Chapter 1: Rumors
Rumors only grow.
Every corner of the city was full of rumors, the Senate floor was no exception. However, it was well known, in a public matter, that Thomas Jefferson considered himself above such things as rumors, especially unbiased ones that could do no more than evoke a glare, perhaps some laughter, and then be dismissed with no consideration other than that.
But, privately, Jefferson knew the weight rumors carried, he knew very well that many people cared little if the words such rumors were true, because once spoken was like throwing seeds, and once heard by someone the seed had already been planted, and to whomever the rumor reached, the doubt, the seed of “but what if…?” was now seated deep, with an opportunity to grow or wither.
In reality, anyone could be pulled into the rumors, himself was not exception.
The words he have heard were nothing more than a simple rumor, laughable even, but these words had reached his ears nonetheless and the seed was planted. Jefferson rolled his eyes at the rumor, he laugh it off even, and such was the perfect reaction to give when being told such things before his fellow Democratic-Republicans. Yet in the privacy of his office, he couldn’t help but ask the dreaded question:
“But what if it’s true?”
He closed his eyes, the memory coming back to him vividly. The words spoken by John Beckley were not outrageous, nor scandalous, it was simply out of place to the current state of the nation and political climate they were dealing with. Washington had been in office barely over a year, the whole setting of a presidency was an experiment in itself, and perhaps because it was an experiment Jefferson couldn't shake the rumor away, it wasn’t outrageous, but it was possible.
They say... Hamilton is setting his path towards a presidential candidacy.
Jefferson frowned. As he thought before the notion wasn’t far fetched, simply not what the younger politician seem to be going for, but it was not an unreasonable thought either. It was possible , therefor the rumor had already starting to make roots inside Jefferson’s mind, even more so as he read Hamilton’s debt plan over and over again.
It wasn’t the first time Jefferson heard rumors regarding Hamilton, to this day there was another one floating around that, if not for certain details, he would have dismissed immediately. It started during the war, and it had carry over the present day. George Washington didn’t have children of his own blood, but he had been away before the war, before his marriage, sent to different places where a man could find himself with a woman and leave afterwards.
The way a nameless boy like Hamilton had made his path towards Washington was not outrageous or impossible, the boy had skills, but to gain Washington's affection over the years out of nowhere as he had? It was in the transparency of Washington’s affection that the rumor started
Jefferson knew that Hamilton didn’t have to share Washington’s blood to be considered his son. He was certain there was no secret encounter with an unnamed woman in a forgotten spot far from the mainland in Washington’s history. Begrudgingly, Jefferson had to admit that Hamilton’s success had nothing to do with nepotism, and the reason he had Washington's affection was simply because the General had a fondness for the loudmouth brat.
That rumor had entertained in his mind for an evening, and discarded just the same. Madison didn't even made a comment, he just rolled his eyes, knowing there was no truth in it from having been closer to Hamilton, once.
But this other rumor… the possibility of Hamilton building his path...
They were building a country. He was Secretary of State, Hamilton was Secretary of Treasury, the brat was shaping a financial system that had very good points and many other Jefferson refused to accept just in principle. While Jefferson was shaping his own path, his political career was already made, he was just making it stronger with every action, every decision, every word. He was known for his words, his name was was tied to the Declaration of Independence after all.
But Hamilton… Hamilton was not so far behind, not if he carefully thought about it. The brat didn’t have Jefferson’s name or carrier, that muchas was clear. But he was a decorated war veteran, he defended the Constitution alongside Madison and Jay, and even if his name was not plastered in those papers as a public knowledge, amongst the right people it was very well known. Jefferson was aware of every word in The Federalist Papers, he read them all, he saw the climbing potential in those letter, he at least could give the brat that.
Hamilton was capable, but he wasn’t the most liked person outside of the circles he nurtured, even amongst his fellow Federalist they were other more notable resources that could definitely stronger candidates in the future, like John Adams. So the notion of Hamilton becoming an active opponent was not something to worry at the moment.
But that could change .
He recognized the feeling as soon as it settled in his chest: doubt.
Scolding, Jefferson pushed aside the thought and settle in the present with more important matters than rumors . He found it difficult to leave his wandering thoughts aside when Hamilton’s debt plan was almost mocking him, the vast potential it carried. Yes, he disliked it, but he could see how it might work. Jefferson was far better and simply maintaining his opposition than others in his side, like Madison. His friend supported his opposition, wholeheartedly, yet in private will stare at the pages in a considering matter, as if lamenting the man behind those letters was drifting further and further away from him.
Sometimes Jefferson liked to pretend he couldn’t understand the friendship Hamilton and Madison shared, while at the same time watched in fascination as it slowly crumbled away, a tragedy he was using for their advantage.
Still, James was his friend, the very idea of James hurting was revolting. Being witness of how James pretended to not care every time he insulted Hamilton one way or another, yet grimaced when he thought Thomas was not looking, was an entirely different scenario.
He closed his eyes and willed himself to ignore the pit of jealousy, there was no need, James was on his side, the fact that he had regard Hamilton as a close friend, once, was not important. He had read The Federalist Papers, he understood where James possible affection came from, even if it was no more.
Jefferson’s thoughts brought him back to the new rumor. The idea swirled in his head vividly, he could see it as if was really happening: Hamilton making connections, joining forces instead of fighting them, compromising, making his path to be held in high regard not only as the founder of his party but supported by them to be the man whom, someday, might succeed Washington.
“President Hamilton,” Jefferson groaned in the dim light, “Absurd.”
At the moment, yes. Absurd, laughable, simply not affordable… but later? Oh… it might be no more a matter of laughter, it might be simply possible.
Jefferson scolded again, and pushed he papers aside, thinking. A rumor was all it took to set him in distress, and now the seed was growing to Jefferson’s chagrin. Even as days passed, the idea was not leaving him be, and the more he thought about it, the more plausible it felt to his mind. Such plausibility brought a sour taste to Jefferson’s mouth, and a dark cloud over his already unfavorable feelings towards Hamilton. It was easy to recent the younger man for the many things he had done as well as those he had not done, Jefferson didn’t have to justify his dislike in detail.
He will deny it to anyone, even James, for he couldn’t admit he let himself be bested in the game he presumed to be a master, and he will never say he was proud of the events that follow, but at that moment, with the seed pulsing, rooting and growing, it was easy to spit the venom in the company of his fellow Democratic-Republicans, carelessly, with no other perception in mind but put a halt to whatever linking anyone from his party could have for Hamilton. If Jefferson could not evoke dislike for Hamilton, then he will plant fear towards himself and what he was capable, so there was no doubt who side they should be, no other but his.
They say… Hamilton is making alliances with the opposition, opening doors as well as windows...
They say… Washington considers Hamilton the son he doesn’t have by blood….
They say… The presidency should not be inherited, for a throne it is not, but there is no fault in preparing the road for the ones to come…
They say… Hamilton is thinking of tomorrow, his eyes set far ahead.
“Of course he could be thinking ahead,” Jefferson said easily during a party meeting, his cup almost filled to the brim, his eyes in his party members and his lips curled into a smile to disguise his displeasure, “ Hamilton only thinks of himself , today is the financial system he’s using to seek benefit towards the very seat of government where he currently seats, but tomorrow? Our new nation is growing and has no need of more leeches sucking the foundation dry, somebody out to pour the salt if this continues,” he laughed, not showing his own discomfort at being affected by nothing but a rumor. He ignoring James’ frown as his hate laced words and spoke again, “I heard our dear Secretary is feeling under the weather these days,” he smiled, showing his teeth like a predator, “Shall we toast then? to the occasion,” He raised his glass, his eyes glossy and his mouth dry, “A speedy immortality, to Hamilton.”
A chorus of laughter follow, and the glasses where rose and the toast echoed in the room.
The words echoed in the room, a speedy immortality , for any sign of weakness was a proof that Hamilton was not making his way ahead, only perhaps to reunite with his fellow fallen war mates… Jefferson smiled, his anger dissolving into the cruel jab, it was satisfying. Rumors only grow, but he was already dowsing this with nothing more than a toast, or so he thought.
For him this was enough, by implying Hamilton being a low life he had let them know he should not be trusted, but he also was letting them know Hamilton was weak, and they should think nothing of him. He spoke because this was what he was feeling, he wanted to snatch the seed of doubt in him by the roots and plant something else, and so he did.
Jefferson didn’t paid enough attention to the eyes in the back of the room, to those who took his words and the followed toast a little too close to their hearts, with perhaps more glee than he initially intended.
The war was over, and there was no need to fight with anything but wisdom and words, no need for violence amongst themselves. His words were not meant to be literal, he meant no real threat, his intention was a blow to the spirit, to the morale, to the ridiculous notion that Hamilton would ever be anything but a nuisance. He was not really wielding a sword, pointing a gun or making a threat.
James even joined him in the toast, although his friend left his own glass untouched. Jefferson paid it no mind. He drank, everything was fine.
The summer was drawing itself with hot days and war nights, while the silence of the house did nothing but remind Alexander that he was by himself, not exactly by choice but in his own stubborn reasoning to get things done.
He was tired, the constant headaches were doing him no favors, not to mention the creeping loneliness that was crawling in his chest, curling and expanding with each lonely night, threatening to tear him apart. He missed Eliza and the children dearly, gone from his side to Albany for the summer along with Angelica, who was no longer an ocean away and still not close enough to Alexander, he was by himself at the beginning and at the end of the day.
Alexander sighed, heavily, deeply. It he were to be honest, he wished to be with his family upstate more than his current situation, locked up in his office doing revision after revision of his debt plan while trying to appeal to congress for such plan to get through. Yet, in his mind, his battle was not only for his pride but to keep his job and with it, be able to provide for his family.
If the worst case scenario were to happen, and congress called for his removal, he could return to New York and continue his legal practice, but not without a hinder in his career, that was a simply reality. It will do him no favors to be the first secretary of treasury but also the first to be removed, no. He had no choice, his plan had to get through congress.
So he set to keep his effort to get his debt plan passed, day and night.
Perhaps it was the lack of sleep or the signs of what could be a summer cold looming over his self-neglected form. Whatever it might have been, Alexander was almost mellow during the many meetings, encounters and social call he answered to Federalist and Democratic-Republicans alike. He smiled, answered questions, his comments were moderated and overall he was pleasant to practically everyone.
A couple of his friends commented his strategy, his charm, and Alexander was middle embarrassed when he realized this, because he had no actual plan on the goings yet admitting such thing was probably not the best. He just let them think he indeed had an strategy to present on the works, absentmindedly saying he might as well listen to President Washington as he did during the war, it was an explanation enough, and perhaps some thought Washington was keeping him in check, or investing more than required in his behavior, and perhaps Alexander let them so, since there was no reason to do otherwise.
There was no master plan in his behavior, he was being more cautious because he didn’t need more blockers in his progress to get his debt plan through congress, and contrary to what some might think and say, he was aware of when he had gone too far. That was the main reason for his behavior, at least he told himself that, and it was not untrue, but neither was the only one. The second reason, the one that held more weight of his actions, was much more mundane.
Alexander was tired .
For the better part of the summer, Alexander had managed to push back against the headaches and negligence of his own physical needs, perhaps missing sleep for a week had not been his best idea. As Result was was feeling weak, far too awake, and forgetting things around the house. This pattern continued until a particularly hot afternoon when he fell asleep on his desk and was woken by an insistent knock on his door.
Standing too quickly, Alexander almost lost his footing. The room was spinning, and he leaned against the desk for balance, blinking rapidly to set his vision clear and cursing internally when it took longer than he expected. He really should leave for Albany to seek his wife’s company, or at least climb the stairs and sleep on his own bed.
Setting his longing for family aside, Alexander attended the door. There he found a young woman who looked in the edge of desperation, her eyes bright but her body locked in a tense form that was far too obvious to even his tired eyes.
“Can I help you?¨he asked, guiding the young woman inside.
“My name is Maria Reynolds, I’m very sorry to bother you, Mr. Hamilton,” she said quickly, “I need help, but I have don’t know where to go,” she explained.
Alexander frowned, “Can you elaborated?”
Her story was no entirely unfamiliar. She was young and she had married an older man, it was not long before things turned south, growing tension between them that because violent outburst, and now said older man was gone, not without leaving a mark on the young woman’s life. Maria was alone with daughter to protect and no means to do so in Philadelphia. She was looking for help, but more than anything she was looking to go back to New York, hence coming to his door.
Alexander resisted the urge to hold his head and apply pressure to his temples, even when the headache was creeping back with a full force against him as result of his own neglect for his health, the undesirable pain was coming back to him along a whisper that appeared to say I told you so , it strangely sound like Angelica.
“I can offer you the resources for yourself and your daughter to move back to New York,” he offered after thinking for a moment, “let me draft the conditions, it it fairly easy to manage,” he explained. “I will need a few hours, as you have pointed out this is an urgency I can expedite the process, we can reunite tonight once again, after I gather the money.”
“I appreciate your help sir, very much so.”
Alexander nodded to himself, “Sure…”
He dismissed her very quickly, but not unkindly. True to his words, Alexander made the stipulations for the loan, formalities, and retrieved the money he had been saving, it was not what he planned to do with it, but it was plain as day that Miss Reynolds was in need of assistance.
The boarding house Miss Reynolds was staying was not far from his own home, yet walking the distance felt like a herculean task, perhaps if his head stopped hurting he wouldn’t find it so annoying. Still, he kept his composure, and even smiled when handing the money to Miss Reynolds, along with some contact names that will gladly arrange her passage back to New York with her daughter.
“I should get going, good night Miss Reynolds,” he said while eyeing the door, he felt slightly sick.
“Won’t you stay?” she asked, hopeful, almost seductive, and Alexander tilted his head to a side, blinking slowly. “Please stay, sir…”
Alexander opened his mouth to reply, but his breath got caught and without meaning to ended up sneezing in Maria’s face. She closed her eyes for a long time, perhaps trying to register what just had happened. She accepted the handkerchief offered to her by Alexander, while he pretended the flush on his neck and face was because of the sneeze and not the utter embarrassment he was feeling.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said evenly, his voice at bay and not expressing how much he just wanted to lock himself in his office and perhaps never see Miss Reynolds again, not after the image of her face contracted in surprise and incredulity while some of his spit lingered on her cheek.
She cleaned her face with a grimace, “Perhaps not tonight, you’re right…”
“Have a pleasant evening, Miss Reynolds…”
He left the boarding house, and walked back home with both hands holding his head. It occurred to him only later, as he gave himself a moment to think, that the look Maria was giving him was not really innocent at best and lascivious at worst, and if Alexander were not feeling like he was walking directly under the sun, he might have been interested in her offer, only perhaps for the company. His face colored in shame at the thought. He covered his mouth with his hand and stopped walking, closing his eyes in distress.
Eliza… his dear Eliza, his children, and his dearest Angelica… oh how he longed for them.
Alexander took a deep breath, and slowly released it, walking short steps once he felt he was more in control of his own actions again. A part of him was tempted to go back to Maria, but no, he couldn’t do such thing, it would be wrong in so many levels, starting with the betray to his wife, followed by taking advantage of Maria, who was young and desperate, and she might need support and love, but Alexander couldn’t give her more than a loan.
Perhaps it was for the best that he had humiliated himself as he did before her.
He was closer to his home, still distracted, weak and with another guilt to carry around while he longed for his wife. He didn’t saw the men coming, the dark of the night did acted on their benefit and not his. Still, when he was seized against his will, his arms forced behind his back and a fault smelling rag was roughly pushed over his nose and mouth, he struggled. He fought, his military instincts kicking in so fast he managed to get himself free, striking only a few but effective blows.
It was enough to let him run, but whatever he inhaled was already taking effect, making hi vision swing and his movements too clumsy to allow him proper escape. One of his attacker came around and land a blow to the back of his head, he didn’t scream, perhaps he should have, but in the end he only tumbled on the street, where he was seized by his attackers again.
“S-Stop!” his voice sound strange even to him, and it was ignored.
A blindfold was tied over his eyes, spiking his panic, but the foul smelling rag was back over his face, and the fight drained out of him as his consciousness slipped away.
Alexander was no stranger to darkness, not because he was intimately familiar with it, but because he understood such thing in concept and had never particularly fear it. Relationally, he knew if there were something to fear, it wasn’t darkness itself but the unknown. Whatever danger could hide in the darkness one way or another and set its jaws towards its victim, that was the real thing to be afraid. It wasn’t the forced darkness upon his person what made him feel upset, but the awareness that that he was at the mercy of whatever threat was using the darkness to hide themselves.
