He heard boots clumping beyond the bulkhead, and then the door opened and two officers led Philip Davies into the cabin. The pirate chief's arms were bound behind his back and the left side of his sea-wet shirt was glisteningly blotted with blood from the shoulder to the waist, and his face, half-hidden by tangled wet hair, was paler and more drawn than usual - but he grinned as he maneuvered himself into a chair, and when he noticed Shandy he winked at him. "Restored to the shop window, eh?"

"That's right," Shandy said evenly.

"No chips? Paint still bright?"

Shandy didn't answer. The two officers sat down on either side of Davies.

The door opened again and the captain and Midshipman Nourse walked in. Nourse had pen, inkwell and paper, and sat down beside Shandy, while the captain ponderously sat down across the table from Davies. Each Navy man wore, evidently as part of the uniform, a sword and pistol.

"Let the record show, Mr. Nourse," said the captain, "that on Tuesday the twenty-sixth of June, 1718, we pulled from the sea the pirate captain Philip Davies, who had fallen overboard from the hijacked ship Vociferous Carmichael as a result of having been shot in the back by one of his confederates."

"Just the shoulder," Davies remarked to Shandy. "I think it was that fat boy, Friend."

"Why would Friend shoot you?" asked Shandy in surprise.

"The Jenny," said Davies, some strain beginning to rasp his voice, "was escorting the Carmichael only to ... draw fire ... occupy any hostiles so that the Carmichael would be able to carry on unimpeded. Hodge knew that. But I thought that if the Carmichael came around again and belted these Navy bastards one more time, we could all get away. Friend was mad as hell even when I cut in the first time to give the Jenny a few extra moments to run, and I guess he disagreed ... strongly ... with the idea of going back again. It's true I'd have been disobeying orders ... and so just when I started to speak the command, I was shot right off the port ratlines." He started to laugh, but winced and had to make do with a jerky grin. "And I had Mate Care-For holding my hand! I expect ... the ball would have split my spine, else." Sweat slicked his pain-lined face.

Shandy shook his head unhappily.

"Such is honor among thieves," said the captain. "Philip Davies, you will be conveyed to Kingston to stand trial for a considerable number of offenses, perhaps the most recent of which is the murder of Arthur Chaworth, the rightful captain of the Vociferous Carmichael." The captain cleared his throat. "Do you wish to make any statement?"

Davies was hunched forward, and he looked up at the captain with a skull-like grin. "Wilson, isn't it?" he said hoarsely. "Sam Wilson, right? I recognize you. What, now? A statement? Like for in court?" He squinted speculatively at the captain. "No, thank you, Sam. But tell me ... " He seemed to brace himself, then spoke quickly, "Is it by any chance true what Panda Beecher once told me about you?"

Captain Wilson's mouth pinched whitely shut, he glanced rapidly at the other officers in the room, and then in almost a single motion he got to his feet, drew his pistol, cocked it and raised it. Shandy had leaped to his feet in the same instant and lunged across the table to knock the gun out of line just as the captain pulled the trigger.

The loud bang set Shandy's abused ears ringing, but he heard the captain shout, "God damn you, Chandagnac, I could have you arrested for that! Nourse, give me your pistol!"

Shandy darted a glance at Davies, who seemed tense but not uncheerful, then at Nourse. The young midshipman was shaking his head in horror.

"It's murder if you just shoot him, Captain," Nourse protested shrilly. "He has to stand trial! If we - "

Captain Wilson swore furiously and, as Nourse and Shandy both shouted at him to stop, he leaned across the table, snatched the pistol from the belt of one of Davies' guards, then stepped back out of everyone's reach and raised the pistol -

- Davies was smiling derisively at him -

- And, dizzy with fear even as he did it, Shandy reached down, drew Nourse's pistol and fired it at the captain.

The two explosions were almost simultaneous, but while Captain Wilson's shot missed Davies and tore a hole in the arm of the officer at Davies' right, Shandy's shot punched straight through Captain Wilson's throat and sent the man's spouting body rebounding from the far bulkhead to tumble noisily to the deck.

