Posts Tagged With: Llewellyn Vaughn

The End (Part I)

Continuing With Our Story…

It was mid-afternoon when Damnation and Andre arrived at the cove where the Grace of Ireland and her crew were held. The light seemed to gleam in the humid air, giving everything the glow of well-polished wood. The air was still, without breeze, as though the world held its breath; below the horizon, clouds were climbing atop one another, reaching higher and higher, and soon they would spill out across the sky, hiding the stars and moon and sun, bringing rain, perhaps, or only the threat and promise of it. Who can say? The clouds their own counsel keep.

The Jeep came to a slow stop some two hundred yards from the farmhouse and its armed guards and its cage of prisoners. Damnation strained his eyes, trying to pierce the screen of trees, to see the ocean beyond and what lay on it. He did not look at his men, though several of them had spied the Jeep and were pointing and murmuring, seeking to determine what had arrived into their lives this day, and what would be the price of knowing.

As they sat in the Jeep, parked in the middle of the long packed-dirt driveway, Andre’s phone rang. He answered it with a terse, “Yah,” and then paused to listen. Then, “Right, Old King’s Road, ‘bout seven, eight mile pas’ Morgan Point. Look for de Serpent’s Fangs. Yah.” He hung up, and then, without looking at his passenger, said, “De bus is comin’. Be here ten, fitteen minutes, maybe.”

Damnation nodded. “And you’re certain ‘twill carry them all?”

Andre nodded. “Hold 40, 45 passengers. No problem.” He tuned to look at the pirate then. “You just ‘ave to get dem out de cage.”

Again, Damnation nodded. Suddenly he turned to Andre and grinned – though his eyes were hollow, still. “No problem,” he said, and then without any further discussion, he was out of the Jeep and walking towards the line of trees, his back straight and his shoulders tall.

When he was halfway to the line of trees, a cry went up from the men in the cage: they had recognized him. “Kane! Captain Kane! It’s the Captain, lads!” Damnation’s jaw tensed, his fists clenched, but he kept walking. Towards the trees: not towards the cage. He did not look at his men, nor respond to their shouts. Those shouts grew more desperate, as though the men’s rescue from their cage relied on their captain recognizing them, acknowledging them; and perhaps it did. If men can be ignored, denied, they may be left behind: they may be sacrificed. Soon the men lined the side of the cage, their fingers knotted through the chain-link fencing, clutching the solid steel poles of the frame; the cords in the necks stood out, their eyes wide and bulging, as they shouted, louder, and louder, and louder: “Captain! Captain Kane! We’re here! Over here, sir! Sir! Captain! Help us! Save us!”

Damnation did not look at them. But had they been closer, had they stood right before him, they might have noticed his lips moving, might have heard the words he muttered; though his voice was so low, so quiet, that even had they been before him, they may not have been able to make it out. He said: “No. I am not. Not your captain. I can’t help you. I can’t. I will do what I can but I can’t save you. Not I.”

As he passed the cage and walked on towards the line of trees, the shouts trailed off, ending with a last few desperate pleas, and angry questions; finally a wordless cry of despair. At this last, Damnation’s gaze snapped towards the cage, and the men who stared after him – the ones who had not already given up hope and turned away in confused resignation – held their breath and leaned collectively forward, their faces now pressed against the steel fence. Without raising his voice, speaking in a conversational tone, so soft they would not have heard him had there been a wind and had he not spoken in the breath between waves crashing on the shore, Damnation said, “I will free you.” And then he was gone into the trees, and the men fell away from the chainlink as if the last of their strength had left with their captain.

Not a minute later, a strange conveyance, twice the height and three times the length of the beast-wagons they had grown accustomed to, arrived at the farm and came to a halt behind the Jeep that was still parked two hundred yards away. From the long, tall wagon a man emerged, and came to speak to the driver of the Jeep. Then all of them waited, unsure of what would happen next.

Damnation, however, was sure. He expected the lift he felt when he came through the screen of trees and saw the ocean, and his ship, once more; he expected the subsequent plunge as he remembered that the ship, like the crew he had left behind, was no longer his to command, or to save; if they were to be saved, it would be by another, by themselves, by a watchful God, if such a thing could be. The best that he could do was to trade his life for the bare fact of their freedom from their current captivity – and for his ship, he could not even offer that. He raised his eyes to the sky and said a brief prayer, asking for forgiveness for his failure, for his weakness; though he did not know to whom he prayed, nor what he would have if his prayers were answered.

Regardless, though, he walked with confidence down to the water’s edge, where a ship’s boat was drawn up on the sand. The Grace floated at anchor a quarter mile out to sea; on either side of her, the small cove was hemmed in by a tall spike of stone, and the two together did indeed resemble the fangs of a giant serpent. The sea was calm, only low swells rolling in, and he could see men moving around on the ship, though he could not tell what they were doing; that ignorance, and the fact that, even if he had known what those men out there were doing to his ship, he himself had no power whatsoever to change it, were bitter in his throat, bitter and sharp as a swallow of nails.

Damnation was at the boat before the two men guarding it were aware of him; when they finally noticed the tall man standing before them, gaze fixed to the ship, they cursed and scrambled up from where they had been sprawled in the sand, drowsing over their uneventful guard detail. They came towards him warily, guns pointed in his direction; for a moment, Damnation looked at the two men, and the contempt in that gaze was sharper than any blade.

He looked back to the ship and nodded in her direction. “Take me out to her,” he ordered.

One of the men scoffed at this stranger’s attempt to command them; the other – the smarter one – narrowed his eyes, wondering who this man was to think he could order them so. Neither spoke, nor moved to shove the boat into the water and man an oar.

Damnation glanced at them again, the contempt now exchanged for impatience. “I am – well, if not expected, I am at the least sought after.”

The two men frowned, and still did nothing but stand warily and point gun barrels at the strange Irishman.

Damnation sighed. It seemed he had spoken beyond, or above them; clearly the brains of these two did not have much reach. “I am Damnation Kane,” he told them. “That was once my ship. The man who has it now has been looking for me.”

The two guards reacted to that. The men were dressed in modern attire, blue jeans and low canvas sneakers and loose cotton shirts with short sleeves; one man had a black-and-white patterned bandanna tied around his head and the other was shaved bald with a patchy beard trying (and failing) to make up for it; because of their clothes, Damnation had not expected what he now saw in their faces, heard in their voices: recognition. And the accents of British sailors.

“Izzit ‘im?” the sailor in the bandanna asked the bald one. “Izzit Kane?”

The bald sailor nodded, a wondering sort of smile – mixed with an eagerness, a hunger, that spoke of danger – spreading his lips, revealing brown and broken teeth. “Aye. ‘At’s ‘im, right enough. I seen ‘im when we came at ‘im back ‘ome, afore –” the man spat.

Then he leaped to his companion, catching his shoulders and holding him back as the slighter man cursed and snarled and struggled to break free and reach Damnation. Damnation, nonplussed, took a step back, looking at the Englishman who seemed to have forgotten he held a firearm, or perhaps he wanted to use his bare hands and feel the Irishman’s blood running over his knuckles. The curses and threats trailed off, and then Damnation realized the man was shouting a single sentence, over and over.

“Take us back! Take us back! Take us back!”

Damnation looked at the two men, his face blank; but behind that mask, his eyes, hollow before, were now filled with sorrow. With regret.

The sailor trailed off into cries that were half-weeping. And Damnation said, softly, “If I could apologize to ye, I would.”

His words seemed to deflate the man, and he fell to his knees in the sand. The bald sailor let his partner drop, and sneered at Damnation; then he spat at the pirate’s feet, turned away and started hauling the boat out into the water. After a moment, Damnation went to help him, and by the time they had the wooden boat floating, the third man had scrubbed the tears from his eyes, and he waded out and climbed into the boat, taking an oar. The bald sailor joined him on the other oar, and Damnation sat in the stern, facing their angry, accusatory eyes, but never meeting their gazes; he watched over their shoulders as his ship grew closer, grew larger.

As they neared the Grace, a man on board (who, it seemed, kept a better watch than these two) called out, “Boat on the port side!” Men came to the rail, vanished, then returned with boat hooks and ropes, and a rope ladder was unfurled over the ship’s side. The two sailors maneuvered the boat expertly against the side of the ship; the bald sailor shipped his oar and caught the rope ladder; two boat hooks snagged the gunwale of the boat, and a rope was tossed to the other sailor, who tied it to a cleat and made it fast. He looked up at the men at the rail and half-called, half-hissed, “It’s ‘im! It’s the Irishman! Kane!”

Suddenly the men at the rail held weapons, and as Damnation climbed the rope ladder, he felt an itch move from between his shoulder blades to his breastbone, then up to his forehead; and he knew he was feeling the sharp gaze of men who were not only willing, but eager, to murder him on the spot and watch his bloody corpse sink beneath the waves.

But this was his ship, and the second his hands gripped the wood of her rail, all fear and all regret left him. He was nothing now but iron determination. He came aboard, moving slowly, holding his hands out wide to show he was completely unarmed, and then he said loudly, clearly, “I am Damnation Kane. This is my ship.”

One of the British sailors snarled and swung a fist at Damnation’s gut, but the Irishman spotted the movement, and somehow managed to move even quicker than the Englishman, stepping out of the way of the blow. The sailor stumbled as his punch struck only air; Damnation stood unmoving, though he could have struck easily at the off-balance attacker. The man looked, mouth agape, over his shoulder at Damnation, who smiled, his hands still empty and spread wide. From behind, a voice said, ‘”How did he move –” and another snickered. The Englishman reddened, straightened up and faced the Irish pirate squarely; he drew his fist back for another swing, when a voice said, “Stop.”

That voice had come from the poop deck, where the wheel was that steered the ship, where the man stood who set the course: but this voice was not the voice of command, not a captain’s voice barking out orders. This voice seemed to creep, to seep into one’s ears, to trail along one’s skin, creating a sensation of slithering: of infiltrating, sneaking down under the surface and planting unseen hooks. Captain’s voice or not, this was a voice to be obeyed. And all the men on board did so, the fist lowering, Damnation dropping his hands to dangle by his sides, all of them turning to face – him.

The Shadowman.

Even in bright daylight, the late summer afternoon sun of Bermuda, it was difficult to see clearly what he looked like: the sunlight seemed to draw back from him, unwilling to touch, or even to come too close. His skin was quite dark, with the reddish undertones of West Africa, of the Ibo, of the Ivory Coast, the people who had made up the majority of the victims of chattel slavery – and also, the people whose religion and rituals had served as the foundation for what was now called voodoo.

Something that the Shadowman knew quite a lot about.

Damnation looked up at the man who, if he did not own it, at the least controlled his ship. He saw flat black eyes, deepset and hooded by a high brow that swept back into a smoothly shaven head, sitting atop a thin neck over narrow shoulders and a frame that approached gaunt. The hands that gripped the rail were long, thin, and spidery – but also looked strong, with large knuckles and veins snaking across the lines of the tendons. The man wore dark clothing, loose fitting, that covered him to the wrist and the ankle; but somehow one had the sense that he would make even bright clothing look dark: and if he stood nude, he would be clothed in shadows.

The Shadowman looked down at him, but Damnation felt no fear.

“I am Damnation Kane, the captain of this ship,” he said in a clear voice. He took another step towards the poop deck. “I am the man you have been looking for.”

The Shadowman’s hands tightened on the rail. When he spoke, his mouth opened wide, and yet one could not see teeth behind those thin lips, nor the pink of gums nor tongue: only the blackness of a cavern, of a pit. And out of that cavern crept that voice, that venomous, desiccated voice, like a deadly serpent slithering into your ear. “What makes you think you know what I seek?” The sibilant whisper should have been too quiet for Damnation to hear over the sound of the waves, the creaking of the ship; but he heard every word perfectly. And every word made his skin crawl.

But he showed no sign of it, merely staring boldly back at the Shadowman. He did not answer the question; he was here for a purpose, not a conversation. “I have come to offer myself in exchange for the release of my men, whom you hold on shore,” he said: and his voice was the voice of a captain, the sounds ringing out as clear as the pealing of a bell.

The Shadowman tilted his head, and with the movement, one very much expected a long forked tongue to flick from his mouth, tasting the air, feeling for the heat of his prey: hunting. “One man for eleven? That seems a poor bargain for me,” he said softly.

“Fourteen,” said Damnation. “I want the Englishmen, too.” He turned a baleful gaze on the sailors around him. “The ones with honor and courage enough to refuse to scourge my men.” Sneers and snarls met his words – and a few downcast eyes. Damnation looked back to the Shadowman. “But they are all nothing to you: I am the only one you seek. My blood is what you seek.”

The dark eyes widened, showing a flash of white in the shadows; the head seemed to slither forward on the thin neck, as if it could now taste its prey. No forked tongue slipped from between the lips, but the nostrils flared, perhaps catching a scent. “So it is blood we are speaking of,” the Shadowman whispered – perhaps even hissed. He leaned forward over the rail, his slender body seeming to curve more than bend. “Perhaps you should allow me to sample what you offer.”

Damnation once more suppressed a shudder; then he nodded curtly. With a brief glance to the armed men standing on either side of him, he bent down and quickly drew a knife from his tall leather boot, a utilitarian blade, sharp but stained steel with a well-worn wooden handle. There was some slight closing in as he rose, now armed, but the Shadowman had slid (seemingly without steps, or strides) to the top of the companionway from the poop to the main deck; he paused there and raised his head indignantly, frowning at the sailors. He did not speak, but his expression was eloquent in saying, Surely you don’t think I need protection from him? The Englishmen melted back away without a murmur, but with many fearful and a few resentful glances. The Shadowman oiled down the stairs, his upper body seeming to float over his legs, undisturbed by the motion of walking. He slid to a spot in front of Damnation and two paces away, and the two men locked eyes, each taking the measure of the other: the Irishman was taller, broader, his hands callused from sailing and from fighting; the houngan wore an aura of power along with the predatory menace that wrapped around him as closely as his shadows.

Without a word, Damnation brought the knife to his left forearm and cut the skin there, drawing a line of blood from the back of his wrist. He lowered the blade and held out his left hand. The Shadowman glanced from the blood to Damnation’s face – and then, quick as a striking viper, he snapped forward, clutched Damnation’s arm with both hands (the grip of those long fingers shockingly strong) and, bringing his face close, he licked the blood from the wound. Now Damnation did recoil: and the Shadowman smiled, revealing clean white teeth with a thin line of red between the upper and lower. His grip kept Damnation from stepping back, and with a visible effort, the pirate controlled himself and stood still. The Shadowman closed his lips, worked his tongue around in his mouth; then his eyes rolled back in their sockets, his face falling slack, his head rolling back on his neck as if in a trance or in sheer ecstasy, and he groaned softly.

And Damnation felt the strangler’s grip loosen.

Now it was the pirate who moved with stunning quickness: in an instant he had twisted his left arm out of the Shadowman’s grip and grabbed the man’s right wrist in his left hand. He pulled the man close, stepping back and swinging his elbow up and over the dark head, and now he brought that sharp boot knife up and pressed the blade against the thin, wiry neck.

The Shadowman spat a curse in a spray of blood and began to struggle: in that first instant, he nearly broke free as he twisted his arm in Damnation’s grip and unexpectedly tried to drop to the ground. But the pirate had seen the serpentine agility and quickness; he had felt the strength in those hands and wrists; and he held on to the Shadowman as tightly as he would grip a line in a storm, knowing if he lost control of the line he would lose control of the ship, and all would be lost. That strength was enough, and the Shadowman stayed in his grasp. Then the free left arm snatched at his right wrist – until he pressed the blade tight against the line of the man’s jaw, piercing the skin, drawing a new line of blood. The Shadowman stopped struggling then.

