Thom sailed on for a while, leaving the carcasses of the man-o’-wars behind him to drown at sea. He wanted to put as much distance from Hornigold’s trail as he could. He also wanted to distance himself with the impending argument with his step-mother. Though the journey proved a success in the first matter, it failed remarkably in the second. Mrs McCarthy regarded Thom with cold disdain when she could and refused to answer him when he spoke to her – whether soft or harsh. Margaret, unaware of the bitter cold-war between her mother and her brother, was enjoying herself aboard The Tinker’s Curse. She swung from the ropes, pitched the wheel to the side when Thom wasn’t looking (setting the ship almost wildly off-course), and joined in with the shanties that the other pirates sang – her voice giving a harmony the crew could otherwise never create.
“Why is your boat called The Thinker’s Curse, Tom?” she had asked once.
“The Tinker’s Curse,” Thom corrected, two times at once, “is a ship, Maggie. Not a boat.”
“Yes, but why is it called that! At home, ‘tinker’ isn’t a nice word,” Margaret had explained, “Papa used to hate it when people called him that… Why did he, Tom? What does it mean?”
Thom furrowed his brows, not knowing where to begin and, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice, he said, “Why do ye ask so many questions?”
“Because she’s your sister,” Malcolm answered, shaking his head.
There was a very noticeable problem having women aboard his ship. Having a fully-male crew, Thom had little use for latrines aboard, so he’d gotten rid of them to make more space for plunder. Now, however, it was absolutely essential in maintaining the dignity of his women-folk. Luckily, Captain Barnabus Quick was sailing alongside him – his far larger galley accommodated the facilities for female ablutions (perhaps not for the most sophisticated of females, but still). But when he let Margaret and his step-mother board The Half-Caste, Thom went along with them. Quick and his crew had more honour and valour than any Red Coat army could claim, but – having been at sea for so long and absent from female company – even they were subject to their urges.
“Ahoy, Tinker,” said Quick.
He was a tall man with a harsh face and a thick black beard, and – as the name of his ship detailed – he was mixed-race. Quick was the son of a Dutch slaver and a Black slave (who was recognised for her speed, hence the surname). He’d run away from a plantation in his youth and had aligned himself to piracy since. It took a while for White men to trust him, but eventually he rose to the top – being able to snatch some of the best ships that crossed his path.
“Ahoy, Quick,” said Thom, trodding towards him on-deck of The Half-Caste, the women going off to the latrines.
“Your ladies need another leak?” asked Quick.
Thom put a hand to his forehead rubbing his brows with fore-finger and thumb (a thing he did when he was annoyed or embarassed), “Aye. You know’t, man! Why must ye ask every time?”
“Oh, I’m sorry!” said Quick, laughing and slapping Thom on the back, “Was I supposed to ask how ye were and offer ye tea?”
Thom rolled his eyes, grinning a little, “Where’re we headed Quick?”
“Before I give ye that detail, tell me – who’s the wench aboard?” he gave Thom a saucy look.
“Oi, lay off, man!” Thom said, angrily, “That’s my father’s wife ye’re talkin’ about!”
“From the way ye talk t’her, it sounded like she were a wyrd sister come out from the very pages o’ the Scottish Play, McCarthy,” replied Quick.
“We’ve our disagreements, but keep your hands off her!”
Quick regarded Thom for a long while, “Fine,” he folded his arms, “We’re headin’ for an island. Much like Nassau, only: smaller and wilder.”
“Another republic? For pirates?” said Thom, his anger fading.
“Aye. Run by Bonny, if ye remember her,” said Quick, “The British haven’t found it yet, but it’d’ve come under Hornigold’s watch by now, so don’t stay too long and be careful who ye trust there.”
Thom felt a tug on his clothes, and turned to see that Margaret and Mrs McCarthy had returned. It was time to go back, “Fair enough. We’ll follow ye there.”
Crossing the planks with Margaret in his arms, he called out to Malcolm, “Take the wheel, man! We’re following Quick! Says he knows a place!”
“That so?” Malcolm called back, “What place?”
Thom put Margaret down – who scuttled away to the fore, and was followed hurriedly by her mother – and strode his way to the helm, standing next to Malcolm with his arms crossed, looking out to sea and watching The Half-Caste drop sail and move away from them.
“Quick told me that Bonny’s found another island and made a New Nassau there,” he said, pensively, “I’d like to see’t.”
“Is an island of pirates a good place for your family, McCarthy?” said Malcolm, turning the wheel and barked, “Give me some sail!” to the deckhands
“I can’t let ‘em outta my sight,” said Thom, “whether I like it or not. They wouldn’t be safe near civilisation, where people like Hornigold might recognise ‘em and hold ‘em against me,” he paused, “It’s not ideal, aye. But it’s the safest place they can be.”
“You’re step-mother… she’s quite the looker, mate.”
“Oh, come on, not you too!” Thom snapped.
“My point was – that’ll put her in danger, Tinker,” Malcolm looked at him, “If you want t’keep her safe, make sure you keep her close – regardless of your squabblings.”
“You suggestin’ that I’d abandon her, Malcolm?” said Thom, incredulously.
Malcolm narrowed his eyes, “You look me in the eye and tell me ye’ve ne’er given that idea a thought,” he challenged.
Thomas stared at him, his mouth agape, but no reply came from his mouth.
“Tom! Tom!” Margaret squealed in excitement, running towards him.
“What is it, Maggie?” Thom said, turning his attention to her and picking her up.
She pointed, “A whale!”