Thursday, February 15, 2007


The Havana Caper - Part 42 "The Cementhands of Karma!"

Firearms hadn’t been a source of fear for Cementhands McCormack since his famous charge on the French fort, Le Pantalon De la Soeur, when he managed to single-handedly defeat the entire garrison armed with only a serrated grapefruit spoon and breathtaking chutzpah.

But this wasn’t a mob of drunken Frenchmen who managed to blow up as many cannons as they were able to actually fire. This was a former British naval officer – trained in the use of weapons and tactics who had proven he had no compunction about killing unarmed men and monkeys.

McCormack slowly descended the steps toward the waiting Jones. Jones pointed the pistol in his right hand at the chair leg and fired. What had been a serviceable weapon was now nothing but a mass of splinters. Cementhands was undeterred and dropped the small piece he still held as Jones dropped his spent pistol and produced another one from his belt as he covered the descending pirate with the firearm in his left.

“Come and get it up close, big man! I want to put my pistol right in your gob and watch your head explode!” Jones snarled.

Behind his right shoulder he heard Slappy scuffling to his feet, the empty blunderbuss in his hands. He turned slightly and leveled his right pistol at the pirate captain while keeping his left pistol on Cementhands.

“Ah! Ah! Ah! Captain Slippery! Toss the blunderbuss away! I’m not getting clubbed from behind while executing your behemoth here!”

Slappy sighed the wistful sigh of a child who had been caught thinking of bashing his mother’s brains in with a garden shovel – then, with a grin in the direction of his friend, did exactly as he was told. He tossed the blunderbuss away – barrel first – up the stairwell toward McCormack who reached across his body with his right hand and plucked the missile from the air by the still warm barrel and immediately swung it with the full force of his large body.

He was too great a distance to brain Ensign Jones, but his backhanded swing crushed Jones’ left hand into the stone wall, destroying in one blow the pistol, the lock and stock of the blunderbuss as well as Jones left hand which was instantly turned into an unnatural twisting of broken bones and mutilated flesh.

The high-pitched shriek that erupted from Jack Jones (accompanied by the simultaneous re-soiling of his britches) was quickly drowned out by the sound of his pistol firing in the stairwell.

For a moment – everything was still.

Blood began to trickle down McCormack’s forehead. First a little, then quite a bit. The expression on his face remained the same – calm. Almost blissful.

Jones was too preoccupied with the twisted mess at the end of his wrist to notice, but the big man, though standing, seemed to be a long way away.

With the others behind him, only Slappy could see what was happening – and he didn’t like it.


“Welcome, Charles.”

The voice seemed familiar to Cementhands, but nobody had called him, “Charles” since he was nine years old.

“Do I know you?” McCormack asked.

“You should,” the man replied, “we’ve been sharing a body ever since you drank down that potion in the Incan village south of Maracaibo.”

“St. Swithin?” McCormack asked.

“Yes, my son.” He turned and began walking down the cobblestone street in a lovely seaside village that seemed to be pieced together from McCormack’s favorite places. The big man followed, taking in the view, but still rather confused.

“Is this what I think it is?” McCormack seemed nervous.

St. Swithin put his right index finger to his lips to silence the question as he guided McCormack down an alleyway toward a thicket of trees. When they reached the trees, McCormack could see a narrow trail leading into the forest.

“My travels with you are over, my son. Your path lies before you.” St. Swithin sounded as though he was speaking metaphorically, but there was, indeed, a path in front of McCormack.

“Alone?” For a moment, McCormack could hear his own child voice and felt, for the first time in years, a feeling that he could only imagine was fear.

St. Swithin smiled and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Not alone, my son. Never alone.”

McCormack looked up and saw Strumpet the monkey waiting for him on the path. She held out her hand in a very human-like way.

“So I get to go to hell with a monkey?” McCormack mused. But when he turned to see St. Swithin’s reaction, the saint was gone. “Well monkey,” McCormack grinned bravely, “let’s get on with this.”

He took the primate by the hand and the two of them headed down the forest path. As they moved through the woods, the seasons seemed to change – from summer to autumn. The reds, yellows and oranges of the leaves seemed to glow with inner sunlight. McCormack had never been keen on the woodlands, but this was the most beautiful forest he had ever seen – and the monkey made good company – at least, quiet company.

