Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch3ii]

CHAPTER THREE Continues ….

She heard a cough and dream-like turned her eyes from the lifeless stare on the cook’s face to the man now trying to get up.

‘Never did like his cooking.’ Michael grunted
‘Perhaps we should have done away with him back in England.’ The balding man stated
‘Stuck your jacket and hat on him captain and left him for the gallows in your stead.’ One of the mutineer men added
‘I would have given him your lash scars to prove him you.’ Another offered loyally
‘Might have stopped the mutiny.’ Another suggested.
‘How does being rid of the cook you had kept, stop you from mutiny against Michael?’ Rhiannan, her hands on her hips, faced them frowning and demanding to know.
The man shrugged ‘He was the one who stashed the rum.’
Rhiannan shook her head grunting in exasperation and turning away from them.

‘So that’s rum in those barrels?’ Michael identified.
‘Aye captain, a full hold load. The plan was to take it back to England.’
‘Ah of course, it all makes perfect sense, lame of course but perfectly simple sense.’ Michael staggered a bit then stepped away from the dead man.
‘I suppose in the eyes ears and mind of a pirate this would make perfect sense but I assure you sir, in those of a lady like me there is not one ounce of sensibility!’
Michael looked at her stunned that she should suddenly sound so eloquent, but then had she always and he had just never noticed?
‘Grouse and Jake knew of the rum haul.’ he began in calm tones. ‘They needed a ship to fetch it for them. When I docked and was caught there was their ship. Grouse wanted me to hang, and then he could purchase the ship, to fetch the rum and possibly other stashes that they knew of and commission the crew or press them with gallows as the threat, freedom the bribe. When they only flogged me he was furious. This bought time for the crew to spring me. And so Jake was forced on us to replace our lost navigator who’d been killed at my capture. Dare I wonder if that was more convenience than coincidence?’ he paused with a look on his face that told them all how disgusted he was with that idea. ‘Jake’s bad navigation was actually spot on. Clever that he worked out this place was where it would be on the African map had he followed it instead of the American.’

‘But how do I figure into this?’ Rhiannan asked
‘Maloney fetched you to nurse me. His sister trained you in healing.’ Michael looked at her placidly.
‘But how did I get from Grouse’s office to my door totally non-compous?’
‘Grouse’s?’ Michael looked at her frowning.
‘I told you, I hired him to find my mother on a hulk and have her imprisonment changed to transportation.’

Still frowning Michael shook his head, Rhiannan sighed in exasperation she was certain she’d told him surely! But had she explained it all? How could she without knowing it all herself? But then may be he knew more? But how would he know more? Yet he seemed oddly … well … familiar possibly more? She frowned at him. He was frowning back at her studying her closely and she didn’t like the inquisition as if she were a criminal herself! Oh it was hot and she was exhausted suddenly from the long energetic hike and the heat and the stress of having a gun to her head and then the possibility of his death and then this nonsense. Exasperated she stamped her foot and shook her skirt.

‘I told you; the night I went to pay him for his service he drugged me. I don’t know how I got from his house to mine where Maloney swears he found me. I have no idea of what happened to me between the evening of that Saturday until the day I woke aboard your ship whatever day that was! I cannot keep track of time when every day is the same as the last and all we do is chase the horizon!’ she squared him then. ‘I find I must trust you and this Maloney person with my welfare and I don’t like this feeling at all!’

Suddenly Michael grabbed her shoulders looking at her intently, staring into her eyes and trying to read her soul. Then just as suddenly he let her go and stormed off. Rhiannan stood totally confused. His intent scrutiny of her had felt so intrusive but then when he let her go and left she felt totally bereft. She couldn’t understand it, the intoxication of the passion of his actions.

‘Woman move or be left behind!’ He bellowed from almost to the beach and she realised all the men had followed him and she was alone with the dead cook.

