He has hopes and dreams too. And why the hell not?
“WHO TIED YOU UP, SON?” Captain Meredith asked gently. “Just tell me that.”
. . . . . Pedro relaxed a bit, but offered no information.
. . . . . “Let’s get you off this wreck. Once you’re safe aboard my Turbulent, you’ll open up. I don’t blame you for being scared. Why, you’re shaking. Get back, you horrors,” he warned his milling men. “Give the boy breathing room. What’s your name, young man? Start there, and we’ll see what else we can coax out, eh?”
. . . . . “I won’t go,” snarled Pedro. “Unless I got my stuff.”
. . . . . “Course not. Course you won’t. A sailor must hang onto his gear at all cost. Fine! My boys will help. Make a list of what you want, and where it is, and we’ll net it for you. You’ll have a seabag. Where would it be?”
. . . . . Pedro screeched. “Screw my seabag! My papers, that’s what I mean. Moreno’s got ‘em. My property, mind, and he’d not let go of it. Wouldn’t even let me hold it. Vouchsafed to me by your ma, said the bastard. To keep safe. Or, Let me fiddle a bit longer. I’m on the brink of a breakthrough. Always an excuse. Wouldn’t give not a hint where it is. Not advisable, said he, Gato circles you like a hawk, a henhouse. Misses nothing. Your eyes would betray it. Now maybe I’ll get what’s mine. Moreno wants it for himself. Soon’s he’d unraveled the code, I’da been done for. Thank God you come along. It’s a miracle.”
. . . . . “No miracle, lad,” laughed Meredith. “Luck, and brains, and a flyer. The Turbulent’s a honey. She’ll have you back in Falmouth harbor in no time.”
. . . . . This was not good news. Sly’s Punch and Judy show was rough. It would not fool them long. “Let me repose,” moaned Pedro. “I can’t think just now.”
. . . . . “Assist the boy, Mister Hawkins,” ordered Ham Meredith, “tuck him into his feathers. Stand watch over the laddie. Keep him safe.” Harry “Hawkeye” Hawkins was pleased with the assignment. He wanted a lay-down himself.
. . . . . Sly and Pedro huddled in his small chamber. Hawkins had dragged a wide wingchair to the door between the cabin and the cabinet/bedchamber, and had wedged it into the opening, facing out, watching the door, ready to jump to attention when someone barged in to check on him. He sank onto the horse-hair filled cushion, leaned his head back against the padded upright, slumped against the comfortable wing, and closed his eyes. Pedro couldn’t scale it. He couldn’t squeeze under it, it sat too low. But a cat could, with no trouble at all.
. . . . . “What now?” whispered Pedro. “What’s the plan?”
. . . . . “I had one,” admitted the cat. “But my belt, my references, very impressive, you see, all gone. Something out there will have to do. Let me squeeze past this joker and see what’s to work with.”
. . . . . “You need your belt?” asked Pedro. “Go get it! You have free run.”
. . . . . “Get it? Where is it? Not in your coat.“
. . . . . “Didn’t you hide it where you buried me? I gouged my cheek on the buckle as I flailed, gasping for air. I nearly smothered, thanks to you.”
. . . . . “In the patch-work, you say?” cried Sly. “How’d it get there? Who cares? I’m off. Snooze, if you can, ‘til I’m back.”
. . . . . Let me take a minute to explain something – namely, how, exactly, had Pedro been discovered? Feo had tailed a pal through the ship’s innards, hoping to be of assistance, but had soon lost patience. Pedro wasn’t in the hold, he caught no scent. He decided to explore the weather deck. He worked his way down the windward rail, climbed to the half deck, turning at the base of the quarter and slipping back along the lee rail, which was heavily encumbered with debris. Nostrils quivering, sniffing deeply, he paused beside a mangle of rigging. The boy was near.
. . . . . He decided to bide his time rather than immediately cry the find. Gato must get the credit for the bag. But Gato was not available, and wouldn’t be, anytime soon. He and his shipmates were being sermonized in the waist. From there he was escorted to the cabin. There was no chance to intercept him, to seize his pant leg and jerk, which the animal had learned to do when his food bowl was empty. He‘d proceed on his own. He perched atop the wreckage and howled, and continued to howl. He reached through a fissure, batting at something. The other cat, probably. Hey! Had it not been proclaimed: find the cat, find the boy? Chunk by chunk, the heavy debris was shoved over the side, until the boy was disinterred.
