'The Voyage of the Amazon'

by Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Joanna Clayton is Captain of her own pirate ship the 'Amazon', accompanied by her sweetheart Sandy Parker. Time, 171-; Place, the Caribbean Sea and Spanish Main. They set out on a long voyage round the environs of the Caribbean Sea, various island chains, and the Spanish Main—be warned, several nasty things happen in this episode.

Disclaimer:— Copyright ©2023 Phineas Redux. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Caution:— There is some swearing in this story; they are pitiless pirates, y'know.

—O—

Having spent most of the morning beating out of the harbor at Cayona, Tortuga, against a strong headwind, the barque Amazon now ran somewhat erratically over the short waves heading for the mouth of the Windward Passage separating Cuba from Hispaniola; this presenting, to the pirate ship, the entrance to the fabled Caribbean Sea and Spanish Main.

Joanna Clayton, Captain of the group of pirates, stood on her quarterdeck shouting orders to Thompson, Quartermaster, high on the mainmast below the royals; whilst her partner Sandy Parker stood on the foredeck doing a similar duty for the Bosun high on the foremast.

"Avast sleeting the guy pendents an' falls, thar!" Joanna's deep contralto voice carrying strongly high overhead. "Thompson! Get those dam' topsail horses ironed out!"

"Aye-aye, ma'am!"

"Foster!" Sandy equally attentive to the needs of the ship. "What the dam' are ye doin' with those bloody upper haliards? Knitting a jersey? Trice that dam' main yard tackle, if ye pleases!"

"Aye-aye, ma'am!"

"Thompson!" From Joanna, already on another tack.

"Aye, ma'am?"

"Get yer men up there t'tie-off those bloody fore jeers, at your convenience!"

"Aye-aye, ma'am!"

"Foster!" Sandy having a difficult morning herself. "Haul back those dam' topsail yard horses an' stirrups, if ye pleases!"

"Aye-aye, ma'am!"

"Thompson!" Joanna spotting another anomaly needing instant attention. "Brace those topsail lifts, whenever!"

"Aye-aye, ma'am!"

"Foster!" Sandy never taking fools for granted. "What for ye've let those dam' topsail reef tackle pendents sag amongst the sheets? Get 'em triced an' handy at once, dam'mit!"

"Aye-aye, ma'am!"

And so the usual roster of the day's work unfolded on the tightly run barque; the officers, if such could be so-called on a pirate ship, doing their best to foresee disaster and the crew their best to follow instructions and so delay if not forestall said disasters altogether. The fact the easterly breeze was increasing with every turn of the glass not helping matters along to any degree. The unassailable fact, also, that this eastering wind meant the ship close-hauling its sails tightly to sail against the wind by tacking lengthily across the body of the ocean, hoping wildly not to fall in irons on each turn, also meant that the Amazon made long sweeps for little advance in course; but such is sailing one way when the breeze inexorably maintains its right to blow in the opposite direction.

At the turn of the next glass Joanna, accepting Fate and the sight of Great Inagua lying entirely in the wrong direction dark and dormant on the far horizon, gave up the unequal struggle.

"Thompson, down here, as ye will! Sandy! Here, gal!"

As the ship slid across the seas, at a fine angle caused by its close-hauling, her Lieutenants arrived on the quarterdeck beside her, all leaning heavily to keep an approximation of upright attitude; but they were all well used to this needed exigency.

"It ain't no good, we'll have'ta haul round an' head fer the Mona Passage." Joanna making clear her change of plans. "If we stay on this tack it'll be dam' next year a'fore we make the Windward!"

"Yeah! That's fer sure, lover." Sandy of the same mind, gasping for breath after her late exertions. "Change of destination, then?"

"We'll head fer Montserrat; the British forces'll be ensconced in St. Kitts an' Nevis further north, leaves us a clear field t'scour the island fer loot. Then we'll head round the outlying islands, taking vessels as we comes across same. Might do fairly well, this time o'yar."

"It's a plan, let's do so!" Sandy, at least, eager for the coming fray.

So, with a dicey maneouvre that did indeed almost set the vessel in irons as it hauled round on its new course, the Amazon let the recalcitrant breeze fill its sails from the rear, heading westward for the Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.

—O—

The island of Montserrat lay almost exactly on a north-south line, its most obvious feature the huge Soufrière volcano in the south dominating that whole section of the island, including nearby Plymouth with its harbor. Lying-off some two leagues or so the Amazon sat quietly on the smooth sea while Joana and Sandy took stock of their quarry.

"We head into the harbor, haul up at the quay, take the Main Street by force and ravage what we can from the merchants shops; their own houses, if in range, we can go through at our leisure. Give ourselves, say, two meb'be three hours, an' return t'the Amazon with our loot."

"What about soldiers?" Sandy always with an eye for the unsavory. "The military? Are they present in any force, d'ya know?"