Then the cursing started.

At first it was simply a string of profanity in at least three languages, and the words that Damnation understood were pungent enough to make him wish he spoke the other tongues as well, so that he could learn new foulnesses for his own repertoire. The furious houngan split the epithets and disapprobations equally between Damnation and the English sailors who had failed to stop him; apparently the Shadowman himself deserved no blame for his unwary actions.

Then the man stopped even his idle struggling, and became still. Damnation felt him take a deep breath, and then a sibilant rattle of strange sounds emerged from him; it was barely recognizable as a language, but the ominous threat was unmistakable. Immediately Damnation leaned back, pulling the man’s right arm up and over his shoulder, turning the elbow painfully; at the same time, he pressed the knife into the flesh of the neck once more, drawing new blood and threatening to draw it all. And in the man’s ear, Damnation murmured, “With you dead, what have I to fear?”

Once more the Shadowman grew still, and this time, silent. Damnation allowed the pressure on the blade to slack, while he kept the man’s arm at a painfully twisted angle – though the dark man did not seem to even feel the pain of his overextended joints. After a moment the Shadowman said, “If I die, they will kill you.”

Damnation cocked an eyebrow at the English sailors. “Will they?” he asked, his query directed at both the Shadowman and the Englishmen, expecting two different answers.

He got one unexpected answer: the Shadowman laughed. “Not the white men. Them.” He pointed, with his free left hand, back up the companionway to the poop deck. Damnation looked, instinctively hunkering down slightly so that the Shadowman’s body was between him and the threat. Standing at the rail were three enormous men: all the size of Kelly or Ned Burke, all with full beards and long dreadlocked hair, all as dark of skin as the Shadowman – and all, like him, darker still because the sunlight seemed to shun them. They stood, expressionless and unmoving, their eyes directed towards Damnation, though it was not clear if they looked at him, if they saw him – if they saw anything. Their eyes, their faces, were – empty.

Though no less intimidating for that. Damnation turned farther, ducking lower behind the shorter houngan, peering now over the man’s right shoulder. The Shadowman laughed again, though the noise was somewhat constricted, as Damnation’s grip had tightened. “Look up,” the Shadowman gurgled.

Damnation looked up. Above his head, the mainmast stretched forty feet up from the deck; 25-foot crosspieces, the yards, set at three different heights. To each yard a canvas sail was attached with brass rings; the sails were gathered and tied with rope to the yards; the longer ropes – the shrouds – that connected the yards and the sails down to the rails, so that men on deck could raise or lower or tighten or loosen or even turn the sails, were gathered together and tied back, or else Damnation wouldn’t have seen much when he looked up other than canvas and rope and wood. But his view was clear to the wooden platform that circled the top of the mainmast, the crow’s nest: and over the edge of that platform leaned a fourth man, a near-perfect replica of the other three as to size, hair, beard, skin, and dead-eyed expressionlessness. That man held an automatic rifle; Damnation could see the barrel and the magazine outthrust past the edge of the crow’s nest. If the man should turn that barrel down towards the deck, there would be no place to hide from the rain of deadly lead that would fall from above.

Damnation straightened up. He did not let go. “Well and so here we are. We both may die – because even yon lookout high above could not fire on me without peppering you as well – or we both may live. Shall I ask which ye prefer? Shall I tell ye my own feelings on the matter?”

The Shadowman slowed and then stilled his struggling. He was thinking, presumably about ways that Damnation could be killed without risk to himself.

Damnation spoke, trying to put a thumb on the side of the scales that held “No violence and let everyone live.” He put his lips right by the Shadowman’s ear and murmured, so low that the sailors standing nearby could not even be sure he spoke: “How did the blood taste?”

The Shadowman turned his head, just enough so that Damnation could see the side of his mouth, the corner of his eye. Damnation tipped his own head forward, so the Shadowman could see him raise an eyebrow. After a moment the Shadowman called out, his voice now coming loud and clear, without the sibilant slithering though still with the perilous feel: “Abner! Bring me my phone!” One of the men on the poop deck moved toward the companionway; Damnation turned to face the man, tightening his grip, tensing his body to move and fight. In the strangled gurgle, the Shadowman said, “Leave your guns up there!”

The man paused, put down the pistol he held, drew a second pistol from the small of his back, and placed it on the deck with the first. Then he drew a cellphone from his pocket and, holding it high, came down the companionway. Damnation didn’t relax, but he did allow the man to approach, and when he was within a pace, the Shadowman reached out with his left hand and took the phone. The houngan tapped the screen several times, and then brought the phone to his ear. Damnation pressed close to hear both sides of the conversation.

After three rings, the phone was answered; a voice with a deep Island accent said, “Yah, boss?”

“Let the prisoners go. All of them.”

There was a pause, and then the voice asked, “Ya want us t’ follow dem, or hold one, two?”

Damnation pressed the knife against his throat, and the Shadowman said, “Let them go. Send them down to the shore so we can see them from the ship, then let them go. Do not follow.”

“Yah, boss, you got it,” the voice said. The Shadowman ended the call and then held the phone out to Abner, who took it and put it back in his pocket. “Go back up,” the Shadowman said, and Abner returned to the poop deck rail, collecting his guns in passing.

A minute passed, and then another. The British sailors, standing around on the deck, began to shift idly, uneasily. The three men standing on the poop deck did not. After a third minute, the Shadowman tugged gently on his trapped right arm, clearing his throat and rolling his head on his neck. “You can let me go now,” the Shadowman said. “My men will do as I ordered them.”

Damnation tightened his grip, instead. He pulled his knife hand away from the houngan’s throat, quickly sliding his right arm under the Shadowman’s, the point of his knife now resting on the man’s belly. “When I see my men and know they are safe, I’ll let ye go and surrender to ye.”

The Shadowman was silent for a moment. Then he said, as if nothing had occurred since Damnation had asked the question, “Your blood tastes strong. Powerful.” Again he turned in Damnation’s grip, just enough to look into the pirate’s eyes from the corner of his own. “But it is not for me to taste it.”

Damnation nodded. “Aye. Ye need it to move the ship. Ye need me.”

The Shadowman tipped his head. “You’re half right,” he said, and Damnation saw the corner of his mouth turn up in a smile.

Just then, a shout came from the shore, just audible from the deck. “Captain!” Damnation tried to turn to face the shore, but could not do so while holding so tight to his captive. He hesitated, but then released the man’s right arm, changing his grip to the collar of the Shadowman’s loose shirt, holding him tight with his left, laying the knife blade along the line of the man’s spine, the tip of the blade pricking the back of the shaved skull. A moment to ensure that the Shadowman would not struggle – he did not, merely shrugging his shoulder and shaking his right hand to bring back circulation – and then Damnation squinted at the shore, where he saw a tall man in tattered clothes limping rapidly along the beach, headed towards where the boat had launched, which was the closest point to the ship. The man cupped his hands to his mouth and again shouted, “Captain!”

Damnation pressed the knife close, and then he raised his left hand and waved. “Ian!” he shouted.

O’Gallows waved vigorously, and Damnation thought he could see the smile on his mate’s face from here. Cupping his hands, O’Gallows shouted, “Orders, sir!”

If O’Gallows could have made out Damnation’s face from where he stood, he wouldn’t have had to hear the orders: the sorrow webbed across the captain’s eyes, gathered in the corners of his mouth, weighing down his jaw, would have made it clear before Damnation even said what he did now. “Take the men and go,” he shouted, his voice rough, breaking on the last word. “Follow the road.” Damnation paused, and swallowed, and then said, “Don’t wait for me.”

O’Gallows actually took two steps into the water, the waves washing around his feet. “Sir!” he called out, and then, “Nate!”

The sadness turned to steel, and this time his voice did not break. “You have your orders, O’Gallows!” Damnation took a stronger hold on the Shadowman’s shirt, his gaze turning to the back of that dark, shaved head. “You will see the men safe. The ship, I will see to.” His gaze flicked back to the shore, where now he saw two more men, whom he recognized as Llewellyn Vaughn and Owen McTeigue, come along the shore to stand with O’Gallows. “Go!” Damnation shouted, as loudly, as strongly, as he could.

O’Gallows let his cupped hands fall from his mouth. Vaughn said something to him, inaudible from the ship; McTeigue stepped out into the water and laid a hand on O’Gallows’s arm. The taller man shook it off, but McTeigue reached out again; this time, O’Gallows turned away from the ship and stepped out of the water.

McTeigue hesitated for a moment, and then cupped his own hands around his mouth and called out, “Slán leat, col ceathrar!”

Damnation rocked back as if struck, and blinked his eyes, hard. “Fare thee well, too, cousin,” he called back, his voice fading at the end.

McTeigue waved; Vaughn did as well. Then they turned and, gathering O’Gallows with an arm around his shoulders, they walked away from the water, away from the ship, and away from their captain, cousin, and friend, Damnation Kane.

Once the three had vanished into the line of trees, the Shadowman turned his head; freer now, he turned until he could look at Damnation, though the Irishman still held the houngan’s shirt, and the blade of the knife stayed against the back of his neck. The Shadowman turned up his hands, not needing to actually say, “Well?”

Damnation shoved him. “Not yet,” he said gruffly. The Shadowman turned his back on Damnation without another sound.

Some minutes later, a car horn honked, then honked twice more, and then three more times. Damnation’s shoulders sagged. He let go of the Shadowman and took three steps back. He could feel English sailors pressing up close behind and to his sides, but he kept his gaze on the houngan. When the Shadowman turned slowly around to face him, Damnation held out the knife, the wooden handle turned towards the houngan.

The man stepped forward slowly, reached gingerly for the knife, and took it gently from Damnation’s hand. Damnation let his arm drop, and then squared his shoulders, facing the man head-on, accepting his fate now. Trying to.

Quick as a snake, his arm stabbing out in much the same motion as a serpent striking and sinking fangs into its prey, the Shadowman slashed Damnation’s own knife across the Irishman’s chest, tearing a gash in his shirt and drawing a line of blood from his skin. Damnation hissed in pain but did not fall back away: he kept his gaze locked on the Shadowman. The Shadowman raised the knife, pinched his thumb and finger against the sides of the blade, and drew off the blood; he knelt down and smeared his fingers across the deck of the ship, leaving a streak of crimson on the planks.

They all waited.

Nothing happened.

After a long minute, the Shadowman’s lip curled. His right hand went to his throat as he shook the knife in his left hand at Damnation. He drew his right hand away, held up his newly-bloodied fingers for Damnation to see. “Perhaps there was too much of my blood on the blade,” he growled. He crept closer and hissed. “Perhaps it needs more blood.”

He stood and shouted, “Scourge him!” The English sailors cheered. They rushed to Damnation, grabbing his arms, and dragged him towards the bow. Damnation neither resisted nor assisted. He had expected nothing to happen when his blood touched the deck, which was why he had forced the Shadowman to wait until Andre’s signal told him that the bus had driven away safely with all of his men; now, Damnation expected only to die. His only remaining wishes were that it would not be too long, or too painful, and that when he died he would still be on his ship, and not cast into the watery depths.

Well. It looked as if he would have one of those wishes granted him. But not the other two.

The Englishmen bound him to the Scourged Lady. Damnation did not resist, allowing them to put him in place and tie his arms around her. He peered up at her lovely face, carved and painted in an expression of agony, and he wondered why any man would want such a visage to embody his ship. Then he looked down at the base of the carved wooden statue, which had been crudely bolted to the deck of his lovely Grace, and he grieved that his beautiful ship would end her days thus altered, thus corrupted. Perhaps it was to the good that whatever spirit had been in her had apparently been washed away by the blood of an innocent man. Damnation closed his eyes and said a brief prayer for the soul of Raymond Fitzpatrick: first to God the Father and Christ the Son; and then to the Morrigan, she who reveled in deaths soaked in blood and stabbed with pain, and to Manannan Mac Lir, Keeper of the Ways, who would guide the souls of dead sailors through the dark waters to their final rest.

He could not help but ask for a blessing for himself, as well.

“Strip him!” the Shadowman ordered after Damnation was tethered to the Lady. “The blood must flow free.” Damnation kept his eyes closed as they cut his clothes off of his body, so they would not see the fear in his eyes.

When he was bare, left only with the sleeves of his shirt trapped under the cords that had tied him in place, the Englishmen backed away, and then there was a silence. He listened to the waves coming in to the shore, to the creaks and moans of his ship, his lovely ship, and he tried not to listen for the sound of the lash coming through the air, the sound of the hooks sinking into his bare back. He had been flogged before, as all sailors inevitably are; but never like this. He knew himself unprepared, and he prayed only that he would die well.

Then: a surprise. A voice, familiar and unexpected – the voice of Nicholas Hobbes. He heard it and knew it, though he could not make out the words Hobbes exchanged with the malevolently hissing Shadowman; he was just about to open his eyes, to see what expression, what emotion, might be on Hobbes’s face, but then Hobbes gave an order, in a clear voice, and Damnation squeezed his eyes tight shut and clenched his jaw.

The order was, “Begin.”

The lash fell almost immediately – but it did not fall, it struck, coming around his left side to his right, and the agony was instant and overwhelming. The hooks were then pulled out as the lash was drawn back for the next blow, and Damnation bared his gritted teeth; he felt blood trickling down his back, down his bare leg, and he thought he heard it pattering on the deck.

Then the lash bit him again, and he heard only the screaming in his own mind, felt only the lightning blasts of pain and the ache in his throat as he struggled, with all of his strength, with all of his will, not to let those screams out into the air: he did not want his cries to please the Shadowman and his minions.

But of course, at last, he did scream aloud, and curse them, and plead with them to stop. No matter what sound he made, how he begged, the lash struck again, and again, the hooks tearing out pieces of his flesh, spurting gouts of blood, tearing his cries from his throat, ripping his life from his body.

Until at last, a new sound could be heard. A rumbling, shaking sound, as of an enraged bull tied into a stall and beginning to tear down the very walls with its mighty struggles. When it began, the lash still struck, but as the rumbling sound grew, the lash struck but weakly, the hooks failing to catch, and then the flogging stopped.

Some moments later, Damnation’s hoarse screams faded, and then he too heard the noise. With some effort, he pried open his eyes.

The ship was on fire. But it was not a flame of red and yellow and orange, and the ship was not consumed: the Grace burned with a blue-white light flickering from every inch of her from water to sky, keel and hull to mast and sail, and he saw, through bleary eyes, the gape-mouthed sailors looking wildly around as their hair stood on end.

The deck began to shake and rock beneath them, the shrouds and lines thrumming as if in a high wind; but the sun shone down, the sea was calm with only a gentle swell – over which the Grace now pitched and tossed.

“She lives,” Damnation whispered, his torn voice full of wonder, perhaps even joy.

Then the Shadowman began to laugh. The laugh was strong and loud, without the sibilant hiss of his speech, but with every bit as much malice. Damnation turned his head, though it seemed to weigh as much as the very Earth itself, and saw the dark glee on that shadowed face. The Shadowman gestured, and Hobbes – his own expression unreadable, though he avoided looking directly at his Irish counterpart – put a hand on the arm of his giant bosun, who let his lash-arm go limp at the touch. The scourging was ended.

For now.

The Shadowman stepped close, looking into Damnation’s eyes until he saw the Irishman recognize and focus on him. Then he nodded. “You were right. You were the one I sought.” The houngan smiled wide, revealing just a hint of blood still on his white teeth. “We depart in the morning,” he said. “Before dawn.

