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No Quarter: Wenches

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in 1689 Port Royal, Jamaica - a group of women form a secret and illegal society: WENCH. Hell hath no fury like a cross wench! In 1689, Atia Crisp finds herself imprisoned in the wickedest city on earth, Port Royal, Jamaica, while the refugees from Strangewayes’s plantation in the Blue Mountains are on the run and seeking a new home, deep in the Caribbean. Captain Jean-Paul la Roche must get them to safety and find a way to liberate the woman he loves while waging a war against the English with the pirate Laurens de Graaf. While besieged people suffer and starve, a group of women form a secret and illegal society deep from within the bowels of the city called: WENCH. A network that deals with smugglers, merchants, cutthroats and thieves. Dragged into the struggle for supremacy of the Caribbean, the women are divided and find themselves engulfed in bloodshed. The pirates of Port Royal and former enemies may be their only hope of escape. Hell hath no fury like a cross wench!

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Chapter 1: Tempest and a Teapot

September 22, 1689

Atia Crisp was counting the bars of her cage for about the hundredth time when Port Royal came into view. She had first arrived there just over a month ago, a journey that began when a hurricane struck the ship carrying her to Hope Bay. She and her sister, Livia, had been the only survivors of the wreck, which claimed many lives including those of her ma and half-brother. After being tossed to the jagged rocks of Folly Bay, she and Livia were kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Atia’s fortunes turned somewhat when she was used as a pawn in a card game and liberated by Capitaine la Roche. She later discovered that he was actually a pirate known as Gator Gar or simply the Capitaine. They fell in love and escaped to a plantation in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains where they stayed for a spell before being mobbed by English Redcoats and Maroons. All in all, she was back where she started from, in the pestilent city of Port Royal.

Atia could already smell it: shit, fish, and smoke. Not even the storm could clear away the stench. A flash of lightning illuminated the approaching harbor. Behind them, off in the distance, speck-sized ships sat on the horizon. The wherry boat dipped on the swell, causing Redcoats and prisoners alike to hang on tight.

Colonel Beckford led the procession, ordering the English soldiers to dock near the Wherry Bridge. They disembarked and prison carriages wheeled up Thames Street, passing through the great stone arch of Fort Carlisle and Gallows Point, where prisoners were hung by their necks until dead.

Atia grimaced as Bridewell Prison came into view. Its stone foundation housed dozens of cells with iron bars. The dilapidated top structure held many more barred chambers, each with very little natural light. Great, more confined spaces! she thought with a snarl.

She and Livia were dragged to separate cells. “Hang on, Liv, he’s coming,” Atia said.

She knew the Capitaine would rescue them. She could hear his broad-billed parrot, Minuit, following her across the Ligania plain; she’d seen him periodically on her journey. With the tempest looming she hoped her feathered friend was safe. Too many lives had been lost already. The attack on Strangewayes’s plantation had claimed her friends Tanama and Lilly. Tanama died in her arms. Atia had pretended to be asleep when English soldiers came to take the body away, and she’dgiven one of them a black eye.

She did not know the fate of others. The buccaneer Dashiell Dupris and a native elder, Yaguara, had picked the lock of their cage and escaped into the jungle. Carlena, the plantation’s leader, had guided the residents away through underground tunnels during the attack. Runaway slaves Ekene and Fatima, though, had had the misfortune of being captured and transported back to Port Royal in one of the prison carriages.

Atia peeked through the barred window, catching rain on her tongue. Lightning clawed the skyline, and the tiny ships drew nearer. Perhaps it was the Capitaine coming to take his revenge on this accursed city. She staggered to a hay bed in the corner of her cell. Her ribs still ached from the shipwreck, and she would have given anything for some laudanum. The hair on her arms rose, and she shuddered. Her head pressed against the stone. She could still see her ma being sucked overboard, her body smashed upon the rocks of Folly Bay.

