Monday, August 14, 2006


The Havana Caper – Part 32 “Taking the Piss”

The depths of the hull of The Festering Boil, which was now home to more than eighty men, let in no natural light and the two swinging lanterns cast faint shadows that swayed dizzyingly as the ship took a battering from waves on the open sea. The armed men – formerly Royal Marines – guarding them seemed to take little interest in the crates all around that contained the enormous Spanish booty and the Boilers were careful not to pique that disregard. The brig aboard the Boil held less than a dozen men and with Cementhands McCormack hog-chained and hobbled and locked behind bars, the men and women below looked to a new leader.

“Do ye think they’ve harmed our Mr. McCormack, Mr. Peddicord?”

Wellington Peddicord looked around and realized that all eyes were on him.

“No, Benny. I’m sure Cementhands is fine and biding his time until he can take his revenge.”

“Shaddup you!” The distinct cockney accent from one of the guards reminded Peddicord of a former shipmate.

“Martin? Martin Jessup is that you?” Peddicord asked.

“Aye, Welly! I knew ye wouldn’t forget ol’ Marty – especially since ye cheated me out o’ twenty-three shillings at cards!” The friendly voice turned bitter quickly. “It’ll be a pleasure watchin’ yer black arse swing, Welly. I’ve already called dibs on yer boots. Of course, they might shoot ye, or the new boss is likely to do somethin’ a lot worse. More’s the pity ‘cuz yer boots’ll be all bloody and pissed in when they’re done with ye – and it’s always hard to get that blood and piss smell out o’ somebody’s boots once they been shot.”

Peddicord gave Jessup a cold stare. “They can take my blood, mate, but my piss – that I’ll take with me.”

Lacking a snappy comeback and not even sure what Peddicord meant by the cryptic remark, Jessup just waved off his old shipmate with a, “Bah!” and returned to his fellow guards.

Benny’s face was fixed on Wellington Peddicord. “Mr. McCormack would be proud, sir.”

“We’re better than they are, lad. Don’t forget that.” Peddicord said softly.

“Aye-aye, Mr. Peddicord! Aye aye.”

Jenny reached forward and took Peddicord’s hand. “Thank you, Wellington. We needed to hear that!”

A general soft “Aye,” arose from the huddled prisoners.


The brig aboard The Festering Boil was at full capacity with those who were considered the greatest threat to their captors. Red Molly worked at the locks on Cementhands McCormack’s chains whenever she felt her guards take their eyes off the prisoners.

“Damn it! There goes another hair pin!” Molly swore as she picked the pieces out of the lock hole. She then reached back into her hair and produced yet another pin.

“Just pretend it’s yer chastity belt, Luv, and your Leftenant Keeling is home for a bit o’ the Bouncy-Bouncy.” McCormack chuckled.

“Is that you takin’ the piss, McCormack?” Molly shot back as she drove a sharp elbow into his unprotected ribs.

“Aye lass!” McCormack smiled, “We may as well have a bit o’ fun while we wait for whatever it is we wait for.”

“Well shut it, ye big git. I’m just trying to give us the best weapons we have.” As she mentioned their ‘best weapons’ she squeezed McCormack’s big hands. Molly stopped herself. Clearly she was very worried about Keeling, but she was trying to be strong.

“He’s alright, Luv. Don’t worry about yer lad. He’s just fine.” McCormack’s tone was all comfort.

“Jaysus, McCormack. Do you think they killed the boy? He was just a wisp o’ a lad.” Black Butch leaned in as he talked to the big man.

“Don’t worry yer pretty wee head, Black Butch. The boy is just fine. He can swim like a fish! I taught him meself.” McCormack nodded in a reassuring way.

“And Dogwatch?” Butch questioned cautiously.

“Oh, he’s dead for sure.” McCormack said in such a dead pan it was difficult to tell if he thought that to be true or if he was, again, taking the piss.

Molly jabbed him in the ribs again with her elbow.


“Zoete Mermaid's Borsten!” Slappy swore as he awoke with the worst headache of his entire life.

The guards aboard The HMS Princess reached for the weapons when they heard a foreign tongue coming from the bilge. Fortunately, Ol’ Chumbucket was already awake and quickly reassured them.