The ringing in Shandy's ears seemed to be outside him, the sound of a second stretched out twanging taut. He turned his head, with difficulty in the tension-thickened air, and saw raw astonishment on the faces of the other four men in the room. By far the most astonished was Davies.

"Leaping Jesus, boy," he cried, consternation having replaced his cheer, "do you know what you've done?"

"Saved your life - I guess," gasped Shandy. He didn't seem to be able to take a deep breath. "How do we get out of here?"

The arm-shot officer had pushed his chair back and was trying to reach his pistol with his good hand. Shandy stepped forward and almost absent-mindedly struck him just above the ear with the gun he'd used to kill the captain; and as the man slumped sideways, half off of his chair, Shandy dropped his own spent pistol and quickly took the unfired one from the man's belt, and then with his other hand drew his sword, too. Straightening as the man rolled off the chair and thudded and clopped to the deck, Shandy crossed to the door and with two free fingers of his sword-gripping hand he slid the bolt into the locked position.

"You two," Shandy said to Nourse and the officer whose pistol Captain Wilson had taken, "lay your swords on the table and stand by the stern bulkhead. Davies, get up and turn around."

Davies did, though the effort narrowed his eyes and bared his teeth. Keeping the pistol aimed at the two officers, Shandy worked the saber's point in under one loop of Davies' bindings, and thrust. Davies staggered, but the sawing edge cut the rope, and Davies shook free of it just as someone began pounding on the door.

"Is all well, Captain?" someone outside shouted. "Who's been shot?"

Shandy looked at Nourse over the pistol's muzzle. "Tell 'em ... tell 'em Davies knocked the captain unconscious, and then was slain by your officers," he said softly. "Tell him to fetch the ship's surgeon."

Nourse repeated the message loudly, the quaver in his voice lending a nice touch of sincerity.

Davies held up a hand. "And the captured pirates," he whispered, "should be moved away - forward, up by the forecastle."

Nourse relayed this order too, and the man outside acknowledged it and hurried away.

"Now," Shandy repeated desperately, "how do we get out of here?" He glanced out the window at the sea, tempted simply to vault out and swim. The poor old Jenny seemed hopelessly far away.

Some color had come back to Davies' lean face, and he was grinning again. "Why the surgeon?"

Shandy shrugged. "Wouldn't it have sounded implausible otherwise?"

"Might have, at that." He ran his good hand through his damp gray hair. "Well! Unless the Navy's changed since my day, the powder magazine is two or three decks directly below us." He turned to Nourse. "Is that right?"

"I'll answer no such questions," said Nourse, trembling.

Davies picked up one of the swords from the table, walked over to Nourse and gave him a light poke in the belly with the point of it. "You'll take me there or I'll work you ill. I'm Davies," he reminded him.

Nourse had clearly heard stories about him, for the stiffness slumped out of his shoulders and he muttered, "Very well ... if you give me your word you'll not harm me, or the ship."

Davies stared at him. "You have my solemn word," he said softly. Then he turned to Shandy. "Through that door's the captain's bunk. Get blankets and wrap up old Wilson in 'em, along with that sword you've got and the other two and any primed pistols you can find. Then you and this laddie," he nodded toward the officer who was still conscious, "will carry the bundle forward to where the Jenny's boys are. Say it's my corpse. Everybody got that? Good. Now when the powder magazine goes up - and it should really go, I've been saving a couple of potent fire-sprite rhymes, and I won't lack for blood to draw their attention - when it explodes I'll appear from the forward hatch, with weapons, Mate Care-For willing, and you'll flip open the captain's blankets for a weapon or three more, and we'll fight our way to the sloop and cut out. And if I don't appear right after the explosion, don't hang around waiting for me."

Nourse was gaping at Davies. "You - " he sputtered, "you gave me your word!"

Davies laughed. "You see what it's worth. But listen, you'll lead me to the magazine or I'll cut off your ears and make you eat them. I've done that before to people who be troublesome."

Nourse looked away, and again Shandy got the impression that the midshipman was remembering some awful story about Davies. How can it be, Shandy wondered in horror, that I'm on this monster's side?

