Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Chapter 28 - "Scheming, Plotting and Fuming"

“Uncle, nobody is ever going to believe that we are caterers.”

Jacques fidgeted nervously with the cutlery they had used only moments before to dispatch the actual caterers whose identities they now assumed. He wasn’t sure whether to clean the knives or sharpen them so he just kind of handed them back and forth between his left and his right hands.

“Nobody would have believed that Duvall here would have made a suitable floatation device, but, in fact, he did! And besides – I’m an excellent chef. I would have opened a fancy Paris bistro if only I had the disposition to do so.”

As Le Fleur spoke, he busied himself with the making of dough for what would eventually an exquisite pastry.

His frustrated nephew tossed the bloody knives into a pot of water that was heating on the wood-burning oven. “What’s the matter, Uncle – not enough blood in the food services industry?”

“Quite the contrary, lad.” Le Fleur smiled, “I lacked the ruthlessness necessary to work in the restaurant business – piracy has nothing on kitchen work!”

Duvall smiled and nodded. “Did I really do a good job as a floatation device?”

“We’re all here, aren’t we?” Fifi replied matter-of-factly. “Nobody drowned, did they?”

“Oui, mon … chef?!?” Duvall replied sheepishly

Fifi raised one dangerous eyebrow – then, with a sudden clap of his hands declared with uncharacteristic glee, “That’s right! We no longer have to pretend to enjoy or even understand other languages! We’re French caterers now! We can be snotty to our customers in our own native tongue!”

“But mon uncle!” Jacques broke in. “What’s the point of us pretending to be caterers – French, Dutch or English? How does this help us accomplish our mission?”

Fifi Le Fleur raised a suspicious eyebrow. “Do you KNOW our mission, nephew?”

“Not really, uncle. But we didn’t jump ship, tromp through the jungle and ruthlessly murder two innocent Dutch caterers just so we could branch out into the food services industry, did we?”

Le Fleur smiled. “Our mission is to find out where the treasure of Horatio Hamnquist is – and as a condemned criminal what does he get the night before his hanging?”

Luc Duvall shot a hand into the air. “I know this one! I know this one mon capitane!”

“Monsieur Duvall? What is the correct answer?” Fifi pointed at him like a gleeful headmaster – proud of his eager student.

“A Last Meal!” Duvall elbowed young Jacques to register his victory.

“Oui!” Le Fleur nodded. “And as the only surviving caterer in Willemstad, who handles last meal duties?”

“Alright. I get it!” Jacques blurted impatiently over Duvall’s re-extended raised hand. “We cater the last meal and spring Hamnquist from prison.”

“At least until he tells us where the treasure is – unless he’s already told someone else.”

“Mon Capitaine!” Luc Duvall protested, “Who else would he tell? You were always the favorite of the Captain Hamnquist, no?”

“Oui.” Le Fleur replied thoughtfully. “It was either myself or ol’ Sloppy.”

Just then, the bell on the door jingled and announced the presence of their first customer. As the three of them looked up, their mouths fell open at the sight of the giant baby-like man in the doorway.

“Master says we need your services.”

“Now, let me get this straight.” Cap’n Slappy swirled the last few ounces of ale around the bottom of his tankard – as if he was hypnotizing himself into understanding. “Sally WANTS us to stick around Willemstad so she told you to get to get us to go to Westpunt?”

“Perhaps.” Ol’ Chumbucket replied, eyeing the last drops of rum in his glass. “Her meaning wasn’t altogether clear.”

“Well, I’m not going anywhere until we get our mates out o’ that prison!” Cementhands McCormack asserted.

“But if her game isn’t matrimony at the highest levels of Dutch colonial government, what is it?” Slappy soldiered on – trying to make meaning out of the meeting between his mate and his mate’s love-o’-his-life.

“Well, the marriage – or rather – the trappings of the marriage or some marital by-product is what she’s after.” Chumbucket was thinking out loud as much as he was talking to anybody else – this, of course, didn’t stop Cementhands McCormack from replying.

“Marital by-product? You mean, arguments? Broken dishes? Financial hardships?” Here the big man paused, “Children?”


“Then what is it she wants?”

“I don’t know!”

All three men downed the last of their drinks and held them aloft as a friendly buxom bar wench came by and collected their cups.

“Another round o’ the same, dearies?” she said with a wink toward McCormack.

“Aye, me saucy minx!” the big man replied “And put ‘em on his tab!” he added with a gesture toward Slappy.

“You’re welcome!” The captain snarled.

“Think nothing of it, Cap’n! It’s the least ye can do!” McCormack replied.

“And ye always do …” Ol’ Chumbucket started the familiar refrain to be joined by his mates for, “THE LEAST YE CAN DO!”

“Well,” Slappy continued to work on the problem at hand. “Whatever it is, it must have something to do with the dress shop they’re running over by the gaol. But it doesn’t really matter, now, does it?”

“What do you mean?” Chumbucket asked.

“We’re here to do what we’re here to do! To retrieve Hamnquist – or his secret – and now to free our own men! And we’re not chasing off to Westpunt until we have ‘em!”

Conversation stopped as the wench brought their next round to the table. Once she was gone, the three lifted their glasses in salute.

“To the mission!” Slappy declared.

“I thought we were going to paint the gaol?” McCormack asked in some confusion about this new, “mission” job.

“I think the ‘mission’ to which Cap’n Slappy refers,” Chumbucket explained carefully, “is a set of objectives designed to accomplish a larger task and not a far-flung institution of worship.” But as he finished his clarification, he could see the cheeky smile on McCormack’s face so he simply added, “You bastard.”

“Alright boys, let’s finish off these drinks and get back to work. Ol’ Chumbucket, get back to the ship and make sure young Gabriel hasn’t gotten into too much mischief whilst he’s had the helm.”

