Bl**dy Jack, Part 11

The doctor is kept busy with over a dozen sailors and marines injured from today's action. There have been three deaths as well; men who had watched and applauded when I had played my penny-whistle, and danced a merry jig. I also learn that Midshipman Bliffil has been placed under arrest for deserting his post at the height of the battle.

Fortunately for me the busy doctor decides all I need is some rest and I'm discharged from the sick bay. Jaimy soon finds me and we embrace each other. There are too many men going to and fro for our greeting to be anything more than chaste.

"I've been made acting-Midshipman," says Jaimy. "Jenkins is wounded, and I dare say you've heard about Bliffil."

I congratulate Jaimy and tell him I'm sure they'll make his appointment permanent when we get back to England. But our reunion is cut short when I receive word that Captain Locke wishes to see me in his cabin; now.

I knock on the captain's door and he calls me to enter. Lieutenant Tilden is there as well.

"Glad to see you're up and about, Faber. Nasty business on the beach. But Le Fievre won't be troubling anyone again. I just wanted to say well done, and to let you know I've recommended you for promotion to Midshipman. I've already notified the Admiralty in London and they replied quite quickly," says Captain Locke.

"The Admiralty confirm your promotion, but point out one discrepancy in my report. Faber, do you know you're a female?"

"Yes sir! All my life, sir!" I say, standing to attention.

"Most irregular. Most irregular. Due to the limited space on the Dolphin this mission was to have a male only crew. I'm sure you were aware of that, Faber. What excuse do you have?"

I could spin a three-hanky sob story of a poor orphan girl alone in the world, but I know it won't cut any ice with the captain. "No excuse, sir!" I reply.

"Well at least you don't try to excuse the inexcusable. I'm afraid there will have to be a court-martial when we're back in England. I wish there was another way. I'm sorry, Faber."

"May I make a suggestion," says the professor. "Perhaps we should discuss it alone."

"Very well. Return to your quarters, Faber. No. Wait. That won't do. Wait on deck until you're called, Faber."

An hour later Captain Locke sends word for me to return. By this time I'm totally downhearted. They're sure to throw me out of the navy and I'll get locked up in some institution.

I do my best to stand straight as Captain Locke pronounces his sentence upon me.

"Thanks to the efforts of Lieutenant Tilden, and with the agreement of the Admiralty, a decision about what is to become of you has been made. You shall not be returned to England for court-martial. Instead you are to be placed in the care of Lieutenant Tilden's cousin, who runs an exclusive educational establishment in Boston, Massachusetts. In recognition of your exemplary service on this mission, the Royal Navy will award you a cash sum and a small monthly allowance to cover your expenses."

I stand there dumbfounded. "But why, sir?" is all I can say.

"It doesn't pay to question the wisdom of your superiors, Faber."

I'm dismissed. But not back to Jaimy. I'm taken to the cabin the midshipman share, and find it is now for my exclusive use. To make sure I don't go wandering about the ship, a marine is posted on sentry duty outside my door. He's one of the men who I ferried to shore only a few hours ago. At least he has the decency to look sheepish about my confinement.

Two weeks later the Dolphin docks in Boston. For some reason Captain Locke wouldn't accept my word that I won't do anything improper, and he keeps me under guard the whole journey here. He does at least hand me some official documents confirming my promotion to Midshipman. Not that I'll get much chance to use my new rank. I've been told that officially I've been transferred to the naval reserve, and no longer on active duty. I've no idea why they've done this.

It is time to depart the Dolphin and I'm at least allowed to say farewell to my shipmates. Captain Locke permits Jaimy and I to share a brief parting kiss. I grab my gear and follow Lieutenant Tilden, who is escorting me to my new home. Judging by the uniform I've been given to wear there, it must be a very eccentric place.

I'm barely out of sight when Lieutenant Haywood turns to Captain Locke.

"Do you think this is the right thing to do?" he asks Captain Locke.

"I'm just following orders. I hope she'll be alright; she's a first rate naval officer. I hate seeing her used this way," he sighs.

"How do you mean?" asks Lieutenant Haywood.

"Tilden may have been a US navy officer until recently, but he is now CIA. And Bliffil! My grandmother's cat had more naval training than him. No. He had Military Intelligence written all over him. MI5 probably. Why else do you think we were ordered to drop him off in Charleston? I sense some grubby undercover work at hand here, and young Faber is being used as a pawn in their game. I just hope she doesn't out-live her usefulness too soon."

[end]