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 04th May; Leaving the Officers' Mess
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 08:24 PM
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Sharpe was no good at dinners in the Mess. It was all right when he had someone he could talk to, but to be charged an arm and a leg for dubious food and worse wine galled.

He took a deep breath. Even the interestingly-scented air of the Lisbon streets was better than the fug in the Mess. Sighing, he turned to head towards his billet.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 08:25 PM
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Hakeswill was furious. Going to the dogs this army was, going to the dogs when poncey Welsh Davvies thought they could deprive a sergeant of his meat and decent redcoats was seen cavorting with scruffy green-types... he had heard of the riflemen before - unnatural idea, he thought himself, dressing men up in green to hide and take pot shots at the enemy instead of dressing in red and facing up to them like Christians - but he had never actually seen one before. Now he had, and he did not think much of them. Didn't old Sharpie slink off to join a rifle regiment? Hakeswill's face twitched and he cackled. Fit right in he would with them scruffy bastards; a fake officer for fake soldiers...

It had occurred to Hakeswill that if there were rifles here then if might mean that Sharpe was here as well. It was not much of a chance, though; the army was a big place, bigger than Hakeswill had ever seen it, and although there might be two different regiments Sharpe would most probably have been left back in England as Quartermaster or some such meaningless job - that was if the other rifles officers was smart and knew what was good for them. But as to the Welsh Davvie and the two green men... He knew where the Inniskillings were billeted, but it would be suicide to go after him - them celts was always spoiling for a fight, and his sergeant stripes would not protect him. The riflemen, then. it would not be too hard to find out where they had settled themselves and already Hakeswill's brain was deciding how best to get his revenge on them.

He had absent-mindedly made his way up to the better part of town, thinking of nobbling a couple of officers too drunk to fight back and raiding their pockets. His face involuntarily twitched once more as he turned the corner into the next street where he knew he would find the officers' mess, but stopped short and froze in the shadows. There was someone up ahead of him who had just emerged from the building. A tall, slender figure in a rifles uniform and the sergeant's child-like eyes widened in recognition.

Fortunately the rifleman had his back to him and Hakeswill took advantage of the fact to shrink further back into the shadows, finding rest in a doorway where he could observe but be unobserved. Well, well, it seemed to be a night for surprises...
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 08:26 PM
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The evening air was cool after the smoke-filled stuffiness of the Mess, even if it wasn't exactly fresh. Sharpe paused, enjoying the slight breeze before turning to head back towards his billet.

The news that the 33rd had landed had discomfited him a little. Of all the regiments in the Army who had to arrive in Lisbon, it had to be them. He knew that after six years since he'd last worn the uniform of the 33rd, there would be few enough men who's known him as a Sergeant, and there would be even fewer who'd known him as a rank-and-file soldier, but there was always the chance.

And of all the soldiers from the 33rd he didn't want to bump into, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill topped the list. Someho, Sharpe couldn't imagine him dead and buried. He'd always said he couldn't be killed, that he was going to live forever and somehow Sharpe felt it was more than something he said to keep the soldiers in line, that there was a grain of truth in it somewhere.

He felt as though he was being watched. As he turned the next corner, he glanced up the lane he'd just walked down. Nothing. "You're imagining things, Dick Sharpe, me lad," he said to himself in an undertone. Nothing good would ever come of imagining things, and he could just imagine what the Chosen Men would say when they learned he was jumping at shadows.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 08:26 PM
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Hakeswill hung back as he watched Sharpe turn and glance down the street. He frowned, but turned away again and kept on walking, turning the corner into the next street. Hakeswill chuckled softly, then left his doorway and followed on, kept close to wall and shadows keeping the rifleman just in sight, treading as silently as a cat. Think of the Devil and he would appear... and Sharpie was the Devil himself. He could never take Sharpie in a straight fight - he'd tried that and failed - and only a surprise attack would bear any fruit. But this was the perfect place; quiet streets, dark alleyways, plenty of cover. If he was lucky he would rid himself of his enemy tonight.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 08:53 PM
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Lisbon was supposed to be a friendly city, but it felt most unfriendly right now for some reason. He hoped it was just his imagination, but now he knew that his old regiment were around, somehow he felt that his old enemy couldn't be too far behind.

He'd had good mates in the 33rd, and had some good memories, though precious few of those were from after Hakeswill had come back to the regiment from the recruiting service. He owed the bastard for 200 lashes and some bad nightmares. He made sure he could slip his rifle from his shoulder; he'd prefer to carry it in the ready position, but Lisbon was, after all, a friendly city. At least his billet wasn't too far away.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 08:54 PM
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Hakeswill saw the slight adjustment to the positioning of the rifle and blinked. The fact that Sharpe still carried long arms proved that he could in no way be a proper officer, but at that moment what more concerned Hakeswill was that it showed Sharpe was on his guard. Damn him! Hakeswill knew he had to get ahead of him. His turning round before showed that he was expecting an attack from behind...