. . . . . It was late afternoon. The Spanish crew was locked up. The English were slouched here and there. Reaching the stack of sail, Sly crawled over the canvas, with no success.
. . . . . “Looking for this?” He spun around. “Up here, you fool!” He looked up. His belt dangled from the remnant of mainmast.
. . . . . “That’s mine!” howled Sly.
. . . . . “Don’t I know it!” snickered Feo.
. . . . . “Hand it down!”
. . . . . “Not on your life!”
. . . . . “It holds paper and pen, is all. No use to you.”
. . . . . “Plenty of use to me!”
. . . . . “How so?”
. . . . . “Guess what?” Feo roared. “I got a buddy too. Gato! We’re two of a kind, he says. Forced to get along as we may. Stick with me, you horror, he tells me. I’ll do right by you. Where I go, you go. Are you shocked someone takes to me? I’m not the social success you are. I don’t have your sunny ain’t-I-delightful personality. I’m despised, no matter how I try to be pleasant. I gift ‘em with lovely, fat rat, all kinds of yummies. Okay, it ain’t beef filet, but it’s damn tasty anyway. Do I get a thankee, ever? Not on your life! Listen up. Gato thrives, I thrive. You and the brat, you fix it up so’s Gato ‘n me get boarded onto the English whore, hear?
. . . . . “Something’s cooking! Gato’s sure he’s in for a slurp, one way or t’other. He thinks he’s got his prank nailed down. I’m not so sure. There’s festivity on the quarterdeck. Smiles all round. Drinks. Eats. Our captain, that gay blade, is spilling his guts. Things don’t look so rosy for my boy. He’s being slandered. That numbskull can’t bust code, says Moreno. It’s a con. He’s a snake in the grass. None of us trust the viper. He’s no friends, but for a flea-bag I’da tossed into the soup long since, but for Gato won’t have it. He means me, I believe! Hellfire! I’m sure of it! He’da drowned me, except I got a protector! Screw the cuss. I’ll splinter his mainmast, good.”
. . . . . “Moreno’s on a tear. I’ll be frank, says he, Del Gado thinks he’s got something on me. He’s looking to cash in. He’ll remunerate himself one way or another. I’ve learned to read him. He’s no poker face to me, which he brags on all the time. First, he fixed on me as a source of revenue. Along came Pedro. A duke redeemed, was his idea. That scheme’s shot to hell. The fever dream of buried treasure may work out, may not. He’ll take you for what he can, count on it. Cut his throat, that’s my advice. Sure, let him have a whack at a code, then pound him flat, cause he’ll finger you for a blood-sucking raider and pocket a fee, on top of what else drifts his way.”
. . . . . “You take care of m’ crony,” warned Feo. “Give your word to protect him, and I’ll toss this thing down. Swear to keep him healthy, on all that’s sacred to you, or I’ll fling it in the sea.”
. . . . . “That’s an easy one,” sniffed Sly. “Nothing’s sacred to me. I don’t buy that mumbo-jumbo. Oh, I’ve been sermonized plenty, by the best, by a to-the-marrow true believer, my own brother, hell-raiser turned parson, the worst kind. I was instructed in the Roman mischief also. My former patron, a pious man, insisted on it. A poor flustered cardinal was nominated to instruct me. Shame on me, I worked it. I flaunted my Latin – I’m quite proud of it – and, I admit it, I couldn’t resist the look of horror on that fat face.
. . . . . “It must be wonderful to be so sure of yourself. That’s a peace I’ll never know. I’m a freethinker. Infallible doctrine? There’s no such animal. Sacrosanct truths? A crock. Comforting certainties, blithely unexamined? It takes courage to face life without a myth to lean on. But, welcome to it if it gets you through the night. Don’t get your Papist hackles up, you’re in English hands now. Here’s the best I can do for you: I swear on my rock solid word of honor to do all within my power to keep Señor Del Gado alive and well. Does that suit you?”
. . . . . “He must walk away well heeled, if at all possible.”
. . . . . “I agree to your terms, in every respect, with no reservations. I‘ll do my utmost for him. The bum will get his bankroll, sufficient to sustain him to a ripe old age, if he don’t work a rook on a rascal less understanding than I am.”
. . . . . The belt dropped to the deck. Sly scooped up his property and ran, hugging the late day shadows. Let him go. We’ll catch up with him in a bit. Let’s you and me horn in on the joviality on the quarterdeck.
- Haute-Navarre is fictitious, although the country of Navarre did exist in this period.