Monday, November 19, 2007


To our readers

In case it wasn't clear (and we thought it was) Installment 49 was the last chapter of "The Havana Caper," with the crew of The Festering Boil sailing into the sunset on the quest for more glory and adventure – or at least more rum.

But don't fret! That doesn't mean the story is over! Oh no. The Havana Caper will soon (like in about a week) be available as a book from our Web site, the fourth in the growing saga of The Festering Boil.

And we'll be starting a new adventure soon. This whole thing started as a writing exercise, and it's not like we've learned all there is to learn about THAT. Oh no. But we're more clear about what we want to get out of it, so before we commence the new Caper, we want to plan just a little bit. We'll be back before Christmas with a new adventure of Cap'n Slappy, Ol' Chumbucket, Sawbones Burgess, Dogwatch and all the other denizens of that legendary pirate crew. Until then, have a happy Thanksgiving and prepare for more swashbuckling – coming soon!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The Havana Caper - Part 49 "Still Waters"

“So, let me get this straight ...” Doc Burgess was trying to brush the fog of confusion from his mind and our story line. “ … young Tharp was your nephew and the cousin to our own Dogwatch Watts, right?”

“Wrong.” George the Greek chimed in. “Young Tharp and Dogwatch are brothers. And since young Tharp is now aboard his father’s ship, no doubt putting in a good word for Cheesey and the other marines and a bad word in for the Cap’n here, we can only assume that the next time he sees us, he’ll be in a less than cordial mood.”

“No doubt.” Ol’ Chumbucket agreed. “But back to the issue at hand. They boys have different mothers. Correct?”

“I don’t see what difference any of this makes.” Slappy tried to change the subject. “We’ve just set England and Spain back at war and that can only be good for business.”

“So pretty boy here, is Fanny’s issue of tissue?” McCormack gestured at Dogwatch with his thumb. He was much more interested in the family drama than any geopolitical machinations.

“What!?!” Dogwatch was visible disconcerted.

“No.” Lieutenant Keeling had been drawing a genogram – a sort of family tree in bracket form. “As you can clearly see, our Dogwatch was the love-child of the admiral and a woman named Victoria.”

“That sounds like a queen’s name!” Spencer chimed in as if he’d been invited.

“Maybe in the crazy science fiction future!” Red Molly added a woman’s voice to the proceedings. “But for now, Elizabeth is queen … or is it James?”

There was, at once, great hullabaloo about who was monarch of what and whether or not there was even such a thing as Queen James. The gathering began taking on carnival proportions and Slappy felt the need to bring it all to a head.

“LOOK!” he bellowed. “Young Tharp is the Tharp heir and our Dogwatch is the admiral’s surprise bastard child from a tragically mismatched but loving relationship he had in his youth and about whom he had no prior knowledge.”

“So, that makes you his uncle.” Wellington Peddicord interjected matter-of-factly.

Slappy sighed heavily and shot an exhausted glance at Peddicord because he had not only cut to the chase but verbalized the part that would now have to be addressed.

“Shall I call you, ‘Uncle Mortimer,’ Cap’n?” Dogwatch asked innocently enough.

(For a moment, Slappy’s boiling blood was so completely pressurized that it nearly shot through his pores – like a nightmarish colander of gore – and he nearly fired back, “CALL ME MORTIMER AND DIE!” But he remembered what he’d learned in his anger management class. He took a deep breath and had nearly calmed himself when he was suddenly goaded by his pal, Ol’ Chumbucket.)

“Oh, yes! Let’s all call you, ‘Uncle Mortimer’ from now on!”

“I want to call you, ‘Daddy!’” Jenny joined in the ripping good fun.

