The Doctor

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About The Doctor

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    aka Mad Jack Wolfe

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    Historian and writer, partnered with the dazzling and lovely Honour Bright.
  1. El Lobo Del Mar

    “Believe it, Jack,” said Thomas. “It's just what it looks like. A full, immediate pardon, signed by Oliver Cromwell himself. The only condition is that you give up piracy and never commit another act of it again. Those were the magic words you said earlier. You've already made the decision to quit the life and rejoin society. Take your time and read it over.” Jack took another sip of brandy and began to read the words printed on the parchment: An Ordinance of Pardon and Grace to One John Michael Wolfe, also Known as Mad Jack Wolfe, Master and Owner of the Ship El Lobo del Mare. [10 November 1654] His Highness the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the Dominions thereunto belonging, being desirous that the Mercies which it hath pleased God to give to this Nation, should be improved for the good and advantage of all Parties, Doth Ordain and Declare, and be it Ordained and Declared by his Highness the Lord Protector, with the Consent of his Council, That John Michael Wolfe, also Known as Mad Jack Wolfe, and any other Aliases thereof, and the Crewe of the Ship El Lobo del Mare, of what degree or quality soever they or any of them are (except the persons hereafter in this Ordinance particularly excepted) shall be, and are hereby, and from and after the first day of December in the year, One thousand six hundred fifty four, freed, acquitted and discharged from all Forfeitures, Pains, Penalties, Mulcts, corporal or pecuniary, Restraints, Imprisonment or Imprisonments, Punishment or Punishments whatsoever for any matter or thing by them or any of them, committed or done by Sea or Land; And that for the matters aforesaid, there shall be from and after the said First day of December aforesaid, no Sequestration, Confiscation, Fine, Penalty, Forfeiture or Punishment, imposed or continued upon them or any of them, (otherwise then as is hereafter in this Ordinance expressed) but the same shall be put in perpetual Oblivion. And also that the Estates real and personal of all persons of shall be, and are hereby and from thenceforth freed, discharged and acquitted from all Sequestrations, Confiscations, Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures whatsoever, for any matter or thing by them or any of them committed or done, in relation to any aforesaid Crimes committed against the Commonwealth and Her Peoples. Except and always reserved out of this present Ordinance, and all benefit thereof, are any Member of the Crewe beneath the Rank of Mate, to include all Ordinary Sailors, and all the Honours, Manors, Castles, Houses, Messuages, Forests, Chases, Parks and Lands and all Tenements and Hereditaments, Royalties, Priviledges, Franchises, Immunities, Rents and Appurtenances to them, belonging or appertaining, or heretofore lawfully used or enjoyed by them, or any of them, as part or parcel thereof, and also all the Goods and Chattels, and all the Estates, both real and personal... Jack's eyes began to glaze over at the verbose legalese, but it was not lost on him that a few of his men would be forfeit in this pardon. The most prominent being the young Eli Meredith, whom Jack had come to look upon as a son. “Nothing a clever lie and a quick promotion can't fix,” he thought. Provided always, and be it further Ordained, That this Ordinance, or any thing therein contained, shall not extend, nor be construed to extend, to the freeing or discharging of any Prisoner or Prisoners arrested for their several Crimes, from their respective Imprisonments; or to the Cancelling or Discharging of any Surety, Bond, Parol, or Engagement, of, or for any Prisoner of War, without the special Order of His Highness the Lord Protector, or whom he shall appoint. “So much for the jailbirds,” thought Jack. “Serves them right for getting caught.” Signed this Day, the Tenth of November in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Six Hundred Fifty-Four. Oliver P A slowly exhaled breath escaped Jack's lips as he considered the terms of the pardon. “I never thought I'd give half a damn to see anything with Ollie's signature on it,” he said quietly. “I know, politics go out the window when it's your neck on the block, but...” “The beautiful thing is,” said Thomas as he picked up the warrant again, “that document, because of the who's signature is on it, nullifies this one. If you sign it, of course. Please, Jack. I want to tear this one up. Hell, I want to burn it!” “They got the name of my ship wrong. What about the Laws of Admiralty?” “Jack, I am an admiral,” said Thomas. “I'll write an attachment that will cover the misspelling. You're lucky they spelt your name right.” “All right. I can live with that. But I need to know; is Honour covered by this?” “Was she aboard during any act of piracy?” “No, she wasn't.” “Does she hold any rank? Beside Captain's Woman, that is?” Jack couldn't help but laugh. “No, besides the unofficial rank of Master and Commander of me, she doesn't.” “Then everyone that matters is covered.” “Everyone but Eli, but I'll fix that myself,” Jack said to himself. “All right, Thomas. I take it 'yes' is the magic word you're looking for?” Thomas nodded in the affirmative, with an expectant smile. “Give me a pen. The word is given. Yes. I accept the pardon. Effective this date, the term 'pirate' is no longer applicable to Jack Wolfe.”
  2. El Lobo Del Mar

