Chapter 9

It was fairly crowded in the galley not long after dinner, filled with the majority of the deckhands surrounding the table. Cigar and cigarette smoke hung in the air as all eyes focused intently on the three people before them- Ashe and two of the sailors, named Doyle and McGarry respectively. In the center of the table was a particularly large sum of money, well large enough to bet for a few old seadogs with a limited income. Thus far, this game had racked up the most money. Over the past few weeks, Ashe had made a point to challenge whoever among the crew was up to it to small game of poker. It was a surprise to most, seeing as to how she had such little contact with most of those onboard. However, the bigger surprise was to how well she was doing.

Within each player's hands was a small selection of cards. Lumpy served as the dealer and had the crowd of spectators stand far enough away so they couldn't see what the three were holding so they would be less likely to give away any hints. As per usual, Ashe remained well composed. Her facial expression was nigh impossible to read, which allowed her not to tip off her opponents. To the untrained eye, it would seem both Doyle and McGarry were as unreadable as Ashe. However, she was able to discreetly take the occasional glance from her cards to the two to take notice of even the slightest detail of their features. Given how few chips they had left in comparison to Ashe, it was understandable that their confidence was beginning to slip.

She was able to surmise that Doyle was growing more desperate with each hand. Overall, she was actually quite impressed with how he managed to stay in the game. It wasn't entirely luck, she'd admit. Even so, the small drops of sweat forming above his brow became more prominent as his jaw tightened with each glance to the pot. His largest chip was rolling in one of his hands anxiously. McGarry, on the other hand, was like a rock. At least compared to Doyle. Still, Ashe kept him locked in her sights for the smallest sign of emotion. Luckily, she was able to keep her observations to herself.

Stepping into the galley, Preston couldn't help but wonder what the commotion was all about. He missed dinner earlier but had decided to stop by for a small midnight snack and maybe a drink. Adjusting his glasses, he moved a bit closer until he finally caught a glimpse of the game in play at the table. It was a card game, but not one he was familiar with. His father had repeatedly tried to teach him, what with his love of gambling. But Preston never really picked up the knack for it much his father's chagrin. Even so, that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy watching the occasional game or two.

Stepping between Choy, Jack, and Jimmy who were at the front of the crowd, he asked, "What's all this?"

"Poker game," Jimmy replied as his eyes remain locked on the game." Texas Hold 'Em. So far it's down to these three. "

"They got big pot," Choy added in his broken English, "Lot of money."

An indignant scoff caught Preston's attention. Looking behind him was Bruce Baxter who commented begrudgingly, "Damn well should be. Cleaned me out quicker than Lumpy could sell out his own mother."

"Hey, now," Lumpy spoke up in his defense and lifted one of his cleavers. " Never bring up my mum. I don't take kindly to it."

"Now, now, Lumpy," Ashe interjected without looking up. "He's just mad cause his ability to bluff is on par with his acting skills."

A few laughs and chuckles were attempted to be suppressed by the audience, but they failed miserably. Even Preston couldn't help but have a small smile at the rather accurate comparison. Bruce, however, was clearly not amused. Folding his arms across his chest, his jaw tightened, "Now what the hell does that mean."

"Nothing really, " Ashe commented as she took a drag from her cigarette and sipped on the glass of whiskey before her. "Just a little room for improvement is all. Oh, and don't be so defensive."

Bruce straightened up, his brows furrowed, "I'm not being defensive."

"Arms folded across the chest, " she responded. "Obvious tell for someone insecure."

Instantly dropping his arms to his side and stuffing his hands into his pockets Bruce huffed, "Give me a break, that doesn't mean anything!"

"Hands in pockets, " Ashe smirked without missing a beat, "Implies a your secretive, possibly lying. Which means you're just lacking the inclination to communicate."

"That's nonsense, a load of bull." Bruce began to shift his stance uneasily.

