A Pirate story started for a contest. Deadline long passed, but will finish one day ...
|She sat at a corner table, facing the rest of the room, taking it all in. She had missed Tortuga, and the … let’s say colorful … yes, colorful characters both passing through and calling the island home. The port town, if it can be called that, was more like a string of taverns and brothels really, and because of this there were just as many of those passing through who thought of it as home as there were actual residents. Maybe more.
Not many people, except the men of the sea and the ladies of the night, would feel comfortable there, and even for some of them comfort was debatable. But Charlotte Fairgrey was not daunted by the violence and debauchery that ran rampant in these streets. She grew up at sea, and as the daughter of Captain Fairgrey the Fearless, all Tortuga knew that there was a force to be reckoned with behind her, and she had become virtually untouchable. That is until nearly three months ago.
Charlotte’s parents had loved each other deeply, but her father was gone to sea more than three quarters of each year. Such was the life of a sailor. When she was five, her mother took ill with a fever, and she slipped away one night in her sleep. A friend sent word to Tortuga so that it could be passed to Captain Fairgrey, and he immediately returned to England for his beloved daughter. Faced with the dilemma of whether to raise her with him at sea or to leave her with someone else on land, he chose the former. He knew she needed him more than ever now with her mother gone, and he needed her too.
He taught Charlotte everything about the sea, sailing and life. “Ye must always ‘ave respect fer ‘er,” he would say of the sea, in his best pirate voice “fer she’ll turn on ye in a bloody second if yer not careful.” He always respected her, and in return the sea had awarded him a rather large fortune from his dealings.
When Charlotte was becoming a young woman, he told her she would be sent back to England to receive a formal education as both he and her mother had. “A pirate’s best weapon is his head,” he told her. To her protests at being sent away he replied, “I will not have any daughter of mine depending on a man to provide for her. If you choose to let him, that’s another thing, but you will have the choice.” When she reached eighteen, they said their good-byes and he gave her his pocketwatch as a momento. "So you may think of me at any time of any day, Squid." That was his pet name for her, given for her inky black hair.
Four years later, she was almost finished with school when there was a knock at her door and a note slipped under it. She quickly opened the door, but the messenger was gone. She closed the door again as she opened the note, the contents caused her to fall to her knees. It was from one of the “ladies” in Tortuga, a friend of her father’s (and truly nothing more, Captain Fairgrey was faithful to his wife even after her death), who had looked after Charlotte for him when it was necessary. She was like a big sister.
“My Dearest Charlotte,
There is no easy way to write this, and you know I don’t mince words. Sit down if you’re not already…
Your father has gone to join your mother. I am so sorry, I am writing this even as my own tears are falling because I just found out. I don’t know all of the details, but he was murdered, and I am certain it was for his fortune and control of his contracts. I know it wasn’t his crew though, and I’m sure you do too. His ship has been left in control of his first mate, but his express wishes designate that YOU are to be captain of the “Fair Lady,” and commander of all three ships and his holdings if you so choose. His men will accept you. Patrick had the most loyal crew of pirates there ever was.
You need to get back here, to protect your fortune at the very least. If you wish to leave the ship to the men, that’s up to you, but your father’s treasure, that’s your birthright.
I will gather as much information as I can around here while I await your arrival.
Love always, Rosey”
Charlotte had walked out of her room that minute, taking only a small bag that held her personal items (things that belonged to her mother, a few knives, the usual), the clothes on her back and a hat. It was a good thing she had put on her sailing clothes that afternoon as she often did when she was in her room and missing the sea. She was able to tuck her hair under her hat, smear some dirt on her face and pass herself off as a boy to get hired as a deck hand on the next ship setting out for the Caribbean.
When she came to Rosey’s door a three cornered hat was hanging on the nail – translation: “do not disturb.” Charlotte scratched out “I’m here” on a scrap of paper and stuck it on the nail under the hat. Rosey would know who it was from and where to find her.