    A grin of joy and relief quickly spread across Jack's face. He rushed past a dumbstruck Kensington and into his brother's arms. As the two men laughed and embraced, Kensington struggled to make sense of what he was seeing. “You're... brothers??” said the slackjawed lieutenant. “Oh dear,” said Thomas. “Mister Kensington, you've put one and one together and come up with eleven again, haven't you? Surely someone of even your overwrought pedigree should have noticed the uncanny similarity in our family names. Go ahead, think about it. And...” Kensington's face began to colour when he realised the mistakes he'd made that day, all in the name of reaping personal glory for apprehending a renowned pirate. He had unwittingly bullied and threatened members of his superior's family, most likely destroying his prospects for advancement in the process, all because he had been too full of himself to notice a crucial detail. The admiral's patronising tone was salt in that fresh wound. “... there it is,” said Thomas with a snap of his fingers. “I trust you treated my brother with all due respect, Kensington?” “Um... well, you see... I... ah...” He waited as the lieutenant squirmed, then he looked to Jack, who slowly shook his head no. Thomas began writing a note to himself on a scrap of paper. “Mister Kensington, you're relieved of duty until I get this sorted out.” “But, Admiral! You're going to take the... head waggle of a-- dare I say it--” “A pirate? Yes, because he's a good deal smarter than you,” said Thomas, his tone becoming increasingly impatient. “This is not a debate. Shall I confine you to quarters as well?” Kensington snapped to attention. Everyone knew it was a bad idea to earn the admiral's anger, and he knew he'd done just that. One more mistake added to a very, very bad day. “No, sir! My apologies, to you and your brother, sir!” “You are dismissed, Mister Kensington,” said Thomas in quiet, even tones. “I'll deal with you later.” The young man beat a hasty retreat, almost slamming the door behind him. Not out of anger, but of humiliation. Jack looked at his older brother in surprise, not quite sure what to say about Thomas' dressing down of the lieutenant or his amazing turn of luck. Thomas slipped off his frock coat, folded it neatly lengthwise, and draped it over the back of his chair. Then he burst out in laughter. “You always got that look on your face when Father scolded one of us instead of you! I nicked that bit from him! Still works, doesn't it?” “I was waiting for you to send him out back to the woodshed to find a switch!” laughed Jack. “Thomas, I must admit I'm at a loss for words. To hear Kensington tell it, I was bound for Newgate prison for the rest of my days, if my ship wasn't blown out of the water first. But there has to be a reason for you and your lads chasing me down this way.” “He threatened all that, did he? Well, well. That's going to make overlooking him for promotion so much easier.” Thomas paused for a moment before motioning to the seat in front of his desk. His demeanour became unsettlingly businesslike. “Sit down, Jack. There is a very good reason why we were following you.” “Do I want to hear it?” “You don't have a choice.” “I already don't like it.” Jack took the seat and folded his arms across his chest while he waited for Thomas to sit as well. “Something to drink?” offered Thomas. “You didn't chase me down for brandy, Thomas. Let's cut to it.” Thomas' eyebrows went up at Jack's directness. He went ahead and poured two glasses, and pushed one of them in front of his brother. After taking a sip of his drink, he held up a piece of paper. “My orders,” he said, slowly fanning the page in the air. “To pursue and arrest one John Michael Wolfe, known also as Mad Jack Wolfe, captain and master of El Lobo del Mar, on charges of piracy and half a dozen other related crimes against the Commonwealth.” Jack took a long drink, then stared into his glass. “This is very good brandy.” “That's it? I tell you there's a warrant for capital crimes sworn out against you, and all you have to say is 'good brandy'?” “What would you have me say, Thomas? Beg for leniency? That's not going to happen. We both know I'm guilty.” Jack put down his glass and looked Thomas in the eyes. “You want to know where my ship was headed, dear brother?” Thomas shrugged. “Barbados, I assumed. That was where you'd made a home of sorts.” “Funny you should put it that way. That's exactly where I was headed. Home. A new home, and a new life. You want to know who else is on the ship with me?” “Do tell.” “My wife and child.” Thomas blinked. “Your wife? And a child? You remarried, then?” Jack shook his head. “No. Our paths finally crossed again, thank God.” “I thought you were only interested in that relic she stole. A key, wasn't it?” “A key I gave her. Honour kept it out of spite. But I found she was the treasure I'd been looking for all this time.” Thomas sat back, trying to absorb what Jack was telling him. His face was a mask of confusion as he tried to sort it all out. “Let me see if I understand this,” he said finally. “The woman you swore you hated came back into your life...” “Yes.” “... with a child in tow...” “No, she was still in Wales. That's where we're returning from.” “She?? You, with a daughter??” Thomas began to laugh so hard he could scarcely catch his breath. “Go ahead and get it out of your system. Believe me; I was shocked to death when Honour told me we had a little girl.” “And you're certain she's yours?” “No question. Wait until you see her. She's definitely a Wolfe.” Thomas was finally catching his breath from laughing. “So the three of you are headed back to Barbados to start a new life? At least I hope that's the intent?” Jack sighed. “That was the plan. We have a plantation outside of Bridgetown. I thought I'd try my hand at being landed gentry. See how the other half lives, you know? That is until you showed up with that damnable piece of paper.” He gave his brother a quizzical look. “What the devil are you smiling about?” “I'm happy for you, Jack. Happier than words can describe.” “Happy that I almost got that life mum and dad wanted for me? Your sense of humour has taken a cruel turn, Thomas.” Thomas shook his head and refilled their glasses. “No, I'm happy you said the magic words. Most of them, anyway. There's only one more I need to hear.” “You have me at a disadvantage,” said Jack. “What magic words did I say?” Thomas opened a drawer to his desk and produced another piece of parchment. “This enterprise cost me calling in quite a few favours, Jack. Nearly all of them. I knew anyone else would have executed the warrant and washed their hands of the matter. Just another pirate put away, and hopefully a promotion if the stars align properly. But I knew that if I were the one to find you, I could help. That's where the favours came in. So I could offer you something no one else could.” He put the piece of paper in front of Jack and smiled proudly. Jack picked it up, and his mouth fell open. “I.... I can't believe it....” he stammered.
  3. El Lobo Del Mar

