Fort-de-France, Island of Martinique.
Some time prior to the mutiny.
Henri de Monet, Governor of Martinique, shifted his gaze from one of his captains to the next, back to the first, then to someplace inside himself and back to the men, trying to decide which of them to assign the task he had in mind.
The eldest, Captain Mattei, was a pompous fool and was probably aware of that fact himself. He was useful to the island lord in his own way, however. But even if he had not been, Henri de Monet was not the kind of man who judged their friends by their usefulness or competence. Mattei simply was Mattei and he wasn´t a bad person.
Next to Mattei Raoul La Mancha was standing, a brave man whom Henri had more or less inherited from the late spanish Governor of Trinidad´s. As a mariner Raoul numbered among the elite in the New World and his reputation certainly was better than that of the majority of those experts. La Mancha’s only weakness was one he shared with the governor: his chivalry. Both men trusted each other blindly and would have layed down their life for the other. Their devoted friendship was one of the kind that could only come from a first meeting painted in blood and seasoned with violence.
And indeed this had been how it had started: One day La Mancha´s captain had come home to Trinidad, only to find it taken over by a french invasion army. The French had conquered the town and were now laying claim to the whole island. Despite their situation being hopeless the spanish captain had ordered an attack. And there they had met on the spires of the castello: the newly appointed Governor Henri de Monet, a french nobleman, and Midshipman Raoul La Mancha, half french, half spanish and half mad.
The young man´s courage had mellowed Governor de Monet enough to not only refrain from executing any of the captives, but making Raoul an officer in his own right. Henri needed the halfblood, who called Trinidad his home, to keep him informed about the current mood and needs of the population. When the french had to withdraw from Trinidad a few months later, they took with them not only a substantial portion if the island´s wealth, but also Raoul, who had by then grown into a dear friend of Henri´s.
The nobleman continued to invest in his new asset, much to his son´s dismay. “If I was half spanish, you would not call me an asset, but a bastard!” little Francois had protested back then. Francois de Monet had many siblings, but he was Henri´s only legitimate child. Because of this he had to bury his dream of a dangerous nautical career early in his life. Having to watch a complete stranger of questionable heritage got granted what he would never get was hard on Francois. In time, however, his loathing for Raoul was replaced by adoration. The young officer taught the governor´s son many tricks the merchant-to-be would never ever need in his life. They had so many adventures together, that eventually Francois decided that Raoul was best to think of as just another common born halfbrother. Commoners, the boy concluded, had much more fun in life!
His father was ruling his domain with an independance the other french governors could only dream of. Henri de Monet owed his luck to the happy incident of the french royal direcor assigned to the island dying from fever shortly after coming to Martinique. To this very day the man had not been replaced by a successor, but Henri knew that this fortunate situation would not last forever. Soon he would be nothing more than a, though quite rich, figurehead with no real political influence. Many a minor noble already had to live like the middle-classes did. Henri de Monet was not above following this example. The future, he understood, was in trading, and he desperately wanted his son to have a future.
But now this valueable son was weeks overdue, lost on a trading expedition to the Lesser Antilles, a journey Henri should never have allowed the young man to undertake in the first place!
The governor´s gaze briefly rested on the third of his captains, Marcel Perben, then he made a decision.
“To the hell with what´s proper!” Henri thought. La Mancha was the most competent of the three man and among them Francois´s confidate.
“Take the Lupus and initiate the search for my son at once!” he ordered the halfblood, fully aware that he was assigning the man another captain´s – Mattei´s in this case – ship. Henri knew that this just “wasn´t done”, but he issued the order nonetheless.
“As as you wish. What better beast than a wolf to sniff out a trail?” La Mancha joked, but his smile died before it could reach his eyes. He grabbed Mattei firmly by his shoulder, telling him: “Just don´t make yourself too comfortable on my galleon while I´m away!”
The Lupus and Prince Paris were battleships of a smaller type. Henri´s pride, the warship he had named Pride of Martinique, was still at the wharf, but getting ready for her maiden voyage. But Henri did not want to waste one more day, or single hour. Because that third ship, the Prince Paris, was out there somewhere right now, with no contact and pressumed lost. And with it – Francois.
Martinique. Back in the present.
Since La Mancha had set out on his search mission, enough time had passed for him to travel the route between Martinique and the trading posts of the Dutch Westindia Trading Company several times. What had transpired at the english privateer Aquila, as vital as those events had been to those involved, played no part in Governor de Monet´s life. One of these days he was expecting back the Lupus. Marcel Perben, right now acting Harbourmaster, kept constant watch for it.
Captain Perben commanded no ship of his own. The twenty-seven-year-old mariner had not yet reached the age at which one island looked just like the next and a man was starting to wonder what he might have missed in life. But ever so often Perben found himself in the confusing situation where he knew that he would feel this way one day. This was puzzling him so much that, confronted with a decision, he rather did nothing as not to choose the wrong patch.
Because of this quirk Henri de Monet could not place his trust in Perben any longer. That was why he had entrusted the Prince Paris to young, untried Pierre Dupon instead of Perben.
If it should dawn to Perben one day that his life crisis had probably led to the loss of the governor´s heir, it certainly would cast him into even deeper despair.
Would the same thought come to Henri first, the man would understand and forgive.
But if it was La Mancha who came to the right conclusion first, then Perben would be best adviced to pen down this final will.
This Captain Perben was inspecting the Pride of Martinique, overseeing the final preparations for her maiden voyage, when he noticed a ship heading for the island. Both the Prince Paris and the Lupus were much smaller crafts. The arrival looked like a trader to the Harbourmaster, alas one heavily modified for use as warship.
“I could swear it is the Aquila”, Perben hissed the name of the respected foe. Oh, to be able to test his skill against the eagle-ship just once! In a naval battle Captain Perben still felt free and unthreatened by any looming future.
But the incoming ship was presenting neither the golden eagle carrying away the rose nor Clark´s pirate crest with an axe inside a split skull on a blood-red background. Instead the colors hoisted by the arrivals showed two crossed swords, a rapier and a saber. And while Perben was still uncertain what to make of this, they raised another signal flag: “We wish to negotiate.”
Several hours later the captains Perben and Black Garcia stood facing each other on the Aquila’s main deck, exhausted from a fierce discussion. James Maria Perry handed Perben´s assistant a copy of the final draft of the agreement.
“So it´s settled”, Perben said. “This one occasion we´ll let rest our enemity. Take the bounty, buy whatever you need in town, but be gone from this port within the next two hours! And rest assured, my men will shadow you at…”
“…every step we take”, Garcia snarled. “My memory´s sound, frog-eater.”
Perben bit back a sharp answer. It would only have been wasted on this pirate.
“So where´s Clark?” he asked.
Garcia pointed towards the mast.
“Holy Mother of God!” Perben exclaimed when he saw the figure hanging in his chains more dead than alive. “This one is all but finished!”
