Life went on in Kingston.
Thom sat, sombre and quiet, at table on the veranda of an inn, sipping from a flagon of beer and brooding. The dancers were twirling, wearing sheer costumes of a tasteful red, and an Irishman was singing a ballad attuned to the strumming of his guitar.
The last time Thom was here, Malcolm had been with him.
An excellent captain, a fine sailor, and a good man.
That was what Malcolm had said about him.
So much had happened since then. Looking around with a deadened gaze and a heart like lead – Thom wondered how much of that description still fit him.
It would, however, still fit Malcolm.
Given the chance, Malcolm would have made a fine captain. He had been a fine sailor. He had been a good man.
But now… Thom shut his eyes and turned his face to the ceiling.
Tears weren’t tears if they didn’t drip down your face.
Just a grain in the sands of time.
An iota in the pages of history.
An unknown in the list of great men.
A hand tugged his cloak and Thom turned.
“Maggie?” he whispered, as Margaret climbed onto a seat next to his. She was wearing a bright blue dress and had her fair hair tied back in a dark ribbon. She still looked a little older than she should, but she was – by all means – cute. She looked fresh and well-rested, her illness having blown over quickly.
“Mama is asleep,” she said.
Thom and his family had left the unknown island in one of the longboats they found attached to The Benjamin. With the help of Hornigold’s compass and map (that Thom found in his cabin aboard the ship), they rowed out to sea, stopping for a while in the Bahamas, but then moving away quickly. Thom had lent some of his wealth to a lot of people around the Caribbean – in the guise of being helpful, but mostly for safe-keeping in the case of an emergency – and he’d come around to collect all his money, with interest. What he had wasn’t enough to buy an estate back in London and become a gentleman, however, but it was enough to live on beer and cider until he died of a heart-attack.
That’s all I can look forward to…
“Are you still sad?” Margaret asked her brother. He had dark lines under his eyes and, for the past few weeks, his face was always set in a frown. When she’d first met him, her brother, Thom, had a spark in his eye. It was a spark of everything he was – youthful, charismatic, determined. That spark, Margaret noticed, was gone.
Thom nodded slightly, at her question, and then looked away.
“It’s alright, Tom,” she said, putting her arms on the table and resting her head against them, “We’ll see Malcolm again.”
He gave her a look, a questioning look distorted by the determination not to cry.
“In Heaven,” said Margaret, “we’ll see him there. Won’t we?”
In Hell, thought Thom, shaking and his eyes blurring with tears, I’ll see him in Hell. With rest of us thieves and marauders. Poor bastard didn’t even get buried…
But he nodded and rubbed his eyes.
Margaret turned away, not wanting to watch her older brother cry.
He sniffed and said, “I’m fine. Just fine,” he took another gulp of his drink, “Ye should go t’bed, Maggie.”
Margaret wondered for a moment if it was the right time to ask questions, and said, “Everyone always called you ‘Tinker’. Papa didn’t like that word…” she paused, “What does it mean? And why do you use it?”
Grateful for the change of subject, Thom said, “Papa’s mammie was a gypsy, Maggie. People don’t like gypsies, because they’re queer – the English especially, but probably more so because they’re Irish. Gypsies’re called tinkers, sometimes. Papa didn’t like’t, because he wanted t’be liked. But nobody liked him. Everyone was scared that he’d curse ‘em – and a tinker’s curse always shows true,” for the first time in weeks: Thom smiled, “I used’t because I liked t’scare people.”
“Oh!” said Margaret, as if everything made sense.
Thom laughed a little at her reaction. But then he sniffed and the moment was gone.
“I’m…” Margaret started, “I’m sorry about your friend, Tom.”
“I’m sorry about your father, Maggie.”
Margaret paused, thinking of a way to respond, but decided against it and asked, “Can I have some of your drink?”
“No,” said Thom.
Margaret screwed up her face, “Why not?”
Thom scoffed, “Your mammie’d kill me.”
“But Mama couldn’t kill a fly!”
“But she’d kill me,” Thom said, “All she’d have t’do is look at me.”
Margaret pouted, but didn’t press. Instead, she asked, “What now, Tom? Are we going to go back to London?”
“Because… Because we live there…”
“We used to,” he looked around, “Ain’t it nicer here?”
“I’ll buy a house here or maybe in New Providence. We could have a cow or a horse. Could even get a dog. I could work a farm, and you and your mammie could sew clothes… And we’d get a ship and sail out sometimes–”
“And steal things?” Margaret blurted out.
Thom glared at her, giving a cautious look around. He had no intention of hanging dead in a gibbet after all of his troubles, but he shrugged and whispered with a wink, “Maybe,” he took another sip of his drink, “But this’d be our new home. How does’t sound?”
“It sounds fantastic!” cried Margaret.
“Does it now?” Thom laughed, “What should we call our new ship then?”
“Mm…” Margaret pondered, “The Pillock.”
Thom doubled over in a fit of laughter, “What?”
“Pillock. Mama calls you that all the time.”
“We’re not goin’ t’call my ship The Pillock.”
Margaret sighed, frustrated that she didn’t understand what Thom was laughing about, “What then?”
“I think The Margaret would be nice.”
“I like Maggie better.”
“Ships don’t’ve pet names, Maggie.”
“Everything alright o’er here?” called one of the barmaids.
Thom looked up, “Anne?” he said, surprised.
Bonny gazed at Thom for a moment, recognition lighting in her eyes.
“Thomas…?” she dropped her tray of drinks and launched herself at him, “They told me ye were dead!”
Thom fell off his seat and landed in a heap on the floor, tangled in Bonny’s arms.
“Good grief…” he muttered.
“Shut up, you,” she said, blushing, “What happened? I told ye t’stay, didn’t I! Where’d ye go?”
“Oh, Anne,” Thom sighed, taking a briefly look at his confused sister, “It’s a long story.”