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Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 45

June 09, 2023 01:25PM
Chapter 45

Finally, the day arrived for Mr Gardiner, Lizzy and Kitty to depart from Matlock. They had stayed an extra three days from the date the doctor had provided clearance for Mr Gardiner to travel.

For both Lizzy and Kitty, neither were unhappy with the delay. Both had become firm friends with Georgiana, with all of them calling the other by their first names. Kitty and Georgiana certainly spent all of their spare time in each other's company.

Lizzy had further cemented her relationship with Darcy. There was not a doubt of her love for him. Every time she was with him, she felt a warm glow of happiness inside, and all the time apart she could scarce think of anything else other than seeing him again.

They had continued to help Mr Gardiner in his recovery, escorting him on laps around the house and grounds. His strength and endurance were increasing, though nothing close to normal. If he extended himself too greatly or attempted to walk too fast, his chest would ache. Likewise, he had to be cautious bending or lifting anything heavier than a plate of food.

Mr Gardiner had become quite good friends with the Earl, as the Earl liked to consult with him regarding policy and its likely impacts on business. The Earl respected Mr Gardiner’s business expertise and found it to be useful in shaping his opinion. This also distracted Mr Gardiner from his grief, pulling him out from his melancholy.

The papers had been full of the story, but this time the focus had been on Kitty, with the attempted kidnapping of Lizzy a mere footnote. Kitty had beamed at the praise heaped on her by the various papers.

The prosecutor had visited Matlock regularly to prepare Mr Gardiner, Richard and Lizzy for the trial.

“I'm going to miss you so much!” exclaimed Georgiana, giving both Lizzy and Kitty a hug as they were farewelling everyone outside. “You must both remember to write to me.”

“Of course we will, Georgie,” said Lizzy.

“I'll tell you everything that is going on, I promise, “ added Kitty.

Darcy, partly jealous of the intimacy Georgie had with Lizzy that he was restricted from having, came and gave Georgiana a kiss on the forehead. “I'll be back here after the trial is over, so you should see me here tomorrow. We can then travel to Pemberley.”

Georgiana sighed. “It is such a pity they didn't get to see it this visit.”

With a meaningful look at Lizzy, Darcy replied, “ I'm certain they will see it in good time.”

Mr Gardiner, Lizzy and Kitty bid the Earl and Countess farewell, thanking them for their generous hospitality. Kitty then gifted them the painting she had made of the cricket game, which they admired, especially as the house and gardens were painted exceptionally well. “This painting is part of the history of this house, “ said the Countess. “This is truly a thoughtful gift. Thank you, Miss Catherine.”

With that, Lizzy and Kitty entered the carriage, helped in by Darcy and Richard respectively. The Sheriff then followed. Between the Sheriff, Richard and Darcy, they helped in Mr Gardiner, who still found getting in and out of carriages uncomfortable. The carriage door closed, Richard and Darcy mounted their horses, and the party set off.

Kitty watched the house disappear from view. “I will miss this place. When leaving Longbourn, I never thought that this trip would be as exciting as it was. Or that I would make a new best friend. It now seems so strange to be finally going back.”

Lizzy could not pin point her feelings- they were foreign to her. She knew that she was not going back to her home, Longbourn was now a temporary stop before she started the rest of her life with Darcy.

Lizzy was shook out of her reverie by the Sheriff. “The highwaymen will be representing themselves in court. Miss Elizabeth, are you prepared to be questioned by them?”

Lizzy nodded. “Mr Barnes has already prepared me for the questions they might ask.”

For the next two hours, the Sheriff asked Lizzy and Mr Gardiner questions the highwaymen were likely to ask.

In arriving at the courthouse at Derby, one of the officers came to greet the Sheriff. “Perfect timing, Sir. William Spencer has just pleaded guilty to robbery and has been sentenced to transportation. The judge has taken a short break before the trials of John and Blackwell.”

They descended and made their way into the courthouse. Mr Barnes came to greet them and advise of their order. They took their seats.

It did not take long for the court officials to return and to march in the two accused men. They were asked to rise for the judge and Mr Barnes read out the charges. “Mr Samual John and Mr Robert Blackwell are charged with robbery with violence. Mr Blackwell is charged with murder of Mrs Madelein Gardiner and Mr John Manning, the Gardiner’s carriage driver.”

“And how do the accused plead to these charges?” asked the judge.

“Innocent,” replied both the men.

“Who is representing the accused?” asked the judge.

“I am, your honour, “ replied Mr John.

The prosecutor outlined his case and the evidence.

“I will call my first witness, Mr Gardiner,” declared Mr Barnes.

