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

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Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 02/21/2007 22:54:11

Andrew came back to Moreland by early afternoon. He was heartened by his visit with his sister. As he came into the receiving hall, he hung his riding crop on a hook. Entering the parlor, he saw his parents talking quietly.
"But Wallace, I insist you find her and bring her home. I don't CARE what it cost in manpower. My poor daughter is out there..and heaven knows with who and what she is up to!"
Andrew poured himself a brandy and looked at his parents. He tried hard to hide the smile that crossed his face.
"I just saw Cecily."
Lady Alice and Sir Wallace both jumped up.
Andrew nodded. "She just got back from Scotland. Gretna Green, as a matter of fact."
Lady Alice grew pale, "You--you don't mean to tell me that she---she's MARRIED?"
"She most certainly is. She is now Mrs. Robert Johnson. Cecily Johnson is her new name."
Lady Alice shouted, "Over my dead body!"
Andrew arched his eyebrow and said, "And where should we bury you, Mother? Because it is a done deal. She's been married for a few weeks and the marriage has even been filed in the London Registry."
"Does Sir Culpepper know this?" Alice visibly paled under her powdered face.
Andrew was enjoying this. "I'd say so..since he and his posse of miscreants followed her and tried to stop the wedding."
"S-stop the wedding?"
"Indeed, Mother. By killing the groom. But it backfired on him and he almost got himself killed. His hired thugs--all three of them--were killed and a woman who unwittingly was their pawn was fatally shot by Culpepper himself."
Alice's hand shot to her mouth to cover it. "Not possible..."
Andrew shot back, "And it came closer than that, Mother. Cecily herself was hurt."
Sir Wallace jumped up, "Cecily? Good Lord, Andrew! What happened? Is she alright?"
Andrew ran his hands over his face. "She is---now. But it was a bit dicey for a while."
Alice said, "What happened to my daughter?"
Andrew ignored his mother and now answered his father.
"She broke a few ribs and was unconscious for a bit. But she lost the baby."
''BABY???" Both parents shouted at once.
Andrew nodded. "Cecily was with child."
Alice said, "Does Sir Culpepper know she lost the baby?"
Andrew looked at her bewildered, "What business is it of his?"
"Well, of course it was his child. I mean, after all, they were in London together and they were engaged and..."
"Mother, shut up! The baby was the child of Cecily and Robert Johnson. The man she loves. And the man who is her husband."
"No! Not possible!"
"Mother, pull your head out of the ground. Cecily and Robert Johnson were lovers practically from the first time they met each other."
Lady Alice hurriedly poured herself a snifter of brandy and practically drained it in one swallow.
Sir Wallace asked Andrew, "Is there anything Cecily needs? Is she settled in a house?"
Andrew didn't want to tell his father too much with Alice standing there so he said., "I saw her at the Crossbow Inn and she was fine. Very happy. Deliriously happy. In fact, I've never seen Cecily so happy..."
Alice snapped, "We get the point, Andrew. She's happy. For now. But how happy can she be married to a--a--bourgeois?"
"Happier than she could be married to a murderer."
"Andrew, you weren't there, were you? It could have been self-defense."
Andrew poured himself another brandy. "Maybe. But he is a murderer regardless."
"What do you mean?"
Andrew said quietly, "He is responsible for Cecily losing her child. He was set to kill the man she loves and Cecily threw herself at that bastard to save her husband. Culpepper pitched her out of the way and she landed on her stomach."
Andrew drained his glass. "Cecily will never forgive him. And heaven help Sir Peter Culpepper if she ever gets a chance to get even. Because Cecily won't rest until vengeance for her unborn child is meted out."
And with that, Andrew walked out of the parlor.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 02/27/2007 18:27:15

As Jack carried her across the threshold of the cottage Cecily's eyes grew wide with joy. The warm feeling of a home was almost a physical presence. Tasteful polished furniture place strategically around the living quarters seemed to speak of a benign comfort that she had rarely felt, even when surrounded by the finest of such things. Paintings of rich landscapes decorated the walls and one of considerable size filled the area over the mahogany mantle of the fireplace with its two lanterns placed at either end.

Two thirds of the way down the whitewashed walls gave way to lacquered oak paneling, toped with a molded ridge. The sunlight streamed through the single large window recessed into the wall to provide a long seat with cushions, forming a diamond pattern from the cris-crossing metal. Spilling down to the throw rug beneath the low gleaming table protecting the polished wood floor in front of the well-padded couch.

Her hand rose softly to her mouth. The tips of her fingers barley touching her bottom lip as she exclaimed gently. "Oh, Jack. It is so much more than I had pictured it. I had pictured something like Mary's home, but this is almost like....a shrine."

Roberts chuckled, drawing her into his arms tenderly. "In many ways, I suppose it is, Dearest. I rarely stayed here, not because The Crossbow is better suited to my vocation, but because I made this place for the one treasure that I desired all my life and never thought I would ever possess."

She looked quizzically into his blue green eyes as he continued, smiling into hers. "More than any priceless thing I have ever stolen, more than any amount of gold I ever relieved from some fat merchant, or tax collector, I have wanted the greatest prize any man could ever wish for. The one my father possessed when he found my mother. The one I now have with you as my wife. Before ever I met you, My Love, I began a place to house our love and our family."

"Jack" She whispered, drawing his head down to a tender kiss.

"Now that you are here with me, my home is finally complete." He whispered back when she released him.

"Show me the rest, Darling." Cecily smiled, pulling away and taking his hand in hers. "I want to see everything....ending with our room."

Later Cecily gently slipped from their bed without waking her new husband. Quietly she made her way to the door then down the steps into her own kitchen. Now to see just how much she could remember about Mary Cobblepot's recipe for apple tarts before Jack awoke.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 03/27/2007 14:35:09

Cecily looked out to see an orchard of apple trees just beyond the house by the stables.
Looks like I shall have to pick some fresh ones. Wonder if I can use the whip? It would be good practice, she thought.
George and Geoff were in the pasture, letting out the horses. As they spied Cecily crossing the courtyard, George grinned at Geoffrey and said, "What did I tell you? Two hours!"

Cecily stood there under the tree and gauged the height and abundance of the branches. She drew the whip out and CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The apples flew in the air and landed on the ground. She rolled the whip up and coiled it around her arm. Then she took her dress and gathered them into the skirt. She saw Geoff and George and called out, "The two of you WILL join us for dinner. I won't take no for an answer!"
Geoff turned to George and said, "We're invited to dinner."
George muttered, "Oh, Lordy!"
"She might not be so bad, George."
George grimaced. "Remember how our sister was when she first got married? That chicken she didn't get all the feathers out of?"
Geoff grabbed an apple and tossed one to George. "Better fill up then!"

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 06/12/2007 21:29:04

"Unca, Robert!! Unca Robert!!" The patter of small bare feet slapped joyfully across the polished wood floor of The Crossbow ending as the tiny child leapt into Jack's arms.

"Well now, Little Jack." Roberts beamed at the small red haired child clinging to his neck. "You're growing so fast!! Won't be long you'll be as tall as I! And how old are ye now?"

"Four." The small boy giggled while holding up all five fingers.

"Aye!" Jack laughed sitting down at the table bouncing the lad on his knee. " Now that deserves a special treat, doesn't it? "

Little Jack's eyes widened as Roberts showed him his empty hand then reached quickly behind the child's ear to produce a sweet just as Josiah and Molly entered the main hall of the tavern. "Mr. Johnson!!" Molly scolded. "Now he'll have no use for his supper!!" The gleam in her eyes belying her tone.

"Momma! Look what Unca Robert give me!!" The boy ran to Molly holding the hard candy high for his mother to see.

"Aye!" She scowled at Jack Roberts with a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth. " And if he keeps it up I'll hang him in the stable by his heels!" The voluptuous red head scooped up her son and whirled about, making for the kitchen.

"Well, Robert," Josiah grinned, " If ye'll be so kind ta follow me to the office we'll go over the accounts with ye."

"I'm certain you've been as exact as always, Josiah." Jack grinned making his way to the door behind the bar and greeting his regular customers along the way.

"He's a fine lad, Old Friend." He smiled sitting down in his usual chair across from Josiah's near the fireplace.

"Aye," The older man swelled with pride. "Spittin' image 'a his mum, and how's married life treatin' you these days?"

"Never better, Josiah", Jack grinned. " I'm the luckiest man to walk God's green Earth, next to you." Suddenly Jack's demeanor turned more serious. "Have you heard anything on our friend?"

"Jack." The smile flew from Josiah's face. "Black Jack Roberts hasn't been heard from since that blackguard vanished near four years ago. For all ye know Culpepper's dead. Why risk the happiness ye've found? Take what luck and love ye have and be done with it. Let Black Jack rest in peace. For Cecily's sake."

Jack Robert's face reddened slightly with suppressed rage. He knew that what his oldest friend said was true, but the thought of what Peter Culpepper had done to his love filled him with a bloody, unreasoning thirst for revenge. Almost four years and Cecily had not had another child. He doubted she ever would now. Annie's best fertility elixirs had all failed, and more than once he had seen the hurt in his wife's sapphire eyes as she gently touched her stomach looking at little Jack. If the man yet lived Black Jack Roberts had one last task before he vanished permanently.

"Perhaps you're right, Josiah." He let out a long sigh and calmed himself. "I'll think on it, but I do want to know if you hear anything at all about Culpepper's whereabouts."

"Fair enough, Lad." Josiah managed a grin, not fooled for a second. "Ye'll be headed home now?" He asked.

"Aye." Jack's smile was genuine now as he thought of Cecily. "I've been gone from her side long enough for one day, and I've a feeling there's Apple tarts for dessert tonight. You and Molly will come to supper this weekend, and bring young Jack?" Roberts asked hopefully. "Cecily misses him."

Josiah's calloused hand clapped Jack's shoulder. "Aye, that we will....all three of us." He smiled thinking 'As do ye, Jack. As do ye.' But he kept that part to himself.

The three watched as Jack turned Raven towards the cottage, waving from the doorway.

"He asked again, didn't he?" Molly said through her smile.

"Aye." Josiah sighed. "Ye know him as well as I, Wife. Jack Roberts won't rest till he knows for certain that Peter Culpepper is no longer among the living. Even if he has to put the bastard there himself.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 06/14/2007 20:08:49

Jack had not been more than an hour gone when Cody walked through the door of the Crossbow. Josiah felt his heart sink. Not because he did not wish too see an old comrade, but because the arrival meant more secrets he would have to keep from his friend. He had been forced to lie to Jack for the first time in his life and the taste of it set bitter in his mouth.

Because of Culpepper's suspicions of who Robert Johnson really was it had been decided that Cody, or Jenkins, would pass any information on to Josiah at the inn, then he would give the messages to Jack. The first lie came when Jenkins had told Josiah of Lord Culpepper's whereabouts almost two years gone now. Since then He had walked a thin line between giving out enough information to keep Jack from becoming suspicious and withholding what he knew would send the man on a bloody rampage that could only end in tears for everyone involved.

He may not be able to stop Jack, but he could damn well stall him for as long as he could. Even if it cost him the friendship of the only man he thought of as his brother. There was dear Cecily to think of as well. The last thing that sweet child needed was to bury her new husband.

"Barkeep! I've come to settle me account." Cody said, using the prearranged code that meant he had new information for Jack of an urgent nature. Josiah winced inwardly.

"Well then, Lad. Come into the office and bring your purse." Josiah replied.

"From the look on yer face, I'd be inclined to believe you weren't all that happy to see me, Josiah. If I didn't know better." Cody observed as he closed the door behind them.

"It's not that, Lad. It's Just..." Josiah began.

"That ye've not been telling Jack the whole of what Albert and I have found out so far?" Cody finished, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

The tavern keeper stood staring in open-mouthed shock as Cody laughed heartily. "Is it that obvious?"

"Only to Jenkins and me self." Cody chuckled. "When Jack didn't set sail for Ireland the week we told you of Sir Peter's location we kind of figured you was holding out on him. Not that either of us will tell him. We just want to be able to look the man in the eye and say we told you all."

"Aye," Josiah nodded, "fair enough, Lad. So what have ye learned now?"

"Ye might want to be sitting down for this one, Josiah. Ye might want to rethink yer decision to withhold information from Jack as well." The spy's face turned deadly serious.

"Why?" Josiah became immediately attentive. "What new deviltry is that noble blackguard up to now?" He began to worry that all his effort to keep Jack and Cecily happily safe in their new life was all in vain.

"Now that I can't tell you." Cody said, stroking his chin between his thumb and forefinger. "What I can tell you is this. For several months now a sealed letter has accompanied each shipment that comes in to the grotto from his lordship. The letter is usually taken immediately by his second in command for delivery. Yesterday the uncouth ruffian was late getting there, and Albert made it his business to be in close when the captain handed it over."

Cody took the offered tankard of ale from Josiah with a nod, and drank deeply before continuing. "The letter confirmed the rumor. Sir Culpepper is indeed in Belfast, but that's not what brought me here this night. Albert only got a brief glance and it was enough for him to clearly see the last name of the recipient. Josiah, the name on the letter was Fairchild!"

Josiah had to struggle to keep from spitting the mouthful of ale he had just quaffed across the room. "That's not possible! Annie, George, and Geoff saw the woman die themselves!"

"Don't I know it, Mate." Cody returned. "Albert near dropped the load of contraband he were unloading when he saw it, but he is certain that was the name he saw."

"Has to be a coincidence." Josiah mused, more to himself than to his guest. "Katherine had no relatives. Jack spent a pretty coin making certain. No brothers, cousins, uncles, no one, except for her mother and father, and they had passed away a full year before she and him met."

"I remember, Mate." Cody nodded. "We had just joined up with him, and Jack was cautious enough to have us all checked out. Even Kath. So what could it mean? Surely this is a bit much. Even for a coincidence."

"I can't say it doesn't give me the willies, Lad." Josiah shivered involuntarily. "But let's not go making mountains out of molehills here either. Could be nothing more than a sick jest the bastard is playing to see if there are any spies in his own house. He knows that name would fly straight to Jack's ears."

"Well," Cody stood up to leave. "Not from my, nor Jenkins's mouth it won't. It's flew to the only ears I'm under orders for it to fly to. I don't envy you your decision with this lot, Josiah. So I'll bid ye a good night till next time."

"Fare you well, Cody." Josiah said. "I've a long night ahead of me now, of that I am certain!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 06/15/2007 20:16:45

Cecily put a kettle of water on the stove for tea. As the water came to a boil, she put in her herbal tea leaves and let it steep. Annie had become a good friend of hers and was teaching her about herbs. The chamomile leaves swirled and spun in the hot water unti they made their spiral towards the bottom of the cup.
After she strained it, she took her cup and headed toward the windowseat, opening up the window to the spring breeze. It was hard to believe that she and Jack will be married four years near the end of the summer.
She inhaled deeply the smell of the lilacs that Jack had planted under the window.
Contentedly, she sat down, basking in the warmth of the sunshine streaming through the casement.

The four years had brought Cecily more bliss than she ever thought possible. Her mother still had not spoken to her since the day Andrew informed her that Cecily was now Mrs. Robert Johnson. Her father had accepted it and stopped by whenever he was on his way to London or had business up from Cornwall.
Andrew paid her a visit at least fortnightly. He was now married to Lady Jane Wentworth. Both were contented. But contented was not a word that was in Cecily Morley Johnson's vocabulary. Content she would never be with Jack.
In ecstacy, in passion, head-over-heels in love with Jack was where Cecily's head was. And she hoped she would never get her head out of the clouds or her heart out of being entwined with Jack's.
Could there ever be a woman more in love than she?

In her quiet moments, the day that changed her life was never far from her mind. The joy of becoming Jack's wife paled in the forefront of the situation that had broken Cecily's heart.
The miscarriage on her wedding day.

She and Jack had moved into the house as soon as they were able. Within a few months, Cecily was overjoyed to discover she was with child once more. This time she didn't need Jack tell her why she was nauseous, why she was tired, why she was late.
Josiah and Molly revealed that they had secretly been married a few months and were expecting a child. Excitedly that was when Cecily revealed that she too was pregnant and the two women began to make 'baby plans'. Their children would be playmates. Jack and Josiah good-naturedly ribbed each other and beamed. A shared brandy and cigar.
And then it happened.
The cramping.
The bleeding.
The loss.

She thought she would get used to it, but every miscarriage was like a stab to her heart and made her hate Sir Peter Culpepper that much more. Sometimes she wondered if Jack should be free to marry someone who could give him what he wanted more than anything.
A family.
But she knew she may as well take the air he breathed. They were so bound to each other.
Annie had explained that getting with child was no problem. Cecily smiled to herself, there certainly was ample opportunity for it.
The problem was something internally wrong with Cecily that prevented her from carrying the child. And that was Culpepper's fault.
Twenty-one and barren.

Sometimes at night when Jack thought Cecily was asleep, she would hear Jack get out of bed and go to the casement window and just stare out it. She was so in tune to his moods that she knew he was brooding. And planning.
Always in the morning he would be particularly quiet but towards the end of the day, he was the man she loved and married.

The birth of little Jack filled Cecily with a bittersweet feeling. Sweet in the fact that she was happy for her best friends. Bitter that it should have been her bearing a son named Jack. While Jack was honored the babe was named after him, Cecily could not help but feel sadness that her son should be the one named after Jack Roberts.

She shook her head and then filled her thoughts with all the pleasant memories she and Jack had shared. The trips to London. Being presented at Court and having the King remember her. The autumn trip to Italy. The spring trip to Paris. The summer they spent in Brighton.
Yes, it was a wonderful life they had together.

She never heard him come in but felt his strong arms around her. She leaned back and snuggled into him.
"Anytime you go away from my side, love, it is too long..."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 06/17/2007 14:39:10

Gently he turned her in his arms to face him. Letting the backs of is fingers trail softly down the curve of her cheek to her chin. As always he lost himself in the deep blue liquid of her eyes. His smile growing with each passing second as he felt the warm glow of a single love fill his being. "Aye, My Heart." Jack whispered huskily. "A few hours from your side seem like days."

Cecily's arms entwined about his neck, her right hand cradling the back of his head she drew him down to her soft lips. Her kiss chasing every speck of sorrow from his thoughts. Jack held her tenderly against his chest, lost in the bliss that only a man with a true love at his side could ever know. "I love you." He whispered softly into the golden curls that covered her ear.

Cecily pulled gently back to look into his eyes. The smile on her lips, and the joy in her eyes meaning more to Jack than any precious thing he had ever nicked from a nobleman's carriage. Let other men seek power and wealth to fulfill themselves with. Jack Roberts knew that if he were to lose everything he owned he would be content to have this woman with him. Only the loss of her he could not bear.

"And I love you, Dearest." She whispered back, stroking his cheek. "But come, our supper is getting cold and I worked so very hard on it."

"Then allow me, M'Lady." Jack's grin turned at once boyish and devilish at the same time. He released her and in the same motion pulled out her chair for her to be seated.

"The table is not set yet, My Love." Cecily protested as she sat.

Jack bent close to her ear as he adjusted her chair to a comfortable distance. "It will be in but a moment, Luv." He whispered softly. "You have done your part, now please permit a lowly rogue to do his."

Cecily giggled behind her hand as he flowed about the kitchen with exaggerated grace. Setting her place first then his own, filling their plates. Finishing his display with two candles set alight in the center of the small white linen cloth before sitting down himself.

Cecily clapped lightly, the twinkle in her eyes filling him with joy. "Well done, Mr. Roberts." She teased. "You may well have missed your calling."

"Nay, Mrs. Roberts." Jack chuckled. "My services are for M'Lady alone." He winked. "Besides, ye've not seen the bill yet."

"Oh," Cecily mused, "I believe I shan't have any troubles paying that, Kind Sir."

Jack smiled deeply as they began eating. Of that he had no doubt at all.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 06/23/2007 16:34:31

The weekend gathering had quickly turned into a small party of friends by that Saturday. Andrew and his new wife Lady Wentworth arrived early that morning, and soon Annabelle joined the two brides in the kitchen. The singing peal of girlish laughter rose in volume as Molly joined the group, leaving the men to smile teasingly at each other as they left the cottage to the ladies.

"Ye know they be in there plotting the downfall of the three of ye as much as cooking." Geoff grinned at the three married men.

"I'm afraid they're too late for that." Jack guffawed. "Cecily brought me down the moment she ran into my arms in Soho, and consequently knocked the doxie I was with right out of them."

"Aye. Not that ye put up much of a fight over that one, now did ye, Jack?" Josiah grinned, lighting his pipe as the group took seats on the porch to enjoy the fresh morning air as much as the slowly rising odor of food beginning to waft from the kitchen.

"Not I, Old Friend." Jack grinned sending a ring of fragrant smoke into the still air. "That prize could only be won by surrendering."

"As was mine own." Chimed in Andrew sending the trio into a fit of knowing laughter. The twins, both confirmed bachelors, shook their heads in disbelief.

Within the kitchen Little Jack basked in the feminine attention showered on him from all sides. "Oh, Molly." Lady Jane sighed bouncing the tyke on one knee at the table. "If Mine and Andrew's child turns out half as lovely as this I'll be a contented woman."

Cecily turned her attention a little to quickly to the roasting mutton and Annabelle placed a comforting hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Pay no mind, Dear." She whispered lowly. "It's better none have ever told Lady Wentworth the story. This is one of those times ignorance can wound, and it wouldn't do for her to know the truth about your husband. Besides, there may be hope for you and Jack yet."

The brave smile that hid the pain in the young blonde's eyes touched the Gypsy. "I'll never give up hope, nor trying, Annie." She spoke with steely resolve. "I'll not let Culpepper take that from me as well. Sooner, or later, I will give Jack a family."

Molly sensed the mood and quickly moved to alleviate the gloom before Jane became aware of it. "Well, Loves, there's precious little more damage we can do here for the moment. I say we all join the men folk and have some fun while the meal cooks."

