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An Inception of Piracy
An Inception of Piracy

Sunday March 31st, 2019 - 2:55 pm

Here is your free copy of chapter 11 of "An Inception of Piracy". Giovanni's time among the pirates does not end well for him, or them. Battles and bloodshed! If you missed the previous chapters , you can go to piratestreasure1710.blogspot.com/ . If you want to order the whole book, go to www.michaelcalpino.com. It is available as an e-book, hardcover and paperback.
Enjoy!
11

For the most part, life aboard the St. John was what the seamen called a ‘soft number’. While a merchant ship of her size may have had twelve or fifteen men to work her, the pirates had over fifty. Watches were short, duty light and the men friendly enough despite their rough appearance. There had been several of the Sofie’s crew who had not signed the ‘articles’ and Wolridge treated them reasonably well. They were given the same rations of food and drink as the rest, they were able to keep whatever personal effects they may have had and were not treated as lepers by the crew. The only exception was Martin, the cooper. He was an older man, set in his ways and refused not only to join but to help the pirates in any way. Unfortunately, he had a skill they needed, most everything on a ship in those days being stored in barrels. To Martin, Wolridge gave no choice. They took off an ear to convince him to sign on. None too friendly before, he was now sullen and withdrawn.
Aboard the Sofie, with Douglass and his gang to constantly reinforce the view that Giovanni and Matthews were mutineers or deserters, the crew had shunned them. Here on the St. John, things were different. Several of the crew who had not signed on now formed an informal group, joined by two or three others from previously taken merchant ships. There were eight of them, including Dickson, Harte and Martin from the Sophie. They often spent their time talking about their desire to get back to England, or wherever home could be found, and when the pirates would land them.
“Do you think it jus’ gruff, the captain letting us off?” whispered Dickson. The men were huddled below in the fo’c’sle. Almost daily they had had this conversation. “It’s been two weeks since....anything’s ‘appened.”
“Aye, I’m beginning to have my doubts,” added Harte.
“I think ‘e’s jus’ waiting us out,” offered Floyd, a seamen from another merchantman who had been captured nearly a month before the Sophie.
“Jonnick mate, but I’m not signin’. I’m still ‘opin’ to get back to Charlestown.” stated Arsher, one of Floyd’s mates.
“Aye, I want to see my son again, not even weaned when I left. And another, must be in ‘is first year by now,” added Matthews.
Giovanni just nodded. They worried little about being overheard. Several yards away about ten mostly drunk pirates were gambling, loud enough to echo through the ship. A fight broke out, one of the pirates slamming another against the bulkhead and knocking him out cold. The others laughed and went back to their game.
“Sooner we’re out of here, the better.”
“Jonnick, we’ve been headin’ north by east for several days now, where do you think we’re headed?”
“Could be Philadelphia or New York, plenty of shipping there to take.”
“Hope we don’t go too far north, summer’s over, going to get rough in a few weeks.”
“Jonnick, I remember a right long pull on the Swallow, Boston to London in November, late I know but the captain insisted. Miserable time it was. Nearly floundered more than once.”
Giovanni shivered involuntarily. He remembered his winter on station in the Pembroke, the damp cold that penetrated his bones, the shabby clothing that helped little. He didn’t want to see another winter aboard any ship. Even now, late in the night watch, the air was beginning to have a bite. Giovanni noticed a commotion on the deck above.
“On deck mates! A prize to take!” yelled a pirate sticking his head down the hatch. The pirates who had been gambling grabbed their gold and pieces and headed on deck.
“I guess we’d better see what’s going on,” stated Dickson.
“Aye.”
They all climbed on deck and moved to where the pirates had lined the starboard rail. The breeze was steady over the larboard quarter, the St. John’s best point of sailing. The other ship was already hull up and racing northeast with all sail set. After watching for a few minutes, it was obvious that the St. John was faster than the heavily laden merchantman.
“Men, this is it!” It was Wolridge from the quarterdeck. The men cheered. “The hold’s nearly full and that fat prize should top it up!” The crew cheered again. “Then we head for Boston and our friend Dudley, and we’ll be rich men!” An even louder cheer. “Stations then!”
Men raced to the lines, trimming sails a little more closely to get that extra half a knot. The chase was on.
“Probably out of Philadelphia or Williamsburg..tobacco, though it could be molasses from the Indies, a real prize there.” It was Wolridge, joining their little band at the rail. “If this goes well, we’ll put you aboard and let you sail with them back to England. We will see.” Then he was gone to attend to other duties.
“More guff?” asked Matthews to no one in particular.
“I hope not,” replied Giovanni quietly, daring to hope that his ordeal may soon be over.
______________________