“Don’t wet yourselves, lads. He’s English enough – he just curses in Dutch when he really means it.”

Oddly enough, this was enough explanation to assuage their aggression.

Chumbucket then turned his attention toward his miserable friend. “Mornin’ Sunshine! Did you sleep well?”

“Like the dead.” Was the best Cap’n Slappy could offer under the painful circumstances.

“Don’t worry. The pain subsides when you’ve been awake for a few minutes. Then it gets a lot worse.”

“Good. I was hoping to keep it and use it when it comes time to kill Stubing.” Slappy took the middle finger of his right hand and pressed it hard between his eyebrows, which was about as far as he could reach with his hands and feet manacled and chained to the bulkhead. “It’s too bad the doctor is still asleep. I’d ask him to drive a spike right between my eyes because I am pretty sure I have a family of gypsies inside my noggin and they’re burning my brain while they dance a freakin’ mazurka and I would sorely love to drive a spike into them.”

“That’s just crazy talk, Cap’n!” George was coming to and also suffering. “There are no gypsies in yer pate. But there appear to be a school of wolverines digging into my skull and I would be obliged if the good doctor would amputate my head.”

“Wolverines don’t run in ‘schools,’ George.” Ol’ Chumbucket corrected.

“No, they come in ‘prides.’ As in ‘a pride o’ wolverines.’” Cap’n Slappy said with the voice of authority.

“No. They don’t.” Ol’ Chumbucket admonished. “They come in packs – like dogs.”

“Or a ‘cete.’” Doc Burgess was waking up into the discussion. “Badgers travel in a grouping called a ‘cete.’ And they are similar to wolverines.”

Chumbucket was incredulous. “In what way?”

“They’re both members of the ‘weasel’ family.” Doc Burgess was now feeling his headache and answered with some duress.

“Seriously?” Cap’n Slappy seemed surprised. “A badger and a wolverine are nothing but weasels?”

“Bad-ass weasels.” George muttered as he rubbed his head.

“I’ve got to piss.” Slappy declared hoping to bring an end to the discussion of woodland rodents and Ol’ Chumbucket pointed him toward the chamber pot which was already nearly full.

Ol’ Chumbucket explained. “I drank too much last night.”

“Excuse me, Limey guards!” Slappy called, “But will somebody please come take this piss pot?”

“Not if you don’t stop calling us ‘Limey guards.’ We will not be very helpful at all if you keep calling us, ‘Limey guards.’” One of the soldiers scolded.

“Quite right. He humbly apologizes. We would just like to have an empty chamber pot if that’s quite convenient.” Doc Burgess interrupted as he saw Slappy get that look he usually got before saying something regrettable.

“That’s more like it.” The guard said feeling perfectly mollified.

“So the piss pot?”

“Don’t really matter, does it, since your chains won’t reach there anyway and there ain’t no way I’m unchaining ye. Got me orders,” the guard said.

“But if a man wanted to relieve himself?”

“He could piss his pants. Down here it wouldn’t make no difference. All’s ye’d offend is some rats. Now I’ve already said too much,” The guard turned to walk out, taking the only light with him.

“Excuse me.” Ol’ Chumbucket stopped the soldier. “Where is our fifth comrade? The young man who came aboard with us last - I think it was last – night?”

“Good lookin’ young fella – about this high?” The soldier held the chamber pot above his head at about the height at which Leftenant Keeling stood.

“Aye!” All four pirates answered as they watched the urine slosh about in the bowl above the soldier’s head.

“He’s dead.” And with that, the soldier walked out of the bilge.


The surf crashed against the white sand and rolled an object further up the beach. At first glance, a passer-by would have thought it was a chunk of drift wood, but closer examination would have found arms and legs flopping as the trunk moved closer to the jungle.

Keelings eyes opened part way as another splash of sea water doused the back of his head. He pulled himself toward the dry sand and collapsed again.

The sand felt warm against his skin and despite its roughness, Keeling took comfort in the fact that he was once again in touch with something solid. He crawled further up the beach using his will to overcome his exhaustion.

Suddenly, a sharp point pressed into the back of Keeling’s neck and he froze.

“Stay very still, Mister, or I’ll pin your head to the beach and leave you as lunch for a pack of crabs.”