The morning passed quickly with outdoor games of hide and seek, blind man's bluff, and horseshoes in which the team of Cecily, Anne, and Molly soundly trounced Jack, Josiah, and Andrew. "I'm not sure about Lady Jane, Andrew." Jack spoke loudly, a mischievous twinkle in his eye as he watched his love. "But at least Josiah and I know better than to stay within throwing range should our ladies take aim with the frying pan."

"Or a Bullwhip!" Andrew called out as Cecily chased Jack down and sat astride his chest in the end, tickling an apology from him.

"And don't you be forgetting it either, Mr. Parker." Molly nudged Josiah in the ribs, watching.

"Not I, Mrs. Parker." The tavern keeper replied with mock sobriety. "I'm not as reckless as Jack. Though I must say it does seem to have its benefits."

As little Jack napped the adults whiled away the time remaining until dinner with pleasant conversation, and jests. An outsider would have been given the impression of a family reunion instead of a gathering of friends. Such was the spirit of camaraderie, which filled the country house with its presence.

Because of the volume of guests dinner became an informal affair with the spacious living room becoming the dining area for the evening. Fresh rolls, Mutton roast, and savory seasoned vegetables quickly vanished from plates as the pleasing conversations continued through out the meal. Glasses of rich red wine, and tankards of golden ale repeatedly drained from mug and goblet. Little Jack fell asleep with his third apple tart clutched in one small hand. Only to awake when a loud and urgent knock reverberated from the front door.

Three footmen from Devonshire entered as Jack opened the oak door. "Beggin' your pardon, Mr. Johnson" A young corporal bowed as he swept the tricorn from his head. "But there's been a murder in town, and the villain rode out in this direction. Have ye seen anyone suspicious this tonight?"

"Nay, but we've been indoors since noon." Jack scowled. "Who's been murdered?"

"Magistrate Hammond, Sir." The corporal shot a glance to the women. "Run through by none other than Black Jack Roberts himself. Your pardon, Ladies."

"That's impossible! He's been...."Cecily shouted as she leapt to her feet, the color draining from her face. Catching herself in the nick of time. "He's been gone from England for nearly four years!"

"Your pardon, Mum." The footman intoned grimly. "But it seems he has returned with a vengance. No less than ten witnesses saw the deed with their own eyes not three hours ago. It would be advisable for you all to remain here tonight. For your own safety. Now if you will kindly excuse us."

Jack shut the door slowly to the sound of three horses galloping off to the north. Cecily ran into his arms, tears streaming down her face as soon as he turned around.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 06/23/2007 22:47:20

Cecily whispered in his ear, her tears barely choking out, 'Will it NEVER end for us?"
His mouth barely moving, he whispered back, "Steady, darling, unless you want Jane to know. And don't forget, little Jack can hear."
She held his arms tightly and pulled back to look in his face. Without speaking, she nodded.
Jane, sensing something wasn't right, asked anxiously, "Cecily? Are you alright?"
Cecily wiped the tears from her face. "Yes. I--I was just shocked. Magistrate Hammond! It--it is just too much when you find out it is someone you know."
A little too brightly, she said, "Well, it looks like this is going to turn into an overnight party. Jane, I know you and Andrew planned on staying overnight anyways. Molly and Josiah, do you mind very much sleeping in the livingroom? Oh, dear, and where to put...."
Jack put his arm around her and tenderly drew her to him. She buried her body into his side. He knew that as an unconscious signal that she was afraid and was drawing her strength from him. He knew that the first night they made love under the stars.

The men took their brandies to the front porch to enjoy the evening breeze and smoke their cigars. Unbeknownst to the women, each man had a flintlock pistol in his lap.
Cecily was uncharacteristically running back and forth, clearing the table. Molly and Annabelle sensed her franticness and Molly spoke up. "Jane, would you do me a favor and get little Jack ready for bed? He has taken a real shine to you and I know it would help us immensely if he weren't underfoot."
The small child took Jane's hand and said, "Please, Aunt Jane! And you can tell me a story, too!"
Jane blushed with pleasure at the acceptance of this small child and how the family of friends had embraced her so readily.
"I surely shall, Jack! Come on! Have you heard the story about the three pigs...?"

Molly and Annabelle exchanged looks and followed Cecily into the kitchen. Cecily was concentrating on putting the dishes into the sink and pumping water for washing them. Molly rested her hand on Cecily's shoulder and said, "You need to keep a cool head about you, dear." Cecily turned to her, the tears glistening in her eyes.
She could barely get out the words. "Dear Lord! Does he have to pay for his transgressions the rest of his life? He gave that up! He did what he had to do at the time but he is now a respectable land owner, banker and tavern owner. Not to mention a few enterprises I don't know about and some horse breeding."
Annabelle said firmly, "Keep a cool head about you, Cecily. If this imposter is going to be exposed, you must NEVER EVER let on that Jack was ever...who we know he is."
Molly led Cecily to the table and gave her a cup of hot tea that was brewing. The three women sat there, Molly and Annie watching Cecily as she took a deep sip and closed her eyes. Annie put her hand over Cecily's and said, "By morning it will all seem like a bad dream. The brigand will be caught."
Cecily shook her head. "You don't understand. Or maybe you do. I'm afraid of what will happen if he DOES get caught."
"But...that would solve it, wouldn't it?"
Cecily shook her head. "No. I am afraid of what will happen if Jack is the one to catch him."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/02/2007 12:39:15

Sir peter Culpepper smiled wickedly at the latest news the letter from his unwitting lackey held. The murder of that insufferable incompetent Hammond was a perfect beginning to his plans. Perhaps he could not prove who Black Jack Roberts really was, but he could ruin him and draw him back out into the open at the same time.

Fate had placed a most unexpected ally into his hands and he intended to use him to the fullest. The man's hatred of Jack Roberts nearly surpassed his own. Simple chance had led them to cross paths in the colonies, and a drunken slip of the tongue had placed the young fool in his hands. Michael Fairchild would prove to be a perfect foil in his revenge on one Robert Johnson.

Smiling evilly, he ordered another round of drinks to celebrate.

The torch flame burned bright orange against the nearby trees of the forest as the barn began to burn. Soon the old structure roared into the night as the fire engulfed its walls. Michael grinned beneath the black silk mask that hid his features from an unsuspecting populace. Allowing the farm owner, and his wife to flee insured that Roberts would be blamed for this deed as well.

The young man burned inside with flames of hate to rival the burning building. He would see his sister's fate avenged. Roberts would pay for killing her. Of all the family he had once knew, only Kathrin had kept in touch with him against Father's wishes. Black Jack Roberts fate was sealed. It was only a matter of time.

Throwing the torch to the ground, he swung up onto the black stallion's back, and galloped off into the night. Soon Roberts would have to come out of hiding, and when he did Michael would be waiting for him.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/26/2007 20:02:54

Dawn broke with an overcast of heavy gray clouds casting a gloom over the English countryside that nearly matched the feeling coursing through Jack's breast. After all that he and Cecily had been through why should this be happening now? It seemed so unfair that the specter of his past should return to haunt them now when their life together had reached such a level of joy.

He had laid Black Jack Roberts to rest at her request, one that he had been more than happy to agree to. The prospect of living a quiet, simple life with her by his side had meant more to him than all the gold in England, And he far preferred spending his nights and days by her side than galloping about the land looking for rich victims.

Raven's hoof beats upon the clay of the road leading to the Crossbow sounded hollow in his ears as he walked the dark stallion toward his destination. He did not relish the decision he would have to make before he arrived there, and so took a leisurely pace. No matter which path he would choose he knew there would be unpleasant consequences to consider. The question was which of the two evils laid before him was the most unpleasant.

Damn it all to Hell why now?! Now that he had finally found the one thing he had wished for above any bright bauble, or shiny trinket he had pilfered. He had began his life as a highwayman out of lack. This he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. It was as if a great hole had opened up within him after his parents died, and no matter how much he stole, nor how many women he had dallied with it would never be filled. That is until that fated night in Soho when Cecily had near run him over in the attempt to escape her pursuers.

Jack Roberts had ever been a skeptic when it came to the subject of love at first sight. Even though he had himself witnessed the amazing love that his mother and father shared he had always felt it was something that no other could duplicate. Rarer than the crown jewels. Only Katherine had ever come close to making him believe in love at all. Then she had shattered that belief beyond all repair, or so he had thought.

A gentile smile came to his lips as the memories of that long ago night filled his mind. Memories so fresh they might as well have occurred only last night. From the moment he had gazed into her deep blue eyes, filled with fear though they were, the unbidden feeling had sprung to life like a wildfire consuming his heart as if it were dried kindling. No matter how much he tried to deny it, or cursed himself for a bloody fool, the raging flame would not die down. If anything it grew stronger with each passing moment, as if his very attempt to banish it fed the fires.

It had been the unreasoning love for this lass that had drove him to kill the slavers who came for her from out of the fog. Over the years Jack had honed his skills with the tools of his trade to a razors edge. Few could match him with the blade, or firearm, and he had yet to meet his match with the whip. He could have drove them off without killing them easily, but the thought of the harm they had done her had sealed their fates.

In the end all he could do was hope for what he considered hopeless. All he knew was that he loved this girl beyond reason, and that the reckless course he had chosen after Kath had left him would truly become suicidal should she reject him. Then came the miracle he had only dared to dream would happen. For the first time in his violent life the empty hollow in him had been filled, and he had not felt it since.

Cecily's love had been the death knell for Black Jack Roberts. Now his love for her and their life together threatened to raise him from the grave. There were a few who were not in his circle of trust who knew that Jack Roberts and Robert Johnson were one and the same. This imposter could give them reason to believe that he was indeed a man to be brought to the King's Justice, and that would destroy all he held dear.

On the other hand there was his promise to Cecily to consider. If he were to again don the black costume of the highwayman it would break her heart and put their safe life to risk. If he did nothing this imposter could cause the finger of suspicion to be pointed at him, and that would be the end of their life together for certain, and she could be held accountable for her knowledge of who he truly was. It was this last thought that made Jack's mind up for him as the Crossbow came into view over the grassy hillock.

"He's coming, Josiah." Molly called sadly over her shoulder from the doorway.

"Aye, and I needn't be a wizard to guess exactly what's on his mind." The grizzled tavern keep sighed.

The stunning redhead gently closed the door and crossed the room into the arms of her husband. "Surely he won't break his word to Cecily." She spoke sadly, her eyes filled with concern.

"That will depend, My Love." Josiah pulled his woman close, as if holding her could stem the storm he felt growing around them. "If Jack feels that their lives together are threatened enough by this bloody fool he will do anything to protect it."

"Damn it!" She cursed beneath her breath. "It's not fair, Dearest! They don't deserve this!"

"Damn Culpepper." Josiah's face reddened with anger. "I'd bet me eye teeth that blackguard is behind this!! Pity Annie missed the bloody villain, though how I'll never fathom. I've seen the lass shoot before and she's a fair hand at it. Better she had sent the bastard to Hell where he belongs."

"Perhaps we may change Jack's mind. If we work together?" The barmaids eyes looked deeply into his. Tears threatening to overflow them at any moment.

Gently he stroked her hair. "We can do naught but try, Love....But I'll not bet on the outcome."

From the stable Geoffrey and George watch as Jack dismounted the night colored stallion, looping the reigns around the tethering post beside the door. Gently he patted the horse's neck before turning to vanish into tavern.

"What do ye think, Brother?" Geoff turned to face his twin.
"I think all Hell is about to come to Earth." George spat into the dust. "And God knows who will pay the price afore its over."

"Then let's pray its not Jack or Cecily who gets the bill." Geoff returned as they made their way back to grooming their horses.

Neither noticed that Thomas Banks had temporarily ceased his labors in the hayloft, nor the jealous eyes that followed Jack into the Crossbow.

"Jack Roberts can pay all the price as far as I'm concerned." He whispered to himself. "But Cecily is another matter altogether. Another matter indeed."

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/28/2007 10:05:33

Cecily watched from the front door as Jack had cantered out past the front of their cottage. It never failed to send a thrill of pride or a shiver of passion for him when she saw him astride the magnificent horse that was so much a part of him.

The dinner party guests had all gone home that morning. Cecily took some apples from the fruit cellar and selected the best ones for an apple pie. She sat at the table with her paring knife and began to peel them. Pushing a few strands of her long blonde hair out of her eyes, she counted her blessings which were beyond numeration. That she loved Jack with all her being was without question.
The only snake in her Garden of Eden was the fact that she could not carry a baby past the first three months.

She could feel her eyes welling up with tears everytime she thought about it. So far she had five miscarriages that she knew of. Who knew how many there actually were? The fact that the passion she and Jack shared knew no bounds gave ample opportunity for it.
She thought back to the day that she and Annie had a heart-to-heart talk about her miscarriages.

Cecily had such a hard fall when she jumped on Sir Culpepper's back at her wedding. The fact that she had landed on her stomach had caused her to lose her first child. Annie explained that some internal damage had most likely occurred. Annie had given her elixirs and herbs but to no avail. Since Cecily was so young, it may right itself. But four years later, it hadn't.
Cecily was now twenty-one.
Damn Peter Culpepper! He had taken away the one thing Cecily wanted to give Jack more than anything in the world.
His own family.

Cecily wiped a tear that had trailed down her cheek. The fact that Molly and Josiah Parker were the parents of an adorable little boy named Robert was a bit of a bitter pill for Cecily to swallow. While she loved him dearly, she couldn't help feel inadequate as a woman. She knew it was an honour that they had named their firstborn after her husband. But still.....

Slicing the apples, she put them in a bowl and sprinkled them with sugar. She opened up the flour bin and sifted flour into a bowl. Her kitchen always brought a smile to her face. While she had grown up with servants and never had to lift a finger to keep a house. But their visit to Mary Cottlepot had changed that. The way Jack had adored Mary was evident. She kept an impeccable house for him up in North Yorkshire.

Cecily let her mind drift back to the night Jack had promised that Black Jack Roberts would be laid to rest.

"Hmmmm?" he said drowsily.
"Jack, now that we are settled in the house, I need to tell you something."
"What, darling?" he struggled to stay awake.
"I saw Annabelle today."
"Did you have a nice visit?" he yawned.
"Yes. Quite."
"Jack, I'm going to have a baby."
Jack bolted upright and exclaimed, "Are you sure?"
"Indeed. Annabelle confirmed what I suspected."
Jack held her close and kissed her tenderly. "The elixirs must be working!"
She laughed and said, "Well, we can't blame it all on that, you know."
Jack stroked her hair and said excitedly, "When shall the babe be born?"
"In the fall. Near as Annie can figure it."
"I can't wait!"
"Yes, my darling?"
"It's time to talk about Black Jack Roberts. I know you haven't done any um....'business' but I need for you to promise me once and for all that you will never don that black mask again. I don't need to worry if the child shall be half-orphan before he is born."
Jack put his fingers under her chin and brought her face up to his. With all the love in his heart, he said solemnly, "I swear, Cecily Morley Roberts, that I shall never take up the mask of Black Jack Roberts again."

The baby had been lost a month later. But Jack kept his promise.
Until now.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/29/2007 20:37:51

The tall strongly built man was dressed in burgundy velvet that caused more than one eye to turn his way as he strode through the streets of Belfast. Ireland had never been the wealthiest of countries and the sight of such finery caused more than one tongue to wag in hushed whispers as he passed.

His hair was coal black and wavy as it stirred just pass his shoulders with the breeze of his passing. His bright grayish blue eyes searched the addresses of the modest townhouses he passed, ignoring the ripple his passing caused. A slight smile graced his lips, raising the up curled black mustache and slightly widened the small goatee at the end of his chin.

Raising the silver butt of his ebony walking stick he rapped sharply upon the painted door of one of the more well kept, and larger dwellings. The smile grew wider, exposing even white teeth when the eyes of the doorman widened in surprise, expecting to have to chase another beggar from his master's stoop.

"Please inform Sir Culpepper that Malcolm Dagget is here to see him, My Good Man." The stranger spoke in a deep, liquid British accent.

"Damn it, Jack!" Josiah bellowed in the office of the Crossbow. "And what of Cecily??!! Have ye given any thought at all of what this will do to her??!"

Jack stared at the oak floor in front of the fireplace. "I've thought of little else since the footmen came to the door, Josiah." His voice was quiet and sad.

"Then for God's sake don't do it, man." The elder man's voice dropped down to a brotherly tone, grateful that the tavern was empty this morning so than none but Molly could have heard his outburst. "Simply take your wife and leave England. God knows your wealthy enough for it."

"And go where, Old friend?" Jack looked up and the pain in his eyes brought a knot to the elder man's throat. "You know as well as I that if it was ever known that I am Black Jack Roberts the lords would spare no expense to bring me back to the gallows. And that's not the worst of it."

"What could possibly be worse than breaking the heart of that lovely child, and possibly getting yourself killed in the bargain?" Josiah demanded. "You have no idea who this impostor is, nor what he might be capable of."

Jack stood and walked to the door. Placing one hand on the gilded door latch he paused and turned his head so that Josiah could see his profile. "There are a few outside of us who know that I am Black Jack. They hold their tongues for the sake of the few good deeds I have done in my life, Josiah."

"Aye, I know that." Josiah returned, his arms crossed defiantly across his chest.

"Were they to think this impostor is me they would turn witness against me, and I would be exposed." Jack continued, almost as if talking to himself. "Cecily has been my wife for four wonderful years, now. What could be worse, My Friend? Knowing that she would share my fate and hang for protecting me."

With that Jack left for the stable, leaving Josiah open mouthed and speechless. Contemplating the cruel twists fate could take in a man's life.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/02/2007 21:38:55

Behind the thick door of the study Sir Peter Culpepper sipped brandy and made small talk with Dagget, waiting for the other boot to drop. Rarely did Sir Terrance Blackwood send his prize hound without good reason, and sometimes that reason was anything but pleasant.

Were there any two men in England that Culpepper feared it was Blackwood and his trained dog. Besides having the ear of King George himself, it was rumored that Sir Terrance boasted a bloodline that could have claim to the throne. Regardless, Blackwood could send most of the populace to the hangman by simply crooking his finger. Those he could not he sent Malcolm Dagget to deal with.

It was obvious to all who knew that Dagget believed in Blackwood's royal bloodline. His family had served the Blackwoods for as long as any had memory to recall. In recompense the Daggets received the finest schooling available in the arts that would make them of the most use. Fencing in Italy and Spain, and it was rumored other arts in the furthest corners of India. All of which made Malcolm a man one did not wish to be on the wrong side of. His loyalty to Sir Terrance was beyond approach.

"I've a message from Lord Blackwood." Malcolm said placing one booted ankle across his knee. Finally he was ready to come to the point, and Sir Culpepper could feel the short hairs at the nape of his neck begin to rise.

Jack stood in the stable alone. Uncharacteristically he had dismissed the twins, and even given Thomas the rest of the day off. He stood in the half shadows staring at the black silk hood he had retrieved from the secret hole beneath the grain bin where he had stashed the entire costume. It seemed almost alien to him now, this disguise which had earned him his name.

The image of Cecily's sweet face floated in front of his eyes obscuring the mask from time to time, and the words of his promise echoed over and over in his ears. He felt as if he knew how it felt to walk the final steps to the gallows. He knew that once he put the guise of Black Jack Roberts on again there would be no return.

"Oh, Cecily." His voice choked softly into the shadows, a lone tear drifted down his cheek. "I wish there was another way. Please forgive me." Raven hung his muzzle over Jack's shoulder and snorted softly, feeling his friend's pain.

"What do ye think he's doin' in there so long?" Geoff whispered to his brother from the front of the tavern.

"Knowing Jack, he's fighting with himself." George answered. "And it looks to me like he lost."

George pointed slightly with his chin. Geoff looked up in time to see Black Jack astride Raven leap from the rear of the stable to vanish into the thick woodland.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/07/2007 20:32:21

The pies were set in the piesafe to cool and the morning dishes were done. Cecily went over to the cabinet and took out the items she had been looking for. She shed her dress in favor of tight breeches. While it may not be lady-like, it served its purpose.

She walked out to the stable and saddled up her horse Aphrodite. She smiled broadly as she remembered the day Jack had given her the mare. It was the day they fled London with the redcoats in hot pursuit. It was also that night that she and Jack made love for the very first time.

She cantered Aphrodite across the meadow and slowed to a trot once they reached the woods. Cecily came to a clearing and dismounted. Tying Aphrodite to a tree, she took the items she wanted from the saddle.
A bow and arrows.
And a whip.

Cecily marked a tree with a piece of charcoal and walked fifty paces back. With a keen eye, she concentrated on the spot. And let an arrow fly.
Dead on, making its mark.
Again and again.

She practiced and shot spot-on over fifty times. When she retrieved her arrows, she mounted her mare again and trotted to the apple orchard. She had every right to be there. After all, Jack owned all this land.
As soon as adjoining lands had become available, Jack bid at auction and won every time.

Cecily uncoiled the whip and cracked it high above her head. Nine times out of ten she was able to drop the apples that were the highest up on the trees. When she had garnered a nice pile of them, she played a sport she had as a young girl. She tossed the apple high in the air and with lightning fast reflexes, cleaved it with her arrow before it even hit the ground.
Jack had been impressed as he had never seen a woman with the prowess with a bow like his dear wife.

As she gathered the apples and placed them in her saddlebag, she heard the sound of clapping.
"Well done, Milady. Well done!"
She looked up and into the eyes of Thomas Banks.

As it always did when she was near him, she felt a cold chill come over her.
She said cooly, "Hello, Tom. What brings you to this orchard?"
He casually dismounted his steed and tethered him to a tree.
"I'm on my way back from town and decided to take the meadowlands to cut down on time. It truly is seredipitous to meet you here."
She coiled the whip and placed it next to the reins of Aphrodite, saying nothing.
Tom took another tack. "I was watching you with the bow and arrow and-----"
"Do you always make it a habit to spy on someone without making your presence known, Mr. Banks?"
Her slightly frosty tone was not lost on Tom.
"It always is a pleasure to watch a beautiful woman with a bow. Like watching the goddess Diana."
"You are a learned man, Thomas Banks. You know your Greek mythology."
Tom grinned. "My mother insisted. And Diana was Roman, not Greek. Greek would be Artemis."
Cecily retorted, "Then you surely know what happened to Actaeon."

