?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Title: Flight of the Eagle
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 4898
Summary Steven gets some closure on recent events and makes a new start.
Notes: This is the third part of my original trilogy and you can easily see what influenced me at the time. ; ) This was also used as the basis/framework for my earliest surviving fanfic that will be posted soon. Also, I apologize to those in the UK if my time and distance is off


19 Flight of the Eagle


May 1951



Steven Taylor settled back into his chair. He looked about the spacious office; a bit too big for his personal taste, but then it wasn't his office. William was on the phone talking to some big-wig official. That's what you get, working in an embassy. "Yes, sir. Right away, sir. Good-bye." He hung up the phone. "Sorry to keep you waiting, your Grace. I've just been running ragged for the past few days. I did get a chance to dig up some information on that name you gave me."

"I hope you didn't go too far out of your way."

"Anything to help. Here's the folder. Seems he ran into a bit of trouble in London two years ago and left for Switzerland. Seems you knew his brother Edward."

"I thought that was the reason." His tone was bitter. "Where was he last headed?"

"Sources say he went back to England and disappeared. That was about the time you abdicated. Shouldn't be too hard to find. In most ways he's like his brother: likes big social parties and gambles quite a bit."

"Good. Get me a plane, I'm going back to London."

"I'll arrange it."

Steven boarded the plane bound for London as just another face in the crowd. After a year out of the public eye, he had come full circle in his career: people knew the name but couldn't place the face.

The plane landed in Heathrow Airport two hours later. He took a taxi to the Ritz then walked to his flat. He smiled as he unlocked the door knowing his sister had arranged for it to be looked after while he was away. He set down his bags, poured himself a drink, then sat on the couch and looked through the file on Edward Mannering's brother.

His first name was Roger and he was a year older than Edward. The two had been very close. When Roger had to leave the country, Edward gave him the money. Added in pen was the thought that since Roger learned of Edward's arrest and subsequent suicide, he swore revenge on the man responsible; Lord James Stuart, duke of Edinburgh, also known as Steven Taylor. Steven looked at the enclosed photo. Roger did resemble his brother and had deep blue eyes and light brown hair. He committed the face to memory before putting the file away in his desk.

He changed into a fresh suit and hailed a taxi. "Where to, mate?" asked the cabby.

"Drive me to the Palace."

"Buckin'am?"

"Isn't the only one in London, isn't it?"

"Yeah, guess it is."

The cabby dropped Steven off at the Palace gates without any further questions. Steven let himself in by the mews and entered the Palace. It was quiet as he wandered through his former home. It was only 9:00 so Sarah would not be asleep, she had probably just gone to her room. He ascended the stairs and knocked on her door. "Come in."

Steven walked in. She had her back to the door. "Hey, kid. How's life?"

"Steven! You're back!" She hugged him. "It's great to see you again! Are you hungry? Thirsty?"

"No, I'm fine, really."

"What brings you back?"

"I've got a lead on who killed Victoria. Besides, I wanted to see how you were doing."

"I'm great! I have some new friends and they're not all stuffed shirts. And I'm engaged!"

"Wonderful. When did it happen?"

"He proposed about five months ago. I'm surprised you didn't hear about it. He's wonderful. Honest, kind, suave, good-looking..."

"When am I going to meet this paragon?"

"We were going to Brighton for a small party. The date is set for next week. His name is Richard Malone."

He hugged her. "I'm really happy for you."

"Why don't you stay here tonight? It'll be like old times."

****************************************

He woke later in the morning than usual. He shaved, dressed, and went downstairs to eat. Sarah must have told the staff he was there because they did not act as if his presence were anything unusual. Sarah was in the dining room. "Good morning. Did you sleep well?"

"Like a baby. I have an idea about today. How about if I go down to Brighton first, fix up the house and pretend to be a servant or something? That way I can observe Richard acting normally without him knowing your big brother is watching. I promise I won't do anything to embarrass you and I'll be myself, too. Deal?"

Sarah hesitated. "Okay, it's a deal."