"Afraid not, Baxter. Excessive blinking, lips pursed yet accompanied by the occasional modest closed-lip smile to cover the insecurity reflected in your demeanor are pretty spot on," she responded. "Added to your adam's apple jumping like a hyped up rabbit showing a hint of embarrassment and the occasional instant where you scratch your ears to imply a growing lack of confidence and your nostrils flaring displaying your plausible irritation, reading you is easier than a kid's picture book."

With her observations of the flamboyant actor said allowed, it was natural for a few members in the audience to take a closer look at him in an attempt to see if what Ashe was saying was true. Much to her own amusement, it seemed to crawl under Bruce's skin in just the right way.

"Whatever, " Baxter growled and started walking away. "I got better things to do."

"Hope it's practicing your skills for your acting career, " she chuckled, taking a drag. He stopped and gave her a cruel glare. Looking up for the first time, even through her observational rant, she smiled gleefully, "Just friendly advice."

The actor wheeled back around and continued to storm out of the galley, muttered a few insults that revealed just how much of a sailor's mouth he'd inherited from his time on this ship. A few glanced at him as he left but most returned their focus to the game.

"That was a bit harsh, don't you think?" Driscoll said finally.

Giving a dismissive shrug, Ashe replied, "Ah he'll eventually grow a pair and get over it. Not like I said anything untrue. "

"You weren't even looking at him the whole time," he shot back. Jack found himself a little surprised he was defending Baxter of all people, but he didn't retract his opinion.

"No, you just didn't see me looking. Not that I'd need to with him, I must admit. Still amusing. He just needs to learn to take at least a wee bit of criticism with a stronger air of dignity."

"And are you reading us, sweetheart?" Doyle added, his Irish accent mixed with a small ounce of Australian.

"Just as you both are reading me. Difference is I'm just better at it than you," she smiled. She'd let the 'sweetheart' comment slide this once given she is about to play them for all they're worth. "Poker is, by its very nature, more than a game of chance. It's a battle of wits. The key to winning- knowing your opponents better than they do."

"I think you underestimate our card skills," McGarry added, glancing up to Ashe. His accent was similar to Doyle's but it was more prominent. He was in his rough fifties it would seem, his facial features practically shouted veteran sailor. Doyle on the other hand was younger than her, but not by much.

"Quite the opposite. You both simply overestimate yourself," she sighed. McGarry didn't seem much amused, but he stayed quite.

Jimmy smiled as he spoke up, "I dunno Ashe. They're the best players on the ship."

"Then I suggest you get out more," she quipped.

Lumpy cleared his throat, taking the occasional puff at the hand wrapped cigar, "Alright you lot. Final bet. Show your cards."

It was Doyle who was first in the rotation. He was still grasping his highest chip, but in truth he had so few it wouldn't really matter. Taking a deep breath, he glanced from his cards to the to the pile of money before him. He looked back to his chip then lifted his head up to see Ashe staring at him intently. She could see a faint gulp and her eyes seemed to study him like a tiger staring at its prey. Grinding his teeth together, he took a deep breath before finally placing his cards face down.

"Fold," he said in defeat. And he was none too happy about it.

It was McGarry's turn. Looking at his chips to the money, he seemed pensive for a moment before he , too, set his cards down. "Fold," he growled. Groans were heard from the audience.

Finally it was Ashe's turn, and all eyes locked in on her. The anxiety in the crowd was building. Even though they were playing themselves, it didn't mean they weren't free to place their own friendly wages on who would win. Judging from the reaction in the crowd, McGarry was the favorite to win.

A minute passes, the anticipation nearly unbearable. Finally she sighed and rose to her feet. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she showed her hand. The best she had was two pairs of five's. The sight of such a strong bluff on such a poor hand got a surprised reaction from the crowd, most of them were gestures of disappointment. Even her opponents were obviously humiliated they fell for it.

"Very well then," Lumpy said. "And the Lady Luck herself wins again."