Garcia shrugged in a non-committal way.
“So what? You´ll want to hang him anyway.”
“Water!” Captain Perben demanded.
Jarundo at once carried out the order. His friend was still holding to his consciousness enough to percieve the goings on within his close distance. Clark had noticed neither the arrival in For-de-France, nor the negotiations. But he remembered well that Garcia liked the simple games best, especially the old favourite “What do you think, will I let you dring this time?” Most of the days the answer had been “no” so far, but the Captain had have his captive drink brandy or beer – with the desired effect. Never again, Clark had vowed each time, would he drink alcohol in the caribbean climate – only to do so again, as it had often been the only liquid available. But he needed water and soon.
Jarundo could not tell why he was saving his friend now, only to see him hanged in Fort-de-France. But he had eaten the missionary, a man who had talked about hope ´till the end and because that man was part of him now, the cannibal he could act no differently. It was the price he payed for all the benefits he has gained from the ritual meal.
“Eagle!” Jarundo whispered when Clark did not accept the water cup for fear of it being part of just another torture. The whispered name meant “Trust me!”, because the bird of prey´s name was part of the privateer captain´s esscence. Few persons knew what the Aquila really was: Not a specific ship, but a tuning configuration that could be applied to any trading vessel. Clark´s first ship had been a barque and he was still talking about it with loathing. In Clark´s opinion a barque combined all the disadvantages of a fragile small vessel with those of a difficult to steer large craft. And so he had taken the matter into his own hands, coming up with the eagle-blueprint. Clark was the eagle who carried away the spanish rose in his beak.
Captain Perben watched the indian talk his friend patiently into accepting the drink of water. He wasn´t too surprised when Jarundo proclaimed he would leave the ship together with the prisoner. Indios were treacherous as slaves, but attached themselves to their friends closely, it was said. Captain Clark seemed to posess one of those loyal red-skinned friends in his servant.
Little did Perben know that Jarundo was more than a servant and also more than pirate. And Jarundo did nothing to change this perception of his person in Fort-deFrance.
Gouverneur de Monet´s mimic betrayed his suspicion when it fell upon the almost naked carib indian standing next to Captain Perben in his mansion´s parlour that same evening.
“This is Captain Clark?” he inquired.
“No. This is an extra. Captain Clark is upstairs right now where he is under medical treatment. While he was held prisoner at his own ship, he suff…”
At this point the native, who had been standing still and silent until now, exploded into a rage: “WHAT?! Medical you said? No! No, you cannot…!”
“Hey!” Perben called out, but Jarundo pushed him aside and ran up the stairs.
“I´m tending to him!” he panted. “Me and nobody else!”
The pirate had no inkling where his friend was held exactly. As it turned out, he did not need to. Climbing the stairs Jarundo ran into a man that was equally exited as himself. He realized at once that it could be none other than the doctor mentioned.
“This captain Garcia tricked you, Captain!” the doctor shouted at Perben even while he was trying to maintain his balance after the bump. “That Clark-person is…”
Jarundo made the sign of the cross and sighed. It was too late.
“He is dead?” the Gouvernor assumed.
“No, of course not!” Jarundo snapped, silently adding: “But he might wish he was, now that your doc know’s. what should not be known.”
The chaos was made complete by an errand boy storming into the mansion, announcing that the Lupus had been spotted and would make landfall soon.
Perben grabbed the physican by his vest.
“Go up there again and bring the pirate back to scratch! Should Raoul return empty-handed, that man is probably our last straw of hope!”
Captain Perben shook the doctor violently.
“I find the idea as abhorrent as you, but Clark…”
“But he isn´t Captain Clark!”
The doctor was whimpering now in Perben´s grip.
“Is, too”, Jarundo murmured.
The physican wriggled free of Perben´s grip. He pointed at a door on the mansion´s first floor.
“The one with the breasts?” the doctor challenged him.
“Yes, that one. The breasts are foolproof evidence that you have indeed Captain Clark.”
“I say you have much to explain”, Perben barked at the prisoner. “Come with us!”
“No. I won´t stray from his side again. I have caused enough damage when I did so earlier today.”
“You were almost starved! Of course you had to go to the kitchens.”
“I should have made a meal of your doctor instead and treated Clark´s injuries myself!”
Jarundo had renounced the practice of ritual cannibalism, but he still believed in it´s effect. The skills of a person eaten would transfer to the feaster, forever at their disposal. Jarundo even claimed having learned the english tongue in this way.
“We cannot always have those we love around us”, the Governor cryptically told the pirate. “You will not be parted from Captain Clark longer than an hour at best. We need answers and the sooner we get them, the sooner I´ll have you brought to the prisoner.”
“Well…” Jarundo sighed again, before he delved into his tale. “I suppose our troubles began in earnest some weeks ago in a buccaneer-hideout by name of Escapio Domingo…”
Jarundo kept his story short and to the point. He told the governor about the meeting with Captain Grangerford, about Clark´s refusal to prey on english ships and how concerned his captain had been with a war that was fought at a far away continent. He also explained Clark´s yearning for acceptance by the english military and how his crew had not shared his patriotism in any way. Only Clark´s heritage as an english noble´s scion Jarundo kept to himself.
“And ever since that night, Garcia dreamed of taking over the command himself. Until he had convinced enough seamen to back him up in a mutiny”, Jarundo concluded. His heart nearly stopped when he realized: The governor did not believe one single word of the story.
Henri de Monet nodded to his captive: “Go to her, Jarundo. You may reassure the woman that no harm will come to her. Or to you, for that matter.”
“But…” Jarundo started to protest. However, the governor made it clear that his orders were final and not subject to discussion.
Eventually a measure of calm came to the ruling class of Fort-de-France.
“Captain La Mancha´s sleeping”, the doctor told Henri.
“As we all should”, the nobleman replied. “It is past time.”
“Well, the captain did not think so. I had to administer a sleep inducing medicine to the poor fellow. I´m really sorry for La Mancha. He´s lost someone dear to him the second time now… And, you, Sire…”
The man did not finish his sentence. What could he tell a father, whose hope of seeing his son again alive was dwindling with every day? Captain La Mancha had not been able to uncover any clue to Prince Paris´ fate…
Henri de Monet shook his head in regret.
“Captain Garcia tired of his playmate, so he got rid of her. Not without profit, having built this ‘Captain Clark’- legend over the years. Just think: we put a bounty on a myth! What am I to do now, doctor? I cannot put this woman to the task I had planned for him… er, her. But neither can I have her hanged.”
“There´s no law preventing you from doing so.”
“Please, doctor! A masquerade like hers, a lie, it is a sin, but in no way a death-sentence-crime.”
“Assuming an unlawful military title, however, is.”
“And I say she´s not getting executed! Probably she is with child even… She is not in blessed circumstances, is she, docotor?”
The physician shook his head.
“Of that at least I can assure you. Or could – up until you allowed the wild one into her company.”
