Sunday, August 07, 2011


The Curacao Caper, Chapter 46

Cap’n Slappy breathed in deeply.

Memories began flooding his mind … a trip to Wales as a child with his brother, Thomas. It was winter and snow capped the hills around Cardiff – a tempting playground for two boys and a toboggan.

Tom, are ye sure this is goin’ to work?” young Mortimer asked his older brother – fear and frosty air cracking his soprano boy-voice.

Of course it’s going to work!” Thomas growled. “Ye can’t live yer life in fear o’tryin’ new things, Morty! Ye’ve got to grab danger by the ears and kick it – REPEATEDLY – in the bollocks with the toe o’ yer boots, li’l brother!”

But shouldn’t I be sitting?” Mortimer choked while giggling nervously. “I mean … ain’t ye supposed to sit on this thing?”

Ye cannot face death on yer arse, little brother!” Thomas gripped the younger Slappy’s shoulders as he gave him what was, by tradition, a “Slappytime” pep talk!

Ye’re a SLAPPY, lad! And the Slappy family has always created for itself – OPPORTUNITIES! Now while it may be true that these opportunities of which I speak have often led to wrack and ruin in our ancestral tree – let me be clear that it is exactly these opportunities for disaster that have created in us – our finest moments! Before Great-Great-Great-Grandpappy McSlappy was exiled from Ireland did he or did he not import dozens of dangerous pythons to the Emerald Isle in hopes of breeding them for his fancy snakeskin boot-making scheme?”

Aye.” Replied a trembling Mortimer as he pulled the little sled up the side of a rocky hill – barely dusted by a thin layer of snow. “That is before Constable Patrick whats-his-name chased him out of Ireland – snakes and all – to Madrid where he was violently squished and eaten by the largest of his pythons.”

AYE!” Thomas declared with enthusiasm. “But if he hadn’t done so the family name wouldn’t have become Slappista!”

Which …” Mortimer intervened, “…it no longer is because our Great-Great-Grandpapado Slappista took it upon himself to bed, in alphabetical order, the wives of the council of thirteen that secretly governs the inner workings of Spain’s castanet export business. Forcing the family to live in hiding for two generations before emerging as flounder fishermen in Cornwall!”

Aye! We’re an up-‘n-comin’ family, Mortimer! That we are!” chortled Thomas as they reached the top of the hill. “We’ve come all the way to the top! And there’s only one way to go from here.”

Young Mortimer Slappy looked down at the snow-dusted rocks that jutted out of the side of the mountain and wondered how many Welch boys or boys from other parts of Great Britain had met an untimely end trying to sled down this foreboding slope.

Back down the way we came up?” he offered hopefully.

What are ye? A wee fancy lad what minces about fearfully evadin’ Death rather than latchin’ on to it with yer teeth and screamin’, ‘Come and get some, ye bastard Death! I’ll not run from ye or shirk any opportunity to kick ye squarely in the bollocks!’”

Thomas did a little mincing dance that was actually rather good – showing a surprising flow of body movement to a rhythm that was in his head alone.

Apart from nearly being hypnotized by his brother’s interpretive dance, Mortimer couldn’t help but wonder about his elder brother’s anthropomorphism of the concepts of “danger” and “death” and, more to the point – their collective possession of “bollocks” that were in dire needing of “kicking.” But he knew there were only two ways off that little Welch mountain – a long walk of shame or a glorious (and most likely … deadly) ride into the nether regions of danger and death – kicking all the way.

He stepped onto the toboggan and stood with knees limbered and ready to absorb the thousand bumps and bounces of the ride down the hill.

Thomas stood at the back of the sled – ready to give it a hard push to get it going. “When ye’re ready – recite the Slappy Family Motto!”

Slappy took a deep breath in. Instead of the cold, crisp Welch winter air he smelled the warm vegetation of the jungle and the smell of the sea down the other side of the hill.

Recite the Slappy Family Motto” he mumbled to himself – at the back of the cart Luc and Jacques crouched for a mighty push.

What the Fuck!” (Cap’n Slappy began the recitation solemnly and finished with a roar.) “Ye’ve got to die o’ something!”

Fifi nodded to his men who thrust the cart forward with every fiber of muscle working to full capacity. It was like it was being shot off the top of the hill with a giant rubber band.

At the bottom of the hill, the strange, large “Baby Man Gaoler” had just started up the hillside on horseback followed by six well-armed underlings. They were all stopped dead in their tracks by the sight of the wildly bouncing cart speeding down the hill in their direction with a compact, portly pirate violently bouncing – but maintaining his stance – in the middle of the cart. They could hear him singing a warlike song but couldn’t make out the words – if they’d been in the cart with their enemy they might have heard the words more clearly.

Come men o’ Ireland’s emerald isle

Who’ve traveled far – o’er many-a mile!

To battle with achin’ joints and bone
And kick ol’ Death right in his stones!
For nary a sight ye’ve ever seen

Like angry Irishmen in green!

Hims is gonna die now!” the big Man-Baby Jailor vowed as he dug his heels into the flanks of his horse and raced headlong up the hill toward the rapidly descending pirate. His fellows followed, albeit at a slightly slower pace and with considerably more caution.

The big Man-Baby’s horse may have had more going on in its head than either its rider or the singing pirate in the cart – but as creatures go – a horse is obedient – at least up to the point of death. And so it was obedience that drove the horse toward the cart – but not without something in the brain talking to it directly about survival. Gravity, on the other hand, is not as dependent on human behavior for its survival and therefore had only one job – to bring the wagon down the hill and to do so with increasing velocity.

Be it fate or serendipity – the forces of nature will always play their part in the course of human conflict. As it turned out, in this case, the force of nature was gravity and the “fate” were two poorly placed stones in the road that protruded just enough to stop the wheels of the cart dead in their tracks – but a body in motion tends to stay in motion … especially when launched, like a catapult, from the back end of a flipping cart.

And while it was always Cap’n Slappy’s intention to leap from the cart and land a crushing “head butt” to the middle of the Man-Baby’s face – he hadn’t counted on two things: the violent launching from the cart and the sudden rearing up of his enemy’s steed. Fortunately for Slappy, years and years of hand-to-hand and head-to-face combat had created in his brain a sort of automated attack sequence that even the anomaly of human flight couldn’t distract. The arc of his flight took him just over the head of the rearing horse and he was actually able to bring his forehead downward with a devastating blow to the facial area of the Man-Baby just below his eyebrows – caving his face completely back into his skull so that it gave the appearance of a smooshed-in “head bowl.”

The last thing the cruel Man-Baby jailor would see in this world was Cap’n Slappy’s hairline.

Free of its hell-bound master, the horse dashed to his right to escape the path of the on-coming cart which tumbled, end-over-end until it came to rest over the prone bodies of Cap’n Slappy and the now-deceased giant Man-Baby – leaving them temporarily entombed under its wreckage.

Combatants on both sides stood frozen for a moment – disbelieving what they had just seen. It was enough hesitation to allow Fifi and his men to begin running downhill as the town guardsmen finally moved toward the cart to see what, if anything, had survived the collision.

Under the cart Cap’n Slappy’s head was reeling. He was unsure of where he was – of how old he was. Questions like, “Did I just wreck the toboggan?” and “How will my brother, Tom, kill me for wrecking the toboggan?” rattled about in his freshly battered brain. But as he groped about in the darkness of the wrecked cart three things reminded him of his current predicament – the presence of the giant body on which he now rested … the sound of Dutch voices approaching his concealing shelter … and the butt-ends of two very large pistols – tied together with a ribbon of silk that the giant Man-Baby was wearing around his neck.

As two of the guards flipped over the cart – they were greeted with the blast of two pistols aimed directly into the chests. Leaving the number of Dutch fighters at four.

Cap’n Slappy three: Dutchmen zero.

But four Dutch swords can do some damage and two empty pistols tied together with ribbon offer little defense.

Cap’n Slappy flipped his feet backwards over his head and rolled off his victim as the four Dutch swords plunged deeply into the belly of the giant. The world around him seemed to toss and roll as his brain attempted to recover from the battering it had just taken. But once again, his fighter’s instinct took over and he spun the pistols around in his hands so that the butt ends could be used for cobbering purposes and lunged toward one of the guards as he attempted to extricate his sword from his leader’s belly.

From behind, Slappy slammed both pistol butts into the man’s ears with ferocious force … Cap’n Slappy four: Dutchmen zero.

Hold on, Mortimer!” Fifi called as he and his companions bounded down the hill – barely maintaining control of their feet beneath them. “We are coming to ze rescue!!!”

Slappy staggered around drunkenly as the Dutchmen moved to strike at him. The one closest took a slashing cut toward Slappy’s head – but the pirate fell backwards onto his backside and under the flashing blade. He held one pistol while swinging the other around in the air by the attached ribbon – like a sling shot – and released it in the direction of the guardsman who had tried to remove his head. The linked pistols spun through the air like an aboriginal weapon and wrapped themselves around the man’s neck – spinning like two tetherballs in opposite directions around the same pole – finally landing two solid blows to the head.