After breakfast was finished, Sarah had the chauffeur drive Steven to his flat. When he was inside, he immediately went to the phone and dialed the post office. "I'd like to send a telegram to the States. Ready? 'John Fitzgerald, Greenwich, CT, USA. Expecting a bit of trouble soon. Will need your help. Hope the next plane to Heathrow. Mention me if there's trouble.' Sign that 'Taylor'. Thanks." He hung up the phone then went to pack.

It was a nice day for a drive; the sun was shining brightly. The engine of the Alvis purred softly as Steven weaved in and out of traffic. His thoughts turned to Roger Mannering. He must not know that Steven was back in England or something would have happened by now. It took him a little less than a half-hour to reach Brighton. Inside the house, Steven checked the foodstuffs to see if there would be enough, then went to change.

*******************************

In Connecticut, Fitz read the telegram. He was puzzled by the cryptic message, but knew that when Steven said there was trouble, there was trouble. He told his mother he had to go straight to London. She did not question why, she knew Steven had asked for him. Once at Heathrow, Fitz picked up his suitcase from the baggage claim and hailed a cab. "Where to, squire?"

"Buckingham Palace, please."

"Oh, Lor'! you're the second bloke in two days what asked to go there!"

"Really?"

"Yeah. Why can't you tourist fellas tike the reg'lar way?"

"I'm not a tourist. I was asked to come."

"By the Queen hersel', right?"

"No. Actually, it was her brother."

"I got ya there, mate. 'Er brother's on the Cont'nent."

"You're wrong. I've got a feeling that the 'bloke' you took to the Palace yesterday was James." At this, the cabby laughed. "I wouldn't laugh if I were you. It's probably true."

Fitz paid his fare, grabbed his suitcase, and went up to the gate. A guard asked for his name and business. "John Fitzgerald. I'm a friend of the Queen's from the States." The guard picked up the phone in his booth and spoke to the other end.

"You may go in," said the guard gruffly. He opened the gate for Fitz to pass through.

Fitz walked the path to the main door and rang the bell. The door was opened by Sarah herself. "Fitz, it's so good to see you! It's been such a long time!" She hugged him. "I'm forgetting my manners. Come on in. Excuse the mess, I'm going to Brighton for the weekend. What brings you here?"

"I got a telegram from Steven asking me to come as soon as possible. He said he was expecting trouble."

"Trouble? Maybe that's why he wanted to go down to the house first."

"What?"

"He wanted to disguise himself as a servant 'to observe' as he put it. He wants to see if my fiancé really loves me."

"I forgot you were engaged. You really love him, don't you?"

"Yes, I do." She smiled. "Why don't you come with us down to Brighton? I'm sure Richard won't mind. Besides, Steven might want your help."

"If you're sure."

"I'm positive."

About fifteen minutes later, the man in question arrived. Fitz saw a very good-looking man, about five-foot- ten, with sandy-brown hair and bright blue eyes. No wonder Sarah had fallen for him. Fitz knew then that he did not have a chance for Sarah's affections.

"Richard, I'd like you to meet John Fitzgerald, an old friend from the States. An old beau, as a matter of fact."

"Oh, really? Nice to meet you, John."

"Please, call me Fitz. Everyone does."

"Okay...Fitz." He turned to Sarah. "Ready to go?"

"Richard, would you mind if Fitz came along? After all, he came all this way."

"Can't very well leave him here. Of course you can come, Fitz. Ever been to Brighton before?"

"No, never. I've only been to England twice before and that was just London."

"You'll be in for a treat," said Sarah.

They arrived in Brighton an hour later and were greeted at the door by a servant in his early fifties. Sarah was taken back by the change in her brother. "Where's Sanford?"

"His mother was taken ill, ma'am. The agency sent me to fill-in. My name is Townshend. May I take your bags?"

"Thank you, Townshend."

"If the gentlemen will follow me, I will show them to their rooms."

Fitz and Richard followed Townshend. He stopped in front of a door. "Mr. Malone, this is your room. There is an attached bath for your convenience. Mr. Fitzgerald, if you will follow me."

