Monday, April 03, 2006


A Pirate Tale 144

Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy strolled back down the darkened wharf to the Festering Boil, where they found Sawbones Burgess and George the Greek waiting for them in the captain’s quarters.

“Are they back yet?” Slappy said, getting down to business.

George nodded, “They returned not 20 minutes ago,” he said, pointing to the papers on the table.

“Excellent,” Slappy said. “Any trouble? No reason for Taco to suspect anything?”

With the concert over, the governor and his bride-to-be would be hosting the governor’s ball, which could be expected to last another couple of hours. But the turn of the tide was four hours away and the Boil’s crew didn’t want him getting wind of their plans before they were well away.

The first step had been to send visitors to the governor’s office while he was at the concert. Saucy Jenny, Oscar and Wellington went because, as newer crewmembers they weren’t known to the governor. If anything had gone wrong, suspicion wouldn’t immediately fasten on the ship.

Clad in dark clothing, they had skirted the crowds heading for the opera house and went to the back of the governor’s mansion, which sat on the opposite side of the great town square. With the strains of the orchestra tuning up floating through the alley, Peddicord and Oscar stood watch at either end of the building as Jenny quickly scaled the garden wall to the balcony of the governor’s office, then dropped a rope for her two comrades. They quickly forced the lock on the French doors and made their way inside, where they began searching, methodically at first, then with growing energy as they failed to find what they were looking for. The papers Slappy had asked for weren’t on the desk, weren’t on the credenza, weren’t in the file cabinet. As their search grew more desperate and they could feel the time slipping away, they became less careful about how things looked.

“Where the hell could it be?” Wellington muttered.

“I looked all over here and didn’t see nothin’,” Oscar reported from the door, where he was examining the contents of a small table. He dropped the stack of papers he’d leafed through back onto the table, which toppled with a crash. All three froze, listening for the sound of guards rushing to the scene. There was nothing but silence.

“Alright, let’s just think for a minute,” Jenny said. “He’s the governor, he got this report, he read through it, and since then he’s been busy as hell with this Bawdy Boys business. So where would he have left it?”

“I do a lot of my reading on the seat of ease,” Oscar said.

“The WHAT?” Wellington and Jenny said in unison. Oscar looked uncomfortable.

“The seat of ease. The throne. The … Jenny, would you cover yer ears?”

She sighed and put her hands over her ears.

“The toilet,” Oscar whispered to Wellington.

“That might be it!” Wellington said and quickly filled in Jenny.

“Where’s the governor’s crapper?” she asked.

“Not in here, obviously,” Wellington said, casting his eyes around the room. “Do you think he has his own personal outhouse?”

“That’s probably that little building we passed in the garden,” she realized. “You keep looking here. I’ll go down and check it out.”

Jenny went back onto the balcony and dropped down to the garden. Sure enough, the small outbuilding proved to be an outhouse, and a well-appointed one. The sign on the door read, “Para el uso personal del gobernador. Todos los otros caen sus cargas a otra parte.” Inside was a single-holed seat, well padded, a large bouquet of flowers to combat the aroma (“It’s not cutting it,” Jenny noted with a sniff.) and a large stack of papers for hygienic use. She leafed through them and about halfway down found it. (Good thing he’s not very regular, or this might be gone where I wouldn’t look for it, orders or no orders,” she thought.)

Grabbing the document, she ran back towards the palace and gave a low whistle. Two heads appeared on the balcony above.

“Got it! Let’s go!”

Her companions dropped from the balcony, and the three quickly disappeared into the darkness.

Slappy was now looking over the report and smiling with satisfaction.

“As long as he doesn’t visit his office until we’re out of the harbor there should be no problem,” Slappy said. “I let him think we’re heading east to pay a look-see at Caracas, just to see if there’s anything we can do about Leech and the Bawdy Boys. I really want to, but I guess we’ll have to put that aside for now. Let’s get the ship ready to sail.”

“Where are we going?” Sawbones asked. “And what are we looking for when we get there?”

“The Spanish treasure fleet, of course!” Slappy said. “Remember when we first got here? Taco said they’d left about six weeks ago. This report shows just what I was hoping for, that this was their first stop, not their last. That means they’ve had enough time to visit Cartagena and Panama and load up there, then head to Havana to rendezvous with the ships that went to Vera Cruz, before they all head home. And there’s a couple of spots places that would be perfect for us to wait for them.”

“Punta el Cajon, in Golfo de Guanahacabibes on the western tip of Cuba, or the Archipiélago de Sabana on the northern shore,” Ol’ Chumbucket suggested, showing off.

“Right,” Slappy said, giving him a look, “Punta whatever in the golfing gazpacho, or that other place, where we could waylay some of the traffic. So we’re going to make for Port Royal and in a week we’ll know if anyone has seen the fleet. After we’ve got the latest information, we can pick the best position to greet them.”

