Posts Tagged With: theft

Log #60: Karma

“Tell me all of it,” I ordered my bosun.

The Englishmen had tramped aboard at a quick march; together with the dark men, they outnumbered my depleted crew, and outgunned them, as well. O’Gallows had seen the folly of fighting, and had instantly ordered surrender – “Though he bloody well choked on the words, Cap’n. Had to cough and spit t’ get ’em out with heft enow to be heard.” But say those words he had, and my men had obeyed. Hobbes and the Shadowman had bound the wrists of my crew and tied them to the rails.

Kelly grinned then, which split his injured mouth and sent fresh trickles of blood down his chin – a most gruesomely piratical grin, it was. “They tied us – but they did not search us proper. I had a knife in me boot, and so did half the others. Salty had a full marlinspike in his trousers, though I don’t know how they missed that. P’raps they thought ’twas his cock.” His eyes widened then, even as I managed a small smile, and he ducked his head to Mistress Rosenblum, who was dabbing at his cuts with a cloth dipped in something the color of old blood – “Iodine” was writ on the bottle, though I know not this physic. “Begging your pardon, Mistress,” he said, but she shook her head and patted his cheek gently. “You’re a sailor, young man. And I live on a boat.” She flashed a smile at her man. “With a sailor,” she said, and both of them grinned like mischievous children.

Kelly went on. “They had bound me beside MacTeigue, and he and I whispered together when the men guarding us walked away – ’twas the dark men, for the Englishers were making ready to sail. O’Gallows they kept on the poop deck with Hobbes and that thin bastard; that thin one wanted to know where you were, Cap’n, and when you’d be back. I weren’t close enow to hear all of it, but your name was shouted more than once.” He met my gaze then, though he had been lying back on the bench as he spoke. “Hobbes, he wanted you something fierce, true enough. He surely does.”

“Aye,” I said. “‘Tis mutual.”

“But while I could not hear all that they were sayin’, I did hear this: two of the dark men who kept the watch on us spoke on how much longer the business would last. I got the idea that they were hired hands, sir – pressed just for the taking of the ship. For one said, ‘We don’t be sailing on this ship, do we man?’ And t’other shook his head and said, “Nah, man, they be taking this to the Triangle. Make we no business there. The Houndman – he don’t need us, once the boat go. We stay here.’ T’other one laughed and said, ‘He no need us for this at all, man. Him a real bad mo-jo man. Him use us for that he no want no blood spilled, not in the clash and botheration and all.'”

When he spoke as the dark men, Kelly’s deep rumble of a voice and his thick Irish brogue vanished, his voice and accent becoming that of another man entire; I had heard him perform thus in the past, but the Rosenblums were startled. It is indeed remarkable to hear another’s voice coming from that mighty frame, but I have never known a better mimic than he. I stopped Kelly then, however, for I had questions to ask: “Houndman? Be that what they called their master, the thin one? And mo-jo man?” I leaned forward in my excitement and grabbed his wrist, but he winced at the touch and I drew back my hand. But not the query, which I pressed again.

But ’twas Master Rosenblum who spoke. “I don’t know about Houndman, but mo-jo is a word for magic, like witchcraft, or vudu. And if that was an island accent – didn’t it sound like the islands, Iris?” He turned to his lady, who nodded vigorously and murmured compliments for Kelly’s mimicry. Master Rosenblum went on. “If those men were from the islands, then the ‘Triangle’ is probably the Bermuda Triangle.

“They’re taking your ship to Bermuda.”

***

Kelly told the rest of his tale, but I confess I listened with but half an ear, having heard all that I wanted to know: their destination. Having heard this from the dark men, and knowing as he did the need to get this information to me, Kelly had resolved to find a way off the ship; but before he could cut his bonds and make his escape, the Grace had weighed anchor and left the dock. Kelly despaired, then, but soon another came to the rescue. That is, came to my rescue; for ’twas nearly the doom of poor Kelly. His staunch loyalty does him the greatest of honor. ‘Twas my true friend, Ian O’Gallows, who saw the way: being that the theft was accomplished and the Grace was under sail, Hobbes and the Houndman dismissed O’Gallows. My mate went to sound the men, whispering queries under the guise of checking for any hurts or malcontents; and finding them determined, he whispered his plan: one of them must feign death, so as to be thrown overboard. If they acted swiftly, the false corpse would be close enough to shore to swim it, and then return to Pier Eighty-Three and wait for my arrival. They could not simply slip one man over the rail, as the guards would see, and the thunder-guns tear him to pieces. O’Gallows had left them then, before the guards grew over-suspicious; the rest of the crew had consulted, and decided quickly that there was only one course to chart: since the dark men had stated that their shadowy master wanted no blood spilled, then any fighting would surely be done with fists, not with blades or bullets. So one of the Grace’s men would slip his bonds and attack, and be beaten to the appearance of death; the man would need to pretend it, but not too soon – not until he had suffered sufficient injury that could cause a man’s demise – so the guards would believe. Vaughn could attest to the man’s apparent death. This man would then be cast over the rail, and find himself buffeting the cold waves for perhaps a mile or more; this distance continuing to grow as they conferred in whispers snatched behind the backs of the dark men, as the Grace sailed farther and farther out to sea.