“Prepare to board!” screamed Wolridge, standing on the rail, one hand holding the shrouds, the other waving his pistol. The pirates not involved in sailing the ship were also at the rail, screaming curses and obscenities at the merchantman that would dare defy them. They had exchanged cannon fire for the last half glass and the merchant vessel had scored several hits, some of which had holed the hull and were keeping the pumps busy. This served only to infuriate the pirates.
“Captain,” shouted the carpenter, coming out of the forehatch and running to him, wet and exhausted. “Captain, there’s four feet in the well and it’s rising, I don’t think the pumps will be able to keep up. That last shot sprung two planks below the waterline.”
“Bloody hell!” he roared, sending a pistol shot towards the merchant ship, now two hundred yards away. They were still gaining but not as fast, the water in the hold slowing them down. “Take some men and start moving what you can to the gun deck, we’ll move it once we have this ship.” The carpenter ran off, yelling at a few men, Giovanni and Matthews among them. They followed the carpenter and some other men below. The water in the lower hold was nearly waist deep. Giovanni gasped as he jumped in, it was freezing. They began untying barrels and other items taken from ships over the last several weeks. Above them they could hear the small arms fire increasing as the two ship closed. They had passed several barrels up when they heard a loud crunch as the two ships came together followed by the bloodcurdling screams of dozens of pirates as they swarmed over the rail.
“Come on men, get it up, the more we lose, the less we get!”
It was only a few minutes later that the hatch above them was removed, block and tackles lowered, and more men began taking items from the gun deck out of the ship. Giovanni assumed that once the ships were together, the overwhelming numbers of the pirates made short work of the crew. The water was now nearly to his chest.
“Come on men, that’s it, on deck!”
Giovanni and the men with him waded and swam to the ladder and moved to the gun deck where other men were hurriedly passing what they could by hand to the deck above, the tackles working furiously as well. There was a lot of shouting on the deck above and while Giovanni could not make out much of it, it seemed to involve Wolridge and some injury. Soon the water was flowing up out of the lower hatches and swirling around their ankles. The ship was also developing a severe list. The order was given to abandon ship and they scrambled up into the sunlight. Except for some of the rigging, the merchant vessel was intact. The pirates had no intention of sinking their prize and had been careful to merely cripple it. They made their way over the rail and into the prize as the last of the goods were swung over, landing with a crash on the deck. The lines holding the ships together were cut with the thump of axes and the ships parted. Most of the pirates lined the rail and watched the St. John drift away and slip beneath the waves.
“Damn you man!”
Giovanni turned from the rail to see a pirate named Oakes, a huge man with a shaved head that was heavily tattooed along with the rest of his body. He had two large gold earrings and another through his bulbous nose. He was screaming at a man who Giovanni assumed by his clothes was the captain. He was disheveled, his coat was torn and blood was running down his leg from a deep cut. His arms were tied behind his back and another sailor held him to the larboard ratlines with a rope around his neck. Giovanni winced as Oakes punched him hard in the face. He then looked fore and aft, wondering where Wolridge was. He was nowhere to be found. Several of the other crew members were tossing bodies over the side, presumably the remaining crew.
“Oakes!” The shout came from the aft hatch which led to the captain’s quarters. “He’s dead!”
“Damn it! You had to be a real shonky!” Oakes had his pistol under the captain’s chin now. “That was a real clanger, should ‘ave jus’ given up!” He hit the captain on the side of the head with the pistol, opening up a large gash. Oakes left him and went to the quarterdeck.
“Men, our gallant Captain Wolridge is dead!” he began, turning to the crew. “It is time to pick a new man to lead, someone who will strike fear in every merchant from here to England!” The crew began to murmur and someone started a chant- “Oakes..Oakes!”
Oakes raised his hand and the chant died down. “Someone who will make us rich!” The chant resumed, even louder this time. It was clear who was now in charge. “Someone who does not shrink from doing what is necessary to terrorize every captain on this ocean!” He ran down to the captain tied to the shrouds. “Bring me a poker from the galley!” Several of the men laughed as one ran below and came up with a red hot piece of metal. Oakes addressed the crew again. “This man fired on us, sank our ship and killed our captain!” Men had now gathered around and were cheering, or cursing the man tied to the shrouds. Several spit on him. “Now he’s going to find out what we do to such bad hats!” With that he laid the poker first on one thigh and then the other. The captain, who had been somewhat dazed from the previous blows screamed in pain. The pirates cheered and jeered all the louder. Oakes drew his cutlass and waved it in the air. The pirates yelled even more. In one swift stroke Oakes drew the blade across the captain’s stomach, opening his bowels. He then threw down the blade and grabbed his intestines and pulled. The captain’s eyes were wide in horror and disbelief as his guts were displayed before him. “Music!” demanded Oakes. The men began clapping and someone produced a fiddle. Oakes then put the poker on the Captain’s rear, making him jump and the man holding him to the ratlines let him go. The crew began to chant “Dance! Dance!” Oakes had put one bloody boot on the man’s intestines and continued to prod him with the poker. The captain screamed and stumbled across the deck, leaving a gruesome trail, while the pirates laughed and chanted. It wasn’t long, however, before he collapsed and the prodding simply brought moaning. Oakes gave a disappointed look and stabbed at him one last time.
“You..and you.” Oakes pointed right at Giovanni and Matthews. “Throw him over and wash down the deck.” They looked at each other quizzically. “Now!” he ordered. Both jumped to the captain’s side.
“He’s still alive!” whispered Matthews.
“Not for long,” he replied, shaking his head. As Giovanni helped lift the man over the rail, he had mixed emotions. What had this captain been like? Was he a tyrant like Littlewort or Douglass? In that case, he felt no pity. But he didn’t know. The pirates were cruel to be sure, but he had seen so much brutality, had experienced so much as well, all sanctioned by the navy or the merchants, that the pirate’s actions didn’t seem out of place. It was almost just.
“I’ll get the bucket, look for a dingbat.” Giovanni left and went forward, such old rope was usually kept there. He found it and joined Matthews who had already poured water over the deck, washing the captains blood and entrails into the scuppers. Giovanni started to mop.
“I guess we won’t be taking this ship back to England,” whispered Matthews.
“No, sounds like we’ll be going to Boston.”
“What do you think of Oakes?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen much of him and it’s hard to tell what he’ll be like now that he’s been elected captain.”
“Seems a little harder than Wolridge.”
Giovanni looked down at the blood on the deck, recalled the captain jumping, holding his guts, screaming. “Perhaps a little.”
________________________

