A brutal fantasy tale of piracy, friendship, romance and revenge on the high seas…
The trip took some three weeks, and when Mary returned to Retiro she left Isabella safely aboard the Pig and went looking for Jack. She found him pacing his own deck like a caged animal and obviously torn between laughter and berserker fury.
Unspoken communication got them to the same dining room where One-Eye Sam had lost his last throw of the dice. Once they had food and wine Mary squinted into his face. “Where’s Gravel?”
“Asleep on his perch. In my cabin. He guards it. Him and Gobshite. And they hate each other.”
“How many what?”
Mary looked at him steadily.
He had the grace to look a bit ashamed. “A baker’s dozen. Not counting Sam. Mostly they seem to have lost interest now. The word has got out that I ain’t easy to kill.”
“No. But somebody is gonna get lucky if’n you don’t do something about this mad Spaniard and his gold.”
“I have an idea, but I was waiting until you come home to run it past you.”
Mary leaned forward. “Tell me.”
“After we have eaten. Somewhere more private.”
She blushed miserably. “Sorry Jack. I wasn’t thinking.”
He took her hand. “Don’t be sorry. It’s good to see you.”
She looked at their hands on the stained tablecloth and her blush deepened. Only this time it wasn’t misery causing her skin to flush. Jack squeezed her fingers before picking up his spoon.
The ‘conversation’ in the room was at its usual just short of eardrum bursting volume, so the sudden cessation of noise came as a shock. Someone mighty interesting must have walked into the place. Jack had his back to the door and he was damned if he’d give whoever the satisfaction of turning around and gaping. Instead he looked at Mary, whose face wore a shuttered look very different from the easy smile of a few seconds before. Before he had chance to ask what the problem was, someone broke into the unreal quietude.
It was a woman who spoke, and she possessed the kind of voice that melts the breeches of the unwary.
“I’m looking for Tall Jack Stainless,” she breathed.
Jack applied himself to his food, and, opposite him, Mary relaxed a little.
One of a crowd of hangers-on, who occupied a rickety table in the corner, leaned over and tugged Jack’s sleeve.
“Pssst, Jack.” The stage whisper was loud enough to alert the whole room. “Jack. You might want to look at the lady what is axing about you. It’s a sight for sore eyes.”
Jack turned around slowly, and met the gaze of the green-eyed temptress who stood in the lamplight with her golden hair gleaming. He looked for about ten seconds before turning back to his dinner. The sound of footsteps behind him had him loosening his hook-bladed knife in its loop on his belt.
“Jack. Jack. Why won’t you look at me?”
He turned and looked, stony faced. The woman essayed a smile. Jack didn’t react. She hissed.
“What’s the matter with you? You one of them that likes little boys?”
Jack laughed, then deliberately turned his back once more. Behind him the beauty hissed. Jack mentally counted to ten, then turned quick as a thought. He grabbed the woman’s narrow wrist and squeezed just enough to make her drop the knife she held. One of the hangers-on bent to retrieve it.
“Don’t touch that,” Jack barked, “it’ll be poisoned.” The loafer leapt back with a white face and staring eyes.
The blonde woman played what was normally her trump card. Allowing her eyes to fill with tears she spoke in a broken little voice. “You’re hurting me. Please let me go.”
In any other company there would have been a stampede of foolish young men coming to her aid. But this wasn’t any other company, it was a room full of pirates, and the man who held her wrist in an iron grip was Tall Jack Stainless, so nobody moved.
There will be more from Bony Mary and her crew next week…