Wednesday, October 28, 2009


The Curaçao Caper – Chapter 35

A note from the authors – Yes, we're slugs, probably also terrible, terrible people. It's been two months since we wrote the last chapter, leaving Slappy and the crew right on the edge of the gallows! Unconscionable, we know. What can we say? Not much except sorry, and point out that it WAS Talk Like a Pirate Day, and we got busy, and then ... hmmmm. The sun got in our eyes? The ball took a bad hop? No, no excuses. Just know that we are now determined to finish the story just as quickly as ever we can.

Thanks for your patience.

Chapter 35

“How many of your crew can get to the gaol in the next half hour,” Ol' Chumbucket asked Mad Sally after steering her away from the well-dressed know it all and the crowd at the front of the opera house.

“What are you talking about?”

“I'm talking about a gaol break, of course. We don't have much time.”

“Of course we do,” Sally said. “The cathedral clock just rang midnight. The wedding's not 'til noon, and the hangings aren't scheduled to commence until 3 p.m. So there's oodles of time to arrange the escape.”

“Oodles?” Chumbucket asked with a raised eyebrow. “Oodles?”

“Shove it, barnacle breath. The point is, there's plenty of time and rushing won't help. Everything is going to go off like clockwork, don’t worry.”

“Well speaking of clockwork I'd rather not see Slappy and the crew playing pendulums in the gears of whatever harebrained plot you're hatching.”

Now it was Sally's turn to raise an eyebrow.

“Plot I'm hatching? What are you talking about? At least none of my crew has been arrested and thrown in gaol.”

“Well at last I'm not cozying up to that barmy bureaucratic boogeyman and his toady.”

“Toady? Oh, you mean Jeffries? Don't worry about him. He's ...” She suddenly clamped her lips together.

“He's what?” Chumbucket asked.

“Nothing. He's nothing to worry about. He might be helpful, that's all.”

“Helpful how?”

“Never mind I said. Just part of some hairbrained plot I'm hatching.”

“Harebrained or hairbrained?”

“What?” Sally asked, totally confused.

“I called your plot harebrained, as in 'like the brain of a rabbit.' But I think you used 'hairbrained,' with an 'i' implying that a brain covered with hair. A hirsute thinking box, as it were.”

Sally just stared at Chumbucket. They had had many a circuitous and convoluted conversation based on his persnicketiness over words, but this was a new depth even for him. She said as much. He shrugged.

“I like words to mean what they mean.” Ol’ Chumbucket replied putting an exclamation point on his penchant for pedantry. “Forget about it. The point is, we're going to try to break them all out tonight. Are you and your crew in?”

“Don't do anything hasty,” she said.

“Easy for you to say,” Chumbucket replied. “You don't have to convince Cementhands to slow down.”

“No, that's not the easiest thing to do, is it? But seriously, waiting just a few hours will make all the difference. In fact, I think you might find high noon to be the best possible time.”

“Noon? Why?”

“I'm afraid I can't tell you that.”

“Then I'm afraid we're going to have to make our own plans.”

“Go right ahead. Just don't do anything stupid.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Now if you don't mind, I've got a gaol break to engineer.”

He turned to leave, but she took his arm. He let himself be restrained.

“I'm serious. Be careful, And don't rush.”

“Why, Sally,” he said, a sad smile tracing his lips. “I'd almost think you cared.”

“I almost do. Just be careful. Now I've got a wedding to get ready for.”

“Yes.” The smile fled from Chumbucket's face. “A wedding.”

At that moment there was a commotion in front of the opera house as a contingent of armed soldiers bustled down the stairs to the street, looking left and right.

“The countess! Where is the countess?” their leader shouted,

“Chumbucket! Go!” she hissed.

“What about you?” he asked, his hand now on her elbow.

“Just go!”

“There she is! Stop that man! He's trying to grab the countess!”


The guards pushed their way through the crowd as Chumbucket turned and dashed down the alley. Two of them grabbed Mad Sally and hustled her towards the carriage while the other four lit off after the fleeing pirate.

Chumbucket dashed down a side street, then dodged down another alley and started circling back toward the main street, the feet of his pursuers pounding the pavement behind him.

Another left, another right, and suddenly he found himself staring at a blank wall.

“He's down here somewhere!” Spread out.”

Chumbucket turned, back to the wall and loosened the sword in his sheath. Then he noticed a stirring in the debris piled in the corner. A man with widely frightened eyes emerged, pulling up his pants as he stumbled out towards the street.

“Wait love, come back,” a voice called. From behind the piled bins and trash, a vaguely female-shaped form came out, adjusting her clothes. She noticed Chumbucket, smiled, and sauntered towards him.

