Captain Jack Aubrey finished his rashers and toast and drank his cup of dark, strong coffee. He was anxious to start early working on the new dome for his telescope, a luxury he was able to afford with his success in the Mauritius campaign. He had money and time to improve the structure on the hill overlooking his cottage. The house itself was being expanded with new wings to provide space for his growing family, guests, and junior officers he kept on between ships.
For he was, indeed, between ships. Despite victories and prizes from Mauritius and fine words from the Admiralty, a ship was not available. All were commanded by more senior captains. He was assured as soon as one was available, it was his. In the meantime, he was appointed commander of the local sea fensibles, a recognition of the Admiralty's desire to keep him active and provide him financial reward for his role in England's capture of the Mauritius Islands from the French.
"Stephen, would you take a look at the new mounting for the telescope? It will give me several more arc seconds of swing." Stephen Marturin, his ship's surgeon and house guest, replied, "I would be delighted. "As Jack and Stephen got up from the table, they heard a horse galloping toward the house. Looking out the window, Jack saw it was Simpson, a dark-haired lad under his command who had morning coast watch . Jack rushed to the door. The young man clambered from his horse in a cloud of dust.
"Captain! Captain Aubrey, Sir! It's Jennings! They found him by the shore. He's dead! And they found a French officer in a dingy. He's dead, too!"
Quickly Jack ascertained where the bodies were. He saddled two horses while Stephen rushed inside to get his medical bag. After mounting, they galloped down the lane.
Stephen stood up after examining the bodies. "You can see Jennings was stabbed. The bloody knife of the Frenchman could have done it. The officer was shot and Jennings pistol was fired. I will need to examine the bodies more closely to tell more."
"No papers were found on either body," said Jack. "Their pockets were rifled. Who searched them? What was the Frog doing here? Blast Jennings hide! Did he find the officer with the dingy or was he waiting for him?"
© 2000 Bill Holmes