Author's Notes: Since we are at about halfway finished with this story, I thought it was time for something completely different. And by "completely" I mean "slightly."
Warnings: Swearing, violence (light torture).
Dear Lord Beckett is about to break at least two commandments. So, you know, prepare yourselves.
Chapter Twenty Four: Missing
"Mr. Roger. Such a shame we have to keep meeting like this."
The Governor of the East India Trading Company stalked down the dock like he owned it, hands clasped behind his back and a smirk on his face. Roger snarled. At least, Lord Beckett assumed his captive was snarling. Since the skeleton lacked both skin and lips it was not the easiest of facial expressions to discern.
The sun was rising; red, ruby streams of light criss-crossed over a cloudless sky. Two sailors stood on either side of the six foot tall skeleton. Beckett glanced at each of them before turning his head to survey what was left of Roger's crew.
Three men, their green skin rotting off their bones, were tied up like wild hogs and surrounded by red-coated sailors brandishing primitive, hastily fastened clubs.
Beckett hmm-ed thoughtfully and met Roger's empty eye sockets. "Perhaps one day you might actually present a challenge," drawled the lord.
Jolly Roger spit - an impressive action, considering the lack of any internal organs. The sailor on Roger's right grimaced at his now damp boots.
"Beckett," Roger growled. "Taking me captive is futile and you know this! Release me to my ship and we shall not come to your shores again."
"Ah," Beckett smiled, "bargaining already? Desperation does not suit you, I'm afraid."
Jolly Roger harumph-ed.
"I'm curious." Beckett lightly touched the toe of his buckled shoe against the closest prisoner's knee. The crew member whimpered like a beaten dog. "Do you die when your head is removed like the scurrying rodents you set loose on my town?"
He lifted up his leg and stomped with his full weight on the crew member's knee. The already decaying bone sagged from the hit and the man screamed behind his gag.
Lord Beckett's smile grew. "Hm. It feels pain. Fascinating." He shook the remnants of flesh and blood off his foot. "Gentlemen. Off with their heads."
Jolly Roger growled again, providing some amusement for the lord. The Harkaway's captain and crew seemed to him little more than rabid dogs.
The sailors followed orders, three heads plunking one right after the other into the water beneath the dock.
Beckett nodded his approval. "Mr. Mercer, I think our guest would rather enjoy the east wing of our headquarters. Care to show him to his room?"
Mr. Mercer's face lit up with a dark grin. "It's a nice room," he whispered, slinking behind the sailors that held Jolly Roger's chains. "Got all the bells and whistles."
Lord Beckett chuckled. He watched his men lead Jolly Roger passed the fort and fiddled with the lace around his wrist. With Roger apprehended, he could finally embark on the mission he had been planning for the better part of a year. Of course, he would be farther along if he hadn't been otherwise…distracted.
Beckett cleared his throat, dismissed the men left on the dock, and started walking back to the EITC headquarters.
The sun had risen over the bloody scene in Port Royal, the last puffs of smoke from smoldering buildings drifting in the cool wind. Gray tendrils curled above his head, knotted fingers beckoning to look at what used to be.
He did not have time to give in to morbid curiosity and see what the sunlight illuminated.
He changed course and decided to head for the house. He was dirty and tired and the longer he put off dealing with his nagging wife the worse she was liable to become. All he wanted was a bath and something to eat, his bed and Elizabeth warming the sheets, and then he was going to set sail and she would not slow him down.
"Lord Beckett!" A frantic, panting voice called out from his right.
Beckett stopped, neck craning to see who was approaching him from around the bend. He arched a brow when he saw Lieutenant Groves limping down to him from the pathway. If Lord Beckett did not know any better, he would be forced to assume that the lieutenant was running away from the very place that he was venturing towards. Obviously, that could not be the case, as Roger's crew did not make it so far into the town as to put Beckett's manor in any sort of jeopardy.
"Lord Beckett, sir!" Groves sagged in front of him, breathing raggedly and bleeding from his left leg. "Sir, it's your wife!"
Beckett's jaw clenched, his eyes darting down the path to where his manor was located. "My wife?"
Groves nodded, panting hard. "She-she-"
Lord Beckett pushed passed the lieutenant, his teeth grinding together behind his closed lips.