    Kensington followed closely behind Eli as they climbed the steps to the quarterdeck. Waiting there were Briggs, Jack, and Honour with Zara in her arms. Briggs was near the steps with his hands behind his back, while Jack and Honour stood toward the stern. Eli turned and motioned to Briggs. “This here's the captain, like you wanted.” Briggs eyed the Navy man with disapproval. “Josiah Briggs, captain and master of this vessel, at yer service. And ye'd be...?” “Lieutenant Ethan Kensington, of the Commonwealth warship Reliance.” He looked suspiciously at Jack, then back to Briggs. “This is a poor bit of deception, Mister Briggs. You're the quartermaster, not the captain.” He pointed at Jack. “You are Jack Wolfe, are you not?” Jack gave a curt half bow. “That I am, lieutenant. This is my wife, Honour Wolfe. And Mister Briggs is indeed the captain of this ship now. I am merely the owner.” “And just when, pray tell, did this happen?” “Roughly a month ago,” said Jack. “You'll forgive us that no paperwork was filed. We don't exactly stand on formality. Gets in the way.” Kensington's eyes narrowed. “No, I suppose you wouldn't. But not to worry. The Admiralty has extensive files on you already.” “Do they now?” “You're very well known, Mister Wolfe. Or would you prefer I address you as Mad Jack?” Honour shifted uneasily and moved closer to her husband. “Mister Wolfe suits me fine,” Jack replied tersely. “It makes no difference to me what you call yourself,” said Kensington as he looked with casual boredom at his fingernails. “You will accompany me back to the Reliance.” “For what reason?” “To meet with my commanding officer, of course. He's very keen to talk with you.” “Please extend my regrets to your superior, Lieutenant,” said Jack. “However, he is more than welcome to dine aboard my ship. We can talk then.” Kensington shook his head. “That's not the way it's done, Wolfe. Don't make me arrest you in front of your pretty wife.” He pulled back his frock coat just enough to reveal his pistol. “You're playing a dangerous game, lad.” Jack took a step forward, placing himself between Honour and Kensington. “Draw that weapon, and no matter what happens, you'd never make it off this ship alive.” Kensington gave him an oily smile. “All eyes aboard those three warships are watching us. If I am attacked, they are under orders to open fire on this ship. That would not bode well for your wife and child. Check and mate, Mister Wolfe. Now, come with me.” Jack glared at the pompous officer. There was a good chance Kensington was bluffing, but he couldn't risk Honour and Zara's lives. “All right, lieutenant. I'll come with you, peacefully.” “Good man,” said Kensington with a self-satisfied smile. “Say your goodbyes. It may be a while before you see them again.” Jack turned immediately to Honour. Her eyes were wide with fright, and tears were already starting to roll down her cheeks. “Jack, you can't go with that horrible man! You can't leave us!” He took her gently by the shoulders and kissed her forehead. “It will be all right, Honour. I promise,” he said quietly. “I'll find a way to make this work. His commander has to be more reasonable than he is. I'll... negotiate with him.” Jack leant close and kissed Zara's head, then Honour's cheek. “Every man has his price, and I'll find this one's, I swear. Don't be afraid. I'll make this work. You trust me?” He looked into Honour's eyes, and she nodded. “Time to go, Mister Wolfe,” announced Kensington. “I love you,” said Jack, and he kissed her and Zara once more. He then turned to Kensington, no longer willing to hide the contempt he felt. “What are we waiting for?” Jack sat silently in the boat as the sailors rowed toward the Reliance. He watched as the distance between him and his ship – and his family – grew steadily. Honour was still on the quarterdeck watching, and Jack found himself regretting the choices he had made in this life that now threatened to separate him from the dearest things in his life; his wife and child. “She's really quite lovely,” said Kensington. “It's a pity you won't see her for a very long time. Hopefully, her looks won't fade too much before you see her again. Then, of course, there's your child...” Jack looked over at the arrogant lieutenant, his face impassive. “Kensington, keep in mind that we're away from my ship,” he said quietly and calmly. “If anything were to happen now, your men have no reason to fire on her, only this boat. Now, if you keep talking, I'm going to find out if your blood matches the red of your uniform.” Kensington's eyes went wide, and he swallowed hard. The remainder of the trip to the Reliance passed in silence save for the creak of the oars as they pulled through the water. Once aboard the Reliance, Jack was led below deck through the companionway to a heavy oak door near the ship's stern. “Right to the big dog,” he thought. “At least they're not wasting time.” Kensington knocked three times on the door, and a voice within replied: “Come!” The lieutenant opened the door and stepped inside. Jack could see the commanding officer. He was looking out one of the gallery windows, his back to the rest of the room. He was a little taller than Jack and wore a red uniform with gold braids at the shoulders. His hair was pulled back in a pigtail and tied with a black ribbon. Kensington turned beside the door and snapped to attention. “Sir!” he said loudly. “I present to you the right honourable Admiral Wolfe!” Jack stepped inside and began laughing. “I did rattle you back there, didn't I? It's Captain Wolfe, sonny. But I appreciate the promotion all the same.” The figure at the window cleared his throat. “He wasn't announcing your arrival, Captain Wolfe. He was introducing you to me.” The man turned from the window, and Jack's mouth fell open in shock. “Thomas? It's you??” he gasped. “Hello, Jack,” Admiral Thomas Wolfe said with a smile. “It's been a long time, my dear, wayward brother. Please, have a seat. There're a few things we need to catch up on.”
  4. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour's eyes went wide with worry. Unconsciously she clutched Zara to herself a little more. “Jack, I'm frightened. Strange men coming aboard our ship...” “Don't worry, love,” he said with a reassuring smile. “It's just a formality. If they wanted to harm us, they would have done it already. It's probably just their commander's errand boy wondering if we've any spare tea.” “You're certain?” “Well, not about the tea. But he's an errand boy, no matter how much braid he's wearing. He's coming to talk, and talk is good. Much better than shooting.” Honour tried to force herself to relax. This was supposed to be a simple cruise home. Home, to a new life. Not this. Anything but this. In spite of her best efforts, tears began to well in her eyes again. “Go do what you have to do, my love,” she said quietly. Then Jack did something she never expected. He held out his hand. “I-- I don't understand,” she said. “I want you with me, Honour. I need you with me.” “But, why?” “You're half owner of this vessel, and you have the most precious of all our cargo right there in your arms. I want the Navy to know they're taking on the whole Wolfe family this day. If that doesn't make them take pause, I don't know what will.” Honour's eyes hardened a little. “You want them to see there's a woman and a child aboard, knowing that will stop them doing any rough stuff. Or have I suddenly begun misreading you?” Jack gave a resigned sigh. “No, darling, you haven't. But if I just tell them you're on board, they may decide I'm bluffing and do something stupid. If they see you with their own eyes, whatever plans they may have will be out the window.” He took her hand and squeezed it gently. “Please, Honour. I wouldn't even entertain this idea if I thought you and Zara would be in any danger.” “You could have asked me straight out, Jack, instead of trying – poorly – to sugar coat things. I would have said yes.” “I'm sorry. I should have given you more credit,” he said. “You'll make it up to me later,” said Honour with a slight smile. “I've got lots of ideas on remodelling.” “Extravagant, I'd imagine?” “Yet very tasteful.” She turned her attention to Zara, who was busy tugging at one of the button eyes of her toy rabbit. The little girl's face was focused determination as her dainty fingers twisted and pulled. Suddenly, the button came off in her hand. Zara looked at the shiny green bauble in surprise. “Bolx!” she exclaimed. Honour arched an eyebrow at Jack, who shrugged innocently. “First, we deal with the Navy,” she said stiffly. “Then we deal with this.” She turned and walked toward the door. Briggs leant close to his friend and muttered, “I'd rather take me chances with the Navy!” Jack didn't say a word. But he nodded in agreement. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ “Ahoy, the ship! We wish to come aboard!” called Lieutenant Ethan Kensington from the longboat that rode along side El Lobo. He was a young man in his mid-twenties, with an officious bearing that well suited the bright red dress uniform he proudly wore in his station as first officer of the Commonwealth ship Reliance. Kensington watched patiently as a tethering line snaked through the air and landed across the longboat. One of the sailors took the rope and quickly tied it to the front of the boat. “We are secured!” he announced as his men pulled the boat closer to the ship, and presently a rope ladder with wooden steps unfurled along El Lobo's side. Kensington checked his pistol and made a slight adjustment to the way his sabre hung at his hip, then took hold of the ladder. “Hold there!” said the other officer on the boat. James Marlowe, a freshly minted lieutenant junior grade, stepped over one of the sailors and placed a hand on the ladder. “Regulations clearly state, sir, that crewmen of lower rank precede the ranking officer when boarding another, possibly hostile, vessel.” Kensington looked down his nose at Marlowe. “Regulations be damned, Mister Marlowe,” he sniffed. “Jack Wolfe is my prize, and I'll deal with him myself. You will remain here with the boat.” “I must protest!” Marlowe countered. “This is highly irregular.” “Your concerns are duly noted, Mister Marlowe,” said Kensington flatly. “Now you will follow orders and remain in the boat. Or do you crave the lash in reward for your insubordination?” Marlowe glared at Kensington, but he knew trying to press the matter further was futile. Kensington was as ambitious as he was reckless, and he was the ranking officer. The best he could do is note the incident in his report, and hope for the best. He clenched his teeth, then sat down. “Good man,” Kensington said in his best patronising tone. He adjusted his coat smugly and began climbing the ladder. When Kensington got to the top of the ladder, he found two rough looking sailors waiting for him. They took him by the arms and helped him climb over the gunwale. Once his feet were on the deck, he made a point of brushing off the sleeves of his coat where the men had touched him. When he looked up from inspecting his sleeves for tar stains, he found there was a tall, gangly young man smiling cordially at him. “Welcome aboard! My name's Eli Meredith. I'll be escortin' you to see th' captain.” Eli continued to smile and held out his hand in greeting. Kensington glanced down at the young man's extended hand, cocked an eyebrow, and looked back to Eli's face. “Yes. You shall take me to see your captain. Now.” Somewhat puzzled by the Navy man's abruptness, Eli's smile faded as he let his hand drop. “I don't think I caught your name, mister...” “My name is of no concern to you. Only to your captain.” “Right. Follow me, then,” he said. As he walked toward the quarterdeck, he muttered to himself, “Poppin'-jay son of a...”
  5. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour was sitting on the deck in the middle of the cabin just as he had instructed, with Zara sleeping peacefully in her lap. Honour looked up as Jack came through the door, her face hopeful that the ordeal was over. “And how are my girls,” Jack asked. “Are they gone? Did they sail past us? Oh, please say they did!” He shook his head. “No, love. They're still with us. Just sitting there, in fact. No signal, no movement. No guns, which is encouraging.” Her face fell in disappointment. “What are you doing here then? Aren't you supposed to be on the quarterdeck, reassuring your men?” Jack walked to her and sat down on the deck facing her. “The men are just fine. Briggs is doing an expert job of staring those Navy ships down. I felt it was more important to come check on you while I had a chance.” “We're fine, really,” she lied. Her eyes were still puffy from crying earlier. “Yes, you are. We all are.” Jack took her hand and got her to meet his eyes. “Everything is going to be fine, I promise.” “How can you be so sure, Jack? You said yourself; they haven't done anything yet. They must want something of us, or they would go away!” “Sweetheart, it's my experience that the Navy tend to shoot first and think about asking questions later. They haven't fired a shot, so that's a good sign, yes?” Honour thought about his words for a moment and nodded her agreement. “But what do they want?” she finally asked. Jack shrugged. “No idea. Not even a hint of one. But this is better than dodging and running any day. But we'll find a way out of this, I promise. There's always a way out.” “Now you sound like the old Jack Wolfe.” He pulled her hand to his chest. “He's still in here. And I guess he always will be. He just knows his place now.” Honour smiled a little. “All right then, Captain Wolfe, do you have a plan?” “We're going to wait them out. That's the plan. If they're looking for a reason to shoot at us, well, they're not going to get it.” “What's left then? Talking?” “I admit it's old-fashioned, but it's a fairly effective way of communicating intentions and wishes nonetheless. And it's up to them to come over and talk to us. This was all their bright idea anyway. They chased us, so we stopped. They sit like stones; we wait for them to move. I want to play this on our terms as long as possible.” Honour shook her head. “You're always so sure of yourself! How do you do it?” “Beats going through life afraid of my own shadow, don't you think?” A knock came at the door. It was Briggs. “Ye said to come get ye when they make a move. Well, they've gone and done it.” “What is it? What have they done?” asked Jack. “The big frigate just put their longboat in the water,” replied Briggs. “Four men, two all dandied up like officers. They're comin' this way, flyin' a white flag of parlay.” Jack looked at Honour and sighed. “Well then. I guess it's time to talk.”
  6. El Lobo Del Mar