A rat scuttled along the floor, its wee claws scraping against the foundation. Atia shut her tired green eyes. She imagined herself back at Strangewayes’s plantation, with its warm sweet air, large bright green leaves, and fields of vibrant wildflowers. Iridescent butterflies glittered, and birds chirped in the trees. The kindly Dr. Strangewayes invented new and unorthodox concoctions in his apothecary, while his assistant Gladstone always sampled the medicines. They had twilight picnics of cured meats, yams, mangoes, pineapples, apple tarts, and well-aged whiskey.

Her nap was interrupted by the metallic clang of keys and the click of a lock as a guard entered. “Atia Crisp, time for processing.”

He dragged her to her feet, and they stopped to collect Livia, who could scarcely walk due to a broken rib. Shackles locked around their ankles and wrists, and they were herded from one cage to another. Atia squeezed Livia’s hand as she dozed from exhaustion.

As they traveled across the street to the courthouse, the rain pelted hard, submerging the streets in water. The prison carriage slowed, unable to go any further. As a second prison cage halted beside them, Atia could see that it held Fatima and Ekene, half-conscious and bloodied.

At the courthouse on High Street, they were stopped, and someone called out, “Thames Street is flooded all the way down to the King’s House so you’ll have to go around High Street.” Water pooled down the front steps. City officials arrived in carriages, and debating ensued. “What the hell is all this?” one began.

“Councilman White,” another shouted over the wind.

“These are prisoners from Captain Longstaff. They’re to be processed tonight.”

White’s eyebrows furled. “Now? Why can’t this wait till morning?”

“Colonel Beckford said to take them in now.”

“Oh, Beckford,” White sighed. “He tries hard for an idiot. Take them back and lock them up for the night. We’ll process them in the morning.”

“Judge Goblet’s orders. These prisoners are to go before the bench tonight.”

The door to the courthouse blew open, and a stout man in a judicial black robe leaned out. “Excuse me, Mr. White, these prisoners are vital to an ongoing investigation into slave smuggling. One of the highest crimes there is. Thank you, Constable Blower.” Goblet glanced down at the pooling water. “We have to relocate the proceedings, however; the entire building is flooded.”

“Aye, so we go home and let it stop raining,” White said.

Goblet’s bottom lip quivered. “Whig justice doesn’t wait for the rain to stop.”

“Well, if you must proceed tonight, there’s the old courthouse on Church Street,” White suggested.

“That’s a synagogue now, sir,” Blower added.

White shrugged. “Well, tell the Jews to move out for a while. It’s nothing new for them.”

“Yes, I agree. We’ll move the proceedings to Church Street.” He motioned for his carriage. “Have Colonel Beckford meet us there.”

White yawned. “Ever fall asleep by the fire to the sound of the rain only to find yourself out in it? I have.”

“Thank you, Mr. White. England appreciates your sacrifice. Please meet us there.” Goblet hopped up into his carriage, followed by his aides, and took off.

“That’s ‘Captain’ or ‘Council President’ to you, Chief Justice,” White huffed. “Whatever! Take us to the old courthouse on Church Street.” He entered the carriage, and it rolled away.

Atia wiped the rain from her eyes, and the prison cart looped around, bumping and grinding against the uneven terrain. Livia moaned and trembled. Atia couldn’t even hug her sister with these damned shackles. “Don’t you worry, Liv. I know he’s coming.” She was convinced; she had to be. The Capitaine wouldn’t leave her here. He’d come. Her da would come too once he found out. He, her uncle Rourke, and her brothers would race in on Lucky Charms and blast holes in the city.

Atia wasn’t going to cooperate with these fancy officials. She wouldn’t give them a thing. Her whole family had suffered at the hands of people like that. Particularly the slaver Hansel Crisp. Crisp blackmailed her mother into marrying him by threatening her life and Livia’s.

They could throw Atia back in prison. Beat her. Torture her. She refused to crack. Each and every one of them could go to hell.

Captain John White, the council president, debated whether to step outside the confines of his carriage. Like a dog, he’d been summoned in the middle of the night during a storm. He massaged the stubble on his head before placing a heavy white wig there. He secured his rain cloak and hood, then stepped out in front of the courthouse.