Before long, the path opened into a field teeming with flowers and lush grass. McCormack couldn’t be sure, but the colorful flowers appeared to be making noises – like a choir singing. Whatever apprehension McCormack had felt began falling away as he realized where he now was.

“Welcome to the Elysian Fields, Cementhands.”

A smile crossed the big man’s face as he recognized the voice behind him – although he had never heard it brimming with so much strength and confidence. He spun around and confirmed his assumption.


Sure enough, there was Benny looking young and vital. Suddenly, Cementhands McCormack felt a deep shame.

“I wasn’t able to avenge you, Benny. He … he … Bested me.”

Benny began to laugh.

“Stow it, mate! Revenge means nothing here. So many things born of anger and hate mean absolutely nothing here. But I have a surprise for you.”

McCormack looked his friend in the eye. Benny continued;

“You’re not done yet. In fact, in a moment, you’ll find yourself in the fight once again – not for revenge – but for karma.”

“Karma?” Cementhands had never heard the word.

“Aye, my friend. Ensign Jack Jones has done an awful lot of evil in the world, and you are the hand his karma has called out to balance it. Not for rage or hate – but because the scales must be balanced. Your work isn’t done. It’s time for you to go back.”

Cementhands looked around. He drank in the beauty of the place for a moment. “I kind of hate to leave.”

“You’ll be back – but not yet. In the meantime, I’m building a ship for you.”

McCormack was child-like in his excitement. “One with green sails? I’ve always wanted one with green sails!”

“The greenest.” Benny smiled.

“Forgive me, my friend,” McCormack began, “but you seem smarter somehow.”

Benny replied, “Well, I have had ninety-seven percent of the mysteries of the world opened up to me.”

McCormack laughed. “Only ninety-seven percent?”

“Aye,” Benny said in all earnestness. “I learned enough to know that you should leave some things unknown.” He paused as he thought. “There should always be a mystery.”

McCormack nodded.

“One more thing!” Benny could see that McCormack was fading so he had to make it simple. “Duck and pluck!”

“Duck and pluck?” McCormack’s face showed confusion even as it disappeared.

“Aye! Duck and pluck!” Benny called after him as Strumpet perched herself on his shoulder and waved goodbye.


Everything in the stairway had frozen – with the exception of the writhing Ensign Jack Jones who was still reeling after having his left hand smashed.

Cementhands McCormack’s face issued a river of blood from his hairline, but his eyes remained open, although his left eye moved from side to side independent of its mate. The barrel of the now-denuded blunderbuss remained firmly gripped in the big man’s right hand, but hung without offering defense, at his side. Apart from the moving eye, he seemed to be staring into eternity. His comrades remained still – not sure whether he would fall or fight.

Jones now made a move for the saber on his hip. Seeing this, Slappy lunged at him, but despite his pain, Jones was too nimble and avoided the captain’s charge. He countered with the butt-end of the hilt of his sword to Slappy’s already battered noggin. The pirate captain tumbled backwards down the next flight of stairs.

This sudden burst of action awoke the four transfixed pirates up the stairs who began a charge of their own, but they were frozen in their tracks when Jack Jones quickly pressed the blade of his saber against the throat of their statue-like friend.

“Not another step, you dogs!” Jones commanded – his eyes wild with rage and menace. “Stay where you are or I will be forced to do something drastic – LIKE THIS!”

On that remark, Jones pulled back his sword to strike a decapitating blow to McCormack’s neck. Tharp, George, Spencer and Keeling all seemed to reach forward to try to stop the inevitable, but they were too far away to be of any help. Jones threw his entire weight into the blow which seemed to move in tragic slow motion – as if this horrible moment might go on forever.

Suddenly, with the blade well on its way, the light in McCormack’s eyes rekindled and with cat-like quickness uncommon in a man so large, he dropped into a squatting position as the saber swooshed through the air above him and crashed into the stone wall on the other side.

“Duck and pluck!” the squatting giant called as he reached his big left hand up into the still-moist stain on Ensign Tharp’s britches, grabbled his unprotected dangly-man-bits and gave them a vice-like squeeze.