“Leave him there until then,” he ordered.

Damnation fell into darkness.

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Categories: Book II, Not-The-Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log #79: Caged

All is lost.

No. Not all. If all were lost, what matter this log, these pages that record my life? My mind?

I know not for whom I write. At the first, and at various times since our arrival here, I have taken up this pen as a way to order my mind: I find that constricting my rampant thoughts into determinate words, especially those inscribed in the permanence of ink on paper, is a great aid to the elimination of confusion, the solution of dilemma, as the act often leads to a certainty in plans of action henceforward. After I thought that I knew our place, I hoped the tale might be preserved for posterity and the general interest – aye, and my name preserved as well, I did hope. I thought then that we would return to our native land, and my fellow men would read these words and know of our deeds, our failures and triumphs. Of late I think I have taken to this log as something of a confessor: I unburden my soul by writing here of my weaknesses and iniquities and follies, too numerous now to count.

Methinks I must write these words for my men. Soon I will be gone from them, and they may be lost; I must attempt to explain the steps we took to reach this place, so that they may find a path forward. Of course some of ye know somewhat of this, being a part of it; but I think ye do not know the whole of what I have done and the reasoning wherefore.

Thus I say, if you are reading this, my friends, Ian, Llewellyn, Balthazar, my good cousin Owen, stout Kelly, Sergeant MacManus, my strong-hearted lads: I beg your forgiveness. I have led you all so far astray. I regret it more than any sin of my thrice-cursed life that I cannot bring ye all home again.

I cannot. My ship – the Grace is, though she floats still, now shorn of that enchantment which, I believe, opened the way through Time itself to bring us here. She will never sail those mystical waters again. This world, now, is your only world. I wish you well of it.

I hope that the sacrifice of my life to save yours brings me some measure of atonement.

I will now recount for you all of what I have learned this night, so that ye may all comprehend what I now do: I know elsewise will I seem enmaddened, and I know not what constraints my madness may place on you. There are no constraints, lads: I am sound, and I am content with the one act left to me. I do this freely. Ye are free men – Irishmen. Gentlemen of fortune. Do as you will. I wish ye all joys this world may offer ye.

***

 

Once I had learned of Nicholas Hobbes the location of my captive friends, and the name of the villain who held them captive, I urged our hired pilot Andre to course us there directly so I could learn of the disposition of our foes and form stratagems. Howsoever, once Andre had learned of Lyle Okagaweh’s involvement, he insisted on speaking to Two-Saint before proceeding against such a foe; if I had needed further proof that a man may not serve two masters, I have such. As Andre served as our pilot, the steering of the ship was in his hands and his hands alone; had I wrested the conveyance from him, still I could not have found our destination without his assistance. Hence I acquiesced, though bitterly, and we returned to our lodging. Andre there did make the attempt to contact Two-Saint by ‘phone, but could not, said he, get a signal, and so he departed alone to seek out his liege. I conferred with my men, who all agree that, subtlety and subterfuge being requisite for a nighttime invasion seeking mainly intelligence, Balthazar Lynch should be my accomplice, as he is the slightest, quickest, and most silent hunter of we four. Then we had naught to do but wait, and so did we, I keeping this log and recording my conversation with Hobbes. I wondered, and worried, over his description of this man Okagaweh, this Shadowman, he calls him, and that he held my men at his mercy; what toxin did he infuse in this so-called physic that delivered both euphoria and will-sapping enslavement? Would my men still be under his sway, even though I tore them bodily from his clutches?

Will any of us be truly free? Have we ever been?

At length, and surely mere moments before the last tether of my sanity broke under the strain of waiting in idleness, Andre returned. Two-Saint had sanctioned this initial foray, but he wanted us not to engage with Lyle Okagaweh or his men, and not to underestimate them, for this Shadowman is a dire adversary. But I and my men have fought the weight of the British Empire for all of our lives; Irishmen fear no foe. Lynch and I were secured into the Jeep-beast ere Andre was finished speaking, and so soon as we could acknowledge his warnings, we weighed anchor and sailed.

To our advantage, the clouds overhead had hooded the moon’s lantern; Lynch’s apparel was dark already, and I was able to borrow a shirt of Diego Colina’s – the man has proved both an honorable and generous host, and a staunch ally; I beg you gentlemen to prefer him if you can – to replace my white finery; we smeared mud on our milk-white Irishness once we arrived. Andre halted the Jeep-beast some several ship’s-lengths away from the place, so as not to alert sentries with the beast’s grumbling; he remained aboard to keep watch, having taken note of Lynch’s eye-phone and ascertaining how he could give and receive signals, were there need. Lynch and I crept through black-hearted jungle, then, snared and clutched by the foliage, stumbling on the uneven terrain, hunted by the night-calls of animals such as we had never heard before. We sensed perils all about us, above us and below us, before and behind; if Lynch was not as terrified as I, then I am mad.

Soon enough, though, we broke from cover into a long clear slope leading down towards the shore, though a forested rise betwixt us and the sea kept us from seeing the water. Even in the darkness, we could make out the road, a band of lighter earth leading to the house we sought, which had some lamps burning dimly against the night. Assured therefore that the night-eyes of any guards would be light-blind, we made our way quickly to the vicinity of the domicile, taking shelter behind a copse of low trees.

We soon espied that which we sought: a metal cage with the forms of men spread across the ground within; in the moments when the breeze quieted, we could hear their grunts and grumbles, and not a few moans of sore suffering. We could hear too the slow crash of waves, telling us that the shore was indeed close, and giving me hope that my Grace might be near as well.

We also spied that which we had not sought, though of course we expected: a watch kept by the house. Two guards stood and conversed, one diligently searching the darkness, the other seated, nodding, seeking the plum coveted by all men on watch: the kiss of sweet slumber. Though we could not hear their converse, as any men who have kept a night’s watch, we knew the thrust of it: one man sought to keep honorable vigil, while the other assured him, after what days or weeks of fruitless alertness, that they should sleep without fear; the final compromise was that each man followed his heart, and soon there was but one guard on watch, while one man snored in a chair on the porch of the house.

We watched as the sentry circled the house, keeping a regular pattern of movement, until we knew that we might have some minutes to approach and investigate the cage and its contents. Lynch stayed back in case I might need a diversion of the guard’s attention, or to call in Andre for our speedy withdrawal, and I crept to the cage, crawling on my belly while the guard faced my direction, and then scuttling crab-wise as he vanished around the house’s corner.

I approached the cage, and I stopped and stared, trusting my dark attire and mud-smeared skin to hide me from the sentry’s nearby perambulations. I thought I might recognize one of the men nearest me – Malachy Rearden, I thought – but I was certain I did not recognize the pale flaxen-haired youth who groaned and moaned beside him, clearly in discomfort and perhaps fevered, though the darkness hid detail. But I had not doubt that he was not of my crew. Perhaps I was deceived about Rearden, and these were some other men. Could there possibly be two such cages filled with miserable men? Might Hobbes have misled me?

Had I fallen into another trap set by the Devil’s Lash?

It took every bit of my will to hold me there and prevent my leaping up and absquatulating at top speed. I rehearsed the words I traded with Hobbes, recalled his demeanor and expression; I was as certain as I could be that he had spoke the plain truth. Which was not entirely certain, nay, as Hobbes is English and therefore untrustable; also he is by his own admission no longer the commander of this voyage, and thus may himself be ignorant or misled, and myself the same at one remove. But even if this were not an ambush, I asked myself: who were these men in this cage? Cage there surely was, and men within; if they were not my men, might they know the way to my crew? Could I free them, would they stand with us? Or at the least serve to distract our enemies?

Reasoning thus, I crept closer while the guard was beyond the house, and came around to the side of the cage, where I once more lay still and peered through the darkness at the mounds of the men who there lay. Was that – a man’s round belly, rising up where he lay on his back? Could it be Padraig Doyle, who carried such a belly? There, that man: was that the white hair of our Salty O’Neill? How could I be certain, looking in pure darkness on huddled men sleeping ten yards away from me?

But then a man rose up on an elbow and spoke, loudly, these words: “If ye be kickin’ me the once more, Robert Sweeney, ye horn-footed goat-shite, I’ll gnaw yer foot off with me bloody eyeteeth!” The man sounded as though more than half of him was asleep and the rest was cross, but ‘twas all Ian O’Gallows. These were my men. Now I moved closer with confidence, and had to stem my eagerness so that I could maintain surreptitiousness.

Despite my efforts, I made some sound, and one of the men lying at the very edge of the cage heard me then, and lifted his head to peer out into the darkness. Soon his gaze must have caught on the one part of myself I could not black with mud nor cloth: the whites of my eyes. I saw him stiffen, saw his hand clutch at the metal mesh that enclosed them, and I knew that I was seen. I raised a hand and covered my mouth, pointing at him with the other hand to enjoin his silence, and the man nodded; I crept closer, having to pause for the time when the sentry ambled by, on the far side of the cage from where I lay on my belly, but still in plain sight through the unsolid walls of the enclosure.

When I was within a man’s length of the cage, I recognized the man who seen me: ‘twas Llewellyn Vaughn. I had to smile at how his vigilance surpassed that of all my battle-tested sea-wolves; Vaughn is no warrior, but his is the broadest intellect, the deepest thought, and the sharpest fine perception of us all. I heard him whisper then, no more than a breath of air, and easily mistaken for the murmur of a sleeping man, “Captain?”

I waved my fingers at him and crept closer still, unwilling to speak until I was beside the cage, and my whisper could become indistinguishable from that of one of the captive men (were I to whisper from six feet away, it may be noted by one within as coming from an unlikely direction). Soon I was near enough to reach the metal mesh myself, and I reached and clasped Vaughn’s fingers, he gripping in return with the strength of great hope’s return into a heart full of despair.

“You came,” he whispered to me.

“Well and how could I not, seeing how pleasant your letter made it all seem?” I winked at him to show I jested; Vaughn has many great gifts, but a sense of humor is not among them, nor an understanding of ironical comments. “How fare you all?”

“We are wounded,” Vaughn  replied. “All of us, as well as the three sailors from Captain Hobbes’s crew who were placed in the cage with us. Several of the men have fevers, and all are weak from sun and a lack of water and food.”

I squeezed his fingers to stop him ere he could sail off into a specific and detailed report of every man’s every hurt; Vaughn never considered a question as having been answered until he had imparted every fact in his mind that related to the query – and his mind could hold enough facts to fill a ship’s hold. “Hobbes has men in there?” I lowered my whisper until it was barely enough breath to stir a fly from my lip.

Vaughn still heard me, and he nodded. “Three. They refused orders and this is their punishment. It is not clear if their ostracism is permanent, or intended to create an opportunity to infiltrate and gather intelligence from our men. In my opinion, there is little need for subterfuge; all that they wish to know is your whereabouts, Captain. They have had no use for us but as proverbial whipping boys.”

I frowned at him. “They flogged ye? All of ye?”

He nodded. “At least twice for every man in this cage. Three for O’Gallows who attempted to intercede and prevent a flogging that likely would have proved fatal for O’Neill, and nearly was for Ian.”

I had to take a deep breath and let it out slowly to control my temper, and it was only when Vaughn softly whispered, “Ow,” that I realized my grip was crushing his fingers through the metal mesh. Quickly I let go, dipping my head in apology. “Will ye fetch Ian for me, Llewellyn?”

He nodded, and shifted himself to his left, reaching out to the nearest prone form and gripping the man’s calf. After a moment, the man started out of sleep, muttering, “Wha? Whozzat?” Vaughn left his hnd on the man’s leg until he turned his head, and I saw it was Ian O’Gallows. Ian rubbed his eyes, gazing a bleary-eyed query at Vaughn; the Welshman merely pointed at me. Ian looked my way, and I raised a hand and waggled my fingers in greeting; I don’t know that he recognized me through the mud on my face or if he saw that I was without the cage and simple deduced who I must be, but first he said “Christ’s shite!”, then clapped a hand over his own mouth, and looked to the house where the sleeping sentry was the only guard in sight, the watchful sentry having gone around to the far side. Then Ian looked around the cage, though to my eyes none of the other men had reacted to his cursing. Still he slapped a hand at his leg, muttered somewhat about accursed biting fleas, and then shifted around until his head was near me. He pillowed his head on his hands and whispered, “Thank God for ye, Nate.” Then he feigned a snore.

I will not recapitulate what he told me then; he repeated Vaughn’s uncertainty about the Sea-Cat men in the cage, though at least he thought to tell me that they all slept at the other end and could not hear us over the sound of more than a dozen men snoring. I asked if they could escape, or fight their way free, and he told me nay, as they were too weak, hungry, and sick. I asked for the details of how they had come to this pass, and he reached to his ribs, removing a packet of blood-spotted bandages, which he stuffed through a hole in the fence; I knew not why he wanted me to have it until he named it his log. I will include it with these pages, and save myself the reiteration. Even rescue by myself, Kelly, MacManus and Lynch was problematic as, O’Gallows told me, three of our men were not held in the cage: Salty O’Neill, Abram O’Grady, and my cousin Owen MacTeigue, were all three held inside the house, in he knew not what condition.

Hearing that, I knew there was no choice: Hobbes had been right. I patted Ian’s hand, told him not to worry, and to tell the men that all would soon be well. I made to withdraw, asking only if my Grace was indeed nearby; I wished for lone last look at her before I do what I must for my men.

‘Twas Vaughn that answered. “Yes, Captain, the Grace is just beyond those trees, at anchor in the cove below. But – Captain, I fear that she will not sail as before.”

I hissed in a breath, but Ian frowned at Vaughn and whispered, “Nay, there be naught wrong wi’ the ship. Apart from the bilge rats who have crawled up to man her decks, and that horror they have nailed down before the mast.” I knew he must refer to the Scourged Lady, as Kelly had told me they had brought their accursed figurehead aboard my sweet Grace when they captured her in New York.

Vaughn looked at me and then at Ian. “I refer to her – inexplicable sailing. How she brought us here.” He looked back at me. “It was that voyage that drew the attention of our captor, the one referred to by his men as the Shadowman. He seeks the ship’s power. It seems that he thinks you yourself are required for the ship to perform in the manner he wishes.” He paused for a moment, cleared his throat quietly – and then we waited for the sentry to pass around the corner once more before he continued. “If his first experiment is an indication, he believes that your blood is the key to the ship’s ability. Or perhaps your death. I speculate that his killing of Raymond Fitzpatrick, who claimed to be your blood relative, was his first attempt to command the Grace’s performance. Ironic, then, that this same murder may have removed that power from the Grace entirely.”

I had to stop myself from shouting at him to get to the point; I merely gripped the mesh, hard, and hissed at him, my eyes wide, my face surely that of a madman.

He got to the point. “The runes, Captain. The glowing runes on the ship’s stern are now gone, blotted out, it seems, by Mr. Fitzpatrick’s life’s blood. I have seen the ship in starlight and moonlight, and I saw not a glimpse of its former luminescence. Naught but a dark stain now decorates the Grace’s stern.”

We each glanced up to the sky, and realized then that the clouds had broken, and we were bathed in the light of the moon’s full face. I had to retreat, then, as the light would make me too easily seen, should the sleeping sentry awaken or the wakeful one glance my way as I retreated. I bid my friends farewell, knowing in my heart that it was likely for the last time, though I said nothing of that. I bid them take heart, keep hope, and wait.

Then I went to see my ship.