“Let the two of them sleep in the way they deem best”, the governor replied with a wink. “And let´s not work our brains again before tomorrow. Ours are enough problems, too many, to even hope for restful slumber. But perhaps a friendly angel is going to send us a hint what to do next in our dreams.”
The next morning.
The governor´s mansion was one of the buildings that had not existed two years ago, in the era Clark called “his time”. Fort-de-France was prospering, that much was obvious.
The furniture and everything in the room stank of french high culture. Clark had stuffed enough of that into his cabin at the Aquila, too. A certain pattern in the woood, a gleam of porcelain… some items were missing and everything seemed to have been re-arranged. Still, he might have been in his cabin again. With everything around him being a blurr and Clark hardly being able to tell yesterday from tomorrow or leg from arm, everything was possible. But the mariner would have known had he woken up out at sea. The heavieness of land-bound existance was weighing on him heavily. It did not really make getting up a promising prospect. So Clark just shifted his position a bit and opened his eyes fully.
He blinked, then sat straight in the cushions when everything that had happened the day before came back to him in utter clarity.
“French Martinique? Phew! Even the dungeons here have style, I say!”
The prisoner found himself in a luxurious guestroom. He felt as if he had slept through a whole week. Then he noticed Jarundo, standing next to the door, wearing a domestic servant´s attire. Most people mistook the carib indian for the captain´s slave. At Martinique it might safe Jarundo´s life. Instead of accompanying his convicted “owner” to the gallows, he could just as well end up in the Governor´s posession.
“When you fell unconscious yesterday, the officer carried you into town on his own shoulders”, Jarundo told his friend. “I could not allow the french to leave me behind – and the pirates could not make me stay with them, for that matter. So I trotted along. Now imagine my surprise when they put you up in this room instead of prison!”
“Well…” Unlike ordinary pirates, privateeres counted as proper prisoners of war, as Clark knew well. Their status protected them from getting hanged ourtright. Instead they would work themselves to death slowly in a mine, a workshop or at some remote plantation. Officers usually fared a bit better and Clark hoped for a treatment according to his rank. But without the Letter de Marque from St. Kitts that Black Garcia had kept, Clark could not prove his legal status. Viewed in this light Governor de Monet could do with his captive as he pleased. If he assigned him the most luxurious guest quarters in all of Fort-de-France, he seemed to have plans with the privateer that went beyond a mere exchange of prisoners.
“The French have a suicide mission for us”, Clark voiced his suspicion aloud.
Jarundo didn’t comment on this, for there was no need to. Instead he pointed at a pile of clothing.
“Those are garments of de Monet´s son from when he was younger. It´s near lunchtime and the governor wishes to dine with you.”
Clark grabbed the fine silken shirt lying topmost and twisted his face into a grimace. But when he started donning one piece of clothing after the other, his disdain gave way to amazement. Quality leather and clever tailoring allowed a maximum of mobility as well as a, though very basic, protection against physical impact. Clark was looking like a dandy while enjoying all the perks a rogue might wish for in his new attire.
“I wonder if the governor knows that his son´s an adventurer”, Clark mused, when he even found a slim dagger in one of the boots that went with the outfit. “And I wonder if the bird is stuffed up as nicely.”
“You expect to get served bird? I don´t know.“
Jarundo croaked pointedly.
“Frog is more like it. And there´s not much room in a frog to spare for filling.”
Jarundo´s misgivings were off the mark. The meal did not consist of amphibians, but was on par with the best Clark had ever tasted – and the best that Jarundo had ever served, as the carib indian attended the meal in the role of a servant again.
Clark ate more than his fill of everything, only the wine he drank diluted and very carefully.
Speaking about a mission during the meal just wasn´t done and Clark honored that custom. But when the subject had not been touched at all even after the dessert, the eagle´s patience broke.
“You did not invite me to dinner because I enjoy such popularity with your nation, Governor”, he spoke up. “Please tell me how to make up for the hospitality Fort-de-France offered me!”
Henri de Monet moved nervously in his armchair.
“Let´s just forget about this. All of Martinique is open to you…”
Clark`s self-control had been severly tried by Garcia’s torture. It was an inch only apart from shutting down as Jarundo could tell only too well. The man could read the signs: Clark´s temper was about to flare up… and then it did!
“You did not buy free a pirate only to maroon him at your bloody island!” the privateer yelled at his host/captor. “The island you may own, but me – never!”
The french nobleman still did not give his guest an immediate answer. Giving in to a hunch Clark sought Jarundo´s eyes. The friend seemed to know more about what was going on here and about the island lord´s strange behaviour. But Jarundo lowered his head when he felt Clark´s gaze resting on him and remained silent.
“Let´s just forget it, as I said”, the Governor repeated.
“Could have walked over the plank for Garcia´s entertainment just as well”, Clark thought. “We´re acting like Threesee´s sharks, always going ´round and ´round to no avail.”
The prisoner leaned back in his chair.
“Give me a ship and we´ll be gone from here.”
“I see. So my creditworthiness is limited. Good to know.“
“They would only capture you again.”
“’They’? The pirate-hunters? You are overestimating your captains, Governor. They did not bring me down by a long shot. It was treason.”
The french noble sighed. “I had in mind a mission for a pirate captain of your reputation, indeed, my good woman”, he confessed. “But not for a lady.”
Now Clark sat up straight!
“Of course!” it finally dawned to him. “Somebody was bound to notice when they carried me into this place. And that means the caribeean and all of Terra Firma will know soon enough, too.”
“So it is your belief”, Clark adressed the governor, “that I´m too tender for my own hanging and too weak to pay off my debts? The citizens of Eleuthera and Gibraltar could hum a different tune for you!”
Henri de Monet gave Clark no answer. Jarundo knew how to interpret the silence and voiced it: “He thinks you´ve never done any of these things, friend.”
Clark held out his hand.
“A gaunlet!” he demanded. “I´ve got a toad to challenge!”
Jarundo moved towards the nearest ornamental armour in the room. A pikeman, a human that had appeared not much livelier than than decoration up to this moment, kept Jarundo from taking off the armour´s gaunlet.
“Then lend me yours!” The pirate laughed. “Don´t worry, I´m not going to eat your hand!”
Meanwhile Clark had risen from his seat, seething with anger. “And does the noble man believe I cannot fight, navigate or pilot? What does he think I have done on the ship? Oh, if he even hints at it, there´ll be a bloodbath!”
Henri tried his best to appease the woman: “Calm down! You have been through so much those recent days…”
Words meant to soothe, to reassure a creature fragile of mind and body, but also the painful truth. Clark had endured much indeed, he was far from his full strength of body and his self had been reduced to an undignified state of bitchdom.
