inn.

"We're closed for the day!" Josiah barked.

"In the name of King George, open this door, or I'll have it knocked off it's hinges!" Came the reply. Josiah strode over and looked out the window, half expecting to find a small army of footmen there. The lone figure of Sergeant Major Rupert Barclay was all he could see. Slowly he opened the door.

"And what would ye be wantin' now?" Josiah grumbled. "Haven't ye caused enough hardship in the world?"

"Let him in, Josiah." Jack's voice came from behind.

The official bowed and walked over to where they all sat, taking the seat Jack nodded to. "What can we do for you, Sergeant. Or are you here to arrest me at long last?"

"Why would I want to arrest you, Mr. Johnson?" Barclay smiled. "I simply wanted to wish you a welcome home and to inform you that you will have no more worry as to any more blackmail attempts from Black Jack Roberts."

Cecily's mouth dropped open. "What do you mean, Sergeant Major?"

"I mean, Mrs. Johnson, that I received a dispatch this morning that Black Jack Roberts has been captured and hung by Sir Peter Culpepper." Rupert's smile broadened. "Unfortunately, it would seem that some of Roberts friends took revenge and murdered Culpepper in turn. I doubt we will ever know who."

The redcoat stood and bowed again. "I've no doubt we have seen the last of Black Jack Roberts. Wouldn't you say, Mr. Johnson?"

"Aye, that I would." Jack looked steadily into the redcoat's eyes.

"Then I will be taking my leave, Sir." Barclay held out his hand.

Jack grasped the officer's hand firmly. "Feel free to come and visit with us anytime your in Devonshire, Sergeant Major. You'll always be welcome."

"I'll hold you to that, Robert. If I may call you Robert." Rupert grinned warmly. "My post here has been made permanent. Now, I'll leave you to your home coming."

As they gathered in the courtyard to watch the Major ride off back to Devonshire Cecily hugged Jack happily. "We're free, My love! Free to raise our family and free of Black Jack Roberts shadow. Oh, Jack! I'm so happy!"

"Not Jack, Dearest." He corrected softly. "Robert. Robert Johnson.

The End

Blackjack Roberts

Wench and I would like to thank all of you who have followed the adventure of Jack and Cecily.

We hope you have enjoyed our little story, and if we have kept you entertained, if even for a little while we have done our jobs well.

Also we would like to give a nod to Alfred Noyes (1880-1958), who's beautiful poem "The Highwayman" served as the inspiration for our story.

Happy reading;

Blackjack Roberts & Welsh Wench