Things just go from bad to worse for Phineas. Rescued from the sea by bedraggled fishermen, he’s introduced to Red Suarez, the self-proclaimed pirate king of Port Royal. Now it’s time for the interview…
“So,” Red Suarez remarked as he strode into the room. “How is it we find a white child in our harbor and I doesn’t know about it, eh? As ye can imagine, loose white children be a bit of a rarity in tese parts.”
He sat down in a chair at the far end of the rough wooden at which Phineas had been placed, behind a litter of maps and charts and pieces of parchment. Candles set in sconces on each of the whitewashed walls guttered smokily, doing their best to compete with the late morning sunlight that poured in through the big windows along the other side of the room. The windows framed a view of more clapboard buildings and a few palm trees. Two ancient sailing ships were locked in a desperate battle in a big, dusty old tapestry that hung behind Phineas. A cold breeze lifted its corner and let it fall against the wall, releasing a cloud of fine dust.
“I am no child,” Phineas replied. Even though he was scared, something about being called a child rankled him. “In fact, I’ve already held quite a few jobs while at sea, thank you.”
“Be tat so, now?” Suarez smiled. One of his front teeth canted off at an odd angle, making the little man look snaggle-toothed. “I’ve held quite a few meself, metinks. I was once a cabin boy, which I’m tinking, is a job ye’ve held. Tat or a steward, perhaps. Me, I’ve been a gun captain, ye know, and made me way up to te quarterdeck.”
“I thought you were a pirate,” Phineas said sharply.
“A gentleman of fortune, if you please,” Suarez bowed slightly in his chair. “What are you tinking, lad? Does ye tink pirates is born and raised?” He scoffed loudly and looked out the window for a moment. The room was silent, save for the burble of voices rising up from downstairs.
“‘Twas so long ago now I cannot be rememberin’.” His spoke in a slow, peaceful voice. “T’was the Sparrow, out of Bristol. Cap’n Curlew, tat was ‘is name. Meanest blighter what ever commanded a ship. Flogged ye for havin’ yer hands empty, he did.”
“Was he a pi…” Phineas began, but a harsh look from Green Teeth made him hold his tongue.
“We were off te Americas…Sandy Hook, I’m tinking. My friend Ramon was at te gratin’s.”
“The gratins?” Phineas interrupted. Suarez didn’t look his way, but kept his eyes out the windows.
“Aye,” he continued softly. “Ye pulls te gratings up out of the deck and stands ’em upright. Ye ties the poor sailorman to ’em and ye have a go wit’ a cat o’ nine.”
“Cat o’ nine?” Phineas asked. Green Teeth grumbled, but didn’t hit him.
“As evil a weapon as ever was invented by the Navy, I’m tinking. Ye takes a bullwhip and ye splits te tip into nine strips, and ye ties a wee bit o’ lead into each of ’em. When yer bosun lays on wit’ te cat o’ nine, yer poor sailorman is hit not once but nine times, and tem bits o’ lead make sure it cuts him open. A hundred lashes can kill a man.”
Phineas gasped. He’d heard of a cat of nine, but never knew what it was.
“Me and Tompkins and tat big fellow, Marcus was his name, we’d had ourselves enow. The bosun, nasty bloke name o’ Hunter, started laying out a dozen lashes, but he never got past tree.”
“Wh…What happened?” Phineas almost whispered.
“We had the ship witin two minutes, I’d say,” Suarez continued, his eyes gazing dreamily out the windows. “Tat bugger Curlew was over the side in a flash, along with Hunter and his bleedin’ cat o’ nine. Tompkins come up wit’ a pistol, and tat laid te mate, Blodgett was ‘is name, laid ‘im low. Over te side wit’ him, too. T’was all over in two minutes, I’m swearin’.”
“Wh…What happened?” Phineas repeated.
Suarez sighed heavily in annoyance.