Right over the head of his host and out through the window Clark got a good view over the surrounding grounds. The sight sobered him up a bit. He memorized the outline of the fortress at the harbour and the general layout of the town. If he just had a battleship again, Martinique would bleed for the governor´s insolence! A dream he called “a plan” was beginning to take shape in Clark´s head. It might have been nothing more than a dream or comforting phantasy, but it was enough to replace the wounded beast by the privateer again.
Clark sat down again. “Governor” he said, “I`ve been parted from all that constitutes civilized life for a long time. I ask your permission to write a letter.”
“Well, you are a prisoner, Mademoiselle Clark. I have to peruse whatever you wish to write and of course no one´s allowed to take you away from here.”
“How about visiting?”
“That could be arranged. Taking certain precautions, of course.”
Clark flashed the man a grin that was not of this world. At least no one in this world should have to face such a grin without the aid of a pastor standing ready.
“She is not yet ready to face the full truth?” Captain Perben inquired, when he and the doctor accompanied the governor at a stroll through the gardens after the meal.
“I think she´s been through some terrible nightmares”, de Monet mused. “To cling to the phantasy of being a tough and successful pirate captain may be a safeguard for whatever is left of the woman’s sanity. I think all she needs is more time.”
“And you suggest we should play along?” Perben asked.
“But the people will want to see ‘him’ hanged, when word gets around that we´re keeping Captain Clark in our custody”, the captain warned his liege.
“Then in the eyes of the people the prisoner will become my nephew from Europe. What´s one mask more or less in this situation? Mademoiselle Clark will find that we play along with her and gain in self-confidence. In the end she won´t need the charade anymore.”
The doctor gave in to his anger: “To go to such lenghts for a common-born woman! She should be sent to the sugar fields, god knows we can use every pair of hands there! She´s been at a privateer ship, after all!”
“Oh, good doctor, don´t be such a gloomer. You are spoiling everything.”
“Spoil, you say, Sire?” the man uttered. “Me? It´s you cuddling her! But, forgive me, it´s not my place to tell you…”
“The whole issue will be dealt with and be forgotten sooner than you can imagine now”, Henri reassured the physician. “You will see.”
The doctor signaled his obedience by bowing down to the governor. He strongly suspected that Perben and de Monet were enjoying their weird scheme. But should he allow this foreign woman to drive a wedge beween Martinique´s ruling class? No, he had to lay aside his personal opinion as long as he was not called for in his function as healer.
Locked up again in the luxurious guestroom, Clark and Jarundo had not heard a single word of the exchange, of course.
Jarundo was sitting on the only bed in the room.
“Well?” he asked.
“In my opinion everybody around here´s a few glasses shy of a full bottle”, he replied. “But that could be perfectly normal for Frenchmen. Do me a favour and do not eat one of them!”
“Too late. The missionary was french.”
Clark waved his hand, all the while pacing up and forth through the room.
“Priests don´t count” he claimed. “They are… well, different.”
Clark was thinking hard about his options, now, that his disguise had been compromised. Often in is life he had killed in cold blood. Enemies. For revenge. But provided it was possible to get away with it, could he murder the governor, doctor, captain and a handful of guards for knowing his secret? Clark did not know. All he knew was that he wanted to ransack the town. But that were just the instincts of an english pir… er, seaman adding to his confusion. Who was to blame for it? Garcia? No. Black Garcia was just a nuisance. When the time was right, he and Jarundo would deal with him, of that at least Clark was still certain. The one faction that had truly turned Clark´s life upside down was… “England”, the privateer whispered.
“Do you feel like crying?” Jarundo asked in a helpful tone.
“And are you going to?”
“Pray tell, what´s going on in your head these times?! Of course not!”
The carib indian stretched out on the cushions. “Well”, he concluded, “then everthing´s as it always has been. You are still yourself.”
The wry analysis made Clark laugh. He jumped onto the bed, too.
“This Henri de Monet is either a perv or he´s keeping his servants in a medieval manner”, Clark stated. “A single bed in the room!”
“You are going to complain, aren´t you?” Jarundo said in a sleepy voice.
“Yes, of course I will! And I think I will do it about fifty heartbeats after everyone here has snuggled down into bed.”
Visualizing all the troubles Clark´s attitude could get the two prisoners into, Jarundo smiled. Such cheek could get them both executed, after all. But perhaps it had never been his destiny to safe the eagle´s body, but to preserve his brash, sometimes childish, spirit instead.
Slowly drifting into sleep the man imagined how good it would feel to make love to Marita in a bed as comfortable as this. But his sweet-heart would certainly have in mind another partner, the privateer captain Clark to be specific. Jarundo’s for Marita and hers for Clark, for the most part unrequited desire either way. And then, as his final thought before his mind vanished into the hazieness of dreams, Jarundo wondered whether Clark, too, had a man or woman he was thinking of in this way in the lonelieness of the night.
“You say the Aquila travelled southwest instead of heading for Tortuga?” Clark asked Jarundo the next morning.
The sorry remains of a rich breakfast were layed out across a desk. Fishbones, pieces of bread and spoons now served as landmarks and ship models on a map of the New World that Clark had sketched on the desk with a piece of chalk. The privateer now held a quill similar to a tobacco pipe. He very nearly chewed on it to help his thinking along while he wrote a letter and spoke at the same time:
“Whatever fancy did strike Garcia this time, I hope he´s taking our old route via Santa Marta, Curacao, Providence and then straight north and on to the Bahamas. Right now the wind´s favouring him, but once he approaches La Habana, he´ll have to deal with treacherous winds and currents. All our allys need to reach Eleuthera before he does is a fast pinnace.”
“And who are those allys?”
“Butcher Silas´ financially strong new family”, Clark answered. “Here, have a look!”
He handed the just finished letter to Jarundo. In this letter Clark expressed his readiness to sell “family heirlooms the company has always been interested in”. He had added a description and the position of his mansion on Eleuthera island, where said heirlooms were kept. Jarundo understood at once what Clark really was referring to: His complete collection of nautical charts and tables, a treasure the cartographer company that their former shipmate Silas had married into had always wanted.
“The mansion I had build and furnitured from our Gibraltar spoils”, Clark explained. “Garcia thinks me dead, so he´ll consider himself my successor and take whatever he can carry away. Even if Silas´ loyality to my person should have vaned, too, he will not wish to see Black selling off our charts dirt-cheap to some stranger.”
“I think so, too”, Jarundo agreed. Then he asked what was supposed to so special about those particular maps. “What makes them different from the copies Garcia already owns?”
“Being my legacy to future generations they are not encrypted. They also contain additional, secret information about the coastlines and islands of the Bahamas. Not to mention the coordinates of secure retreats that I have not marked in the charts I carried with me at the Aquila.”
“That´ll fetch you a nice heap of money indeed! But when have you charted out the territory in such detail? It´s no task undertaken within a few weeks, after all.”
Clark grinned. “When, you ask? While the rest of you made merry in wealthy St. Kitts, of course. You did not really believe I could stay ashore for longer than a month, my friend?”
