Date: 22nd of July, 2011
Location: Marathon Key
Conditions: The Grace is well, and apart from my longing to sail her once again, so too am I.
We departed Treasure Harbor and Islamorada this morn at dawn, and sailed the boat to Plantation Key, four miles to the northeast. Vaughn and I disembarked at the first pier we found, and ordered MacTeigue and Lynch to sail about until they found a decent site for a camp, then claim it and send one or the other to the museum to find myself and Llewellyn. They made off to the east as Vaughn and I walked by the dwelling to which the small pier belonged, making no particular effort at stealth; and yet we remained undiscovered. It amazes me how unaware these people are, like falcons in hoods. Or perhaps frightened tortoises is more apropos, since they often do not come out of their shell-houses.
Once we were to the road, Vaughn’s maps quickly led the way to the Museum of Nautical History, where, before we went in and introduced ourselves to the master of the house, Vaughn led me down a path of white stones to the harbor, where I clapped eyes once more on my ship.
She looked well. A touch battered and bruised, my poor lass, but no worse than when we sailed here to these shores dragging the Sea-Cat behind. Her rail was broken and a terrible long gouge marred her smooth side above the waterline; this was likely where the Coast Guard had boarded her. The broken mast rumored to me by the drunken sailors was indeed Shluxer’s spar, as I had surmised and hoped; a simple enough repair, and one that could be taken on after she sails once more under my command. To say true, I will be glad when there is no part of my ship that bears the taint of Shluxer; I resolved then to tear out and replace the boards he had shaped and placed for us, as well. I was only glad it was not my cabin which had kenneled that mongrel; I could stand to sleep where O’Flaherty had been, for while I would never forgive him his betrayal, at least he was an Irishman, and one of my own time; and a mutineer is not so very far from a pirate, if we be judged by our actions. Had Shluxer’s foul carcass begrimed my cabin, I would have been forced to burn all the furniture, and even then the stench might have clung to the walls and the floor, and ne’er come out but at night, when it would creep into my nostrils and make me dream corruptions, visions of his vile physiognomy and noxious deeds.
McNally told us that murderers face death if found guilty in court. I pray that Shluxer will swing.
Vaughn and I could not approach the Grace, as the pier she was anchored by stood barricaded and guarded by two sailors of the Coast Guard – fortunately not those I knew from the tavern nor my visits to their fortress on Islamorada, so I remained unrecognized. I might have fought my way past these two: I had my wheel-gun in my pocket, and their alertness was no keener than that of the house-dwellers on the shore, though in these two that same lack was less forgivable. But to what purpose should I fight? I could not sail the Grace, not with only Vaughn to help me; and even if I could, such an act would make it impossible to help my men, as I would most likely be joining them soon after in the gaol. These be no waters for a pirate, not with the iron ships of the Coast Guard and their telephones and magic windows and thunder-guns.
I will be glad to return home. Christ, to tell the truth I will dance a jig for a year. I will light candles in church and slaughter a bullock in the fairy-ring near Mam’s house, and sing praises to any other god or devil who might have brought me home again.
Vaughn and I returned to the museum door and entered; he led the way to another door, discreetly tucked away to one side, which read Offices; we went through this and were greeted by a comely lass seated at a table, who smiled and asked if she could help us. As this was Vaughn’s terrain, he took the wheel, then, making our introductions and proper courtesies to the maiden – who seemed somewhat bewildered when Vaughn asked, quite politely, after her parents and the place of her birth. But we won a bright smile again when Vaughn asked her to tell the Director that Llewellyn Vaughn had returned with a companion eager to make the acquaintance of Monsieur Navarre. She rose and departed with this message, soon returning with the man himself.