Quickly his blue eyes made a survey of the street. There was another alleyway just before Sharpe on the opposite side of the street, and on his just before that a large parked cart. He saw his chance - a slim chance, but it might work.

Groping around on the floor, Hakeswill found a large chunk of stone which had crumbled from the wall of one of the houses, waited until Sharpe had passed the mouth of the alley, then threw the stone with all his might, making it clatter as it rebounded off the walls and into the dark depths of the alley.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 08:54 PM
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Sharpe jumped as he heard something clatter down the alleyway he'd just passed. He took a breath, enough to slow his racing heart. that was just the sort of thing that would cause a raw recruit to pull the trigger, firing off at shadows.

"Bloody cats," he said. It had to have been a cat, there was nobody else around. His black thoughts were made him jumpy, that's all it was.

"You're getting old, Sharpie," he said to himself. "Old and bloody twitchy."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:15 PM
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Hakeswill cursed silently. He had hoped that Sharpe would have gone down the alleyway to see what the noise had been, but he still had his distraction. A split second after Sharpe had turned away he flitted out of his hiding place across the short distance to the cart where he once more concealed himself. Sharpe had not seen him, and Hakeswill was now ahead of him. He felt in his pocket for the thin cord he always kept there. He had planned to use it tonight, but never had he thought he would use it on this man. He would take such pleasure in this.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:16 PM
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There was definitely something wrong. Surely such a racket meant that there was likely to be a cat-fight, and yet he hadn't heard any other sounds to indicate that one cat was chasing another one from its territory. He paused to look around again, wondering why he'd decided to take this particular way back to his billet.

Lisbon should be fairly busy at this time of day. The Portuguese, like the Spanish, had a strange idea about taking half the afternoon off and making up for it in the evening. It was just too quiet round here, and Sharpe didn't like it one bit. He felt the hair on the back of his neck start to prickle.

There was a cart across the way from him and he thought for a second about using it as cover before stepping back into the shadows of the alleyway to watch for a moment.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:16 PM
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Hakeswill cursed silently again. Sharpe was looking a the cart, sizing it up. Had he seen him after all? Hakeswill prided himself on his ability to move silently as a ghoul; many a time it had saved his life and ended that of others. He stayed perfectly still, not a muscle moved as he watched his prey.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:17 PM
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There was definitely something wrong. Sharpe's instincts, finely honed after a lifetime of living by them, were screaming at him. He was sure he had been followed. Had his pursuer given up, or merely realised Sharpe had hidden himself?

There was something about that cart, too. The shadow didn't look quite right. Sharpe considered his options and came rapidly to the conclusion he didn't have very many. He could carry on walking and possibly get jumped from behind. He could turn around and try to catch his pursuer out.

Firing his rifle would bring the guard running, but it wasn't loaded and he'd have some explaining to do if there was nobody there.

He kept still and silent, watching and listening, grateful for his dark green uniform that made this so much easier.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:17 PM
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Damn Sharpie, damn him! Hakeswill stayed motionless, watching and waiting. Just turn round, he silently prayed. Just turn round away from the cart and then he would have his chance!
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:18 PM
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Time to get back to the billet - more than time. The streets were less busy than they ought to have been, but he had passed a group from one of the regiments before reaching the turning into this street, and ahead of him he could see a tall man with a rifle on his shoulder. Well, he had nothing to fear from Riflemen, but this one was behaving oddly. Even as he watched he had stopped, looked around and then after a few more steps, dodged into the shadows. Suspicious - since anyone might carry a rifle, or something that looked like a rifle - Williams hesitated at the mouth of the street standing in the shadows like the man he was watching.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:18 PM
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Hakeswill crouched coiled, ready to attack as soon as the opportunity presented itself, the cord gripped between his fists, twisting it in frustration. Turn around, just turn around...
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:19 PM
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Sharpe noticed the man who appeared at the end of the street. Well, now he had the advantage of surprise. If, of course, whoever was following Sharpe didn't realise that someone else was around.

If the newcomer - a redcoat, which was something to be thankful for - stayed around, anyway.

There hadn't been any sign of anyone else, but somehow Sharpe knew there was. He reached for a cartridge from his pouch, bit it open and silently primed his rifle before pouring the rest of the powder down the barrel. He could not ram without giving himself completely away, but didn't need to. He returned the paper-wrapped ball to his pouch.

Even a blank round would hopefully make enough noise to summon help. Should it be needed.

He stepped out into the road and turned to continue his walk to his billet.

(OOC: it's dinner time, I'll be back as soon as I can!)
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:20 PM
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Sharpe turned. Hakeswill sprang.

He had him by the throat, the cord just under his chin and digging deep into the skin, the sound of Sharpe's choking music to his ears. He grinned, a manic, giddy grin as he pulled the cord tighter, and even better, Sharpe would never know who had cut short his life...

