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The Seagull & The Shark: Part I

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Chapter 1: I Want To Join Zee Crew

January 1715

          "Stay below deck, girl! May God have mercy on our souls.”

          Captain LaFrenuie’s face was pale and covered in sweat. His powdered wig was askew atop his head. With a shaking hand he reached out and shut the door to the cargo hold with Simonne on the other side. He could not have her getting in the way during a pirate raid. Her insistence to stay on the deck fell upon deaf ears. The captain would hear nothing of it. It was bad enough she had the nerve to stow away on his ship back in France. After her refusal to follow orders, he hauled her down below decks by her arm, leaving small oval bruises on her skin from where his fingertips dug in. 

          When the Captain first discovered her hiding below deck in the early days of the voyage he was enraged. Had she been a man he would have thrown her overboard, but the angry Frenchman could not find it in his heart to cast the girl off the ship like a broken barrel. No one suspected that she was actually a fugitive from Paris. Her story about seeking long lost family on Martinique was more than believable. How could she possibly afford the passage fare so soon after the deaths of her parents? Simonne used her large, dark eyes against him, disingenuously filling them with tears as she told her lie. Captain LaFrenuie banished her to the galley to assist the cook, a foul and snooty man who forced her to sleep in a tiny hammock made from an old flour sack.

          The ship moaned as if it were a great wale in agony, rocking back and forth as balls of iron ripped through the upper level. She could hear the men on the deck above shouting to one another over the thunder of cannon fire. They cried out to God, but Simonne rolled her eyes, knowing that there was no god to save them on the high seas. No one could save them now.

          La Mouette, or “The Seagull” was carrying coffee, silk, Persian tapestries and fine Bordeaux, all bound for the French settlement of Port-au-Prince on Martinique. In the very back of the hold she found a few parcels set aside from the rest. Inside were all sorts of treasures intended for the Governor’s new wife, from boxes of jewelry and clothing to a collection of porcelain dolls and a wicker basket of needlepoint supplies.

          Unable to resist, she cracked open a beautifully crafted trunk with gold gilded hinges. A red glimmer caught her eye. She reached inside and pulled out an elegant scarlet corset trimmed with horizontal lines of black lace. Beneath it was a long black skirt and a long, fitted black coat trimmed in red lace. Her own drab garments were tattered and soiled, and she still sported her uniform slacks from the Academié. Slipping into her new ensemble as the commotion continued above, she opted to keep her comfortable and worn-in, knee-high black boots instead of taking the dainty, high heeled affairs in the chest. Inside a large jewelry box she found a handful of coins and slipped them into her pockets before sliding some golden, bejeweled rings onto her hand. Behind a stack of oil paintings draped in linen she found her cutlass, right where she left it. Lastly, she used the sword cut the skirt to shin-length, to prevent herself from tripping all over it. She never liked the long, floor length skirts worn by ladies anyway.

          Closer to her goal than ever before, she felt an odd yet intense mixture of excitement and terror churning and swirling around each other in her stomach like a cyclone. All she wanted to do from the time she was a young girl was become a pirate. Simonne heard the stories about the buccaneers that patrolled the Caribbean Sea for plunder, living a life of their own design and answering to no monarch. She wanted such a life for herself. Now, pirates were attacking the ship, and she was preparing to meet them face-to-face. She would either convince them to let her join up, or die trying.

          Stories of a secret pirate den on the northern shore of Martinique were whispered on the streets of France from Paris to the port city of Nantes. Some said each of the islands in the Caribbean Sea harbored pirate activity, and that some islands were dedicated solely to black market trading. Intrigued, Simonne set a course for Martinique. La Mouette was perfect. She was small and sat low in the water, implying a heavy load. She required a small crew and had few guns. An easy, tempting target for any pirate. 

          The cannon fire ceased, followed by the frantic shouting of the men on deck.

          “Préparer pour embarqué! Embarqué!”

          Moments later a new chorus of shouting joined the familiar voices as the pirates boarded the ship. Pistol fire boomed and the sound of metal clanking against metal filled the air, interrupted by tormented wails as the crew of the Seagull fell, one by one. The fight did not last long, for the men were clearly outnumbered. As the noise died down, she secured her scabbard to her belt, covered it with her new coat, and crept out of the hold.

          No one had come below deck yet. She could hear the faint sound of voices coming from the deck above. Tiptoeing to the slatted stairs, she listed from behind them where she would not be noticed. Unable to see anything from her position, she could hear clearly what was happening just a few feet over her head.

          They had Captain LaFrenuie. He was pleading for his life in French, but the pirates, unable to understand him, were growing impatient.

          “What the fuck are you saying?”

          She heard a loud crash and the impact of a body hitting the deck. LaFrenuie whimpered. He could not help the fact that he only spoke French.

          “Ne me tue pas. Mon Dieu. Si-vous-plait, me pas tue.”

          A crack like lightning made Simonne jump, followed by a dull thud. She did not want to be found hiding below deck. They would mistake her for a coward, and that was the last thing she wanted them to think. Certain the pirates would be coming down the stairs at any moment, she took a deep breath and mustered all of her resolve before she went up to face them.

          LaFrenuie was face down in a pool of his own blood. A large bloody exit wound took up most of the back of his skull. All around the deck were the bodies of dead Frenchmen. The pirates had begun throwing them overboard when she appeared. They outnumbered La Mouette’s crew five to one, and only two of them had been slain.

          The sudden appearance of the young woman was quite a surprise to the pirates standing near the stairs. In an instant three of them surrounded her, guns drawn. She held up her hands but stood strong, refusing to cower before them. Her long, black hair caught in the sea breeze, swirling around her shoulders. Though shorter than the men encircling her, she spoke loud enough to catch the attention of everyone on the crew.

          “I wish to speak with zee captain,” she said with her heavy French accent. The men holding her at gunpoint turned their heads to their leader. Hearing her words, he stepped forward, the heels of his boots clicking on the wooden planks until he stood before her. 

          “What do you want, girl?”

          He was a weathered old man, with straggly silver mutton chops and an unkempt grey goatee. His tricorne hat appeared older than he was, and perhaps dirtier, though the contest was close.

          “I would like to join zee crew.”

          The pirates erupted in laughter. The captain crossed his arms and shook his head.

          “It’s bad luck to have a woman aboard. Won’t be no women on the Intrepid so long as I’m captain.”

          “I can fight.” She pulled back her long coat, revealing the cutlass at her hip. In an instant she heard the clicks of pistols being loaded beside her skull. The captain waved his hands, signaling his men to stand down.

          “Captain Naft…” one of the men began to protest, but was silenced with another shake of Naft’s hands.

          “Let’s see what she can do.”

          He drew his sword, and Simonne drew hers. She did not wait, and went straight at him with a metallic swoosh. He blocked her attack, but that was what she expected. She continued to strike at him with obvious blows, herding him backwards. He blocked her advances with ease but did little to hold his ground, and soon found himself nearing the edge of the ship.

          Simonne hesitated for a moment, knowing that Naft would use that time to take the offence. As he wound his arm back to swing, she dropped down to her knees, tucking her head just as the blade whirred past, unbalancing the man. He staggered. In his moment of confusion she turned her blade long ways and stuck him in the ankle. He tumbled to one side, bouncing off the ledge of the ship before falling to the floor. That dirty hat was knocked clean off his head. Simonne leapt to her feet with the agility of a cat, placing the tip of her cutlass under Naft’s chin just as he rolled over to stand.

          Most of the men stood in silent awe, but a few could be heard snickering at their fallen captain. Simonne withdrew her sword and held out her hand to help him stand, but he waved it away and pushed himself back up on his own. Then he brushed off his trousers and picked up his hat. 

          “Well, what do you say, Monsieur Naft?”

          “No,” he said with a shake of his head. “I won’t have it. But I will take ya back to Nassau with us. You can join up with a crew there, if one will have ya.”

          “Fine. Zen I will find a crew with a captain who can hold his own in a fight.”

          The men oohed at this remark, laughing at Naft as he began barking orders to them. The plan was to sail the Seagull back to Nassau, in order to save them the trouble of unloading her contents twice, and to be repainted and sold.  Naft’s first mate was assigned to the task of captaining the Seagull until they landed, and was given five men to help with the task. Simonne was forbidden from boarding the Intrepid, for Naft was steadfast in his superstition about women onboard his ship.

          They set sail, the little Seagull trailing behind the larger Intrepid. Simonne made her way to the foredeck and sat on the ledge, her ankles straddling the aft mast that stuck out from the front of the ship like a unicorn’s horn. The fresh air filled her lungs and she could taste the salty sea spray on her lips. For a moment she felt peaceful, hearing nothing but the wind whirring past her ears. Then a man walked up behind her and clapped his hand down on her shoulder.

          “You sure embarrassed Naft back there, but keep in mind he’s just an old man. You fought well, but that does not mean you can fight in a vanguard, or be of any use on a crew.”

          She turned around and shot the man a look of disgust. It was Naft’s first mate. He had very short hair and small, round, silver glasses framing his small blue eyes. Before she could reply he took her hand and kissed the back of it.

          “Mademoiselle, I am Jean Luc DuFrense, but you can call me Captain DuFresne until we reach Nassau.” He had no hint of a French accent despite his name, which he even pronounced like an Englishman: John Luke Du-Frane.

          Simonne swung her leg around and hopped off the ledge.

          “I am hoping to see little enough of you to call you nothing. If you will not have me on zee crew, zen I will not… how you say… waste my time with you.” 

          “I am afraid that will not be the case. I must insist that you stay in the captain’s cabin with me for the remainder of the journey. Wouldn’t want the men getting too friendly with you in the middle of the night, now would we?”

          “I would like to see zem try. You will be in charge of a group of castrati.”

          “This is for your own good, Selene.”

          “Simonne,” she corrected. “Simonne Augustine DuBois.”

          “Simonne. I apologize. Please, just do as you are told.”

          She crossed her arms with a small pout before looking back up at him with a sharp glare.

          “I will stay in zee captain’s cabin with you, Jean Luc, but if you touch me, I will feed you your own cock. If you look at me in zee wrong way, I will break your glasses!”

          She stormed off to retrieve her things from the galley and move them into her new quarters. As she walked past him, she threw her hand up at his face, knocking his spectacles lopsided across his nose.

                                                                 ◊

          Simonne took her supper in the captain’s quarters, and did not come out for the rest of the evening. The men drank the Bordeaux they found in the cargo hold and played a concertina under the stars as the ship cruised along through the darkness of the night. She lay in a real hammock, listening to them sing and clap along with the music. No more curling up into a little ball for her. She stretched out, enjoying a newfound elevation in her level of comfort.

          Hours later, when they were all spent, Jean Luc came into the cabin with a brightly burning lamp. He stumbled over his boots as he tried to remove them, making a racket of scuffling and whisper-swearing. Though Simonne was only pretending to be asleep when she heard the door open, she sat up and scowled at him.

          “I’m s-sorry… Did I wake you?” His voice sounded dopey as he slurred his words.

          “Its fine,” she replied, trying to sound sleepy and blocking the light with her hand.

          Jean Luc shuffled over to the other side of the room and set the lamp down on the captain’s desk between them. He sat on the side of his hammock, lost his balance and fell onto his back, his bare feet dangling above his head as he lay in the thing sideways. With a “whoa” and a chuckle, he thrust his legs forward and righted himself on his second attempt.

          Simonne watched, not amused. Her hair was a tussle atop her head in a messy bun. She lay back, trying to ignore him, but he was not ready to sleep just yet. 

          “I’ve been wonderin’,” he said after his feet were firmly planted back on the ground. “Where did you learn to fight like that?”

          “I was trained at zee Acadamié Militaire Royale Pour Garçons in Pariee.”

          “But you’re not a Garçon, how did you get into a boy’s school?”

          “I ran away when I was eight. I cut off all my hair, and nobody noticed until it became more… obvious that I was not a boy. Before zen, I excelled in my classes, learned English and picked up a few tricks from the other boys.”

          “I’ve never been to France. My brother and I were born in Sainfrasis… Sain Fras-isis… Saint Francis, on Guad-ala-loupe. My little brother… His name is Pierre,” Jean Luc’s voice dropped down to a whisper as he continued, “but he hates that. He just goes by DuFresne.”

          “I see,” she said, completely uninterested. The hammocks swayed back and forth and the lamp threw long, bouncing shadows around the room. Through the large window behind the captain’s desk the only thing she could see were tiny specks of starlight, for the water and sky echoed each other’s hues perfectly, like ink spilled on black satin.

          “He’s a milk drinker! Pierre… I mean DuFresne… he’s nothing but a bookkeeper. Counts coins all day long. He can’t fight.”

          “Is he on zee Intrepid with Naft zen?”

          “Nah, he works for Captain Flint on the Walrus-ss. Keeps sayin’ that if Naft hired an accountant he would be more profa… prof… He’d make more money. But Naft won’t spare the expense, says he can keep the books hisself.”

          “I am sure he can. When will we reach Nassau?”

          “Three days if the wind is right. I suggest you dis-ss-sappear as soon as we land, lest you plan on helping Naft unload. We won’t pay ya, either! No, he’ll say you owe him for not killin’ ya, or somethin’.”

          Jean Luc lay down in his hammock and extinguished the lamp.

          “I will, merci. Bon Nuit.”

          “Just because I’m French does-s-n’t mean I know French.”

          “You knew Garçon.

          “I know a few words…”

          “Good night, Monsieur DuFrense.”

          At first he did not answer, but in moments he was snoring. Simonne folded the thin pillow around her head and drifted off to sleep, rocking gently with the ocean waves.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: A Strange Encounter

          In three days’ time they were off the shore of Nassau. Simonne got into the first longboat with Jean Luc and a few other men. The water was the most intense shade of blue she had ever seen, and it sparkled like sapphires in the sun. She could see the sandy bottom far below and the detail in the furrows created by the waves. A school of fish swam beneath the boat as they rowed to shore, and a sea turtle poked its head out of the gentle waves a few yards away.

          Once on dry land she felt as if she were still on the ship. Her sea legs made it seem as if the entire island were bobbing in the ocean like a large chunk of driftwood. Jean Luc waved her off as he saw Naft’s rowboat reaching land, mouthing the words “get out of here.” She disappeared up the beach, making her way into town.

          Nassau Town appeared like many of the small villages in the French countryside, but the trees were very different. The sandy ground beneath her feet was different as well, much unlike a hard and often muddy earth she was used to. Exotic, unrecognizable fish lined a table outside the butcher’s shop, and the boulangerie was stocked with breads and sweets, some of which she could not identify. Somehow the island seemed half deserted. There was not a pirate in sight. The only people around were the shopkeepers and a few civilians.

          She made her way to the inn and rented a room for the night some gold coins she found in the jewelry boxes on La Mouette. The inn, known as the Guthrie House, had a large tavern on the main floor that was almost empty in the early afternoon. A single old man sat in the corner. His feet were kicked up atop the table and his head rolled to one side as he snored.

          Simonne went up to her room and flopped down on the bed. She had not slept in a real bed since her expulsion from the Academié over a year ago. The mattress enveloped her body, and she felt as if she were sinking into a boule of warm bread dough. The soft down-filled pillows were like clouds descended from heaven. She wanted to sleep, but her mind was racing. She could not stop thinking about finding more pirates, but the only ones on the island belonged to Naft’s crew, and he already turned her away. The Intrepid and the Seagull were the only ships in the harbor.  

          She called for a bath to be drawn in her room and was all too happy to wash the filth, sand and salt off of her skin and out of her hair. After the sun set the island grew restless. From her open window she could hear a racket coming from outside. She looked out in awe at the street below, which was now bustling with people, festivities and music. Occasionally a high pitched woman’s laughter rose above the din and revelry, or the crack of a pistol would echo over the treetops. She had to go investigate.

          More people were gathered around the bar downstairs. Much to her excitement they were mostly men, and grimy sea-dogs, the lot of ‘em. The barkeep was running frantically back and forth between barking patrons. Simonne slinked through the crowd, listening in on conversations as she passed by. It did not take long before she heard something interesting.

          “Heard Flint caught quite a prize,” said a large man with a thick blonde moustache and a braided beard. She recognized him from The Seagull. He—along with Jean Luc and another man that she did not get a good look at—held her at gunpoint before her little skirmish with Naft.

          “Can’t be more than our last haul,” his skinny friend replied before spitting onto the ground, disgusted by another crew’s good fortune. Simonne slowed her pace as she passed by their table. He was referring to La Mouette.

          “Well, they all seem pretty happy. They’re o’er at Noonan’s having a grand old time.”

          His friend let out an aggravated “aarg” as Simonne left the Guthrie House. She pointed herself in the direction of the loudest source of the commotion, which could only be this “Noonan’s.”

          The stench of perfume hit her nose before she reached the front door. Noonan’s was a whorehouse. Her stomach flipped over as old memories flooded into her mind. She did not want to go into a brothel, but she wanted to find a crew to join more than she wanted to hide from the past. Walking in largely unnoticed, Simonne took a seat at a small table against the wall. Before long a half-naked woman with long blonde curls covering her bare breasts came over.

          “Can I get you anything, love? The cook’s got some roast duck, or there’s always fish.”

          “Bring me a pint of ale and zee duck, si-vous-plait.”

          The girl smiled and left, returning soon after with a plate of greasy, stringy meat covered in a vomitus-looking gravy and a stale roll. Simonne flipped the girl a couple of coins and she bounced back into the crowd of rowdy men. Famished, Simonne devoured the fare without a care, washing it down with the ale.