“This will do nicely.” Goblet lifted his robe and climbed the stairs. “Seems old Port Royal is on higher, firmer ground than new Port Royal.”

White wrinkled his nose. “Smells the same in the morning, though.” He rushed indoors to shake off.

Colonel Beckford joined them, and they advanced to the old court bench. Once the prisoners were escorted inside and lined up against the back wall, Goblet took a seat and removed a wooden box from his pocket. He used a small mallet to whack the tabletop. He frowned at the indent in the woodwork. “Whose invention is this? The Dutch?”

“It’s to bring order,” Beckford said.

“I know what it’s for, Colonel.” Goblet wore an expression that made him look like a constipated terrier. He eyed Livia and Atia Crisp. “Well done, you got the pikeys.” He flipped through a stack of papers. “Now, you captured a buccaneer and the Indian called Jaguar. Where are they?”

Beckford’s large ears flared red. “They…they escaped somewhere on the Ligania road.”

“Escaped? How could you let them escape?” Goblet pressed.

“With less than ten percent of my men left, we were unable to contain all the prisoners.”

“I’m astounded you know what a percentage is. Perhaps the title of colonel was a premature appointment.”

“What were the losses, Beckford?” White dared ask.

“Uncounted yet, sir, but I’d estimate we have less than a hundred soldiers including Red Royals, and my militia is down to twelve accounted for.”

White massaged his face. “How did this happen? Did we miss a meeting?”

“The Maroons attacked.” Beckford cleared his throat. “I believe Captain Longstaff and Admiral Goddam engaged in negotiations with them to lure them into a fight.”

White leaned in towards Goblet. “An ugly accusation, to say the least.” He went on to address Beckford. “Where is Admiral Goddam?”

“Dead, sir. Along with his entire staff and Colonel Spotswood.”

“The governor’s brother?” White’s eyes almost sprang from their sockets. “Oops. That might set off an inquiry.”

“An inquiry is what we’re here for, Mr. White,” Goblet said.

“That’s ‘Captain’ or ‘Council President,’ Chief Justice.”

“Constable,” Goblet said. “The sheriff was killed in the line of duty.”

“He was?”

“Come here and be sworn in.”

Blower’s face gleamed. “As sheriff?”

“No, imbecile, as bailiff,” White said.

Blower’s shoulders sagged, and he trudged towards them.

“What’s your full name?” Goblet asked.

“Lief Blower, sir. Son of Hans Blower.”

“Very well, you are hereby an officer of the court. Clear the court, Officer Lief Blower!”

White took his place on a chair next to Goblet. Once all unnecessary bodies were removed from the room, he cleared his throat. “Court is now in session. Justice Tankard presiding.”

The judge stared daggers. “Justice Goblet, Mr. White!”

“Sorry, I always get those mixed up, Chief Justice.”

Goblet continued to inspect the prisoners.

Atia, the red-haired pikey, glared at them all. “Me Capitaine’s coming for ya!”

“I’m sure.” Goblet read her file. “She’s wanted for questioning in her involvement with the pirate Gator Gar, along with her sister.”

One of the aides stepped forth. “There’s a bounty on the redhead. Captain Longstaff may have a claim.”

The door to the old courthouse opened, and the wind caught it, causing a slam that echoed through the building. Edmund Coggshall entered wearing a black rain cape. His right-hand man, Stevens, trailed behind. “I claim ownership of the two Irish girls and the young slave Fatima,” Edmund said.

“I thought ya freed us?” Atia challenged.

Edmund met her harsh gaze. “Unless the girls have the necessary papers to prove otherwise, I have here a letter of recovery entitling me to seize property belonging to Mr. Crisp of Barbados.” He provided a document.

Atia spat in his direction. “You said ya freed us!”

“Hush, Atia! I do this for you and your sister.” Edmund eyed the bench. “I’m here to take what’s mine.”

“Edmund Coggshall, your document claiming ownership of the Negro Fatima indicates she belonged to Mr. Burghill. That estate has yet to be determined. He has a child.”

“Aye, sir. His daughter is unmarried and cannot inherit the land, titles, or property.”

