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Title: Catherine and the Pirate (The Reformed Criminal Remix)
Genre: Historical romance.
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 1,339
Summary: A rewrite of the book, Catherine and the Pirate. Full summary and chapter index can be found here.



- Catherine and the Pirate (The Reformed Criminal Remix) -



Chapter 5


Elliot Markham stood at the library window and watched the last of the sun's rays sparkle across the water. One of the things he liked most about High Hall was that it stood at the top of a large, graceful hill that gently sloped down to the cold lap of the bay, separated from the ocean by a wide section of rocky beach. The views from the property were exquisite.

The mansion itself was large and elegant, made of luxurious pink granite imported from Portugal. Filled with leaded glass windows and gleaming wood floors, it held veritable treasures in every corner: fireplaces of Venetian marble, delicate crystal chandeliers, ornate ironwork scrolling down the banisters, and every hallway covered with a thick, lush rug. Few homes could boast the creature comforts found at High Hall, and he should have been happy in those peaceful hours before dark, but the knowledge that the desk before him—and the Persian rug at his feet, and even the leather chair beneath his rump as he sat down—all belonged to someone else cast a shadow over his mood.

Despite being born to the same family, life had never favored Elliot as it had his brother, John. It was their own father who had started the Markham Tea Company, and by the time he and John were young men, it was already turning a substantial profit. Elliot had thrown himself into the business, devoting long hours to the books and numbers, suffering multiple trips to the heathen tropics—

And then it was John who had inherited it all, just by virtue of being older. Never mind that he had a natural knack for the business, and in particular dealing with people; all Elliot could think of was the way he would nip out of the offices early half the time to go carousing with his chums. And as if all that wasn't bad enough, when John himself passed, everything had in turn been willed to Royce. He'd been so bitter, he hadn't even been able to summon a single tear at the funeral. Life was unfair, true—but some things went beyond the pale.

And now his niece had disappeared. Elliot scowled. It was yet one more delay, and he was tired of delays—tired of waiting for what should have been his all along.

He glanced sourly at the portrait that hung over the fireplace. In it, John and his wife, Marianne, sat on a settee. Catherine, a mere eleven years old, sat on a chair at her mother's side, and Royce evened the painting out by standing to the right of his father, his hand resting along the back of the furniture. They looked handsome and wealthy and irritatingly happy. Elliot wrinkled his nose and pulled a ledger from one of the desk drawers.

In hindsight, he supposed he shouldn't have been taken aback by Catherine's disappearance. Despite the neat, tidy image of her that had been captured in the portrait, she'd been quite the tomboy as a child, Elliot recalled with a matter of distaste. It seemed she was constantly running to or fro in one rowdy activity or another, and frankly, he'd always been of the opinion that John had been far too indulgent with her. However, the sudden loss of both her parents when she was thirteen had had a sobering effect on her behavior. In the years since, Catherine had grown into a surprisingly responsible young lady, and a surprisingly pleasant person to be around, all things considered. Clearly, though, maturity did not equal docility.

He had discovered she was missing when she hadn't come down for dinner the night before. That, in and of itself, wasn't exactly cause for concern. It wasn't unusual for Catherine to go on long, lonely walks, particularly in the wake of Royce's disappearance. The girl was mourning her brother, after all; it was only natural that she'd need some time alone and might even skip a meal here or there.

But dinner had come and gone, and the sun had lowered well into the horizon before it became apparent that Catherine hadn't simply gone on a solitary ramble about the countryside. He'd sent the servants out to look for her, but it was to no avail. She was gone, and no one had seen her.

At first, Elliot feared that something unfortunate had happened—that she'd fallen while navigating the rocks along the beach, or even worse, that someone had stolen her away. But as time passed, he began to suspect that Catherine's disappearance had nothing to do with ill chance.

Elliot's gaze rested on the tattered note on the corner of his desk. As unpalatable as the idea was, he would bet everything down to his last coin that his niece was on her way to Norfolk at that very moment. Not that she'd find anything—Elliot had made sure of that—but it was vexing all the same that he had to take the time to track her down. His plan was nothing without her, though. Less than nothing, in fact. Fortunately, however, he had the situation well in hand.

When he'd received the ransom note, it had been difficult to not see the opportunity that lay before him. Catherine, after all, was easy to control—or so he'd thought—but Royce… Royce was another matter altogether. He was arguably more headstrong than even John had been, and it had long-since become apparent that he wasn't the sort of young man to be cowed by anyone or persuaded into anything. And so this, this turn of events, was serendipitous in a way—provided the scoundrels who sent the ransom note in the first place were prepared to make good on their threat to kill, that was.

A twinge of guilt once again settled in Elliot's stomach, but he resolutely pushed it aside. It was unfortunate that he'd been reduced to such callousness, but he had no choice in the matter. Not if he was to finally obtain everything he'd so richly deserved for all these years. Fate hadn't left him any other choice.

He had been trying to decide on a course of action—some way to guarantee his nephew would never make it home—when he'd been contacted by a Frenchman named DeGardineau. DeGardineau had a number of ships, it turned out, and wanted to know if the Markham Tea Company might be interested in hiring them. As the acting manager, Elliot had been obliged to meet with him.

Within ten minutes of being acquainted, Elliot was certain the man was a liar, a cheat, a pirate, and worse. In short, he was exactly the kind of man Elliot needed. The Frenchman had seemingly no fears and even fewer scruples, and for the right price, would do whatever was asked of him. Elliot had hired him right on the spot—not to transport cargo, but to find whoever had claimed to have captured Royce Markham, and to see to it that the rightful heir of the Markham Tea Company was never seen again. DeGardineau had sworn to take care of the matter, and Elliot trusted he would—if only Catherine didn't bungle things with her ill-advised attempt at a rescue.

Elliot sighed and reached for a pen and a sheet of paper. He hated the thought of associating with a thug like DeGardineau any more than he had to, but it appeared he might require the man's services just once more. He penned a quick note, sanded it, and neatly sealed it with wax. Then he called for a footman to carry the missive to a certain inn found by the harbor. No doubt DeGardineau would send a man to High Hall before the night was out.

Feeling better about the entire situation, Elliot opened the ledger and began to check the numbers. DeGardineau's men would stop the Sea Princess, and the Markham Tea Company—and all the power and respect that came with it—would finally be his.




-----

A/N: For a while, I was actually considering cutting this chapter out entirely, as the original is very short and doesn't really accomplish anything beyond confirming what most readers have probably figured out by now anyway—that Elliot is the/a villain. But I managed to work in some background for him (along with some for Catherine, as well), and so figured what the hell. At least he has a bit more nuance to him now and is maybe (big maybe, admittedly) even a touch sympathetic. His motivation is still weaker than I'd like, but like, at least he actually has a motivation now. The original basically read as, "Elliot wants the thing because he wants it." Like, I'm pretty sure I've come across Scooby Doo villains who have better reasons behind their actions, you know?

All other fics can be found here.
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