Five down … two to go.

Every fighter knows when it’s time to retreat. But for Slappy – retreat meant running up-hill toward his French mates. Fifi still had the blunderbuss! He could take down the remaining two easily if he could just get close enough to both of them. With the world still spinning around him, Cap’n Slappy climbed to his feet – almost – and began staggering at his best speed toward his charging would-be rescuers.

The two Dutchmen, seeing the pirate without any weapons and in desperate retreat charged toward him in hopes of exacting some revenge for their fallen comrades.

But once again – serendipity presented itself on those same rocks that stopped the cart – as they tripped the charging Frenchman. “Fifis flop” as it would come to be called – began with his earnest desire to get close enough to unleash the devastating effects of the blunderbuss on the two remaining Dutchmen. As the cart had been tripped up – so was Fifi – who yelled, “Catch!” as he tossed the “thunder gun” in Slappy’s direction.

He had hoped that Slappy would easily catch it and, turn and fire in time to take out his last two combatants. But when Cap’n Slappy looked up he saw not one – but five or six blunderbusses flying in his direction.

I think I can catch two of them!” Cap’n Slappy thought to himself and extended both hands in an effort to grab the gun – or guns – out of midair.

He grabbed neither. But luck wasn’t through with Cap’n Slappy as the gun in the middle that was practically invisible to him turned out to be the actual blunderbuss and while it fell between his outstretched hands it did land on his head – with just enough pressure applied to the trigger to fire it off.

The two Dutchmen had only enough time to recognize that they were full of holes – but not enough time to count them before they expired.

Cap’n Slappy seven: Dutchmen zero. (Assist, Fifi.)

But even as their final opponents breathed their last, the pirates' attntion was turned north, on the outher side of the hill, by the crash of guns. The min event was about to begin in the harbor.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Curacao Caper, Chapter 45

(Okay. Let's get this going. We started this so long ago it's hard to remember when. We're going to finish, and we'll do so before August ends. So here we go.)

The cart trundled slowly up the hills. For Luc, the downhill was actually harder. If he hopped aboard and let it roll, there would be no way to steer. And if he stayed in the traces, the ungainly vehicle bore down on him from behind. All he could do was lean back and dig in his heels, throwing his weight against the cart to keep it from careening down the hill out of control, but try to get a little momentum going so getting to the top of the next didn't kill him.

In the back, Slappy was feeling guilty. He had volunteered several times to take a turn pulling, and could see from the look in his eyes that Luc thought that was a great idea. But Fifi wouldn't hear of it.

"Ah no, mon ami!" the French pirate said. "You insult poor Luc! On your ship is it not the custom for the crew to follow orders, to take pride in the performance of their duty? To try to prevent someone from doing his duty is to make him less of a man, no?"

Slappy thought he could see where Fifi was going.

"So to take Luc's work from him is to take his ... manhood from him?" Slappy asked.

"Precisement!" Fifi beamed. "If you attempted to deprive the good Luc of his work, you impugn his manhood. You would not try to sever his outil de l'amour and place it in your pocket, would you?"

Slappy didn't speak French but he was pretty sure what Fifi meant, especially with the descriptive hand gestures, and immediately denied any interest whatsoever in placing Luc's (or anyone else's) tool of love in his pocket.

"Of course not," Fifi continued. "Should you make the attempt he would have no recourse but to challenge you to a duel to the death! Is that not right, Luc?"

Panting as he pulled the cart up a low grade, Luc turned his head over his shoulder and said – "Perhaps I could ..." he paused to pant, then continued ... "overlook it just this once."

"No no no, my good Luc," Fifi protested. "Do not sell your manhood so cheaply. If Slappy attempts to usurp your rights, you will fight him to the death to prove yourself, I will insist on it, my friend!"

"Maybe if I just got out to walk – you know? Stretch my legs a bit?" Slappy attempted.

Fifi looked hurt.

"Mon ami! What has Luc done to cause you to insult him so?"

"Nothing!" Slappy shouted, "He's a great guy and he's doing a great job! Keep it up, Luc! Pull like the wind! I'll be back here enjoying the ride and the manly way you pull the cart."

Fifi beamed, while with a sigh and a pant, Luc continued pulling the cart up hill and down, though he had long lost the scent of their quarry.

Meanwhile, the Boil pulled out of Willemstad harbor as quickly as they could get Chumbucket on board. George had the ship beginning to move as the longboat pulled alongside, so the whole affair was rather like watching a cowboy jump onto a running horse, only on the water and of course there were no cowboys in the world at this point in history so no one watching was able to make the comparison. It was tricky, but in moments the ship was moving out of the harbor.

Ol' Chumbucket quickly filled in George the Greek about where they were headed and once the ship had cleared harbor the crew was called together so that everyone could get up to speed. It took some time for everyone get caught up with pieces of the story, what with different people being jailed at different times and missing parts of what had happened while painting, and everyone had a good laugh at Cap'n Slappy's operatic debut – a laugh they would repeat as soon as the captain had rejoined them – and at last everyone aboard was on board, so to speak.

Everyone except Cementhands, who looked piercingly at Ol' Chumbucket.

"So why exactly were you at the cathedral?" he asked.

"You know as well as I do," Chumbucket said, feigning indifference. "We needed a diversion to draw the guards from the jail. That seemed like the obvious way to go."

"I can think of half a dozen ways that didn't involve going into a church already packed with guards."

"I'm sure you can think of more than that. You attract guards and security people like a bleeding Spaniard dangled in the water attracts sharks. It just seemed like the best way to proceed."

McCormack continued staring, shaking his head slightly.

"And how did the governor's mansion end up exploding?"

"I'm not sure," Chumbucket admitted. "That wasn't me. Sally did something with a flaming ax, and then she and her crew ran out the back while I got blown through a window."

"But if you went to the church, how did you and Sally end up in the mansion?" Cementhands pressed. "And why were you and Sally together?"

Ol' Chumbucket was spared the need for further prevarication by a call from the masthead, where Two Patch had been posted as a sentry.

"Sail astern!" he called. "A ship is working its way out of harbor!"

The Boils all raced to the railing, snapping open their glasses to look at who might be coming up behind them. It was a small boat, a sloop, but appeared to be outfitted for combat. The banner flying from the mainmast flapped open in the breeze, showing itself to be a Dutch flag with an insignia that indicated it was a government ship.

"I thought you said the governor was dead," Keeling said to Chumbucket.

"Probably dead," the older man corrected. "Almost certainly dead. I mean, he was laying on the table that blew up. So even if he's not completely dead, he's probably not up for a cruise."

"Well, whoever is using his boat, I don't want him passing us," George said. "In half an hour, if he's still behind us on the same course, we'll take a few minutes to discourage him, how about?"

Everyone gathered on the quarterdeck nodded in agreement. It was curious thing, but the full crew had never sailed together without Slappy, and no one had specifically been told to take charge, so the chain of command didn't exist. Even given a pirate's natural inclination to vote on everything, the crew had enough respect for each other that they faced the very real danger of constantly deferring to each other when instant action was needed.

There was another moment of silence, then Cementhands spoke up.

"How's this sound? George, you're in charge while we're sailing. Until we get to Westpunt your word is law. Once we get there and have to work out what to do, then Chumbucket, you be in charge. Sound good?"

The other pirates were nodding agreement, but Chumbucket stopped them.

"No, no, Leftenant Keeling, you be in charge of the tactical situation when we get there," he said.

"But why?" Keeling protested.

"We don't need strategic thinking, we all know what we're after and have a pretty good idea of what we're facing," Chumbucket said. "Under the circumstances, you'll be the best person to decide what we need to do if it comes to a fight."

"But don't you ..."

"No," Chumbucket said again. "You will know what to do, and will do it no matter what. Under the circumstances, I don't want to have to make those decisions if we end up fighting Poison Pearl."

There was a long pause while everyone digested that, then slowly some head nodding.

"All right then," Cementhands said. "George is in charge during the cruise, Keeling when we get to Westpunt. All agreed?"

The pirates shouted their approval.

"Anything else, or are we finished talking?" Cementhands said.

"One other thing," Chumbucket said. All eyes turned to him.

"Do we have any black paint left?"

Cementhands allowed as how black was the only color they did have left, after repainting the gaol.

"Then while we're moving, can we for the love of Neptune's salty bollocks change the color of this ship back to something a pirate would be proud to sail on?"

The others had almost forgotten the garishly hideous paint job they had performed to transform the Boil's appearance from pirate ship to painter's barge. It looked for all the world like a giant floating bruise.

"Cementhands!" George bellowed. "Get a crew of scrapers gong to remove the abomination of purple!"

"Aye aye, sir"

"And if we have time and it doesn't slow us down, we can start painting with the black as soon as they're finished. Double lookout in the rigging, keep an eye on the coast road for any traffic bound for Westpunt. Now let's get moving!"

The crew fell to work with a will. As they rounded the headlands north of Willemstad harbor, the mystery ship still on a similar course behind them, another sail was sighted ahead of them, hull up. It's course looked like it would take it a mile or so past the Boil's larboard side.