A couple of minutes later they decided they were all ready to go - Shandy and the unhappy officer had the dead captain and the swords and a set of fancy dueling pistols rolled up in a portable position that would allow Shandy to keep his pistol both concealed by a flap of fabric and aimed at the officer, and Davies had struggled into the unconscious officer's bloody-sleeved jacket - when someone knocked on the cabin door.

Shandy jumped in surprise and nearly dropped his pistol.

"It's the surgeon," hissed Davies tensely. He crossed the cabin and leaned on the bulkhead beyond the door's hinges, then beckoned to Nourse with his sword point. "Let him in."

Nourse was trembling even more than Shandy, and he rolled his eyes miserably as he unbolted the door and drew it open. "We carried the captain to his bunk," he stammered as the surgeon bustled in.

As neatly as if it were a dance move they'd been practicing, Davies stepped out and punched the old surgeon in the head with the knuckle-guard of his sword, and Nourse caught the man as he fell.

"Great," said Davies with satisfaction. "Off we go."

Chapter Eight

No more than a minute later Shandy and the trembling officer were dragging the blanket-wrapped corpse and swords across the deck. The long bundle had proved to be too heavy and awkward to carry - especially if Shandy was to keep his concealed pistol aimed at the officer, who had the feet-end of the burden - and so they'd had to simply drag it in this awkward, crouching, torturingly slow way.

Shandy was sweating heavily, and not just because of the hot tropical sun that beat down on his head and glared on the white deck - he was as acutely aware of each armed sailor as he would have been of a scorpion clinging to his clothing, and he tried to keep his mind on the task of lugging the unwieldy bundle to the forecastle, and not imagine what would happen when the powder magazine exploded, or when the sailors caught on and opened fire on them, or when it occurred to the white-lipped officer at the other end of the blanket that when pandemonium erupted he'd be caught squarely in the crossfire.

As they scuffed and shambled along, passing the midships hatch cover now, both men panting through open mouths, the officer's eyes never left Shandy's concealed right hand, and Shandy knew that if his cramping grip of the sweat-slick weapon should slip, his corpse-carrying partner would instantly be sprinting away, shouting the alarm.

The disarmed captives up on the forecastle watched their approach. They had heard that this was the corpse of Philip Davies being dragged over to them, and they were bitterly glad that Shandy was being made to bring it.

"Come just a bit closer, Shandy, you boasie raasclaat!" shouted one man. "It'll be worth missing my hanging to get my hands on your neck."

"This is how you thank Davies for letting you live?" put in another. "There'll be zombies sent after you, don't doubt it."

Some of the Navy sailors, mostly younger ones, snickered at this bit of superstition.

A long, scuffling minute later - just as they were hobbling past the forward hatch cover - Shandy actually saw his unwilling companion finally work out what would happen in the next couple of minutes.

"I won't hesitate," Shandy gasped, but the officer had suddenly dropped the captain's feet and was running back the way they'd come.

"It's a trick!" he was yelling. "Davies is below rigging a fuse to the magazine!"

Shandy breathed a sigh of what was almost relief, for at least the tight, silent suspense was over. Quickly but carefully he crouched, flipped the blanket open and rolled Captain Wilson's body flop-thudding onto the deck, kicked the weapons back onto the cloth, bundled it all up like a sack ... then paused for an instant, looking around.

Only one of the surrounding Navy men had grasped the situation and was leveling a pistol at him. Shandy fired at him without aiming - missing, but spoiling the man's aim so that the ball splintered the rail behind Shandy - and then, waving the bundle of weapons around his head, he ran headlong for the forecastle.

Gunfire banged and cracked, and he heard pistol balls buzz past and felt one whack against his whirling bundle. Just short of the raised forecastle deck he flung the bundle up at the astonished pirates, and let the momentum of the contortion carry him into a leap sideways toward the companion ladder.

Sounding like quick strokes of a hammer, two pistol balls punched the bulkhead he'd been in front of.

One foot touched a ladder rung and then he was up on the forecastle, wrenching open the dueling-pistols case. "Onto the Jenny!" he gasped, snatching the two pistols out of the velvet-lined case and turning back toward the waist.

readonlinefreebook.com Copyright 2016 - 2023