"In Erebus, as white people call the place. The place where the Fountain is, where ghosts can't be ghosts, where blood grows plants?"
"No no, not me." Shandy shook his head. "Now let go of me, will you? I've got - "
"No? Good. He have ... uses for you, if'n you did. An' when the war was ended and he was still alive an' gettin' so close an' puttin' together a whole nation, it seem like, of badmen, I saw I had to call a death for him from the Old World. When the one-armed man came last year an' knew about ghosts, I was sure it was my man, 'specially since his wife died the same year I sent my summons - if the bigger loas sent him for me they'd maybe have caused her death, as long as the complications of it would drive him out here."
"That's great, really," said Shandy. He made a twisting hop and managed to pull his arm free of the bocor's huge hand. "But right now I've got to see to the crews, all right? Anybody who needs to be killed and burned is just going to have to wait." He turned and ran before Woefully Fat could grab him again.
By threats, and hints that maroonment here was a real possibility, and his own evident consternation, Shandy managed to get a little more than half of the Carmichael's crew accepted by David Herriot, Bonnett's half-bright sailing master, and hustle the remainder down to the boats and onto the water, before the boat that had picked up Hurwood had even reached the Jenny.
The fog was definitely breaking up now, and when the boat Shandy was in plunged out of the last veil of mist, he smiled with affection to see the battered old Jenny rocking sturdily out there in the bright morning sunlight.
"It'll be nice to get back down south where we belong," he said to Skank, who was crouched in the bow near him.
"Oh, aye," the young pirate agreed, "it's risky tactics to get too far from the attentions of Mate Care-For and that lot."
"Yeah." Shandy hastily patted his pocket to make sure he hadn't lost the ball of mud. "Yeah, there's some unlikely beasts in the world, and it's best to stay near the ones that you've bought drinks for."
In a few minutes they bumped the shot-scarred hull of the Jenny, and Shandy reached up, grabbed her gunwale and vaulted over it onto the deck. As he gave some orders about the handling of the tenuously repaired sails and lines, and oversaw the hasty loading of several casks of salt pork and beer he'd managed to commandeer from the camp, he became aware that the planks under his boots were vibrating briefly every couple of seconds, and when he made his way aft to report to Davies that they were ready to go, he saw Hurwood crouched over his grisly box on the narrow poop, and the old man's scratchy breathing exactly corresponded to the deck's vibration.
"Hope he doesn't sneeze," remarked Davies, who had also noticed the phenomenon. "All set?"
"I'd say so, Phil," Shandy answered with a tension-twitchy grin. "Far too many men, nearly no provisions, the rigging all held together with nipper twine, and the navigator a one-armed lunatic taking directions from a severed head in a box."
"Excellent," said Davies, nodding. "Good work. I knew I picked the right man for quartermaster." He looked down at Hurwood. "Which way?" Hurwood pointed south.
"Hoist anchor!" Davies shouted. "And tiller hard to starboard!"
The old sloop came around to face south, and then she sped away so quickly, in spite of being jostlingly overcrowded, that Shandy knew Hurwood must be providing some sort of sorcerous propulsion to aid the tattered sails; and by noon they had ploughed their plunging, wide-waked way down past the tip of the Florida peninsula.
A half hour later things began to happen. Hurwood had been staring into the wooden box since they'd set out, but now he looked up. Shandy, who had been glancing frequently at the old man, noticed the change and walked back to the stern along the railing, balancing himself by reaching out to touch the shrouds every few steps. A few steps from the one-armed magician he paused.
"There are ... others ... ," the old man said.
Several of the pirates had climbed up the shrouds to escape the smell and crowding of their companions, perched themselves more or less comfortably in the loops of the ratlines, and were providing entertainment to those below by tossing an ever-lighter rum bottle back and forth among themselves without, so far, dropping it; but now one of them was staring intently to the west. "A sail!" he yelled. "Ow, damn it," he added as the bottle rebounded from his knee and fell into eager hands below. "A sail abeam to starboard and only a mile or two off!"