Ah, ye gods! She is such beauty, such an incarnation of pure freedom and might, made into a construct of sailcloth and rope, wood and nails and tar. And now: blood. And no longer: magic. Vaughn is right; I saw the dark stain, saw where my mother’s runes are no longer visible. If he is correct that those letters inscribed on the Grace were the means of our travel through time – and I believe that is the truth – then they are gone, and all hope of our returning home is gone with them.

I stayed in my shadowed space, under the line of trees atop the small rise, gazing down on my lovely ship, for as long as I could. When I knew that Lynch and Andre would be growing anxious, and may endeavor to seek me, I turned my back on my Grace, and crept back, with a heavy heart and a jet-black mind, to where Lynch waited, and then together we returned to Andre, and then here, to the house of Diego Colina.

On the morrow I will take the last steps required to see my men freed, though if the Grace can no longer sail through time, I know not how the Shadowman will respond. It does not change what I must do. I will give this log to Lynch, who can carry it to Ian or Vaughn, who can read it; they will together plot a new course for the men who have followed me, and now will follow me no more, for they must not go where I go.

I shall not return.

I wish ye well, lads, and may all the blessings of Heaven and Earth descend upon ye all. Ye deserve every one.

Goodbye.

Signed this day, the Seventh of October in the year Two Thousand and Eleven,

Damnation Kane

Once Captain of the Grace of Ireland, and her crew

Categories: Book II, Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log #65: Damn Diary

Written on the Nineteenth Day of September

To Captain Damnation Kane

 

The first and most vital news that we must share is that the ship is well. She rests at anchor in a private cove on the north side of the island of Bermuda. She has two new owners: one, an old, old friend, seeks to make the return journey home, whatever scourges of Hell might step in his way. The other, a local man of erudition and influence similar to your mother’s, admires her work with the Grace, and wishes to know her secrets so that he might make them a part of his own repertoire. He would be deeply gratified to make your acquaintance.

The men are well, though Ray Fitzpatrick met with an unfortunate accident. He was asked to fill in for you, being, so he said, near and dear to your own heart; in the end, however, he fell short of the mark. It is in the blood, you know, the gift of true command which you have, which enables you to get the most from your ship; one without your blood, even though he may wish to play the hero, simply cannot find success, and may pay the ultimate price of failure. Perhaps one closer to your gifts – your blood, as we say – may have more success, and take up your mantle and proper place aboard.

We do not know that this missive will find you well, though we hope for the best; communication is limited, for we are well-protected by many stout Englishmen of the sort you can no longer find easily these days, along with the penetrating and far-seeing eye of our new master, the local fellow. He does have strong ties to the community, and a loyal following on this island that is his home.

We are unfamiliar with the workings of the local mail service – it seems that one cannot simply ask a passing traveler to bring a letter to an acquaintance at a certain destination and have it passed hand to hand; rather there is some official coterie of messengers who carry all mail for a fee; but it must be posted properly, by a system with which we are unfamiliar; and so we are entrusting the missive to a local lad, a likely fellow, who is the only visitor we get in our secluded new surroundings; we will give him this letter, addressed to you in care of Monsieur Claude Navarre, whose place of residence is known to us, along with sufficient funds to post it and extra money for his trouble; we warned him specifically not to break the seal, but we’re sure it will reach you unread – trustworthy as a Puritan, this boy is, we deem.

We do hope this letter finds you well, and in pleasing company. We urge you to find your way to visit us at your earliest convenience; this place reminds us strongly of Clear Island, the place we visited when last we were in Ireland. But we need you to bring the celebration to life, as we all hope to do.

 

Praying for our coming reunion,

We remain your loyal friends,

Ian O’Gallows and Llewellyn Vaughn

 

***

 

 

this is my log

i wil keep it on my phon

Captin keeps a log all the tym and heeryts down all that hapins tho heeryts betir thanmee

but i wil get betir

ihava phon

chester help mee somuch hee is sosmart the croo laf at peepil heer at americas becuz they ar weak and they doo fools acts but nun of us kan reed or ryt but for Captin and mayt and sirjin von but chester kan reed and ryt and he nose all of the phon and internet and apps

hee help mee hee put apps on my phon my first reed no reader and my first speller and my first math and hee sho mee how to yuz my phon and how to read and look at internet and maps and ryt signuls to him in messages sirjin von was to teech me my letirs but wee had no tym on the Grace to lern so i do not no much

but i wil lern now with my phon and chester is help

i wil mayk Captin prowd uv mee

Captin cum too tahk too mee then hee sleep in van with mee last day i say i luv him hee say hee luv mee then he sleep nextoo mee i did not cloz my iyz al nyt i was so hapee

log

Captin try to tayk my phon he make mahk of mee hee say i look at phon toomuch

i doo it for yoo Captin al for yoo for yoo for yoo

hee make me angery

log

i think Captin is not al a good man.

wee herd noyziz from beehyn wall of angery and vilens. man hit wooman and shee cry.

Captin doo no thing.

i help i hit man hoo hit woman. i beet him i put him owt.

shee is good wooman her name is mindy.

we tahk for owrz.

i tel her abowt Captin and say i do not no if hee is good man.

shee say shee think her man is a good man and then hee is not shee say thay kan bee 1 thing then 1 other thing and not fursthing then go bak to fursthing sum tymz or not never agin.

i say i hayt wen Captin acts wurs than i no he is.

mindy smyl and say yu hav a crush on him.

i do not no wut shee meenz.

shee ask if i luv him.

i say i doo.

i cry. i doonot no wy i cry i never cry never never but shee is so good and i doonot hav anee frenz no 1 too tahk too.

shee hold me wyl i cry shee say it is o k it is good to luv and shee say i am good becuz i help her wen shee need help and i do not ask for no thing bak so the man i luv must bee good too she is shur.

i spent the nyt with her wee tahk al nyt.

shee is my fren.

mindy and chester are my frenz. i have frenz.

mindy noz my seecret. shee say shee new ryt off shee say shee duzint no wy the men doo not no. wy the Captin duz not see mee and no. i doo not no. i thot i hyd good but mindy new. thay ar smartir than us.

so may hap shee is ryt and Captin is good man becuz i luv him. may hap i luv him becuz hee is good man so shee say.

i say to mindy i try to lern the phon and read and ryt to be good enuf for Captin.

shee say i must do it for mee i must bee betir for mee.

shee is veree smart.

i wil do it for mee.

 

***

 

September 20

Dear Diary,

Jeez, two weeks since I wrote in you? So much for my decision to keep a log. Well, hell, it’s not like anything has happened worth writing about. What do I write on an average day? “Ate food, did yoga, cleaned house, flew plane, slept.” Multiply that by fifteen, and I’m all caught up. I don’t know how that guy did it – what was his name, the one in Merry Olde England who kept a diary every day for like fifty years? Pepper? Pepsi? Whatever.

Nothing interesting has happened since he left.

Shit. Now I’m too depressed to write what I was going to write, which wasn’t even interesting in the first goddamn place.

 

September 23

That’s it. I am never flying tourists for Jerry Rampaneau again. I don’t know what it is about that guy, maybe he finds all his clients through the Dirty Old Men Network, but I get my ass pinched every time! I know that’s why that pig Jerry calls me for his charters, because he likes it when I duck under the wing or bend over for the wheel blocks, but why is it that every tourist he sells has to have crab hands?

And then I have to look at their wives, and see the expressions on their faces, and the way they look at me, and at their pig-husbands laughing with Jerry Rampaneau while they speculate about the color of my goddamned pubic hair. UGH! Next time I’m throwing them out of the plane!

No. There won’t be a next time, because NEVER. AGAIN.

I hate having red hair. And I hate men.

Yes, Diary. Him too.

 

September 25

Have to rush – had to lie to Nana to avoid blind date she wants to fix me up with, so I have to dress and go out for pretend date. Melly will meet me at Watermark. I don’t know how I’ll manage to keep Nana from fixing me up with whatever grandson of whatever old friend she’s been talking to about her poor spinster granddaughter – I swear, Diary, she has more friends than a Baptist church has Amens! And every one of them has some cross-eyed half-bald slack-jawed hillbilly of a grandson whom I should be interested in because he goes to church and visits his grandmaw every Sunday. My LORD, Nana!

Just had to write down the good news on the Never Again for Jerry Rampaneau front: I’ve got a line on a job that has possibilities. It looks like I’ll be flying a surveying team over the coast to look for storm damage after Irene. That’s right, Di-Di: government work. HALLELUJAH! If this flight goes well, maybe they’ll call me for the next one. Maybe this job will run long! What do they care? It’s not their money!

I MAY GET SOME GOVERNMENT WASTE!

God bless America.

***

 

FuckshitfuckFUCKshitfuck oh, shit, oh fuck. FUCK!

Shit. SHIT!

Why did I have to go there. Why tonight. Why now!

Why did he have to be there, oh Lord, oh Lord, please, please help me. Please don’t – don’t bring this down on me. Please, God. Oh, please. Not him.

Not Brick.

 

September 26

Well, I suppose that’s what I get for praying to God. After all, that bastard took Granpa Ray away from Nana, and he killed Mama and Daddy. And he made that devil from Hell, Beaujolais “Brick” Calhoun.

Now he brought me back Damnation Kane.

Don’t get me wrong, Di-Di: I am so very glad to see him again. But –

Oh, Lord. He drove up in a van, a white van, one I’ve never seen before, and when it came to a stop in front of the house and that side panel door slid open before the engine turned off – my heart just stopped! I was so sure, SO sure, that Brick and his fucking hillbilly white trash buddies were coming for me, and they were going to take me away and chain me by the ankle to a wood-burning stove in the kitchen of some tarpaper shack with no electricity in the Ozarks so Brick could – breed me – until he got shinnied up and beat me and his rape-babies to death just like his daddy did to his family. Oh my Lord, I was so sure that van was bringing my horrible death.

And then he jumped out. Smiling. And oh, Di-Di, he was so beautiful, it was like sunrise on the ocean. And he swept up the walk, took me in his arms, and kissed me.

Then I slapped him.

I think I probably shouldn’t have slapped him.

I mean, Di-Di, he was absolutely taking liberties. With my lips, my body, I can’t believe he whirled me around like that! He did! He came bounding up the walk, and all I could see was his eyes, burning right down to the heart of me and then into it – and I did not tell him he could look at me like that, I did not invite him into my soul

Is that where he is?

I think he might be. God, he can’t be. He can’t.

But then the next thing I know is he’s right at the top of the porch steps, and his arms are around me and he spins me around and tips me backwards! And all I could do was grab onto his shoulders and hold on for dear life, with my heart pounding away in my throat, sounding like a helicopter in my ears, my God! So fast! I didn’t know my heart could beat that fast and not burst out of me and go screaming down the street with smoke coming out of its ventricles! And then, with me falling backwards except for my arms around him and his around me, he leans his head down and kisses me. Hard. Not angry-hard, but – I can still feel my lips tingling. Not quite bruised, they don’t hurt, but – soft and scared and wide-eyed is how my mouth feels, and thinking about it makes me want to race outside right now and jump on him, and make him feel like a scared virgin on Prom night. My god! It’s not like that was the first time I’ve been kissed!

It felt like the first time I’ve been kissed.

And so then I slapped him. Well, first he swung me upright and let me go. I almost think the slap was half to get my balance back, like putting your hand on something solid to steady you, since the whole – well, the whole me – was quivering and weak as a willow tree. So then I slapped him, and hard, and he went stiff and tense, and his eyes flashed, and I wouldn’t want him angry with me (except in just the right circumstances), but then one of his friends – they were cheering when he was kissing me, did I say that, Di-Di? Like fratboys at a strip club. Though I didn’t hear them at first, while he was kissing me. I didn’t hear anything but my heart beating. But when he stopped, one of his friends said something in some foreign language I didn’t recognize at all, and first he looked mad at his friend, but then he stepped back and, I swear to God, he bowed, and said, “I beg your kind forgiveness, my lady. That was ungallant.”

So what did I do? Did I throw myself at him for Part Two of that kiss? Did I stand tall and aloof in my icy-cold dignity? Did I smile and accept his apology and give him one back for the slap, which I totally didn’t even mean to do, except he had me all twisted up between happiness and outrage and lust and – and fear!

Oh, God. Brick. Shitfuck.

No, I ripped into him like he was a teenager egging Nana’s house on Halloween. I think I started with “How dare you,” and it went downhill from there. I mean, he deserved some of it. Because he left weeks ago, and we didn’t make any promises then, and what if there was somebody in my life and that kiss got me in trouble through no fault of my own? Especially with how I responded to it, which was completely involuntary, entirely out of my control.

And as I’m saying all these things, these terrible things – well, some of them just true and right – and he’s just standing there, taking everything I can throw at him, all of a sudden here comes Nana descending on me like the wrath of God. She gives me an ear full – no, both ears full – of my failure to provide proper Southern hospitality for our friends.

She was absolutely right, and I apologized. And he did, too, which raised him back once more from the depths of my hatred. But I couldn’t stay there with him, not with sixteen tons of mortification hanging off of me, and Nana still breathing fire, Southern Belle fire which is the worst because she would have to hide it from our guests, and so she wouldn’t do her usual explosion of righteous fury, and instead she would just smolder white-hot all day and spend hours giving me evil looks and whispering little digs whenever she passed me with the coffee service or the tray of snacks.

No, thank you. I went to work, to get everything ready for the government charter tomorrow.

Nana doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know about Brick.

She doesn’t know that Brick Calhoun has just been released from prison, for the second time, after a three-year sentence for drug possession. (And unless my math is wrong, he got out before three years were up – and what the fuck, South Carolina Corrections? Don’t even try to tell me he got out for good behavior. Not Brick.) She does not know that he got his nickname – of course he was just called Beau in high school – after he beat another drug dealer almost to death with a brick, for which he was given his first time in prison, a five-year sentence up in Turbeville for aggravated assault.

Nana does not know that Brick Calhoun has been stalking me since our senior year, when he decided that I should be his gal, and didn’t let little things like the fact that I have loathed him since the day we met stand in the way of his obsession with me.

Now he’s out, and unless he has changed, he’s already driving by the house to keep tabs on me. He’s tried to scare off my boyfriends in the past, and he’s done it, more than once.

I wish he could scare me off, and I could just leave and he would leave me alone. But I don’t get to be scared off. I just get to be scared.

I do not know what would happen if Brick met Damnation. I do know how Brick would react if he had seen Nate kissing me like that on the front porch: he’d go get a brick. Or maybe a sawed-off shotgun.

I can’t tell Nate. He will try to rescue me, and either he will end up dead, or he will kill Brick and get himself sent to prison, and no sir, not for me, not in this life.

I can’t tell Nana, or she will go to the police, and I can’t go to the police because Brick has tons of friends on the Charleston police force. He played football with half of them or with their sons, and three-quarters of them think he’s a hero because that dealer he almost killed is black and a bad man in his own right. Brick is no kind of vigilante hero, he beat that man because he wanted to take over his drug territory, but he told the police it was because the man sold heroin to his baby sister, and so the police all love him for what he did. He wouldn’t have served time at all except he gave that man brain damage and his family called in the NAACP, who pressured the DA into pressing charges and making them stick – and even then it should have been ten years or more for attempted murder. But if I or Nana went to the police, they would smile indulgently and pat me on the shoulder and ask why don’t I just go out for a nice drink with Brick? After all, I need a man, don’t I? Purty lil thang lahk me?

God damn all good ole boys. I hope they all go to Hell and get raped by the Devil.