"Sent a spyin' party there two months since, y'recall, gal! They came back with the news there wasn't more'n a citizen militia at best."

"Yeah, that's true." Sandy nodding happily. "They won't stand against us t'any extent. Looks like it's gon'na be a good day. Shall we raise the Black Flag as we go in?"

"Nah, that'd just give 'em a chance t'form some sort'a defence; I wan'na fall on 'em with overall surprise, not let anyone hold us back effectually."

"With ya, babe! That dam' volcano ain't gon'na blow while we're about our business, is it?"

"Nah, been dormant fer years."

Sandy pursed doubtful lips at this.

"With all that smoke, like a dam' chimney on fire? I don't think so."

"Be brave, little woman!" Joanna laughing at her partner's expression. "It may be smokin', but it's still asleep, believe me!"

Shrugging unconvinced shoulders Sandy turned to get ready for the coming fray. Now, when a party of pirates raided a small undefended town or village the usual method, as has been outlined, was to arrive unexpectedly with the utmost amount of surprise, yell like demons newly released from Hell, and shoot anyone at all who came within range of small-arms or slit them apart with daggers or swords, just to show the visitors' intentions and hinder any opposition.

So, half an hour later, the small community of Plymouth resounded to the screams and howls of victims whose last moments had unexpectedly arrived unannounced, those fleeing from pirates intent on assault, rapine, threat, and plain bloody murder just for the fun of the thing, and the pirates themselves loudly and noisily having the time of their lives.

"This grog shop's loaded with barrels of rum," Joanna taking advantage where such offered. "Thompson! A team of men t'haul these barrels down t'the Amazon."

"Aye-aye, ma'am!"

Further along the street Sandy was having an altercation, with another merchant in his shop; she holding the man's young daughter tight to her chest, a slim sharp knife at the girl's throat—the mother lying on the dusty floorboards at the side of the room in a dead faint of terror.

"Listen, matey, this is how it goes—ye opens up yer coffers, gives me all yer gold, jewels, an' pieces o'eight, along with whatever silver an' gold ornaments ye may have about ye. The only outcome o'ye refusing this polite request is yer handsome daughter here gets her slim ivory throat slit from ear t'ear; causin' me, necessarily, t'get covered in her virgin blood, but giving me the thrill o'my life—me heartily enjoyin' a pleasant throat-cuttin' whenever sich is offered. So?"

Making the logical conclusion that the wild-eyed woman meant every word the merchant buckled, taking a key from his pocket.

"It's down in the cellar; don't, fer God's sake, harm dear Hannah, please."

"That depends, on how fast ye can provide her ransom. Go to it, boy, time's a'wastin!"

A bare hour and a half later, having decided they had squeezed the town for every doubloon and piece of eight readily available, the pirates re-assembled back at the Amazon—taking a variety of loaded boats and skiffs out from the quay to the boat lying in the Harbor. A mere sand-glass later the ship headed out to sea, its visit over; only two houses in the town actually afire, smoke rolling up in the air like two miniature versions of the large volcano on the horizon; the pirates not being in the mood to raze the town to its foundations—too much trouble on a hot day!

—O—

"What's next?"

That same afternoon Sandy stood on the quarterdeck by the side of her amour, they being far out to sea again, picking her nose industriously while Joanna consulted a map she had partially spread on the port bulwark.

"Will ye stop that nasty habit, gal?" The Captain having social mores herself. "Look? I fancy Martinique for our next port o'call!"

"Do you?" Sandy complying with her Captain's request, wiping her fingers on a not too clean handkerchief. "French, y'know. Probably got a garrison in Fort-de-France. Fancy a fight, d'ye?"

"The Frenchies couldn't fight their way out'ta a torn paper bag, as ye well knows, lover; no matter their number." Joanna making a personality call from long association with the people under consideration. "The instant they see the Amazon on the horizon they'll evacuate the town an' hide in the jungle till we've gone agin. Have the whole place t'ourselves, fer sure."

"Mighty fine—mighty fine!" Sandy however sounding a trifle less satisfied. "If so it goes; but if it don't, are we ready for a full scale battle on land, in the streets of a large town?

Joanna had a plan to cover this eventuality, which she lost no time in revealing to her partner.

"We do the usual, blow up a few houses at the end of streets to seal off a section of the town temporarily, rake through the confined area for whatever we can find, take it to the Amazon, then leave the rest of the town undisturbed, apart from parts afire. The militia'll be too busy tryin' t'save what's left of their dusty hamlet t'bother about us an' ours—or what'll be ours by that point—ha-ha!"

Sandy regarded her Captain with a mix of envy, desire, and curiosity.

"Jo, lady, sometimes I wonder about your—"

"Sail on the horizon,—Royals up!" This from the lookout on the foremast top, unusually attentive to his duties for once.