Jones’ soprano scream now reached such notes as would not appear on any piano keyboard. In fact, the pitch was nearly inaudible to the human ear, but outside the castle, a pack of dogs bayed mournfully in innocent empathy to what was clearly a cry of pain. The sound even roused Slappy back to semi-consciousness on the landing below.

Like a coyote in a trap, Jones pulled violently away feeling a distinct snap in his nether region. McCormack released his prey and again stood to face his foe.

This move emboldened his comrades on the stairs above, but he stopped them with two words that are sacred when pirates are in battle;

“He’s mine.”

Despite the mangling of two essential body parts, Jones still had his sword and McCormack was armed only with the thick barrel of the broken blunderbuss – plus he had been shot – not so much IN the head as ON it.

Jack Jones took an en garde’ stance and sucked up his pain. McCormack, likewise, took up the defensive posture with the thick, brass cylinder in his big hand.

With surprising fluidity, Jones launched his offensive. Each thrust and slash, however, was blocked with a hollow clang as McCormack managed to hold his opponent at bay. The fight spilled out of the stairwell into the stone corridor allowing the four witnesses to descend to the next landing and retrieve their captain. Once they were rejoined and Slappy was on his feet, the pirates stepped into the corridor to see how their friend was faring in the fight.

Suddenly, McCormack stumbled on a stone in the floor and began losing his footing. Jones smiled and moved quickly to skewer the big man while he was off balance. Panicked, Slappy tried to lunge forward to intervene, but George held him back; “Cementhands has claimed him, Cap’n! We cannot intervene.”

Jones couldn’t help but laugh as he drew back his saber and began plunging it toward McCormack’s liver – but just as suddenly as the big man had lost his footing, he moved the blunderbuss barrel to catch the tip of the sword in mid-thrust and used the barrel as a scabbard to sheath the blade. Then with a twist of his wrist he wrenched the sword from Jones’ grip and sent it clattering across the cobblestone floor.

Jones eyes widened as he realized the advantage was now lost. He tried to make a sprint toward his weapon, but McCormack’s big left hand now had a hold of the front of his shirt – he wasn’t going anywhere except where Cementhands wanted him to go – which was to hell.

McCormack swung Jones around and held him to the stone wall. He pushed upward so that Jones’ feet were lifted from the floor a few inches. Jones tried to flail himself free, but McCormack was having none of it. He brought the muzzle of the barrel around and held it to Jones’ sternum.

Cap’n Slappy and the other pirates gathered around as McCormack applied more and more pressure with the blunderbuss barrel to Jones’ chest. The ensign spit and struggled, but McCormack slowly pushed the brass barrel toward the wall.

Jones started his high-pitched scream, but he wasn’t able to inhale enough oxygen to sustain it. He flapped desperately against the wall – like a butterfly being pinned to a collector’s board. McCormack’s face showed no emotion – just the businesslike countenance of a man who had a job to do.

The cracking of Jones’ sternum could be heard echoing up and down the corridor. The spitting and struggling eased and his eyes bulged as he seemed to try to say something to his executioner. McCormack shook his head slowly and said,

“Benny wanted me to tell you, ‘Ain’t karma a bitch?’”

Whatever air remaining in Jones’ lungs was now expressed as his bowels and bladder released.

Seeing this, Slappy commented, “Again?!? The man must have had a freakin’ ten gallon bladder!”

“The stairway is going to be crawling with guards any moment! We’ll have to find another way out!” George advised.

“I know a way! Follow me!” Tharp started down the corridor.

McCormack was still pinning Jones’ corpse to the wall with the barrel of the blunderbuss. Slappy put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and said, “It’s time to go.”

“Right!” Replied McCormack as he released the body, which crumpled to the floor. “Let’s go.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Pirate Adventures now in book form!

The exploits of The Festering Boil and its colorful crew are now available in book form!

The daring adventures of Cap'n Slappy, Ol' Chumbucket, their crew and friends can make a handsome addition to your bookshelf. Or, look impressive sitting on the back of the toilet. Wherever you keep your favorite reading matter.

We took the first two complete adventures from this blog story and made them available at, the best print-on-demand service on the Web!

"The Diego Garcia Caper" is the first piece, an epic story that careens from the Caribbean to the coast of Africa to the middle of the Indian Ocean. Follow the adventures of Slappy, Ol' Chumbucket, Cementhands, Mad Sally, Sir Nigel, Dogwatch, Jezebel, George The Greek, the Drip and all the rest as the race for romance, riches and revenge!

