Date: 8th of July, 2011
Location: Redoubt at the Glass Palace
Conditions: Exhausted with hard work, but successful. Methinks things are clearer, now.
The Enchantress . . . is a pig.
I did not believe this position would be difficult; how much disorder could one person make? Especially one high-born woman? Now I know better.
The woman arises each morning, swims in her pond in smallclothes that would be indecent even under proper dress, and then, following her toilet (which includes still further bathing, as though she must wash off the first bath), scatters raiment like a bird shedding feathers in spring: clothing which I, as her maid, am expected to retrieve, launder, and stow in their proper cubbies in her closet. Though once that closet has been but briefly explored, it becomes instantaneously apparent why she is so indifferent to her attire as to cast it on the floor: she has more apparel than my entire village could wear, back home. And this material, strewn across the floor of the closet, and her chamber, and her bed, and the soft chairs in her chamber, and any other surface that can hold an article of dress, is not part of her attire for various occasions or functions, no: she considers it and discards it before she chooses her splendifery for the day. The apparel has not even been worn! Her maid, of course, is required to replace each piece in its proper place, neatly folded or rolled or hung or stretched, as the item warrants. It is more difficult, and time consuming, than stowing cargo in an undersized hold and lashing it tight for stormy seas.
Then there is the kitchen. Now, I am a pirate, an Irishman, and I have seen ship’s galleys that resemble the aftermath of a raging fire, sparked by a thunderstorm flooding rain, onto a battlefield churned muddy by boots and blood. But nonetheless: the Enchantress lay waste to that hearth to a degree unmatched by a score of filthy seamen. Egg shells and fruit peels, puddles of water and juice, crockery and glass containers and sliver utensils – ’twas a wasteland, a ruination, a shipwreck on a rocky shore. Which I must clean.
Two hours spent arranging women’s fripperies, another lost to hot water and rags, to crockery and kitchen scraps – I wish often for a good kitchen hound to dispose of the excess food bits properly – and then I can attend to the floors.
I have never been so happy to see a broom as I was on my first day in this role. I could not find it, at first, though Maid Flora had identified for me the antechamber where the implements of maidery were to be found; the broom, however, did not abide there, but rather stood in a corner of the large barn-shed, which I now know to be a garradge. Why did I search high and low for the broom, one might ask? Because at first I made the attempt with – the vacume. A machine risen straight from Hell, fashioned no doubt in the infernal forges of the iron city of Dis, forges sparked by the Devil’s infinite fiery hatred and fueled by the suffering souls of the damned; and that which they make there takes into itself every evil thought, every miserable suffering breath that wafts across its surface. That is the wellspring of that thrice-damned monster.
Maid Flora had instructed me to use the vacume to sweep the floors before mopping, and had shown me the beast in its den, which was the closet stocked with maid’s tools. She had pantomimed its use and pointed to me the lever that brought it awake, once it had been tethered – by something that may be a leash and may be a tail or similar appendage, I know not – to a certain hole in the wall, round with two thin vertical slots into which fit a pair of metal pieces on the appendage-leash. I did not understand how the thing was to remove dirt, but I had nodded that I understood her instructions, at least. And when the time came, I followed them: I moved its round, squat body out of the closet, uncoiled the leash and slotted it into the wall, and then I pressed the awakening lever, marked “ON.”
And then the beast roared. I was so startled I leapt back, striking the body with my foot and casting it away from me; the thick trunk-like appendage which one held when making use of the beast flipped about –and then it sought its prey. I know not if that thing be the bastard child of the Asiatic monster called an Oliphaunt, or if it be some strange hybrid of serpent and badger, but whatever it is, it is a predator, and it is hungry. It leapt and cavorted across the room, the end of its trunk-appendage roaring, a terrible inhalation drawing sundry bits into its maw where they were swallowed whole – a piece of paper and a pair of coins that had fallen when I leapt back and dashed them from the counter with my groping hand, and the cap for a jar of soap which I had opened in the closet, placing the cap in my pocket, from whence it now fell and was swallowed.