“Et tu, Jenny?” Slappy looked so stricken she nearly felt badly – but he soon started laughing and all was forgiven. “The answer is, “NO, DAMMIT” to all of you.” Then, with a flirtatious wink toward Jenny – “Except you.” Then, to break the sexual tension he turned to Dogwatch – “And you, nephew, may call me ‘Uncle Slappy’ never, ‘Uncle – the M word’ Calling me ‘Uncle – the M word is like saying, ‘Please kill me without mercy right now!’” Then Slappy thought about it for a moment and added, “But not when we’re on the ship! On board this ship I am and always will be ‘Cap’n Slappy’ until I get voted out in our fair and democratic process!”

A shout of “Huzzah-hippity-do-dah!” rang upwards from the deck of The Festering Boil.

The crowd began to disperse leaving only Cap’n Slappy, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cementhands McCormack strolling toward the bow of the ship which sat in the same fetid waters around which she had been surrounded for the last several days.

“What day is this?” Slappy asked.

Ol’ Chumbucket knew that he wasn’t asking which day of the week it was or the calendar date – the only question on anyone’s mind was, “When will we get moving again?”

“Day six.”

“Dammit!” Slappy said, scrunching up his face as he breathed in the stinking air he’d been breathing for nearly a week.

At sea, the ocean is your toilet and theirs hadn’t been flushed in some time. The usual course is simply to sail away from your personal sewage leaving it to break up in the current or be swallowed by some sort of shit-swallowing whale or something – but here they sat – wallowing in their own filth and none-too-happy about it.

As if on cue, young Gabriel came over and climbed up onto the rail just a few feet away and, facing the sea, opened his breeches and began to pass water. He stood, arms akimbo, as a full stream of urine jettisoned itself into the stagnant morass below.

Slappy rolled his eyes but let the call of nature pass as he changed the subject to the weather situation – or more correctly, the current lack of a weather situation. He had no sooner made mention of an interesting cloud formation than his young cabin boy pivoted in place turning his back to the briny deep, dropped his trousers and, taking a hold of a nearby rope ladder, assumed a squatting position with his hind quarters poised for action as far over the edge of the ship as he could get.

“Really?!” Slappy’s question was also a statement and the boy, mid bowel movement, looked from side to side to see what or who the captain was dithering about or to. Seeing nobody in his area, he responded as best he could.

“Why don’t you make a wood cut? It’ll last longer!” The boy was pleased with the sauciness of his reply but perplexed as to why the pinching of this particular loaf was of such interest to the captain and his brain trust. But his curiosity about their concern was quickly lost in the sense of self satisfaction with the zinger he’d just invented and began imagining other circumstances in which he could repeat it. This flight of fancy was broken when Cap’n Slappy simply wouldn’t let it go.

“Great Neptune’s dangling salty testicles! Must you do that here?” Again, Slappy made the mistake of using a question with a child when a directive was called for.

“Where do you suggest I do this?” Gabriel was rightfully confused. This was a popular spot for the evacuation of the bowels – Hell! He’d seen Slappy dump a load from this very spot hundreds of times. Besides, he was mid-movement and not about to shut down operations and move them now.

“Why don’t you poop off the poop deck?” Ol’ Chumbucket offered helpfully – gesturing to the back of the ship.

“There’s ladies on the poop deck!” the boy argued.

“Pirate ladies!” McCormack argued. “They’ve seen men poop off the side of the ship before!”

“Not me!” Gabriel declared with a grunt as he passed a rather large chunk. Slappy, Chumbucket and Cementhands winced at first, then nodded approvingly. The boy continued, “I’m a shy pooper!”

Satisfied that he had taken care of business, Gabriel pulled a crumpled piece of paper from a pocket in his shirt and proceeded to wipe his ass with it. Slappy recognized the paper immediately.

“Is that from my memoir?” Slappy’s brows raised and his eyes were wide with anticipation of the answer.

“What if I said, ‘yes.’?” The boy asked.

“Then I would ask, ‘Which chapter?’!”

“What if I said, ‘Chapter Six!’?”

Slappy thought for a moment – then he nodded approvingly. “Then I would say, “Okay. That’s fine.’”

“Chapter Six.”

“Okay, that‘s fine.”