“She’s too fat and slow too,” Blower said, eliciting a laugh from the guards.

Goblet slammed down the mallet, leaving another mark on the woodwork. “Fatima is a runaway slave and will be sent back to Barbados for reconditioning unless Mr. Coggshall can provide further proof.”

Edmund shook his papers. “What of the two Irish? Surely my claim stands?”

“Atia Crisp will be interrogated in Bridewell Prison for her involvement with the pirate Gator Gar and her association with the smugglers, Cormac and Rourke O’Malley. Although they are recently deceased, she may be able to provide further details on their smuggling operation.”

Atia’s face went pale at the news of her da and uncle’s death. The sisters looked at each other and began chanting something pagan-like. Atia sniffed and pointed to the window. “My Capitaine is comin’ for ya. He’s coming for you all!”

“Mr. Crisp of Barbados also has a claim. He believes them to be of pure Roman blood. He’s sending a breeding expert to find out.” Goblet formed a pyramid with his hands. “Acting Lieutenant Governor Piper, however, wants there to be no question: Barbados does not dictate terms to Port Royal. Rather, Port Royal will advise Mr. Crisp of Barbados how we see fit. There are no charges against Livia Crisp. She is released to Edmund Coggshall pending a hearing to determine ownership.” He motioned to Edmund. “You may take her with you now, Mr. Coggshall.”

Livia was unshackled, and Stevens picked her up in his arms.

“I’ll not go without Atia!” Livia protested.

“Hang on, Liv. He’s comin’ and Da’s comin’ too, you’ll see!” Atia cried hysterically.

A boom shook the room.

“Jesus!” Goblet exclaimed.

“No, it’s a ship,” White corrected.

A flash shone through the window, followed by an explosion.

White dived beneath the bench. “Hit the deck!”

The clang of alarm bells sounded as more thunderous blasts rattled the walls.

Goblet’s bottom lip began quivering. “What the hell is it?”

“It’s a raid, you fool! Secure the prisoners. Everyone, stay down!” White shouted. “Colonel Beckford, general quarters!” He and the colonel looked out the door. The blasts had come from just offshore.

“It’s a French attack!” a bystander yelled.

“Told ya they was comin’.” Atia smiled smugly.

White and Beckford ran to Morgan’s Line to defend the city. From the end of Church Street, an ornately decorated carriage sped along. Two fiery shots soared into a nearby building. Acting Lieutenant Governor Piper stuck his head out the window, yelling wildly, “Get out of the way, you fucking idiots! Jesus fuck!”

“Aye, that’s our government for you,” White said. “Always banding together in times of crisis.”

Candlelight illuminated the sitting room while rain droplets pelted the windows. Ellsebeyth “Bizy” Gale had known something was up. The commotion outside on Church Street had woken her. The Jewish families residing in the former courthouse across the street were being dispatched from their homes. Only a year before, the Spanish Catholics had been dismissed from the same building. Some sort of official city business was being conducted, evidently.

She then decided to fix herself a pot of tea, while occasionally checking the window. Snoring came from her friend, Esmerelda Belford—or to some, Widow Bell—who had passed out in a chair from too much rum. When the first of the cannon fire struck, the entire house vibrated. Widow Bell fell out of her chair with a thud as Isabella and Jamie, raced downstairs.

Isabella trembled. “What’s going on, Mama?”

Bizy motioned for her to stay quiet and checked the window facing the water. Tall ships loomed in the distance within a veil of smoke. Cannon fire assaulted the city again, causing dishes to vibrate off the shelves and the teapot to shatter on the floor.

“Christ, we’re under attack!” Widow Bell staggered towards them. “Get to the cellar, kids!”

Bizy felt Isabella’s stare as she slid on her boots and laced them up. “Down to the cellar. Now!”

The children went on ahead, but Widow Bell delayed. “Where are you going?”

“I have to go to White’s Line and defend the city.”

Widow Bell shook her head. “Why’d ya have to say ‘yes’?”