Mr Gardiner made his way to the witness stand and was sworn in to provide evidence. He was asked to explain the events of the day in question, which he did, which was followed with questions on the injuries he sustained, and commiserations on the loss of his wife. He painted a sad, serious picture in his mourning clothes and with his arm in a sling.

The prosecutor asked what had been stolen from him and Mrs Gardiner. The prosecutor had some of Mrs Gardiner’s stolen jewels brought forward. “These jewels were found in the possessions of Mr John and Mr Blackwell. Do you recognise these jewels?”

“Yes, they belonged to my wife. I gave the pearl choker to her for her birthday several years back, and the bracelet was a Christmas gift after the birth of our first child. The ring was her wedding ring, which was stolen from my wife’s hand.”

The prosecutor had the evidence shown to the jury. “No further questions, your honour.”

The judge then asked Mr John if he had any questions of the witness. Mr John, with the utmost respect, approached Mr Gardiner. “I'm awfully sorry for the loss of your wife. I lost my own wife and I know how it feels. There is nothing that can bring her back or words that can lessen the grief. I know I'm not the best man there is, we are but simple thieves.”

Lizzy clenched her fists as he spoke. She could see her uncle watching Mr John warily, trying to keep his cool and not be rattled. “What is he playing at?” said Lizzy quietly under her breath.

“We were caught red handed trying to rob the Earl’s home, as it seemed too tempting a target. The Sheriff’s house, too, as we heard that it was mostly empty. However, we are not ones to stoop to highway robbery. Is it not possible that we bought your wife’s jewellery from the real highwaymen, and that is how some of it came to be in our possession?”

Mr Gardiner did not answer and the prosecutor called “Objection!”

“Sustained,” said the judge.

“Apologies, your honour. Mr Gardiner, you were sitting backwards in the carriage at the time?”

“Yes,” replied Mr Gardiner.

“Did you see the people who attacked you that were in front of you?”

Mr Gardiner answered slowly, “no, I only saw the two attackers who were behind. I only briefly saw the two attackers who were in front.”

“So can you say without any scrap of doubt that the man who shot your driver is Mr Blackwell? Or that the person with him was myself?”

Mr Gardiner paused. “No, I cannot. I did not see them.” There were murmurings in the courtroom from this.

“No further questions your honour,“ concluded Mr John, retaking his seat.

The Sheriff was called as the next witness, who outlined the details of the investigation and the evidence they had found, culminating in the capture of the thieves at the Earl’s home. He was presented with jewellery that had been stolen from his home and confirmed the jewellery belonged to his wife and daughters.

Richard was called up next to outline his part in the investigations and his role in discovering Lizzy. The letter that Lizzy had written was submitted as evidence, and Richard was asked to read out the later part of the letter where she had overheard the conversation.

“Do you have any reason to doubt the veracity of the writer of this letter, Colonel Fitzwilliam?” asked the prosecutor.

“None whatsoever,” answered Richard. “I had spent some time with Miss Elizabeth in Kent and knew her to be a fit, intelligent and strong woman of stoic temperament. She was not one who would be taken with flights of fancy.”

“Thank you, Colonel Fitzwilliam.”

Mr John did not cross examine Richard.

Next up, the other officers that participated in the investigation or the sting at the Earl’s residence were called up, followed by the other victim’s of the highway robbers. Mr John’s cross-examination of all of the victim’s focused on whether they could definitely identify him and Mr Blackwell as the men who robbed them. That was where all of the witnesses stumbled. They thought he could be the person who attacked them, but because they didn't see his face, they weren't certain. When asked if it was possible that this was a case of mistaken identity, all said it was possible.

There was a recess. They all filed out of the courtroom to have reporters and other onlookers crowd around them. “Miss Bennet, can you tell us what happened?” ”Miss Catherine, is it true you caught the thief using a cricket bat?” “Miss Bennet, is it true you were held hostage at gunpoint?” “Miss Bennet” “Miss Catherine.”

Kitty smiled at the attention and was more than happy to stop to talk to any reporter, however, Mr Gardiner dragged her after the Sheriff, who went into a private room with the prosecutor. It was as they entered that Richard looked up. “Vicky, you made it.”

Darcy approached and gave her a hug after Richard hugged her. “How are you? Are you here to give evidence?”

“Yes, I’m here to testify in the trial. I only arrived minutes ago. But you must introduce me to your friends,” said Lady Victoria, looking at the Miss Bennets and Mr Gardiner.

Introductions were made to Richard’s very stylish sister, who had the same friendly charms as Richard. Lizzy could see the resemblance to the Countess, though Lizzy believed Lady Victoria had a mischievous streak. Lizzy and Lady Victoria fell into easy conversation with each other.