"Now what?" Chumbucket muttered, fixing his glass on the new ship. He stared for a full minute, then a grin split his face.

"George! Can we draw nearer without losing much speed?"

George made a quick calculation of the wind then nodded and ordered the course correction.

"It's Ye Olde Tattoo Shippe," Chumbucket explained. "I don't want to stop, but if we can pass within hailing distance I'd like to see if he knows anything."

Ten minutes later the Boil was closing within 200 feet of the tattoo artist's ship, which had backed sails to slow down. George ordered a similar arrangement and the two ships drifted towards each other.

"Ahoy Clay, you great lump o' pelican droppings!" Chumbucket shouted through the ship's hailing trumpet. "Where are ye bound?"

"Ahoy Ol' Chumbucket, you mouldering ol' gob of sputum," Clay's voice echoed back, just as loud though he didn't need to use a tube. "We're headed for Willemstad, though from the look of that column o' smoke, I don't know how much of it we'll find when we get there!"

"We left a few stones still standing for ye," Chumbucket shouted back. "What's yer business there?"

"Gotta pick up a package!" the inkman answered. "Have a commission to pick summat up and deliver it. What's it to ye?"

Chumbucket was interested, but the two ships were already beginning to drift apart, and George was showing impatience to be on his way.

"Nothing, nothing! Just wondering if you've seen any action up towards Westpunt!"

"Westpunt? Aye, great gathering o' ships up that way, and I don't mean fishing boats! Unless you have business that way, you might want to sheer off! It ought to be getting right lively up there soon!"

"Can't do it! We have business! How about you? Care to join us for the fun?"

"Love nothing better!" Clay said, his voice now fading as the distance between the two ships grew. "But it's a matter of honor! My business is to the south!"

"Good luck to ye!" Chumbucket shouted.

"And to ye!" Clay boomed in return "Smooth sailin' and rich plunder!"

Chumbucket turned back to George.

"Well, now we know something is going on up there. We'd best hurry and join the party before it's too late."

"Aye," George said. "I thought you'd never ask! Arright you lubbers!" he shouted to the topmast jacks already busy in the rigging. "Haul her head around and hang every scrap o' canvas we've got!"

He glanced over his shoulder and saw the other ship still lagging behind, but on the same course – north to Westpunt. There was no time to deal with the interloper now, he grumbled, but the time would surely come.

On Ye Olde Tattoo Shippe, Clay watched the Boil's sails blossom as the ship picked up speed.

"Fair winds to ye," he murmured to himself. "And with luck you'll find what ye need, even if you don't find what ye want."

Back on the road leading across the island, dusk was settling. Luc, with only a brief pause for rest, continued to pad uphill and down, pulling the trio of pirates behind him. He was laboring up a rise when Fifi stood in the cart behind him and pointed excitedly ahead.

"We are almost there!" he said. "Atop that rise we should be able to see the sea, and the road stretching down to it."

Even as he spoke, Slappy caught a sound and looked behind him.

"Something's coming," he said. "Sounds like hooves."

They all strained to hear and in the wind brought the sound to them, the thud of approaching horse hooves.

"Make haste, good Luc!" Fifi called. "Get us to the top of that rise and we will see about greeting these people on our tail."

Luc doubled his pace and the cart quickly reached the crest. The roadway stretched out below them, with the sea sparkling at the bottom.

"Quick, turn the cart sideways to block the path," Fifi ordered. He jumped to the ground, loosening his sword in its scabbard as he studied the terrain. To the left the path fell away to a series of low cliffs. To the right there was a small berm they might shelter behind. Fifi quickly laid out his plan.

"Is that clear?" he asked, the sound of the hoofbeats now growing nearer. "Slappy? Is that clear?"

Slappy was staring out at the sea before them, a puzzled expression on his face. He pulled a small spyglass from his pouch and stared out to see, his lips pursed.

"Slappy!" Fifi shouted. "Our visitors are almost upon us! Does my plan meet with your approval?"

"What? Oh, yeah, yes, of course," Slappy said. "It's just that ..."


"Well, I see your ship below, anchored in the bay. And there are three other ships to the northwest closing on them, all flying Dutch flags. They've got the wind and they'll be attacking your crew any minute."

Fifi looked concerned, but the rapidly approaching hoofbeats held his attention. He scowled at Slappy.

"What of it?" the Frenchman said. "We'll deal with these riders, then go down and put a stop to the Dutch fleet. What else?"

"Well," Slappy said. "That's all I see. No sign of Sally's ship, Poisoned Pearl. No sign of anyone ahead of us on the road. Either they got here way ahead of us and flew the coop ..."

"Impossible," Fifi said in a comical French accent. "Le Petit Morte Deux has been here two weeks. There was no coop flying!"

"Then the only other possibility is we've come the wrong way," Slappy said, drawing a groan from Luc.

"But we know Mme. Sally started out on the hill road," Fifi complained.

"Yes, but we assumed she stayed on it to meet her ship. Apparently that's not what she did. If she did, I don't know where she might have gone."

Fifi swore.

"Les women!" he said, shaking a fist at the sky. "It is never possible to know what they want, is it my friend? But enough. It sounds as if the riders will be here shortly. Shall we greet them?"

The pounding of hooves was louder. In seconds the riders would be round the curve and reach the top of the rise.

Slappy suddenly snapped out of his fog of thought.

“Turn the cart.”

“What?” Fifi seemed surprised – Slappy was deviating from the script? But then he remembered, “It was a ‘Slappy thing’ to do.”

Luc positioned the cart – like a sled at the top of a snow-covered hill – and Slappy climbed aboard. He stood in the cart, staring at his beloved blunderbuss – happy to have it in his hand before another battle. But then he surprised everyone, perhaps even himself, by tossing it to Fifi.

“But Mortimer!” Fifi laughed – a little nervously. “What shall you do for ze weapon?”

Slappy grinned and bounced his eyebrows – almost gleeful at the task before him.

“I’ll do like I’ve always done, Fifi. I’ll use me head.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The Curacao Caper - Chapter 44

Anyone who has ever been in close proximity to an exploding governor’s mansion will know that after the noise comes the rain of debris. This was Luc’s first state residence explosion – but it was Slappy’s third (actually, fourth, if you count the unfortunate events of the “party” at Henry Morgan’s celebrating the buccaneer's appoinment as lieutenant governor of Jamaica, but that sort of thing was pretty much par for the course for Henry.) Anyway, the point is the more experienced hands knew to brace for impact.

Fifi quickly used Luc as a shield to protect himself from falling bits of rock, glass and the tattered remnants of the governor’s wardrobe - mostly shoes. Slappy was hobbled not only by his apparent heart attack, but also the sight of a young Frenchman sprinting toward them yelling, “Observez dehors! Observez dehors! Attrapez l'homme en baiss!” He barely had time to think, “French is such an inconvenient language when you are running and trying to convey something urgent in a timely fashion.” Then he glanced up to see the sun blotted out by an object falling directly upon him.

A fog of powdered governor’s mansion was still wafting through the square when Slappy regained any semblance of consciousness. He could barely make out the shapes of Fifi and Luc hovering over him – joined by the young Frenchman he would come to learn was Fifi’s nephew, Jacques. The pressure on his chest was multiplied by … let’s say a factor of “n” … and he found each breath to be a lot more work than it should be. Slappy murmured. “Surely these are my last breaths.”

“No.” A familiar, albeit groggy voice whispered directly into his ear. “These aren’t your last breaths. And don’t call me ‘Shirley’.”

Cap’n Slappy’s initial relief was doubled. He recognized the voice immediately. It was his old, faithful pal, Ol’ Chumbucket – apparently alive and more well than not, and crushing him from above in a position that Slappy had always called, “Bouncy-Bouncy position number five – wench dominant.”

“How much do I owe ye, Luv?” Slappy quipped, trying to make light of their awkward position.
“It’s on the house.” Ol’ Chumbucket replied as he rolled himself off the portly pirate and began dusting himself off.

“No!” Jacques said with a boyish giggle. “The HOUSE is on you!”

The observation, while not nearly as funny as the young Frenchman believed, was entirely accurate. The explosion had blown nearly half of the upper floor of the mansion to – if not smithereens, and a neighborhood adjacent to it.

Fifi had been spared most of the brunt of the blast. His human shield, Luc, however, was not nearly so lucky. He had bits of glass and stone embedded in his baker’s smock – some piercing the skin. He also pulled a shoe out of the front of his pants. There was a moment of confusion as he reached down the front of his britches and began tugging at the foreign object – then group-wide befuddlement as to how a boot of that size had found its way into Fifi’s faithful dogsbody’s delicate nether regions – but Luc was quick to observe, “That’s a nice boot.”
He would have kept it if not for the fact that he couldn’t find the pair for it – and its previous owner had left his foot in it.

“Where’s Sally?” Slappy insisted as he shook Ol’ Chumbucket – clouds of dust falling like snow from his clothes and hair. Ol’ Chumbucket, still dazed from his flight and fortuitous landing, searched his memory for an answer – the shaking didn’t help this process, but it gave Slappy something to do.