Kelly was the only choice. He was the largest, the strongest, and the most tar-headed of all the men; this folly would need to be his. O’Gallows had meandered over, heard the plan, agreed to carry word of his role to Vaughn on the poop deck, and then he ordered them to proceed. No sooner had the mate walked away than Kelly had cut his bonds, handed the blade to Salty so the fisticuffs would not escalate to blood-letting, and then leapt to the fray. The result, I saw before me – though in telling of it, Kelly smiled around bloody teeth and said, “Aye, Cap’n – but ye should see them other bastards.”

Having heard all that Kelly could tell, I thanked him, most sincerely, and ordered him to the hospital, accompanied by the Rosenblums and ferried by Brother Bob and the wagon and team. Lynch, MacManus and I were kindly given permission to remain aboard the Volare as we charted our future course. The last favor I asked of the already-generous Rosenblums was the answer to a single question: how best to hie to Bermuda in pursuit of my Grace?

Master Rosenblum pursed his lips and shook his head. “You’d have to fly. Or sail, though you’d need an ocean-ready boat. It’s an island, and a pretty good ways away – a thousand miles from here. Maybe two. Out into open ocean – and it’s hurricane season.”

Aye. I admit it. When they had gone, leaving me unattended and in command of their craft, I did consider taking it and setting sail. But in truth, the craft was too small to make a sea voyage of that distance – and though the Emperor Grable, two berths down-pier, was larger, it would be difficult for we three to sail it through heavy seas; the same was true for any craft large enough to brave rough weather. Too, doing this would require abandoning Kelly to be held ransom, and I had no doubt that Brother Bob would summon la policia were I to add to my list of crimes.

The which I very nearly did, and on his person, when the man returned from his errand; for this sanctimonious fool of an unfrocked priest had words for me. Nay: ’twas but one word.

“Karma,” quoth he, as Lynch and MacManus were aiding the Rosenblums down from the wagon and aboard the Volare. I had queried them as they arrived as to my bosun’s situation, and been told that he would be well, but was required to abide in the hospital until the morrow. I stayed for a moment, brooding on this – would we need to flee the attention of another Accountman? At this rate we might run through all of the hospitals in America! – when Brother Bob spoke. Distracted, I turned to him and made some interrogatory noise, thus releasing the flood.

“Karma. K-A-R-M-A. It’s the word we use for when the universe balances the scales, and gives you exactly what you deserve.”

I scoffed at him. “The godly men that I have known would call that Divine Justice. But then, they had faith in the will of the Lord.” Aye, ’twas uncouth to badger him so over a thing so personal to a man as his faith, but I had no patience left for Brother Bob’s carping, having carried that weight so far and for so long; most particularly at this hour was I not a-brim with patience.

“Yes – I mean, I do believe in God’s justice. I was only – fine. Divine justice, then. You’re looking right at it.” He slapped his hand down on the wooden seat under him. “You stole this wagon – and now your ship has been stolen from you. ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.'”

In a trice, I had leapt up onto the seat, and took his shirt in my hands, torn between throwing the Puritanical prig to the ground, and lifting him up to put his donkey’s ears close enough to hear my words properly. I settled on the latter course. “You think those men were godly?” I hissed at him, my anger boiling in my blood – anger set aflame by Hobbes and his pillaging, by my own frustration at how close I had come to sailing free on my own ship, and how far I was now from regaining her: a thousand miles or more? Across open ocean in hurricane season? Christ and Danu! – anger that now had a focus. I shook him just to hear his teeth rattle in his flap-hinged mouth. “You think that bloodsucking bastard Hobbes is the tool of Providence? Yon black-eyed cur has murdered more than half of my men! Chased us across the ocean, pushed us here, to this – this abyss unfit for any man of honor or of worth – and all for what? For bloody prize-money! I shook him again, harder; I did wish that it were Hobbes in my grasp. “That is justice? You call it so? What of Kelly? Is his pain, the risk of his life – is that my punishment for this wagon? Or perhaps for these horses?” I tore my hands from his cloth, then, staggering back to stand straight in the bed of the wagon, my every effort bent on resisting the urge to strike him down – an effort aided somewhat by the fact that I was unarmed.

