The day after the execution the Errant Eagle was ready to leave port.
The Soaring Seagull´s former captain displayed not only a new eyepatch, but also an unquenchable joy of life. High up in the rigging he chatted with his new shipmates while they were setting sail: “…and then Captain Clark asked me what I saw up there, just think, Zacharias, Eric! As if I knew the constellations´ names! I can read the current hour, that´s enough.”
“I know the signs of the zodiac”, Eric offered and started talking at lengths about the twelve segments and characteristics associated with them. With his knowledge he had already helped Chat Creed narrow his date of birth to two possible months, which was a closer approximation than even the man´s parents could have given him.
Captain Clark was satisfied with the turn his talk with Fourpound had taken the night before. Norman Maddock did not have the slightest inkling to the stars´ dance. The only rival Clark had in this regard, had suffered a fate worse than death: marriage.
“Move, you lame tort…!” Clark shouted – and stumbled. The seaman regained his footing and recognized the obstacle as a giant green turtle. Close by Martin throned on another one.
“Oh, woe!” Clark lamented. “An evil sorcerer transmorphed my crew into the creatures closest to them in the animal kingdom!”
“Life cargo”, Marita explained. “They make very good soup.”
“Clark´s right, somehow”, Martin said, dismounting. “They do not appear particularily lively.”
“They don´t need to”, Clark replied. He adressed the turtle right next to him: “Do not be surprised, my good beast, that, what´s dragging itself across my ship even slower than you, that is my crew.”
Suddenly the bright voice of a boy rang out from the quay: “One warship´s good as the next!”
“Alfred Winston!” Clark shouted down. “What´s your problem down there?“
“Captain!” the child-pirate complained. He stuck his finger out at Goodrick junior, a halfgrown man of fourteen years standing next to Alfred for some unknown reason. “Tell the landlubber that one warship is not as good as the next!”
Freddie flashed his hatred at the admiral´s son. “Or must I beat it into you again?”
“Just you try, kid”, young Goodrick smiled. “Perhaps this time I´ll notice a tickle of it.”
“Alfred´s right”, Martin answered in Clark´s stead. “The Errant Eagle is the best.”
“I say! And that´s why I want to aquire my leutnant´s commission here!” Goodrick confirmed. “Two years back I already served some time on a ship, now I´m fourteen and father wants to assign me to the Falcon!”
Major Clark shook his head. “That´s no ship, that´s a bathtub”, he declared. Fourpound´s men would have disagreed strongly, since it had been the Falcon sinking their Soaring Seagull. But a light coastal patrol ship was not good enough for the admiral´s son.
“One ship´s as good the other when it comes to which captain signs my commission”, the teenager claimed. “But I want the best!”
“Damn, lad, Clark and I are still trying to work this out”, Captain Martin laughed.
“Jump aboard and stay until we´ve settled that matter”, Major Clark offered the appliccant. “And give my treasurer your first name. For some obscure reason Governor Langley places great importance on knowing such things.”
Ronald Goodrick nodded eagerly. On the Errant Eagle an ensign would have to do more than help reef the sails and even Martin had not yet managed to negotiate a regular pay for the eagles, but this was part of the adventure the teenager craved.
James Perry added Goodrick´s name to the roll. It could not hurt to have a close relative of the admiral´s aboard, just in case a hostage would be needed, the man thought…
“That´s what he meant with one ship being as good and so on”, Alfred complained while coming aboard after the ensign. “Could have told me so in the first place! By the way, the postal ship carried a letter for the captain. I do not know which one, though. Here it is!”
Clark recognized his own name on the document. He also knew the sender´s seal: “It´s from Escobedo!”
“That´s your mortal enemy!” Freddie gasped.
The boy stood on his toes behind Clark, looking at the paper as if he could read.
Martin, too, stepped closer, but kept his curiosity in check.
“This is a cruel joke”, Clark whispered, when he had finished studying the letter.
He handed it over to Martin.
“The Don claims having kidnapped your… what?!” the man exclaimed.
“My daughter”, Clark confirmed.
Freddie looked from one captain to the other. “I thought you two are…? Man! Our captain´s not missing out on anything!” The boy laughed out loud, yelling: “Captain Clark has a bastard! Captain Clark has a bastard! Captain Clark has a baaaaaaaaaaaaaa…!”
For his cheek the boy found himself grabbed at his belt and tossed overboard. His news had to wait for as long as it would take Freddie to climb out of the water and return to the ship. Soon every eagle would know it.
“Escobedo has any child, but not your daughter, hasn´t he?” Martin probed.
“Escobedo still believes me a man”, Clark said. “I don´t know what he thinks he´s figured out there.”
Martin studied his partner´s features.
“Eagle? Something troubles you…”
“I… I almost had a child, indeed”, the captain revealed his lifemate. “I was nineteen years old and unlike most women never had been pregnant before…“
She had been one of many, this young englishwoman. Disguised, far away from home and with a child not in keeping with her station under her heart.
The half-indian studied the boyish-looking woman and shook her head doubtfully.
“You come a bit late. I do not know if I can relief you of it.”
“He´ll do it on his own when it´s time”, the woman laughed.
In her combined kitchen and sleeping chamber´s twilight the matchmaker shook her head again, this time astonished.
“You want it? Then why have you come here?”
Jenny of Brackenridge listened up. Only slowly the unthinkable sank in. Even at the inhumane plantation nobody had pondered killing unborn children. Slave breeding was not yet rampant in this era, but when it happened, new slaves at cost price were too valueable a gift to throw away. Of course the growing life was not to hinder it’s host bodies at work, so many died anyway from mistreatment of their mothers, but never killed on purpose. For the first time in her life Jenny realized how sheltered she had lived all the time and that meant a lot when taken into account every station of her life so far!
“I thought you were a midwife!” Jenny cried. She wanted to turn and run away, as if not facing a reality made it go away. But she stayed, for she had no other place to go.
“Sometimes”, the half-caste confirmed what Jenny had learned in town. “In rare, precious moments. Once I found a girlchild at the beach and put her up with a family. But before and after I had to live off something.”
“Only pirates and undertakers make their living from from people´s deaths!” Jenny flared up. “You will help this child into the world! He´s Captain Clark´s son!”
“Capitano Clark is a rising star in the pirate-sky. He may have sired this child, but does that really make him the father? Oh, child, where is your captain now?”
“He´ll return in about five months”, the pregnant woman said, full of conviction. “Soon as his son is born.”
“Do not waste your faith to the sea, she is treacherous and fickle.”
“You know nothing about the sea, land-dweller!”
“At your age, I, too, thought I knew everything better.”
The matchmaker watched her visitor walking over to the room’s kitchen section. Jenny noticed some leftover gruel that had grown cold in the pot and started digging in hungrily. The elder woman allowed it.
“If you can pay, I´ll help you in the manner you ask” she told the mother-to-be. “But it should be many coins, for assisting in a needless birth. You are going to suffocate the brat anyway when the father won´t come calling ever again!”
“You´ve seen it happen too often, haven’t you it?” Janney wondered aloud while looking around in the hut for something else to eat. “The gist is, I also need a wet nurse. Because I´ll vanish soon as the captain returns.”
“Well, I know the sea and she´s fickle indeed. Everchanging, so to say.”
Jenny loosened a bottle from her belt. An engraving marked it as property of the english barque “Royal Bride”. The pregnant woman set down on a chair, leaned back and took a large gulp of what the half-indian feared was brandy.
“That´s crazy”, Jenny whispered while wiping her mouth. “My best friends I keep in the dark about my identitiy, but here I sit, revealing to a witch and murderer the secret of Captain Clark…”
“Young Clark has no secrets, child!”
“Right. Because he is my secret.”
Jenny canceled the nurse. And ordered her anew. And canceled again.
She talked about how she was looking forward to teaching her son how to walk when she returned from her journey with the Aquila. Jenny became angry at Aggie when the old woman told her what a wonderful father she’d make. “I’m his mother!” she yelled and announced that she’d stay and prove it. No more pirating for Jenny/Clark.