“Well, I did. Now get downstairs, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Bizy forced her arms through her coat and buttoned up. It was becoming a habit these days, dragging herself out of bed in the middle of the night to save the city. A month prior, she’d assisted in extinguishing a devastating fire. Her actions earned her a Medallion of Service and the honorary title of acting corporal and official fire warden of White’s Line. Now, facing the prospect of cannonballs, she wasn’t so sure she wanted such fanciful labels.

She tied back her long hair, which drew attention to the scar that ran down the middle of her forehead to the bridge of her nose. After a deep breath, she rushed down the front steps to the causeway.

A pair of renegade peacocks darted by, followed by Jarvess Coxenspit, a local performance artist known as Monsieur De’va. He whistled to his pet fowls. “That’s the bloody French for ya!” Coxenspit bellowed. “Taking cheap shots in the bloody rain!” He clasped his pom-pom nightcap and continued his frantic chase.

Bizy stopped at Morgan’s Line. Councilman White was on the scene, watching the enemy ships through a spyglass. Colonel Beckford limped up the ramp to join him, briefly casting an eye at Bizy.

“Ah, Beckford, there you are!” White studied the ships. “I see la Merlin, le Sea Horse and Hazarducks. The bloody pricks!” He lowered the viewer.

Bizy had known those ships from her days consorting with the Flibustiers in ’79 and ’80. Their French names were Émerillon, Cheval Marin, and Hazardeux.

“Call battery to order! Fire back, dammit!” White yelled.

Beckford looked through his telescope. “Prepare to fire.”

Bizy lit torches as men loaded the cannons. From behind them came the high-pitched shriek of peacocks. Her heart almost erupted when she saw Jamie rushing out to her.

White grabbed Jamie by the ear and took him behind the rundlet cart. He addressed the city volunteers: “You were trained for this. Defend the city!”

“Is it an invasion?” Bizy asked.

“No. A test of our strength. They’ll retreat once we’re at full force.”

His words were little comfort. “What shall I do?”

“Watch for signals from Morgan’s Line.” Next, White eyed Jamie. “And you, stay out of the way.”

Bizy gave her son a worried snarl.

“Ready to fire cannons,” White ordered. “Fire!”

Men torched the cannons and fired at the French ships. A retaliatory shot came back at them.

“Incoming!” White pointed.

Sulfur hung heavy in the air. The shot soared overhead and slammed into Widow Bell’s house.

“No!” Bizy screamed.

Jamie tugged at his mother’s arm. “They got our house, they got Isabella.”

She scooped up her six-year-old and met White’s gaze. “That’s our house.”

“Take the boy out of here. Go.”

Bizy darted for home. There was a great smoking hole in the side of the house. She navigated to the cellar door, which was still intact. She pulled it open and lowered Jamie inside before climbing down herself. Within the darkness she found Isabella, Widow Bell, a handful of neighbors, and Jarvess Coxenspit.

Coxenspit sobbed, wiping his nose with his nightcap and gripping a dead peacock. “I think I accidentally choked me favorite fowl!”

The sleepy little town of Ligania lay across the water from Port Royal’s harbor. The street lamps were lit once the people realized it was their neighbor under attack and not them. Residents gathered at the wharfs to observe the spectacle. The thunder of ignited gunpowder echoed across the sea, and gunpowder explosions lit up the sky with bursts as intense as fireworks.

The largest mansion in town belonged to Port Royal’s former lieutenant governor, Lord Dorcas Dewar. The grounds of the estate bustled with activity as Dewar ordered that everyone wake up and that breakfast be ready so they could all enjoy a meal and a show.

Dewar’s children huddled in their nightwear. Beside them was the Llewellyn family. Lady Lyla Llewellyn wore her night robe, and her daughter, Laura, wore the same, holding a small dog with an enormous mustache. Dewar gazed suspiciously at Chico Gonzales the rat-dog, whose extraordinary talents ranged from incessant yapping to leaving shit stains on the walls.

“Father, can we not go back inside?” Dewar’s youngest bemoaned.

“Bloody daisy! And miss a piece of history? I think not.” Dewar straightened the cuffs of his frilled sleeves. This was indeed a special occasion. He was adorned in a red velvet suit, an ostrich feather hat, and shimmering buckle shoes.