The rope tying his wrist behind his back was biting into his skin, his shoulders felt strained. Another length of rope was looped around his ankles, not to mention the blindfold and the gag… the gag was probably the most unnerving detail of his precarious situation, not that he planned to scream, and curse out loud — not for the lack of want — but he would have liked to say a thing or two to whomever snatched him from the street.
He inhaled, and the exhaled softly, focusing in keeping himself alert, and not panic. He had been ambushed and hurt by the British during the war, his horse shoot from under him more than once, cornered, almost killed several times, but he had never been captured. Still, he was no stranger to what he should do in that situation, and was quickly setting his mind into such actions. And, perhaps out of anger of being bested in first place, Alexander was keeping his reactions to himself, he was not going to give whomever was watching him the satisfaction of seeing him scared.
Because somebody was watching him, of that he was sure. He could heard the rustle of clothes and the steps closer to his prone form on the stone floor. He gave no indication of being alert just yet, and the stranger was muttering to himself extensible but incoherently, Alexander could barely make some of the words, but he had no context to put them.
Perhaps the full implications of his situation had not seated in his mind just yet, allowing him to keep his thought to himself and his mind away from chaos. While he liked to think himself composed and calm in any given situation, that was far from true. He always got the job done, but “calm” was rarely an attribute given to his persona, except perhaps, when his children were involved.
Alexander held his breath, thinking of his children. He hoped they were safe in Albany with Eliza, he would rather find himself snatched off the streets a hundred times over than his children and his wife coming to threat, harm to them was not acceptable.
A hand touched his side, and he tensed, then he tried to move slowly, pretending to just be coming back to consciousness. The stranger’s touch was unwelcome and it quickly become even more so when he was roughly grabbed by his lose hair and dragged into a seating position against a wall. He grunted, and he was glaring behind the blindfold, even if the offender could not see it.
“He’s awake,” he didn’t recognize the voice.
The cloth around his jaw was removed, surprisingly gentle, as the gag. He grimaced at the dryness he felt in his mouth as result, but other than that he kept himself quiet. The blindfold, however, was left untouched over his eyes.
“Secretary Hamilton, you must forgive these circumstances of our atypical encounter, but I’m afraid you have done us wrong, sir,” the newcomer said as introduction and apology, he didn't sound apologetic at all, and Alexander did roll his eyes at his words, he couldn’t be seen doing it so he gave himself the small satisfaction.
“Pardon me, sir,” he did not hold the sarcasm from his voice, “But I don't recall who you are and therefor, what wrong have I committed against you to merit such treatment,” he proceed to struggle a bit against his bonds to make a point, “You will have to inform me, if you would be so kind.”
The stranger chuckled, stretching the silence for a moment in anticipation, he then backhand Alexander across the face. The violent reaction caught him by surprise, the force of the impact made him turn his head to the side. He swallow some blood as his teeth caught the inside of his lip, and cursed under his breath.
“Of course, it was my mistake to assume you will know your offense against me and mine when you walk through life with no regard of your words and actions, you lack respect for others and it shows in your character, it’s a shame,” the stranger touched his face again, this time gently, almost careful… the touch felt revolting.
Alexander didn’t flinch, instead focused on his breathing, anxiously flexing his fingers behind his back at the same time, “I’m afraid you must not take this personal, sir, for I don’t recall the specific offense if given.”
The stranger hummed, “how disappointing.”
He wasn't so naive as to think his incendiary words were not going to get him in trouble, they have done so a number of times in the past, so he was careful to keep a tally because in his mind he had to at least own his own words to others, it was a disservice to the public and to himself to talk without weight in his declarations.
Alexander issued his words with the expectancy of see them acknowledge, and stood by them with no intention of taking them back. There had only been a number of exceptions in retrospective, perhaps when he challenge the entire Democratic-Republican party to a duel, that was not meant to be literal… for the most part.
But he couldn’t recall an offense that amerite a clandestine attack and the subsequent deprive of freedom he was having as result of whatever these men seem to be accusing him. It upset him more than he expected, to be kept in ignorance of his own so called offense.
Alexander asked bluntly “And what, pray to tell, do you expect of this… unorthodox encounter?”
The stranger chuckled again, Alexander could feel him brushing his cheek with his knuckles in an unexpected gentle gesture, it was quickly followed by another slap, and while his time was not surprising, it was nonetheless unwelcome.
“I expect compensation for your offences, Hamilton,” the man said, casual and if he were not committing an act of violent, a crime, “Nothing less.”
Alexander hissed, “You want money?”
Another chuckled, “I’m afraid monetary compensation will not be enough, no, Hamilton, I don’t want money.”
He was grabbed by the hair again, roughly shoved to the ground on his front while a boot collided painfully between his shoulder blades. He felt his heart give a frenetic raise as the pressure grow stronger, and he struggle to get away from it with no success.
“Regardless, you will pay with another currency,” the voice was coming not from above him, so the stranger was not the one holding Alexander down, but the one that had been watching him in the beginning, perhaps another, Alexander had no idea ow many people were in the room. “At the moment, I will oversee your penance.”
Pain exploded at his back and his sides, the back of his legs and his arms. He curled into himself but it made no difference, he was sure now that at least two people were not only watching him before, but doing him harm now, plus the stranger in charge. He managed to maintain his reaction to grunts, and while a few gasps escape him, yet he refused to scream.
It didn’t make it any less painful.
In spite of his reluctance to talk about his childhood, Alexander did have fond memories of the place he once called home. Sometimes, he remembered the days when his mother would take him and his older brother down the path that lead to the beach. His brother James would run around the vegetation at the sides of the path while Alexander tried to catch up only to be held back and secured by his mother’s side, still too little to run around out of her sight.
She always smiled at him, telling him that he had to stay with her, and that James was going to always return to him, and Alexander wholeheartedly believed that.
His brother used to collect shells, and he would give Alexander some of the prettier ones upon catching up with them at the beach. Alexander used to think of these gifted shells as treasures, James even made a necklace for him once, with the most beautiful shell he had found during their explorations.
That was before.
Everything in his life, in his mind, was noted as Before and After. Before his father left, before his mother got sick, before his mother’s first husband took everything away from them, before his cousin couldn’t stand life anymore, before James walked away from him.
There was a hard line in his memories about those days, marked as the moment he could no longer give himself the luxury of believing his mother’s kind words because they were no longer true, they were just a memory, she was gone and so was James, and while he resented many things that came after the steps that eventually lead him away from the Caribbean, he couldn’t bring himself to completely forget the memories that shaped his childhood. He wouldn’t talk about them, but he also wouldn’t forget them, there was something important in those memories, something that once upon a time soothed him during the worse of nights.
It was, perhaps, the need to find comfort when there was none that brought him to think back to those days, the place and people in the beginning of his life, when there was not only a bright innocence to his own self, but in everything he saw. The time before he started questioning the actions of people, and his own, the time before Providence didn’t seem to have goodness to spare for his life.
He drifted away towards those days, when it was easy to see the world.
At some point, he found himself looking at the ocean, just as he remember it. He could hear the voice of his mother singing while the waves acted as melody. They were sitting on the shore, while James plucked shells out of the water, finding the most beautiful one for Alexander, one with a green shimmer that turned blue and pink as he moved it against the light. He wasn’t sure if this event had really happened or if it was a dream, but it felt safe to be in it, to let himself be cradle in a moment, instead of falling in the darkness that surrounded him.
It didn't last, the pain brought him back to the present. The sensation was pronounced while he was taking deep breaths, it gave him the sharp pain, as a reminder that he was far away from safety and comfort as he had been in years.
They didn’t ask him anything, instead he was dragged across the floor, beaten for a reaction that he didn’t give them. The stranger, the one that spoke as being in charge, just mused about the offences Hamilton had committed, and lay insults in a resentful yet controlled tone. It was very clear that the man thought very little of Alexander.
Even with the pain, he laughed to himself upon recalling the display. According to his vicious host, Alexander was everything a gentleman should not be, and more. But, when all was said and done, Alexander didn’t kidnapped anyone from the streets to have them beaten while musing about how much he disliked them. It was exasperating as well as amusing, how hypocritical of his own actions these people were.
He laid still, he was thirsty and tired, not to mention in pain, but he bore it with as much dignity as he could while spitting blood from his mouth, hoping it wasn’t a loose tooth what he was feeling.
“You’re awake,” the man sounded amused, the voice was not of his “gracious” host, so he would assume it was one of the few people responsible for his current and less than acceptable state.
“So it seems,” he mused, once again unable to keep the biting tone out of his voice. If nothing else he had that still, his stubborn stance firm even in his predicament.
He shifted slowly, his ankles where not tied anymore, the rope loose while he kicked and tried to fight his attackers, some had stepped on his knee and it was bother him very much, along a number of other pains that he wouldn’t catalog for the moment, in an effort to not let his uneasiness turn to panic. Without too much discomfort, he managed to sit against the wall with a grimace, he imagined his skin was already molted with blossoming bruises and scrapes. Not only was the “penance” imposed over him a little too violent, his skin was also prompt to bruise easily.
He had a tolerance for pain, but not the best complexion to hide the offending results when painted purple and blue with punches and kicks. Alexander recalled out of nowhere an occasion when he sported an impressive bruise on his forehead for a few days after running to catch Philip, only to bang his head against his desk. The amused stare Washington gave him the next day at work mortified him a little more than he anticipated.
He could already see it, his own body like a poorly made canvas, slashes of dark purple, blue yellow and green scattered around with no regard of consequences.
Alexander willed himself to remain calm, but as time passed, it was becoming a more difficult task to perform. During the war he had hope to see the end, but in the back of his mind the notion that he would not had always been present. Now, the situation was even more upsetting if he were to be honest, at least during the war he knew why tragedy was following.
Le licked his lips, they were split, he could taste blood in them, and they were very dry. The cellar he presumed to be trapped in was not hot, but that was a very small comfort in the bigger picture that was his precarious situation.
Hunger he could keep at bay for longer than was probably healthy, he had done so in the past, but his last meal had been probably in the morning the day before, and there was another thing bother him already.
“I don’t suppose you can offer me some water, good sir?”
The man grunted, a couple chairs shuffle and then Alexander was on his back once again, this time with a cloth over his nose and mouth and the growing feeling he just made a grave mistake. The splash of water over his face was not unexpected, the escalating sensation of being unable to breathe definitely was.
His heart hammered in his chest, echoed in his ears, muffling even his own panicked gasps, and made him feel very afraid, a sensation he was acquainted with, familiar and unwelcome. He remembered the hurricane, the Schuylkill river, and more, it was as if his body was trying to make sense of being drowned in dryland by making him remember when he had been under water, when death was so close he almost went into her embrace.
Alexander coughed and gasped for breath, taking as much as he could after being deprived of it, his chest hurt. Before he could make sense of anything, someone held him roughly by the nape and forced a cup against his lips, making him bit the offending object in the process, but he got some water down his throat in the end, before being kicked in the side and his head colliding against the wall.
He inhaled deeply, ignoring the pain in his ribs, and while was not actually able to enjoy the water, at least he got some to drink and not drowned in it, “T-Thanks.”
The man chuckled at his sarcastic response, and Alexander couldn’t find the energy to hate them, he was in pain, half drowned, and tired. Perhaps, if he let himself sleep, he could make his way back to the memory of the beach, or evoke one of his Eliza and their children, walking down the lake.
Alexander had been in precarious situations before, but he wasn’t sure how to get out of this one, not yet anyway. But he had to try, the last thing that he wanted was lay down and just take whatever these people had coming for him, if felt too much like surrender.
No, he had to bide his time, and he hoped his tolerance for pain was still good enough to provide him some resistance until he managed to find his way out.
Madison was expecting to get a hold of Hamilton that week, he wanted to discuss a few points regarding his financial plan, but he kept this plan to himself, perhaps in solidarity to Jefferson, and their stand in favor of the south. It was sometimes difficult to stay in the momentum of hostile opposition towards Hamilton, not because he disagree with the vision the Democratic-Republicans had for a government, but because in a broader concept, not a two party one, Madison believed Hamilton made some favorable points, he even liked some of them as they were.
Of course, expression this was difficult. Madison stood as representative of Virginia before Congress, he was no longer just James, who spend many nights writing alongside Alexander, united in the common goal of defending the Constitution.
He wouldn’t speak of it, but James on occasions longed the memory of those days, it was easier to have Alexander on his side in many ways. Sometimes he wondered to himself if Alexander thought about their increasing drift, the younger man had always been sentimental, and during the time they were working together, Alexander gave the impression of genuinely caring about James’ presence in his life.
But James had a duty towards the south, and although he too care about Hamilton, once, it was not enough to dissuade him of that duty.
Still, some part of him wanted to look for options, perhaps a compromise. Hamilton didn’t attend their designed office that day, it was unusual, even more so because he send no message given an explanation. Jefferson had mentioned Hamilton being unwell, but that had been the week before. Madison decided to look for the younger man at his house, perhaps it was better this way, with less people to explain his presence.
What he didn’t expect was to found Aaron Burr at the residence. The housekeeper lead them both to the living room, apparently she was worried that Hamilton had yet to make an appearance. The woman served them tea and left them by themselves, looking unsure of how to proceed next.
“She doesn’t know where is he? Nothing...” Madison asked Burr. “This is unusual.”
“The family is in Albany for the summer’” Burr explained, “She’s coming every other day or so since it's only Hamilton, and yet the man is not here, but there was no message and nothing is missing according to her.”
Madison frowned, “And you?”
“What brings you here?” he asked, Madison was aware Hamilton and Burr were friends or something similar, and they had worked together before Hamilton joined Washington’s cabinet, but his presence was still intriguing him.
Burr sighed, he looked tired, “I was recently visit by a potential new client, a woman whose husband is inadequate, she was referred to me by Alexander… and I while I see no issue in taking her case, I want to speak with him nonetheless.” Burr narrowed his eyes, “I passed by a couple days ago, he was absent, now I found the housekeeper, but not Alexander.”
Madison hummed, “He was not in today’s meeting,” he pointed out, “he didn’t provide a message ahead to note his absence.”
Burr pressed his lips in a thin line, “Let me be honest, we both know Alexander can be obnoxious, and while a bit of silence form his part is mostly not unwelcome, he doesn’t neglect his work, not even when he should take a step back, so yes, I would say this is very unusual.”
“I’m inclined to agree with you,” Madison conceded. “You served together during the war, correct?”
“We did,” Burr confirmed, “Alexander’s patterns of work and general behavior have not changed much since, perhaps in a few stances but not overly so.”
The tea was getting cold, both drank probably just out of courtesy. It was sweet, yet it left a undesirable after taste in Madison’s tongue, he suspected it was not the beverage itself what was making him feel queasy.
“I don’t want to raise an alarm if there is no reason,” he began, “Hamilton is a member of congress, his presence is required and while I am not part of his party, I do not want to see him harmed.”
Burr didn’t respond at first, then closed his eyes and said, “I spoke with one of his party members, they didn’t express concern.”
“They were lying, I could tell,” Burr explained, his voice firm and with no room for doubt. “It was mostly in their silence that they indirectly confirmed what I already suspected.”
“Not even them know where Hamilton is,” he concluded. Burr nodded in response, James ran a hand over his face. The situation was feeling like a problem already, and he was not someone who ignored problems, although Hamilton was not his responsibility.
It took but a moment for him to think about the younger man not as the Secretary of Treasury, but as Alexander, and the friendship they used to have. As result, James felt the urge to do something already building inside him.
He made a choice.
“If Alexander shows up with no issues whatsoever, I will personally take great pleasure in reminding him of this event for as long as I feel entitled to,” he declared, as Burr showed a little amusement on his face.
Burr agreed, “That seems fair.”
“It may be nothing...but I will very much prefer not taking any chances.”
Burr nodded, then his amusement was gone and a frown deepened on his face, “Will you let the President know?”
“President Washington is going to ask, if not directly to me at first hand, he will eventually, since this is Alexander we’re talking about,” he had no doubt about it, “and when that happens, I will let him know whatever little or much I know.”
It was an unspoken agreement that this was the best way to proceed, James didn’t expect Burr to share anything else, but the man did.