“Ship,” Chumbucket finally said. “She’s headed for her ship.”

“Where’s Hamnquist?!?” Slappy continued his bone-rattling. Ol’ Chumbucket by now had completely come to and seized the pirate captain back and began a tremendous shaking of his own. The two gave the appearance of a pair of competitive dancers – each jousting the other to take the lead. Then came the slapping.

In an attempt to snap Slappy out of his death-grip-body-rattling, Ol’ Chumbucket let fly with a solid slap to the side of the fat man’s face. This froze the two of them for a moment – but only a moment, as Slappy returned the blow in kind. What followed was a series of tremendous slaps to the face – back and forth – back and forth. Luc and Jacques moved to break them up after the tenth or eleventh blow, but they were stopped by Fifi who was enjoying the show more than anything he had seen in seven years.

Finally, between slaps, Ol’ Chumbucket managed to yell, “Sally’s gone to meet her ship in Westpunt – I think Hamnquist is with her!”

The friends stopped their slap fight that very moment and looked at each other dumbly. Slappy thought for a moment.

“George and Cementhands no doubt heard the explosion and are getting ready to leave harbor – as per our standard ‘Set Sail When the Town Blows Up’ protocol!”

The five of them simultaneously began sprinting toward the wharf. Slappy, of course, trailed far behind – still not sure if he was having a heart attack and wanting to be medically prudent.

As the youngest and least abused of the company, Jacques was first to the wharf. Sailors lined the rails of all the ships in harbor – and there were quite a few in town for the celebration of the wedding that wouldn't be happening – staring and pointing at the plume of smoke that rose from the center of the town. Several ships were beginning to make sail, based on the notion that a gigantic explosion was probably going to kill the spirit of fun in town and not wanting to have to answer questions from the authority. Hardly anyone knew what had happened, but that wouldn't stop the authorities from demanding answers.

"Where's the Boil?

Jacques pointed, and their eyes all followed his finger beyond the edge of the wharf where the Festering Boil was turning toward the wind. Jacques sprinted toward the end of the pier, waving frantically to get the attention of anyone on the pirate ship who might be watching the shore. Ol' Chumbucket, Fifi and Luc, with Slappy bringing up the rear, clutching his chest.

Aboard the Boil, George the Greek was getting the ship under way, He didn't like it, didn't like leaving his captain and shipmate in the town and was reasonably certain the blast that had hurled chunks of masonry into the harbor had something to do with them. But he had his orders, and he was carrying them out. Then, having done so, he could turn the ship and come back to settle scores.

"Heave and let fly!" he shouted in a voice that sounded like a foghorn. The crew responded, drawing the headsail tight. It caught the wind and cracked open with a sound like a gunshot. The ship began to move.

"George!" Red Molly shouted. "Slappy and Chumbucket!"

"It can't be helped," he said, scowling. "Slappy said to leave if they weren't back."

"No!" she shouted. "They're back! Look!"

George didn't look. He trusted Molly enough to know she wouldn't make a mistake like that, and didn't waste a second to verify her report.

"Heave to!" he shouted. "Cementhands, get a longboat in the water!"

From the pier the five men could see the ship coming to a halt and moments later a longboat dropped over the side. As men scrambled down and unshipped the oars, Slappy sat and breathed deeply.

"You alright?" Chumbucket asked with concern. Unbelievably, it had been less than 10 minutes since the governor's mansion had dissolved in a fiery blast, and he hadn't had the chance to notice his friend's condition.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Slappy said. "Just got a bit of a stitch in my side. A little weasel grease and I'll be right as rain. So, where's Sally's ship?"

"It's already up in Westpunt," Chumbucket said. "At least that's my guess."

"Then how is she getting Hamnquist to it?"

"If I was a betting man, and I am ..." Chumbucket started, but Slappy interrupted.

"Not a good one," he said. It was an old issue between them.

"Maybe, but I've never tried to draw to an inside straight," Chumbucket replied mockingly.

"And the time I managed it I won forty doubloons, now didn't I?"

"And the other dozen or so times I've seen you try it, you lost your shirt."

"Yeah, well I never liked that shirt. Made my ass look fat."

"No, your enormous ass makes your ass look fat," Chumbucket said. It might not have been a funny line, but it was a standard bit of dialogue between them and they both stuck to the script for the sake of tradition.

Fifi, standing beside them watching with growing disgust, threw up his hands.

"If all you English types are this stupid, I absolutely do not understand how you won the Hundred Year's War." Then, before Slappy could say something offensive about French military ability or Chumbucket could point out the interesting (only to him) historical fact that the Hundred Years War was actually a series of wars that covered a span of 116 years, Fifi stomped his foot and forced their attention back to the matter at hand.

"Westpunt," he said. "If her ship is there, how will she reach it? Another ship?"

"Probably not," sad Chumbucket, crestfallen at not being able to display his freakish love of arcane facts. "If I were a betting man ..." He eyed Slappy, but Fifi was on his guard.

"No! No betting! How is she getting there?"

"Horses. Or maybe a wagon. Probably a wagon, now that I think of it. I don't know if she can ride, but Hamnquist is an older man, and he's been in gaol for months. Probably not up for a ride."

"The only riding I've ever known him to do was at Lolly's Sportn' House and Pleasure Palace back on Tortuga back in the day," Slappy said.

"Agreed," Fifi said. "And what route do they take?"

"Coast road or the hills," Chumbucket said. "It's about 30 miles by the coast road, but it's probably pretty heavily patrolled, and they'd be exposed from the sea the whole way. The other road's a little longer and goes up into the hills – hence the name 'Hill Road.' Either way, they won't reach Westpunt before nightfall, and probably not before morning if they take the hills."

"Then we'll take that road as well," Fifi said.

"When we have a nice, comfortable ship right in front of us?" Chumbucket asked in surprise.

"My own ship is already waiting off Westpunt," Fifi said, "But we do not know what we'll find when we get there. Certainly Sally's ship, and mine. And others? No, you take the ship to Westpunt," he said to Chumbucket. "Slappy, Jacques and I will pursue. Perhaps we will catch her on the road and relieve her of Hamnquist. But if we do not, we'll be close behind, and when she gets to the beach she'll be caught between an anvil and a hammer."

"While I'll happily play the hammer tomorrow," Slappy said, "would you mind if I rested my pegs right now?"

“Rest zem on ze road, silly pirate!” he turned to his servant. "Luc, trouvez un chariot!"

Luc sighed and shuffled off, returning a few moments later with a small donkey cart.

"As you see," Fifi said, "There's not much room. So Shumbucket, if you would go aboard and take command of things from the sea. Follow the coast road and you'll be able to spot them. Otherwise join forces with my ship off Westpunt and bottle them up, as we follow our prey into the hills."

"Sounds like a plan," Ol' Chumbucket agreed, "but I see one little problem."

"Oh? What's that?" Fifi said, looking perplexed.

"You have a donkey cart, but no donkey."

"Ah, that is nothing!" Fifi said. "Luc!"

In a moment, Slappy, Fifi and Jacques were loading into the cart and Luc began pulling.

They were still in view, passing north on the strand, when the longboat grated onto the sand in front of Ol' Chumbucket.

"Nice work," Cementhands commented, pointing to where the pillar of dust and smoke was just beginning to settle. "How'd you do that?"

"Long story," Chumbucket said.

"Where's Hamnquist, and where's the captain going with those French guys?"

"Longer story. Back to the ship. By the way, Cementhands," he added as the crew plied their oars, "Do you know how long the Hundred Years War lasted?"

Cementhands rolled his eyes.

The cart proceeded to the north end of town to where the roads branched off, one route following the coast to the northwest, the other due north up into the hills. Luc's exquisitely tuned nose actually caught a tiny whiff of their quarry trailing up into the hill, but he began to pull the cart toward the left.

"Luc!" Fifi admonished. "Didn't you hear me say we are taking the hill road?"

Luc sighed, then began dragging the front of the cart back around toward the hills.

"Oiu, mon capitane," he said.

"And quickly! Double time!"

Luc picked up the pace, but it wasn't easy on the hilly road. Curacao was not mountainous by any means, but a hill is a hill, and a cart with three men, one of them quite a large man, was a pain in the ass.

“Mon Capitain! Couldn’t Jacques help me pull ze cart?” He cast an accusatory glance in Cap’n Slappy’s direction. “Some of you are not so svelte as you once were.”

“Luc! Strike yourself for such a suggestion!” Fifi snapped. Luc obeyed. Fifi held Jacques hands aloft – as if they were a sacred relic. “Did you not see ze cake he decorated?”

“Ze one with ze bomba in it?” Luc asked wryly.

“Oui! His frosting was a work of beauty! MAGNIFIQUE! You would not have me force Michelangelo to pull wagons would you, Luc!?!”

“No, mon Capitain. No.” Luc slumped as he pulled the heavy wagon over the dirt road and into the hills.

Back in town, the giant baby-man jailor was deputizing a search crew. With his master dead and the master's assistant missing, he probably lacked any legal authority to do so, but such a thought never occurred to hm.