Thomas picked up an apple, bit into it and then offered her a bite. She ignored his gesture.
Thomas replied, "Diana was bathing in the woods when the hunter Actaeon stumbled across her, thus seeing her naked. He stopped and stared, amazed at her ravishing beauty. Once seen, Actaeon was punished by the goddess herself. She forbade him speech. If he tried to speak, he would be changed into a stag for the unlucky profanation of her virginity's mystery. Upon hearing the call of his hunting party, he cried out to them and immediately was changed into a stag. His own hounds then turned upon him and tore him to pieces."

Cecily mounted her horse and Aphrodite danced in place as Cecily grabbed the reins.
She said with all seriousness, "I would highly suggest you heed the lesson that Actaeon learned too late, Mr. Banks," and galloped off.

Tom stood there, staring at her retreating form. He said softly, "Not a bad way to die, Mrs. Roberts. Not a bad way at all...."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/10/2007 21:55:21

Black Jack's blue green eyes blazed from the only openings of his famous mask, the eye holes. Watching the northern road leading into Devonshire from the cover of the thick foliage of the surrounding wood. Given the information of the redcoats that his imposter had rode off to the north, and armed with his own knowledge that the northern road had almost always provided the best "game". He felt certain that should his imitator make an appearance this coming night it would be somewhere along this road.

Turning his eyes to the sky he guessed that it would be another two hours before the sun would set. His gloved hand reached down to idly stroke Raven's neck as he waited. Feeling a shiver run down the mount's muscles he smiled beneath the hood. In all the time Raven had been his the midnight stallion had never once given away his position when they were in hiding. More than once he suspected the dark horse of an uncanny intelligence.

Suddenly a shot rang out from around the bend where the road disappeared from his sight, followed almost immediately by the far off wail of a feminine scream. Jack tapped his heels into Raven's flanks, and the inky shadow formed by horse and rider burst from the deepening greenery to thunder up the tan colored highway in a fury of motion and thundering hooves.

As he topped the small hill overlooking the lush open meadow of a small valley with a lone oak tree a dozen yards from the road his suspicions were confirmed. There near the second bend in the road, just before it led back into the canopy of the forest, was a small coach. The driver lay prone in the dirt while a young couple were being held at pistol point by a cloaked figure in black. Jack's heels dug into Raven as he urged the athletic stallion to greater speed.

The sound of Raven's rapid hoof beats brought the masked figure around in a whirl. A second shot rang out into the evening sky and Jack heard the distinct whine of a ball as it flew past him a foot or two to his left. Rapidly closing the distance between himself and his dark twin, he noted that the figure sheathed his second pistol and made for the rapier beneath his cloak.

"Now it be my turn, Laddie Buck!" Jack hissed beneath his breath as he pulled one of his own twin French flintlocks and fired. The sharp clang of bullet meeting steel brought a grim smile to his face as his imposter's sword flew from his numb fingers.

The young couple had taken advantage of the sudden disturbance to vanish into the wood a few yards to the other side of the dirt road, counting their blessings as they fled. Jack brought Raven to a skidding halt and lightly leapt from the saddle, his own broad bladed rapier drawn. A loud crack followed by a numbing sensation in his wrist sent the weapon clattering to the ground. Only the thick leather of his gloves gauntlet had prevented his wrist from being slashed. He looked up to see his enemy sporting a twelve foot black bullwhip with a steel ball hilt.

"Ye've done yer homework, I'll give ye that!" Jack growled at his mirror image as his left hand filled with the familiar feel of Old Hob's braided handle. "Let's see just how good you are!"

"Ye'll find I'm more than a match for the likes of you, Jack Roberts!" The black hooded copy spat back. "Or should I call you, Robert Johnson?!!"

Jack hesitated in surprise at the sound of his alias name. This imposter was too well versed in Jack's secrets it would seem. Barely side stepping the coils of the villain's whip as it snapped into the empty air he had just vacated a split second before.

Old hob's own braided length snaked out into the lengthening shadows ripping a two foot gash into the stranger's cloak as he whipped it forward to serve as a shield from the deadly leather. Quickly stepping back his own whip hissed through the air aimed at Jack's masked face.

Jack Roberts dropped to one knee and sent Old Hob flying sideways to wrap around the left booted ankle of his assailant. Smiling in satisfaction as a good foot of it's length wrapped around the target Jack pulled backwards with all the strength in his arm. The curses of the other Black Jack filled the air as he tumbled backward and a lone black plume drifted down from Jack's cavalier hat, severed by the near miss just before he had ducked.

Quickly the false Jack kicked Old Hob's coils from his boot and scrambled for his rapier beneath the coach where Robert's shot had sent it. Rolling to the far side he slapped the already skittish horses sending the driverless carriage careening up the dusty road. Using the sudden dust cloud for cover he lunged for the spot he had last seen his intended victim stabbing blindly. For the moment lady luck smiled upon him and he grinned in satisfaction at the grunt of pain the blind strike brought forth.

Jack Roberts cursed his ill luck beneath his breath. The rapier had struck just below his elbow. Though just a flesh wound by comparison to the numerous other injuries he had received in his life, the shock had been enough to disarm him yet again. Then he saw his own blade not six feet from where he stood. In a desperate attempt to regain his chances he made a dive for the discarded weapon. Grabbing the hilt Jack came up on one knee just in time to catch the downward slash aimed for his throat on his own blade.

Had any other save the two black stallions been witness to the raging sword fight that followed they would have soon lost track as to which of the combatants was the real Black Jack Roberts. The ringing sound of steel meeting with steel filled the glade as the battle slowly progressed to the lone Oak tree in the meadow.

His opponent was good, there was no denying that. Rarely had Jack been pressed this hard in a fair sword fight. Still the edge was Jacks, for it was obvious the imposter lacked in experience if not in skill. Jack slipped his notched blade down along the length of his adversary, a risky maneuver, but the other Jack was ill prepared for the unorthodox move. The tip of Jack's sword lodged in the wire hilt just below where his shot had broken one of the wires that made the basket. With a quick twist and jerk he pulled the weapon away, sending it a dozen feet from it's owner.

With the tree to his back, and Jack's steel at his throat there was little option for the imposter save surrender. His hands raised to the level of his chest, hands showing their gloved palms. "Go ahead Roberts!" He sneered. "Kill me as you did my poor sister!"

"Your sister??!!" Jack bellowed. "I don't even know who you are, and I have never in my life killed a woman!"

"You killed mine!" The defeated shadow screamed back. "Just as surely as if you pulled the trigger yourself!! She loved you, and you brought her to her death!! Allow me to enlighten you!!"

The figure reached up to pull the silk hood from his head, hat and all. Jack's blue green eyes widened in shock as features as distinctive as Katherine's came into view. "I am Michael Fairchild, and you are the man who got the last member of my family who would even speak to me killed!!"

In his shock Jack failed to see Michael's left hand sneak into his cloak to reappear with a dagger. Too late he tried to twist away from the sudden thrust and the blade lodged into his left side. Jack crumpled to the grassy floor with a stunned grunt, and Michael quickly kicked the dropped rapier away.

He reached down and pulled Jack's head back by the mask, peering into Jack's pain filled eyes with ones that blazed with pure hate. His dagger pressed against Jack's throbbing jugular vein. "I should kill you here and now, Roberts!" Michael hissed. "But that would be far to easy a fate. First I will ruin you! I will destroy all that you have! Then, and only on my terms, will I send you to the Hell you belong in!"

Michael Fairchild spit into Jack's face, and sent one knee deep into his solar plexus, knocking the wind completely from Jack's lungs. Snatching up his belongings he mounted his own dark hued steed. "We shall meet again, Black Jack Roberts!" He shouted. "And on that day you will die at my hand!!"

Spinning his mount around, Michael Fairchild vanished into the wood. Leaving Jack defeated, with as much pain in his soul as he felt in his wounds.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/11/2007 20:43:56

The setting sun cast a dark shadow across the parlor in Cecily and Jack's cottage. She bit her lip in worry and tried to keep her mind on her sewing. Everytime she thought she heard something, she jumped up to peer out the window. No sign of Jack or Raven.
Finally she couldn't stand it any longer. She grabbed her cloak and fastened it. Then she hastily left a note on the table propped up against a candle and saddled up Aphrodite.
The mare pawed the ground anxiously. Cecily whispered, "I know, dear. You wonder where your love is, too."
She swung her leg over the horse and said, "Let's go find those bad boys and bring them home. Then we can punish them. After we make sure they are alright."


Annabelle sat by her fireplace warming herself. She prodded the fire and the flames leaped in the air. All of a sudden, a chill wrapped itself around her. Dafar, her black and white cat mewed and leaped on the mantel.
Annabelle stood up quickly. "Oh dear God, no. Not again. Not to Jack..." she whispered frantically.
She hurried over to the hook where her cloak was and she quickly grabbed a basket and filled it with herbs and salves and potions.
To Dafar, she said, "I know not the where or when, Dafar. I only know that something bad has happened. I see a blade. And a dark horse. Riderless."
She saddled her horse up and headed in the direction of the Crossbow.
'Please. Let it be a premonition gone awry....'


Cecily rode like the wind through the woods until she connected with the main road. She remembered to bring her whip and her bow and arrows in case she ran across any wolves, both the four-legged and the two-legged kind.
She cantered up to the stables. Tom Banks jumped up and said, "Cecily, what are you-----"
She jumped down and threw the reins to Tom. "Please see to it she is watered," and ran into the tavern.
George and Geoff were sitting tensely at the bar, drinking an ale. Josiah was leaning over and talking to them in a low voice.
Cecily stood there and said, "Where is he? Have you seen Jack?"
A note of hysteria creeped into her voice. "Where is my husband?"
Geoff beckoned her forward and said, "We don't rightly know for sure, Cecily. He left here this morning."
George hesitated and Josiah nodded for him to continue. "Um..Cecily..well, it seems..."
"What? WHAT?"
Josiah said sadly, "He left in his black cape. And rode like the hounds from hell were after him."
Cecily put her hand to her lips and whispered, 'Dear God. No. NO!'

Just then, Annabelle burst into the tavern. All eyes turned to her.
"Something is wrong. And we need to waste no time."

No sooner were the words out of her mouth when a young couple, well-to-do, rushed into the tavern. "Call the constable! Quickly!"
Josiah said, "Hold up! Before we do that, we need an explanation."
He set two tankards in front of the couple.
The man, most likely in his late twenties, tried to catch his breath. "We were the victims of an intended robbery. Our coach was held up on the north road to Devonshire."
"By Black Jack Roberts, no less!" the woman could barely speak.
Cecily grasped the back of her chair and gasped. "Not possible. That can't be! He promised---"
Molly grabbed her by the arm and said tightly, "Dear, come with me. Little Robert wants to see his aunt," and she led Cecily out of the room.

Once out of earshot, Molly said, "Cecily, I know you are beside yourself but please! Calm down!"
Cecily whirled on her. "Calm down? CALM DOWN? Molly, my husband has been gone since early morning. We are talking almost twelve hours here. Now I find out that he is Black Jack Roberts, Highwayman extraordinaire again? After he promised me he would never again take up the mask? Dear God, what am I going to do, Molly? He should have been home hours ago!"

Annabelle came into the room and said worriedly, "I don't mean to alarm anyone but I had a premonition. A black riderless horse and a blade."
Cecily put her fist to her mouth and tried not to scream. "We have to do something!"
She clutched Annie's shoulders. "Annie, we can't let anything happen to Jack. Not again! Not after Culpepper's poisoned blade! My God, the last time it almost killed him."
Annie tried to calm Jack's love.
"Cecily, for all I know, Raven could be lame and Jack is having to walk home. The blade could mean he is being extra cautious and...."
Before she could finish, Cecily strode quickly into the tavern's great room.
Her chin was tilted up in determination.
"Geoff. George. Josiah. We are going out and we are looking for Jack. Gather your lanterns. Blankets. And weapons. Annie, take your medicines with you."
Annabelle replied, "They are all in my leather pouch on the saddle."

Cecily moved like a woman with a burning purpose. Geoff and George sat there, stunned but sprang into action at her commands.
Josiah took her by the shoulders and said, "Lassie, this is best left to the men. The search party. Why not go home and------"
"No. My husband is out there and I intend to find him. With or without you, Josiah. I may be a Lord's daughter but I am also a wife. And right now my husband is errantly late in returing home."
She shook his hands off and said tightly, "No one is telling me to stay home and knit, waiting for him to walk through the door. So get that out of your mind."
She turned on her heel and strode out into the courtyard.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/14/2007 12:31:30

Raven had trotted over to where his master had pulled himself up to lay with his back against the lone Oak. A soft breeze stirred the tall grasses of the meadow as the stars began to twinkle in the rapidly fading light of the sun. Lowering his magnificent head the coal black horse breathed in his friend's sent and snorted. When this elicited no response he gently nudged Jack's head with his muzzle. A low moan and the free gloved hand rose weakly to stroke him under his jaw line.

"I live yet, Old Friend." Black Jack Robert's voice came weakly to the stallion's ears. "Yet I fear I've not the strength to stand just yet." The low chuckle turned into a wracking cough.

"I'm fairly certain that young master Fairchild's blade missed anything vital." He continued as the fit subsided.

Raven twisted his long neck back towards his saddle over and over until he had reached the object he sought. As the fine line of the animal's features came back around to the confused Jack's line of vision there from Raven's jaws hung his canteen.

Keeping his right hand pressed firmly over the still bleeding wound in his side Jack reached up to grasp the container of life giving water. "My thanks again, Old Friend." He smiled beneath his hood as he took the canteen. "Good thing your former master had no idea what a prize you truly are. Otherwise he would have given me no excuse to take you from him."

Raven snorted his agreement.

Laying the canteen in his lap Jack pulled the black silk hood from his head. Then grasping the cork with his teeth he freed it from the mouth of the leather bladder. Spitting the cork some distance away he drank like a man dying from thirst instead of blood loss. Then tilting the bag between his knees he filled his gloved hand and held it up for Raven to drink.

Thankfully night had fallen and with Raven's dark bulk between him and the road over a couple dozen yards away it would be unlikely any errant travelers would spot him in the tall grasses. Not that many would be traveling in the night with his imitator reeking havoc in his name. Now there was something to ponder.

In his earlier days, after he had first donned the costume, Jack had been a very cautious man. Some would have said too cautious. On a whim he had decided to form a gang of highwaymen. A trusted core with whom he could rob the gentry of England blind. He spared no expense to delve deeply into the background of each potential member before revealing his true identity to them. Even that of his romantic interest, Katherine Fairchild.

There was a birth certificate for a younger brother, Michael, but according to the official documents he had died at birth. Jack had thought nothing more of it at the time, assuming that Katherine was the only surviving child. Now there was reason to doubt the authenticity of those documents. Could it be that they were forgeries, paid for by Katherine's parents? It was rare, but not unheard of, and a sure way to make certain that a disowned child would have no recourse to an inheritance later.

It would also explain Kath's rebellious nature. If she had still loved her brother, her wild lifestyle and mannerisms would go a long way in revenge upon her parents for driving him away. It was her tomboy ways that had first fascinated Jack, in the guise of Robert Johnson. Never before had he met a woman of such strong will to defy the conventions of society as she did. Later he had made it a point to meet with her as Black Jack Roberts.

Soon they had become lovers and true to her nature she had insisted on joining with him and the rest. Even going so far as to have a costume identical to Jack's. It was this that had given Jack the idea to have costumes made for George and Geoff to confuse the footmen. For three years they had rode side by side and loved. Then he had been foolish enough to propose. She left him for another barely a fortnight later.

Perhaps Young Fairchild had a valid point. Had he not pursued Katherine, had she not tried to return to him she would yet live. Loving him had gotten her killed as surely as if Jack had done the deed himself. There was none other to blame but himself for her death. Jack would be damned if he would have Cecily share the same fate. No woman had ever meant as much to him as Cecily. She would not pay the price for his misdeeds. Of that Jack Roberts would make certain, even at the cost of his own life.

Reaching up for Raven's reigns he gripped them tightly with his free hand. "Pull boy." he choked, ignoring the waves of agony that burst from his side as Raven slowly backed up.

Finally up on his feet Jack staggered to the horses side, Raven's head following his every move. Reaching up for the silver gilded saddle horn he placed one booted foot into the stirrup and heaved. The final effort proved too much for his weakened state and he promptly fell back onto the grassy plain unconscious.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/14/2007 20:01:55

The search party of four set out as the sun dipped below the horizon. George and Annabelle set down one road, Geoff and Cecily down the other. They would meet up in a few miles where the roads converged again.
It was agreed that Josiah would stay at the tavern and carry on business. It would keep suspicion down, since the twins were absent. And if Jack came back to the Crossbow, heaven only knew what shape he would be in.

As the moon rose in the sky, Cecily sat straight in the saddle. Her hands ached from grasping the reins tightly. Not so much to hold on, but to give her hands something--anything--to do.
Better that than wringing them in anguish.
Geoff leaned over. "Are you alright, Cecily?"
She released a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. "I've been better, Geoff."
He nodded but said nothing more. What could he say?

As they trotted along, the lantern shining at the side of the road and into the thick tangle of trees, Cecily wondered if Raven was with Jack. Riderless, that is what Annabelle said. It could mean anything. That Raven had been off...or...or...
Cecily refused to give in to that notion.

As they rode in silence, she thought back to the time that Sir Peter Culpepper sliced Jack's shoulder with a poisoned blade. Cecily sat with Jack through the day and into the night, bathing his face to keep his fever down. Josiah had said it was his love for Cecily that kept him alive. Maybe so, she thought, but it was Annabelle that gave the potion that abated the poison.
And in that moment, Cecily had found a fast friend.

"Geoff, are you sure we are heading towards the northern road?"
"Aye, Cecily. And if this doesn't pan out, we shall travel over towards the west."
They rode in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Geoff looked over at his friend's wife and noted the change in the young woman.
He had always thought of Cecily as young and delicate, the way Jack had pampered and adored her. But a determined and relentless woman was sitting on the horse next to him. Geoff wondered if he or George would ever find the kind of love those two had found and....

"Geoff! Look! Over there!"
Before Geoff could stop her, Cecily had jumped down from Aphrodite and ran through the thicket of grass and scrub.
Standing like a sentry was a stallion.
A stallion named Raven.

Raven caught sight of Cecily and whinnied. She ran up to him and hugged him.
"Raven! Oh, Raven! Show me where he is! Show me where Jack is!"
He tossed his head towards the tree. Barely able to make him out because of his dark clothes, she saw Jack lying near the tree.
"Jack!" She yelled, "GEOFF! I found him! I FOUND HIM!"

Cecily bent over him and heard his shallow breathing. She whispered a prayer of thanks to God.
She put her hands on his chest and her hands came away with something sticky.
What was it?
'Dear God.' she breathed. 'OH, DEAR GOD!'

She clutched his hands and said, "Oh, my darling! Who did this to you?"
Geoff was at her side in a flash. He shone the lantern over Jack's prone figure and uttered a profanity.
"Hold the lantern, Cecily."
He handed it to her and he did a cursory examination of Jack.
"He's been stabbed. Damn it, he's been STABBED!"
Cecily raised his head and whispered frantically, "Jack. Jack! Talk to me, darling! Please! Stay with me!"
Geoff pressed around near the wound. Jack moaned.
He turned to Cecily and said, "The vital organs seem to be alright but he has lost a great deal of blood. The fact that it is getting colder out helped keep him from bleeding out but we need to be concerned he is not freezing to death."
She cradled Jack's head on her lap. "We need to get him back to the tavern. NOW!"
Geoff stood up and took the lantern. "I'll ride to the road and get George and Annabelle. She can put a poultice or something on it to keep him from bleeding even more when we move him. Cecily, will you be alright here?"
She smiled wanly and said, "No one knows it but I have a pistol under this cloak."
Geoff said, "I'll be no more than half an hour. George will be there. An advantage of being a twin. I can feel his presence and we always had a mental telepathy."
He went back to his horse and took a blanket.
"Good idea you had to bring these, Cecily. Stay warm."
He covered Jack with one and gave the other one to Cecily.
"And take this."
He handed her a flask of whiskey and a canteen of water. With that, he mounted his horse and galloped off.

With the warmth of the blanket, Jack started to regain consciousness. Cecily could feel her eyes fill with tears.
"Oh, my darling...."
He began to focus his eyes on her face and reached up to weakly touch her cheek.
"Ce-Cecily? Am I dreaming?"
She felt the tears run down her face and she held him as close as she dared. "No, you are not dreaming. Geoff, George, Annabelle and I went searching for you."
Raven came up and nuzzled Cecily's neck.
She reached up and touched the horse's nose. "Thank you, Raven. Thank you for taking such good care of him."
She opened the canteen and raised Jack's head.
"Drink some of this."
He drank and coughed. "I--I have to explain...."
She shook her head and said, "Plenty of time for that, my love."
And then she heard hoofbeats on the road. Within a minute, George and Geoff were standing next to her.
Jack tried to smile and said, "If I didn't know better, I would think I was seeing double."
George grinned, "The worst is yet to come. You still have Annabelle to deal with."
Annabelle came forward and said briskly, "Alright, young man. Let's see what trouble you managed to get yourself into."
She deftly looked at the wound and shook her head. "You were right, Geoff. Blood loss but vital organs were missed."
She reached into her saddlebag and put a cloth saturated with some sort of salve on it.
Jack moaned and George said, "Let's get him home."

They lifted him up gently and put him on Geoff's horse. Geoff rode in back of him, supporting him and Cecily took Raven alongside Aphrodite. The mare kept leaning over and nuzzling the coal black stallion.
Cecily patted her neck and said, "I know how you feel, love. We have them back."

And with a slow and steady pace, they headed towards the road that led to the Crossbow Inn.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/15/2007 20:10:07

Malcolm leaned forward and set his empty glass down on the polished walnut desk's finish. Inwardly he smiled at the slight grimace of displeasure that crossed Sir Peter's features. It was his silent statement that he did not care what the nobleman thought. He was in charge of this situation. His brow knitted slightly as his eyes bored into Culpeppers.