Then it came for me. I dodged to the side and kicked the body, hoping to stun or damage it, or perhaps, with luck, strike the awakening lever and put it back to sleep – though I confess I was too terrified to know what I was doing; that roar! That terrible roar! – but the action merely whipped the trunk-mouth around toward me again. It struck at my leg and attached itself, leech-like; its roar instantly grew more shrill, the keening of a hunting beast with its victim in its grasp. I shouted and struck at the trunk with my hands, but could not dislodge it, so strong was its grip on me. I could feel it pulling at my flesh through the cloth of my pantaloons, and I feared becoming envenomed and paralyzed and devoured at leisure, drawn slowly into that terrible, tiny maw. I grabbed at the body, lifted it over my head, and threw it across the great room with a shouted curse – and detached its tether from the wall, which killed the beast, or stunned it. Taking no chances, I drew my wheel-gun, which I have kept in my pocket at all times against an ambuscade by the Lions, and placed that monster in my sights. When it did not move, I used the handle of a mop held in my left hand to shove it before me into an empty closet in the room where we had imprisoned the Lopezes during our earliest acquaintance, my gun trained on its body the entire time lest it come awake once more and strike. In that closet, I swear, that horrid beastie will stay. I am well-satisfied with a proper broom. Even though that immobile rug makes it most difficult to sweep properly in the parlor. Who glues a rug to the floor like that, so that no one can sweep underneath? The Enchantress is most peculiar to me, and no less so is her abode.
It required all the hours remaining in the day to finish the floors, but I saw the job done properly: I holystoned the tile with fine white sand I brought in from the cove, and a scrub brush and bucket from the maid’s closet. Then I let it dry while I attempted to sweep the glued-rug rooms, which did not garner good results; and then I swept out the sand and swabbed the deck as Maid Flora had instructed me, using the sweet-smelling soap from the closet, even though its scent nearly overpowered me. Then the same treatment for the terrace, and I was feeling as though all was properly ship-shape and myself back in command – until the Enchantress came home.
“Daniel, did you hear?” she asked me as she strode quickly in her strange, precariously high-heeled shoes and her raiment that a Dublin whore would blush to wear.
“No, milady,” I replied, my eyes firmly fixed to the far wall, high above anything improper that might cross before my gaze, uncovered, and round and firm, and tanned by the sun.
“Huh – I thought Flora would have texted you, too, but whatever. Her house got shot up in a drive-by! Can you believe that?”
I could not understand it, and thus could not believe it – but I understood the operative words: Flora. House. Shot. “Was anyone hurt, milady?”
“I don’t think so – Flora didn’t say so, anyway. She said the neighbors called her and said a couple of gangbanger cars came by last night and just pulled up in front and unloaded. There’s a lot of damage. I asked her if she called the police or anything, but she said no – but undocumented workers don’t usually call the cops, do they? She said it was all right, that I shouldn’t worry about the house, that they’d take care of anything when they came back. She just said I should talk to you about it. Do you know Flora’s family? Are you going to check on the house for them?”
I nodded, after a moment spent unclenching my jaw, which had tautened with rage. “Yes, milady. I know her family, and her home, well.
“I will take care of it.”
The bike took me to the vicinity of House Lopez, and then I chained it and proceeded cautiously on foot. From thirty paces away I could see an hundred holes blasted in the wooden walls of the home, and broken glass in all the windows; I could also see the head of a man on watch in a beast-wagon just beyond the Lopez property line, his gaze roving the street most haphazardly, the loud rhythmic chanting I remembered from the Lions’ den emerging from the wagon, though again, I could see no musicians nor ritualizers. I shook my head: the man on watch was using neither his ears nor his eyes to advantage; any proper bosun would have had that man on his knees with a scrub brush, if not lashed to the mast and bleeding from his back, if he kept a watch that slipshod at sea – assuming his incompetence and imbecility did not have the vessel smashed on unseen rocks, that is.
I had taken the liberty of borrowing a length of slender but strong rope from the Enchantress’s garradge – I had noted it when seeking a broom, and a sailor never passes up good cordage – and as night fell and I observed the man’s miserable habits, I plotted my strategy. I did not know the man on watch, but he was without doubt one of my foes – a suspicion easily confirmed by the shirt he wore, a bright blue color much the same hue as the headscarves I had seen before – and I knew the man had most likely pulled a trigger and blown a hole in the home of my friends. In their home. Where dwelt their mother, and the boy Alejandro. Had he known the family Lopez was far gone when he aimed, when he fired? I doubted it.
I would ask him.