Former Judge Lord Lawrence Llewellyn’s elaborate heels clopped against the woodwork. His blue and red checkered justacorps hung regally around his frame, and draped over his shoulder was a deep purple sash. “Have I missed anything?”

“Nay, they’re just getting started.” Dewar clapped his hands. “Oh, hurrah! I love a good battle! Who is it this time, the Spanish?”

The former governor’s advisor, Mason Sleemans, covered his ears. “We’re not at war with the Spanish. The French, I suspect. That’s a declaration of war from Saint-Domingue.”

Llewellyn posed triumphantly. “I’m even wearing my ceremonial sash of victory.” He paused to take a deep breath. “Ah, the sounds and smells of war. How I missed it so. Everyone comes together to kill total strangers who knows whatever for.” A smile illuminated his face. “God, I love it so!”

Sleemans pointed to the purple accoutrement. “What battle does it commemorate?”

Llewellyn shrugged. “Who knows, but I’m sure we won.”

Dewar and Llewellyn strolled onto the stone patio for a better view. In between the thunderous booms, the nearby ocean washed over the rocky terrain below. The air around them grew silent.

“Oh, what happened? Have they stopped?”

Sleemans peered out to sea. “Maybe just turning around for another assault?”

“Let’s hope so! When did we last beat the French?” Dewar asked.

“We’ve never been at war with them before,” Sleemans said.

“Well, it’s bloody well time then!”

Another flash and a shot soared into the city.

“Come along, swords up! Ah, it’s on again.” Dewar took a slender, brass spyglass from his pocket. “Come on, Port Royal. Shoot back, you lousy Whigs!”

Fiery cannonballs fell, one by one, into the city. Rumbles and screams carried on the wind. Fort Charles fired a barrage of shots at the offending ships, which splashed into the sea.

“Finally, someone woke up Captain White.” Dewar chuckled.

Morgan’s Line and White’s Line both fired shots, and the French ships turned away.

“That can’t be it?” Llewellyn exclaimed. “I got all dressed up!”

Silence ensued until the French ships came back for another pass.

“We should have someone painting this.” Llewellyn raised a glass when Falcon, a sloop with English patterns, raced from the docks off Fort Carlisle. “Sweet British sackers!” He pointed. “It’s Chuck Talbot, Commodore.” His voice deepened with his best impersonation: “I’ll beat off them French for you, lads!”

They roared with laughter, and Dewar fell from his chair, spilling wine.

Relentless is putting out.” Sleemans indicated the huge ship at the Ligania docks.

“If only my wife would,” Llewellyn grumbled.

“Maybe she’ll get out there in a few days after they’re gone,” Dewar scoffed. He watched the activity on the deck, but her sails didn’t drop. “What did I tell you? It’s like watching a beached whale try to hump his way back to sea.”

“She’s not setting sail. She’s preparing to fire,” Sleemans said.

Llewellyn cheered. “Give the French a load of Big Dick!”

“Longstaff is injured,” Sleemans chided. “He’s not back yet. It’s one of his subordinate officers in charge.”

Dewar spat out the remainder of Madeira wine. “A shilling says he takes out Fort Charles.”

Relentless turned, and Falcon faced the French ships alone. Longstaff’s ship fired a full broadside of shots. Flashes and booms toppled spectators backwards. Through the smoke of Port Royal, cannonballs smashed into the sea around the French ships, engulfing them in great splashes of water.

Llewellyn’s smile faded. “Did we hit them?”

“I’d say we knocked the wind out of them,” Sleemans said. “They’ll probably leave now.”

The French turned for another pass.

“Ha, I’ll have my shilling yet!” Dewar clapped his hands.

“I didn’t bet,” Llewellyn said in a superior tone. “You never pay up.”

Dewar shrugged. “We’re on a credit system.”

“I’ll bet Big Dick’s number one gets promoted.”

Dewar waved to a slave for another drink. “I’m not taking that bet. They’ll promote you for anything these days.”