"She's not there, sir!" Groves yelled after him. His heavy limping thudded on the dirt path as he struggled to keep up. "Sir, she's not anywhere! I've been - I've been-"
"You've been what?" Lord Beckett snapped, picking up his pace. "Meeting in secret with my wife? Hm? What concern is her location to you?"
Groves reached out and grabbed Beckett by the shoulder and the only thing that kept the lord from flipping him over said shoulder was the need for information.
"Sir," Groves panted. "I discovered her last night. With - with the blacksmith Turner. They were - they were fighting, sir. I provided them cover as best I could. Lady Beckett managed to find a horse and I thought that she and Turner went to the Governor's mansion, but I was just there, and they have not been.
"I went to your manor, thinking that maybe something happened that caused plans to change."
"But she was not there," Beckett finished, his voice a low drone.
Groves let go of him. "No, sir. No one had seen neither her nor Will Turner all night."
Lord Beckett's sweating hands curled into fists at his sides and he spun around on his heels, quickly marching back down the path to his office.
"Sir?" Groves asked, limping up to him again. "Should I check the smithy?"
Beckett turned his fiercest glare on his unwanted walking companion. He considered snapping at Groves; Elizabeth knew better than to visit Turner, of all people, in Turner's private quarters, of all places, especially after he had made it abundantly clear that that type of fraternization would not be tolerated.
"You'll go with me," he said instead, because obviously that's exactly what Elizabeth had done.
The door to the smithy was broken, hanging off it's hinges and blocking entry into the shop. Lord Beckett, annoyed, reared back his leg and kicked it, sending it flying down the stairs and crashing to the dirt floor.
He straightened his cravat as he stepped inside. The shop was in disarray. Tools were laid out, scattered, like Turner had been caught in the middle of a project. Upended chairs were tossed about the room. The donkey Beckett knew should be underneath the circular stand was missing. And there were absolutely no swords to speak of, no projects from which Turner could have been interrupted.
He frowned and stepped further into the smithy, his foot crunching over something small.
Groves came into the shop, holding his weight against the broken door frame. "Oh no," he panted. "There must have been a scuffle."
The lieutenant limped over to the stairs that led to Turner's apartment. Lord Beckett listened to every uneven step Groves took, frozen in place until the noise drifted further away.
Diamonds sparkled up at him from the dirt when he raised his foot. The fingers of his left hand flexed and curled and he stared at Elizabeth's wedding ring half buried in the ground. Three diamonds were all that were visible, the other three and the golden band pushed deeper into the clay by his own step. Cutler squatted to pluck it out of the dirt. He brought it to his lips and blew off the soot that clung to the prongs. Light streaming in from the door shined through Elizabeth's ring, projecting a rainbow of beautiful, glittering scars over his wrist. He twirled it in his fingers, mesmerized by the slashes of color it cast over him, by the way it marked every part of him it touched.
"Sir!" Groves called from the apartment. "Sir, I think there is something up here you should see."
Cutler stood and pocketed the ring. He tapped his palm against his waistcoat, the large flower shape pushing back against his skin.
It didn't take long to figure out what Groves thought Cutler needed to see. Hung over a drying rack by the fireplace were his coat and Elizabeth's shift. His fingertips ran over the white cotton fabric, surprised to find it completely dry. Since there was no fire in the hearth to speak of, the garments had to have been hung hours previously.
Cutler left them there to walk around the rest of the small apartment. Tea for two was set on the table, half consumed. What was left was frigid cold. And though he did not step inside the only bedroom, he could see the neatly made bed appeared to be unused.
He swallowed and met Groves' curious gaze.
"She was wearing men's clothes when I - when I saw her, sir," he said, looking away. "They must have been Turner's."
Cutler nodded, wetting the seem of his lips with his tongue. His eyes surveyed the apartment once more, only to get stuck on the drying rack.
He grabbed his coat, shoving his arms through the sleeves and hurriedly working the bronze buttons through their holes. The shift he folded into a perfect square, soft in his hands, and left without so much as a look back at his injured companion.
There were too many variables. He needed his office. He needed space to think.
He needed Sparrow's compass.
The arrow of the compass spun around half a dozen times before pointing to some place out at sea.
Cutler took a deep breath for the first time all morning.