“Thems is naughty-naughty pirates! I want to find them all!”

A hand went up among his eager, would-be pirate hunters.

“Do you want them ‘Dead or Alive’?”

The giant baby-man thought for a moment and replied. “I want them alive … so I can make them dead.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010


The Curacao Caper – Chapter 43

Minutes earlier in the governor's mansion:

A shot rang out.

Everyone in the entryway standoff – the governor, Mad Sally, Ol' Chumbucket, the guards – froze, looking up, surprised. Then they all looked down, and satisfied that they weren't bleeding anywhere, looked around again for the source of the shot.

At the entrance to the main hall a cloud of white smoke cleared and revealed a young, redheaded man dropping the pistol he'd just fired into the ceiling and drawing a second, which he aimed at Gov. Wubbeldinker.

"Jack!" said Mad Sally with relief at the appearance of her escort.

"Dave," said Ol' Chumbucket with annoyance at the appearance of the young upstart.

"What the hell!" shouted the governor, with wet pants at the appearance of a person with a gun pointed at him.

"The lady and I will be leaving," said the man known by a variety of names but it was apparently Jack, since that's what Mad Sally had called him in that unguarded moment. "And I guess this guy too," he added, nodding his head at Ol' Chumbucket.

"I don't think so," the governor said, trying to recover his control. 'You'll notice you're outnumbered."

"It only takes one ball to kill you," Jack said.

"Maybe," the governor said diffidently, "but that means my guards are at least six times more likely to kill you."

"Or not," Jack said, adding, "Ladies?"

The guards, who Chumbucket had thought looked little young, took two steps forward, executed a neat about face, and leveled their muskets at the governor. The wet stain on his trousers grew – by a factor of six, appropriately.

"Now then, your Excellency, I think we'll be leaving," the redheaded young man said.

Wubbeldinker gawped. It might not be a real word, but it's what he did.

"Hold on just a second Jack," Mad Sally said, stepping toward the nonplussed (but truly pissed) governor. "Have the girls got Hamnquist?"

"I sent them to the inn where you arranged the rendezvous," the youth said. "They should have him by now."

"Then let's head for ..." she glanced at Ol' Chumbucket and decided not to reveal all her cards, "the place where we're to meet them."

"Aye, ma'am."

"But before we go ..." Sally took another step forward until she was eyeball to eyeball with the governor. At this proximity, she could actually smell the urine that pooled now at his feet. The man must have been eating asparagus, she thought, wrinkling her nose in disgust.

"You ruined the reputation of a man who means a great deal to me," she hissed at him. "You terrorized me and my mother, and forced him to do something he's never been forgiven for. And I will have my revenge."

Wubbeldinker flnched and whimpered as she hefted the boarding axe, which still trailed streamers torn from her wedding dress.

"You know," she said. "I've never understood why people always assume that the perfect vengeance is to kill someone."

Jack sighed and glanced at his watch.

"Could we hurry this up?" he asked. "That shot should be drawing any guards who are left."

"In a moment," Sally said, then turned her attention back to the craven figure in front of her. "I could kill you. I could make you scream with pain. Or I could do something worse. I could let you live."

The governor said nothing, but dropped to his knees.

"I'm going to leave you here, soaked in your own piss and crawling like the rat you are. For the rest of your life you'll know you're a coward, a thief, a black-hearted traitor and a writhing piece of filth. And everyone else will know it too. I've already taken the steps to be sure that everyone will know – the citizens of this island, your government in Amsterdam, the Brotherhood and even the officials of the other governments – England, France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden. There's nowhere you can go where you won't be greeted with scorn and derision, laughed at, mocked, hated. Officials will think you're worse than a pirate, the pirate community will know you're lower than the lowest thing you can think of. And all because you kidnapped the family of a man who had shown you nothing but kindness. Threatened them with rape and torture if he didn't deliver to you a treasure you didn't deserve. I'm going to enjoy thinking about your miserable excuse for a life, and I hope you live a long, long time, wallowing in self-pity – because no one else on this globe is going to pity you, and that's a fact."

Jack glanced nervously out the front door.

"Really, I think we need to go now."

"One more minute," Sally said, keeping her steel gaze locked on the governor. "Stand up!" she barked.

The governor cringed.

"Stand up, I said," she repeated. He rose slowly to his feet, and she took a step back, staring at him with a cold smile on her face.

"I want to remember you just the way you are."

She stared at him, letting her gaze run up and down. Then she laughed.

"And you thought you were going to be married to me! Let's go, girls."

Sally turned and crossed towards the door where Jack waited. The girls from her crew kept their muskets aimed at the governor while they backed away. Sally, looking every bit the pirate captain despite the fact that she was wearing a torn, tattered wedding dress, turned towards Ol' Chumbucket.

"You should get down to the harbor and get aboard the Boil," she said. I imagine they're getting ready to sail, but they'll probably be looking for you."

"Wait a second," he replied. "I'm not going anywhere without Hamnquist."

"Oh yes you are," she said with a steely gaze. "I've got the captain, and I'm keeping him. It's been fun, as always, and there's certainly a lot to think about before the next time we meet, but for now ..." She cocked her head and gave a mock salute. "Ta ta! Now let's go, girls."

The half dozen pirates formed up in ranks, maintaining their disguise as guards, and headed out the door. But their progress halted immediately as a hail of musket balls tore into the building's exterior.

"I think those soldiers I was taking about have arrived," Jack said, as he calmly aimed his pistol at the gathering out front and fired. "Back door, I think."

"Aye," Sally said. "Bonnie, Crow, come with me. You four watch the soldiers. If they start to advance fire a volley then follow us out back."

She started down the back hallway. Ol' Chumbucket took a step towards her, but she shook her head.

"Not this time, luv," she said. "We're going alone. If I were you I'd find a side window. You'll be safe."

"I'm going where you're going," he replied firmly.

"The hell you – Duck!"

In the confusion, Wubbeldinker had withdrawn a derringer from his waistcoat and aimed it in the general direction of the fleeing pirates. The shot flew over Chumbucket's head. Jack had pushed Sally down, knocking over a table that held a lantern. It hit the floor and smashed, the pool of kerosene catching fire.

Sally pushed her redheaded escort aside and snatched up her axe, which had fallen into the flames. Without pause or thought she held it aloft – the remnants of wedding dress now alight, turning it into a faming torch – and hurled it toward the governor.

It wooshed through the air, burning brighter as it flew end over end across the room, and hit the governor squarely in the chest. He staggered backwards, the blood competing with the flames over which would be the most spectacular effect, and collapsed on the table that held the wedding cake that had been so carefully prepared by Fifi. The flames began to spread across the table toward the desert.

"Damn, I wanted him to live," Sally said. "Oh well, that's not bad either."

Then she looked down at Jack, who was struggling to his feet, clutching his arm from which blood was beginning to seep

"You're hurt!" she said with alarm.

"I'll be alright," he muttered through clenched teeth. "It hit me in the arm, but I don't think it broke the bone. We'll take care of it later."

The four pirates stationed at the front door fired their volley and drew back towards the hallway. Evidently the real guards were making their move.

"Let's go, everyone. Now!" their captain ordered. Ol' Chumbucket stared after her with admiration.

"Sally!" he shouted.

"I'm serious, Chumbucket. Don't follow." she jerked her head toward the window. "Go!"

"Wait – just wanted to say," he looked over at the table where the governor sprawled, flames licking at his corpse, "that was awesome!"

She smiled.

"Thanks. But I'm serious. Don't follow."

You know I'll come after you."

"Yes, but will you catch me?"

She blew him a kiss and disappeared down the hallway. Chumbucket ran toward a window and raised it.

Several things happened almost simultaneously.

-- Ol' Chumbucket got one leg over the window sill.

-- The real guards burst through the front entrance and saw the man from the church – Ol' Chumbucket – halfway out the window.

-- They began to turn to shoot at him.

-- The flames on the table reached Fifi's "bombe"

-- The cake exploded with a roar, blowing away the front of the building, the guards, and the mortal remains of Gov. Governor Roelof Van Wubbeldinker – which was turned into so much scorched, shredded meat.

–– Chumbucket was blown through the window.

"So this is flying," Chumbucket thought as he rocketed through the air. "Not as fun as I'd have thought."

Then he hit something or something hit him and the very bright afternoon went dark for him.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The Curacao Caper – Chapter 42 "The Game's Afoot!"

“Well, Sloopy you go to the governor’s mansion and rescue your Scumbucket and Luc and I will find Hamnquist and the very mysterious Messier Jeffries.” LeFleur suggested confidently.

“Since when do I take orders from you, Froofie?”

Fifi LeFleur gasped at Slappy’s impromptu new nickname. Slappy was clearly satisfied with the reaction.

“You drop a Sloopy and a Scumbucket and you’ll get a Froofie every time!”

“Fine! No nicknames … Mortimer.” Fifi’s use of Slappy’s Christian name was a minor needling … but he knew he’d feel the sting nonetheless. “So, shall we both go after Ol’ Chumbucket first, then find Hamnquist?”