“We took te ship, ye dolt. Now, once ye takes a ship, no matter what drives ye to it, ye’re sure to hang if tey catches ye. So off we go, living by our wits. We’re gentlemen of fortune by trade, but in trut’ nutting but poor sailormen what’s been abused and turned out by te world, so we are.” He fell silent.
Phineas felt sorry for the little red man. Here was an honest and good fellow who had seen his friends treated badly and who had acted bravely in their defense.
A fellow, he remembered, who also had a bunch of big, scary pirates working for him who had dragged off that poor Nat Hopkins and threw him into some place called the tavern over a matter of five pounds. And who had the gall to have Phineas himself kidnapped. His anger rose quickly at that.
“That might explain the past,” he snapped. “But it doesn’t do much to explain my kidnapping. I suggest you just think about setting me free and I will reconsider your situation.”
“Oh, will ye now?” Suarez turned slowly towards him.
“My father is a pirate captain, you know!” Phineas blurted. He was surprised at how easily the words came. “When he finds out you kidnapped me he will have you drawn and quartered into a dozen pieces, and then he’ll pour gunpowder on each piece and blow you straight to where you belong!”
Suarez looked at him with raised eyebrows. He chuckled softly and said, “Now just who would you’re fat’er be?”
“Patrick Caswell… Mad Pat, they call him, on account of he’s a heartless killer!” Phineas tried his best to speak with calm authority, but his heart beat a million times a minute. “Mad Dog Patrick Caswell,” he added.
The pirate considered this for a moment, stroking his beard, admiring the rings on his fingers, glancing at the other men, both of who were grinning. “So, Mad Pat Caswell is to be your fat’er, ten.”
“You had better believe it, you scurvy water keg! His ship is in this harbor, searching for me this very minute…”
“His ship would be called Grace,” Red Suarez interrupted. “And from where I be sitting, I can just see her topmasts over tem trees.”
He laughed a little.
“He don’t seem to be searchin’ so hard, him being at anchor and all…”
The other men burst into laughter, which was a little unnerving, but Phineas continued on angrily.
“No, he isn’t aboard the Grace. He took a ship is called the Williwaw… and he’s out there in the harbor aboard her this minute. When he finds out that you took me prisoner he’ll make you wish you’d never been born.”
The pirate captain looked at the two buccaneers. “Oh, I be shakin’ in me boots, lads!” he laughed. The other two pirates laughed, too. “Let me see, te Williwaw… tat’d be tat fool Tom Ganders. It would not be surprisin’ to me if your Mad Cat Patrick, or whatever you call him – Mad Dog? Was ‘at it? – took Ganders’ ship away from him. Ganders was so stupid, he probably set his own ship afire by mistake!”
The other pirates laughed at this.
“As well you should be shaking in your boots!” Phineas said, angered even more by their laughter. “If you let me go now I promise he’ll go easy on you when he catches you!”
Suarez picked up a square packet from the pile of charts and papers on the table in front of him. It was a large document folded down to roughly six inches on a side, and perhaps an inch thick. A dark red stain covered one of the tattered corners. Phineas imagined it to be a bloodstain.
“Ye’re Mad Pat be lookin’ for tis, I’d wager,” Suarez said cockily. “I took it from tat fool Ganders. He tought it was priceless, but let it go for a song ‘cause he couldn’t figure it out. I ain’t figured it out yet, but I knows what it’s wort’. And I’ll wager your Mad Pat knows it, too.”
He flopped the parcel down onto the table.
“But he won’t get it. Not so long as I’m drawing a breat’, it ain’t leaving me sight.”
He picked up a glittering cutlass and strode over to Phineas. The pirate leaned over him; droplets of foul smelling sweat splattering on the table, and lifted the cutlass so that the blade slid under Phineas’ chin.
“But maybe he ain’t comin’ along as ye tinks. Tell me, lad, why is it your Katryn B lies in Port Royal?”
“Uh, uh, trading, I believe,” Phineas stammered.
“And what goods would it be tat your trading, eh?”