"Fuck," he breathed out, snapping the lid closed. "Fuck," he said again, tossing the compass onto his desk.
Elizabeth was out at sea because, of course. Where else would she be? At home? Resting after her fall of the fort? Avoiding fights with undead pirates whilst pregnant? No, that would be something a reasonable woman would do.
"Sir?" Groves appeared in the doorway, holding his hat in his hands.
Cutler glared at the ceiling. "What?"
"I-I was just," his adam's apple bobbed up and down as he hobbled further into the office. "I was thinking."
Cutler was unimpressed. "Congratulations."
There was a knock on the open door and Lord Beckett was even more annoyed to find two additional sailors - the admiral and Gillette - looking for admittance.
He waved them in and then pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. "Gentlemen. Yes, I was expecting to see you."
Norrington bowed his head. "Has Roger given up any information to your men?"
"I have not yet heard from Mr. Mercer, but he should be reporting in soon." Beckett crossed the room to pour himself a snifter of brandy. "Which reminds me, Admiral: What is the fastest ship in your fleet? And how soon can you have it ready to sail?"
"The Interceptor. With the tide," Norrington answered without any hesitation.
The lord nodded at the information and watched as the admiral's brow furrowed in confusion.
"May I ask why, sir?"
Lord Beckett licked the liquor off his teeth. "Elizabeth is missing."
Norrington's eyes grew uncomfortably wide and Beckett watched the waves cap white outside the glass of his terrace doors.
Gillette cleared his throat. "With all due respect, sir," he began, and Beckett had to give him credit. His voice gave way to only the slightest of tremors. Gillette cleared his throat again. "We haven't, that is to say, not all the…the victims have been identified yet…sir."
Norrington glowered at his lieutenant and a hush fell over the sailors that Beckett appreciated. He emptied his snifter of brandy and poured himself another drink.
"Elizabeth is not dead," he said, searching around for his humidor. "And neither is Will Turner, her erstwhile companion, and since they are both citizens of the crown and I am in fact who I am, when I tell you to ready the Interceptor I mean now. Immediately. Yes, even before all the victims are identified."
Beckett opened the red, airtight box and pulled out a cigar.
"Sir," Gillette tried again, "Lady Beckett is with the blacksmith?"
He stuck his cigar in the nearest open flame. "So it would seem."
The three men in blue coats exchanged glances.
Lord Beckett took a big puff of his cigar and closed his eyes.
"It's just that, is it wise, sir, to deplete Port Royal of necessary resources in it's moment of need when it's possible, sir, that…" Gillette fidgeted on his feet. "Are you certain that they need to be rescued, sir?"
Beckett opened his eyes and admired the way the end of his cigar glowed. "What is your rank, Gillette?"
"Oh." He was caught off guard. "I'm lieutenant, sir."
"That's what I thought," Beckett smiled. "Does your rank, lieutenant, give you the right to question me?"
"I'm-I'm sorry, sir," Gillette ducked his head. "I was simply wondering-"
"God damn it, Gillette!" Beckett's nostrils flared as he yelled, his blue eyes all but flashing red. "If you ask one more question I will have your tongue, do you hear me?"
Gillette nodded frantically and moved to stand behind the safety of his admiral's back.
Lord Beckett grabbed the bottle of brandy and a bigger glass and crossed back over to his desk, cigar dangling out of his lips. "Ready the ship," he barked at Norrington.
Gillette quickly bolted out of the room, but Groves and the admiral held their positions.
"I need Mr. Mercer and Governor Swann and I need them now," he ordered, waving a hand and hoping that the sailors would be wiped away by the gesture.
They didn't move.
He poured himself a large glass of brandy.
Admiral Norrington took a deep breath. "Elizabeth has been my…my friend, sir, for a long time now," He said to the corner of Beckett's desk. "And I would do anything, absolutely anything, to ensure her safety." He rolled back his shoulders and forced himself to look the lord in the face. "I would lay down my own life if it would be to the benefit of hers, sir. Please, believe me."
Beckett did. What was unbelievable was the amount of men who seemed to fall so irretrievably in love with his wife.
"But my lieutenant raised some good points."