"Sir Blackwood is less than pleased by your handling of the Hammond affair." Dagget's voice was low, deep, and slightly laced with menace.

Sir Peter struggled to keep the shakiness he felt inside from crossing over into his voice. "And why should his lordship be displeased?" He felt the sweat begin to bead on his brow, unbidden. "He ordered Hammond removed, and I had him removed."

"Aye." Malcolm leaned slightly forward. "But did you have to resurrect Black jack Roberts to do the deed?"

Sir Peter swallowed hard. "And why should that upset sir Blackwood?" He all but stammered.

"Sir Terrance is all too aware of your vendetta against this so called Highwayman." Dagget continued. "In his sudden absence Lord Blackwood put certain plans into motion. The king's men had become just lax enough for the plans to finally be set into motion."

The tall dark haired man set back in his chair in disgust. "Now thanks to your little game with Roberts ye've stirred up a bloody hornets nest! King George has all but doubled his guards and footmen!! Ye've all but brought Sir Blackwood's plans to a grinding halt. Plans that called for Hammond's elimination."

Culpepper's eyes grew wider in fear as Malcolm's voice rose in timber. "Now what his lordship wants to know is what are you going to do to correct this intolerable situation?"

Jack lay on the overstuffed leather couch in the office of The Crossbow. Anne Peterson had insisted they take him to the closest room. Traveling back to the inn had placed even more of a strain upon his weakened condition, and though she had kept a matter of fact attitude for Cecily's sake she was very worried.

Jack's blood loss was far more extensive than was good for any man, and inwardly Annie was appalled at the whiteness of his face. Just how close he was to death's door she couldn't be certain, but she knew it couldn't be far. What was keeping Jack's spirit nailed to his body was beyond her.

They had brought him in through the kitchen door to avoid the customers. Cecily had insisted on washing the blood from him and changing his clothes herself. Hurling the costume of Black jack Roberts into the raging fireplace with disgust. Now she knelt at his side holding his hand, willing life into a body that by all Annie knew should have been long dead.

Suddenly there was a commotion in the main hall, and they could hear Josiah's voice raised in outrage. "Ye've no right to be searchin' here!! This is a respectable establishment, and ye damn well know it!!!"

As one Cecily and Anne made for the door. The look of steel resolve in the young blonde's eyes was unmistakable. Who ever it was would enter this room over her dead body. They came from around the bar to a scene that turned Anne's blood to ice. There in the middle of the hall were no less than six armed soldiers.

"Ah, Mrs. Johnson, isn't it?" Sergeant Major Barclay smiled. "and could you tell me just where your husband is, miss?"

For a split second Cecily froze, then her iron will to protect her love at all costs took her over. With a matter of fact attitude that amazed all who knew she answered. "Why Sergeant Major, just why would you want to disturb my husband, sir? He's been going over the books all day and has just laid down for a short nap. He works so hard at his business, you know."

For all intents and purposes Cecily presented the picture of a highborn lady discussing the weather with a chamber guest. Barclay, however, was not impressed in the least. "Then I'm afraid I must ask you to wake him, Mrs. Johnson. I must insist."

"But what ever for?" Cecily continued nonchalantly. "Has he broken some law?"

"We've had a report from a young couple from Bath, here on their honeymoon." Barclay spoke in an official tone, stepping closer to the pretty blonde woman. His eyes locked with the azure gems of hers. "They were attacked by Black Jack Roberts this eve. When we got to the area we found some strange things. Someone had left behind a copious amount of blood, and the hoof prints of several horses, all leading in this direction."

Now almost nose to nose with Cecily he bore down upon her, intending to make her break if she knew anything. "What ever else happened there Black Jack was seriously wounded. Now will you call you husband or shall my men and I rouse him?"

Cecily's one hand went to her hip. To Anne's horror she saw her other hand close around the butt of a small flintlock hidden at her back. Cecily was about to shoot the Sergeant Major where he stood to protect Jack. Before she could interfere the office door opened.

"And just what does that have to do with me, or my wife, Sergeant Major?" Jack stood unwavering, and to Anne Peterson's utter astonishment walked over to place his arm around Cecily's waist. Taking the firearm from her in the process.

Barclay backed up several steps. Surprise flooding his face. "My pardon, Mr. Johnson. We are looking for a severely wounded man whom we suspect of being Black Jack Roberts."

"Well as you can see, there is no one wounded here, my good man." Jack laughed out loud.

"Yes," Barclay replied stonily, "I can see that very well, Sir. If you will excuse us we must continue our search elsewhere."

"Think nothing of it, Sergeant Major." Jack quipped flippantly as the redcoats turned to leave. "I must return to my own work now, but if there is anything I can do."

"Nothing at all, Mr. Johnson." The commander replied icily. "If you will excuse us."

Jack saluted the retreating footmen and led Cecily into the office. No sooner did the door close behind them then Jack collapsed to the floor. His last vestige of iron will fleeing his body, but at least Cecily was safe.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/17/2007 21:35:21

"JACK!" Cecily screamed. George and Geoff came bursting in.
Cecily frantically patted his face but Jack was unconscious.
"What the hell happened here, Cecily?" Geoff exclaimed.
Annabelle came right behind them and said, "Jack managed to rouse himself long enough to keep Ceciliy from a trip to the gallows."
She turned to Cecily and with all firmness, chastised her. "Do you realize, young lady, what would have happened if you had shot that major? You would be arrested and on your way to the gallows, no matter how pretty you are. And where would that leave your husband?"
Cecily whirled on Annie. "No one--NO ONE!--will come between Jack and me. Do you understand, Annabelle? Now he may have given his life for me and if anything happens to Jack, I WILL hunt down the major and the six lemmings with him and make sure they pay. And pay. And pay."
George stood up. "He's bleeding again. He must have ripped open the wound."
Cecily said, "He needs to be moved. He needs to be moved to the secret quarters. He won't be able to heal if he has to constantly worry he will be found out. Geoff? George? You need to move him up the back staircase by the kitchen. Give me five minutes to get the room ready."

When she was gone, Annabelle looked worriedly over at Jack. Josiah came in, mopping his brow. "I thought for sure Cecily would shoot that redcoat dead where he stood. Thank God that Jack managed to get that pistol away from her and...oh, dear God! He's not..."
Annabelle shook her head. "No. Although why he continues to live is beyond me. The man has taken hits that no mortal man should be able to bear."
Josiah led her out to the tavern. "Annabelle? Be honest with me. Will he live?"
She felt her eyes tear up. "I don't see how he possibly can. The blood loss....the exposure to the cold....God only knows how he managed to even walk out the door and act like nothing was wrong."
Geoff spoke up. "Love. His love for Cecily. That man will defend her with the last breath in his body."
Josiah said quietly, "Aye. But will it be enough?"

Cecily came downstairs. "Be careful. Move him slowly. Jack needs all the rest he can."
Annabelle started to protest but she held her tongue. What difference did it make anyways?
Very carefully, Geoff and George were able to move Jack to the bed. Cecily had already pulled the covers down. She had a few candles going and a few pitchers of water.
"One more favor, if you please, boys. I need you to move Raven to a corner stall that Jack has in security. No one is to tend to him but the two of you. Josiah, I need you to let the word out that Robert Johnson had to go to London on business. You expect him back in about a week unless he gets delayed. This will keep the King's men from snooping around again. Annabelle? We need to look at his wound again."

Cecily took out a knife and deftly cut Jack's clothes off. She pulled the blankets up over him and washed his face, all the while talking to him in a low soothing voice. She then turned to Annabelle and said, "Would you please look at it, Annie? Tell me what you think."
Annie looked at the wound. It was clean-edged but deep. She touched around it and Jack moaned in his unconsciousness. The gypsy began to mix a poultice of herbs and salve. She applied it and then bandaged the wound up.
Cecily looked up at her with hopeful eyes. "What now?"
"We wait. And pray. Cecily, Jack lost a great deal of blood. His body needs to replenish it."

Cecily took Jack's hand in hers and stroked his face.
"Then I wait. That is all I can do."
She kissed his hand and wouldn't let go.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/18/2007 12:30:47

Two nights later Jack's blue green eyes opened. For a moment he looked around not comprehending where he was, then recognition flooded his senses. His hidden room at the Crossbow. A place that had more than once saved his life. Cecily must have had him moved there, bless her. But why? Slowly his memory came back to him. The discovery of his impersonator, the fight on the northern road, the redcoats. The redcoats!! Cecily!!

In a near panic he began to rise from the bed when he spied his wife asleep in a quilted chair near the head of the bed. Then, and only then, did he feel the pain in his left side. Lowering himself back to the bed he stifled a moan lest he wake her. God only knew how long she had been there. Candles on the small round table were near half burned.

Light began to creep across the floor as a crack in the hidden door began to widen and he instinctively reached for one of his pistols that usually hung on the bedpost near his head. His hand closed on empty air, and the silhouette of a woman with long curled hair was momentarily revealed against the outside light.

Although not a sound had been made Cecily snapped awake and he saw one of the twins fill her hands. Apparently the French flintlock had been laying in her lap the whole time. Annabelle Peterson moved into the candle light, and Cecily relaxed her guard with a barely audible sigh of relief. Looking to the bed her sapphire eyes came to life with joy and love.

"Jack!" she whispered as tears of joy filled her large eyes and she flew to his side, dropping the flintlock to the floor. "Oh, My darling! You live! You Live!" She buried her face against his neck, and his hand came up to stroke her cascade of wavy golden hair.

"Aye." Annie's soft accented voice floated in the air as she retrieved the forgotten weapon and placed it onto the table. "But Duvall knows how."

Jack choked back his own tears as he whispered soft comforts to his love. Wanting nothing more than to stop her weeping. Weeping that he knew all to well he was the cause of. "Hush, My Sweet, I am fine, everything will be fine." He whispered into her hair gently kissing her head.

Cecil's head rose, her tear stained eyes searching his. "Why, My Love?? Why did you break your promise to me?? Why did you don the identity of Black Jack again?"

The pain and hurt in her voice and eyes sliced into Jack Robert's heart like a razor, making the pain in his side almost pleasant by comparison. "I am so sorry, Dearest." He breathed as his own eyes finally overflowed. "I've no choice in the matter. For the sake of your life, Black Jack Roberts must live again."

"My life?" Cecily raised up on the edge of the down mattress. "It is your life in jeopardy, Jack, not mine!"

"I wish that were true, Luv." He continued softly. "What you do not know is that there are a few beyond our little "family" who know that Jack Roberts and Robert Johnson are one and the same. They hold their tongues because of the few deeds of charity they have heard of Black Jack committing. Such as the farm we passed when we first met."

Cecily's eyes widened. "Yes, I remember."

Jack continued softly while Anne stood behind Cecily listening. "While these few know who I am, My Love, they do not know me. Should these few begin to believe that I am capable of the acts Michael is perpetrating in my name, I've no doubt they will come forward with proof that I am Black Jack Roberts. Then by English law you, as my wife, will be charged with aiding me, and hang by my side. That, My Heart is something I could not bear."

"Michael?" Anne interrupted. "Then you know the identity of the other Jack Roberts?!!"

Jacks eyes never left his wife's as he answered. "Aye, Annie.....It's Michael Fairchild."

"Fairchild?!!" Annabelle gasped. "But Katherine had no brother!!"

"It would seem that the reports of her younger brother's death were exaggerated, Luv." Jack grinned sarcastically.

"Wait." Cecily sat up on the edge of the bed taking Jack's hand in hers. "Do you mean to tell me that Katherine did have a brother, and he is the one impersonating Jack? Why for God's sake?"

"Revenge, Dearest." Jack spoke sorrowfully. "He blames me for her death, and to be honest, I'm not so sure he isn't right."

"Jack. It was not your fault, it was Culpepper's." Cecily held his hand tightly. "Never doubt that. Still, why would you have to become Black Jack again to stop him?"

"Because, Dearest, only if there are two of me to be seen together will there be doubt in the minds of those who can bring me down, and cause you harm." His voice turned serious. "For myself, I could care less, but for you, My wife. As long as I breathe and can prevent it I will stand between you and any harm. No matter what the cost."

The blonde haired beauty thought long and hard. The truth of her husbands words rolling over in her mind. Finally she spoke, her voice soft and determined. "Though I may not like it, Jack, I can see your point. I forgive you, and release you from your promise. However. Like yourself, Mr. Roberts, I can not bear the thought of your coming to harm either, so whether you like it, or not, I will do all in my power to bring Michael Fairchild down."

Jack had barely began to protest when her soft fingers touched his lips, cutting him off. "No arguments." The look in her eyes would not entertain any opposition. "You are severely wounded, I am free to help hunt this man down and I shall."

With that She quickly kissed him, stood and strode from the room, leaving him in open mouthed shock. Annie began to chuckle, then to laugh out loud. "Met your match, Dear Jack?" She half laughed.

"It would seem so, Luv." He mused. "Still...."

"Have no worry, Jack" Anne smiled as she began to change the dressing on his side. "George and Geoff are keeping a discreet eye on her. She is being protected."

"Thank you all, Annie." Jack sighed with relief.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/21/2007 22:09:04

Cecily walked down the back stairs into the kitchen. Josiah stood there and said, "How is he?"
Cecily smiled with tears in her eyes. "He's conscious and coherent and he's alive and he's wonderful and he's...."
She burst into tears of relief and Josiah gathered her in his arms. Molly came in and said with fear in her voice, "Mother of God! He'd dead!"
Cecily looked up and said, "No, Molly. In fact, he's conscious. And he is going to live!"
Molly put her hand to her bosom and breathed, "Thank the Lord!"
Cecily dabbed her eyes and said, "I need to get some of your finest stew. With plenty of meat. Jack is going to need it to build himself back up. And wine. He must have red wine."
She busied herself with a tray and put together a light dinner for her husband.
Molly took her hand and said, "Cecily, the man by rights should have died a long time ago. It's his love for you that keeps pulling him through."
Cecily gave her friend a hug and said, "It works both ways, Molly. Jack is my whole world. Without him, I would be nothing. And now I have to get this to him while it is still hot."
Molly watched her go up the stairs and she turned to her husband. "Josiah, she is up to something. Mark my words, Cecily Roberts won't take this lying down."
Josiah put his arms around his wife and drew her close. "How do you know, love?"
"Because she is too calm. Behind that calm exterior is a mind calculating something. I know Cecily. She's a woman. And her man has been wronged."
Josiah frowned, "Let's hope it will all be over before it gets to that point."

Cecily delivered the tray to Jack. Annabelle was bandaging the wound.
"Is it healing alright, Annie?"
She nodded. "No sign of infection and Jack seems to be on the mend. I swear, young man! You will be the death of me! Enough that I worry about my own son without worrying about you!"
Cecily handed Jack the tray and admonished, "Now eat slowly and drink this lightly, Jack. It will help build your blood up."
Jack winced as he reached for it. "Thank you, darling."
She took her cloak off the peg. Jack said, alarmed, "Cecily, where are you going?"
"To check on things at home. And to get a change of clothes. I'll be back in a bit."
She leaned over and gave him a kiss. "I'll give your regards to the kitty."
He watched as she closed the door.
"She's up to something, Annie."
The gypsy looked thoughtful and said, "Probably. But she's a smart lass. She won't do anything stupid. Geoff and George will make sure no harm comes to her."

Cecily walked down to the stables and patted Aphrodite. "Ready for a little ride, my sweet?"
She grabbed a blanket and threw it over her mare, then hoisted a saddle on her, buckling it underneath.
"Going somewhere?"
Cecily started at the voice.
"Tom." she said cooly.
"So....might I ask where you are going on such a fine moonlit night?"
She mounted her horse and said, "No, you may not."
She tapped Aphrodite with her boots and galloped out of the courtyard.
Tom's face darkened with the sting of her rebuke.
'Some day, Mrs. Roberts....some day you will regret you dismiss me as a mere servant...'

Cecily entered her house and was out again in fifteen minutes. George and Geoff were watching from the small copse of trees at the edge of the road.
George nudged his twin and pointed discreetly. "Now what do you suppose she is up to?"
Cecily was wearing a plain dress and an old cloak, carrying a piece of thin rope and a small pillow.
Geoff shrugged. "How should I know? You know I have no idea how the female mind works. But I have a feeling that whatever it is, it's a doozy."

Cecily climbed on the back of Aphrodite and headed towards Devonshire. George sighed and said, "And so it begins...."

Within fifteen minutes, Cecily rode up to the Red Fox Inn. The twins were in the shadows by the road.
"What the hell is she doing?" George whispered.
Cecily dismounted and pulling her cloak off, she laid it across the horse. She took the pillow and the rope and lifted her skirt. George and Geoff stared in amazement as Cecily's bloomers were on display!
She quickly tied the pillow to her stomach and dropped her skirt.
George and Geoff said in unison, "Oh my God!"
Because Cecily gave the appearance of a very pregnant woman.
George and Geoff pulled their hoods close to their faces.
Geoff could barely contain his laughter as he said, "Now THIS I have to see....!"

Staying out of Cecily's view, they watched the whole scene.
Cecily walked up to the tavern keeper and threw her hood off from around her face. She affected the walk of a woman about to deliver a baby.
"Excuse me, " she said. "I am trying to find a Michael Fairchild and I knew he had been headed this way."
"Problem, Ma'am?"
Cecily wrung her hands. "Isn't it obvious? He got me with child and then ran out on me! And I thought he should at least know he is about to be a father."
"No, Miss, I haven't seen or heard of this person."
She managed to squeeze out a few tears and wipe them with the back of her hand. "I don't know what I am going to do! My father is casting me out and I won't have a shilling for me and the babe and OHHHHH!"
She doubled over and the tavern keeper rushed forward.
"Are you alright, miss?"
She clutched her stomach and nodded. "Thank you. I'll be on my way then. T'wouldn't do to be dropping this baby on your floor now, would it?"
She left the tavern, to the relief of the innkeeper.

Geoff stood up and put his hood back up. "George, my brother, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it!"
George chuckled, "Now how can we ever explain this to Jack with a straight face?"
They laughed and said, "Maybe we won't, twin. Maybe we won't!"
Geoff sighed, "It's going to be a long night, brother. A long night. I have a feeling she isn't done. Not by a longshot."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/24/2007 21:21:19

Michael Fairchild lay on the bed in his small room cursing his ill luck. Roberts had been more than a match for his skills, and he had suffered a score of wounds from their confrontation. He had nearly fell from his horse half a dozen times from blood loss, and the leech had cost him a pretty penny for his silence.

It had taken everything he could muster to keep Roberts from knowing just how badly he had been injured, and only a quick act of treachery had saved his own life. It would seem that not all of the rumors he had heard of the man were untrue. Also he had come to realize that the costume served several purposes besides disguise and night camouflage. It also made it near impossible for an opponent to tell if you were wounded or not.

Michael had chosen the small village of Innswich some few miles north of Devonshire for its seclusion and sleepiness. Not a single soul had been out by the time he had made it back to his room and quickly bound his freely bleeding wounds with strips from the bed sheets. A change of clothes, and a quick trip to a local sawbones had taken care of the rest. Still it would be several weeks before he could continue his vendetta against Jack Roberts.

If there was still a Jack Roberts to continue against. In his anger and fear he had struck far deeper than he had intended. For all he knew he had killed the man, but he hoped not. That would be too quick, and spoil his plans. There had been no word of Black Jack's death, but then again it had only been a few days.

"Let him live." Michael hissed into the near darkness. "Let him live just long enough."

A discreet knock came at the wooden door. Michael broke off his dark thoughts of revenge, his right hand slipping beneath his pillow to grip the butt of his flintlock. "Aye. What be your business here?" He shouted from the bed.

The door opened, and he relaxed his grip on the pistol. Into the room came Bill Riggs, Culpepper's second in command in his smuggling operation. "Well it seems I heard correct then." The ill kept ruffian snickered. "Black Jack Roberts was severely wounded during a bit of robbery gone wrong. The real thing turned out ta be mor'n ye could handle there youngster?"

Michael Fairchild ignored the jibe. "I take it you have a letter for me from, Sir Peter?" He spoke barely hiding his distaste for the messenger.

"Aye, and a bit 'o advice fer ye." Riggs frowned tossing the letter onto the young man's chest. "Ye'll do well to keep out of sight for a while. Them redcoats are tearin' up the countryside looking for a severely wounded man they suspect of being Black Jack. We've had to stop operations 'cause the country be thick with patrols."

"Then they didn't find a body?" Michael asked a little too quickly.

"Nay just a lot of blood from what I take to be yer first meeting?" Bill sneered, eyeing Michael's many bandages.

"You needn't smile like that." Fairchild shot back. "Not all of that blood was mine."

"Didn't think so, Boyo." Bill grinned. "But ye didn't get the job done neither, did ya?"

"I never intended to." The young auburn haired man spoke half to himself. "I wanted Roberts to know who it was that would be his downfall. He'll suffer until he begs me to end his life."

"Not at the rate yer goin' he won't." Bill Riggs rose to leave. "By the way, I don't think you'll be liken the contents 'o that letter, Lad."

Michael quickly examined the unbroken seal for tampering. "Have you read it?" he asked angrily.

"Nay, youngster, but I did get one of my own. One that says to make certain you obey that one." Riggs laughed as he opened the door to leave. "And believe me, me young Cocker, ye will obey them orders."

Michael spat vehemently at the closed door, wincing as the sudden movement pulled at several stitches. He opened the letter and the blood drained from his face.


I know you have done well in our revenge against Jack Roberts. However, circumstances have dictated that we find another way to bring the villain to justice.

You must cease your impersonation of him immediately. Return to me here in Belfast and we will plot another way to bring about his downfall.

Lord Peter Culpepper"

Michael Fairchild's hands began to tremble with rage, and he tore the letter to shreds. Never! Never would he stop now! Not when he was so close to bringing Roberts down himself! He would not do it! Culpepper be damned! He would continue with the plan just as they had agreed in the Americas, and no one was going to stop him!