Instantly the crew sprang to attention, hurrying to their fighting-stations readying for whatever might result from the sighting; a pirate ship always concerned at sails in the offing—they possibly belonging to the Royal Navy, the French Navy, or the Spanish Navy—even, on rare occasion, the Dutch Navy: or, indeed a heavily armed merchantman who could outgun them; being a pirate having its downs as well as ups day by day.

Fortunately the Amazon had the weather-gage, so falling down on the unfortunate mystery vessel as it closed was no trouble at all, the vessel being unable to escape. Identified at a comfortable distance as not being representative of any nation's Navy Joanna gave the order to close as rapidly as could be done with the middling breeze. Three glasses later the Amazon lay at rest two cables from what turned out to be a three masted merchant barquentine with only four pea-shooters on the main deck as defence—the Captain surrendering via the raising of a white flag while still some five cables distant from his pursuer.

"French! No doubt of it!" Sandy giving of her opinion. "Even a dirty Dutchman'd have put up some sort of a fight, if even only fer show!"

Two hours later Sandy once again stood on the quarterdeck, giving her Captain the results of rifling their prize from stem to stern.

"Cargo of bananas an' casks o'salted beef, forty barrels of rum, two hundred rolls of coloured linen, an' ten casks of assorted nails. Also, the Lady Anne-Marie de Rochefoucaulde-Chambertin, on her way home to visit papa—the Comte de Villefleurs; apparently owns a vast estate an' vineyards in rural south France, personal friend of the King, so she tells me; with what I can only describe as arrogant superiority!"

"Well, there's a ransom there, if nothing else." Joanna pleased with this stroke of luck. "Slap her around a bit, to show who's boss on this ship; then explain she'll be takin' a long sea-voyage with us, be held t'ransom, an' if Papa doesn't pay-up in a hurry she'll get a close encounter with the fishes inhabitin' the lower depths of the Caribby sometime sooner than she likely thinks appropriate."

"That'll do the trick." Sandy turning with a gay snicker to attend to most of these expert instructions.

—O—

"Thank God she speaks English!" Joanna sighing in relief that evening as she stood in the Amazon's rear cabin awaiting the appearance of their impolitely appropriated guest. "My French not bein' what it used t'be. How old did ye say she was?"

"Dun'no for sure, looks around late twenties." Sandy shrugging her shoulders.

"Did ye?" Joanna making gestures with her hands mimicking slapping someone's face.

"Nah, couldn't be bothered at the end of a busy day; fell back on threats an' intimidations; but I don't think they sunk in far—bit of a fiery piece, Miss Anne-Marie! Likes, I fancy, t'stand on her Social position—you'll see."

The wide floral silk dress which now swept into the cabin, via the far door, excelled even Joanna's expectations. Surrounding the body of a clearly nubile and physically attractive young woman she, in person, showing all the arrogance and superiority to be expected from one of the French nobility standing on their honour.

"Beurk!" She starting as she obviously meant to go on. "What is this? I am most displeased. You! I thought I had seen the last of you, madame! Our last meeting did not go well, your manners being wholly to find. Have you no idea of the respect and humility one must show in the presence of one of my exalted position? And who is the old native hag by your side, not that I care one fig!"

Joanna, having a lady of colour somewhere in her near ancestry, the effects showing in her overall skin tone, took this last remark about as personally as a pirate being berated to her face could—badly! Only Sandy jumping forward to grab Joanna's arm stopping the French captive from being instantly skewered by a long swordblade.

"Ye dam' b-tch!" Joanna wholly enraged by her guest's first greeting. "I'll see the colour o'yer dam' guts if it's the last dam' thing I does, dam' yer!"

"Easy—easy, babe!" Sandy using a calming tone which had worked many times in the past on the sometimes volatile Pirate Queen. "Nuthin' t'worry about; jus' a loud-mouthed silly gal's all."

"Whuff!" Anne-Marie going off again, with no regard for her ongoing safety. "Silly girl? I will have you put in prison, in a dark wet cell, for the rest of your life, hussy!"

Sandy, still wholly engaged in holding back bloody murder in the form of her incensed partner, sighed deeply.

"Listen lady, cut the crap if ye has any thought o'livin' till tomorrow! We're dam' pirates, we don't give a goat's cuss about yer social position; given a dagger in yer gut ye'll squeal like any other pig as ye dies in agony in a spreadin' pool o'blood. Ye want that? 'cause my partner here's in just the mood to supply same, OK?"

Finally giving some attention, if still reluctantly, to her captor's facial expression and physical struggles to break free from Sandy's hold, Anne-Marie realised that some level of politeness might be in order.

"Huumph! Pirates! Certainly not Ladies of the Court, that is certain! More like fish-wives on the Quays, arguing over their wares, Heumph!"