She ran to catch up, noting one man, blonde wiry and serious, hand the captain his newly cleaned dagger, and the balding one had handed him his spyglass and was busy refastening his bandanna over his head as he marched. The men with the rum barrels on the beach began an attempt at resistance until they saw their fellow mutineers back loyal to the captain and gave up their piratical resistance. Instead they met the others with hands out in apology; leaving men behind on an island was bad form for seamen. Then marching out from the trees came Maloney and his men having witnessed the reunion on the beach. He noted the blood on Michael’s shirt with a cocked eyebrow but said nothing.

The crew reformed and the men divided into two groups. The larger group continued fetching the rum; it would trade in Australia just the same, for as good a profit if not better than in England. The smaller group boarded the ship, Maloney and Michael in the rear to calmly repossess it again. Jake being surrounded by what he considered loyal mutineers had sent them all off thinking himself safe enough to wait on the ship, not for one second thinking anyone would try to reclaim it from him. He now sat surrounded by the same men again the points of their cutlasses caging him in.

‘Lock him in the box.’ Michael said tersely then let out his breath and added almost reluctantly, ‘And haul that woman aboard and lock her in her cabin.’ Then turned on his heel and walked to his cabin.
Maloney stared after him mouth open in surprise. He’d witnessed the young captain’s attraction for the stunning young lady; he had no idea why the man now suspected her of foul play.

‘You heard the captain, jump to it lads.’ Maloney barked and the men set to.

While two went to prepare the upright box, the other four took hold and began dragging the now squealing petrified man to it. Ugly and gloomy the box was not much bigger than a coffin, standing beneath the wheel deck. It had a small mesh like window that a tall man could see straight out of but Jake was not tall, he would face wood no matter which way he turned. And although he could lean against the walls in this box, unlike others more sadistically equipped with spikes to prevent that, there was no way any but a child could sit in one. Michael had wanted to have it removed since he bought the ship from the Boston auctions. It had been a slaver decommissioned as such when the captain, first mate and some of the crew had been caught tried found guilty of slave trading and thus hung. As someone’s strange idea of a joke they had found in it a porcelain pot on a soap box when they’d opened the door to look. But there had been priority needs, to remove so many other reminders of the horror the ship had once been used for, that they had not gotten round to removing the box. It had never been used and Maloney had known the toll on Michael for ordering its use now, but the man had warranted it. An hour or two in the box would render any man silent and sufficiently reformed, an hour or two for this mole would render him a terrified idiot.

After they had fetched Rhiannan aboard and closed her into her cabin, where she was grateful she could wash and change and possibly catch up on some rest; Maloney grabbed the bald crewman with the bandanna, and the serious blonde and distanced themselves from anyone else up on the poop deck

‘Furness, what transpired?’
The balding bandanna wearing crewman, Furness, gave his report of the group’s actions. Maloney held his tongue and waited with restrained patience for the man to complete his official report.
‘No I mean between the captain and the lass?’ Maloney clarified feeling the tension of the day.
‘The captain was not happy the lady came with us but then her argument amused him and he brought her along. She was the first to run down the hill and the first to come across the captain and the dead cook. They spoke and then he stormed off.’
‘What did they speak about?’
‘Harry told the captain about Jake knowing the whereabouts of the rum.’ the serious one said softly.
‘Go on Fairchild.’ Maloney prompted this serious man seeing Furness’ face drew a blank.
‘The captain told us about a man in England named Grouse wanting to buy the ship after the captain was hung, and then surmising that this man Grouse and Jake were in cahoots over the rum.’
Maloney tried to steal his reactions from his crew but they could tell from the set of his mouth and the steal of his eyes that not only did Maloney recognise the man’s name he might very well fully dislike the man himself.
‘And the lass?’ Maloney patiently prompted but Gavin Fairchild shrugged.

Maloney turned back to Furness, his patience wearing thin. He never knew any woman to gossip as much as this man before him. The only reason the man was not dead was because he also knew the value of staying silent when warranted and being loyal to the right people. He was also a good cook in his own right but Maloney would deal with that later.

