Friday, October 29, 2010


The Curacao Caper - Chapter 40

About a hundred yards from the cathedral and the governor’s mansion, forming a sort of “town triangle” was a fountain that depicted the shepherd boy, David, defeating the giant Goliath. It was a work of art on a grand scale, commissioned by the famous sculptor and fountain enthusiast Emil Van Houghton. It captures the very moment the stone entered the giant’s skull – with water, not blood, issuing from his enormous head in a gruesome albeit sterile depiction of cranial hemorrhage and death.

For decades, townspeople had tossed pennies into the water and made a wish for long lost loves to return to them. It was a moist bank of sorrow within a metaphor of triumph over oppression. Because most of the time lost loves remain lost and wishes don’t come true.

The huge baby-man could hear the pirates coming down Gaol Road on their way to the wharf. They were moving quickly but without much stealth – it was too large a group to hide and they were too full of pleasure at no longer being in the smelly albeit brightly painted gaol. Their speed, in their badly neglected condition was best described as “urgently tortoisesque.”

“Thems baddies is going to them’s boat! Get your boom-boom sticks ready!” the huge baby-man ordered. The musketeers and guardsmen formed a line in the square behind the fountain and waited.

The forty-some odd pirates now parading down Gaol Road were cautiously optimistic that their escape had been problem free. No casualties at the gaol itself. Even the guards were uninjured. Cementhands McCormack pushed the baby buggy with the now napping Gabriel over the cobblestones without a care – and with his pal, Cap’n Slappy by his side.

Dogwatch Watts and Leftenant Keeling flanked the right and left shoulders of their human “prize” – Cap’n Hamnquist – and Wellington Peddicord brought up the rear – keeping a weather eye in their wake. Only a quarter of a mile to the ship – then sea – then … the biggest treasure haul any of them would ever know.

But as they approached the fountain, that quarter of a mile might as well have been a world away as they stared down the barrels of twenty-five loaded muskets and another twenty-five well armed guardsmen laying in wait for their piratty prey.

All Slappy could think to say at this moment was, “Bugger!”

“You have been naughty pirateses!” the huge baby-man began. “But you don’t have to die right now! You can die in a few hours when we hangs you all!” It really seemed as though he was offering to do a huge favor for them.

Slappy stepped forward. “Wait! Wait! Wait!” he would have continued saying “Wait!” until he thought of some compelling reason why they should wait – or until it got dark enough to sneak away – but Fate had another opportunity in store for The Boilers.

As Slappy yelled “Wait!” for the forty-third time, the sound of a very large cart on cobblestones could be heard coming up King’s Street toward them. It was being pushed and pulled by two men in baker’s aprons and they were arguing in French. And although his only understanding of French was what was needed to express his needs and wishes at Madam Tourette’s House of Bouncy- Bouncy, Slappy could sort of follow the argument;



“I said STOP, imbecile!”

“I can’t!”

“Well try!”

“I am!”

“Well, try harder!”

But by the time the breaks had been fully applied, an enormous cart with a towering cake and what appeared to be two large pyramids of custard-filled pies whose golden-brown crusts were baked to perfection sat in the gap between the governor’s men and the pirates – and this confectionary “no man’s land” was of considerable concern to the near-frantic baker … Fifi LeFleur.
“Don’t Nobody Move!!!” he ordered both sides of the coming conflagration.

And then something unexpected … LeFleur turned his head away from the governor’s men and cast a glancing wink toward Cap’n Slappy. Not a wink of faux flirtation, mockery or posturing intimidation, but an honest-to-Poseidon wink of recognized kinship. Pirates – even sworn enemy pirates – still claimed a sort of solidarity when faced with governmental forces.

Perhaps Fifi was hoping Slappy would use this barricade of mega-caloric celebratory baked goods to shield a brilliant impromptu retreat … but whatever he imagined in that moment was quickly cast aside. As was so often the case in the history of their troubled relationship, communication would once again be their undoing. Where Fifi thought “retreat” Slappy thought, “attack!”

With a war whoop, Cap’n Slappy and Cementhands McCormack stormed the barricade and used the ill-fated desserts as weapons of mass disruption. Fifi was particularly horrified when Cementhands tore the top tier of the wedding cake – bride and groom figurines and all – from its pillared perch and hurled it like a buttercream-frosted discus in the direction of the stunned musketeers.

“McCormack, vous hybride!” LeFleur cried aloud – but his appellation was folded into the general din – like eggs in flour and sugar – creating a dough of general noise.

The pirates rushed the cart – grabbing the custard pies and launching them with little regard for aim at their former jailers and oppressors. It was, in the vernacular of future generations, “On – like Donkey Kong!”