“Matthews, Bartolli, Captain want’s to see ya.”
The ship was reaching easily with topgallants spread, heading north. It rolled gently on the north Atlantic swell as the two men made their way aft and entered the great cabin. Oakes was sitting behind the desk and Fuller was reading the ship’s papers to him. Both looked up as they entered. There was a malicious look in Oakes’ eyes. He stood up and spread his arms on the desk.
“I understand you two have not yet signed on. It’s time to trice up the crew and you are going to be part of it.” His tone revealed there was going to be no room for discussion or negotiation. He grabbed the book and opened it on the desk, turning it to face them. “Time to make your mark. No passengers on this tub men.”
“Oakes..Captain Oakes,” began Matthews. “Wolridge accepted our situation..”
“I’m not Wolridge!” he yelled, his face becoming red. He began making his way around the desk. “He was too soft, to easy on prizes, on crews. Would have ended up with more worthless ballast if he would have lived taking this ship. This crew will live as one, fight as one, die as one or hang as one. You will sign on as part of this crew and do all the things this crew does or I’ll bloody well throw you overboard myself...right now!” He was toe to toe with them, glaring at them both, they having backed up against the bulkhead without being aware of it.
“But...”
Matthews’ protest was cut short by a wicked blow from Oakes that sent him sprawling across the deck. He spat blood from his mouth as he got up on his hands and knees. Oakes walked over and kicked him in the ribs. He stayed down, holding his side and groaning. He walked back to Giovanni.
“No discussion,” he growled. “Now sign.” He pointed to the book and when Giovanni didn’t move immediately, he shoved him forward. “Now!” Giovanni looked over at Matthews who was now struggling to get up. Oakes drew a bejewled dagger and put it at Giovanni’s throat. “Sign.”
He grabbed the quill and dipped it, Martin’s missing ear coming to mind. Again, he was in a position where he was given no choice. He scribbled his name. Better to live another day.
“Now get out!” Oakes shoved him toward the door and headed toward Matthews. Giovanni waited on deck and Matthews emerged a few moments later, limping and bleeding.
“Are you all right?”
“I’ll live, I suppose, for now.” He dabbed his split lip with his sleeve. “We’re pirates now Giovanni. It’s a short life that ends with a rope. I’ll never see Charlotte again. You’ll never see Genoa. It’s over, there’s no hope now.” He plopped down on the deck and put his head in his hands. Giovanni sat next to him. He watched as Floyd and Harte were herded toward Oakes’ cabin. Their whole group was being forced to sign.
“There must be something...we were forced to sign. How can we be condemned for saving our lives?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he sobbed. “We’ll be killed by them or by some governor..making a point. It’s over, should have jus’ let Oakes kill me.”
“Matthews, we’ve been through hell, the press, shipwrecks, now pirates. We’ve made it this far. I can’t give up. You can’t give up. I’ve got to see my father again, you’ve got a little boy and a baby to see. We’ve got to hang on, there must be a way.”
Matthews just shook his head and sobbed some more. The words sounded hollow even as Giovanni spoke them. He was a cauldron of emotions-despair, anger, hope, frustration, hate. He wanted to see Oakes just as he last saw Douglass, or the previous captain on this ship. Except for the very few like Matthews, he’d just a soon kill every Englishman he met, they were all the same. Cruel, unfeeling, brutish. The navy, the pirates, the merchants, the people in Chatham, all of them. He flexed his fists. If it wasn’t for his overwhelming desire to see his father again, he’d get up right now, grab a cutlass and pistol and kill as many of them as he could. He sighed and let his head fall. What was going to happen to him now?
_____________________