“I still have enough coins to get us through the first years, until he’s old enough to help with the work”, the pirate claimed. “I set the money aside for my new Letter de Marque. We’ll make do… somehow.”
One of those days Jenny practiced changing a diaper and breastfeading on a wooden doll, all the time trying to think up ways to improve the procedures, so they became more efficient. Less time consuming and especially less icky. Once again Aggie was glaring doubtfully at the expecting mother.
“It’s alright”, Jenny told the matchmaker. “Soon as the kid’s born, she-softness and motherly instincts will kick in.” The she-pirate pointed at the frightening sheets of thankfully still clean cloth and the doll. “Because otherwise all of this would be a kinda cruel fate, wouldn’t it?”
To settle into her new life as a responsible, loving mother who would not leave alone her firstborn child for a year, Jenny went looking for a job. In the townhall she met a shipwright of french heritage. From her step-uncle Jenny had learned a bit about carpentry and the two had much to talk about. The man was kind as well as practical. The matchmaker foresaw a cosy future for Jenny and an abrupt end of Captain Clark´s career loom in the horizon. Then the mother-to-be told Sulpicius Fillon about the ship her husband had built in Providence. That he planned to take her along for the voyage. But perhaps he would never return from the sea…
Sulpicuis comforted the woman and made some suggestions for the Aquila´s design. Jenny took his advice and put down Fillon´s name as the first one to the roll. Absent Captain Clark had no say in this matter.
While the child grew within Jenny, her conflict tore apart the young woman. The matchmaker expected a miscarriage, but she still did not know Captain Clark good enough. But she liked Little Jenny, as the people in Providence called his wife.
When the time of birth came, Jenny succumbed to the burden. In her career as midwife so far Aggie had seen her share of frightened or pain-crazed women. But never before had somebody percieved the whole, granted, rather messy, process as something unnatural.
Jenny fainted, never to regain consciousness. Waking up from the dark was privateer-captain Clark, owner of a majestic ship, but childless.
Together with Silpicius Fillon, whom he called “Chips” in the manner of the english, he stood at the grave of his Jenny and the nameless child. Mother and (the pirate assumed it as naturally) son. Died in childbirth.
In retrospect the day his son had been stillborn seemed the privateer as the one he had stopped thinking of himself as a woman. But hadn´t he been unable to live this role properly beforehand? The wish for revenge overshadowed his relief at being rescued from the plantation. Being respected by his comrades on the “Royal Bride” had been as important to him as finding peace in Isaac´s arms. And when Isabel had been a little girl, she had worked hard in the stables to buy herself a set of new ribbons in her favourite color – red. But the joy had paled when she found out that her best friend had earned double her wage for the same job, because he was a boy.
No, as woman the privateer captain believed, he had failed miserably.
“You never saw the child“, Captain Martin said, back in the present.
“Eagle, listen! The Don has his sources, just like us! Your child may not be a son, but it could be alive, after all!“
“Escobeo´s making this up. He tricked us before.”
“I´m not suggesting sailing into his arms. But Providence is an english port. We could travel there and ask around. The island makes a good stopp for our journey to Puerto Bello, where the charming Don´s waiting for you.”
“He can wait there ´till Judgement Day, for all I care!”
“And the girl?” Martin challenged.
“What girl, Martin?”
“The teenage woman suspected to be Captain Clark´s daughter. Whether it´s true or not, association with your name endangered her. You owe her.”
Martin gestured towards the spot where Eric enlightened Fourpound Maddock about the best way to deal with an Aries. Judging by the young man’s distressed mimic, Norman seemed to ponder whether the execution might have been the prefered alternative, after all.
“If you save twenty pirates from the gallows, rescuing a maiden in distress should not even pose a question!” Martin claimed.
“Am I Jenny de Monet, the good shepard of Westindia nowadays, or what?”
“If that´s true, than it sheds a real bad light on the state of all the others´ souls.”
“Trader isn´t a proper type, but a collective term for many different designs”, Major Clark taught his new ensign during the voyage to Providence. “You´ll learn to differentiate them by the shape and size of their hold, mainly. Expect to spend many hours of your life unloading cargo.”
Ronald “Ricky” Goodrick nodded well-behaved. Then he pointed at a ship travelling close by for two days now. “What kind´s that one, Sir?”
“A fluyt. Can you tell me a fluyt ´s best quality, ensign?”
In his boyhood Ricky could not have imagined a fluyt having any quality worth naming. His father the admiral looked down on the dutch trading vessels. But now that he had left his home, the young englishman expanded his horizon each day.
“How deep she lies in the water”, he gave the correct answer. “Because that means many hours of unloading after we have captured her!”
Clark slapped the youth´s shoulder encouragingly.
“As a father you cut a fine figure”, Whipcrack grinned.
Clark replied by means of his fist into the other man´s face.
“You´ve yet to make a child they can kidnap!” he snapped.
Fleecing the fluyt had lifted Clark’s spirit a bit. But the closer they came to Providence, the more worried he grew. Not just the impending confrontation with his past, but the actual present was responsible for the captain’s brooding:
“There are way too many ships around for my taste. Many of them are spaniards, to boot… too many this close to our borders. I do not like it.”
“I do, as long as they are traders”, Captain Martin replied. “But what do you think about this behemoth over there?”
A full blown warship´s silouette had appeared on the horizon.
“It should not take one wonder that Spain ist broke all the time, if they construct such monsters in large quantity. Fortunately we are able to make it to Providence before them and alert the defenders.”
However, the island´s defenders did not value the eagles´ aid. Instead they took offence in the galleon´s presence and opened fire. Stunned Major Clark beheld the spanish flag that now waved over the walls. All he could do was utter “Retreat!” and then stare at the port, where a light galleon prepared to set off after the intruder.
“We´ve got to circle around the island at night, sneak in and check just how grave the situation is”, Clark suggested, but Captain Martin came up with a better idea: “We´ll sail into port officially and in the open. All it takes is a bit of needlework. But you´ll have to disguise yourself, too.”
“The Errant Eagle is known all over the place, Martin. A rainbow-colored dog would escape the spaniard´s notice, but not our eagle! You cannot fool them by just hoisting their own colors.”
“True! And that´s why we´ll rescurrect the Black Dog.”
Three patrol ships from Santa Catalina, formerly known as Providence, closed in on the Errant Eagle. The warriors were more than a bit uneasy when they approached the galleon. But the english privateer-ship did not open it´s gun hatchs or raise battle-sails and neither were weapons distributed to the crew.
“Clark´s mocking us”, a spanish leutnant gave voice to his fears. “You´ll see, Capitano, he´s got a nasty surprise in store for us!”
But nothing happened. Calm and peaceful the Errant Eagle lay in the water, waiting to be boarded. The seamen went about their regular tasks unfettered, hardly looking up.
“Welcome to the Errant Eagle”, the captain greeted the soldiers. “We´ve got nothing to hide.”
“Well, it´s not Clark, obviously”, the pirate said, bowing theatrically. Clothed all in black, with a black cloak and a black hat sporting thick white feathers, his face masked – there could be no doubting this man´s identity. “Chien del´Onyx, spanish privateer from Trinidad”, he introduced himself. “And before I´m accused of being my old enemy Clark the Shark under that mask, feel free to have a look at him down in our holding cells.”
“Capitano Clark – captured?!”
“By me and my men”, Chien confirmed. Beaming with pride Korthals, Spencer and Peralta stood next to their captain. They numbered among the less flamboyant and thus often overlooked eagles. There were no bountys on their individual heads yet.
“I had to throw the other captain, that Martin, overboard”, Chien explained. “His performance as cabin steward left much to be desired.”
“What happened to the rest of the officers? Clark´s indian, the witch and the dutch rebel?”
“I hope Don Escobedo will reward me for their capture, too”, Chien admitted. “I´m on my way to an appointment with him, to deliver the prisoner.”
The spaniards´ tension lessened with each word of the black clad captain and gave way to feelings of triumph, after they had visited the englishman rendered harmless in his cell. Only Chien del´Onyx was unable to relax even after the spaniards were completely convinced of his sincerity and welcomed the Errant Eagle to Santa Catalina. More than one hidden weapon was aimed at him, but they were not wielded by the spanish soldiers, but his own shimpmates. The eagles were ready to jump into action and subdue the Black Dog at the slightest hint of betrayal.