LeFleur’s assistant, Luc Duvall knew immediately whose side he was on and took a particularly custardy pie and held it like a torch above his head before running headlong toward an unsuspecting guardsman. He nearly squealed with delight at the satisfying “smoosh” sound it made as he caught the man square in the face – obscuring his vision and dramatically reducing his will to fight.

The crack of muskets could be heard all over the city center – but by the time the soldiers got around to firing, they were doing so in a torrential rain of pie filling and crust. The ammunition went in all directions – mostly harmlessly – and as they were under immediate attack, there was no time to reload.

Although charged with the care of Captain Hamnquist – Leftenant Keeling, Dogwatch Watts and Wellington Peddicord all threw themselves without much hesitation into the fray leaving the elderly pirate standing at the back of the melee with a tattered blanket over his shoulders. After only a couple of seconds, however, he felt an arm around his shoulders and a strangely familiar face at this side. “Come, old friend, there’s someone very dear to you who wants to see you.”

Still adjusting his eyes to the daylight, Hamnquist recognized the voice more than the face. “Bernard?”

“Aye, sir! Jeffries at your service, Cap’n!” And with that – the two men disappeared up an alley.

By now, Fifi had let go of his hopes of preserving something of his desserts – and had joined his fellow pirates in the battle. But as he fought at Slappy’s side, he couldn’t help chiding his former rival.

“I had found it, eh? I had discovered the very thing I loved to do more than anything else in the world – but NOOOOO! Fifi can’t have a bakery and make wonderful cakes and pies and strudels and gingerbread houses for children! NOOO!” He took a moment from his soliloquy to wrestle an empty musket away from a guardsman and deliver a devastating sequence of blows – first to the poor man’s dingly-dangly bits – doubling him over – and then a powerful uppercut to his face – knocking him onto his back and into unconsciousness. “NOOOO!” he continued, slightly out of breath. “Fifi can’t have nice things because of his PIRATE FRIENDS!!!”

“So, it’s FRIENDS we are now, eh, Fifi?!?” Slappy replied – his own breath shortened by this sudden work-out. “You and me – PALS, huh?” He scooped up a half-destroyed custard by from the cobblestones and hurled it into the face of a soldier charging with a bayonet fixed to his musket. The pudding blinding him, Slappy was able to grab the barrel of the gun and turn it – man-and-all – into another charging soldier causing a violent collision which sent both of them toppling into the fountain. One of the men fell headlong into the statue of boy-David – whose genitals were less boyish and more reminiscent of Michelangelo’s statue. Essentially it was a boy body with a substantially manly bit of marble wedding tackle which struck the fellow in the head – and broke off from young David’s body and dropped into the bottom of the fountain’s pool – causing both Slappy and LeFleur to wince a little.

McCormack and Peddicord had more than a handful with the huge freakish baby man. He tossed them around and finally broke free of their clutches and began tossing pirates like pies.

He was single-handedly turning the tide of the battle when gravity took over.

The unattended pram with its baby-dressed adolescent napping away began rolling downhill toward the melee. Actually, it was rolling directly toward the fountain – but since the battle was taking place all around the fountain – it was rolling into battle. It’s groggy inhabitant was roused by the pounding of the cobblestones and the increasing speed of his carriage and looked up just in time to see the buggy hit the edge of the fountain and propel him through the air toward the statue of penis-free David and some bobbing, motionless guardsmen.

He hit the water with a splash! It was deeper than he had thought leaving him waste deep in water. This surprise entry into the fray even caught the attention of the huge baby man – who noted without irony that a baby was now involved.

“Why hims is a little baby boy!” he said aloud. Then he took a closer look at Gabriel. “No! Hims is no baby boy! Hims is a midget!”

Gabriel had had enough. He searched the water with his hands for any weapon – he was now ready to fight – and eager to fight this freakish giant. But has he reached around for a weapon he could find only his discarded diaper and a long hard piece of rock – or so he thought.

He glanced at the statue at his side and saw a young boy defeating a giant with nothing but a sling – and here he was – a shadow of the story itself – only he had never used a sling. But what he lacked in practiced skill he more than made up for in audacity. Although he never looked at the stone –all of the pirates witnessing the event knew he had just stuffed a marble penis into a diaper and was now swinging it wildly over his head. He called out defiantly to his opponent;

“I’m no freakin’ midget! And I’m no baby! And neither are you – you Dick!”

Then he let the stone fly.

David’s penis came out of the diaper at such a potentially disastrous angle that all of the pirates and guardsmen lunged away covering their heads and their cocks. The huge baby man even laughed for a moment at how badly this David imitator had shot his wad.

