When Quick had described “New Nassau”, he’d conveniently left out the details. As Thom regarded the boggy, wild island he noted that – for next-time – he would rather go back to his strip of uncharted land (which had firm, solid ground), than follow Quick to the world’s end! It wasn’t how Thom had pictured it – in his mind, the world’s end had fiery chasms spewing molten lava and people that looked like Azazel’s offspring lurking about – but New Nassau looked just about correct enough to be called that.
Who needed pirate hunters? In this place, one false step and you could be swallowed by quick-sand or – worse – by an alligator lurking about in the murky pools. Hoping to find Bonny, Thom’s crew dropped anchor anyway on his command and set upon the marshy land. There were crates sprawled everywhere, pirates sitting on them around fires and drinking from long bottles; watching as buxom, scantily-clad (and drunk) women entertained and danced for them. Thom took up a (thankfully) sleeping Margaret in his arms, and walked passed the… entertaining, his step-mother walking a few steps behind him with a look of disgust on her face.
Quick had gone off to be entertained, whilst Thom made for a tent-like structure which Quick had told him Bonny might be in.
Margaret yawned, shivering a little as the night was cold, and said, “Tom? Where are we?”
“Close your eyes, Maggie!” Thom said quickly.
“Why?” said Margaret, excited all of a sudden, and shut her eyes immediately.
“It’s… uh… um…”
“Aye. Aye, a surprise, indeed,” Thom muttered, “but you’ll find out in the mornin’.”
Thom paused on the thought. It was a lie to accommodate his circumstance – but he reckoned it could be easily compensated. A girl like Margaret, who was so new to this world, could be surprised by anything.
He beckoned Malcolm over and asked for him to order the lads to set up a tent for Margaret and her mother, which Malcolm did in a hurry. Gesturing for Mrs McCarthy to get inside and laying Margaret on her lap, Thom said, “I’ll be back in a minute. Don’t let Maggie out.”
“I wasn’t plannin’ to,” said Mrs McCarthy in a taut voice, “the question is: Will these men want to come in?”
“I think the dancers ‘ave their attention for the minute, madam,” he replied curtly.
“Dancers? Such a kind word for such a loathsome kind. But never to me, eh? No kind words for me.”
“If ye want t’be called a dancer, madam, then why don’t ye go an’ join ‘em!”
“Can I be a dancer?” asked Margaret, her eyes still closed – remembering Thom’s promise.
Thom and Mrs McCarthy shared a look. A look of deep contempt, an argument burning on the tips of their tongues, but they restrained themselves for the sake of Margaret.
“Where’re ye going now, Thom?” Mrs McCarthy asked, keeping her voice steady.
“There’s someone I need t’see,” Thom said simply.
“…An entertainer, Thomas?”
Thom fumed under a nonchalant mask, “No, madam,” he said slowly, “I need information. From a woman. In that tent,” he pointed to the tent, “About some people. Who’re pursuin’ me.”
“Oh, ‘information’, of course,” said Mrs McCarthy coldly, “because we all knew you as Thomas the Information Man back at home.”
“That isn’t a thing.”
“Well, clearly, it is now.”
Thom sighed, “Fine. Whatever ye think. I have information t’get and I’ll go get it. It shouldn’t take me too long.”
As Thom turned to leave, she called, “No. A man of your standin’ is bound for many quickies.”
He stood in his place for a moment, poked by the remark, biting air sharply through his teeth, before making for the tent again.
He stood by the flap, listening a while, before taking off his hat and going in.
“Ahoy, Anne,” he said.
Anne Bonny, an infamous pirate who’d made a name for herself when she had espoused the equally infamous Calico Jack and fought with the Royal Navy (before making an escape and lying low since), was surprisingly young for such an achiever. She was in her early twenties, though looking slightly older, and had dark-red hair and deep green eyes. She wore a brown leather jacket over a frilled corselet and men’s breaches.
Sitting on the floor in her tent, Bonny looked up at the sound of Thom’s voice – being more than familiar with it – and smiled, saying, “Heyo, Thomas. How fare ye?”
“I’ve a problem,” he sighed.
Her smile dropped, “I assumed ye’d come for more than just aid, Tinker,” she looked down, read the sheets of paper in her hands.
“Hornigold is still lookin’ for me,” he said.
“O’ course! Who isn’t that man lookin’ for?”
“And my family’ve come, Anne,” he paused, waiting for a reaction.
“Aye. My little sister an’ her mother. Hardly makin’ my situation easier but I must adapt, no less,” he sat on the floor in front of her, putting his hat on the ground, “I have t’end Hornigold’s hunt. For good.”
“That’s a mighty task ye’re askin’ for, Thomas,” said Bonny, scoffing, “Your family’re more than welcome to stay here.”
“I… I wouldn’t want that. My sister’s barely passed a decade in this world, Anne – she need not see whorin’, drinkin’ and debauchery now. And her mother… she’s very young, Anne. And, dare I say, she’s still got beauty t’her face yet. They’re not safe here.”
“But huntin’ down the hunter!” said Bonny, “Thomas, ye can’t be serious!”
“I am! I need t’end him!” Thom insisted, “Tell me what you know about him. Where he lives, who he’s associates to, the people he’s lookin’ for. Tell me, Anne. If I kill him, there will be one less snake in our garden, one less serpent in the sea.”
Bonny regarded him for a while, “Ye’ll get yourself killed, Tom. Where would your family be then?”
“Anne, I can’t go about the sea an’ continue fightin’ with him! One of us has t’die. If Fortune favours him, then so be’t. But I’ll not go by without tryin’ my luck.”
Bonny sighed, “Since ye’re so adamant, fine. Hornigold hasn’t had a stationary home over the past few months. The Pillock’s been scoutin’ the sea constantly, lookin’ for us. Blast him, we used t’call him a brother!” she scowled bitterly.
“A pity, aye.”
“The last that’s been seen o’ him – or the last I saw o’ him – is near Jamaica. Otherwise, I’ve no pointers t’where he is. He’s associated with Rogers, but you’ll not see him. He’s a governor now, probably on his way t’Britain. As for who he’s lookin’ for… there’s you, there’s me, there’s Quick, there’s Jenkins – he’s here, by the way, if ye wanted to talk t’him – and others. Our legends are dead already, Thom – Thatch, Rackham, Vane. You know that. Now, he’s just finishin’ the job.”
“Aye,” sighed Thom, “I s’pose I’ll just have t’work with what you’ve given me. Hopefully, I’ll catch a lead an’ follow’t.”
“And, hopefully, ye don’t follow Hornigold t’Hell.”
“Aye,” Thom got up to leave, putting his hat on.
“Stay a bit!” said Bonny, quickly.
Thom scoffed, “I can’t. I’ve left my family o’er there, and I promised I wouldn’t be long.”
“It won’t take long!”
“Anne, calm yourself. There’ll be better times, later,” Thom walked out, closing the flap of the tent.
Thom waited a while outside Bonny’s tent, wondering whether he should go back in, when a scream rang across the island. He looked up at his family tent, seeing a drunken pirate dragging his bewildered step-mother out of the tent…