“No, wait!” Charles called out as the man turned to go. “Robert is missing. Send them down to me at once!”
The first mate hurried from the room to carry out Lord Dagon’s order, leaving silence behind him as everyone exchanged looks, anxious to learn about what had happened to Robert; all except Stephen who stared blank-faced at the empty doorway. He took the moment to prepare himself to act surprised when the two would come to report finding Robert’s dead body. He had no idea that his surprise would be authentic as he smiled to himself and felt the amulet where it now rested heavily in his pocket.
“These are the two I spoke of,” the first mate said as he ushered in a large balding Arab and a small unkempt street boy. “They do not speak English, but I will translate for you if you wish.”
“Thank you Neal,” Charles said and then gestured for the pair to come closer as he spoke, “You say that you have news of my son. Where is he? Is he all right?”
Neal Garret, the first mate, spoke in rapid tones to the two and then listened to their reply. His face showed great concern as the man and boy finished their tale. Stricken, Neal looked at the people that waited eagerly for his interpretation, unsure of how he could soften the blow of what he had just heard.
“Weal, speak oop, mon!” Jesep ordered, growing impatient with the man. “Wha’ ha’ happened ta Robert?”
“He’s been very badly hurt, I’m afraid,” Neal answered hesitantly.
“Hurt?” Stephen exclaimed, astonished that the man had not said dead. Quickly recovering, he asked, “How seriously and by whom?”
“They say that this boy here found him lying in an alley. He’s been badly beaten and stabbed,” Neal spoke, more to Charles than to anyone else. “The boy ran for help, getting this man here and the owner of a nearby tavern to go with him and carry Robert back to the inn. The owner is there now trying to save him. I’m sorry to have to tell you, sir, but they say that his wounds are so bad that he may not live.”
“Neal, tell these two that I will amply reward them if they take us to him immediately! I will need you to come with us as well,” Charles said and then turned to face the others as Neal nodded and obeyed. “Leigha, I want you to stay here. It isn’t safe for you in the city. Simon, stay here with her and see that she remains calm. Now the rest of you, come with me!”
Jesep and Gordon were already on their feet and heading towards the door, but Stephen remained standing near the table.
“Stephen, aren’t you coming?” Gordon stopped and turned to call out to him as Charles and the others left the room.
“I . . . I cannot!” Stephen lowered his head as if in shame. “I feel responsible for this. I should never have listened to Robert,” he said as he raised his head to show a tear he had managed to press out. “I could not bear to see him as hurt as they say. This is my fault!”
Stephen ran from the room past the startled Gordon who shook his head, his face showing the pity he felt for Stephen’s remorse. Nodding his head to Simon and Leigha who looked on, he quickly turned and ran after the others as they left the ship and went out into the dark city beyond.
“Oh Simon!” Leigha sobbed, burying her face in her hands as everyone left. “Robert is going to die, I just know it! I feel as responsible as Stephen does!”
“Hush now. Stephen’s more responsible than you think, I’m sure of it,” Simon said tersely as he gathered Leigha into his arms to hold her comfortingly. “I know that he has done something to cause this.”
“It was not his fault that Robert got lost,” Leigha said, looking up to see Simon coldly staring towards the open door. “Is it, Simon?”
“I don’t believe that Robert was lost at all. I know Stephen’s tricks well, and I believe that he had something to do with Robert’s attempted murder. I’d be willing to bet that he even has Robert’s amulet!”
“The amulet? What is it doing here?” Leigha exclaimed her surprise. “Robert has always hated it, he thinks that it will have something to do with his death and so wants nothing to do with it!”
“It may well have everything to do with what has happened to him tonight. He brought it with him hoping to use it to buy you back if necessary,” Simon explained, looking now into Leigha’s anxious eyes. “He has worn it ever since our arrival here and Stephen knows it.”
“And you think that he has planned all this to steal the amulet?” Leigha asked, her face showing the horror she felt at the thought. “How could anyone be that evil?”
“Stephen is. I have told you of his deeds,” Simon said, giving her a light squeeze and then releasing her to turn and leave the room. “You wait here, little one. I’m going to have a talk with my brother and find out what has really happened. If he has the amulet, then I’ll have proof that he is guilty.”
“Simon, be careful,” Leigha called out to him as he strode out of the room. “Oh, please be careful my love!”
Virginia Lee ~ Dagon’s Blood excerpt ~ Kindle, hard cover, and trade paperback available http://amzn.to/xYy0gL