But the laughter would be short-lived.

The chunk of marble came out fast and flew directly at the statue of David’s head. But it had a great deal of force behind it and changed course toward Goliath’s head at remarkable speed. As luck would have it – and luck WILL have its way – the penis struck Goliath’s head at the point where the water was spewing forth and added momentum to this phallic projectile which now had a new course. The second ricochet and the hydraulic pressure sent the stone flying directly at the huge baby man’s head who barely had time to shift from laughter to a short, “uh-oh!” before taking a marble schlong to the noggin.

The giant fell hard to the cobblestone – and Slappy wasn’t taking time to decide whether he was dead or not.

“George! McCormack!” he called – feeling every bit in command again. “Get Hamnquist and the men back to the Boil! I’m going to find Ol’ Chumbucket and then we’ll get the hell out of here!”

Everyone looked around for Hamnquist – but he was long gone.

“Fine!” Slappy was determined to get things going. “I’m going to find Ol’ Chumbucket AND Hamnquist and then we’ll get out of here! But if we’re not there in 45 minutes – sail without us!”

“But …” McCormack was going to argue or coming with him but Slappy was hearing none of it.

“45 minutes! Starting NOW!” He started to move away but Fifi stopped him.

“Better make it 30 minutes Sloppy!”

“Damn it, Fifi! It’s SLAPPY! SLAP-PY!”

“I know. I just like to piss you off – but of a certainty, you had better make it 30 minutes."

"Why?" Slappy asked.

"We delivered the reception cake to the governor's mansion. Right in the main hall, directly under the governor's office. In" – Fifi glanced at the clock tower and nodded – "in 32 minutes, it's going to explode. It'll be a thing of beauty. Pieces of the mansion will probably land in the harbor, and they'll certainly blow out most of the stained glass of that church across the square."

"Hmmm, that's useful information," Sappy said. "Got that George? Ship ready to sail in 20 minutes, and you raise anchor in 30."

George looked grim, but he nodded, gave an "Aye aye!" and led the crew running towards the dock.

"What about your ship Fifi?" Slappy asked.

"It is - elsewhere. It doesn't matter, I'm comng with you."


"C'mon mon ami, we both know we're here for the same thing. Hamnquist. And we probably have equal claim to the treasure. If there is a treasure."

"There was," Slappy said. "But why should I take you?"

"The sake of old time?" Fifi suggsted. "But come, we're losing time. Besides, with my help you get Luc thrown in for free!”

They looked over at Luc Duval who was scooping custard off a guardsman’s face with his index finger and tasting it.

“It needed more vanilla!” he said when he noticed Slappy and LeFleur looking at him and shaking their heads.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The Curacao Caper - Chapter 39

The guard led the way down the darkened hallway, trailed by the two monks and the enormous woman with the infant.

"Down one more flight o'stairs and through the door there. I'll let you in," he said, flourishing the large ring of heavy iron keys, "but when you're ready to leave, you'll have to be patient, the guard detail has been called to the cathedral, so there's only the one man left on the gate. You ring the bell and he'll come down when he can."

"Thank you, my good man," Griselda Slappy said as she pushed the bouncing perambulator down the stairs, each bounce drawing another colorful obscenity from the "baby" in the buggy. "Slappy will be so proud, his little itty bitty boy has such a robust vocabulary."

They went down the long, damp (but colorfully painted) gaol corridor and found themselves standing in front of a heavy cell door. The guard cocked his ear. From the other side came the muted sounds of scrambling and whispered voices, almost as if a surprise birthday party were in its last stages of being organized.

"He's coming. Everybody hide!" "Butch, get behind the door!" "Nobody make a sound!" "Remember, as soon as he steps through, bash him in the head."

Alright, so not every sound was like a surprise party, unless it was one of those really good parties where bashing the birthday boy in the head is the cool thing to do.

The guard motioned the four visitors back from the door, miming to them to keep quiet. He drew his pistol, turned the key in the lock, and pushed the door inwards.

"All right, ye piratey vermin," he said. "Everybody back against the far wall. You too, whoever it is waiting behind the door to bash me!"

Slinging the keys onto his belt, he shifted the pistol to his right hand and pulled a truncheon that he held in his left. Looking through the crack where the hinges met the wall, he snarled, "I see ya there, and there's enough room for me to shoot you through this crack, so just drop that club and ..."

The pirates in the cell didn't hear what he wanted done next, because the guard felt the cold steel of a knife pressed against the base of his skull and a voice sounding surprisingly like the baby in the buggy saying, "Drop the weapons fatso, and hug the floor."