          After pushing the plate aside she sat back in her chair with her mug, scouting the party for someone to talk to, but it seemed impossible tell which one of these idiots looked the most like a captain or first mate. Not including Naft, who was carousing with Jean Luc on the other side of the brothel with a few of the other men from the Intrepid. Each of them had a whore in their lap. They took no notice of her, but someone else had.

          Out of the corner of her eye she saw three men sitting at the bar. They kept turning around to look in her direction. When she returned their glances, they spun around and whispered amongst themselves. The man on the end with the bushy, dark brown hair gestured in her direction as he spoke, but the man in the middle just shook his head. The third man, with a head full of thick grey curls, gave his companion a slap on the back. The man in the middle stood and walked over to her table. Strange, she thought, that he looked oddly familiar.

          “Um, hello… Can I, uh, buy you a drink?” The man cast her an awkward, half-confident smile. His blue eyes seemed to plead with her from behind his round, black-rimmed glasses, and his light brown hair brushed his cheekbones as he leaned on the edge of the table.

          “I do not work here,” she said curtly, staring straight ahead at the ivy vine growing up the hand railing of the staircase that led to the boudoirs.

          “No, of course not, I didn’t mean to imply… I mean… Nevermind.” His face flushed as he began to turn around to walk back to the bar in defeat. It did not seem right to just send him away like that, and the look on his face nearly broke her heart.

          “’Ave a seat,” she said with a sigh, kicking the chair beside her out from under the table. He perked up a little as he sat down. “You must be DuFresne.”

          “How do you know that?” His cheeks were still a little pink, and the look of shock on his face was adorable to her. Apparently the similarities between him and Jean Luc were superficial.

          “I came to zee island with your brother and Captain Naft.”

          “You must be the woman who defeated Naft in combat.”

          “I wouldn’t say zat… I did not want to hurt him. I just wanted to join zee crew, but he would not have me.”

          “You wanted…” DuFresne’s voice trailed off as he got lost in the bewilderment of the idea. 

          “Oui, I am looking to join a crew. Zat is why I am here, and unless you plan on helping me find one, zan I must bid you adieu.”

          Obviously not wanting to leave, DuFresne waved down the bar maiden and ordered another round. She brought them back to the table, and he handed her a few coins.

          “Thank you, love,” she cooed with a silky voice, caressing his face with her elegant fingers. Simonne rolled her eyes as he watched the girl walk away swinging her hips. She went back to scanning the room, looking for someone who looked more authoritative.

          “I never caught your name,” he said, trying to regain Simonne’s attention. She cast him a look of contempt and took a swig from her mug before answering.

          “I am Simonne Augustine DuBois, and you are Pierre DuFresne.”

          “Please, just DuFresne.” He bristled a little, holding up his hand as if to stop the word from ever leaving her mouth again. She could not suppress an evil grin.

          “Jean Luc mentioned you hated zat name.”

          She only said it to get a rise out of him, to see how much it pissed him off, and the reaction it earned her was most satisfying. 

          “Do not trust him, Simonne, he only cares about himself.”

          “Zen he and I have something in common.”

          Silence fell between them, and DuFresne’s scowl faded to a pout as he drank, but he could not keep his eyes off her. She tried to ignore him, but soon it dawned on her that she was not just talking to anyone… she was talking to a pirate. Perhaps not the most fearsome pirate, but nevertheless, she decided that she was searching too hard for something that was right under her nose.

          “You work for Captain Flint, non? Maybe you could introduce me to him?”

          “I could… I just don’t understand why you would want to do this, why anyone would want to do this.”

          “You did not choose to become a pirate?”

          “Not exactly.”

          “Zen why do you do it?”

          “I don’t wish to talk about it.”

          Simonne was curious how such a meek man could wind up in this world unwillingly, and she was beginning to enjoy the company. He was cute, like the lonely stray puppy that followed her for twenty miles down a dusty French road as she walked from Paris to Nantes, but with the ability to carry on a conversation. For the first time since he walked over, she smiled at him. She scooted her chair closer and placed her hand on his leg. Perhaps that would help coax it out of him.

          “Oh come now, you can tell me,” she said with a wink.

          DuFresne sighed and took a swig from his ale.

          “It should come as no surprise that it was Jean Luc who got me into this. He always had a penchant for trouble, and I suppose I feel responsible to help him out of it. At least I used to. Not since we left England.”

          “Wait a minute. Jean Luc said you were from Dominique!” She smacked his knee playfully.

          “Did he? I never understood why he tells everybody that. No, we’re English, but our parents were French Calvinist immigrants. I suppose we became pirates the night my brother decided to murder five people.”

          “Pardonnez-moi?”

          Simonne was taken aback. Jean Luc murdered five people back in England? She knew he was a scoundrel, but he did not seem capable of such an act to her. Captivated, she leaned in closer to him and tightened her grip on his thigh. Before he continued DuFresne finished his drink and waved at the blonde as she walked by, signaling her without words for two more ales. She brought them over and he handed her a few more gold coins, which she accepted with a giggle and a wink, but he did not notice. She no longer had his attention now that Simonne was wrapped in his words. He continued his story after she walked away.

          “He burned them alive while they slept. Lord and Lady Howard, their son David, his wife Catherine and their infant daughter Sarah.”

          “Mon Dieu!”

          “Our mother was Lady Howard’s handmaiden. She fell ill and died four years back. Jean Luc got the idea in his head that David Howard poisoned her. The Howards loved our mother, they would never have done such a thing. He threw a torch in the window of their estate the night of her funeral. The servants saw everything from their quarters. Said they saw two men start the fire, but they could not see that I was trying to stop him, and now I am wanted for those murders as well. Jean Luc thought Nassau would be a safe haven for us, thinks that being a pirate somehow exonerates him of his past crimes, but I don’t share his sentiment about the situation.”

          Simonne was stunned. Three generations of a family wiped out in a single night, including an innocent baby.  Her mouth had fallen open towards the end of his story, and her hand fell off his leg, hanging limp by her side. She could see his predicament, a sort of damned-if-you-stay, damned-if-you-go situation with death on all sides. He cast her an exasperated look, demanding to know if she was satisfied. 

          “A tragique tale, mon amie,” she said, almost sorry she asked, though not completely because her curiosity was satiated, and that was all she really cared about besides finding a crew. As a fellow absconder of the law, she felt he should have been more grateful for the option, for surely he would have faced the gallows if captured on such charges.   

          “Take it from me, you don’t want this life. Leave while you still can.”

          “I’ll take my chances.”

          Jean Luc had finally spotted them, and he sauntered over to their table as if his arrival was the highlight of their evening. That dopey look was glazed over his face again just like his first night on La Mouette, and Simonne wondered if he spent more time drunk than sober. Midnight was drawing near, and a chorus of crickets and tree frogs sounded from the open windows. She did her best to hide her disgust at the sight of him, trying not to draw attention to what she had just learned about his past.

          “I see you’ve met my brother, Simonne. Is he boring you with all his facts and figures?”

          “Non, in fact, I find him to be quite a bit more charming zan you.”

          DuFresne shot his brother a smug look as he drank from his cup. Jean Luc punched him in the arm, sending the brew splashing into his face.

          “She’s just using you to get to Flint, little brother. Don’t just bring her to him. You should get something in return for your trouble. Make her fuck you or something!”

          Simonne glared at him. He stuck it tongue out at her like a child would taunt a sibling, and walked away laughing. On the way back to his table he scooped up the blonde whore and carried her away with him. She let out a playful shriek and pretended to struggle as she laughed. DuFresne’s dark haired friend leapt up from his barstool to rescue her.  

          “Zat guy has a lot of nerve.”

          “He is such an ass,” DuFresne said, shaking his head and wiping his chin on his sleeve. “I am sorry about that. I will take you to Flint tomorrow morning.”

          “Why can’t we see him tonight?”

          “He will be… unavailable for the remainder of the evening. We’ll meet him on the beach tomorrow morning. The Walrus needs some minor repairs from our last voyage.”

          Simonne downed the remainder of her third pint and set her empty glass down with an unintended bang. The table was a little closer than she realized. The ale was catching up with her.

          “Manifiqué.”

          “But I would like to make a small request in return.”

          She cocked her head, waiting for him to continue.

          “I want to know how you got here, where you came from and why you want to do what you’re attempting to do.”

          “Perhaps I am not ready to share zat with you yet, mon cher.” She added the last part with a sarcastic shake of her head, crossing her arms over her chest.

          “Alright. Perhaps I am not ready to introduce you to captain Flint yet.”

          Simonne gave him a little pout, then spat out a quick response.

          “I wanted to be a pirate since I was a child and now I am here. Happy now?”

          “No.” He shook his head, annoyed with her half-assed explanation.

          For a moment she considered walking away. She had gotten enough information out of him to know how to find Flint for herself. However, she was not convinced things would go any differently than they had with Naft. Showing up with DuFresne to vouch for her might be more valuable than she could imagine, and if she had to divulge a few of her secrets to get that favor of him, then perhaps it was worth the displeasure it would cause her to revisit the memories.

          On the other hand, she was certain that her crimes were far worse than his, and the idea of shouting about her past in a crowded bordello for anyone to overhear did not sit right with her. She had a sizeable bounty on her head. Who was to say someone would not try to collect that prize by taking her hostage and turning her in to the first French ship they came across? There was no way she could acquiesce to his request in their present location. 

          Across the table DuFresne was giving her the puppy dog eyes again, and she wondered if he was aware that he was doing it. She almost wanted to tell him, to get it off her chest, but at the same time she wanted to keep it secret forever. Perhaps she was drunk? Though she was far more coherent than most of the men in the place, she had never drank so much in such a short amount of time before, and her head felt a little swimmy.

          “Fine, I will tell you, but under one condition.”

          “Name it.”

           “I want to go back to my room.”

          “Aren’t you concerned with how that might look?”

          He was looking at her like she was crazy again, but she did not understand why. When all she gave him in response was a slack-jawed stare, he elaborated for her.

          “We’ve been sitting here a while, have we not? Quite a few people have seen us here tonight, including most of my crew and my loudmouth brother. So, if we were to leave together and go someplace else, it might cause the men to jump to conclusions that may—“

          “What are you talking about,” she demanded, growing impatient with his wordy explanation. 

          “The men won’t respect you if they think the only reason I vouched for you is because we slept together, and if we go back to your room, that’s exactly what they will assume. Best not give them any reason to think that.”

          “Oh, don’t flatter yourself! You sound like your brother.” Simonne rolled her eyes so hard her head rolled with them. “You can see yourself out when we are finished talking. I do not wish to discuss zis here. I just want to go back to my room. Why is zat so wrong?”

          She stood and walked out of Noonan’s, her mind made up. If he did not want to follow, then fine. She would go to the beach tomorrow morning on her own, for better or worse. Flint was not the only other captain on Nassau. Someone would accept her eventually if she kept trying long enough.

          Out in the street the night air was cool and refreshing compared to the atmosphere in the humid, acrid brothel. The stench of body odor and perfume was making her dizzy. DuFresne jogged up to her side, whispering as loud as he could. A good six inches taller than Simonne, he stooped over to bring his face closer to hers as they walked.

          “What if someone sees us?”

          “You are concerned about zat? Zan come upstairs in a few minutes. I am at zee end of zee hall on zee left. You can make sure zat zey see you leave, too.”

          She went upstairs to her room without him and lit the lamp on the table before collapsing into the bed, forgetting all about her new companion as she sunk face-down into the duvet. At first the room seemed to spin, but soon it stopped and every muscle in her body relaxed. Just as she was dozing off she heard a soft tapping on the door.

          “Come in,” she said into the pillow, but the tapping continued. She sat up.

          “Come in! Entrez-vous!”

          The door opened and DuFresne stuck his head in, looking unsure of himself. She sat up on the bed with her legs crossed, sandy boots still on her feet. She beckoned him inside. He sat down on the far end of the bed and rested his arm on the footboard. He said nothing, which was just fine because she was ready to cut to the chase and say goodnight.

          “So, you want to know how I got ‘ere? Fine, zen I will tell you, but you must not repeat what I am about to say to anyone.”

          She heaved a heavy sigh and let it out slowly, preparing herself. She did not look at him as she spoke. Focusing on the brass doorknob on the other side of the room was easier. From the edge of her vision she could see him nodding in promise not to tell anyone her story. Once more she cursed herself for agreeing to this, and for her inability to think of a creative lie.

          “I was born in a brothel in Pairee. I lived in my mother’s room until I was eight, helping in zee kitchens while she worked. Zee cooks told me stories about zee pirates, and my mother knew I loved to hear zem. It was she who got me into the Acadamié Militaire Royale Pour Garçons. She cut my hair and told zem my name was Marc. She thought I wanted to fight zee pirates, not zat I wanted to become one.”

          Though unusual, Simonne’s mother insisted on keeping her baby because the father was a wealthy lord. She thought that he would feel inclined to support them financially if he could see his daughter’s beautiful face, though such was not the case. When Simonne turned eight the Madame began grooming her to become one of her girls. She did not tell DuFresne that her mother sent her away in the night to prevent the Madame from selling her virginity.

          “I excelled in my classes, and no one suspected a thing until the end of huitième… how you say… the eight year. I was sixteen, and one of zee boys noticed zhere was something different about me. He promised to keep my secret if I slept with him, so I did. He told zee headmaster a year later. Zhey wanted throw me in jail! When zee headmaster tried to apprehend me, I stabbed him with my sword and killed him.”

          She looked down at the blade attached to her waist. It was a standard issue cutlass given to all students in their eighth year, to accustom them to carrying and maintaining such a weapon. She drove the blade through his chest as he stormed into her dormitory and attempted to take her into custody. He underestimated her by going in alone, and paid dearly for the mistake. Had two or three men accosted her, she would not have escaped.

          “I ran until I could not run anymore. I slept in zee tall grass on zee side of zee road, zen kept running until I found zee road heading south. I followed zat road all zee way from Pairee to Nantes. I lived zhere on zee streets for more than a year before I boarded La Mouette, and now I am here.”

          That was a mouthful. Simonne’s heart was beating hard. She did not mention the bounty on her head, or that she was wanted not only for the murder of the headmaster (who was a decorated, retired French Navy general) but also for the murders of two of her classmates. After killing the headmaster, she went to the dorm of the boy who blackmailed her and turned her in. She slit his throat and stabbed his roommate before fleeing Paris forever, knowing that the punishment for her crimes would be death.

          The memories of street life haunted her. It took a week to walk from Paris to Nantes, and once she got there she was homeless. The nights were cold, the hunger was endless, but the worst part was the feeling she got when passersby looked at her with disgust, as if she were a diseased animal. In addition to all of that, she was overwhelmed with guilt for the inevitable trouble her mother faced for her crimes. She was undoubtedly in jail or worse. Despite Simonne’s hardest efforts, she was unable to beg for enough gold to pay for passage aboard a ship. The Parisian authorities caught up to her in Nantes and she was left with no choice but to stow away while the constables combed the city in search of her. More than a year after the incident and they were still searching for her.  

          She wondered if he felt as awful as she did about reliving the past, and suddenly felt sorry for putting him through it. DuFresne looked awestruck at her, a strange mixture of sympathy and admiration, for clearly she had been through much in her young life. For a moment he was speechless, but then he slowly shook his head.

          “I am afraid you are only compounding your troubles, not alleviating them.”

          He looked so sad, and yet, so handsome. He seemed to genuinely care about her. After all she had been through, Simonne found it hard to believe that anyone could give a damn about her. How long had it been since someone held her? Truly, she could not remember, for her mother was only affectionate with her men. In that moment, as the room seemed to wobble and the halo around the lamplight grew larger, all she wanted was an arm around her shoulder. Simonne smiled and patted the bed by her side.

          “Why don’t you come over here,” she asked. He raised his eyebrows at her, but obeyed, sliding a few feet closer, though still further than she could reach. 

“You can come closer, I won’t bite. Just hold me for a moment. Zen you can go.”

          DuFresne scooted closer and hesitantly put his arm around her shoulder. She laid her head down on the crook of his neck, and his body felt warm against her forehead.

          “You will come back in zee morning?”

          “Yea, sure.”

          He ran his hand down her arm, then back up to her shoulder again. It sent a shiver down her spine. He felt her tremble and squeezed her tighter to his chest, then gave her a little peck on the top of her head. Surprised, she looked up and him. He returned her gaze with an apologetic grimace, as if he expected her to strike him. Instead, she leaned in and kissed him. His lips were warm and soft, and his stubble tickled her face.

          What the fuck was she doing? She pulled back, half expecting to see the face of Jean Luc laughing at her, but she did not. DuFresne was like an angel, and although he was incapable of protecting her, she could feel his desire to try. His hand fell to her lower back and she grabbed his silly little scarf, pulling him into her again before untying it. It fell to the floor, then his blue vest beside it. He slid her coat off, revealing her bare, ivory shoulders. Beneath it she wore only the red corset lined with black lace, which he untied with nimble fingers.

          She did not care if it worsened or bettered her chances of getting onto captain Flint’s crew. Everything on the other side of the door disappeared like a puff of smoke dissipating in the sea breeze. She pulled him down into the deep, plush blankets like a siren pulling a wayward sailor into the sea, and he was both powerless and unwilling to stop it. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Not Another Scholar

          The shrill chirping of birds awoke Simonne in the morning. She opened her eyes and was almost blinded by the intense tropical sunlight streaming in through the window. She closed her eyes and the room began to spin, but when she opened them again the light was unbearable. Why wouldn’t those birds shut the hell up?