Fitz followed the servant further down the hall. Townshend opened the door and stepped aside to let Fitz enter. It was bright and airy with a view of the Channel. Townshend spoke. "I felt that since this was your first visit, you should have a room with a view. You also have an attached bath. Will that be all?"

"Yes, thanks."

"Hey, Fitz, keep an eye on Richard. I don't like his looks. Talk to you tonight at the party." Steven shut the door behind him.

Fitz stared in surprise at the door. He smiled as he changed out of his traveling clothes and into jeans and a T-shirt before going downstairs. He walked into the kitchen and saw Steven drinking a beer. "Won't Richard suspect?"

"No. He and Sarah are outside. I want to talk to you about him. Here," he reached into his pocket and pulled out a photo, "look at this picture. That's a photo of Roger Mannering, brother of Edward. He's the one who killed Victoria."

"Are you sure? I don't want you to do anything rash."

"Would I kid about a thing like that? I swore an oath that I would find out who killed her and dispense proper justice. I've been searching all over Europe only to learn he's been in England practically the whole time. If he's doing this just to get me, I don't want Sarah too deeply involved."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Keep an eye on the two of them tonight at the party. I'm going to show up as myself and I want you to watch Mannering's reaction. Just remember to call him Richard or we'll blow the whole thing."

"Okay. What's the party for, anyway?"

"Just some of Sarah's friends. I can't watch him all the time, that's why I asked you to come. It'll call for you spending quite a bit of time with Sarah." Fitz was embarrassed. "Here they come. Help me with the hors d'oeuvres so he won't suspect anything."

"Does Sarah know your suspicions?"

"No. This just started as a plan to watch her fiancé. It wasn't until I saw him at the door that I learned it was Mannering."

Sarah and Richard came into the room. "Fitz, you should have been outside. The sunset was beautiful."

"Maybe I'll go out later this evening."

"And miss my party? I'm sure there will be a lot of beautiful girls interested in you."

"I doubt it. Excuse me while I go get ready."

"Your Majesty?"

"You don't need to call me that, Townshend. In front of company, maybe."

"Yes, Ma'am. Everything is ready for the party. The food will just have to be heated in the oven for a few minutes before serving. The guests should be arriving in another hour."

"Thank you, Townshend. We had better go upstairs and get ready. Please let me know when the guests begin to arrive."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Fitz waited until Sarah and Mannering had entered their rooms before he went downstairs. He entered the kitchen to see Steven taking hors d'oeuvres out of the oven. He looked up. "My, don't we look nice in our dinner jacket."

"Quit it. Is there anything I can do?"

"Yeah, just a few last-minute touches. What I'm going to do after the party gets started is to take my leave as Townshend. I'll go up the backstairs after I'm dismissed by Sarah and change out of this costume. The Alvis is parked down the street where no one will see it. I'll then drive up as myself and that's when I need you to check his reaction."

"Sure thing, but how will I know when you're going to do it? I might be out back."

"I don't know yet, but I'll think of something. Set these plates on the sideboard. You can give Sarah the 10-minute warning."

*************************************************

All during the party, Fitz tried to stay close to Mannering, but was kept away by many young women that found him attractive. They plied him with questions about what he did during the war and his relationship with Steven. "What was he like as a young boy?" "How did he do in school?" "Was he really a thief?"

"He was an okay kid. We were really close, like brothers. He was so smart in school that he had colleges willing to pay him to choose them. Since times were tough, he needed a way to make money. He did a little thieving on his own then fell in with some small-time thieves, turning them into the most-wanted gang in New England. He broke out on his own and everyone knows the rest."

"What about during the war? Is it true that you rescued him from a German convoy?"

"I didn't do it myself. My unit and I only knew there was an important prisoner."

Townshend came by with a tray. "Your drink, sir."

"I didn't ask for a drink."

"It's from Her Majesty, sir." He handed Fitz the drink with a small note. He then disappeared into the crowd.