Pushing the pile of money to her from the center of the table, she shook her head dismissively. "Nah, that won't be necessary. I don't want it." Both Doyle and McGarry glanced at one another before looking to Ashe.

"But….you won the game," Doyle stated in disbelief.

"Yeah, well, I just have a good poker face," she said modestly. "And let's face it. McGarry could have one easily with his hand. You were pretty close though too."

"And how do you know that, may I ask?" McGarry growled.

"Oh, I cheated," Ashe replied with a care-free shrug and a slap-stick smile. "You had a solid Four-of-a-kind hand of eights with an Ace to boot. And you, Doyle, had a solid Flush."

Both men rose to their feet. McGarry stepped forward threateningly, "You cheated? "

She chuckled in amusement, "Yeah, sorry. Old habits. But kudos to you both. You are quite good at this game. Too bad I'm better."

"But…but how did you-" Doyle started.

"Like I said, old habits," Ashe responded before making her way through the disbelieving crowd. Before leaving, she handed Lumpy a folded piece of paper. He looked from it to her with a quizzical expression. She explained, "That's a record of all the people I played and how much they started with. Would you be so kind to give them back their money." It was hard not to notice the little pep in her state whistling nonchalantly as disappeared around through the door. Bewilderment had taken hold over the crowd. Considering how many bets were made on who one, the issue of who wins any money might become a little debatable. Having served as a mediator, Lumpy took it upon himself to simply divide the pot between Doyle and McGarry. Doyle seemed thoroughly pleased that he was just able to get back what money he lost and then some. McGarry, on the other hand, was hardly pleased with the outcome of events. His eyes were locked on the Ashe as she left. Lumpy cleared his throat to get his attention, which was successful even if all the disgraced sailor did was grab his winnings begrudgingly and storm off through the doorway in a hurry. He made the occasional glance at the men willing to look him in the eye at their own risk, and the gaze he returned was practically daring them to say something, anything. Once he was gone, the crowd soon began to thin out as the fun was over and the sailors on duty went on with their work before they were caught slacking for a simple card game.

Eventually, the only people remaining behind were Jack, Preston, Jimmy, Lumpy, and Choy. The latter two started to straighten up the room as Jimmy gave a short, amused laugh, "Boy, she sure pissed some people off. Especially McGarry. Never seen that guy so mad."

"Being cheating oughta do to that to ya," Jack said in contempt. He clearly thought her cheap tricks didn't exactly speak well for her character, he still couldn't help to be impressed.

"Oh, c'mon," the boy said in her defense," it's not like she took the money. She was just having some fun."

"You think you'd feel the same if she was playing you?" Jack shot back. Jimmy rolled his eyes before turning away and leaving. The writer smirked, "Yeah, didn't think so."

Watching Preston leave, his own facial expression seemed a little lost, "I'm confused. If she didn't play for the money then why bother? For kicks?"

"You'd be surprised what you'd learn from folks playing a good 'ole game of cards," Lumpy spoke up from the kitchen. Both Jack and Preston looked to him, surprised he would have any idea what just happened, before looking to each other.

"I have a feeling what she was doing had little to do with the game at all," Driscoll said cynically. Denham's former assistant expressed a bemused frown as the writer than made his own exit.

"Seems Shakespeare there has a knack for pointing out the obvious," Lumpy mumbled to himself as he cleaned up. Preston returned his gaze to him.

"I don't get it," he confessed, feeling completely lost at what they could possibly be implying.

Choy and Lumpy exchanged an odd look before the china man spoke as he cleaned the tables, "Ashe play game for information, not money. "

"Information on what?" Preston's tone seemed hesitant. What was really going on?

"I suspect we'll be learnin' soon enough," the cook replied. Preston stood there quietly for a few seconds, still as bewildered as ever before shaking his head in utter frustration and leaving. He lost his appetite from…well whatever just happened.