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/30/2007 19:19:03

Cecily repeated her little charade at The Royal Oaks, The White Hart, The Dog and Duck, The King's Arms and finally The dim bulb and Bull.
Each time she was handed the same story. No, there was no one of that name. Finally, as she exited The dim bulb and Bull, she unfastened the rope and let the pillow drop to the ground. She kicked it in frustration, setting it sailing into the bushes.
George started to laugh and Geoff smacked him in the chest.
"Shh! Do you want Cecily to hear you?"
George snorted with quiet laughter. "But..but she just dropkicked Jack's first-born to Kingdom Come!"
Geoff couldn't help but whisper, "Wonder if it was a bairn or a lassie?"
To which George muffled his uncontrollable laughter into his gloved hand.
Cecily mounted Aphrodite and drew her cloak around her, keeping her face hidden as she rode off.
George yawned, "I hope she is headed for the Crossbow. I'm about ready to fall asleep in the sadde."
His twin quipped, "Not to mention a tankard of whiskey would be nice."
They reined their horses and followed her at a discreet distance.


"WHAT THE HELL YOU WANT?" was the response the tavern wench heard to her knock at the door.
She opened the door and stuck her head in.
"Don't take that attitude with ME, Michael Fairchild!"
He scowled. "Sorry, Bess. I'm in a bit of pain here, as you can see."
She brought him a bowl. "I thought you may be a bit hungry and so I snuck this out of the kitchen."
He eagerly reached for it, trying not to wince from the pain.
"I appreciate it, I do. I'm just a bit out of sorts."
Bess sat on the edge of the bed and tucked her legs under her. She produced a tankard of ale.
"Thought you might want this too."
He grabbed it and drank from it greedily. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he leaned back against the pillows.
"Bess, ye are an angel sent from heaven."
She gave him a sly grin and said, "And I bring glad tidings just like the angels. Someone was here tonight, looking for ye."
Michael immediately felt his gut tighten up. How could Black Jack Roberts be up and scouring the countryside for him?
Bess continued, "It were a woman."
His attention was focused on her. "A woman?"
"Pretty little thing she were. Wore a black cloak and was riding a dappled horse. Blonde. Startling blue eyes."
"Could be one of many, Bess."
"Maybe you knew this one nine months ago."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"This one was with child."
"And your point is....?"
"She claims it is yours."
Unfortunately Michael Fairchild just took a drink of ale and started to choke.
"Some doxy is trying to blame me because she is carrying a brat?"
Bess shrugged. "I don't know. But she seemed awful anxious to talk to ye."
She took his bowl and tankard and winked, "I'll be up to tuck ye in, Michael. After closing."
The door closed quietly behind her.
Michael Fairchild bit his lip in concentration. Who could it possibly be?

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/01/2007 16:17:31

Cecily rode towards the direction of the Crossbow. George breathed a sigh of relief. "Finally!"
Geoff replied, "I can almost feel that whiskey going down my throat now."
"Let's go!"
They followed at a discreet distance, keeping out of sight. Cecily gently kicked Aphrodite in the flanks to pick up the pace.
And within a half hour, she came into view of the Crossbow.

Josiah met her in the courtyard, his hands on his hips. "What took ye so long, Cecily? Yer husband be gettin' a bit antsy and nervous over yer return."
Cecily climbed down and led Aphrodite towards the stable.
"I'll be up in a minute. Please tell Jack I have to curry her down and feed her."
Josiah retorted, "We have stablehands fer that and ye know it! Afraid to face yer husband as to where ye been?"
Cecily flared up, "And what is THAT supposed to mean? You think I have another man on my mind?"
Josiah got his face in hers. "Aye! That I do! And his name be Michael Fairchild!"
Cecily felt her face get hot. "Josiah, I went home and picked up some clothes for myself and a few things for Jack. If you have noticed, I had to cut his clothes off and he can't possibly go home when he is able to in nature's own, can he? So if you will excuse me, I'll be spending the night under the covers with my beloved."
She walked off and Josiah yelled after her, "Aiming to be a widow, Cecily? Because any physical contact will kill him!"
She turned and saw Josiah grinning at her. She burst out laughing and waved to him as she walked into the tavern.

George and Geoff had waited discreetly until Cecily was in the tavern before they came into the stables.
Josiah was leading Aphrodite into a stall as they came trotting in. He handed the mare's reins to a stableboy and asked the twins, "So, where was she? And don't tell me she was in her house the whole time. Her cloak was splashed with mud and she was acting very cagey."
They both dismounted and handed their horses over to the other stableboys.
Geoff said, "Are you sure she will be in the room with Jack?"
"Aye. She has that 'hold me' look on her face. She won't be down."
George grinned and said, "You won't believe it."
Josiah said darkly, "She's Mrs. Jack Roberts. I'll believe anything."
"Then fill up the tankards with your best whiskey and we shall tell you a tale that even WE can't quite believe and we were there...."


Cecily walked through the tavern. Molly stopped and said, "And where have YOU been? That husband of yours is going out of his mind with worry!"
She took off her cloak and hung it on a peg. "I know and I'm so sorry. I laid down on the bed for a few minutes and before I knew it, I fell asleep. I guess the past few days just caught up with me."
She mounted the stairs to go to the safe room.
Molly called to her, "I want to talk to you when you are done, you know..."
Cecily heaved a sigh and thought, 'How can I ever tell them of my hare-brained scheme?'

She entered the room just as Jack said, "I swear, if she doesn't show up in the next few minutes, I'll personally....CECILY!"
She smiled sheepishly and said, "I'm so sorry, my love. I fell asleep. Here--some clothes for you. Have you had anything to eat?"
Jack frowned, "Do you have ANY idea how worried I was?"
She sat next to him, putting her arms around him. "I know and I am so sorry, darling. Can you forgive me?"
She looked up at him with her sapphire eyes and he knew if she asked for the moon, he'd get it for her.
He sighed, "As long as you are alright. That is all that matters."
Annabelle smiled at the two of them. "And as long as you are here, Cecily, I shall turn the nursing duties over to you. His dressing has been changed and here is an herbal tea for healing."
Cecily said devilishly, her eyes never leaving Jack's face, "Another tonic, Annie?"
Annie laughed and said, "No. Not at all! Take some yourself, Cecily. THIS tea will bring you slumber!"
She closed the door quietly behind her.

Cecily walked to the door and locked it. Jack laughed, "Alone at last!"
She stood there and slowly unlaced her dress. Jack gave her a grin and said, "You have a streak of cruelty in you, Mrs. Roberts! Unwrapping and not a thing I can do about it!"
She smiled as she slid under the quilt with him. Drawing him close, she whispered, "Maybe not but we have each other and that is all that matters."
She wrapped herself in his arms, careful not to lean on his wound. He held her close and said, "I don't want you to go looking for Michael Fairchild. While you were gone, it was my biggest fear that you would take matters into your own hand. You don't know what he looks like. I do."
Cecily drew away and looked at Jack's face. "And what does he look like?"
He shook his head. "No, Cecily. I"m not telling you. You will be looking at every man that fits that description. Best let us take care of it in our own way. We are working on a fool-proof plan."
She was quiet.
Jack tilted her chin up to his and gazed into her eyes with his turquoise ones.
"I promise I will not go looking for Michael Fairchild."
He smiled at her and held her close. "That is all I ask, my love." He kissed her forehead and yawned. Cecily snuggled deeper into Jack's embrace and as she listened to his rhythmic breathing as he slept, she whispered, "I may not go looking for him, my darling. But if he ever crosses my path, I shall show no mercy."
And before she knew it, she was fast asleep in his arms.
The only place she ever wanted to be.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/04/2007 18:54:40

For once Annie's potions had little effect, Jack Roberts lay wide awake, idly stroking the golden locks of his love as she snuggled closer to him in sleep. That she had attempted to find Michael he had little doubt. George or Geoff would soon confirm the suspicion. The trouble was that even without a description of the man it would not be hard to pick him out. His features were so close to Katherine's that they might as well have been twins, and Cecily was no fool. Not by a long shot.

That she had failed this time could only mean one thing. As he had suspected his blade had bit home more than once. It was so hard to tell in the heat of battle, and the black fabric hid blood too easily. He had been mere moments from cutting the young man's throat when Michael had revealed his identity. Only that face had caused Jack to hesitate, and that had damn near killed him. How long before Cecily would find him?

Worse yet, what if Michael should guess her identity? What was the vengeance crazed youth capable of to get to him? He shuddered involuntarily at the thought, sending a wave of agony radiating out from his side. Cecily stirred slightly as he bit his lip and pulled her closer. Jack could afford to lose anything but her.

The secret door opened and George peeked in, as Jack placed a forefinger to his lips. George nodded, closing the door behind him. "Asleep is she?" The slightly more serious of the two brothers whispered lowly. Jack nodded, not trusting himself to whisper and perhaps awaken her.

"Thought as much." George continued. "She led us all over the Shire today. Didn't find her quarry, though." Jack nodded again, relief filling his eyes as he mouthed the words thank you.

"Don't you be thanking us, Jack" George grinned. "Ye gave a home to two lads what had nothing, and no future. It's not something either of us will ever forget. Besides, we like the lass. Rest yourself as well now, we'll keep her safe till your able." Jack nodded once, smiling.

"I'll be getting back now." George whispered again. "Before that brother of mine makes off with both of farmer Dillon's milk maids. He winked and left the room as silently as a passing shadow.

Ignoring his own discomfort, Jack pulled Cecily slightly closer to himself. His heart beating with gratitude at her failure. Had she succeeded. Had Michael Fairchild harmed a single hair of her head. Jack Roberts shuddered at the thoughts that came to his mind after that.

George crossed the tavern room and resumed his seat with the others. Farmer Dillon's milking girls were nowhere to be seen. "He knows?" Josiah spoke lowly.

"Aye." George replied before lifting the tankard to his lips.

"Seems your potions are losing their strength, Annie." Josiah teased the dark haired Gypsy.

"I wouldn't say that, Josiah." George continued as he finished drinking. "Cecily was dead to the world."

Annabelle Peterson stuck her tongue out at the tavern keep, causing the four of them to burst into laughter, barely noticed by the patrons Molly was busily serving. "Oh, that was needed." She sighed. "Things were getting far to serious."

"Aye, that they were." Geoff chimed in. "The lass will be safe as long as we keep an eye on her."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Anne returned, suddenly serious again. "Neither of them will be safe as long as Michael Fairchild is free."

"Aye." Josiah joined in. "Can ye imagine the hell that would break loose if he ever tried to get to Jack through his wife? There'd be no stopping the man."

"Then we're agreed?" Annabelle looked from one set of eyes to the next. "Before any more tragedy can over take those two, we will ferret out Michael ourselves, and put an end to this before it gets any worse."

The men nodded in agreement.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/07/2007 22:02:33

Cecily woke up, still entwined in her husband's embrace. She reached up and gently stroked his cheek. In his sleep, he held her tighter. She laid her head again on his chest, comforted by the beat of his heart. His heart that belonged to no other than her and her alone.
She shivered involuntarily and drew the covers closer around the two of them. But the shiver was the result of Cecily's internal conversation.
'What if?'
What if Michael Fairchild had aimed a few inches in either direction? What if the wound had become infected? What if Jack froze to death? What if I hadn't found him?
'This has to end,' she whispered.

Jack, in his half-sleep, said, "Cecily? You say something, love?"
Cecily whispered, "Go back to sleep, darling."
He drifted back to sleep. Best he regain his strength. Cecily laid there, thinking. That Sir Peter Culpepper was involved, Cecily had no doubt in her mind.
Just before she drifted back to sleep, her thoughts went to one person who might be able to help her.

The sound of rain beating against the only window in the safe room woke Cecily up. Jack was beginning to stir.
"Good morning, darling, Sleep well?" Cecily asked.
Jack yawned and then grimaced as he stretched out. "I was out like a lantern. But it is what I needed. Rest and the woman I love in my arms."
She threw the covers off and slid into her silk wrap. Peering out the window, she turned to Jack and said, "A typical autumn day in jolly old England."
Thunder cracked and a flash of lightning illuminated the room.
Jack patted the space next to him in the bed. "A nice day to spend under the covers, my love."
She grinned and slid back into bed.
"A nice day, indeed," she said as she kissed him tenderly.


Cecily tiptoed down the back stairs and into the kitchen. She hugged her silk wrapper around her as she got scones and fresh fruit out of the cupboards and took some tea bags and a small kettle. Behind her she heard a whistle and a voice saying, "You never did know the propriety of proper dress!"
She whirled around and shouted, "ANDREW!"

She hugged him and said, "You are the one person I wanted to see this morning! How did you know?"
Andrew closed his eyes and put his index fingers to his temples. "Mrs. Roberts, the Great Morley knows all and sees the fact that George--or is it Geoff?---rode over to Moreland to tell me about your husband's incapacitation."
She laughed and Andrew immediately grew sober. "And it is suspected among them that you are going to do a little inquiry of your own."
She grew defiant and said, "I just want to find out where Michael Fairchild is. That's all."
"And then what?"
"Then I will send him to hell where he belongs."

Andrew took her by the arm and sat her down at a table in the tavern.
"Andrew! I'm not decent!"
"Cecily, look around. No one is here. And with this rain, I don't think they will be."
He hung his cloak up and put his feet up on a stool by the fire that Molly had lit earlier.
"I'm going to play big brother even though you are now a married woman. Leave it alone. If Michael Fairchild is as wrathful as we think and he blames Jack for his sister's death, then what makes you think he won't find out that you are the wife of Black Jack Roberts?"
Cecily frowned, "I think he is in league with Sir Peter Culpepper."
Andrew's face grew serious. "All the more reason for you to stay out of it, Cec. Some of us are sworn to protect you, Milady!"

Cecily said quietly, "I have already done some scouting of my own. I looked in a few taverns last night and I didn't-----"
"You WHAT? Have you taken leave of your senses?"
Cecily tossed her head defiantly, "I took precautions not to be recognized."
"And what did you do? I can see you didn't shave your head. That hair of yours is a beacon. You didn't gain fifty pounds. And you have the Morley sapphire blue eyes."
She said triumphantly, "I pretended to be nine months pregnant and looking for Michael Fairchild, the father of my bastard child."
Unfortunately she told Andrew this just as he had taken a sip of ale. He spewed it and Cecily ducked.
"Andrew, did it go up your nose again?"
He mopped his face and retorted, "You are even more devious than I remembered. And where, pray tell, is said child?"
She sighed. "I regret to inform you that I abandoned the critter in the oak grove. In the form of a rope and a fluffy pillow."
Andrew motioned for Molly, "I do believe I will have a tankard or two more of ale, Molly. And keep them coming."

Andrew surveyed his younger sister and shook his head. "Cecily, were you this sneaky and underhanded when we were younger?"
She took a bite of an apple and nodded. "Yes. Although you didn't know it."
Andrew ran his hands over his face. "I guess I can't stop you, can I?"
"Between the two of us, we shall see what we can find out. But the pillow stays at home."
"Do you have an idea?"
"I do. Michael Fairchild won't be expecting a man AND a woman to be looking for him."
"Let me deliver the breakfast up to Jack and I'll get dressed and be right down. I'll tell Jack I'm going with you to the farmers' market."

As she disappeared up the stairs, Molly came over to Andrew and said, "You have your work cut out for you, trying to contain her if and when she comes face to face with Fairchild."
Andrew took a deep drink and said, "And that is why I am drinking ale at ten o'clock, Molly."
She grinned and said, "Then you had better have another. Because that is a woman on a mission."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/15/2007 17:58:38

Michael Fairchild rose from the bed that had held his mending body prisoner for the past two days. Gritting his teeth at the pain in his healing wounds he crossed over to the door, and poked his head out. Riggs was no where to be seen. The necessary time needed for his body to heal had at the least given him a reprieve from being forcibly sent back to Ireland. Riggs had taken a room next to his, and was keeping watch on him like a mother hen. Apparently intent on seeing his master's wishes carried out.

It had given the young auburn haired man time to think. Something had obviously changed Sir Culpepper's plans, something drastic. When he had first met the man in Jamestown colony, and learned of Katherine's death at Roberts hand, the man's hatred of Jack Roberts nearly rivaled Michael's. The youth would have sworn no power under heaven could dissuade Peter Culpepper from seeing the highwayman laid in his grave. So what could have changed his mind now?

"Bess!" he shouted down the short hall that led to the main room of the small Inn and Tavern he had taken a room at under the name of Samuel Burton. Only the tavern wench he dallied with knew his true name, and nothing of his plans. It would not do for anyone to suspect him of being Black Jack.

The raven haired beauty soon rounded the corner, a smile playing at the corners of her full lips. "So are ye feeling well enough for some "company"? She grinned in anticipation. "I've an hour or so before I'm needed again."

"I'm afraid not!" Michael scowled. "What I need is to know the whereabouts of the lout in the next room."

"Don't know, Yank!" She shot back, obviously disappointed. Then suddenly Bess softened gently touching his face. "I do have some news that may interest you though."

"And what would that be?" He asked in a softer tone.

"The doxie what was blaming ye for her condition.....I know who she is." She drew nearer to the handsome youth her right hand gently stroking the back of his neck. "Seems she's married."

Michael's brow furrowed. "So why would she be blaming me for her child?"

"Stone me if I know, Love." Bess laughed lightly. "But her name be Cecily Johnson. She's married to the man what owns the Crossbow, just outside of Devonshire."

Michael Fairchild's eyes widened, and he fought to contain his glee. The wife of Jack Roberts! He couldn't believe his luck. It would seem that the fates were kind to him this day, for they had placed the perfect weapon to break Roberts once and for all in his hands.

"So ye do know her then?" Bess broke into his train of thought.

"No, but I know her husband all too well." Michael grinned. "He's an old "friend" of mine. Probably put her up to it for a joke."

Bess smiled with relief as he continued. "Now I do wish I were feeling better. Such news deserves a reward."

"Perhaps in a few more days I'll be taking you up on that, Michael." She breathed huskily into his ear.

"In a few more days I'll be more than happy to oblige you, Bess." He smiled back, then kissed her passionately. "Now there is one more thing I would like you to do for me."

"And what is that?" The tavern girl asked.

Michael grinned. "I want you to keep an eye on Mr. Riggs in the next room. I want to know every time he leaves, and how long he is gone."

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/21/2007 20:59:08

Cecily opened the door to the secret room, a tray balanced on her hip and holding it with one arm.
Jack started to get out of bed and she scolded, "Jack Roberts, don't you dare move a muscle. The sooner you heal, the sooner we get back to our cottage and our lives!"
She placed the tray on his lap and fluffed the pillows up.
"And what do we have here?" Jack asked.
Cecily poured a cup of tea for him and put a dollop of brandy in it.
"The brandy is to build you up. And the tea is for warmth. The scones and clotted cream? Because I love you!"
Jack kissed her and then narrowed his eyes.
"And what is going on in that pretty little head of yours?"
She turned her large blue eyes on him and said, "Not a thing. Well, one thing..."
'AHA!" Jack said.
Cecily jumped a mile. "You scared me!"
Jack took her hands in his. "Cecily Morley Roberts, you are NOT--I repeat NOT--to go anywhere near Michael Fairchild."
She gave him her most beguiling smile. "Me? You forbid me. Shall I disobey you, my husband? No. Actually, Andrew is sitting downstairs in the tavern and he..."
There was a knock on the door.
"May I come in?"
Andrew stuck his head in the door.
Jack grinned. When he married Cecily, he not only got the woman that was his soulmate and he could never do without, he got a brother he never had. Andrew was in awe of Jack Roberts, as he was his boyhood hero in legend's form. Theirs was a bond forged beyond their mutual love for Cecily.

Andrew stood there and shook his head. "Jack, I swear, you get yourself in more trouble. You are honour bound to love my sister and take care of her. Don't make me kick your arse!"
Jack moved and winced. "So, Andrew, what brings you here?"
"Checking to make sure Cec is not a widow and won't be in the near future. Are you out of your mind, man? Do you realize what will happen to this little lady if anything ever happened to you?"
Jack took a sip of tea and offered Andrew a scone. He gladly took one.
Quietly Jack said, "Aye. I do."
Andrew said, "Let it go, Jack. Even if you have to take my sister to the Colonies to live. Let it go."
Jack changed the subject. "So, what brings you out in this awful monsoon, Andrew?"
Andrew laughed and said, "I'm bored. I want to play. So I figured I'd pick up my sister and we'd go to the farmer's market over on the green."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Cecily? You want to go out in this weather to go traipsing amongst the vegetables with your brother?"
She laughed and said, "Aye. I think I do!"
Jack laughed. "Perhaps it would be a good idea for you to make a 'public appearance' to make everything look normal."

After a half hour of Andrew and Jack visiting, Cecily grabbed her cloak.
"Let's go, Andrew, before all the good fruits are gone!"
Andrew sighed and said, "She was bossy even as a little girl."
Cecily leaned over Jack and kissed him on the cheek.
"Andrew and I won't be gone all that long. You just get some rest and maybe in a few days we can go back to the cottage."
He said, "Remember what I said, Cecily."
She sighed. "I remember, I remember....."

Cecily drew her hood up as they stepped outside. Andrew turned to her and said, "And what are you supposed to remember, Cecily?"
She smiled and said, "Listen to me carefully, Andrew. 'Darned if I know.' "
Andrew shook his head. "I don't want to get in any trouble with Jack."
"You won't. Let's just do a little detective work in a few of the taverns, shall we?"
Andrew sighed and mounted his horse after she climbed on Aphrodite.
"If I can't stop you, Cecily, I can at least keep an eye on you!"
Cecily grinned and said, "Race you!"

And with that, they galloped towards the taverns of Exeter.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/23/2007 08:41:07

No matter how much they all had searched, Michael Fairchild had vanished from sight, almost as if the earth had opened up and swallowed him whole. Even Annabelle with her uncanny abilities had failed to flush out their quarry. Andrew and Cecily fared no better with their own search. The only member of Jack Roberts extended family who was not beating the bushes for the elusive young man was Jack himself. Weeks had past with no luck what have so ever, and soon Jack was well enough to return to his life as it was before the fateful confrontation.