There is only one place where I am safe from Brick, and that is in the sky. I will get more work after this government charter ends – I will fly every day with Jerry Rampaneau and let him pinch my ass every hour on the hour – and I will stay away from home for as long as it takes until Brick goes away, loses interest in me or goes back to prison, whichever comes first.

I know it isn’t a good plan, Di-Di. But I don’t know what else to do.

Categories: Book II, Not-The-Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log #56: Poe and Pennsylvania Dutch

Log

10 September 2011

We have hiked many miles today, perhaps ten or twelve as the crow flies and half again as many around curves and over hills, before MacManus’s leg gave out. Brave man, to make that distance without complaint. The roads are as magnificent as all Americalish roads I have seen, which serves to make the miles slip by with greater ease than would the same distance on what passes for Irish roads, all mud and sharp stones.

Brother Bob was of the belief that we should not be on foot at all this day; we followed a wide black-stoned road, the which he said was an inter-state highway, and for much of it, Bob walked with his hand outthrust, with fist clenched and thumb prominently upraised. He called this “hitching a ride,” and claimed that beast-wagons would stop for us to embark and travel in speed and comfort within their steel bellies.

But the miles and the sun crossing the sky proved him wrong. Thousands of beast-wagons – perhaps ten thousands – passed us by, and nary a one slowed. My mates and I were unsurprised, as we do not share Brother Bob’s unflagging faith in the goodness of life, and of our fellow men

Ah, well. Tomorrow is another day. Who can say what Providence has in store? Perhaps we will hitch a ride. And if not – another fifteen miles toward our goal.

 

11 September 2011

This day was, it seems, a sad day for America; ’twas the tenth year passed since a terrible attack slaughtered thousands in a single day. Hearing of this put me in mind of Drogheda, and my mother and her kin who suffered so at the hands of Devil Cromwell and his Puritan savages – savages like my father. Brother Bob was most solemn this day. We had made camp on a soft green sward some few hundred paces away from the highway, beyond a hedgerow; when we woke with the dawn, we found that we lay within sight of a graveyard, which had been impossible to discern in the dim light of the night before. We Irish were confused that no church nor kirk stood guard over the graves, but we did not pose our curiosity to Bob: he had already bowed his head and was praying, facing a tall pole that bore the flag of this nation – a field of white and crimson stripes with a starred blue field atop it, in colors derived from the British flag, it seems. When Bob finished his prayer, he told us that the day was one of mourning for his nation, and as we broke our fast and began our journey once more, he told us of the attack: it seems the enemy stole air-planes, the same sort that Meredith Vance pilots, and drove them into buildings filled with people. There were great explosions – I must assume the air-planes were armed, and the collision struck off the powder rooms – and the buildings collapsed, like Jericho’s walls at Joshua’s trump, thus ending thousands of lives. These air-planes are a terrible weapon, it would seem. Now I imagine them as ships-of-the-line, but borne on the wind, rather than on the waves. It shudders me to imagine one such stooping down on my Grace from above, a falcon o’er a mere mouse, talons stretched and reaching, and a death-cry tearing from its throat. Terrible.

Though a sad day for this nation, it was a happier day for us: a man stopped and hitched us a ride. We made as many miles today in the back of his beast-wagon (And this one was properly wagon-shaped, with a covered bench in front and a high-sided bed behind for carrying goods) as we did all of yesterday, and he carried us for but half an hour or so. A kind man, he sat on the covered bench with Brother Bob while we three scalawags rode behind, the wind of our passing forcing us to silence, which merely allowed us to appreciate the sights of the countryside. It is a lovely land, here, green and verdant as home. I find the roads to be somewhat of an imposition on the greenery, though perhaps that is simply that I am unused to seeing their broad black expanse, far more apparent to the eyes than a dirt track would be. The driver, Bob told us later, was a veteran of an Americalish war, as Brother Bob himself was; that was the reason for the man’s stopping to retrieve us on this day, a day when, Bob said, people of America come together to help and succour one another. A happy outcome of an old tragedy. Would that the Irish had the same spirit, but our divisions go back through far too many centuries for the suffering caused by Cromwell to heal it. I find myself admiring these Americalish their patriot’s hearts.

Our kind Americalish patriot took us into the city of Baltimore, another of the great cities of this nation. I would write of its wonders, but what can I say that I have not said of Washington? Baltimore is large. It has too many buildings, and too many people. There are not enough trees. All the land, all the life, is crushed under stone and metal and glass and the feet of men. The ocean is near enough to smell on the air, but the smell is blocked by the stink of the city’s beast-wagons. Though I will freely admit that the scent of these Americalish cities is far kinder to the nose than London-town, which smells of nothing but sewage and rotting waste, for many and many a mile. The beast-wagons, as bad as their effluvia is, are better than that.

We have found lodging as we found it the night before we left Washington: in a hostel, what would be called a hospital, a place for sheltering the indigent and desperate, supervised by a religious order. We have offered our labor, and were rewarded with a meal and a place to sleep, the which we now mean to enjoy.

 

12th September

We have walked out of Baltimore and back into the countryside today, and I am happy to say it. I do not like these cities. So many people should not exist in one place. I felt the same of London, when I visited – I could not depart fast enough. Even the fields and forests and mountains of this land feel the footsteps of more people than I would wish, but then they are not my fields, nor my people. I do wish them joy of their land and their prodigious legions of fellows. I only want to return to my ship.

Brother Bob made me a present this day. During our passage through Baltimore, we saw many and many a sign or a graven image, a statue or a shop, which made reference to someone named Poe; when I inquired of Bob as to this Poe and his great fame in the city of Baltimore, Bob was shocked to hear that I had no knowledge of him. He bought me a book, filled with poems by Edgar Allan Poe. I mean to read myself to sleep this night, and I am pleased by it.

 

Later

I understand now why this Poe is so revered in the city of his birth. What brilliance! I have not known the like, not since the great poems of old, the ones my mother told me, and my uncles sang to me at night, under Irish stars. But this – here, I will copy it here.

 

From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen

As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow; I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone;

And all I loved, I loved alone.

Then- in my childhood, in the dawn

Of a most stormy life- was drawn

From every depth of good and ill

The mystery which binds me still:

From the torrent, or the fountain,

From the red cliff of the mountain,

From the sun that round me rolled

In its autumn tint of gold,

From the lightning in the sky

As it passed me flying by,

From the thunder and the storm,

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view.

 

This man has known what I see when I look out on this land. Indeed, when I think on it, I may very well have felt this for the whole of my life. Gods. And it is titled “Alone.” Aye. Aye, ’tis the gods’ own truth, it is.

I wonder if this Poe was a man out of his own time, as am I. Perhaps if not one in fact, he was such in spirit. I would pity him, if he were not already in the peace of the grave, and myself still alive to suffer here.

I must read more.

 

13th September

I slept but little, this past night, and we walked many miles today – still no rides hitched to us. I must sleep.

 

14th September

No rides. More miles. Nothing to report. I am weary.

 

15th September

We have reached the outskirts of yet another city – Wilmington, this one is called, in the land of Delaware. Sweet mother of Christ, how bloody many of these Americalish are there? Where do they get the food to sustain these people? We have passed through farmland, for most of the miles that have not been drowned in buildings and cities and people – but surely they could not grow sufficient wheat for this many. Millions. Brother Bob said there are millions along this coast, what he calls the East Coast – which only tells me this land has a West Coast, perhaps with millions more. Damn me, there are not enough fish in the sea to feed this many. This is the entire world, in but one land!

I found myself growing desperate for something that is familiar, something from home. I would speak to my traveling companions, but I fear we have spent too long in each others’ pockets, and too many miles have rubbed us raw against one another. Our tempers are short, and the very sound of our voices sure to set them aflame, regardless of what is said. So I could not ask them to ease my home-sickness, nor keep fond company with me – and Brother Bob, of course, though his cheer is unfailing (and all the more irritating for that, as our spirits have descended), does not make me feel of home. So as the sun touched the horizon and we called a stop to this day’s slog, I used a telephone Lynch spotted for me to call the number that connects me to the Grace. It took several attempts, spread over the next hour or two, while we earned our night’s lodging in yet another shelter (I am correct: there are simply too many people here. The land cannot sustain them all, and some must rely on the charity of others to survive. Why have they not realized this? The answer, after all, is simple: they must leave. Take up sail, take up service in the army of one nation or another – go out and seek fortune in this wide world. Find a place where there are fewer people, who thus have more to eat. It is foolish to stay somewhere you must live like these people live. But then, I have ever thought the same when I do see beggars on the streets of cities who are neither halt nor lame nor plagued. I simply extend this query to people who must live in this place, with so many, many neighbors.), but at last, a voice answered, and when I requested Llewellyn Vaughn, soon brought that fine man to speak with me.

My heart was eased almost at once, though Vaughn’s tidings soon brought some worry back to my poor belabored mind. At the first, I confided in my friend that the miles and miles of people and people were wearing on me heavily; he quickly confirmed that the same darkness was gathering about the hearts of the men on board; New York, he told me, was larger and more populous than any place he would dare to imagine – it sounds of Washington, again. How can this be? How can there be two such cities in one land, a mere few hundreds of miles separated one from the other? With Baltimore, and Wilmington, in between, and who knows how many more?

We then moved on to happier tidings: the ship has been repaired, as the men found a source of wealth which bought them materials and men to apply them. They stand ready to sail, the very minute that we three do arrive. Ah! I am ready to be there now. My feet ache to stand on her boards, my eyes ache to see her lines. My heart aches for my Grace.

At the end, Vaughn did tell me that he was beginning to grow uneasy: the money they had was largely spent on the repairs and on reprovisioning for the voyage; their daily upkeep, though it was largely defrayed by the kindness shown them by their piermates – it seems my men have done some good turns for the ships docked alongside the Grace, and have received friendship and assistance in return – it will begin to grow too dear. I was right: there are not enough fish in the ocean for all of these people, and my men cannot draw any food from the waves, not without going for a cruise – and our experiences at sea have shown that this is no small matter. Vaughn and Ian do not want to weigh anchor without my presence; and so they wait; but Vaughn urged me to all haste in our trek.

We must move faster. For my men, and for our own sanity. MacManus and Lynch have just nearly come to blows over which should have the bunk closest to the door – Lynch claiming he was the more alert, with better hearing and faster reflexes, and MacManus opining that Lynch could do naught but awaken a better man to defend us, should any hazard approach; ’twas then that I set down my pen and separated the two, pointing out that there was potential danger all around, and we would all have to be alert and ready to defend, and then forcing a concession from Shane as to Lynch’s value in a fight, the which he grudgingly gave with a sigh and a curse. My ship needs me, and we all need her.

We must move faster.

 

17th September

Ha! Now we will move faster.

We left Wilmington and soon crossed into the land of Pennsylvania. Lovely countryside, it was thereabouts; farmland and field, woods and rivers – beautiful and green and alive. Most refreshing to be away from so much city – though Brother Bob tells us we will soon reach yet another great city, of a size proportionate to Washington and New York, called Philadelphia; my men and I can only shake our heads and wonder. City of Brotherly Love, is the meaning of that name in the Latin; methinks there is too much brotherly love in this land, and too many brothers.

But before we reached that place of stone and metal and men, we passed by some farms that sent our hearts winging back to our home: for we saw men swinging scythes, and women in bonnets, and horses drawing plows, and not a beast-wagon anywhere about. We expressed wonder to Brother Bob, who told us that we were then passing through Amish country: the Pennsylvania Dutch, he called them, though apparently there are several different such groups hereabouts, and he was not sure which these were. Still: these are people who have kept to the old ways, and done themselves and their land honor thereby.

More importantly, for our needs, these people use a conveyance with which my men and I are very familiar. They drive wagons – wooden wagons, drawn by actual horses. And when stopped on the road by a kindly hail, and then threatened with pistolas drawn, they do not fight back. Hah! ‘Twas the simplest highwayman’s work imaginable – the two young men, little more than Lynch’s age, slowed as they came near, and stopped when we hailed them; I saw our chance, and so I stepped up, took hold of the reins of their team, and shouted out to my men, who were quick to draw their weapons – and that was that. No resistance at all, simply a bit of Christian disapproval of our actions, a sentiment heartily and repeatedly echoed by Brother Bob, who, I fear, did not realize he was in the company of pirates. But his scruples bother me not at all: I am a pirate. I did need a means of travel faster and easier than my own feet, which have worn through the shoes I purchased in Charleston. They had such means; I took it. I have told Brother Bob that he may leave us at any time, or he may accompany us to the end of our road, at which point he may take this wagon and team back to their owners, if such is his will; I will have no more need of them, once we reach my ship. He has begrudgingly accepted this plan. I have given MacManus orders to keep an eye on him, between now and then. If he causes trouble, he will find himself afoot, and lucky if he is not stripped and bound first. I do not wish for that; I am fond of Brother Bob, who is a fine and kind man and a good road companion. But nothing will keep me from my ship.

Now, thanks to the Amish, we have a wagon, and a fine matched team to draw them. Now we will see how quickly we can reach New York.

I only hope there will not be too many cities between here and there.

Categories: Book II, Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log 51: Dear Diary

September 3, 2011

Dear Diary,

Wow – can’t be that dear, can you? I haven’t written in you in years, not since – hold on.

God. Not since Mom and Dad.

Well that was unexpectedly painful. Looking back, seeing what I wrote about them right after their funeral felt like I swallowed a great big ball of ice and it burned all the way down. Still hurts. Hurts to swallow and my stomach hurts. I wish you could be here, Daddy, to hug me. Mom, you too, even though you weren’t the hugging type. But that was me, too. I was always Daddy’s Little Girl. Even became a pilot, Dad, just like you. Even after it killed you and Mom. People never understood about that. Especially not Nana. “How can you get in one of those contraptions after all it took from you? Do you want to end up the same way?”

Yes, actually, Nana, I would love to end up the same way. They were so happy. They were so in love, so totally enchanted by each other that sometimes they even forgot about me, sort of, but that was OK because I had Nana, and she always paid attention to me.

Haha, sometimes she paid too much attention. Remember that time when she heard through her winevine (She always called it that. “Because the grapes have aged, girl. But they matured into a fine and potent vintage, yes indeed.”) about me running around with Carey Broussard, and how we used to ditch school and go parking in his car behind the Episcopal Church, and Nana was so outraged she marched down there looking for us, and she found us, alright, buck naked and humping like, well, like horny teenagers in the backseat of a Lincoln Towncar. My stars, I believe I’m actually getting a bit misty remembering that car. It was very comfortable, indeed. Carey not so much, though that is no criticism: I’d rather a man be – let’s say, exciting than relaxing. And it was certainly not relaxing when my Nana came right up to the window and yelled, “Meredith Rose Vance, you get off that boy this instant! How dare you, girl? In the very shadow of the Lord’s House? Even if those Episcopals are heathens and heretics, they are Christians and do not deserve to have their property turned into a place of sin! And on a school day!” Haha, I don’t know what upset her most, that I was ditching school, that I was having sex near a church, or that it was an “addlepated lump” like Carey Broussard, if I recall correctly how she referred to that young man. Well, she was right about Carey. Of course, Nana was right about everything: just ask her. Carey was a dim bulb, yes indeed. But so cute! That jet black hair, and those blue eyes, and that little half-smile, mmmm oh yes. And he was always happy to let me be on top. In the pilot’s position, as we say. We pilots always love to be on top. In command. You understand, I’m sure.