    Less than two hours later, the three English warships approached to within a quarter of a mile of El Lobo and held their station there. The corvette and the smaller of the two frigates had taken up flanking positions, leaving the larger frigate directly aft of the former pirate ship. None of the Navy vessels made aggressive actions, choosing to keep their gun ports closed just as Jack had ordered his own gun crews. The four ships bobbed in the ocean in unison, waiting. “What the hell are they waitin' for?” groused Briggs. “An engraved invitation?” “They'll be waiting a long time,” said Jack. “We're here, and we aren't running. That's as much as they get. If they want more, they can come ask.” “I wish to hell they'd get on with it.” “Probably looking up in the book what to do next, because I don't think they expected us to stop. In that case, my gambit worked, and they're off their game. Now they have to figure out their next move, and we've given them nothing to work with. That's my guess, at any rate. These are Navy men, doing things the Navy way on the Navy schedule. No real point trying to make sense of it.” Briggs snorted and took a drink of rum. “I prefer dealin' with pirates, thank ye very much. Ye know where ye stand with them, leastways. No committees and none of this damn fool muckin' about.” “Oh dear,” said a voice behind them. “Honour wasn't exaggerating when she said we had company.” Jack and Briggs turned to find Duckie standing on the quarterdeck with them, looking out at the silent warships. “Come to help us stare back at them, Doctor?” said Jack. Duckie joined them at the gunwale. “I was working in my journal when I realised the ship felt different. So I went your cabin, Jack, to see what the matter was. That's when Honour told me about our pursuers.” “I think we're in a waiting game,” sighed Jack. “Waiting for what? Who'll blink first?” asked Duckie. He leant close to Jack and whispered, “Josiah is perfectly capable of watching three ships do nothing at all. Honour is scared, Jack. She needs to see you. Now.” “But, she seemed fine before I came up here.” Duckie cocked an eyebrow and slowly shook his head no. “The brave face. I should have known.” Jack clapped Briggs on the shoulder. “Josiah, keep an eye on these lads for me, would you? There's something I need to attend to below. Let me know if and when they finally make their move.” “Aye, Jack,” replied Briggs. “If'n I don't fall asleep from all the excitement.” “I'll keep you company, Mister Briggs!” said Duckie cheerfully. “See you in a while, Jack. Take your time.” Jack left the quarterdeck and walked briskly back to the great cabin. It wasn't easy for him to walk away from his station of command, but he knew Honour needed him and the reassurances that only he could bring. He couldn't help but notice, however, that his crew already seemed used to not relying on him for everything. In some ways, it was a relief to know they would be able to carry on without him. Conversely, though, it made him feel something else, something that left him a little empty inside – that he was dispensable after all. He shoved that feeling aside and focused on the task at hand: reassuring Honour that everything was just fine and under control. Never mind that three warships were bracketing them like silent, hungry lions, and Jack had no idea why or what it was they wanted. He took a deep breath, put on what he hoped was a cheerful face, and opened the door.
  7. El Lobo Del Mar

    “Mister Briggs!” he called out as he jogged up the steps to the quarterdeck. “Permission to approach, Captain sir!” Briggs made a sour face and motioned him on. “Quit arsin' about and get up here. Since when do you ask permission for anythin'?” “Just trying it on for size.” “What do ye think of it?” “Not much.” Briggs handed Jack the spyglass and waited for him to get a look at the approaching ships. “Three of the buggers; two heavy frigates and a corvette. I changed course twice to see if they were followin' or just goin' our way.” “And they matched us turn for turn. Eli told me.” Jack examined the three vessels carefully. “Damn. They're serious, and I know why. The frigate with all the flags? One of those is the pennant of a commodore or admiral.” He snapped the spyglass shut. “What's that got to do with us?” asked Briggs. “We're a lone ship, and we're not flying a flag. Ordinarily, they couldn't be bothered. With a flag officer in their midst, though, they're going by the book. All the same, we've nothing to hide. Mister Meredith!” Eli stepped forward, immediately pulling off his cap and twisting it in his hands. “Aye, Cap'n Wolfe?” “Run up the flag of England, mainmast and stern. Let them know we're good citizens of the Commonwealth.” “Aye, sir! Right away!” “Oh, and Eli?” The young man turned back with a puzzled look on his face. “Yes, cap'n?” “Stop wringing your cap like it's laundry day, please? Mrs Wolfe isn't going to buy you a new one every other port.” Jack softened his remark with a smile. Eli laughed self-consciously and pulled the cap back on his head before going to retrieve the two flags. “He's a good kid, isn't he, Josiah?” Briggs watched Eli hitch the larger of the two flags to the flag line and haul it aloft. “Aye, he turned out to be a bit of all right. It's a good thing Honour saw somethin' in him we didn't.” “He was a scared boy, and Burgess took advantage of that. Not every young sailor is lucky enough to fall in with a good teacher and a better friend.” “Ye just needed to get yer bearin's, is all,” Briggs demurred. “I didn't always steer ye right, remember. Like that time in Martinique...” “Not one of our finer moments!” laughed Jack. “I'm glad I waited a few years before showing my face there again.” “Ye think the governor would have remembered?” “It wasn't the governor I was worried about.” “Ah, right. His daughter.” Jack paused for a few moments. “Both of them.” Briggs burst into laughter. “Damn, but that was some fun!” Eli bounded up the steps with a flag in hand but came to a stop when he got to the quarterdeck and saw the two men laughing. “What, did I do something wrong?” “Not at all, Eli!” said Jack as he caught his breath. “We were just reminiscing. Please continue. You're doing fine!” Eli gave them an odd look, then went about affixing the flag to the stern flagstaff. He watched the trailing ships for several seconds before turning away. “Cap'n, how long you figure before they catch us?” he asked worriedly. Jack cast his gaze back across the water to the warships. His eyes narrowed as he thought. “I hate waiting,” he said finally. “Waiting makes me edgy. I hate being edgy even more than waiting. Time to play this out.” He turned toward the weather deck and went to the taffrail. “Heave to!” Jack shouted. “Take in all sail! Step lively, lads!” The crew stopped what they were doing, and quickly began climbing the ratlines to gather in the sails. Briggs stepped to his side. “I hope ye know what ye're doin', Jack.” “That's just it, Josiah. I don't.” “What?” “I don't know if that patrol have us figured as pirates and intend on blasting us out of the water, or if they want directions to the nearest good tavern. I'm hoping, and it's just a hope mind you, that this will throw them off whatever their game is. It's hard to justify firing on a drifting ship, no matter your suspicions. Even harder with a high-ranking officer watching.” “Unless he's the one what ordered it,” said Briggs grimly. “When did you become such a wet blanket?” “Always have been. This be the first time ye've taken a notice.” “I won't make that mistake again,” Jack quipped. “All the same, I won't have us as sitting ducks. Mister Meredith! Another errand for you, good man.” Eli stepped quickly to his side. “Aye!” “Eli,” said Jack quietly, “I need you to go below to the gun deck. Tell them to make the lower guns, and only the lower guns ready. But they must not run them out. Not until so ordered. I want all the gun ports left shut and shut tight. If as much as one opens for any reason, I'll flay alive the man responsible. Can you do that for me?” Eli nodded, and his expression became stern as if in preparation for the task. “Aye, sir! I'll make it as clear as cut glass to them!” “Good man. Off you go.” Briggs waited until Eli had left the deck to deliver the orders before drawing a deep breath. “An insurance policy?” he asked. Jack stared across the weather deck and rapped his knuckles on the railing. “Let's hope we don't have to use it.”
  8. El Lobo Del Mar