After being freed again from their cells, Clark´s more infamous and well-known followers were smart enough to stay out of sight. Only the captain himself insisted on going to shore personally in Santa Catalina. Clark left the ship at Chien´s side, having thrown a grey pilot´s coat over his clothing.
“It´s his own fault if he gets caught!” Ricky exclaimed. “As if a hooded cape would suffice as disguise! But it´s a damn shame…”
Chien and Clark payed the words of warning no heed. Ronald Goodrick could not know what the real disguise was: Under the coat Clark wore a women’s clothes, an expensive dress that Martin had kept from their raid of the indiaman.
“What’s the matter?” Martin asked, while the two were rowing.
“What the matter is, you ask? How about seeing Providence in enemy hands and having vivid memories of pressing a carcass out through my intestines?”
“There’s something else…”
Clark sighed. “Well, you put on a dress and go to town in it and then I’ll ask you the same question.”
“I…um… I’m a pirate! It would be a jolly good adventure!”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too!”
And that was how Chien del’Onyx entered Santa Catalina well out of sight of the Errant Eagle: His girl at his arms, exchanging kisses and loving little jokes.
Entering town as “Chien de´Onyx” instead of “Captain Martin” came with a few drawbacks: Martin would have payed his respects to the governor, but Chien had to be thankful for the rare honor of getting received by the nobleman.
The Black Dog and his beatiful, veiled female companion stood in the same parlour where Martin had negotiated their Letter de Marque the year before. The spanish governor was different from his english predecessor in the color of his overcoat only. When it came to money, they were of one heart and one mind.
“Santa Catalina is going to prosper under spanish rule. I have great plans for the town!”, the man told the pirate who had defeated Captain Clark. “Why don´t you renew your papers here and bring the crown´s shares to me instead to far-away Trinidad?”
“It would be an honor“, Chien replied and payed, without haggling, the charge asked for issuing a Letter de Marque against the netherlands. The way the document was formulated it would not help at all in case a ship belonging to the Dutch Westindia Company was attacked. The governor did not enlighten the Black Dog about this little detail. Martin, however, needed no explanation. He knew it well himself.
“One thing you´ve got to give the man”, Clark remarked, when the two left the residence again. “He did not think us dumb enough to write “Holland”.”
“One should compile an almanach with the greatest howlers of those so-called protective documents”, Clark agreed. “But to sell it as funny book or work of warning?”
Chien shrugged. “Spain – every country – collects the licencees´ fees, but you cannot count on their support when you need it. A privateer captain gets milked until he loses his usefulness on account of getting himself captured. Then he disappears forever. You may live a privateer, but you always die a pirate.”
Walking the streets of Providence was spooky. The buildings damaged or destroyed in the battle for the town testified to a fight nobody seemed to remember. The people went about their daily business, drank, chatted and laughed. Only a handful of civillians was wounded.
At first the arrivals were puzzled, but then the truth dawned to them.
“I´ve yet to see a familiar face”, Clark whispered.
Chien nodded. “And you know why this is so. The spaniards brought their own settlers here in a second wave.”
“That means they can throw not only their regular troops, but a considerable number of militia members into battle.”
It also meant that the english population had been expelled from town to the islands interior. Obviously the spaniards had learned from their earlier experience in St. Kitts. When the english military – assisted by auxiliary troops, among them the old Aquila – retook the island, they could count on the help of the subjugated french and english population.
Chien steered towards a tavern.
“Let´s have a drink after this shock!” he suggested.
Four large barrels normally used by fishermen to preserve their catch served as the only tables in front of the tavern. Clark knew that it would look no different inside. He remembered similar arrangements from Bilbao. To discourage patrons from spending too much time in the tavern, the innkeepers were instructed to offer no seats at all. Many spanish towns tried to keep the number of drunken people in the streets low this way – one just did not linger long enough in this uncomfortable a place to get drunk.
With some suspicion the landlord eyed the strange pair. He had already heard the rumour about Captain Clark gotten captured by Chien del´Onyx. So the privateer´s presence posed no problem – that of his companion all the more.
“We don´t serve women here!” the man barked.
“Did I, in word or action, even hint at wishing to indulge in this vice?” the disguised Clark hissed back. “I´m not going to enter this den of inquity!”
“As you wish, my dear”, Chien chuckled, leading him the only unoccupied barrel. “But we should rest a bit… watch the city life go by and enjoy the sun.”
The landlord´s protests ceased. Tone, bearing and her spanish that was better than that of many native speakers had convinced the man that Jenny was not just a spruced up pirate-darling, but a real Donna.
“No rum”, Chien noticed, disappointed, after a quick glance over the other makeshift-tables. Not one of the patrons had ordered the new sugar-drink and could only mean it wasn´t available here yet.
“What are you talking about, stranger?”
“A little business you won´t rue, master landlord. I´ll delve into the details if you can serve me a good wine and forget the bill.”
“Deal!“ the man agreed. “But if I don´t like your proposal, the wine´ll cost you double!”
“No chance I´m going to lose this”, Chien smirked.
At the table farthest away from the pair, a young barkeep discussed with two other guests, two workers, one of them of gigantic proportions. The large man´s companion pointed towards a shoemaker’s workshop across the street. Once again the waiter said something and as so many times before, the smaller man shook his head. Whatever the problem was, it seemed to be more than the youth could handle on his own, so he went to ask his employer.
“What´s so urgent, Pablo?” the man bellowed. “Can´t you see I´m trying to conduct business here?”
“Sure, but if you can´t help out, then I´ve got to call the city watch”, the youth said in his defence.
Attracted by a Donna´s presence at a place not normally accessible for women, the exited youngling and the privateer and his sweetheart talking to each other in a foreign language, a guardsman approached all by his own.
“What´s the matter here? At this early a time?”
“It´s the two englishmen, over there”, the young waiter answered, pointing towards the troublesome patrons. “They have no certificate of employment or trade agreement to show. Neither are they on an errand or own any document proving that they are in town legally.”
“Vagrants you do not need to serve”, the landlord re-assured his employee.
In his opinion there was nothing else to say about the subject and he was ready to turn his attention to Chien and the Donna again. In short words the landlord explained to them that english people were no longer welcome in town. “Those who did not outright flee like their coward of a governor were driven away within a handful of days´ time. They are allowed to visit Santa Catalina town, but are forbidden to work or profit from any service without the proper documents. Especially the once upstanding citizens are unhappy with the situation, as you can imagine.”
The guardsman realized that it was time to earn his pay. He gave a sigh and walked over to the supposed vagrants.
The cobbler from across the street now, too, joined the scene.
“Is there trouble?”
“Yes, there is, especially for you, if you complicate my job”, the city watch man´s eyes promised.
“That´s the one we work for”, the smaller of the two englishmen claimed, when he beheld the shoemaker.
“But you cannot prove it?”
“Well, I´m good with numbers and measures”, the shoe-maker admitted. “Writing is not my speciality. But it´s true, I employ these two in my workshop. Gordon was the former owner´s journeyman and Eliot sees to everything else that needs doing.”
“And can one of you read and write?” the guardsman asked the englishmen.
“Yes, him”, the smaller one answered, nodding into his massive drinking partner´s direction.
“Then have your friend pen down a certificate of employment and your employer puts his name on it to the best of his ability”, the guard suggested. “That should not pose a problem.”
“It does. Gordon neither understands spanish nor can he write it.”
Close to desperation the city watch man removed his helmet and tossed it down onto the barrel serrving as table.
“Isn´t there a bloody scribe in this town?”
“That´s too costly!” the cobbler protested. “Am I to pay the scribe out of my own pocket?! The government should get informed about how honest craftsmen are robbed here!”
“Employ fellow countrymen”, the spanish guard grumbled. “Oh, no, I forgot: they cost more…”
Jenny and Chien could not follow the discussion any longer. They accompanied the landlord to his backroom. When they left at a while later, both sides were happy and Chien had not needed to pay for the wine.