“Sail ho!”
“Where away?”
“Two points off the larboard beam!”
Oakes considered his position. He estimated they were two days out of Boston with an almost full hold of merchandise to unload. But more gold was always welcome. He walked to the rail and looked out. The ship was hull down and while the early morning haze was clearing, it was hard to make it out. Several men were gathered around him, looking astern as well. He turned around.
“What do you think?”
“I say more gold is better!”
“Aye, but this tub is none too fast.”
“I think we just head for Boston, sell off and find a new ship.”
“Jonnick, this be damaged goods, don’t know how she’ll handle is a tousle. Best go with what we’ve got.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Aye.” Oakes mounted the rail to address the rest of the crew. “Men, we are in agreement that we should continue to Boston and sell what we’ve got and pay off. What do you think? We’ve got about two days and a boatload of rum!” The crew cheered. “It’s settled then, to Boston!” The crew cheered again and then began to chant ‘Boston’ and then ‘rum...rum!’
“They run on rum, they do!”
“Aye, don’t we all!” laughed Oakes as a barrel was rolled on deck and cups were passed around. “Helmsman, stay your course!” he ordered as a cup made it’s way to him and he took a long swig. “To Governor Dudley and Boston!” The crew cheered again.
“Bartolli,” whispered Dickson. He was at the rail, staying away from the riotous pirates who had begun celebrating early. “I think we can take the ship.”
“What are you talking about!”
“Shhh! Look at them, you’ve seen the way they drink themselves to oblivion after every prize and now they’re doing it again. Martin and Floyd are already with me. If you are, talk to Matthews. That ship is still on the horizon and getting closer, we have to keep an eye on it, it may be a frigate.” At that Giovanni’s interest piqued. Yes, if it was a navy ship and they helped take down the pirates, they could prove their innocence.
“Alright, I’ll talk to Matthews, but only if it looks like we’re going to get some help. Even drunk they’re dangerous...and there are a lot of them.”
“Aye, but we’re dead men either way,” and he was gone.
Giovanni looked around. Some of the pirates were dancing, most were just sitting around with a tin cup or bottle in their hands, almost a fourth of them were already passed out, or at least incapacitated. A little more time and the odds might become more even. There may be only eight or ten of them but other than the helmsman who had a cup but wasn’t drinking much, the rest of the crew certainly wouldn’t be at the top of their game. His youthful ignorance and desperation combined to foster the delusion of possible success. He began wandering through the sozzled crowd to find Matthews. He found him curled up forward.
“Matthews.” Giovanni put his hand gently on his shoulder. He had been in total despair since they had been forced to sign and had said virtually nothing since. He didn’t even look up. Giovanni sat down next to him. “Dickson thinks we can take the ship...prove our innocence to the navy or the governor.” Matthews looked up in disbelief.
“Look at them Matthews, most of them couldn’t lift a cutlass if they wanted to. And that ship out there, who knows?” Matthews just dropped his head.
“You...Dickson’s crazy, it’ll never happen...not enough of us.”
“Not enough for what!?” The slurred voice behind them was obviously belligerent and threatening. As Giovanni turned around he was grabbed and thrown aft. He heard Matthews scream in pain behind him.
“Hey cap’n,” drawled the pirate, stumbling up behind Giovanni. “I t’ink we got us a mut’neer!” Giovanni got to his knees and looked up to see Oakes and two other pirates ambling toward them. Oakes drew a pistol from his belt, one of the others held a knife. Giovanni scrambled to his feet and backed away, and was shoved forward by the man behind him. The man next to Oakes grabbed him and spun him around, pinning his arms behind his back. Oakes stood before him, nose to nose, the strong smell of rum on his breath sickening Giovanni.
“This true Bartolli!?” He too slurred his words but his voice was still harsh and menacing.
“No..I...”
Oakes punched him hard, doubling him over.
“That whole gang of you, I’ll kill you all!” He screamed, hitting Giovanni above his ear with the butt of his pistol and dropping him to his knees. “Get them all! Line them at the rail!” Giovanni was picked up and pushed roughly to the larboard rail. Soon Matthews, bleeding from a gash on his forehead, and Floyd, holding his side and obviously scared, joined him. The other five soon arrived, displaying various evidences of abuse. Giovanni figured this was it, it only remained to see what form of sport they would provide before they died.
“This is a real clanger,” spat Oakes. About fifteen of the pirates had joined him, the others not caring or passed out. “Two days out, could ‘ave been rich.” He came right up to Giovanni. “Do you know what we do to mutineers?!” Before Giovanni could answer he raised his pistol and shot Floyd in the head. He was dead before he hit the deck. “But that isn’t any fun, is it Walsh?”
“No, none at’all,” grinned Walsh, gripping his knife a little more tightly.
“Bring...him!” ordered Oakes, pointing at Dickson. Two men rushed to grab him but Dickson slipped their grasp and started to run. One of them leveled a pistol and shot him in the leg, dropping him to the deck. They drug him screaming to where Oakes had positioned himself by the mainmast. He was holding onto a line that led to a block aloft and down to the pinrail on his left. “String him up!” Dickson’s eyes went wide with fear as they bound his hands and arms and put the line around his neck.
“No! I didn’t....” His protest was cut short as the rope tightened and lifted him a few inches above the deck. His kicked and struggled, his face red, then white as he gasped for breath.
“Now that’s entertaining!” joked Oakes.
One of the other men stumbled into the circle with one of the capstan bars. He braced his feet and swung it at Dickson, catching him in the thigh. The pirate lost his balance and fell to the deck, dropping the bar. Another picked it up and hit him hard in the chest, breaking his ribs.
“Give it here!” yelled another, grabbing the bar. He closed his eyes and swung. This one caught him in the head, crushing his skull. The struggling stopped.
“Damn your eyes Hack,” scolded Oakes, pushing Hack to the deck. “Bring....him!” He pointed right at Matthews. He screamed as they grabbed him. Giovanni tried to help but a blow from a belaying pin stunned him.
“Your turn ‘ll come soon enough!” laughed his assailant. They had cut Dickson down and were binding Matthews, who was pleading for his life. A sharp blow that dislocated his jaw silenced him. Walsh was putting the line around his neck when a splinter from the mainmast hit him in the side of the head, dropping him instantly. There was shock for an instant and all eyes turned aft where the ship that had been on the horizon was now not only hull up but within six hundred yards on their quarter. The shot was lucky at that range but they were closing fast, the union jack clearly visible. The merchantman was no match for the frigate’s speed. Oakes and the men with him began frantically trying to rouse their drunken brethren, most often without success.
“Malbon, shake the reef from those topsails! Davies, round up some gun crews, come on man, get your finger out!” Oakes ran aft to the helmsman and shouted some orders to him that were drowned out by another blast from their pursuer.
Giovanni ran to Matthews and helped him down, no one was paying any attention to them now. Matthews was still shrieking and crying uncontrollably as Giovanni laid him on the deck. Another shot came screaming in and hit the foretopsail yard, brining it down in a jumble of canvas, rope and splintered wood. The ship began to veer as Oakes and the helmsman tried to bring it under control again.
“Matthews, we’ve got to get below!” Giovanni pushed and dragged his still hysterical companion to the fo’c’sle and fairly threw him down the companionway. Several pirates were passed out and the place reeked of vomit and rum. They took a position against the forward bulkhead, hoping an errant ball wouldn’t come crashing through. They heard the thump of a cannon on deck, Davies must have gotten at least one crew together. Small arms fire was now heard, the frigate must have come within that range now. More screaming on deck, another cannon shot from the pirates followed by the roar of a broadside from the frigate. The ship lurched for a moment and then they could feel it turning rapidly and heeling, the helmsman must have been hit. More small arms fire and then a loud crunch as the two ships met. The scream of men, the thump of boots on the deck. A flash of red and white on the companionway stairs.
“You there!” ordered the marine, pointing a pistol at Giovanni and Matthews. “Leave your weapons and on deck!” They both got up quickly, keeping their hands in plain sight and scurrying up the ladder.
On deck, the scene of battle was horrific. Blood was everywhere. Pirates were dead and dying, many of them never knowing what had hit them in their drunken stupors. The last broadside must have been grapeshot. On the quarterdeck, Oakes was yelling as one of the frigate’s crew bound up a wound on his arm. In addition to the two of them, only about fifteen pirates were on deck. The navy crew was beginning to throw bodies over the side.
“There are three more in the fo’c’sle sir, passed out but disarmed.”
“Confine the rest there, pick a prize crew and we’ll sail in company to Boston. Get some men aloft to bind up that topmast. I want to be underway by the next watch, the glass is falling.”
“Aye sir!”
The remaining men, with the exception of Oakes, were herded into the fo’c’sle. They all listened in silence to the sounds of the men making repairs and getting the ship in order. Occasionally one of the pirates who had been passed out elsewhere in the ship was found and tossed down the stairs. Their numbers were soon nearly twenty. A short time later the motion of the ship changed, the sound of water flowing along the side alerting them they were heading toward Boston and what seemed like a date with the noose.
... See MoreSee Less

Here is your free copy of chapter 11 of An Inception of Piracy. Giovannis time among the pirates does not end well for him, or them. Battles and bloodshed!   If you missed the previous chapters , you can go to https://piratestreasure1710.blogspot.com/ . If you want to order the whole book, go to www.michaelcalpino.com. It is available as an e-book, hardcover and paperback.
Enjoy!  
11