    Jack's expression went hard as stone. The last time Honour had seen that look was on their first disastrous crossing to Barbados. She could feel her stomach tighten involuntarily. “Are you sure they're interested in us?” asked Jack. Eli nodded. “Mister Briggs changed our course twice, he did. So did they, matchin' us turn for turn each time. Then they clapped on more sail.” “Has he raised the flag of England?” “No, sir. Waitin' for your word on it, he is.” Damn, thought Jack. If they weren't suspicious before, they are now. “Thank you, Eli. Please tell Briggs I'll be up presently, and that he's not to do anything else until I get there.” The young man nodded hesitantly before closing the door. Jack turned to Honour and gently touched her hair. “Everything will be fine, Honour. But I need you and Zara--” “To stay here. Keep down and stay away from the windows. I- I remember.” Her face was pale, and Jack could see she was struggling to hold back tears. He placed his hands gently on her shoulders and gave Honour a smile he hoped was reassuring. “Yes, my love. For safety's sake. But I promise you; I'll do everything I possibly can to resolve this situation peacefully. Nothing is more important that keeping you and Zara safe.” He looked into her eyes, hoping if she saw he was calm, her fear would fade. “This isn't Mendoza, Honour. My dealings with the Navy have shown them to be reasonable men. Or at least easy to bribe. Maybe they're lost and need directions to Barbados? Or they're all out of sugar? Briggs' sweet tooth will suffer, but it's for the greater good.” Honour found herself laughing a little at the joke even though she was still scared. She knew Jack needed her to put on a brave face, just as he was doing for her. “You men are so terrible with maps!” she said, her voice wavering more than she had hoped it would. “Go and be the captain. Your men need you.” “I swear, Honour, this is the last time I'll ever have to do this. I wish to God I didn't, but...” “But you're the captain, and if anyone can see all of us through this, it's you. Now, go and take your rightful place on the quarterdeck, Captain Wolfe. Go and be brilliant.” Jack kissed her tenderly. “I'll send word when it's safe.” He picked up Zara and held her close. “Here, sweetheart. You be a good girl, and keep your mum safe for me, all right?” He kissed his daughter's head, then handed her over to Honour. Zara went willingly into her mother's arms. “Da!” she said as she held her rabbit up so it could get a kiss, too. Jack obliged before going to the door. He opened it, and lingered a moment. “I love you, Honour.” She forced herself to smile nonchalantly. “I love you too, Jack.” The door closed with a loud clack of the latch. Honour hugged her precious daughter and quietly began to cry. Jack strode onto the weather deck just as he had done thousands of times before. But this time felt different. There was a terrible finality that gnawed at him. This would most likely be his last official act as captain of El Lobo del Mar. The next time she sailed, he would be her owner, not her master. He pushed the feeling aside for the moment. “Now's not the time for introspection, Jack,” he muttered to himself. “Think more about not getting your arse blown off.” The men at their stations traded nods and confident smiles when they saw him walking toward the quarterdeck. The mood and tempo of the crew seemed to lift in his presence, knowing he would be there to see them through this latest trial. Jack hoped their confidence wasn't misplaced.
  9. El Lobo Del Mar

    Honour walked to him and straightened the collar of his shirt. “That was the old Jack Wolfe. The new one is a respectable businessman. A pillar of the community, and a loving husband and father.” “Ugh! You make me sound so dull.” “You? Dull? Impossible. What business is it you'll be excelling in? Have you given it any thought?” “You mean, what do I want to be when I grow up?” “Something like that.” Jack took a deep breath, and his brow furrowed as he exhaled. “I still don't know yet. Daffyd and I talked about a number of things, like horse breeding and land sales. Of course, there's always the merchant trade. Let's face it, if any merchant would be prepared effectively to repel any pirate attacks, it's me. Wouldn't that be a bit of irony?” He laughed, but he couldn't help but wonder how he would successfully rejoin the 'legitimate' world of business with his past. People's memories were short, but how quickly would they forget about Mad Jack Wolfe, the pirate? And how soon would Governor Culley be willing to forget about the regular under-the-table payments Jack paid to freely use the ports of Barbados? Those were worries for another day, he resolved. Somehow he couldn't bring himself to fret about such matters while looking into Honour's beautiful blue eyes. She made him feel like anything was possible. He hoped she was right. “Something will come to you,” she reassured lovingly. “I know you too well. That mind of yours is always working.” Jack slipped his hands around her waist and pulled her close. “Indeed it is. Guess what I'm thinking right now?” Honour pressed her hands against his chest. “Are you forgetting we have a tiny chaperon?” He looked past her to see Zara sitting on the deck, holding her rabbit by the back legs and shaking it to make its ears flop against the wooden planks. “I guess you're right. She doesn't seem the least bit tired, either.” “She will be later. Any chance those thoughts will still be fresh in your mind?” “Honour, those thoughts are always in my mind where you're concerned.” “Just checking. I wouldn't want you to become bored with me.” Jack smiled and stroked her cheek. “Never. That's a promise.” At that moment, the door to the cabin swung open, barely missing Zara. Eli Meredith stood there in the open doorway staring down at the little girl, looking completely flustered. “Eli!” Jack roared. “Since when don't you knock before coming in here?!” Eli looked at Jack and Honour with a start, then took a step backwards. The young man's eyes were panicky, and he wrung his knit cap nervously in his hands. “Cap'n! Sir, I'm sorry, sir. And mum. But it's awful urgent! Mister Briggs said I should come get you right away!” “What on earth for? There's nothing Briggs can't handle on his own.” “Aye sir, there is,” said Eli gravely. “Three warships, with English flags. They're on an intercept course, Cap'n. We need you.”
  10. El Lobo Del Mar