“You know, it’ll be nice to get back to business,” Chumbucket said,

“What do you mean?” Slappy asked.

“Well, it’s not like we’ve been doing much pirating lately. I wouldn’t be surprised if we fell out of the top 10 when Pirattitude Monthly’s Pirate Poll comes out this summer. We spent the better part of a year going to the Indian Ocean, and got almost nothing for it other than the satisfaction of killing Slappista and marooning Fanny. Not very remunerative. Then we got chased out of Mossell Bay. We had some luck during the crossing and picked off some ships, but then we had the Olympics – that was fun and it was nice to be able to outfox the Portuguese, but it hardly put a farthing in the treasure chest. And now we’ve been running through the jungle of South America finding and losing a golden Incan city without ever actually crossing swords with the Bawdy Boys, who if they’re still alive have slipped away. Not much money in that other than that very nice souvenir goblet you picked up and the snuffbox I pinched from Don Taco. I think chasing a treasure fleet is exactly what we need just now.”

“Amen to that, brother,” Slappy agreed. “Let’s get ready to get under way. And remind me we need a meeting with the crew tomorrow to put all this to them. If we don’t put it to a vote, Keeling will be all over me about the union rules again.”

“And we’re counting on Taco not returning to his office tonight? It would be a shame to be all set to go and suddenly have him undergo an attack of conscience and send troops down before we have the tide.”

“Oh, I think we’ll be alright,” Slappy said with a smile. “Someone will be watching our back, although I don’t think she knows that’s what she’s doing.”


At the governor’s palace, the last of the guests were leaving, the last of the many compliments paid to Isabella on the success of her composition had been voiced. Now she and her fiancé, Don Taco, governor of Maracaibo, were alone in the hallway. They ascended the first flight of the grand staircase, then Taco turned to the left, towards his office, but Isabella reached for his elbow and stopped him.

“Must you go back to work?” she asked him.

“Ah, I fear so, mi pimienta delicada. I’m afraid my duties are pressing. I’ve been so busy with the pirates and the Incans and Bawdy Boys I have let matters pile up. I should spend a few hours going through some of the backlog.” He took another step towards his office.

“A few hours!” Isabella said, her lower lip trembling just so. “But mi torre poderosa de un hombre! I need you now!”

“Need me, my love? For what?” His blank look made it clear he simply didn’t get it.

She drew nearer to him, and spoke in a throaty whisper. “For what only a man can give a woman.”

Taco gulped. “But my dear, I thought you wanted to ‘save it’ for our honeymoon.”

“After the success of my concert, I tremble with womanly desire. The praise of those at the ball further enflamed me. I need you to quench that flame. NOW!”

“You mean …”

“I mean your work can wait until morning. You’re getting lucky!” Isabella grabbed Taco by the front of his silk shirt, tearing the lace from the collar as she pulled her to him. She enveloped him in a kiss that he felt from his toes to each individual hair on his head. The kiss seemed to last a lifetime. When she drew back, she gasped, rather surprised that he’d done so well. That was a kiss for the ages, she thought.

“Maybe the work can wait until late afternoon!” she said. “Come to my room.”

He let Isabella lead him away.


**Personal and Private Log of Mandrake Bulwer Pondicherry Tharp**

Trapped! That’s what I am. Trapped on this ship of vermin, the aptly named Festering Boil. It was bad enough when those other miscreants took over the Tigershark. Then there at least was a chance for action. Now I’m faced with the choice of sailing with these vile corsairs or remaining in this Spanish stronghold at the mercy of that fop, the governor. When he recalls that he’s a Spanish official and I’m a representative of the English crown I daresay my goose would be cooked. No, reprehensible as it is, I fear I must cast my fortune with these freebooters, at least until such time as I can break free of them and return to England. Curse Gustafson and Buckler for leaving me behind!

What will mum say when she hears I’ve been consorting with pirates? Even worse, what will father say? Perhaps there are some secrets that simply cannot be told.

And such may be the relationship between father and that miserable pirate chieftain, Captain Slappy. Can they really be brothers? It seems impossible. That would make him my … no, I cannot bring myself to say it, even to myself.

And then there’s that other fellow aboard ship, the one who looks somehow familiar. Whose face is it I seem to recognize when I can bring myself to look at him? It’s all very puzzling, but as I said before, it’s not a puzzle I care to solve.

From the sounds above deck it seems they’re getting ready to set sail. Well and good for them, but they can expect no help from me. I will remain as much as possible in this fetid little cabin I’ve been assigned, although it may be amusing to go on deck from time to time to watch this rabble play at being sailors.

And perhaps when the time comes, I can do my service as one of the crown’s true agents and help bring these felons to justice. That, at least, would provide some satisfaction for the position in which I now find myself. Perhaps there might even be a knighthood in it for me.

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