Then continue the adventure in "The Sao Paolo Caper," as the crew of The Festering Boil seek gold and glory in Brazil, only to run into a dangerous roadblock – Cap'n Slappy's ex-wives!

Just click here to visit our Web site's book page and learn how to order.

And thanks for supporting the Ship's Log o' the Festering Boil!

Ol' Chumbucket

Friday, February 02, 2007


The Havana Caper – 41

Fanny raced down the hidden spiral staircase, her rear guarded by Tasha. The steps wound down the tower eight flights, and by the time Fanny arrived at the guardroom at the bottom she was dizzy from the rapid, circular descent. Throwing open the secret panel, she lurched into the room, which spun before her eyes.

Ensign Jack Jones was seated at the desk, facing the door into the room. This put his back to the panel from which Fanny exploded into the room. The resultant surprise caused him to leap from the chair, spilling his tea into his lap, which caused a rather unfortunate stain in the crotch of his silk breeches.

“What the hell … I mean, who goes there!” he shouted, then drew up short as he saw who it was and how agitated she was.

“Something’s wrong, there was shouting in the corridor outside Slappy’s room! Something’s wrong!” she said, reeling and barely able to stand upright.

Jones saw Fanny’s lack of balance and her inability to focus her eyes and misinterpreted them, assuming the lady he’d pledged his loyalty to had been overindulging in drink or drugs or both. It was, perhaps, an understandable mistake, but it was almost his last.

“Milady, perhaps you should sit down and I’ll get you something for your – condition,” he started to say.

Fanny’s eyes widened in anger. She knew exactly what he was suggesting, and uttered a savage hiss.


Her escort slid a stiletto from her garter and was across the room in a single movement. The point was under Jones’s chin before he had time to register that she had moved, and he found himself against the wall, the sharp blade drawing a single drop of blood.

“Don’t mock the lady,” was all the deadly figure said. Jones nodded, and an astute observer would have noticed that the tea stain at his crotch grew somewhat wider, although it would probably be rude to mention that so we won’t.

“Let him go,” Fanny said. “I think the ensign understands that I’m not to be questioned or condescended to, don’t you ensign.”

Jones again nodded his head and sighed in relief as the blade receded from his throat.

“Now, as I say, something’s wrong. I heard calling and the sound of a clash outside Slappy’s room. There are only two guards there, so I want another squad sent up to the tower now.”

“That will be difficult, milady,” Jones said. “Captain Stubing’s already taken all the spare troops below to handle the next batch of pirate killings. I have only two men at hand in the outer office.”

“Very well, I want one of them sent immediately to the dungeon to recall Stubing. Have the captain return here. Send the other to the barracks to rouse every man out of his stupor. One of those men should be sent to alert our ships, the rest will double all the guards. YOU, I want to go upstairs right now to personally make sure all is well. Send word back here to Stubing on the conditions, but under no circumstances are you to let my special prisoner out of your sight.”

“Very good madam. And where will you be?”

Fanny paused.

“Has the treasure from the Boil all been transferred to The Princess?” she asked.

“I believe that work party finished this afternoon,” Jones said, checking the papers on his desk. “The extra guards and sailors have now all taken posts on The Princess to guard it, and there’s only a skeleton crew on the pirate ship awaiting your decision on how you want to dispose of her.”

“Very good. For tonight, I’ll retire to the ship until we determine what, if anything, is going on. I want word sent to me there the moment you have everything under control.”

“I assure you, milady, all will be well – if it is not already. The plan proceeds apace, and once you’re finished with this pirate riffraff we can continue with our conquest. The various governors who have agreed to join us will make it official as soon as we’ve paid them from the hold of The Princess. Then let the decadent powers of Europe rattle their sabers. Since you now own England’s biggest armorer and her biggest ship building concern – Cutlass Brothers Cannons and Amalgamated Shipwrights – we can effectively prevent them from building a fleet big enough to challenge us. Soon every European map will identify this whole hemisphere with the words ‘Here there be Fanny’.”

Fanny paused to smile over the vision, then shook her head and reluctantly returned to the present.

