"It's no use talking to him - ," Shandy began.
"Well? Are you?" the officer demanded.
"No, dammit," yelled Shandy desperately, "I'm Thomas Hobbes and this is my man Leviathan. We were just - "
"Woe to thee, Babylon warrior," intoned Woefully Fat in his deepest voice, pointing at the officer and opening his alarming eyes wide. "Lion of Judah be troddin' down yo' fig tree and grapevine pickneys!"
"You're under arrest!" shrilled the officer, drawing a pistol of his own. To one of his men he added, "Get down there, make sure they're unarmed, and then bring them aboard as prisoners!"
The sailor stared at the officer. "Aye aye, sir. Why, exactly?"
"Why? Did you hear what he threatened to do to my kidneys?"
"That's pickneys, it's a slang word for children - ," began Shandy, but he stopped when the officer pointed the pistol directly into his face; instead he raised his open hands and smiled broadly. "Good job, man," he whispered to the deaf bocor.
The Navy sailors lowered a rope ladder, and Shandy and Woefully Fat climbed up onto the deck of the Navy sloop while a couple of sailors secured a painter to the rowboat to tow it behind. And when the wrists of his captives had been bound in front of them the officer had the two prisoners brought to him in the neat but narrow belowdecks cabin. Woefully Fat had to bend almost double to fit into the chamber. Shandy was uncomfortably reminded of his brief visit aboard the Navy man-of-war that had captured the Jenny.
"Prisoners," the officer began, "you were seen to disembark from the pirate vessel the Ascending Orpheus. We have received intelligence from the New Providence colony to the effect that John Chandagnac and Grievously Fat left that island on the thirteenth of December, sailing for Jamaica with the intention of making a rendezvous with the pirate Ulysse Segundo. Will you deny that you are these two men?"
"Yes, we deny it," blustered Shandy. "I told you who we are. Where are you taking us?"
"To the Kingston Jail to await arraignment." As if to emphasize his words, the sloop surged forward as the sails were raised again, and a moment later there was a tug aft as the rowboat's painter came taut. "The charges against you are severe," added the officer reprovingly. "I shall be astonished if you do not both hang."
Woefully Fat leaned forward, his massive head seeming to fill the cabin. "Wheah you takin' us," he said intensely, "is the Maritime Law and Records Office."
For a moment Shandy smelled red-hot iron, and smoke rose from behind the giant bocor.
As if he hadn't spoken before or heard Woefully Fat's comment, the officer said, "We're taking you to the Maritime Law and Records Office." He added, a little defensively, "That's where the charges originate, after all."
Woefully Fat sat back, evidently satisfied. Shandy could smell the back of the bocor's chair burning where the gaff-saddle pressed against it, and he hoped that the dying sorcerer had something good in mind. Shandy knew that the Law and Records Office was a bookkeeper's den, not a place to which criminals were ever physically brought.
Shandy and Woefully Fat were locked into the cabin when the officer left, but even through the deck above him and the bulkheads to either side Shandy could hear incredulous protests from the sailors.
The Maritime Law and Records Office proved to be the southernmost of half a dozen government buildings on the west side of the harbor, and it had a dock of its own, to which the Navy sloop made its way. Like most of the waterfront structures, the building was of whitewashed stone, roofed with overlapping redbrick tiles that looked to Shandy as if they'd been moulded over the bases of palm branches. As the officer and several armed sailors led him and Woefully Fat up the walk toward the building, Shandy could see a couple of clerks already peering curiously out through one of the tall, open windows at this incongruous procession. His hands were still bound in front of him, and his eyes were darting around for anything that might be used to cut himself free.
One of the sailors sprinted ahead and held the door open. The officer, who was beginning to look a little unsure of himself, stepped inside first, but it was the sight of Woefully Fat in his sailcloth toga that made the clerks drop their pens and ledger books and leap to their feet with dismayed cries. Taller than any of them and as broad as three, the bocor rolled his eyes disapprovingly around the room. Shandy guessed he was looking for a patch of Jamaican soil, as opposed to floorboards.
One of the clerks, prodded forward by his white-haired superior, approached the group. "Wh-what are you doing here?" he quavered. He stared in horror up at Woefully Fat. "What d-do you want?"