Brother Bob did not make my forbearance easy. He shook his finger in my face and shouted, “It’s all your fault! You brought this on yourself and on your men! You are pursued by violent men because you are a violent man! These are the wages of your sins! Your men suffer because you led them into iniquity! You are the villain here!”

Teeth gritted, my vision turned the color of blood, I drew back my fist to strike – and was clasped about the wrist by MacManus, who had returned to quell the shouting. “Captain,” he said, and I rounded on him, though I retained sense enough to resist lashing out at any who stood before me; facing my loyal friend now began to cool my ire. Shane met my gaze and said, “We are for the ship, sir. For the Grace of Ireland. Stay the course.”

‘Twas enough. Without turning back or uttering another word to Brother Bob, I leapt down from the wagon. I took a deep and calming breath, and then blew it out. I nodded to MacManus and clapped him on the shoulder. I pointed to the wagon and its load of folly. “Watch him. See he doesn’t leave.” I smoothed a hand over the near horse’s back, aware (albeit too late) of how our dispute had agitated them. I spoke softly, now. “This may be our only means of transport.” Brother Bob, hearing this, began to harangue and hector me anew, now with the theme of my worthless promises, my broken word that he could return the wagon and team. I turned my gaze on him, and ’twas enough to close his mouth, the look in my eye.

Softly, still, for the sake of the horses’ nerves, I said to him, “I told you that the wagon and the beasts would be returned after we reached my ship.” I looked weightily at the empty space where the Grace had been – ah, ’twas reflected in the empty space in my heart! – and then raised an eyebrow at him. I turned my back on his red-faced silence and walked towards the Volare.

Divine justice. Bah.

Of course he was right. Of course he was. The fault is mine. But so too was MacManus right: I am for the Grace. I must stay the course. If I must suffer to atone for my sins, I will do so: but I will do it aboard the deck of my ship. Then I will bleed as the gods will it.

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

Log #57: On the Wagon

Log

September the 18th, in the year 2011

Oh, what a glory it is to ride! What a wonder is a wheel, and a wagon upon it. What a relief to recline upon a bench, and watch the world unfurl before you, the tapestry of time embroidered with the lives of men, in colors dyed and thread spun by the gods – or perhaps by the men themselves, who can say? As this lovely day’s travel has come to pass thanks to our chosen acts, I believe I will believe that men are the masters of their fates, and the weavers of the web of the world.

‘Tis remarkable, how the words flow, how the thoughts rise up in the mind, when one is not stumbling to sleep, footsore and exhausted. How easy it is to think and write when one has ridden all day, rather than marched mile after mile. My favorite object in this world is still my Grace – but methinks this wagon comes just behind her. I wonder if I should keep it, lash it to a line and float it behind; ’tis wooden, and ‘twould wade over waves. Though that does leave me caring for horses aboard, or else forcing my men to pull the wagon when ashore. Perhaps the latter, if I can find more crew. Ah! I recall now a conversation I had with Brother Bob, in the midst of one of our long slogs afoot, one which I had not the wherewithal to record at the end of that day, and do so now.

We were discussing my ship, and my need for crew. I had told him – and Lynch and MacManus, as well – of my intention to gain the Grace and make straight for Ireland, and home, regardless of the risk; at mention of this risk, the which I would not detail for him, not wishing to seem a madman with tales of ancient enemies and witchcraft and ships that sail somehow through Time itself, he inquired as to the opportunities presented by such a lovely craft as my Grace, for I have told him everything about her, in the hours we have spent staring at the road ahead and feeling every foot of the road behind. I told him that before I could pursue any alternate course, I would need more men; I can only pray that Vaughn and O’Gallows have not lost any more, for if so, we will hardly be able to steer her homeward, even without the threat of the Devil’s Lash and his dark shadow. But in these times, I do not know where to find the men; I do not think, first, that anyone knows the style of ship I sail, the tasks that keep and steer her, nor the commands that drive the crew as a single body, as these Americalish keep only boats that move as the Coast Guard’s iron ships, without sail, or at most a single-masted pinnace, barely more than a ship’s boat; in all our time on these shores, we have seen nothing else, nothing like my Grace. However, that is not so much of a much, as I would trust my ship and my crew to teach a good man the ins and outs of sailing after our manner: the question is, where to find good men, in this age, in this land? There’s the rub.