“He was pronounced dead once, during the war,” Burr was not looking at him, his eyes fixed in a point at the floor as he retold the memory to James, who gave him space to talk, “His horse was shot under him while crossing the Schuylkill river during an attack, and he went under.”
“Were you there?”
“No,” Burr shock his head, “I heard the news from Lee’s report, as did others... what I remember the most was Washington’s eyes, his expression never cracked, always the General he had to be before his troops... but there was unmistaken grief there, too heavy to be completely masked.”
“Evidently, the report was mistaken,” James pointed out, curious about the rest.
Burr shrugged and slowly a smile adorned his lips, “Yes, he went under, the current took him several miles down the river, but he got out and made his way back to camp looking like a half dead wet cat, he even interrupted his own wake…”
James chuckled, “because surviving wasn’t enough, he had to make an entrance.”
The silence hanged after that, they finished their tea, and bid farewell to the housekeeper as well as each other. Part of James wanted Alexander to come through the door and interrupt their leave as he interrupted his wake back in his military days.
But that didn’t happen, and James couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
It seems rumors were chasing Jefferson’s attention with unusual persistence these days. Perhaps a flaw on his character was to give them attention, he should have done as he had many times before and ignore them, or use them to his advantage, but not give them thought, as he was currently doing.
They say… Hamilton is nowhere to be found.
It was strange, to think about going to the next Cabinet meeting and not having Hamilton to argue with. The man was unnerving, and Thomas had no disposition of courtesy to pretend it didn’t annoy him more often than not, yet it was entertaining to deal with Hamilton sometimes, a detail to even look forward when days were long and borderline boring.
And now this rumor… Hamilton, disappearing...
“That’s a shame,” he mused to himself, his copy of Hamilton’s financial plan laying over his desk with his persona notes and marks all over in a contrasting ink. He felt as if Hamilton was staring back at him from the other side of the desk, in silence.
That, of course, was nonsense. As the word got around, Hamilton had been absent, his whereabouts unknown. It was mildly irritating, that even when not present Hamilton was causing inconveniences. Jefferson still believed the man was doing this on purpose, and he said so when asked, ignoring the nagging, silent feeling growing in his chest that was too close to resembled worry for his taste.
Thomas closed his eyes, took the stack of papers in his hands and stood up. He was distracted, and therefor staying in his office doing nothing was a waste of time, so he got out of it, barely bothering to close the door on his way out, and walked down the hallway only to stop before the front entrance, where James was binding farewell to Washington.
The president’s mouth was press in a thin line, his eyes fixed in a hard stare while Madison spoke evenly, but his friend’s calm tone was apparently not helping the situation. Washington looked displeased, and while the President gave a curt nod before leaving his displeasure did not lessened.
Neither of them saw Thomas so he stood in silence for a moment. James remaind by the door after Washington's departure, then gave a long sight, lifting his head towards the ceiling, as if there was an answer to his questions.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, stepping into the corridor and closer to his friend.
To his credit James didn't even flinch, as he probably had expected Thomas to creep on him, “Hamilton is missing.”
Thomas made a noise as knowledge. So, the most recent rumor was just not a rumor after all, that was… actually more inconvenient than anything else.
“Brat’s probably upstate,” not likely, but Thomas was not going to worry about Hamilton.
He was not.
James close his eyes, probably to stop himself from rolling them if Thomas knew read his mood well enough, “No, I doubt it, he’s working in that financial plan after all,” he motioned to the papers Thomas was carrying, he almost forgot he had them on hand, “Besides Burr had a meeting with him and he failed to show up to that as well.”
“And how you know this?”
James looked at him in the eye then, “I encounter Burr recently, he happened to be looking for Hamilton and told me he was missing in action.”
Thomas tilted his head to the side, “You’re worried…”
James did roll his eyes this time, and walked away from the door towards his own office, not to work but to pour himself a glass of whiskey. He drank half of it in one go, then stared at the liquid for a moment while Thomas watched him, laying down Hamilton’s financial plan draft on the desk.
“This is bad Thomas,” James finally said, honest and direct to the point, “The notice has been delivered to his wife already, and people are starting to talk—”
“As people do,” hissed Thomas.
James continued as he had not been interrupted, “It will chaos in no time.”
“We don’t know that” Thomas reasoned, “We don’t even know what is happening, for all we know Hamilton is just fine and laughing about this overreactions already,” not even him believed that, but he said it anyway.
Again, James was not having any roundabout and went for brutal honesty, “He’s not fine, and if he shows up again, it will be chaos as well, this is a growing disaster already, and unless his absent is his own doing, and I highly doubt it is, we should prepare and consider the consequences.”
“James—” he bit his tongue and then rephrased, denial was not his style, “No… you’re right, the only way this would not be a scandal is if this is his own doing, but you don’t think it is.”
It probably wasn’t, Hamilton was visibly focused in getting his financial plan through Congress, he wouldn't just drop that task without notice. The younger man was obnoxious and the number one cause of headaches for Thomas these days, but he wasn’t careless with his work.
“Hamilton did not just choose to vanish,” James took another swing from his whiskey.
Thomas narrowed his eyes, “You said if Hamilton shows up… not when.”
His friend nodded, “We must consider the possibility that he might not show up at all.”
That explained Washington’s mood. The man had written many letters when his soldiers die, a lot of those letters must have been done by Hamilton’s hand, as Washington's chief of staff the younger man had been besides the general most of the time. Perhaps during the war, Washington imagined having to give the condolences of Alexander’s dead, as nobody had any warranty of living to see the next day. But not now, when the war was over and they were building the foundation of their nation.
Not when they had, for the most part, grow in the feeling of safety.
“That’s…” Thomas glanced at the stack of papers over the desk, “I don’t know what to say.”
James stared into the space and drank the rest of his drink; Thomas got himself once as well.
This was not what he wanted.
Funny anecdote while this chapter was being edited: I was digging over some historical facts in order to know more about Jefferson's office in Philadelphia, and I just kept finding Alexander's, I need more books.
Anyway, let me know what you think!
Shortly after the war, Angelica asked him why he always seemed so melancholic. Alexander could explain why, he was no short of words to do so, but instead smiled and mentioned how he would have liked for her mother to know his family, his lovely Betsy, and their first born at the time, Philip.
It was convincing enough.
Alexander rarely talked about his childhood, and while he wanted to share some important things he had learned thanks to his mother, and indirectly his father mostly due his failures, he kept many things to himself. The reasons varied, but one of them was the deeply rooted sentiment that lingered in his being, the notion that life was simply not fair. He had seen much cruelty in his life, before the war the world was already dark to his eyes. Many ignored the terrible sight that hide in plain sight in the seemly paradise that was Nevis, but he couldn’t.
Still, he didn't want to spread his sadness to his loved ones.
After separating himself from his childhood and the tragedies that marked it so much, he thought he could leave that sentiment behind, that sadness that lead to a distinct and depressive view of the world. He made a conscious effort to simply push those thoughts away, and accept that sometimes life was not too unfair, that in time he could find happiness without tragedy looming over him.
At the moment, he was proven wrong in his hopes and tragedy was webbing around him once again, like an unfolding omen, potential and pulsing as the hours passed and he was beaten and abused, reminded of the flaws of his character, and condemned in a brutal fashion for them.
Strength was not an attribute he was willing to give himself, one too many times he had been described as fragile, but he was stubborn and for the time being that was enough to let himself metaphorically stand against the anguish he was forced into. It was no secret that Alexander liked to express himself, his words were his shield and sword, they were the attack and defense he had since he was able to properly use them.
Some people might say he liked the sound of his own voice, that such thing made him arrogant, selfish, and obnoxious. These people were wrong, at least for what really matter to Alexander.
Yes, he was sometimes arrogant, and he could be obnoxious, downright vexing at times, but if he was selfish from time to time, it was not entirely intentional.
Reflecting on that, perhaps such flaw was worse, he might need to revisit such thought and work on it, and if a few apologies were required, he might have to swallow that elevated pride he was being accused of, that indeed may or may not have, and make amends.
It was interesting, the thoughts one had when being deprived of their liberty.
He didn’t express this to his captors, of course, self-reflections were not meant for strangers, even less so those he could not even see. He was not going to let them know the forced containment was getting to him, so he talked nonetheless.
Alexander talked about the Constitution, about the new Government, he talked about Philosophers and Scholars, and while doing so he let his mind wander in tangents, letting himself talk about whatever came to mind, such as the differences between New York and Philadelphia, the roads, the harbor, silly anecdotes of his youth, and distasteful quality of the last batch of parchment he was given to work with the week prior.
More often than not, the so-called mastermind of his abduction would be there, and occasionally comment on Alexander’s rambles, they even had some conversations at some point. It was mostly meaningless topics, but at the same time such conversations gave Alexander enough information to know a little more about his gracious host.
Trying to figure out who this person was with only the sound of his voice and his opinions was a bit harder than Alexander expected, only proving that he had no direct contact with this person before. Knowing that he had indirectly enraged someone enough to make them seek retaliation by force was both an amusing and a somehow disturbing notion.
When his gracious host was not present, his unwelcomed guards shuffled and ignored him, some grunted or expressed their exasperation at Alexander’s unwillingness to kept himself silent, not that he minded their opinion, except when they showed their lack of restraint and used force to show Alexander just how little they appreciated his company.
He expected nothing less, but Alexander still didn’t appreciate being beaten, waterboarded and gagged on top of being restrained and blindfolded. It was rapidly becoming an unwelcome cycle, Alexander exercised some restrain on occasions not out of proper self-preservation, but because he was not only simply tired but deeply exhausted, and while he was no stranger to pain and how to endure it, it didn't mean he welcomed it.
His head was killing him, the constant near drowning while in dryland experience was doing him no favors to alleviate the persisting headache, and while his captors might think his shaking was due the ordeal alone, he was actually really cold. Not a good sign, considering it was summer, and the cellar he was probably being held was most likely mildly cool at best, not enough to be the cause of Alexander’s discomfort, even in his drenched clothes.
At some point he passed out after the water hitting his face ran out, and came back to himself on the floor. As he made an effort to even out his breathing, he heard a couple of chuckles remarking how he was trembling. He noted the satisfaction in the comment, and it was not surprised but still alarming to know these people were enjoying seeing him in pain. The detail they ignored was the fact that Alexander was not trembling in fear, he was, for the most part and his utter dismay, getting sicker.
The summer cold that plagued him probably due lack of care of his wellbeing was now becoming a real problem over his already precarious situation. He couldn’t afford to be weak, not now. Alexander closed his eyes behind the blindfold, and curled into himself for a bit of warm. It was hard to strong when your body was not willing to cooperate.
His mind went back to his host. The man was clearly educated, he held strong political opinions and was not afraid to let Alexander know how much he disliked him. He didn’t belong to The Federalists, for sure. Alexander could assure this not because he thought of his fellow party members as incapable of violence, more intelligent or morally superior - they had John Adams for Christ’s sake - but simply because the scheme lacked taste… it was just so blunt.
Alexander shifted on the ground and with a contained moan of pain laid on his side, forehead pressed against the cool wall. He bit into the gag just to not let himself be heard hissing his pain, he refused to give them anymore satisfaction, although it was getting harder by the minute.
Behind the blindfold, his eyes were closed and his thoughts shifting as quickly as his feverish mind allowed him. His host knew him well, declared him a problem and an offense, he was most likely affiliated with The Democratic-Republicans in some form, just by what Alexander could tell regarding his opinions. Besides that, the man was aware of perhaps too much gossip, and was not entirely sure what he wanted to do with Alexander besides hurt him.
That last affirmation was very unsettling.
It was strange. Alexander always thought of gossip as something that could hurt others in a roundabout level, or straightforward depending of the matter in itself, but not physically direct.
Words could destroy opportunities, reputations, carries, all those were stances he was very aware of... but to find himself kidnapped and imprisoned due his words was not something that crossed his mind, in all due honesty. A pseudonym was not exactly a shield to hide behind, just an instrument of deniability, and it was not helping him now.
He probably should have seen that looming over; words had gotten people killed before many times. Words have saved Alexander more than once, and it was not illogical that they could also be his doom.
At some point, he was able to drift into a restless sleep, only to be rudely woken up by being hauled off the floor and made to stand, his hand secured to something above his head against a pillar, forced to his feet with his toes barely touching the ground.
His so-called host was talking again, monologuing in reality, for Alexander was still gagged and unable to answer any of the rhetorical questions, nor refute insults and other remarks the man was making about him. Alexander pulled on the ropes when the remarks shifted towards his family, and barely managed to contain himself, biting into the gag with such force once he relaxed his jaw was stiff.
Alexander barely made sense the words besides the spite they carried, the pressure in his head was too much, the pain to be made to stand in such restrained position was also affecting him, not to mention the lack of sleep, food and water. He rested his head against the pillar. Anger was simmering inside him, but so was an overwhelming sadness, he was getting desperate over the thought of never seeing his loved ones again, leaving them with nothing but ruin, as he was left by his own father.
No, he couldn’t think that.
He couldn’t let himself give up on them like that. He had to see Philip going over his poems with more eloquence at his short age, Angie was not even six yet, his little girl, Lex had just turned four, and little James was just a barely a toddler, happy to be held by his father all the time… He couldn’t possibly let himself fade, leaving Eliza with their children like this, it was not acceptable.
It hit too close to his chest, the pain of leaving those dear to him behind, echoing in the unwelcome memories of the tragedies that followed him and his brother shortly after his mother’s passing. He tried to block the memories, filled with bitter words and judging eyes of strangers and a few with genuine hate, he pushed them back in the dark of his mind, the closest to oblivion he could store them, were they belong.
Stubborn, if not strong… it had to be enough.
Alexander balanced himself up on his toes, pressed against the pillar and inhaled deeply, relaxing his jaw trying to get some relief for his straightened muscles in an effort to lessen the pain, and mentally center himself at least a little.
It was frustrating, because his host, apart from telling Alexander over and over again how unfitted he was in a wide range of subjects not limited to Government, and how many offenses he had caused as result, the man was not getting to any sort of resolution. He wanted Alexander to suffer and, as much as it pained Alexander to admit it, he was succeeding in this endeavor.
But it was so pointless .
Violence without a gain other than personal satisfaction, and if satisfaction was what this person was so keen to demand, they could have challenged him to a duel. The act of dueling was, as he recalled agreeing with Burr once, dumb and immature, but it was a gentleman thing to do, he had seen many duels take place, even before coming to the Colonies, it was how things got done... an endeavor of honor and such. This illegal imprisonment and torture were just barbaric, it reminded him too much of the horrors committed against slaves.
He was afraid, he had always been afraid of those horrors.
Alexander tested the ropes, too firm and digging into his already raw and most likely bleeding skin. He had little to no leverage but that didn’t stop him from trying. The need to escape had been present in him since the moment he was taken from the street, but as the time slowly passed and his body grew weaker, that need pulsed twice as strong. At some point, this need reflected into his renewed strength to fight back, in the back of his mind he was conscious that this was not the best for his self-preservation, but the wait had brought him nothing but the settle notion that the people who were hurting truly hated him.
He shivered, the remembrance of his mother’s first husband lurking in his mind; his hatred for them had felt like fire, burning everything in his path until it consumed everything for the two orphans, even their hope. He pushed the image, he knew hate, he couldn't forget it even if he tried, but he was choosing not to dwell on it.
Alexander silently admitted to himself that he had no sense of time anymore, it could have been a few days since he was taken, it could have been more, he had no idea. He was incredibly thirsty but the sound of water only made him flinch due being nearly drowned so many times already. Food of course was not even an option, and if slept came was more often than not even that, but his body coming to a sudden stop as result of passing out.
He told himself to be patient, when all this started, but now he couldn’t pretend to have any patience lingering in his self, the hopelessness of the situation was proving itself to be heavier than expected. At least, during the war, he had the notion of not being alone in the fight.
Alexander decided to act.
At was ill advised, probably stupid, but when they pulled the ropes to let him fall, he landed on his feet instead and pushed forward and upwards using the momentum to collide his head with another, and then kicked someone else. His momentum sadly didn’t last, although the shout of pain from what appeared to be his gracious host gave Alexander some satisfaction.
He was backhanded, the sheer force sent him to the floor, and then someone stepped over his bound hands, hard. He couldn't contain the scream that followed upon feeling the break of his left wrist and perhaps some of his right fingers, he screams again when the man just stomps once again over his hands and proceeds to kick him as well, alexander wasn’t sure if he screamed again, with the sound muffled by the gag in his mouth. Fingers twisted into his hair, digging at his scalp and slamming his face against the ground, for the force and feel of whomever in turn hurting him, Alexander theorized his was probably his host getting his hands dirty.