“No, not really. I should have known. So you travelled the Bahamas…”
“Sometimes I signed on as a guide at a trader, then again I was part of some buccaneer gang and sometimes I was heading out on my own with our old yawl. I tricked indios and spaniards alike, messed up the french settlements around Florida and fooled the spaniards again – this time in league with the indios. None of these schemes made me rich, however, and I´m loath to use up my retirement savings for similar expeditions. So I decided to return to St. Kitts for another voyage, after all, when the two years were up. I’ve come to think of this as the greatest mistake in my life… But, Jarundo, it will hardly be my last! For soon we´ll be back in business!”
“You´re entrutsting your letter to a dutchman for deliverance to St. Kitts?”
“Correct. With the estimated profit it should be easy to persuade some merchant to sell us a ship in Fort-de-France. Or maybe a smuggler from Trinidad takes us in and we´ll make the deal there.”
Jarundo liked the idea. But even more he liked the subtle irony inherent in Clark´s actions: “De Monet has no idea that he could aquire your map collection for his nation, if only he interpreted the letter correctly. But your plan´s not without weak points. One of the ships involved could sink, for instance.”
“I wouldn´t complain if it was Garcia´s.”
“Garcia´s! Ha! He can keep the old Aquila. But how will will he like facing an exact copy of the eagle-ship in battle? Commanded by someone who knows best how to employ her strengths and nullify her weaknesses? Yes, let us get an Aguila from Trinidad and show him how it’s done!”
“French ships of a given type are generally a wee bit sleeker and thus faster…”
“First I think getting away from here at all has priority over getting away from here on our own ship. And second I don´t know the french word for eagle. By the way, Clark, what the english envoy hinted at… Is it true?”
Clark laughed out loud!
“I almost forgot about this! Well, yes, it´s the truth. The newest draft of our Letter de Marque is not issued to the ship, but to my person. That´s going to be a tough nail to swallow for Black, should he try to resort to that paper! Though I guess he´ll prefer leading the ‘free pirate´s life’.”
“Free and short” Jarundo snorted. “As befits him.”
“Wash the dirty thoughts off your mind! I reckon they would not agree with your missionary as the poor man did with you.” Clark adviced his friend. “And now let´s have a little… stroll.”
When human sharklings went for a walk, they dreamed of the element that was their home. Captain Clark and Jarundo were no exception to this rule.
It so happened that Captain Mattei disrupted their entertainment. He had watched the pair for a while and come to the conclusion that the strangers were a little too interested in the fortress and defensive capabilities of Fort-de-France. His opinion the man had told to the prisoners by a soldier. Clark and Jarundo gave their answer in person. With interesting results…
“Your officer´s going to recover from his shock”, Clark said, shrugging, when he was questioned about his reaction by the governor later. “Only the wig´s beyond repair.”
“Because you set it on fire! With a fuse! What did you think?”
“I thought that I could hardly challenge Captain Mattei to a duel without a proper weapon. But with his insult I could not let him get away.”
“It´s true!” Jarundo joined in. “Clark got insulted!”
“Captain Mattei calls me a spy – well, it´s his right to, if he believes so. But if he calls me a spaniard, he get´s presented a bill”, Clark explained.
Around the three of them servants were serving the evening meal. Just like the day before, Henri de Monet would dine with his guests tonight and again he wished for the company of not even his closest friends. This time Jarundo sat at the table, too, not as gesture of respect towards the privateer, but as a means to issue a measure of control over the alleged barbarian.
“Who are they?” one of the uniformed servants whispered to another.
The man could only give a shrug.
“Family”, a dark skinned slave woman murmured.
“By marriage?” the servant suspected and the slave woman nodded. It was the only explanation that sprang to mind for the fact that a nephew of Henri´s spoke french with a spanish accent.
“His name´s Nicolas”, the woman shared what she knew about the guest, before the personell had no more time to spare for idle talk.
“Please do not endanger yourself again and again!“ the governor asked his prisoner in a low voice.
Clark looked the man into the face for long moments, then he announced: “I´m going to tell you a story, Sire. Decide whom I endanger after you´ve heard it out.”
Clark´s tale had a prologue, one he kept to himself. It dealt with the love of an english diplomat and the fierce daughter of a spanish toreador from Toledo. Together those two had the time of their lives. Their problems began when the nobleman decided to marry his Isabel and a child was on the way, too. Weary of politics and intrigue the pair wanted to retire from public life. However, their retreat was interpreted as the preparation of sinister plans. Head over heels, chased by english and spanish agents alike, the pair was about to flee to the colonies. They had not yet reached the open sea when their lifes ended in the blaze of cannons – spanish ones, of that much Clark was certain, even though there had never been any proof.
Of those few surviving the initial attack only a small girlchild reached the shore alive – or if there had been other survivors, none of them had ever bothered coming to look for her.
The girl was found and taken in by the jailor of Bilbao´s prison. The best that could be said about this man in afterthought was that he performed his duty in raising his foster daughter. Her share of parental love she recieved from the jailor´s brother, a carpenter, and his wife.
The girl, now called Isabel because she had cried that name several times, often went to the harbour to watch the big sailships come and go. The ocean that had nearly become her grave never ceased to fascinate her. She learned a few phrases of english and french from the seamen, never wondering, at her young age, why the english language came to her so easily while she had to work hard at memorizing the french words and understanding the underlying grammer.
Only much later the full story of her being found on the shore after a seafight was disclosed to the girl. With this realisation came the whispered-only possibilty that the girlchild had come not from the spanish, but the english ship involved, a possibility little Isabel soon decided to think of as the truth. Everything she was lacking in the care of her foster parents she was certain her make-believe english relatives would have provided. And why else would she have been entrusted in the care of a warder of all people, if not because she was a hostile foreign nation’s subject?
Isabel felt less and less at home in Bilbao, even though at the age of nine all she had to do was nod and all the boys at her age would brawl over the right to woo her. And one day, when a ship bound for the New World was looking for an apprentice carpenter, she signed on, wearing boy´s clothing.
“This is the story of a cabin boy”, Clark started his tale, “who was never satisfied with the love he received at home, because the far away stars would not let him rest. His Capitano Porreno more then once seared with white-hot anger, because the boy was never there when there was work to be done. But the helmsman had taken a fancy for the lad and taught him everthing he knew. One day there was a terrible storm. The kindly man went overboard. All alone the ship´s boy held fast to the heavy rudder, keeping the ship at it´s right course – or at least believed he had done so and felt mightily proud of it.
Porreno was impressed by the kid´s, well, rather by his courage and stubborness than his pilot skill, I suppose. Starting the day after the storm the boy was relieved from all dutys and made Porreno’s personal servant and pupil. The captain taught him mathematics, geography, navigation and even basic tactics. When the Clarabella came closer to their destination Porreno frequently engaged in mock battles with his confidates. He showed the boy, too, how to handle weapons – or at least not to be afraid of them. And the boy forgot that he was among enemies and enjoyed those weeks as the best he had ever experienced in his short life.