When Preston left the galley, Choy to looked to Lumpy who nodded, "Best go tell the Captain." The small Asian nodded curtly and left the galley to make his way to the wheelhouse, leaving the cook to return to his own duties.

Englehorn lost track as to how many hours he'd been stationed in the wheelhouse of his ship, but it was probably the best place for him to gain a sense of clarity by focusing on his charts and readings. They were lucky to have only had one storm so far, especially since it was a small one. But from the clouds looming on the horizon, he suspected another one was soon to follow. Given how rough the current was becoming, it was likely to be much more hazardous. He hadn't had much contact with the crew except for when the occasional shift changes sent someone to helm the wheel. The most conversation he shared with anyone was with either Ben or Lumpy, and occasionally Choy when it concerned the ape. And even though he hadn't so much as seen Ashe, let alone speak to her, since their last rather heated conversation in the hold, he had stayed true to his word. He'd had her under constant watch by his most trusted men. The Captain's suspicions of her hadn't been confirmed but they certainly hadn't been dismissed. It had been nearly three weeks since Hayes first brought him the news of sabotage, and since he confronted Ashe, there had been no more incidents. However that wasn't enough to label her guilty, but it definitely didn't do much to reflect any innocence.

"Still here," he heard the voice of his First Mate who had just passed through the entrance to the wheelhouse. "You look like you haven't slept in days. Might want to catch a few winks before that storm reaches us."

Rubbing his tired eyes, the Captain knew he was right. His body felt tired, sure, but he had been feeling too anxious to sleep. Aside from the incidents a few weeks ago, this voyage was so far running quite smoothly. But somewhere in his gut, he felt it was just the calm before the proverbial storm. It wouldn't be long until they reached the Cape of Good Hope to restock on a few things and for the men to have some shore leave to relax. They'd stay there for a day or so before making a quick push to this island Kong was supposed to be released on.

Sensing Englehorn's exhaustion, Ben put a hand on his shoulder, "You okay, Captain?"

Shrugging Hayes off dismissively, he shook his head as he stood at the window. Hayes stood behind the wheel, knowing it was best to leave Englehorn to sort out whatever was bothering him.

"It's about Ashe, right?" he noted. Judging from the exasperated glare from Will, he knew he was dead on. "Haven't seen a woman get under your skin this bad since that little spat in Rangoon."

Englehorn sighed irritably, "This is nothing like that. I didn't know she was married."

"It wasn't her husband who shot at you. And who's to say Ashe isn't?" Ben replied with a light laugh. "Not like she couldn't hide that if she wanted to."

The skipper chuckled, "I doubt there's a man alive able to tie that woman down. And even if there would, it sure as hell wouldn't be m-"

A small knock cut his sentence short. Both Ben and Englehorn turned to see Choy standing in the doorway.

"Sorry, Skipper," he interrupted. "You ask what Ashe doing."

"What is it?" he asked. Choy and Lumpy were a few of the men chosen to keep tabs on that woman. It was the only way to make sure what she was up to while on this ship. He made a mistake last time listening to Denham and shutting his crew out from the plan, and that was a mistake he had no intention of repeated. Englehorn stood quietly, listening intently to Choy's account of what occurred in the galley, from everything she said to Baxter to Ashe's confession at cheating. At the end of the story, he looked to Hayes.

"Did you know this?"

His First Mate could only shrug, "Yeah, Jimmy told me before I came up here. So the woman plays card games, big deal."

Looking back to Choy, "Alright, get back to work."

The china man was quick to comply, having fulfilled his duty, leaving Ben and Englehorn alone. The Captain stared pensively at the horizon ahead of them.

"Something wrong?" Hayes asked.

"Seems I'll need to catch some rest at another time," he said with a sigh of irritation. Without looking to his First Mate, the Captain left the bridge within seconds, leaving Hayes to wonder what seemed so important. Englehorn seemed to suspect something amiss concerning that poker game, but he was in no mood to see what drama could possibly come from that.