It was the familiar voice of a young boy trying to sound menacing beyond his years.

“Don’t you mean a cast of crabs, Gabriel?” Keeling offered without looking up at the boy.

“Leftenant Keeling?” Gabriel asked.

“Aye! Lad.” Keeling rolled over and looked up at the boy but was only able to make out his outline against the sun. “Are you here alone, boy?”

“No. Dogwatch is off in the jungle taking a piss.” Gabriel pulled his wooden spear back from Keeling’s head and knelt down to help him up. “We’re going to spear some fish for breakfast!”

Keeling waved off the boy’s assistance. “Give me a minute, lad. I just want to lay here and get used to the idea that I’m not dead yet.”

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The Havana Caper – 31

The officers of the Festering Boil were shown into the captain’s cabin of the Princess, a large, surprisingly light and airy room for a man o’war. The Atlantic waters sparkled through the wide transom window that formed the back wall of the room.

Captain Stubing waved his guests to seats around the oak table that stood at the center of the room. Ol’ Chumbucket was rather surprised to find his posterior resting in the most comfortable chair he’d sat in since the days – under a different name – that he’d sat in Parliament.

“Gentlemen,” Stubing said. “First, let me toast you on your success!”

“I’m always ready to toast, especially if it’s to me,” Cap’n Slappy said, “but first we’d have to have something to toast with.”

“Of course, how silly of me. Excuse me just a moment.”

Stubing opened his cabin door and called, “Jones!”

The ensign entered and snapped a salute.

“Tell Isaac to bring the special rum. Then commence the next part of the operation.”

Slappy, Ol’ Chumbucket, George the Greek, and Leftenant Keeling exchanged glances, but said nothing. Sawbones Burgess apparently hadn’t noticed the comment, delighted as he was at the prospect of rum. They passed a quick look of agreement and the almost imperceptible nods of the head before Stubing turned back to them with a smile.

“So tell me how your brush with the Spanish went!”

Eyes all turned to Slappy, who took a deep breath before beginning. His natural inclination was to not trust any officer of the crown, even the ones he was related to. Especially the ones he was related to.

“Well, we met their fleet out in the strait, took one of their ships, sank a bunch more and got the hell out of there. That’s pretty much it. Kind of dull, really. Not much more to tell.”

“Oh, I think you’re being modest. There have never been fewer than 50 ships in the treasure fleet and you attacked them single-handedly, with just a single ship? It must have been terribly dangerous. There must be plenty of tall tales of swashbuckling adventure and heroics to report. Isn’t that what you pirates do? Sit around telling stories of your amazing exploits? Certainly 50 ships against one is a tale worth telling.”

Slappy just shrugged.

“All in a day’s work, really. Just another day at the office.”

“Oh, don’t forget Spencer and Lord Shiva,” Burgess blurted out.

“And who might that be?” Stubing asked, turning to the doctor, who missed the widened eyes and slight head nods of his crewmates.

“Young fella, used to be Slappy’s cabin boy, now he’s grown into quite a sailor and scallywag.”

“And this Lord Shiva you speak of? A foreign member of the crew?”

“Ship’s dog,” Ol’ Chumbucket interjected. “One of those mongrels that haunt the docks. Spencer took a liking to him. He used to leave turds all over the poopdeck, which is probably funny if you think about it. Attacked a Spanish officer and just about took his hand off. Sadly, he was lost in the fight, but at least there won’t be any more messy cleanup details. Right guys?”

The other pirates all nodded their heads vigorously, adding things like “Oh yes,” and “Quite a dog!” and “Shame about losing him,” while Burgess stared with surprise at them.

A look of pique crossed Stubing’s face and he turned as if to question the doctor further when the conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a small cart wheeled in by a black sailor in a pristine uniform. He saluted the captain, then turned smilingly to the pirates. Instead of saluting them, he snapped the fingers of both hands and pointed at them with his forefingers, pistol fashion.

“Can I get you fine gentlemen some rum?” he asked, his smile sparkling.

Rum, everyone agreed, was just the thing everyone wanted. Isaac poured copiously, emptying the first bottle with drinks for Slappy, George, Chumbucket, Burgess and Keeling.

“Sorry, captain,” he said to Stubing, I’ll have to get the second bottle for you.”