The Navy officer started to speak, but Woefully Fat's earthquake-rumble voice easily overrode him. "Ah'm deaf, Ah cain't hear," the bocor announced.
The clerk paled and turned to his superior. "Oh my God, sir, he says he's going to defecate here!"
Chaos erupted on all sides as clerks and bookkeepers knocked over tables and inkstands in their frenzy to get to the doors - several simply leaped out of the windows - but Woefully Fat had seen, through a pair of French doors ahead, a small, enclosed yard with sidewalks, a flagpole, a fountain ... and grass. He started purposefully toward the doors.
"Uh, stop!" called the Navy officer. Woefully Fat strode on, and the officer drew his pistol. Realizing that nobody was paying any particular attention to him, Shandy shuffled along parallel to the bocor but a few feet to the left.
The pistol was fired and bloody spray and bits of cloth sprang away from a new hole in the back of Woefully Fat's toga, but the shot didn't even jar the bocor. He pushed the French doors open and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Shandy was right behind him.
The officer had dropped his spent pistol and now ran up and grabbed the giant black man, apparently intending to pull him back inside; but he only managed to pull the sailcloth toga free of the huge shoulders.
Several people, including the officer, screamed when they saw the stump of the gaff-spar jutting bloodily from the broad back, but Woefully Fat took another step forward, and one bare foot, and then the other, dented Jamaican soil.
Shandy was following him, and when the bocor suddenly toppled backward he instinctively raised his bound hands to break the man's fall.
The jagged iron gaff-saddle ripped the rope around his wrists as the limp body collapsed, and then Woefully Fat lay dead on the sidewalk, his feet still on the grass, a broad smile on his skyward-turned face ... and Shandy strained at the damaged rope until it broke, and his hands were free.
He skipped out into the enclosed yard. The gunshot had brought people to every surrounding doorway, and quite a number of them were holding swords and pistols. Shandy realized that he was recaptured ... and then he thought of something.
At a fast walk, hoping to avoid drawing attention, he made his way to the flagpole; then, yawning as if to imply that this was a daily routine, he began climbing the wooden pole, several times gripping the paired flag-hoisting lines with one hand for extra traction. He was halfway to the top before the Navy officer lurched out into the yard and saw him.
"Come down from there!" the man yelled.
"Come up and get me," Shandy called back. He had reached the top now, and was hunched over the brass sphere at the top of the pole, his legs crossed just under it and the British flag draped over his head like a hood.
"Fetch an axe!" yelled the officer, but Shandy had heaved himself backward, hauling on the top of the pole; it swayed back several yards, then stopped, came back up and went past the upright point and bent over the other way; Shandy hung on, and when it swung back in the original direction again he pulled on the pole-top sphere even harder ... and at the farthest, most straining moment of the bend, the flexed pole snapped. The top six feet, with Shandy at the end, spun rapidly end over end and crashed down onto the tile roof as the rest of the pole whipped its splintered top back over the yard.
Half stunned by the sudden spin and impact, Shandy slid down the roof headforemost, toward the gutter, but he managed to spread his arms and legs and drag to an abrading halt; the flagpole-top and several broken loose tiles rolled past him into the abyss.
Whimpering with vertigo, he began doing a sort of spasmodic reverse backstroke on the slanting tiles, and by the time the bricks and flagpole section clattered and smashed on the sidewalk below, he had got his knees over the roof peak. He slithered around to one side until he could sit up, and then he got to his feet, ran bent-kneed across the cracking tiles to the roof-brushing branches of a tall olive tree, and, with an ease born of many hours scrambling around in the rigging of sailing craft, swung and slapped his way down to the ground. A vegetable wagon was rolling past through the alley he found himself in, and he hopped over its sideboard and lay flat among a bumpy, bristly load of coconuts as the wagon rattled on inland, away from the waterfront.