Speaking of cute boys . . . That’s why I started writing in you in the first place, Diary Dear. Because I’ve been living with a man. A very handsome man. Under my Nana’s own roof! My stars and garters, the scandal, Miss Scarlett! Haha. Well, to tell the truth and shame the devil, I’ve been living with three men. Three outlaws. Irish outlaws, for a fact. But only one of them was cute. One was a little too rough-looking – so many scars! And the other was just a teenager, 14 or small for 15. But oh, Diary, that one!

All right. Enough. It’s been fun pretending to be a giggly schoolgirl, but I’m not. And yes, he was cute, lean muscles and strong hands, black hair and bright green eyes, but he was not all that he seemed. I do not believe him. I do not believe he and his friends are Irish. I do not believe his name is actually Damnation Kane. Damnation! Who names a child that in this day and age? Or any day and age, for that matter? I do not believe that his manners were actually that fine, like an Old World nobleman, like a Southern gentleman is supposed to be and none are, in my personal experience, not a one.

Though he never did try anything while he was here that would have forced me to deck him. Not even when I flirted shamelessly in my yoga clothes. And he did give me the loveliest gift I believe I have ever received. And the loveliest kiss, too. Oh, yes.

But here’s what I believe about Mr. Damnation Kane. I believe he is a con artist. I believe he put on a fine manner to get into my Nana’s good graces. I believe he has read romance novels. Probably quite a number, actually, for he did seem intelligent and literate, I will say. It was his writing in his own logbook, he called it, which inspired me to dig this old diary out again.

Stop it, Meredith! He is a con artist, and a LIAR. There. That’s better. As I was saying, he read romance novels and found that modern women swoon over the Old World type, most especially with an accent. Yes indeed, my God, that accent! No. Stop it! Be strong. He said he never heard of an airplane. Never heard of an airplane! Didn’t recognize the word!

No. It was a lie. Everything he said. I will bet that his name is actually Mortimer Snodgrass, that he hails from the slums outside of Pittsburgh, and that he steals money from lonely old ladies, using a fake Irish accent when he learns the lady has an Irish name, and a private hospital room, which tells him she has money to steal. And he’s had plastic surgery. Extensive plastic surgery, like butt implants. And he wears a toupee. And has a tiny little uncircumcised dick.

He’s just a con artist, that’s all. And he used Nana and me to get out of paying his hospital bill, and then once he was on the street, he went and made some connection with his dealer, at that payphone. Digging up $5000 in cash, indeed! And a pistol, too! And then I bought him and his two friends a free train ticket to New York! God, Meredith! How did your Nana raise such a fool?

Well, fool me once, shame on you, Mr. Mortimer Snodgrass of Butthole, Indiana (I have decided that he is actually from Indiana. From a small, ugly town called Butthole. Where he was raised by possums and one-eyed alley cats.) Fool me twice, and I will break you in half. And I guarantee you will never come near my Nana again. Good riddance to him. Bad rubbish.

He said it looked like me. It does. He said he would love me forever. And he kissed me like he meant it.

Fuck.

***

Captain’s Log

Date: August 12, 2011

Location: Charleston Harbor

Conditions: Christ’s blood and bones, I don’now. Bad. Could be worse yet, aye.

Captain Kane be off of the ship now, so I do think this falls to me. Ship’s Surgeon insisted three of ours be left with the medics of the here-and-now, else they’ll not live, says he. So my dear friend and Captain, along with two other of our finest boys, ha’ been handed o’er to whosoe’er Surgeon Vaughn finds who’ll take o’er the keeping of them. I don’now. It feels right bloody awful, and no lie, that. I be ‘gainst leaving men behind in any cause, and the Captain? We sail his ship without himself on board? Bloody close to mutiny, and we seen enough of that, aye, and twicet enough.

But we cannt stay. The cursed Devil’s Lash Hobbes may follow, and we must draw him away from our fallen mates. Vaughn and I and MacTeigue spoke on it: Hobbes did not fire on us, even with the greater weight of cannon. His men tore up the deck, but we were all below, as he had to see; sure and they meant to stop our sailing and board us. So he does not want us all dead, nor this ship sunk. He wants the ship, or he wants her crew alive and captive, or he wants both. And what greater prize than the Captain his own self? We cann’t stand guard, not against those damned thunder-guns.

And so like a bloody mother bird we must limp away from the nest where our helpless bairns lie, trusting that the bloody serpent will not find them despite the ruse. Praying too that we can escape our own selfs, at the last moment.

I ha’ managed to sniff out somewhat as will help us in our limping. While Vaughn and Kelly and four of the boys took the Captain and Lynch and MacManus away to the sawbones, MacTeigue manned the Grace at anchor in the harbor, and Salty O’Neill and I did cast off into the city to seek supplies. A simple question to the nearest native who did not look o’er-doltish, and we were directed to a Rite-Aid. We walked the aisles, Salty and me, o’ercome by all the whatnots and hugger-mugger, until a man asked if we be needing help finding anything. Aye, sure enough, did we. I mere showed the man the clink I carried, tho it be o’ the folding kind, not the clinking kind, in truth, some 500 of the dollars they use here-and-now, and said I had friends wi’ small hurts, cuts and sores and burns and the like. We put ourselves in his hands, and he did lade us heavy, aye. We thanked him, paid him, returned to the ship and tossed it all into Vaughn’s cabin to sort out on his return. Then we went, in cover o’ night, to a spot nearby where we buried somewhat against the Captain’s need when he recovers.

Now we do wait. When Vaughn returns, we’ll set our course (I think to the north, as the south holds enemies and the east the same) and then sail, ready for whate’er may come.

Pray it be nothing at all.

Ian O’Gallows, Mate of the Grace of Ireland

Captain’s Log

Date: August 13, 2011

Location: North of Charleston, in a wooded cove.

Conditions: Nae so fine as a king, nor so poor as a corpse.

We ha’ laid up, near forty miles north of Charleston, where we left the Captain, by a part of the coast that be unpeopled, to our eyes and ears. Here we stay while the men recover to Vaughn’s satisfaction. MacTeigue took Rearden and Doyle ashore to hunt, came back with half a brace of fowl and a wee hog, so we feasted well.

***

We will stay for two days, no more. I do feel a prickle at the back o’ my neck, as if someone watches and stalks closer with every hour. ‘Tis maddening.

Captain’s Log

Date: August 17, 2011

Location: 300 miles north, fifty east of last position, near enough.

Conditions: Weather glorious, men healed, sails fixed. All is well, but for the men we left behind.

Aye, life be fine and good. I struck a bargain with Vaughn, who wanted to lay up until the men were full healed and the ship repaired. We took damage to sails, rails and rigging from the thunder-guns. Nothing we could not fix aboard, but it all takes time, particular the splicing of new cordage. But I did not trust the Devil’s Lash to stay away from our backs. So we sail a night and a day, and rest a night and a day, and so hop north by degrees. Every time we lay up, and then again before we weigh anchor, Vaughn goes ashore and calls for the Captain as he arranged. So far, nothing.

The salves and bandages I ha’ from Rite-Aid be wonders: a hurt heals twicet as fast under ’em as without ’em. We be good as new. Surely they ha’ the same for Nate and the boys?

Any road, we be ready for the Captain’s return, at last. We ha’ finished repairs from the battle, at last, and the men be well enow to scrub the last of the blood from the deck. Nate’s blood clung harder than any other stain. Took two extra holystonings before the planks was clean. He bled more than the rest of us. And even his blood cleaves to his ship, aye, God’s truth.

Captain’s Log

Date: Devil take it, who knows?

Location: We’re in a harbor somewhere, and thanks to Christ for it.

Conditions: Neptune’s beard, we’re right well fucked.

Lord God Amighty, surely this storm was blown from Gabriel’s trumpet itself, to sound the Day of Judgment and bring all us sinners to the Heavenly Seat for our eternal rewards. Or else we already be judged, and this be our infernal home, now. Storm-wracked seas and a crippled ship to sail ’em.

Bloody tired. Wrung out. ‘Tis a day and a night of fighting, fighting the waves that try to turn us and roll us, thrash us and break us, and wash us o’er the side all the while. A day and a night of fighting a wind like I’ve only seen twicet, maybe three times, or four? Not very bloody oft afore now, and never one that’s lasted so cursed long! Skin my eyes, the spray reaches higher than the mast! The waves be walls of water, keeps, castles, whole bloody cities of sea-green and salt, tossed at us again and again and again!

The blasted wind near tore the mast off when the first blow fell. We were riding with it, meaning to stay ahead of it. Fools to think we could. I heard the mast creak, felt the deck shudder as the collar and bolts strained to hold on, but the wind was as fierce as God’s wrath. But the ship would not fly with it! And that be the trouble, aye. We lowered the sails, almost lost Sweeney o’erboard doing it, and lashed tight for a storm, all hands below but for a lookout for rocks before and the steersman and myself aft, and two men at the pumps at all times. We did finally lose the foremast. A wave struck us, taller than the sides of the ship, and did sweep across, and take the mast with it. Thanks be that the boys at the pumps were lashed to rings set in the deck. The mast were weakened by that first wind, and the canvas was heavy with rain and spray. One more blow was all it took.

But ‘pon my blackened soul, I ha’ seen this ship take blow after blow after blow, and ne’er the worse for it. We ha’ sailed through storms before, some black-hearted and fire-spitting beasts of the sky, and always, the Grace ha’ sailed true to her name, dancing atop the waves and flying with the wind. She did not sail so, for us. Mayhap this storm was the king – the emperor – of all such cattyclisms. More like, Nate be a finer commander than I, with a bloody fine sense for the true course to take to move through the storm and not ‘gainst it.

All I know is this. This ship sails better for Nate than it e’er will for another. Even one who sails her with his blessing. Which I hope I have.

We near wrecked a dozen times, rolled by waves or crashed on rocks. But we made safe. We came into a great sheltered bay, which blocked the worst of the waves from us. With naught but the blasted devil’s wind, we could steer better, though still the ship turned slow and sailed heavy in the water. She mopes. She pines for her Captain, says I. We can see nothing of the land, apart from dark shadows less than a mile off. ‘Tis night now, and the storm eases but still blows hard. We be at anchor, riding o’er the waves, small swells as in Irish seas and familiar. I ha’ recorded our plight. Now I must sleep. And if I ne’er wake, may Neptune choke on my bones!

Ian o’Gallows, mate, Grace of Ireland

Septembr 2 I think

Wee havint fown the Captin. Wee surcht al the train-hal. Wee crept unseen into the bak of the hal. Wee wur not alowd thair but wee went aneewai. Hee wazint thair.

I fown blood wen I fown the log. It wuz in the pissroom. Maihap hee wuz hurt. Is the blood hiz? Hee wuz so mad on the train lyke hee went mad lyke I dont no the wurd but troolee mad. Hee cood uv hit sumwun. Maid them bleed.

Hee woodint leev his log. Wood hee? Hee woodint leev us. Captin is loyul. Captin iz alwaiz loyul.

No. Hee woodint leev us. I wil prai wee fyned him.

MacManis askt sumwun. A man saw a tal man with blak hair cum owt uv the pissroom with blood on his fais and hee wuz stumbuling lyke hee wuz hurt. The man askt if hee wuz alryte and the bloodee man sed I, I bee fyne az a sumir breez. That sownz lyke Captin. The man sed the bloodee man went owtsyde. Wee ar leeving the train-hal. Macmanis thinks wee can fyned him kwiklee. Hee iz asking abowt the sittee owtsyde the train-hal and I am ceeping the log for Captin. I prai wee wil fyned him. I prai hee wil bee saif.

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Log 47: Beauty, Love, and Grace

Log 30 August 2011

Afternoon Watch, about 7 bells

I grow weary of counting obligations.

This is the reason I captain my own ship, why I am of the Brotherhood of the Coast, a rover, a pirate: because I have no wish to be a tallyman, to count what I owe and what is owed. I owe my shipmates my loyalty, my mother my life, and the English eternal vengeance. That is all. Yet it seems, since my arrival on these far distant shores, that I have found myself again and again in need of some assistance, and thus in another’s debt. Even the difficulty we find ourselves now facing is due to a debt from which we have run away; a usurious and appalling debt, but even if the accountman demands a king’s ransom to fill his coffers, even though I will not pay what he asks, still and all there is a genuine debt: surely St. Vincent’s deserves some recompense for saving our lives, and sheltering us through the storm, as they say.

Today we have made a small start, merely a first step, in balancing the scales. Last night Bucky played host for us following our acquaintance and conversation, offering a supper prepared in his establishment; something he called “frahd catfish an’ hushpuppies,” which at first drove us back from our trenchers in disgust, until Meredith explained that it was a fish named for a cat, and simply a sort of biscuit made of corn – grain, in other words, though it was coarser and sweeter than bread from wheat. Yellow, as well, though perhaps that was somewhat else in the receipt. It was hearty and savory fare, any road.

Then once more, at Meredith’s insistence, we bedded down at Lady Margaret’s domicile. Another debt owed, though practically speaking, an unavoidable one, as Meredith pointed out: the hospital and la policia surely seek us still, and we are too weak to sleep on hard ground without shelter, while keeping watch for our enemies. But though we must needs take shelter, Meredith and Margaret need not offer it us, and thus. once more, we owe.

This morning, though– after a surreptitious and entirely sublime observation, as Echo loved Narcissus from afar, of Meredith at her dawn Yoga – we made good on at least our debt to this house and its kind mistresses for the roof o’er our heads. Meredith departed this day to her employment, leaving us unaccompanied in the home; I was curious as to her occupation, as her hands are too soft for a washerwoman’s work or a maid’s, and she is too untrammeled a spirit, too bold and forward to be a lady’s maid; but I did not wish to pry into her personal matters and did not inquire. She went to work – and then so did we.

The first and most obvious task was Lynch’s: this house, untenanted by its owner for some days, required a good dusting, and as Lynch recovers his strength, he is the most agile and dextrous among we three. The youngest, also, and lowest-ranked, for which reason I also set him to polishing the silver, once I discovered a container labeled as efficacious to that purpose.

MacManus’s task is to hone all the blades in the house – kitchen, gardens, any others we come across. I discovered a whetstone with a handle of wood, much like a marlinspike, a dull-tipped rod about a foot in length and the circumference of a man’s smallest finger, and set MacManus to work: not only does it allow him to remain seated and thus rest his injury, but the task is sorely needed, as well, and MacManus, the former soldier, well-suited to it. If there’s one thing that man is familiar with, it is a sharp edge on a blade.

For myself, as the most hale and ambulatory, I took the most physically daunting task: the gardens. The grounds are, once we knew what we saw, quite battered by “that bitch Irene,” as Bucky called it; tree limbs broken, leaves stripped and strewn in piles and damp streaks, debris caught in shaggy, untrimmed hedges. I spent my day in the sunlight, making it ship-shape. By midmorning, I had an audience of two: Lynch and MacManus moved their labors out to the parapet – Meredith names it a porch, as Pompey’s in Rome – as the vapors from Lynch’s silver polish had dizzied them both, enclosed within, and MacManus joined him in chastising and harassing me at my work, pointing out places I had missed and berating me for my sloth and clumsiness, calling my stone-clad arm an “excuse for puling.”

‘Twas a most pleasant day.

Later

Last dog watch

We are still becalmed and alone. Though not hopeless – not yet.

We returned to Bucky’s Bait Shop well before sunset, and dined once more on “cats and dogs,” as MacManus termed it, to much jolly laughter –this time Meredith provided for us all, as thanks for our work at her grand-mother’s home, the which we protested was but fair payment for her kind hospitality; but she expressed outrage that we would so insult her or her grandmother, implying that we were incurring a debt simply by accepting the generous gifts of friendship freely offered. We were chagrined and silent, myself particularly (Glad I am that she has not clapped eyes on this log!), until Meredith calmly thanked us for our own kind and generous gift of friendship, namely our labors on her grand-mother’s behalf.

