Excerpt – Summer Palace

 

XVIII

Wiley was rudely awakened by a kick to his shoulder. Feodor Ivanovich stood, muzzle aimed at him.

“Get up, you scum, and get your party over there where I can see you.” he said motioning with the musket.

Pavel stopped outside the clearing he had woken early and gone off to find a stream to wash. He stood accessing the situation.

Pavel’s and Wiley’s men were lined up and Feodor had grabbed Katia and swung her around to his side. Wiley started toward him and was broadsided by the musket.

“Feodor, you want me. Let Katia go … this is insanity.”

Feodor was accompanied by a gang of mercenaries he had collected while back at the Sich, Wiley recognized some of them. Trying to make eye contact he hoped to get recognition and appeal to his former comrades.

Feodor ordered his men to kill all the members of Wiley’s party and he strode over to his horse yanking Katia by her arm. He mounted his horse and with the help of one of his men he pulled her dead weight up in front of him.

“Feodor Ivanovich, please,” Katia cried from the strangle hold he had her in. “Leave us be, you can go back to Moscow and claim everything as your own. We won’t stop you, you have no reason for this.”

“You are going to look into the face of your devastated father and share the shame you have brought upon all of us. You are nothing but a bastard whore and always were.” Feodor spoke through clenched teeth.

“Katia, struggled trying to hit him full on with the back of her head. It only served to anger him as he spurred his horse on.

Pavel was able to catch Wiley’s eye and motioned to him that he was going to try to pull a weapon off one of the mercenaries horses. The recognition, Wiley was able to gain, halted the mercenaries from shooting them instantly.

“We were paid well to do this, what are we waiting for?” one of the mercenaries said.

“I know him,” the second man said lifting his hand to point in Wiley’s direction. “Badger fought with us, he’s a comrade.”

Just then WIley dove into the underbrush, not waiting for a decision. Pavel had wielded a pistol and started firing. Under cover Pavel’s men and Hans were able to break away from the campsite into the safety of the surrounding trees.

A cry of pain was loosed signaling someone was hit, and a second man went down in the melee.

The six mercenaries rode off, two of them wounded by Pavel.

“We have to go after her,” Wiley cried.

“We are,” Pavel said calmly. “Mount up, we have no time to waste. Hopefully, Katia will continue to struggle as she was, slowing his pace, so we can make up the time that has passed.

 

Along the dirt road leading out from the forest, Katia managed to land a good blow with the back of her head leaving Feodor dazed and she slipped out of his grasp and down to the road. She ran off into the dense wood. Moments later Feodor took his pistol and went off after her. He would at least return her body to the Summer Palace.

The old man’s sympathy won’t be an issue if she is dead. he thought.

Movement in the woods caused Feodor to fire wildly. The shot was heard by Pavel and his team who were in pursuit.

Wiley prayed that Feodor’s aim was off and Katia was alive.

Katia looked to her right as a deer went down musket ball driven through its flank.

He’s going to kill me, she thought.

“Come out Katia,” he called. “Call out to me so I know your position.”

Katia looked around her looking for better cover, but she was frozen in place. Feodor stepped into the brush where the deer was felled, only it wasn’t Feodor it was Wiley. He grabbed her shoulders picking her up from her crouch and withdrew deeper into the woods.

“I’m alive and you’re alive,” Katia cried placing her trembling hand on his chest. “This is a nightmare.”

“Katia, it’ll be all right,” Wiley said palming her face and standing absolutely still.

They heard a single shot.

Viewing the body of Feodor, Katia said, “Adeline’s brother and our cousin, how did it ever come to this?”

Wiley took her hand and started to move away.

“It’s such a waste of a life, why did he have to do this?” Katia said slumping against Wiley’s shoulder.

“I’ll take him home,” Pavel said. “I’ll talk to father. My situation may be different, since their is no heir to replace me.”

He signaled his men and they wrapped Feodor up in a blanket and placed him on one of the mounts.

Pavel, walked over to where Wiley, Katia and Hans stood.

“If you can mention me to father, please do.” Katia said as she embraced her brother.

“Misha Ludmilla won’t be able to take this I’m afraid.” Pavel said shaking his head. “I’m going to tell the authorities that he died in battle, so his disgrace doesn’t follow him home.”

He brushed his cheek against both sides of Wiley’s face and said, “My trip to Germany may be delayed, but I will let you know. Send all correspondence to the Emerald Inn, once you know where you’ll be I’ll send a reply.”

Katia, stood and watched Pavel disappear into the undulating ribbon of dirt road until he was out of sight. She turned and stroked Ebony’s mane and took the arm of the man she loved as he lifted her up in front of him. Their pace was no longer a concern, for they were headed in the right direction.