Then with a sudden horror the Sergeant realised that the alley was no longer empty, and that there was a redcoated figure standing at the end of the alley, gaping. That Welsh Davvie bastard! Fortunately it was too dark here in the shadows for the redcoat to recognise him, and Hakeswill frantically pulled harder, heaving Sharpe back off his feet in and effort to quicken his demise.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:21 PM
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He knew it! Bloody hell, he'd known there was someone there.

He tried to get his fingers under the cord round his neck. Stupid reaction, but a natural one. No use of course.

Fighting for air, he dropped his right hand to the rifle and fumbled for the trigger. If his assailant wasn't behind him, he'd have gone for the man's crotch, but there was nothing he could do.

Finally.. there was the damn trigger. He snatched at it, hoping to hell the bloody rifle would go off. It fired, not as loudly or as powerfully as it would've if he'd been able to load properly, but loud enough in that confined space. Now, if he could only get the bastard off and bloody breathe...
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:21 PM
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There was a flash and a bang as Sharpe's rifle went off and Hakeswill turned his face away from the light, dropped his victim - cord and all - and ran for the opening of the nearest alleyway, not hanging round to see what would happen next. Damn it! Damn it! He'd been so close, so close to ending Sharpie's life - a few seconds more and he would have had him. He swore, turning the corner and making himself scarce, doubling back around the corner to lose any would-be pursuer.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:22 PM
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The pressure was gone suddenly and there was the sound of running feet. Sharpe dropped to his knees, coughing and spluttering, trying to breathe. His rifle fell to the ground, unheeded for the moment. At last his could get his fingers into the cord and pull it free. He was seeing black spots and felt light-headed, and his ears were ringing from the report of the rifle, weak though it had been.

Damn it, now was not a good time to pass out. Another few seconds and he'd have been done for. It could have been a footpad, but something told him it was Hakeswill who'd come within inches of doing for him. Bloody, bloody Hakeswill. He'd have to grow a pair of eyes in his arse if that bastard was in Lisbon.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:23 PM
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Padstowe had just stepped outside the Mess with Captain Vickery, the rifles officer of the 60th who had been sitting next to Sharpe, when he heard the raport of a gun a couple of streets away. Both men's heads snapped round in the direction of the sound.

"What in God's name...?"

"Sounded like a rifle!" exclaimed Vickery, frowning.

At this point more officers had tumbled out of the door to see what the commotion was. Padstowe sprinted off towards the direction the sound had come from, not waiting to see if any of the others followed. A sense of dread knotted at his guts. Somehow, deep down, he had a very bad feeling about this...
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:23 PM
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That had been a rifle shot. Williams had seen the tall figure emerge from the alley he had been in, and then... He couldn't be sure, looking into the darkness, but the sounds were plain enough. Someone was getting scragged. He had already taken the first steps when there was a shot, and for a moment he hesitated again, thinking about calling out: his bayonet against a rifle was not quite the odds he wanted. But the sound of running feet, and of a man trying to get his breath back told him enough, and he put a spurt on.

An officer in the Rifles. That much was clear, and that someone had tried to garotte him. Whoever it was had disappeared into one of the alleys. He ran up to the nearest, stopped and listened. Nothing. He returned to the officer.

"Sir," he said crouching down alongside the kneeling figure. "Are you all right?" Stupid question, he told himself, but what else could you say to a man pulling a cord from round his neck.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:24 PM
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Thank God for redcoat reinforcements. Even if they hadn't exactly expected to be reinforcements.

He waved a hand, still trying to catch his breath. "Yes, thank you, Private. I..." He took another breath. his breathing wasn't so ragged now and the spots seemed to have mostly stopped dancing in front of his eyes. "Would you... would you help me up, lad?"

Damn undignified, kneeling in an alley like this.
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:24 PM
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Curiosity could not be helped and Hakeswill had doubled back to watch what had happened. Standing at the end of the alleyway in the shadows he saw that the Welsh was kneeling over Sharpe, gone to assist him. At the same time he heard the sounds of shouts and fast approaching footsteps. He grinned. What a golden opportunity for revenge! Mind made up, he dashed out of the alleyway and grabbed hold Williams from behind.

"I've got you, you bastard!" he screamed. "You bloody murderin' bastard!"
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:25 PM
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Just at that moment Padstowe rounded the corner into the street. Three other officers, including Vickery, had followed him and they stood staring at the scene. He saw Sharpe on the ground, a redcoat Sergeant apprehending a private and the Sergeant screaming at the 'murdering bastard'. The scene was all to plain.

"Sergeant!" One of the other officers bellowed. "What the devil is going on?"
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 09:25 PM
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Sharpe stayed down for a few more seconds. He knew Hakeswill, and he knew how Hakeswill plotted, planned, and schemed. It could not have been the Private who had tried to do for him. He'd fired the rifle, heard footsteps running away and then felt the redcoat take his arm.

Besides, if Hakeswill was around he'd bet a year's pay to a bent farthing the Sergeant had had more than a little to do with it.

Finally, he'd got his breathing under control and stood up, trying not to show how shaky he was feeling. "Sergeant Hakeswill. Let the Private go."
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