“No.” Slappy said decisively. “Ol’ Chumbucket can take care of himself. Let’s get Hamnquist out of Bernard Jeffries’ clutches – for I am sure that he’s up to no good!”

“When did you start talking like that, Mortimer?”

“Like what?”

“Like zee crime solving aristocrat in an apothecary shop penny novel?”

“Whatever do you mean?” Slappy replied, somewhat overly aghast.

“THAT!” Fifi declared – pointing an accusatory finger in Slappy’s direction. “Right there! You did it again!”

“Piffle!” Slappy shot back – pulling a monocle out of his pocket and placing it in his eye socket.

“WHAT!?!?” Fifi nearly screamed as he snatched the lens out of Slappy’s eye and held it in front of his face. “What is that!?!”

The monocle dangled a mere three inches from Slappy’s eyes – but he pretended to look right through it – without benefiting from its visual enhancement properties.

“My good sir,” Slappy said – with more of a British accent than he’d ever used before, “had I the aid of my sight enhancement apparatus I might be able to discern the answer to your query. Sadly, I seem to be lacking said device and am thus unable to elucidate your current conundrum.”

“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” Fifi had now lost all control and had smashed the eyepiece onto the cobblestones and was pouncing up and down on it – pulverizing the glass back into sand.

“No more clever name-play?” Slappy asked – showing the terms for their verbal armistice.

Fifi took a deep cleansing breath to regain his composure. “Agreed.” He extended his hand in formal agreement.

They shook on it and it was done … except for one last observation from Fifi.

“You were always a master of verbal drivel.”

“The Devil take me drivel! We’ve a former captain to find – and perhaps rescue … and then exploit for our own selfish purposes!” Slappy thought for a moment. “If I only had that old bloodhound. He could track anything!”

“Luc!” Fifi said with confidence.

“No. I’m pretty sure his name was Schnozzle!”

“No!” Fifi said, pointing at his man. “Luc! Reniflez-le dehors!”

Luc Duvall, who had been patiently waiting out the verbal boxing match between the two pirates rolled his eyes – then dutifully dropped to all fours and began crawling, hands and knees, over the cobblestones with his nose to the rocks – sniffing furiously.

“Watch this!” Fifi whispered to Slappy – like a proud dog owner. “When he gets the scent, he actually wags his ass!”

Within moments, Luc’s ass was wiggling with a vengeance. He sprang from his knees to his feet – but kept his hands to the ground so his nose was never far from the cobblestones and began moving at a rapid pace up the street toward the more dodgy side of town.

“Bon garçon, Luc! Trouvez le gentil homme!”

Slappy and Fifi followed Luc – at the quick-step.

Bernard Jeffries had taken Captain Hamnquist to the dodgiest inn in the dodgiest part of town. It was called, “The Ol’ Dodgy Inn,” because this area of town was so poor they couldn’t afford irony.

Jeffries had ordered a tall glass of warm, spiced rum be brought to the table for his friend.

“Do you remember me, old timer?” Jeffries busily scanned Hamnquist’s face for some glimmer of recognition – but he wasn’t seeing it.

“Are ye Mortimer?” he asked. “You’ve lost weight, lad! Do ye have a tapeworm by chance?”

“No. I’m not Mortimer.” Jeffries said impatiently. “Look at my face. You must remember something looking at my face!”

A cagey gleam flashed across Hamnquist's visage, but beyond that he said nothing.

"A moment ago, when I rescued you from those pirates ..."

"Rescued me? Is that what you did?" Hamnquist asked, his voice still dreamy.

"Of course. You were in gaol, and I was planning your rescue there, but then you were grabbed by that mob of pirates, and I was able to spirit you away while their attention was diverted by a pie fight."

"A pie fight? In the Caribbean?"

"Aye, a pie fight. Quite stirring, too, if you like that sort of thing."

"Who doesn't enjoy a good pie fight every now and then?" the grizzled old buccaner said.

The captain seemed to be taking an interest in the story, which Jeffries considered a hopeful sign. He pushed in that direction.

"Oh yes, it was magnificent. Cream filled the air like ... well, like cream filling. And I believe your captors got the better of your former captors, but for now I got the better of both, because I've got you out of both their clutches. Do you remember any of that?"

Hamnquist gazed slyly at Jeffries under half closed lids. Jeffries pushed on.

"Do you remember, when I first approached me, you called me a name? You called me my name, don't you remember?"

"Did I?" Hamnquist asked sleepily. "I seem to remember something about it, but it's all kind of a blur. I haven't really been as sharp as I used to be just lately. A couple of months in gaol will do that to a fellow, I understand."

"Well, perhaps, but you seemed to know me."

"Did I?" he repeated. Hamnquist leaned forward s if studying the man's face. "I'll say you look a little familiar, but I can't say I place you."

Jeffries sighed in exasperation. It didn't really matter to his job if Hamnquist knew him or not, didn't matter really if Hamnquist remembered anything. His job was just to deliver him to people who had their reasons.

"Drink up, old friend," he said. "We've got a long road ahead of us, or as long a road as you can have on an island. I don't suppose you're up to riding a horse, are you?"

Hamnquist took a long pull on his rum, then set it down with a satisfied smile.

"Another one of those and I'll be up for anything," he said.

Jeffries ordered another, aware that time was passing quickly. He had to be out of the city soon, before other parties could catch up with him. The drinks arrived and Hamnquist pulled his toward him, eyeing Jeffries over the rim.

"You know," he said casually, apparently intent on his rum, "You seem awfully interested in my well being considering I can't, at the moment, remember who you are."

"Well, who wouldn't be interested in a legendary pirate such as yourself."

'Legendary? You're mocking me. What have I done that was so legendary?"

Jeffries was quiet for a moment. Too much said and he might give away the game. Finally he just said, "Well, there are stories told in bars throughout the Caribbean, that you play a prominent part in."

Hamnquist snorted.

"I would imagine so," he said. "But you know, sometimes the stories have it wrong."

"How do you mean?"

"Sometimes what a man is said to have done looks different from another perspective. And sometimes there are other people involved who deserve more of the credit – or the blame."

"You mean like your former lieutenants, Slappy and Fifi?"

"Oh I'm sure they deserve far more credits for our exploits than they get. And there are others who might deserve more of the blame."

Hamnquist's voice changed suddenly, and for a moment Jeffries wondered if the old man had lost the train of conversation. The captain continued in a more casual vein.

"That governor here, Von Wubberdinker?"

"Wubbeldinker," Jeffries corrected automatically.

"Wubbeldinker. He showed an uncommon amount of interest in the exploits of one tired, washed up old pirate, don't you think?"

In fact Jeffries did think so, now that Hamnquist mentioned it. He had never pondered it much, since the governor's interest coincided with his own and gave him a plausible reason for his investigation. But now that Hamnquist mentioned it ...

"Yes, you know, that idiotic, bureaucratic boogeyman did show a surprising interest in you. Why do you suppose that was?"

But Hamnquist was happy enough to have planted the seed, and waved away the question. Jeffries decided he had pushed the issue far enough, and really was worried about the passing time.

"Drink up, and then we go."

Jeffries had been watching the front door, so he was surprised when a voice spoke up from behind him.

"The captain will go, but you’re staying here," a woman's voice said.

Jeffries head shot around but instead of a face to focus on, he found himself eye to eye – so to speak – with the barrel of a pistol.

"Very slowly, both hands on the table," said the voice, which Jeffries realized belonged to the woman he'd taken as a bar maid.

Jeffries did as he was told.

"Very nice. Now Captain Hamnquist, if you'd stand up and come around behind me."

"But my rum," Hamnquist said reasonably, his eyes scanning the room for an exit.

"Don't worry about that," the woman said. "We're taking you to someone who's been working hard to arrange your freedom."

"For that matter," Jeffries said, "I've been working just as hard for your freedom, and my employers have been trying to find you for more than 20 years."

"Your employers," Hamnquist said, rising from the table, "and don't doubt I've guessed who they are – are out of luck."

"I really don't think you want to cross them," Jeffries said. "They'll be very disappointed, and that makes them cranky."

"Well, they'll just have to get used to disappointment," the woman said. "Now, do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?"

"Is the easy way the one where you go away and I take my pris ... my friend here and follow my plan?" he asked.

"No, this is the easy way."

Jeffries felt a sharp pain at the back of his head and collapsed, his arms sprawled across the table, his head in a puddle of spilled rum.

Anyone loitering outside the Ol' Dodgy Inn would have been surprised to see an odd looking trio coming up the narrow road from the harbor. One was a man of impressive girth. Another was a man of impressive shortness. The third was just impressive, making very quick time though he was bent half over, his face pressed against the cobblestones. Of course, anyone loitering in the neighborhood of the Ol' Dodgy Inn would have been surprised by muggers, pickpockets and various other ne'er-do-wells long before, it wasn't a neighborhood for loitering, so their approach went unobserved.

Luc started sniffing deeper, his whole body quivering. Suddenly he straightened out, rising up on his left foot while his right went out behind him to counterbalance the hand that shot out, pointing to the inn.

"Bon, Luc, bon!" Fifi said.