"Was that her idee of an apology!" Joanna still inflamed beyond bearing.

"We'll take it!" Sandy grasping at flies. "Let's sit down, a tankard of rum'll work miracles, baby. Here, sit down. Yeah, go on, I got everything covered."

Doing as told, but with an ill grace, Joanna sat contemplating whom she obviously thought of as her next unreservedly personal enemy, while Sandy pointed out a chair to their guest with a meaning gesture.

Finally, the few servants, in the form of press-ganged pirates of note, had laid the first course of the meal before the diners; Thompson, acting as butler, standing to one side against the bulwark of the ship awaiting any further orders. The start of the meal consisting of fish pie and sauce accompanied by a fine white wine. After a few exploratory bites Anne-Marie replaced her fork on her plate with an expression of disgust, falling back on her wine glass instead.

"Poor fare, indeed. Would think a homeless woman in the street would turn up her nose at such. Your chef obviously has no idea of how to cook, that is a certainty. I shall probably starve to death on this benighted boat before anything more disastrous occurs to me. Ha!"

"Our cook used ter do so fer the Governor of Jamaicy, once on a time." Sandy attempting to put their unruly guest in her place. "Renowned he was—is! Just sit back an' dig in, lady. You'll find food's food whichever way it's cooked; or ye will in the next few days, if we don't put ye on bread an' water indefinitely an' leave ye to your own devices in chains in the orlop."

Reluctantly the French-woman took a few more delicate bites at her food, expressing this time mere dislike instead of her former outrage; it being obvious by her consumption of wine that she found liquid fare more enticing than solid.

"Hoi, you, servant! Another glass of this dog's piss, and make it snappy or I'll have your mistress flog you round the estate—or fleet, or whatever—flogged, anyway! More speed, man; when I give an order I expect it taken instantly, not as if by a half blind mole!"

This, of course, riled Joanna no end; her now returning composure flying in the wind once again.

"Gregory, next time she speaks ter ye in those terms, slap her silly face, hard's ye likes! Meb'be make her see sense, but I doubts it; don't think much of her brain ever works at any given moment!"

Anne-Marie, appalled by this deliberate lack of respect towards a Lady of Quality, sat back with a pink glow of disgust on her features.

"Madame! You excel yourself in disrespect towards your betters. In ten years I shall be married to a Gentleman of Prospects and Title, living on a fine estate with the King as personal friend; while your dry carcass will be hanging from a gibbet on some harbor mouth somewhere around the Caribbean. I am only sorry I shall be long back in La France and so unable to view the fine spectacle!"

Sandy, struggling under the challenge of keeping peace round the long table, sighed audibly.

"Lady, you don't make many friends, do you? Does anyone take your deluded self-interest at face value, allowing of ye for the exalted near Goddess you obviously think of yourself as being?"

Anne-Marie, struck to her core, responded with an intense certainty.

"I am of the French Nobility, of which there can no higher position. My standing is of the greatest, a standing which all other lower classes must view with all the respect and solemn submission such a position requires. In France people bow to me with respect and veneration, which is only to be expected. You, both, are animals in regard to such. You have no idea of your naturally low position in Society; or of my own greatness regarding such."

"Oh, yeah?" Joanna very nearly at breaking point.

"Yes! For a start you may both begin, if you wish to make amends, by respecting my presence; bowing when I enter a room, standing respectfully till I order you to sit, and by addressing me as madame at all times. A poor beginning, but something at least."

Having reached the border of her patience, Joanna gave up and retaliated. Taking up a plate of mashed potatoes by her side she leaned over the table flinging it fully in the silly Frenchwoman's face, where it hit with perfect aim. She, Anne-Marie, gasping in disgust and shock as she raised hands to wipe the mess from her cheeks.

"Thompson, I've had enough of this guest. Take her t'the orlop, put her in chains, take those fancy skirts off her an' give her clothes from the crew's slop chest instead. Feed her on bread an' water, an' don't talk t'me about her fer the next ten days, OK?"

"Aye-aye, ma'am."

Thompson stepped up, grabbing the young girl round the waist with an iron hand; carrying her out the room while she spluttered something in her native language that no-one in the cabin understood or cared to listen to. Then Sandy and Joanna were alone once again.

"Feeling better, lover?"

Joanna grunted morosely.

"Much as I can be, after that b-tch sounded off like that!"

"I got an idea, baby."

"Spit it out, dear, I'm listenin'."

"We haul up on the very next skiff, schooner, or small pinnace we see, no matter what they may have as cargo, if any. We set a prize crew on it, transfer the Lady, and tell the crew t'take her back t'Cayona without stopping anywhere. Gets her out't our hair, an' still holds her fer ransom at a later date."

Joanna reflected on this answer to their problem for a few seconds before nodding in agreement.

"OK, I'll take that. Any chance of running down on a suitable ship t'day, still?"

