“Escape with the Booty and Our Lives”
“What do you mean you can’t pry the lid open?”
“It’s locked, captain.”
“You said that already! Pick the lock then. Fuck it! Never mind. We need to take it anyway. Heave ho!”
Two of Flynt’s men bent low on either side of the wooden chest banded with dark, cold iron.
“Put your backs in to it, flea bites. Heave. Ho!” Flynt commanded, wrapping his drawn saber against the chest. The tip hit one of the iron bands. Cling-clang cling-clang.
Both of the men strained. Lips pealed back from teeth clamped tightly. Eyes shut tightly to slits. Muscles pulling taught, veins standing out like thick cords. Sweat pouring off their faces, digging out runnels in their filthy, dust caked flesh. Flynt could smell the salt coming off their bodies, a tang to their bodies’ stink. These two sailors were whip-thin, more spit and gristle from a life on the seas, nimble as spiders to climb the rigging, strong enough to haul up anchor, but whatever was in the chest weighed more than an anchor meant to moor a ship.
Flynt wet his chapped lips and wiped his own sweat from his brow with his coat’s sleeve. Riches awaited in that chest. He could feel it in his bones.
Try as they might, his two men could not lift the chest. While this was encouraging–gold, silver, gems weighed heavy any trunk or chest, not papers and books–Flynt couldn’t reap the spoils of this captured ship if his men couldn’t transfer the chest to the Black Luck.
Teeth grinding, Flynt moved from wrapping out a steady rhythm on the chest’s iron to hitting both of the straining sailors ready to pop out of their skins. The sailors threw themselves on to the chest. Their bodies heaving laboriously, chests ballooning to greedily suck in air to their shriveled lungs.
Snatching his tricorn hat from his head–the hat had seen better days, sweat and salt stained, edges tattered, trim turned from gold to piss yellow–Flynt swiped at the resting sailors. The men cowered. They threw their arms over their faces to protect themselves from the leather hat’s whipping.
“Sorry, captain,” Lefty said between breaths, “she’s just too heavy. Whatever’s in her is mighty.”
Flynt leaned into Lefty to whisper. “That’s why I want it, flea bite. Now… Lift! Both ya!”
He slapped Lefty with his hat, growling for him and his mate to hurry. “Don’t stop till you pop outtcha skins. Lazy curs.”
Try as Lefty and the other might, they could not lift the chest more than an inch.
Hat still in hand, Flynt slapped his thigh, turned about, and stormed to the cabin door. With a great kick he shoved the door out. The door banged open. Sunlight blared into the cabin. Flynt throw up an arm to shield his eyes. He could see the battle his men were fighting on the Sweet Rose’s deck, but heard to the fury. The sound of battle burst into the captain’s quarters. Steel ringing. Boots stomping. Men screaming as they died. Shouting in triumph after the wet thunk of steel slicing through flesh. Since the Black Luck’s crew had boarded the Sweet Rose, the cannons had not fired another shot. Still. Flynt dragged in the acrid stench of black powder that clogged the hot, humid air of the summer.
Hands cupped over his mouth, Flynt shouted. “I needs Arms! Swing ’em muscles this way!”
The raggedy clothes of Flynt’s men clashed against Her Majesty’s boy’s blue and gold. That chaos parted for the largest man Flynt had ever laid eyes on. More thick muscled arms than anything, thick carpet of dark hair along his arms, hands, and knuckles; legs impossibly tiny to support such a frame; torso thickly stretching a faded blue shirt, dark chest hair poking out; head a small cannon ball atop wide shelf of shoulders, his hat tiny and barely fitting. He bore no pistols in his sash belt. Carried no sabers. Only his arms were his weapons.
Several blue uniformed sailors rushed the large pirate striding toward Flynt and the captain’s cabin. The large pirate batted each away with his trunk-like arms, two swinging trees felling the humans away that would chop them down. One sailor screamed as the large pirate struck him, sending him over the railing to the sea below. Another shoved a pistol in the large pirate’s face, pulled the trigger. And although the pirate was large, he dodged the round, grabbed the offending sailor by the wrist and twisted. The sailor cried out. Bone sprouted from the wrist, the hand going limp, blood drenching the coat cuff. The final two sailors who’d braved to bar the the large pirate’s path stopped in their tracks, glanced at each other, and picked two of Flynt’s other pirates to duel.
Compared to Flynt himself, the large pirate was more than large. He was a giant.
Flynt grinned crookedly at the pirate. “Took you long enough, Arms.”
Arms grunted around a thick black beard. He never said much. Didn’t need to. Although the lack of a tongue would prevent any desire anyway.
Flynt moved out of the way and Arms ducked into the cabin, crouching past the pirate captain and toward the chest. His two crew mates appeared relieved upon glimpsing Arms. Lefty’s mouth curved up into a cap-toothed smile. He and his exhausted mate climbed tiredly off the chest, backed away, and squeezed past Arms.
“Let’s get this booty and back to the Black Luck,” Flynt ordered.
Arms crouched a little lower–he was almost bent at the knees to keep his head from scrapping the cabin’s low ceiling–grasped the chest by two brass handles on either side and lifted the chest as easily as he would a puppy in his arm. Pressed against his chest, curved top just under his chin, Arms swung around and cocked an expectant, bushy eyebrow at his captain.
Chuckling to himself, Flynt glanced at Lefty and his other sailor. “Draw your blades, flea bites. We be leavin’ now.”
With his own saber still unsheathed, Flynt drew his pistol from his sash belt and then stepped out of the captain’s cabin and into the light of day. Lefty and his other stringy mate just behind, Arms taking up the rear.
They were met by silence. Silence, the long sigh of wind, and the squawking of gulls as they swooped among the unfurled sails of the Sweet Rose. Flynt tasted the bitterness of the wind, carrying the salty tang, naked steel, and blood. He blinked the glare of the sun from his eyes, the momentary blindness from being inside the dim cabin. When he opened his eyes, he saw only blue and gold uniforms. Blue, gold, and glinting of steel pointed at him, ready to slice and cut his flesh. Among Her Majesty’s sailors, Flynt’s ragged pirates lay face deep in their own blood, chests still, fingers limp, hands just out of reach of blades and spent pistols smoking at the muzzles. On the Sweet Rose’s top deck there was not a friendly face.
Behind him, Arms growled and clicked a quick series of unintelligible nonsense that sounded like a question while Lefty and the other remaining pirate on deck bared their own knives and sabers each. Flynt might have thought Lefty and the other ready to die but the slight tinge of urine on the air told Flynt the boys were scared shitless.
Her Majesty’s sailors took several steps forward, closing the noose around Flynt and what remained of his boarding crew.
Flynt turned his face skyward, closed his eyes, drank the warm of the sun, let it flood his skin, burn his eyes. Then he inhaled a deep breath of salty sea air.
Then he faced forward, gave the Empire’s sailors the point of his saber and a wide wolfish grin of challenge. “Till the last man is dead or we are, flea bites!”
Flynt charged. A loud cracking thunk told him Arms had dropped the chest, leaving his arms free to wrench, bash, and fight. The pressure at Flynt’s back assured him the loyalty of his remaining men stood with him in these possibly final moments, Arm’s shadow shading them as they met the Sweet Rose’s crew for one last push.