          There was a scuffling sound coming from inside the room. She squinted and rubbed her red, puffy eyes, struggling to make out the blurry figure moving at the foot of the bed. Suddenly the memory of the night before hit her like a cannonball to the head. DuFresne was pulling his pants back on, his white shirt still unbuttoned. The rest of his clothes were still on the floor, along with her black skirt and coat. Her corset was hanging haphazardly off the footboard of the bed. Merde, merde, merde! She let out a groan and cupped her face in her hands.

          “I will never drink again.” Her voice was muffled by her palms.

          “That’s what they all say,” he replied with a smirk. “Get up, we’ve got to go. We’ve overslept.”

          Now suddenly everything is “we?” Simonne groaned again, rocking forward into a face plant onto the mattress. Then she sat back up and looked at him from beneath a furrowed brow.

          “Not a word about this to anyone, do you hear me? Not one word.”

          “Okay, Simonne.”

          “I am serious!”

          “I promise, I won’t say anything.”

          She dragged her naked ass out of bed, put her clothes back on and brushed her hair, hoping she did not look as awful as she felt. As they walked down to the beach she did her best to ignore her hangover, not wanting to appear weak or out of her wits. DuFresne led the way and seemed to be completely un-phased by the alcohol. There was a little bounce in his step that she found to be mildly irritating. Sure, he was a more experienced drinker, and about ten years older than she was, but it still seemed unfair that he was not suffering alongside her.

          A group of men stood on the beach, gathered around one man who could only be Captain Flint. Clad in black from head to toe, he was not the tallest man, or the largest, but he was the most imposing. The Walrus was not far off shore. A few tears could be seen in the sails and one of the masts was leaning wayward slightly.

          “Speak of the devil!”

          Flint turned to DuFresne, and the rest of the crew followed suit. “I see you’ve decided to join us.” He smirked, playfully taunting his bookkeeper for his tardiness.

          “Good morning, Captain Flint,” DuFresne said with a nod.

          “We were just discussing the expense of the repairs. Who’s your friend here?”

          “Oh, this is—“ 

          Simonne pushed past DuFresne and thrust out her hand to Flint.

          “Allo, my name is Simonne Augustine DuBois, and I would like to join zee crew.”

          Flint grinned at her, but before he could say a word a bald, stocky, man stepped forward. He crossed his arms over his barrel-like chest, sizing her up with a look of scrutiny.

          “And how would the crew benefit from having you join, little lady?”

          The entire group’s attention was on Simonne now. They all crowded around her and DuFresne in a semi-circle, nodding their heads in agreement with the man. Before she could rebuttal, he continued, interrupting her as she opened her mouth.

          “DuFresne, do you know this woman?”

          “Well, yes, Mister Gates, we met last night. I think she would be an asset to the crew.”

          “Why, are you sleeping with her?”

          Gates chuckled and slapped his leg as if the idea were absurd. Clearly he was joking, and some of the men thought it funny as well. Simonne looked at DuFresne out of the corner of her eye. All he had to do was say “no.” Why was he so quiet? All eyes fell on him. His cheeks flushed as he looked down at the ground. Gates let out a loud, drawn out “oh!” and almost fell over backwards as everyone on the beach erupted in laughter. Highly embarrassed, Simonne stared daggers at her companion and stomped her foot in the sand.

          “Wipe zat fucking look off your face, you idiot! Zut alors!”

            Flint threw his head back, and his eyes twinkled as he laughed. He walked up and clapped his hand down on DuFresne’s shoulder.

          “If it means you’ll loosen up bit, I don’t see any problem in letting your girlfriend join!”

          “I am not his girlfriend,” she protested, though that was far from the reaction she was expecting from the captain. Still, she feared the other men would never respect her now. DuFresne remained quiet, unable to meet her venomous gaze. No one was listening to her. They were too busy laughing. All but one.

          An enormous man plowed through the crowd, looking un-amused. His blonde hair was cut close to his skull. He stood nearly a foot taller than her, and he looked as if he could have been strong enough to snap a mast in half. When he stepped forward the laughing stopped.

          “That’s not good enough for me, captain. What does she know about sailing? Can she aim a cannon? What use is she to us?”

          This time Simonne was not going to be interrupted, and she responded quickly and loudly enough for everyone to hear.

          “I studied zee principles of the French Navy at zee Acadamié Militaire Royale Pour Garçons in Pariee.”

          This did not earn her the esteem she anticipated.

          “Not another scholar!” The strong man turned to DuFresne, exacerbated. “Look, I can see why you like her, but that doesn’t mean she can just join up.”

          “Fuck you, Billy,” DuFresne snapped.

          A chorus of murmuring broke out, punctuated by the occasional shout of agreement with Billy.

          “Listen to me!” Simonne yelled over the rabbling of the pirates, regaining everyone’s attention. “Your ship, zee Walrus, she is a… how you say… a frigate. A triple-masted square rigger with… deux, quatre, dix, quatorze, vingt… Twenty-six cannons. She has two stay sails on zee rear masts, one large flying jib sail off zee bowsprit and two spankers. I saw dark skies to zee north zee day before my ship was taken by captain Naft. Zee tears in zee sails suggest zat you got caught up in zat storm. The foremast is leaning forward from zee wind damage. Zis storm, she forced you to return to port early, non? I see minimal cannon fire damage to zee hull, certainly not enough to warrant a return home.”

          Silence befell the group. Billy looked at her in disbelief and rolled his eyes when he saw Flint smiling and nodding. A curly haired man walked up out of the crowd. A turtle was tattooed on his neck. She recognized him as one of DuFresne’s bar companions from the night before.

          “She just hit the nail on the head, captain. I say we let her join.”

          “I was never against the idea,” Flint replied to the man, “but let’s put it to a vote. All in favor?”

          DuFresne and the man with the turtle tattoo raised their hands first. Soon, more followed suit until all the crew’s hands were raised except for Billy’s. Everyone turned to him, but he was looking at the raven haired French girl with a hard expression. She refused to plead with her eyes, refused to pander for his vote in any way. Perhaps he respected this. Perhaps he knew he was out voted. Whatever the reason, Billy raised his hand half-heartedly with another disgusted roll of his eye. Flint thrust out his hand to her.

          “Welcome to the crew, Miss DuBois. DeGroot will show you around the ship and get you started on the repairs.”

          Simonne went off with the man with the turtle tattoo and Flint turned to DuFresne to discuss expenses, still chuckling at his self-conscious accountant. She jumped onto a lifeboat and headed out to the Walrus to reinforce the mast before they could repair the sails. DuFresne went back into town with a few men and returned later with a huge roll of canvas. Only occasionally did anyone dole out any shit to her about her romantic indiscretion. At first she denied it, but no one was buying that story. DuFresne was too transparent. Determined to show her worth, she dove into the repairs with enthusiasm. Despite her best efforts to avoid him, she could not help but notice their paths crossing quite often. Each time he smiled at her and each time she ignored him.

          In the heat of the early afternoon she found some relief in the crow’s nest stringing up ropes and hoisting the first repaired sail. The air was cooler up there, and the breeze was stronger. On the deck far below she saw DuFresne with a handful of men stitching up the second sail. He looked up at her and smiled but she looked away, still sore with him.

          Flint dismissed them all as the sun began to sink, setting them free for another night on land. Every muscle in her body was sore and her feet ached. She had sweat in her eyes and splinters in her fingers, but she felt as if she accomplished something great that day. It was a pleasurable pain. She also decided she wanted a tattoo, for only then would she feel like a true pirate.

          She passed by Noonan’s on her way back to the Guthrie House. Most of her new crew was there again, but the idea of drinking another drop of ale disgusted her. She went back to her room and fell into the bed, happy for some peace and quiet, but it would not last for more than an hour.

          The soft knocking on the door was almost inaudible. With an aggravated groan she got up and opened it, not surprised at who was standing on the other side. The lost puppy was back. She invited him in instead of slamming the door in his face, which was her first instinct. Surely yelling at him would be more satisfying. When the world was firmly closed out, she started in on him.

          “What zee fuck is zee matter with you? You said you wouldn’t say anything about last night. Mon dieu, zut alors!”

          “Well, technically, I didn’t say anything…”

          “Oh, don’t give me zat, you know what I mean!” She sat down on the bed, folding her arms and crossing one leg over the other. “You made me look like a fool.”

          DuFresne sat down beside her and silence fell between them. She was too angry to look at him.

          “I was hoping they would not accept you… but you gained their respect. Flint really likes you, talked about you all day. Even Billy was impressed with your efforts. You got what you wanted after all.”

          “You have no right to make zat decision for me. Zis is what I want to do.”

          “You don’t know what you are getting into.”

          “I am nineteen years old, I can handle myself. I survived without your help zus far. I do not need your help now.”

          He reached into the pocket of his vest and pulled out a pistol, holding it flat in his palm. The black varnished handle contrasted with the polished silver barrel, and a flying seagull was etched into the wood. She recognized it as captain LaFrenuie’s pistol. DuFresne handed it to her.

          “I bought this off Naft today. You’re going to need one.”

          She took the gun out of his hand. Billowing clouds rose behind the seagull in a shallower, more subtle engraving. The bird had been painted white but most of it was rubbed off from years of use. Memories of target practice at the academy came flooding back to her. She was a good shot, and she knew how to clean and maintain such a piece. Simonne looked up at DuFresne, surprised by the generous gift. He was giving her that look again, begging for her forgiveness with his eyes. Her anger with him evaporated, despite her best efforts to hold onto it.

          “Zis must have cost a small fortune.”

          “Don’t worry about it. Just protect yourself.”

          Simonne set the pistol down on the bedside table then turned back to him.

          “Thank you, I will.”

          He leaned in and kissed her, slipping his hand through her silky hair to cradle her head, and she melted like butter left in the sun. She pulled him down onto the bed atop her. This time, completely sober, she was sure she wanted him. Sure that the night before was not a mistake. He made her feel like she mattered, like her life had some sort of value. He made love to her like she was the only woman in the world and held her tight for a long while after.

          “Simonne,” he said, still catching his breath, “I think I love you.”

          She smiled and nuzzled his smooth, bare chest with her cheek.

          “Merde.”

          He looked down at her, surprised. She giggled and stole a kiss, wiping the disheartened look off his face at once.

          “Je t’aime, cheri. I think love you, too.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: The Hunt Begins

S. 1 E. 1-3

March 1715

          The battle for the merchant ship had been short, but not without bloodshed. Simonne sat beside DuFresne in the captain’s quarters of the Walrus, attempting to clean a bloodstain from her coat. Her final victim grabbed it as he fell, smearing his sanguineous humors all over the black fabric. The spot was proving difficult to remove, and she was most unhappy about it. DuFresne was poring over his logs, going over the numbers from the day’s haul with his own feelings of disappointment. Papers were splayed out all over the desk before him. The only sound to be heard was the soft tap, tap, tapping of his quill in the inkwell, and the occasional sigh of dismay from the French girl by his side.

          Gates walked into the room looking quite pleased with himself, a large smile beaming across his face. DuFresne finished jotting down some numbers before acknowledging the first mate’s presence. When it came to tallying the plunder, DuFresne was all business. When at sea a whole new side of his personality surfaced, and it had no patience for fun or bullshit.

          “We made a full sweep of the hold and we found eight more casks of whale oil,” Gates gloated.

          “That’s all?” The bookkeeper quipped back, dissatisfied.

          “Oh, come now, mon cher, that’s good.” Simonne tried to comfort him. He ignored her as he explained to Gates the situation they were facing with the numbers. 

          “Total tally four-hundred… five, if we manage to sell the tobacco. Cameron’s broken his arm. Duffy has been shot in the leg. After injury payments we will net… just under eight dollars per man.”

          “Merde.” Simonne crossed her arms.

          “Eight dollars?” Gates raised his eyebrows in shock. “The crew will not be happy…”

          “When are they ever?” Flint spoke up from the rear of the room. He was holding a book, and extended it out to Gates. “Here, take a look.”

          Gates walked over and took the book in his hands. It was the captain’s log. Simonne picked the dried blood from between her nails. She pretended to be uninterested, but listened to the two men intently. Flint was sure this was the ship that contained the plans he needed for a big score. She hoped he had something in the works. In the three months since she joined the crew her largest payout was twenty dollars. Before long she would not be able to afford her room at the Guthrie House, and she did not want to move into a tent on the beach like the other pirates on Nassau.

          “Told ya this was the ship,” Flint said with a smirk.

          “Where’s the schedule?”

          “Minor obstacle, but we’re getting close.”

          Simonne gave DuFresne a tap on the ankle with her boot. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She looked unhappy, asking without words “what page?” DuFresne shrugged and went back to writing. Just then, the door to the captain’s quarters opened again, and Dr. Howell entered, looking somber. In his hands he held a bloody rag, and his apron was soaked, but not with water.

          “Mr. Duffy is dead. I removed the leg, but… he lost too much blood.”

          Gates and Flint exchanged looks before following the doctor out of the room. They had other matters to attend to. The door shut behind them with a slam.

          “With Duffy gone, I will have to reconfigure the shares,” DuFresne said with a sigh, never taking his eyes off his numbers.

          “What page were zey talking about?”

          “It’s a schedule for a Spanish treasure galleon Flint’s after. That’s all I know.”

          Simonne perked up at the idea of a large prize.

          “Is zat why we have been wasting our time with zhese small ships? Because he was looking for zis page? I see nothing wrong with zat.”

          “Yea, well, the men disagree. They think Flint is weak because of it. They want a stronger leader.”

          “Singleton? Zut, zat is stupid.”

          “Again, many of the men would disagree.”

          “Mon cher, if Flint knows where zis treasure is, then I will follow him to it. You are not thinking of voting against him, are you?”

          “No, Singleton is not right. I won’t vote for him.”

          Singleton was vying for Flint’s position as captain, dividing the crew as they prepared to hold a vote on the issue of who should be in command of the Walrus. Word was that the numbers were close, and Singleton had a real chance at winning.

          The pair overheard shouting from outside the door. Sails were spotted on the horizon. It was the Scarborough, a British naval ship. Flint was giving the order to get out of there. Beneath their feet the floor vibrated as the anchor was pulled up. Shouts of “set the sails,” could be heard echoing around the ship as the men scrambled about.        

          “I’ve got to get out on zee deck,” Simonne said. She rushed out of the room, leaving DuFresne to reconfigure his numbers or whatever the hell it was he needed to do.

                               ◊                                  ◊

          They evaded the Scarborough like a young bird fleeing from a fat, old cat. Back in Nassau, Simonne was exhausted from unloading the ship. DuFresne claimed he was, too, but she was fairly certain that he spent most of the day sitting in a chair taking stock of the goods as they came off the ship. They were back in Simonne’s room, resting on the bed in the early evening. She was rubbing a coconut oil salve onto her chest, where the seagull engraving from her gun was now tattooed just below her clavicle on her right side. The wound was swollen and beginning to scab over. DeGroot did the honors on the journey home. The image of the sea bird resonated with her and her new life of freedom and adventure. She was honored to receive it, for it made her feel like a true member of the crew.    

          “I saw you talking to zee new cook. What did he want?”

          “Silver? Oh, he was looking for his recipes.”

          “I did not think zat a ship’s cook needed recipes. Does he think he is running a patisserie?”

          “Come to think of it, I don’t recall seeing a recipe book on the ship at all...”

          “There’s something not quite right about him. He shouldn’t need recipes! I wouldn’t need zem if I had his job.”

          “I thought you were insulted when they offered you that job.”

          “You’re damn right I was! I love zee fighting. I am good at it.”

          On her first voyage aboard the Walrus Simonne was offered a job as the ship’s cook. She turned it down, preferring a position as a “boatwoman.” Mister Randall may have been touched in the head, but he was more than capable of handling the galley without her help. Now that Silver joined up, he replaced Randall as cook, leaving the old coot with the most menial tasks, like gutting fish and washing plates.

          DuFresne ran his hand down the side of her face, looking sad about her confession. He could not believe she was enjoying herself, but she was as capable as any man on the crew. She had a deadly aim on the cannons, and she tore through her assailants with her cutlass in her right hand and her pistol in the left. The crew had grown to respect her, and as far as anyone was concerned she was one of the men. She was tiny, like a living doll with a quick temper and an insatiable bloodlust. Short, and thin from living on the streets, she was easy to underestimate in her black and red dress. However, she was ferocious and much stronger than she appeared.

          “I wish you didn’t like it.”

          “You worry too much.”

          “I think I have good reason to worry. I would prefer not to watch you get killed.”

          She knew all too well that he wanted to leave Nassau. He had been talking about it often of late, trying to paint idyllic pictures in her mind, complete with new identities so the past could never come back to haunt them. He wanted land to farm in the Carolinas with lush trees and fields of crops. Some days it was cotton, others tobacco, and once he even talked of planting an orange grove that would extend as far as the eye could see. She tried not to gag as he spoke.

          She told him she would consider leaving the pirate’s life behind if they could save up a fair amount of money, but she only said it to shut him up. In reality, she had no intention of leaving the high seas without a fight, and she would have rather faced the noose than a life on dry land on his silly little farm. The life of a farmer’s wife felt like a fate worse than death, anyways, and she had no intention of sticking with him if that were the inevitable outcome.

          “Once we get zat treasure Flint’s after things will be different.”

                               ◊                                 ◊

          The Walrus was anchored offshore of Harbor Island, still as a stone in the placid waters. Flint and Billy went ashore hours ago but had not yet returned. Simonne, along with the rest of the crew, were unsure why they were there and growing impatient. Gates sent her up to the forward deck with a mop and a bucket, which she begrudgingly accepted with a groan of dismay. She hated swabbing the decks, despite how much Gates insisted it was an important duty. 