“Uh, uh,” Phineas tried to think of what he’d seen loading into the boat. Kegs. They were large kegs. “Uh, kegs…”
“What be IN the kegs, ye lubberly bumpkin?” Suarez said with mounting frustration.
“I don’t know, they were closed,” Phineas replied testily. He didn’t like being called names.
“You’re a rare plucked ‘un, you are,” Suarez said slowly. “‘Te kegs was closed’. What do ye take me for?”
“Well,” Phineas cleared his throat. He had planned to call Suarez an uncouth ruffian, but the sword was still dangerously close.
“Don’t answer tat, ye fool. Who be the captain of your ship?” Suarez pushed the blade close against Phineas’ throat.
Phineas tried to back up in the chair, but the big bearded fellow held his shoulder. He gulped carefully.
“Well, it’s sort of a debate right now. Uncle Neville is usually the captain, but right now Mr. Lourdburton is rather running things…”
“What are ye gabblin’ about, ye empty-headed cracker-pot. Ye don’t even know who your captain is?”
“Well, as I say, it’s a little confus…” he squeaked.
“Ach!” Suarez roared. “Enow!”
“I still theen we shou’ sell heem” said the Green Teeth buccaneer.
“Belay that tripe!” roared the red man. “We don’t be sellin’ nobody until Red Suarez SAYS we’re sellin’ him!” He shook himself, trying to calm his temper. At last he smiled and lowered the cutlass blade.
“I just got me an idear!”
He put the sword back in its scabbard and rapped off some orders in Spanish to the bearded buccaneer, who scrambled out of the room, only to return in a moment with a bottle of ink, a quill, and some paper.
“We’ll be sellin’ your ugly little carcass to the captain of yer own ship!” he cackled. “Oh, tey’ll pay up nice and tidy for a plump little bugger like you! O’ course, tey mayn’t be getting’ all of you back at one time… tat’s a nice surprise for ‘em, eh?”
He shoved the paper and quill and ink in front of Phineas.
“You’ll be writing a ransom note, I’m tinkin’” The pirate said. “Tat is assuming, of course, ye can read and write.”
“Of course I can,” Phineas replied. “Can’t you?”
The pirate eyed him for a long, long moment.
“Tere’s too much fortune afloat to waste your time readin’ and writin’,” Suarez said slowly.
“It’s really easy,” Phineas offered genuinely. “You just sort of sound things out, and match the letters up to ‘em. Do you know your letters?”
“Shut UP!” Suarez roared. “Write down what I tells ye. And no tricks!”
“Aye, aye sir” Phineas stuttered out.
“All right, ten. Write tis. Write, uh, Dear Captain… Captain… what’s his name?”
“B-But you’re the captain, aren’t you?”
“Not me, you chowder head,” Suarez roared again, ”te captain of your ship!”
Out of the corner of his eye, Phineas saw the gleam of a metal hook slowly draw aside the farthest edge of the tapestry behind him. He glanced at Suarez, who fiddled mindlessly with the hilt of his sword, too frustrated to notice.
“All right, ye stupid whelp. Read to me back what ye’ve got written down tere so far,” Suarez commanded.
“’Uh, dear captain, captain what’s his name’” Phineas read, dutifully.
“All right, tat’s it, ye poxy little bugger!” Suarez bellowed in rage,” We’ll send him a note he’s sure to be readin’!”
He raised his cutlass with one hand, and with the other reached out and grabbed Phineas’ left arm. “He’ll understand tis!”
Phineas recoiled in horror, squirming to get his arm out of the pirate’s iron grip. He nearly fainted at the thought of that blade coming down on his arm and…
“Touch a hair on that boy’s head, Suarez, and I swear I will blow you to Kingdom Come!” Lourdburton stepped out from behind the tapestry on Phineas’s left, while Uncle Neville and a finely dressed gentleman pushed out from the right. Each held a pistol, and the gentleman pointed an elegant rapier.