But it was to this point that Brother Bob had somewhat of a suggestion. He told me that there were many men – thousands of men – who had served their country in the Americalish armies, fighting abroad or guarding the borders of the nation against incursion. And though these thousands of men, these veterans, were purportedly venerated as their bravery and their honor deserved, still many and many a man found little chance of prosperity after turning his sword to a plowshare.

I understand this. There are thousands such in Ireland, as well, and more than a few in my own crew: men who served in the wars against the English, men who took up arms to guard their homes, only to see their homes burned, when all their efforts could not stop Devil Cromwell. And when the conquest of our home was completed, and there were no more left to fight, what could these men do? They had sought honor in battle, and had found only defeat; many of them felt there was no other chance to win honor anew, to wipe away the stains of past failure. Too, there were those who had won victories, here, there, even if only from a small skirmish – still, in Irish eyes, a victory in a skirmish, if it be a victory over the English, is an honor unmatched – and once their days of fighting for their homeland were ended, by injury of by the infirmity of age, what then could they do to recapture that glory? Aye, ’tis Achilles’s curse, living on through every fighting man, even to the world we find ourselves in this day. A man who seeks honor and glory in battle must choose: a short life and a proud one, or many years of humility. Such is the soldier’s way. Aye, and the pirate’s too, no doubt.

So I told Brother Bob, and commiserated with him over these poor lost souls, the which, I expect, count myself and my crew among their number – for a pirate knows his life will end atop the gallows or beneath the waves, and in short order, most like – and we understood one another. But Bob had a different thrust to his conversation: I could hire these men, he said, these veterans of foreign wars. Many of them retired from the fray in their youth, between 25 and 30 years of age – in truth, a good age for a sailor, especially if a man has grown accustomed to following orders and maintaining discipline. He told me there were places where such men gathered, sometimes informally, sometimes with a purpose, and that many of them were seeking employment they could not find, for the Americalish nation is beset by hard times, it seems. He avoided that subject, though; Brother Bob has opined several times over these last days that men should not talk of religion, nor of politics, if they seek to remain friends. I think back to Ireland, and the discussions in the taverns of just those two issues, and I think of the brawls and brouhaha that inevitably followed; I think perhaps Brother Bob is correct.

Should I, therefore, find myself aboard my ship and in need of men, I will seek out these veteran soldiers, and offer them employment as pirates. Though perhaps not in those words. But then, Squire McNally did say that pirates be somewhat beloved of the people, these days. Perhaps I will simply stride into a gathering place of soldier-men, in all my finery with my sword drawn, and ask them who wishes to join me pirate crew. I wonder: would there be any who would stand and say Aye?

Yes, Brother Bob has accompanied us well, these past days; offering pleasing conversations and excellent guidance, and unflagging cheer to help pass the miles on our poor benighted feet. That is, until this day. This day, he has not been a cheerful nor a pleasant companion. This day, he has been a shrew, and a bother.

It started simply enough: he asked me if I was a Christian. I commented that he was opening a discussion I thought he would rather avoid, and he replied – quite coldly – that such a rule only applied when one sought to remain friendly. At the which I could only laugh, and respond that I did not consider myself a Christian. He professed surprise at this, considering my race; it seems my people have won a reputation for devotion to the Church, over the years. I told him that I had been baptized, of course, and had taken the catechism, but that my knowledge of pure Christian men was too deep, too complete, for me to wish to count myself among their number. This silenced him for a time.

Then he took up his true thread, the which he had hoped to tease out using God as his needle: theft.

“All right, you aren’t a Christian, but do you believe in right and wrong? Do you know right from wrong, when you see it?”

“Of course I do,” I replied. We were lounging in the rear of the wagon while MacManus drove with Lynch beside; the countryside was beauteous, though we were fast approaching Philadelphia and so seeing the beginnings of the city’s stone, spread across the earth like the welts and sores of the plague or the pox. Well, and I was lounging; Brother Bob sat upright and rigid, as he has remained since we acquired the wagon. This, I assumed, was the center of his thought, and I was right.