But apart from filling our bellies, the excursion was for naught; the telephone did not ring.

Gods, let my Grace be well. Let my friends be safe.

August 31

Morning watch

By Danu and the Morrigan hag, by Hera and Aphrodite and Pallas Athene, by Saint Bridget and Mary, the mother of God – what a woman!

At Meredith’s urging, as I was waking and gave her good-morning as she passed through my chamber on her way out of doors for her daily dance of beauty, I did join her in her Yoga this morn. And to my utter amazement, her beauty, already grand and enchanting, did increase with every stance, every pose, ever moment that she instructed me to watch her carefully, and every time – and there were many indeed – when she placed her gentle hands on my limbs, on my shoulders, on my waist (Gods! Mere writing of it further inflames my passion!), to move me into proper position. Ah, what glory, what magnificence! What grace and poise! And what strength – I found I simply could not perform many of the movements, lacking sufficiently flexible joints and strength enough, as well, though my balance is fine and more than adequate to the task. Fortunately, my failures earned me no mockery, while my successes won effusive praise from my lady, as noble as she is beautiful. Beauty-full, in truth. God’s truth.

But even that, perhaps the most enchanting and uplifting time I have ever known, was not the last of my joy in loving this wondrous creature. As we retired within to refresh ourselves with cool water, Meredith spoke of her employment, making some comment to the effect that she was glad she did not have any long flights – the which, I confess, befuddles me still. But when I inquired as to her meaning, she told me – she is a pilot! Aye! She sails! She is Poseidon’s daughter even as I am his son. I know not whether she guides ships into harbor here, or if she navigates aboard a single vessel, the which she may be currently helping to outfit for departure – oh, thank the fates that she was not gone a-voyaging when we came to Charleston, else I would never have met her. But – just think – if I could win her! She could come with me, aboard my beloved Grace – I need not abandon my love, my heart, my family ashore, as I have watched so many men do when ships depart.

My heart is full. My mind races – too far, too far; too fast! One matter at a time is all men can achieve. We must make contact with Vaughn and the Grace, or we must find the means to track them and follow in their wake. We must know the fate of our shipmates.

But oh: I will woo her. As I have never wooed before. My Siren. My Calypso. My Aphrodite.

Later – Last dog watch

SHE LIVES! The Grace of Ireland, by the mercy of the gods and the swift minds and ready hands of her loyal crew – and despite the storm named Irene, called the bitch – is still afloat, and overall well.

She is damaged, though, and trapped in a harbor in this place called New York; she sprung leaks and lost an entire mast, and the rudder was badly cracked and wants replacing. They strapped a sail ’round her middle to slow the leaks, and then received the gift of a tarp, I think he said, which appears an improvement over canvas for the temporary sealing of leaks; thus they are afloat but cannot sail. But she lives, and all my men, as well.

Ah, yes: I write out of joint. Of course, we have made contact with Vaughn, whereby we ascertained the condition and circumstances of the Grace. Our own situation is materially improved thereby, as well. But I should record it proper, if at all.

This day, our second in Lady Margaret’s home without Meredith present, found Lynch and I atop tall ladders, replacing wooden shingles that Irene tore from the house’s walls, as well as a few rotted by wind and rain; MacManus, it obtains, is a dab hand with a needle and thread: thus he has sealed several tears in the screens about the porch and put a stop to the fraying of the curtains in the parlor by adding a new hem. The magnificent Meredith returned from her pilot’s duties – I cannot imagine how she manages to preserve the ivory whiteness of her skin aboard ship; every tar I have ever known has been burned nearly black by the sun’s glare – though alas, too soon, as I had not yet completed the sonnet that I had attempted to compose for her. (I have rhymed “Meredith Vance” with “veriest chance,” but I could not find a word to accompany “dance” in the line about her wondrous morning Yoga. The search continues.) We made our way once more to Bucky’s Bait Shop, where we lingered over a new treat – Bucky acquired what he called ham-burghers for us, which were supremely savory and satisfying, though, strangely, not comprised of ham. Why these people call their fish “cat” and their beef “ham” and their corn “puppies,” I cannot fathom.

But as we lingered over our repast, we were all frozen in surprise when the telephone rang. This momentary tableau lasted but a moment, however, before we leapt up and raced, pell-mell, around the corner of Bucky’s establishment to the telephone. Being more mobile than my fellows, I reached the device first (Methinks Meredith allowed me to best her) and seize it I did, and with such vigor that I nearly detached the handpiece – which would have been a terrible irony, in truth.

But I broke it not: I put it to my ear and my lips and spake, “Llewellyn? Llewellyn, is’t thee?”

I heard a laugh of joy, a familiar laugh, and then my good friend Llewellyn Vaughn said, “Captain! O, my dear friend, it is so very wonderful to hear your voice!” Through the telephone I heard a cheer, as Vaughn told our shipmates that it was I; the cheer was echoed, and reiterated by my companions when I turned to them with a smile and a nod. Even stout Bucky and the lovely Meredith joined in the huzzah.

When Vaughn returned to the telephone, he asked the question I had been expecting. “Captain, since you found your way to this – rendezvous, I suppose it is – I surmise your companions survived. Do you have the word given to them as well?”

“Aye,” I replied, “’tis Clio.” From behind me, I heard Bucky say, “Clio? Like that teevee psychic? What the hell kind of magic word is that?”

“Splendid,” Vaughn said with a sigh. “Forgive me for asking, sir, but I had to be sure. I did not realize I would so readily know your voice. I thought, too, that were you under some duress, you could withhold that word, or give me incorrect answer, as a signal. I suppose now it was somewhat foolish.”

“Nay, man, I know the purpose of the cipher. And we are not under any duress, but are hale and free, in the main. But now I have a question for you.

“Why, by Danu’s alabaster tits, did you give us ‘setting’ and not ‘sunset?’ Or ‘dusk?’ Whatever is wrong with the word ‘dusk?’ ‘Tis a lovely and efficient word, is it not?”

Vaughn spluttered for a moment. “I – but, Captain, that is, I wanted . . . the words needed to be, well, somewhat secret. ‘Dusk’ seemed too simple, and I thought that ‘setting’ would be ambivalent enough, but still could – did – steer you to the proper course.”

I heaved a sigh overboard and shook my head. “Aye, Llewellyn, I thought as much. ‘Twas a fine choice, made no doubt in hot circumstances. ‘Tis only that – fah, ’tis nothing.”

It made me look a fool before the woman I have grown to love. But I cannot blame Vaughn for my folly.

We exchanged information, then, he telling me (and through me Lynch and MacManus, as well as our two friends) of the Grace’s escape from Hobbes, who had not been sighted since the battle that wounded us, and then the terrible storm that so shook and shivered my lovely ship. “Had we not been close to shore, Captain, close to a good harbor such as this, well – we would not be speaking.” They had run up the coast to the north, with Vaughn making landfall each evening to call the telephone he had marked out for our communication; they had had no difficulty – beyond being undermanned and thus reduced in their top speed and challenged in facing adverse seas or winds – until Irene. The last three days had been spent seeking a dock, then halting the leaks (Assistance had been offered to the other ships in need, who had come to the Grace’s aid as well – so those who sail the sea ever guard one another against the assaults of Dame Fortune and Lord Neptune, alike; we know the best hope for a stranded or damaged vessel is the kind intercession of a passing ship; thus we cultivate good will when we can) and then in an attempt to locate a working telephone.

“And now, Captain,” Vaughn concluded, “We await your orders. Should we come retrieve you, once repairs are made? It will take some time, particularly the mast.”

I confess to temptation. Time spent here would allow us to complete our recovery, and would grant me more time with Meredith. Perhaps enough time to win her.

But it was too dangerous to remain. La policia and agents of the accountman sought, and could find us at any time. Too, I could not impose on the kind hospitality of Meredith and Margaret when there was not need.

“Nay,” I said, “we will come to you. Though we lack resources, at present.”

“In truth, Captain, you do not. At the termination of the pier where you now stand, and across the road that lies athwart it, you will find a small garden, with a bench painted white and green. Beside it is a metal barrel, used to collect refuse. Dig beneath that barrel – no more than a foot down.”

I felt a wide grin spread across my face then. “Ah, my dear friend – did ye leave me buried treasure?”

Vaughn laughed. “Aye, Captain. That I did.”

We followed his instructions once more; Bucky accompanied us, to assuage his curiosity, bringing a large metal spoon to serve as digging tool. “Buried treasure, Irishmen and ships, secret meetings and passwords – it’s like I’m in a pirate story!” Bucky exclaimed, and laughed. Lynch, MacManus and I merely exchanged knowing glances.

We found the park, the bench, the barrel; we dug beneath it, and unearthed a small wooden box, which contained five thousand dollar-papers and my trusty wheel-gun. Methinks Bucky was happier to see this revealed than we were, judging by his shout of joy.

Now: we have returned to Lady Margaret’s home, having said a friend’s farewell to the doughty Bucky, to rest and plan. We will need maps, supplies, proper attire, and information.

We are off to New York.

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Log 42: Draughts

Log

The Twentieth of August in the Year 2011

My exploration met with success! Today I did find gardens, which I am permitted – though it sore chafes me to admit I am liable to be permitted anything, rather than taking whatever I want; but still I am not hale – to wander. The heat of the noon sun is oppressive, but the light falling on my flesh is most welcome, most invigorating. At last, I have cast off this feeling of entrapment, of entombment, in this place with its ever-white walls, unpierced by sight of azure sky, its air that whispers through grates rather than singing through open windows with Nature’s breath.

It has also greatly advantaged me that at last the good doctors have removed my ivies; the visit to MacManus had been made doubly awkward, and vexatious, by the necessity of hauling along my chirping fluid-filled ivy box, which at the least is on a wheeled stand and thus can be rolled (and used as some manner of support, should one be struck by a wave of weakness and wish to avoid shaming one’s self by falling to the floor like an inveterate drunkard) as one walks. But still and all, I am most cheered thus to be rid of its aid and its incessant chirruping and tugging at my limbs, tethered to it by ivy strands rooted in my flesh. Extricating these from mine extremities in a fit of pique was entirely inadvisable; and made of me a most compliant and complacent patient thereafter.

I had, as well, an amusing encounter. These gardens without the hospital are reached through a pair of heavy glass doors, which took some strength to open; I surmise it to be some form of test of one’s recovery, that if one is incapable of passing through this portal, then one should remain abed. But just without, a reward: a wooden bench, most comfortous, and which affords a splendidly pleasing view; it is flanked by large and vigorous flowering plants, the blossoms of which flood the air with a perfume as lovely as ever met my senses.

As I sat, enjoying my time in the sun (and I did vow that I would roll Lynch’s chair out here on the morrow; on this day, he slept), I heard a rattle-scratch at the door, which was astern of my left shoulder. I turned to look, and beheld two figures at the portal, visible through the glass. One was a youth in the livery of the hospital and apparently in its employ – though I question his actual capacity for such employment – who stood idle before one of the heavy doors, his hands drawn up before his face like a nearly-blind deacon holding his Scriptures, and in the boy’s hands was one of the Verizon-stones that I have seen frequently since our arrival here. This was obviously one of the god Verizon’s most devout worshipers, as he did not look away for an instant, so enraptured was he by the face of his god.

The other personage, clearly a fellow sufferer come here for succour, was an elder woman, her hair white as thistle-down, her face a map of the passage of many and many a year, but her back straight and her eyes clear. She pushed lightly at the heavy door as I watched, the which did make the rattle-scratch sound I had heard; then she turned and stared at the youth, clearly waiting for him to break the chains of inhuman stupidity that kept him from realizing: not only was she a lady of some dignity, not only was she a grandmother and deserving of great respect, but she was a weak and injured patient of his employer, and obviously he had been assigned to see to her needs. Yet there he stood, unmoving but for his thumbs, which caressed the Verizon-stone as obsessively as a friar with his rosary.

I made to rise and carry out the fool’s proper duty, but ere I could do more than stand, the lady threw up her hands and shoved her way through the portal – showing an impressive vigor for her age and condition. The lad, still without looking up – his hair, which fell foolishly before his eyes, may have served as a second barrier to observation of the world, just after his ape-like imbecility – stepped to the side and then quickly through the door which the lady had opened.

Shaking my head and gritting my teeth, still I must first offer the lady some courtesy, as it was so sorely lacking from other quarters. I bowed to her, and gestured to the bench beside me.

The boy sat down. “Let me know if you need anything, okay, Mrs. F.,” he mumbled.

The cast on my left wrist, it obtains, is a fair club: it made a most satisfying thump on the back of the imbecile’s head. He cried out and at last – for a wonder – looked up. I struck down at his god, then, and sent it rattling across the ground – broken into pieces, I saw with no small satisfaction. “Hey!” he yelled, stretching his hands out toward his broken stone, like a child deprived of its sugar-sop.

“Aye, the lady doth need something, in truth,” I growled at him. “She needs to be treated with due reverence, and some semblance of manners. But not nearly so much as you need a drubbing for manners’ lack.”

He opened his mouth to protest, surely, but then a toss of his head cleared the hair from his vision – and perhaps the shaking of his rattling-dry walnut of a head cleared some of the cobwebs from his brain, what little there be of that organ – and he saw my expression. His mouth closed and he slunk off to retrieve his broken stone, which he proceeded to manipulate mournfully, clearly unable to return it to its proper shape. I shook my head once more, muttering a Gaelic imprecation, but I wished to help the lady more than I wished to beat the lad. Though ’twas a slim margin, in truth.

“Please, Madame, I beg thee to join me. This pleasant garden lacks but gentle company – a dearth I vow thou canst most ably fill.” With a flourish, I bowed the lady to the bench, where she sat after placing her dainty, wizened hand in mine and murmuring a delicate thanks for my humble assistance.

“Nay, milady, thou hast my gratitude for thy fair presence, which doth make this good garden all the more lovely.”

The lady arched a brow at me and then laughed. “Well, aren’t you the honey-tongued devil,” she said.

I bowed my head at the compliment. “‘Tis only meet to whisper sweet words into this well-perfumed air, and only a gentle manner should greet such a rare and beauteous lady as yourself.”

She snorted (in a most unladylike manner, though to say true, it made me glad, for though I can don a semblance of manners, ’tis not to my comfort, who am happiest with my salty brethren and the buxom tavern-wenches who keep us company) and said, “Too bad I have to be followed around by Justin Beeber over there, then. Though his manners are about what I expect from his generation, in this country, at least.” She shook her head at him – I would swear she spat! – and then turned to me. “You’re from Ireland, unless my ears have finally gone on me. I thought I heard you use a touch of the Gaelic to that hairy dullard.”

I bowed my head once more. “Aye, milady. I find my mother tongue to be unmatched in the application of vigorous insult. And if I may, I am Damnation Kane, of the Ireland of old.”

She held out her hand, and I took it and brushed a kiss across her knuckles – gnarled they were, but her grip was strong. “Margaret Boyle Flanagan, born in Dublin but raised on these barbaric shores. A pleasure, Mister Kane.”

“Nay, the pleasure is mine, milady, especially knowing thou to be of the right and proper blood.” I winked and placed another kiss on her hand, and she laughed. A proper laugh, too, full-throated and honest. A tavern-wench’s laugh.

