Wednesday, September 30, 2015


By Emily J. McNeely

The Greek Galleon put in near Peragua on the Ile du Roy. Captain James set out in the launch with Greene, Castle, Kirkpatrick, and Mr. Dobson, the purser. They brought the spices for Piney and letters of introduction. Piney knew Captain James well, and in fact, had seen him and his crew not three months earlier, when they stopped for water. Unbeknownst to Piney, they had also come to drop off a certain lockbox for safe keeping. Piney had recently gotten word that a Navy brigantine was seen running down the Malabar Coast looking for James and his ship and he was under no small amount of pressure from the Crown to report on James' activities. Consequently, he was not in a generous mood.

When they arrived at Piney's estate, a honey-colored servant girl with large brown eyes brought them into the waiting hall and bade them wait. They waited for an hour. Captain James was pacing. It was never a good sign when the Captain resorted to pacing on land.

Mr. Greene was the first to speak. "Captain James, if I may, sir. You could send Dobson and myself to collect the...canvas...while you and the others wait for the governor."

Captain James stopped his pacing and eyed Mr. Greene carefully. He looked at Mr. Dobson, who knew nothing of what went on among the higher officers and was at the moment picking his nose. He made his decision and nodded at Greene. Mr. Greene collected Mr. Dobson and they left the manor.

Greene and Dobson walked down the long road and came into town half an hour later. Mr. Dobson was aware of the lockbox's existence but he was not privy to its location; only Greene and Castle were trusted with that information. Mr. Greene planned in advance to arrange to have a letter sent back home and had found his opportunity. He might not get to leave just yet but he could surely send word.

Greene pulled Dobson into the Fille D'Or, Peragua's main drinking hole. He sent Dobson off to order drinks with the barman and called over another patron to his table.

"Listen, friend. I've got two pieces that could be used to post a letter to Father George, if only I knew a friend who could do it for me," said Greene in a low voice.

The other man, a native looking fellow with an older style Navy uniform nodded and stuck out his hand. Mr. Greene handed him a sealed paper.

"I'll drink with le fille again tomorrow in the evening," said Greene, and looked down at the table. The other man left without another word.

Mr. Dobson came over to the table a minute later with two pints in hand. "Oy, Greene, you best be payin me back for these 'ere pints. I ain't made o' silver y'know.
Mr. Greene nodded. "Aye, Dobson, you're safe with me."


It was well past dark by the time Dobson and Greene made it back to Piney's manor. They went up the long walk with the lockbox in hand, and the same servant girl let them into the parlor. Captain James, Mr. Kirkpatrick, Mr. Castle, and Piney were playing at cards and a sideboard was laid out with meats and cheeses. Captain James had a pile of money by his hand and was in a better mood than Greene had seen him in months.

Captain James looked up when they entered. "Took you swabs long enough. And a good thing too, else I'd not have collected Piney's bribery income."

Piney frowned and put his cards down. "Oh, I fold. I don't know why I don't just turn you into the law, James. God knows you're worth more to them."
James swept up the pot. "Because I bring you cinnamon, Piney. And better news than those tight-lipped saluters."

Piney stuck his fat fingers into his waistcoat and harrumphed. "I'll need more than cinnamon and gossip before I let you leave my port."

The men of the Galleon started pocketing their coins and collecting their gear. James gestured to Dobson, who handed him the lockbox. The Captain opened the lockbox to display a pile of bank notes, letters of recommendation and introduction, coins of all kinds, and a few pieces of jewelry. He pulled out a small draw purse which clinked when he shook it and plopped it on the table. Piney swept it into his pockets, which were deeper than they appeared. James also pulled out one of the necklaces, which sparkled in the flickering light of the lamps.

"And something for your hospitality."

That, too, got swept into the depths of Piney's waistcoat. He patted his generous stomach and stood to leave. "Welcome to Peragua, gentlemen. Don't overstay your welcome." Piney went out of the parlor and up the long staircase and the maid saw the men out.


The next day Mr. Castle left a skeleton crew on board the Galleon and the rest of the men came ashore on longboats with strict instructions to return and relieve the others by midday. The officers, less Mr. Kirkpatrick, who stayed on board to supervise the skeleton crew, headed for the Fille D'Or. Mr. Greene sweated under his cap and not just because of the humid tropics. If he should run into the native fellow at the bar he was unsure how he would explain it to the Captain.

Captain James, Mr. Dobson, and Mr. Greene entered the bar. It was less close than English bars and less smoky than Indian bars. The bars in the tropics were often informal affairs - rude thatched huts and the like. This one was a true brick-and-mortar building, but it kept its doors wide open and its ceiling low in the same fashion as the other establishments on the island. The natives of the land knew how to keep the breezes moving through their perpetual summers.

The three sat at a table and doffed their hats, except Captain James, who never removed his unless he was abed. It was a good breeze that morning and the air refreshed them. James sent Dobson for drinks and turned to Mr. Greene.

"How are the drinks in this establishment?"

Mr. Greene felt the heat rise up in his cheeks. "I expect they're good enough."

"Expect? Don't you know?" Captain James said, calmly.

Mr. Greene shifted in his chair. The bar didn't feel very open anymore. "I'm sure I don't, sir."

"But were you not here when we ported at Peragua not three months ago?" said Captain James, maintaining an air of innocence.

Mr. Greene let out his breath. "Oh, that. Yes, sir, I did come in here on our last furlough."

Dobson came back at that moment with three pints. He looked at the two men at the table. "Did I miss somefin'?"

The Captain did not take his eyes off Mr. Greene. "No, Dobson. We were just speaking of the quality of the drink here at the Fille."

Dobson set down the drinks and plopped down in his own seat. "Oh, aye, the drinks 'ere are top quality. They was particular fine last night, ey wot, Greene? He still owes me from it, too."

The blood dropped out of Greene's stomach and he couldn't meet Captain James' eyes. Captain James grin spread across his lips - the fish caught. "You do, do you, Greene?"

Mr. Dobson, oblivious, kept chattering. "He said he was good for it. I 'spect so, considerin' the haul. You brought cards, sir?"

Captain James did not answer. He stared at Mr. Greene. "Well, George. Are you going to pay the man back?"

Mr. Greene nodded and fumbled in his pocket. He pulled out a silver coin and dropped it out of his shaking hands onto the floor. He reached to pick it up again and handed it toward Dobson.

Just as Dobson extended his hand for the coin, a short metallic shriek sounded and a silver sword flashed through the air. Mr. Greene's arm fell to the table, severed just below the elbow, the hand still clutching the silver coin. Blood splattered across the table and floor. Captain James stood and drew the sword around in a wide arc, slicing off Mr. Greene's head. The head toppled off the body and landed on the floor with a thunk. Mr. Greene's body slumped in the chair.

"I told you, Greene, I would kill you before you spent a penny."
Captain James sent Mr. Dobson for a rag to clean his sword and sat back in his chair. A serving girl came over to collect the hand (from which Dobson had already pried loose the silver coin) and wipe up the table. Dobson brought back the rag and Captain James cleaned his sword and wiped his boots. He sheathed the sword and pulled out his cards.

"Mr. Dobson, do you think you could find me a native man wearing a uniform?"

Dobson nodded his head. "I know the one ye speak of. I seen him last night."

"Good. He's got a letter for me, I believe."

Copyright ©2015 Emily J. McNeely.  All rights reserved.  Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.

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Emily McNeely is the Art and Acquisitions Coordinator at Double Life Press, an independent publishing house she and her husband, Craig McNeely, own and operate. Emily has been published in Pulp Modern magazine and Dark Corners magazine.