“Of course they will. That’s the whole point. For now, I simply want you to follow orders or you’ll not live to see that happy day. Send those two men, then get upstairs, make sure Slappy is still secure, and stay there until Stubing sends you for. I’m off to The Princess. Tasha?”

The assassin gave Jones one more icy stare, then turned and followed her mistress out through the office doorway, down through the main hall and out the great arched doorway of Morro Castle.

Up in the tower room, Slappy, Keeling, George, Spencer and Cementhands were turning to leave. Keeling had already taken the cutlass of one of the guards they’d overcome, and the rest armed themselves with the legs of the ruined chair that had recently served as Slappy’s last line of defense. Then they turned and walked out the door.

And directly into the barrel of a blunderbuss held by the second guard, who had come to and armed himself. Ten hands shot into the air.

“All right, everybody just hold it and step back into the room,” he said. “Captain, you step over to the right, and the rest of you face the far wall.”

The pirates all cast a glance over at the form of Cementhands, but he continued to smile his beatific smile and gave a very small, almost imperceptible shake of his gigantic head. Apparently the possessing saint was still in residence, but he had no plan to act just yet. The pirates all backed into the room and separated as they’d been ordered, with Slappy on one side of the room and his rescuers facing the wall on the other.

That was a bad idea, Slappy thought to himself. The virtue of a blunderbuss is that it can take out a clot of men in one blast. Separating them meant if they both went for the guard, he could only get one group.

All they had to do was decide who should get shot. Slappy tensed himself, preparing to spring.

Most of the Boil’s crew was also departing the castle, but through a very different opening than the grand arched passage Fanny was taking. Rather than trying their luck at any of the doorways that might be guarded, they had gone down a level and found the dead gate, the small postern overlooking the harbor through which their executed shipmate Benny had been ignominiously dropped into the water, weighted down with a couple of large stones.

The gate opened about 50 feet over the water. A nearby storeroom yielded a couple of coils of stout rope, and the pirates were lowering themselves down the face of the castle two at a time. At the base of the descent they gathered on the seawall, while Ol’ Chumbucket and Dogwatch scouted ahead to find the ship.

“She’s still tied up there,” Dogwatch said, pointing to the Boil moored to the seawall. “Stubing’s ship had been tied up right alongside, but she seems to have moved off. That looks like her out in the harbor.”

‘I see one, no two watchmen. There’s got to be more, unless – no, that’s probably why the Princess has moved off. They’ve already moved the treasure,” Chumbucket said. “Damn. Alright. Go back and bring the crew along and meet me here. I’ll figure out how we’re going to get aboard.”

Dogwatch ran back towards the castle, while Chumbucket crept closer. He was within a stone’s throw of the ship when he heard a commotion and saw a pair of torches moving down from the castle toward the waterfront. He ducked deeper into the shadows to watch.

Two armed men carrying torches were leading a pair of cloaked figures past the Boil to a small pier farther along the seawall. As Chumbucket watch, they paused in front of the pirate ship.

“I still can’t make up my mind,” he heard a voice he recognized as Fanny’s say. “A garbage scow? A floating bordello?”

The other figure said something in a low voice Chumbucket couldn’t make out, but it brought a laugh from Fanny.

“Yes, perhaps a livestock carrier. Goats and cows crapping all over Slappy’s precious ship. Well, I’ll think on it. There’s still plenty of time.”

The other voice said something again, and Fanny nodded in agreement.

“Yes Tasha, yes. We’d best move along. Let’s get out to The Princess while Stubing and Jones take care of whatever that little flap is in the castle.”

They moved off to a short pier where they boarded a longboat that pulled off for The Princess. Chumbucket inched closer to the ship. The guard at the stern was dressed as a royal marine, one of the sailors from Stubing’s ship, apparently. Amidships there was a man in the colors and pointed helmet of Spain. There wasn’t a sign of anyone else, although there may have been more men below decks. The pirate retreated back to the meeting place, where the crew of pirates was now gathered.

“It looks like a mixed bag guarding the ship – English and Spanish – and not many of them. That could work for us, if they don’t speak the same language. We’re going o break into three groups. I’ll take one to circle around to the stern. Dogwatch, your group will go to the bowlines. Tharp, you take a … where’s Tharp?

The pirates all looked around. The ensign was nowhere to be seen. Dogwatch said he hadn’t noticed him at the gathering place, though he hadn’t been looking specifically for him, and no one could remember rappelling down from the castle with him.