‘She wanted to know what she had to do with it. I had no idea that she had anything to do with it and the captain looked just as perplexed then she said she had commissioned Grouse to find her mother and have her transported to Australia. Apparently the man had drugged her the night she went to pay her bill to him; but it was the night before the night that we took her to come nurse her.’
‘Are you sure?’ Maloney’s face was serious and Furness shrunk in fear
‘Aye captain she said it was Saturday. We fetched her Sunday.’
‘Aye we did, the Sunday turnpikes seeming more Christian to an old mother farewelling her youngest on the Sabbath. And the captain, what did he do then?’
‘I’ve never seen the captain so black faced. He grabbed her, looked so deeply into her eyes it was as if he was staring into her soul and then shoved her aside and left.’
‘Is that all?’
‘Aye Mate. Not another word of kindness. Perhaps he thinks her also in cahoots with Grouse.’

Maloney took time to think it through pacing across the deck and back, his hand stroking his chin his eyes on the boards and his frown set to protect his furiously working brain. The two men stayed put and watched him waiting for his next thought.

‘Grouse is only trouble to us if we return to England, which we won’t be doing, or if he sends another ship after us, which I doubt he could afford.’ Maloney said stopping but still staring at the deck under his feet, thinking aloud more than discussing the matter with the men.
‘Could she be in cahoots?’ Gavin queried.
‘No, I can’t believe it of her, not now or then.’ Maloney decided easily enough ‘When she woke, the lass was confused and scared. She has stuck to her story with a true ring of honesty. Even if she were in cahoots with Grouse, at worst a decoy to distract the captain and me from the mutiny, she is no threat now.’

‘Perhaps the captain is saddened that his hopes of love have been dashed by her disloyalty.’ Furness said whimsically.
‘Perhaps you read too many poems.’ Maloney growled and looked up threateningly under his big black brows.
Furness trembled, fearing Maloney more than any other man on earth.
‘Aye Mate; that I do.’
‘Well perhaps preparing the meals will give your idle eyes something better to do.’
‘Aye Mate; that would be a thing to do.’
‘Then get about it!’ The smaller man jumped at the sudden barked order and scurried to the stairs half saluting out of confusion. ‘And Furness; Shamus Patrick Daniel Furness,’ Maloney crooned sickeningly sweetly, turning slowly to face the man now poised at the top of the stairs.
The smaller man physically gulped; his knees and hands trembling violently.
‘Aye Mate?’ he squeaked trying not to faint dead away
‘If a word of this is spread by your tongue, I’ll take it from your head with my teeth.’
Furness all but wet himself out of sheer terror.
‘Aye Mate, not a word.’ He pledged, fear bleeding from his eyes like the sweat on his palms and forehead.
‘Get about it then!’ Maloney barked again and Furness scrambled away as fast as his trembling knees could carry him almost falling down the steps leaning on the banister grateful for the support.

He had no idea why the previous cook had no tongue but perhaps Maloney had successfully carried out his threat before. Furness was no coward as such, he could swing a cutlass or shoot a ball straight through a man’s head with a straight arm at five paces and never a flinch, but he was never brave enough to scoff at Maloney in any way let alone at a threat such as that.

Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch3ii]


Frankston, Australia

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Artist's Description

For my NaNoWriMo challenge

One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book

Chapter 3 continued
First part of Chapter 3 here
Expeditions begins – here

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. But in the mid 1800s it was normal for the children of the poor to see the activities of their parents – good & bad; generally they weren’t sheltered … that came in soon after when everyone wanted to live like the well to do did & hide or ignore the brutality of the ugly side of life.

Remember in Australia, Corporal Punishment was only outlawed 35 years ago! Child abuse is still being fought & wives could not testify against their husbands for anything including marital rape until recent times also.

So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼

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