Alexander gasped, and as if burned the man holding him released the punishing grip on his hair, leaving him on the ground, the sound of his ragged breath mixing with that of his host.
“We’re done here,” the man’s voice was trembling, barely collected.
He tried to get up, the fear was boiling over and the desperation taking control, he couldn’t let himself end this way, he couldn’t. Behind the blindfold, the tears gathered in his eyes against his will, the pain was present, but it was the notion of being helpless what truly took him to the edge, he couldn’t escape, why was this happening, why did tragedy insisted in clawing in his life just as he thought he could move past it?
The grip on his scalp was back, and he was yet again slammed against the floor, then someone pressed a rag with the same foul smell as the night he was taken. Panicking, he fought with strength he didn’t possess, uncaring of his injuries, but once again he was not able to push the dark cloud that followed.
Something was wrong.
Philip walked behind Angie as his sister picked flowers around grandfather's house. He had Lex’s hand in his, gently encouraging his little brother to walk with them and not get distracted by the bumblebees again, correcting the pronunciation of those words he missed and letting him know knew ones.
“This will make mama happy,” Angie said in confidence, showing Philip the makeshift bouquet, she put together with the flowers and some other things that were probably weeds, but not the kind of weed that makes you itchy, so it was okay.
Philip smiled, “She’s been sad since that letter came.”
Lex tugged at Philip’s hand, “It’s papa comin’?”
“No,” Angie pouted, “and he should be here!”
“I think that’s why mother is sad,” Philip reasoned, “but I also think they are going to do something about it, I heard aunt Angelica talk about going back to get father, since he’s not coming yet.”
“I like it here,” Lex made a face, “but I want papa more.”
Angie started to make their way back, directing them to the house while carrying the flowers and doing that frown of hers, pronounced even more when she was displeased with something, such as their father not being with them for the summer with their grandfather.
Philip had to admit, being with their grandfather was much calmer. While their mother still made them get somehow early and they had to help with some chords, it was easier than the many things his father made sure Philip did during a regular day when he was not in school, always citing how studying was very, very important.
He did mind, he wanted to play and have fun... but he also liked to practice piano with his mother and read with his father. He wanted to have these moments with them, because he had to go back to boarding school one the summer was done, and while he loved school and his friends there, he very much liked to be with his family.
While the summer had been fun, now something was wrong.
Mother didn’t explain them about the letter, but her whole face transformed when she read it, and she held baby Jamie the rest of the day, closing her eyes and hiding her face on his little neck. Aunt Angelica had taken charge of everything after that, while uncle John and grandfather were going in and out of the house. The next day their belongings were packed and now it was just waiting.
They were going back early, to father, but Philip knew something was wrong.
He tried to sneak into grandfather's office and read the letter, but he couldn’t find it, he went about everything and put it back to not give himself away afterwards, but it was not in the office. He asked his mother about it, and she simply said their father needed them to come back, and that everything was going to be fine.
She didn’t say something was wrong, but her words implied it.
Now Philip wanted to know even more, but he didn’t want to scare his siblings, so he just repeated what mother said. They were going back to father and they will be together the rest of the summer. He didn’t mentioned that the plans had changed because something was wrong, although Angie seemed to notice that things were not as they should be, hence trying to cheer their mother up with flowers, but Lex didn’t notice anything amiss and Jamie was still too little to do so, happy and secure in their mother’s arms, babbling away his first baby words with some resemble of context, so they were fine.
But Philip was worried.
Before leaving for the summer Philip wrote a poem for his father. He had been so proud he even held the parchment and looked at it for a very long time, smiling all day after, and asking Philip to recite it twice in one morning. Making his parents smile always made Philip happy, but now he didn’t know what to do or say without making his mother hide her face in Jamie’s neck, because after that she smiled but it was fake, and he didn’t like that.
So Philip walked with his siblings to water flowers outside, then took them back to the house and helped Angie get a base for the flowers, write a note, and leave them in the nightstand while they finished packing their things to go back to their father.
Behind the closed door of their grandfather's room, their mother was talking louder, her voice thick and her words muffled, but there was nothing shooting in that tone, so unlike her normal caring words.
“What’s wrong Pip?” Angie asked when he stared at the hallway for too long. He smiled at his sister and gently closed the door to drown the sound.
“Mother has a headache; we should probably finish this to make her feel better.”
Angie gave him a dubious look but nodded, taking Lex’s hand and packing his toys while he decided which they would take with him in the coach. They should also probably look for Jamie’s blanket, he saw it on the living room this morning but mother was too distracted to notice it fell under the table.
“I’ll be right back,” he said then, opening to door and getting out, “It won’t take long.”
Philip walked closer to his grandfather's room, and realized with horror that his mother was crying. He wanted to run and hug her, make her smile, but he was shaking and backing away already, running to the living room to get Jamie’s blanket and hug it against his chest and face, it still smelled like their father, as he held Jamie the whole day before they left for Albany, and it soothed Jamie greatly during the journey.
He resisted the urge to cry, something was wrong… was that the reason their father didn’t come with them for the summer?
Philip bit his lip and got up, taking a deep breath, he wanted to cry still but he didn’t let himself do so. If their father was not here, he had to be strong for his mother and siblings, and when they went back, he was going to hold his father the whole day, it didn’t matter he was not a baby anymore. He would ask him to read and write, he will ask questions and stories, so father had to be with him the whole day and put him to be like he did with Angie, Jamie and Lex.
Yes, he was going to do that.
For now, he held Jamie’s blanket and went back to their room to pack, mother was no longer crying, or at least he couldn’t hear her, but that was no proof that things were fine. Philip knocked the door and smiled; he would have to play pretend for a while.
He was fine.
“Mother? I found Jamie’s blanket…”
The door opened, his mother as holding a fussy Jamie who was not happy for what Philip could tell in his brother's little pout. He held the blanket towards him and his baby brother smiled.
“Papa, give, give!” he made grabby hands to the blanket, as Philip thought he would, he was glad the scent of their father was still present in the fabric.
Mother’s face did something weird, but she smiled then, “Thank you Philip.”
“We packed our things, and Angie has a surprise for you,” he said, feeling his mother relax a bit with his words.
“Oh, what would I ever do without you?” She kissed his forehead and he held her tight while Jamie babbled away. He didn’t cry, even if his chest hurt with something he couldn’t name.
He missed father.
Washington observed the view outside the window of his office without really seeing it, his eyes were fixed in the distance but his mind was far from the moment. His recent pen letter to Tallmadge sat on his desk as the ink dried for him to send it. The letter was simple, if anyone but Tallmadge were to read it, the true meaning behind Washington’s words would be lost, as many other letters he had pen to Tallmadge before.
It was with a strange sense of irony, that he recalled some of those letters. He had recited the words carefully, with confidence and tranquility even, while Alexander wrote them down in the makeshift privacy of the stop selected as his office while in camp. Alexander had managed almost of not all of his correspondence at that time, and Washington had no doubt that it was his iron loyalty what kept the young man from asking too many questions when certain letters where requested.
Spies were, after all, not something to be discussed out loud, were unwelcomed ears could compromise their position.
Alexander never asked about Tallmadge, but Washington had little doubt that his chief of staff was unaware of the hidden position Benjamin held in Washington's reward. Now Washington was asking support from Tallmadge once again, but not because of the war, but something nefarious as the disappearance of his once aide de camp, now Secretary of Treasury.
He contemplated the past few months. Alexander had let his strong opinions know, it was as much as am attribute as it was a flaw, and in their continuous effort to build a nation, it was a necessary voice. Washington’s ideal had been a single group, but alas that didn’t happen, they had a two-party system and many disagreements as arguments. Alexander being a loud carried of not only his voice, but holding that of the ideas his party supported.
It painted a target on his back, but Washington had not anticipated someone actually aiming to shoot the younger man, not this early into the game.
Washington had no time to lose. Alexander was not simply missing, something had been done to take him away, and while Washington still clung to the hope of see him alive and well, the more strategic and sometimes pessimistic part of his mind was already preparing itself to face the possibility of the worst-case scenario.
He didn’t want to raise too many alarms, but Alexander was still a public figure, his absence was already noted in between his frequent circles as well as the cabinet. His family had been notified of his absence, and investigations were in progress.
Washington's letter to Tallmadge was him setting pieces in the shadows of the board. Perhaps he should feel guilty or at least hesitant to ask what could be seen as a personal favor of his retire spy ring, but Washington was not going to waste an important resource that could bring him Alexander back out of moral restrain.
He had done worse in the past; this was not even really an offence in compare.
Closing his eyes, he imagined Alexander entering the room as if nothing was amiss, ready to face whatever came their way, ready to figure out the resolution to any obstacle in their path. He turned to face the closed door, with Alexander absent and the silence hanging heavily around him.
Washington's gaze hardened. He walked back to his desk and took the letter, sealing it and shortly after calling an assistant to request it to be sent immediately and with urgency. He could lie to himself and say he was being impartial, just the commander in Chief taking the security of his staff very seriously, but he was not going to indulge in private lies. He wanted to see the man he thought as a son back, safe and sound, and he was willing to use anything in his disposal to achieve such need.
Alexander wouldn’t endanger the country to help him, but he would endanger himself without a second thought, so George was going to do the same.
Let me know what you think so far, I very much appreciate your comments.
If there was someone in this world that truly knew Alexander, that person was Eliza.
Perhaps she couldn’t comprehend in a personal level all of her husband’s actions, but she knew him and understood why Alexander acted the way he did most of the time. She may not always like it, but she understood. To her, it was no secret that for all of Alexander’s words and apparent lack of self-restraint, posturing as confidence and sometimes arrogance, her dear Alexander was nothing more than fighting with himself in each step.
Her Alexander was not keen in sharing the details of his infancy, but at the same time held no secrets from her. When they were just getting to know each other, falling in love with each letter written and received, he was honest in his words, his intent, and of course, his material lacking. Alexander was brilliant, and he was aware of that, he prided himself over it, but he also was insecure in a way Eliza noticed quickly. Alexander’s need to prove himself worthy and be acknowledged, came from a deep-rooted fear that for a time not even Eliza was able to pry out of him with words.
Until her silent support did the deed.
One late night in their courting, Eliza held Alexander’s hands and talked about her childhood, a silly story regarding her sisters and chasing a dog down the road while their mother watched them. Alexander was silent, a distant look on his eyes, and he spoke softly them.
“My mother died when I was young… and it changed everything.”
Alexander never pretended to be of status, he rarely talked about the circumstances of his birth, his place or origin, or his immediate family. He would talk in earnest about The Stevens, the family that took him after his mother died and tragedy got a hold of his life, and for a while Eliza was under the impression that, he had been adopted by them from the beginning.
“I was living a beautiful lie, before my father left… when it shattered, with his departure and my mother’s passing, I was able to see the world in a better light, and sometimes I wish I hadn’t, but I’m here now, with you, and for that everything else had been worth it.”
He wouldn’t admit it, that the events that let him see the crueler side of the world had taken deep roots in him, and to this day he was carrying the scars. He was too proud to acknowledge that, for all his bravado and deeds, at the end of the day Alexander was afraid to be seen as a failure, and that just as he described his origins, that he might be “unimportant” .
It frustrated her to no end, to see him struggling with an enemy that, looking closely, was not out of the world but in the mirror. Alexander was his worst enemy, not matter how much he denied it, and Eliza was in worry for him, of see him fall tripping against his own shadow.
Watching him fight against Jefferson and Madison was alarming, but also break her heart a little for him. Alexander’s friendship with James Madison had been evident during their work together. His introduction to Thomas Jefferson a challenging set of ideas, Alexander even admitted a few times how he was delighted to talk with the man he had heard so much of, one of the voices of the Declaration of Independence…
It didn’t last, and that hurt Alexander more than he let on. He was quick to shut down the sentiment, yet Eliza saw it in his pensive eyes and extensive moments of silence. It culminated one night, when coming back from work, Alexander had tried to speak with Madison, and had been shut down with an icy remark he vaguely explained to Eliza.
“I asked for his opinion on my plan, not as representatives, I wanted to know what he thought but… he repeated his words in behalf of the State of Virginia instead, it seems I no longer can expect James… I can no longer expect Madison to tolerate me outside of duty, I suppose I shall do the same.”
Alexander focused on his work, day and night, he posed it as a fight against Madison and Jefferson, the trials to get his work plan done and implemented to maintain his job, to show how he was not unimportant . Yet, in countless of papers and frantic words spill like rain over candle light as Eliza sat his side, just listening him, she understood his hidden heartbreak over a lost friendship.
Her brilliant fool, oh how she loves him.
In her logical mind, Eliza understood that she was not to blame for the recent events, but as she held the letter informing her of her husband's disappearance, she couldn’t help but wonder if she had insisted in Alexander joined them sooner, insisted his presence from the beginning in Albany, would he be safe and sound today at her side?
Angelica was holding her tongue, she could tell, and her support meant the world to Eliza. Her older sister moved fast and precise, taking into the details Eliza could barely muster with his mind circling the possibility of a tragedy, of her Alexander lost forever.
“He will return,” Angelica said firmly, her eyes glaring at the clothes she was folding to distract herself, while Eliza held on her baby Jamie with care, his eyes, identical to Alexander’s, the only thing preventing her from trembling in her hold of him. “How could he not? Damn the fool if he thinks he is allowed to simply vanish!”
Eliza held back tears, she had screamed in the pillow the night before, and the morning after, but she will not cry when there was still hope, if she rely on anger she could move forward, keep the fire alive instead of allowing it to consume her, “Not by choice… never by choice.”
Angelica stopped her anxious movements, and embraced her while Jamie babbled away in their hold, “He is a damn fool, Eliza, he might have gotten lost or injured for some stupid reason, and of that I will forever remind him, because he will be back, and when he does he will make a thousand apologies for putting us through this, you will see, your brilliant fool of a husband – my little brother – and I will have words .”
And Eliza laughed, a wet laugh holding back tears, but a laugh nonetheless, “We might have scared the children,” Eliza focused, Jamie had gotten a hold of her dress and was chewing on it, “Philip is too smart, he would have noticed already, and Angie is upset but keeping her mind on Will for the time being.”
“Too smart, the lot of them,” Angelica mused, fondly, “What do you want to tell them?”
Eliza frowned, “Nothing ride away, I don’t want to scare them even more, I will not voice my fears to them, it will be unfair, selfish even.”
“It’s their father we’re talking about, ‘liza…”
“And he is not lost,” Eliza said firmly, “Not yet.”
“Not yet,” Angelica nodded, “and as I said, he will return, he better be ready for a scolding!”
Eliza smiled again, she was still terribly upset, but it helped, “Between you and Peggy, I’m sure he will never forget.”
“Oh, I assure it to you.”
She internally cursed the distance, it will take them a few days to get back to Philadelphia, and while Peggy was already there and no doubt overseeing the situation alongside her Stephen, it did very little to calm her fears. Eliza was already loathing the wait and the distance, but she had to keep a firm demeanor for her children.
It was unfair that the odds have fallen against them in such fashion. Eliza endured Alexander’s absence during the war because there was no other way, even when he retreated for a while, he had been called back, and Alexander wanted to fight for the Country that adopted him with everything he had, eager to prove himself righteous and capable.
After the war, the constant fear Eliza carried with her dissolved. Yes, there was no way to guarantee safety for anyone, but Alexander was no longer in the battlefield, where the end of a bayonet could finish his life as much as a well-aimed bullet.
After the war, he was supposed to be safe, at her side.
Eliza held her breath, and prayed for his husband’s safety. May he return to her soon and well, she would not have it any other way, not after the countless nights she already spent on her knees praying for the war to end with their victory and Alexander’s safe return.
She was strong, even in her despair, and she will not succumb to her dark, unwelcome thoughts… not when hope was still visible.
The journey back to their home in Philadelphia was tense, and it felt slower than it probably was. Angelica was a constant support, and helped her with the children the most. Angie had that look in her eyes, the one that told Eliza her little daughter wanted to ask many, many questions yet was holding back in her words. He was able to caught Philip’s subtle gaze towards her sister a couple of times, siblings speaking in silence.
They knew something was wrong.
