"Life of Duty: de Vergesse and Don Masserado"
by Dutch

For awhile, Etienne de Vergesse paced edgily around his rooms. Finally, he called for Gerard.

"Bring me Trebuchet. He was in charge of my signal tower when the raid occurred. I need to speak with him."

"Oui, Colonel, I will have him summoned."

In the intervening time, Etienne read and reread the article on the raid. He was sitting lost in thought when he was startled by a knock on the door.

"Enter!" he called out.

"You wanted to speak with me, Colonel..."

"Oui. You were in command of my signal tower when it was destroyed by the English dogs."

"Sir?" Trebuchet prompted.

"There is one Englishman I am interested in. He was an officer, slightly taller than I, with light brown curly hair, and hazel eyes. He was in command of the Englishman. He died at the conclusion of the raid." Etienne said.

"I believe I know the officer you mean, sir, but he was killed during the landing. Later, some men came back and retrieved his body." Trebuchet answered after a moment of reflection.

"He was killed during the landing?! Well, if he was already dead, then WHO completed the total destruction of my tower?!?" Etienne growled.

For a few moments, the man remained silent. He looked up and said, "There was another officer, sir. He was a stocky blonde man, and the officer who retrieved the body. He was injured during the retrieval. I shot him myself." he finished with satisfaction.

"A stocky blonde man...." Etienne pondered aloud before continuing, "Get out."

Trebuchet quickly saluted and exited the room with a sigh of relief.

Etienne went back to the GAZETTE, and searched it for the names of the officer's involved. As he read, one name leapt out at him - Acting Leftenant Archie Kennedy. For some reason, Etienne thought that name sounded familiar. He quickly scribbled a note to his old friend Don Masserado in Spain.

"My dear friend,

I require your assistance with a mystery. Do you remember a certain young English Naval officer by the name of Horatio Hornblower?

He was recently killed in raid on a signal tower of mine. The mystery is who completed the mission. Mr. Hornblower was dead nearly as soon as they landed. I am curious to know about his crew and any other English officers who were held in your prison at the same time as he was. By any chance was there an officer named Kennedy? If so, what did he look like?

I look forward to your response. If you have time, I would be happy to host you on a visit.
Etienne de Vergesse"

***************************************************** IN SPAIN...

Don Masserado sat in his study, de Vergesse's missive hanging limply from his hand. Irresistibly, his thoughts were drawn back to those days when Horatio was his prisoner, and how he had come to respect him.

"Dead. He's dead." the thought swirled through his mind. "He was a young man with so much potential..." he looked back at the note. "Kennedy, the other young officer, not as much potential, but very skilled in failed escape attempts. What a waste, Hornblower dead, and Kennedy still alive."

Tiredly, he headed out to the prison compound. He found himself in the courtyard staring down at the oubliette, and remembering how it felt to place his favorite in it. The conversation when he'd insisted Horatio tell him who the REAL instigators were, and Kennedy advising his friend to tell. His own words came back to him, "Mr. Kennedy is a friend, is he not, Mr. Hornblower? He will tell you I am not afraid to be cruel."

"I must write to Etienne and tell him about Mr. Kennedy." he thought with a sigh. His shoulders were slumped as he headed back to his study. Once there, he stood in the exact place where Horatio had been when he'd given him the copy of "Don Quixote" - again his words haunted him. "She felt you should learn my language.... It is the story of a man who jousts with windmills. Her Grace thought you would understand him."

"All of our days are darker now." he muttered after sinking down into his chair. With a heavy heart, he wrote his response to Etienne... "My friend,

Thank you for your kind offer of hospitality, but I must decline.

As for the rest of your note, yes, there was an officer here named Kennedy. He and Mr. Hornblower were friends, but apart from attempting to escape, I saw little promise in him. He was very easily led, and gave up with very little fight - after some time in the hole.

Mr. Kennedy was a stocky man with blonde hair and blue eyes, if I remember correctly. The remainder of Mr. Hornblower's men were followers.

From the time they spent here, I don't believe any of them could have completed the mission with Mr. Hornblower cut down. Are you positive your information is accurate?

I look forward to your next visit here, and I will see you when I am next in France.
Don Masserado"

With a heavy heart, Don Masserado addressed the envelope, and sent it back to Etienne. He instructed his men to leave him, and sat in his study remembering the remarkable young man who had made such an impression on him.
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