The guard did so, but not without complaint.

"Mother says I'm just big boned."

"Well get yer big bones down on the floor and ye won't get hurt," Gabriel snarled.

"But I'm not fat."

"Of course yer not," Cementhands said, placing a ham-sized fist on the man's shoulder and forcing him down.

"Well he didn't have to get personal."

"And you don't have to get dead, it's really your call."

"Oh," the guard said in a small voice. "I see. Alright then, carry on."

McCormack picked up the man's weapons and kicked open the door, shouting, "Coming in! We've got the guard and there's no reason to whap anyone! So stand down, Butch!"

Cementhands turned to Gabriel.

"Nice work boy, now get down the hall and keep an eye on the door. We'll be coming right behind you!"

"I'm not goin' anywhere until I get this damn diaper off," Gabe grumbled.

"Well fine, but make sure no one bothers us. We've got to get collect all our friends, pick up the guest of honor – that bastard Hamnquist – and get out of here. So de-diaper yerself and take your position."

Cementhands pushed into the cell block where he was embraced by one pirate after another until he came to Cap'n Slappy. He gave him his usual half-assed salute and said, "Well cap'n, wanna get a move on?"

"Looking nice, Cementhands," the captain said in feigned nonchalance. "What are you supposed to be? The town's leading trollop? A pig wrestler?"

Cementhands smiled broadly.

"Both! I'm your wife, of course!"

Slappy shook his head. "That's an insult to however many wives I've had," he said. "Seven? Six? Whatever, they'd be insulted."

"Good thing they're not here then," McCormack replied. "And if you don't mind my sayin' so, we shouldn't be either. Let's get moving."

"Who's here with you?"

"Gabe's out in the hall keeping watch, and I've got the two actors here."

"What about Ol' Chumbucket?"

Back at the cathedral, Ol' Chumbucket guessed that his work there was done. The place was teeming with guards, there couldn't be more than a handful left in the gaol. Cementhands – and the rest of the crew once they were freed – could handle them easily, then get down to the ship, hopefully with Hamnquist or at least with Hamnquist's information about where the treasure was hidden.

All he had to do now was figure out how to get out.

From his perch at the railing of the choir loft he could see the horrified wedding guests sitting frozen in place while the front of the church filled with guards. There was plenty of room to the rear of the cathedral for him to run for the door and lose himself in the streets before making his way back to the ship. All he had to do was get past several score of guards who were crowding the front of the church and coming up the stairs behind him.

He glanced down to where Mad Sally, as the countess and royal bride, lay prone over the governor, with guards pulling at her to try to free him. Good. He glanced at the closest chandelier. There were five running down the nave, and it would have been possible to swing from one to the next all the way out except that he'd had to cut one down – the second – to get up here. The rope was still hanging down where the fixture had hung. It would have to do.

He climbed to the railing of the choir loft and eyed the first lighting fixture. He could leap to that, use his momentum to swing toward that second one's rope and slide down, hitting the floor running. He could hear footsteps running behind him, crouched and leaped.

He'd waited a fraction of a second too long. As he propelled himself into space a pair of hands clutched at him, grabbing his boot. The man lost his balance and flew out over the church, clinging to Ol' Chumbucket's left boot.

Ol' Chumbucket just barely caught the first chandelier, his fingers scrabbling for a hold. He'd lost his momentum, but at least he was hanging above the church. His pursuer still clung to his left leg. Chumbucket aimed a kick with his right foot and the man pinwheeled toward the floor, still clutching the boot.

It was the same boot that Chumbucket had tucked his pistol. As the pirate began shifting his weight to swing himself toward the rope, the pistol fell out of the boot, hitting the floor with a crack as the guard hit the floor with a splat.

The shock caused the gun to fire, and despite the incredibly long, million-to-one odds, the pistol ball fired almost straight up, missing Ol' Chumbucket but hitting the eye bolt from which the light fixture was suspended. Instead of leaping nimbly for the rope as he'd planned, he found himself falling awkwardly toward the wedding guests, where several rich gentlemen broke his fall.

He ended up in the lap of a heavily jeweled woman who would have given Cementhands a run for his money for the title of "Oddest Looking Woman on the Island." But before he could sit up, he was surrounded by a ring of guards, each leveling a musket at his head.

"You see," he said to the shocked woman on whose lap he reposed, "this is why I don't ever work in churches. God always tips the odds against you."

He was quickly pulled to his feet and, with his arms pinned to his side, roughly forced back toward where the governor waited, having extricated himself from underneath his bride.