"Excuse me, please." Fitz strolled out onto the terrace and read the brief note. "Now's the time." He walked back inside and made his way towards Sarah and Mannering.

He had just reached them when an approaching car was seen in the driveway. "I just hate it when people come late to my parties," said Sarah as she went to the door. She was reaching for the handle when the door opened. "It's great to see you!" the guests heard her cry. "I didn't know you were back!"

The two walked back to the party and all eyes stared at the couple as they stood in the doorway. "Everyone, I'd like you to meet my brother James. He's just returned from spending the past year on the Continent." The guests clapped, and, after a slight hesitation, Mannering joined in.

When Steven had a chance to get away, he joined Fitz for a walk along the beach. "So, tell me, what were his reactions?"

"When he first saw you, he stared. He slowly joined in the clapping. He had this look on his face, almost as if you could see the wheels turning in his head."

"So he does have a plan of sorts. He just wasn't ready to put it into action so soon." They walked further down the beach. "I'm going to have lunch with Mannering on Thursday."

"You can't be serious! The man is out to kill you and you're going to have lunch with him? I can't believe it."

"It's good to confront him and see what he does. I have an idea of what he'll try and a plan how to oppose it."

********************************

Sunday evening Fitz drove with Steven back to London to stay at his flat. "I still can't believe you accepted his invitation."

"Actually, I was the one who made the invitation."

"You did what? Now I know you're crazy."

On the Thursday before the wedding, Steven went to his luncheon appointment. Before he left, he spoke with Fitz. "If anything happens to me before the wedding, hold your tongue. If I'm not there, I want you to wait until they ask for any objections. Only then and not sooner."

"So you think he's got something up his sleeve."

"I'm giving him his best opportunity to get me out of the way, and I don't think he's gonna pass it up."

"What should I say to Sarah if you don't show?"

"You'll think of something. You always were a great liar." He grinned then left for the restaurant.

After the meal, Steven began the conversation. "Well, Roger, I'm glad you could join me."

"That night at the party, I wondered if you knew."

"I went all over Europe trying to find you only to learn that you had come back here. You're certainly moving in exalted circles. You gave me quite a surprise when I saw you arrive with my sister."

"No one was there except the butler... Very clever."

"Thank you. If you will excuse me." Steven left the table.

While Steven was gone, Roger put a powder into his drink. "That should knock him out for awhile."

"Sorry about that," Steven said upon his return.

"That's quite all right."

Steven took a sip of his drink. There was a tinge of bitterness. His plan had worked. He finished the glass. "I feel a little groggy."

"Would you like me to drive you home?"

"If it's not too much trouble."

"My car's right outside. Here, lean on me." Roger helped him into the car. The last thing Steven remembered was driving along the Thames.

*************************************

He woke in a small stone-walled room. When his vision cleared, he could see that there were bars over the small window in the door. Steven propped himself up slowly on a small cot with a straw mattress. He rose and walked to the window, which was also barred. He glanced out and found himself looking down on the inner courtyard of the Tower of London. The setting sun cast shadows on the walls. "I must have been out since lunch."

"That's right, Taylor, you were. Or should I say James?"

"You and your brother think a lot alike."

"Edward was a nobody, a weakling."

"You can't be blaming me for his suicide."

"Why not? You were the cause."

"Wouldn't you think it was his fault for being caught?"

"That's no longer the question. You were the cause for my brother's death. I failed in Switzerland, but I'll get you here. A slow and painful death. And in three days I'll be married to the Queen of England."

"Must admit you have style. Not many people would think of the Tower."

"I like to think of it as history repeating itself. I must be off. Enjoy yourself, James." Mannering locked the door behind him and left Steven alone in his cell.

******************************

Fitz was worried when Steven did not return. He knew he could not tell a soul about Mannering. He had promised. He wondered how he could face Mannering not knowing if Steven was still alive. I just have to go through with it.

When Fitz saw Mannering the next day, he thought of Steven. He came up with an explanation for his friend's disappearance. "He had to go away on an urgent trip to Hamburg."

"Hamburg? What's so important there?"