“No problem at all Isaac, our guests should come first.”

“None for me, thank you,” Keeling said, who was seated between Slappy and Ol’ Chumbucket. “You go ahead and take mine Captain Stubing. I never partake in spirituous liquors.”

“No, now, that can’t be right. You’re a pirate, and if there’s one thing the world knows about you pirates it’s that you drink rum.”

“No, I assure you. I never indulge. It dulls the senses and prevents me from enjoying the full flavor that real life has to offer.”

“That’s true,” Burgess said, already halfway through his tankard. “He’s a fighting demon, but when it comes to booze, he’s a pussy.”

“Ah, well you really should try this then. Smooth as silk, and enlivening without inebriating,” Stubing said liltingly. “Really, you should try it.” His voice took on a harder edge. “I insist.”

Keeling looked from Stubing to Slappy and back, then with a shrug, accepted his tankard and took a sip, trying to hide the look of wincing disapproval that crossed his face. Tasted like rum to him.

By now Isaac had filled Stubing’s mug from the second bottle and, giving a salute and a double finger-snap-point, backed the drink cart to a corner of the room, where he stood waiting.

“So gentlemen, I drink to the success of your mission, death to the Spanish, confusion to all other authorities and success to the Brotherhood.”

Startled expressions passed around the pirates. That was certainly not what they expected to hear from a man in a navy uniform – although Slappy noticed for the first time it was unlike any uniform he had ever seen on his brother – and his brother had risen to the rank of flag admiral.

The pirates all raised their glasses and drank, buying time while they wondered what was going on. Finally, Slappy spoke.

“Let me get this straight. You WANT the Brotherhood to succeed?”

“That’s not the typical attitude of the naval officers I’ve met,” Chumbucket threw in.

“Oh, most men in the navy lack foresight, they lack vision,” Stubing said. “Most officers in the English Navy are concerned only with their careers, how to rise until they can hoist their own pennant and then retire as Sir Fatbottom or Lord Rottencrotch. Careerists, imbeciles, unworthy of the rank, unaware of the possibilities of power.”

Slappy shook his head as he listened in surprise. It was too bad he’d already had the two tankards of rum in his own cabin, he thought, because this seemed to have gone straight to his brain. The room swam just a little. And – what was that? Did his foot feel wet? Slappy hoped he hadn’t lost control of his bladder. Under the circumstances that could be embarrassing. He glanced down at his lap and his crotch seemed dry. Looking back up caused his head to swim more.

“A fleet of war ships isn’t just something that looks grand for a regatta or to sail by the palace on the queen mother’s birthday,” Stubing continued, warming to his subject. “A naval force is about only one thing – power, and how you extend that power to accomplish your mission for whoever is strong enough and bold enough to use it! That’s what I have spent my career looking for and I’m glad to say I’ve finally found it.”

“What do you mean you’ve found it?” Chumbucket asked, finding it difficult to say what he meant. “You’re in the narvy - the ner - you’re a sailor in the navy. Your boss is the same kind of royal ra … a bloody broyal oaf – a king, just like all the other navies in the world.”

Chumbucket felt like he was looking at his host through the wrong end of a telescope. Stubing was still seated, but he appeared to be receding into the distance. He could see Stubing peering closely at him with a smile on his face.

“Oh, I am still nominally in the employ of the navy of England, but that’s only because I haven’t bothered to submit my resignation yet. I and several of my brother officers have found a new employer more to our liking. A few of your Brotherhood of the Coast ships have joined us as well, and several others have been dealt with.”

Stubing’s voice rose as he continued.

“No, England will find out about power and its application when the Home Office realizes it no longer controls its colonies in the New World. And the same with Spain and France. A power is rising in the West smart enough and bold enough to consolidate the power of the New World as a separate entity from the tired old world of Europe.”

George the Greek glanced over at Sawbones, who was already snoozing. He shook his own head. Maybe it was the stuffiness in the room, maybe it was the potency of the rum, but he’d never felt a drink hit him as quickly or as hard – and he’d been raised on ouzo. Something was wrong. He rose from his chair, reaching for the pistol in his belt. Isaac, from the corner where he’d watched the proceedings, casually stepped behind the pirate and kicked him in the knee. The pirate fell hard, striking his head on the table. Chumbucket and Slappy were trying to struggle to their feet but couldn’t seem to rise. Between them Keeling sat with his head sagging to his chest, a glassy look in his eyes.