All too soon, the recess was over and in they all filed back into the courtroom. Lady Victoria was next on the stand. When it came time for cross examination, Mr John asked the same question to Lady Victoria. “Did you see the face of the men that attacked you?”

“No, they were wearing handkerchief’s over their faces,” replied Lady Victoria.

“So can you say definitively say that my face and Mr Blackwell’s face are the same as the ones that attacked you?”

“No, but…” Lady Victoria looked rattled. “You have the same voice as the man that demanded we hand over our cash. And the same size.”

“No further questions, your honour,” said Mr John.

Lady Victoria’s carriage driver and footman also gave evidence and suffered the same fate. A few further witnesses were called prior to a recess being called. This time the Sheriff very deliberately hurried Lizzy away into the room reserved for the prosecution. “Are you ready?” asked the Sheriff.

Lizzy nodded. “I’d like this over with.”

“You are our second last witness. When we go in the coroner will provide evidence and then it will be you.”

The court was soon called back in. The coroner was sworn in. “How did the carriage driver, Mr Manning, die?”

“He suffered a single gun-shot wound to his temple, killing him instantly,” answered the coroner.

“Were there any other wounds when you examined him?” asked Mr Barnes.

“Some superficial scratches from the carriage accident, but all were post-mortem.”

“How did Mrs Gardiner die?”

“She was found lying on the ground, her head against a rock. Though there was blood and a fractured skull, she died instantly from the snapping of her spine on landing and from the impact of her head upon the rock.”

“What was the cause of these injuries?”

“These were caused solely by the carriage accident.”

“Thank you, no further questions.“

Finally it was Lizzy’s turn to take the witness stand. There was an audible murmur through the court.

Mr Barnes approached Lizzy. “Miss Bennet, can you state what happened on the day in question?”

“Yes. I was travelling with my Aunt and Uncle, Mr and Mrs Gardiner, to Matlock. At around ten in the morning, after having travelled for an hour, I saw two men appear in front of the carriage. I could see them because we were travelling in an open carriage. One of the men, Mr John,” here Lizzy nodded at the defendant, “called “Stop or we’ll shoot.” Immediately after that a gun shot rung out and we saw our driver slump over and there was blood....” Lizzy paused to gather herself.

“Are you alright, Miss Bennet. Do you need a handkerchief? Reliving this must be quite distressing.” Mr Barnes offered his handkerchief which Lizzy took but did not use. This had been practiced and was more for show. “Did you see who shot the gun that killed the carriage driver?”

Lizzy nodded towards Mr Blackwell. “Mr Robert Blackwell was the man who shot the pistol.”

“How can you be certain?” asked Mr Barnes.

“He is the same size as the man who attacked us. Also, when the horses panicked, Mr Blackwell attempted to grab the reins of our horses, in the process coming off his own horse. His handkerchief that was covering his face fell off, so I saw his face. It was most definitely Mr Blackwell.”

“What happened next, Miss Bennet?”

“Our carriage came off the road and tipped. The next thing I knew was that I was on the ground. I could not use my left arm without pain, so I used my right arm to get up. I could see my Aunt was lying still ahead of me. I turned to look to see where my uncle was. He had lifted his head and was looking at me and he yelled at me to run. I could see the four highwaymen galloping on their horses to approach me. So I turned and ran into the forest.”

“I would like the jury to note that when taken back to the crime site, Miss Bennet’s testimony aligned with the testimony of the officers who came to examine the crime site,” said Mr Barnes to the jury. “What happened after you ran?”

“I ran east along the creek looking for ground that was difficult for horses to traverse. The creek was quite rocky. I found a fallen log where the creek had steep sides to cross, then I hid behind a fallen log. I could hear two of the highwaymen following me. I heard Mr Blackwell and one other come looking, and Mr Blackwell called to me to give myself up with the promise I would not be hurt. I remained in hiding and they gave up and returned to the others.”

“Were you not in pain whilst you ran?”

“I was not thinking about my pain at the time as I was far too frightened for my life. I knew that my arm and leg hurt but I kept going. It was only once I heard Mr Blackwell and his friend retreat that I looked to see how badly hurt I was and I realised how bad a wound I had in my leg and that my arm was broken.”

“Did you think to remain there considering the extent of your wounds?”

“No, in talking with each other, the highwaymen said that they would return to look for me. It was not safe for me to stay out or to return to the East or to cross back across the creek so I started going North in hope of finding a good hiding spot. I found one when I found a large blackberry thicket. I crawled into the centre of the thicket where I decided I would be safe enough to rest in.”

“What did you do then?”