"This is going to be one hell of long voyage," he said to himself dispiritedly.

The night sky was cloaked with ominous clouds that foretold the severity of the storm to come. Standing at the bow of the ship and leaning against the railing, Ashe lit up another cigarette as she stared down at the waves up heaving from the force of the propellers below. The ship itself was swaying more heavily than usual and the tide was forcing the waves to crash higher and higher the closer they drew to the storm. Some was the sea sprayed a mist of salty water lightly in Ashe's face, but she didn't seem to mind. The mere scent of the ocean was soothing enough to bring her a sense of calm before having to deal with the upcoming tempest. However, as soothing as she felt by the sound of the waves, she still caught the sound of footsteps approaching from behind. The familiar wide stride of the boots told her who was there without her even looking back.

"Been a while, Captain," she said quietly before hearing him come to a stop. "Any problems you care to blame me for?"

"Anything you care to confess?" he replied coolly.

Ashe gave a small amused chuckle as she turned around and leaned against the rail calm as could be with a mischievous grin, "Oh I have many things I should confess. Nothing pertaining to the ship, per say, but definitely a few things that could keep a priest's attention for a few hours at least."

Englehorn refrained from the crooked smile that begged to show on his lips. He walked forward until he was leaning against the railing beside her. Lighting his own cigarette, he looked back at her, "You don't strike me as a deviant."

"Ha, well, I'm sure as hell no angel," she laughed. "I mean, face it. We first met at a rundown bar on the worst neighborhood near the docks. It's not like I don't have my own share of vices."

"Cheating people out of their money one of those vices?" he responded, eyeing her suspiciously.

Returning his gaze, her smile didn't falter, "Oh please, I admitted that I played them for suckers eveb though they'd never realize it. It's not as if I even kept the money."

"An odd act of honesty," Will added, taking a drag from his cigarette.

"It's not like I need the money," she admitted with a shrug. "What am I gonna do? Pay a passing dolphin to bring me the Sunday paper?"

Despite the bitter smirk, Englehorn said with a serious tone, "What are you really playing at?" Ashe glanced at him in confusion. He continued, "You and I both know you were in the game for more than just some clever antic to rile the crew."

"Perceptive, Captain," she commented, impressed. "Seems Choy and Lumpy are keeping you well informed." Now it was Englehorn's turn to look confused, even though he was using that expression to mask the surprise he felt at her accurate deduction. That only seemed to amuse Ashe even more. "Your spies aren't quite as inconspicuous as either you or they claim to be. I know when I'm being watched…well, when it comes to amateurs."

Englehorn held his tongue for a moment to avoid appearing caught. Ashe patted him on the shoulder as she exhaled a small puff of smoke from her lips, "Relax, I'm just more observant than people tend to give me credit for."

"So I've heard," he said.

Ashe was quiet for a moment then sighed, "You're referring to what I said to Baxter."

The Captain nodded, "It appears you upset him with your accusations."

"I'd hardly call what I said to him as an accusation," she chuckled. "He's just easy to read. Most people are, in fact."

"Easy to read?" he asked in curiosity.

Giving a soft shrug, she explained, "People are like books, Englehorn. You read enough over the years and the plots become predictable. How they begin, how the chapters flow, and ultimately how they would likely end. It's not an exact science but it's pretty handy when you want to know what buttons to push and just how much pressure to apply." Offering a sideways glance to him, she smirked.

"And to what end would you make you want to read people?" he pressed.

"Same reason all people would," she answered. "To learn what secrets they hide, to see what drives them. It's the same for you when you try to read me."

"Who says I'm reading you?" the Captain asked with a thin smile.

Ashe rolled her eyes, "You do, of course. If you're not watching my every move then you have one of your lackeys do it for you. I get it, you don't trust me."

Folding his arms across his chest when he felt the cool chill of the wind hit his face, he said, "You haven't exactly given the crew much cause for trust."

