The only people I own are the names you do not recognise from the film(s). I don't even own Celia Hammond!
Okay, okay, so I've had this hanging around for two weeks but haven't got around to uploading yet – so sue me! It's a very short chapter, just to bring things up to speed.
Who's seen the film yet? Tis great! Totally screws up everyone stories with various happenings, but great nonetheless!
Celia looked up from the chair on the porch, smiling to herself at the antics of five-year-old Milly, and Connor, who had not long celebrated his second birthday. "Be careful of the nettles," she warned, knowing her son's penchant for grabbing hold of anything in the ground and pulling it out, which had resulted in many a stung hand and much wailing.
"I'll make sure he doesn't go near them" Milly grinned, picking her brother up and hoisting him over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes, spinning around and making them both shriek with laughter.
Celia shook her head ruefully and carried on with her sewing, leaving her two children to amuse themselves, but glancing up again as she heard horses hooves approaching their home. Her stomach lurched when she recognised the captain of the merchant vessel on which Oliver served and she bit her lip as she placed the sewing on a nearby table. "Milly, take Con inside."
"Mistress Fernan," the man nodded as he climbed down from his steed and watched the two protesting children go inside the house. Although she and Oliver had never married, the townsfolk of Cockburn always referred to Celia as Mistress Fernan.
"Captain Baker," she greeted, wringing her hands. "What's wrong?"
"I'm so sorry, lass – there was a storm…"
"No!" Celia gasped. "No…" She rocked to and fro in the chair, covering her face with her hands as she struggled to comprehend the awful news. "He can't be…"
"I lost five men that day, all washed overboard."
"But… why wasn't he lashed to the helm?" she wailed. "He always lashes himself on when the weather is bad."
"He had, as far as I know," the captain shrugged. "But the storm… it was bad – as bad as any I can remember."
"Oh, dear Lord," Celia sobbed, rocking harder and fighting the urge to be sick. "Oh, Oliver…"
"Here's some recompense for you," he stated, placing a leather pouch on the table beside her. "I'm sorry, Mistress, Mouse was a damned good man."
"T-thank you," she managed to gulp, snatching the pouch and hurrying indoors, sinking down the door as she closed it.
"Mama…? Mama, is Papa dead?"
"Y-yes, M-Milly," Celia sobbed, wrapping her arms around herself and keening loudly.
'What am I going to do?' Celia wondered for the umpteenth time since hearing the news of Oliver's death the previous day. 'I know there is the stash, but how long will that last?' she worried, gently rubbing her stomach. 'Oh, Oliver,' she lamented as she stared up at the ceiling from her bed. 'You never even knew about this one…' Celia froze upon hearing a noise outside and pulled back the curtain carefully, stifling a cry of alarm as she spotted two figures approaching the house.
"Milly, Connor!" she hissed as she fled the bedroom and all but dived into the children's room. "We must go and you must be quiet."
"Why, Mama?" Milly murmured sleepily, rubbing her eyes.
"Because I said so!" Celia grabbed both children and yanked them from their respective cots, ushering them into her room and shaking with fear as she heard men's voices outside.
"You see what's what, an' I'll go an' pay me respects ter th'widow," a harsh, ugly voice sniggered.
"What about my respects?" another voice put in petulantly.
"You can pay 'em after I have, all right?"
"Quickly," Celia urged. "Out of the window."
"Milly, listen to me. We are in danger and it is very important that you both do as I say, all right?"
"All right, Mama," the little girl nodded gravely as she climbed onto her parent's bed and hoisted the window open while Celia fashioned a sling for Connor.
"Be careful," Celia fretted, as her daughter started to climb down, using the rough stonework of the house for foot and hand holds. 'At least she has her father's sure feet…' "Here…" She tied to sling around a protesting Connor and lowered him as quickly as she dared, before Milly had even reached the ground. Celia yelped with fright as she heard the man climbing the stairs getting closer, and instinctively grabbed a pistol which Oliver had insisted on teaching her how to use, 'just in case…' Celia gulped as she heard his voice in her head but shook herself, focusing back on priming the pistol and cocking it, then aimed it at the door with both hands clasped around the butt.
