Chapter Twelve: Tempting the Fates
Eight bells rang out across the Black Pearl, and four listless sailors appeared to relieve the blurry-eyed Morning Watch. The decks got their first scrubbing of the day. The sails were raised and on Jack's command, the ship lurched out Point Morant, the easterly most point in Jamaica. The course was set, due east to Isla Beata, an island off the southern coast of Hispaniola. From there, the Pearl would have to make the treacherous two-day trip to Aruba then follow the coast of New Granada for another two days on to their final destination: Tobago.
Tobago, though presently a neutral territory, wasn't always so. The island changed hands amongst the chief European powers (hell, even the Courlanders took a shot at it) so frequently that it was hard to say who had claim to what these days. Now void of any permanent governing body, Tobago earned its reputation as a haven for criminals, wrongdoers and pirates alike. Trade winds brought a steady flow of slow moving merchant, trade and passenger ships, so pillaging around the island was akin to shooting fish in a barrel. Even Tortuga, in all its wicked glory paled grossly in comparison to Tobago's debauchery, corruption and lawlessness.
One would think any pirate in their right mind would jump at the opportunity to bask in such decadence, but Jack was shaking in his stolen imported Italian leather boots. An intoxicating mix of excitement and apprehension coursed through his body, leaving him a nervous wreck of a man as he bit each and every one of his fingernails down to the quick. The stakes had risen considerably in the past twenty-four hours.
Jack was no stranger to Tobago. He's spent many of his younger days picking off merchant ships as they tried to squeeze past Galera Point undetected. It was by far the easiest and most profitably pirating he'd ever partaken of, and brought a nostalgic smile to his face that lasted a fleeting moment. Nope. Damn. The overwhelming since of impending doom was back, with a vengeance.
The cabin door slammed open and Montebello swooped in and stormed the large coffee pot and breakfast platter the Cookie brought up first thing in the morning. Jack didn't think he could stomach the vicious-looking black liquid, so his breakfast consisted of a handful of biscuits and a hearty swig from a bottle of mezcal reposado he'd snagged on his way out of a distiller's daughter's bedroom two weeks ago.
"So, mate," Jack mumbled around a mouthful of crumbs. "Once we capture these French spies an' all, I don't hafta actually, ya know, turn 'em into the Royal Navy myself. Ya can do that fer me, cantcha Monty, old chap?"
"W-what?" Montebello sprayed a fine mist of coffee all over his meager breakfast of "You know I can't do it."
"Why bloody not?" Jack demanded, as he shook the crumbs from the breast of his jacket. "The Commodore would take one look at me an' hang me from tha first rafter he could find! But a fine gentleman like you…"
Dabbing the table and his chin with a fresh handkerchief, Montebello clucked in disappointment. "Jack, you're not that daft, are you? Think, man! Why would I have been following on the tails of the French Inspector General of Police in the first place? How in the world could the son of a poor Sardinian sheep-breeder afford an Oxford education? How is it I'm such a sneaky son of a bitch?"
"Hard work an' discipline?" The pirate shrugged.
"Hard work, discipline and a monarchy to pad your coin purse. An awful lot can happen in nine years, Jack. Lots of hush-hush, if-I-tell-you-I'll-have-to-kill-you kind of things."
"Why ye are one sneaky little son of a bitch," admonished Jack, with a hint of admiration in his voice. "An' here I thought ye were the only honest man amongst us."
"Save for Turner?"
"Fer now. I'll make a pirate of him yet, just ye see. Speak o' the devil, where is he?"
"Out playing pirate." Montebello shrugged as he stirred his coffee with his index finger, then took a loud drawn out sip. "He's been out there grappling with the sails all morning."
Jack couldn't help but beam. "Atta boy."
The next four days were surprisingly uneventful. Will had taken a renewed interest in sailing, and from Morning Watch to Last Dog Watch everyday, he followed in Gibbs' every footstep. By the end of the first day, he could tie a bowline knot blindfolded, standing on one leg atop the Crow's Nest, which he proved later that evening after half a bottle of port wine.