"Now what is the meaning of this?" the governor demanded. "How dare you interrupt my nuptials and possibly delay the wedding night I've been looking forward to so eagerly."

"Like I said, the lady is married to me."

"Impossible!" the governor said, "She's a member of the Scandinavian royal family, and you're a fool if you think you can stop me from marrying her."

"Maybe we should discuss this someplace more private," Ol' Chumbucket said with a nod toward the guests. "Because if you're trying to secure your own place in the succession, your marriage will have to be without a hint of suspicion."

"Suspicion? Suspicion of what?" the governor demanded.

Chumbucket just raised his eyebrows and nodded towards the guests again. The governor was nonplussed.

"Jiffy!" he called, looking for counsel. "I say, Jiffy! Now where did that man get off to?"

It was true. Jeffries seemed to have disappeared.

"How dare he run off?" The governor looked about as if wondering if there was anyone else he could ask for advice. Finally, he settled on his bride.

"I say my dear, what do you think we should do?"

Mad Sally was just getting to her feet. She didn't know what plan Chumbucket was working on, but he was blowing her's all to hell. She had pretended to faint in the hopes that it would give Chumbucket an opening to escape, but there he was, the big dummy, his hands bound and a dozen muskets pointing at him but chatting with the governor as if he was back on board the Festering Boil where he belonged.

Well, first things first. She needed to get them both out of the church and somewhere they could more easily escape. Then he and his pals could sail away while she rejoined her crew and finished what she had set out to do.

"This man's a fool and probably insane," she said with a sharp glance at Ol' Chumbucket as she sidled up to the governor. "But he's probably right about us finding a little privacy while we sort this out. Perhaps your chambers?"

The governor thought about the countess in his chambers and nodded his head vigorously.

"The very thing. Guard! Escort these two across the square to my personal chambers and don't let them out of your sight. I hope, my dear, that we'll soon have this sorted out and can continue on our happy way to our wedding night. If not, I'l be very unhappy. And guard! Bring the bishop."

"You!" he shouted to the guests. "All of you stay right here. No one is to leave! We'll be right back in just a minute. No one leaves, and no one tries to take back any of the wedding prezzies!"

Just then the governor caught sight of a figure in a recess of the church nave, a huge, hulking figure with an oddly shaped, bald head. He nodded to the figure, then turned back to Mad Sally.

"I'll join you shortly," he said "Just have to have a word with someone. Go!"

With that the guards roughly forced Chumbucket down the aisle. No hand was laid on Mad Sally, but it was made clear that retiring to the governor's quarters was not optional for her. She quickly scanned the crowd, and saw her young red-headed escort slipping out a side door.

"What were you thinking of?" she hissed at Ol' Chumbucket.

"Actually, at that very moment I was thinking of Santiago, and the tattoo parlor. Do you remember?"

"Of course I do. We barely escaped with our lives."

"Ah, but we did escape," he said. "And there was something else that night that might have missed your attention."


"Later," he said as the guard detachment led them across the square, past where the lizards were now surely finished with their business. Ahead was the governor's mansion. As they reached the steps, Chumbucket overheard Fifi’s nephew discussing with the hose staff the position of the table upon which the wedding cake would rest. Obviously the reception would be in here, he thought. That's something to think about, assuming he was still alive to do any thinking.

Meanwhile the governor was in conversation with the huge but oddly deformed, almost babyish guard from the gaol.

"What are you doing here?" he said. "You're supposed to keep an eye on the prisoners, especially that prisoner. We have to know what he knows."

"I sorry," the man lisped. "Thems said we was to go protect the governor and that's you and I goes to protect you."

"Well, protect my interests. Take a couple of men and get back to the gaol. I don't want those pirates slipping out while I get this taken care of. I have to be married to the countess, and I mean to do so today."

"But the mans said she's married to hims," the gargoyle of a guard said. "How can she marry you if she be married to hims?"

"Don't worry about that," the governor said. "Just get back to the gaol. If there's anything to this or any reason to think there might be a thin chance that there is, it's simple. Instead of marrying the virgin countess, I'll simply have to marry that man's widow instead. It works the same either way."

And the governor patted the misshapen man on the shoulder and smiled. It was a keen, cruel smile, something people who were used to the idiotic babblings and simpering smiles the governor usually showed the world would have been surprised to see.

Monday, October 25, 2010


The Curacao Caper - Chapter 38

At the main entrance to Willemstad's gaol stood an unusual looking party of four. Two men in monk's robes led the way, followed by a gigantic figure pushing a perambulator. Someone glancing at the large form would have assumed it was a woman – the biggest, oddest looking woman they had ever seen. Someone giving longer than a glance might have gone blind, but if they somehow managed to retain their eyesight they'd had probably said something like, "Wha ... wha... That's not right!" But they would have hurried on, even if they had nowhere to hurry to, because it wasn't an image you wanted to linger over.