The morning which followed is something of a haze to my memory. Navarre, a Moor or African of late middle years and a most noble bearing, hails from a land called Haiti, a large island to the south; he and Vaughn spoke French to one another often, though only after I assured them that I took no offense. I did not, in truth, for even when they spoke English, the conversation traveled a path I could not follow: all scholar’s lore and the truth found in the pages of a book. I do not belittle this; the people of Ireland have ever cherished wisdom and the prodigious strength of the written word; this is why I keep this log, that I may someday offer my own experiences as knowledge that will serve to help others, to warn them or inspire them; and I am able to keep it thanks to my own schooling in letters, which was not brief nor simple. But my life since boyhood has been spent on ships, not in libraries, and my proclivities do draw my hand to sword-hilt and ship’s wheel more than to pen and paper, these pages notwithstanding.
But I could see that Navarre and Vaughn are already fast friends, as both grew animated as they spoke, and even after a mere two days’ acquaintance, they laugh at one another’s jests, and kissed one another’s cheeks in farewell. I am gladdened that Vaughn has found a kindred soul; I at least have my crew, who are my countrymen, my kin, and like-minded to myself; Vaughn is the sole Welshman in our company, as well as the only scholar, and now that we are three hundred years from home, his loneliness must be sharp indeed.
For myself, Vaughn introduced me to Navarre, who shook my hand; the man believes I am something called a “reenactor,” and rather than inquire what this is, I merely agreed, as it seemed to explain both my finery and manner, as well as the strangeness of my Grace in these waters. In talking about the Grace, I found my common ground with Navarre, for he finds her as wondrous and beauteous as I do, or nearly so. He inquired if she was a replica, and at Vaughn’s wink, I agreed that she was; when asked then from what land and time, I told him the truth: she was put into the water in 1673 in County Cork. He smiled and nodded, so I presume this was a proper response.
The man won my friendship when he offered to take me aboard. I had to contain my eagerness as we approached – and my disdain as the guards admitted us without challenge merely because Navarre nodded; though ’tis true, these people do not live in a conquered land, nor suffer the depredations of sea raiders as Ireland has done for nigh a thousand years – but once we climbed aboard, I worried not at all, as Vaughn drew Navarre into an animated conversation, and left me the run of my ship.
She is well. And I am well once more, now that I have laid hands on her timbers and felt her beneath my feet. I still find a smile on my face and in my heart, even now.
I did slip into my cabin to check for despoiling, but no harm had come to my effects. O’Flaherty apparently had not found my secret cache, where I keep my most precious things, including my private logbook; I left that where it was, but I put into my pocket the gold chain my mother gave me when I first commanded the Grace, and my spyglass, which I have wished for many times in these past weeks away from my ship. I returned quickly to the deck, where Navarre and Vaughn had not missed me; we completed our tour, thanked Navarre profusely, and then parted ways. We found Lynch waiting for us by the road, and he brought us to the camp where MacTeigue was roasting fish for our luncheon. In all, a fine, fine morning.
Date: 23rd of July
Location: Key Largo
Conditions: Waiting for dawn’s light so we may sail easier to the Redoubt. Wind and waves light, sailing is pleasant.
Lord, what fools these Floridians be!
We spent the afternoon discussing our course. Now that I have touched my ship and met her caretaker – a man worthy of trust, at least in this matter of my Grace – we would depart, Lynch and MacTeigue and I, and Vaughn would seek lodging here on Plantation Key. But before we would leave these waters, we wished to make one more strike, giving Vaughn a stake for food and a roof, and leaving the local authorities seeking fruitlessly for three blue-clad highwaymen hereabouts. But Islamorada is awash in Coast Guard sailors, and Plantation Key similarly inundated with sheriff’s men from the gaol; neither struck us as fertile waters for casting our net. So we determined to sail for the mainland and seek our victims there, or perhaps in Key Largo, the long island we must sail past to reach Florida’s eastern coast.
But then our victims came to us.
It started well before the sun struck Earth at close of day, and so we decided to delay our departure and observe these peculiar happenings.