Suarez looked at them in surprise. “What be tis, ten? Some sort o’ rescue? “ He said the word ‘rescue’ as if it were a joke. “How’d you come to be in here?” He turned to the pirates behind him. “Which of you dimwits left te window open?”
“Well, Red Suarez,” the gentleman said evenly.
Suarez pointed at him in surprise. His face distorted in anger. “Sir Edward! I never tought I’d be havin’ to look at te likes of you again!”
“Hopefully that will be your last mistake,” Sir Edward replied coldly.
Green Teeth raised his pistol to fire at him, but Lourdburton fired first, and the buccaneer fell to the floor, holding his arm.
“Too late for you, me one-handed boyo,” Suarez hissed and pointed his pistol squarely at Lourdburton’s face. The click of the trigger was wretchedly loud in the silent room… there was no time to save him. Phineas gasped in horror.
The pistol clicked, but failed to fire. Lourdburton, looking a little shaken, bashed the pistol aside with his cutlass.
“I say, Suarez, you’ve gone off half-cocked.”
“Never, EVER tell me I done ANYT’IN’ half-cocked!”
Suarez threw himself toward Lourdburton, whirling about to draw his cutlass. As he did so he knocked over Phineas’ chair. Phineas tumbled heavily to the floor and scurried under the table to get out of the way.
There was a shot, another shot, and then the sharp rattle of swords against one another, all above the table where Phineas could not see it. A shower of plaster clattered from the ceiling, and the bearded buccaneer fell to the floor like a load of crumpled laundry. He lay motionless.
Suarez’s legs moved backwards along the side of the table as Lourdburton’s legs forced him back. Phineas reached out and kicked Suarez behind the knee as hard as he could.
“Belay!” Red Suarez howled in pain as he stumbled backwards and fell over the pirate with the wounded arm, rolling to the floor.
Fists pounded on the door to the room. Voices called outside the door. “Cap’n? Cap’n?”
“Gentlemen,” said Sir Edward, quickly, “I suggest we make our retreat before his entire crew gets in here.”
Red Suarez glared hatefully at Phineas under the table.
“You!” he hissed. “You’ll be payin’ for tis, me boyo. I’ll not forget you!”
Uncle Neville reached under the table and helped Phineas scramble out. Sir Edward held the tapestry back, while the others dashed through the small window behind it.
“You’ll not be done with me yet, you scurvy buggers!” Suarez called after them. “I’ll not rest ‘til I’ve sent you and your stinkin’ hulk to te bottom of te sea! Run away, ye cowards! I’ll come looking for ye still!”
“Wait!” Phineas cried.
He leapt past Sir Edward and back into the room. Green Teeth lay curled up on the floor, holding his wounded arm. Phineas leapt over him and sprinted to the far end of the table.
“Get ye away from tere!” Suarez bellowed from the floor and scrambled to his knees. He leapt for Phineas, who had reached the end of the table.
Phineas scanned the table quickly, searching for and finding the bloodstained packet Suarez had waved about.
“No, ye don’t, ye tievin’ bilge rat,” Suarez grunted and grabbed Phineas’ leg.
“Let go!” Phineas wailed and kicked out with his free leg, catching Suarez square in the forehead with the heel of his shoe. The little man rolled backwards onto the floor and let go of Phineas’ leg.
Phineas grabbed the packet and barreled down the other side of the table, leaping over the bearded pirate who lay still and silent.
The door flew open behind them, and half a dozen nasty buccaneers with drawn cutlasses burst in with a rush of warm, stale air of a tavern.
A single shot cracked out, and Phineas felt the hot wind of a pistol ball pass his ear. The buccaneers at the door yelled in confusion.
“I’m hit,” one of them screamed.
Phineas didn’t turn and look, but raced for the tiny window. Sir Edward, smoking pistol in hand, smiled and held the tapestry open for him.
“I’ll keel haul ye, ye miserable sneak tief!” Suarez roared from the floor at the far end of the table. “Ye stupid blaggards! Go after ’em!”
Sir Edward drew the tapestry shut behind them.
“We’d best hurry,” he said with a smile.