The four men outside had still not been able to solve their problem, but at least they had procured a large jug of brandy. Eliot and Gordon threatened to leave, if the cobbler insisted on his suggestion to deduct the scribe´s payment from their wage. The guardsman was most probably looking forward to a reprimand for being drunk while at duty
Eventually Eliot asked his employer for a sheet of paper. The wine had spured on his creativity and he believed to know the solution to their dilemma now. Syllable by syllable the man dictated Gordon, what he had to write. “Alright, let´s begin! Write: Cer – ti – fi – ca – do de tra – ba – jo.“
Gordon put the sounds to paper, carefully and as spanish as he could: “Zer tee ficha doh de tra bayoh”.
“Em – ple – a – do nom – bre“, Eliot went on.
Gordon started getting the hang of identifying the spaces between words.
“Emplayado nompray” the large scotsman wrote. Eliot, the shoemaker and the guard thought that the document looked impressive and correct. The four men slapped each others´ shoulders and called for more brandy.
“Ah, everything´s working out nicely”, the landlord remarked at the sight of this conciliatory a scene. “A good deal made and two new regulars gained!”
A familiar figure diverted the captains´ attention from the goings-on in the tavern. Out of a side street their erstwhile cabin steward, the seaman Benson, came. Bobby walked with the help of two crutches, because his left foot was heavily bandaged, but he had survived the taking over of Providence, at least.
“Hey, Bobby, over here!” Chien called out to the man.
Benson stood petrified.
“The Black Dog´s ghost!” he gasped. “Is it really you, Onyx?”
“Yes, I´m back”, Chien del´Onyx laughed. “Now come here, I´ve got some questions for you!”
Bob Benson put a rucksack over his shoulders, then he obeyed.
“I bought medicine”, he explained to his former captain. “I´m here with the wagon. How I ended up on this island? After we thought you dead, we men from Aruba joined Captain Clark. He´s a bit mad, but I should not speak badly about him. I owe him my life, after all.”
“Well, mad or no, Clark´s Errant Eagle´s in port safe and sound, whereas your Badluck Bait did not survive her first seafight!” Chien replied sharply.
Bobby´s eyes widened!
“How come you know about the Badluck Bait, Chien?”
“Long story”, the Black Dog declined. “We are searching for Indian-Aggie. Do you have any idea what became of her?”
“Aggie the witch? Ha! They could not poke her out of her rat´s hole. I doubt anybody would even try. Aggie´s far too useful to drive her out of town or bother her with a certificate of employment. You´ll find her…”
“I know where”, Clark interrupted the man. “Come, Chien!”
“Will you wait for us with your wagon, please?” Chien asked Bob Benson. “Might be we´ll need it later.“
“My pleasure, Chien! Now that I see you standing there, I´d really love to set sail again with you! The judge I served got killed in the battle. The master tailor is not the worst new employer, but it was always fun on the Midnight…”
“I don´t know whether Chien has enough lifeboats to compensate your consumption of them in the long run, Badluck”, Chien’s ladyfriend chuckled.
“How does your girl know the Badluck Bait was a rowing boat?!” Bob moaned. “Are you ghosts after all?”
“Of the good kind”, the Black Dog grinned, then he followed Jenny into the shabbier parts of town.
The sharp command “Hands up!” rang out just when the pair had walked around a corner. They had entered a back alley where many barrels, hay bales and crates were piled up – a smuggler´s or fence´s open-air storeroom, Clark suspected. The speaker´s voice was bright, like a boy´s or very young man´s: “Give us all your money, spanish dog! A pity you cannot understand this, so I´ll have to go with killing you…”
“The proper word would have been ‘relinquish’, though I also see a good chance for ‘hand over’ in the given context”, Clark answered. Each word bought him some more time to pinpoint the scoundrel´s exact location.“A pity you are lacking the full grasp of the tongue you parade so proudly before us, lad!”
“I hardly understand what she says, other than that her english´s real“, the robber said out of his hiding place. “Perhaps she´s no spaniard after all?”
“Not real”, Jenny reprimanded the man. “Learned people and gentlemen say genuine.”
“Ha, yeah, alright, lady”, the robber laughed. “It´s okay. You may pass, both of you. Beat it!”
“No love left for the spaniards, I take it? In Market Street a man with four legs and four wheels is waiting”, Clark told the urban brigand. “If you and you companions should be interested in leaving this forlorn island with the Errant Eagle, then report to him!”
“What crap is this? The Eagle was captured!”
“Of course I´m going there and let them take me prisoner, too”, another, even younger, voice sneered.
A third voice chimed in: “Yes, perhaps it is a trick. We should shoot down these two – just in case!”
By now Clark and Chien knew exactly where their foes were entrenched. They drew their pistols. The Black Dog´s first shot punctured a hay bale. The scream coming from behind it told Chien that the rogue hiding there was not wounded, but far too frightened to return the fire. The ball shot from the pitsol in his left hand hit the chain of a lantern hanging from a wall. It went down and hit the the mouthy leader of the little gang on his head.
Clark had to free his own pistol from his skirt before fireing, so he had time for one shot only, despite the fact that he shared Chien´s ambidexterity. He hit the barrel the third robber was sitting behind and just like his friend behind the hay bale this one, too, was too intimidated to react in any way.
Unfettered by the clamour rising behind them, the two captains went on their way.
“Cute, huh?” Chien remarked. “And just about the right age, I pressume.”
“The right age for what? Becoming a sailor?”
“Well, we need to look into prospective husbands for our daughter, before she introduces an upstanding spanish hidalgo into the family…”
“I don’t have a daughter!!!”
“That´s what I call a witch´s kitchen”, Chien murmured, when he entered the half-indian´s hut.
An ancient woman appeared from out of the darkness inside. She beheld a daring adventurer and a lady and reflexively grabbed the sheep-bowels from her rich supply of contraceptives. “I´m not a man for sheep”, the pirate grumbled, but Clark readily exchanged the goods for some coin. “Certain parts of sheep have their place in bed”, he explained. “One can never have enough of them.”
Until now Chien had believed in those words´ wisdom, too. But ever since Don Escobedo´s letter had arrived, he had become aware of that Clark was still ahead of him in one thing: He had a child of his own. So naturally Francois needed to catch up with him.
Indian-Aggie pricked her ears. Jenny´s voice was unusually deep for a woman´s – it was what made her Captain-Clark-disguise perfect – and the matchmaker had never forgotten it.
“I know this voice!” the old woman exclaimed, overjoyed. She took a closer look at the pair. “Chien del´Onyx and Captain Clark? I see! This man has “captured“ you indeed, Jenny. Or should I say: captivated?” Aggie flashed the she-pirate a warm smile and added: “Your secret is safe here, Jenny-child.”
“Another secret led us here”, Chien said. “One that was NOT safe from Don Escobedo!”
“I won´t feign innocence here”, Aggie admitted.
Clark stared at the woman.
“The child is alive?! Really?”
“You never knew it. But it was best for all involved, Jenny.”
Chien´s stern expression changed into a grin. He visibly enjoyed hearing someone adress Captain Clark by his given name.
Aggie went far back in her thoughts: “I watched you closely these last weeks before the birth, Jenny. And I realized what you refused to believe: That you would leave behind the child without being able to let go.”
“So you lied to Jenny, to grant her her freedom.”
“Correct, Captain Onyx. The herb-mush I gave you to eat, J…”
Jenny´s eyes flared with the embers of more than one hell. A sixth sense for danger cultivated over many decades and a healthy survival instinct made Aggie reconsider her words: “These herbs, Captain Jenny, had no soothing effect as I told you. Instead of killing your pain, they killed you – in a way. The medicine made you lose consciousness in the right moment. I took your little girl and brought it to the woman who could not deny me any favour I asked for: My first foundling, who had birthed a son the month before. She would raise both babes as siblings.”
“Then I have a daughter for real”, Clark whispered, trying to find out how he felt about it. Chien slapped his shoulder in a chummy way. “You are not the first seaman who has to face this realization in this or that port”, he told his wife. “Just the first female one.”
Aggie cackled. Then she told her guests that Don Escobedo had assissted the invasion force with his ship and personal troops.