“The Brotherhood is being offered the chance to take part in this brave new world.” Stubing’s voice sounded as if it was coming to him from a long way away. “Sadly, that offer will not be made to you or your crew of miscreants. The power for whom I work has very definite plans for you. I’m afraid I have to say I suspect they won’t be terribly pleasant, but we’ll save that for another day.”

Slappy slid to the floor, struggling to maintain consciousness, but he could tell it would be a losing battle. His head landed on Keeling’s empty tankard, sending stars exploding through his brain. The last thing he saw was Ol’ Chumbucket laying on the floor motionless except for his hands clenching and unclenching. Then they too were still, and Slappy’s last hold on the world was the voice of Stubing, now very far away, calling for guards to come clean up the mess on his floor.


Stubing was back on his quarterdeck now, using his spyglass to scan the pirate ship two cable lengths away. He saw his men go aboard, a small scuffle and some bodies flying over the side. A fusillade of shots was fired over the railing, then nothing. Moments later a single shot rang out, then all was quiet. The captain snapped his spyglass shut.

“Excellent. Let’s get under weigh.”

Down below in the cabin a detail was dragging the unconscious forms of Slappy, George and Chumbucket towards the door.

“Leave those two here,” the officer in charge said of Keeling and Sawbones. “Higgins, keep an eye on them, we’ll be back in a minute after we’ve got these below in the bilge.”

“They’re going to have some serious headaches tomorrow,” one of the sailors said.

“At least they’ll have heads. I’m not sure how long they’ll keep ‘em after we get to Havana.”

They dragged the prostrate pirates down the passageway, taking no heed for how hard or how often they struck their heads and limbs against obstructions.

They were below, chaining their captives in the bilge’s fetid darkness, and thus didn’t hear the cry or the shot or the crashing noise that brought Stubing rushing back to his cabin accompanied with a squad of formerly Royal Marines. Entering the cabin the smelled the acrid smoke of gunpowder and saw the body of Higgins, a gory hole now taking the place where the back of his head used to be. Sawbones Burgess was still unconscious, now lying near the window instead of propped in his chair, but Keeling was gone. The great rear window was a mess of shattered glass and broken mullions.

Looking through the ruined window, they saw a shape in the water, now about a hundred yards off, making toward the shore. Two of the guards leveled their muskets and fired, and more shots were heard from the poopdeck above them. The distant figure disappeared below the waves.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The Havana Caper - part 30 "Can Ye Swim?"

“That’s a pretty, pretty Princess.” Cementhands McCormack said admiringly as he tried to get some idea of what was going on aboard the English flagship.

“Aye!” Dogwatch Watts replied, “and there are many stories told of her romantic voyages!”

McCormack’s left eyebrow raised as he pondered whether or not to seek details of these romantic voyages or let the reputation of the British navy speak for itself.

Just then Benny could be heard huffing and puffing as he scampered up the steps to the quarterdeck.

“Cap’n McCormack! I’ve got that crab sammich ye ordered!” Benny held out a very expensive piece of china upon which rested a gorgeous sandwich stuffed with crab meat and dripping with mayonnaise and mustard. “I made it meself, Cap’n!” Benny added hopeful of some appreciative gesture.

“Cap’n?” Dogwatch began but was immediately hushed when the big man raised his hand – the sign given when the captain desires silence.

McCormack lifted the top piece of bread and wrinkled his nose.

“I thought I told you to have Black Butch make this for me. Did I not?”

Benny began to get nervous.

“Well, Mr. Butch was busy so I thought …”

“What is it I’m ALWAYS telling ye, Benny? Hmmm?” Now, both of McCormack’s eyebrows were raised like a headmaster asking a prodigal student a question from the previous day’s lesson.

But Benny immediately knew the answer. “Don’t think, Benny! Just obey!”

McCormack started to grin. “Well done, Benny. But why is there mustard on this sammich?”

“On account o’ Mr. Butch bein’ low on dill due to a special request for his cucumber and dill dipping sauce.”

McCormack smiled broadly. “Oh! That’s right! Tonight’s fondue night!”