 For the most part, life aboard the St. John was what the seamen called a ‘soft number’.  While a merchant ship of her size may have had twelve or fifteen men to work her, the pirates had over fifty.  Watches were short, duty light and the men friendly enough despite their rough appearance.  There had been several of the Sofie’s crew who had not signed the ‘articles’ and Wolridge treated them reasonably well.  They were given the same rations of food and drink as the rest, they were able to keep whatever personal effects they may have had and were not treated as lepers by the crew.  The only exception was Martin, the cooper.  He was an older man, set in his ways and refused not only to join but to help the pirates in any way.  Unfortunately, he had a skill they needed, most everything on a ship in those days being stored in barrels.  To Martin, Wolridge gave no choice.  They took off an ear to convince him to sign on.  None too friendly before, he was now sullen and withdrawn.  
 Aboard the Sofie, with Douglass and his gang to constantly reinforce the view that Giovanni and Matthews were mutineers or deserters, the crew had shunned them.  Here on the St. John, things were different.   Several of the crew who had not signed on now formed an informal group, joined by two or three others from previously taken merchant ships.  There were eight of them, including Dickson, Harte and Martin from the Sophie.  They often spent their time talking about their desire to get back to England, or wherever home could be found, and when the pirates would land them.  
 “Do you think it jus’ gruff, the captain letting us off?”  whispered Dickson.  The men were huddled below in the fo’c’sle.  Almost daily they had had this conversation.  “It’s been two weeks since....anything’s ‘appened.”
 “Aye, I’m beginning to have my doubts,” added Harte.
 “I think ‘e’s jus’ waiting us out,” offered Floyd, a seamen from another merchantman who had been captured nearly a month before the Sophie.  
 “Jonnick mate, but I’m not signin’.  I’m still ‘opin’ to get back to Charlestown.”  stated Arsher, one of Floyd’s mates.
 “Aye, I want to see my son again, not even weaned when I left.  And another, must be in ‘is first year by now,” added Matthews.
 Giovanni just nodded.  They worried little about being overheard.  Several yards away about ten mostly drunk pirates were gambling, loud enough to echo through the ship.  A fight broke out, one of the pirates slamming another against the bulkhead and knocking him out cold.  The others laughed and went back to their game.
 “Sooner we’re out of here, the better.”
 “Jonnick, we’ve been headin’ north by east for several days now, where do you think we’re headed?”
 “Could be Philadelphia or New York, plenty of shipping there to take.”
 “Hope we don’t go too far north, summer’s over, going to get rough in a few weeks.”
 “Jonnick, I remember a right long pull on the Swallow, Boston to London in November, late I know but the captain insisted.  Miserable time it was.  Nearly floundered more than once.”
 Giovanni shivered involuntarily.  He remembered his winter on station in the Pembroke, the damp cold that penetrated his bones, the shabby clothing that helped little.  He didn’t want to see another winter aboard any ship.  Even now, late in the night watch, the air was beginning to have a bite.  Giovanni noticed a commotion on the deck above.  
 “On deck mates!  A prize to take!” yelled a pirate sticking his head down the hatch.  The pirates who had been gambling grabbed their gold and pieces and headed on deck.
 “I guess we’d better see what’s going on,” stated Dickson.
 “Aye.”
 They all climbed on deck and moved to where the pirates had lined the starboard rail.  The breeze was steady over the larboard quarter, the St. John’s best point of sailing.  The other ship was already hull up and racing northeast with all sail set.  After watching for a few minutes, it was obvious that the St. John was faster than the heavily laden merchantman.
 “Men, this is it!”  It was Wolridge from the quarterdeck.  The men cheered.  “The hold’s nearly full and that fat prize should top it up!”  The crew cheered again.  “Then we head for Boston and our friend Dudley, and we’ll be rich men!”  An even louder cheer.  “Stations then!”
 Men raced to the lines, trimming sails a little more closely to get that extra half a knot.  The chase was on.
 “Probably out of Philadelphia or Williamsburg..tobacco, though it could be molasses from the Indies, a real prize there.”  It was Wolridge, joining their little band at the rail.  “If this goes well, we’ll put you aboard and let you sail with them back to England.  We will see.”  Then he was gone to attend to other duties. 
 “More guff?” asked Matthews to no one in particular.
 “I hope not,” replied Giovanni quietly, daring to hope that his ordeal may soon be over. 
______________________ 