“He may have hoped I would come to the town´s defence personally and walk right into his mousetrap”, Clark mused. “Did Escobedo knew in advance what he had to look for here?”
“No. But he asked around about everything even remotely connected to Captain Clark and he already knew about his engagement to Jenny Little. He came to me when I was unprepared and noticed at once that I held something back. Escobedo shouted at me, he threatened to drive me from town into the woods. I kept the secret. But then he said he´d accuse me of witchcraft if I continued my resistance. When I told him about the child, he probed no further. As I said, this secret, at least, is safe.”
“We´ll take him to the task, once and for all“, Clark promised. “But first… first I´d like to meet my kid’s parents.”
Sixteen years into her marriage there were still moments when Kate Anders could not believe her luck. She, an orphan, had won the attention and affection of the respected master tailor of Providence! Kate had been under the belief that working as a maid in his father´s house was the peak of the social ladder for a girl of her heritage – and so had Joshuah´s father.
But his son had made up his mind and decided to take Seashore Kate for his wife. She gave him a strong, healthy son and a month later a beautiful daughter, something no other woman in all of Westinida could claim. The family had a wonderful time together, but then the tailor lost the workshop, his home and his daughter in short succession…
Frustrated Joshuah lifted his woodcutter’s axe. His new home was called “the village”, because the city of Providence half a day´s march away was just “the Town”, either. The only difference being that one could almost hear the people pronounce it with a capital letter. Despite having rescued most of his tools, aquirering good fabric and selling the finished products of his craft in town had become unprofitable for the englishman.
The female villagers span their own threads, wove their own cheap cloth and sewed together all the clothes they and their familys needed with their own hands. Neither could they pay a tailor, nor did they need one. Joshuah´s son Eduard faced a future as a woodcutter or probably a farmer. He would never inherit his father´s profession and workshop now.
From the spaniards´ point of view the new situation made sense. Not only had they taken over a functioning, even prospering, town, the english´s expulsion from town also served the purpose of creating new farmers and herders. They were needed to produce raw materials and food for the townspeople. And those in turn produced what mankind had perfected since the days of Adam and Eve: more city dwellers.
“Eddy?” the man shouted, in the hope the boy, who had skipped work today, would at least show up for evening meal. The sound of a horse-drawn vehicle approaching told Joshuah that Bobby had returned from his errand in town. Undoubtly the servant would immediately start preparing Eddy´s favourite supper.
“I´m here, father”, the thirteen-year-old´s voice rang out from the cart´s direction.
Master Anders turned around.
“Eduard Anderson!” he exclaimed when he beheld the scene in his back.
Not only the servant had returned to the dereclict old hut the family had found and repaired, but five people with him. Eddy jumped off the wagon first, followed by two youths about two years older than him, one of them sporting a large bump on his head.
“You were in town even though I forbade it!” Joshuah reprimanded his son. “And you, Blake, are here again, despite me making it clear to you that we do not want thieves in this village!”
“Calm down, Mister Anders”, the youth called Blake protested. “We are only taking back from the spaniards´ pockets what they have carried out of our houses! Or am I to thank them for putting my mother to death as a mere collateral damage of their cannon fire? Should Cavendish rejoyce because his mom´s nearly dying from fear for her husband, who has been thrown into the dungeons as an alleged rebel?”
“You were nothing but a rogue even before the fall of Providence, Blake!”
“We´ll be away soon enough”, the young rogue tried to appease the woodcutter. Furtively he rubbed his bump. “Tomorrow Johnny and I leave this island and we´ll return no sooner than we are so rich, it doesn´t matter what language we speak! `cause everybody has to bow before us then!”
“Eddy – to the house!” the adult ordered. “Cavendish and Blake – out off my eyes! Bobby…”
“I never noticed Eddy had hidden in the cart, Mister Anders”, Bob Benson confessed. “I would not have allowed him to come along, had I known.”
The servant held out his hand to help a lady get off the cart. It looked silly, considering his crutches. But in the exiles’ world even a disabled man was considered more capable than a woman. The woodsdwellers were yet to re-learn that in order to survive everyone had assume the role he or she was suited for best, regardless of gender or former social station. Chien could not help but react with glee to the re-shuffling of masters and servants in the wake of the invasion. His consort at his arm, the pirate stepped up to the tailor/woodcutter.
Joshuah Anders sized up the strangers.
“Chien del´Onyx, I take it”, he said, eventually. “Legends aren´t in the habit of dying for real and now that the spaniards are here, this island is a safe haven for you. Well and good, so far, but a mosquito-plagued dump is no place to bring a lady to.”
The lady was far too deeply stirred to protest. She allowed the men to place her on a bench in front of the hut´s shudderless window.
Standing nearby the three men continued their talking. Of course the news about Captain Clark being taken captive was part of the talk. Bob Benson stuttered in his report several times. Having served under both Chien and Clark, he did not know how to behave in front of the one captain who had defeated the other.
Meanwhile Clark noticed a ragdoll sitting on the windowsill. At it’s girdle it wore a darning needle like a rapier. Clark grabbed the doll.
His visitor´s interest in the toy did not escape Mister Anders´ notice.
“My daughter Ann dressed the doll up like this“, he explained to Chien. “Well, not really my daughter, but… It´s not what you may think, Captain Onyx! My wife is honorable!”
Chien raised his hands in a placating “I never blamed her!” – manner. After having watched Mr. Anders’ first outburst, he did not want to give him another handle. Especially not while the man was still holding the heavy woodcutter´s axe in his hands.
“We took the girlchild in when her mother died, ´cause we had a little one of our own by that time”, Joshuah remembered as through a dream-mist. After twelve years it had no longer mattered how each of his children had arrived in this world. But everything had been turned upside down recently… “Eddy and Ann grew up like twins, but my Eduard is such a rascal! He has a bad influence on his sister.”
Clark had played absentmindedly with the doll. He noticed that another darning needle stuck in it´s back. It punctured the body anatomically correct: The imagined attacker had pierced the heart from under the rips upwards instead of targeting the ribcage, that served as an internal natural armor in the human body.
“Someone practicing Voodoo here?” Clark raised his voice in an attempt to start existing as something other than pleasant background scenery in Joshuah’s world.
The woodcutter took a step closer towards the woman. Looking up and into his face, Clark realized that not disregard, but insecurity caused Mr. Anders to avoid her. The poor man could not decide what he was dealing with here: a lady? A pirate wench? English? Spanish? And before the proper hierarchy was not established, Joshuah didn’t know how to interact with this new element in the village.
The man took the doll from Clark’s hands. He stroked it´s head and said softly: “Since Ann´s away we did not change anything in her belongings.”
Chien feigned innocence: “Did the father fetch back the girl?”
“The father? Return to your ship, if you wish to learn about the father! You´ll find my Kate there, too, I suppose. She earns a bit of extra money as chairwoman in town. Heaven alone knows what we believed to spent it on in this wilderness!”
“One of my crew is the father?”
“This was the english colonial capital in the New World, once, Captain Onyx. Your prisoner Captain Clark is the father. For this reason a spanish nobleman took Ann hostage. He wanted the captain to deliver himself into his mercy. You saved the Don the trouble by capturing Clark, now he must give back our child!”
Clark stood up from the bench.
“The captain would not wish his daughter return to occupied Providence”, he stated.
Joshuah Anders sighed.
“The pirate and me see eye to eye there. But what can be done? I have a family to think of first, I cannot go dream-chasing about freeing my hometown.”
“I offer you passage to Eleuthera, Mister Anders. You, Bobby, your wife and your son as well as Ann Clark”, Chien del´Onyx proclaimed. “Johnny Cavendish and Kevin Blake will join the Errant Eagle´s crew.”
“Ay, Caramba!” Anders cursed. “That´s so disgraceful one cannot even curse it in english for fear of sinning against the motherland! You cast Clark in irons, deliver him to Escobeo to hang and then you make merry in his own port? But it seems to me I´ve got no other sensible choice left. Eleuthera it will be for us. Tell me, how much for the trip?”