Slappy was impressed, and said so.

"How does he do that?" he asked.

"He is from Alsace," Fifi said, as if that explained things. Slappy decided to drop it.

"Shall we go inside and see if our old friend is there?"

"It would be safer than waiting out here for him to depart," Fifi agreed, registering the many alleys and shadows muggers could be hiding in.

"Fast or slow?"

"Oh, fast, by all mean," Fifi said, suiting his action to the words and flying at the door. Unfortunately, it was latched and being of diminutive stature, he bounced off. Picking himself up irritably he dusted himself off and gestured to Slappy.

Slappy did not bounce off. His foot didn't just open the door, it sent it flying across the room where it collided with Jeffries, who had just come to from the blow he'd taken to the head. He was trying to get to his feet and was unable to dodge the door because he had just discovered his wrists were secured by a rope that passed under the table and looped through the supports underneath. So he caught the door full in the face and was again out like a light.

"Place appears to be empty," Slappy said.

"No wait, Luc has the scent," Fifi said, as Luc, quivering with excitement, dashed over to the chair where Hamquist had been seated.

"So he was here," Fifi said. "But where did he go? And with who?"

"With 'whom.'" said a voice from under the remains of the door.


"Not what," said the voice, groggily. "And not who. 'With whom.' "With whom did Hamnquist leave?' And you might want to add, 'Whence did they go?'"

"To whence?" Slappy asked.

"No, not to whence. Whence means 'from or to what place.' The preposition is part of the meaning, so saying 'to whence' is redundant."

Slappy thought he knew only one person that persnickety about grammar and usage.

"Ol Chumbucket? Is that ... Is that you?"

"No." The word came in a long, slow groan. "Get this crap off me."

The "crap" – the remains of the door, table and a chair – were quickly pulled aside, revealing Jeffries, who now sported a lump on the front of his head to match the one on the back.

"Well, the governor's ami?" Fifi said.

"No, the governor's aide, and not that any longer," Jeffries said, trying to rise from the floor. Slappy's boot pinned him in place.

"And what were you doing here with Hamnquist, and what have you done with him?" Slappy asked.

"What I was doing is none of your business and what I did, if you must know, was lose him."

"Lose him? Did he escape you?"

"He had help. A bar maid with a gun."

"And why did you bring him here?"

"As I said, that's my business."

Fifi cocked a pistol and pointed it Jeffries.

"I think we will make it ours," he said.

Jeffries looked at the two and shrugged.

"You're both pirates, both members of the brotherhood, is that not so?"

"Oui," Fifi said.

"Well, I am a member," Slappy said, "although I'm not sure I'm up to date on my dues, what with one thing and another and being in gaol here and for a while in Havana. But yeah, sure."

"Well then, I'm deputizing you ..." Jeffries began, but both his questioners broke into laughter.

"Depu... What? No, I don't think you understand," Slappy said.

"But I'm an authorized agent of the Brotherhood of the Coast and I'm here to bring Hamnquist to the council where he can stand trial for his crimes against us all, to wit, the theft of that massive treasure and leaving his crew to drown. And as said agent, I have the authority to ..."

"You have the authority to shut up," Slappy said. "As the sole surviving members of the crew, Fifi and I are planning to track the old boy down and exact all the vengeance anyone's going to need. And that treasure is ours."

"Well, 'ours' as long as our temporary entente lasts," Fifi said. "After all," he shrugged apologetically. "Pirates."

"True, but either way, we're not joining you."

"You don't want me to report you to the brotherhood, do you?" Jeffries asked.

"Like I said, my dues are late," Slappy said, "so me membership is temporarily suspended, you might say."

"And I am a French person and have my own union," Fifi said.

"Then there is no room for cooperation?" Jeffries asked.

"None," the two replied in unison.

"Even though I think I know which way they headed, and know where you can find your friend Chumbucket?"

That was too much for Slappy. He'd bandy words with Jeffries all day, just for fun. But mention of his friend was over the line. He reached down and grabbed Jeffries by the shirt front, lifting his head about a foot from the ground – just enough space for a good bounce, he figured.

"Ol' Chumbucket. Where is he?"

Jeffries had thought the point would make a nice bargaining chip. Now, looking at Slappy's fist – which looked roughly the size of a good beef roast – inches in front of his face, he decided it would make a better gift.

"The governor's mansion," he said quickly. "He and Mad Sally were locked in a room just off the main office, upstairs, right above the great hall."

Slappy turned towards Fifi.

"How much time did you say we had before ..."

"Thirty minutes, but that was 15 minutes ago," Fifi said.


Slappy dropped Jeffries – and because he was halfway to the door missed the chance to see he'd been right it was the perfect distance for a good cranial bounce.

Cap'n Slappy was not fleet of foot. He's not like those wispy lads who can run from sun up to sun down. And he didn't normally need to be. He was a pirate captain. His was a job where the beef to back up a good head butt was much more to be prized.

But he ran now as he hadn't run since his fifth wife had chased him with a boarding ax and a ravening badger. He was down the street and around the corner before Fifi could get through the doorway.

Fifi caught up with him at the edge of the town square, where he was crouched behind a bench. (As it happened, the very bench on which Chumbucket had sat while observing the lizard mating rituals, although the lizards were long gone – she with a load of fertile eggs, he with a satisfied smile.) From within they could hear a crash and a long, wailing scream.

"Something's going on in there," Slappy said still breathing hard and now bathed in sweat. "But I can't wait, I've gotta go in, as soon as this heart attack passes."

"Well mon ami, you'd best hurry," Fifi said, looking up at the clock tower. "You have exactly 10 minutes before the bomb goes off."

"Ten minutes? You're sure?" Slappy asked, getting ready to run for the door.

"Yes, the bomb goes off in exactly ..."

The front of the governor's mansion erupted in a roar of fire and smoke, the windows shattering and sending shards of glass and wooden mullion through the air at them. Fortunately the concussion had already knocked Slappy and Fifi off their feet, so the deadly debris passed harmlessly if noisily overhead.

"Ten minutes?" Slappy asked, surprised to notice he couldn't hear his own voice over the ringing in his ears.

"Unless something goes wrong," Fifi said.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


The Curacao Caper - Chapter 41

The guards thrust Ol' Chumbucket and Mad Sally into a small room off the governor's office. While the office was a grand room with French windows opening onto the square, the room the two pirates found themselves pushed into was not much larger than a closet, with no windows.

They were shoved roughly through the doorway and heard the door slam and the lock turn before they could even turn around. Ol' Chumbucket turned to examine the door, then turned to face Mad Sally. His timing was perfect, as he faced her just in time for her to catch him with a roundhouse right that sent him reeling back across the confined space, colliding with the door and slumping to the floor.

"What the hell was THAT all about!" she shouted at him. "How dare you fuck up my plans? You plan fucker!"

Groggy from his head coming into sharp contact with the door, he managed to put a finger to his lips in the international "Shhhhh!" symbol, then pointed to the closed door.

"Don't 'Shush' me" she said vehemently, albeit at a lower decibel level. "It was all right there. All right there! In another half hour I'd have been married to the governor, a half hour after that he'd have been dead and I'd have been on my way to Westpunt with ... well, with what I came here for."

"And that was?" Chumbucket asked, rising unsteadily to his feet.

"None of your damn business!"

"Alright then, we're still playing that game, the one where we're on opposite sides and screwing up each other's plans."

"Don't get in my way and you won't have to worry about your precious plans," she sneered.

"Now, dear, let's look at this logically ..." Chumbucket started, but that's all he got out.

"Don't 'dear' me, you bastard. This isn't Anguilla or Barbados. Of all the stupid things to say – 'She's married to me.' No one would believe it for a second! Like I'd marry you or anyone else."

"That statement would sound more convincing if you weren't wearing a – I have to say it – very lovely wedding dress."

"Yes, well, it's not like it was going to be a real marriage. Just long enough for me to become his widow."

"The Widow Wubbeldinker?," a wide grin split his face. "I like it. I like it a lot. But Sally, it's true. You married me back in Santiago 21 years ago."

"I did nothing of the sort!" she retorted. "I remember Santiago very well, I wasn't the one who was drunk most of the time we were there, and I think I'd remember if I married you."

"Well, sure, if I had told you about it."


"Remember that tattoo parlor?"

"Of course, we barely got away with ..."

"With our lives, yes I know," Chumbucket said "But before that. Do you remember the Spanish guy at the counter? He asked us a bunch of questions, and you remarked that it seemed like a lot of questions just to get a tattoo, but I told you it was a formality by the Spanish Office of Health and Inquisition and just say 'Si' to whatever he asked?"

Sally raised an eyebrow and stared at Chumbucket with such an intensity that he lowered his eyes.

"You bastard! You didn't!" she said.

"I'm afraid I did," Chumbucket said sheepishly. "The guy at the counter was an old friend of mine from back when I was working a clergy scam. He was a friar sent to the New World to save the savage's souls before stealing their land, and he sort of drifted from that to tattooing and body piercing." Chumbucket fingered the earring dangling from his lobe as he said this. "So there we were and he owed me a favor and ..."

