Michael sat, he was topless and the scars of his flogging itched against the tapestry of the cushion on his chair back. He faced the open sea, fathoms of it, shining like amethyst, as far as the eye could see, beyond his cabin’s bay casement windows. The paler sky almost seamless on the horizon, the breeze almost non existent as it came through the opened glass panels. Above him he had heard the exchange of words and now heard the scuttle of Furness’ terrified escaping feet and the steady pacing of Maloney, his unwavering loyal first mate.
How long had he known Maloney now? Was it four, perhaps five years? When his family was destroyed by the local noble savages he had worked his way across the country to eventually arrive back in New York where he’d first stepped foot on the land that held such promise then but now all he felt for it was loathing and hatred. He’d met Maloney soon after. They met in New York; Michael trying to find life, Maloney seemingly intent on burying him again.
The huge Irishman was slumped in a saloon drunk. He never did find out why. He coincidentally sat next to him an as the Irishman talked, including Michael in his ambiance of conviviality, he made Michael feel safe to be with him as he reminded Michael of how his mother and father talked. The big man asked after Michael’s occupation and when he said he didn’t have one as such, just like that, Maloney decided Michael would be his next ship’s captain. But first they needed to make money to buy a ship and commission a crew. And gold was the fastest way to do that. So, no sooner had they slept a full night than Maloney was dragging him back across the country again in search of easy gold.
Maloney convinced him to look again for the promised land where they could make money quickly and they had worked their way across the vast continent in search of it, a land that Maloney would not believe did not exist. But Michael had lived all his conscious childhood there; he and his father and mother, her father and Michael’s little sister. Raised in the hardship, the squaller, the dust and the mud, the blistering heat and the mind-numbing cold he knew there was no money, no wealth just hardship, death and lawlessness from those supposed to be loyal, and those known to be evil. But with nothing better to do he allowed Maloney to convince him to look again … or was that the wily street gang that was after them that persuaded him it was time to go again? and as he knew the trek he could get them away safely.
So many miles, so much labour, so much drinking. He smiled to himself remembering the saloons and the whiskey and the cards and the women and the money. He learnt the ways of poker and soon became clever at it. They had the money to travel comfortably and dress well but they didn’t, sticking to their horses and dusty boots and duds. Michael saved his money in the lining of his trouser pocket, one of the jobs he’d worked had taught him to sew bags so he tried it on his pants and sewed a secret pouch behind his pocket.
By the time they reached the west he’d been able to swap his coins for dollars. A few here and there in each place they passed through. “Mind your pennies and your pounds will mind themselves.” His mother’s words in his father’s ears echoed into his own thoughts. He noticed the Chinee always playing down their strengths, always bowing and smiling yet you couldn’t trust them not to kill you. They always worked together and they worked hard and without complaint. They always had money and the sleeves of their jackets hid a multitude of resources. You had to play it very calm yet wary when you were around the Chinee. So he adopted their approach: always keep most back. He remembered seeing a huge iceberg in the sea when he was on the ship from Ireland.
“That’s only the tip.” He remembered his grandfather saying “The rest is under the sea. A floating mountain of ice. A wise way to be.”
That was the way of the Chinee, only showing the tip of their iceberg and keeping the rest hidden. That was how he had come to be also.
And now this; that he should be thought of as pandering to a woman; that he should be disappointed by such a woman. And what of that woman? He closed his eyes finding them sore and dry from his blind stare. Her face lept to fill his blackness. Her smile by the fire, her dancing laughing, and the fight she always seemed to put up, those eyes, that hair. And then, from deep in his memory foggy with the remembered pain of his flogging, he saw her. Her dress was wide and blue like the sea, the dress she wore now, her hair loose, those glorious treacle red waves of silky softness, so sweetly scented, even there in the rankness of his cell.
His eyes flew open in surprise! She’d been there in his cell. There with Grouse. He was certain of it. He closed his eyes again to focus on his memory and make certain of it. Grouse and two of his lackeys had brought her. She seemed drunk and happy. Grouse had said she’d tend to his back and left them alone. She’d stayed the night with him, she did tend to his back and then he had taken her. His forehead screwed together at the crassness of such a violation but he considered her to be the last woman he’d ever see on earth. He had kissed her and she had melted to him. He had then released her of the tightness of her clothing, the corset the crinoline hoops. She had reached up to him, whispered thank you and he kissed her again. Her arms caught him to her and then he was unable to stop. Regardless of the pain to the open wounds of his back he took her and she had cried out like the virgin she was. And then he had cried with his shame and she had comforted him, caressing him, loving him and she then instigated the next time.