“Goddamn it!” Ol’ Chumbucket snarled. “We don’t have time to go back and look for him. Goddamn it! Butch, you take five to the boarding plank. Wait for my signal.”

Black Butch, the ship's cook, nodded in agreeement.

The pirates quickly ran over what each group would do, then moved out.

Up in the castle, the guard kept a wary watch on his prisoners.

“I don’t know where you gents thought you were going, and I don’t know how you got out from below, but the lady would be very unhappy to lose you. And I think she’ll be pretty pleased to see I’ve captured the lot of you. There’ll be a little somethin’ in it fer me, and that’s a fact.”

“Oh, she was done with me,” Slappy said. “Just before she left she told me to run along and …” the captain’s face twisted in surprise. “What the hell is that behind you!”

“Aw, I’m not so stupid as all that,” the guard said with a grin. “You just turn your face to the wall and we’ll all wait here for the next watch. Ya hear me, ya git? Turn around!”

“No reason to get rude,” Keeling said, turning from the wall to face their captor. “A simple request will… Omigod! What’s that!!” he shouted, pointing over the soldier’s shoulder.

“Now look. let’s knock off the games and get back to …” It was unclear what the guard wanted them to get back to, because at that moment his voice caught off in a gurgle and blood poured down the front of his uniform. He toppled to the floor, his throat cleanly severed by the long knife Ensign Tharp had been carrying. The interloper wiped the blood from his hand on the back of his victim’s coat, looked up and said, “C’mon then. The ship won’t wait all night.”

No one had time to argue or express any shock or surprise. They rushed to the door, Slappy pausing to pick up the man’s blunderbuss, and they started down the stairs.

It took Chumbucket’s group ten minutes to slip around through the waterfront, and they now approached The Festering Boil from the rear. Moving quietly and keeping to the shadows, they pressed against the wall some twenty feet from the stern lines.

Ol’ Chumbucket stepped out closer to the ship and gave the signal, a low whistle and the call sign: “¡Hola! ¡Hombre Británico del marinero!”

Led by Cap’n Slappy, the group of pirates hurried down the main stairs. At first they crept slowly and quietly, but emboldened when they failed to find anyone to challenge them, they began to hurry.

Armed with the blunderbuss, Slappy took the lead. Trotting down a flight of a dozen steps to another deserted landing, he turned and without pause started down the next flight of steps.

Only to go sprawling on his face, the blunderbuss flying from his hands, as he tripped over the outstretched leg of Ensign Jack Jones. The blunderbuss hit the floor at the bottom of the steps and went off with a roar, embedding a fistful of grapeshot into the wall directly above where Slappy had tumbled to stop.

“Well, well, well, it looks as if her ladyship was right. There was something afoot,” Jones said. “So happy that I was able to stick my own foot in just in time.”

The other pirates had stopped just above the landing, faced with two pistols held by the ensign. Slappy woozily pulled himself into a sitting position, thinking to himself that, what with one thing and another, this hadn’t been a good day for his head. Or any other part of him, now that he considered it.

“Jones, you goat buggering turd,” Slappy muttered. “Nice pants. Having a little trouble with your bladder?”

Jones glanced down at the stain on his pants and scowled.

“Never mind my pants!” he snapped. “Slappy, you’re heading right back up to your tower. And you,” he pointed to Keeling, McCormack, George and Spencer, “Three of you are going to rejoin your friends in the dungeon after watching me shoot your friends right in the heads. Let’s see, perhaps the young one, and you, you big oaf. Maybe you’re ready to join your stupid friend, the one we were entertained by earlier today. We’ll let you be the first to go out the dead gate and join him.”

The figure of the giant pirate took a step forward.

“Swithin?” Keeling asked in a low voice.

“No, it’s me,” Cementhands said. “The saint checked out for a while. But before he left he told me he was giving me the pleasure of taking care of this guy on my own.”

“Stop right there,” Jones said, raising his pistol and his voice. “Guards! On the double! Guards to the west staircase!”

“Oh calm down boy. It’s just you and me, and you’ve got two pistols and a sword. All I’ve got is this chair leg – and a powerful hate for you.”

Cementhands McCormack took another step down towards Jones.

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