"Oh, not you too," Lord Beckett pointed his cigar at him. "Elizabeth is not dead. And as for this preposterous idea that she might have run off with Turner, of all people-"
"Actually, sir," Groves broke in, and if Beckett could kill with nothing but a look Groves would have been gasping for air. "That's what I came in to talk to you about. You see, earlier, when I was leaving your house…I lied, sir."
His right eye twitched. "You lied," the lord repeated. "To me."
Groves swallowed. "Yes, sir. I did fight along side Turner and Lady Beckett and I did provide them cover as they took off on a horse. But I first came across them in the fort's prison."
Lord Beckett pressed his thumb against his forehead, wishing he could reach in to his mind and organize his thoughts. "Sparrow. Right." His palm connected with the desk and Groves jumped at the sudden noise. "She would view an attack on Port Royal as the perfect moment to free him. She is stupid enough that she probably thought she was being clever! Really, the only thing that surprises me is the fact that I was surprised!"
Both men stared at him with large, beseeching eyes, as if they were trapped animals and he was an armed hunter. The ashes from his cigar plopped onto the hardwood floor and Cutler frowned at the mess he had made. He took another puff, holding the smoke in for a long, steadying moment before blowing it out in the admiral's direction.
"Make ready the ship," he said, turning away from them. "And send for Mr. Mercer and Governor Swann. I need to see them immediately."
Both men bowed their heads and moved to leave his office.
"And find Sparrow! I want him hanged before we set sail!"
The door clicked closed quietly behind them and Cutler took a moment to survey the painted map he had had commissioned the day he came to Port Royal. It had been just as he imagined it, all the lines filled in, all the boundaries recognized. Discovered. Conquered.
He snuffed out his cigar over Jamaica and flicked the butt to the floor.
The compass sat upside down on his desk and he flipped it over, flipped it open, and it immediately pointed to the same direction somewhere out at sea. Cutler braced his hands on either side of Sparrow's compass and hung his head.
Ian Mercer slithered into the room, catching Cutler's attention out of the corner of his eye.
He closed the lid. "Mr. Mercer. Did our honored guest bestow any wisdom upon you?"
"He was shouting something about a Brethren Court avenging him should he not be returned to his ship when I shut him in the Dark Room," Mercer sneered. "Had me shaking in my boots."
"Hm." Cutler stood up straight and cracked his neck, working on the kinks in his tight and tensing shoulders. "Brethren Court?"
Mercer nodded in confirmation.
"And Sparrow said something yesterday about Jolly Roger never having ideas on his own." Cutler sat down in his chair, reaching for his steel point pen. "Curious."
"Would you like me to go question Sparrow again, sir?" Mercer asked, slowly approaching the desk. "Now that I have more time-"
"No," Cutler interrupted, busy jotting down a note. "I'm afraid Sparrow managed to get free sometime during the invasion."
Mercer scowled. "Escaped? Impossible."
"And yet, it is so," Cutler said with dismissal in his voice. "Jacobs!" He folded the piece of parchment and wrote Francie's name on the front of it. A sailor in blue cautiously entered the office and Cutler handed him the note. "Get this to my house."
Jacobs hurried out of the room to do as he was told.
Cutler took a deep breath and reached for his drink.
It shook in his hand.
He sucked his lips in-between his teeth and set the glass down with a casual glare, irked that it was still on the surface of the desk.
"Lord Beckett," Weatherby greeted with a large smile. He glanced nervously at Mercer, his smile faltering for a moment, but he rallied and nodded his head. "Clean-up is underway. We lost a lot of good men, I'm afraid. Terrible business, these pirates. I've never seen anything like this. Not since James and I came to Port Royal has any pirate-"
Governor Swann had a tendency to ramble and Lord Beckett was in no mood to listen. He stood in search of his humidor once more, cutting off his father in law in mid pointless sentence. "I'm going to need you to sign off on an order - I need sailors for a voyage."
"What?" Weatherby shook his head, long curls spilling over his shoulder. "Oh, no, I'm afraid I couldn't possibly spare any sailors. A voyage? We were attacked by pirates, Lord Beckett, a type of not fully dead men I have never seen before and I hope never to see again. We're vulnerable. There could be another attack and-"
Lord Beckett slammed the humidor closed. "Elizabeth is missing."
The governor's mouth dropped open. "Pardon?"