“I took my bag off my shoulder,” said Lizzy.

“So you had been running with a bag this entire time?”

“Yes, I had a travel bag with me in my lap, but when the highwaymen appeared, I put it over my shoulder. I fell upon it when we crashed and as it was hooked over the shoulder of the arm that I had broken, I wasn't in any position to remove it until I stopped. So I took out my shawl and used it to make a sling for my arm. I ripped my petticoats the best I could to make a form of bandage to wrap around my leg wound to try to stem the bleeding, which was difficult to do with only one hand. I ate my apple and I had an inkwell and paper. As I wasn’t certain when anyone would come looking for me or if.... if I would still be alive, I felt it imperative that I write what had happened.”

“So you were not certain whether you would live? You were, in fact, afraid you might die?”

“To a certain degree, but I did still believe at that point that I would survive.”

“What happened next, Miss Bennet?”

“I must have fallen asleep. I was awoken what must have been an hour or more later when I heard some ravens taking off from the thicket I was hiding in. It was then that I heard the highwaymen approaching, looking for me.”

“What did you hear them say?”

“They discussed how possible it was for me to have come as far as I had and whether I'd be able to identify then. They spoke to ‘Bob’, Mr Blackwell, and told him that shooting the driver was ‘bloody stupid’. ‘Mr Blackwell then responded by saying that the gun went off accidentally whilst he pointed it at our driver. I then heard them say that my Aunt was dead and my Uncle in a bad way and likely to die. Mr Blackwell then said that if he was going to hang that he would have his fun with me before doing away with me.” There was a collective intake of breath from the courtroom, followed by a murmur.

Mr Barnes let it die down, savouring the mood of the court that was completely mesmerised by Lizzy’s testimony. “Please continue, Miss Bennet. This must have been completely terrifying for you, to listen to what these men would do with you before killing you.”

“Another man, named Bill, speculated on how long it would take for the carriage to be discovered and for the forest to be full of searchers. He was inclined to leave as quickly as possible and not continue wasting time searching for me. They’re leader, Mr John, then declared that if I was found I was to be killed, but not to waste time looking for me. He was certain that their camp which was North of the attack, would be safe from the Sheriff’s men and that in the morning they would head towards Sherwood forest.”

“What did you do after they had left the area?"

“I wrote down the important information that I heard.”

Mr Barnes presented her letter from evidence. “Did you, Miss Bennet, write this letter?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Whilst you were sleeping, your inkpot had spilt. With what did you use to write this?” Mr Barnes smiled to Lizzy as he asked this, as this was his crowning courtroom moment, where he was hoping for shock . The following details had been kept as a closely guarded secret up to now.

“That is true I had knocked over my input as I slept. However, my leg wound had continued to bleed. I wrote the end of the letter using my blood.”

As expected, there was a shocked intake of breath in the courtroom. Mr Barnes waited for it to sink in before continuing. “Did you feel that this information was so important that you needed to write it in blood to ensure that it was known? Were you now afraid you might not be found alive?”

“Yes, I was terrified I would be found and killed. I felt duty bound to write down what I had heard, no matter what, in case I did die in the forest.”

“And who was the leader of the highwaymen?”

“Mr Samual John,” said Lizzy with certainty, looking at Mr John. To her, he looked rattled by her testimony and Lizzy felt some satisfaction.

“Are you certain?” asked Mr Barnes.

“Yes, I recognised his voice. It is the same voice as the man in the forest. I recognised the voice in the inn at Derby straight away when we came here as part of the investigation. It is the same voice as he had the night where he attempted to rob Lord Fitzwilliam’s house and where he attempted to kidnap me.”

Mr Barnes then had Lizzy detail her injuries and recount the night of the robbery and all that occurred during the robbery.

Now was the moment she had been dreading. Mr John approached the stand. Lizzy gritted her teeth, folding her arms defensively in front of herself.

“I’m sorry for the loss of your aunt and for the accident. Your carriage was racing along at high speed. How well did you see the faces of your attackers from your carriage?”

“As I said before, I saw Mr Blackwell’s face quite well when the handkerchief fell off his face as he came off his horse.” She looked over at Mr Blackwell, trying to keep down her disgust and anger at the men who had caused so much pain. He was sitting in the dock with his head hung down. “I have no doubt in my mind it was Mr Blackwell. Further to that, I heard your conversation in the forest. Mr Blackwell’s voice is the same as the voice I heard in the forest.”
Lizzy turned her attention to Mr John. “You are the same size and shape as the man who led the highwaymen and of the same age and posture. I did not see your face that day, but I heard your voice, and I am certain that voice belonged to you, Mr John.” By the end of this, Lizzy’s attempts at calm were frayed, and her voice had a hard quality about it.