          She climbed down to the tiny deck at the nose of the ship and set down her bucket. The quiet tranquility of the secluded space blinded her to the danger approaching. A loud, dull thunk came from behind her back. A man had jumped down onto the deck. She turned around and came face-to-chest with Singleton, forcing her to crane her head up to see his ugly, smirking face. Scars ran across his features like fissures in rock. He was one of the few men she had not yet spoken to since joining up. He always seemed to have a bug up his ass about something, and Simonne thought it better not to approach a bull with a bee sting. He looked down at her with a squinty-eyed stare and a wolfish grin.  

          “Aren’t you cute?”

          Simonne did not dignify him with a response, but instead plunged her mop into the bucket, splashing water onto his shoes. He snatched the mop from her hands and tossed it aside.

          “You better vote for me when the time comes, girl,” he snarled at her.

          “Why should I do zat?”

          “Because I’d be a better captain than Flint, plain and simple.”

          “Maybe I disagree.”

          Singleton reached down and grabbed her by the collar of her coat. She clutched his wrists, standing on her tiptoes and gritting her teeth.

          “I’d be careful if I were you. I have the votes, and do you know what I am going to do to you if I win?”

          He did not wait for her to answer. He pulled her up off her feet and dragged her to the edge of the ship. Grabbing her by the hair, he leaned her forward over the ledge and turned her head towards the bow. The crushing force of his body on top of her made it hard to breathe, and the ledge was pressing sharply into her stomach.

          “If you vote against me, I am going to string you up there, like a figurehead, to the front of the ship, but not before I’ve had a bit of fun with you first. So vote right.”

          He released her from his grip. She spun around and sank down onto the deck, covering her mouth with her trembling hands. He stood glowering over her for a moment before leaving. Her heart was racing and her eyes burned as she fought down tears, forbidding herself from crying. After he was gone she stood and picked up the mop, returning to her duties even though she was shaking hard enough to cause her to stumble over her own boots. Did he seriously have the votes? She had no idea if he was bluffing or not, and no idea what to do.

          After the deck was clean she tossed the dirty water overboard and heard someone coming down the ladder to the bow. Her heart stopped. She turned around, expecting to see Singleton again, but it was DuFresne. He had an exasperated look on his face and a red lump on his right cheekbone.

          “Did he get to you, too, mon cher?” She rushed over to him and raised her hand to his face, but he flinched when her fingers got close.

          “What did he say to you?”

          “Nothing,” she said quickly, looking down at the deck.

          “Bullshit.” He took off his glasses, giving her a look of deadly seriousness. He opened his mouth to implore her to tell him, but was interrupted by a shout from Logan heralding Flint’s return.

          They rushed to the side of the ship and saw Flint and Billy in a dingy with a sail. Some of the men were rushing to help them aboard, and the two went to join them. Simonne was relieved. Their timing could not have been more fortunate. She did not want to repeat the threat out loud, especially not to DuFresne. Never before did she feel like her crewmates would harm her, and for a second she wondered if DuFresne was right about what he said about her plan the night they first met. “You don’t know what you’re getting into.” Impossible, she hoped, trying to reassure herself that everything was going to be alright.

          Once everyone was back aboard, the crew gathered around for the vote. Simonne and DuFresne watched from the top deck. DeGroot stood on Simonne’s other side. He felt protective of her, seeing her as a little sister, though she was young enough to be his daughter. Logan was nearby as well, standing sentinel behind her. He and DeGroot saw Singleton punch DuFresne when he refused to vote for him, and although Simonne would not admit that Singleton threatened her, they were all sure that he did.

          Flint stepped forward on the gun deck below them, a book in his hands. Silence fell upon the crew. The sails flapped in the breeze and the cry of a lone seagull echoed around them.

          “I’m sorry,” he said. “For the short hauls, for the trouble I’ve caused, but most importantly for the disregard it seems I’ve shown you. The most important element of a healthy ship is trust. Trust between men. Trust between captain and crew. Without it, a ship is doomed.

          “For the past few months you and I have been on the trail of a prize so rich it could upset the very nature of our world, and for that reason I felt it necessary to keep it secret. I didn’t trust you… and that was my mistake. Right now I would like to tell you that that prize is in our grasp, and we are close. So close.”

          Simonne listened, eyes wide as saucers. She knew he was seeking something out of the usual, but had been unable to discover anything more than what DuFresne told her. For the rest of the men this was news indeed, and they hung on his every word.

          “But it would appear that my concerns about secrecy had merit. Someone on this crew discovered my plans, and tore from this log the very page necessary to discover that prize.”

          Flint held the book high above his head.

          “Stole it for their own gain. Stole it from us, and then stoked your resentment to cover his crime, and make himself your captain.”

          Simonne believed every word Flint said, but Singleton denied the accusation. Gates stepped in to mediate, suggesting a trial for the charge of theft. Singleton turned the idea down, opting for swords. The vote was derailed. Simonne’s stomach flipped over. Singleton looked like he could easily take Flint in a fight, and if he did… she shuddered at the thought. DuFresne’s knuckles were white as he gripped the rope railing in front of them. Simonne cast DeGroot a look of concern, and he patted her on the shoulder in reassurance. At the very least, her friends would defend her from that maniac if things took a turn for the worse.

          “Maybe it’s better this way,” Singleton said, “be rid of you once and for all.”

          They drew their swords and began to fight. Singleton went at Flint hard, pummeling the captain with his sword and his fists, knocking him backwards repeatedly, but Flint was agile, taking the blows in stride and keeping one step ahead of his hulking opponent. The crew called out at the top of their voices for their chosen captains. Simonne jumped up and down, shaking the rope, screaming for Flint while DuFresne stood silent and still by her side. He looked horrified.

          Singleton’s sword slashed across Flint’s chest. Simonne doubled over the rope rail, feeling her heart break as her captain’s shirt stained red with blood and he staggered, but he quickly rounded back on Singleton. The brute pushed the captain back and pinned him against the deck support. Flint broke away, and Singleton slashed at him. He missed, sinking his sword into the wooden dolly of a cannon. Flint kicked the blade and it snapped in two. Simonne cheered. How could he loose now?

          Undaunted, Singleton knocked Flint down and went at him with his broken sword, but Flint grabbed onto it as if it were his opponent’s throat. Blood poured down his wrists as he wrapped his hands around the razor’s edge. DuFresne put his hand on top of Simonne’s and his fingers tightened around her fist. She felt as if she was going to vomit. Singleton was putting all his weight onto the hilt, trying to drive the dull edge of the broken blade into Flint’s chest, and Flint did not look like he could hold on much longer.

          Just as it all seemed to be over, the sword came crashing down onto the deck just inches away from the Captain’s ear. Flint reached back and grabbed a cannon ball, clocking Singleton in the head with it. He fell over, stunned, and tried to stagger away but Flint crawled up behind him, delivering a dizzying blow to his face. Again and again he pounded Singleton’s head until it was naught but a bloody pulp. The cheering stopped.

          Stunned silence befell the crew and dragged on for what seemed like an eternity. Simonne could feel DuFresne trembling through his hand, still clenched around hers. Singleton’s head sloughed to the side as he breathed his last breath. Flint reached into the dead man’s pocket, pulling out a piece of paper. He handed it to Billy with a trembling hand. The quartermaster opened it, and his eyes widened in awe. His jaw dropped open as he looked up and around at the crew.

          “It’s the stolen page.”

          Flint looked around at the men, still quaking from the effort of winning the fight.

          “Friends! Brothers! The prize that we have been pursuing is L’Urca De Lima. The Hulk. A prize of almost unimaginable value. Now with this page securely in our possession, we can begin our hunt. And we will succeed, no matter the cost, no matter the struggle. I will see that prize is yours. I’m not just gonna make you rich. I’m not just gonna make you strong. I’m gonna make you the princes of the new world!”

          A rhythmic pounding began with the stomping of feet. Soon more gathered in with the clapping of their hands, chanting his name. Flint, Flint, Flint, Flint, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Simonne joined in with exuberant claps, shouting in triumph as the noise rose to a climax. Then a loud cheer erupted from the men. Simonne threw her hands up over her head, letting out the loudest and highest pitched yell of them all, then turned to DuFresne and wrapped her arms around him. He picked her up off her feet and swung her around. They were elated, though for different reasons. For him, the gold from that ship could buy their way out of piracy forever, but for her, it was the beginning of a grand adventure, and she hoped many more would follow. The mood remained jovial all the way back to Nassau. 

                               ◊                                  ◊

          Landfall. Home again. A second wave of excitement swept through the crew as the Walrus pulled into port. Somehow the sun shined brighter, the water seemed bluer and surely the hedonistic pleasures of land would be all the more sweet. Already chatter was circulating amongst the men as to how they would spend their share of the Urca gold. What began as simple talk soon dissolved into excited shouts and demands for cash advances. Soon they were calling for the accountant to grant their every wish, and DuFresne stepped into the crowd in an attempt to quell the madness.

          “Gentlemen! I understand your excitement,” He said, holding his hands over his head to gain their attention, “but, do we really think it is a good idea to open up what are, to be fair, depleted reserves and start spending money we haven’t earned yet?”

          “Money we haven’t earned yet!?”

          Shouts of protest erupted, and Simonne’s voice was amongst them. She was already spending the plunder in her head, too. A ship of her own… DuFresne seemed to revel in being a realist, grounding the crew as their heads soared through the clouds. He seemed to be amused at their outlandish suggestions at first, but soon his smile faded as he realized they were not kidding around. Simonne could not help but laugh at the fact that no one was taking him seriously.

          “Gold for the whores!” Logan yelled above the murmuring, prompting a chorus of hollering in agreement.

          “Gentlemen, please, let’s be reasonable here…”

          As the shouting and protesting continued and it became apparent that reason had been cast overboard he tossed his head back and gave up. Simonne beckoned him into the shade of the gun deck.

          “You can’t say you didn’t try, non?”

          DuFresne just shook his head. This was going to throw his records into chaos. 

          “I need a drink,” he moaned, removing his glasses to massage his temples.

          Before long the disembarking began, and DuFresne made his way up to the top deck, Simonne by his side. She had nothing to do until she was permitted to disembark. There was so little to unload, her mates told her not to bother, that they would handle it. She sat on the ledge, watching him check names off the ledger as the men left the Walrus.

          “Hold that boat!” John Silver ran up the stairs. He had a lot of nerve, Simonne thought. She was enjoying the fact that she was no longer the newest member of the crew. He needed to learn his place, which was to disembark after she did.

          “There will be another,” DuFresne replied.

          “I’m sure you’re right but—“

          “I understand everyone wants to get laid but we disembark by seniority. Perhaps if you made the men some food, it would take the edge off the spree they’re about to go on.”

          “Yea, Silva, wait your turn.” Simonne sneered at him. “I have seniority over you, so you get off zee ship last.”

          He was not listening to her. Something had caught his eye, and he backed down the stairs, slipping into the crowd on the gun deck below. Simonne watched him maneuver his way through the bodies to the other side of the ship. He climbed up to the top deck again and jumped up on the ledge.

          “What zee fuck is he doing?”

          She smacked DuFresne in the arm and pointed over to where Silver was steadying himself on the block and tackle. DuFresne shrugged, but kept watching. Another crewmate echoed her question and all eyes turned to Silver just in time to see him leap off the edge, arms flailing in a failed attempt to soften the landing. It did not. He landed belly-first with a great slap like a whale’s fin. Resurfacing, he let out a cry of agony that carried all the way to the shore. The crew erupted in laughter—except for Simonne. She ran around the top deck to the side where Silver was bobbing in the water like a cork.

          “Fuck you, Silva! You Dog! You limey little bastard!”

          She was irate. She outranked him! He was just a cook, and the vanguard was still aboard, for crying out loud. She waved her middle fingers at him as he swam away, screaming threats and obscenities.

          “That kid must really wanna get laid,” Logan said with a laugh. Simonne shoved past him on her way back to her perch beside DuFresne, nearly knocking him off his feet.

          “Yea, well, he is not zee only one!”

                               ◊                                  ◊

          After the sun set the heat of the day lingered on. A party broke out on the beach, and it seemed everyone on the island was in attendance. A bonfire was lit on the shore. Pirates and whores splashed in the shallows and leaped over the flames in a daring test of will. Some lay in the cool sand, trying to stave off the sweltering night air.

          Simonne found a seat on a rock just off the shore. She slipped off her boots and dipped her feet into the surf, then took a long drag off her cigarette, blowing a cloud of smoke into the clear black sky. DuFresne sat down by her side and handed her the bottle of red wine they had been sharing. Though thoroughly un-refreshing, she took a few gulps from the bottle, and the wine felt warm inside her until it settled in her stomach. It was no fine Bordeaux, but it was all they could afford with the recent short hauls.

          Behind them came the familiar sound of a concertina warming up. She turned around and saw Jean Luc manning the instrument. She could not help but be surprised that that idiot had any musical talent at all. Was it him playing that first night on La Mouette? A group was assembling around him, expecting a show. She tossed the cigarette in the ocean and it extinguished with a hiss. Unable to resist, she went up and joined the crowd. She wanted to see what he could do. DuFresne followed her and wrapped his arms around her waist as they listened to him play a few scales.

          Logan stepped up into the circle with a flageolet in his hands. This should be good, Simonne thought to herself, knowing Logan was quite good with the little flute. The musicians exchanged looks with a nod and began playing a quick-paced sea shanty. The audience clapped and danced along.

          Simonne thrust the bottle back at DuFresne and walked into the circle. A cheer erupted from the spectators. She loved the attention, and she knew this song well. Jean Luc gave her a big grin as she started singing the familiar story of the mermaid Queen Marine and her court of beautiful sisters who used their voices to maroon sailors on the rocky shores of their island. Once stranded, they seduced the men and devoured their souls.

          She danced in a circle with Logan and Jean Luc as they played, and even managed to pull a reluctant DuFresne in for a few moments before ending the song on a dramatic vibrato, tossing her hands into the air as the audience capped the song with an enthusiastic “hey!”

          Jean Luc ran to Simonne and scooped her up like she was light as a feather and spun her around before setting her back down on the beach.

          “It’s so good to see us finally getting along!” He swung his arm around her and dragged her over to his brother, locking him in under his other arm. “’Cause we’re going to be seeing a lot more of each other now that I’ve joined up with Flint.”

          Simonne and DuFresne exchanged exasperated looks from across his chest. He was their crewmate now? Simonne rolled her eyes.

          “Are you serious?”

          “You didn’t hear? Flint’s recruiting as many men as he can get. Practically begged me to join.”

          DuFresne was feigning happiness, but she was not listening. Something else caught her attention. Not far away a woman was screaming. The brothers heard, but did not seem to be bothered by it. Simone found it disturbing and impossible to ignore. Without a word she ran up the beach to find out what was going on. DuFresne followed her, and Jean Luc tagged along behind him, still wanting to gloat.

          Back in town another circle of people had formed, but around something entirely different. Some pirates she did not know by name were having their way with one of the girls from Noonan’s. Simonne recognized her. It was Max. Outraged, she looked back at her two companions, but they stood still as statues. Her hand fell to her sword, but DuFresne wrapped his hand firmly around her arm.

          “Don’t,” he warned her. “Those are not our men. Unless you want to wind up in that same position I suggest that you—“

          Simonne yanked her arm free, but this time Jean Luc intervened before she could storm off and start spilling blood. He moved from behind her while DuFresne had her attention, and stood blocking her path when she spun around.

          “He’s right, darlin’, that’s Vane’s crew. Don’t be stupid.”

          “Do not call me zat,” she spat. She went to move around her lover’s brother, but suddenly Eleanor Guthrie pushed past the crowd brandishing a large chunk of driftwood. She pummeled the man on top of Max in the head, knocking him into his ass. Simonne had never seen the infamous woman before, but she had heard much. Though small, she was powerful, commanding and furious.

          “You did this?” She was addressing Captain Vane. He said nothing.

          “Listen to me very carefully,” she shouted to the crowd, “You are, all of you, this whole crew, as of right now, finished! You will not buy anything, you will not sell anything, you will not eat anything!”

          “Elanore,” Vane said, trying to explain, but his attempt to calm her down was unsuccessful. She shot him a fiery look, shutting him up before she continued her rant.

          “Unless… Unless you decide right now to elect yourselves a new captain. Unless you decide to join the crew of captain Flint.”

          Jean Luc prodded Simonne with his elbow when he heard this.

          “Told ya Flint was looking for more men.”

          Vane’s crew began deserting him, starting with one, then another, until all but a small few remained by his side. Elanore’s power over Nassau was incredible. Despite Simonne’s disappointment about being shipmates with Jean Luc, she could not help but feel excited. Now Flint had a new ship and a crew to man her. They were another step closer to the Urca, and the treasure.

          “You two should get some sleep. We set sail in the morning.”

          Jean Luc gave them both a slap on the back and walked away down the street. Simonne looked back at Max. She was talking to Eleanor, but she could not hear what they were saying.

          Simone thought back to the night a few weeks prior, when she and DuFresne were visiting Noonan’s for a drink and she overheard a woman with an accent like her own. She waved the raven haired girl over to the table.

          “Vouz parlez Francais?”

            “Non, Mwen parle kreyol.”

            Simonne had never heard of creole before, and Max was more than happy to tell her about it. Simonne found a new friend in Max that day, and she enjoyed visiting Noonan’s to catch up with her. (Besides, the brothel was the only place on the island where she could talk with other women, and she found herself frequenting the place to chat with the girls.) It broke her heart to see her go through something so horrible, but there was nothing she could do. Max had given herself to Vane until her debt to him was repaid.