"We're here to see my husband!" the vaguely female shape shrieked as she approached the guard's station.

"Your, er, husband?" the startled guard asked.

"Yes, my husband! I'm Griselda Slappy, and you're holding my husband."

"Wait," the guard said, trying hard not to look the alarming figure in the face. "You mean you're married to one of the pirates we're holding?"

"Yes, yes, the pirate. His fatal flaw," she said, dabbing her eyes with an enormous hanky which she then used to blow her nose so loud a foghorn would blush. "He's really a good man, a devoted husband and father, and," she lowered her voice and batted her eyes flirtatiously at the guard, "a terrific lover," said Griselda – who of course was really Cementhands McCormack.

The guard just looked at the figure before him and tried really, really hard not to let that image linger. Instead, he fell back on "duty."

"Who are these men?" he asked, pointing to Jonas Gumby and Miguel Magana, the erstwhile actors dressed in the monks' robes.

"Obviously these are men of the cloth here to save poor Slappy's soul before he pays the price for his life of crime," McCormack said. The two actors were deep into their roles and began making the sign of the cross and tossing blessings right and left. They even began talking in Latin, though neither man actually knew the language.

"Yes, well, but those pirates are going to be hung this afternoon. We can't bring them out into the yard."

"Of course not," Slappy's putative wife said. "We're going down to the cells."


"Were going down to the cells to make a last visit with my beloved, and shrive his soul."


"I think that's the word. Isn't that what you do, padre?"

"How would I know?" the first monk shrugged. The second elbowed him sharply, and he added, "We call it confessing, but yeah, you could probably call it shriving. Or saving if you'd rather. Bless you my son! Dominoes biscuitious."

"And what's in the cart?" the guard said.

"That's Slappy's son, L'il Slap," the wife said.

"Let's see."

Cementhands flicked back the blanket covering the buggy. The guard peered over the top.

"Carve a woodcut ye goat-bugerin’ bastard! It’ll last longer!" the figure in the buggy demanded.

The guard noticed something that had been overlooked in McCormack’s carefully choreographed plan. “Why is he smoking a cigar?”

McCormack snatched the cigar away and thrust it into his own mouth. “Damn it, L’il Slap! That’s Mama’s!” Then turning to the guard commented, “So inquisitive just like his dear Pop-Pop!”

“That’s a cigar you owe me … Mumsy!” Baby Gabriel growled.

"Isn't he sweet?" the proud mother beamed. "He's just learning to talk." McCormack's falsetto dropped into a conspiratorial whisper. "Of course, he hasn't been toilet trained yet, as you can see by his diaper."

"I don't need no diaper," Gabriel, as the baby said.

"Of course you do, you little shit!" McCormack said. "Look at that load you're carrying. I might have to change you before we go to see your father." Turning to the guard he asked, "You wouldn't happen to have a moist cloth, would you?"

The guard noticed the rather full nature of the diaper, and after whisking the blanket off he'd noticed a nose-wrinkling stench coming from the pram. He just wanted these people to go away. So he put his foot down.

"No changing diapers. No! If you're going down to the cells, you're going down right now!"

"But his father can't say goodbye to his son smelling like that! He may be a pirate, but he has some rights,"

"This kid's father doesn't smell much better," the harried guard said, reaching for his keys. "After a few days down there, those pirates won't notice a little odor coming from the kid. Get through this gate right now."

"Very well, let's go," McCormack said to his three companions.

They were ushered through the gate and directed down a flight of stairs to where another armed man guarded a door. Behind them they heard the main gate clang shut.

"It does rather smell down here," McCormack remarked to their escort. "But aren't the walls beautiful?"

But while McCormack continued his falsetto monologue, in the back of his mind he was thinking, "Alright Chumbucket. Time to do something to make these guards go away."

Ol' Chumbucket sat on a shaded bench in the center of Willemstad's small town square. To his back was the governor's mansion. In front of him at the other side of the square was the cathedral. To his left, just a few feet away, were a couple of lizards going through their mating ritual.

The larger of the two anoles, the bright green male, puffed out his dewlap air sack, bobbed his head, and did what appeared to be push-ups. Then he and the female – smaller and dull colored – circled each other with quick, jerky motions, froze, and the male repeated his little dance. Then more circling, then more pushups. Suddenly, the male darted forward, pinning Mrs. Anole by grasping her neck in his jaws, and climbed atop her.