An idea sprang from wherever ideas spring from in Benny’s body and his face immediately lit up.

“I can take this back and make another sammich for ye, Cap’n McCormack!”

McCormack quickly snatched the sandwich off the plate and took a large bite out of it. With a mouthful of bread, crab, mayonnaise and mustard he said, “No, thank you, Benny. You’ve caused enough confusion and mayhem for one morning. Now go below and move my things into the Cap’n’s cabin but keep an ear out for my call if we should see him returning and ye’ll need to move it back on the double. You got that?”

“Aye-aye! Cap’n McCormack, sir! It’s a pleasure serving you, sir!” With that, Benny turned around and scampered back to the galley to wash the dish.

Dogwatch remained silent until McCormack was about to take the last bite of his sandwich. Then he asked again, “Cap’n? Cap’n?!? What the hell, Cementhands?”

McCormack chewed on the last bite for about a minute, but lifted a finger to indicate that he would get to that question when the opportunity presented itself. Finally, he swallowed the bite, then dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a pristine white handkerchief he kept in his britches for just such a purpose.

“Ye see, Dogwatch, my boy, Benny – and all the other little Bennys of the world, hate a leadership vacuum. If it feels like no one is in charge they get all nervous and sweaty – ye don’t want Benny gettin’ more than his usual sweaty, now, do ye, Dogwatch?”

Dogwatch tried hard to follow Cementhand’s chain of thought, but when confronted with the question, there was only one answer. “No.”

“Then I suggest ye embrace the new paradigm – or at least the temporary one.”

Cementhands put the spy glass back to his eye and looked across the water at the HMS Princess. “Damn!” This oath was immediately followed with, “Benny, belay my move!”

He looked again. Several long boats were en route from the flagship back to The Festering Boil. As he scanned them carefully, he saw no sign of any of the officers so he called out, “Belay that belay, Benny! Continue my move!”

He immediately heard the unmistakable sounds of bumbling below decks.

“What the hell are they doin’?” McCormack muttered to himself.

As he watched, one long boat pulled away from the HMS Princess followed by another, then a third. All three of them packed with marines and all of those marines coming toward The Festering Boil.

Gabriel climbed the steps to the quarterdeck, walked up behind McCormack and tugged on his shirt. Even without looking, McCormack knew who was behind him.

“What it is ye wee squid?” the big man mumbled.

“Benny wants to know where you want him to put the picture of your mum.”

McCormack was far too distracted to concern himself with interior decorating issues. He searched the surroundings for escape routes.

“Boyo! How far would you say it is from here to that point of the island, yonder?”

Gabriel was used to McCormack’s impromptu gunnery lessons and gauging distance was always a part of that.

“I’d say about four hundred yards.” Gabriel always tried to present his answers in as confident a tone as possible.

“Aye, ye wee midget. Can ye swim that far?”

Gabriel’s face scrunched at the question and he choked back his indignation. “First of all, I’m not a ‘midget!’ Secondly. Hell yes, I can swim it! Sweet Neptune’s man nipples, McCormack, you taught me how to swim! You should know that you great sea cow!”

McCormack smiled. He may have taught the boy to swim, but his cursing skills were clearly vintage Slappy.

“Don’t curse. It’s unbecoming for midgets.”

The boy was about to protest but McCormack continued. “Look lad, if all hell breaks loose here when those marines come aboard, I want you to come running to me – do you understand?”

“But what about Cap’n Sla …” the boy began but he was immediately cut off by McCormack.

“Do you understand, boy? I don’t have time to explain! Tell me, do you understand or not!?”

Gabriel looked more stunned than hurt – but he looked a little hurt as well.

“Aye. I understand.”

McCormack breathed out a sigh. “Good midget. Now get below and tell Benny to hide my gold.”

“Aye-aye!” Gabriel scampered away.

Dogwatch gave the big man a hard look. “Don’t ya think you were a tad hard on the boy?”

“I don’t like marines.” McCormack answered matter-of-factly. “They shoot first and fail to ask questions later.”

A few minutes later, McCormack was welcoming those same marines aboard The Festering Boil. Ensign Jones ordered McCormack and Watts down from the quarterdeck as the marines encircled the rest of the crew on the main deck.