With an “Aye-aye!” the three swallowed down their drinks and headed out into the bright afternoon sun; Chumbucket to the wharf and McCormack and Slappy to the gaol.

As the Cap’n and McCormack passed the opera house, they were stopped in their tracks by some familiar refrains.

“Isn’t that music from that thing that Lady Isabella in Maracaibo wrote – using your penis poetry?” McCormack asked. (As recorded for posterity, or at least posteriors, in "The Maracaibo Caper." )

Cap’n Slappy was transfixed – as if being teleported back in time to the greatest artistic achievement of his life. He listened carefully and mouthed the words as they wafted through the air around them.

“Aye! That IS it, ISN’T it?” McCormack said with added emphasis. “Didn’t Lady Isabella turn the whole thing into an opera complete with big beautiful women in horny hats?”

“Valkyrie!” Slappy snapped impatiently, “And they’re not ‘Horny Hats!’ They’re WINGED helmets! And they choose the worthy battle-fallen for a place in Valhalla!”

“Alright!” McCormack relented “But you must admit that is YOUR poetry she’s singin’ isn’t it?”

Slappy paused and smiled. “Aye, that it is – but we can’t bask in the warm glow o’ the fine arts when we’ve got some paintin’ and plannin’ to do!”


“Where’s the captain and McCormack?” Keeling poked his head into the empty cell and asked Dogwatch as put a second coat of sea-foam green on the grey stone walls.

“It’s not my turn to watch ‘em.” Dogwatch’s reply was a bit more snippy than he had intended – he thought perhaps the paint fumes were getting to him. “Have you asked Jenny?”

“So it’s her turn to watch ‘em?” Keeling snipped back. Everyone’s nerves were frayed. Their plan to locate Hamnquist and their imprisoned mates, George the Greek and Wellington Peddicord, were being thwarted by the big jailor’s constant shuffling of his prisoners from cell to cell to ever deeper parts of this seeming bottomless gaol.

Both pirates took a moment to comport themselves – “My apologies, Mr. Watts.” Leftenant Keeling said showing his famous self-control. “These infernal paint fumes must be getting to me.”

“No need to apologize, Leftenant.” Dogwatch replied. “We’re all a bit batty from this. That big jailor bastard locks us in whenever he leaves the gaol so we’re like prisoners – only with a task.” He paused and backed away from the wall he was painting and gave it a careful glance. “What do you think? Another coat?”

“It’s hard to tell when you’re painting by torchlight.” Keeling confessed.

Butch stuck his head in – “I’m all out of Moonlight Peach and I’ve only painted two of my cell walls.”

Before Keeling could suggest a proper mixture of paints to match Moonlight Peach Sawbones Burgess wandered in adding his two cents worth;

“Cocoa Butter Morning” makes a splendid accent wall for most of the pallet.

“Isn’t that just brown?” Two-Patch chimed in – facing the wrong direction.

“That’s like saying, ‘Untainted Salmon’ is just ‘Moonlight Peach’ without the resonant ‘Turkish Sunlight’ overtones!” Burgess snapped, adding, “Besides, Two-Patch, you’re as blind as a bat!”

Two Patch slammed his paint can and brush to the floor and took a fighting stance – punching the air in front of him in hopes of landing one on the good doctor’s nose.

“You wouldn’t know your ‘Irish Shamrock’ from your ‘Blarney Castle Moss’ if it wasn’t written on the damn can, ye tonic peddlin’ Charlemagne!” Two Patch was now adding a vicious kick to his fighting repertoire.

“That’s ‘CHARLATAN’ you inbred, heat-seeking, ignorant freak o’ nature!”

The word, “nature” had barely passed Burgess’ lips when Two-Patch’s bony fist made contact and pushed that exclamation point back down Sawbone’s throat. The two men grappled to the floor where they provided some brief entertainment to the pirate painters who placed bets on which would come out ahead.

“Well, now that they’re wrestling, I’m putting my money on Two-Patch!” Keeling said as he handed a silver coin to Jenny who volunteered her services as bookie and referee.

The frenetic scene was sharply interrupted when a stone fell out of the cell wall behind them and the face of a lovely albeit dirty young woman poked through.

She directed her comment toward the eldest of the group – the now paint besplattered and somewhat battered Sawbones Burgess. “Horatio Hamnquist, I presume?”

Burgess disentangled himself from his sparring partner and stood to his feet – shaking wet paint from his arms and cleaning blood from his mouth. But he quickly assumed the bearing of a distinguished pirate of good breeding.

“That depends, Luv.”

“On what, Luv,” the young woman shot back now braced by strong suspicion, “does your identification depend?”

Without any hesitation, Doc Burgess replied, “Well, Luv, on whether this visit is professional or social.”

The young woman shuddered but otherwise held her composure. “This visit is strictly professional.”

“Well!” Burgess replied with a bit of a huff “In that case I am NOT the pirate Hamnquist as they move him constantly from cell to cell in order to thwart any escape attempts and all of your tunneling has been a waste … unless you can think of some way to salvage this happy accident.”

The young woman rolled her eyes derisively and turned back toward her confederates in the tunnel behind her. “He’s not here! They move him around!”

“He’s not here, they move him around!” echoed down the tunnel from different voices – all female. The faintest, most distant voice could be heard in a lower rougher tone, “Dammit! I knew this wouldn’t work!”

The young woman pointed at the dislodged stone on the floor with her eyes and cast a quick glance toward Dogwatch. “Would ye mind, Luv?” (This time, the word, “Luv” seemed truly flirtatious without a hint of derision.)

Dogwatch picked up the stone and placed it back in the wall where it belonged as the young woman eased herself backwards and just like that she was gone.

“Now I have to repaint that whole section!” he fumed to himself.

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