"He didn't say. He said he would try and be back in time for the wedding."

"That's very unlike him. Fitz, if he doesn't make it, will you give me away?"

"I'm sure he'll be here, but if not, I'll do it."

"Thank you."

Fitz saw Mannering staring at him and wondered if he knew.

*******************************

Steven woke the next morning to the ravens cawing outside his window. His back ached from the mattress. The damp wasn't doing him much good either. He heard someone tramping up the steps. It was probably the guard that Mannering had paid to keep an eye on him. The man shoved a bowl of gruel through the flap under the door along with a glass of tepid water. The man did not say a word, but turned and plodded back down the stairs.

He ate a few spoonfuls of the gruel and drank about half the water. He could hear a guide speaking outside. "Many famous royal personages were held here over the years. Now it is only used for housing the Crown Jewels."

Steven laughed at this remark. "That's what you think."

The tour went on and it reminded Steven of his first tour of the Towers six years ago. So much had happened since then. He did some exercises to keep himself from going crazy then stretched out on the cot. It was going to be a long day.

********************************

Friday, Fitz was still worried about Steven. "If I only knew. Sarah seems to have accepted the fact that he's in Germany. I wish I could tell her the truth, but I promised."

When Steven had still not shown up for the rehearsal, Fitz had to fill in for him. He glanced at Mannering out of the corner of his eye and saw him with a smirk on his face. Steven, where are you?

*****************************

The next time Steven saw Mannering was late Saturday morning, the day of the wedding. "Well, James--brother-- after this morning I will be on an equal level to you, maybe higher. I could trump up some charge of treason and have you executed."

"I hope you realize that I'm not stupid enough to let you kidnap me without leaving information behind. If you kill me, someone can still nab you for murder."

"They wouldn't dare."

"What would prevent them? Murder is murder no matter who commits it."

"We shall soon see, James. We shall soon see."

As Mannering left, Steven walked to the door and shoved a piece of material into the door to jam the lock. Roger didn't notice.

Steven waited a sufficient length of time to allow Roger to leave and get to the cathedral before he made his move. He knew when the next tour was going through so he waited and joined it. The people took no notice of his disheveled appearance. Once outside, he hailed a taxi. "St. Paul's and hurry."

"I won't be able to get close, mate, 'cos o' the weddin'."

"Do your best."

The taxi pulled away. Steven glanced in the rearview mirror and could not get over how bad he looked. The suit he had on was soiled and he was unshaven and unkempt. How was he going to handle this?

*******************************

Fitz rode with Sarah to the Cathedral. "It's not like Steven to miss something like this," she said.

"I'm sure he's trying his hardest to be here."

"Are you?"

"Yes. He's probably on his way here now."

They arrived at St. Paul's. The guests were waiting patiently and Mannering was on the dais. Sarah squeezed his hand. "Thanks for being here, Fitz."

"You're welcome." Inside, Fitz was in turmoil. What would he say? How long could he wait? Where was Steven?

The music began. Fitz held out his arm for Sarah and they walked down the aisle. "You're more nervous than I am, and I'm the one getting married. What's wrong?"

"I'm worried about Steven."

"You said he was called away to Germany. There's nothing to worry about."

"There is. I just can't tell you. Please understand."

They arrived at the altar. Fitz gave Sarah away then stood to the side. The ceremony slowly approached the critical point. Fitz began to think of what to say. "If there is anyone who knows of any impediment why these two should not be joined in Holy Matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace."

Here we go! "I do!" Sarah looked at him questioningly while Mannering glared at him. "I'm sorry, Sarah, but I can't let you do it. I can't let you marry a murderer!"

"Fitz, what do you mean?"

"Young man," asked the Archbishop, "do you have proof?"

"The sober truth. This man killed King James' wife in Switzerland."

"How do you come by this evidence?"

"James told me himself and I bet Roger here killed him, too."

In one quick move, Roger pulled out a knife and held it to Sarah's throat. "If anyone makes a move, she gets it."

Fitz walked forward, slowly. "So you did kill Victoria. Why?"

