A parallel to Chapter 4 & 5 of From Haven to Hell (Tales of the Captain Duke #2), as featured in the July 2015 edition of Airmail.
Nessa waited until the sound of the Zephyr’s engines had faded into the distance before slipping out of her room. Too many days spent trapped in her sickbed, she was not going to waste this chance at a bit of freedom while the Captain Duke was away in town with Clara. Nessa did hope that the two of them would settle their differences and get on with things already, and would certainly do her part to push the two of them along, but in truth she wanted a morning away from her caretakers’ watchful eyes.
Her advantage lay in the expectation that she was too weak to cause trouble. The expectations of the fairer sex had served her well in many battles to undermine her opponents. And in truth, though the throbbing headache pounding in her brain had subsided to tolerable levels, Nessa was quite aware that her current state of limited usefulness was likely to continue for some time. Assessing her options for revenge, she set out to address her most immediate target: Robbie.
Nessa knew the Haven nearly as well as Cat and Mouse. Careful not to upset the squeaky hinges of the concealed panel, she entered an old servants’ stair and snuck into a hall formerly used by household staff to move between the rooms unseen. She crept along the narrow passageway until she heard his voice. Robbie was in the parlour, enjoying a mid-morning game of darts with Renault while the simpering Maggie looked on. They were discussing trivial matters, but Nessa made herself comfortable, peeking through a small vent. Soon, her patience was rewarded.
Peg entered the room, apron smudged from her work in the kitchens,
“What do we have here? Gadabouts, the lot of you. Don’t you have duties to attend to?”
Maggie rolled her eyes dramatically and jumped down from her perch on the windowsill, “Who put you in charge? We’re pilots, not cooks. Do you see any flying to be done?”
“Ladies, ladies,” Robbie interrupted, moving between the two women. “There’s plenty of leisure to go around. Join us for a match, Peg, you play a good game if I recall.”
“You think you can lay low while this storm blows over? You are dead wrong, Robbie. If I were you I’d be worrying less about my aim and more about Nessa’s once she’s up again. Hell hath no fury…”
Nessa smiled from her hiding place, but remained silent as Trick entered the room behind them.
“There you are. Peg, the Captain should be back ere long and I want to go over some figures with you for the restock. It could be a week or more before we’re back in the skies.”
“Right away, sir,” answered Peg, shooting Robbie a dark look before heading for the door.
Maggie snickered, “Yes, back to the kitchens with you.”
Nessa had to stifle her laughter at the severe look on Trick’s face as he turned back to the three delinquents.
“Maggie, we accumulated a great deal of excrement on the canvasses since the last rainstorm. How fortunate that we’re grounded this week so you’ll have the opportunity to clean them. How kind of you to volunteer. Robbie, Renault, of course you may assist.”
With that, Peg and Trick left the parlour.
Robbie swore and flung a dart at the board, missing it entirely.
Renault was too busy being horrified to notice, “Ce n’est pas juste! Those canvasses are filthy.”
“Listen to him, grounded for a week or more he says. We should be in the skies while the weather holds, the storm season will be upon us by the time our dear Captain gets us some real action again,” said Robbie.
Maggie sidled up to him, “It won’t be long now. Not if we–“
Robbie silenced her with a look, “Not here. We need to get the others onside first. But do it quietly.”
Nessa waited until the three had left before making her way through the passage toward the Captain Duke’s study. She opened the bookshelf as quietly as she could, but before she had set foot into the room, Trick’s voice greeted her.
“Nessa, just in time for morning tea.”
Trying to hide her guilty look behind the sweep of her blonde hair, Nessa strode in to sit by the hearth while Trick poured the tea service. Once they were settled in with warm scones, Trick nodded in her direction.
“Well, I wouldn’t say sneaking about the Haven constitutes bedrest, but it was an unlikely prospect to begin with. So, what did you learn?”
“Robbie’s up to something.”
“What a surprise.”
“Renault and Maggie are in on it, there’s likely others,” she continued. “They’ll try to recruit more.”
“I expected as much. But the Captain wants proof before he proceeds. We need to know more about their plans.”
The two of them plotted over their tea, drawing up plans for the most loyal of their crew to infiltrate Robbie’s gang. They had just settled on the details when Cat and Mouse came bounding in, arms filled with packages, followed closely by the Captain Duke.
“Ness, why are you out of bed?”
Nessa ignored his question, “I see your trip to town was a success.”
The Captain frowned and busied himself with the packages. Nessa saw Cat and Mouse exchange a significant look.
“Where is Clara?” she asked. “What did you do now?”
“Actually, nothing,” he replied.
“Clara saw someone who might have recognized her, and now she’s all afraid again,” Cat blurted out.
“He barely saw her. She’s safe here,” said the Captain, but Nessa could see his concern.
“Well, then we need to make sure she knows that. Cat, Mouse, get your gear. Let’s show her how to fight.”
The siblings happily tumbled out of the study, racing towards the weapons room. Nessa stood and stretched. It would be good to get some fresh air.
“Are you sure about this?” Trick asked.
“Clara is not the same girl we found in that cargo hold. She needs a reminder of who she can be. If something from her past has spooked her, I figure we give her the tools to fight back,” she explained. “She needs to trust in herself before she places her faith in the rest of us.”
The Captain Duke considered her words and nodded, “You’re right. Her training begins now. Teach her to fight, Nessa.”
Nessa smiled and left the study, making her way slowly up the stairs to her rooms. She remembered the years before she’d chosen the pilot’s life. It had been a long while since she’d had to be afraid. But she recognized those parts of herself in the young woman. It was time to turn the lady into a proper hellcat. With that, Nessa knocked on Clara’s door…