“Tell me, Mister Kane. Do you play draughts?”

This was a good day.

 

Log August 22nd

This place, this hospital, has at last become hospitable. Though the food remains questionable – ample in quality but sorely lacking in savor – all else is grown most comfortable. La policia did return to question me once more, but the same application of hand to head and furrowing of heavy brow did foist them off once more. I feigned to remember a detail or two, selecting the most apt of MacManus’s tale; ’tis to be hoped they will be satisfied with this narrative, and be off to find an imagined ship and imagined enemies, and leave us in peace. The medicaments given me by the doctors have greatly eased the pain of my wounds, and my strength returns rapidly; the bedchamber and washroom adjacent are small, but adequate to my needs, and clean and well-maintained by the staff, who are numerous and generally quite solicitous. Now that I am ambulatory and can visit my companions at will, and with access to the gardens and my newfound and most delightful friend Margaret Flanagan – I find these accommodations most satisfactory. We will stay here, I think, until our hurts are well healed.

Margaret (as she insists I call her) is a woman of grace and gentility – though not, I must hasten to add, in the manner of one of those insufferable noblewomen, haughty and priggish. We have spent much of the last two days in company in the gardens; we found the means to play draughts, and with this and with conversation were thus occupied for many hours, though the time seemed far shorter, in our tranquil and enchanting amusement. Between games we walk through the gardens, her hand on my arm for support, and talk endlessly. I had her cackling like a hencoop over the exploits of my young self; particularly the occasion when my cousin Colin and I determined to set a trap for a giant, an endeavor that ended with a sheep bleating piteously, a-dangle from a tree limb with a rope about its middle, and Colin’s Da flat on his back in a mudpuddle, as Colin and I hied for the hills. Margaret, in turn, sang me a ribald song about a Scotsman which I must learn to heart so I may sing it for O’Gallows, that half-Scotch bastard.

Aye: with Margaret and the gardens to fill my days, and restful sleep o’nights, I find myself – happy.

 

August the 23rd

Today I met with Lynch and MacManus. I had woken in the night from a dream of the Grace, and bethought myself to read again the letter I have from Vaughn. This sparked my curiosity, when I read of how my companions held clues to the whereabouts of our beloved ship – or rather, the means to ascertain such knowledge. I called Lynch to come to MacManus’s room, and we discussed the matter.

They had clues, indeed, but none of us knows the meaning of them. Lynch had been told two words, which had been repeated often enough to root them well in his fevered memory, though the lad knew but the syllables and not the sense: the word “setting,” and the name Clio. I wonder if my educated friend Llewellyn meant to refer to the Muse of history. Or perhaps it is the name of a person, or an establishment hereabouts; I recall seeing taverns and eateries with similar names in Florida, while we sojourned there.

MacManus, who had maintained control of his faculties despite his wounds, had been given directions. He had been told, by Vaughn, to return to the point where they had docked the Grace – an old and unused pier in a quiet harbor not far from here – and then proceed, with his back to the ocean, for 100 paces, there to turn left and walk 30 more. Simple enough, but as these instructions had been withheld until after arrival at this hospital of St. Vincent, MacManus had no idea where they would lead. I hope then when we stand at that spot as directed, the words given Lynch will reveal their meaning, as well.

But this can all wait for another time. I must eat, and then sleep, and then – draughts!

Categories: Book II, Captain's Log | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Log #40: Hospital

Log August 17

 

I will not say my situation has improved over what I found when first I awoke in this place, but at the least, I do understand it, now. Howbeit, I understand this place just so well as I understand any place in this world of 2011; that is to say, not so very well at all.

I drifted rudderless, in and out of my dreams, for many days. I remember seeing this place, the white ceiling and walls, the strange pipping of a tiny bird, slow and stately and regular as a funeral march, as if a sparrow were singing me to my grave, myself flat on my back and unable to move; I had some recollection of waking and choking on a thing which passed through my mouth and down my throat into my gullet as it was being removed, but the memory was strange and befuddling. I felt no pain, but I could not grasp and hold a thought, not a single one; and often I heard a quiet susurration, a whisper as of words spoke just beyond my hearing.

Aye: in my dreams, I did think this place to be Heaven, or Avalon, or Elysium, I know not what awaits us in that far-off country. But I bethought myself there, aye.

And then I woke, truly woke, and felt my mind catching hold; like an ox pulling a cart through spring mud, the great hooves slipping and sinking, and slipping and sinking, and then, at last, the hooves strike ground just firm enough beneath the muck to press back, and the cart begins to move: thus did I arise to the waking world. I knew myself alive, then, and in pain. My arms were strapped down, and my legs, as well. I had strands of clear stuff attached to my arms and my face, below my nose, and thin strands of white like spider’s webs or thread ran to my chest and brow; following them back led my eye to a tall white box, on a metal stand, with a quantity of depressions and obtrusions and dark places, numbers and letters and strange words written around and about, here and there. Above it on metal hooks hung two sacs of fluid, like wineskins made of glass; from these ran the clear strands to my arm. I felt a terrible thirst.

I attempted to call out, but could do no more than croak weakly. I fain would struggle against my bonds, but my strength had fled. Then the tall box gave a louder chirp, and then – cool, soft peace stole over me, starting with my right arm, spreading quickly across my chest and shoulders, my neck, my jaw, my head – and then again I slept.

When next I woke, the mud enmiring my brain was drier, easier to pull through and then out of. My pain was back, and the thirst; I bit at my tongue until I made enough spittle to swallow and ease my aching throat, and then I called out, “Hallloooo!” Soft at first, bare more than a whisper, but then a bit louder and stronger, and then a bit more with the third repetition.

After my fourth call, a door opened behind me, and soft footsteps padded in. A woman appeared at my right side, and smiled down on me. Neither young nor old, her golden hair tied back from her face, she wore a strange tunic and loose trousers, brightly colored and bearing images of – were those kittens?

Her cool fingers touched my arm, then my brow. “Are you awake?” she asked. “More than a quick breath before you go back under, I mean?” I frowned at her and tried to speak, but coughed through my dry throat. “Thirsty? Here, let me get you some ice chips.” She vanished. I croaked after her and struggled weakly, feeling like a toad tied to a board by a cruel boy. Did they plan the same sorts of childishly evil tortures for me as that toad would suffer of a heartless lad? I strained, but I could barely make a fist, let alone loosen my bonds.

The woman returned, a small cup in her hand. She touched something on the side of the bed near my hand, and suddenly the bed moved beneath me, lifting my head and trunk until I sat nigh upright. She held the cup to my lips, and when I opened, tipped it so that many small fragments of ice fell into my mouth; ’twas not unlike eating snow. They melted on the instant, and brought blessed relief to my raging thirst. The lady gave me a second and a third mouthful ere I pulled my lips from the cup.

She placed the cup on a tray and turned to the chirping box whereto my strands were tied.

“Where am I?” I asked in my toad’s croak.

“In St. Vincent’s Hospital,” she replied.

“And where be that?”

She looked somewhat strangely at me, and thus became familiar; now I knew myself to be, still, in the world of 2011, in the land of America, where all my questions are met with that same look. I could not suppress the sigh which escaped me at this revelation.

The woman returned to my side, placing cool fingers on my wrist. “It’s in Charleston.”

I said nothing.

She looked to my eyes and saw my befuddlement. “In South Carolina? In America? The United States?” When I showed no particular response, she put a hand on her hip, tipped her head to the side, and asked, “Say, where are you from?”

“Ireland,” quoth I.

She shook her head. “First time I ever met a white illegal,” she murmured. She had a pleasant accent, somewhat English, but softened in a way that seemed French to my ear.

My initial query answered so well as it could be, I moved to my next most pressing ignorance. “Wherefore am I bound?” I strained lightly against the strap crossing my forearms in illustration.

“You were struggling, flailing your arms all over. You kept pulling out the ivies.”

I looked wide-eyed at the strands attached to my arms, and I saw now that they pierced my skin – as if they were taking root in me. “Ivies? Why are there ivies planted in me? What hell is this, woman?” I began to struggle against my bonds, but I had not strength; the slight woman took hold of my shoulders and pressed me back against the bed-chair, restraining me with shameful ease.

“Calm down now, you just calm down. You need the ivies to get well again. They’ll come right out when you don’t need them any more.” I fell limp once more, already exhausted, and she released me. She arched one brow, hands once more placed on her hips. “And my name is not ‘Woman,’ it is Julie Winslow, RN.” She tapped at a card pinned to the breast of her tunic, which bore a tiny portrait of her. “You may call me Miss Winslow, for now.”

I turned my head away, shamed by my weakness and dulled by despair.

“I’m going to get the doctor now, all right? He can answer any of your questions.”

My innards growled then. “Will I be fed with more than mouthfuls of snow?”

“That’s up to the doctor. Just a moment.”

She departed, and then my throat informed me that it would appreciate another mouthful of cold relief. I looked down at the cup, placed on a tray that was easy to hand – or would have been, were my arms unbound and uninvaded. I looked more closely at my hands and saw that I was held only by wide leathern thongs, without locks; perhaps I could get my fingers to the clasp . . .

The door opened, and a manly voice said, “Well now, I hear someone’s finally had enough napping.” A man appeared at my bedside then, with white hair and beard. He wore a white coat over a blue shirt and a brightly colored neck-scarf; I had seen similar attire on Master McNally, and so took this man to be a gentleman of breeding, as well – as befit a medic.

“Aye,” I spake, my voice coarse. “How long did I sleep?” There was no window, no way to read the hour – or season, for that matter. By my dreams, it had been days, but what truth is there in dreams?

The medic repeated many of Miss Winslow’s motions, examining the ivy-box, placing fingers on my wrist while staring at an ornate golden torc on his own wrist, which resembled a compass. “What do you remember?” he asked me.

The shuddering blast of cannon. The stench of smoke, and salt spray – and blood, the corrupt stink of death. Hobbes, grinning like a skull, with a shadow-man at his back. Men rising from behind the rail of the Sea-Cat, thunderguns bursting, and screaming – my men – I fired and –

“I was – shot?”

The man nodded, his bright, intelligent eyes meeting my own. “Twice, once in the right shoulder and once in the left forearm. Both bullets passed through, but left you some fairly severe damage. You also suffered a fractured skull and a serious concussion, so I would expect your memory to be a bit fuzzy.” He drew a metal tube from his pocket, and with it, beamed a searingly bright light directly into my eye. I cried out, partly with shock at the brightness of the tube-torch, and partly with outrage at this imposition, and drew away. He frowned at me and at his tube, and then placed a gentle but firm hand on my brow, holding me like a fractious child, and moving more carefully, shone the light into my eyes for but an instant before releasing me, murmuring comfortingly all the while, to wit: “Don’t worry, I just need to examine you, only take a second, that’s it,” and so forth.

“Unhand me, sir!” I said then, and he did. When he was finished gentling me and prodding at my very sight.

He stepped back and put his hands in his pockets. “Do you know where you are?”

“Aye, the lass told me where I am. A hospital of the order of St. Vincent, though I do not know those monks.”

He frowned at me. “Do you know who you are?”

I stared for a moment. “Aye – I am Damnation Kane, captain of the good ship the Grace of Ireland.

Christ! I had not thought of her afore now; my brain still wallowed half in the mud of sleep. “Where is my ship? My crew?” I had a new thought, then, an explanation for my bonds. “Are you holding me captive? Are ye in league with the Devil’s Lash?”

He held up his hands placatingly. “Hold on, hold on, simmer down, now. You’re not captive, you’re not under arrest, and I’m certainly not in league with the Devil. We’re here to help you. The restraints are only so you don’t hurt yourself, and if you’ll promise me you won’t struggle or try to get out of the bed, I’ll take them off right now.”

I relaxed my limbs. “I am not held for Nicholas Hobbes? Nor for la policia?”

He shook his head. “The police will have some questions for you; we had to report your wounds, as they were gunshots, and the whole story isn’t yet clear. But you are not under arrest, or any suspicion, and you are free to go as soon as you are physically healthy enough.”

“I have your word on that?”

He paused, frowning slightly. Then he nodded. “You do.”

“Then ye have mine. I’ll not struggle nor fight you.”

He nodded again, and then he released the leather thongs that held my arms and legs. I tried to stretch my limbs, but was hampered by the strands of ivy. “Will ye take these out of me, as well?”

Now he shook his head. “I’m afraid you still need those. We are giving you fluids and antibiotics. You lost quite a bit of blood, there, and there was a fairly serious infection in the shoulder wound. Your friends bound it, but their materials were none too sterile, it seems.”

“What of my friends? Where are my shipmates?” I coughed at the last word, and the doctor took up the cup of snow and placed it in my hand; I emptied it gratefully.

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything about a ship. You were brought to the hospital, along with two others, who were also shot. They’re still here, and you can visit them when you’re feeling up to it. The men who brought all of you here left as soon as we took custody of you. The police have spoken to your two friends about them, but I don’t know any more than that.”

I returned to an earlier question. “How long have I been here?”

He paused, then said, “You’ve been here for seven days.”

Gods! I’d been shot twice, broken my head, and been feverish and delirious for a full week – and now I felt nearly hale, though weak and in pain. Not nearly so much pain as I would expect, howbeit. I nodded to the medic. “Thank you for your good care for myself and my compatriots.” I attempted to place the cup on the tray, but could not reach; the man took the cup from my hand.

“I want you to rest now,” he said. “In a little while I’ll have Miss Winslow bring you some soup to eat – and maybe a little surprise, if you’re feeling up to it.” He touched the side of the bed as had Miss Winslow, and I found myself reclining again. “Now you should try to sleep. It will help you get better.”

If he said more, I did not hear it. I fell into a deep and thankfully dreamless slumber.

I woke but slowly; as I lay dozing, the door opened and another woman came in, this one younger and darker-hued than Miss Winslow. I wakened further as she came to my ivy-box and examined its lineaments – why did they all stare at that box? And where was that damned cheeping bird, or the whisperers behind my head? – and gave her greeting. She smiled at me most prettily, and soon enough I had been brought upright once more – and the means of so adjusting my position shown to me – and she brought me a bowl of broth and a glass of golden juice, most delicious both, and surprisingly filling, though my gut did rumble ominously as I ate.

The doctor returned as I broke my long fast, and introduced himself as Albert Kelashnikskaya, a name I had to see writ on his portrait card ere I could repeat it. After a cursory examination and some idle questions regarding my mental state, he drew a folded paper from his pocket and gave it me. Then he politely withdrew – a man of quality, indeed.

It was a letter, from my good friend Llewellyn Vaughn, and reading it gave me more peace than even that good soup.

***

Captain Kane,

It is my fondest wish that this letter will soon find you hale and well, once more. My deepest regret is that I could neither return you to health myself, nor be present when these kind folk do so; but my own skills are far too meager for the first task, and our situation too dire for the second.

As of this morning, we are free of the Devil’s Lash. The Grace sustained but minor damage, apart from our casualties, and we had soon sailed out of sight of the Sea-Cat. O’Gallows has command, and after we are assured that you will be safe, we will sail elsewhere, to escape and perhaps draw Captain Hobbes away from you. I will not say where, as I cannot be sure Hobbes will not retrieve this letter. If you wake (and God will it so!), inquire of your companions, who will have the means to guide you to us.

God keep and preserve you, Captain, and us as well.

Llewellyn Vaughn

***

My ship was safe. My crew were safe, but for the casualties – and those were not so many that my dear friend Ian could not sail my ship to safety. Satisfied for the nonce, I held the letter to my breast, and thus slept.

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