    Sixteen days later, El Lobo reached the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, a significant waypoint on the journey to the New World, her progress slowed by unfavourable winds cast from an unseasonably early storm. But the weather was clear now, and the vessel turned toward the west and the Caribbean, carried along by the warm and friendly trade winds. In less than two weeks time by Jack's estimation, they would be safely in port at Barbados. More importantly, they would be home. “That's it, Zara! That's my girl! Come to Da!” said Jack as he clapped his hands together. He was sitting on the deck of the great cabin with his arms outstretched. Zara clung to her mother's skirts, coyly peeking from around them at her father as she chewed on the ear of her toy rabbit. “I don't think you're going to win this one,” Honour teased. “She gets it from you,” replied Jack with a wink. He got to his feet, then crouched a little and clapped his hands once more. This time, Zara ran across the short expanse of gently swaying deck and into Jack's arms. The little girl giggled and squealed as he swept her up. “Ha! I knew it!” he laughed. “She wanted to be picked up! Even at this tender age, she's a shrewd negotiator.” “She got that from me, too!” Jack gave his wife a smile. “Don't I know it! I'm gonna have to watch my back with the two of you around.” Honour watched as Jack held Zara in his arms and smiled at the joy on his face. It was at times like this she could scarcely remember the fierce, wild-eyed pirate he had been. She knew that part of him was still there beneath the surface, but also that if it ever did reappear it would be in defence of his family. Jack was a different man from when they had met, just as Honour was a different woman. They had transformed one another through their love, embodied in little Zara. “Da!” said Zara, pointing to the rafters. “Kee! Kee!” Jack looked up to see Puddin' lounging contentedly on a beam. The cat pretended not to pay any attention but gave a dismissive flick of an ear. “Yes, sweetheart, you found Puddin'!” said Jack He began to look around the cabin. “But where is... Honour, have you seen the kitten?” “Evie? She's around here somewhere. I'm surprised Puddin' let her out of his sight. He spends every waking moment watching after her and Zara. The role of big brother suits him.” “I never would have figured him for the guardian angel sort. But there he is, picking Evie up by the scruff of the neck before she can get into trouble.” “Or distracting Zara when she's nosing about where she shouldn't,” added Honour. “I hope he's not staying with the ship. He's made my life so much easier!” Suddenly she clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle a loud laugh and pointed at the table. Jack turned to look at what his wife found so funny. There, curled up and sleeping atop a wooden bowl full of apples, was the little black kitten. Jack chuckled and shook his head. “But of course! Where else would you expect to find Eve? First, she was in trouble with a snake; now she's piled in with the apples!” Zara made a grunting noise and began to squirm. While Jack and Honour had been looking for the kitten, her rabbit had slipped from her hands and fallen to the deck. Jack leant down to pick it up, but Zara had other ideas. “Me!” she exclaimed, and stretched out her arm toward the toy. “All right then, Miss Independent!” said Jack as he set her down on her feet. Zara leant over and picked up the rabbit. She looked up at her father with a self-satisfied smirk and toddled off toward Honour. As she did, the ship pitched just enough to cause her to lose her balance and fall backwards onto her bottom. “Bolx!” she said with a loud huff. Immediately Zara began working to get back on her feet. Jack laughed at the nonsensical epithet. “What a funny thing for her to say!” Honour wasn't laughing. Rather, she was giving Jack a look of disapproval. “What?” he asked. “It's not like she swore or anything.” “Didn't she? What did you hear her say?” He thought for a moment. “'Box', I think. Where would Zara get something like that to say?” Honour shook her head. “She didn't say 'box', Jack. Think about it. What would you say if you fell on your rump?” Jack's face began to colour. “Most likely, I'd say 'boll'--” “Bolx!” chirped Zara loudly. “- 'ocks'. Oh, my. She learns fast, doesn't she?” “Yes, she does. What did you expect out of our daughter? And she's going to start repeating everything she hears, more and more. So please, watch your language around her?” “Mea culpa, my love,” he said with a smile. “I promise to think before I speak, which will be something new for me. But we are on a crewed ship. She may have quite the vocabulary by the time we make port!” Honour chuckled a little. “I'm hoping you'll lead by example. They're still your men, Jack. Even Briggs won't let the men call him captain yet. Not while you're still aboard.” “I'm still used to providing a perfect example of how not to behave. And me, behave myself? People will talk.”
  11. Just dropped by to say Hi.

    Time warps? I know a few things about those. Good to see you, old friend.
  12. El Lobo Del Mar

    “No, it can't be,” Honour said aloud. She went to put the piece of bread back in the sack, but it had fallen from her hand when she spotted the man. No matter, she thought. He might have eluded her in the Azores fog, but she was not about to let him get away this time. Honour had to know once and for all if this ghost was indeed Rhys, or her overactive imagination. She pressed on, trying to wedge her way in between the shoppers that suddenly seemed to be moving at a snail's pace.“Pardon me,” she said as she forced her way around one person, then another. “I said, pardon me.... damn it, MOVE!”The gap was closing between her and the green-coated man. He seemed to be looking for a specific tent, but was not slowing his pace. So typical of him when he had his mind set on something, she thought. She tried to skirt close to some tents without many patrons in order to head him off. A nervously determined smile curled her lips as she began to close in.Suddenly, a mountain of a man blocked her way. Honour yelped in surprise.“Hello, pretty lady!” he said in an impossibly deep baritone. He grinned down at her at her with all six of his teeth. In his hand were bars of soap. Honour found herself wishing he'd use more of his own wares.“Excuse me, but I'm trying to catch up to someone,” she explained, and tried to circumnavigate the huge man. He sidestepped and continued to block her path.“You're very pretty! You like Flavio's soap?”“Thank you, but no, I... yes, it's very nice. Please, I need to go.”“I make it myself. Here, smell!” He held the bars up to Honour's face, and she took a step back from the overpowering melange of scents.“It smells like a garden run amok,” she coughed.“That is good, no?”“No. I mean, yes! Very good. Please, I need to find my friend!”“You like, you buy?”“I'll tell you what, Flavio. My friend LOVES soap. Let me fetch her, and she'll buy lots of your soap! Deal?”The giant stepped aside with a smile and bowed deeply. “Thank you, pretty lady! See you soon!”Honour rushed past Flavio, trying desperately to get a glimpse of the green-coated man again.“Damn that overgrown soap maker,” she grumbled as she walked. “I should go back and give him a boot full of 'pretty lady' right in the bum! Now I'll never... wait!”She caught sight of the frock coat again, and she swallowed hard. He was standing at a tent, trying on a hat. It was a black Cavalier-style chapeau, with a long burgundy feather that gave the wearer a rakish quality. Honour bit her lip, and walked up behind the man. She had to remind herself to keep breathing. Her heart pounded like a hammer in her ears. Part of her didn't want to go through with this, but the other part needed to know once and for all if this living ghost was indeed her first love.She tried to raise her hand to touch him on the shoulder, but her arm felt like it was made of solid lead. Finally, she found the courage to speak.“R-Rhys? Rhys, is that you?” she asked, her voice quaking.The man stood up straight and hesitated a moment. Then he reached up and took off the hat as he turned. As he lowered the hat, she could finally see the face of the mystery man.It wasn't Rhys.The man bore a passing resemblance to Rhys, but he was too old. His eyes were brown, his teeth a mess. The coat wasn't right. A similar cut, but the embroidery was all wrong. Even his boots weren't the right colour.“No, ma'am,” the sailor said with a smile that made her skin crawl. “But if it suits ye, I can be Rhys. That'd suit me just fine, it would.”Honour took a large step backward. “I'm sorry! I thought you were someone else. Please forgive the intrusion.” Her face flaming with embarrassment, she turned to walk away. But the sailor caught her arm.“That ain't very fair of ye, ma'am. Ye gave me name, but ye never told me yours.”Her embarrassment quickly turned to anger. “You may call me Mrs. Wolfe.”“Mrs. Wolfe, is it?” he laughed. “Well, Mrs. Wolfe, how's about I give ye a reason to howl?”Honour managed to pull herself free and glared at the man. “Have you heard of the ship El Lobo del Mar, by any chance?”The man's grin disappeared. “Aye. Everyone has, I reckon.”“And her captain?”“That'd be ol' Mad Jack. Mad Jack...” His eyes went wide. “... Wolfe.”“My husband.”“Ma'am, I'm sorry, I am! I was just havin' a bit of fun with ye, is all...”“I'm sure my husband will see the joke when he finds out you were pawing his wife.”The man started to say something, couldn't seem to find the words, then broke and ran off through the crowd.Honour stood there shaking. Partly with relief that it wasn't Rhys, and partly from having to face down a potential molester or worse.“God, I'm out of practice,” she exhaled.“Hey! He was gonna buy that hat!”She looked over at the tent, where the hat seller was glaring at her. “Excuse me?”“That man you chase off! I lose a sale because of you!”Honour picked up the hat the man dropped when he ran and looked at it.“Do you have this in a size larger?” she asked as she handed it back to the seller.“You buy it if I do?” he asked.“I'll buy it. But only if you add more feathers!”“Deal, pretty lady!”
  13. El Lobo Del Mar