“But you were injured in the forest. You had lost a great deal of blood and by your own account, you had only just come to from passing out. How can you be certain that you heard what you thought you heard? Perhaps you imagined or dreamed some of it?”

With her right hand she gripped the edge of the witness stand , as she stood and glared down at Mr John with a look that would make Lady Catherine proud. “I heard you say ‘If we find her, we kill her and dump the body’. Do you think I could mistake that? I have dreamt of that over and over again every night since that attack. From the moment I heard you speak in the inn at Derby, my blood ran cold as I recognised your voice. I turned then and got a proper look at you. I have not a single doubt that it was you.”

Mr John swallowed and gave a strained smile. “No further questions, your honour.” He walked back to his stand, shoulders slumped and with a defeated look.

As the judge dismissed her, there was a clap from the gallery. The judge called for order as Lizzy descended, relieved that her part in this was over and mentally spent. She had not thought it would be so stressful to stand there and to give an account of what had occurred.

She joined the others, moving to sit in between her uncle and Kitty. As she passed Mr Darcy, he reached out discreetly and quickly squeezed her hand reassuringly. She gave him a small, warm smile in return.

“Well done, Lizzy. Your aunt would be proud of you,” said Mr Gardiner.

“Bravo, Miss Bennet. You had all the gallery and jury hanging onto every word, “ said Richard quietly.

“You were magnificent, Lizzy,” gushed Kitty in whispered tones.

The last witness was now called, Dr Brown. He took the stand and Mr Barnes approached. “What was the extent of Miss Bennet’s injuries on the day in question?”

“A minor head wound. Her right arm was broken below the elbow. She had an object embedded in and protruding from her leg which had clipped, but not severed the femoral artery, resulting in blood loss. By the time she was found and brought to Matlock, she had lost between one to two pints of blood and her body was in the process of going into shock from the blood loss.”

“Had the head knock resulted in memory loss or any other symptoms that would make you question her memories, like hallucinations?”

“No, her head knock did not result in a concussion. Nothing she had said had indicated that she suffered hallucinations, nor anything that would have me question her memory.”

“How has Miss Bennet recovered?”

“Remarkably quickly. Her strength returned soon after arriving at Matlock, and she was coherent whilst I was stitching her leg.”

Mr Barnes showed Mr Brown the letter. “I would have you pay attention to the second part of the letter, written in Miss Bennet’s own blood. Is there anything here that would suggest she was hallucinating or not in the right state of mind?”

Dr Brown read through the note. “No. She was perfectly lucid whilst writing this letter. Her writing is even and her letters seem formed, though shaky, which is to be expected if you are writing on your leg and not on a table. It is clear she was under a great deal of stress and pain, however there is nothing here that would have me question the veracity of this information or the judgement of the writer.”

“How had Miss Bennet treated her own wounds?”

“She had created a sling for her arm and had ripped her petticoats to make a bandage for her leg to stem the bleeding.”

“She did not attempt to remove the object protruding from her leg?”

“No, which was wise. Had she removed it, she would have bled out and died there.”

“So, of your knowledge of Miss Bennet’s injuries and your knowledge of her personally, have you any reason to question the truth of her statement?”

“I have no reason to question her statements as anything other than true.”

The prosecutor made his closing statement, ending with “it did not matter if Mr Blackwell did not at the moment he fired the gun wish to kill Mr Manning. By the fact he had a gun and had declared that he would shoot showed he had motive and opportunity. Had Mr Manning disobeyed, it would have ended a moment or two later with the same result. This act resulted in the death of Mrs Gardiner and the serious injury and potential deaths of both Mr Gardiner and his niece Miss Bennet. Miss Bennet showed great resilience and bravery by her actions. And when she heard the men looking for her, so convinced was she that when she overheard them say that they would kill her if they found, she was compelled to write what she had heard with her own blood. That's right, with her blood, to make sure that justice was served if she died. There is no reason to doubt her testimony. You have heard her speak. She is an intelligent, reasonable woman of sound mind, and as her doctor testified, was of sound mind at the time she wrote that letter.”

Mr John tried to cast doubt on Lizzy’s testimony, that they looked like someone similar to the men that attacked the carriage, and that none really saw them well enough to be certain it was them. It fell on deaf ears.

“We have played our part in this, “ said the Sheriff. “It is now for the jury to decide.”
SubjectAuthorPosted

Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 45

Anne VJune 09, 2023 01:25PM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 45

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Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 45

Maria Teresa CJune 11, 2023 01:02PM

Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 45

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Re: Action Lizzy and the Four Thieves Chapter 45

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