"The crew….or you?" she replied. He didn't reply but Ashe had a feeling she was right. Shaking her head slowly, "I'm not here to make friends, Will. I'm here because it's my job."

The look in his eyes practically shouted that he was unconvinced. Looking out at the sea, Ashe thought for a moment before turning back to Englehorn. She couldn't tell him everything. Even if she could, where would she start? What difference would it make? It wasn't a total lie, what she told him. She was here because it was her job. If there was any chance to be free of her old life, this assignment was her one and only ticket out. Truthfully, his lack of trust wasn't entirely without merit. He'd been burned before, and not just by Denham from what she had learned from the files supplied by Cunningham. But this was the life he chose. Honesty wasn't a guarantee afforded to most in this world.

Moments of uneasy quiet passed by before Ashe took a deep breath, "I know you have no reason to trust me. And you shouldn't. I'm not a good person, I won't deny that. I've done a hell of a lot of things I'll never take pride in. But I give you my word, my only intention is to get this ape to that preserve." Taking a deep breath, she had to swallow the bitter taste of the words that followed. "I need you to trust me, Will."

Looking from the sea to the woman standing beside him, the Captain took a few minutes to think before he could respond. Her voice was so adamant in her request. He'd have never taken her for someone so hell bent in nature. It was slightly reminiscent of Denham, so determined to reach Skill Island all those months ago. But there was hint of sincerity in her tone that the director lacked. Finally, he spoke, "I've been down this road before. In the end, my men are the ones who pay the price."

Jaw tightening, Ashe avoided his gaze by looking to the horizon, "Everything has its price." Returning her eyes to the Captain, she continued, "Even putting trust in a stranger who, well let's face it, isn't exactly worthy of much credit."

Exasperated, Englehorn sighed, "You're never going to give me a straight answer, are you? No explanation that isn't marred by holes and half truths." He stepped closer and she saw in his eyes the subtle hint that he was torn emotionally.

Lowering her gaze in a surprising show of humility and disquiet, "I'm telling you only what you need to know. A few weeks ago, you accused me of sabotage. I'm getting to the bottom of it. I know what I'm doing. You have my word, I will make sure this trip goes according to plan. We get the ape to the location and you and your crew will never hear from me ever again."

Before he was offered the chance to comment, Ashe turned and made her way to the staircase leading below deck. So the poker games were just ploys to find out who was behind whoever was meddling with the voyage. How a game of cards could give her information seemed absurd. All he could do was wait and see if Ashe's methods would work. Standing there alone, Englehorn took off his hat and rand his fingers through his hair in exhaustion. That woman was going to be the death of him. He just knew it.

Ashe couldn't remember the last time she felt so frustrated. She was off her game at the worst possible time. Her walk to her cabin was set at a faster pace, hoping like hell that Englehorn wouldn't follow after her, pestering her with his annoying questions and look of contempt. What made it all the more aggravating was the fact that he had every right to do just that. Given the last voyage was based on false promises, only a fool would take a stranger's word at face value. It was just so tiresome to keep defending her own motives over and over again. It was like rereading a single chapter in a book perpetually repeating a single sentence.

Muttering curses in various languages under her breath to ease the tension building in the back of her mind, Ashe turned the next corner to reach her room. As soon as she did, she found herself standing face to face with a very pissed of McGarry glaring. If looks could kill, she'd be six feet under in a heartbeat. Her own pace was so fast, she very nearly ran into the man.

With a surprised half smile, Ashe said, "I didn't expect to see you tonight."

McGarry just stood there, his face as still as stone and just as cold. He stood a good foot higher than she did, and despite his age his own physique was muscular and bulky. She hadn't noticed before, given the smoky atmosphere of the galley during the game, but he had a somewhat faded scar from just below his right here that trailed his jaw line. The faint hint of liquor was evident in his breath.