The boy finished his paper work and returned below deck.

The three stared up at the flaccid sails. Slappy sighed heavily and for a moment, wished he could sigh hard enough to bend those sails and move the ship.

He looked at McCormack. “Can’t you do something about this?”

“What can I do?” McCormack replied uncomfortably. He was afraid Slappy had work for him and he was not in the mood for labor.

“Can’t you work some of that St. Swithin mo-jo or ju-ju or whatever it is you do that makes weather stuff happen?”

“You mean perform a miracle.” Ol’ Chumbucket corrected the captain’s magical word vocabulary. “That IS something saints do.”

“See?” Slappy pointed at Ol’ Chumbucket as if to say, “I told you so!” but he had no sooner began to taunt when Ol’ Chumbucket quickly pointed out that Cementhands was not a saint himself – but rather, was simply the conduit for a saint whilst said saint had possession of his body. He went on to point out that Skeptical Pirate Magazine had a recent article which explained how superstitious pirates often attributed natural phenomena to a wide variety of extra-natural manifestations up to and including “beatific possession.”

Slappy blinked his eyes several times trying to take in the meaning of Ol’ Chumbucket’s observation.

“So, you’re telling me he can’t control the winds and get us the hell out of here?”

“Yup.” Chumbucket replied crisply.

Slappy turned to McCormack, “So just what the hell good are you?!?”

Before Cementhands could defend his existence, Dogwatch came running up. “Uncle Slappy! Uncle Slappy!”

The captain shot him a death glance whose meaning was immediately understood.

“I mean, Cap’n Slappy! Cap’n Slappy!”

“What is it, nephew?” Slappy smiled.

“I’ve been studying the charts and it appears to me that there’s a major current three hundred yards off the starboard bow!” Dogwatch pointed to the spot in the chart – and Slappy double checked their position.

“The lad is right! Give yourself an extra piece of Granny McCafferty’s rhubarb pie at our next family reunion!”

While Dogwatch had never been to a family reunion, much less tasted Granny McCafferty’s rhubarb pie, he figured this all had to be good. Cap’n Slappy was once again infused with energy.

“Well, ye may be useless in the weather conjuring saint department, but you can still lead a long boat crew, can’t ye?”

“That just seems like a lot of work to me.” McCormack argued. “Why don’t we just catch the next wind and sail over to the current?

“By Poseidon’s Barnacled Bottom!” Slappy roared, “Aren’t you sick of this stinking swamp yet? How can you even – …”

Just then, a stiff breeze lifted Slappy’s hat from his head and tossed it overboard.

“Dammit!” he called out as he chased after it and watched it land in the thick ooze that encompassed the ship – then, like the man who was slow to realize he’d just set his beard on fire – Slappy spun around and saw the wind billowing the sails.

“It’s a miracle! Saint Cementhands be praised!”

Ol’ Chumbucket shook his head and gave McCormack a look of stubborn incredulity.

“I think Saint Cementhands deserves an extra ration of grog every day for a month. Don’t you?” McCormack said as if he was renegotiating a contract with Slappy.

“Whatever you want – just keep it coming!” Slappy rushed to the figurehead of the ship and leaned out over the front. The wind blew his hair and beard from behind – they were really moving now.

“Set a course for that current, Mr. Dogwatch, if you please!” Slappy called out to his nephew.

“Aye-aye, Cap’n!” Dogwatch headed back toward the wheel on the double.

“Where to now, captain?” Ol’ Chumbucket asked – still smirking at Cementhands who wore an unmistakably cheeky grin.

“Wherever the winds and the current take us – that’s where our next adventure will be.”

“You know,” Ol’ Chumbucket couldn’t hold back any more. “Cementhands just watched the clouds above moving toward the ship and knew the winds wouldn’t be far behind – there’s no great mystery here.”

McCormack offered only a look of feigned offence.

“I know.” Slappy smiled at his friends. “But I have always been fond of a good mystery – and perhaps a miracle or two.”