A French shot came down, slamming into the roof of the Black Dog Inn. It smashed a hole in the roof and crumbled the brick chimney.

“Oh, not the Black Dog Inn!” Dewar gasped. “They should have used lead.”

“That one’s coming out of Talbot’s pay,” Llewellyn tut-tutted.

The hallways of the Black Dog Inn shook, and the copper wall sconces tipped upside down. A cannonball crashed through the building, shattering the windows and leaving a smoke trail. Dr. Marcus MacAskill charged into the hall, his wild gray hair blending with the air. Even in a drunken stupor, he’d recognize the sound of a French cannon.

Violante “Vie” Hayze staggered from the room next door, wearing a blue satin nightgown and robe, her arm in a sling. “What the hell is happening?”

“It’s a bloody raid!” MacAskill spoke in a thick Scottish accent and put his arm around her waist to escort her down the hall.

“I thought Port Royal was raid-proof?”

Outside on Lime Street, horses, carriages, and people scattered in all directions. MacAskill went to the stable for his wagon. He assisted Vie into the back and tossed a blanket over her as another cannonball blasted through the inn.

“Where’s Richard?” Vie pondered.

“I’m not paid to keep tabs on your Big Dick. I’m just yer doctor.” MacAskill jumped into the driver’s seat and gathered the reins. “Keep yer head down.” He fought the traffic and turned up New Street.

While serving on the Torrington with his friend Arthur Valentine, also called Bleedin Art, MacAskill had helped capture Jamaica in 1655 for the English. He’d survived more battles than he could count and served as surgeon on many ships. But now instead of cringing from fear, he cringed from the noise as it hurt his ears. The French like their cannons extra loud, the fuckers!

They arrived in front of Valentine Mansion. Bleedin Art emerged, tall, thin, and well-dressed. He was followed by his wife, Katheryne, and mother-in-law, Lady Crabapple Crosshatch, donning a silk gown and heavy white makeup with a faux mole on her cheek.

“Ah, shit, it’s Lady Crotch-itch!” MacAskill said as he inadvertently strained the horse’s neck.

Art’s men, Jag’d Jayne and Scarcliff, trailed behind carrying carpetbags. Lady Crosshatch cursed at them to hurry up while Blackmoor brought the carriage around.

“Well, you took long enough, Negro!” Lady Crosshatch scowled when he arrived.

MacAskill climbed down.

“I didn’t know she was my boss,” Blackmoor whispered.

“Yer a slave. The cat’s yer boss,” MacAskill said.

Art patted his forehead. “We’re taking her to the church. She thinks it’s safer in church.”

MacAskill snorted. “Safer from what, reality?”

A cannonball screamed overhead, and Jayne covered his ears. “Shit!”

“Tell the brute to watch its language in the presence of a lady,” Lady Crosshatch demanded.

“What the fuck?” Scarcliff blurted.

Art helped his mother-in-law aboard. “You’re absolutely right, Your Ladyship.” He pointed at Jayne. “You keep yer filthy strumpet-sucking pie hole stuffed in the presence of a lady, or I’ll shove my foot up yer bloody crap-pipe and sew it to your yap. Now get on!”

Jayne’s mouth dropped, but he obviously thought better of speaking.

Lady Crosshatch growled. “Degenerates, all!” She scrutinized Vie in MacAskill’s wagon. “What’s that lewdster doing here?”

Art stared quizzically at the strumpet and then at MacAskill. “What is she doing here? Did you get a raise?”

“She’s under your protection, bonehead! As is half the ships in the harbor.”

“Right, right. Where’s the bloody warships?” Art complained.

“We’ll wait it out at Fort Carlisle. I’ll be needed in the infirmary anyway after this,” MacAskill said.

“Onward, you fool!” Lady Crosshatch snapped.

“Yes, what’s taking so long?” Mrs. Valentine griped.

Art sighed. “Jayne, Starfish, come with me.”

Jayne’s eyebrows cocked. “You sure? Maybe I’m needed at Fort Carlisle.”

“Aye, like the Black fuck’n Death!” MacAskill replied.