When they finally arrived in the New World, Porreno´s first move was to sell the settlers that had been entrusted into his care into slavery. From the profit he armed up his Clarabella and carved out a repuation as a pirate for himself. Spain wasn´t as rich or powerful as it had been before the armada´s anihilation. Porreno fought for everchanging masters in the local conflicts of the european powers. And all the time the former ship´s boy was at his side.”
Clark´s face clouded when he spoke on: “We were anchoring at our secret hideout on Hispaniola, to perform much needed to repairs, when Commodore Escobedo found us there. Our only chance was to sneak away at night, preferably overland, leaving behind our ship. But then our quartermaster came up with the suggestion to overtake Escobedos´s own ship while the pirate hunter´s attention was focussed on the Clarabella. And the plan would have played out nicely, if not for Capitano Porreno. The very same day he had found out that his ship´s boy was, in truth, a girl. Instead of concentrating on winning our gamble, he became fixed on protecting the girl. The practiced teamwork of crew and commander did not work out as it usually had done and that led to our defeat. The survivors were taken to a cuban sugar cane plantation.”
Feeling that he had relayed all the details necessary for the morale of his story, Clark spoke no further. But the Governor had listened enraptured all the time and did not wish to miss out on the sequel.
Clark sighed and delved into his tale again: “Because nothing in the world can stay the same for long, things changed for the young slave boy, er, girl, too. The English took over the plantation in a coup de main. Their leader had interesting story to tell, since he turned a close relative of mine.”
“He conversed with a mere slave about his family?” Henri interrupted, looking sceptical for the first time.
“Does it sound like a fairy – tale to you, Governor? No, of course at first our lifes did not change at all, just because a new flag was flapping about in the wind happily. But I reckon your imagination´s good enough to supplement the less fantastic aspects. They include blood, violence and degradation, and revenge taken as bloody, violently and humilating. But in the end all that counts is that I got rescued from that place! I knew, then, for real, that the spaniards had killed my parents: my english father and my mother of their own nation! It was her name I had blabbered as a foundling, not mine!
But uncle Rupert and me had such contradictory perceptions of the world and life in general that I could not stay in his household. Once again I disguised my true gender and signed on at an english warship as a marine. I wanted to kill spaniards, wanted to pay back Porreno´s ilk for getting me enslaved and take revenge for my parents!
But because, as I already had learned, nothing ever stays the same, our local wars, too, start and stopp as they wish. One of those days I had no other choice but to break up with the motherland.”
“And so the former cabin boy repeated what he had learned from his old capitano, making off with the ship?”
“Aye! With a bloody barque, Governor!”
“Please! Watch your language!” the frenchman begged. Then he smirked. “That was a tale my Francois would have loved. You are a good storyteller. And your features do betray a hint of spanish heritage, now that you mentioned it. Let me guess: a grandfather?”
Clark quenched his drinking glass in his fist without hurting himself. He threw the remains away in a wide arch. Shards were flying all though the room.
“Oh!” Henri yelped. “The exitement! Understandable, if one has as active an imagination as you have!“
“Enough!” Clark shouted. “For real now! You frog-eaters want to expand your territory? I´ll take over Trinidad on your behalf! With a barque, should it be necessary!”
“Perhaps you really manage to get her out of port”, Henri de Monet attested his guest. “But I´m not about to sacrifice a good ship to indulge your fantasies! I cannot imagine what exactly you went through, but it is over now!”
Clark was burning with anger and helplessness. Martinique was worse than the plantation and even Whipcrack´s whip lashes had been easier to endure than the treatment he received from the governor.
“Please…” he stammered. “I want to retreat… withdraw, I mean. Thanks for the meal, but I´ve lost my appetite.”
On de Monet´s orders Jarundo gathered portions of everthing on the table and carried it up to the guestroom. His friend didn´t touch any of the food. He went to bed immediately and slept through the whole night, leaving the floor to Jarundo.
“What would have happened at your warship had someone overslept?” Jarundo greeted his friend come morning. “We were supposed to take turns using the bed!”
“Nothing. The captain liked me.“
“Oh! You – and him?”
“Yes. But Isaac died in our last battle. All the more reason for me not to accept the truce, see?”
“You say!” Jarundo agreed from his heart.
Clark rose from the bed and had a cat´s lick. But when he was about to grab Francois de Monet´s clothing from the stool where he had left it the evening before, he found them no longer. Shirt, Sash and leather leggins were gone, replaced by an “unmentionable”.
“What´s this?!” Clark uttered in disgust.
“What it is? A dress”, Jarundo replied. “Our host seems to hope that it will have some sort of positive effect on you.”
“That man´s abnormal…” Clark whispered, then he asked: “Say, brother, how far would you go on my behalf?”
Jarundo waited. He did not like the lurking undertone in Clark´s voice.
“Would you wear a dress for me?”
“Swap it for my uniform? Forget it!”
“Well, it was worth a try.”
Clark folded the dress again and carefully placed it back. He wouldn’t have hesitated to put it on in case he needed to disguise himself as a french middle class woman. But as everyday attire it was out of question.
“Today”, the prisoner, “I´m going to stay in bed!”
Those who heard his legend would never have guessed that Clark had lived through his share of humilation like the nextbest outlaw. But as long as he did not do it to himself, his spirit remained undefeated.
“De Monet means well…” Jarundo started.
“Yes, I know.”
“And as annoying as that doubtlessly is to you, as long as the governor is obsessed with the idea of healing the poor pirate wench, we do not have to worry for our hides overmuch. Why not enjoy the good aspects of our forced stay here, eagle?”
“What good aspects?” Clark snapped. “Breathing?”
“That would be a start. By my count you escaped death thrice since Garcia declared you deposed.”
“Then go on and celebrate or whatever. Don’t mind me. Who minds the girls, anyway?”
“I never realized how much of a gloomer you could be”, Jarundo said, laughing.
The way he saw it, the problem they should deal with was getting away from this island, not coming up with a word to describe Clark’s gender identity. For what good would that do and where would it get them?
“Gloomer, huh? Well, whatever I think of myself as, my body has it’s own way, you know”, Clark said. “Some days drag down the mood worse than others. Staying in bed today really sounds like a good idea.”
Meanwhile Henri de Monet and Captain Mattei meant to use the early hour to conduct business. The morning high tide had brought with it a merchant ship well known and always warmly welcomed in Fort-de-France. Both de Monet and Mattei were keen business men who had to fear only the other in a haggling duel. What the captain was lacking as a mariner (or in modesty, for that matter), he made more than up for in this respect.
But instead of beaming with anticipation of a good deal Mattei´s face was clouded with worry today. All the while the two men were sitting in coach on their way to the port, Mattei laboured for the right words. Henri did not press the captain to speak his mind. Instead he used the time to formulate his own answers to the questions about his guests that inevitably were to come.