The three pirates stood looking forward as The Festering Boil picked up speed and eased herself into the current as the sun kissed the ocean on the western horizon.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


The Havana Caper – 48

First, a note of apology. It's been three months since we last sent word about the doings on The Festering Boil. Far too long. We had a hell of a good Talk Like a Pirate Day there, of course, and a few other things keeping us busy. We'll have a very big announcement soon – very big. In the meantime, here's the penultimate installment of "The Havana Caper," and we hope to have the final chapter ready very soon. Enjoy.


“What have you done to my son?” Admiral Tharp snapped.

“What ever are you talking about?” Cap’n Slappy asked, eyes innocently wide. “I haven’t done anything to your son. Oh, well, yes, I did save his life a couple of times, engage his help in defeating a couple of plots against the crown, and generally bring him back to civilization after he was trapped in the jungles of South America – as you asked me too back in the Indian Ocean. I promised I would, promised on our mother’s grave.”

“Our mother’s not dead and you know it,” Tharp retorted.

“Well, she still has a grave, that plot next to your dad’s in …”

“OUR father,” Tharp snarled. “There is no reason to impugn our mother’s honor with that ridiculous story about …”

“About my claim to the Irish throne?”

“Just stop. Just stop for a moment. Quiet.”

The admiral paused, lowering his head into his hands and massaging his temples. From the other side of the desk, Slappy could see the admiral’s pulse pounding in his temple at about 130 beats per minute. In truth, Tharp was a lot more than annoyed, and only his fabled “stiff upper lip” kept him from showing it.

The day had started with tension as his fleet approached Havana, under orders to dispose of the threat to the old order that was rising in the New World. It was an assignment he’d fought for despite the peculiar political problems it contained, because he knew his son was missing somewhere in the Caribbean. As his squadron approached, sails were spotted in what appeared to be a chase, so his ships veered to meet the threat. He had seen the ships running hard, seen the last one in line plow into the reef, seen it spill what appeared to be gold into the boiling spray. Then he’d watched the smaller ship sink. It was only then that he realized the last ship left afloat was the notorious The Festering Boil. His heart had gone into his throat.

Then, as the marines he sent over began to report back from the pirate ship, he became more and more sick. The news that his son had been found and was alive on Slappy’s ship was good, but pretty much everything else was bad. To learn that Fanny was back and had been behind the plot was bad. Learning that Stubing had led a treasonous revolt of several of His Majesty’s ships was bad, as was learning of the apparent treason of several companies of Royal Marines. The fact that the threat had been put down without his having to lift a finger – although he’d make certain he got the credit for it, of course– was hardly enough to offset the knowledge that such a widespread plot had happened at all. Just thinking of it made Tharp sick to his stomach.

But the worst part was the reunion between father and son.

The Tharps were not a warm, cuddly family. In a family saga going back to the Norman Conquest, the Tharps had a long tradition of service to authority, proper behavior and perfect manners. There were no unseemly displays of emotion, no inappropriate behavior or over familiarity. With the exception of the occasional black sheep – such as Slappy – who seemed to crop up every generation or so, the Tharp story was one of duty, remembering one’s place and that stiff upper lip.

So Admiral Tharp had not expected a tearful reunion with his son, had not expected the two to joyfully throw themselves into each other’s arm, any of that. And he’d been right, as far as that went. But neither had it been the dignified, almost formal affair he’d been expecting when his son reported to his cabin.

“Hi pop! Is there anything to drink on this tub?” Bulwer Mandrake Pondicherry Tharp had said carelessly as he had thrown himself into the chair across the desk from his father. Admiral Tharp had just stared frostily at him.

“Boy, that whole Fanny thing was just crazy, wasn’t it?” the younger Tharp had gone on, oblivious to his father’s growing discomfort. “She almost pulled it off, too. And that Stubing guy, what a dick! How’d a guy like him ever get to be a captain in the navy? But anyway, you’ve probably heard most of what’s been going on out here. How’s it been with you? How’s mom? If she IS my mom – you’d never believe the story Fanny had to tell.”