"As I suspected, Dearest, Michael has run to ground." He spoke softly to his wife. "With luck he will have had enough from our first fight to think better of continuing this pointless charade."

One look into her husband's startling blue green eyes told Cecily all that she needed to know. Jack was doing his best to keep her from perusing the matter further. He did not believe the words himself, and soon expected to hear of more dastardly deeds done in his name. She had known, and loved him for too long to be so easily fooled by his words.

She sat the steaming cup of tea down in front of him and kissed his forehead gently. "We can only hope, My Love." She smiled, knowing deep inside that she was the only person on Earth that he underestimated. Not from pride, but from the deep feelings of love and protectiveness that he held for her. Jack's emotions for her gave him his only blind spot. Not much of one, true, but a blind spot none the less.

It would be harder to search for the man who had nearly killed her husband with him home and fully mended now. This did not mean that she was about to abandon her quest, only that she would have to be more careful in her pursuit. Jack would do anything to keep her from harms way, but Cecily would not be satisfied until she had paid Fairchild back for the injury he had done her love.

Josiah, Annabelle, Molly, and the twins sat in the office of The Crossbow. Their own fortunes in the quest to protect Jack and Cecily had fared no better. The leather cushioned chairs set in a semi circle a few feet from the fireplace, and a disquieting silence had fallen over the group. Finally Josiah Parker rose to add a few logs to the dwindling flames. After poking them to life he shoved the poker back into place with rough frustration.

"Hells bells!" he growled to no one in particular. "How hard can it be to find one man?! It's been three bloody weeks now!"

"Aye." Geoff responded. "Between the four of us we've searched the country side from Cornwall to Kent, and still have had no luck. Even Annie hasn't gotten a single hint, and she can find a needle in a haystack."

"Not always, Geoff dear." The gypsy spoke up. "It would seem Michael is as good at hiding as our own Jack. I know he is still near, but little else."

"You can bet your last Shilling Jack does too." George added. "No matter how much he pretends otherwise." Annie nodded.

"He's doing it to put Cecily at ease." Molly rose to refill their cups with the hot tea she had made for their meeting. "I'm afraid for them both. She won't be that easily fooled by Jack."

"As are we all, Love" Josiah gently took his wife into his arms as she finished and kissed her forehead. "And ye are quite correct, she hasn't given up in her own search for the lad, nor has she listened to Jack on the matter. She's very much like him in many ways. She has even pressed Andrew into her service."

Annabelle Peterson spoke up softly. "We can assume that by now that Michael has healed from his wounds as much as Jack has. The question is, do we continue to search for him, or wait until he makes his next move?"

The three redcoats rode slowly down the road leading from Exter to Devonshire. They had been patrolling for the last six hours and were looking forward to a quick stop at The Crossbow tavern for an ale or two before reporting in to Sergeant Major Barclay.

"Stone a crow, Mates." The first groaned, stretching backwards in his saddle. "I'm bloody glad this day is near over. Me poor back couldn't take much more 'o this."

"Ye said a bloody mouthful there, Connelly!" The second laughed. "It's been near three weeks now without so much as a pickpocket to keep us busy, much less Black Jack Roberts."

"Aye," Grumbled the third, "what makes the Sergeant Major think he's still muckin' about here is beyond me, Mates."

"Well, at the least we were lucky enough to have that tavern between us and the days end, eh Lads?" Connelly chuckled, then brought his horse to a sudden stop. "What in God's name?"

There fifty yards in front of the patrol, where the road split with one leading to Devonshire, and the other towards Biddeford, stood two figures and a coal black horse. In the gathering dusk of the setting sun they could see the black cloaked figure pointing a flintlock at the other man's skull. In a flash the explosion of the discharging weapon sent the roosting birds to flight, screeching their dismay, and the second man crumpled backward to the ground.

As the three footmen struggled to get their startled mounts under control the black cloaked figure leapt onto the dark stallion and galloped off down the Devonshire road in a cloud of dust and shadow.

"Don't just set there, ye bloody fools!" Connelly shouted. "Get after him!"

As his companions raced after the fleeing highwayman Connelly jumped down from his horse to aid the stricken victim. As he had suspected the man was beyond earthly aid. A quick search showed that if he had any worldly possessions on him they were long gone now.

"Damn you, Black Jack." he whispered to himself. "Ye didn't have ta kill the bloke, ye cold hearted bastard!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/25/2007 09:00:36

A few hundred yards from where he had dispatched his watchdog Michael Fairchild chuckled as the two redcoats raced past his hidden position in the wood. Now that Riggs was out of the way he could continue with his plans and Culpepper could go whistle in the wind. Turning his mount he walked the animal deeper into the gloom of the forest.

For all his bluster Riggs had been all to easy to fool. Underestimating Michael because of his youth had proven the man's undoing. Bess had acquired a dye for Michael's auburn hair, which had startled even Riggs with the difference the raven black coloring had made to his features. It had allowed him to move freely about and set his plan into motion.

When he first suggested taking residence at Bess' small cottage Riggs had readily agreed, figuring that it would make it easier to keep an eye on the young man and keep him from doing anything rash. On this night Michael had pretended to pack for his trip back to Ireland. While Riggs was engrossed in eating the stew Bess had made for a farewell meal she had sat down across from him and began to run her foot gently up and down his leg. Just as Michael had planed it had distracted him long enough for Michael to apply the butt of his flintlock to Riggs skull.

After tying the lout's hands securely he quickly donned the costume of Black Jack Roberts once again. Riggs had cursed loudly at first when he regained his senses, until Michael's pistol placed firmly beneath his jaw had convinced him silence was not only golden, but healthy as well. They had then placed him on his horse, and Michael had led them through the woods to the intersection. Bess took Riggs horse back to the cottage.

Riggs had regained his courage as he sat on the ground while Michael waited for a witness to his deed. "Sir Culpepper will have yer guts fer garters fer this, Boy!" He hissed.

Michael chuckled beneath his black silk hood. "First he'll have to get word of it, Riggs. After I have broken Jack Roberts he can do as he wishes, but I doubt he'll want to be implicated in our little game now, will he?"

Riggs had merely scowled as Michael continued. "See that bend in the road?" He motioned with his pistol. "As soon as we hear anyone approach I want you on your feet."

"And why should I help you?" Riggs sneered.

In answer Michael placed the barrel of his weapon firmly beneath Riggs jaw. "Because if you do not, I will blow your head off where you sit. However, if you do exactly as I say, I will miss you. You can tell the witnesses that Black Jack Roberts tried to kill you and protect your master, then report it all back to Lord Culpepper."

Riggs knew it was a slim chance for survival, but even a slim chance was better than none at all. He nodded in agreement. When they heard the approaching horses of the redcoats he had stood and sweated as Michael pointed the deadly gun at his forehead. The sound of the pistol's discharge was the last sound he ever heard.

A few hours after night had fallen the three footmen burst into The Crossbow. Connelly in the lead. "Innkeeper!" He shouted, startling the customers and bringing Josiah quickly from the office.

"Aye, Lad! Ye don't have at shout." Josiah grumbled. "I've Ale enough for all of ye."

"It's not that, Good Sir." Connelly replied in a slightly gruff tone. "We need to keep a victim of Black Jack Roberts in your stable while the Sergeant Major is sent for."

The color drained from the grizzled tavern keeps face at the news and a buzz of low voices swept through the customers. "B-Black Jack, ye say?" He nearly choked on the words.

"Aye!" Connelly retorted, his patience nearly exhausted. "Saw the bastard with me own eyes. He shot the man down right before us after robbing him blind. Unarmed and helpless the bloke was. Now if you would be so kind?"

Josiah shouted for Geoff then instructed him to have the redcoats lay Riggs body in the old unused stall near the door. He then sent George to fetch Robert Johnson, the owner of The Crossbow, telling Connelly that the owner should be made aware of the goings on at his establishment.

"Aye," Connelly nodded in agreement. "The man should know what takes place in his house. Smythe. Ride to Devonshire and bring Sergeant Major Barclay double quick!"

As one of his companions saluted and left he turned back to Josiah. "Now about that Ale, Sir. I could certainly use it after what I've witnessed this night."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/28/2007 20:46:42

Cecily turned down the eiderdown quilt on the brass bed she had shared with Jack for over four years. She plumped the pillows up and slipped into the bed. Jack was downstairs locking up when she heard his footsteps up the stairs.
She looked around the bedroom with a sense of pride. The brass bed was top of the line, with an eiderdown quilt and duck down pillows. The curtains were the best of Irish lace and the furniture gleamed in rich oak. There were two hooks for lanterns on either side of the bed. A hooked rug on the hardwood floor kept the chill off their feet and beautiful paintings hung on the walls. On the low dresser was a brush and comb set made of ivory and a looking glass that she and Jack had purchased in Florence.

Jack entered the bedroom and gave her a roguish grin.
"All is right with the world, darling."
He threw his clothes on a chair and slid into bed. As he took Cecily in his arms, there was an insistent knocking on the door.
"Who can that be?" Jack said quizzically to his wife. He opened the casement window and yelled down, "Who is it? It's late...."
"Jack, it's George. And we have trouble."
"Be right down to let you in, lad."

Cecily got out of bed and put her robe on. Jack said, "Cecily, no need for you to come downstairs. I'll take care of it."
But Cecily already had her hand on the doorknob.
"Do you honestly think I am going to lie here waiting and wondering what is going on?"

She carried a candleholder and Jack lit the lantern in the parlor. He let George in and said, "George, what is wrong?"
Cecily was already getting George a snifter of brandy. He sat down and took a deep drink.
"There's been another murder. Attributed to Black Jack Roberts. And this one has witnesses."
Cecily and George exchanged glances quickly before Jack could notice.
Jack said, "Witnesses? How can that be?"
George took another drink and said, "Three redcoats were patrolling the road from Devonshire to Exeter. You know that fork in the road by Benson's Woods? They saw Black Jack Roberts kill his victim after robbing him. The unfortunate is now lying in the stable over at the Crossbow awaiting his Eminence, the redoubtable Sargeant Major Barclay."
At that name, Cecily made a face. "That puppet of the Crown. He won't rest until he is made Brigadier General."
George gritted his teeth. "Or Prime MInister. He wants a position so bad he can taste it."

Jack went to the hook by the front door and grabbed his blue cloak. "No sense taking the black one. Don't want to give them any subliminal ideas there."
Cecily grabbed her cloak too.
Jack turned to her and asked, "What do you think you are doing, Cecily?"
She looked down and said, "Right. I do need to put some clothes on."
Jack shook his head. "NO! You stay here. This is not business for you to be involved in."
She put her hands on her hips and said, "If you think I am going to sit here and wait for you to come home, Mr. Roberts, you have another think coming to you."
George grinned in spite of the seriousness of the situation.
"I'd say you'd better wait for her, friend."
Jack sighed and said, "Get dressed."

Within fifteen minutes the three of them were on the road leading to the Crossbow and within a half hour more, they were stabling their horses at the tavern. Josiah came out to greet them.
"Damn, Jack! They showed up on our doorstep about two hours ago."
Jack turned to Cecily and said, "Best you get into the tavern with Molly."
She nodded. She had no wish to see the deceased. As soon as she was in the tavern, Jack said grimly, "Alright, let's have a look at him."
The three of them headed towards the make-shift morgue. Geoff and one of the redcoats were sitting there, making small talk.
"Mr. Johnson!" Geoff exclaimed.
"Hello, Geoff. Is he in there?"
The redcoat, Phillip Marshall, stepped in front of him.
"It is my orders that no one touches him until Sargeant Major Barclay gets here."
Jack sighed and said, "Alright. I'll be inside with Josiah, sharing an ale. Coming, Geoff?"
Geoff gave the redcoat a mock salute and followed Jack towards the tavern.

"Any idea, Geoff?"
Geoff said in a low voice, "Never saw the man before in my life. Odd thing is, the man was dressed shabbily. Not the kind of man you would thnk of robbing."
"Any ideas on why he was killed?"
"Sacrificial lamb? To make Black Jack Roberts look like a cold-blooded killer?"
'Redcoat say anything?"
"Just whining about how he misses his pretty little colleen and can't wait to get married to her."
"Figures. These men are pretty green. Can't see past the immediate future."

They entered the tavern. Cecily was sitting in front of the fire with Molly. She looked up at Jack and asked, "Any clues as to who did it?"
Jack sat down with some brandy and said, "Not a one. Maybe a random co-incidence."
But none of them believed it.
Jack took Cecily's hand in his. "We'd better plan on staying here tonight. It's going to be a long one."
She nodded. "It's a good thing we keep clothes here and have a room."
Then she burst out with, "Will they never leave us alone?"
But no one had an answer.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/31/2007 20:54:31

Sergeant Major Barclay looked down at the stiff form of Riggs. "And the body is in the same condition that you saw him in when Black Jack shot him, Corporal?"

"Aye, Sir." Percy Connelly returned in an official manner. "Even his hands are still tied. The bastard had him as helpless as a lamb when he shot him."

"Interesting, isn't it?" Barclay mused, almost talking to himself.

"How so, Sir?" Connelly frowned.

"Interesting in the fact that this man is hardly representative of Black Jack's usual victim, Percy." The Sergeant Major continued. "Observe his dress, hardy that of a wealthy man. There is also the question of why he would wait until your patrol arrived before dispatching this unfortunate. It's almost as if he wanted you to witness the deed as it was done."

"Perhaps it was someone he had a grudge against, Sergeant Major?" The Corporal speculated.

"Perhaps." Barclay wondered. "But there are too many unanswered questions. Why did Black Jack simply disappear for almost four years? Also, now that he has returned, why is he acting in a manner that is totally against everything we ever knew of the man? It's almost like he is an altogether different Black Jack than the one who vanished."

"How so, Sir?" Percy was completely confused by now. "The man's always been a thief and murderer from what I've heard."

"You should really spend as much time reading reports as you do in the taverns, Corporal." His superior retorted with a small measure of disgust. "Though he would indeed kill if pressed, he seemed to go out of his way to avoid it, and his victims were never those who could not afford to lose what he took from them. There were even rumors of him acting like some bloody Robin Hood from time to time. No, Connelly, these latest crimes are much out of character for the man."

"Good God, Sir!" The flabbergasted footman gasped. "You almost sound like you admire him!"

"I respected him, Corporal." Barclay shot back. "There is nothing wrong with respecting an opponent who deserves it. I do, however, find little to respect in him now. Let's see if we can find some answers to these questions, shall we?"

"You know who he is then?" Percy Connelly inquired.

"Let's just say I have my suppositions." The Sergeant turned toward The Crossbow.

Jack Roberts sat in the office of The Crossbow. His mind was made up, and he knew in his heart that there was only one way to stop Michael Fairchild's madness. If he didn't more innocent people would suffer at the madman's hands.

"I'll hear no more of it, Josiah." His voice was as hard as his oldest friend had ever heard it. "There is only one way to draw Michael into the open. I will have to confront him myself, or I should say Black Jack Roberts will have to confront him."

"Damn it, Jack!" Josiah cursed. "He bloody near killed you the last time!"

Jack looked up. "He surprised me the last time, Old Friend. I won't make the same mistake twice."

"And what about the footmen, Jack?" Annabelle Peterson piped in. "After tonight they will be as thick as thieves. If Michael doesn't do you in, they may."

"It's a risk I'll have to take, Annie." He spoke lowly. "If I don't there's no telling who Michael will kill next wearing my garb."

Cecily left her seat and knelt down by Jack's side, taking his hand in her own. The thought of him being led to the gallows freezing the blood in her veins. "Please, Dearest, listen to reason. Let the redcoats handle this. Let them bring Michael to justice. If anything happened to you...." Her words broke off as a sob caught in her throat.

Jack felt his heart wrench inside his chest at the sight of the tears in her sapphire eyes. "My Love, I can not let him hurt one more person. If I don't stop him now more will suffer."

"Ye'll be playin' right into his hands, Jack." Josiah grumbled.

"If that's what it takes, Josi...." A loud insistent knocking at the door cut Jack off.

"Come in." Jack responded.

Percy Connelly opened the door. "Sergeant Major Barclay would like to ask you some questions, Mr. Johnson."

The Crossbow was empty except for the Sergeant and his men. Jack assumed that the redcoats had sent his customers packing so that he could carry out the interrogation in privet. "Ah, Mr. Johnson, please sit down." He motioned to the chair across from him at the small table.

"And what can I do for you, Sergeant?" Jack smiled as he sat down across from Barclay.

"To start with, you could save us all a lot of trouble by dropping this charade and admit that you are actually Black Jack Roberts." The redcoat scowled.

Cecily almost fainted at the accusation until she heard Jack laugh uproariously. "And just what makes you think that I am this Highwayman?" he chuckled.

Barclay's scowl deepened. His first gambit had failed. Of all the reactions he had expected from Johnson this was far from them. "Then you deny it?" he asked.

"Of course I do!" Jack laughed. "The very idea is nothing short of preposterous!"

It was time for the Sergeant major to pull out his trump cards, and he began with a vengeance. "Then perhaps you could tell me why it is that Black jack seemed to disappear almost the very week you wed your wife? Why almost all of his activities seem centered around your establishment? And why no one has ever seen the two of you at the same time?"

Jack grinned. "As to why this cut throat should decide to vanish around my wedding date, or confine most of his activities near Devonshire is something you would do well to ask him, not me, Sir. As for your last remark, may I remind you that you yourself have seen us both at the same time. The night we met, if I am not mistaken."

"So I did." The Sergeant Major felt his disappointment deepen. "A ploy that could have been a clever ruse with the proper help." Still he had one final card to play, and the time had come. Let's see what kind of glib reply Robert Johnson had to this. "So can you tell me where you actually were while Black Jack was thought to be grievously injured for the last three weeks? It certainly wasn't London as we were led to believe. I checked. It seems too much of a coincidence that he should recover a few days after your return."

Cecily felt her heart stop. Josiah cursed under his breath, and Annabelle Peterson mumbled something in Romany. Barclay grinned. He had him now. Soon he would be known the length and breadth of England as the man who brought Black Jack Roberts to justice. A promotion was his, maybe even a general's post. The man was his.

Jack sat back and shook his head. "You almost spoiled my surprise for my wife, Sergeant." He grinned. "If I hadn't already gifted her with it that is. I wasn't in London because I was in Leeds procuring a necklace for her. Dearest, would you please get your trinket from upstairs to show the Sergeant?"

Suddenly it was as if the sun had broken through the clouds of doom that had possessed Cecily's mind. She had left the necklace of the Duchess of York on the table in the secret room while Jack was recovering. "Of course, My Love." She replied cheerily, and almost ran up the steps.

A moment later she returned with the stunning Emerald trinket draped tastfuly around her white neck. "Satisfied, Sergeant Major?" She grinned.

Barclay stared at the necklace with dismay. His final card had been played and trumped before his very eyes. "Of course you have the name of the seller?" He asked Jack.

"Certainly, Sergeant." Jack smiled, and motioned for Josiah to bring him a quill and paper. He scribbled down a name and address then handed it to Barclay. "Feel free to ask him anything you like, Sir."

"I will, Mr. Johnson." Barclay stood up and motioned for his men to follow. "Of that you may be certain."

After the redcoats had left Josiah could contain himself no longer. "Who did ye send him to, Jack?"

"Cody's father in Leeds." Jack grinned. "Please send him a message by carrier pigeon, Josiah, and give him all the details he will need."

From his cover in the wood near The Crossbow Michael watched as the redcoats left the tavern. He smiled beneath the black silk hood. Part one in his plan had worked out well, now it was just a matter of time before part two would bring him Jack Roberts. This time he would make certain that the man would feel as much pain as he did. Just before he killed him.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/08/2008 19:37:06

Cecily held her breath as Sergeant Barclay and his soldiers mounted their horses. As they rode off, she exhaled and then burst into laughter that had a touch of hysteria to it.
Jack crossed the room and took her in his arms.
That was all the gesture of comfort she needed. She laid her head against his chest and burst into sobs.
"Why won't they just let us alone? Jack, it's been four years now."
Jack glanced at Josiah who had a worried look on his face.
"I know, sweetheart, I know. But the fact that Michael has taken this charade as far as he has shows how desperate he is. And a desperate man is a sloppy man."
Cecily hid her face in Jack's chest as her shoulders were wracked with sobs.
He stroked her hair and held her until she was spent.
Molly said quietly, "Your room is ready upstairs. I anticipated you may be back soon."
Annabelle caught Jack's eye and he imperceptively nodded to her.
Molly said, "Come, Cecily. Let's go upstairs and get you settled in."
Cecily looked to Jack and he gave her a reassuring smile. "I'll be up in five minutes, love."

As soon as Cecily and Molly were upstairs, Annabelle took out a few tea leaves and an infuser.
"What is this?"
"An herbal tea that I blended. Chamomile will act as a natural sedative. A few other things in there too. She will be asleep before you know it. Lord knows, she needs her rest."
Geoff came forward and said, "Jack, what shall we do with the um....visitor in the stall?"
Jack replied, "If the constable doesn't come by morning, what else can we do but call the undertaker to come fetch him. I'll pay to have him buried in a pauper's grave."

Molly lit the candle and poured water into a wash basin. Cecily sat on the edge of the bed. The stress was beginning to take its toll on her. Molly dipped a washcloth into the water and washed Cecily's face like she was a little girl.
Cecily said, "Molly, really! It isn't necessary. I'll be fine."
Molly scolded her. "Cecily, you are exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I know about the days you and Andrew go riding. Riding, my foot! I know the two of you go on a reconnaissance mission to look for Michael Fairchild. Well, it stops and it stops now! Jack has his forces--some we don't even suspect--keeping their ears and eyes open for any sign of things that are amiss. This is man's work and no sense getting yourself in a state."
She helped Cecily unlace and helped her into a nightgown.