"Mama?" came Milly's voice from outside. "Are you coming?"
"Hide, Milly – and make sure you don't make a noise," she urged her daughter, never taking her eyes off the door and trying to still her violently trembling hands. "Leave," she hissed as a large, pock marked man pushed open the door to her room and entered it, checking as he saw a curvaceous blonde woman pointing a pistol straight at him.
"Yer don't know how ter use that," he mocked, taking a step forward and chuckling as she backed away.
"I-I do… m-my husband taught me how to u-use it," she stammered.
"Oi, Pete!" came the other man's voice from down the stairs. "Ya want ter see what I've discovered…"
"Aye?" Pete growled quietly. "Well yer want ter see what I've discovered…" he grinned coldly.
"L-leave me a-alone…"
"Oh, I will, after I've had me bit of fun with yer - maybe sometime tomorrow, eh?"
Celia's heart lurched on hearing Connor calling for her, making her aim waiver and her aggressor wasted no time in closing the gap between them until he was merely a few feet away.
"Put that down an' co-operate, an' yer nipper won't get hurt, eh?" he sneered, reaching out for her.
"No!" she cried, finding herself falling backwards, wondering what the loud explosion was, gasping as she glimpsed the man, also falling, with a shocked look on his face. "Oh…" she gasped, dropping the spent pistol and scrambling on to her knees as soon as she hit the floor. "Oh, Lord…"
"Pete? What th'hell's goin' on up there?"
Celia looked horrified towards the door as the heavy boots of the second man ran up the stairs and she fleetingly wondered if she'd had time to re-prime the pistol, realising in the same second that she wouldn't.
"Pete… fuckin' hell!" he swore, looking from his dead friend to the woman kneeling beneath the window. "Christ – I want no part of this! We were only meant ter rob yer…" He turned tail and fled back down the stair for all he was worth, leaving Celia crying and shaking in her room.
"Oh, God, Milly! Don't come in!" Celia shrieked, jumping to her feet and flying across the room to the door to prevent either of her children seeing the horror within. "I told you to hide!" she scolded, terror and anguish sharpening her tongue.
"I-I was frightened, Mama…" Milly wailed. "And Connor wouldn't come with me…"
"Oh, hush, my child," her mother cooed, scooping them both into her arms. "Hush, now… it's all over."
"W-will they h-hurt us?"
"No, they won't hurt us, Milly," Celia assured her young daughter, nuzzling her neck. "Come on, let us go downstairs and I'd do us a nice warm drink of milk, hmm?" she said in an effort to reassure the frightened girl. Celia released Milly and took her hand, leading her downstairs whilst carrying a sleepy Connor in her arms. A feeling of nausea swept over her as she saw a gaping hole in the wall, revealing the hiding place of her and Oliver's valuables and she felt fresh tears spring to her eyes. "Oh no…" she wailed, sinking to her knees in despair.
"Don't cry, Mama," Milly consoled, patting her mother's arm then wandering over to the hole and using a chair to climb up and reach inside.
"I-is there anything there?" Celia enquired hesitantly.
"No… wait! I've found something!" the girl cried excitedly, pulling out a leather pouch and jumping down from the chair to take it to her mother. "Look!"
"So you have," Celia smiled wanly, hugging her daughter to her. 'That will never last us – what am I going to do?' she wondered for the second time that night. 'I'll go to the authorities at first light… but what if they don't believe it was self defence? What if they… hang me as a murdress? What would happen to the children? Oh, Lord, we must leave! But where to? I only know here and… Tortuga…'
She sat on the floor for some time, chewing her lip and cuddling her children close to her as she tried to work out what to do for the best, each solution offering up its own set of problems. 'I can't go back and face Jack, not after what I did – but I did give birth to his daughter… and that was one of the reasons I fled. But if I stay I run the risk of not being believed and hanged, or at best, bonded and sent heaven knows where – what of Milly and Connor then, not to mention my unborn child… what's the worst Jack could do? He's not a vicious man, nor vindictive… I hope. Oh, Lord, help me,' she pleaded silently, sighing with resignation.