That's got to be her, thought Shandy, whirling so quickly to look that he had to crouch and grab the rail to keep from tumbling over the side. As soon as he saw the other ship, though, he knew it wasn't the Carmichael - this ship had a forecastle structure, and an extra-high poop, and had only two huge sails each on its fore and mainmasts, and even from this distance he could see bright patterns of red and white painted along her side.
"I am not a dog!" yelled Mr. Bird, who had wound up with the rum bottle and was backing away toward the bow with it and glaring around at the rest of the pirates.
Shandy stared at the strange ship. "What is she?" he asked Davies, "and how in hell did she get so close without any of us seeing her?"
"Damned if I know how," Davies growled. "We've been keeping no formal watch, but one of those drunken bastards should have noticed before now." He squinted at the ship, which seemed to be pacing them. "It's a Spanish galleon," he said wonderingly. "I didn't know there were any still afloat - they haven't made 'em for at least half a century."
Shandy swore, then smiled tiredly at Davies. "Nothing to do with any of our concerns, obviously."
"So do we just continue?"
"May as well. Even overloaded, we should be able to outrun that, especially with Hurwood lending his sorcerous push. If - "
"Drowned man!" yelled one of the men up in the shrouds. "To port, twenty yards off."
Shandy looked in that direction and saw sea birds circling over a sodden, floating lump that soon disappeared in the choppy agitation of their wake.
"'Nother one ahead!" the self-appointed lookout yelled. "We may run right over him."
"One of you get a boathook out," commanded Davies, "and snag him."
Another floating corpse was sighted, too far off to starboard to be visible from the deck, but the one that the lookout had seen bobbing ahead was hooked as it slipped past the bow. The sea birds squawked angrily as the floater was lifted out of the sea and dragged aboard.
"Saints preserve us!" exclaimed one of the men who lowered the sopping corpse to the deck. "It's Georgie de Burgo!"
"We're on the fat boy's track, right enough," said Davies flatly,
starting forward. "De Burgo was one of the dozen men that were aboard the Carmichael when she was moored."
Davies was clearing a way through the crowd on the deck by cuffing men out of his way, and Shandy hurried along behind him before the path could close again. He was wishing he'd got a better look at the corpse he'd seen tumbling away in the wake, and he was torturing himself by trying to remember whether the cloth the thing had been wrapped in was the same color as the cotton shift Beth had been wearing when he'd seen her last.
By the time Davies and Shandy got to the bow the crowd had begun parting for them, and Shandy was able to glimpse de Burgo's corpse while he was still several steps away from it, and it was this moment of preparation that probably saved the contents of his stomach, for Georgie de Burgo's head had been all but cut free of his body by what seemed to have been one stroke of some very sharp and very heavy blade.
Shandy was staring down in queasy fascination at the thing when the lookout yelled again. "And another one to port!"
"Put him back over the side," said Davies tightly, turning back toward the stern.
He and Shandy didn't speak until they had elbowed their way back to the tiller and their eerie navigator. "I think," said Davies then, "we can assume that he's killed all twelve and heaved 'em over the side. I can't imagine how, but that's not the main mystery."
"Right," said Shandy, squinting at the empty blue horizon ahead. "Who's he got crewing for him?"
For a full minute neither of them spoke, then Shandy glanced to starboard at the Spanish galleon. "Uh ... Phil? Didn't you say we're faster than that Spaniard?"
"Hm? Oh, certainly, on her best day and our worst." Davies too looked to starboard - then froze, staring, for the galleon had moved well ahead of the Jenny. "God's teeth," he muttered, "that's not possible."
"No," Shandy agreed. "Neither's the fact that she's leaving no visible wake at all."
Davies stared for a few more seconds, then called for a telescope. One was brought, and for a long minute he peered through it at the receding galleon. "Get the men busy," he said finally, lowering the glass. "At anything, mending line, hoisting and lowering sails, man-overboard drill, even - -just keep their attention off that Spaniard."
