We arrived in Kingston tonight. The captain, who had been my employer up until now, left with his galley almost immediately, after giving me directions to the HMS Constant. He described it as a war galley, and the captain of the Constant was a portly man named Roger Meads.
So I went looking around.
I resumed my guise as a man, and walked along city. It was a vibrant place, with rich colours, potent scents and all kinds of people. I knew where I’d find the crew of the Constant. It’s where all but the most bullied sailors went – taverns, or brothels, or both.
I asked for some directions from a local. He was a scruffy-looking man, perhaps Nigerian in origin but his accent was Jamaican, and he gave me a queer look.
“Never been here before then, eh? Sailor?” he said.
I shook my head, “I’m lookin’ for the captain o’ the Constant, a man named Meads.”
“Ah,” he said, scowling and spitting, “be careful how you deal with that man, breddah. He’s a debaucherous bastard.”
I paused, “I’m only lookin’ for information, sir–”
“Please,” laughed the man, “call me Jerome Cuirse,” he put out a hand and I shook it, “what information do you seek?”
“Timmy Green,” I introduced myself, using my alias, “I seek another sailor: William Taylor. D’ye know him?”
Jerome shook his head, “Sorry. Good luck in findin’ your man, though.”
“Aye, thank ye anyway.”
We nodded and parted company. I saw lights dancing in a tavern, noise of music and drunken laughter throbbing from the place. I approached it, thinking it would be my best chance to find Meads, and there indeed I found him. My captain hadn’t been thorough on details, but I was sure. Meads was a man you’d recognise. He was the epitome of the phrase “debaucherous bastard”.
He was seated at a table on the veranda, several empty flagons rolling on the table itself and another frothing with beer in one hand. His other arm was wrapped around the waist of an over-pretty woman sitting on his knee. He did shame to the term “portly”. Obese was a better word to describe Meads. He had company of sailors, however, listening as he spoke in drunken gibberish. He said something unintelligible and laughed, and the sailors laughed enthusiastically with him.
I approached him and asked, “Excuse me, sir, I was wonderin’–”
He belched in interruption and warbled, “Ah, a dandy!” he laughed, his fat cheeks splashed with red, “What luck, lads! Ain’t female company o’er-rated!”
The sailors laughed with him once more.
“I’m lookin’ for William Taylor,” said I, with as much patience as I could muster.
“Ah, sod Taylor! Why don’t ye gang wi’ us tonight, eh, pretty young lad? Taylor’s already got himself a fine wench!”
“I’m not out for a bad night’s sleep, thank ye, sir,” I said. He gave me a look, almost confused. I continued, “I’m lookin’ for the man for information. Where can I find him?”
He stood up, the prostitute on his knee stumbling as he rose. His stance seemed aggressive, so my hand twitched its way to my cutlass.
“That so?” he said, one of his pink eyes squinting.
“Who are ye?”
I wondered for a moment if there was a point to pretence, “I’m a relative o’ his.”
He looked me up and down. I saw the sailors of his company rising from their seats.
Meads raised a hand, “If ye rise up in the mornin’, earlie at the break o’ day. There,” he pointed across the beach next to the harbour, “ye’ll spy young William Taylor, walkin’ wi’ a lady, gay.”
I looked in the direction he was pointing and nodded, “Thank ye, sir,” I turned to go, my hand still rested on the hilt of my cutlass.
He grabbed my arm, “What’s your name, lad?”
“Timmy,” I said, looking him in the eye, “Timmy Green.”
“Won’t ye sit wi’ us, lad?” he said. It sounded more like an order than a question. The sailors came up by his side.
“No, sir. I must sleep if I seek t’rise early in the mornin’.”
“Then sleep wi’ us, why don’t–?”
I drew my sword, cutting his arm and drawing blood. He jumped and howled as the others descended on me…
* * * * *
I saw him.
My husband, William Taylor, walking and caressing some other strumpet. They looked so happy, the sun rising in the sky – appearing to emerge out of the water – behind them. I could feel the anger rise in me, boiling my brains and heating my reasoning. I come out all the way to the Americas, looking for him, and he’s out here betraying me!
I never, never, never should’ve married him!
I started, pulling my pistols out and turning sharply.
It was Jerome.
He didn’t look surprised, “You found your man, then?” he said.
I spat, “Aye,” and glowered down at the couple on the beach.
Jerome sat down next to me, looking at the couple, “What did he do to you?”
“He’s my husband,” I said.
I saw him furrow his brows, his head turning slowly to look at me. He regarded me with some wariness and curiosity, his eyes focusing on my face and then travelling down to look at my chest.
“You’re a woman,” he said, blunt.
I blinked, rolling my eyes, and looked away.
“You’re a woman!” he scoffed, the idea dawning on him, laughing at himself for his own foolishnes, “How can that be?”
“By God, Jerry, is that someth’un that needs explainin’?” I said. I couldn’t help myself, I laughed with him.
“What’s your real name, lass?” he said.
“Tima,” I said, my anger burning again, “Tima Green. I’d taken to Tima Taylor for a while, but now,” I scowled, and jutted my chin at the couple in conclusion.
Jerome resumed an air of seriousness, “Why did you come out here?”
“T’find my good-for-nothin’, lout-of-a-husband. T’see if he was goin’t’come back or float down t’the sea as food for the mermaids,” I said bitterly, “it seems I should’ve left him to ‘em!”
“Many men get lonely out at sea, Tima.”
I rounded on him, “That’s an excuse, is’t?”
“No, no… just a reasoning.”
“Men who can’t be true,” I said, huffing at him, “shouldn’t get married.”
I stood up, holstering on of my pistols, but holding the other ready. William and the woman had their backs to me as I thumbed down the hammer and pulled the trigger. There was a moment of shocked silence as a small hole opened in the woman’s back (the gunshot registering a second later), beginning to drip with blood, and she fell forward onto the sand. I saw William’s eyes widen and then he scrambled up and regarded me. He then took a look at my pistol that was still smoking.
He didn’t seem to recognise me.
“Y-you…” he said, his voice shaking, “You killed her!”
“Aye, Billy,” I said, coldly, “aye.”
He looked at me, incredulous, “Who’re ye?” was the only thing he could say.
“Oh, that’s nice, that is,” I drew my cutlass, “Very nice. Go around breakin’ your vows t’God, and not recognise the woman ye made ‘em with!”
The blood drained from his face, “No…”
“Oh, yes,” I said, advancing.
He drew his own sword, “Tima, this is a mistake!”
“Oh, no, it’s not.”