Still no response after a few moments, she continued shrugged, "Okay, well that's not entirely true, I figured you would want a chat. I was just sorta hoping it wouldn't be so soon."

"You think you're so clever…" he took a step forward, a vein his throat pulsing in a rather obvious sight.

"Well….yeah," she replied with a sheepish short laugh. "Not to brag but-"

She was cut off when his hand lunged for her throat and pinned her against the wall in a lightning fast motion. His hold tightened, making it hard to breath. McGarry kept his grip firm, and she could see in his eyes the desire to see her squirm like a scared mouse caught by a cat.

"Is this… the part where… I get scared?" she managed to say despite the pressure his massive hand was applying. The smirk on her lips wasn't helping, but Ashe was never one to give anyone the pleasure of seeing even an ounce of fear. "I'm... a little rusty at these sort…of confrontations."

"Maybe this will help," he spat. With his spare hand, he pulled a menacing bowie knife from his back pocket, and held it a little too close to her face.

Looking from the tip of the blade to McGarry, "Well….now that I think about it….." She paused for a moment, but the smirk stayed on her face. If anything, it grew bigger, "Nope…sorry. I got nothing." A second passed, and her nose wrinkled, "Though…. I might add a shower might help…"

Pushing her harder against the wall, her attacker's nostrils flared and he put the tip of the blade right on her left cheek, "Think you're funny, do you?"

She replied with a modest shrug, "I've been known….," her speech was a little strained," to crack a few smiles here… and there. Nothing too lively, I admit… but I do have a few good jokes. Like…. a priest and a….rabbi…walk into a bar…and-"

Giving her a sudden and violent jerk, the old sailor growled like a bear who just lost its honey," Shut up, you cocky bitch!"

Holding up her hands in mock defense, Ashe rolled her eyes, "Sheesh, fine. Tsk…bit touchy. You might want…to get a sense of humor….with that shower."

His buttons finally pushed just the way she liked, his temper erupting like an overdue volcano, McGarry snapped. Slinging the blade on the floor, his free hand curled in a fist so tightly that his very knuckles turned white. Reeling his arm back to land what would undoubtedly be unpleasant, Ashe took this opportunity to see just how out of practice she was. Applying pressure to the arm pinning her so firmly against the wall merely with the tips of her fingers, her eyes flashed as the combination of adrenaline and exhilaration took complete control. Finding just the right nerves that the muscles in his arm rely on at this moment, the force she used allowed the constraint he possessed to loosen just enough to allow her to sidestep what would undoubtedly be a unpleasant blow. The momentum in his swing was powerful, where her face was just a half a second earlier, his fist went through the very wall. Her ear just a hairline from his fist, she heard the cracking of both wood and bone.

Regardless of the damage done to his hand, McGarry did little more than snarl before he pulled his bloodied fist from the wall. Regaining his footing, he was taken aback by the agility she displayed as another strike landed nothing but air. Without even the slightest change in her surprisingly calm composure, she evaded another attempted blow with such fluid grace, it was as if she moved like the water of a stream. The old sailor grew more enraged by the moment. Taking note of his growing lack of patience, Ashe couldn't help but find this little scuffle amusing. Well, maybe scuffle was too strong a word. It seemed more like a tantrum.

"Careful there, McGarry," she mockingly chided, "That little temper of yours is costing you more than you realize."

The animal in him was taking over. He lunged for her with such speed; his body could practically crush her much smaller frame if she were any slower. Luckily, it was, in fact, his size was his greatest weakness. After dodging his charge, in less than a second she landed a strong round kick to the back of his knee which resulted in a very loud crack of what she knew was his patella. A gasp of pain escaped from McGarry's lips but he still stands. Wheeling about he swung his fist, but failed to land yet another blow. Like a blur, Ashe took a firm grip on his outstretched arm with ease and pinned it against his back. The tables turned, she forced his shaking bulk of a body against the very wall he had her against only moments ago.