Beckett lit his cigar and motioned for Weatherby to take a seat.
"Elizabeth is missing," he repeated, blowing out a puff of smoke. "She was last seen during the attack riding on a horse with William Turner."
"Turner," Weatherby repeated in a dazed voice, fanning himself with his hand.
Cutler nodded at Mercer and the manservant opened the doors of the terrace, letting in the chilled air the storm from the previous night had left behind.
"Elizabeth is missing with Will Turner?" Governor Swann said at last.
Cutler offered him a glass of brandy, keeping the bottle for himself.
"You don't think that, thank you," Weatherby took the drink and shifted in his seat. "What I mean, Lord Beckett, is that Elizabeth - she always had a soft spot for that boy. And I tried to put a stop to it, I did. I thought that, well, that that ship had sailed, so to speak, years ago, but then she turned down an offer of marriage from James Norrington, back when he was just a Commodore, you know, and-"
"Weatherby," Cutler's voice was louder than it should have been. He took a deep breath in through his nose and tapped his palm against the wedding ring in his pocket. "She did not run off with Mr. Turner. Elizabeth was taken with Mr. Turner."
Governor Swann's eyes were bright in the ruby sunlight shining in from the terrace. "How can you be sure, Cutler?"
He sat down in the chair behind the desk, resting the back of his head against the cushions and blowing smoke at the ceiling. "Mr. Mercer was able to glean two very important pieces of information. Based on what we now know, it seems as though Jolly Roger was sent to attack us for some bigger purpose."
"He was the distraction," Weatherby supplied, his bushy eyebrows knitted straight together across his forehead. "So that someone else could take Elizabeth?
Cutler lifted his head to meet his father in law's gaze.
The older man nodded, smiling brokenly down at the glass in his hands. "I always worried about this. Before I took the job and even after. Her safety…she would make such a target for a ransom. That was why I pushed her towards James Norrington, you know, after he did such good work turning Port Royal into the civilized place it is now. Or else, it used to be, I suppose. And after her marriage to you?" Weatherby shook his head. "She's an even bigger target."
"Elizabeth is a not an idiot," Cutler said, contradicting his earlier statement. "And I have not left her completely unprepared."
The governor's straight eyebrows quivered. "How do you mean?"
Cutler admired his signet ring and the way the cigar barely shook in his fingers. "She can handle a sword, and has some basic hand to hand combat training."
Weatherby blanched. "You prepared for her to be kidnapped by pirates?"
Lord Beckett did not appreciate the accusing tone in his father in law's voice. "Some of us do more than worry, Governor. Now. About those sailors."
"Oh." The change of conversation caught Weatherby by surprise. "Of course. Take as many as you need. I'll sign off on any number." He stood, setting his full glass on the desk. His eyes were still bright and Beckett found he couldn't meet them. "Do what you can for my daughter."
He left the room without a nod or further discussion.
Lord Beckett exhaled through his nose, clenching his jaw so tight the sound of his teeth grinding together drowned out the rustling of the cool air flowing in from the open doors. Once more he checked the compass, and as it had every time since it came to be in his possession, it pointed to Elizabeth.
Cutler drained the Governor's glass in three gulps.
"You see, Mercer," he said, standing and taking another puff of his cigar, "every man has a price he will willingly accept. Even for what he hoped never to sell." He dropped it to the ground and snuffed it out beneath his heel. "Is our guest ready for visitors? I need to hit something."
Each of Jolly Roger's limbs were restrained separately, chained to either the floor or the wall behind him. The only light came from the lantern Mercer held in a gloved hand, casting a brilliant shine over Roger's eery face.
"Hello, Mr. Roger. And how are you feeling?" Beckett asked conversationally, glancing over the skeleton's binds. "All tucked in and comfy, are we?"
Jolly Roger spit, a wad of mucus and saliva coming in to contact with Beckett's shin. "It will be your downfall if you do not release me at once! The Brethren Court will see to that!"
Lord Beckett sniffed in disgust at his pant leg. "And who might this Brethren Court consist of, I wonder?" He asked, shaking his leg. "Come, come, Mr. Roger. Certainly you can see the benefit in being honest with me. I am a generous and benevolent man and your ship is in my harbor. I will put you back on the Harkaway in an instant, and all I require from you in return is information."
