Jenkin’s ship, The Grudge, must have predicted that The Tinker’s Curse was set on a collision course. Thom heard a man bark: “Fire!” and he braced himself for the impact of cannon-balls raining down around them. A pirate died with a scream on his lips as a cannon struck him straight in the face. Thom’s men looked around in confusion, slightly dazed, as Thom instructed them to put out the fires and ready themselves for battle. There was a buzzing murmur everywhere, amid the sharp cries of pain and the steady rushing of panic.
Why were they being attack by another pirate?
Had Jenkins joined Hornigold?
Had he turned coat?
Wood splintered, clouds of dust rising, as both ships collided – the fore of The Tinker’s Curse ploughing into the side of The Grudge.
Thom took his hat and told Margaret to join her mother in the cabin. He told her he would be with them soon. She nodded, her face paling, and scurried off.
Thom drew his sword and ran along the banister of his ship, agile as a gecko, trying to climb onto The Grudge, and engaged with Jenkins’s crew. Almost blindly, as they didn’t really understand what was going on, Thom’s crew followed and joined him. Thom leapt onto a man and struck him clean through the chest. He died without so much as a howl. Pulling his cutlass out quick, he slashed the throat of a fast-approaching adversary – his blood spraying like a fountain as he flailed back.
Thom gasped sharply as something hard hit him on the head, and a blade cut through the flesh of his shoulder. The captain looked at the protruding blade – half with fear, half with curiosity – and turned to meet his attacker, his sword catching sunlight. Captain Jenkins snarled at him, ducking back to avoid the sharpened blade. Thom sliced to the other side and slammed down, but Jenkins caught the sword with his own the first time and skittered away so that the blade stuck in the wood of the deck. Thom cursed, pulling out his pistols, but Jenkins thrust the hilt of his sword into Thom’s chin. Thom pulled a trigger and shot himself in the foot. He howled, and Jenkins pressed the blade of his sword close to Thom’s neck, holding him in an iron grip.
“Stop, ye Tosspots, or I’ll kill him!” he barked, “Ye hear me, Tinker’s men? Drop your knives, or their nothin’ left for ye!”
Thom threw his head back and caught Jenkin’s in the nose with a sharp head-butt. Jenkin’s grunted, blood dripping from torn skin, but didn’t loosen his grip.
“Ye sorry bastard!” he said, spitting into Thom’s face, “Ye kill a man and now ye try t’hide your guilt with heroism? I’ve ne’er seen a thing so pathetic!”
Thom rasped, trying desperately to get free as the blade pressed harder against his throat. The pain in his shoulder and foot began to overwhelm him, “Let me go, Jenkins, an’ fight like a man!”
“I’ll do as I please, Tinker!” Jenkins barked, shaking the man in his grasp, “I should kill ye for what you did! Ye’re own men are loathe t’support ye! Look at ‘em!” he glowered at Thom. Thom looked at his crew, their anger and heroism turning quickly to confusion, “But I know the rules, Tinker, and I’ll follow ‘em. Aye, e’en if ye’re reluctant to!”
“What happened on that island was a mistake, Jenkins!” said Thom, still trying to break free.
“A mistake, indeed!” bawled Jenkins, spittle flying into Thom’s eyes, “And you’ll regret’t!”
Jenkins gestured to his men, who skipped across to The Tinker’s Curse, climbing along the fore like acrobats, and torched the sails. The tough fabric caught and soon tongues of flame slowly ate through them. Others went to break the rudder and take what cargo there was left. They pushed the cannons into the sea, throwing the gun-power over as well – the heavy equipment splashing into the raging waves. All they left was some rum and remnants of food.
Thom’s crew didn’t do anything.
“Ye killed a man, capt’n?” said one of his men, who seemed taken by such a revelation, “Ye killed a pirate?”
The crew began whispering amongst themselves.
It explained everything.
Why their captain had decided to sail away from New Nassau in a storm and why he had been journeying back with such haste.
One by one, Thom saw them dropping their weapons and walking away from him.
Thom didn’t protest.
It was the setback of a democratic system – he had made them work hard, he had deceived them and he had lost their trust.
Jenkins pushed him along the fore of The Tinker’s Curse – taking Thom’s cutlass and one of his pistols – and threw him onto the deck, where he lay sprawled for a moment, before fell beside him. The man got up – similarly disarmed – grunted and helped Thom to sit up. Malcolm looked at him with worry, but didn’t say anything.
Jenkins was still standing over them, looking down with disgust, “Ye’re marooned, ye traitors!” he spat at them and walked off, “God forgive ye, the things ye’ve done!”
* * * * *
“I’ll get you, Jenkins! And when I do, I’ll gut you, and then tear your organs out and make a garland out of ‘em!” cried Malcolm, standing at the fore, as The Tinker’s Curse floated aimlessly through the sea.
Thom stood at the helm, leaning against the useless wheel, his shoulder and foot freshly bandaged by his step-mother (who was currently sitting in the cabin, rocking Margaret to a restless sleep), “Stop your God-damn howling, Malcolm! Ye ain’t helpin’ yourself!”
Malcolm turned sharply to him, “Ah, the great Captain McCarthy speaks!” he said, raising his hand in mock-dramatics, “Pray tell us, Captain, what genius brought ye t’sail a ship with no sails and no rudder!” he turned back to the open sea, in the general direction where Jenkins had left, “I’ll get you, cowards! I’ll cut you another cunt! Demon! Bastard!”
“I said: Shut your gob!”