It rained on the unnamed island profusely for three consecutive days. Thom and his family had retreated into the jungle, taking shelter from the downpour in the trees and under natural rock structures. Margaret seemed to have developed a burning fever, her temperature rising high at random moments. She cried a lot and threw up after she ate. Mrs McCarthy looked worried about it, and Thom felt the same way. Lightning flashed before their eyes, before thunder crackled above. Thom, his hair matted down and dipping, looked up.
Terrible weather for sailing… he thought to himself.
He smiled slightly at the stray thought.
Margaret touched his hand and he looked at her.
“Maggie?” he said softly, picking her up and holding her close. Her forehead burned against the skin of his chest.
“I’m scared,” she said, sneezing.
“Bless ye,” Thom muttered back, and yawned, “Don’t be. The storm’ll clear up soon enough.”
“How do you know?” she sulked.
Thom shrugged, “I don’t. I’m only sayin’ so ye’ll stop bein’ scared.”
Mrs McCarthy pinched his arm hard and he recoiled.
“Will we stay here forever?” asked Margaret, “Are we going to die here, Tom?”
“I don’t know, Maggie.”
She pulled away and looked up at him, “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, “about, you know…”
Thunder crackled again, and she clung to Thom, shutting her eyes tight.
Thom sighed, “It ne’er happened, Maggie.”
* * * * *
Thom got out of the jungle when the storm had cleared. It was a slightly chilly morning. He’d instructed Mrs McCarthy and Maggie to stay where they were and keep warm, and he’d be back with food if he could find any. Thom squelched through the think damp sand, trying his best not to sink in. His toes had masses of wet sand between them, and it wasn’t comfortable. But then he looked up at the shore and all thoughts of his comfort vanished.
A wrecked ship lay beached there. Planks of broken boards and other debris lay sprawled around it and the hull had a gaping hole. The corpses of deckhands littered the golden beach, some still floating in the water. Thom made his way to the ship, taking what he could – a cutlass from one body, two pistols from another, and flasks of rum from each and every. The deckhands wore yellow livery – a Spanish ship, then.
The washed-out plaque of the ship read: The Benjamin.
Thom frowned at the sign, grimly thinking, He’s here. This is his ship.
One of the corpses next to him groaned and turned.
Thom kicked him – from all the howling he did, the corpse seemed very much alive – and leant down to ask, “When did ye land here?”
“What?” said the man. He sounded very British, despite his uniform.
“When did ye get here?”
The man paled when he caught site of Thom, “P-p-pirate!” he cried.
“Shut your arse!” Thom barked, scowling murderously at the man, “There ain’t no-one here t’save ye! So, shut’t!”
The man gulped and nodded.
Thom rasped a loud sigh and said for the third time, “When did ye get here?”
“I d-don’t know, sir.”
Thom rolled his eyes, “Did ye have anyone aboard?” he said, “apart from soldiers?”
“I don’t know what you mean, sir.”
Holding his patience and trying to look nonchalant, Thom straightened and put his hands his hips, saying, “Was Captain Hornigold aboard?”
The man looked confused and then defensive, “What do you want with him?”
“Gettin’ bold, are ye?” Thom sneered at the man, and he cowered back, “It’s none o’ your business what I want wi’ the man. I asked if he’s here. Tell me if he is, if he is. Or tell me he ain’t, if he ain’t. Ye lie, and I’ll cut you. Ye play the hero, and I’ll cut you. Ye play a bloody idiot, and I’ll really cut you!”
“God save me!” he cried, trying to crawl away, “And flay you Devils!”
“You ain’t particularly fast at crawlin’, ye know,” said Thom, striding to the man, taking his hair and yanking him back.
“Hey, ow! Stop that!”
“Yes! Yes! Captain Hornigold is here! Yes!”
“Did he go anywhere?”
“I don’t know! Ow!”
Thom shook the man’s head, feeling hair tear from the man’s scalp as he did so, “Tell me!”
The man had tears in his eyes, “I swear, I don’t know! He might be dead in the ship somewhere. But if he isn’t, then he’s probably gone away! In the jungle or along the beach! He’s not so easy to kill, our captain!”
Thom threw his head away, rubbing his hands together and pointing off the island, “Round up your survivors, take one o’ your boats and get off this island, ye hear me?”
The man looked at Thom, surprised, “Y-you mean… y-you’re letting me–”
“Go!” Thom bellowed.
The man crawled up and ran the length of the beach before looking confused, turning back and checking the bodies of the marines. Thom shook his head and looked at the sand.
Footprints… he thought, Could it be? Has Fortune shined on me at last?
He looked up at the sky, as if an answer would be scrawled into the heavens for him.
I might die here. And my family with me… If Hornigold is here, by God – I’m going to find him. And when I do…
He took off in the direction of the footprints, leaving the wreckage behind him.