Eventually Mattei spoke up: “That man, Nicolas. Who is he and where does he come from?”
“Nicolas is a distant relative. Together with his servant he was at the Aquila, but their arrival was overshadowed by La Mancha´s empty-handed return from the Lesser Antilles. I did not really have the time to welcome and introduce Nicolas properly yet.”
“Nicolas was held hostage on the privateer ship Perben negotiated with? Did the scoundrels buy their unhindered withdrawal with your – what is he, nephew´s? – freedom?”
“By means of an old fashioned ransoming, yes. Nicolas got shipwreacked – or Black Garcia facilicated that accident in the first place, come to think of it. But I must confess that my own sorrows override the concern for members of this particular branch of the family tree.”
“I see. But have you ever met this nephew of yours before he came to Martinique? Certainly he could have been no more than a child when we left France. How can you be so sure to shelter the right man now?”
“What makes you think Nicolas is not who he claims to be, my good Mattei?”
“This ‘Nicolas’ appears young to the eye, but he´s talking like a far older man. He seems to enjoy playing the bold rogue with a touch of simpleton, but it´s just this: a game. Under his facade he´s alert and dangerously intelligent. What also comes to the mind is the term ‘tomboy’, sire.”
“Yes!” Mattei nodded eagerly. “In my opinion Nicolas´ behaviour allows only two explanations: We are dealing with a woman dressed up as a male or with a young man drilled beyond the normally expected life experience. Either way the conclusion is the same – a spy is running loose in Fort-de-France!
Before the governor could reply the coach driver shouted “Ho!”. They had reached the port.
A servant opened the door from the other side and Henri stepped out of the coach.
“We´ll continue this talk after the negotiations”, he promised the captain.
“Yes, yes I beg you! Please do not take my warnings too lightly!”
Henri´s business partner was old, experienced and clever, bordering on sly. He always proved a good haggling match for de Monet and Mattei. For a moment the face of his Francois replaced the merchant’s in Henri’s eyes, a vision of his heir fully grown and looking back on a succesful career. Henri rubbed his eyes, shooing away the phantom.
“You had an uneventful journey, I hope?” he greeted the trader. “No storms, no pirates?”
The merchant had a drag at his tobacco pipe.
“At least one knows where one´s standing with the pirates, Governor”, he said. “A storm is unpredictable.”
“Unlike the pirates? How so?”
“Well, usually an encounter follows the same pattern: We are sailing our course, they come along, hoist their red flag and threaten us a bit. Then we give up a few crates of goods or a bag of money and afterwards the pirates take their leave.”
The merchant leaned over to de Monet and said in a whisper: “Between you and me, we figure those losses in when we calculate our prices. Except for good customers as you, my dear de Monet!”
A winning smile on his lips the old man shared more of his insights: “The pirates have learned that you can mil a cow can every day, but slaughter only once. I´m afraid of only a rare few of them: the bloodthirsty and the most patriotic among the privateers. Those that declare you their enemy for dealing with the ‘wrong’ nations. Believe me, I´ve met them all…”
“And have you crossed paths the Aquila?”
“Whose ship is this?”
The merchant cringed.
“Oh, yes, more than once“, he answered.
“Describe him to me, please!”
To keep his customer in a good mood, the merchant oblidged with the strange request. Henri de Monet listened to the description. He had to admit that it fitted his she-prisoner perfectly. “But isn´t this exactly how Ni…!” Mattei started.
De Monet waved his hand, biding him to shut up.
“Later, Mattei. Tell me, Captain Borloo, did Clark, too, follow your pattern of a succesfull pirate?”
“Only after our second meeting”, the merchant answered, the remorse in his voice obvious.
“Well, back then, about fifteen years ago, Clark wasn´t commanding his Aquila, but a barque. After boarding us, had all of us brought over to his ship… I thought we were done for! Keelhauling or slave market! Clark´s men then inspected our ship and cargo hold. But instead of stealing our goods, they opened fire on their own ship – the very same ship we were kept at! In the end the barque was barely keeping afloat and we had to let it drift, unable to maneuver, let alone pursue the pirates. And that was when Clark started making a name for himself. Obviously my smaller, more manoeuverable ship suited him better than his proud english warship. I often thought back to the assault, when my good old Corse was mentioned along with Clark’s name…”
“And Clark was the commander?” de Monet pressed the matter. “There was no other?”
“Pirate gangs always have just one leader, Governor. A single lord over life and death. Until a successor emerges and feeds him to the sharks.”
“And Clark is typical in this regard?”
“I suppose. You know, I´m not maintaining that close contacts to the scum!”
Captain Borloo beckoned his scribe to come closer.
“You´ve been in Gibraltar! Tell us what it was like there!”
The man obeyed, in a thoughtful manner at first, then getting enraptured by his own tale. “Gibraltar”, he said, “was spooky. When the attack began, we fled from or ships, first into town, into any rat-hole we could squeeze into, and then into the wilderness. Clark attacked the fortress with three ships, two of which he lost during the assault. I reckon one of those had been heavily damaged before the fight started and functioned as a decoy. Good lord have mercy on those poor souls that went with it! Must have angered their commander mightyly to get assigned to such a suicide mission…
The fires were burning for days. Gibraltar´s governor had heard of Eleuthera having fallen under english rule during a similar attack and barricaded himself in his residence. The soldiers he summoned to his defence could not aid the town. But perhaps they would not haven made a difference at all.
Even the treasure fleet´s sentrys were dumbfounded by the attackers´ boldness. The pirates must have slaughtered ten times the numbers of their own fallen! Many were content with their shares from that raid and so Clark set out again with only a few diehard veterans recently. He´s back for real, that much the whole caribbean knows by now!”
“And he led the attack personally?”
“Fought in the first line, yes, and like five men! I saw him dancing on the spires with my own eyes. Spooky, as I said. Our captain said that man’s strategy was bordering on brilliant. I don´t understand much about military tactics, but the maneuvers while his little fleet approached the fortress had impressed me. Moreso, because it wasn’t what one expects from a horde of unorganized lowlifes.
I´m not a fighter, so I had hidden. Glimpsed Clark a few times, though. He stood out from the rabble… The others were in it for the loot, and the women, but I think Clark made this raid to see if he could do it. This is his creed: The next port, the next star, the next stunt. The gold gathers up as a welcome side-effect, to keep his crew in a good mood.”
“He did not exactly keep his man at bay in Gibraltar, I´ve heard” the merchant interjected. “Clark isn´t that noble. And he´s supposed to bear a grudge for the spaniards, sinking their ships on sight.”
The governor listened no longer to the exchange of words. He knew the legends and rumours already, the denouncements and those tales that styled Clark a hero. But today Henri had learned the unimaginable: that at the core of all this was the woman he held in his custody right now. Even if one left the exaggerations out of those tales, the rest was enough to make her a formidable warrior and mariner.