"Have t'wait till the mornin' now, baby." Sandy thankful an acceptable answer had been reached at last. "Then we'll off-load her fast's as possible, right?"

"Yeah, can't be fast enough fer me, mind." Joanna grunting dismissively. "Come on, let's finish this meal, disaster as it's turned out, an' get some shut-eye. Feel I needs same mighty powerfully."

"With ya, gal, with ya." Sandy agreeing with a forced grin. "Here, take another goblet of this wine; soothe your feelings some, lady."

—O—

The Caribbean Sea, west of the Leeward and Windward Islands, was an open area lacking in any dry land for hundreds of miles in any direction until the Lesser Antilles Islands off the coast of Venezuela hove in view over the horizon. There were, however, many shipping lanes crossing these barren wastes in every direction, so it was remarkably easy for the Amazon to bear down on a passing small two-masted brig, hauling alongside with consummate ease. It taking only a matter of two sand-glasses for the transfer to take place and the Frenchwoman to be out of the pirates' hair for the nonce. Watching the brig sail off, heading for Tortuga and Cayona, Joanna heaved a loud sigh of contentment.

"And bad cess to her! Hope she dies of a double pleurisy on the v'yage!"

Later, just after four bells that morning, their attention was caught by something much more interesting.

"Sail on the port bow, r'yals an' upper t'sails!" From the main lookout, who had been caught short while intent on refilling his tobacco pipe.

"Oh, f-ck! Navy, y'suppose?"

"Who can tell." Sandy raising her eyes to the lookout in question, and raising her voice at the same time. "Ho, there, wake up dam' yer eyes! Where away, an' is it Navy?"

A long pause ensued, while the lookout strained his eyes, even with the help of his spy-glass.

"Nah. I mean, it's a merchant, some kind'a flag with yaller an' green horizontal stripes. Headin' west-nor-west; we have the weather-gage."

"Somethin', at least. Shall we?"

Joanna considered the point for all of five seconds by her gold cased half-hunter.

"Yeah, we bloody well shall! Feel like a fight right now; my boots slipping amongst pools o'gore bein' mighty pleasin' t'my irate soul at present. Thompson, haul t'windward, engage the prey at your leisure."

"Aye-aye, ma'am."

While despising various Navies as by nature bound the Amazon beat to quarters with all the professionalism of said Navies. Within five minutes the whole vessel was ready for a sea fight in all details; the main deck cannon, eighteen pounders, loaded and ready, with crews well trained and eager; the lower gundeck, with its twenty-four pounders, and central thirty-two pounder, ready for battle when required, and the sailors in the rigging prepared for whatever orders might come their way; Joanna and Sandy on the quarterdeck.

"Ready?" Joanna shouting this to one and all.

"Ready, aye-aye, ready!"

Cries of agreement came echoing from the foredeck, foremast, mainmast, and main deck like crows in the treetops. On the horizon the pirates' prey now showed itself as a large three-masted Barquentine, a line of five gunports apparent along its port side but no sign of them being open and ready for defensive measures. As the Amazon hauled down on the ship a white flag flew to its mainmast top with almost indecent speed, letting everyone relax from their tense positions.

"Given up without a dam' fight, just when I wanted one dearly!"

"Ah, well, can't have everything." Sandy shaking her head, while putting a consoling arm round the shoulder of her disappointed partner. "Better luck next time."

At four bells in the afternoon watch Sandy once again brought a detailed report to the quarterdeck.

"Fifty tons of copra, in barrels—"

"Chr-st! What good's that t'us!"

"—seven tons of assorted printed linens an' cottons—"

"Much good they are, too!"

"—eighteen tuns of dark rum." Sandy sniffing critically. "If we want that we'll need a prize crew aboard, or transfer it by pipe to smaller barrels aboard here?"

"The latter, probably, can't afford another prize crew swannin' off."

"—an' final, two chests of doubloons, amountin' t'around fifty thousand pieces o'eight! Three merchants life savings goin' back t'Blighty t'a Bank there."

Joanna perked-up instantly.

"That'll do very nicely—very nicely indeed! Well, what're ye waitin' fer? Go to it, babe!"

"Aye-aye, Cap'n!"

—O—

Maracaibo, and its encircled Bay, provided a well-known perfect base for the Spanish Navy so Joanna avoided the vicinity with careful nicety, sailing by well out to sea beyond the horizon. Cartagena on the coast of Columbia, on the other hand, was a different kettle of fish. Too well guarded to allow of a landing by expeditionary force Joanna, instead, lay off some leagues out to sea, like a lion stalking its prey.

"We'll take whatever small or medium sized vessel comes our way." She laying out her plan of attack. "Cartagena's the main port from which Bolivian silver's transported to Spain. They don't just send it in yearly Galleons, but almost any vessel that offers. Some vessels might have a handful of small bars, some a few hundred pounds weight, some loaded down with the treasure of the Indies! We'll try our luck fer a few days, till they smoke our presence back in Cartagena an' send out a frigate t'chase us off. What'd ye think, lady?"