Waiting, watching and drinking up all that she had been away from for what seemed a lifetime, Charlotte realized she was home. She resolved that she would take command of her father’s ship, if the men would have her – she was certain they would. They were loyal, as Rosey had said, and most of them had been around so long they were like her brothers. Yes, this was where she belonged.
The waitress brought her another pint, and finally realized who the discreet patron she had been serving was. She had seen Charlotte with her father since she was a little girl and watched her grow up; she had matured so much in the last few years Lisette almost didn't recognize her. “Mon Cherie!” she exclaimed.
“Shhhh,” Charlotte hissed. She tipped up the brim of her hat briefly, “Yes Lisette, it’s me, but I’m trying to lay low.”
“Waiting for the crew?”
“Rosey right now, haven’t had contact with the crew yet.”
“I see, well she has, you can be sure of that. I’ll send her your way when she gets here. In the meantime you had best tuck those lovely curls back under your hat, lest they give you away.”
Charlotte smiled at her friend as she pushed the stray strands back up. Women on this side of the world tended to stay truer to each other than in more civilized places. It was the only way to keep one’s head above water in this man’s sea.
Charlotte checked the time on her father's pocket watch and confirmed that more than two hours had passed since she left the note under the hat. She thought that it seemed too long. Lisette brought her a third drink just before Rosey arrived, and when she did, she caused a stir as always. Cat calls and whistles were thrown at her the moment she opened the door.
“Avast ye currs! Crawl back under ye barrel of ale, I’ve matters of importance to see to.” The tall, red haired woman elbowed her way through the crowd, slapping away hands that would pull her to their owners’ laps. One, not so willing to let go set her on a tear, “Unhand me this instant kind sir,” she smiled as she pulled back her cloak to reveal her weapon, “lest I need dirty my sword running ye through!”
The half wit drunkard raised both hands to show surrender, “I…I…”
“Ye didn’t mean any ‘arm, I know. Next time there be no warnin’.”
The mob turned back to their drink, and Rosey arrived at Charlotte’s table, tankard in hand. “I would hug you, but not here. I'm sorry you waited so long, suppose it was too dark is why you didn't notice. We’ll finish our drink and go to my place to talk.”
"I put out your father's hat ..."
" ... so I would know you were waiting for me."
Rosey hung the three cornered hat on her door, and locked it behind them. Then she threw off her cloak and embraced Charlotte. They allowed themselves a moment to share their grief before tending to matters at hand.
“They’ll be expecting you.”
“Whoever is responsible. They’ll watch and wait for you to go after his treasure, and then…”
“Not if I kill them first!” Charlotte was angry now. “My father was a good man…”
“Yes, but in doing his good deeds he made bad enemies,” Rosey reminded her. "If it had been the British, it would have been a public execution."
Captain Fairgrey was by trade a merchant and a privateer; he transported raw materials and goods, but also held Letters of Marque to allow him to attack foreign vessels, which he did as they came across his path. He was also a firm believer in the equality of every man and this belief had led him to the path of piracy in Charlotte's early childhood. Not for his own personal gain but in the name of liberating men, women and children stolen from their homes across the Atlantic to be sold into slavery in the new world. In fact, more than half of his crew was made up of freed men who chose to stay with him and help him continue to do his work. Over the course of fifteen years he had freed perhaps thousands, and had kept his side activities out of sight of the British government. Maybe they knew now, maybe not.
“So you think it was one of the slavers then?” Charlotte asked.
“That would be the obvious conclusion, but James and I can’t find out if any of them were here at the time.”
“James?” Charlotte wasn’t familiar with any James among her father’s crew.
“Oh, I forgot you haven’t met him yet. He’s only been on for about two years now I think. Patrick acquired a third ship shortly after you left, and was planning on adding a fourth. He brought James on as First Mate, to prep him for Captain when he was ready to expand. James has done a fine job overseeing all three ships, but has been anxious for you to arrive.”
“Too much for him to handle?”
“He’s just as anxious as we are to find Patrick’s killer, and he thinks you’ll be the one that will draw him out.”
A little chuckle escaped Charlotte, “So he wants to go fishing, using me for bait now does he?”