The admiral’s lips had begun moving, pursing and stretching as if he were speaking, but no sound came out.

“And what about that drink … never mind, I’ll get it,” the younger Tharp continued, spying the decanter on the sideboard. He hopped up, snagged the bottle and threw himself back into the chair, throwing his leg up over the arm. He took a long pull from the bottle of Admiral Tharp’s best brandy, then cocked an eye at his father and tilted the neck of the bottle toward him.

“You?” he offered. The admiral’s jaw sagged. “No? Fine.” The lieutenant shrugged then took another long pull. The only advantage the admiral could see was that the silence gave him a moment to collect himself. He forced himself to stop counting he bobs of his son’s Adam’s apple as the younger man drank, Tharp found his feet.

“Now see here,” he managed to get out. “I am delighted to see you well and whole, of course, and I realize that circumstances have thrown you into most trying circumstances with the most disreputable of company …”

“Including family members you never even hinted at,” the younger man said. His tone wasn’t accusing, just matter of fact, but the admiral felt accused anyway.

“Yes, well, my brother, Mortimer, was never …”

“Mortimer!!?!” Lieutenant Tharp said with a gasp, sitting up sharply and spewing a mouth full of brandy all over the tapestry hanging on the cabin wall. He grinned “MORTIMER!!! What the fuck! I thought his name was Slappy!”

“As if your grandfather would have saddled his offspring with such a vulgar appellation,” the admiral said. The chance to show condescending scorn put him back on more familiar footing. “Mortimer was named for your great great uncle, who had been a member of the king’s equerry, but the example did him little good. He was always an odd one, a rebel, a scoundrel, a …”

“A pirate,” young Tharp said.

“Well, yes, after he ran off we’d heard he had gone to sea. But back when I sailed with Admiral Keeling …”

“Keeling?” Tharp asked. “Could he be related to the Keeling who’s in charge of discipline on The Festering Boil?”

“Well I don’t see how. Admiral Keeling was a fine man who disappeared, washed overboard, during a storm 35 years ago in these very waters. There’s a legend about how his valet, Midshipman McCormack, had tried to rescue him in a longboat but they’d both been lost and were never heard from again. Neither man had any issue, according to the records. In fact, it was by saving the ship when all seemed lost that I first earned my promotion to captain and started on the road that led me to this position. Much as you have now begun building a record for accomplishment that will help in your rise, to the credit of the Tharp family history.”

“Yeah, it would, pop, if I planned to go back.”

“What do you mean? What are you saying?”

“I’m not sayin anything, haven’t made up my mind. But what if I decided to stay out here in the Caribbean for a while? The weather’s better than England, the women more amenable – as apparently Admiral Keeling and Midshipman McCormack discovered. And it would give me a chance to get to know my brother.”

Lieutenant Tharp watched his father’s reaction closely. If he’d shown guilt, or even shock, that would have told the younger man everything he’d needed to know, and he would have chucked the whole family tradition aside and, as he’d been thinking of it, “become a Slappy.” But his father’s whole manner revealed total confusion. So the younger man knew that, no matter what, his father hadn’t been lying to him about that all these years. So maybe he would go back to England; it seemed his father might be worth getting to know.

“Brother? What are you talking about? Are you suggesting … what?”

Bulwer Mandrake Pondicherry Tharp put the bottle down, put both feet on the floor and leaned toward his father.

“We need to talk,” he said, not unkindly.

Two hours later, Admiral Tharp looked over the desk to where his brother now sat and finished explaining what had happened.