"I thinks it's a plan with lots of potential, Rose of my Heart!"

"Hee-Hee!"

That very afternoon, at just after two bells, proved the worth of her plan; a small three-mast hoy hauling away from the port on a north-easterly course being first to fall foul of the waiting pirates. Having boarded the tiny vessel with little hope Sandy was pleased to find it transporting no less than fifty bars of silver, each weighing twenty pounds apiece.

"A very nice start t'the day!" Joanna almost breaking out in a smile at this good fortune. "Jes' make sure they stay on their course, an' don't try'n head back t'warn Cartagena."

"Sure thing; I'll put the fear of God, an' that o'bein' skinned alive, in the Cap'n. That should see him on his way!"

Next morning, after sailing 5 leagues further east to lie more exactly over the likeliest shipping lane, they made their prize contact. A large Barquentine, looking well settled in the water, hove in view, the Amazon's lookouts now at the pinnacle of their attention; so it's main-peak had hardly broken the horizon when the mainmast lookout spotted it.

"Ship ahoy! Two points west, looks a big 'un!"

Three sand-glasses later enough of it was visible for an expert identification, even though only the tops of its three masts could yet be seen.

"Three masts! Barquentine! Merchant! Sailin' aslant the wind! Must be well settled wi' cargo!"

"She'll do!" Joanna on the task from the get-go. "Thompson, brace the main's'ls! Haul across the wind three points! The weather-gage'll see us right in no time!"

True to her expectation the Amazon sat two cables off the trapped vessel only two glasses later; it's defence of four eighteen pounders on the maindeck having proved useless when the Captain of the Barquentine realised that if he used them it would certainly mean a watery grave for him and most of his crew—the ubiquitous white flag coming in highly useful as a result. Another glass passing, the usual conversation on the Amazon's quarterdeck taking place.

"Well?"

"Twenty tons of oranges, in barrels." Sandy pursing her lips in reciting this detail.

"Humph!" Joanna not impressed.

"A hundred tons of assorted linens an' cotton fabric."

"Jeez! Are all these countries on the Main tryin' ter clothe the entire world? Nuthin' but fabrics whichever way we turns!"

"Fifty tons, approximate, of tin household wares—pots, pans, tankards, an' whatnot o'that sort."

"Rubbish! Anythin' else?"

"Oh, only seventy-five silver ingots, average weight thirty pounds!" Sandy springing this surprise with all the craftiness of a seasoned player. "Probable worth—aroun' two hundred thousand pieces o'eight!"

"Jeesus!" Joanna taken aback and almost speechless as a result. "That'll do! Yeah, that'll do! Sandy, I hereby creates ye Duchess o'Cartagena an' all surrounding domains, fer sterling service t'the community—thet same bein', o'course, the Brethren o'the Coast!"

"I accepts with cheerfulness, in the true an' certin hope o'gettin' my fair share, if not a trifle more, o'the loot, in course!"

"Ha-Ha!"

—O—

The Church of St Christophe de Castelana lay on the outskirts of the small port town of Villefranche on the coast of Nicaragua; this whole area having the advantage, to the pirates, of being sparsely inhabited with no military presence whatsoever. It also having, rather unfortunately, the Church that is, an almost worldwide fame as the receptacle of one of the most complete collections of Aztec gold yet assembled. Having sailed across the intervening open Sea, after a close encounter with a Spanish frigate out of Cartagena whose mission, thankfully, turned out to be simply that of chasing the pirate ship off with menaces from a safe distance, Joanna now felt impelled as of nature bound to take the Church, rake it from stem to stern, appropriate everything that was silver or gold, or looked anything like, and sail off into the sunset well pleased with life.

"Should we burn the Church t'the ground a'fore we leaves?" Sandy almost pleading with her partner as they stood by the bulwark of the quarterdeck. "I loves the sight of a Church well alight. Al'lus warms the cockles o'my heart so!"

Joanna raised her eyebrows, but not significantly so being well aware of the cruder purposes of her lover's outlook on the World.

"Don't see why not. With the priests still inside, or no?"

Sandy frowned darkly over this interesting choice.

"Them's we haven't slaughtered by rights already, sure! Why the dam' not? Make it all the merrier, listenin' ter their wails an' cries fer mercy. Nuthin' better than listenin' to a priest beggin' fer mercy an' life when faced with a cruel an' unusual death! Ye'd think most would grasp the chance like heroes, considerin' their warped beliefs; but no, all screams fer mercy an' forgiveness every time—ha-ha!"

Joanna this time gave her inamorata a closer glance, wondering internally whether she needed a holiday or not—but not saying so out loud, of course, not wanting to feed the flames of madness any more than necessary.