First came three men with a large white beast-wagon, taller than a standing man. They drove it onto the sand at the far end of the cove where we were camped, where a cliffside rose above the shore, creating a space enclosed on two sides of a triangle. Then they placed wooden posts in the ground and used rope to close in the third side, leaving but one easy entrance – although ’twas a most flimsy barrier. From their beast-wagon then they hauled out three silver barrels, which they set in large tubs filled with ice – which would have seemed a miracle to me, on these hot shores, but a month ago, before I had lived in the Glass Palace and eaten from the Enchantress’s magical cold-cabinet.
Then from that same beast-wagon, whose hatch doors they left propped wide open, began to emerge the most god-cursed ear-stabbing cacophony I have heard in my life. It had something of a rhythm, but no sound-minded person could have identified it as music. Until I saw with my own eyes people arrive and begin to dance.
And by Lucifer, how these people danced! We Irish have always known the joy of dancing, and known it for a good thing, unlike those Puritan fanatics of Cromwell – but none of us ever saw dancing like this. Christ almighty, ’twas jarring enough to see what they wore: these were young women, lovely young women, in less clothing than a swaddling babe! And the way they gyrated and writhed and spun, and pressed themselves, rump and thigh and belly and breast, against the loins of the men, clad only in smallclothes, as well – well, it was quite the show. I was very glad for my spyglass, though I kept needing to fight MacTeigue for it. It all made me remember how long it has been since I have had a woman – aye, three centuries it has been; no wonder I am so filled with lust! But if the way these lasses dress and dance be any indication, it should not be hard to find a maid happy to roll in the clover, and it should be quite a ride indeed!
Damn me, but I have got off the course. Aye, though the dancing whores – I mean, lasses – and the infernal gut-twisting music were fascinating, even more so was this: as people arrived, they were met at the gap in the rope by two of the men from the noise-wagon, who collected a sheaf of money-papers from each person, handed them a bright red cup, and waved them past the barrier. As the sun began to set, they drew together a large bonfire, and when the sun touched the ocean in the west, a score or so arrived and joined the bacchanal, swelling their numbers to at least a hundred. MacTeigue and Lynch and I exchanged grins and nods and then made our plans to take advantage of this bounty placed on our very doorstep.
I approached the men at the gap in the line, with MacTeigue to my left, twenty paces away, and Lynch to my right, midway between myself and the ocean. I smiled and nodded as the two men – barely more than lads, they were – looked up at my approach. I beckoned them close, as though I wished to speak quietly under the thunder of their horrid music, and when they brought their heads near mine, I presented to them my wheel-gun, and the sword I had kept concealed behind my back. They were entirely unarmed, and proved most willing to be led; soon I had emptied their pockets of a most impressive packet of money-papers and sent one of them up the beach to where Vaughn kept watch on the road, and the other, with my sword at his back, walked with me to the noise-wagon, which he at last, blessedly, silenced.
It was the easiest raid I have ever had. Meek as rabbits, these people were; not a weapon among them. Not one. Most had no money – certainly the lasses had nowhere to keep it – but those who did had much, and gave gladly, once they saw my compatriots and their own hopelessly trapped and exposed position. One fellow was more reluctant than most, and when I saw the thick wad of folded money-papers he produced from his pockets, I understood why he hesitated to surrender it; but when I passed over the strange packet of tiny pills, held in what I believe was more of this plass-tick I have seen before, he seemed most relieved and less grieved by the loss of his money. Though he was saddened once again when I demanded his jewelry, a pair of gold chains as thick as my thumb, three gemmed rings and a pair of diamond ear-bobs. Still he gave them up without a struggle.
We bade them all lie on their bellies, eyes shut and hands on head, and then we four raced for our boat and were off to sea before the first of them moved – perhaps because we fired shots over their heads as we departed, which arrested all motion for some time.
What a haul! Some 5000 in money-paper, plus gems and gold from some of the lasses and the wealthy pill-man, and not a scrap of trouble nor of searching and seeking for a target. Perhaps there is room here to be a pirate, after all.