Chumbucket averted his eyes to give the lizards their privacy, whether they wanted it or not. He sighed.

If only relations between the sexes could be as easy among humans as it was among lizards, he thought morosely. The male poses, does some pushups and, if the female is impressed with the size of his dewlaps, they get it on, then they never see each other again. Well, he admitted to himself, sometimes it was that simple, especially in the taverns. But usually it got a lot more complicated – there would be a woman who somehow got under a man's skin, who he wanted to be with for more than a night (or a half hour or so) and things got a lot more complicated.

He shook his head and looked up towards the cathedral where a crowd was beginning to gather for the wedding between the governor and the "Swedish countess" who was really one of the craftiest pirates he'd ever known, himself included. In fact, she was a lot more than that.

"A LOT more complicated," he said, laughing at himself.

Right now it was pretty simple. Create a diversion so Cementhands, Gabriel and the two actors could get into the jail and free Slappy and the crew. And maybe get Hamnquist as well. Almost anything would do, a public disturbance, a rock through the stained glass window. Really almost anything. But he had other fish to fry as well. He hadn't explained his planned diversion to Cementhands, figuring he'd try to talk him out of it. But he knew it would work.

He rose from the bench and crossed the plaza to the cathedral, mixing in with the crowd that was gathering for the wedding.

"Bride's side or groom's?" one of the ushers asked as he went in through the big, heavy wooden doors.

"Bride's" he answered.

"Really?" came the surprised reply.


The usher leaned in and whispered in his ear.

"Everyone is sitting on the groom's side," he hissed. "Partly because she's from Sweden of course, so no one knows her ..."

"I do. I've known the ... er ... countess about as long as I've known anyone."

"Yes, well. The other reason is that the governor is sort of jealous and doesn't like the idea that someone might like someone else – even his bride – more than they do him."

"Perfect," Chumbucket said. Then, realizing the usher was looking at him quizzically, he hastily added, "Perfectly understandable, I mean. But still, I think I'll sit on the bride's side. Probably have a little more room to stretch my legs."

"You'll have room to stretch just about anything you want to," the usher said. "If you're sure, follow me."

Ol' Chumbucket found himself seated alone on the left side of the church. He chose a pew about a third of the way from the back, and took a seat squarely in the middle of it. On the right side, all of Curacao's gentry, wealthy and nouveau riche were crammed tightly into the packed pews. They all glared at Chumbucket. He nodded, smiled and gave a genial nod of his head, then turned his attention back toward the church, taking note of the exits, the windows, where the guards seemed to be stationed, and the ropes and pulleys that kept the chandeliers hanging above the nave of the church.

As the choir finished singing a choral piece there was movement at the front, and the governor came out of a side door and walked to the center of the altar area, his small, mincing steps making it look as if he were dancing. He looked over at the crowd on the "groom's side" and smiled widely, waving to a few people he could recognize. Then as he turned toward the back of the church, his gaze caught and fixed on Ol' Chumbucket sitting alone on the bride's side. His smile froze, and for a second it was as if he had forgotten what he was doing there, his lips pursed and his brow furrowing. Fortunately at that moment the organist hit the keys and began the wedding processional with a crash, and all eyes, including the governor's, snapped to the back of the church.

Chumbucket turned as well, and as usual, his breath caught in his throat as he took in the bride coming down the aisle on the arm of the young red-headed gentleman the pirate referred to as "Dave." She was gorgeous, her face beaming in what looked like a smile of pure joy. The only word that came into Chumbucket's head was "radiant." The sun beaming through the cathedral's great windows made her glow with a dazzling brilliance.

She gazed toward the altar, but her peripheral vision caught sight of Ol' Chumbucket. For half a beat her step faltered, but she quickly caught herself. Leaning over to her escort, she hissed, "What's he doing here."

The young man shrugged and whispered back, "It doesn't matter. We can't stop now. He's on his own."

Sally arrived at the front of the church, the governor held out his arm and the two stepped forward into the altar area, kneeling side by side. The congregation settled down as the impressive clergyman began babbling about marriage, a subject he seemed to know little about.

Ol' Chumbucket sat back, waiting for his cue. Finally, it came.

"If there be any here present who knows any just cause why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now or forever hold his peace."

There was the usual pregnant pause, as everyone glanced around nervously and self-consciously. Evidently there was no such person present.

But just before the minister could continue there was the sound of throat clearing, then a polite voice called out, "Excuse me, sorry, but I've got a reason."

There was dead silence in the cathedral, then the sound of a slight groan as the bride's head dropped in disbelief. The clergyman was so startled he didn't know what to do. This had never happened before. The words were a formality, no one ever objected. It added a nice touch of suspense to a ceremony that was otherwise a foregone conclusion, but no one ever said anything.