“Hello love,” she purred. “You're much nicer than he was. Fancy a tumble? I can make you feel like a new man.”

There was more noise from the street. Maybe the guards had found the original customer, or maybe they'd just seen the opening into the blind alley and were heading this way. Chumbucket didn't take time to think about it.

Grabbing the woman in his arms, he pushed her to the wall and buried his face in her neck. She wrapped one leg around him, mistaking the hilt of his sword for something else.

“OOOOh, you are an eager one, and quite strong.”

Chumbucket didn't respond except to pull her to him more fiercely, his hands gripping the small of her back and his face in her hair.

“In a hurry, are we love? No need, I don't charge by the minute.”

“Hey, what are you two doing," a commanding voice called.

“What does it look like we're doing, you big oaf,” the woman answered. “OOOOh lover!” she added as Chumbucket shifted, turning his back more toward the soldier and his hilt more firmly at the woman.

“If you want to watch that'll be 10 pence each,” she called to the soldiers,

The captain of the guard made a sound as if he were throwing up in the back of his throat, then said gruffly, “Look here, we're pursuing a very dangerous man. You two get a room. It ain't safe out here on the streets.”

“You can say that again,” she said.

There was a sound of running, then silence punctuated only by the woman's encouraging moans. But her client seemed to have lost interest.

“Are they gone?” he asked.

“Yes love, they're all gone. We've got the alley to ourselves now,” she said, trying to pull him closer as he disengaged.

“Excellent. Thanks for your time.”

Ol' Chumbucket fished in his pocket and pulled out a coin, which he flipped toward her. She saw it and a smile split her face.

“For that kind of money I could take care of you twice and a couple of yer mates as well,” she said.

“Thanks, but I've gotta run. You might want to get a room. You heard the man, the street's not safe. All kinds of dangerous folks out here.”

He gave a salute and small bow, then disappeared back down the alley.

She watched him go, then looked back down at the glitter of gold in her palm.

“Maybe I'll just do that, ducky. Maybe I'll do that.”

Ol' Chumbucket worked his way down the alleys until he found himself behind the tavern across the street from the opera house. He pushed through the back door and made his way across the kitchen. Peering out into the main room, he saw the giant form of Cementhands McCormack pacing up and down in front of the big, heavily mullioned window.

Chumbucket drew two ales and approached his comrade.

“Chumbucket! Where the hell have you been?” McCormack said when he saw him. “We've gotta hurry!”

“No, we have to do the opposite of hurry,” Chumbucket said, “We have to think for a minute.”

“Oh you and thinking again,” Cementhands scoffed.

“Actually, I can't take credit for it,” Chumbucket said with a rueful smile. “Someone a lot smarter than me suggested it.”

“Well, what are we supposed to think about? They're in jail, we go get 'em before the local folk hang them”

“True, but we've got half a day, and there might be a better chance later. Is Gabriel going to try to take the ship out?”

“No,” Cementhands said. “Well, he was, but the first half dozen orders he gave proved it wasn't going to work, especially with naught for a crew but two actors.”

“I thought that was a bit ambitious. What's it take – a dozen able seamen? – to sail her.”

“Ideally,” Cementhands agreed. “Less if they've been drinking.”

“Well that's all right then. I just don't understand why Sally was so adamant the other day that we head there. It's gotta be 30 miles from here to Westpunt. That's more than half a day of sailing.”

“And a full day if you're walking,” Cementhands added.

“Yeah, and … wait.”

Cementhands sat patiently while the “I'm thinking” look crossed Chumbucket's face. After a full minute, he said, “I'm waiting.”

Chumbucket held up a 'wait-a-second” finger. Then he asked, “Is that Swedish ship she came in on still here?”


“Any other ships come into harbor in the last couple of days?”

“Just us and Fifi,” Cementhands said. "And those Danish warships."

Another half a minute went by before Chumbucket shook his head with a smile.

“Well, Sally, that is very clever, if that's what you're up to.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Never mind for now. That'll have to wait. First we've got to get the crew out of jail – if we can. We'll need Gabriel and those actors here by morning.”


“Yes, one of those captured pirates is going to be visited in jail by his family, hoping to save his soul before the end.”

“OOOhhhh goody! Do I get to play the blessed father?”

“Don' be silly. They already know you. You're the painting foreperson, and you'll be there bright and early checking the paint work and picking up your payment.”

“Then who'll play the family?

“Well, they're actors, aren't they?”

"What'll you be doing? Are you playing Cap'n Slappy's uncle whose also his brother?"

"No," Chumbucket said. "I'll be keeping the guards busy."

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