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 04th May; Leaving the Officers' Mess
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 11:35 PM
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Sharpe's tea was half-finished by now, and the strong, gunpowder-flavoured beverage had helped clear his head.

"I wonder why he's got a down on Private Williams. The 33rd's only just landed, and the 27th have been here for at least a couple of weeks. Doesn't seem like there was enough time for any of the Inniskillings to have fallen foul of that bastard."
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 Posted: Mar 21 2018, 11:36 PM
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Padstowe shrugged, then cursed himself for doing it.

"No idea. But what makes you think that he has a grudge against Williams? Lad just might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and Hakeswill took advantage of that."
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:04 AM
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"He don't pick on soldiers at random. If they've upset him, or he thinks they've crossed him, or he plain don't like them, he'll set them up for a flogging or worse. But not if he don't know 'em."

He finished his tea. "He hates me because I wouldn't knuckle down. And I survived when he tried to have me killed, first time. Been at me ever since. But Williams? There's something strange there."
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:18 AM
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The man obviously had a taste for personal vendettas, then. He took another sip, inhaling the steam as he tried to think. If Sharpe confided in Williams about Hakeswill then the lad might admit to what happened - that was if he didn't believe they would slap on another charge of insubordination.

"Might have been a bar brawl," he said. "A disagreement of some kind. After all - and I hope you'll pardon the generalisation, Harper - where does a ranker go when he first comes shore after a long sea voyage? Straight to a tap room."
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:19 AM
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"Aye, that's right enough," Harper said. "Many's the time I've ended up in a taproom after a nasty voyage over the wet stuff."

"Harper," Sharpe growled. The Irishman ignored him and poured another cup of tea for the officer.

"Might have been. It would be just the sort of thing that would get Hakeswill's back up and make him hate the lad."
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:20 AM
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Padstowe nodded again, then drained the last of the tea in his cup.

"Not much more we can do about it for tonight," he said. He turned to look at Sharpe. "Get some rest, Richard, and then in the morning I'll see what can be done to clear Williams."

He got up and picked his hat up from the table.

"You'll stay and make sure he's all right tonight will you, Harper?"
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:31 AM
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"I will that, sir, of course I will," Harper said.

Sharpe hadn't realised how tired he felt Padstowe said about rest. "If there's anything I can do to help, let me know," he said, and tried to hide a yawn.
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:33 AM
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"You can keep yourself out of trouble for the time being," Padstowe said. a smile curled one corner of his mouth. "Although since trouble seems to have a habit of finding you then that may be something of an unfair request. I'll call on you first thing."
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:36 AM
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"I'll stay here, like a good Rifle Lieutenant," Sharpe said. "And if trouble comes knocking, I'll make sure Sergeant Harper here opens the door." He covered a yawn. "Hope you don't mind too much if the Sergeant shows you out. I don't think I could find my nose at the moment, much less the door."
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:40 AM
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"Not at all. Goodnight, Richard."
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:42 AM
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"Night, sir." He waved in the direction of the door and Harper grinned.

"I'll just show the Captain out, then, shall I, sir?" He didn't wait for an answer but crossed to the door and opened it.
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 Posted: Mar 22 2018, 12:43 AM
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Padstowe did not rise to the 'sir', but merely crossed to the door which the grinning Irishman had opened for him.

"Goodnight, Harper."

"Goodnight, sir."

"Make sure he doesn't do anything foolish."

"Oh, he'll be meek as a lamb, sir, don't you worry about that."

Padstowe smiled at the image of a cowed Sharpe submitting to the ministrations of Patrick Harper as he stepped outside and made his way to his rooms. The door closed behind him and it was long before he started reflecting on the evening's events again. It was not going to be easy. Dear God, it was not going to be easy...
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