02 - Keane's Challenge

Read Online 02 - Keane's Challenge by Iain Gale - Free Book Online

Book: 02 - Keane's Challenge by Iain Gale Read Free Book Online
Authors: Iain Gale
the dragoon. The man’s teeth closed upon it and as Archer probed he began to writhe.
    Gabriella found a pitcher standing in a corner and pouring from it into a beaker, tried the water. She poured more and brought it to the dragoon, whose open eyes were rolling in agony.
    Silver spoke. ‘Christ, the poor devil. Have we no brandy?’
    Archer, still working carefully at the wound, spoke quietly. ‘No, no brandy. It will have little effect on the pain and it will thin the blood. He may have some later, if he lives.’
    Keane watched closely and found himself praying for the Frenchman’s life.
    Archer changed tools, selecting a pair of tiny silver pincers. Pushing hard on the dragoon’s shoulder he inserted the head of the instrument into the wound. The man’s screams could be heard even through the wooden gag, and for a moment Keane thought he must die. At the crescendo, Archer held the pincers up and Keane could see that in their teeth lay a small lead ball.
    Archer grinned. ‘Got it, the little bugger.’
    The Frenchman lay motionless and again Keane presumed that he was dead. Archer dropped the ball on to the cloth and, laying down the pincers, leant close to the man’s face. He lookedat him and reached for a small mirror, one of the tools that had been rolled in the fabric, which he held to his mouth. A few seconds later he withdrew it and looked at it before showing it to Keane. It had misted over. ‘He’s alive.’
    Keane slapped the table. ‘Thank God. Can we bring him round?’
    ‘Not for at least an hour, I’m afraid.’
    ‘That’s impossible. Quite out of the question. The French might return at any moment.’
    ‘What is even more out of the question, sir, is bringing him round. The man is still in a state of shock and needs rest. To bring him round might result in trauma, even death.’
    Keane scowled. ‘Very well. An hour. No more, though.’
    He walked to the door and was about to leave when he turned and looked back. ‘Oh, and well done, Archer. Quite a surprise. I would never have guessed. Come and see me when you’ve tidied up.’
    Keane walked along the street and watched as the hussars dealt with their few dead and wounded. He thanked God there were not many. He met Archer as he left the house. ‘Where did you say you had studied?’
    ‘Edinburgh, sir, under Doctor Ramsay.’
    ‘And you never entered the profession? Why on earth not? What went wrong? And why did you end up here, for God’s sake? What did you do, man?’
    ‘Didn’t they tell you, sir?’
    ‘No, evidently not. It was Colonel Grant who appointed you to my unit, was it not?’
    ‘Yes, sir. He’s one of my mother’s relations.’
    ‘Well, that would explain something at least. But why? Where did he find you?’
    ‘In the jail, sir. I stole a loaf of bread.’
    ‘Well, that’s not a hanging offence, is it?’
    ‘Not yet, sir, anyways. No, sir. Twenty lashes.’
    ‘Not so bad. And he managed to get you out, but how did you come to the army in the first place?’
    Archer said nothing.
    ‘You’ll have to tell me, man. I’ll find out somehow if you do not.’
    ‘I lost my way, sir.’
    ‘Lost your way?’
    ‘Fell in with the wrong crowd. I gambled, sir. Debts. Couldn’t see a way out.’
    ‘But you found one, nevertheless.’
    ‘Yes, sir, I was a resurrectionist.’
    ‘You mean you… ?’
    ‘Yes, sir. I dug up corpses newly dead and sold them to the college of surgeons.’
    ‘Good heavens, and that made you enough money?’
    ‘Enough to pay my gambling debts, yes, sir. There’s no law against it. They’re no one’s property, the dead. Long as you strip them of everything. Rings, clothes, anything, they’re fair game.’
    ‘So how did you come to be here?’
    He buried his head in his hands. ‘It all went wrong. It came to it that I was getting them before they were cold and not even buried but straight from their beds. That was when they got me. One night I pronounced a woman dead. She’d stopped

Similar Books

To Catch A Croc

Amber Kell

Reckless Promise

Jenny Andersen

Bastion Science Fiction Magazine - Issue 7, October 2014

Manfred Gabriel Alvaro Zinos-Amaro Jeff Stehman Matthew Lyons Salena Casha William R.D. Wood Meryl Stenhouse Eric Del Carlo R. Leigh Hennig

Where She Belongs

Johnnie Alexander

Wait For Me

Lissa Matthews

The Ex-Wife

Candice Dow