Jolly Roger snorted. "You will get no help from me, asshole! You will be sorry - you will rue the day you deemed it wise to tie me up like some kind of mangy mutt!"
The lord pressed the bottom of his shoe against Roger's throat.
"You're certain of that, are you?" He asked, pushing down until Jolly Roger made a wet, gurgling noise. "That your masters care for their little undead puppet? Because here is what is going to happen." The bones beneath Beckett's foot splintered and he grinned. "I am going to lock you in this dark room, your new spacious coffin. And if anyone from this Brethren Court is concerned enough to come and avenge you, I'll give you up. No questions. No tricks.
"But when no one comes, because they won't…after months of being trapped, bound to one place in the dark, you'll be begging to join my ranks. You would die to work for me."
Lord Beckett held out his hand and Mercer obediently set the grip of a sword on his palm.
He jammed the blade into Roger's empty eye socket, burying the tip into mortar behind his head. "After all," he said, shoving his foot even harder into Roger's neck, "it's just good business."
Beckett lifted his foot, allowing the pirate skeleton to bark and growl like a cornered dog, and then slammed it back down onto his chest.
Jolly Roger cried out in pain and Lord Beckett smiled.
"Have a nice stay," he chirped.
Mr. Mercer followed him out of the door, the sound of Jolly Roger screaming his revenge chasing after them.
Lord Beckett straightened his cravat. "Bury him."
Mercer grinned and snuffed out the lantern. "Aye, aye, sir."
Cutler scowled but did not pause in his walk back to the office. "What now?" He grumbled.
Gillette came running to his side, panting and sopping wet.
Cutler glanced at the water the sailor was tracking over Company headquarters, raising an inquisitive eyebrow at the lieutenant.
"Sir," Gillette saluted him and then seemed unsure of what to do with his hand. "Sir, there's been an - well, the Interceptor was commandeered."
Lord Beckett stopped walking and surveyed Gillette with narrowed eyes.
"Commandeered?" He repeated, his voice a low rumble.
"Yes." Gillette swallowed. "And the Dauntless' rudder was completely disabled."
Lord Beckett sighed. "Sparrow." He pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger again, his brain pounding against the back of his eyes. "I thought I said I wanted him hanged before we set sail."
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."
Cutler sighed quietly, walking back to his office.
Gillette cleared his throat and followed. "Sir, what should-"
"Oh, bloody hell, Gillette!" Cutler snapped, throwing the door open with his shoulder. "What was the one thing I told you not to do?!"
Gillette ducked his chin to his chest. "Ask questions, sir," he said to his boots.
"And since you cannot seem to even do that, once you pass on this message to the admiral you are not to speak for the next twenty four hours, or I will personally shoot you through the heart! Do you understand me?"
Gillette nodded, eyes wide, and Lord Beckett stepped in to other man's personal space.
His voice was almost a whisper when he said, "Prepare the Endeavor. Bring every sailor Port Royal can spare. You have four hours."
Gillette stood as still as a statue and Beckett's lips twitched.
The lieutenant barreled out of the room.
Cutler watched the doors swing closed. He snatched the bottle of brandy off his desk and took a large swig, the liquor burning its way down his throat. Hissing, he chucked the bottle as hard as he could against the wall. The amber liquid splattered across his map of the world, running down over boundaries that had been filled in.
Just as he imagined it.
Author's Notes: Andrew Belle's Open Your Eyes was such a huge inspiration for this chapter I almost quoted some of it at the beginning. Let's all sing along now instead:
Open your eyes now, it's time to leave…it's time to leave me. Open your eyes now, it's time to see if you still believe in me. Open your eyes now, I'll try to be all that you need me to be.
She'll be a star now, I will follow her lead. She'll be a scar now, I will still let her bleed…over me.
Some news: This will be my last update until probably December, because I am attempting NaNoWriMo this year. :( I'll miss you guys! But I'll be back. Lots of nagging reviews might help get an update sooner. ;P
Thanks: to kiwismakemehappy, Hatter'sBreak, and the guest for reviewing! And all of you for reading, or if you alerted/favorited. Please keep doing all of those things! :D
See you in December! (You know, probably. Maybe sooner? Depending. But at least by December! :)