Shaking his head and hissing out a sigh of exasperation he got up from the chair and paced his cabin. He’d seen her on board the first night she’d woken; she was standing in the bow enjoying the wind and the spray coming from the crashing waves as they made good speed. She had turned and smiled at him but not really looked at him, her focus was on the excitement of the wave ride. But it had been enough for him to know who she was and hide from her. At first it was because of the shame of that night, and then because she obviously had not remembered it, or was choosing not to, he had hidden, intuitively suspecting foul play… and hating himself for it.
He hadn’t wanted to believe it of her and as the time went by he had realised she really was innocent of the deviations his mind had created and was innocently realising she had been drugged. He was so self focussed he could not say if she had appeared drugged in the cell that night or not, she did seem very willing, helping him to experience her again, not stopping him in any way. In the morning she had not woken and was taken out by the same two lackeys.
How he had wanted to keep her there and protect her, especially from those ugly dirty brutes, especially from Grouse. One had cuffed his head away from her as he tried to dress her again. He fought to make sure her garments were on her body in the right order if not done up completely. Then he received another more powerful punch that had him sprawling and both smiled lecherously as they lifted her between them, the man at her feet holding her knees either side of his hips the other happily hooking her shoulders over his arms so his hands could rest on her chest. Too dazed and in pain he’d almost cried in his slump by the wall as he watched them take her out.
And then Grouse had come in smiling at him. “You’ll hang for sure now, molesting a poor nurse who came to tend your wounds.” He remembered vividly how Grouse had crowed, the small man’s eyes beaded and shining with malevolence. “The goddaughter of the queen no less!”
But that day was when the escape had occurred, switching his body for the dead body of the navigator under the guise of Maloney and Furness being his brothers coming to bring their frail old mother to farewell him. Maloney had carried “Mother” who had appeared to be too crippled to walk and asleep with the laudanum for the trip. Michael had then switched clothes and as the old, now awakened “mother”, shuffled out with her “sons” leaving the dead, soon to be hung, “son” in his place. They had even lashed the back of the dead body to resemble his own wounds, Michael taking a strange morbid pleasure in adding the final cut to the poor cadaver’s face where his own scar still twinges.
It was possible that she had been drugged by Grouse for his purpose to try and have Michael’s fate sealed. Grouse obviously had not anticipated that Maloney should have the contact for exactly the same woman. And she did sleep a further two days before the effect of the drug wore off.
He stopped by the table and rubbed his brow. The scar across his cheek ached. He didn’t give a damn for what he looked like, Maloney did enough of that for the both of them, but it was a pity his face should bear the scar also. At least his mother never saw it. On their way back to Boston they had stopped in on his old home town to find his grandfather’s grave beside a town grave for his father, and a third for his mother. Of his sister Susie there was no word at all. He had claimed himself a distant cousin, talking with the Irish lilt like Maloney, finding that surprisingly easy to do, and declaring himself fresh off the boat from Dublin; well as fresh as could be given the two month trek across the country included. He was truly free and so moved on without another thought.
Now there was still no thought other than to be relieved he no longer had a need to return to America, where he left his past and nightmares buried in that stony field. Gold was being had in Australia and they now had a hold full of rum, he decided they would take it south around the cape and see what Australia and the Pacific Islands held in store for him.
But what of Rhiannan?
Even if by some miracle her mother were still alive there was little any of them could do to find her let alone free her and nothing if they all wound up in a prison cell of their own. Rhiannan would have to come to the blunt realization she could do no more for her mother while she were aboard his ship. When they finally made Rio she could take her leave if she chose. She could also dob him into the English if she chose. His heart told him to trust her to prove her innocence; his head said do so but warily.
Either way they were not returning to England!
For my NaNoWriMo challenge
One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book
Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry
It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living.
Who knew what really happens in the mystical Tropical Islands of South America? Who knows what went on the the dens of iniquity encouraged by the tropical heat and scantily clad people.
Back in the mid 1800s there was still a strong pull for Piracy if for nothing else than the immoral indulgences and the black market trade the world over.
I do wish to apologise if this fictitious re-enactment offends anyone – my intention was to put my leading characters through extraordinary experiences, not offend.
So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