    Duckie and Rose stood at the waist of the ship waiting for the gangway to be secured in place. Rose was in the dress she'd worn when she boarded in Beaumaris, though she appeared much soberer than she was that fateful day. Jack strolled up to them, smiling happily. He looked out over the town and breathed in the fresh island air. “Ah, Ponta del Sol. 'Port of the Sun.' Grand name for a grand place, don't you think?” “Yes, well, I don't intend on staying here long,” said Rose. “Drake is going to help me book passage back to England. I think the faster I am on my way home, the better it is for all parties.” “I wish I could say it's been fun, Rose, but I'm not much on lying these days,” said Jack. “Though I am glad you and Honour managed to come to terms.” “She's a strong woman and a good person. I see that now.” “Isn't she, though? Absolutely brilliant. The best thing that ever happened to me. Except for Zara, of course. I don't know where I'd be without them. Dead, I suppose. Certainly a lot less happy.” “Honour has been a good influence on you, from everything Drake has told me. It would be a lie to say I don't envy the happiness you have together.” She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Jack, I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused. Not just on your ship, but Wales, too. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me one day.” Jack looked at her, and slowly he began to smile. “Done,” he said. “I know you felt you had your reasons, but that's water under the bridge now.” “I don't know what to say...” “'Thank you' is usually the customary response to a kindness given,” offered Duckie. Rose felt her face colour. “Yes, of course. Thank you, Jack.” She looked down for a moment, then met Jack's eyes. “I do wish you and Honour, and little Zara too, all the happiness in the world. You deserve it.” “Thank you,” he said. Then he stepped forward and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead. “Do find yourself some happiness, Rose. You deserve it, too.” “I'll try, I promise,” she smiled. “Farewell, Jack.” “Goodbye, Rose. Safe travels.” She nodded, then began to make her way down to the dock. Duckie stepped onto the gangway behind her. “I'll be back as soon as I get Rose settled,” he murmured. “No rush, my friend,” said Jack. “There's plenty of time. Besides, Honour has shopping to do. I'd never think of rushing her along. Ah! And speaking of my lovely bride, there she is!” Honour walked across the deck toward the two men, dressed in the finery of a lady about town. In her hands was bundle wrapped in brown burlap and tied with string. “Oh good, Duckie! I caught you before you left!” she chirped. “Where's Rose?” “Good morning, Honour! She's already down to the dock. She is anxious to get back home, as you might imagine.” Honour peered down the gangway and saw Rose with her back to the ship, waiting more or less patiently for her brother. Honour stepped back so she couldn't be seen, and motioned Duckie to come with her. “I want you to give this to Rose,” she said as she handed the parcel to the doctor. “I couldn't bear the thought of her travelling back to England with only one dress. It's the most tasteful of the 'surplus' dresses on board. The rest will be burned once we make Barbados, but I digress. She can have this on the condition that she'll not know it came from me. Can you arrange that?” Duckie looked at the parcel in his hands and smiled at Honour. “This is terribly generous of you, after all she's put you through! Yes, I can tell her I'm sending it to a friend in New Providence or some such, then have it waiting for her in her cabin the day she sails.” Honour smiled happily. “I knew I could count on you!” “Of course you can, my dear. Always.” He looked at her, and he couldn't help thinking about what Rose had told him about the rumours surrounding the deaths of her first husband and her lover. “Duckie, is something the matter?” she asked. He shook his head as if to clear a fog. “What? Oh, no, nothing. I was just thinking about all the things that have happened over the past few months. So many changes and all of them wonderful!” He hefted the package in his hands. “I'd best be getting along. Rose is no doubt running out of patience with me. Thank you for doing this for her.” He turned and nodded to Jack, then went down the gangway to meet up with his sister. “And just what are you smiling at, Jack Wolfe?” Honour asked. “Only the most beautiful woman in the world, Honour Wolfe! Just look at you! Someone is dressed for serious shopping.” She twirled in place to show off her dress, giggling as she did so. “Are you sure you don't mind watching Zara while I shop?” “The ship is safely moored, we're in a friendly port, the weather is glorious, and I haven't a care in the world. Besides, Briggs has all the hard work now. I'm just the owner, on a pleasure cruise with his family. Watching Zara is a responsibility I welcome.” “Whilst I brave the sharp-eyed shopkeepers intent on getting every last penny out of me.” “Oh, they don't stand a chance against you, love. In fact, I pity them a little. Very little.” Jack held out his hands. Honour took them, and he drew her into a warm lingering kiss. “Jack!” she exclaimed with a little gasp. “I often wonder what the men think!” “That I'm a lucky man,” he said proudly. “And they'd be right.” “We'll discuss just how lucky later,” she said with a wink. “Right now, I have shopkeepers to plunder!” “Spoken like a true pirate! Do be careful, though.” “You worry like a mother hen, Jack. I'll only be gone a couple of hours. I promise to stay safe.” He kissed her cheek softly. “I'll hold you to that.” Honour playfully tugged his goatee. “I insist you do! Now out of my way, pirate boy! Ponta del Sol awaits!” Jack laughed and gave her a sweeping bow as she stepped onto the gangway and began her excursion to the sunny Portuguese town.
  14. El Lobo Del Mar