And so, in the event, it all turned out.

The sea ran deep close into shore, the longboats from the Amazon made contact with a smooth sandy beach, the trek to the outlying Church was short and easy, and the assembled priests—

"Have you no shame, or fear of the consequences of defying God?" The Father in charge facing-off the pirate group on the very steps of his Church. "You will commit sacrilege by attacking this outpost of God! Do you not fear the terrors of Hell itself? Repent! There is still time for you—"

Which were, of course, the last words he ever uttered; Sandy's cutlass slicing through his vestments, ribs, heart, other internals, and out his back, she having to let the corpse fall to the ground before, with a booted foot on the dead chest for grip, being able to free the blade of her weapon again.

What followed could only be described as a bloody massacre, with all the usual side-dishes appertaining to such. There being almost 80 pirates attending the hoe-down there were plenty to chase the nuns, the younger priests, for those pirates of that taste, or just those who felt that general slaughter on the grand scale provided a full day out by itself. Screams for a mercy that had judiciously taken a long holiday that day echoed across the forecourt and inside the building itself where several men and women had been chased by eager pursuers.

To say that acts of the most sadistic and immoral nature now took place everywhere within the sacred edifice would be to under-report the outcome of pirates on a spree against defenseless opponents. Fear fueled the victims, whilst rage and sexual pleasure beyond reason fueled that of the pursuers. Rape, of both sexes, priests or no, took place in the most inappropriate places, including the High Altar, and various small Chapels to the side, as well as the main aisles. Clothes were peremptorily ripped off, bodies subdued with threats or blows, many at the point of a blade that would, inexorably, be used finally, yea or nay. And finally, after the fun aspect had been sated beyond satisfaction, thoughts turned to the mere mercantile aspect of their visit.

It turning out that reports of the vast wealth held in the Church regarding ancient Aztec gold were wildly deficient in precise quantities; the gold being far more numerous, in articles of all kinds, than anyone could have imagined or hoped for. After an hour's search through the Church Sandy could report to her Captain on the subject, with bated breath and a wide grin, visible through the splashes of blood soaking her clothes from head to foot and streaked like a whore's bad make-up across her face.

"Must be tons of gold! Take the crew hours t'transport it t'the jolly boats!"

"Fine! Mighty fine!"

"Corralled a heap o'priests, an' a few nuns, in a large room backways, ma'am." Thompson, breathing heavily, reporting this to his superiors.

"Hey, you, over there!" Sandy coming to life with an evil grin. "Gim'me that torch! 'S'cuse me, Jo, got a little bit o'fun t'see to. Ye may wan'na make sure everyone's out'ta the building in, say two hours time. I spendin' the interim terrifyin' the inmates o'that room back there as to what's about t'happen t'them. See how many fall t'prayin', an' how many t'cryin' fer mercy—hee-hee!"

Just over two and a half hours later, the gold having been transported to the beach to be taken aboard the Amazon by longboat, the last act of the drama was in full swing. Flames rose from several windows of the tall structure, the roof was well alight, and Sandy strode out the main entrance, carrying her torch, just steps ahead of a wall of flame that had engulphed the interior. Moving away, out of the aura of heat, the pirates stood around enjoying the fiery spectacle, faint cries still audible from deep inside the burning building.

"Ha-Ha! Hee-Hee!" Sandy jumping from foot to foot in excitement as she watched and listened. "Glorious! Dam' fine! Haven't seen a better fire in years. Listen? Can ye still hear' em? I can—hee-hee!"

—O—

Somewhere several score leagues west of the Bajo Nueva Banks or Reefs lay Joanna's pet anonymous island, that no-one else knew of. A pleasant island, mostly covered in dense forest, with a few gently sloping sandy beaches on the west side and a long dead high volcano as backbone the unknown island was an excellent hideaway for a bunch of pitiless pirates, especially when in need of somewhere to bury their loot.

Standing on one of these white sandy beaches Joanna breathed deeply of the fresh, plant-tainted air, sighing comfortably that morning just after five bells as she scrutinised the view.

"Beautiful! Just as we last left it. No-one been here since, or we'd see evidence of such. So, the men ready t'bring the gold ashore an' bury it where we plotted?"

"Yeah," Sandy nodding happily, she being in a great mood. "Shouldn't take more'n a day t'bury it all; then we can return at leisure when needed."

"Sent a lookout up the Hill?"

"Yeah, it can be climbed almost t'the top, gives a great view of the Sea all round. We'll know of any vessel hours a'fore it arrives."

"Right, let's get to it then."

But, as always happens in these circumstances, there was a weevil in the biscuit. Thompson the Quartermaster had detailed a group of pirates for digging duty at the spot chosen but they were not all in favor of this hard work. One in particular voicing his disapproval loudly and long.