Mannering retreated backwards down the aisle. "I was aiming for Taylor. He was responsible for my brother's death."

"Your brother?" They were halfway to the main doors.

"Edward was arrested on an attempted murder charge. He committed suicide in prison." The door was at his back now. Fitz kept walking towards him. "Don't anyone try to follow us. I swear, she'll get it." He walked backwards through the door and felt something sharp prick him in the back.

"I would advise letting go, Roger, or I swear..." It was Steven.

Mannering slowly withdrew his hand from Sarah's neck. She ran to Fitz. With his hostage gone, Roger knew there was only one way out. He lunged with his knife towards Steven, who saw it coming and stepped aside. Mannering ran outside and Steven followed. Mannering lunged again and caught Steven in the leg. Instinctively, Steven reached out and drew blood from Mannering's arm. Mannering staggered down the steps as the crowd cleared a path. Steven hobbled down the steps but could not catch up. He saw a thick branch lying on the ground, picked it up, and threw it at Mannering's legs. Mannering tripped and fell. Upon landing, he let out an agonizing scream then was quiet.

Steven limped slowly over to Mannering's still body knowing what had happened. He sat down next to the body and turned it over. The knife was sticking out from below the ribcage. He looked up to see Sarah and Fitz walking over. Sarah looked at him then at the body. Steven shook his head. She buried her head on Fitz's chest and he put an arm around her for comfort.

Fitz then noticed that Steven was bleeding. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, my leg's just killing like bloody hell."

"Let me help you. Is anyone here a doctor?"

A man stepped forward. "I am."

"Will you bandage his leg? I don't want to move him until it gets looked at."

The doctor examined Steven's leg and bandaged it. "You should stay off it to let it heal. Also, inform your physician."

"Thank you, doctor. Fitz, can you give me a hand?"

"Yeah, sure." He moved over and put his arm down for Steven to lean on. Sarah helped him from the other side. "Where do you want to go? The car's right here."

"Home, I think."

They took Steven to his flat and set him on the couch with his leg propped up. "Sarah, I'm sorry I put you through all that. I tried to do it the easiest way possible. I'm truly sorry. Really I am."

"It's okay, Steven. I know you didn't mean to hurt me like that. It's not like he was the only man in the world."

Steven glanced at Fitz. "Can someone scrape up some food? I'm starved."

"I'll fix you something. What've you got?"

"There should be some hamburger in the fridge."

While Fitz was in the kitchen, Steven talked with Sarah. "I know someone who really cares for you."

"Really? Who?"

"Fitz."

"Fitz?"

"Ever since high school. Why do you think he always asked you out? As a favor to me? No, he wanted to."

"I can't believe it."

"It's true. He's just too afraid to tell you his true feelings."

"I guess I always liked him. I just never thought about him like that."

"Hey, Sarah! You want one too?"

"Yeah, thanks."

Fitz came out twenty minutes later with food and drinks on a tray. "Damn! I forgot napkins."

"Oh, I'll get them."

"Thanks." Fitz sat next to Steven. "She seems different. What did you say to her?"

"Nothing much. Apologized again. She told me there was someone she loved more."

"Yeah? Who?"

"You."

"Are you sure she wasn't just saying it?"

"She said she had a crush on you in high school but didn't think you were serious."

"God, you know I was. I just didn't think she'd have me."

"Who'd have you?" Sarah walked back into the room.

"You. I've loved you ever since high school but never thought you liked me."

"I did and still do. I never thought you were serious. A friend of big brother."

Steven sat back and watched in silence as he ate his burger. "It's great playing matchmaker."

After the meal, Steven asked for some assistance. "I'm going upstairs now. You're both welcome to stay, but I'm dead tired. So, if one of you will help me." Fitz helped him upstairs to his room then asked if there was anything else he could do before going downstairs. When Steven turned out the light, he could hear the two of them laughing and talking.

Part 2--

Profile

SPN Dean Writing
blazoningpen
blazoningpen

Latest Month

June 2017
S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Witold Riedel