 “Prepare to board!” screamed Wolridge, standing on the rail, one hand holding the shrouds, the other waving his pistol.  The pirates not involved in sailing the ship were also at the rail, screaming curses and obscenities at the merchantman that would dare defy them.  They had exchanged cannon fire for the last half glass and the merchant vessel had scored several hits, some of which had holed the hull and were keeping the pumps busy.  This served only to infuriate the pirates.
 “Captain,” shouted the carpenter, coming out of the forehatch and running to him, wet and exhausted.  “Captain, there’s four feet in the well and it’s rising, I don’t think the pumps will be able to keep up.  That last shot sprung two planks below the waterline.”
 “Bloody hell!” he roared, sending a pistol shot towards the merchant ship, now two hundred yards away.  They were still gaining but not as fast, the water in the hold slowing them down.  “Take some men and start moving what you can to the gun deck, we’ll move it once we have this ship.”  The carpenter ran off, yelling at a few men, Giovanni and Matthews among them.  They followed the carpenter and some other men below.  The water in the lower hold was nearly waist deep.  Giovanni gasped as he jumped in, it was freezing.  They began untying barrels and other items taken from ships over the last several weeks.  Above them they could hear the small arms fire increasing as the two ship closed.  They had passed several barrels up when they heard a loud crunch as the two ships came together followed by the bloodcurdling screams of dozens of pirates as they swarmed over the rail.  
 “Come on men, get it up, the more we lose, the less we get!”
 It was only a few minutes later that the hatch above them was removed, block and tackles  lowered, and more men began taking items from the gun deck out of the ship.  Giovanni assumed that once the ships were together, the overwhelming numbers of the pirates made short work of the crew.   The water was now nearly to his chest.
 “Come on men, that’s it, on deck!”
 Giovanni and the men with him waded and swam to the ladder and moved to the gun deck where other men were hurriedly passing what they could by hand to the deck above, the tackles working furiously as well.  There was a lot of shouting on the deck above and while Giovanni could not make out much of it, it seemed to involve Wolridge and some injury.  Soon the water was flowing up out of the lower hatches and swirling around their ankles.  The ship was also developing a severe list.  The order was given to abandon ship and they scrambled up into the sunlight.  Except for some of the rigging, the merchant vessel was intact.  The pirates had no intention of sinking their prize and had been careful to merely cripple it.  They made their way over the rail and into the prize as the last of the goods were swung over, landing with a crash on the deck.  The lines holding the ships together were cut with the thump of axes and the ships parted.   Most of the pirates lined the rail and watched the St. John drift away and slip beneath the waves. 
 “Damn you man!”  
 Giovanni turned from the rail to see a pirate named Oakes, a huge man with a shaved head that was heavily tattooed along with the rest of his body.  He had two large gold earrings and another through his  bulbous nose.   He was screaming at a man who Giovanni assumed by his clothes was the captain.  He was disheveled, his coat was torn and blood was running down his leg from a deep cut.  His arms were tied behind his back and another sailor held him to the larboard ratlines with a rope around his neck.  Giovanni winced as Oakes punched him hard in the face.  He then looked fore and aft, wondering where Wolridge was.  He was nowhere to be found.   Several of the other crew members were tossing bodies over the side, presumably the remaining crew.  
 “Oakes!”  The shout came from the aft hatch which led to the captain’s quarters.  “He’s dead!”
 “Damn it!  You had to be a real shonky!”  Oakes had his pistol under the captain’s chin now.  “That was a real clanger, should ‘ave jus’ given up!”  He hit the captain on the side of the head with the pistol, opening up a large gash.  Oakes left him and went to the quarterdeck.
 “Men, our gallant Captain Wolridge is dead!” he began, turning to the crew.   “It is time to pick a new man to lead, someone who will strike fear in every merchant from here to England!”  The crew began to murmur and someone started a chant- “Oakes..Oakes!”
 Oakes raised his hand and the chant died down.  “Someone who will make us rich!”  The chant resumed, even louder this time.  It was clear who was now in charge.  “Someone who does not shrink from doing what is necessary to terrorize every captain on this ocean!”  He ran down to the captain tied to the shrouds.  “Bring me a poker from the galley!”  Several of the men laughed as one ran below and came up with a red hot piece of metal.  Oakes addressed the crew again.  “This man fired on us, sank our ship and killed our captain!”  Men had now gathered around and were cheering, or cursing the man tied to the shrouds.  Several spit on him.  “Now he’s going to find out what we do to such bad hats!”  With that he laid the poker first on one thigh and then the other.  The captain, who had been somewhat dazed from the previous blows screamed in pain.  The pirates cheered and jeered all the louder.  Oakes drew his cutlass and waved it in the air.  The pirates yelled even more.  In one swift stroke Oakes drew the blade across the captain’s stomach, opening his bowels.  He then threw down the blade and grabbed his intestines and pulled.  The captain’s eyes were wide in horror and disbelief as his guts were displayed before him.  “Music!” demanded Oakes.  The men began clapping and someone produced a fiddle.  Oakes then put the poker on the Captain’s rear, making him jump and the man holding him to the ratlines let him go.   The crew began to chant “Dance! Dance!”  Oakes had put one bloody boot on the man’s intestines and continued to prod him with the poker.  The captain screamed and stumbled across the deck, leaving a gruesome trail, while the pirates laughed and chanted.  It wasn’t long, however, before he collapsed and the prodding simply brought moaning.  Oakes gave a disappointed look and stabbed at him one last time.
 “You..and you.”  Oakes pointed right at Giovanni and Matthews.  “Throw him over and wash down the deck.”  They looked at each other quizzically.  “Now!” he ordered.  Both jumped to the captain’s side.
 “He’s still alive!” whispered Matthews.
 “Not for long,” he replied, shaking his head.  As Giovanni helped lift the man over the rail, he had mixed emotions.  What had this captain been like?  Was he a tyrant like Littlewort or Douglass?  In that case, he felt no pity.  But he didn’t know.  The pirates were cruel to be sure, but he had seen so much brutality, had experienced so much as well, all sanctioned by the navy or the merchants, that the pirate’s actions didn’t seem out of place.  It was almost just. 
 “I’ll get the bucket, look for a dingbat.”  Giovanni left and went forward, such old rope was usually kept there.  He found it and joined Matthews who had already poured water over the deck, washing the captains blood and entrails into the scuppers.  Giovanni started to mop.
 “I guess we won’t be taking this ship back to England,” whispered Matthews.
 “No, sounds like we’ll be going to Boston.”
 “What do you think of Oakes?”
 “I don’t know, I haven’t seen much of him and it’s hard to tell what he’ll be like now that he’s been elected captain.”
 “Seems a little harder than Wolridge.”
 Giovanni looked down at the blood on the deck, recalled the captain jumping, holding his guts, screaming.  “Perhaps a little.”   
________________________ 

 “Matthews, Bartolli, Captain want’s to see ya.”  
 The ship was reaching easily with topgallants spread, heading north.  It rolled gently on the north Atlantic swell as the two men made their way aft and entered the great cabin.  Oakes was sitting behind the desk and Fuller was reading the ship’s papers to him.  Both looked up as they entered.  There was a malicious look in Oakes’ eyes.   He stood up and spread his arms on the desk.
 “I understand you two have not yet signed on.  It’s time to trice up the crew and you are going to be part of it.”  His tone revealed there was going to be no room for discussion or negotiation.  He grabbed the book and opened it on the desk, turning it to face them.  “Time to make your mark.  No passengers on this tub men.”
 “Oakes..Captain Oakes,” began Matthews.  “Wolridge accepted our situation..”
 “I’m not Wolridge!” he yelled, his face becoming red.  He began making his way around the desk.  “He was too soft, to easy on prizes, on crews.  Would have ended up with more worthless ballast if he would have lived taking this ship.  This crew will live as one, fight as one, die as one or hang as one.  You will sign on as part of this crew and do all the things this crew does or I’ll bloody well throw you overboard myself...right now!”  He was toe to toe with them, glaring at them both, they having backed up against the bulkhead without being aware of it.
 “But...”
 Matthews’ protest was cut short by a wicked blow from Oakes that sent him sprawling across the deck.  He spat blood from his mouth as he got up on his hands and knees.  Oakes walked over and kicked him in the ribs.  He stayed down, holding his side and groaning.  He walked back to Giovanni.
 “No discussion,” he growled.  “Now sign.”  He pointed to the book and when Giovanni didn’t move immediately, he shoved him forward.  “Now!”  Giovanni looked over at Matthews who was now struggling to get up.  Oakes drew a bejewled dagger and put it at Giovanni’s throat.  “Sign.”
 He grabbed the quill and dipped it, Martin’s missing ear coming to mind.  Again, he was in a position where he was given no choice.  He scribbled his name.  Better to live another day. 
 “Now get out!”  Oakes shoved him toward the door and headed toward Matthews.  Giovanni waited on deck and Matthews emerged a few moments later, limping and bleeding.
 “Are you all right?”
 “I’ll live, I suppose, for now.”  He dabbed his split lip with his sleeve.  “We’re pirates now Giovanni.  It’s a short life that ends with a rope.  I’ll never see Charlotte again.  You’ll never see Genoa.  It’s over, there’s no hope now.”  He plopped down on the deck and put his head in his hands.  Giovanni sat next to him.  He watched as Floyd and Harte were herded toward Oakes’ cabin.  Their whole group was being forced to sign.
 “There must be something...we were forced to sign.  How can we be condemned for saving our lives?”
 “It doesn’t matter,” he sobbed.  “We’ll be killed by them or by some governor..making a point.  It’s over, should have jus’ let Oakes kill me.”
 “Matthews, we’ve been through hell, the press, shipwrecks, now pirates.  We’ve made it this far.  I can’t give up.  You can’t give up.  I’ve got to see my father again, you’ve got a little boy and a baby to see.  We’ve got to hang on, there must be a way.”
 Matthews just shook his head and sobbed some more.  The words sounded hollow even as Giovanni spoke them.  He was a cauldron of emotions-despair, anger, hope, frustration, hate.  He wanted to see Oakes just as he last saw Douglass, or the previous captain on this ship.    Except for the very few like Matthews, he’d just a soon kill every Englishman he met, they were all the same.  Cruel, unfeeling, brutish.  The navy, the pirates, the merchants, the people in Chatham, all of them.  He flexed his fists.  If it wasn’t for his overwhelming desire to see his father again, he’d get up right now, grab a cutlass and pistol and kill as many of them as he could.  He sighed and let his head fall.  What was going to happen to him now?
_____________________

