Monday, April 11, 2005


A pirate Tale 71 – Dead Reckoning


The tide of the battle on La Herida que Filtra de la Cabeza was turning towards the invaders, as more sailors from the Festering Boil swarmed into the fray. McCormack had picked up a wormer from beside a silenced cannon and, swinging it like a bat, dropped three men to the bloody deck before skewering the fourth against the main mast.

Don Taco, locked in combat with his former first mate, drew back, parried a thrust from the man’s saber then riposted so quickly that he got past his guard and cut him viciously across the forearm of his sword hand. The man dropped his blade and fell to one knee, awaiting death.

Instead, Taco lowered his guard and extended his hand.

“Come, Pablo, we have sailed together too long to let it end like this. Do you really want to serve that treacherous bastard and the evil snake of a woman he’s sold his soul to?”

The man looked up at Taco, then looked across the deck where Slappy’s crew was hemming in the last of their opposition. His uninjured hand reached up and clasped Taco’s. The grandee lifted him to his feet as his voice rang out.

“Sailors of Spain,” he shouted. “Drop your weapons. This is not the day for any more of you to die!”

The ugly combat on the gun deck slowed, but didn’t cease. Who drops his weapon in the midst of a heated duel? But Taco’s voice rose above the sounds of battle.

“My friends! You know me! You serve me! In the name of La Broche de Presión, let us end this.”

The two sides maintained their guards, but the sailors of the Boil took a step back, leaving their foes backed against the rail. The remaining handful of Spanish sailors slowly lowered their weapons.

“There are only two more now who need to die, the two who led you into this,” said Taco, conveniently forgetting his own part in the plotting. It didn’t matter, the sailors didn’t want to die and accepted Taco’s reasoning. All eyes shifted to the quarterdeck where a defiant Slappista stood over the body of Juan Garbonzo and a psychotic Fanny feverishly reloaded her pistol.

“My friends,” Slappista said urgently. “Do not listen. We can still prevail. The treasure, the greatest treasure ever seen by man, still awaits us, either on that ship or on the island beyond. What they hid, we can find.”

“I’m afraid not, cousin,” a new voice cut across the stillness. Slappy, standing on the rail of the Boil, grabbed a line and swing across to the deck of La Herida, landing just below Slappista. Immediately Dogwatch, Cementhands, Keeling and Ol’ Chumbucket surged to his side protectively.

“The treasure is gone, Slappista,” Slappy said.

“You lie,” Slappista snarled.

“It breaks my heart to admit this, but it’s true,” Slappy said, pointing back over his shoulder to where the volcano still smoldered on the island. “I have to admit we were not nearly careful enough with it, and the island’s goddess of fire has taken it from all of us. If you dug for a hundred years, I don’t think you’d find a thing.”

Slappista looked shocked as he stared out at the smoking mountain. “But how? There was no time. This must be a trick. How did you do it?

“You’d never believe it, but the fact remains, except for a few trinkets the treasure is gone. And the girls are out of your reach, and so is your chance of whatever glory you had hoped for back in Spain.”

A cry came out from the poopdeck of the Festering Boil, where George the Greek and Sir Nigel were pointing to sails in the distance.

“That is probably someone you know – Admiral Tharp from the British Navy. I think it’s time for you to make a decision, cousin. Will you surrender and have us turn you over to the British, or shall we finally settle this here and now?”

All eyes were on Slappista as he took a deep breath, swung his cutlass once or twice, stepped back from the ladder to the quarterdeck, and beckoned to Slappy to join him. In the tension, the eyes failed to notice Fanny – always a mistake – whose face had turned ashen at the news of her treasure and whose eyes glowed with a fire that clearly indicated that whatever tenuous hold she had maintained on sanity was now irrevocably snapped. As Slappy climbed to the top of the short ladder, she rushed forward and clapped her pistol to his temple.

“You flatulent pig,” she hissed. “You tell me where my treasure is right now or I’ll splatter your brains all over the deck!”

Slappy’s comrades froze as the captain turned his head slowly and carefully to face the enraged woman that had once been his lover. The turn brought the pistol barrel directly between his eyes, but he didn’t flinch as he noted the tremble in her hand. He read death in her eyes. “Why,” he asked himself in an irrelevant thought, the sort that always flitted across his mind in moments of greatest peril, “why is it that every woman I sleep with ends up trying to kill me?” But his voice, when he spoke, was steady.

“Fanny, I promise you, that treasure is as gone as if it had never existed. It is gone.”

She pushed the pistol directly against the bridge of his nose. “It can’t be. It isn’t. I won’t let it be!” she shrieked.

Slappy noticed a blur of motion and was prepared to throw himself to the deck, but it wasn’t necessary. Mad Sally swung in from the deck of the Boil and crashed into Fanny, sending the pistol flying from her hand. It fell against the rail, discharging. The ball smacked into the mainmast, three inches from the head of Ol’ Chumbucket. Cementhands looked from Chumbucket to the bullet hole, and back to Chumbucket.

“Sorry, dude,” he said. “I think I was supposed to stop that from happening.” Chumbucket looked at the hole then smiled wanly at McCormack and shrugged.

Fanny leaped back to her feet and grabbed Juan’s cutlass, turning to face Mad Sally, who had lost her dagger in swinging across to La Herida.

“You bitch!” Fanny screamed, spitting foam. “I should have killed you back in Tortuga!”

She lunged at Sally, flailing wildly. Sally stood her ground, not moving as the blade whistled past and sank into the railing. Them, pivoting off her left foot, she put all of her body into a straight right that caught Fanny squarely on the point of the chin, sending her former boss flying through the air and crashing, unconcious, at Slappista’s feet.

“Probably just as well,” the Spaniard said with a shrug. “She can be very tiresome.”

“She shouldn’t have tried that two days before my period is due,” Sally said. “I’m feeling cranky enough as it is.”

“And now cousin,” Slappy said. “Let’s settle this.”

“What if I win?” Slappista said. “I don’t think your friends down below will let me live. The very best I can expect is a couple of months as a guest of Tharp’s brig before I’m hung. What do I get by fighting you?”

“True. I’m afraid you’re a dead man, Slappista. But neither of us wins much in either case. I’ve chased you halfway around the world, and all I’ll reap from it, in the end, is your head. All that’s in it for you is the chance to take me with you.”

A grin split Slappista’s face.

“A very good offer indeed. Let us begin.”

He lunged forward. Slappy’s cutlass flew up and the two blades clashed together.

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