He didn't finish the thought because Sally belted him again. Stars flashed in his eyes as his head caromed off the door frame and he again found himself on the floor.

"Quiet in there," shouted the guard outside.

"Would you please stop that?" Chumbucket hissed at her.

"What the hell were you thinking, you idiot"

Chumbucket felt he was making progress. "Idiot" was probably better than "bastard" and a far cry from “plan fucker.”

"Well, I was in love with you ..." he said.

"And I was in love with you, but we didn't need a piece of paper to prove it."

"Well, technically, we didn't get a piece of paper, the marriage certificate is tattooed to my skin."

"You said that was the opening lines to some play you'd seen in Madrid."

"I lied."


So much for progress.

"But why?" she demanded. "You asked me a couple of times about getting married and I know I said absolutely not. The last thing I wanted then - or now - is to turn into a married lady."

"I know. So I figured this way we'd both get what we wanted – I'd be married to you, you'd have the legal protection, I'd have you as a wife but you wouldn't have to turn into a married lady because you wouldn't know about it. Besides, I've known about it for 21 years and I never turned into a 'married man,' did I?""

Sally stared at Ol' Chumbucket. Of all the things they'd been through, together and apart, who would ever have expected this?

"Well Chumbucket" she said, "That's the sweetest thing I think I've ever heard. Also the stupidest, the most insulting, but sweet too, I'll give you that. But then you stopped asking ..."

"Because I knew we were already married, didn't really see the point of asking again ... Although I recognize now how foolish that was," he added hurriedly as she cocked her fist again.

She dropped her hand and shook her head.

"What's done is done," she said. "Help me with this."

Mad Sally reached under her voluminous skirts and began unfastening the tie that held the bustle in place.

"Well, I applaud the idea," Chumbucket said, stepping towards her with a familiar gleam in his eye, "but I really don't think we have time, and I don't think I could do my best work with guards right outside the door."

Her glare froze him.

"Do you want me to hit you again?" she asked. "Hold this."

Reaching under her skirt again, she drew out a pair of perfectly balanced throwing knives that she handed to Ol' Chumbucket and reached back underneath. Next came a pair of small pistols that she passed over to him.

"They're only .25 caliber," she said apologetically, "they might not stop a man, but they'll slow him down."

Next she withdrew a dirk and a set of brass knuckles. The boning of her corset yielded a pair of nasty looking curved blades and a heavy cudgel. By now her wedding gown was considerably less grand, veil, bustle, petticoats strewn about the room as she extracted weapons. Yet Chumbucket couldn't help noticing that she still looked great – in fact maybe better than she had before. There was something dead sexy about the way the remaining fabric clung to her curves.

"There," she said, extracting a boarding ax from the bustle. "That's everything."

"Gee, and I thought I was doing good to get my pistol, cutlass and these knives into the church," Chumbucket said ruefully.

"It's not your fault," she said with a touch of condescension, "I had more layers to work with. Now how do we get the guards to open the door?"

"There's always this," Chumbucket said, walking over to the heavy oak panel. He rapped on it and called out, "Guards! Guards! Open this door please!"

He winked at Sally and said, "You've gotta say please. It's just good manners."

There was no response – from the guards or Sally – so he rapped again and repeated his request, making sure to emphasize "please."

There was the sound of muttered talking and footsteps from the adjacent room, then a voice called from the other side of the door, "Quiet in there!"

"But I'd like you to please open the door," Chumbucket said.

"No way. The governor will be here soon and he'll decide what to do with you."

"But what about his orders?" Chumbucket said. "Weren't his exact words, 'keep an eye on them?'"

"Yeah, what of it?"

"Well, how can you keep an eye on us if we're in different rooms?"

There was a moment's pause and the sound of a confused conversation. Finally, the voice answered again.

"It's a figure of speech, he meant for us to keep you from escaping."

Chumbucket's eyes grew wide with excitement and he whispered to Sally, "Oh this is too good to pass up." Then he said to the door, "Are you sure of that? Is the governor often given rise to flights of poetic fancy?"

"What? I don't know about no poetry, but he meant for us to keep you until he gets here."

"Ahhh," Chumbucket said. "You mean it's a metaphor."

"A what?"

"A metaphor. A metaphor."

"What's a metaphor?"

"For grazing sheep," Chumbucket said, chuckling at having had the chance to use one of the oldest, hoariest jokes in the book.

"I don't get it," the guard said.

"No, they never do," Chumbucket sighed. "And normally I'd love the chance to discuss rhetorical devices, but right now I need help handling this naked woman."

"This WHAT?"

"The countess is having some kind of fit. I believe she's not comfortable in enclosed places. She's thrown off half her garments in a shocking manner. So I was wondering if you could please come in here and help me control her before she's completely naked, writhing sensuously on the floor in nothing but her soft, supple skin, as naked as the day she was born but not nearly so innocent. Please."

"Well, that's different then," the guard's voice said with a sudden, hurried alertness. "Hold on a minute."

Sally snatched up the cudgel and stood by the door, glaring at Chumbucket as he stepped back and leveled the two pistols. From the other side they heard the sound of a key turning in the lock, the bolt drawing back. Chumbucket tossed a handful of the discarded fabric from Sally's dress into the air as the first guard rushed in.

"What's all this then?" the man shouted, the rest of the detachment behind him struggling to get through the doorway all at once. The guard never found out what it all was, because Sally stepped out and rapped him sharply on the head with the club and he crumpled.

The eyes of the other guards, who were caught by their own numbers in the doorway, went very wide. Chumbucket picked the one in the center and fired point blank. Held in place by the press of men behind him, he didn't fall right away, but a red stain blossomed on the front of his uniform. The other men reeled back, and he fell.

"Well, seems to have stopped him," Chumbucket said, tossing the smoking pistol aside. "Now who's for the other?"

The guards were dashing around the room trying to draw weapons but one fell with Sally's throwing knife in his throat. The rest saw the pistol leveled at them, and Sally raising a second knife while clutching the boarding ax in her other hand. The guards still outnumbered the prisoners 8 to 2, and could probably subdue them with the loss of only two more soldiers. But none of the eight wanted to be the two, so they all raised their hands.

Ten minutes later they lay on the floor trussed like so many Christmas geese, their hands and ankles bound with strips from Sally's dress, gags in their mouths. Sally had her ear to the office door as Chumbucket stood up after securing the last of the guards.

"I don't hear anything. Le's go."

"Nothing?" Chumbucket asked incredulously. "How did no one hear that? Either there are no more guards in the place, or the governor has recruited a deaf detachment. Or ..."

"Don't know, don't care," Sally said, impatient and unwilling to listen as he enumerated the possibilities. "Let's go."


"Down the stairs, then out the back."

"And then?"

"You go your way, I've got my business to attend to." She opened the door and slid into the hallway. He followed, taking her elbow and spinning her to a stop at the top of the grand staircase.

"Wait, let's sort this out. I think you're after the same thing we are, and for the same reason."

"I doubt we have the same reason."

"Hamnquist. The treasure."

Sally looked him square in the eye.

"Hamnquist, yes. But the treasure has nothing to do with it."

"Then what?"

"I have to clear his name for the family honor."


"He's my father."

If a pirate could ever be said to "goggle," that's exactly what Ol' Chumbucket did. Sally turned to go but he stopped her again.

"He's your ..."

"My father. Which under the circumstances makes him your father in law, doesn't it?"

No question – Ol' Chumbucket was now in full "goggle" mode, his eyes bugging out and his mouth hanging open. At least, Sally noticed, he wasn't talking. That was something.

"Let's go, she said, starting down the stairs.

She was almost halfway down before he'd recovered enough to hurriedly follow her. He caught up to her at the bottom, where she had suddenly come to an abrupt stop.

Standing before her was Gov. Wubbeldinker flanked by another half dozen guards. There was no chance of surprise this time – the guards looked younger than the contingent that had just been mowed down in pie alley, but they were all peering at the two pirates down the barrels of their bayoneted muskets.

"Ah, Countess Sonja, or whoever you are. If I heard you correctly just now and that pirate we're about to hang is your father, I guess that means you're not the countess at all," the governor said, shaking his head sadly.

"Darling! I had to tell him something," Sally said, throwing her hands in the air and starting towards the governor. She stopped as the governor took a step back and the soldiers closed ranks, their bayonet inches from her chest.

"Not darling, I’m afraid. The young Miss Hamnquist? I should have recognized you," the governor said. "Or I guess it's Mrs. ... Mrs. What?" he said, turning his eyes to Ol' Chumbucket, who had been edging slightly to the side in the hopes of flanking the guards. The muskets moved to cover him.

"That would be telling," Chumbucket said.

"Well, it would be nice to know, to make sure I've got all the loose ends tied up, but I'm not one of those villains who just talks and talks and never gets around to villainy. So, while it's hardly the wedding night I'd planned, and I'd have loved the chance to marry into the royal family because you just never know what quirk of fate might propel you to the throne, I think I'll just take my chances and end this now."

"Guards," the governor said. "Kill them."

A shot rang out.

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.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?