Molly drew the covers back and pointed to the bed.
"You get in bed and rest, young lady. Rest is what you need."
Cecily gave her a grateful smile. "Have I ever told you how much I value your friendship, Molly?"
Molly's face broke out in a grin. "Yes, you have, love. Even when you don't say anything."
Cecily drew the blankets up and Molly sat on the edge of the bed.
"Cecily, those of us who know Jack are grateful for the love you have given him. He was on the road to ruin when you entered his life. He was reckless and careless and it was just a matter of time before the law caught up to him. When he met you, it was like he was given a new lease on life."
Cecily took Molly's hand and said, "Jack has given me as much as you have said I have given him. If not for him, I could very well be in a sheik's harem. Or married to Culpepper."
Molly asked, "What would be worse, Cecily?"
Cecily made a face. "Culpepper, without a doubt. At least with a sheik, I'd have to wait my turn."
Molly burst out laughing and Cecily realized what she had said.
Molly kissed her forehead and said, "Cecily Morley Roberts, you DO have a bawdy side!"

There was a light knock on the door and Jack opened it.
"Just making sure you were decent, love."
Cecily laughed in spite of the trying day they had. "Darling, you have seen me indecent before. But yes, I am all snug in bed with my 'nanny' here."
Molly shook her finger at her and said with mock severity, "Mind what I said, Mrs. Roberts. Don't be getting yourself upset unnecessarily."
Cecily nodded. "I have my protector with me now. I'll go to sleep."
Molly gave her a kiss on her cheek and said, "And now I have a child and a husband to take care of. Goodnight all, I'll see you in the morning."

Jack stripped off his clothes and and threw them over the chair. "It seems we are spending more time here than at our cottage lately."
He pulled the covers back and slid into the bed, taking Cecily in his arms. She fit so nicely to him and he always felt this was the best part of being married to her. Holding her in his arms and feeling the mutual warmth they shared. Like they had been two halves of a whole that finally found each other.

He kissed the top of her head and said, "Feeling better, love?"
She nodded and whispered, "I could feel alot better though."
Jack grinned and blew the candle out.
All that was heard in the darkness was Cecily's light laughter.

Molly poured a cup of tea for Annabelle and herself.
"Your favorite room is available, Annie."
The gypsy took the cup gratefully. "Thank you, Molly."
They both drank in companionable silence in the kitchen of the tavern.
"Are you giving her your elixirs?"
Annie nodded. "It certainly can't hurt her."
Molly fretted, "THAT DAMN CULPEPPER! And where is he?"
Annie shrugged, "I don't know. But it is for certain Fairchild is being protected somehow. No one is that careful or fortunate."
"Let us hope beyond hope that by this time next year, we will be well rid of Fairchild."
Annabelle nodded. "And celebrating the birth of Jack's first child."

Jack held Cecily while she finally went to sleep. He stroked the hair back from her face and his mind began to formulate a plan.
A dangerous plan.
But one of the utmost necessity.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/08/2008 20:10:05

Jack thundered through the twilight gloom down the clay road which led to the abandoned Leeds's farm, a dark ghost with it's black cloak snapping in the wind. Rage and terror fueled his resolve in equal measure. If Michael Fairchild had harmed a single blond hair of her head, Jack would tear him limb from limb! The roar of the swollen river to the left of the road was drowned by the beat of Raven's hooves, and the memory of the events of the last evening.

Since the visit from their esteemed Sergeant Major, the Crossbow had continually had at least one footman as a customer at any given time. It had made for a near perfect check and mate. Being a public house they could hardly refuse to serve the king's men, and that made for an easy way to spy on the goings on there. The Crossbow had, for the first time since Jack had bought the place, been rendered useless as a base of operations for him. Then he had hit upon a risky plan.

Since he could no longer leave from there as Black Jack Roberts, he would have to use his own cottage as a base to search for Michael from. Stowing his costumes in the barn a few hundred yards from the cottage, he could change into his alter ego there, and leave unseen from the rear which conveniently was a mere six feet from the thick wood. The only way to catch Black Jack leaving from Robert Johnson's barn was to be right in his line of escape.

Though Cecily was none too fond of the idea, she relented only on the chance that Michael's murderous spree would be brought to a halt before another innocent fell to him. She could no longer bear the thought of more blood being laid at her husband's door. Jack had also hedged his bet by having George and Geoff keeping watch to assure that there were no unwanted eyes, and that Cecily would remain safe during his nightly hunt.

For three nights he had attempted to draw Michael out into the open. Always careful to not be seen, he searched, and kept a unknown watch on any travelers that would have made a near irresistible target for the new Black Jack. Had the situation not been so tragic the irony would have been almost comic. Black Jack Roberts, the most notorious highwayman in England, guarding those he would have gladly robbed.

Then last night the unthinkable had occurred. No sooner had he donned his disguise and left for his nightly quest when George and Geoff had heard the whistle that was his signal to come quickly, danger. Both had spurred their horses toward the sound, there they had found Jack on the ground, or so they had thought.

They quickly dismounted and ran to his aid, his groans of pain raising old fears in the twins. Geoff had grabbed his canteen, and George gently turned the moaning black clad figure over to check for wounds. As soon as he had done so the silver butt of one of Jack's two French flintlocks smashed into his temple rendering him unconscious.

"What in bloody Hell?!!" Geoff cursed, suddenly realizing who it truly was beneath the hood. His hand flew to his rapier a second too late as Michael's booted foot swung violently into his crotch. As the twin doubled over from the agony in his groin, a dark gloved fist sent him into the merciful black of the senseless.

Laughing Michael Fairchild stood up over the two fallen brothers, brushing the forest debris from his body. "Well, that was easy enough." He chuckled. "Now to see if Mrs. Roberts is as gullible as her watchdogs." He whistled again and Bess rode out from the cover of the underbrush leading a dappled mare.

"Well played, 'Black Jack', or should I still call you Michael?" She giggled.

"It matters not to me." Michael reached for some rope in his saddle bag. "After tomorrow night Black Jack Roberts will be naught but a memory."

Cecily heard the low whistle that rose to a wavering pitch and her heart nearly stopped. Jack had taught her his secret code of whistles, and this one was a call for help. At the time she had thought it rather clever. Before she had convinced him to retire he had long ago reasoned that any one of them might be in a situation where shouting was impossible, but as long as one could breathe you could whistle. The added benefit was no one else would understand the communication.

She flew to the back door, throwing it open. For a moment she did not know whether to feel relived, or heartbroken. Jack was walking across the field from the barn, but he carried one of the twins over his shoulder. Had either George, or Geoff been injured in a fight with the redcoats? Or worse yet, Michael Fairchild himself? Were their enemies so close to their home now?

"Oh, Jack!" She exclaimed as she held the door open for him to enter with his burden. "How did it happen, My Love? Is he alright?"

"He'll be fine once he recovers from the knock I gave him." The strange voice did not belong to her husband and all color fled from Cecily's face as the hooded figure unceremoniously dumped the unconscious Geoff to the floor.

"Michael Fairchild!!" Cecily gasped. Suddenly her shock turned to rage as she reached for the large butcher's knife that lay on the counter near the door.

"I'll see you dead if you've harmed Jack!" She screamed flipping the knife over and preparing to throw it like Jack had taught her. A cold hard feel of metal pressed just behind her left ear brought her to a stop.

"I don't think you want to be doin' that, Mum." A soft feminine voice filled with malice came from behind her.

Michael had also pulled one of the duplicates of Jack's pistols, and Cecily let the knife fall to the floor. "That's better, Mrs. Roberts." He sneered. "Now if you will be so kind as to place your hands on top of your head? Very good. As soon as I make certain this fool won't be making things difficult for us, I'll be right with you."

Jack had arrived home a little before midnight to find Geoff trussed up like a Christmas goose on the kitchen floor. His heart immediately leapt into his throat. As he undid Geoff's bonds he shouted for his wife, even though he expected no answer. Once he had the full story from Geoff, he sent him to free his brother, jumped into Raven's saddle, and spurred off back into the night.

The next morning a woman with black hair left a letter for him at the Crossbow addressed to Robert Johnson. A letter form Michael Fairchild.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/13/2008 13:38:00

He sat in the office of The Crossbow staring into the raging fires of the hearth as Josiah and Annabelle watched in worried silence. Both knew Jack well enough to realize that when ever he did this he was either lost in deep thought, or tearing himself apart inside. This time they were certain it was an equal measure of both.

He had arrived shortly before dawn still in the guise of Black Jack. "Have ye lost yer bloody mind, Man?!" Josiah shouted when he had entered the empty tavern hall. "What if that bastard of a Sergeant Major has men watching outside??!"

"She's gone, Josiah." The quiet voice that came from the dark apparition which stood shaking slightly in the center of the room spoke more loudly than any amount of shouting could. Jack's despair fairly dripped from it. "Michael has taken her."

Annie had come racing down the stairs at the sound of Josiah's alarm. "Dear God!" She exclaimed at the sight of Black Jack Roberts standing in the room. Thinking quickly she ran over to him and took his arm. "Come with me, Jack, before someone sees you like this."

With a meekness that spoke to her of his utter hopelessness, he allowed her to lead him into the office. Once there he removed his caviler's hat and hood, tossing both onto the couch next to the west wall and proceeded to throw an ungodly amount of wood onto the smoldering fireplace. Once the flames had become a raging conflagration he sat down in front of them, still in costume, and had not moved since. The twins entered the room, with the exception of a few bruises, none the worse for their ill treatment at Michael Fairchild's hands. Both were obviously furious.

"We couldn't find hide, nor hair of the bastard!" Geoff's raised voice cut into the hours long silence like a dagger. "We'll bloody skin him alive when we do!"

Too late Annie had raised her finger to her lips in a vain attempt to quiet the enraged siblings. Jack was instantly on his feet. The look of hatred that marred his normally handsome features caused a shiver to run the length of her body. For the first time in her life she saw pure murder in his flashing blue green eyes, and she was grateful that Jack had paid to have her son sent to one of the finest schools in Kent. Tommy would never see Jack in this state.

"Ye'll do nothing of the sort!" The animal growl that came from Jack's throat was like a dash of ice water in all his friends faces. "Michael Fairchild belongs to me, and me alone!!! Is that understood?!!!"

George and Geoff nodded opened mouthed. Both had seen Jack angry before, but nothing like this. Not even when Peter Culpepper had taken Cecily. Michael Fairchild had succeeded in one thing, he had pushed Jack over the edge, and the sight was anything but pleasant. Only Josiah had seen such emotion in his friend, and that had been years ago. To see this madness in him again caused the tavern keeper's eyes to well with unbidden tears.

A quiet knock brought them all about as Molly entered the room. Her eyes wide with fear from the sound she had heard in Jack's voice. In her hand she held a white envelope with the name Robert Johnson written on the outside. "This just arrived for you, Jack. Brought by a pretty black haired lass." He voice trembled with her emotion.

Jack pulled his dagger from behind his back and slit the envelope open. As he read his hands began to shake uncontrollably.

"Jack Roberts;

As you no doubt know by now, I have your wife. If you wish to ever see her alive again you will come to the old Leeds Farm by nightfall.

Come as you truly are, not as Mr. Robert Johnson, and come alone. If even one of your lackeys is seen I promise she will die both slowly, and painfully.

Michael Fairchild."

A lock of golden blond hair was attached to the note.

Before anyone else could see what the letter contained Jack had clenched it into his fist and hurled it into the flames of the hearth. Snatching his hat and hood from the couch he whirled for the door only to find Annabelle Peterson barring his way.

"No you don't!" She stood with her fists on her hips. "I don't need to read that letter to know what it contained. You know where he is, and now you want to charge out of here like a bull in a china shop! You know you will only get her murdered like that!"

To everyone's amazement Jack stopped and dropped his head as Annie continued softly. "Jack, calm yourself. Only if you go into this with a clear head will you stand a chance of getting her back. If you do not have to leave immediately, rest and prepare yourself for what you must do. And for God's sake, change your clothing."

"Your right, Luv." Jack replied just as softly. "I must hope, and think of Cecily's safety first. I will do as you ask, Annie, but I must also ask all of you to stay out of this. I cannot risk her life by disobeying this madman's wishes."

Annie walked slowly to him, her soft hand lifting his head to look him in the eye. "We understand, Jack, and will do as you ask. I only ask that you think before you act this time. Cecily's life is in your hands now more than ever before."

Jack nodded, then turned to the others. "Forgive me, my dear friends, my terror for my wife has made a fool of me."

The Leeds Farm lay only a few dozen yards from his hiding place. Franticly his blue green eyes scanned the dilapidated house and barn for any sign of movement. Anything to give away where Michael could be holding his wife. A sound, a light, anything that could give Jack the advantage. Anything that he could use to save his life's love from Michael's hands.

Just then he spied a flash of faint light from the open barn door. Nothing more than a fleeting coloring of faint orange glow against the far wall, but more than enough. Now he knew two things. That they were inside the barn, and that Michael did not want him to know they were there.

Quietly he slipped from Raven's saddle. The roar of the nearby low waterfall of the river that bisected the farmland would mask any noise he might make. Jack made for the rear of the nearly collapsed building. All he had to do now was stay out of sight until he was ready to make his impostor rue the day he ever laid hands on the only woman Jack would ever love.
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/14/2008 19:55:10

Cecily was thrown onto a bed, the ropes burning into her wrists. The gag bit into the corners of her mouth.
Wherever she was, it was cold.
But she couldn't see as she was blindfolded. A voice whispered in her ear, "I'm going to take the blindfold off now."
Her eyes didn't have much to adjust to as the room was dark. She looked into the eyes of Michael Fairchild, his face illuminated by the candle flickering on the nightstand. His eyes reflected malice. But something else too.
A touch of madness.

"Now I am going to remove the gag. If you scream, I will hurt you. Badly. Do you understand?"
Cecily nodded.
Michael removed the gag. Cecily whispered, "May I please have some water?"
He said over his shoulder, "Bess, fetch some water for the young lady."
Bess filled a tankard and held it to Cecily's lips. She drank a bit and coughed.

Michael turned a chair around straddled it. "Now I am guessing you are wondering why you are our guest, am I right?"
Cecily shook her head. "You intend to use me to lure my husband here."
"Smart as well as beautiful."
Bess retorted, "Not so smart. Who is the one tied up here? And don't forget, she tried to pull that ruse on everyone that she was with child to find out where you were."
Michael chuckled, "Ah, yes! That didn't work, did it?"
Cecily said nothing.
He walked over to a desk and said, "Bess, hand me that foolscap over there."
He proceeded to write a few words. Bess said, "How can you prove you have his wife? I mean, maybe a little tart like this ran off with the vicar."
Michael said, "Bess, you do have a brain after all!"
He took out a hunting knife. Cecily's eyes grew wide. Michael grinned, "Relax, Mrs. Roberts. I promise this won't hurt."
He took a lock of her hair. "Mmm.....very silky!" He gently twisted it and hacked a piece off.
"That should prove to him we have her and we mean business."
He attached it to the paper with some candle wax and then, folding the paper, sealed it with the drips from the candle.
"Now, Bess, be a good lass and deliver this to the Crossbow with my compliments!"
Bess looked dubious at Michael. "Leave you alone with her?"
Michael said, "Get over there and do it now."
She frowned but put her cloak on and went out the door.

Cecily became uncomfortable in Michael's presence.
"What do you intend to do, Mr. Fairchild?"
" 'Mr. Fairchild'? I like it. It denotes respect."
He touched her cheek. She was revulsed but tried not to show it.
"Well, for one, I intend to make Black Jack Roberts pay for killing my sister."
"But he didn't! I was there! It was our wedding day. Katherine died at the hands of Sir Peter Culpepper! You must believe me!"
Michael chuckled evily. "I beg to differ. If she hadn't fallen in love with that scoundrel, then she would be alive. It was her love for him that drove her up to Scotland. And...." he ran his finger up and down the blade, '...if it weren't for you, maybe he would have fallen in love with her all over again."

Cecily began to realize she was dealing with a madman whose sole reason for living was revenge.
He touched her cheek again and ran his finger down her neck to her chest.
"What to do...what to do, Mrs. Roberts...."

Cecily tried to remain calm. 'Oh, Jack! Please be careful, please show up soon! Or else who knows what else will happen. And I'm not equipped to handle an enraged, deranged man'.

Michael gave her a smile that was anything but pleasant.
"We have plenty of time to get to know each other. Once I get rid of Bess...."
"Get rid of Bess?"
"She was amusing company. She served a purpose. But I can always trade up."
Cecily turned her head. Michael put his finger under her chin and jerked it towards him to look in his eyes.
"I have a plan for us. For you and I."
Cecily could feel a cold sweat come over her but she tried to keep her voice calm.
"I don't know what you mean."
"How do you feel about moving to the Colonies?"
"As soon as I dispatch your husband, I plan on you and I taking a trip to the New World. You will be under my tender loving care. Protected as it were. You will depend on me for your food, your clothing and your shelter. Even your water. And when we get there, I have friends you can work for."
He touched a lock of her hair and said softly, "Just think. The high and mighty Cecily Morley working as a tavern wench, a scullery maid...or something a little more enjoyable. Oh, you didn't think I knew who you were or that you were 'to the manor born,' did you?"

It began to dawn on Cecily just how desperate her situation was. To be a widow transported to the Colonies under the care of a madman with a vengeance.
A cold chill ran over her. This was worse than the slavers on the pirate ship all over again.
'Jack, my love, you have to come. You just have to.'

All the time she had been working on the knots of the ropes. Michael had made one mistake.
He didn't tie the knots to tighten upon struggling.
'If I can only loosen them, then I may have a chance....Oh, Jack, please hurry....'


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/18/2008 22:13:28

"Damn you, woman!" Michael hissed softly between his teeth through his hood. "I told you no lights!"

"I'm sorry, Michael!" Bess whispered into the gloom, barely able to make out his form in the darkened barn. "I almost tripped over something in this black sty!"

For a moment she clearly saw his cloaked silhouette outlined in the moon lit doorway before it faded back into the gloom of the deserted barn. Their horses snorted softly, disturbed by the tense feel in the air. Only Aphrodite remained calm, a familiar sent flowed through the open boards near the rear.

"All seems clear, no thanks to you!" Michael whispered harshly. "Once we see Roberts enter the house I can take him by surprise." The young madman rubbed his temples as if to sooth a sudden headache. His breathing became deeper as an unnatural tone filled his voice with perverse malice. "Then, just before I kill him I'll let him know my plans for his wife."

Bess's eyes widened in the darkness. "I thought the plan was to kill her slowly before his eyes."

Michael shook his head slightly, the wave of dizziness passed as always, leaving his thinking clearer than before it took hold. Had he actually said that aloud? No matter. Once he heard the report of the pistol trap he had set on the door of Cecily's room he would have to rid himself of Bess anyway. Sooner was always better than later.

"Sorry you had to hear that, Bess." Michael moved closer to her in the inky blackness, his dagger hidden in his hand. "I'm about to trade up, you see. She's a remarkable woman, and it will give me much pleasure making Cecily Roberts my personal servant. In every way. But since you know the truth about me, I can't very well leave you alive now, can I?"

Inside the farmhouse Cecily struggled even more franticly with her bonds. They were gradually giving way, but she could not know when Jack would burst into the room. The handkerchief tied into her mouth stifled any warning she might give, not even allowing her to whistle a warning.

She had watched in horror as Michael had set the trap with one of his pistols, mounting the deadly weapon at knee height next to the door and setting the tripwire. He meant to cripple Jack instead of kill him outright. She could only imagine what the madman had in mind after that, and what role he had in mind for her.

After stuffing one handkerchief in her mouth and tying it in place with another he turned to leave. "Make as much noise as you wish, Pretty One." He sneered. "The sooner your husband finds you, the sooner we can play." His vile laughter sent a wave of nausea through her.

She renewed her efforts to free her hands. If she could get loose before Jack got there not only would she disarm the trap, but she would be armed as well. Then she would send that deranged lunatic to Hell where he belonged. "Please, My Love." She thought. "Just a few more moments."

Bess's eyes grew wide with terror as Michael raised the razor edged blade high above his head. Suddenly a shadow detached itself from the surroundings and slammed into her carrying them both out of the path of the downward slash. Bess hit the far wall head first and slumped to the aged straw that covered the floor. The shadow rolled to it's feet, three feet of glinting steel appearing in it's hand. "Where is Cecily, you bastard!?" Jack growled.

In the gloom of the barn Jack had heard the muffled whispers. After finding an opening in the rear wall that he could quietly slip through he saw Cecily's mare near, and had used Aphrodite as cover until he could pinpoint Fairchild's position. The mare made not a sound, but gently nuzzled him as he came up to her head. "You have been taking lessons from Raven, Luv." He thought as he spared her a tender stroke of her muzzle.

Though he could make out little more than the sound of whispering he could tell that one of the voices was that of a woman. The other he took to be Michael. Finally he was able to move to a point where the two were silhouetted in the half open doorway, just as the deranged young man raised his arm. The flash of the knife in the faint moonlight sent Jack into desperate action. "Cecily!" His mind screamed as he flew from his hiding place.

At the last moment he was close enough to make out the strange woman he had saved in his love's place. Where could this bastard be keeping her? If he had already harmed Cecily, Black Jack Roberts would make this pig regret that he had not died in childbirth!

Insane laughter exploded from Jack's mirror image. "Oh, don't you worry about her, Roberts!" Michael's hand shot for his remaining pistol. "I've taken good care of her, so far, and once I have you where I want you I'll let you watch as I take even better care of her!"

Old Hob cracked loudly in the nearly empty barn, sending the pistol skittering into the darkness. With an animal howl of sheer rage Jack charged into Michael. The imitation Black Jack felt a small measure of fear cut through his madness at the speed and ferocity of the attack. This time Jack was holding nothing back, and it would be hard to say which of them was the more insane.

Cecily made her way down the stairway in the dilapidated old home, Michael's pistol cocked in her right hand. She stopped and listened intently every time an old board creaked beneath her feet. Now that she was properly armed she intended to see to it that Michael Fairchild's reign of terror ended this night. The unmistakable sound of steel ringing against steel came from outside over the faint roar of the low waterfall in the near by river, and she ran to the door.