 “Sail ho!” 
 “Where away?”
 “Two points off the larboard beam!”
 Oakes considered his position.  He estimated they were two days out of Boston with an almost full hold of merchandise to unload.  But more gold was always welcome.  He walked to the rail and looked out.  The ship was hull down and while the early morning haze was clearing, it was hard to make it out.  Several men were gathered around him, looking astern as well.  He turned around.
 “What do you think?”
 “I say more gold is better!”
 “Aye, but this tub is none too fast.”
 “I think we just head for Boston, sell off and find a new ship.”
 “Jonnick, this be damaged goods, don’t know how she’ll handle is a tousle.  Best go with what we’ve got.”
 “I guess you’re right.”
 “Aye.”  Oakes mounted the rail to address the rest of the crew.  “Men, we are in agreement that we should continue to Boston and sell what we’ve got and pay off.  What do you think?  We’ve got about two days and a boatload of rum!”   The crew cheered.  “It’s settled then, to Boston!”  The crew cheered again and then began to chant ‘Boston’ and then ‘rum...rum!’  
 “They run on rum, they do!”
 “Aye, don’t we all!” laughed Oakes as a barrel was rolled on deck and cups were passed around.  “Helmsman, stay your course!” he ordered as a cup made it’s way to him and he took a long swig.  “To Governor Dudley and Boston!”  The crew cheered again.
 “Bartolli,” whispered Dickson.  He was at the rail, staying away from the riotous pirates who had begun celebrating early.   “I think we can take the ship.”
 “What are you talking about!”
 “Shhh!  Look at them, you’ve seen the way they drink themselves to oblivion after every prize and now they’re doing it again.  Martin and Floyd are already with me.  If you are, talk to Matthews.  That ship is still on the horizon and getting closer, we have to keep an eye on it, it may be a frigate.”  At that Giovanni’s interest piqued.  Yes, if it was a navy ship and they helped take down the pirates, they could prove their innocence.
 “Alright, I’ll talk to Matthews, but only if it looks like we’re going to get some help.  Even drunk they’re dangerous...and there are a lot of them.”
 “Aye, but we’re dead men either way,” and he was gone.
 Giovanni looked around.  Some of the pirates were dancing, most were just sitting around with a tin cup or bottle in their hands, almost a fourth of them were already passed out, or at least incapacitated.  A little more time and the odds might become more even.  There may be only eight or ten of them but other than the helmsman who had a cup but wasn’t drinking much, the rest of the crew certainly wouldn’t be at the top of their game.  His youthful ignorance and desperation combined to foster the delusion of possible success.  He began wandering through the sozzled crowd to find Matthews.  He found him curled up forward.
 “Matthews.”  Giovanni put his hand gently on his shoulder.  He had been in total despair since they had been forced to sign and had said virtually nothing since.  He didn’t even look up.  Giovanni sat down next to him.  “Dickson thinks we can take the ship...prove our innocence to the navy or the governor.”   Matthews looked up in disbelief.
 “Look at them Matthews, most of them couldn’t lift a cutlass if they wanted to.  And that ship out there, who knows?”  Matthews just dropped his head.
 “You...Dickson’s crazy, it’ll never happen...not enough of us.”
 “Not enough for what!?”  The slurred voice behind them was obviously belligerent and threatening.  As Giovanni turned around he was grabbed and thrown aft.  He heard Matthews scream in pain behind him.
 “Hey cap’n,” drawled the pirate, stumbling up behind Giovanni.  “I t’ink we got us a mut’neer!”  Giovanni got to his knees and looked up to see Oakes and two other pirates ambling toward them.  Oakes drew a pistol from his belt, one of the others held a knife.  Giovanni scrambled to his feet and backed away, and was shoved forward by the man behind him.  The man next to Oakes grabbed him and spun him around, pinning his arms behind his back.  Oakes stood before him, nose to nose, the strong smell of rum on his breath sickening Giovanni.
 “This true Bartolli!?”  He too slurred his words but his voice was still harsh and menacing.
 “No..I...”
 Oakes punched him hard, doubling him over.
 “That whole gang of you, I’ll kill you all!”  He screamed, hitting Giovanni above his ear with the butt of his pistol and dropping him to his knees.  “Get them all!  Line them at the rail!”  Giovanni was picked up and pushed roughly to the larboard rail.  Soon Matthews, bleeding from a gash on his forehead, and Floyd, holding his side and obviously scared, joined him.  The other five soon arrived, displaying various evidences of abuse.  Giovanni figured this was it, it only remained to see what form of sport they would provide before they died.
 “This is a real clanger,” spat Oakes.  About fifteen of the pirates had joined him, the others not caring or passed out.  “Two days out, could ‘ave been rich.”  He came right up to Giovanni.  “Do you know what we do to mutineers?!”  Before Giovanni could answer he raised his pistol and shot Floyd in the head.  He was dead before he hit the deck.  “But that isn’t any fun, is it Walsh?”
 “No, none at’all,” grinned Walsh, gripping his knife a little more tightly.  
 “Bring...him!” ordered Oakes, pointing at Dickson.  Two men rushed to grab him but Dickson slipped their grasp and started to run.  One of them leveled a pistol and shot him in the leg, dropping him to the deck.  They drug him screaming to where Oakes had positioned himself by the mainmast.  He was holding onto a line that led to a block aloft and down to the pinrail on his left.  “String him up!”  Dickson’s eyes went wide with fear as they bound his hands and arms and put the line around his neck.