“You must believe I never knew about the boy,” Tharp said. “The story about Fanny being his mother is all balderdash, of course. I never … well, I never did. Not then. Even then you could see that though she might be a scullery maid, she was really something predatory, something best kept at arm’s length. But she knew about me and Victoria, and obviously saved that information all these years until it could cause the most pain. I’d loved Victoria and was going to marry her and to hell with what the family said.” He gave an ironic grin. “Perhaps if I had, our positions would be reversed. You’d be the lord of the manor, the admiral, and I’d be the black sheep pirate with the absurd alias. All I knew was she disappeared one day and I never could find her. She must have left the instant she realized she was with child. And I never knew …”

The admiral’s voice trailed off. Slappy hated seeing his brother like this. It was only fun to see the admiral upset if he had been the one to cause it.

“Look, for what it’s worth Dogwatch is a good kid, turning into a fine sailor. And – I didn’t even think of this – I guess he must be my nephew. Damn. That seems weird, doesn’t it?”

“So what should I do, Mortimer?”

“First, stop calling me Mortimer, at least as long as you refuse to hand over the title and estates and everything. No? Alright then. How the hell should I know what you should do? All I know is what I’m going to do. Go diving at the wreck of Fanny’s ship to recover that gold. I stole it fair and square, and I’m damned if I’m going to let it get away from me now.”

“I’m sorry brother, but that’s one thing I can’t let you do.”

“I’d like to see you stop me.”

“I already HAVE stopped you, you poltroon. That gold belongs to the king of Spain and I …”

”The king of Spain? What the hell do you care about the king of Spain? He’s Spanish!!! All the more reason to let us at it, before the Spanish can start recovery operations.”

“Things have changed,” Tharp said, grimly. “The threat from Fanny has caused London, Paris and Madrid to reevaluate our hostilities. You might have noticed that three of the ships of this squadron are Spanish and another is French. This is a joint operation to put down the common threat, and while neither of us completely trusts the other, it has gone well so far and no doubt thanks to you, our bloodless re-conquest of Havana will lead to further lessening of tensions. I’m afraid there soon will be no room for private operators such as yourself. Statecraft, diplomacy and negotiation are destined to replace war and plundering in the international arena.”

“That’s unnatural,” said Slappy.

“I’m afraid it’s what’s coming, and the fact that this joint expedition worked is just another nail in the coffin of piracy. In fact …” the admiral coughed apologetically, “… I’m under orders to arrest any members of the Brotherhood I find, including you. Ships that worked with the government are exempt for now, but renegade crews such as yours, I’m afraid, have no place in the world as it’s becoming.”

“What? You’re sayin’ you’re here to arrest me?”

“No, you know I can’t do that, it would kill mother, but …” here Tharp paused, looking very uncomfortable. “I’m afraid my orders are very specific. Any such ship not found working with the government is to be seized and her crew detained for later disposition. I’m sorry. It’s already being done.”

“Now just wait a second, you cockroach, if you think …” Slappy stopped, and a smile spread across his face. “Wait …”

Tharp paused, wondering what harebrained idea his brother was hatching now.

“Okay,” Slappy continued, “if we’re pirates, you’ve got to seize my ship – let me rephrase that, you’ve got to try to seize my ship. But if we were all officially authorized and such, you’d let us sail into this brave new world in which Spaniard and Englishman and Froggie are all talk and no fight, is that it?”

“Yes, but you and I know … Mortimer! What the hell are you doing?”

Slappy’s manners had never been the best, especially when it as just the two of them in his brother’s cabin, but now he was pulling off his boot, revealing his malodorous striped sock, the big toe poking through the hole. Slappy thrust his arm down the boot and was rooting around the bottom of the boot as if a gold nugget were caught down there. Finally, with a smile of satisfaction, he withdrew his hand and triumphantly flourished a piece of soggy paper, thrusting it under the admiral’s nose. The admiral recoiled at the smell.

“If you open this, you’ll see it’s a king’s letter of marque, all properly signed and executed by one of the king’s agents – at least we had no reason not to think that’s what he was at the time he signed it – not only authorizing the activities of The Festering Boil but actually ordering us into these waters. It also served very nicely as a temporary patch for the hole in my boot.”