Entrusting the business to Mattei, Henri returned to the town. He had wasted enough time already!
“Clark! Come out!” Governor de Monet demanded, battering the door to the guestroom with his bare fists. He got no answer.
Jarundo, standing as stoically next to ghe governor as on the day of his arrival, was of no help here, either.
“Does she still refuse to wear the dress?” Henri asked.
“Come out or, by all that´s holy, I´ll come in!” de Monet threatened.
Only seconds later he made true on his ultimatum. The door burst open!
And there the female prisoner was, displaying at least a token sense of decency by wearing the bedspread like a tunic.
“Governor Angry Money”, Clark greeted his captor. “I wonder where your son´s clothing wandered off to, but even more burning I find the question: Where the hell´s your son himself?”
“To answer that question I need your talents and contacts, Captain.”
Clark smiled. His sudden relief was followed by another gush of blood from what he called his “neverhealing wound”. From a tray nearby he took a sip from a herbal tea that Jarundo had procuered from the kitchen. It helped to alleviate the pain, although to the governor the whole display must have looked like just another show of arrogance.
“Sucessful completition of your mission wins me my freedom?”
“Your life, Clark! Your life.”
The privateer took another sip, then nodded.
“Let´s call it a basis for negotiation, Mister Money.“
Captain Clark did not begrudge the governor anything that had transpired during the first days of his captivity. He went straight down to business, his tomboy mannerisms all but gone in favour of an icy efficiency. In solemn silence he listened to the case of the lost heir. There was not much to go by. La Mancha had found – and identified – the Prince Paris´ wreckage drifting in in the Gulf of Venezuela.
“You insisted in training Francois as a merchant only“, Clark gave voice to a truth even La Mancha dared not speak aloud. “Many dangers can befall an inexperienced trader at sea.”
Henri de Monet shook his head.
“No, Captain, this is different. All the signs hint at a pirate attack. And you know the region. You know pirates and their way of thinking. And…”
“…and I get assigned the Pride of Martinique for this mission!”
“Certainly, as agreed. She´s finished and ready to leave port.“
The unimaginatively named galleon was of the sleeker, lighter design that was so typical for the french models of a given type of ship. Clark strongly suspected that the chassis had been built in Europe and only subjected to a far-reaching overhaul in Fort-de-France. But he could not be completely sure. The french might posess a wharf capable of building large warships on Martinique. Whatever the case, it was obvious to the perceptive onlooker that all the lessons shipwrights and mariners had learned in the New World had went into the Pride´s final construction. As a seasoned naval warrior Clark even recognized the results of some ideas that he had heard only theorized about and never actually seen realized.
Yes, the Pride of Martinique was a true warship. Chained to the quay she was spreading her wings protectively over the lesser ships. But she was made to fly and just did not know it yet!
“Jarundo”, Clark whispered, moved beyond words, when he was allowed on the Pride for the first time. “Do you believe in love at first glance?”
“Seeing you enraptured by that thing – yes”, the friend replied.
Clark sighed with a longing that Jarundo usually reserved for Marita. Then the privateer flashed de Monet a grin, asking: “So if the ship won´t be mine, can I at least count on the proceeds from the heirlooms finding their way into my pockets?”
“Of course, captain! I am a man of honor! Your captivity on this island will be as civilized as your actions allow me to make it.”
“And about a probable exchange of prisoners…?”
“I´ll heed your wish not to ‘fall into Sir Rupert of Gloucester´s clutches’ as you put it.”
Relieved Clark raised his head, looking upwards. Acting on an impulse, he mounted into the rigging, climbing up till he reached the sharpshooters´ lookouts. Clark had always wanted to include some such nests into the Aquila´s defenses, but never found the time to realize the plan.
For the span of a few breathes the privateer´s attention rested on the northern point of the island, the weak point where a ship could anchor without being noticed from the fortress. From the high vantage point Clark’s initial hunch became certainity: Fort-de-France was not sufficiently protected against overland attacks.
Jarundo grabbed a rope, too, but did not follow his friend. Instead he begged the governor not to have Clark fetched back.
“Leave him alone, Sir Money”, he said. “My brother was parted from everything that makes up his idendity for quite some time. But that´s not his womanhood, but the ocean and commanding.”
“And what else?“
“You are a perceptive man, Governor. Let´s put it like this: Sometimes it´s more fun to hunt pigs with a spear instead of shooting them down easily with a musket. The farther away from England Clark´s going to spear his ‘pig’, the better for all involved.”
What prayers Clark had said up there, even an eagle had to return to the ground sometime. And so, when his feet touched the wooden planks again, Clark reasssured the governor: “I´m a man of my word, too. Martinique will see me again.”
“I know. And I will make sure you come back”, the noble replied.
Clark did not like the undertone, the underlying threat, in the statement. But he preferred it to the alternative, which he had had to endure until this morning. There was a new waryness in de Monet, now that he knew his captive for what she really was. His feelings towards her a mixture of respect and pity, he nevertheless treated Clark as the enemy she was.
The next day saw the final stages of the preparations for the Pride’s maiden voyage. There was no hectic whatsoever, as the event had been planned for so long now. The involved craftsmen and sailors felt only a deep sense of accomplishment.
Since there was no more need for the Nicolas-pretense, the governor revealed to all his confidates that Captain Clark was in his custody, though not her identity as a woman.
Mattei smiled knowingly, as he had already come to that conclusion on his own. If Clark had captured the Corse almost fifteen years ago, he would have to be about Perben´s ages now, close to or a little over thirty. So “Drilled young man” was out of the picture, leaving only “Woman in disguise” as an explanation for what been troubling Mattei.
The doctor´s loathing for Clark subsided, to be replaced by cool neutrality towards the female privateer. When confronted with her as a patient he would work to the best of abilities, but have no dealings with the enemy officer otherwise.
Perben, however, instantly attached himself to the english captain. He had wanted to do so from the very first day, but Clark had pushed away everbody while he had felt not taken serious by de Monet. Now he accepted Perben´s company. The two men spent their hours in the Pride´s captain´s cabin and walking her deck, talking about philosophy.
Yes, two men. Jarundo was certain that there were no sparks between Clark and Perben. They needed each other to make a start on their healing, but loveplay was not involved. The carib indian thought that La Mancha would make a much better match for his brother anyway. Raoul, however, was itchy whenever he saw Perben and Clark together.
“The way you are fussing about the pirate, one might think you´d be in love with him!” he snarled at his friend.
Perben nodded gravely, then he said: “I´m not in love. Neither with Clark, nor with any man or woman. Don´t you think it´s time to change this?”
Cocking his head La Mancha replied: “So you´ve finally found an adventure worth your time?”
“Or it has been found for me. By whom – who can say?”
Some more lazy hours passed, day faded into evening and into night. The inhabitants of the mansion went to sleep, not looking back as they had done the recent days, but looking forward, each to something different, but with the same determination.