Chien and Clark were unable to answer. A laughing fit had posessed them. Chien coughed and Clark had to steady himself for real now by holding fast to his husband´s arm.
Eventually the Black Dog lifted his mask.
“Captain Martin!” Bobby recognized the man at once.
“Also know as the Black Dog of the Spanish Main”, Martin nodded.
Benson scratched his chin. “Clark and you often argued that fiercely, that we thought blood would be spilled every moment. We never really understood what exactly stayed your hands each time. But that much I know: Not even for the uncontested ownership of the Errant Eagle one of you would ally with Escobedo!”
“Badluck, my friend, if we´d had your voice of reason with us during our last encounter with the Don, it would have gone much smoother”, Martin replied. “The capturing is a feint, of course. It allows us to get safely to Puerto Bello where Clark and I will teach the Don a lesson.”
Anders whistled. Thoughfully he looked at his axe.
“A boarding hatchet is more handy, is it not? I think I know how to earn my passage to Eleuthera, now!”
Johnny Cavendish folded his arms when the older men informed him, Eddy and Kevin about their decision later that day. “If we want to become pirates, it´s reprehensible. But if the master tailor does it, it´s called a good deed”, he said with condescension. “Double morals! That´s so typical for grown-ups!”
Clark and Chien returned to Santa Catalina in advance of the Errant Eagle´s new recruits before morning broke. Covered by the night Clark got rid of his dress and donned again the hooded cape.
“I like the family”, he admitted to his Co-Captain while they were rowing back to the galleon. “That Josh was shaped into his small-mindedness by his upbringing, but to his core he’s a man of honor. Able to love, too. And Eddy’s pretty much the same as us at his age. I won’t mind having the Anders on my ship.”
Chien nodded his agreement, only to rue it mere minutes afterwards. For the Errant Eagle was in a state of emergency due to, so the returning captains were informed, the presence of one Kate Anders.
“She´s a fury!” Aberforth Harris explained.
“Viviane´s a nun compared to her!” Oldworld Eric had to add.
“Yeah! And Governor Le Vasseur sane in comparison!” Leutnant Creed shouted.
“Ever since she arrived”, Freddie claimed, “the ship´s rats have become shy!”
“She wishes to speak Clark”, Jarundo told the captains in a serious voice, an island of calm in the middle of the seamen who were wailing and nagging as if they were prattling women themselves.
“Women on a ship are very unlucky”, Clark clarified. His men were inclined to agree. “That´s why we fetched back Badluck Bobby. He´ll take care of Kate during our journey.”
Chips shook his head. “Poor Bobby”, he murmured and even Keelpig-Karsten was convinced that his punishment the year before had been more humane then the fate awaiting the “Jonah”.
“I´ll receive her in my cabin in ten minutes”, the captain said, before he withdrew.
Meanwhile Ronald Goodrick could not fathom what had happened. His captain returned alive despite his dilettante disguise?
“Who would have thought… A simple hooded cape”, the boy said, dumbfounded. “And the spaniards fell for it…”
With his partner´s help Clark finished his true disguise just in time before Kate Anders stormed into the cabin. He sat on his berth, sipping a cup of rum, while Martin stood next to him, systematically emptying a full bottle.
Since the entering woman spoke no french, she did not at once recognize the black clad man as Chien del´Onyx. She asked which of the two men was the captain.
“We are still trying to work this out”, Martin answered. “I´m Chien del´Onyx and this here is Captain Clark.”
Kate pushed her hands to her hips.
“Captain Clark. Here? Should you not ly in chains in your cell below, instead of slurping strange smelling liquids?”
Chien felt insulted profoundly.
“It´s called rum and I´m about to introduce the drink here at the moment”, he said.
“That´s nice and good for the spaniards, but Providence was an english town once and in all this time a certain captain never even once showed his face, asking about the wellbeing of his child.” Kate took a step closer towards the supposed prisoner. “Poor Jenny died in childbirth, Mister Pirate. Did you care? Did you even know?”
“Yes”, Clark answered. “And they told me the child had died together with her. I learned the truth only through Escobedo´s recent plot.”
Kate blinked. She made a decision, tightened up and announced: “Alright, then. You´ll fulfill your fatherly duties, get hanged and Marianne returns home.”
“I´m not letting them hang me!” Clark flared up.
“You will, Eagle”, Chien whispered.
The black dog rolled his eyes.
“Oh, yeah, right”, Clark murmurmed, then turned to Kate and said in a jolly voice: “Sure. I´m getting hanged. No doubt.”
Kate looked from one captain to the other. “What game are you playing?” the asked.
Chien del´Onyx sighed. He cast the eagle a reproachful look, before he clarified: “We are partners, Mrs. Anders. And we hunt Don Escobedo.”
“No way!” the woman protested. “That´s far too dangerous, escpecially for Ann!”
“Not, if she takes after her mothers”, Chien murmured, but loud enough to be heard by Kate. “The needle-weapons and all this are not poor little Jenny´s fault”, she said in defence of her child´s birthmother. “That´s your wild blood, Clark! We tried getting our children´s minds away from the adventuring and swashbuckling tales. Ann never even knew she wasn´t our child. We…”
The two captains drank and swallowed their rum, thoughtfully and synchronized perfectly.
“Chien?” Clark started.
“I´m really starting to worry for Escobedo.”
Chien laughed out loud!
“Mrs. Anders, Kate!” Clark adressed the guest. “I could not have wished for a better surrogate mother for my daughter. But the rest is, excuse me, men´s business.”
Kate´s answer was drowned in the Black Dog´s coughing. Upon hearing his wife’s remark he had swallowed the wrong way.
“I think he needs some fresh air”, Clark said. “And I´ve got so many questions for you, Kate…”
“Captain Clark! Be warned! If you even think about approaching me indecently…!“
“Yes!” Chien gasped. “I need damn well a lot of fresh air!“
The Errant Eagle left Santa Catalina soon as Joshuah Anders and his companions had arrived.
“Your female escort, Captain”, Kevin Blake asked Martin, who was still dressed as Chien del´Onyx. “Who was it, by the way?”
“You´ve lived fifteen years in Providence and did not find out? Sorry, my boy, I won´t give away her adress!” Martin grinned.
“Well, we never had dealings with the nobles”, the newcomer tried to defend himself. “Not even with the wealthy citizens like the tailor and his wife.”
“That´s going to change”, Captain Martin promised, swinging around his cutlass playfully. “Come on, kid, you and your friend, grab yourself a short blade. Josh is already practicing with Clark. They´ve got axes, but you better choose something lighter until you are fully grown.”
Eddy approached the captain. “What did Captain Clark wield at my age?” he asked, obviously intent on joining the practice.
“Cuccumbers”, Martin replied. “He was throwing them at the enemy from his hiding place behind a barrel. But that´s a waste of good food. If you wish to be of help on my ship, Marita will gladly show you the way to the kitchen.”
Eddy started to protest, but Alfred grabbed him by his arm.
“Come, passenger”, he said. “There´s nothing for us here.”
Freddie dragged the older boy to the lower decks. Down here the Errant Eagle´s largest guns were mounted. In mattocks off-duty seamen were snoring through the morning hours. The youngest ship boys were about seven years of age, the eldest eagles close to fifty, but the majority was about Captain Martin´s age.
“Pretty, huh?” the scarred child-pirate asked Eddy, pointing at the cannons. “These are perfect for our size, mate.” He tossed the newcomer a bag of gun powder. “Try to outrun me with it across this deck and I´ll stopp calling you passenger. You´ll need the practice.”
Eddy accepted the bag. He imagined running between the cannons with the easily inflammable powder in his hand while the Errant Eagle was under enemy fire. People would be shouting and the only light sources would be the cannon fire. The boy imagined that he could still smell the sweat, blood and soot of many sea fights. This was the harsh reality, not the flashy swashbuckling he had played out with his sister so often. But he had to prepare himself for this reality because in a real battle the enemy cannons would not discriminate between a pirate and a passenger. Eddy dashed forward, trying to shake off the younger boy. He wondered what Ann might have to face right now…
Marianne “Ann” Anders had always worn the best dresses a middle-classes girl from Providence could wish for. The best dresses a child of her station could imagine, she had been allowed to look at and sometimes even touch. Ann´s father made them for his customers´ wifes and mistresses alike. Once, that had been very funny, Joshuah Anders had taken a half-indian pirate´s wife´s measures to fashion her a noblewoman´s gown. Ann had helped fitting the widths, but Joshuah could never afford such clothes for her or his wife.