In other circumstances, she would feel less conflicted about her children's brilliant minds. She was proud of them, that much was never in question, but she was also stressing over the fact that she was not able to shelter them enough to maintain the illusion of stability a little longer. Nevertheless, she saw this coming, her children were smart, their minds awake and in constant motion.
Time finally allowed them to reach their home, and while it felt eternal to Eliza, it had not been as such. She encountered her younger sister, Peggy, waiting for them while Stephen was taking care of pending affairs in Alexander’s absence, and while Eliza was perfectly capable of doing such things herself, she was grateful for her brother-in-law’s help.
Philip didn’t ask any questions, and instead opened his arms, “Can I take Jamie to bed?”
Her youngest was already dozing off in her arms, and Eliza passed him to her eldest, Jamie smiled in his almost asleep state and nuzzled his brother's cheek in a clear display of affection, such gesture made her smile.
“Thank you, sweetheart…” Philip smiled as well, and called for Angie and Will to follow him up the stairs and towards their bedrooms.
“I’ll watch over them,” Angelica offered, and quickly walked to tend to the children.
Eliza watched them go, and gave herself a moment before directing her steps towards Alexander’s office. At the door, Peggy was waiting, concern written all over her lovely face. It didn’t take long to see why, Alexander’s office was in disarray, and while her husband was not one to keep everything tidy, he was organized and always put away papers and the sort after long hours of work.
In the office, Alexander’s work was displayed over the desk, the coffee table and even the floor. It was the kind of organized chaos she was used to see when her husband worked, too focused to even eat, sometimes. It told her something important: when Alexander left the office, he was clearly planning on coming back, and something prevented him from doing so.
She was afraid to touch anything, so she clasped her hands together at her navel, and observed the room instead, her gaze crossing with Peggy’s own, and both shared a moment of silence, until her younger sister pursed her lips and spoke, firmly, almost angry.
“When you husband returns,” she said sweetly, yet with a clear bite to her voice, “I hope Angelica leaves something out of him, because I will have words as well.”
Eliza held her gaze, blinked, and finally laughed, it quickly turned into a sob and before she knew it, she was in her sister’s arms, muffling her build up sentiment against her dressed shoulder. Peggy held tight, and let her cry.
She wasn’t supposed to, but Eliza allowed herself this moment to convey her heavy sentiment, so she could gather herself up immediately after, and make things right.
Evelyn Roche wasn’t the perfect Housekeeper, in fact she was just a maid, and apprentice in a wealthy household. She considered herself fortunate even so, because she had what some other people in the household didn’t have, their freedom .
Being a maid wasn’t a bad thing, especially not when she planned to learn and be the head Housekeeper of a household one day herself, it was an honest job.
She was young, not even eighteen, her family name was not present in society, and her resources were scarce, but she was not letting that stop her. She was an apprentice to Miss Bronn, the perfect example of an experience lady, the perfect housekeeper of a wealthy family, and under her watchful eye Evelyn was learning not only the housekeeping duties, but the many unspoken rules of service and loyalty.
Miss Bronn worked closely with Mister Jenkins, the butler, and between them were the solid backbone of the Russell Household. Evelyn understood she was in a fortunate position, with the opportunity to absorb knowledge, she was working with the resources she had at hand and that had allowed her a path good enough to be able to read, write, and do many more things. She was educated, and she was going to make the best out of her situation.
Besides, she could never forget that at the end of the day, she could walk away if necessary. She was her own person, not like other people in the household that while walking and working were being held by the chains of slavery. It broke her heart, but she didn’t know what else to do but learn and, someday, find a better place than the Russell household.
Because she was inexperience, just an apprentice, Evelyn was yet to learn many things. She had perfected household duties in different areas, there was no doubt she knew perfectly well how to make the best bread, butter and jelly out of any apprentice in the kitchen. She knew perfectly well how to care for clothing, were each item belong, and she had gained the trust of Miss Bronn to be allowed in assisting Lady Russell from time to time, a mayor deed considering how particular Lady Russell was with details and other specifications.
Evelyn knew she was in all accounts considered to be lucky, but in learning loyalty she was not used to see the injustice of the world in the face asking silence of her. Not that she thought the Russell's were perfect, and while Evelyn was free and received paid for her labor, the Russell's owned slaves, a few in in their Philadelphia household as servants, and further more in the south working the land.
She set herself in peace for a few months now, occupied and learning. Miss Bronn was introducing her to subjects that were not mentioned when she thought about being a housekeeper. Evelyn was expected to learn about loyalty to a household like soldiers were loyal to their commanders, to their country.
Her mind wasn’t able to fully understand what that meant, until she was faced with it, and there was nothing that could prepare her to face such vicious implications.
One night, Mister Russell opened the door to one of his colleagues and the situation quickly became a problem. Miss Bronn was not available that night, so Mister Jenkins requested Evelyn’s assistant in fetching items and other things into the cellar. She was working in little candlelight as she set water over a table, when she was witnessed some men – most likely those working for Mister Russell’s colleague – drag a visibly injured and restrained up man to the cellar, only to be locked in an chest, admittedly large but still not meant for a person.
Mister Jenkins cursed and ushered her away, it was then that Evelyn realized she was not meant to see this, that was clear. Mister Jenkins was about to scold her, perhaps warn her about those lessons in loyalty Miss Bronn had talked about, but Evenly barely reacted. Instead of showing the horror on her face, Evelyn yawned and blinked slowly.
“I’m so sorry, I can barely open my eyes, my apologies, I should be more awake and alert,” she mumbled, she rubbed her eyes with her hand and suppressed another yawn, a bit exaggerated but effective, if the look Mister Jenkins gave her was anything to go by, “Are they bringing any more sacks down the cellar?”
“Yes,” Mister Jenkins said quickly, straightening his posture, “Another sack.”
Evelyn nodded, her eyes sleepy enough that she hoped it was believable, “Should I prepare tea for Mister Russell's guests?”
“No, Evelyn.” Mister Jenkins assured, “You can go back to bed.”
After a small curtsy, she retired.
Once in her bedroom, Evelyn held a hand to her face, she was shaking badly. There was a man locked in the cellar, inside a chest definitely not meant to be used for such thing, and Evelyn did not know what to do. Barely, she managed to calm herself, she supposed this was what Miss Bronn had described as the hardest part of household loyalty, the kind of things that were not voiced much, but constructed over time.
Soldiers were loyal, but they also had their own mind, didn’t they? Did soldiers question the actions of their commanders when they crashed with their morals, or blindly follow even when presented with such viciousness?
It was wrong .
Evelyn covered her face with both hands. When Miss Bronn said such words, she was explaining of other situations, Evelyn Expected to perhaps be able to clean Lady Russell’s jewelry with no fear of it being stolen, or handle her books and personal items when they were out of place, sort correspondence and listen to the master of the house talk as she were not there, knowing she would keep to herself. Miss Bronn was talking about her silence, about the sentiment that held her loyalty to the Russell's no matter what they did.
She never thought about crime, she never thought of the pained whines of another person, beaten, broken and trapped in a box with a lock. That poor man couldn’t deserve what was being done to him, could he?
Evelyn looked at her hands, this could not be the loyalty being asked of her.
She didn't trust the Russell's, not when Lady Russell scolded at her curly hair and tan skin, then made off hands remarks about her “at least being somehow educated”. She couldn’t trust the dismissive way Mister Russell looked down at her every single time, as she were nothing. She just couldn’t trust them, yet she was expected to keep their secrets? She wanted to cry, for the first time since leaving her family, Evelyn felt more alone than ever before.
The next morning, Miss Bronn was back, and Evelyn pretended to not know there was a man trapped in the cellar. Instead she made the rooms for Mister Russell's guests and continued as if at night there were not muffled screams, as if the water she brought to the cellar as not being used to keep that man alive but also to hurt him.
It didn’t take long for Evelyn to feel her heart breaking and the tears constantly prickling in the corners of her eyes, and after that when the rumors started reaching her ears and the vicious comments of the tugs down the cellar got loud enough to make her fear not only for the trapped man’s life, but her own safety.
Things got worse when Mister Jenkins and Miss Bronn requested her to clean the cellar, and she was wiping blood and bile from the floor, perhaps not caring if she would talk, expecting her to be scared enough to remain in silence, wiping away the evidence of violence with the dammed locked chest only a few feet away from her. It took a soft cry, and whisper prayer that barely reach her ears from that broken voice, and Evelyn was crying too.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered in the dim candlelight, “So, so, sorry…”
Evelyn barely made it outside before she was sick.
This was the loyalty expected of her, and Evelyn hated it. She couldn’t be loyal to the Russell's and the people involved in the brutal treatment of this man, she couldn’t. Once she had much to look forward, she never wanted to stay with the Russell's for long but she thought of it as learning experience, one she needed very much. Now, she just wanted to leave, yet in doing so she would destroy any chances of being hired in another wealthy household.
Evelyn kept this turmoil to herself in silence as the guilt consumed her. The light in her eyes dim with each moment pass, so when she was staring at nothing in the middle of the market, she didn’t even care if it looked strange. Evelyn held the basket with fresh fruit, hating the thought that it would be served to Mister Russell while the man downstairs starved.
“Excuse me ma’am, are you Evelyn Roche?” a male voice asked, and Evelyn turned to face a man with long brown hair held in a low ponytail, and kind eyes looking into her own. He was older than her, perhaps in his thirties, and looked happy to see her for some reason.
“Yes sir,” she answered kindly, this man had status, perhaps not as much as others she had seen, but he was someone , “And you are?”
“Lieutenant Colonel Tallmadge, at your service,” he said with honesty, and then his eyes held something else, “I’m afraid I require your assistance…”
Evelyn’s eyes were watering already, and she didn’t even know what this man wanted but at me same time she hoped it was something that would allow her to alleviate her guilt. She was tired and scared, she just wanted to leave the city, but this was not an option, she wondered how long would she last, how long until she was disposed for knowing too much yet held no guarantee loyalty, she wondered if this man was here to do just that.
Her voice trembled, and she tried to smile, but she was shaking too much and her vision was blurry with tears, “O-Of course… h-how can I h-help you?”
“Please follow me, we should talk in private,” his voice softened, “You’re safe, I assure you that, can I ask you to trust me?”
Evelyn was afraid, but she also was too tired and felt too much guilt to carry on, so she nodded. Tallmadge offered his hand, and Evelyn too it.
It only took a letter, a few words carefully woven in an otherwise non-remarkable text, and Benjamin Tallmadge was taken back to the war. Not the frontline, but the shadows he and his friends walked in order to help the Revolution. The war was over, but perhaps Ben will always be a soldier, but more than that, he would always be one of Washington's spies.
He was working against the tide. While there had not been an official announcement regarding Hamilton’s disappearance, the whispers were becoming louder and louder. The problem was very real, the eerie calm was a bad omen, and soon it was going to unleash a storm upon them.
Alexander Hamilton always intrigued him, in a way. While Ben was a couple years older than Hamilton, the age difference did little to them. In contrast, it was something they shared, both were showing the world what they were capable off in one way or another while being very young during the war. Hamilton by being Washington’s right-hand man, Benjamin by being his eyes in the shadows.
Ben had chosen the path of the night in order to help the cause of the Revolution, and while part of him had resented others for having an open recognition of their glory, he was nonetheless satisfied with his actions. The importance of those secret strikes was grand, along the fruits he was able to give to the achieve the freedom of their country.
After that, the labor of shaping the country was still present in his everyday life, but not as much as those Washington had chosen to be by his side while he leads. Ben couldn’t resent Hamilton when most of the time he just wanted to shake the younger man by the shoulders and tell him to slow down .
Even when he wasn’t looking for information into his life, Hamilton's name never seemed to fade.
It did cross Benjamin’s mind once, the notion that Hamilton was going to get himself killed thanks to his mouth, but he didn’t anticipate for it to actually happen, much less to be at the hand of their own people.
He suspected the Democratic-Republicans, not because Benjamin was a Federalist, but because he had first discussed, and subsequently discarded, the possibility of being someone in their own party to blame. A few names crossed his mind, and he investigate them immediately, finding no blame related to Hamilton’s disappearance.
Tallmadge was working faster, asking the right questions and jumping at the correct shadows. His affection for Hamilton was not intimate, he knew the man and admired him to a degree, but they weren’t close. Yet, he wished him well, and the opportunity to actually know him eventually, he couldn't do that if the man didn’t return home.
There was also Washington…
Ben did admire the President greatly, he did so even before he was leading the country. If he hadn't hold Washington in high regard, he would have never become his eyes in the shadows, such role had not been imposed in Tallmadge, he had chosen it himself.
Washington was always professional, even in his most recent request, but Tallmadge was able to see beyond the letters. This was not only the President ordering the search of his Secretary of Treasury, this was personal.
Benjamin could live with that.
If they had more time, Tallmadge would have crafted a plan with almost no risk, or at least as much as it was possible. That wasn’t an option, with each day that passed Hamilton was closer to not being found alive, Ben didn’t want to think of the younger man already dead, but that was a possibility as well.
Hamilton had a wife, he had children, just like Ben did. He could almost feel the pain in just imagining the sorrow his family would feel if he were to disappear, and he couldn’t do nothing when Hamilton’s loved ones were already in the threshold of that position.
He acted faster, a bit reckless if compare to his previous spying missions, all things considered, yet he got results that lead him to the path he was looking for, and that in itself was a victory.
The rumor mill poured its whispers into Benjamin’s ears, and with the help of his friends and a few coins to silent witnesses, words started to form sense and a mental picture was shaped. It was important to never underestimate those eyes and ears that appear to not be there, for they were the ones that observed the most.
There was a handyman named Harry that repaired the desk of one Mister Clayton, a man who had an old apprentice of his over the house one afternoon, a man known as Mister Beckley, former clerk of Mister Clayton. While Harry worked on the final touches of this desk, he heard Clayton talk with Beckley, they were forming a plan that suggest Beckley to get closer to Thomas Jefferson, whom he held as admirable and more trustworthy than Hamilton. Clayton heard a rumor, and he wanted Beckley to let Jefferson know these whispers regarding Alexander Hamilton, and the possible threat he could become. Clayton said some people believed the brat was working his way towards Washington's grace to eventually succeed him, as if he were a prince deserving a crown, and that was absolutely unacceptable.
The trail started there.
Ben followed the voices. The talk of maids, cooks and other servants present at a dinner were Jefferson looked detached and pensive. The servants spoke to Ben after he offered them some coin in exchange, for these words couldn’t be given away for free. They shrugged the morality of the act, or lack of therefor, away from their minds in favor of money in his pocket.
Silence was overrated when you couldn't make ends meet.
“It was a joke, I think,” a man said easily over a beer, “Hamilton was sick? Something like that, I dunno, they were calling him a leech, and Mister Jefferson said there should be salt poured or something, then he toasted to his, ugh… speedy immortality? Yeah, that, a speedy immortality to Hamilton, fancy way to wish someone dead if you ask me.”
Benjamin narrowed his eyes, thinking. He doubted Jefferson was directly responsible of the situation, because the man was supposed to be smarter than that. He was too much of a so-called gentleman to simply announce an assassination attempt to half of his political party.
Yet, he planted the seed, didn’t he? Someone heeded to his words, someone took Hamilton away.
As Ben walked those steps revealed by the whispers, things became clearer. He found another major clue in the shaky voice of Maria Reynolds, a woman in too much need to not be called desperate. She was young, strained from her husband, and alone to protect her only daughter.
At first, she denied even knowing Hamilton, but as Benjamin knew from experience, eyes in the shadows were heavy and often told the true the daylight wants to hide, he didn't even have to turn towards a search before confronting Maria with her deception, it only took the word owner of the boarding house she was staying at, and a few coins.
He had no time to waste, so he acted upon the information immediately.
“Hamilton was here, with you, it is very possible that you were the last person to see him,” he didn't want to add “alive” just yet, because he was clinging to the hope of the younger man not being dead, “He escorted you home, didn’t he?”
“No, I mean… yes?” Maria was almost shaking, “I... I can’t, I’m sorry… my husband…”
Ben felt the door stir before it opened, and he was already glaring at the direction when the knock announced the presence of somebody, a short warning as the newcomer didn't even wait for a confirmation before opening the door, a familiar face.
“Burr,” he recognized immediately, he was fellow war veteran after all, “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same, Tallmadge,” the man closed the door behind him, “I hope you’re not harassing my client.”