"Aye aye, Phil," said the mystified Shandy, hurrying forward.
He assigned so many jobs so quickly that one man who had been furtively smoking a pipe - forbidden aboard ship - managed in the confusion to ignite a puddle of Mr. Bird's rum and set half the bow ablaze; greasy hair and tarry clothes sprang into flame and a dozen suddenly burning men, hooting in alarm, went rolling and diving over the rail.
Shandy instantly ordered the helmsman to come about, and within minutes Davies' constant drilling had paid off - the fire was out, and the men in the water were all dragged back aboard before any of them had time to drown. After the excitement had died down and Shandy had had time to catch his breath and gulp some of the surviving rum, he went back to the stern. Hurwood, though he had probably protested when the Jenny came around, was staring silently into his wooden box again, and when Shandy looked ahead he saw that the Spaniard was by nowjust an irregular white fleck on the southern horizon.
"When I said to keep them busy," Davies began, "I didn't mean ... "
"I know, I know." Shandy scratched at a scorched area of his beard and then leaned back against the taut shroud and looked at Davies. "So why? Just so they wouldn't notice the lack of a wake?"
"Partly that. But more important, I didn't want any of these lads to get a chance to turn a glass on her stern and read her name. She's the Nuestra Senora de Lagrimas," he said thoughtfully. "You may not have heard of her, but probably half of these men know her story. She was carrying gold from Veracruz and had the misfortune to meet an English privateer, the Charlotte Bailey. A couple of the Englishmen survived to tell about it. Terrible sea battle - lasted four hours - and both ships went to the bottom." He looked over at Shandy and grinned. "This was in 1630."
Shandy blinked. "Nearly a century ago."
"Right. You know anything about raising ghosts?"
"Not really - though the way things've been going I think I'll have it down pat long before I really understand sailing."
"Well, I'm no expert at it myself, but I do know it ain't easy. Even to get a misty, half-wit casting of a dead person takes a lot of sorcerous power." He waved ahead. "And here somebody's raised the entire damned de Lagrimas - sails, timber, paint and all, and crew too, to judge by the way she's handling, solid enough to look no different from a real ship, and in bright sunlight at that."
"I kind of think so. But why?"
Shandy glanced at Hurwood. "I'm afraid we'll probably find out." And I hope, he thought fervently, that he's been too busy - what with murdering pirates and conjuring up ghost ships - to visit his attentions on Beth Hurwood.
From where she crouched in the corner of the cabin Beth Hurwood could see only disjointed segments of Leo Friend's mincing advance across the deck toward her, for he had shut the door behind himself when he came in, and the only light in the cabin was the quick, regular blue-sky-flash of a bulkhead window that kept appearing and disappearing, evidently in time to the fat man's heartbeat.
She had awakened at dawn to find herself walking down the chilly sand slope toward a boat that rocked in the shallows. When she had seen Leo Friend sitting in it and grinning at her she had tried to stop walking, but couldn't; then she tried to slant her course away from the boat, and couldn't do that either, and was not even able to slow her pace as she waded helplessly out into the icy water and clambered into the boat. She had tried to speak then, but hadn't been able to tense her vocal cords or open her mouth. The boat surged out past the breakers toward where the dim silhouette of the Vociferous Carmichael stood; the ride out to the ship had taken only a minute or so, during which time Friend never touched the loosely dragging oars and Beth never managed to move a muscle.
But that had all happened several hours ago, and she had since regained at least enough control over her own actions to crawl into this corner and, when she had heard the pirates screaming and dying, to cover her ears.
Now she watched Friend warily, estimating where on his blubbery frame she could use her teeth and fingernails to best effect, and trying to tense herself against another episode of magically induced, puppetlike helplessness.
But a moment later she felt herself standing up - painfully, in an awkward, tiptoe posture that she would never have assumed voluntarily; then finally her weight came down on her heels and her arms jerked up and outward, though not for balance, for she was as unable to fall as the mast of a strongly rigged ship.