Cecily cleared the porch and leveled the flintlock. There she froze, openmouthed. In the low light were two Black jack Roberts fighting for all they were worth, and she dared not fire at either. Even though she could not believe it herself, she could not tell for certain which one was her husband, and she dared not shoot for fear of hitting him. For the first time in years Cecily Roberts felt truly lost and helpless.

Her heart beat wildly in her throat as she witnessed the brutal sword fight. Any semblance of fancy technique had been abandoned by both antagonists, and the hacked away at each other like enraged berserkers. This was more akin to murderous butchery than swordplay. Neither asking for nor expecting quarter. One of them would surly die before it saw a conclusion.

Every once in a while the two would separate for a few moments their chest heaving with the strain of their exertion. Then, just as suddenly, they would silently hurl themselves at each other with renewed ferocity. She was reminded of two jungle cats engaged in a life or death struggle for supremacy.

The elemental battle carried both men out into the knee deep river. Neither seemed aware of their surroundings so intent were they upon the destruction of the other. Water flew from their legs as their steel met time and time again. Their midnight hued cloaks billowed about them like the wings of two black demons. All at once one Black Jack ducked and sprang forward, his blade striking home into the chest of the other. A guttural scream of agony rose above the roar of the rushing water.

"Jack!!" Cecily screamed as the stricken figure made a final effort to take the other to Hell with him. Wrapping it's arms around the other, both men fell, then vanished over the waterfall. Cecily ran to the bank, tears of heartbreak streaming down her white cheeks. Try as she might she could see neither figure, both Jacks had vanished into the river below. Dropping to her knees Cecily wept as she had never wept before in her life.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/22/2008 21:36:22

Annabelle, the twins along with Josiah and Molly sat around the fireplace. No one said a word, lost in their own thoughts were they. Each audible tick of the clock frayed their nerves.
Finally Annabelle stood up and grabbed her cloak.
"We need to go to the Leeds farm. It has been far too long and we need to see what is going on."
Geoff and George grabbed their cloaks too.
Annabelle turned to Josiah and his wife and said, "I need the two of you here. In case Jack and Cecily turn up."
Josiah nodded. He knew it was the gypsy's optimism that coupled their names together. He knew Annie well enough to know that she would remain that way till fate proved otherwise.
As the three rode out, Molly clutched her husband's arm and tried to stem the tears that trailed down her cheeks. "Josiah, I am afraid. If all had been well, Jack would have brought Cecily here."
He tried to be brave for his wife and reassure her but deep down, he feared the worst.

Quietly they rode through the woods until they came to the deserted farm house. Geoff jumped off his horse.
"The two of you stay here. I'll go check out the house."
He entered the door. Just a burned-down candle on a dusty table. His leg brushed up against something. Looking down, he spied the trip-wire that Michael Fairchild had rigged. But it was dismantled and laid in a pile of rope. He glanced over at the bed and saw a tangle of rope and two rags. He could feel the rage building up inside of him. Not only for the cowardly way that Fairchild planned on trapping Jack. But for the bound abuse Cecily had endured. He picked up the rope and uttered curses.
Walking outside, he said to Annie and George, "She was in there. Tied up. Looks like she escaped. Or was taken away. And no sign of a struggle in the house. Fairchild rigged something--most likely for a pistol--to blow Jack's kneecaps out. But the pistol is gone. We can only hope that Cecily has it."
"LOOK!" George pointed to the stables. "Aphrodite and Raven!"

The three of them jumped down and ran to the area behind the delapidated barn to see the two horses tethered. Raven was clearly agitated and Aphrodite was trying to nuzzle his neck as if to calm him down.
Annabelle looked frantically around and then whispered, "Look!"
There on the banks of the river sat Cecily. She didn't move.
Annnabelle motioned the twins to stay back.
She cautiously approached her.
"Cecily?" she said quietly.
Cecily looked at her with blank eyes, like she didn't really see her. She didn't answer.
One look at her face told Annabelle all she needed to know.

Cecily just stared at Annabelle with the tears staining her face. She didn't say anything. George and Geoff walked over, expecting the news they already feared.
The young woman didn't say a word.
Annabelle patted her face. "Dear, can you hear me?"
She turned to the twins. "She's in shock."
Cecily sat on the ground, just staring at the river.
"Help me get her up."
George and Geoff each took her arm but Cecily refused to move.
Annie waved the two boys off and then gently said, "Cecily, where is Jack?"
Cecily said softy, "I'm waiting for him. I'll always wait for him. I can't leave. I can't leave Jack in the cold, cold water."
Her calmness sent a chill down Annie's back.
Annie said softly, "What if we leave George here to wait for Jack. Will that be alright? He will wait for him."
Cecily looked from Annie's face to the twins and said, "You will make sure he gets home, won't you? I'll have supper waiting for him."

Annie took the twins off a ways from Cecily and said, "She's in shock. She can't assimilate the fact that he may be gone."
Geoff tried not to cry. His brother was already standing there with tears coursing down his face. "Do what you have to for her. Jack would want us to take care of her. George and I will stay here and search the river."
George said, "Jack is a strong swimmer. There could be a chance he...."
Geoff shook his head. "Look at that current coming off the waterfall, brother. And if he was injured..."

George wiped the tears from his eyes and said, "We have a job to do. We need to find Jack or...well, we need to find him. He's in his Black Jack Roberts garb and if he..shows up in it, Cecily will be implicated as having the knowledge that her husband indeed the bandit."

Annabelle got Cecily to her feet and said, "Come on, love, we need to go back to the Crossbow."
Cecily nodded. "Jack will find me there. I'll wait for him."
Geoff took Annie aside and asked, "Will Cecily be alright?"
Annie nodded. "Yes, I think so. It is a defense mechanism. Who knows what she had to endure. And we don't know what happened...yet. But be careful. Michael Fairchild could very well be lurking in the woods."
George's jaw tightened. "He won't make it back to town. Of this I vow."

Annie gently led Cecily to Aphrodite. The three of them decided to leave Raven there in the care of the twins.
"Cecily? Can you ride?"
Cecily nodded. "I'll wait for Jack in our room. He'll probably be late."
Annie tried to keep the tears from coursing down her face. "Let's go then. And get you to bed, dear."
With that the two women rode off towards the Crossbow Inn.

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

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 01/23/2008 19:28:03

As they entered the courtyard of the Crossbow Inn, Tom Banks rushed out to take the horses. He helped Cecily down from Aphrodite.
Annabelle said gently, "Let's go inside, Cecily."
Josiah came outside and took one look at the women. Cecily's eyes were vacant and her colour could not be any whiter. Annabelle shook her head slowly and Josiah felt tears spring to his eyes. He lost not only an employer but a man he regarded as a son.

Tom Banks took in the scene and reached out to touch the young widow's hand. "Mrs.....Cecily, if there is anything I can do for you...."
She looked at Tom but didn't say a word.
Annabelle said quietly, "She's in denial."
Tom watched as Annie took Cecily by the arm and said, "Let's go inside and get you some tea."
Cecily replied, "I can wait for Jack. Better have a hot cider ready for him. He will be chilled."
Tom was taken aback that Cecily was acting like Jack was still alive. How long would it take her to remember?
And then to accept.
And finally to forget.

Tom could wait. He had already waited four years for the woman he fell in love with the day she walked into the taven on the arm of Black Jack Roberts.
Yes, he could wait until he could properly court Cecily Morley Roberts.

Molly brought the tea amidst her sobs. Cecily sat before the fire, staring into the flames. Annabelle sat next to her, waiting.
And then it happened.
Cecily's tears came silently and she gave way to wracking sobs. All Annie could do was sit next to her and hold her. Annie prayed she would never see another person in total anguish as she was witnessing Cecily's breakdown.

As soon as Cecily had exhausted herself, Annabelle said, "Cecily, we have to notify Sergeant Major Barclay. It's the law whenever there has been an....accident."
Cecily nodded slowly. Annabelle continued, "We must be very careful. Cecily, listen closely. Because this is what we are going to tell Barclay...."

When Annabelle had finished, it had been decided that Cecily would tell Barclay she had been kidnapped.
Josiah, Molly, Annabelle and the twins would all state that a ransom note had been delivered to Robert Johnson at the Crossbow by a dark-haired lass. No one had seen her before or since. The note had instructed Robert Johnson to go to the Leeds farm after dark. He was to be alone or Cecily would die.
In essence, the story was told the way it had played out except for the motive.
The motive would be money. Revenge would never be mentioned.
It would all be there.
The kidnapping.
The ransom.
The rescue.
The battle.
The waterfall.
And the deaths of the two men.

The only flaw in the plan woud be if Jack Roberts was still garbed as a highwayman when his body is found.
Annie prayed that it never came to that.
Cecily was far too young and pretty to swing at the end of a hangman's noose..


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/24/2008 08:26:37

George and his brother searched opposite sides of the bank without the slightest hint of luck. It was as if both men had been swallowed whole by the raging torrent of the river. Hours drug by like days as their hopes fell with each passing moment. Finally they came to the rope foot bridge that spanned the river's closest point over three hundred yards down stream from the old farm. By then neither had the will to search further.

"That's that, I would say." George's voice mirrored the hollowness he felt in his chest, as Geoff crossed the bridge to join him on the Leeds side.

"Aye." Geoff stared at the moonlit ground in front of his boots. "If neither made shore before they reached this point, then they never made it at all."

"Dear God!" George hissed between clenched teeth, his fists clenched to the point of shaking. "How will we face Cecily with such news?"

"Worse, yet. How will we get her to leave England should Jack be found?" Geoff raised his head to look his brother in the eye. "Ye know as well as I her life won't be worth a brass farthing should she be implicated as the wife of Black Jack Roberts."

"One filthy job at a time, Geoff." George looked back at his twin with grim determination written on his face. "Let's go collect Raven and finish this awful deed first."

Annabelle Peterson watched intently as the young blond woman continued to stare into the fireplace. She had long since ceased to cry, and her new demeanor was so close to Jack's when he was deeply upset that it gave them all chills. How would she react when the redcoats finally arrived? Now that she was sharing one of her husbands traits, would she share in his recklessness as well?

The customers had all been sent away for the night. The excuse was Cicely's state of shock after her ordeal, and her need for privacy as a new widow. Josiah sent any new comers packing as politely as his state of distress would allow. Which was to say only slightly gruffer than his usual method of dealing with those who he did not wish around. Only when Tom Banks returned with the Sergeant Major would he allow anyone across the threshold.

Finally Molly could stand no more of the eerie silence and knelt down by the grieving woman's side, placing one hand gently over hers. "Cecily?" Her voice as gentile as the one she used when little Jack was ill. "Cecily?"

Slowly, as if in a dream she could not wake from, Cecily's sapphire eyes turned to her friend. Her hand turned over to hold onto Molly's. "Do you know what the worse part is, Molly?" Her voice struggled to keep from cracking with her sorrow. The worst part is I can not even avenge his death. I have no one to make pay for taking Jack from me."

Molly reached up to hug her friend as the tears renewed themselves with a vengeance, quickly spilling over to Molly's own eyes as the two women wept together. "Even with all I tried to do, Michael Fairchild had his revenge and took my very heart to the grave!"

Annie wrapped her arms around both women, her own tears streaming down her tan cheeks. "Hold on, Cecily." She pleaded. "Hold on for his sake. Jack loved you so much he gladly gave his life for you. Honor his memory, and live for him. Don't let his sacrifice be in vain."

"Oh, Annie!" Cecily rose from her chair, hugging the Gypsy woman close and kissing her cheek. "I will. I wold never let his sacrifice be in vain. I only pray that if I do find that Peter Culpepper was behind this I am allowed to be the one to send him to his just reward!"

The knock at the door brought with it Sergeant Major Barclay, three redcoats, and Tom Banks into the tavern. For once the man's haughty, official manner was replaced by genuine concern for the state of another. He motioned for the footmen to remain by the door with Tom Banks, and walked gently over to the three women. There he swept his tricorn from his powdered white wig and bowed deeply.

"My deepest apologies, Mrs. Johnson." He spoke low and clearly. "I am sorry, I have much of the account from Mr. Banks there, but I'm afraid that I must ask you some questions. If you feel up to the task?"

Cecily drew a shuddering breath and nodded. Once she had seated herself at the nearest table Barclay took the seat opposite from her, patiently waiting for the young widow to collect herself. She wiped the tears from her eyes with the already soaking handkerchief, breathed deeply once more, then nodded for him to begin.

Barclay looked at her for a moment, respect for the young woman's courage welling up inside him. There was far more to Cecily Johnson than met the eye. He regretted the duty he now had to perform, making a woman in pain relive the trauma.

"Mrs. Johnson." He began as gently as he could. "The servant you sent to fetch me has stated that you were kidnapped by Black Jack, is this true?"

Annie cursed herself inwardly. With all the concern over Cecily's well being none of them had thought to warn Tom against mentioning Black Jack Roberts. Would Cecily be able to adapt her story in her state of grief?

"It is." She returned. "The brigand took me from our home, not far from here. He said that he would make a fortune from my husband, and then keep me for himself."

Barclay's eyes widened. He had discounted placing a watch on the Johnson cottage for many reasons. It would have been too easy to have been spotted there, and if Robert Johnson was Black Jack he would have been tipped off. A solider, or two, relaxing in the tavern was much more nondescript. He had also guessed that Jack would never be so foolish as to do anything from his own house. This tragedy was certainly the result of his own lack of foresight.

"I was blindfolded and taken to a abandoned farm, which I later learned was the old Leeds farm." Cecily continued. "Black Jack set a trap for my husband and went outside to wait for him in ambush. I was able to work my way free of my bonds, and took the pistol from the trap to aid in my escape. When I got outside I found my husband engaged in a sword fight with the monster." Cecily shuddered as the vision of the memory filled her mind once more, and new sobs shook her body.

The Sergeant Major waited for her grief to pass for a few moments before he continued. "It is perfectly understandable, Mrs. Johnson. Can you go on?"

She nodded then continued. "The battle was so fierce that I could not, dared not attempt to shoot that rogue, and soon they had fought their way to the shallows above the waterfall. Robert ducked and struck home somewhere on Black Jack's chest. That garish costume made it impossible for me to tell where, but I believe the blow was mortal."

The image of Jack going over the fall in the arms of Michael was all the young widow could stand, and she broke once more. Weeping in great wracking sobs. Barclay's heart went out to the young widow, amazed that she had held her own this long. Most women would not have gotten this far as easily as she had.

"We can stop here, Mrs. Johnson. I believe I have heard enough." He said sympathetically.

Cecily held one hand in the air, and then before the grief took her completely. "He dropped his sword and wrapped his arms around Robert....the...they both went over the falls." Just then there was an urgent knock at the door, and three more redcoats entered.

"We 'ave 'im, Sir!" The first almost beamed with pride. "We found the body of Black Jack!"

Josiah felt his heart stop in his chest, and Annie dropped three shades. Before anyone could stop her Cecily jumped to her feet and ran to the door. There was little the rest could do but follow and pray.

In the torch lit courtyard a fourth redcoat held the reigns of a brown quarter horse. Draped face down across the saddle was the wet limp form of Black Jack Roberts. The night hued silk hood clung to the still face, but gave little clue to the identity beneath.

"Why haven't you unmasked the blackguard?" Barclay demanded.

"Well, Sir." The leader spoke up. "We thought you'd be 'avin' that pleasure fer yerself, Sir."

"I see." Barclay mused walking over to the limp dark form. "Well, no sense putting it off then." He reached down and in one motion jerked the sopping hood from Black Jack's head. Gripping the hair he pulled the face into the torch light. Michael Fairchild's unseeing eyes stared back at the group.

"That's not Black Jack Roberts!" Tom Banks blurted out before he could stop himself.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 01/29/2008 22:09:32

"And just how would ye be knowin' that, Laddie Buck?" The corporal shot in Tom's direction, eyeing the olster suspiciously.

Tom Bank looked around quickly, the coldness in the eyes of all of Jack's friends ran shivers up his spine, especially the look Cecily gave him. For a moment his eyes locked with hers and the pure hatred that poured from them nearly unmanned him.

"B-B-Because he be too young!" Tom stumbled to redeem himself as fast as he could. "I was but a lad myself when Black Jack began to make a name for himself! This man couldn't be much older than I!"

"By God he's right!" Barclay exclaimed. "There's no way in Hell this man could be the Real Black Jack Roberts!"

The thundering sound of hoof beats brought the redcoats flintlocks to their shoulders, aiming at the sound. Out of the darkness came a coal black horse carrying a slumping, soaking wet Robert Johnson in it's saddle. Raven had no sooner entered the ring of light cast by the flickering torches than he slid from the stallion's back to the ground.

Cecily stood for a moment in shock, both her hands covered her mouth and her sapphire eyes were almost wide enough to threaten swallowing her face. Huge tears welled up in their corners and she ran to kneel at Jack's side, pulling his wet head into her lap.

"Oh, J...Robert!" She wept. "Robert! Please open your eyes! Please speak to me!"

At the sound of her voice Jack's eyelids trembled, then slowly opened to look at her. Love lit the furthest depths of his blue green irises and one damp, cold hand reached up to stroke her cheek. "Cecily, y-your safe." He smiled. "Thank God your safe."

"Get him inside to the fire!" Josiah Parker spoke up. "He'll catch his death sure if he stays out here much longer!"

Barclay motioned to two of his men, who moved forward to lift Jack's limp form between them. Cecily refusing to completely release him kept her hold on one of his hands. Just as they were about to enter the tavern a shot from the hill in the meadow froze them all in their tracks.

"I owe you a debt, Robert Johnson!" Shouted the black clad figure at the apex, the full moon behind it making the unmistakable figure of Black Jack Roberts all the darker. "You've saved me the trouble of killing that imposter myself! As I said four years ago, I will kill the next man that takes my name for his own! This time you beat me to it! If there is ever another he will not be so lucky!"

With that he reared the black stallion and turned to gallop over the far side of the rise to vanish from sight. "Shall we peruse, Sergeant Major?" The corporal asked starting for his mount.

"As you were, soldier." Barclay commanded. "We've played that game before, and I'll be damned if I spend this night chasing that ghost. Take Mr. Johnson inside. I'd like to hear his side of this once he's warmed up a bit."

After the soldiers had gotten Jack into the office of The Crossbow Cecily had Molly go upstairs to retrieve some dry clothing, and had the redcoats wait outside while she helped him to change. Once they were alone she wrapped a blanket, and her arms, around him kissing his face over and over.

"Darling, I thought I would never see you again in this world." She sobbed in happiness.

"And you were nearly right, Darling." Jack smiled and reached up to stroke her cheek. "I had under estimated Michael's determination. After I had struck home he clung to life long enough to grab me. My God, but his grip was like bands of steel! I heard him hiss in my ear that he would take me to Hell with him, and we fell over the fall."

"The madman was dead by the time we hit the bottom, but his death grip still held me fast. Luckily I had the time to fill my lungs before we plunged in. Though it took me a fair while, I knew I had to make it back to you somehow, for I had no idea if his female accomplice had come to or not. By the time I had finally broken the hold and breached the surface the currant had carried us far from the farm, and I found myself in for the swim of my life."

"I had made the opposite shore utterly exhausted, and collapsed for a moment or two. I made my way back through the wood, and was just about to ride back here when I spied George and Geoff. They warned me about the redcoats being summoned to The Crossbow. We cut across country to our home, where I changed clothing, had Geoff put on my spare costume, and then we proceeded to dump buckets of water over my head to finish the effect. Something the twins gained a perverse pleasure in doing, I might add!"

"Considering this is the second time this night I've been soaked to the bone, I think a few nights in your arms would be more than called for, once we rid ourselves of the good Sergeant Major." Jack grinned, even though Cecily could tell he was all but spent in strength.

"First you will allow me and Annie to dress those wounds, My Dear Husband!" She retorted. "Did you think I would not notice those wounds that Michael inflicted on you during your duel?" Jack knew better than to argue.

While Annie and Cecily tended the injuries he had sustained in the swordfight both relayed the story that had been told to Barclay. Jack grinned. "With, but minor exceptions it would sound as if the two of you told little more than the truth."

He stood as best he could, and walked stiffly to the thick oak door. "Well lets not keep the Sergeant waiting any longer. The sooner we are rid of him for this night, the better. M'Ladies?"

Both Cecily and Annie insisted on helping him to the table in front of the fireplace where Barclay waited patently. While Jack relayed the same story that Barclay had heard from Cecily, with the addition of Jack's escape from the river, George and Geoff entered the tavern.

"Robert!!" They exclaimed as one, feigning surprise.

"We'd given you up for dead!" Geoff rushed to shake Jack's hand.

"Aye," George added taking his turn, "and we were none to hurried to come back and tell your wife she was a widow."

"As you can see, my friends, I have survived, by God's good grace." Jack grinned.

"Well, Sir," The Sergeant Major stood up to leave, "I believe I have more than enough for my report. I, and my men, will leave you to your reunion, Mr. Johnson."

"My thanks, Sergeant." Jack smiled. "You will forgive me if I do not rise."

"Of course, Sir." Barclay bowed. "You have had a trying enough time for one night. We shall take our leave now. If we may borrow your olster to aid with our mounts?"

"Of course, Sergeant Barclay." Jack motioned for Tom to follow.

Once outside Barclay prepared to mount his chestnut stallion, as Tom held the reigns. Without looking at the stable hand he spoke softly, yet firmly. "You know I am now inclined to mistrust your word, Mr. Banks. All evidence of your claim that Robert Johnson is indeed Black Jack Roberts has been thoroughly refuted this night."

Placing one foot in the polished brass stirrup he swung easily into the saddle. Finally looking hard into the eyes of Thomas Banks. "In fact I am inclined to believe you have fabricated everything you have told us in a vain attempt to steal the man's wife. You needn't look so shocked, I have observed how you look at her when you think no one else is watching."

"However, although I remain unconvinced that they are one and the same, I do have my own suspicions as to their relationship. Therefore I do not completely discount your information." Barclay wheeled his horse to leave. "In the future take my advice and make certain you have evidence to back your information before you bring it to us."

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

I just want to be Layla.....