Ben chuckled, “You know about Hamilton, don’t you? She was the last one to see him, probably.”
Burr narrowed his eyes at both, “I do know.”
Maria looked at the verge of tears, yet her face contorted in fury at the same time, and finally took a step forwards, “You don’t understand!”
Ben was about to speak when Burr gently put a hand over his shoulder, his gaze on Maria, “Would you please explain the situation then, Miss Reynolds? I assure you, I will continue assisting you as we have previously discussed.”
Maria closed her eyes, and she looked tired over everything else. Ben wanted to be more sympathetic, but he didn't have the luxury of time, and that always made things complicated. Still, whatever turmoil Maria was going fight seemed to come to a halt for a moment, allowing her to look them in the eye with strange mixture of bravery and resignation.
“My husband,” she said eventually, “I’m afraid that if I let you know more, my daughter and I will pay the consequences, and I can’t risk that, not my little girl…”
Burr’s hold on his arm tightened, and Ben gave him a questioning look the other man quickly acknowledged, before speaking once again.
“We can arrange for you and your daughter to be relocated immediately,” he said, knowing more than Ben was aware of, “we can’t afford to waste more time, Miss Reynolds…”
Maria closed her eyes, and nodded. She sat down on the edge of the bed and stared at some fixed point by Ben’s head, not looking into his eyes.
“My husband was looking for a way to get Mister Hamilton’s monetary favor, there was no way he could convince him of giving him a job out of nowhere, so he planned extortion, and I was to help him.”
Ben had to swallow down the urge to judge his woman, he didn't know her circumstances, he had no right to cast his thoughts over her, and he was not going to allow himself to do it, not when it was clear as a sky with no clouds that she was afraid of her husband's retaliation.
It must be exhausting, to live in such way.
“Miters Hamilton didn’t caught my intentions,” her cheeks flushed but her eyes remain cold, “He looked tired, and a bit sick, so he offered me money to return to New York, and walked me back here, but didn’t stay…” she closed her eyes, biting her lips and spoke again, her gaze fixed on Ben and Burr this time, “My husband didn’t take the failure well, and decided to speed up whatever job he had going on, I firmly believe he is responsible for Mister Hamilton not arriving home that night.”
“A job,” Burr deadpanned, “Reynolds is working for someone.”
It wasn’t a question, yet Maria nodded anyway, “A gentleman approached my husband requesting his aid to get something to use against Mister Hamilton,” she almost spat those words, fury simmering once again beneath her voice, there was too many silent implications there and perhaps if the situation was not so dire, Ben would care more, “I refused to help, but my daughter… I couldn’t risk her safety.”
Benjamin didn’t want to hear her reasons, at least not when he was too wrapped up in the prelude of a storm to dwell on them. That reasoning was for Burr, apparently. Ben concluded the other man was aiding her as a lawyer already, and hopefully in a future divorce so she could leave Reynolds behind.
He had Hamilton to worry about.
“Do you know where he took him?” Ben asked, the urge to know incandescent, “Hamilton.”
Maria shook her head, “No, but my husband’s employer’s name, that I can give you, his presented himself as Beckley, I know nothing more.”
Ben had a confirmation attached to the name, now he had to find what that lead him. Burr on the other had had more details to a story he was somewhat familiar with, and he had no doubt Burr will do everything to assist Maria Reynolds to leave the threat of her husband behind.
Tallmadge, on the other hand, had a shadow to chase before the storm arrived.
Fun fact, I’ve cast Miguel Cervantes as Benjamin Tallmadge in my head. If you’re curious, it's because I like Miguel a lot and I can’t have two Hamilton's in the same story, so I made do.
Anyway, next chapter is mostly Alex, and oh boy.
Thank you for reading and leaving your wonderful comments, your feedback is always welcome, and it's very encouraging to me.
Being afraid to die was a strange concept for Alexander.
Once, he had almost seek the opportunity to use his potential demise to some gain, he was sure his options were to die in the battlefield or walk away from it, held head high after a victory. He kept many thought to himself, and the many ways he had imagine this dead were one of more prominent ones in his memory.
Perhaps it was his encounters with death what had lead him to believe such was chasing him everywhere, a constant shadow walking on step with him, observing. He had seen so many people die even before the war, Alexander couldn’t help but wonder if he was next, so he resigned himself to such thoughts in order to not fear it.
But he lived.
As the war became history, he understood there was much more than dying in the battlefield for a legacy, if he wanted to be someone, he had to live. His legacy had to be something more than a battle, he had a family now, and they had to come first in every step he took. It was a shame that he failed to do just that in many ways.
Alexander was no stranger to his wife and children, he loved them dearly and dedicated time to them, a promise to be the father his own was not. But his mind was still focused in the legacy he desire to build, the changes he wanted to make in order to form a Country, the things he wanted to do that would outlive him.
Such decisions weighed heavily on him now more than ever. He was losing everything, and he had regrets that as time and pain piled on him, build up to sorrow and silence. Days blurred together, the water he received in order to keep him alive was a blessing and a curse. A thing used against him more often than in his favor.
There were subtle changes, scraps he managed to notice even in the darkness forced on him. The people guarding him, the ones inflicting damage, but never his host. The man was the only one to speak to him directly, mock him and curse him, while the others were simply instruments used against him. Alexander was not in their favor, talking when his throat was not so dry it would hurt, but his silence was taken as a notice of the lack of water and used against him before be given to damp his throat.
One night he fought again. He was desperate and he fought against his host and against the men he was using to hold him down, and he was punished with force, and he didn’t care. He was dragged from one cellar to a carriage to another place, and finally locked in a damn box, something that in his stunned state felt too close to a coffin.
They were moving him, Alexander wasn’t sure what to make out of it. If there was a search for him already, and he had enough trust in Washington to know he would order for one, the peril he was already in was more likely to grow exponentially. The intimidation could either give his captors enough fear to slow down, or desperation to simply finish. It was a double edged sword he was balanced over, tumbling to either side while walking in the dark, with no control, no reassurance.
He couldn’t escape, and the impotence was setting in his bones deep, and unwelcome.
Alexander exhausted himself to sleep, trapped until he was taken back to the moment by several uninvited hands hauling him out of the box in the dark of another cellar he barely managed to see before his eyes were once again covered, no doubt in preparation for another unsolicited conversation with his gracious host.
The blindfold was tightly secured over his eyes, perhaps with too much force, he was forced to stand and tied to a post, his hands behind him and around the pillar. Ropes also bind him around his middle and his legs. He made and effort to not put too much pressure on his injured ankle while still supporting himself with what little was left of his dignity.
The scrap of a chair over the floor did not made him flinch, the sound of liquid being poured did. He expected the splash, nothing came, but he had no doubt his involuntary reaction had made his host smirk, even behind the blindfold he could feel that glare on him.
“Mr. Hamilton, I greatly appreciate our conversations, but I’m afraid this time we must make haste and set directly to my topic of choice, I know for certain you understand that time is valuable, secretary.”
Alexander concentrated in making his breathing even, portraying a calm he was not feeling – not when each second felt like he was being pushed to an abyss, looking over the dark that would swallow him whole and be no more. He licked his lips, pushing that thought aside, he still had his words and he might a well use them.
“Very much so, good sir,” he said behind clenched teeth. He wanted to curse this man to hell and back, but restrained his tongue, if only for a moment.
“As we have established, you are an illness consuming our government, such disgrace has gone unchecked for too long, and we cannot afford an epidemic to burst from your insolence and disgrace, a bastard is no shepherd and you shouldn't pretend to guide us.”
Alexander fumed, “Not at all, good sir, I didn't consider you sheep to begin with, but don’t let me contradict you, it would be improper.”
There was a prolonged pause, perhaps the man realizing how he managed to let Alexander insult him by simple using his own words in another context. The moment crawled like molasses, then it was abruptly stopped when a liquid hit Alexander’s face, wine, he vaguely distinguished as he coughed.
“Bastard,” the man hissed, Alexander paid him no mind, the insult was overused by this point. Perhaps mistaken his indifference and silence for fear, the man continued, “We know what you are planning, we fought a war to get rid of the rule of the King and now you want to build succession as if it were your right, Washington might be the person we asked to lead, but you will not be groomed to follow his steps, and the mere shadow of intent from your part to do so it’s disgusting!”
Succession… This man was talking about Alexander grooming himself to the likes of a prince, to take the presidency after Washington. The idea was preposterous, Alexander had never intended such things. He was and always will be Washington’s right hand man, but to succeed him?
“The presidency is not hereditary,” he said simply, “and even if it were, I am not Washington’s son.”
Not in blood.
He was carelessly backhanded, biting his lip in the process, “He can make you his heir regardless, which is what you were planning wasn’t it? Until we caught your scheme, the foundation is fresh, it can be shaped at will, and you planned to take that to yourself at the cost of our lives.”
“I have never even contemplated such thing!” he protested, “I live to serve this nation! I fought for this country’s liberty, and I’m still fighting to defend it! Whatever machination you have created is nothing but a lie you have chosen to believe, it’s bold of you to assume I would behave in such fashion, knowing nothing about me, if there’s a liar here, you are the only one at fault here, sir.”
The swing at his face was not unexpected, but it went beyond the man’s fist painfully striking with his eye. There was something else – a ring perhaps – it caught beyond the blindfold and into the tender flesh and more. Alexander screamed, the blindfold quickly soaked with blood and the tried to restrain himself from further hurting his hands with the struggle, the pain behind his left eye was like salt on an open wound.
He lowered his head instinctively, cursing under his breath and struggling against his bonds with the need to press his palm against his swollen eye, he didn’t anticipated for the man to hold his head up and press his fingers against his injured eye with a vicious and malice force. He choked another cry and winced and the excruciating hurt dominating his senses, until it render him still and silent.
“We’re not done, secretary.”
He knew what came next as soon as he was untied and forced on his back, before the wet cloth covered his nose and mouth he was already thinking prayers and focusing in the lingering pain in the left side of his face. If he blacked out soon at least he wouldn’t have to feel it for long.
Such thought hurt him as well, finding conform in resignation was low. Alexander felt himself too close to the edge.
There was sand under his fingers, and the sound of the ocean in his ears. Slowly, he opened his eyes to find a clear blue sky with bright white clouds, the kind of sky that lead to the beautiful summers in St. Croix, the kind of vision he knew wasn’t real anymore, if only because he had not seen the island since the day he left to never return.
He tilted his head, next to him Laurens was sitting on the white sand, watching him with a concerned expression on his young face, he looked exactly as the last time he saw him, motionless and remnant in time, still in a phase when you no longer age, a memory.
It wasn’t real, yet it wasn’t any less welcomed.
“My dear Laurens,” he said with no pain in his torn vocals, as if he had not been drowning and screaming before coming here, he even smiled with the fondness of seeing his lost friend once again, “Oh John…”
Laurens offered him his hand, and Alexander took it in support to sit up on the sand, it wasn’t broken, and there was no lingering damage, another reminder that this was not real, but he felt safe, and it was enough.
The ocean was calm before them, close but not reaching their feet with its dancing waves. Laurens sighed, lacing his fingers with Alexander’s and just watching their hands for a moment. His other hand hovering over Alexander’s face, at his left side, he couldn’t see or feel the damage, yet he knew it was there.
His dear friend hesitated, and whatever he was going to say changed in a moment, instead he spoke not with grift but understanding, a warmth tone in his words, “It’s too early Alex, don’t you want to see you family again?”
Alexander didn’t even have to think about the answer, “More and anything in the world.”
“Of course,” Laurens smiled, he missed seeing such event. “I do want to see you again, you know?” he confessed softly. “But I’m not as selfish as to make you choose, your loved ones should come first.”
Alex chuckled, “I love you too, and there shouldn't be any doubt of that.”
“There isn't, and so do I… but you should be with your living heart: Eliza and the children,” He smiled, “You’re running late Alex, you never used to do that!”
“Seems I’m falling into undesirable habits,” he said bitterly, “what a disgrace.”
Laurens scoffed, “It’s rather obvious this it’s not out of your own volition.”
He sighed, tired, “It matters not… I just want to go home, and these people won’t let me!”
Laurens quickly moved to his feet, then helped Alexander to get on his in the middle of the beach, there was ocean and sand as far and wide he could see, all the green nature missing. Alexander frowned, the place was beautiful, but it wasn’t right.
“Keep fighting,” Laurens urged him, “I know you can, your loved ones are waiting, it’s a shame I can’t come with you, but remember me Alexander, that would be enough.”
“John,” he stepped closer to his friend, only to be hugged with such force he almost was knocked off his feet, “I will never forget you John, don’t even think that!”
“Then go!” Laurens urged again, “Just a little longer and you will be fine, I promise.”
Alexander believed him, there was no factual reason to do so, not because he didn’t trust Laurens, but because there was a part of him that was ware this couldn’t be nothing more than a dream, after all, Laurens was gone, and he would never see him again, not until he drew his last breath.
He wasn’t ready to meet his end just yet.
It didn't surprise him to wake up in the darkness of the box that was being used to trap him, another form of hurt and torture imposed on him to drive him to his very last nerve, pushing him closer and closer to the point of no return.
At the very least he wasn’t bound this time, and he used the opportunity to carefully examine his own injures, staring with his eye. It was painful, swollen shut, and even touching around it was excruciating, so he let it be.
Alexander felt himself too close to the edge of his own endurance, where giving up was becoming an appealing idea. Damned be the thought in his mind that such was an acceptable thing to do, as it went in contrast of everything he believed.
Since his youth he had been talking about a memorable death, surviving against the tragedy that were the events that ignited after his father’s leaving gave him a sense that when he was to part from the world, it would be in the process of making a name of such event, that his dead would mean something. Yet the despair nested in his chest didn’t let him breath without threatening to let go of an uncontrollable sob. In the confidence of the damn chest he let himself suffer, while in face of his captors he talked and fought with a bravado that he wasn’t really feeling, he was not going to beg nothing of them, not even his death.
In his feverish mind the dream of John was still clear and reminiscent, and if he were to listen to him, real or not, then he had so much yet to do, he couldn’t let himself stop now.
He held his broken fingers close to his chest, and his left hand touched the unpolished wood of the chest’s top. He could yell and demand to be freed over and over again, but he had hardly any voice left, and there was no one listening. Alexander wondered how long it had been, he wondered if they planned to just leave him there to die, alone.
“Let me out,” he whispered, not to his captors but to the God he had forgotten to pray to a long time ago, “Oh please, let me return to them…”
He promised his children he would be there for them, he promised.
At some point he let himself be unaware of the passing of time, exhausted in his current state. When he returned to consciousness he was startled by the sound of someone messing with the lock of the forsaken box that might as well be his coffin if he didn’t manage to change his unfavorable odds. He braced himself for another round of pain, perhaps even death, but instead heard the quiet sob of a woman, and hurried steps running from the spot shortly after.
Alexander stilled for a moment, unsure of what to do. With doubt still consuming him, he planted his left hand on the top of the box, his shaking fingers stilled upon the touch. Alexander held his breath, and pushed.
The lid was heavy but there was nothing stopping it from opening, Alexander sat up as he pushed the offending lid away and found himself sitting in the insulting object used for his confinement, he quickly searching for anyone around him only to find a fin candle flickering a few feet by the chest, and nothing more. He was frozen in the moment not more than a second, for the next he was pushing himself to his feet, hissing as his own weight affected his injured leg, and stepped out of the box that he was beginning to think as a coffin. He gave it no further thought, there was no time, his mind was racing and his heart was pounding loudly in his ears, drowning even his own desperate thoughts screaming how this might be a trap, a game, nothing more than another torture.
He didn’t care.
Alexander ignored his own pains and injures to move faster towards the set of stairs leading to the door. It was already ajar and dim light filtered from the threshold, he put himself closer for inspection, and saw that no one was behind it, then pushed it open to a hallway with paintings and other things of a status household. His eyes moved quickly, frantically, looking for an exit or something to defend himself in order to make his way out.
Voices echoed at the end of the hall, there was no other direction he could go, and he was dreading an encounter already, but at least this time he was not blindfolded and tied up, although his present pitiful state was hardly an upgrade.
“Curse you,” he hissed to no one in particular, walking towards the end of the hall and casually taking a vase holding flowers along the way, poor excuse of a weapon, but he had nothing else. He threw the flowers with no regard of the trail he left and marched forward.
