Claire tightens her jacket around her as she and Murtagh walk what’s left of the courtyard in the center of the ruined fort. There’s an obvious replica of a whipping post in the center for the weekend tours. She imagines Jamie tied there and the fresh cuts on his raw back. A shiver runs down her spine as she pictures his limp form hanging there from his wrists.
“He was flogged here, wasn’t he?”
Murtagh nods and continues to lead the way. They walk side by side and she notices the pensive crease in his brow.
“I ken the lad fancies ye,” he says, but makes no move to look towards her. “I think ye ken it too. He’s only ever known lassies. But the lad needs a woman . Ye’d make a good match for him.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“He’s a braw lad. He’d have made a great Laird. But he’s more tender than he lets on. Like his da.”
“You’re worried I’m going to hurt him?”
“Ye may not mean to. But I’ve learned women are different in this time. Ye’ll be expecting different things from each other.”
Claire opens her mouth to defend herself but then she hears Jamie calling her name. He’s trotting towards them and then gestures for them to follow.
“There’s a lad upstairs. He’s in need of doctoring.”
She doesn’t hesitate to follow him and easily slips into the mask of doctor, ignoring the inviting shape of the body leading the way. She shakes Murtagh’s words and Jamie’s from earlier from her mind. She takes in the dim room, lit only by the fading sun in the one arched window.
The lad is littered with bruises across his body as he lays in a crumpled heap on his stomach. Jesus Christ. He’s whimpering barely audible phrases, no more, please, and curls himself in a tight ball, save his one arm that appears dislocated. Jamie’s jacket is draped over his hips but he appears completely naked otherwise.
“In the boot of my car there’s a first aid kit. I need one of you to go get it,” Claire orders.
Murtaugh steps up with an “I’ll go” and then grasps the keys as she passes them haphazardly.
Claire crouches next to the young man, practically a kid really, and peers down at what she can see of his face. She guesses he’s probably sixteen or seventeen judging from the patchy stubble and facial features he hasn’t quite grown into. He flinches away as she reaches towards him and she snaps her hand back.
“My name’s Claire. I’m a doctor. I can help you with your shoulder, but we’ll have to touch you.”
“You, not him,” he says.
She can feel Jamie hovering behind her and glances over her shoulder. His jaw is tight, hands in fists, and eyes cold. It’s like he’s looking through her, like he’s somewhere else. She’s certain that look isn’t directed to the boy, but he doesn’t know that.
“What’s your name?”
“Matthew, this is Jamie. He won’t hurt you,” she turns to give Jamie a pointed look. He blinks and swallows, tries to soften his face. “Any aggression you see is towards the man who did this to you. Not you.”
“Aye, lad,” Jamie says, shaken out of his stupor. “I give ye my word none of us here will harm ye. Claire here has a good touch. Let her help ye.”
Matthew looks over his shoulder at them. His eyes scan back and forth between them. His breath is ragged and his face tear stained.
“You can fix my shoulder,” he says, his south London accent evident, and lays his head back down.
“Okay. I’m going to need you to sit up,” Claire says and makes a move to help.
“I’ll do it,” Matthew says as he inches away from her.
He twists himself up into a seated position with a sharp intake of breath and pained groan. Once he’s settled himself he nods to Claire. She talks him through each step before she makes any move to touch him. She tells him exactly how she’ll need Jamie to hold him steady. Murtagh arrives with her kit somewhere in the middle of it all.
Matthew only flinches once as Jamie approaches him. After that it’s quick work to shift the bone back into its joint. Jamie moves immediately away but stays crouched on the floor near Claire.
Claire strips off her jacket and then whips the thin sweater over her head, leaving her in only a camisole. She feels Jamie shift suddenly at what is probably practically naked to him, but stays focused on making a makeshift sling out of the sweater.
“I can help with the cuts and check for other injuries, but you need to go to hospital.”
“Why are you even here?” Matthew asks.
Claire pulls her jacket back on and turns to Jamie. The anger still simmers there in his eyes, making him somehow look older, more weary. Dangerous, even.
“I’m searching for the man who I’m thinking did this to ye.”
“You with the police?”
“Aye,” Murtagh says, but keeps his distance. “I am.”
“I’m not making any report and I’m not going to hospital.”
Claire begins to protest, but Murtagh’s voice overrides hers.
“I willnae make a proper report and we willnae make ye go anywhere, though ye’d be keen to listen to Dr. Beauchamp.”
Claire nods and she feels Jamie begin to shift, restlessly.
“I ken how vile of man he is,” Jamie says. “He damn near killed me. Manipulated my sister into giving herself over to him to spare me. We don’t mean to make ye do anything ye do not wish. We just need to know where he might be.”
“I won’t have to give a statement? Testify?”
“No. I only wish to find him. And end him.”
Claire’s eyes snap to look at Jamie. Somewhere in her mind she knew this was leading to an execution, but she can’t help the scowl on her face knowing he’d so easily murder someone. She realizes the face she’s seen since coming to this room is the face of a soldier, a highland warrior. Someone who has certainly killed if it was deemed necessary.
“Promise?” Matthew asks.
“He left maybe 30 minutes ago. Didn’t say when he’d be back, but told me to be gone before he does.”