          DuFresne pulled her away and they went back to the Guthrie House. Jean Luc was right, they had to set sail in the morning if they were going to stay on schedule. She lit another cigarette and DuFresne finished the last few gulps in the bottle as they walked. 

                               ◊                                  ◊

          Careening. The word made her uneasy. It was not an easy job, but it needed to happen before they left Nassau if they were going to catch the Urca. The crew moaned when their new quartermaster, Billy, declared that it had to be done, but their protests would not dissuade him or the captain. Apparently nothing was more important that day than cleaning the underbelly of the Walrus. Flint said so himself.

          DeGroot proposed that the site chosen by Flint was unsuitable, for it was too steep and sported poor anchorage. Simonne agreed with DeGroot. He was the most gifted boatswain she had ever known, and some of her instructors at the Academié were decorated royal navy men under King Louie the Fourteenth. Moorley was also opposed to Flint’s plan, though the captain could not have cared less. Moorley was the last person still talking about Singleton, after all. 

          Flint refused all advice, insisting they do the job immediately or lose out on their chance at five million dollars in Spanish gold. No one was willing to forgo that, but no one was willing to forgo the fuck-tent, either. Despite Billy’s suggestion against, it, the erection of the tent was one of the first things accomplished by the men once ashore.

          Simonne was walking down the beach when she saw Randall and Dooley bringing a pig over to Silver. Randall dropped the pig down in the sand at Silver’s feet and gave him an icy stare.

          “You shouldn’t have,” Silver said sarcastically.

          Randall turned to walk away and almost plowed into Simonne. At first he was startled, but then he smiled and looked down at her chest with wide eyes. He always did this to her. Every time their paths crossed he stuck his face into her breasts with a giggle, and if she did not stop him, he would not quit. The men thought it was hysterical. Only Randall could have gotten away with it. She felt sorry for the old fool, and pushed him gently past her as she always did. That was their truce: he gets one quick look, and then he walks away or things get ugly. So far, they had never had an issue. Perhaps he was smarter than he looked. Simonne walked up to Silver and placed her hands on her hips, standing over him as he sat upon a washed up log.

          “Do you even know how to cook something like zis?”

          “Of course I do,” he replied, though the look on his face was anything but confident.

          “If I didn’t know any better, I would say zat you have never set foot in a kitchen in your life before joining zis crew, non? You want to know something? If you took a little bit more time to cut zee potatoes into even sized pieces, zey would cook more evenly. Last time, zee little ones were mushy and the big ones were hard in zee middle. You would know such things if you were truly a cuisinier

          “If you think you can do better, then by all means,” he gestured to the pig. She rolled her eyes.

          “You are pretty enough to handle zee woman’s work, Silva, get to it. Make sure you wash all zee sand out of it first.”

          With a dismissive wave of her wrist she turned and walked away to tend to her duties. Some of them had to pull the ship out of the sea and secure her to the shore while others sat on their asses watching fat bubble.

          “You still sore about yesterday?” He called after her. She turned around and shot him a venomous stare. He nodded to himself, noting that she was, indeed, still quite pissed at him for budging in the disembarkation line when he jumped off the ship.

          A few hours later the Walrus was on the beach and Simonne was helping secure the lines to the palms. She looked up and saw Flint spitting Silver’s roast pig onto the sand with disgust. She laughed as the captain yelled at the cook to fetch another pig, and continued to snicker as she caught glimpses of Flint trying to teach the clueless man how to cook it when she had spare moments to glance over. Silver really had no idea what he was doing. He was no cook at all. Why was Flint keeping him around when he was so useless?

          Once all the lines were secure some of the men went to work scraping the hull, but Simonne decided to take her break. DuFresne was sitting in the shade of a sheet of canvas pulled between two trees, his face buried in a book. She went over to him and lay down beside him. As she began to doze off, she heard the flapping of paper just before being pelted in the face with sand. The wind was picking up.

          An otherworldly moaning began to echo around them. Simonne sat up as men began to run screaming from the ship. DeGroot and Billy were yelling for everyone to get down the beach. Simonne and DuFresne obeyed without looking back, joining the rest of the fleeing crew.

          With a series of snaps, the palm trees were ripped from their roots and torn from the sand by the hulking weight of the Walrus. Everyone stood in awe and terror, wondering if she would hold, and indeed she appeared to be steady, but the masts were beginning to bow under the tremendous weight. Then a scream penetrated the silence. Moorley recognized the voice.

          “Randall!”

          He tore down the beach towards the screaming. Billy went to follow but Flint stayed him, going in his place.

          “Captain, there’s no time,” DeGroot implored, but Flint paid him no mind. “The main mast is holding too much weight, we’ve have to cut her loose!”

          The boatswain sounded frantic, but it was too late. Flint was sprinting towards the hull like a deer, shouting back as he ran.

          “Save the mast, don’t wait for me!”

          Simonne and DuFresne followed DeGroot and Billy to the lines holding the main mast. Randall was still screaming. As time went by the ropes grew tighter and tighter around the pulleys. Simonne saw Silver run behind the ship with a cleaver, and her stomach rolled over. Poor Randall.

          “How much time do we have,” Billy asked.

          “We don’t,” DeGroot replied. The quartermaster took another moment to stare at the sails. “Billy, the time is now!”

          Simonne stood with an axe in her hand, waiting for the order to cut the taught line before her, but not wanting to crush the captain. Randall’s death would be quick if Flint would just get out of the way.

          DeGroot was screaming at Billy to give the order. Simonne held the axe up, waiting to let it fall until the quartermaster said to. She was shaking.

          “Alright. Do it!”

          They began hacking, not knowing what was happening under the ship. All at once the ropes gave way and the ship slumped forward. Everyone rushed down the beach. Not wanting to go around the corner, they waited, and for a few tense moments there was silence and stillness. Simonne held her breath. Then, a figure appeared from behind the rudder. Captain Flint was carrying a one-legged Randall. Logan rushed in and helped carry the old man to Dr. Howell.

          Simonne released her breath all at once, relieved that their captain was alive. Then she noticed Billy run behind the ship. She followed him, curious though well aware of what she was going to find. There was Moorley, crushed to death beneath the ship. The sand around his body was wet with blood, and all they could see was a curly mop of hair and his hand reaching out for assistance. She gasped, and Billy turned to her with a look of horror on his face. Moorley had been in favor of Singleton and against the idea of careening there. Now he was dead.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Innocence Lost

S. 1 E. 4-6

          Just when they thought everything was in order, the plans had gone to hell. The deal Miss Guthrie made to get Flint the guns he needed to attack the Urca fell through, and Bryson was sailing away with the cannons still aboard his ship, the Andromache. With a good head start on them, the crew of the Walrus had much catching up to do if they were going to get back what was theirs. They could not face the Urca without that firepower, and Flint would stop at nothing to get it.       

          A huge expanse of ocean separated the two ships, and the gap was not closing. Furious winds were pushing the ship to her limits and screaming past the taught ropes as the masts began to crack. Flint demanded that the mizzen sails and the t‘gallants be raised, despite DeGroot’s pleas against it. Simonne agreed with DeGroot, as she always did, but she also believed in Flint and the mission. They had to get those guns. She and the men obeyed the captain’s order, hoisting the sails with all their might.

          “I don’t think she is going to hold!” Simonne was referring to the rope a few feet to her side. Within moments it snapped, flying free with a shrill whirr and nearly whipping her in the face. The ship crashed into a huge wave, and she watched in horror as DuFresne was nearly thrown from the ledge where he stood, right where Silver jumped overboard just days before. When the ocean spray subsided, he was still standing there, clinging to the block and tackle for dear life. Undaunted, he went back to checking the ship’s speed.

          “Seven and a half knots!”

          DuFresne’s announcement caused a cheer from the crew. They were catching up at last. DeGroot ran around checking the masts, nodding with pleased surprise at their strength. Billy came around and beckoned Simonne, DuFresne and Logan down into the cargo hold with him to check the reserve supplies.

          “You’re certain this is all we have,” Billy asked Logan, dismayed.

          “This is the best I could do before we set sail…”

          “Save for food and water I assume?”

          “Food, water, powder, all of it,” DuFresne replied, double-checking the logbook. Simonne sat on the stairs nearby, her arms crossed over her chest. Why did Billy call her down there if he was just taking inventory?

          “Right, take it all up top. No reserves on this one. Either we take the prize on the ship or… we’re…” His voice trailed off.

          “I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘fucked,’” Logan replied matter-of-factly.

          “Yea.”

          “Yea.”

          “Thank you.”

          “Humm…”

          Billy sighed, and then turned his attention to the accountant.

          “DuFresne.” Billy held out a pistol for him. DuFresne looked at the gun as if it might leap up and bite him. Simonne’s stomach flipped over and a wave of sweat erupted across her brow. Merde.

          “You can’t be serious,” he said, struck with utter disbelief.

          “Andromache’s manned like a warship. Sixty men, at least, and they’re fighters. So we need every body we can muster on this one, yours included.” Billy cast a hard glance to Simonne before he thrust out the handle of the gun at DuFresne. “Come on.”

          DuFresne took the pistol and Billy began walking away, but Simonne jumped up and grabbed Billy by his arm. He could have easily torn free of her grasp, or shoved her onto her ass, but he stopped, turned around and looked down at her. She looked like a drown mouse, with wet hair clinging to her face and neck.

          “Non,” she said, unable to conceal the plea in her voice. “Billee… Please don’t make him do zis. It is not necessary. Please, Billee, you can’t.”

          “I’m sorry but it’s out of the question, Miss DuBois. And you two keep away from each other during the fight. You’ll get distracted and you’ll both end up dead.”

          He turned and walked away from her. She turned around and went back to DuFresne, who was turning the gun over in his trembling hands. She wrapped her arm over his shoulder and whispered in his ear.

          “It is going to be alright, mon cher. We are going to win zis fight, I promise.”

          “I am going to die…”

          The color was drained from his face. Simonne’s heart shattered, but there was nothing she could do. They were both shaking. She couldn’t stand this feeling. She had no idea how to say goodbye. Past circumstance never allowed for it. Every fiber of her being was telling her to run away again. Telling her that putting distance between them was the only way to lessen any pain she might endure if the worst case scenario played out that day. Run.

          “You heard Billee… I’m going up zhere. Do not worry about me, just stay alive.”

          As she turned to walk away DuFresne reached out grabbed her hand, pulling her into his embrace. Logan made an awkward chortle and went up the stairs, leaving them alone. Simonne took DuFresne’s face in her hands and kissed him.

          “I will see you on zee other side, no matter what.”

          She winked and ran up the stairs, not wanting him or anyone on the crew to see the tears in her eyes. This was not how she was expecting the day to play out at all. She thought he’d stay in Flint’s quarters until the battle was over, as he always did. How would he stand a chance against sixty trained military men? And why the fuck was that dog Silver left behind if they needed every body they could muster? Her hatred for the cook was simmering, along with her newfound hatred for Billy.

          Upstairs Billy went over the plan with the crew, using scrub brushes on an overturned crate to demonstrate the ship’s movements. Simonne sat atop a barrel on the other side of the gun deck from DuFresne and Logan. DuFresne cast her a wary glance when Logan referred to Billy’s plan as “fucking suicide,” and she returned it with equal fervor and a shrug. What choice did they have? If this was what they had to do to get the Urca, than this is what they had to do. There was absolutely no going back at this point.

          After Billy gave his little speech, DuFresne stormed up and slammed his logbook down atop his hands. He was pissed. Good. Simonne watched from the background he gave the quartermaster a piece of his mind, proud of him for standing up for himself. She wanted him to get angry. He would need that mindset, for she knew Billy would not back down.

          “I keep accounts. That’s what I’m good at.”

          They locked eyes for a moment before DuFresne opened the log and pointed at the page.

          “Do you see this number here? That’s how much I’ve saved this crew this last year alone. Can you say of any other man here that they’ve earned as much?”

          She knew the exact amount he was referring to, had even seen it with her own eyes. Watched it grow in the time since she joined up, and his pride along with it: One thousand fifty five dollars and fifty-one cents. Billy was unimpressed.

          “Every man on this crew had a first time. You’re overdue.”

          “I’ve never even shot a pistol!”

          “That’s alright, half the time they don’t even fire.”

          The words hit her like a punch to the stomach. DuFresne was speechless. In a last ditch effort he tied using the puppy dog eyes on Billy. Simonne slapped her face into her palm. Did he really think that was going to make him change his mind? As Logan put it earlier, he was fucked. 

          “I’m sorry,” was all Billy said before he walked away.

          Everyone took their place on the deck, sitting dead quiet in wait for the inevitable madness. DuFresne could not take the silence. He continued to plead with Billy, or perhaps he was bargaining with fate. Simonne was not sure, but she wished he would be quiet.

          “What if he’s wrong? There’s a chance Bryson just keeps running, isn’t there? Right? Bryson could still gain speed, I mean, there has to be a chance this fight will never materialize?”

          “Oh, shut up, Pierre!” Jean Luc lamented. DuFresne was too terrified to notice the use of his first name. Billy snickered. Seconds later Flint heralded the beginning of the battle.        

          “Here she goes!”

          Everyone rushed into position. Simonne stood beside a cannon. She could hear DuFresne talking to Billy behind her.

          “I don’t think I can do this.”

          “Yes, you can,” Billy assured him.

          Simonne tried to ignore him but couldn’t. All she could think was he is going to die. A small squeak escaped her throat as she choked on a sob. Logan stood across from her on the other side of the cannon. He noticed, but he looked no braver than she did in that moment and he seemed to pass no judgment on her for it.

          “Listen. Listen to me!” Billy put his hand on DuFresne’s shoulder. “You will make it through this. No one eats it their first time over the side. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s never happened, not on this crew. Don’t ask me why, it just is.”

          “Men die all the time, it can’t be true.”

          “Not first timers. Name one.”

          DuFresne thought about it, but said nothing.

          “You’re gonna be alright. And so’s she,” he nodded in Simonne’s direction. She was relieved that he did not turn around. Like her first day on the crew, her best efforts to put distance between them were failing. 

          The Walrus was headed straight towards the Andromache, and she was taking heavy fire. Cannonballs ripped across the deck in a terrifying succession, laying waste to everything in their path. All around her the crew was being blown to pieces. A large chunk of wood flew from out of nowhere and hit Simonne in the forehead. Blood flowed down the ridge of her eyebrow, rolling down the side of her face and neck. For a moment her vision split into doubles, and her ears rang like church bells.

          The sniper in the crow’s nest took down one helmsman, and then another with his rifle from his perch high in the sails. Flint called everyone onto the rail. Before long a storm of gunfire began raining down on them, and the ships collided. Billy gave the order to attack.

          “Go! Go! Go!”

          Simonne leapt out from a cannon port and onto the Andromache, shimmying up the ropes like a spider. Her first opponent went down with a shot to the head, and her second took a sword through the throat, piercing all the way through and out the other side. DuFresne had not made it onto the deck yet, and she had to remind herself not to get distracted as she impaled her third victim in the guts, twisting the blade before ripping it back out.

          DuFresne made it up on the deck and drew his pistol, aiming at one of the enemy crewmen. With no beginner’s luck on his side, the bullet sank into the wood beside the man and did nothing more than get his attention. Simonne turned around just in time to see the assailant pull his pistol and fire it at DuFresne’s face. She screamed, but the gun misfired. Half the time they don’t even fire… Billy was right!

          Another soldier ran at her with his pistol drawn but she ducked before he pulled the trigger. She swung her sabre at his hand, slicing it clean off, fingers still clenched around the gun. His bullet found its way into the back of one of his comrades. The handless man hit the deck like a ragdoll and held his severed wrist as he wailed like a banshee. Simonne kicked him in the head, snapping his neck and stopping his squealing in an instant.

          DuFresne’s attacker went at him with his bare hands, knocking him to the ground and squeezing his neck in the crook his arm. Simonne could not intervene. More soldiers were descending on her. She did not see how he got free, or that he would have taken a knife in the back had the enemy solider not lost his balance and fallen over. After slicing through four more men with her sabre, she turned around saw DuFresne on his hands and knees, ripping the man’s throat out with his teeth. Waves of blood flooded over the deck as the victim flopped like a fish in the jaws of a cat. She was stunned, then strangely proud.

          “Well, zat is one way to do it,” she said to herself as she began to laugh. Another solider ran at her, and she fired a shot into his chest as he clumsily sliced at her with a small dagger in his fist. DuFresne slumped over and passed out. She stayed close to him, staving off any enemies that came near. 

          The battle was winding down, and Simonne sliced the hamstring of the final solider still standing before stabbing him in the back. Was that fourteen or fifteen? She lost count. Damn. No matter. She rushed over to DuFresne and knelt down beside him, trying to ignore the pool of blood she was sitting in. As she cradled his head in her lap, he began to come around. Billy walked past and stopped when he saw the two on the deck.

          “DuFresne?”

          He opened his eyes, blue eyes sharply contrasting with the blood covering his face like a mask.

          “Jesus… Come on.”

          Billy held out his hand and helped him up. There was work to be done. Once he was standing he offered Simonne a hand up as well, but she waved him away, concerned she might try to break it if she touched it. All she could think was fuck you, BIllee.

          “Get your head stitched up, Simonne, you look a little pale.”

          Billy walked away with DuFresne, but Simonne stayed on the deck and stared at her hands resting on her knees. They were smeared with the blood of DuFresne’s victim. It was everywhere. Looking down at her chest, she could see the river of her own blood had made its way between her breasts. Red was smeared and sprayed across her tattoo, and her other shoulder had a large gouge in it from a sword tip that got too close. She did not hear the footsteps approaching until she saw the legs of a man standing before her. She looked up and saw Jean Luc gazing down at her. She could hardly believe he managed to stay out of her way for the entire duration of their first battle as crewmates. His jaw dropped open a little at the sight of her, filthy and bleeding.