He struggled like a worm on a hook, but Ashe's grip remained as tight as a vice. With an irritated sigh, she warned, "You keep squirming like a flailing fish, and I will break your fingers, one by one."

Personally, Ashe didn't want to break the old guy's arm. For one, crippling one of his crew wouldn't earn her any brownie points with the Captain. In fact, it would just be one more lovely reason for him to chew her ass out. McGarry, however, had little interest in her reasons for restraint, as was evident in his blatant refusal at her request.

Rolling her eyes, she took a deep breath, "Have it your way."

Immediately, another crack sounded, and McGarry let out a muffled yell between his gritted teeth, "You goddamn bitch! Who the hell are you!"

"Tsk, tsk, McGarry," Ashe warned. "I find name calling a little immature. "

"Let me go! I'll bloody kill you!" He struggled more, but Ashe only slammed him harder into the wall with enough force it cracked the wooden panel.

"You know we really need to work on your impulse control," she sighed. "Now, you listen." His jaw clenched, but he said nothing and stopped moving as much. She continued, "Now, I apologize if my little game upset you. Nothing personal, but I needed information. And the answers I seek aren't going to be given with a simple, polite question."

"What the hell are you talking about?" He asked as he gradually calmed down. "What information?"

"Just a little inquiry," she replied. "And I think I've learned what I needed. Now, if you can behave, I am going to release you. Can you be a good boy and be civil? I'd hate to break more bones, but I'm really not that nice of a person so take my advice and don't test me. Do you under-"

She was cut off by a familiar voice from behind that did not sound the least bit happy, "What in the hell is going on here?"

Ashe paused, yet McGarry remained pin. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the Captain and Choy standing there. The Captain's face was absolutely livid. Choy stood behind him, his eyes averting her own, telling her it was he who must have got Englehorn. She was so focused on McGarry, she completely overlooked the fact that someone might have been watching. But she was a tad bit too preoccupied to worry about the chance for onlookers

A few uneasy seconds of silence passed, Ashe turned her face back to McGarry. With a hint of irritation in her voice, she released her hold and stepped back. Her attacker kept his less injured hand on the wall to balance himself. Turning around, she then explained, "Just clearing the air, Cap'n. Nothing to worry yourself over."

The Captain's gaze ventured from an exhausted McGarry, to the hole in wall on one side of the hallway, the crack in the opposite wall, and then to the knife on the ground before his feet. Finally, his eyes rested on Ashe.

"Ashe, can I see you in the wheelhouse," By his tone, it wasn't exactly a request. Rolling her eyes, she walked down the hall towards the stairs leading to the deck. When she was out of sight, Englehorn shot a cool glare back to McGarry.

"We'll discuss this later, "he then said. His tone was no different with the sailor than with Ashe. Judging by the expression on McGarry's face, it was evident the sailor wasn't looking forward to getting his ass chewed out by the Captain. Turning around, Englehorn left in the same direction as Ashe. Choy looked nervously to McGarry before scurrying away quickly.

Englehorn made his way up to the deck and climbed the stairs leading to the wheelhouse. Once he was inside the bridge, he looked from Ashe who was leaned against the door frame to Hayes who was standing at the steering wheel.

"Mr. Hayes, I need the room for a few minutes," he said. His First Mate recognized the severity of his voice and looked from the Captain to Ashe curiously.

Ashe returned his gaze and shrugged but said nothing. Ben nodded shortly and left the two alone. She was purposely keeping her eyes focused on anything but Englehorn who she could feel looking at her with more murder in his expression than McGarry. She assumed he was trying to find out where to begin, given his frustrated paciing back and forth until he finally game to a stop.

"So...when do you start with the yelling?" she asked, finally facing him. His jaw tightened but she continued, "I just need to know at what point I tune you out."

Her lighthearted voice seemed to do little cooling his temper, "Is this all a damn joke to you?"

Biting her lip, she rolled her head to pop her neck in exhaustion. This night was getting better and better.