Now Ann wore attire fit for a born noblewoman, but she did not move more carefully in the expensive clothes than she had done in her old dresses. If Don Escobedo could afford gifting his prisoner so generously, Ann argumented, then cleaning or replacing the dress would be a triffle for him.
The girl on the verge of womanhood was kept close by her captor ever since her first attempts to escape from her quarters had proven a bit too succesful for Don Escobedo´s taste. He had not become angry with or yelled at Ann, however, just increased security.
The man´s politeness in combination with the gifts added up to an all new possible explanation of her situation in the privateer-captain´s daughter…
“I have thought it over”, Ann started, unasked, as always, when she had to accompany the Don to an inspection of Puerto Bello´s fortress.
“That´s not the done thing for young women!” Escobedo said.
Ann just nodded in a jolly way, then continued: “This Captain Clark, your enemy, I think you are just using him as an excuse. In truth you are my father. You are just not ready to admit it!”
Don Escobedo had never in his life raised his hand against a woman knowingly. He found another vent for his frustration. “I wish”, the man shouted, “you were right! Wish, I had no dealings at all with your clan of Andersons and Clarks, never to have got to know you, wish that they would not even exist under the sun! But, alas, that´s out of the picture.”
Ann frowned. “You´re forgetting yourself, Don!” she scolded the nobleman.
Escobedo breathed hard after his outburst. There was no doubt whose blood ran through Marianne´s veins. Capitano Clark! The insolent one, the man who made a sport of slaying Escobedo´s compatriots and subjects. But suddenly the elderly man smiled wistfully. Was the hostage not a bit like his own granddaughter? But even though Donna Reina was a brave and clever child, Don Escobedo would never even have pondered taken her along to the place he intended to visit with Marianne today.
“You are going to show me the dungeons, Don Admiral?“ Ann snickered. “So that I can get an overview of how to best free my father, when you catch him?”
“A postal ship brought me news and I want you and someone else to hear this message together”, the Escobedo told the girl. “The man I speak of is held prisoner in this fortress.”
“Perhaps I should take him with me, too? I might do you a favour! Captives don´t come cheap with board and lodging and all.”
The girl´s jokes ceased whe she, led by her hand by Escobedo, walked down the stone steps. The musty, always moist air of the prison entered Ann’s lungs and made her gag. At first only voices, but no silouettes, could be made out in the darkness. Captain Clark´s daughter shivered when she heard the crude jokes of those working here. Weren´t they supposed to be comrades, perhaps friends? Ann, who had grown up sheltered, if not spoiled, could not understand these man´s coarseness. How would they treat the prisoners, who were at their mercy, if they were so mean towards each other, she wondered?!
The duo passed by the cells of the inmates sentenced for small crimes, mostly soldiers of the fortress, who had to serve a few days for brawling, swearing or gambling while at duty.
The Don led his little companion further in, to the large cells where many a pirate crew that had proved no match for the Padre del Mar had waited for his execution. At the moment those cells were empty. Ann´s attention was caught by the chains, torture instruments and the small chopping block for cutting off people’s hands. Clark´s daughter fell silent. She walked slower, more hesistant, unwilling to face the next stage of horror.
Don Escobedo led the girl to a stairway at the end of the floor. Down there, below the fortress, the castle´s builders had hewn the cells for the longtime-prisoners out of the rock.
The visitors stopped in front of one of the cells doors that looked in no way special to Ann. Two guards and the jailor assigned to this level approached the nobleman, eager to serve. Escobedo signaled his subjects without speaking that a few words through the hatch in the door would not suffice for his purpose today. Key turned into lock and then the door swang open easily and without squeeching.
The first thing the girl saw was a small windowslit, the only lightsource in the room. Ann had seen the barred windows from the yard already. They had run at her ankles´ height along the wall, but now they were endlessly high above her head! A tall man would not have been able to reach the window without help.
A revulsive smell originated from a bucket that fortunately was covered with a lid. The only other pieces of furniture were a clay jug and a wooden board chained to the wall, that served as a bed.
The cell´s inhabitant wore a long shirt and breaches. He used the rags of a shipwrecked as cushion and also owned a woolen blanket, but Ann doubted that it would help much against the cold. If she was freezing in her fancy dress, the buckled shoes and stockings, the bare-footed prisoner would not fare any better.
The prisoner, a surprisingly handsome young man, looked expectantly rather than frightened. Obviously he knew the Don already.
“You know who this is?” Escobedo probed his companion.
Ann shook her head.
“I´ll tell you when it´s time.”
Admiral Escobedo did not like the alien sound of the english tongue, but even less he would have liked having to depend on an interpreter. Whenever he visited the prisoner, he talked to him in the only language the man understood and that he had to use with Ann, too. Escobedo said: “Chien del´Onyx brings me Captain Clark. That´s another pirate, quite new and useful.”
“I know the name”, the englishman replied. “He´s responsible for the Aquila´s destruction.”
The prisoner had survived his encounter with Chien del´Onyx and the Midnight Blue by sheer luck only. When the Black Dog´s men had boarded the Aquila, Hank Straight´s companions had seen him go overboard. It had escaped their notice that he was alive and holding to a plank. When the Pride of Martinique had arrived at the scene, the currents had already swept away the man and his little mobile island. Hank had not been able to signal them.
Later, by then Hank had already resigned and made peace with his saviour, the Padre del Mar had happened by and fished him out. Since his rescue by Don Escobedo Hank Straight lived as the spaniard´s prisoner.
“But the Black Dog seemed to admire our former leader”, the man recalled. “What has changed?”
“He and Clark hated each other from their very first meeting”, the Don deigned to explain. “Seems like the Black Dog crossed or treated badly Clark´s new right-hand man.”
“One Francois de Monet of Martinique.”
“Oh, no! That´s where we left the two of them!“
“Yes, fate´s turns are hard to fathom, sometimes. I came here to tell in person that the time of your captivity is running our, Mister Straight…”
“…and with it your lifetime.”
The prisoner flared up, but kept himself in check, fighting down the urge to outright attack the spaniard: “What?!”
“Clark bought you two years, pirate”, Don Escobedo told the pirate in a voice much less civil than until now. “You know who this is?“ he asked Ann the same question as before.
“You were going to tell me”, the girl replied.
“Mister Straight was quartermaster…”
“Leutnant”, Hank corrected automatically, while trying to stomach what he had heard just now.
“…at your father´s ship. He was one of those who rose up against Clark and sold him to the french in Martinique for a bounty. Ever since I rescued Straight from the Aquila´s wreckage, he supplied me with information about Clark. It wasn´t much, considering that he had sailed with your father for a short time only, but some facts have proven useful. Without his testifying I would, for instance, have never known that Clark had an engagement once.”
“Her father?” Hank asked for re-assurance, before he adressed Ann directly: “You are Clark´s daughter? I… I´ve got nothing against your father. Never had!”
Escobedo snorted dismissingly.
Ann cast the nobleman an angry glance. She took a step towards the prisoner, then another and finally pressed tightly against the man who used the familiar language so naturally. Even if he was a criminal, Hank Straight was the final link to Ann´s old life.
The prisoner felt the warmth coming from Marianne´s body and shivering he returned the embrace. Clark´s daughter was a bit too young for his taste to think of her as a woman. He did not care that the Don might assume differently. To Hank it felt as if a niece he had not seen for a long time had remembered him and come to visit him in the darkness of his prison cell. The impression was vivified by the fact that Ann Clark did not look like her mother at all, but was a younger, female, dark-haired version of the Aquila´s captain.
“I´m sorry”, Hank whispered.
“The Don saved your life, so you owed him whatever service he demanded from you”, the growing girlchild tried to comfort the man. “I don´t blame you for anything. About the mutiny, I cannot say what kind of leader my father was and if your actions weren´t, perhaps, justified. But two years in this hole?” Ann was shaking, revolted. “That´s punishment enough!”