          “Christ. You’re a mess. Come on, let’s get you fixed up. Easy now, go slow.”

          He helped her to her feet. Her legs were wobbly, and her first step was a clumsy stumble. He steadied her and then put his arm around her to keep her from falling. She had never seen this serious side of him before, and his almost brotherly demeanor was strange indeed. Then again, she had not seen him sober since their very first meeting back on La Mouette. She wondered if he saw what happened with DuFresne during the battle, and figured that if he had, his attitude would have been quite different. They crossed back over to the Walrus.

          Dr. Howell was finishing up with another patient when they walked into his quarters below deck. The man’s pant leg was rolled up, revealing the cauterized gash on his calf. That explained the smoky, sour smell lingering in the air. The patient limped out of the room and Dr. Howell beckoned Simonne over to his table. He wiped the blood off her forehead and pulled out a needle and a spool of thread. She shivered when she saw it. Jean Luc offered her his hand. She gave him a wry look before accepting it, warning him without words that he was about to regret the offer he just made.

          The agony was excruciating as she tried to sit still. Dr. Howell pierced her swollen, irritated skin with the needle again and again. Bone grinded against bone in Jean Luc’s hand, and Simonne showed him no mercy as she tried to replicate her pain into him. Nausea rolled over her as he pulled the thread through her flesh. Just as she thought she could take no more, and the room began to grow dark he tied the string into a knot and dismissed her to make way for the next patient.

          Merci,” she said to Jean Luc as they walked out of the room.

          “Yea, well, you’re a good fighter… It’s just too bad you’re not a man or you’d be great.” He gave her a belittling shrug before walking back up onto the deck. There, the asshole was back.

          Simonne went to the captain’s quarters. She knew DuFresne would be there, and he was, sitting at the desk organizing papers. He was still covered in blood, but she was little cleaner. She closed the door behind her and sat down atop the desk next to him. He did not look happy to see her.

          “I told you we would win zat fight. You were—“

          “I don’t want to talk about it, and I don’t want to listen to you talk about it.”

          Cheri, I just—“

           “Simonne, please, just shut up.”

          “Fine,” she said, shocked.

          She went to the far corner of the room and sat down at a small table, resting her elbows atop it and holding her head in her hands. A long time passed by and the sun began to set. Her stitches were sore and swollen, and she could feel the thread tightening as the wound throbbed. The pain was impossible to ignore, and she wanted to rip them out right then and there.

          Billy came into the room. He took no notice of Simonne in the dim corner.

          “There you are,” he said to the accountant. “Been lookin’ all over for you.”

          “Thought I’d get a head start going through Bryson’s papers.”

          A few moments of silence passed before DuFresne spoke again.

          “Jameson.”

          “Beg your pardon?”

          “You said no man ever died his first time over the side but you forgot about Tom Jameson. Bowson’s mate, about two years back.”

          “That’s right… Also, Christian Toms, Will Robins, Jean DeBois, that Portuguese  guy with the lisp, what was his name?”

          “That is funny. Thank you, for doing that. It helped.”

          Billy gave him a wink and a pat on the back. Simonne rolled her eyes still damning the quartermaster.

          Just as he was about to leave the room, Billy saw a letter on the desk addressed to Miranda Barlow. He took letter and tucked it into his shirt. DuFresne looked at him suspiciously, but Billy went back on deck when shouting came from the Andromache.

          “Away from the hatch! Everyone!”

          Simonne did not follow Billy. She wanted to stay with DuFresne. The crew would be fine without her. Her presence on the deck was not going to get Bryson out of the hold any faster. She turned around in her chair to face the captain’s desk, draping one arm over the backrest.

          “How can you not be angry with him?”

          “Angry with Billy? Why?”

          “Because he treated you like you were disposable. You did not have to be in zat battle, we still would have won without you.”

          DuFresne looked up at her from over the top of his lenses and shook his head.

          “You do realize he was just following orders, right? Flint made the decision, not Billy. At any rate, it doesn’t matter if we can’t get Bryson and his men out of the cargo hold. All this will have all been in vain if we can’t get those guns.”

          He heaved a heavy sigh and his eyelids fell shut for a moment, but he opened them soon after with a shudder.

          “I can see that man’s face every time I close my eyes. How do you do it, Simonne? How can you kill so many people and sleep through the night the way you do?”

          “I do not think about it,” she said, emotionless. “I do not mourn for men who would see zee both of us hanged.”

          “That man probably had a family…”

          “He was going to kill you! Zat is zee only thing zat matters! You will get over it, I promise.”

          She stood from the chair, trading her dark, secluded corner for a spot on his lap. He looked up at the stitches on her head. The flesh was red and angry, and the stream of blood was still encrusted in her eyebrow and down her neck and chest. Between the two of them it seemed there was more blood on their outsides than in.

          “How did you get that?” He gestured to her wound, concerned though not in the least bit surprised.

          “Zee cannonballs…” Her voice trailed off as the memory of her crewmates being blown to bits haunted her. Their screams of torment as they bled to death separated from their limbs, and the man who never got a chance to scream because the projectile took out his skull from behind. “A chunk of wood hit me in zee head. Its fine, I’m fine. Your glasses are broken.”

          “Yes, I can see that.”

          From outside they head a shout that sails had been spotted to the east.

          “It’s the Scarborough!”

          Merde!”

          When she tried to stand he tightened his arm around her waist, holding her there on his lap. He pulled her in and kissed her like he would never see her again. They knew Flint would not leave the Andromache, that he would use the darkness of the night to disappear from sight while he worked out a way into the cargo hold. With a sweep of her arm she cast Bryson’s papers onto the floor and jumped onto the desk, then pulled him on top of her. There was something extra pleasurable about fucking him atop the desk that belonged to the man who was willing to let him die over a handful of cannons, and while they were still actively in battle, no less. Gates would have been furious with them.

          Simonne tugged her skirt back into place and ran her fingers through her hair. She had this nagging feeling that she should get out on the deck before anyone noticed they had been absent for so long. Far too long… DuFresne would have finished going through Bryson’s papers had they not been splayed out randomly all over the floor. He was working on picking them up, and she knelt down beside him to help.

          “It’s alright, just get out there. I’ll be out in a minute.”

          “Sorry,” she said with a smirk, not feeling too bad about the mess she made.

          She crossed back over to the Andromache. The atmosphere on deck was tense.  She had almost completely forgotten about the situation at hand. DeGroot filled her in on what had happened while she was “helping DuFresne sort out Bryson’s papers.” The first plan was a miserable failure. Lars, the poor man they sent below decks with a smoke grenade, was shot before he could deploy it. Flint was demanding a new plan, sending Gates and Billy scrambling to fulfill his order. By the time DuFresne appeared on the Andromache, there was nothing to do but wait.

          With three hours until sunrise, Gates unveiled his new plan by throwing some ropes down on the deck before the crew. Simonne and DuFresne were confused at exactly what he was intending. They stood behind Logan, waiting for an explanation.

          “I’m sorry, we dangle?” Apparently Logan was confused as well.

          “Four men suspended over the side. Axes, augers, charges. It’s a rapid penetration to get a charge through the hold. Cause destruction, distraction, while we move on the bunker through the hold below. Saw the navy try it once.”

          “And it worked,” Logan asked in disbelief.

          “Said I saw it tried. Volunteers?”

          No one was willing to accept such a task. Flint slinked through the silent crowd. DuFresne pulled Simonne backwards a few steps, hoping to stay out of his sight. The captain looked around, sighed, and began picking men with a point of his finger.

          “Paxton, Bobby, Dooley… Logan.”

          Logan looked at him with defiance.

          “Is something wrong,” the captain asked.

          “Even if we do hack through, we’d be dangling there like bait on a string. It’s suicide!”

          “We don’t have time for a debate, Mister Logan, now I gave you an order.”

          “And what happens when those orders get us killed? You send in four more? Billy, tell him I’m right.”

          All eyes turned to Billy. Logan’s plan of standing up to the captain seemed more suicidal than the dangling, but he had a point. All of Flint’s plans seemed insane today. Would she be picked to be one of the next four? Or DuFresne? Flint looked to Billy, daring him to defy the order, but Billy said nothing. The captain turned back to his subordinate.

          “Mister Logan. Fall in.”

          “Billy, tell him I’m right,” Logan repeated, refusing to fall in line. Simonne’s jaw dropped. Was he serious right now? Flint turned to Billy again, and as Billy began to whisper to the captain, Gates walked up and slammed his palm down on Flint’s shoulder, interrupting everything.

          “Mister Logan makes a valid point! Unfortunately, now is not the time.”

          Without warning Gates swung his pudgy fist into Logan’s face with a tremendous force, knocking him to his knees, where he took a boot to the face. The men cringed, flinching as he bounced backwards. Simonne jumped, covering her face with her hands, unable to suppress a high-pitched yelp of sympathy for her friend.

          “Anybody else got a point they would like to make?” Gates shouted to the rest of the men, but no one spoke up. “While we are in battle, the captain’s orders are the law. That is what we signed up to. That is what we agreed. Now the order’s been given. Heed it!”

          A stunned silence fell upon the crew, but before the chosen ones could accept their fates a whistle sounded from the lookout. He called out for the captain and Flint ran up to the top deck. He walked out on the ledge and saw a white cloth sticking out of a hole leading into the cargo hold of the Andromache. Flint and Gates rushed back to the Walrus and into the captain’s quarters. Simonne and DuFresne went up to where Flint was standing and saw the white flag. She turned to him urgently.

          “What else is in zat hold besides zee guns?

          “I don’t know!” He looked around before continuing in a whisper. “I didn’t exactly get a chance to finish going through everything.”

          She rolled her eyes, and then went back down to the gun deck to see if Logan was alright. He was sitting on the ground, holding his swollen, bleeding lip and looking at the coil of ropes before him with dismay. She helped him to his feet and leaned him against a support beam, but he never took his eyes off the ropes. It was as if he thought they would come to life like a giant snake and strangle him if he looked away.

          Flint and Gates returned with a new plan and a handful of axes. They were going to hack their way into the hold from above, which would distract Bryson and him men from what was going on below. Simonne grabbed an axe and went to work striking the deck in the rhythmic fashion that Billy was commanding like an orchestra conductor. Were Bryson and his men terrified down there? Simonne hoped so. She imagined them looking up at the ceiling in a panic.

          Just as they were beginning to break through, the men beneath them began to scream and pistols fired. The slaves had broken free, and were taking down Bryson’s crew from behind their barricaded door. She heard Joshua and the vanguard enter the hold, and knelt down to peer into the hole she made in the deck. She could barely tell what was happening, but she saw a man crawling across the floor, and then a slave woman ran up behind him and stabbed him in the back with a loud screech.

          Moments later the slaves and the vanguard rushed up onto the deck. They had finally taken the entire ship, and they were still out of the sights of the Scarborough. The men rushed down into the hold like a flood and began bringing up the cannons. Operations to move them over to the Walrus began quickly, and Simonne dashed to wrap the nets around the dollies and hoist the heavy things across to the other side. DuFresne and DeGroot worked to oversee the effort, here and there discussing the job with Billy.

          Simonne pulled on the rope as hard as she could, lifting yet another cannon off the deck of the Andromache with her team. She was utterly spent, but pushed on, wanting to keep up with the others. DuFresne grabbed the rope behind her to help when they were blinded by an intense burst of light and blown backwards. Simonne landed on her back on top of DuFresne, who landed in the same position with no one to cushion his fall. The man in front of her landed in her lap, but the man in front of him was blown off to the side, his eyebrows singed and his dreadlocks smoking. Simonne looked up in awe at the fireball blasting into the sky, an intense and powerful beacon to the Scarborough of their location. Bryson had set a trap for them, and someone tripped it.

          She rolled over and staggered to her feet as Flint was giving the order to cut loose and get out of there. Everyone bounded back over to the Walrus and began slicing through the ropes. Simonne got a head start on hoisting the sails with DeGroot and DuFresne by the time everyone else was back aboard. As the canvas filled with wind and they began to pick up speed a terrible knocking sound could be heard coming off the starboard side.

          “What the hell is that?” Flint yelled over the roaring of the water washing over the debris stuck to the ship.

          “It’s the Andromache’s sprint sail brace. It must have broken loose during the explosion,” Billy replied.

          “That’s two knots or more, it’ll drag us down!” Gates was right to be concerned, and Simonne thought he was giving a rather conservative estimate of the speed reduction that thing would cause.

          Billy rushed away and began tearing through the ropes holding the sprint to the ship. Flint went to help. He was shouting something to Billy, but Simonne could not hear what. Explosions sounded in the distance.

          “Oh shit!” Gates cried out, warning everyone that something was coming, and fast. Again, cannon balls ripped across the deck, sending men flying in all directions. Before she could react, DuFresne grabbed her around her waist and pulled her down onto the deck, out of the path of another iron ball of death.

          “Man overboard!” Flint was running across the deck towards Gates. “It’s Billy!”

          Flint and Gates began searching the dark waters for him, calling his name. Logan, DuFresne and Simonne joined in the search but could see nothing but debris in the waves. Gates turned to Flint with a deep frown.

          “We can’t turn back… she’ll tear us to pieces.”

          Simonne looked at DuFresne. He was shocked and devastated. His friend was lost to the sea now. Simonne was heartbroken by the look on her companion’s face. No longer angry with Billy, she hung her head in sorrow for his loss.

          Once they were out of the Scarborough’s sights and the night was quiet once again, the crew assembled to lay the dead to rest. Wrapped in blankets, they slid each man over the side, one by one. DuFresne read their names aloud one final time, each punctuated by the splash of the body hitting the water.   

          “Olds, Jim Carver.”

          Splash.

          “Sebastian Frakes.”

          Splash.

          “William “Bones” Mandalay.”

          A shout of Huzzah erupted sadly from the crowd as Logan held out Billy’s sword over the edge. Captain Flint reached out and took the blade before Logan could release it, and held it for a moment before tossing it into the sea. Simonne put her arm around DuFresne and they watched the water where it landed and quickly sank out of sight. Gone forever.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Fateful Days

S. 1 E. 7-8

          Simonne awoke back in her room at the Guthrie House. The night before had been a jovial celebration of DuFresne’s actions in battle, and the crew commended him by electing him their new quartermaster. She could not remember how she got back to the room. The last thing she could recall was being in the tavern downstairs. She was surprised when she reached over and found the other side of the bed empty.

          Where had he gone off to? She left the inn and went down to the beach, where the crew was preparing for their next voyage. A few of them gave her dirty looks for oversleeping, but she did not care. As she made her way through the maze of men and cargo she spotted DeGroot giving someone a tattoo. She did not recognize the crewman he was working on at first, but as she drew closer she noticed his black rimmed spectacles. Her jaw fell open and she nearly tripped over her own feet as she stormed over to them.

          “What zee fuck did zey do to your hair?”

          Her loud, shrill voice caught the two of them off guard. DuFresne turned around, a silly grin on his face. She reached out and took his head in her hands, looking at the terrible, uneven haircut. DeGroot just chuckled and went back to work pounding the ink into DuFresne’s skin while he winced.

          “I didn’t have much choice in the matter, my dear.”

          “Zut Alors, you look like your brother!”

          “Well, yes, we’re twins, we—“

          “I know,” she interrupted him, clenching her fists. “Don’t remind me. Let me see zis here.”

          She moved to DeGroot’s side to admire his handiwork. It was a shark’s jaw, gaping wide open. Blood dripped from the teeth, adding to its ferocious appearance. A giggle escaped her before she could hold up her hand to hold it in.

          “What is so funny?” He did not look amused by the look on her face.

          “So you are zee Shark now, huh?”

          Before he could answer Gates walked up and rubbed DuFresne’s hair with his hand, laughing at his drastic new appearance.

          “Jesus, what the fuck did they do to you?”

          “Post-election initiation, I’m told, all done in good fun. At least… I hope it was all done in good fun,” he said with a chuckle, running his hand over his head. Simonne rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. She loved his tattoo, but hated his hair. At least it would grow back. Flint strode across the beach, looking chipper in the morning sunshine. He walked up and thrust out his hand to DuFresne.

          “Congratulations, Mister Quartermaster.”

          “Thank you,” he replied, standing to shake the captain’s hand just as DeGroot finished and walked away down the beach.  “Unfortunate, to say the least, that we find ourselves in the need of one.”

          “Yes, very,” Flint agreed.

          “But I am humbled by the crew’s faith in me.

          “Well, if Billy were here I’m sure he would agree with me that the crew chose well.”

          “Well, much to do.” DuFresne walked away abruptly. Simonne nodded to Flint and followed after him. Sure that he had nothing pressing to attend to, she wondered why he was so keen to get away.

          “I guess it’s not so bad…” She was still fixated on his hair.

          “I think he pushed him.”

          “What?”

          DuFresne stopped and put a hand on her shoulder before whispering in her ear.

          “Flint and Billy were talking right before he fell overboard, right? Billy didn’t fall. I think Flint pushed him, and I think it has something to do with the letter he took from Bryson’s papers after the battle.”

          “You sound crazy, mon cher.

          “I can’t believe you still trust him.”

          “What choice do I have?”

          As far as she knew, Flint was the only person who could get them to the Urca, and she wanted that gold more than anything. With wealth like that, the possibilities for her future were endless.

          “Not much for now, I suppose, but that may soon change.”