I crept up behind his beast-wagon, my wheel-gun in my hand, and around to the side opposite his post. Then I lay on one shoulder, my legs under me so I could move with rapidity if he did so, and, reaching under the belly of the beast, I aimed and fired a shot at the house. This brought a most satisfying response from the man, who cried out like a small child startled awake by nightmare and then leapt and stumbled out of his wagon, cursing and brandishing a pistola of his own. He had heard the shot strike the house, had heard the blast somewhere close, but he knew not where – and in his confusion, he simply ran to the house and stood staring, dumbly. It was child’s play to come up from behind and lay him out with a blow to the back of his head. A glance up and down the street showed that we two were alone; I took up his pistola, dealt him a blow or two with my heel – for the honor of Lopez – and then trussed his arms and legs. I dragged him to the small meadow behind House Lopez, where we might converse unseen by people on the street, hidden as the meadow was behind a wooden fence. I left him under a tree, and then opened the heavy garradge door to gain entry to the house and gather the other materials I required. Then I prepared him and waited for him to awaken so we could begin.
He woke soon after, and when he did, I hauled away on the rope which I had tied to his thumbs; he was soon standing on his toes, his eyes wide, his head shaking – any shouts silenced as I had bound his mouth shut, at least for the nonce. I tied off the rope on the fence, and then I aimed my wheel-gun at his left eye, and waited there until his entire body was shaking and the beads of sweat ran down his face. He had tried to let his weight back down onto his heels, and had learned what it meant to be strung up by one’s thumbs – and then he had raised up onto his toes once more, to save his thumbs from being pulled from the socket, or off entirely. This same fate had maimed my traitorous former bosun, Ned Burke, when the tribe of maroons he had been preying upon after escaping into the jungle of Hispaniola from his indenture had captured him and strung him up by his thumbs, leaving him hanging until, after days, he had – fallen down.
I put the barrel of the pistol into the hollow of my man’s throat. “Do not shout,” I said quietly. He nodded. I removed his gag.
“Please, man,” he began, but a thrust of the gun barrel into his throat stopped the words there.
“Did you fire at that house?” I asked, pointing.
I saw the lie begin in his eyes, but he saw me recognize it, and he swallowed it untold. He nodded instead.
I laughed, darkly. “So have I. Only their cowardly surrender kept me from putting a shot into the brothers themselves, when first they came against me.” I turned the smile into a snarl, and pressed close, bruising his throat with the pistol. “You insult me when you presume that these dirt-faced peasants are my allies. My – friends. How dare you think that this, this filthy scum could be the bait in a trap for me. For me!” A blow to his nose with the pistol’s butt set the claret flowing down, and surprised him enough to fall back off of his toes – stretching his thumbs agonizingly, though as of yet his hands stayed whole. He opened his mouth to scream, and I shoved the pistol into it.
“Be. Silent.” I ordered him. He followed orders. When he recovered his balance and eased the pressure on his thumbs, I removed the pistol’s barrel and asked him my questions.
“How many of you are there?”
“Nine – eighteen. Eighteen since Francisco got fucked up in that alley.”
“And your leader – is it Agro?”
“Yeah. Man, let me down, man – shit!”
“Agro is the one I stabbed in the hand at the market, yes?”
“Yeah, man, he fucking pissed at you, essay.” (Perhaps the last word was the letters S.A., but that holds no clearer meaning for me.)
“Do you know who I am?”
“Naw, man, we call you the Sparrow, after Johnny Depp, you know? Fuck, this fuckin’ hurts, essay!”
I grabbed his chin, pressed the barrel of the gun against his broken nose, which brought a shudder and a groan. “My name is Damnation Kane. Remember it. Tell the others.
“And watch your step.” I lowered my aim and fired into the ground. The shot struck his pistola, and scattered sparks, which ignited the circle of rum-soaked rags with gunpowder sprinkled o’er (gunpowder gathered from the cartridges that had been in the gun) that lay under the tree’s limb from which his rope descended. I pulled on his rope until his feet lifted free of the ground, and he swung directly over the flames, which tickled at his toes and his heels, even up to his ankles, but no higher. I tied it off there, and then dealt him a mighty blow to the belly, setting him swinging like a pendulum and silencing his cries for a time. I left him there and walked to the street and his beast-wagon. I splashed it with the remainder of the rum, and fired one more shot, my pistol laid flat on the puddle of liquor, which ignited and began to burn merrily.
I went back to the bike and rode to my redoubt at the Palace, confident that my message would be received. I would be alert for the response, whatever it may be.