Alexander was afraid, terrified even, yet not even that was to stop him. He let his anger emulsify with his fear, and ignored the shattering pain scorching from his foot to his back as he walked. In his fight or flight state he barely acknowledged the tears running down his face as he bared his teeth like a trapped animal.
Stepping out of the hallway and into another part of the house, Alexander found a man in a nice suit, possibly the butler of the house, but before the man had time to even begin to express his confusing, Alexander had thrown the vase at him, hitting him dead center in the head, then he ran as the man cursed while falling on the floor.
The people behind the butler didn’t try to stop Alexander, instead they moved aside. He recognized the glare in those eyes, the fire beneath their frozen exterior. These people were slaves showing some fight against their masters by letting him pass. He owned them as well to keep going.
He ran passed servants, down the hallway and avoiding people, he ignored a screaming woman that might have been the head of the household, pushing her aside at some point, properness be damned, in his mind she was complicit of his capture as much as those hurting him. He tumbled furniture and objects in his way to delay other from getting to him, only stopping to take a piece of a broken mirror as some sort of weapon, ignoring the way it sliced his palm and let his blood stain the floor.
Alexander found himself in another hallway, where a young woman who looked like she had been crying stopped him, holding both hands in the air, a peace gesture Alexander would have appreciated with more sentiment were he in other circumstances.
She nodded towards him, and let her arms fall at her sides. “That way,” she whispered hurriedly, pointing to the right and stepping away, “Go, go!”
He ran, and for the layout of the place, he was making it to the front of the house, he would have preferred the back but at this point all he wanted was to get out. When he was near the door a man stood in between him and his freedom, both hands up. He was vaguely familiar, but Alexander couldn’t stop to think about it, not in this state. Instead he threw the mirror shard at him, making him duck and step away, Alexander then went for a tackled, using the momentum, then force of his shoulder to push the other man away, and get to the door.
It was locked.
“No!” He screamed, and pounded at it and then pressed his back against it, shaking badly, “Let me out!”
A consuming dread filled him, he had lost his chance, his freedom taken with no chance of him getting it back, he was never going to see his loved ones again… in that moment, Alexander rather die than be taken again.
The world came to a stop, a silence that almost hurt his ears taking over the terrible noise and dread in his heart… he knew that voice. Alexander blinked away tears and found the man he tackled already up, but not trying to stop him, just looking at him with precaution. Behind him, Washington stood with overwhelming concern in his eyes.
“S-Sir?” he stuttered, his mind catching up with what he was seeing, Washington was there, he was not alone anymore.
Suddenly all the pain Alex had been ignored came crashing down on him. He leaned against the closed door, as the seconds dragged he felt as if he couldn’t keep his eyes from watering, while his strength was flowing out of him quicker than he could afford.
Washington was beside him before his knees buckled. His firm yet gentle hold prevented Alexander from hitting the floor. He grabbed a fistful of his General’s jacket with his left hand, wincing as the specs of blood stained the fabric, then he hesitantly placed his broken hand there as well, letting his forehead rest of the General’s shoulder.
“Alexander, talk to me,” his commander asked, and Alexander wasn’t sure he could comply.
“Sir,” He held onto his President, his General, with the last vestiges of strength left in him. The man behind Washington walked closer, and Alexander tense on instinct, but slowly recognition drifted into his mind, the man was familiar because he knew him, from the war, he hadn’t been on Washington's staff alongside Alexander but worked for the General nonetheless, Tallmadge.
Alexander let his fellow war veteran help. He heard Tallmadge curse while assessing the damage, sharing a look with Washington's over Alexander head.
“I...” Tallmadge hesitated, yet uncertainty quickly turning into resolve, “I’ll be right back.”
Washington nodded, and then his attention was fully back on Alexander, eyes burning with fury, but not directed at him. Alexander relaxed in his embrace, drained.
“I’m so tired,” he whispered, sure that it was only Washington’s hold keeping him upright, “Can I… can I rest now, please?”
“Yes, son...” Washington’s voice was firm, and welcomed. “You’re safe.”
Alexander believed him, and so he let himself be swallowed by the darkness, exhausted of fighting but feeling that he could let go and not be afraid.
He was freezing and burning at the same time.
Alexander felt ice in his veins and fire under his skin, same fire that was making every wound on him throbbing anew. He couldn’t tell who was holding him down, or who was talking to him with urgency, followed by a softer plea to stay, to simply stay.
He felt as if that plea were the hand pulling him from under the water and towards the shore, away from the hurricane, from the destruction and the path of a death that seems to be always close but never able to take him. The voice was warm, familiar, everything he associated with the love that made him smile for no reason, his beloved.
“Be’sy?” he asked, or at least he tried.
It was difficult to know if he had actually spoken or just spat gibberish and nonsense, perhaps it was a blessing that he was so out of himself to reflect on how little control he had over his own body, a phantom fear of his from the chasing memory of his youth.
A soft, cooling touch over his temple, familiar and welcome. It soothed him more than he imagined it, he could feel the soft gaze or his beloved on him, her voice on his ear settling down his unrest as others worked on his broken body.
Another hand lightly touched around his left eye, he hissed in pain and turned his head sharply only to be gently held by his Betsy, turning it back again.
“Let them see over you, my love, just a little, please?”
“Hurts,” he justified miserably, earning a wet laugh from his Betsy.
“I know, I’m sorry…”
He hummed, focusing on her fingers brushing his hair off his damp face rather than the pins and needles around his left eye and the sharp pain that would erupt from time to time as who he assumed was the doctor assessed his injuries.
“Ned?” he asked, hopefully. His oldest friend and almost brother, more brother than James had been, after their mother die and they parted ways, too caught up in the aftermath of their mother’s dead for things to ever be the same.
Betsy kissed his brown softly, “He’s coming, I made sure of it.”
That was acceptable, he would feel safer in the capable hands of a man who was not only in the medical profession, but was also his friend. He always looked out for alexander when they were younger, he never stopped doing it, he could wait, he was safe.
Alexander’s consciousness slipped out of his grasp constantly. There were moments of vivid realization, followed by confusion and pain, then once again it was numbed by whatever they were giving him, the bitter taste of medicine followed by whiskey. Eliza was there, she was always there, and her voice was melodic in her tales of their children waiting to see him. He could hear Angelica sometimes, and Peggy as well.
He wanted to smile, he probably tried, but the fire under his skin and the ice in his veins where too much to let him register their words, he wanted to reach for them, and couldn’t.
The sound of water made him afraid, he tried to move, to leave, he didn't want to be drowned again, he couldn’t take it, he couldn’t.
“Do not fret Lex,” Ned’s voice carry worry, but there was mostly affection there, “Stay still, please? I would never hurt you.”
“Never...” he mumbled, knowing it was true.
“Never,” Ned confirmed, and Alexander stopped fighting, although it was difficult to relax, he was still afraid yet too far gone to admit it.
The water didn't hurt him, not this time, not in the hands or people that cared for him. This time it washed away the grim clinging to him, and soothed the fire under his skin, it was cold, so much it matched the ice he felt in his veins, but instead of joining it they clashed, and faded.
“All is well, my friend, rest now…”
Sleep, he could sleep now.
At some point he came back to himself in the familiar room that he shared with Eliza, he felt it before he could see it, with the familiar smell and the softness of the sheets. He couldn’t tell when he had been moved but was nonetheless grateful of it. His right hand had been immobilized and bandaged to care for the broken fingers, his ankle was treated in similar fashion. He could barely move to confirm, but he was sure there was more bandages under his nightshirt as well, not to mention the one around his head, softly covering his eye.
He blinked slowly, his blurry vision clearing to the figure of Betsy besides him, her hand on his chest, her body lining his side, careful to not cause him any more harm, but close enough to guard him even in his sleep. She was smiling at him, tears in her eyes and a contained sob on her chest, he could tell.
“My dearest,” he recognized, and before he could move she was closer, her lips kissing his chapped ones in a chaste and soft show of affection that made his heart swell, she sighed afterwards, as if the weight of the world was no longer on suffocating them. Eliza stilled her forehead softly resting on his own, close, always close.
Betsy’s smile was everything, if only he could made the sadness clinging to it go away it could be better, nevertheless she smiled for him, true as always.
“You are back, my love,” she said, and the tears fell, so close to his they slide down her face and to his before disappearing in the fabric of his pillow, “I was so afraid I wouldn't see you again.”
He wanted to calm her, to assure her he was not going anywhere. But he couldn’t lie… not when reality was still marking his body, the painful evidence that he had been closer to the edgy of oblivion than to return home.
“I missed you,” he said instead, “so, so much…”
Alexander wanted to embrace her, he wanted to hold their children and forget everything, but he couldn’t. He was in too much pain to ignore the source, and while Eliza was holding him as much as she could without aggravating the damage already inflicted, he still wanted to see his children.
“The kids?” he asked, frustrated that he had barely done a thing and he was already tired, “Where…?”
“They are downstairs,” she assured him, her eyes quickly looking over him then back, tears pickling her lovely gaze, “Would you go back sleep? Ned will be back soon, but he made emphasis in your need to rest to recuperate… please, my love...”
He felt cold again, not because of the fever, but realization that he must look terrible if Eliza was trying to distract him from the children, it would do them no good to see their father beaten and broken.
Alexander couldn’t control the tears that slipped down his cheek of his injured eye. He buried his head on the crook of her neck and breathe her scent instead, he was home, that should be enough… it wasn’t, he had to move on, but it was too much, too soon. Time to process and understand what had even happened had not presented itself, and in the back of his mind he knew that while the beating was over, the physical ordeal wasn’t, not until he was able to get back on his feet, not until he was able to understand, and move on.
Eliza held him close, and Alexander slept.
You know what comes next? The comfort part of the hurt/comfort package, and recovery it’s a bitch.
Let me know what you think your feedback it’s always welcome.
Chapter 6: Concern
A part of Washington felt like an intruder. It was an old insecurity that was feeding on the unfounded notion that he wasn’t meant to see Hamilton at his present state — brought low and render helpless. Yet, the instinct and need to see his once aide-de-camp safe was greater than such feeling and notion of whatever was meant to be proper in the eyes of society.
Once Alexander were back to health, George would apologize if he crossed their set boundaries, in the meantime he would not stop in his endeavour to see Alexander well again, especially not out of a sense of unspoken social properness.
Rage was blazing like an inferno in his chest. It would not fade even when his expression remain impassive, and if he were not holding Alexander, he would have targeted his ire against those whom he believed responsible for the hurts the younger man suffered.
It didn’t occur to him that he wasn’t being as successful as he would have liked in maintaining a careful stand, not until Tallmadge stopped a few feet from him and discrete attempt to intervene. He look confident in his movement yet openly let Washington track them when he attempted to get Alexander from his hold and towards the carriage that would take the badly injured man to a safer location.
His former spy was working as efficiently as ever, even in the unspoken task of containing Washington’s temperament.
George closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, biting his tongue to not shout just yet. There was blood staining his clothes, Alexander’s blood, and the same had made a trail on the floor and rugs in the path the younger man had taken when he made a run for the door.
A movement caught his eye, and he quickly found himself pushing Russell against the wall. The man gave an indignant squawk but otherwise did not fight Washington.
“You will remain here, until I see fit otherwise.”
“Yes, I can.”
He let go of the man, and signaled the men that accompanied him and Tallmadge to the residence to make sure the man didn’t tried to escape. Russell’s wife was escorted to the room as well, and Washington noted with some satisfaction that she had been nursing a gash on her arm, it looked resent, and she was fuming about it. Perhaps in the commotion Alexander had managed to do more than just run.
George walked down the corridor, where a small and tired looking young woman was waiting besides one of his agents. She had been the key contact that allowed them to locate Alexander, the young woman that Benjamin had promised safety after risking everything for the chance to make things right, even when it put her directly in the line of fire.
He owned this young woman as much as Alexander, and he will see to ensure her well being after all this madness was over. At the moment he needed to collect facts, afterwards he will proceed with care, and all the strength of the justice of their new nation.
And if along the way he pushed more than it was proper, George would only give God ground to judge him.
A small group of servants was gathered at the end of the hall, whispering amongst themselves. The moment Washington’s presence was noticed, a young woman stood in front of the others, it didn’t take long for Washington to understand she was trying to protect those behind her, being more fortunate than them in the fact that she was not a slave.
Tallmadge joined him shortly after, and went directly to the young woman as Washington approached them.
“Can I know your name, miss?” He asked with a polite tone, the young woman looked between him and Tallmange before standing taller and taking a step forward.
“E-Evelyn Roche, sir…” she looked too nervous yet refused to break her eye contact with Washington, “I take full responsibility for my companion’s actions.”
Washington raised an eyebrow, “You are not at fault here, Miss Roche, neither are your companions,” he said looking at the men and woman behind her, “If anything, we owe you gratitude for your assistance.”
Evelyn licked her lips and nodded, “I need to show you w-where,” she stopped and looked at Tallmadge, “I...I’m sorry, I don’t know his name, the man…”
Tallmadge quickly took her hand in his and gently reassured her, “It’s fine, Miss Roche, you have done more than we could have expected, and as promised, no harm will come to any of you.”
Benjamin didn’t even bother to look at Washington for further confirmation. Beforehand he had told George there that in order to haste things he had to build and keep promises, exchange more coin than usual and tore down barriers that having more time would have been avoided. Washington was the one that requested Benjamin to do his bidding, so he will keep Benjamin's promises.
As he said, he owned this young woman and her friends more than gratitude.
Keeping in mind the deed of Benjamin’s promise, Washington and some of his men venture in what he presumed was the place Alexander had been kept, according to Miss Roche’s instructions.
“I can’t go back there,” she said in a hushed tone, a shiver making her tremble, building dread in Washington's gut.
Washington had seen many things over the years of his military career. Many injustices and crude displays of power. He was no stranger to violence, it had been inflicted on him and his men, and he had also been the perpetrator of violence in many occasions. As result, Washington thought himself desentized to the display of violence, and capable of containing any emotion it could stir in him.
He was wrong.
The light was almost gone, a lonely candle illuminating the otherwise dark cellar. To those who were unsure of where to look and what to search, the conclusion of foul play wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination. There was evidence before him, of the violence perpetrated against another. As he shaped the images in his mind, Alexander’s desperation was much more clearer, and so were the origins of his the most evident of his injuries.
His eyes followed the trail of blood, where a chest that was not meant to hold a person displayed like the focal point of everything undesirable.
Someone was talking to him, but Washington couldn’t listen. Not when the emotion in his chest burning like a raging inferno was building a storm that clouded his mind with a need of retaliation he had not felt in years.
Benjamin moved in between Washington and whomever was trying to get his attention, and his voice filtered through the white noise in his ears.
“Your excellency, I’ll take care of this,” he assured firmly, a soldier voicing confirmation.
Washington nodded, once, and turned around to leave the cellar.
Once he was in the main floor, we returned to where Russell and his wife were being watched. They were going to be charged for their criminal actions, there was no doubt about that, but something else keep nagging at Washington’s mind. Not only the why, but the how and whom.
Russell’s power in the political stance was not outstanding. An ally of the south for sure, his stance was Democratic-Republican, but he held no seat in Congress and to Washington’s knowledge had not been in contact with Alexander even once before.
As he stood before Russell, the man prepared to speak only for his voice to fail him. Washington's glare alone could have ended the man’s life if it were possible. His shout could hurt others, but at the moment Washington's barely restrained resilience and silence were far more dangerous.
“I expect you to know that your involvement with Secretary Hamilton’s abduction and illegal retain means, at minimum, the end of your carrier,” Washington said with calm that was not feeling, and it was noticeable in the way is voice enunciated like steal out of a forge, ablaze and dangerous.
“Y-Your excellency,” Russell tried once again, and words simply failed him, “T-This wasn’t my intention—”
Washington narrowed his eyes, “Name your benefactor.”
It had always been in the forefront of his mind, the fact that Alexander had been taken not by a lone man with ill intentions, but the possibility that it was done by a larger assembly of people seeking something out of the young man, if only to see him fail.
Russell hesitated, then lowered his head knowing he had reached a dead end in his endeavors, he looked too close to pathetic for someone who stood tall, once.
Washington didn’t pitied him.
The reminder of Alexander’s blood staining his hands wouldn't let him.
“Name your benefactor,” he repeated, and it felt like a the beginning of judgment.
Eliza’s hands wouldn’t stop trembling.