    Jack walked onto the weather deck, smiling contentedly as the morning sun warmed his face. The crew were becoming accustomed to seeing him arrive on deck a little later each day, just as he was learning to savour that extra time in bed cuddling with Honour or playing with Zara. He drank in the morning air and gazed around the deck. The men were going about their usual duties. Everywhere there was movement, save one figure leaning on the gunwale near the waist of the ship. It was Duckie. He stood there motionless, gazing out over the water. Jack walked over beside his friend and leant against the gunwale. “Doing a bit of whale spotting?” he asked. Duckie smiled a little but didn't take his gaze off the sea. “Good morning, Jack. No, no whales. No answers, either. Just that damnable horizon we're endlessly chasing.” “Answers? What's the question? Maybe I can help.” “I'd be happy if I could figure out the right questions to ask.” “Can't help you there. I've quit asking questions and simply try to enjoy the moment.” “You're lucky you can do that. Speaking of bliss, how is Honour today?” Jack chuckled. “In a surprisingly good mood. She's seemed happier with every day we're closer to Madeira. I'm guessing that when we make port in two days, she'll be dancing jigs on the forecastle! Why? How is Rose?” “Not surprisingly, she's equally ready for us to make port. For very different reasons. She's more miserable by the day. It seems that someone has been playing pranks on her.” “Oh, no,” sighed Jack. “Like what? I can guess the who.” “It started with little things, like her bed being short-sheeted and the like. Then the day before yesterday, someone let the cat into her quarters. With three fish. He ate them under the bed, and left a horrid, smelly mess for Rose to find that night.” Jack tried to stifle a snicker and failed. “Then came last night. Remember dinner?” “Yes. The cook made up salmagundi. Did a fine job, too. Even Honour thought it was delicious.” “I'm sure hers was. Rose's, on the other hand, managed to contain a ship's hold worth of curry. It took her the better part of an hour to get her mouth to cool off! I've never seen her so drenched in sweat.” “And here I thought Honour was in a good mood because of all the-- well, never mind,” said Jack. “No,” said Duckie, “I'd wager it had more to do with her tormenting Rose than any romantic goings on, though that couldn't hurt.” “Believe me; it didn't hurt a bit.” Duckie looked at Jack in exasperation but quickly burst into laughter, as did Jack. “Look, Ducks, I'm sorry Honour has been picking on Rose.” The apology would have sounded a bit more sincere had he not been chuckling over the thought of Rose eating from a bowl of molten fire. “Oh, no you're not,” laughed Duckie. “I think it's funny, too. Lord knows Rose had it coming, and I hope she's learnt her lesson. But if you could talk to Honour and ask her to ease off for these last couple days, I'd be grateful.” “I'll see if I can negotiate a cease-fire, my friend. Though it may cost me dearly, like a shopping spree in the boutiques of Martinique.” “The lady of the manor needs to dress the part, no? You could do with an updated wardrobe, yourself.” “You're beginning to sound like Honour.” “She's right! You'll need to dress like a man about town, not a notorious pirate come to lay siege.” “I suppose you're right,” said Jack. He looked down at his favourite frock coat, with its cracked buttons and threadbare edges. “Something a little less broken in is in order.” “You're a wealthy man, Jack. You should dress the part now.” Jack looked out over the waves. “How things have changed, eh? It all could have been so different, any number of times.” “That's just what I was thinking about when you came up here,” said Duckie quietly. “Come on,” said Jack, seeing that the faraway look had returned to his friend's face. “Let's go to the quarterdeck and talk.” Duckie gave a wan smile and nodded agreement. Together the men ascended the steps to the empty quarterdeck. Since the weather was good and they were far from shore, the wheel had been tied off to keep the ship on course. This allowed a crewman who would normally man the helm the opportunity to do something productive, rather than needlessly hold the wheel in place. Jack double checked the ships heading. There was no reason to make any adjustments, so he put away the compass and pulled out the bottle of rum. He poured himself a cup, then held up an empty cup for Duckie. “Care for any, doctor?” Duckie looked at the cup and frowned. “Yes, please. I'd like some.” “Oh my,” said Jack. “This is serious. Ordinarily you'd never touch the stuff.” He filled the cup and handed it to Duckie. “What has me in the role of tavern keeper this lovely morning?” Duckie took a swallow of the dark liquid and winced as it burned its way down his throat. “You'll probably think it's foolish...” Jack shook his head. “Bollocks. If it's got you to the point you'll drink rum, there's nothing foolish about it. So spill it, doctor. Enquiring rum enthusiasts want to know.” Duckie gave a heavy sigh and took another sip of rum. “This whole thing with Rhys. It's set me to thinking, what with his tale being so tragic and all.” Jack nodded in agreement. “Glad to know I'm not the only one.” “I can't help but wonder, what would things have been like if he hadn't died?” “Easy. He would have gotten the girl, and I really would be occupying that grave in Rio de la Hacha instead of that turncoat monk.” “And Zara would never be. In a way, his death made her possible.” “There's something you're forgetting, Duckie.” “What's that?” “Mine wasn't the only life he saved. If he hadn't rescued me, then our paths wouldn't have crossed again. As I recall, it was your pulling me back from the brink that got you to quit drinking yourself to death.” “You were pretty determined to die, and I wasn't about to let that happen. I spent every waking hour for nearly a month tending to you.” “Which kept you too busy to drink.” Jack finished off his cup. “So you see, Ducks, his sacrifice saved us all. We wouldn't be having this conversation, Honour and I wouldn't be married, and Zara wouldn't be stealing hearts and terrorising the ship's cat. Rhys Morgan was a hero in that regard, and I'll always be grateful to him. God rest his soul.” Duckie looked on his old friend and reflected on the changes he could see in Jack Wolfe. Gone was the self-destructive, morally conflicted man he'd known for so long. He thought about the way Jack's eyes lit up whenever Honour came near and the way he would smile with pride and joy when holding his little daughter. It was then he decided that even if there was a grain of truth to Rose's story that the second body discovered at the Castlemaine house wasn't that of Rhys Morgan, it was best for all involved that the memory of Rhys remains just that. A memory. He raised his cup in the air. “Yes, quite right. Bless and rest his soul. Here's to looking forward!”
  15. El Lobo Del Mar

    Duckie lay awake, staring up at the overhead. Briggs was nearby, snoring quietly. It was well into the wee hours of the morning, but he couldn't find sleep. Not after the things Rose had said over dinner. He thought back to the day after Mendoza's sniper had shot Jack. Honour asked if he had known Rhys Morgan and how he had met his end. Finding out that she was the woman Rhys risked everything for and lost was the last thing he'd expected. Honour had made him promise not to breathe a word of it to Jack, and he lived up to his end of the agreement. Thanks to Rose, Jack found out Honour's secret anyway. As much as he deplored Rose's actions that night, Duckie was relieved to be free of that particular burden. The truth about Rhys Morgan's death was out, the need for secrecy over and done with. Or was it? Honour claimed that Rhys died in her arms. Her description of the scene and those moments could not have been fabricated, in Duckie's opinion. It was too vivid, too detailed to be anything but the truth. Now Rose had introduced a new version of the events that night. Instead of Rhys, Honour had been cuckolding her husband with the help! At least that is what popular gossip assumed, given that it was not Rhys' body that had been discovered with Madoc's but that of the manservant. It was just the sort of tawdry, salacious grist the gossip mill loved to churn through. But it made no sense. Not with what Duckie knew of Honour Wolfe, née Rhiannon Conaway. Duckie tried to make sense of it all. There were always two or more sides to every story, with the truth falling somewhere in the middle. Despite the intricate web of falsehoods Honour had hidden behind from everyone else, she had been for whatever reason honest to a fault with him. She confessed her love for Rhys, and he knew first hand how much in love Rhys was with her. Enough to give up a successful life as a pirate and smuggler. Therefore, Rose's statement that Honour had been carrying on with the help could not possibly be true. Honour claimed that Rhys died in her arms. But what of Rose saying the second body was that of the servant, and not Rhys? As much as Rhys must have visited that area over the years, he had to have been known by more than few people there. And knowing human nature, the story of a nobleman and a pirate killing each other over a woman was far more entertaining for the masses than the one currently accepted as truth. If the second body was indeed the manservant, how did he die at that scene, and why had Honour never mentioned him? And what of Rhys' body? Honour and Rhys were to have made their escape that fateful night, only to be discovered by her husband. Had one of Rhys' crew been waiting with their transport back to the ship, and come looking for them when they were overdue? And if so, did they retrieve Rhys' body, killing the servant in the process? No, thought Duckie. It was too far-fetched. But the question remained-- what happened to the body of Rhys Morgan? If the servant had been positively identified, then Rhys' corpse must have been spirited away somehow. A terrible thought gripped Duckie like icy fingers around his heart. Honour was in a state of shock and panic that night, having killed her husband and seen her lover mortally wounded. She assumed Rhys died in her arms. What if he hadn't? He knew from his own experience that shock from profound blood loss could cause a man to appear dead, only to recover later if help comes soon enough. Perhaps, if someone had gotten to Rhys in time.... Duckie shook his head. “No. He can't be. The odds are too outrageous,” he said aloud. “Hmph... Huh? What? What's that ye said?” asked Briggs blearily. “I'm sorry, Josiah. It was nothing. Just thinking out loud. Sorry to wake you.” “No, 's all right... g'night...” In moments, Briggs was snoring softly again. Duckie went back to staring into space. Could it be that Rhys Morgan, by whatever miracle, was still alive? Or were his remains spirited away to some unknown fate? Either way, Honour could never know. He would not see her and Jack's happiness jeopardised by this possibility. Closing his eyes, he tried to will himself to sleep and forget this new burden that had been thrust upon him. Another secret to keep from seeing the light of day.