The little window hidden behind the tapestry opened out onto a narrow iron balcony suspended over an alleyway.
“Where do we go?” Phineas moaned.
“We jump,” Lourdburton said, and threw himself over the balcony’s delicate iron railings and landed roughly in the dirt of the alley.
“Come on!” he yelled.
With a gulp, Phineas slid one leg carefully over the railing.
“No time,” Sir Edward said, and shoved him off.
The railing slipped out of Phineas’ fingers, and he landed with a hard splash into a puddle of something that seriously did not smell like rainwater. The package tumbled out of his hands.
A hot wind whisked past Phineas’ hand as he dashed to grab it, followed instantly by the crack of a pistol from the balcony.
“Run!” Sir Edward bellowed. He pulled yet another pistol from his thin baldric and fired it at the pirates crowding the tiny balcony.
“Easy,” one of them yelled. A shower of dust and rotten wood burst out from underneath it. “It’s coming down!”
“Back! Back up,” another pirate yelled. They scrambled back through the tiny window, swearing and yelling. The iron balcony clanged and cracked and crackled and thundered to the ground behind them. One fellow clung with his fingertips from the windowsill until someone inside pulled him in.
Uncle Neville helped Phineas to his feet and they all ran down the alley and out toward the busy main street.
“Did ye see how I shot that brigand?” Uncle Neville wheezed out between gasps for air.
“A fine shot, sir,” Lourdburton responded with a wry smile. “I would never have thought of knocking that plaster down from the ceiling.”
“Quite got the blighter, did I not?” Uncle Neville grinned.
“Easy, now,” Sir Edward whispered urgently, and held his hands out to make them stop running. “It wouldn’t do to look like we are escaping.”
“But we are,” Phineas panted.
“But we mustn’t look the part,” Sir Edward replied.
Phineas looked at him for the first time. He wasn’t tall, but he was a handsome, compact man. The beige lapels and facings on the sleeves of his coat made an exquisite contrast with the maroon fabric that exactly matched his trousers, which were themselves tucked into heavy sailor’s boots. A fine white lace shirt poked out a black doublet, which was partially hidden by a finely worked gold baldric. His white powdered wig did not appear to have noticed that the man had jumped off a balcony, but sat perfectly above his rugged, square face. Sir Edward took a deep breath and strolled out into the street as if he’d done it every day of his life.
Lourdburton shrugged and followed him. Uncle Neville looked at Phineas and shook his head.
“I’m not liking this, lad,” he said worriedly.
“Who is that fellow?” Phineas whispered.
“Friend of Lourdburton’s. It is that which I am not liking.”
He motioned Phineas to go in front of him, and they strode out into the crowded street as calmly as they could.
Phineas tried to look calm, but couldn’t help but glance at the crowd of people coming and going from the marketplace. He held his breath as a particularly rough looking fellow, as broad through the shoulders as he was tall, pushed through the richly dressed landowners and nearly naked natives and marched right next to him. He bowled along like a massive, tattoo-covered ape. Phineas clutched the package in his hands more tightly.
He waited for the tattooed villain to grab him, holding his breath and not daring to change his pace. The big fellow abruptly shuffled off, pushing through a large peasant family. Phineas took a deep, greatly relieved breath.
His heart still beat furiously. He couldn’t believe he had actually kicked a pirate in the head, had almost been shot, and almost gotten his arm cut off, and, for all that, had actually stolen something terribly valuable. He pressed the package against his thigh.
“There they go,” a low voice growled from the crowd behind them.
“Don’t look back,” Sir Edward whispered loudly. “Just keep walking toward that marketplace.”
“Look,” Lourdburton said as quietly as he could. Of course it was deucedly loud, and Phineas jumped at the sound.
Off to their right a number of cruel looking men streamed out of a poorly painted building that bore the sign “The Queen’s Pintle.” Some of them carried mugs, but all carried swords or pistols or both. Phineas shook his head. The Queen’s Pintle was Red Suarez’ tavern.