Until now.

The governor was not so constrained. He stared incredulously at Ol' Chumbucket, then wailed, "Jiffy!"

Jeffries was himself caught by surprise. He hadn't been in the church, he was on the front steps preparing the release of 200 doves – pigeons actually but who would know the difference? – when he heard his name called. That wasn't right. He dashed into the church through the side door and saw his employer pointing to a lone figure.

"That man is spoiling everything," the governor wailed.

Jeffries began walking briskly toward the offending figure before he recognized who it was. He also recognized that Ol' Chumbucket had withdrawn a pistol from his boot, cocked it and pointed it at Jeffries' chest.

"Just hold it right there friend," Ol' Chumbucket said. "This is between me and the groom – well, really the groom can go to hell as far as I'm concerned. He just can't marry the bride. This is between her and me."

Jeffries took a couple of steps closer and hissed, sotto voce, "You really don't need to do this. Everything's under control."

"Really?" Chumbucket said. "I hate it when everything's under control. So boring."

The bride stood and turned toward him. Chumbucket couldn't read her look, and it had nothing to do with her veil. She was obviously thinking furiously, but struggling to maintain her composure.

"I'm sure you're mistaken sir, whoever you are, and if you'd just step outside with Jeffries here I'm sure you can straighten it all out between you," she said.

"No can do, dear," the pirate said. "I've already raised my voice, and I'm sure at this point the bishop quivering over there next to you won't continue until he's had an explanation. So even if I am mistaken – and I'm not often mistaken – the wedding can't go forward just yet. Right, your holy eminence?"

The bishop gulped and shrugged, giving a nod toward the governor that indicated he'd happily overlook almost anything if the man ordered him to. But Chumbucket didn't give him time to say so and began advancing up the aisle.

The main detachment of guards in the vestibule had now filled the back of the nave and was closing in on this "person" who was fouling up the carefully timed wedding. Ol' Chumbucket leaped onto the seat of the pew and, balancing himself on the pew's back, hopped from bench to bench, advancing toward the front of the church, where the governor drew back, alarmed. The guards split up, half continuing up the main aisle, half from the side. Another contingent of guards filled the sacristy area, stepping between the governor and this madman.

Chumbucket kept his eyes on the guards closing in on him, and leaped for one of the pillars lining the sides of the church, where the ropes holding the chandeliers in place were fastened. He dropped his pistol back into his boots and drew his cutlass, and as the guards rushed him he hacked at the rope, grabbing it as the blade tore through the hemp. As the chandelier crashed to the floor, scattering the guards, its weight pulled Chumbucket up, swinging him towards the front of the church where he landed in the choir loft overlooking the altar.

The captain of the guard turned to his aide and shouted, "Run to the gaol, get the rest of the guards. We need backup. Now!"

That was all Ol' Chumbucket needed to hear, and thanks to the excellent acoustics of the building he heard it. With the guards being pulled from the gaol he could beat a retreat at this point and McCormack could do the rest. But there wasn't really anywhere to go yet, he'd need to split them up more. Besides, he had a little more to say.

"I'm very sorry, gov, but you can't marry the lady there."

"And why not?" demanded the governor, who presented a much bolder persona when surrounded by guards. "She loves me and I love her, and she's rich, so why can't I marry her?"

"I'm afraid she's already married," Chumbucket said.

There were 500 guests crammed onto the groom's side of the church, plus 20 members of the wedding party, plus 28 guards actually in the church. That's 548 people, each with a jaw, and all 548 jaws gaped open, none more widely agape than Mad Sally's.

"I knew you were insane," she shouted at Chumbucket. "But I never knew you were crazy."

"Sorry, ma'am, but it's true," Ol' Chumbucket said.

"And I suppose you have papers to prove this preposterous claim of a previous marriage?" the governor asked.

"Papers? No, not exactly. But there's this – he held out the piece of coral on the chain around his neck. Sally managed not to gasp audibly, but she blanched. "And this."

Ol' Chumbucket pulled open his shirt, exposing the tattoo on his chest, noting as he did so that the guards were edging closer.

The governor guffawed.

"And a rock and a tattoo are somehow supposed to prove that this woman – this noblewoman, a member of the Scandinavian royal family – is married? To who?"

"To whom would be correct, not to who," Ol' Chumbucket chided. "And the answer is simple."

"To me."

The countess threw her hand to her head and swooned, falling backwards into the arms of the startled governor, who toppled backwards, falling to the floor with Mad Sally on top of him.

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