It's so humid that underneath my uniform coat my shirt is plastered to my body with sweat. I mop my brow with a handkerchief. Lord, how I hate formal dinners.
"Did I mention that my niece is to marry a young English gentlemen? He has ten thousand pounds a year, would you believe?"
I try to smile at the fat, red-faced idiot across from me. "How nice," I manage to say.
"A match well made, eh? There's nothing like a smart match to bring on an appetite!" He belches loudly.
Judging by the man's girth, he must have witnessed several thousand good matches. His name is Fitzpatrick. Sir Fitzpatrick. He makes a fortune exporting rum- and he'll make another fortune on top of that once I've finished with piracy in the Caribbean.
"I hear you're to marry the Governor's daughter?"
"You must be happy."
I nod. I'd be even happier if he'd stop talking and let me go.
Fitzpatrick grins at me. "You're a man of taste, I see." He gets up and waddles over to a draw cabinet across the room. "This is for you, Norrington. Let's call is a token of my gratitude." He hands me a bottle of rum.
"How kind," I say. God, I hate rum.
And suddenly an idea hits me.
Splash. Splash. Splash.
The rain has been pouring down solidly for three hours. Down here, in the cells, the floor is littered with puddles.
"Bit wet," says Jack Sparrow complacently as I step into the light (there is a faint, flickering candle in a bracket on the wall just across from his cell).
"Indeed," I reply. I try to make my voice sound cold but I fear that the slight tremor betrays the emotion behind my words.
Pity is coursing through me like the blood in my veins. Jack Sparrow- pirate, thief, sinner- is huddled on the floor amidst dirty straw. His dark eyes are gazing into mine. Odd, but they look different to how they used to be. Then it hits me: he's not drunk. His gaze is no longer clouded with the effect of rum. His eyes are deep, pleading, almost hungry…
…The eyes of a man facing death. I turn away.
"Why are you here, Commodore?"
I don't answer him. I'm too busy trying to coax the candle back into some semblance of life.
He keeps talking, as if he's afraid of the silence. "Because if you're here for a little tête à tête, some stimulating conversation, an exchange of notes on dear Elizabeth, then…"
"Leave Elizabeth out of this," I snap and abandon my attempts with the candle. It'll die soon and then I won't have to look into those hungry eyes of his.
"Lovely girl, Elizabeth. Nice smile. Shame about her chest, or should I say, lack thereof…"
"Damn you," I say, quietly this time.
"I already am damned," replies Jack. He grins at me, a foolish death's-head grin that makes his gold teeth glimmer in the candlelight.
Once again, our eyes meet. Once again, I have to look away. "I'm here to bargain with you," I say, finding with relief that my voice is now steady.
"What exactly is it you want, Commodore Norrington, pray tell?" I think he's mocking me.
"I want information," I say. "On pirates. Watering holes, taverns, brothels, caves, stores, people, names… Anything that will put an end to piracy."
Sparrow laughs- a harsh, rasping noise. "You want my to betray my own?"
I move closer towards the wretched figure looking up at me from the floor. I move so close that my cheek is touching the cell's bars. "It seems to me that your 'own' betrayed you often enough…" I whisper.
I don't look at Sparrow but I can hear him shuffling in the straw. When he speaks his voice is gravelly. "So say that I do betray my own, Commodore. What do I get for my trouble? A pardon?"
I shake my head but still don't dare to look at him, lest those dreadful hungry eyes seek out mine. "You get rum."
The candle dims slightly. It won't last much longer. "One bottle of neat rum." I take the bottle out of my greatcoat pocket. It's safe to look at Sparrow now as his eyes are fixed on the rum.
Nevertheless, it's a long time before he speaks. "There's a watering hole. Small island, more of an inlet, two hundred miles nor' nor' west of Tortuga. Dominated by a giant rock shaped like a…" he thinks for a moment, "…lizard. Hard to miss, really. Natural harbour on the south coast. Literally crawling with pirates."
The minute he mentions a rock shaped as a lizard, I realise he's lying. Moreover, I think he knows that I know he's lying. Even now, twelve hours away from dancing on the end of a rope, he won't betray his fellow pirates.
So there is honour amongst thieves.
I pass the bottle of rum through the bars and he snatches it from my grasp. "Thank you," he gasps before putting the bottle to his cracked lips and taking great gulps of the liquid.
The bottle is nearly a third emptier before he pauses. "You've done me a good turn, Commodore," he says, hauling himself up off the floor and looking directly at me. I can meet his eyes now- the rum had quashed the burning hunger and fear in them and he looks like any drunken pirate awaiting a trip to the gallows. "Now let me tell you something in return."
I shake my head. When I speak my voice is clipped, precise and utterly devoid of emotion. "I'm leaving now, pirate. Try praying for your soul, it'll need it." I make to leave but Sparrow reaches through the bars and grasps the lapels of my heavy greatcoat.
I panic slightly, wondering if this man has a razor hidden somewhere with which to cut my throat. "Let me go," I gasp. Instead, he drags me closer.
"You're not like them," he says. "You think you're immortal but you're not. You have an Achilles' heel; the Greek sin…"
"What do you mean?" I demand, even as I recoil from the heady scent of rum on his breath. For God's sake, why am I listening to a half-drunk pirate talking in metaphors?
"Just words," he replies and I know he's toying with me. "What makes you think that words have meanings?"
The candle dies out with a violent flicker and we're plunged into darkness.
"Not afraid of the dark, are you?" he says, huskily, his breath tickling my cheek.
"Let me go, Sparrow!" I know he's stronger than me and have stopped struggling.
He doesn't reply immediately and for a moment my ears are fixed upon the sound of driving rain and howling wind. Then softly he whispers in my ear. "Pirates have a duty, Commodore. A duty to keep to the Pirate Code; to abandon those that fall behind. Nobody will rescue me tomorrow because I've fallen behind. But I still have a duty. You and me both know that I was lying before. There is no lizard shaped island. A pirate doesn't betray another pirate: so there's honour in piracy, don't suppose that ever occurred to you before, eh?"
He stops for a moment and takes another swig of rum. I start to struggle again while he's only holding me with one hand but he's unbelievably strong. "Aside from the honour thing, though. I'm left with just one more duty." My muscles tense as I prepare to jerk free. He's going to kill me, I'm sure. He laughs manically. "To corrupt society wherever possible!"
I relax. "And how do you suppose you are going to corrupt me, Sparrow?"
He kisses me. It happens in a split-second; his lips are suddenly pressed against mine, hard and bruising. In my horror, I open my mouth to cry out but a greedy, snaking tongue dives in and stifles my cry.
Then a second later its over. He releases me and I hear him (for I still can't see a thing) move to the other side of his cell. I stand stock-still for perhaps ten seconds, too shocked to move. "You kissed me!" I cry in indignation. "What on earth do you think you-"?
I retreat up the stone steps and out of the cells, slipping twice in the darkness.
I plunge out into the hot night, to be drenched by the warm rain. The guard pays me no attention: I've tipped him a gold coin; he'll not speak.