Celia gingerly got up from where she was sitting, careful not to wake the two sleeping children, and she crept back up the stairs, her heart pounding with the knowledge that she would have to go back into her bedroom. She stopped outside the door and took several deep breaths before pushing it open, trying hard to avoid looking at the body on the floor as she stepped over it to reach the wardrobe to retrieve some of her clothes and a pair of boots and a pair of shoes from within. Celia glanced around the room, her eyes resting on a small painting of Oliver which had been done at a fair in Cockburn Town that Spring, and she had had it framed and hung it on the wall by their bed so she could say goodnight to him when he was at sea. 'I wish I could have loved you as you loved me,' she lamented as she took it from the wall and carefully took the parchment out of the frame and rolled it, making a mental note to wrap it in some oilskin to keep it waterproof. With a last look around the room, Celia stepped back over her dead assailant and closed the door.
"Tortuga? What's a respectable woman like yer wantin' ter go ter Tortuga for, eh?"
Celia blanched as the captain of a fishing vessel leaned towards her as he spoke, his breath reeking of rum and his clothes of fish. "That's my business," she declared. "Would you be prepared to take passengers?"
"Ain't got no room for yer, have I?" he cackled, showing a toothless grin. "Try the Urchin up the other end of the wharf. "Mercer could do with the extra dosh."
"Thank you," Celia smiled, picking up the knapsack containing what clothing of hers and the children's she could carry, along with food and the picture of Oliver, safely wrapped in oilskin, and ushering the two youngsters along the wharf, hoping that she would find a berth to Tortuga that day. She knew she had some leeway, as the sewing she had taken in was not due to be returned for another three days and no other visitors were expected before then. She stopped when she reached the sloop and looked for signs of life on board. "Ahoy, there!"
"Ya wantin' someone?" came a voice from behind her, and Celia whirled around, forcing a smile as she faced a bald, stocky man who was eyeing her appreciatively.
"I-I'm looking for the captain…"
"An' yer've found 'im," the man smiled charmingly, but which sent a shiver down Celia's spine. "What can I do fer ya?"
"I wish to sail to Tortuga – do you take passengers?"
"Tortuga…? Passengers…? Who would I be takin'? Not yer an' th'nippers, surely?"
"Yes, I have… friends there and I wish to visit them."
"I see… how much ya got?"
"S-seven guineas," she lied, hoping to keep the remaining five in case she needed it.
"Seven? Fer th'three of ya? Seven's fine if ya don't want ter eat anythin'."
"Just for passage? I don't think so!" Celia declared, picking up the sack and making as if to walk away.
"Ain't no one else will take ya ter Tortuga, not since th'battle," the captain of the Urchin taunted.
"Battle?" Celia echoed, whirring back around and staring at him wide eyed. "What battle?"
"Th'one a few months ago, some pirate wanted ter take control of Tortuga an' Penhallick didn't want him ter…" He cocked his head to one side and regarded Celia with cool eyes. "Yer'll be wantin' ter check yer friends are safe, eh?"
'This is not a good idea… but where else can I go?' "Who is in charge of Tortuga now?"
"Dunno," he shrugged, unconcerned. "So ya can't afford more than seven guineas fer passage an' meals, hmm? There are other ways of payin' fer ya passage…"
"Wha…? Oh… I see… h-how much would passage be with food provided?"
"More than yer can afford, I'll warrant," he sneered. "Take it or leave it…"
'If I say I have twelve guineas, he'll demand that and I'll be left with nothing… but I would have to… give myself to him…' she shuddered involuntarily. "A-all right," she whispered, having no other option. "I-I agree your terms – but your word that myself and my children will not be harmed in any way."
"You have my word," Charlie Mercer grinned coldly. "We sail in two hours."