          “What are you talking about?”

          DuFresne gave her a wry smile, but before he could elaborate Dr. Howell came out of nowhere, and he looked quite frustrated.

          “You’d better come with me, quartermaster, we’ve got some trouble over here.”

          “What trouble?”

          The doctor jerked his head in the direction of the problem and began walking. They followed him to a tent where John Silver was sitting with Randall. DeGroot was waiting behind the tent. As soon as he saw DuFresne he launched into a quick explanation of the situation before he could even inquire as to what was going on.

          Randall was claiming that Silver had stolen a page from Flint’s logbook, but not just any page: the page that stated the Urca’s route. Said he heard Silver admit it. Said that Silver said he had the schedule “in his head” so that Flint could not kill him for stealing it and trying to sell it. Silver argued that Randall was too high on opiates to know what was really going on, due to the loss of his leg during the careening. Because the men felt that a one-legged cook was too much of a fire hazard, Randall was voted off the crew and was understandably upset about it. DeGroot thought this was the only reason for Randall’s outburst: to get back at the man who took his job. Simonne did not raise her hand to vote Randall off the ship the previous night, and did not think it was fair to remove him from the crew altogether. He knew no other life, and she felt sorry for him.

          “No one else knows about this?” DuFresne asked DeGroot.

          “Look, as far as I can tell, it’s just the four of us, but then again this is Randall we’re talking about.”

          “If he’d told anyone else, we’d have heard.” Dr. Howell seemed certain of this.

          DuFresne took off his glasses, fiddling with them in his hands as he thought. This was the first Simonne was hearing of such talk. She always had sympathy for old Randall. Besides blatantly staring at her breasts, the old guy never did anything to upset Simonne or make her distrust him, and he was a better cook than his replacement. 

          “Does this make any sense to you?” DeGroot asked the new quartermaster.

          “Well, Flint finding that page on Singleton does seem awfully convenient in hindsight.”

          “Jesus.”

          Simonne was stunned by this remark, along with the others. Did Flint really lie to the whole crew about knowing where to find the Urca? She felt a stab in her heart, and it made her blood boil. That bastard! Suddenly she wondered if Randall was on to something. She certainly trusted him more than Silver, and her trust for Flint was sinking.

          “I say we force it out of him,” Simonne said through gritted teeth, referring to the cook. “Rip off his toenails until he writes down what he knows. Zen zee men can do with him what they will.”

          “Don’t you think Flint would have already done that if it were possible?” DuFresne shook his head. “No, Silver will never give up what he knows, and you know what we stand to lose if anything should happen to him?”

          “The money,” Dr. Howell replied. “That has to be considered, does it not? If we go tell the crew now there’s a very good chance they simply hang the cook, right along with the captain. If Randall is right, that will be the end of the Urca hunt.”

          DeGroot looked sternly at the Doctor. “Are you suggesting we keep this secret? Lie to the crew, right along with Flint?”

          “He’s suggesting that acting hastily could come at a very hefty price,” DuFresne said, trying to help the boatswain see the big picture, though the salty old man was stubborn to a fault. 

          “Even if I was convinced, there’s still Randall to contend with. Are you suggesting there’s some way to guarantee his silence?”

          “I can think of one way,” Dr. Howell replied grimly.

          Simonne gasped. She was not in favor of killing Randall. Her eyes widened in disbelief when she saw the look on DuFresne’s face. He was actually considering Howell’s words.

          “Cheri, non, zat is not zee way. You are all talking of murdering a man for saying something that might be zee truth. Doctor, you worked so hard to save his life when he lost his leg, how can you say such a thing?”

          The three men fell quiet, knowing she was right. None of them wanted to resort to such extremes but the circumstances were out of the ordinary. The silence was broken by DuFresne.

          “What if there was a way we could prove Silver’s ability or inability to replicate the page?”

          “Well, you better think of something quick,” DeGroot said, crossing his arms, “because in five minutes I am going to call the men together and give Randall his say.”

          “I’ve got it!” Dr. Howell reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a small book. He opened it to a page and handed it to DuFresne. “Have him replicate this. If he can do it, we can trust him.”

          DuFresne took the book from the doctor and looked to the boatswain, who gruffly reminded him that he had five minutes. He walked off to talk to Silver alone, staying Simonne with a wave of his hand when she tried to follow. After he disappeared into the tent, Dr. Howell turned to her and smiled, his eyes glancing up to her brow.

          “Your forehead is healing nicely.”

          “Merci beaucoup, Doctor Howell. I will be quite happy to have zhese stitches taken out.”

          “All in good time.”

          They watched as DuFresne led Silver away by his arm, and she felt another wave of pride wash over her as the smile fell off the cook’s face. DuFresne’s newfound authority suited him. He was no longer the innocent little puppy she met months before. Silver and DuFresne glanced over to where Simonne, DeGroot and Dr. Howell were standing. His eyes were wide with stunned confusion. Simonne gave him a sardonic little wave, reveling in his discomfort. DuFresne laid out Dr. Howell’s book before him, no doubt explaining the test. Silver did not seem happy about the arrangement, that was apparent in his body language, but he was given no choice in the matter. The Shark walked away and left him to it.

          Four minutes later DuFresne collected the test from Silver, handing the page first to Dr. Howell, who memorized it long ago. He looked it over and chuckled.

          “This is terrible.”

          DeGroot snatched the paper from his hands. His eyes narrowed.

          “Let’s get to it, then.”

          The four went into the tent. Silver was talking to Randall, but the old man sat silent, bristling with spite for the man before him.

          “Sorry Mister Silver.”

          DuFresne had tried to avoid this path, and he was sorry to see it come to this conclusion. Simonne less sorry, and had no sympathy for him or his fate. DeGroot marched up and took Silver by the crook of his arm, but the cook turned around, wielding a knife. Fast as lightning, DeGroot pulled out his own blade and Simonne drew her pistol, aiming it at Silver’s leg. She did not intend to kill him, but fully intended to blow his shin to smithereens if he tried anything stupid.

          “You’re a thief,” Randall growled.

          “Yes, we understand,” DuFresne replied, trying to validate the old man.

          Randall’s shaking, old finger was aimed at Silver, but slowly it moved to the boatswain, much to everyone’s surprise.

          “You’re a thief, you’re a thief.” Randall pointed to DeGroot, then Dr. Howell, then Simonne, and finally to DuFresne. “You’re a thief.”

          “What the hell is going on here?” DeGroot demanded, taken aback by this strange new development in Randall’s twisted worldview.

          “It would appear Mister Randall has reconsidered his position. If you intend to accuse Mister Silver before the crew, you do so without a witness.”

          “What did you say to him?” Simonne rounded on Silver. She was pissed, but he just smirked at her. She turned to Randall.

          “What did he say to you?”

          “You’re a thief.”

          “Zat is not what he said to you, and zat is not true, Randall.”

          It was true, but he could not possibly know that. The theft of the skirt, corset and jewelry was a victimless crime. The governor’s wife would have never gotten them anyway. Besides, they were all thieves. That was their job, for Christ’s sake.

          DuFresne was ready to give up. He beckoned Simonne out of the tent. Dr. Howell stormed off in the opposite direction. She followed DuFresne down the beach, away from the small city of canvas shacks. He was irritated, but so was she. Before all this, she thought Flint knew where he was headed, and that he was leading them to triumph and riches. Now it seemed that information lay in the hands of the cook, and Flint was relying on Silver’s memory alone. DuFresne did not speak until they were thoroughly out of earshot of the crew.

          “I know Silver stole the page,” he said frankly.

          “I suspect zee same thing, you know zat.”

          “No, I mean I know Silver stole the page. Gates told me last night after I had Logan take you back to the room.”

          Apparently, after laughing so hard she fell out of her chair in the tavern at the Guthrie House, DuFresne asked Logan to take her upstairs for the night. Gates approached DuFresne once he was alone, and told him what he and Flint had discovered about Silver. Simonne was stunned. Her hatred for Flint was undeniable now. He was a liar, and he always found a way to destroy those who stood against him. There was no longer any doubt in her mind that Billy was pushed into the raging sea. She wondered if Moorley could have been saved had he not been so vocal in his dissent. The image of his hand flashed into her mind, how it seemed to be reaching out for help that never came. Flint was willing to sacrifice DuFresne, Logan and a handful of other good men in exchange for a few cannons. Now all this nonsense with the stolen page! He was a maniac.

          “You knew all zis and you didn’t tell me?”

          “I haven’t had a chance to tell you yet. I couldn’t let the others find out about it.”

          A valid point. DeGroot would have been enraged if he found out that Flint was still lying. He would alert the crew. The cook and the captain would be killed, and the gold would remain forever out of their reach. Simonne nodded, agreeing with him. They were setting out to catch the Urca the next morning, and there was still much work to be done in preparation. They went back to their duties for the rest of the day, resolving to remain quiet until the time was right.

 

                               ◊                                  ◊

 

          That night everyone met at the tavern at the Guthrie House for a drink before the big departure. No one was over-indulging, and the talk was soft. DuFresne took Simonne gently by the arm and lead her over to the bar where Gates was standing.

          “Mister Gates,” DuFresne said. Simonne nodded at the first mate.

          “Mister Quartermaster, Miss DuBois.” Gates sat down and turned back to look at the men in the room. “Crew seems in good spirits.”

          “All things considered.”

          The bar maiden brought them three new drinks.

          “What about our friend the cook?”

          “It appears to be resolved, for now. I must tell you, he discerned that I knew about this missing page beforehand. He assumed Billy told me.”

          “I can see how he might think that,” Gates replied.

          “I did nothing to dispel that notion, though it may not take him a long time to realize who actually brought me into this.”

          “Well… we’ll have to deal with that situation as it develops, won’t we?”

          “Aye.”

          DuFresne took off his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt. One lens was still shattered from the battle on the Andromache, and he did not have the spare coin to have them fixed. Simonne knew why he wanted to talk to Gates, and also knew he was dreading it. She placed her hand on the small of his back, prompting him to spit it out and be done with it.

          “There’s something else,” DuFresne said. “It’s Misters Howell and DeGroot.”

          “Oh, give ‘em a couple of days, once they’re at sea, the work will take their focus off Randall.” Gates was almost dismissive in his reply, and he shrugged off the notion of the doctor and the boatswain causing any problems.

          “Actually, it’s not Randall that’s troubling them… it’s you. Having had some time to think about it, they’re not certain that you’re up to doing what’s necessary.”

          Gates looked up at him, first confused, but his expression hardened as the Shark continued his grim explanation.

          “The lying we could forgive, Singleton we could forgive, we couldn’t forgive all of it. Not Billy.”

          Hit by the truth of his words, Gate’s eyes fell to the floor. Simonne’s head bobbed in agreement with her companion, truly desiring penance for Billy’s death. He did not deserve that fate. DuFresne continued.

          “That requires an answer. When the time comes we need to know that you won’t stand in the way. I understand he’s your friend, but once we have the money, Flint dies. No argument.”

          “Not from me,” Gates said, his voice barely a whisper. He looked more mournful than he had at the loss of Billy, and this concerned the both of them. Simonne could not see any scenario where Gates would not raise an argument on the matter, or try to delay the effort for as long as possible. DuFresne excused himself from the grief-stricken first mate and took Simonne upstairs. They would need their rest. Fateful days lie ahead.

                               ◊                                  ◊

          Not long into their journey for the Urca and a storm had set upon them. Simonne and DuFresne took shelter in Dr. Howell’s quarters with DeGroot. The high-walled shelves were filled with glass bottles of alcohol and turpentine, and they knocked together as the ship was tossed about in the waves. The ceiling lantern swung to and fro, occasionally bashing into the rafters. Simonne wanted to light a cigarette and join in a card game with her crewmates, but DuFresne wanted to keep her close by his side, as she was one of the few people who knew what was really going on. There may have been no official title for “assistant quartermaster,” but she created the role for herself soon after DuFresne’s election, and so far no one seemed to be bothered by it.

          Dr. Howell let Silver into the room, and he pulled some papers from his shirt. DuFresne seemed to bristle at the sight of the page thief. Simonne crossed her arms, standing by the quartermaster’s side with a similar level of disgust.

          “Captain asked me to pass these to you. A new course.” he said, giving the documents to DeGroot.

          “The captain accepted the last segment of the Urca route as valid?”

          “One thing you should not doubt, “certainty” is not a word I throw around lightly. Now, this information, I am quite certain I’ve got it right.”

          DeGroot gave the cook a hard stare before leaving to change the course. Silver watched him depart and seemed to be shocked by his sour demeanor.

          “That man has a strange way of handling the prospect of imminent wealth beyond reason!” Silver gave the quartermaster and his girl a look, prompting them to agree with his seemingly obvious insight and wit, but the pair said nothing, instead glowering at him until he excused himself from the room.

          “I guess we will find out soon enough if Silver’s memory is reliable or not,” Dr. Howell said, clinging to the wall to keep his balance as the ship flailed about.

          “I have my doubts,” DuFresne said grimly. Simonne nodded her head in agreement.

          “Yea, and if he is wrong, I swear I will kill zat little rat myself.”

          DuFresne patted her shoulder, assuring her that she would get what she wanted if worse came to worse, and far more. He had devised a backup plan captivating enough to make Simonne almost hope they did not find the Urca at all.

          She did eventually get that cigarette and card game, although the sea continuously poured in from overhead, soaking her to the skin. She beat Jean Luc in a hand, and he tossed gold he owed her onto the floor before he stormed off to his hammock. The coins were washed away under the table and lost. 

          In a few days’ time they arrived off the coast of Division Bay. The Walrus was flying a Spanish flag to confuse the Urca de Lima. As they approached the bay where the ship was hiding, Flint began to go over the plans for the attack. Close fast, hammer her with the guns and then take the fight to the decks. He promised them the fight of their lives, and paradise on the other side. The men cheered, and Simonne held her gun up over her head as she echoed the shouting. She was ready for another good battle, and so was her companion. The Shark was ready to spill some more blood.

          As they rounded the corner the crew stood waiting. As the entire expanse of the cove was revealed there was no ship to be seen. Everyone was stunned. Some frantically scanned the shoreline and others turned their angry looks to the captain. Flint was utterly dumbstruck. This was where Silver told them she would be. Simonne’s heart began to pound as she curled her fingers into fists.

          “Check our position,” Flint ordered to DeGroot.

          “This is the course,” he replied with certainty.

          “Check it again!”

          “Captain, this is the location you requested.”

          Flint looked to the bay, and then back to DeGroot before storming into the captain’s quarters, leaving everyone to wonder what the hell was going to happen next. He was not gone long before coming back out onto the deck with his telescope, scanning the shoreline for any sign of the treasure.

          “Captain,” DuFresne said as he, Gates and Simonne approached, “after an inventory of our stores, the men have assented to your plan. Provided we find a suitable place to land the Walrus, you will have two days to send out scouts and hopefully locate the Urca. Given their mood I’d say we were lucky to get that long.”

          “Do it then.”

          Flint pushed through the quartermaster and the French girl, leaving them with Gates.

          “What?” Gates looked at DuFresne with disapproval.

          “It’s Mister DeGroot. He’s put his foot down. Once we make landfall, he wants Flint tried immediately.”

          “Oh Jesus.”

          “He’s bitter about the fact that we didn’t listen to him regarding the cook. He says there’s no Urca out here, and justice has been delayed long enough.”

          “Well, that’s not gonna happen, so let’s discuss reality.”

          “He said you would say zat,” Simonne said.

          “And that for all your talk, you’re just protecting Flint.”

          “I’m protecting all of us,” Gates growled. “These men are right on the edge and he wants to ram ‘em up more by talking about a lying, thieving captain and then stand on a deserted beach and talk about election. Before you know it, half a dozen men will have laid claim to the captaincy. The council will divide. It won’t be dark yet by time the fighting starts!” His eyes darted between the pair, and he looked over his shoulder before continuing. “You’re gonna see Flint pay for his crimes, but we’ll do it at home, and we’ll do it like civilized men. And that’s how we avoid the abyss!

          “We knew you spent the night drinking together. How can we take you to your word?”

Gates looked over both his shoulders this time, before thrusting a leather-bound document into DuFresne’s hands.

          “You don’t have to take my word.”

          DuFresne opened the document and Simonne slid in behind him to read it from over his shoulder. It was an explanation of Flint’s crimes, endorsed by the first mate. Her disappointment in not finding the Urca was eclipsed by her anticipation for what this note would cause to happen next. She smiled.

          “Good enough for you,” Gates demanded.

          “Mister Gates….” DuFresne was shocked at what was written before him. Before he could say anything further, Logan shouted that he spotted sails on the horizon. Everyone turned to look, wondering if it was the Urca, but Logan dashed their hopes with his next words.

          “It’s a Man O’War!”

          Flint wanted to fight the ship, and devised a plan to make it look like the Ranger was attacking the Walrus, posing as a Spanish merchant ship. They would then take the Man O’War by surprise. DeGroot was not pleased with the plan, and he was adamant that the captain had lost his mind. 

          “If he engages that ship in battle, we’re dead!”

          “I know!” DuFresne was just as flustered, but there was nothing he could do.

          “I know you know, but does Mister Gates?”

          The three looked over to the door of the captain’s quarters where Gates was talking to Flint. Dread welled up in Simonne’s stomach as the anchor dropped over the side. What was he talking about in there? What was he telling Flint?

          When the captain reemerged from the room, he returned alone.

          “Mister Gate’s heart has given out.”