 “No!  I didn’t....”  His protest was cut short as the rope tightened and lifted him a few inches above the deck.  His kicked and struggled, his face red, then white as he gasped for breath.
 “Now that’s entertaining!” joked Oakes.
 One of the other men stumbled into the circle with one of the capstan bars.  He braced his feet and swung it at Dickson, catching him in the thigh.  The pirate lost his balance and fell to the deck, dropping the bar.  Another picked it up and hit him hard in the chest, breaking his ribs.
 “Give it here!” yelled another, grabbing the bar.  He closed his eyes and swung.  This one caught him in the head, crushing his skull.  The struggling stopped.
 “Damn your eyes Hack,” scolded Oakes, pushing Hack to the deck.  “Bring....him!”  He pointed right at Matthews.  He screamed as they grabbed him.  Giovanni tried to help but a blow from a belaying pin stunned him.
 “Your turn ‘ll come soon enough!” laughed his assailant.  They had cut Dickson down and were binding Matthews, who was pleading for his life.  A sharp blow that dislocated his jaw silenced him.  Walsh was putting the line around his neck when a splinter from the mainmast hit him in the side of the head, dropping him instantly.  There was shock for an instant and all eyes turned aft where the ship that had been on the horizon was now not only hull up but within six hundred yards on their quarter.  The shot was lucky at that range but they were closing fast, the union jack clearly visible.  The merchantman was no match for the frigate’s speed.  Oakes and the men with him began frantically trying to rouse their drunken brethren, most often without success.
 “Malbon, shake the reef from those topsails!  Davies, round up some gun crews, come on man, get your finger out!”  Oakes ran aft to the helmsman and shouted some orders to him that were drowned out by another blast from their pursuer.
 Giovanni ran to Matthews and helped him down, no one was paying any attention to them now.  Matthews was still shrieking and crying uncontrollably as Giovanni laid him on the deck.  Another shot came screaming in and hit the foretopsail yard, brining it down in a jumble of canvas, rope and splintered wood.  The ship began to veer as Oakes and the helmsman tried to bring it under control again.
 “Matthews, we’ve got to get below!”  Giovanni pushed and dragged his still hysterical companion to the fo’c’sle and fairly threw him down the companionway.  Several pirates were passed out and the place reeked of vomit and rum.  They took a position against the forward bulkhead, hoping an errant ball wouldn’t come crashing through.  They heard the thump of a cannon on deck, Davies must have gotten at least one crew together.   Small arms fire was now heard, the frigate must have come within that range now.  More screaming on deck, another cannon shot from the pirates followed by the roar of a broadside from the frigate.  The ship lurched for a moment and then they could feel it turning rapidly and heeling, the helmsman must have been hit.  More small arms fire and then a loud crunch as the two ships met.  The scream of men, the thump of boots on the deck.  A flash of red and white on the companionway stairs.
 “You there!” ordered the marine, pointing a pistol at Giovanni and Matthews.  “Leave your weapons and on deck!”  They both got up quickly, keeping their hands in plain sight and scurrying up the ladder.
 On deck, the scene of battle was horrific.  Blood was everywhere.  Pirates were dead and dying, many of them never knowing what had hit them in their drunken stupors.  The last broadside must have been grapeshot.  On the quarterdeck, Oakes was yelling as one of the frigate’s crew bound up a wound on his arm.  In addition to the two of them, only about fifteen pirates were on deck.  The navy crew was beginning to throw bodies over the side.
 “There are three more in the fo’c’sle sir, passed out but disarmed.”
 “Confine the rest there, pick a prize crew and we’ll sail in company to Boston.  Get some men aloft to bind up that topmast.  I want to be underway by the next watch, the glass is falling.”
 “Aye sir!”
 The remaining men, with the exception of Oakes, were herded into the fo’c’sle.  They all listened in silence to the sounds of the men making repairs and getting the ship in order.  Occasionally one of the pirates who had been passed out elsewhere in the ship was found and tossed down the stairs.  Their numbers were soon nearly twenty.  A short time later the motion of the ship changed, the sound of water flowing along the side alerting them they were heading toward Boston and what seemed like a date with the noose.

Monday November 5th, 2018 - 6:33 am

Any idea on the pumpkin? ... See MoreSee Less

Sunday October 7th, 2018 - 2:04 pm

@steveyeun @gnicotero #AndrewLincoln & the great #ScottWilson being goofy with stickers of my skull design that won a #WalkingDead contest back in 2013. >> @laurencohan #GaleAnneHurd & #RobertKirkman also pictured. ~ Safe home, Scott. ~ #ripscottwilson @amcthewalkingdead #thewalkingdead ... See MoreSee Less

@steveyeun @gnicotero #AndrewLincoln & the great #ScottWilson being goofy with stickers of my skull design that won a #WalkingDead contest back in 2013. >> @laurencohan  #GaleAnneHurd & #RobertKirkman also pictured. ~ Safe home, Scott. ~ #ripscottwilson   @amcthewalkingdead #thewalkingdeadImage attachmentImage attachment

Monday March 19th, 2018 - 2:41 pm

Arrrrr! Ahoy!! Thanks for the treasure I found on ft myers beach. Worthy jewelry for the most elegant of smugglers looters pirates and other worthy sea goers ... See MoreSee Less

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