“Your warped perception of justice betrays your heritage, despite your upbringing”, Escobedo scolded the hostage. He held out his hand. “Come!”
Ann stepped back from the prisoner obediently.
“What about our agreement?“ Hank demanded.
“That you would stay in jail and alive until I caught your captain”, Escobedo clarified. “I never said anything about setting you free.”
The nobleman grabbed Ann by her hand and turned to leave. When the heavy door closed behind the two, they heard the prisoner´s angry shouts: “You lying swine!”
Back on the Errant Eagle Kevin Blake tried himself at a translation of their destination’s name: “So we are headed for… the bell harbour?”
“War harbour”, Johnny Cavendish corrected.
“It´s Beautiful harbour”, Pepe solved the riddle for them. “And I know it´s a boring name. But the town isn´t boring at all, they say, because it´s a real city!”
The trio fell silent. A proper big city implied an economy that supported a large garrisson and heavy cannons that were getting prepared for the eagles’ arrival even now…
Everybody was aware of the the fact that the governor of Santa Catalina, formerly known as english Providence, had sent a fast sloop to Puerto Bello to announce their. They had to plan accordingly.
The Errant Eagle was moving towards her destination at maximum possible speed. This time nobody blamed the captains for allowing possible prizes to escape. Not as long as the final confrontation with Don Escobedo was still ahead of them.
Not just the former soldier Pepe Gonzales felt as if he was walking though a war camp these days. Everyone prepared for the battle that was to come as best as he could. The eagles expected to face the Padre del Mar first and then the soldiers of Puerto Bello´s fortress. There were practice fights everyday and people delved into their favourite freetime-activities as if it was their last time. They delved into each other as if it was their last time, too.
Clark found himself wondering which of the men might be like him: feeling honest love for another man. The majority of sailors engaging into loveplay with other seamen during long journeys turned back to females when there were some to be had. But perhaps not all of them? It would be nice, the captain thought, not to be alone in being absurdly different from what one was told humans had to be like by the church. For the moment, however, it was a moot question. With the prospect of violent death at hand, a pair of breasts proved irresistable for the pirates and Clark’s leutnants had to protect Kate, Marita and Viviane from the men´s increasingly bold advances.
Meanwhile Ricky, Eddy, Freddie and a handful of ship´s boys had gathered around a turtle´s shell. It´s segments served as the board for a game where the players had to finish a straight line consisting of four crosses before the opponent managed it. At the moment Eddy and Alfred pondered over the few spaces left to them. The tailor´s son moved his hand holding the chalk down to carefully inscribe his symbol to the board, when it returned to life! The turtle´s head and fins came out of it´s armor and the animal started scuttling away from the place where it had rested.
“It´s still alive!” Freddie exclaimed, surprised. “I thought it was one of those we had already eaten!”
As she did several times a day, Marita emptied a bucket of water over the turtles, including the one with the chalk markings. Their game ruined the boys scurried.
Eddy followed Alfred into the rigging. He had taken a liking to the sailor´s life, even though he had always wanted to join the army and despite his father´s attempts to groom him as his apprentice.
“Say, Alfred”, the tailor´s son asked, “Marooning, where´s the fun in it?”
“Isn´t it obvious, you landlubber? The convict has only one shot in his pistol. You leave him where there´s either nothing at all or indian´s and wild beasts applenty. His only sensible choice is shooting himself dead. But if he wastes the shot for something different…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know”, Eddy interrupted the other boy. “What I want to know is, what´s the point? For you, I mean! ´cause you sail away and cannot watch it!”
“Thought so. You never really thought it through.“
Eddy shoved Alfred further up. “Come on, climb! Perhaps we get to see some marooned along the coast!”
Joshuah Anderson was kept out of his son´s thoughts, which was probably for the best. The father could live with his child´s wild streak – it befit a growing boy and would blossom into a healthy dose of self-assertion once the youthful excesses were behind the boy. But his Eddy viewing the cruel sports of pirates as fun would have dealt Joshuah a heavy blow.
The man´s gaze rested on a black seaman called Lipnail Tom. Two large holes ran through his upper and lower lip, old wounds that had never really healed. Now the pirate could as well wear his earrings in front of his mouth – as he actually did. With the piercings Tom looked as menacing as Freddie or, to a lesser extent, Norman Maddock.
“A reminder from his time as a slave”, Clark told Josh. “Tom was one of the few slaves born in the colonies. He grew up together with his master´s children, accompanied him on many a trade journey… When Tom had learned everything a servant needed to know, his owner sold him to the harbour master in Wilhelmstad. But this new master wanted a walking tool, not a spirited teen-aged. When Tom spoke out of turn once too often, the man drove a large nail through his lips to teach him to keep his mouth shut. The year after the incident, Tom fled. We found the stow-away in our hold, made him one of us and since that day he survived all our exploits.”
Joshuah looked thougthful. “I pondered buying a negro for a good while”, he said. “But don´t they indulge in bizarre rituals like the indians? White slaves, on the other hand, are difficult, you never know what they´ve been before. But Tom was born in a christian household? I like this! How much for him, Captain?”
“Five what? Realos? Pound?”
“Whiplashes to your naked back, Mister Anders. Provided you apologize immediately!”
“Captain Clark? Did I say something wrong? I did not mean to imply that you had stolen the black! Of course the harbourmaster is his owner by right, but since Tom is still aboard, I assumed you had recompensated the dutchman in some way.”
“You know how to haggle, Mister Anders. Seven now.”
“What? What do you mean? I still do not understand…”
Joshuah gave an outcry of surprise when Clark snapped his fingers and two eagles started to drag the newest crewmember away.
The captain followed.
“I told you Tom´s story, because you and him have much in common. Both of you have no love left for our life, you became pirates out of need and unfavourable circumstances.”
“But I…” Josh started again. Soon his words changed into crys of pain. Eleven lashes later he was brought into Doc Harris´ custody.
“Tap me a nice beer, Marita!” Jeff Spencer asked the cook. “I´ve often seen it on my old ship, the Falcon, but never with a wealthy stinkpot like him at the mast! And how he yelled ´cause he wasn´t used to it! I just have to drink to this!”
Jeff toasted the next best eagle, the dutchman Peter Korthals. Peter grinned and drank, too. Living in and for the present, he had already forgotten that he, too, had been a “wealthy stinkpot” once.
At the lower decks Kate Anders snatched a piece of cloth and the washpot from the young doctor, to tend to her husband personally.
“A public punishment!” the woman snapped. “Exactly what the crew needed now, to raise the morals before the battle, right, Doctor?!”
Harris could not completely deny this. Of course the captains had to give their crew from time to time the carnal entertainment the men craved. In part it served as deterrend and to a larger part as a source of fun to them. But on the other hand side…
“On the other hand Clark seems to like you”, Harris said after his first, reflexive, nod. “One of us would not have gotten away that cheap for talking like your man. That´s very slippery territory not even Jarundo dares to tread.”
“Jarundo?” Joshuah gasped.
“Certainly. He´s got a family to think of, now, and could use some help. But he´s too afraid it would anger his brother if he employed slaves in the house he´s going to buy on Eleuthera.”
A former slave who bought human wares himself was a strange thought for the Anders-couple.
“Tom is no pirate, his heart isn´t in it”, Kate claimed. “I know he dreams of fishing at the coast of Eleuthera Island. But a mere fisherman will never be able to raise enough money to buy a negro. Had Clark taken my husband´s offer, Tom would have led a good life in our household.”
“Lipnail will become a fisherman”, Harris clarified. “He has saved up enough to buy himself free from the dutchman on top of house and boats.When next we pass by Curacao again, Captain Martin´s going to make sure that the lout signs the certificate. But if somebody doesn´t suffer from gentlemanly pretentions like Lipnail, if one simply runs away, then this one is free as soon as he sets so much as a toe on this ship´s planks. That´s what our code says.”
“I really ended up among pirates“, Joshuah concluded at this dismaying speech. “And I´m going to make Don Escobedo pay for it!”