As they reached the top of the steps on the quarterdeck, McCormack whispered to Dogwatch, “Can you swim?”


With a slightly louder, more frustrated voice McCormack asked again, “Can you swim?”

Dogwatch turned and gave Cementhands a quizzical look, but as he did so, the big man hefted him into the air and threw him at two marines standing at the rail. The three of them went tumbling over the rail and into the water. McCormack then flew down the stairs as he saw Gabriel running toward him. Another marine at the rail raised his musket and pointed it toward the water – getting a bead on the now floundering Dogwatch Watts.

“Cannonball, lad! Cannonball!”

McCormack called to Gabriel who now leaped toward his mentor and as he did so, tucked himself tightly into a human ball. McCormack caught him by his britches and the back of his shirt and spun sharply like an athlete preparing to fling the hammer at a track and field event. He launched the lad, feet first, at the aiming marine and, true to form, Gabriel straightened out his body a moment before impact spearing the man in the back with his feet. The two of them joined the others in the warm waters below.

McCormack turned to continue the fight, but as he came out of his spin, he found three bayonets positioned perilously close to his throat.

“I was told by someone who knows you very well that you might be trouble.” Jack Jones sneered at the frozen McCormack. He brought his face as close as he dared to the big man’s face – then, with the confidence of a cobra ordered, “Shackle him.”

Three marines rushed over with ankle and wrist shackles and quickly secured Cementhands McCormack. “And the chain.” Jones added.

The marines now ran a thick chain between his legs and wrists and cinched it in such a way that made McCormack stoop as his hands were pulled closer to his feet. The chain was then padlocked and Jones slipped the key into his pocket.

“Shoot the pirate and the boy in the water.” He ordered coldly.

“But sir!” one of he marines protested, “That pirate is wrestling with one of our lads out there – we might shoot our own man. Besides, the boy – well, he’s just a boy!”

Jack Jones drew his pistol as he walked over to the questioning marine. Without comment and without so much as a blink, he shot the man in the head. He coldly began reloading his pistol. Black Butch, Wellington Peddicord, Salty Jim and Two Patch made movement toward Jones, but they were immediately confronted with menacing bayonets.

“You four.” Jones said as he glanced at four other marines along the rail. “Fire at once.”

By now, Dogwatch and Gabriel were close together and struggling with the three marines. Gabriel looked up to see the marines taking aim and, grabbing Dogwatch by the hair, pulled him under the water. Dogwatch, in turn, pulled a couple of the marines under with him.

Even under water, Gabriel could hear the pop of the gunfire and he saw two of the marines contort in pain.

On deck, McCormack was allowed to move to the rail to watch the execution. He saw the group go under and the marine on the surface take a mortal wound. A few moments passed and he saw the bodies of the two other marines float alongside their mate. The water filled with blood and became murkier by the moment.

One of the men in the firing squat puked over the edge of the ship – disgusted at the thought of slaughtering his own.


The marines quickly obeyed.


Another volley slapped the water around the corpses. Still, no sign of Dogwatch and Gabriel.


Again, the marines quickly reloaded their muskets.


Small white explosions of displaced water rained down on the same spot.

Four minutes had passed and still there was no sign of the pirate and the boy.

“Good shooting men. You punctured their lungs and they sank like stones.”

Just then, Strumpet the monkey could be heard screeching in the rigging. She had become upset when Gabriel went overboard, but now was in a fit from the shooting. Jones saw her and quickly drew his pistol and fired. The monkey evaporated in a haze of blood and fur.

Strumpet’s lifeless body hit the deck with a thud.

“Pirates and their pets.” Jones said with disgust. “Toss that vermin overboard.”

One of the marines moved to obey but Jones, who was already reloading his pistol stopped him.

“Not you!” he snapped, “Make one of them do it!”

Saucy Jenny stepped forward, tears welling up in her eyes as she scooped the small monkey’s body from the deck. The pirate crew snapped to attention as Jenny held Strumpet’s body over the rail. After a brief moment of silence, she let Strumpet fall into the sea.

Jones finished reloading his pistol and approached the chained McCormack. “I’ve always found it fascinating what you pirates get emotionally attached to; monkeys, children and …” scanning he big man from head to foot, “all manner of beasts.”

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