The Black Pearl made excellent time, as the only unfavorable conditions suffered were turbulent seas off the coast of Caracas. No lives or provisions were lost, save for those that resided in Montebello's stomach. The scholar spent the majority of his time aboard the ship hanging his head over a wooden bucket and occasionally mumbling skyward to ramble off a desperate prayer in Latin.
Jack and his crew had more pressing matters to attend to. With the Atropos long gone and headed for Who-Knows-Where, Jack was in quite a predicament. The Black Pearl, perhaps the most infamous ship in the West Indies, would do him no great service this time around. If she were spotted and identified immediately, the jig would most undoubtedly be up. After a heated argument with the ship's new carpenter, Jack finally succumbed to the idea of disguising the Pearl's hull with a coat of navy blue paint and white-washing the gunwhale to give it the appearance of being a grand merchant ship.
French and blue-crossed merchant flags were sewn together using whatever cloth they could rally together. Even Jack tossed in his red bandana under the pretense that he'd 'get it back as soon as we're done playin' dress-up.' Mister Cotton and his parrot, who were given the sole task of renaming the Black Pearl's stern, took three tries and two coffee breaks and a cracker to spell ATROPOS correctly, much to Montebello's dismay.
The ship wouldn't hold up to the slightest bit of scrutiny at close range, but Jack hoped that undercover of nightfall it would come off as the genuine article. So as a misty blanket of fog rolled down from the mountains as the Black Pearl pulled into Scarborough, Jack breathed a sigh of relief.
Rockly Bay, though the largest port on the island, could barely contain all the traffic that trundled through it, even at such an unconventional hour. Fishing sloops and caravels crowded the shores, as a steady stream of rowboats and quarterboats stuffed to the decks with loud-mouthed drunks and braggarts flowed to and from the docks. Gunfire rang out constantly on both side of the bay, drumming out a near steady beat that one could almost dance to, if only it had a little more cowbell.
It was all in one word, beautiful.
As Montebello and Will took on the task of locating the rendezvous point, Jack slipped into Jacques' finest peacock blue ensemble, complete with matching (debatable) coral pink feathered tricorne hat. A quick shave and spritz of exotic cologne later, Captain Jack Sparrow was once again the embodiment of French fashion.
"So, where's Mister..." Jack peered over Montebello's shoulder at his leather journal as he joined them on the quarterdeck. "Excuse me, Monsieur G. C. LeBeau?"
"Nowhere to be found. We've got a clear view of the meeting place," Will declared as he motioned towards a wooden pier jutting into the bay. "But no one, short of a few grubby fishermen have shown up so far."
"Perhaps we have missed him?" Montebello offered an explanation. "After all, we are far more than a few hours late. Nearly a full day."
Jack landed a hollow pat on both Will and Montebello's backs. "They're still here, believe you me. Jus' keep a weather eye out of tha ol' frog and I'll handle tha rest, boys."
So they waited.
Minutes passed at first, then hours. Three rounds of whist and two and half dozen dirty jokes later, the waiting party was just about ready to call it a night. It was nearly midnight, and while the bay was still bustling with drunken boatfuls of pirates, brigands and other sea-faring hooligans, the rendezvous point was remarkably deserted.
Jack, who had been perched perilously on a rickety looking barrel, pushed himself onto his feet and tossed his feathered abomination of a hat on the deck. "We were stood up, mates. All dressed up an' nowhere ta go. I suppose we'll never find out wha-" A distant clanging caught Jack's attention. A little voice in the back of his head warned him not to look.
But he did. And he wished he hadn't.
Two of the most imposing brigandines Jack Sparrow had ever laid eyes on were anchored on respective sides of the bay, hatches open, cannons out and ready to broadside whatever poor slob got in their way. It came only as a slight surprise that they were named Clotho and Lachesis. And they had just launched two quarterboats headed straight for the Black Pearl.
There was no escaping the Fates now.
Author's Note: It's down to the wire now. Only a few more chapters to go! Please, if you've got the time, leave me some feedback/criticism/blatant praise/Swiss bank account numbers/first-born children. All will be appreciated, and the first-born children are tax-deductible! You just can't lose!