That inconvenience, of course, was not enough to detain her. At some instances she barely noticed, and when she did took notice, it was mostly in anger because she had to be in control of her own reactions to help Alexander, and shaky hands did not do well for her at the moment. Still, it broke her heart because she knew it was far more painful for her Alexander to be held down as the medic carefully examined his injuries than for Eliza to be the one pushing him down every time he arched in pain.
John Church’s and Stephen Van Rensselaer’s hands of Alexander’s shoulders were firm and strong, holding him down even as the incoherent screams startle them. Eliza envied her brothers-in-law’s endurance at at the moment, because she could barely hold herself together as the storm in her heart and soul was threatening to tear her apart at the seams.
She didn’t let it.
“Shsss my dear,” she murmured to Alexander, running her hand over a too feverish brow, “Just hold a little longer, my love…”
It was pointless to ask for him to be still or to calm down, not when the damage done to his body was in full display for those around him to see. Eliza was glad this was confined to a few, and she had already send for Ned Stevens for his urgent assistance, if there was a medic Alexander trusted more than any other, was him.
Eliza knew Alexander would need trusted people now more than ever, if he were to survive.
The medic gave Alexander a strong sedative, enough to lessen the pain and allow him into a restless slumber while he cleaned and wrapped his injuries for further treatment. At least this way he would not hurt himself further, although he was nowhere near well. The fever was not unexpected but held the horrifying potential of being terrible dangerous.
Her eyes remain in her Alexander’s distressed form while the medic explained the extension of what had been done to her husband. The medic couldn’t even give Eliza the illusion of talking about the near future, he was containing his expectations for the next few days, not even weeks.
In vigil, Eliza planted herself at Alexander’s bedside.
Her prayers were in silence and out loud when the whispers of discourage where too loud in her head, for the room held no other noise than Alexander’s soft pained noises, as the sedative kept him at the edge of unconsciousness to lessen the torment but not enough to take away all his agony.
“Stay with me,” she begged as the hours passed and the day seemed too far away, “I will walk with you Alexander, no matter what… this will not stop us, please my love, if you stay with me tonight, we will find the road together, Alex, my Alex… please stay with me.”
She cradled his left hand between her own, careful to not hurt him. The worst damage had been done to his right hand, and it rested bandaged at his side.
Eliza glanced over the clock once again, the night was still too dark.
As the shadows seemed to gather not only outside but around her, the gloom was momentarily broken when Ned arrived in haste. Alexander’s fever had spiked, making the panic in Eliza grow twice over, even with Angelica and Peggy at her side, the fear of losing Alexander forever was haunting her too much to let the hope take proper root.
Eliza was reluctant to move, but Ned needed space to work. She dislodged Alexander’s hand from her hold only to have Alexander himself weakly hold her wrist, his cloudy eye looking for her presence with a desperate emotion.
“I’m right here my love, fear not,” she assured.
She focused in his eye while behind her Ned was assertively giving orders. The tiny spark of hope pushed away the fear a little, knowing that Alexander had greater chances to survive with them doing everything humanly possible to help him reach the dawn.
Her Alexander was too distressed over the mere sound of water, mumbling for the torture to stop. For a moment Eliza was unsure of the source of her husband's distress, but Ned encouraged her to keep talking softly to Alexander, and himself established who he was, and how he would never hurt Alexander, nor let him get hurt on his vigil.
The water was so cold to the touch it couldn’t be comfortable at all, but Eliza kept talking while Ned, John and Stephen worked to get Alexander in the tub, wrapped in soaked fabrics while she ran a soaked rag over his feverish temple, they had to change the bandages covering his eye soon, but she was terrified of seeing the damage. Still, she helped Ned in every step, and as the brokenhearted gasp left her throat, she didn’t stop working.
“His eye…” she blinked back tears and looked at Ned, asking a question without voicing it.
Ned worked carefully, methodically. His hands were firm and his direct and efficient professionalism was making Eliza envious of his restrain, only because she wanted to be stronger, now more than ever.
Still, Ned was only human, and he showed how afraid he was for Alexander in the flicker of his eyes, and the resigned look he gave Eliza as he kept on working.
“The damage is extensive, I might not have to remove it, but…” Ned closed his eyes, and sighed, “For now I want to focus in getting his fever down, if he makes it through the night, the odds would be better for him.”
Eliza then understood what Ned was trying to explain. Alexander’s injuries were extensive, and he was malnourished and weak, but the fever was due infection. It had to run its course, and they had to keep his body temperature down to help him survive it.
It was a long night…
The longest night in Eliza’s life, and she could only hope that it would not be Alexander’s last night with them. The mere thought made her blood boil with rage and despair. This was not an accident, someone delivery hurt her Alexander to this point, to where his life was at the hands of the almighty and his own fleeting strength.
With Peggy and Angelica at her side, they crowded around Alexander to keep him in the water, Eliza talked, and talked, and kept on talking even when her voice was breaking. The sound of her voice seemed to spark reaction in Alexander, and she needed him to survive, so she kept on calling for him to return.
“Your letters during the war gave me the constant hope that I would see you again, that we would see our nation form in liberty, but you know what was far more important to me, Alexander? Just to see your smile again, to have you by my side… for me the war was completely personal, because it was your life on the line, and just like then I couldn’t even fathom the thought of losing you, now I need you to come back, my love… our children need you, I need you, please, my Alex…”
And there was no shame in letting her sisters’ watch her cry at the edge of the tub while holding Alexander’s head over the water, as she carefully patted away the sweat and stared into his face, looking for any sign of recognition every time he would open his eye, delirious.
When dawn came, it was not the light of day what consumed her with joy, but Alexander’s calm gaze and even breath as the fever went down little by little. Ned and her brothers-in-law moved Alexander from the tub back to the bed, where Eliza, Angelica and Peggy made sure he was as comfortable as possible before Ned set once again back to work.
She lost track of time, and when the infection finally ran its complete course and Alexander was no longer at the threshold of death, she was able to breathe freely. That afternoon her Alexander woke up, his eye full of recognition, in pain but alive and aware, still himself.
It pained her to subtly deny him to see the children, but his condition was still too delicate for them to be witness of the state his father was in.
Alexander slept with the aid of a sedative, and Eliza kept vigil. The worse danger was over, but they were far from safe, not when Alexander could barely move without his face showing a deep seated pain. Even in silence, Eliza knew things were only slightly less worse, they couldn’t be better, not when the haunted look in Alexander’s eyes as he stared at nothing was far more telling than his silence, or even his words.
He seek for Eliza’s hand, and she gladly held it in hers, against her chest, laying close to him.
Washington wanted to see him, and Alexander wasn’t sure what he should be feeling.
Part of him was embarrassed to be seen in such deplorable condition, but it dawned to him quickly after that Washington had seen him brought low before, during the war, and it had not change his opinion of him then, surely it won’t change it now.
Eliza helped him to sit against the many pillows on their bed, and brought another blanket to cover him, as he was feeling cold still. He felt somehow decent and strong enough to attend Washington's visit after she smiled at him with ease, and kissed his temple before letting his former general into the room.
There was something odd about Washington, something Alexander couldn’t quite tell yet. The loud, self-conscious part of himself was making him already doubt his decision of receiving Washington's visit. He clearly was in a deplorable state, but at the same time he was unable to forget the times his former General had seen him so malnourished and sleep deprived that he might collapse from one second to another, during those long and devastating winter months were hope was almost gone for their cause.
“Alexander,” Washington gave him a relieved, tired smile as greeting, “I’m glad you’re awake.”
He tilted his head a little, “I might not be able to for much longer, unfortunately I’m easily exhausted recently…”
“You’re recuperating, and whatever that requires you must do, your health is priority.”
Washington sat on a chair close to the bed, the same one Angelica had been occupying until she too laid on the bed next to him to read a book out loud for him while Eliza slept at his side the afternoon before. Now with Washington here, Alexander reflected that under normal circumstances he might have felt smothered somehow, but at the moment he was so glad and grateful of seeing his loved ones again that he couldn't even fathom being annoyed by their constant attention.
“What’s wrong?” Alexander asked when it was clear to him that Washington was trying to say something yet holding himself back.
The older man raised an eyebrow, almost incredulous of the question, “Alex—”
“There is something clouding your thoughts, if there’s something you should attend, or something you want to ask of me, I might be able to solve it, although not as fast as I would like…” he vaguely gestured as his injured hands, “Eh…”
“For goodness sake, Alexander, I didn’t come here to make you work,” Washington remarked, he shook his head in disbelief. He looked at Alexander in the ye, “I’m concerned about you.”
“I will get better,” he said, stubborn and decided, “I have to.”
Because he got the chance to get back to his family, and even if the road ahead was going to undoubtedly be painful, he would not give up now, not after surviving such intimate cavalry.
Alexander blinked once, twice, then looked at Washington as his mind cleared between the reminiscent of a fever dream and his memory.
“You found me,” he said in a low voice, not completely sure it was true, “Didn’t you?”
“Tallmadge,” he corrected, “He took me to you.”
Alex sighed, a small smile on his lips, “Of course he did...”
“We were starting to search the house when you escaped the cellar,” he explained, “Tallmadge was sure you were in the premise, and he was ready to torn doors down, but it seemed the young lady that lead him to you decided there was no more time to waste.”
Alexander narrowed his eye, remembering. “The chest wasn’t lock… I could open it, and… there was candle, I could see the room, the stairs…” He closed his eye, he didn’t want to remember. “They were going to let me die...”
Washington’s gaze hardened, but it was something both knew to be true. Even if the lack of air while being tortured with water, and the beating didn’t directly killed hi,. the rest would have done it. Alexander was almost positive his left eye was a lost cause, and it had been the timing and Ned’s quick intervention what saved him from a worse infection. In his emaciated state, he barely survived the fever, a full scale infection would have undoubtedly killed him.
“I’m not even sure they were planning to actually kill me, or just t-torment me until I gave up,” Alexander felt his eye prickled with unshed tears, “He didn’t even wanted something from me, he just kept…” He inhaled deeply and blinked several times to control himself, “He just kept on telling me how much of a d-disgrace I was, conspiring… ” he let his head fall on the pillows, blinking slowly as he focused on Washington, he was feeling tired already, “I’m d-destroying our new nation, greedily seeking wealth to myself by using the other colonies, I’m r-robbing them with my financial plan.”
“And,” he interrupted quickly, “You’re also grooming me to become President, and when that happens, I will d-destroy the country, because I cannot be trusted, I will doom us all.”
Alexander smiled, then laughed a little. He took the back of his hand to his face, brushing away the couple tears he was unable to hold back. It hurt, to repeat all those accusations, Alexander was no stranger to being disliked by others, even despised. But, to his knowledge, it was for things he had actually done.
This accusations made him look like everything he loathed. Someone full of greed and dishonesty, uncaring, disloyal, with no regard for the well-being of their infant nation, just another criminal.
Washington’s hands were fisted on the sheets, but Alexander barely noticed, suddenly he was having a harder time to keep himself calm. He was breathing too fast, and he couldn’t stop the wayward tears running down his face.
“Son,” Washington’s voice broke the spell, and he found his general very close, his hands holding his own, preventing him from pulling at the bandages, “Take a deep breath for me,” he did as instructed, “Exhale… good, now another.”
He did this until he felt once again calm. The ordeal left him exhausted, but he refused to fall asleep in front of Washington, so he pushed himself to sit again, only to almost fall when a sharp pain course from his hand to his shoulder. He hissed, and Washington helped him to lay against the pillows.
“Alexander, you’re one of the most honest man I have the pleasure to know,” his general said, his voice firm as he declared this as an irrefutable truth, “Do not think for even a second that you did something to deserve this heinous attack.”
He felt himself flush in embarrassment. He had not said it out loud, but Washington was not wrong in his conjecture; Alexander, more than once, had asked himself what he did to deserve such violence. In the dark and silence, while trapped, he had circled the different scenarios that corner him in his capture over and over again, trying to pint point the exact moment his words where too loud, his actions too abrasive, his beliefs too mistaken.
He had found many, and that broke him a little every time.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized in a low voice, “I’m too emotional right now, I cannot seem to control myself.”
Washington didn’t say anything for a moment, then slowly rearranged Alexander’s hand on his own once again, with tremendous care to not hurt him further. His gaze was kept on his bandaged hands for a long moment, then he met Alexander’s eyes again, his gaze softer, calmer.
“There is no need to apologize, Alexander,” he assured him. “You have always feel deeply, and that is something I admire, you pour your passion in everything you do, it would be a loss for us, if you stopped now.”
It was what Washington didn’t say in explicit words what made Alexander felt much at ease, and even smile at his general with the calm that he thought lost a moment ago.
Your emotions do not make you weak.
“Thank you, sir.”
Washington nodded, studying his hands still, “Broken fingers are far too dangerous, especially for someone that doesn’t seem to know when to stop writing.”
Alexander chuckled, “You are correct, your Excellency… Dr. Stevens lectured me about it as soon as I was able to stay awake more than a few minutes,” he smiled conspiratorially, feeling amused by the knowledge of something Washington also knew about him, “Perhaps they aimed to stop me from writing if I survived, but we know they missed.”
Washington carefully rested Alexander’s right hand over the soft sheets and pillows, his fingers broken and tender, but healing. The general’s attention then went to Alexander’s left hand, the wrist was swollen, sprained but not broken, but his fingers were intact.
The general shared a look with his once right-hand-man, and couldn’t help but laugh.
“They had no idea.”
Alexander lifted his left hand and wiggled his fingers in a triumphal, persona gesture. By nature his dominant hand was his left, and while he had forced himself to learn to write with his right hand as well out of peer pressure, Alexander eventually returned to write with his left hand, when writing faster became a far more important priority than witch hand he used to do so.
He sighed softly, and closed his eye for a moment. He felt the pain behind his bandaged eye, and the linger fear that perhaps he might not able to see with it ever again, the damage had nearly drove him mad, it was unlikely that it would heal with no repercussions.
Returning his attention to Washington, Alexander willed himself to not think about his lingering pains for a the moment.
“You have not told me what is wrong,” if it was not something he had done, it was surely related to him somehow for Washington to be so hesitant.
His general straighten his posture, his face far too serious, “There are several people in custody, related to you abduction, the owners or the house you were kept, and three individuals hired to kept you from escaping, there might be more involved.”
Alexander blinked, “You don’t think this was done by just a couple of people with ill will to me.”
“I know that’s not the case,” Washington affirmed, “and they will be persecuted, Alexander, I promise you that.”
The way he said it made Alexander fell conflicted. Part of him felt acknowledged, even cherished by Washington's concern and his promise to seek justice for what was done to him. Another part of him couldn’t help but feel afraid of Washington putting himself in a position that could compromise his duties as president of their infant nation.
“You cannot prioritize this,” he said quickly, “There is much more important things to be done, our country—”
“—cannot afford for one of their Secretaries to be brutalized out of a petty rumor with no foundation and disregard of the laws that dictate how these acts of violence are not to be committed, you are an important part of the construction of this nation’s foundation, and I cannot let this kind of act left unpunished.”
Alexander wanted to argue, but he was familiar with this particular mood of Washington, his unmovable will. The general had made a choice, and it would be follow. Under other circumstances, he might be able to argue some more, maybe even made Washington change his mind, but at the moment he could barely keep his eye open, and part of him wanted that justice his general promised, even if considered the future of the nation a higher priority, he did want justice.
“Thank you,” he said finally.
Washington nodded after his acceptance, and wished him a quick recovery. “I will visit you again soon, rest as much as you need in the meantime, do not diminish your injuries Alexander, this has to be treated with much care.”
Alexander knew he was right, Washington was not the first one to note how lucky he had been to survive the ordeal, and he was aware that there was little chance of the damage inflicted on him not leaving lasting scars, physical and emotional. He had been too tired to dream in his weakened state, and that was fortunate, because dreams have plague him, at least not yet.
There was a moment after Washington's departure and Eliza returning to his side, that Alexander couldn’t help but think that his general was not telling him the whole picture, there was something that was haunting Washington far more than he let own, Alexander was almost sure that once there was a case against those who attacked him, he would have to get involved.
“Betsy, my dear… could you help me pen a short letter?” he asked, requesting to write it himself would be a lost cause.
“Of course, to whom?” she walked to the small desk in their room to get paper and ink.
“It’s for Mr. Burr, sir…” Alexander smiled.
He once told Aaron he was a better lawyer than him, and now he favor he wanted to ask of him was going to be far more personal than the last.