Jayne and Scarcliff climbed reluctantly aboard.

“Take me to church, you street trolls!” Lady Crosshatch screeched.

Art leaned to MacAskill. “I’ve been thinking on a new service for the city. Valentine’s Harbor Tours for the elderly. Come for the view, stay for the crab!”

Lady Crosshatch hit the side of the carriage with her walking stick. “Oh, do get on!” They took off.

MacAskill climbed onto his wagon and snapped the reins. “I’d like to see her stay for the crab.”

Atia clung to the wall as if it were a shield. The deafening roar of the explosions caused her to tremble. It was similar to the attack on the plantation where mortar bombs had dropped from the sky, tearing people apart. She had been caught in the aftermath of an explosion while escaping through a tunnel. The earth had collapsed, and she had almost been buried alive. Her wet face pressed harder still against the wall until eventually the cannon fire ceased and the shaking stopped.

“Atia!” her sister cried.

Livia was being carried away by Edmund Coggshall’s man.

“It’ll be all right, Liv!” Atia called back.

“We’ll take ’em back to the prisons,” Constable Blower said, and the guards rallied the prisoners to their feet.

The judge had vanished by this time, but other officials arrived, seeking sanctuary from the chaos outside. A squinty-eyed man holding a walking stick adorned with a silver lion approached. “You have the pikey girl! Well done, Constable. You are charged with keeping her safe and ready for extraction on my word. Mr. Coggshall will make you a very wealthy man, indeed.”

Blower looked perplexed. “But he’s dead.”

“Coggshall Junior.”

“Oh, aye! I’ll keep her safe.” Blower ordered the guards, “Move them out. Take them back to prison.”

“You’ll do no such thing!” Goblet protested, hurrying back to the main chamber, fastening his black trousers beneath his robe, while his aides twisted their faces. “We’re going to finish this damn hearing. Mr. Mayor, since Mr. White may not be returning, please take his place on the bench. Continue, Constable Lief Blower.”

Atia stared coldly at all the self-righteous bastards. The last she’d seen of her da and uncle was when they sailed away on Lucky Charms. It was after they helped her escape from Crisp’s slaver captain, Mandingo, and the pirate Slasher Al. She had waved almost cheerfully; unaware it was the final goodbye. “You’ll not go from me sight, only from me view,” her da had told her before they parted ways. Now her da was dead and Uncle Rourke too. She prayed to all the gods that her brothers were safe. They had been sent to Aragua on an errand.

Atia eyed a guard’s belt, where a dagger gleamed. The shackles weighed heavy on her limbs, but she had just enough leeway.

“Atia Crisp, you are charged with associating with a known pirate, mischief—” Goblet stopped.

Atia grabbed the weapon and plunged it into the guard’s neck. He screamed and flailed his arms, trying to shake her off. Blood jetted everywhere, saturating her dress.

“Order!” Goblet demanded and pointed at the remaining guards, who were staring in shock. “Well, stop her!”

Blower and a guard tackled Atia. Her face was slammed onto the wet floor. The blade slipped from her hand. She was then forced to her feet with a guard on each side of her.

Goblet jotted down an additional note. “You can add murder to your list of charges.”

“Uh, he’s not dead,” a guard said.

Goblet crossed it out and rewrote the line. “Fine. For attempted murder, you are so charged.”

The bleeding guard released a final gasp.

“Oh, he died,” Blower said.

Goblet was about to cross out what he’d written again.

“You’re sure?”

“Aye, he’s dead.”

“And murder,” Goblet continued. “Have you anything to say for yourself before I have you locked in the dungeon as a dangerous offender?”

An evil grin formed on Atia’s lips. “I’m a dangerous offender now, Da. Yer little girl’s all grown up!”

“Take her away and lock her up. Lock the rest of them up for interrogation,” Goblet ordered.

“Me Capitaine’s coming back for me. He’s comin’ for his dangerous offender,” Atia cackled.

“We’ll see how a month in the dark agrees with your tongue.” Goblet smacked the mallet again. “Court is adjourned.”

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