"What fer we have ter bury the dam' gold? Cain't we jes' take it t'Cayona, get our shares, an' live the grand life thereafter?"

"Porkins, shove a kerchief in it, whiles!" Thompson taking no backchat from his underlings.

"Hiirph!" Porkins, not satisfied with this rejoinder in the least. "Alright fer some, wi' an easy lay t'themselves! Others has ter dam' well work fer a livin'."

"Porkins, d'ye wan'na taste the stripes o'my cat o'nine tails? Yer comin' dam' close, as it is. Get that shovel in hand an' get ter dam well diggin', blast yer stinkin' bowels!"

But this threat was not enough in the long run; when Thompson had moved away on errands unknown Porkins took the opportunity to expand his views to his near mates.

"Elliot, why'n hell do we have ter do this here? Wouldn't it be fairer ter get our share o'the whole mess, an' go a'livin' it up in Cayona, or better yet, Jamaicy? What yer think, Braithwaite?"

What Braithwaite thought was that, given break-time an hour later, he gently moved off aways, quietly signaled Thompson, and out of sight of the others, told all. Ten minutes later Sandy hove up to the group with a peculiar light flickering at the back of her green eyes. She dressed in long leather boots, men's trousers of strong cotton, a red linen shirt, with a wide leather waistbelt that held a long dagger, the silver clip for her cutlass, and a heavy double-barreled pistol.

"Hear there's some disagreement in the ranks." She setting forth her standpoint stark and clear. "Hear you're the source of some discontent, Porkins? Anything ye wants ter get off yer chest t'me? Now bein' that time."

Porkins, realising that he was in a tight spot and ought to step warily, prevaricated like a good 'un, wholly abandoning his earlier air of bravado.

"Me, ma'am? Not from me; I ain't worried about anythin', fer sure. Happy as a lark, me."

"What about this talk of gettin' a share of our loot early, ahead of everyone else?" Sandy pursuing her argument like a London Lawyer. "I'm told ye has a antipathy t'buryin' the gold, when ye could be spendin' same in every grog-shop an' whorehouse in the Caribby, apparent. That true?"

"—er—er!"

"Let me disabuse ye o'that unfortinate idee." Sandy suddenly grasping the butt of her pistol and drawing it in a flash of speed that could hardly be followed by human eye.

The snap of the descending flintlock, the cloud of white smoke from the pan, the bellow of noise and further eruption of smoke from one of the barrels as she fired directly into Porkin's chest, caught the spectators by surprise; they raising hands to ears assaulted by the explosion. Porkins, on his part, fell backward onto the short grass as if impelled by the kick of an angry donkey where he lay still, being very dead indeed.

"Well, that settles that little argy'ment, I believes." Sandy nodding with a tight smile before looking around at the group of other men. "Anyone else wan'na take up Porkins' affairs an' views on the Captain's policy? No? Thought not! Well, break's over, get back t'diggin'; we wantin' this gold underground before sundown—go to it, lads!"

—O—

Two days later the breeze, for a change, was blowing steadily from the west which was all the pirates wanted to push them comfortably in the direction of Tortuga and home town of Cayona. Standing on the Amazon's quarterdeck Joanna was discussing with her Lieutenant and lover the outcome of their just concluded circular voyage round the Caribbean Sea.

"Came off pretty well in the end, I fancy."

"Yeah, lot's o'fun all the way, sure." Sandy agreeing, though with a curious light still flickering in the far depths of her eyes and a somewhat trembling expression. "Couldn't have been better, no way. Especially down t'Villefranche. God! I loves a burnin' Church, an' inmates! Nuthin' like fer gettin' the blood coursin' round the veins, y'know. An' all that dam' gold! We'll be able t'live like dam' Queens fer months, meb'be years given any luck at all."

Joanna, who had been taking stock of the temperament of her lover over the last few days, nodded quietly.

"Yeah, a long gentle holiday'll suit just fine. Was thinkin' we might take a small hoy an' head down ter Kingston, Jamaicy; take a room in some Inn an' live the high life under assumed names fer a few weeks. Got lots of grog-shops, Inns, Public Houses, an' all sorts of entertainments down there, y'know. What d'ya think, lover?"

"Sounds good t'me." Sandy nodding happily again. "Could do with a holiday my'sel! Been feelin' the strain mighty heavy these past few months, t'be truthful, lover."

"Well, a break'll do us both good. Hey, are those main t'sail braces slackin', or is it my imagination?"

Sandy was on this lack of seafaring expertise in an instant; she loathing nothing more than slackness in the ordering of the Amazon's housekeeping.

"Thompson, get those bluffers on the main t'wake up an' look sharp! Trice those dam' braces, an' have 'em haul the main jeers while they're at it!"

The End

—O—

The next Captain Clayton story will arrive shortly.