He clambered out of the wagon when it stopped outside a thatch-roofed market in a main street in Kingston. People stared, but he just gave them a benevolent smile and strode away toward the shops. Hurwood's clothes were torn now, and covered with red brick-dust and strands of coconut bristle, so as he walked he unobtrusively fumbled at the inner lining of his baldric, tore open the loose stitching he'd done that morning, and then worked out a couple of the gold scudos he'd sewn into the lining. He glanced at the coins in his gloved palm. That, he thought, should be plenty for a new set of clothes and a good sword.
He halted as a thought struck him, then smirked at himself and walked on, but after a few more steps he stopped again. Oh well, he told himself, why not - it can't hurt, and you can certainly afford it. Yes, you may as well buy a compass, too.
Somehow the fact of its being Christmas night only emphasized the land's strangeness: the warm odors of punch and roasted turkey and plum pudding just made the dinner guests more aware of the wild spice smells from the inland jungles; the yellow lamplight and stately violin music spilling out from the open windows couldn't stray far from the house before being absorbed by the darkness and the creaking of the tall palm trees in the tropical night breeze; and the guests themselves seemed faintly ill at ease in their European finery. There was a quality of defensiveness in their laughter, and their repartee seemed to strain forlornly for sophistication.
The party was well attended, though. Word had got out that Edmund Morcilla was to be there, and many of Jamaica's moneyed citizens, curious about the wealthy newcomer, had chosen to accept the hospitality of Joshua Hicks, who on his own had little beyond his street address to recommend him.
And their host was clearly overjoyed by the success the evening had been so far. He bustled from one end of the wide ballroom to the other, kissing ladies' hands, making sure cups were filled, and tittering softly at witticisms; and, when he wasn't talking to anyone, glancing around anxiously and smoothing his clothes and well-groomed beard with manicured hands.
By eight o'clock the arriving horses and carriages were actually waiting in line in front of the house, and Sebastian Chandagnac found himself unable to greet each guest personally - though he made it a point to hurry up to the towering figure of Edmund Morcilla and shake his hand - and it happened that one man slipped in unnoticed and crossed unaccosted to the table where the crystal punchbowl stood.
His appearance drew no particular notice, for none of the invited guests could have known that his wig and sword and velvet coat had been purchased only that afternoon with pirates' gold; there was, perhaps, more of a sailor's roll in his walk than would be expected in one so elegantly dressed, and less formality than usual in the way his gloved hand occasionally brushed the hilt of his rapier, but this was after all the New World, and people far from home were often forced to acquire discreditable skills. The servant tending the punchbowl filled a cup and handed it to him without giving him a second glance.
Shandy took the cup of punch and sipped it while he let his gaze traverse the room. He wasn't sure how to proceed, and his only plan so far was to figure out which of these people was Joshua Hicks, get the man alone for a little while and induce him to say where Beth Hurwood was being kept, and then free her, hastily tell her a thing or two, and try to make good his escape from this island.
The hot punch, tart with lemon and cinnamon, reminded Shandy of Christmases in his youth, hurrying with his father through the snowy streets of some European city to the warmth of the inevitable rented room, where his father would prepare at least a token Christmas dinner and drink over the fire that raised sparkling reflections in the glass eyes of the dozens of hanging marionettes. None of these memories - his father, snowy winters, or marionettes - were pleasant subjects for his thoughts, and he forced himself to concentrate on his present surroundings.
Money had certainly been spent on this place - as a sort of informal import and export agent himself, Shandy knew how expensive and difficult it must have been to ship from Europe all these huge, gilt-framed paintings, these crystal chandeliers, this furniture. Nothing in the room was of local manufacture; and, to judge by the smells from the kitchen, even the food was to be as genuinely English as possible. It wasn't terribly enticing to Shandy, who'd grown fond of green turtle, manioc root and salmagundi salad.
One of Hicks's servants now entered the room and, raising his voice to be heard over the waves of conversation, announced, "If you will all please step this way - dinner will be served shortly."
The guests began bolting the last sips of punch and shuffling across the hardwood floor toward the doors that led into the dining room; Shandy kept smiling and let himself be drawn along, but he was worried - if he followed everyone in, it would quickly become apparent that there was no place set for him, and that he hadn't been invited. Where the hell was Hicks? What Shandy needed was a diversion, and he glanced around, hoping to see some especially fat person that he could surreptitiously trip.