          “He’s dead,” DuFresne asked. Flint nodded and the quartermaster’s jaw dropped. Simonne’s grabbed his hand as the captain began barking orders to Logan. They were still going to attack the Man O’War. DuFresne pulled Simonne into the captain’s quarters to see what really happened to Gates while Flint had his eyes set on the battle ahead.

          They found the first mate lying on his back on the floor. Silver appeared from out of the shadowy corner, but they were growing impatient with his continued existence. Simonne placed her hands on her hips as he tried to show them the situation from a different perspective.

          “The question you need to ask yourselves is ‘what good can I do?’ You can call this murder, a lot of the men might even believe you, but will that be enough to stop this fight that is about to happen? ‘Cause if it’s not, the fight we might win becomes a battle we are doomed to loose, because the men went into it infected with your suspicions, with your doubts.” He accusing finger bounced between the two, warning them to heed his words. “So, Mister Quartermaster, Miss DuBois, is that truly what’s in their best interests?”

          Neither of them answered. Simonne would never admit aloud that Silver was right, no matter what the circumstance. She was not willing to give up what was at stake. Silver left the quarters and Simonne turned to DuFresne. She turned to him, wrapping her finger around the end of his scarf.

          “You’ve got to see zis through, mon cher. No one else can do it, only you. I will be right zhere by your side.

            “When the time is right,” he said abruptly as he stormed out of the captain’s quarters, Simonne in his tow. She stood by as he walked up to Flint, waiting for him to call into question the circumstances of Gate’s death.

          “Saint Augustine,” DuFresne said. Simonne was awestruck.

          “Beg Pardon,” Flint asked.

          “When the warship draws close, she’ll ask our last port of call, Saint Augustine’s the closest. And as she’s likely a custom’s ship, we must identify our cargo as anything but tobacco. Seville regulates the trade heavily.”

          Flint nodded, looking impressed and slightly surprised by his words. Simonne bit her tongue, trying not to feel betrayed. The time would come.

          “Thank you, Mister DuFresne.” Flint walked away, and everyone took their positions out of sight of the Man O’War. Silver spoke to the ship’s captain in Spanish, explaining that they were attacked by pirates while gesturing to the Ranger.  Under Flint’s direction, Silver told them they were leaving Saint Augustine, and that they were in the tobacco trade. DeGroot shot Simonne and DuFresne a look of horror.

          “If I’m not mistaken, you told him to name us anything but a tobacco trader, did you not?”

          “I did,” DuFresne replied. “He means to prove that that ship is not Guarda Costa. That it’s here for the same reason we are.”

          “Zee Urca.”

          “If that ship lets us pass, he will have managed to both renew the men’s lust for gold and their faith in his judgment.”

          “Zut Alors.”

          For a few tense moments they waited, but the Spaniards believed the story. Flint ordered everyone to their stations as quietly as they could, and to prepare to fire at three hundred yards. DeGroot looked towards the captain with disdain.

          “Time and again he gambles with our lives… that is, when he’s not taking them in cold blood. And once more, his influence grows. We’re at his mercy with no way to challenge him.”

          “No, sir,” DuFresne objected. “It only looks that way.”

          Indeed, DeGroot had no idea what the pair had in store, but he would soon find out. The ship turned slowly and the men prepared to open fire. Range was one hundred yards. Flint personally checked the aim on all the cannons after the ports were opened. They only had one shot. Range was nearing two hundred yards, and the captain turned to watch the Man O’War from his telescope when two pistols cocked behind his head. 

          “Captain Flint.”

          He turned around to see the Shark and his small but ferocious girlfriend standing by his side, their guns aimed at him. Everyone on deck was watching, and all the while the range was increasing.

          “As quartermaster, I hereby accuse you of tyrannical crimes against your crew.”

          “All crews, fire!” Flint’s orders went unheeded.

          “Belay zat order!” Simonne commanded. Logan stepped forward to support his friends while DuFresne continued his accusation.

          “Beginning with the murders of Mister Singleton, Billy Bones and Mister Gates. I hold in my hand, a letter written by Mister Gates confessing his knowledge and complicity in the captain’s myriad crimes.”

          DuFresne held the document high over his head, but Flint was still watching the Man O’War. Simonne never took her pistol off the captain. He needed to turn around and face judgment at once.

          “We’re gonna lose them! We don’t have time for this.” Flint pleaded with DuFresne, but neither of them would back down as the mutineer continued his address.

          “As well as his knowledge of the captain’s continued treachery, up to and including his plan to steal a portion of the treasure fleet proceeds for himself.”

          “I gave you all an order! Fire!”

          Flint was unable to make them obey, and the crew stood still.

          “Fire!” He tried again, but to no avail.

          “Mister Logan,” DuFresne said, passing the document off to him. He opened it and began reading.

          “It’s in Mister Gate’s hand,” Logan said as Flint stormed up to him and snatched the paper.

          “Where are you going?” DuFresne raised his voice as the captain stormed past him. Simonne’s gun followed the captain as he walked. Flint grabbed an ignition out of Logan’s hand and set it to the cannon. Simonne’s finger tightened around the trigger but a loud explosion came from DuFresne’s gun, and Flint fell to the deck.

          Simonne jumped. The last thing she was expecting was for DuFresne to fire first. She looked over at him, impressed, but he never took his eyes off the captain. Flint attempted to get back up and light the cannon but Simonne snatched the ignition from his hand as easily as plucking a flower.

          “Raise the sails, we’re going home!” DuFresne gave his first order to the men, and they echoed his command as they obeyed. A rush of exhilaration flowed through Simonne. Her little Shark was taking the ship from that manic and getting them back to reality. It felt like the Urca gold never existed, like they were goaded into a wild goose chase by a desperate madman that was never destined to amount to anything, anyways. Undeniably sad about the loss of the treasure, she was excited to return home. Until one of the cannons fired. Simonne turned to Flint, but he was securely tied up and looked just as surprised about the blast as she was. The cannonball landed in the water about ten yards behind the Man O’War. DuFresne took off in the direction of the sound, Simonne on his heels.

          “Who’s shooting?!” He yelled at the top of his voice, and his face was red with rage. Silver was kneeling beside a smoking cannon. He looked up at the two with a sly smirk.

          “Sorry,” he said with a shrug. “It had to be done.”

          Simonne ran at John and wrapped her willowy fingers around his throat, throwing him back against the cannon. She was babbling something in French from behind gritted teeth as she squeezed and began slamming his head against the gun. His skull bounced off the hard iron, making a hollow ringing noise. DuFresne let him suffer for a moment before he pulled her off of him.

          “There’s no running now,” Flint warned. The rouse was blown. Logan began hollering that the ranger was coming about. Battle was about to begin. The overthrown captain continued to coach his successor despite being bound to the ship.

          “Fire, Mister DuFresne, everything you’ve got. Don’t waste this moment.”

          DuFresne looked around, his eyes wide like a deer just before it flees. Simonne put her hand on his shoulder, begging him to say something, but the words were stuck in his throat.

          “Cheri….” She shook him, but he seemed not to notice.

          The men waited for an order, but before he could speak the Man O’War exploded with cannon blasts from the rear of the ship. Wood splintered everywhere and men were tossed from the upper deck.

          “All cannons, open fire!” Finally, the new captain had given the order.

          “Open fire!” The men began lighting the cannons, and Simonne jumped into action aiming her gun. She laid the ignition to a fuse, letting loose a calculated blast that sank into the rear of the Man O’War. Inside a large fireball burst out from the sides of the ship. Everyone cheered and a few of the men slapped her on the back before they began to reload. She intended to hit the ship in that location, but she never imagined it was the gunpowder storeroom. 

          Round after round was fired. The Walrus and the Ranger had the Man O’War trapped between them, but Logan announced that the Spaniards were coming about, meaning that both ships would soon be in the range of their powerful arsenal. Flint and DuFresne were screaming for more firepower, but the effort was too little. Simonne was rushing to help Silver reload his cannon, but as she dropped the round into the hole she heard the opening of the Man O’War’s gun ports, an eerie succession of soft bangs as the small wooden doors fell open. She looked out her own gun port, Silver by her side, and saw three levels of cannons aimed right at them. There had to be forty guns on each side of the vessel. 

          “We might want to duck,” Silver said. Simonne restrained her urge to strangle him again and took his advice.

          The Man O’War opened fire on the Walrus. Simonne was shocked by the sheer number of guns that ship had. They continued to sound long after the first cannonballs fired tore through the deck. It seemed impossible that so many shots could be launched from one vessel. The little Walrus was being shredded. DuFresne was calling for the men to raise the sails, and Simonne rushed in to obey the order, hopping over bodies as she made her way to the ropes. It soon became apparent that she would not be able to reach the masts, and that she was the only one attempting to raise any sails. She ran back to where her lover was crouching on the top deck and knelt down beside him. This was worse than the Andromache. Far, far worse.

          A second round of cannon fire sounded from the Man O’War. Simonne looked up just in time to see the deck disappear from below Flint’s feet, and he fell into the ocean. DuFresne saw it, too, but it did not matter. He continued to shout for the sails to be raised, and when he and Simonne went to hoisting them themselves other men finally rushed in to help. The Walrus limped towards the shore of the island as she began to take on water.

          The Man O’War turned on the Ranger once the Walrus was run aground. The survivors stood helplessly on the deck, watching as the warship blew the Ranger to pieces. In minutes it sank below the waves, taking every member of the crew down to Davy Jones’ Locker with it. Satisfied that the threat had been quelled, the Man O’War sailed away, leaving the crew of the Walrus stranded on the beach alone.

          Captain DuFresne ordered everyone off the ship. The vanguard took the lifeboats out in an attempt to find and rescue as many men as they could from the water. Simonne stood beside DuFresne, looking out at the debris floating in the calm ocean before them. Jean Luc walked up. His fists were clenched and his eyes were ablaze with anger. He threw his hands in the air as he yelled.

          “What the fuck was that, Pierre? This has got to be the worst idea you have ever had! You’ve killed three quarters of our crew and sunk both of our ships, you fuckwit!”

          “Do you honestly think things would have gone differently had Flint remained in control of the ship? Was there any other possible outcome for this situation?”

          Simonne agreed with her beloved captain. Had Flint been calling the shots they may have sunk a few cannonballs into the Man O’War, but there was no way that the Walrus and the Ranger could have incapacitated the ship before it could come around opened fire on them, and the same scenario would have played out just as it did. The only possibility of saving those men’s lives would have been if DuFresne’s plan had succeeded. Had Silver not fired that shot, both ships would be sailing home with the page thief and the murderer in custody.

          “I think you should have told me that you were planning a fucking mutiny!”

          “Are you joking? I couldn’t tell anyone, lest the whole crew find out, you least of all.”

          “Are you suggesting that I cannot keep a secret, Pierre? Because I think we both know that I can.”

          Jean Luc put a particularly harsh emphasis on his brother’s name. DuFresne’s eyes widened, but Simonne could not tell if it was anger or fear causing his reaction. Was there some secret behind why DuFresne abandoned his first name? Jean Luc smirked at Simonne. It seemed to satisfy him to inform her that he knew something about DuFresne that she did not.

          “Now is not the time, brother, there’s much to do if we do not wish to die on this beach.”

          “Make me your first mate,” Jean Luc said quickly.

          “Zat position has been filled.”

          Simonne was angered at the suggestion. He abandoned his position as Naft’s first mate when he joined up with Flint. Said he saw the chance at the Urca gold as being well worth the pay-cut. Now he had a chance to regain his old position, but she was not going to let him take it from her.

          Jean Luc and Simonne locked eyes, entering into an intense staring match. Simonne stepped closer, craning her head up to maintain her sight on his pupils. DuFresne stepped in between them, distancing them with his arms before turning to his brother.

          “I can assign you the position of quartermaster until such a time as we are able to gather the remaining men and hold a vote. Then you can have a seat on our council and have a say in all major decisions.”

          Stunned, Simonne heaved a quick, heavy sigh. Naturally, Jean Luc accepted, although he was belittled by the offer.

          “You’re going to regret choosing a woman over your own brother. Mark that in your logbooks.”

          “Start assisting the wounded on the beach, Mister Quartermaster.”

          “Fuck you, Pierre.”

          “Zat is Captain DuFresne to you, subordinate,” Simonne spat.

          Jean Luc obeyed. He began by pulling man who was face-down in the surf up and onto dry land and pounding on his back as the fellow coughed up seawater. A few yards out Simonne could see Silver’s head bobbing above the waves like a sea lion. Moments later he ducked down, and his feet appeared for a moment before they, too, disappeared. She watched as he resurfaced with someone in his arms, and was impressed with his rescue efforts despite herself. He threw the unconscious man’s arms over a chunk of floating wood and pulled it to shore. There she could finally tell who it was, and although she was not surprised, she was disheartened to see who it was.

          Silver dragged Flint onto the beach and sat down beside him, exhausted and panting. DuFresne sent some scouts out to survey the immediate area before he and Simonne collapsed into the warm, dry sand. Nearly an hour passed by when the scouts came running back to the captain as if there were ghosts nipping at their heels. DuFresne stood and conferenced with them while Simonne stayed by Silver and the still unconscious Flint. He began to come around as DuFresne was speaking with his men.

          Silver was the first person he saw, and the thief informed him that they were being charged with inciting the whole affair. Flint looked down to the gunshot wound on his shoulder and then saw DuFresne walk up. Simonne stood to join him, standing by his side above the befallen captain. 

          “Why am I still alive? Why didn’t you kill me?”

          Neither of them replied. Instead DuFresne ordered him up and lead him to a bluff that overlooked another shore of the island. The evening was nigh and the seabirds were calling to one another as the pirates made their way through the low growing brush.

          They approached a man crouching in the vegetation with a spyglass. Silver was explaining to Flint that his information was right all along, but that the weather had not been considered as a variable in the equation. The storm they were caught up in the night Silver reveled the final piece of the schedule had blown the Urca off course slightly, and she wrecked on this shore instead of the one where they first arrived. DuFresne took the spyglass from the man and handed it to Flint.

          There, on the sandy beach below, the crew of the Urca and the crew of the Man O’War were scrambling about. The beach glistened with gold doubloons. All around, crates lay busted open and overflowing with shimmering coins and golden bars. Occasionally a glint of red or blue or green caught their eyes as the tropical sun shone off rubies, sapphires and emeralds.

          “The Urca D’Lima wrecked at sea last night, dashed by the storm,” Silver said to Flint.

          DuFresne’s hand closed around Simonne’s as they looked down at the gold-encrusted beach below. They were just yards away from infinite wealth. All of their dreams were laid out before them, ripe for the taking. Best of all, it would be DuFresne who would lead them to it, and as always, she would be right behind him.

          Flint continued to look down at the beach, even standing to get a better look. He was in plain sight of the oblivious soldiers below. Simonne hissed from her crouched position behind him.

          “Sit down,” she implored.

          “Captain,” Silver chimed in, but Flint did not seem to hear either of them. Simonne and DuFresne exchanged looks of annoyance. What did he just say?

          “Captain,” Silver repeated, standing to pull Flint back down to his knees. “Before we’re seen.”

          “What is zee matter with you?” Simonne glared at Silver.

          “What?”

          “Don’t call him that,” DuFresne warned, then turned and looked at Flint. “Well?”

          “Well what?”

          “The crimes you’ve committed against your crew are undisputed. The only reason the sentence hasn’t been carried out is that Simonne and I have been delaying the vote, in hopes that you might find a way to help us get that gold, or as much of it as possible, off that beach.”

          Flint nodded. A gesture of his understanding of the captain’s words, but he looked up with a curious look on his face.

          “Why would I do that?”

          “Because if you do, I will personally guarantee your sentences are commuted.”

          Simonne looked at DuFresne with her jaw agape. She had no idea he was so serious about getting that treasure as to let Flint and Silver live.

          “You’ll guarantee that, will you?” Flint did not seem so sure.

          “You underestimate your men yet again. They will hear reason, especially when it comes from a voice they can trust. The men feel they’re entitled to leave this island with something to show for it.”

          “Fuck those men.” Flint responded quickly. His words stunned them all. Simonne’s eyes widened as she stared at Flint with offense and disbelief, but he continued ranting.

          “Fuck them for their short sidedness, fuck them for their ingratitude, and fuck them for siding with a cowardly, sniveling shit of a mutineer. There are over a hundred soldiers on that beach, sworn upon their lives to protect that gold. In a matter of hours, they’ll dispatch teams to search for threats, and in a matter of days they’ll locate our wreck, and our camp, and they will kill every last member of your crew. And they’ll deserve it. None more so than the two of you.”

          Simonne spit onto the ground near Flint’s leg. He was looking straight into her eyes when he said they’d deserve to die, and she bristled with spite when his gaze moved to her companion for his final line. DuFresne put his hand on her shoulder as her hand fell to the handle of her saber. He took off his glasses and massaged his brow before standing and giving his next order.

          “Bring them back. We’ll ready the nooses.”

          DuFresne was severely serious in his order, and it made Simonne tingle with excitement. She shot to her feet and echoed his order with equal fervor.

           “You heard zee captain, get zem up!”

          First Mate DuBois. She liked the sound of it. She liked it a lot. Though small in stature, she towered over Flint and Silver as she followed her lover back towards the camp. She could hardly wait to see them swing. They would figure out a way off the island after it was over and done with.

“Wait,” Flint yelled. 

          DuFresne turned around, stopping Simonne in her tracks. She shook her head, but her companion did not see. She tried to pull him away, back to the camp where the ropes were, but he began walking back towards where Flint and Silver were sitting. She did not want to listen to what Flint had to say. He could not be trusted, but apparently the captain disagreed.

         

◊             ◊                End Part 1                ◊      ◊