“Then don’t you know that stealing this wagon was wrong? You stole it from Amish men, too – the most harmless people in the world, sworn not to commit any violent act, even in defense of themselves!”

At this intelligence, I exchanged a glance with MacManus; we would remember this in future: the Amish are easy prey, though likely not rich prizes, for the very same reason. “Well, Brother,” I began, as my comfortable feet made me wish to wax rhetorical, “I do see that, and then again, I do not. On the one hand, the men we left afoot, who had been riding previous to meeting us, they are now likely unhappy. Causing misery is indeed wrong, and I do regret that. But then again, if they are so miserable, there are a thousand means whereby they can find joy anew, and if they fail to see even one such way back to pleasure, then I can hardly consider myself responsible for their blindness. I did cause some misery, but not so very much, and the wrong, methinks, is commensurate with the misery – not so very much.

“And then there is the other hand: by that very same act, I made myself, and at least two of my companions, most assuredly happy. Our feet are singing my praises, at this very moment.” Lynch and MacManus laughed with me, at this, though I spoke naught but the truth. “This, then, by the same logic, would be a righteous act – and is not the key to a good life, Brother, simply maintaining the balance, creating good to set against ills?”

“But you stole! It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, you had no right to this wagon and those horses! You took them by force!”

“I did no such thing. I offered the men aboard this wagon a choice, and they chose. Not one drop of blood was spilled in the taking of this wagon.”

“You pointed a gun at them, or he did, at your order,” Brother Bob said, indicating MacManus, who touched his brow in salute, to acknowledge his part in the acquisition of the wagon (the which he knew earned him only honor from his shipmates, for whom the argument largely stopped where I had placed it, on the line of ‘This act made me and my brethren happy, and therefore is it good.’ A simple life, is the life of a pirate. Alas for Brother Bob.) “You threatened them with violence, and used that threat to take their lawful property. How can that be anything but wrong?”

“Look, Brother: do you believe those two boys –” for the men aboard this wagon when we waylaid it were but youths, no more than a few years above Lynch, and far wetter behind their ears than my man – “those boys were the true owners of this wagon and team? Of course not. It belongs to their father. He gave them permission to use it, and the horses, as well. So those two boys did not shape the wagon, nor raise the team that drew it; they did not earn the wealth to buy it. Their ownership of it came only of possession, and as the result of a choice, a free choice made by a free man, weighing in either hand the benefits and the costs of his choice. Their father knew that giving his boys the wagon would lose him its use for a time, and too, it might – depending on how worthy those boys are – present some risk; perhaps they would drive too fast, and lame the horses, or lose the road and break a wheel, as boys are wont to do. Perhaps they would forget their given task, if the wagon were put into their hands to do a piece of work for the father, which I think likely, and they would wander the roads, costing the father hours or days of lost work, both from his wagon and from his sons. But despite those risks, that father chose to lend his wagon. By so doing, he gave up possession, and thus ownership of it, into the hands of his sons – though of course, he could expect to receive his wagon back from them, assuming they did not ruin it in the meantime through ill use.

“All I did, Brother, was offer those two boys – now the owners of that wagon – another choice. They weighed the costs and the profits of that choice, and they chose. They gave us their wagon, the which we now own, and gratefully so. That was the more profitable course for them, and they knew it, and chose it wisely – which would, one hopes, ameliorate their misery resulting from the loss of ownership of this fine wagon, and the resultant footaches, and the possible heartaches that may come from telling their father of what happened. But then, again, I would expect their father would be happiest that his sons were not harmed, nor yet the horses, if he is a man who cares for his beasts as a farmer should. Thus the misery is again alleviated.

“So I ask you, Brother,” I drew to a close, waving my arms grandly, “where is the wrong in this? I am joyed by the new ownership of this fine wagon and team, and the former owners are joyed by their continued good health. All is well.”

This argument did not appease Brother Bob. Though again, as yesterday, he did not leave our company, and he did not alert la policia to our presence. I think he does not want to see us hang as thieves, and he takes me at my word that he will be allowed to take the wagon and team back to these peace-loving Dutchmen (So unlike the Dutchmen of my own time) when we have reached the Grace. And my sophistry, as well as my desire to keep and float this fine conveyance, put aside, he is right to believe this, for it is only the truth. Brother Bob will not join my crew, and allowing him to right the wrong he believes we have committed, and offering those Amish boys their property back again, will but spread more joy in this world of sorrow and darkness. Therefore it is good, says I.

So say we all.

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

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