Slappy dropped the note on the admiral’s desk. Tharp showed no sign of opening and reading it. He looked as if he suspected it would pick itself up and crawl off the desk on its own.

“No, I’ll take your word for it,” Tharp said. “Please put that somewhere safe. I mean, for safekeeping in case you need to prove the point later.”

“So there’s not going to be any difficulty about taking my ship?”

“No, no, your papers are in order. Now, if you’ll excuse me, this flotilla is due in Havana to install the new governor of Cuba. He’s aboard that large Spanish galleon to the west. This will go much further toward cementing good relations between the two countries and ending the threat of war. You are free to sail off, but again I warn you, the growth of international cooperation leaves little room for those of your ilk, and if you don’t soon mend your ways I’m afraid the world will band together to hunt down you and those of your ilk.”

“Yes, I can see that if countries trust each other, that’s the end for me. I’ll certainly do something about that,” said Slappy solemnly.

Tharp looked over his brother dubiously. Such seriousness hardly seemed like him.

“No,” Slappy said, seeing the doubt, “It’s what I have to do. The world is changing and I have to change too, or get left behind. But I’ll need your help. I’m counting on you to remind me of my new plan – OUR new plan – it at every opportunity.”

Tharp was touched.

“Your plan. Our plan. Yes, that would be excellent. I hope for you it succeeds.”

“You’ll have to help me. Constant support is what I’ll need. Constant reminders! Especially when I’m sailing away and won’t see you for months or years.”

“Mortimer,” Tharp’s eyes were brimming; it had been a long day and he was overcome with conflicting emotions. “Brother, you can count on me. But I see your longboat is waiting to ferry you back to your ship, a ship that some day soon I’m sure we’ll be the talk of Britain for your contributions to our way of life.”

“I have no doubt we’ll be the talk of Britain, with your help. By the way, the coxswain in the stern?” Slappy said, pointing to the longboat. “That’s Dogwatch.”

Tharp drew in a sharp breath. The similarities were striking. “A handsome young man.”

“And a fine sailor. And very musical, I wonder where he got that,” Slappy said.

“His mother.”

Slappy was soon back on deck of The Festering Boil, and within minutes the ship was getting ready to sail.

“McCormack! I want all four guns moved to the starboard side. George! Let’s get under way, and bring us within 200 yards of that galleon. Pass her to starboard, with a good head of speed. Keeling! Get ready to send up a signal to the admiral’s flagship.”

All orders were carried out. The wind filled the Boil’s sails and soon she was moving swiftly, bearing down on the Spanish galleon.

On the galleon’s quarterdeck the captain was warily eyeing the approaching ship.

“Capitan!” his first mate called. “That ship is signaling the English flagship.”

“What is he saying?”

The mate quickly looked up the signals in the book.

“He asks if he should stick to the plan.”

“The plan? What plan?

“The flagship is responding.”

“What does the message say?”

“Yes. Keep to our plan.”

The captain frowned. On the approaching ship, Slappy gazed over at the galleon. They were drawing near their closest point of approach. He looked down at the deck and with a nod, said a single word to McCormack.


Four guns roared from the deck of The Festering Boil, splintering railings, snapping a yardarm and punching one hole right at the Spanish ship’s waterline.

“Excellent shooting McCormack!” the pirate chortled. “And now, gentlemen, let’s get the hell out of here! Oh, and Keeling. Send up one more message. ‘Plan accomplished.’”

The seven ship’s in his wake stirred to life, but no one knew exactly who to fire at or what to do. The enraged Spaniards withdrew into a defensive shell and fired at a distance at the three English ships. Tharp sent repeated messages trying to explain, but the Spanish were not willing to listen. As night fell, they withdrew to Havana, and Tharp anchored offshore, just out of reach of Morro Castle’s guns. The single French ship tried repeatedly to surrender, but under the confused situation, no one bothered to accept it’s white flag.

Somewhere to the west, a fast ship plowed on through the night, the sound of laughter echoing across the water.

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