Commodore Norrington threw the letter down in disgust. Yet another bureaucratic functionary at Admiralty inquiring, with veiled but biting sarcasm, as to why, exactly, the notorious Captain Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl had not yet been laid by the heels. Naval incompetence was implied.
During their meetings (too rare on the one hand and imprudently frequent on the other) Jack took good care never to tell him the precise whereabouts of the Pearl, and James was just as careful not to ask. Nevertheless…
Norrington sprang up and paced his office, scowling. Gah. The situation was untenable.
Gillette stood on the Fury's deck, quivering with wrath, in a spreading pool of sea-water. The ruffians surrounding him snickered, jeering. "Not so fine now, eh, Captain?"
Pitched over the side when the attackers rammed his ship, he'd ended up here, his wig, coat and shoes gone. They'd taken his sword.
The crew parted. To his horror, Gillette found himself facing a woman.
She looked him up and down, her glance lewd. "I like a ginger man, now and again," she grinned. "Should I keep him? No?" The crew roared with laughter and, at her signal, tossed him back overboard.
Back in his office, Norrington stood at the window, staring out at the bay, the sea beyond… the black ship flying downwind, all sails set.
There was work awaiting him, preparations for pursuit to be made, but first he would permit himself the indulgence of a moment's reflection. His lip curled. Self-pity by another name.
The fact of her choice had not surprised him; he'd known where her heart lay when he'd accepted her hand. But the manner of it had stung. So public, so unequivocal, so… cruel; the cruelty of impetuous youth. He felt, suddenly, a hundred years old.
Ragetti looked at the tiny bundle of rags, bewildered. "For me?" he asked again.
Pintel huffed an exasperated sigh. "Didn't I just say so? Open it, you bloody great idiot."
"Alright, alright, no need to be that way," Ragetti replied, working at the knots that held the thing together.
"Don't drop it. Be careful," Pintel exclaimed, hands twitching as if he wanted to unwrap it himself.
Ragetti gaped as the last rag fell away to reveal a glass eye, staring up at him. "Oh, mate," he breathed, "I dunno what to say."
"You like it?"
"You shouldn't have," Ragetti beamed.
Elizabeth rocked the cradle with one toe as she stitched, humming under her breath. The fire sent red dancing gleams into the room, but she sat in a golden circle cast by branch of working candles. She moved a screen to keep the light from the baby and sewed on.
Jack lay stretched on the sofa, sound asleep, snoring. He'd arrived after supper, pockets full of gifts and a dozen fresh tales to tell.
Will sat at her feet, against her knees, gazing into the fire with dreams in his eyes. She touched his hair; he looked up and smiled.
They had drunk, to be sure, a great deal of rum the night before. Ignoring the pounding in his head, Jack dipped the tiny brush into the ink and continued his careful work, limning a very passable likeness of the Black Pearl on the living canvas of James's back.
Finished, he sat back admiring the view; grinning as a brilliant notion occurred.
No, he mustn't.
Giving in to temptation with, it must be admitted, very little struggle, he signed his drawing with a flourish. "Property of" on the left cheek, and "Captain Jack Sparrow" on the right.
James slumbered on.
Will slid to a stop at the bottom of the muddy slope. The sounds of their pursuit were growing closer, and Jack yanked Will to his feet and flung him forward.
"Go, go!" he urged, breathless with exertion or exhilaration--Will could not say which.
They ran through a dense thicket of broad-leafed trees, cut across the corner of a cane field, and stumbled to a halt on a craggy ledge.
"I don't know how I let you talk me into this," Will panted, pulling several twigs from his hair.
Jack grinned, teeth gleaming in his mud-smeared face. "I do."