The next day by the time she’d been fobbed off on five different officers at the Admiralty she realized they were treating her like someone that should be locked up. A hysterical, bereaved mother, grasping at straws was what she could see in their eyes.
The last officer was a beanpole of a man with a thin black mustache and a monocle set above his sneering lips and he was the worse. It was obvious he was a member of the new nobility and proud of his looks and clothing as he kept straightening his coat and glancing at a mirror he had on his desk. She could almost see the price tags on the fine garments he kept flaunting.
“My dear lady.” He said as he got up from behind his desk and hitched his coat again. “You should not be out on the streets in your condition.” He leered at her. “I would be glad to escort you home and offer you some comforting.”
She shuddered as she imagined him trying to comfort the grieving mother. “No thank you.” She said coldly as she reached for the door knob.
He caught her other hand and patted it. “Yes, I’d be glad to escort you.” He tried to kiss it and looked surprised when she jerked it back.
“You’re no gentleman and a disgrace to your uniform.” She snarled.
“And you are no lady. Go home, shoot up, and take a long nap.” He snapped back.
In response she’d slapped him so hard that his monocle had gone flying and it hadn’t even stopped bouncing before she stormed out the door, knocking the silver letters spelling out “Colonel Percival Thrushbottom, ESQ” to the floor.
Silver had been right she realized and was now glad that she had not even mentioned his name. If she had with that prig in charge, Silver would probably be locked away right now awaiting trial for piracy. And they’d even kept the message, the last one from her son.
She was pushing her way through the crowds when Morph flew up and began making excited motions for her to follow him. She decided she’d better humor him before they drew more than their share of surprised stares. He led her through the booths to a canal where ships waited to be dry docked and repairs made.
Silver was waiting her leaning against a lock wall. He was wearing a white cook’s apron, shirt, and hat which he’d donned as a disguise as if he were a cook’s assistant going to market and had left his other gear back at the Inn. “How did it go, lass?” He asked. Her angry glare made him shake his head. “That bad, eh?”
“What do they have for brains?” She snapped. “Swiss cheese?”
He chuckled. “I always told Jimbo that they had vacuum between their ears. Everything is sucked in and nothing comes out.”
She began striding down the canal path. “Now what do we do?”
He fell into step with her. “I have some money saved up. The Mary Anne was insured and I’ll borrow against the settlement. I should be able to hire out a schooner and I know some old friends who’d love to go to Treasure Planet. Morphy and I’ll go and find Jimbo and try and get him out of Flint’s clutches.”
“You’re talking about pirate friends, aren’t you?”
“Some.” He admitted. “But they are not like Mister Scroop was. But they do have military experience and I’m going to need that.”
“If you’re taking a small army you’re going to need more than a two master.” She said.
He shrugged. “We make do with what we have. After all most roamers of the stars started out with less than schooners before they took their first prize; I mean made their first successful trade deal.”
“Come on.” She said. “The Admiralty warned me this was confidence game, but I…”
She was surprised when he caught her arm, stopped her, and turned her to face him. For the first time she saw anger in his eyes. “Long John Silver may be many things, woman, but he does not purloin money from women and children. I’m not a confidence man. Unlike what those idiots back there may’ve told you.”
She gently removed his hand from her elbow and smiled at him. “No, you’re a pirate.” She patted his hand. “And according to Jim the most honest man he ever met. That’s good enough for me. Now come on. As I started to say I have some jewels at the bank. They should help.”
Back at the Inn Sally found Silver’s cloak hanging on its nail in the kitchen. She gathered it up to put in the closet where it belonged and something metallic fell out of it. She picked it up and frowned. It looked like a small disk for a music player. It was to be her last thought.
“He’s on the move.” An unseen watcher called out. “And there’s a woman in range. Damn this shielding, but I think it’s her. Fire as soon as you can.”
Silver and Mrs. Hawkins were climbing the hill from the bank to the Inn when the sky above the hill erupted in a silver beam that caressed the Inn for a moment just before the building exploded in a fireball. By the time they reached the Ben Bow Inn most of the building was in flames. Silver cursed and swore. “Flint, you murdering swine.” He turned to her. Now you know why I didn’t want to show a light last night.”
But she wasn’t there as she was already running through the door calling for Sally. He cursed and ran after her. The room was filled with smoke and flames were running up the stairwell by the time he got there.
“Mrs. Hawkins, where are you?” He shouted. His mechanical eye switched back and forth between optical modes as it sought any sign of her. Morph whistled and pointed wildly towards the stairs. It was then he saw her staggering down the stairwell, dragging a limp form after her, and coughing from the smoke.
He shot out a tentacle from his mechanical arm and jerked them down the stairs and into his arms just as the ceiling let go. He leaped clear and crashed through the door with the two under his arms.
He rolled the other woman’s body over and leaned his ear to her chest to listen for a heartbeat. He heard nothing.
Mrs. Hawkins coughed and leaned over. “How is Sally?”
He raised his head and shook it slowly. “It’s not good, lass. I don’t think she made it.” He pointed to a long fragment of wood sticking out of the dead woman’s side.
“No!” Mrs. Hawkins put her hands to her mouth. “No!” She pushed him aside and started doing CPR.
He cocked his head as the sound of sirens filled the air. “I’ve got to go, Mrs. Hawkins. If you want me, I can be found at the Inn of the One-Eyed Sailor.” He paused a moment. “I truly am sorry for the loss of your friend. Come on, Morph.” He and Morph vanished over the other side of the hill as the fire trucks landed all around her.
It was only later that night sitting and staring at the fire in her room in a strange inn and still hurting from Sally’s death and the pain she’d seen in Sally’s parent’s eyes that another emotion began to grow in her. It was rage.
She had lived in her sweet cocoon of a life long enough. And all she’d gotten for it was misery. She’d lost her son to Flint and she was sure that in some way Flint was responsible for Sally’s death too.
All her life she’d been trudging in paths set for her by others, her mother, her husband, Jim and his needs, and the expectations of people like Doctor Doppler. It was time to kick over the traces. She was only forty, not dead. It was then she swore she’d have her revenge and get her son back or die trying. Meek Sarah Mary Anne Hawkins had sat down, but it was a determined and angry woman who got to her feet. Flint was going to pay. Oh, he was going to pay.
Two days later the Inn of the One-Eyed Sailor was not hard to find, but she could see it was a rough place and she kept her hand on the butt of the laser pistol as she came through the door. Silver and Morph were seated by the fireplace facing the door and he waved her over.
Another sailor started to step in front of her and reached out to grasp her arm as she started to draw the pistol, but a grey alien over eight feet tall and with four tentacles as arms gently dissuaded him while Morph bounced around them. “One of yours?” She asked Silver after she had seated herself.
“Aye. Orfeo is a good, loyal mate.” He looked at her. “Did you bring the jewels?”
“I brought much more than that.” She drew a pouch out from a pocket in her cloak and dropped it with a thud in front of him.
He frowned and opened the pouch. His eyes got wide as he saw the sheaves of high denomination bills. “What’s this?” He whispered.
She leaned back in her chair and smiled at him. “Like you, I borrowed on the insurance settlement from a loan shark. This should get us a good ship with heavy laser cannons and more crew.”
“We?” He said softly. Behind him a snake wiggled out of the screen work above the fireplace. It was viper. It dangled downward with its tongue flickering.
In one motion she drew and shot the snake so that it fell in two pieces on the table and they both watched as Morph turned himself into a broom and dustpan and removed it, whistling.
“Yes, we.” She smiled. “It should be an interesting trip.”