“Good,” Jammie mutters with a nod and hops to his feet. He turns to Murtagh as he says, “we’ll wait for him here. Catch him off guard.”
“So you’re just going to wait and execute him?” Claire asks as she comes to stand with them.
He looks over to her hands on his hips as he blinks at her question. His brow scrunches as he turns more fully to her.
“Did ye really think this was a mission of mercy, Sassenach? Ye think that’s the first lad he’s left broken, bloodied, and buggered? No. I’ve seen him with a wee laddie not more than eleven. He doesn’t deserve mercy.”
She squeezes her eyes shut at the image, but then sucks in a breath. Jamie’s jaw is clenched tight as steel as if daring her to say more.
“I’m not saying he does. But there are laws. Structures in place to try and punish him.”
“Aye, I know about yer laws. I’ve been reading about them and yer history. Seems to me laws can still be used to suit the needs of those welding the power.”
“But what if you’re caught? Arrested? Or what if he finally kills you?”
“Then I’ll die knowing I’ve done all I can to honor the people I left behind.”
“Aye. Now, let’s get the lad down to yer car and get yerself someplace safe.”
He moves before she can say anything else and she scowls into the back of his head. She watches him and Murtagh help Matthew back into his trousers. They move to help him onto his feet.
“Watch his shoulder,” Claire snaps and then jumps in to instruct them how to properly support his shoulder. Matthew shrugs out of their grasp as soon as he’s on his feet, but allows her to steady him.
Claire walks him down. She can hear Jamie and Murtagh scheming behind her as they also make their way to the ground and towards where they left their cars. Claire internally mutters about stubborn men as she helps Matthew into her car. She doesn’t say anything to Jamie or Murtagh, though she thinks she feels Jamie’s eyes on her. She doesn’t look to see if she’s right. She just gets in her car and pulls away, but catches Jamie’s figure in the rearview looking after her.
Claire manages to convince Matthew to go the A & E at Belford Hospital after agreeing to a story of being a victim of a hit and run. As soon as they’re seen in the cramped room by the local doctor, Caire begins listing off all the tests he should order and explains Matthew’s general condition.
“I have done this before, Dr. Beauchamp.”
“Sorry. I’m obviously just a bit shaken after witnessing such a horrible accident.” And trying to keep my mind off two Scots liable to get themselves killed tonight.
She keeps Matthew company as he waits in between different scans and pokes and prods of the nurse or doctor. She learns he’s been on his own since he was fifteen and works in a factory.
“I was so stupid,” he says during one lull. “I should have known when he took me there.”
“You couldn’t have known.”
“I just thought it was some weird kink. And I was fine with that. But he didn’t want me to be fine with it. He wanted me afraid.”
Claire swallows and tightens her jacket around her middle.
It’s after 9pm when they discharge Matthew and Claire drops him off at his flat. She watches him disappear into the building and finds it hard to just drive away. She sighs and shifts the car into drive and tries not to think about what the boy will do tomorrow.
It’s an hour drive back to Inverness, so she stops at a little inn and rents two rooms. She texts Murtagh to let him and Jamie know in case the idiots survive the night and want the second room. It’s a frilly little room with flowers plastered on the walls and the duvet.
She strips out of her jacket and then plops on the bed to stare up at the stucco ceiling. She thinks of Jamie and her guts twist. She tries to reconcile the awed boyish eyes to the steely ones she saw in the fort. Tries not to envision either losing the light behind them.
A light tapping echoes against the wood of her door. She hops off the bed and moves to the door, heart speeding up at the prospect of seeing Jamie. As she cracks the door she has no time to see who it is before it’s thrown open and her to the ground from the effort. She hears the door slam closed and then looks up to see Jack Randall smirking above her.
“Hello, again Madam.”
Claire scrambles and looks towards the door, but then all she can feel is the sting of her hair nearly being pulled from her scalp. Then her back is to his chest and she readies to scream. He tugs again on her scalp and then that damn bloody knife is at her neck again.
“Try to scream again and you’ll be dead before you even get a sound out. Tell me, why would a high bred English woman lower herself to the likes of a savage Scot?”
“That savage has never held me a knifepoint.”
He chuckles. Matthew’s words, he wanted me afraid , ring in her ears. She tries the mask speed of her pulse and breathing as she steels her face as if daring him to do his worse.
“And what pray tell have you let that savage do to you? Hmm?”
“Fuck you, you fucking bastard.”
“Oh but she has the mouth of a whore. I’m sure Mister Fraser won’t be long. He’s certain to have figured out by now that I won’t be returning to Fort William. And I need you to deliver a message to him.”
“Stay and tell him yourself. Or are you afraid?”
“You have no notion of true fear. It’s a shame we don’t have the time to enjoy ourselves properly. I believe I could show you well what that means.”
“Like you showed that young man?”
He makes a humored noise.
“You tell Mister Fraser he and I will meet again but not tonight. Maybe not even next year. But I’ll always be there. Looming. Waiting until one day we’ll complete the masterpiece we started seven years ago. And in that moment, he will surrender to me. You tell him that.”
“You’re a monster.”
“I know well what I am, madam.”
Fingers tighten again in her hair and she is flung forward until her head collides with the edge of the TV stand. Then everything goes black.