Sir Edward led them across the crowded main square and toward the open-air market.
A disgusting waft of rotting fruit, cooking meat, garbage, sweat and lady’s perfume washed over them. Phineas tried to stop smelling it, but it was so strong he thought he might have to retch again.
“Do we have to go in there,” he moaned, but was drowned out by the voices of the vendors in the market place, who themselves competed with the cries of monkeys and parrots in makeshift cages.
Sir Edward slowed down and motioned for Lourdburton and Uncle Neville to go ahead. He leaned in close to Phineas as they passed.
“What is it that you have, there?” he asked quietly and motioned with his chin to the packet Phineas carried.
“Huh?” Phineas replied. “Oh, this. Red Suarez said it was the treasure that Tom Ganders had found. I was going to…”
“May I have it, please?” Sir Edward requested urgently.
“Uhm, I didn’t really steal it,” Phineas said quickly. “Uhm, it belongs to my father, you see… “
“Oh,” Sir Edward replied with a small smile. “I seriously doubt that. If you would please relinquish it to me… “
“Well, I don’t know… “
“You will be doing a grave service to her majesty.”
“No, lad, her majesty the Queen of England.”
“May I ask who you are, milord?” Phineas whispered, suddenly aware that he had completely forgotten his manners.
“Sir Edward, Lord Hawkesbury. I can tell you that much. What I cannot explain is why it is so urgent that you give me that package. But give it to me you must.”
Phineas proffered the package without further comment, awed by the man’s title and his obvious association with the queen.
“Wha… what is it?” Phineas whispered as the package left his hands. “May it please your lordship.”
“I’m certain I do not know,” Sir Edward replied. “It is a puzzle for heads greater than ours.”
Sir Edward smiled.
“You have done your country a great service, lad. A reward may yet be yours.”
They had reached the market stalls. Lourdburton turned back with an inquiring glance to Sir Edward, who motioned with his head that he and Uncle Neville should turn into the street to the left.
“Con permiso, señor,” a man said, and laid his hand on Phineas’ shoulder. Phineas turned in horror to look right at the giant from Suarez’ parade, with his too-small clothes and that horrific scar. Behind him stood the fellow with the purple coat and the pistols. Four more of Suarez’s men stood behind him.
Sir Edward stopped and turned. The crowd parted around them.
“Captain Suarez says he has some business with you,” the man in purple said.
“Phineas,” Sir Edward said quietly, “come with me.”
He grabbed Phineas by the arm and jerked him to the ground, dropped with him, and shoved him underneath a table loaded with parrot cages. Birds squawked and screamed, and Sir Edward leapt over him and rolled under the next table.
“Roll under the tables,” Sir Edward gasped. “Come on!”
“Hey!” the giant fellow bellowed. “Come back here!”
The people in the crowd momentarily blocking Suarez’ men. It was monstrously hot on the guano-covered ground, despite the cold wind. The droppings from the squawking, chattering birds, heated by the tropical sun, created an awful smell that made Phineas feel dizzy. He pulled himself up into a squat beneath the table.
“Don’t stop,” Sir Edward barked. The gentleman rolled over and crawled on his hands and knees underneath the tables, scrambling deeper into the market. Phineas followed him, crawling as quickly as he could. The bird droppings were so thick his knees slipped out from under him twice. Just when he thought he was making good progress his hand squished onto a rotten plantain. He recoiled in discuss, and bumped his head on the bottom of the table. He squatted back down, but his left oozed into a smashed guava fruit.
“This is so disgusting,” he gasped. The ghastly orange and brown stain fruit was smeared over the knees of his white canvas ducks. He fought the urge to throw up.
He hunkered down at the sound of a cloud of complaints in Spanish that erupted behind him. Peeking out under the table, he watched as the legs of rough men surged through the market. Suarez’ men seemed to be everywhere. Somewhere a table of birds tipped over, and a cascade of feathers and the screaming of loose, wild parrots suddenly filled the hot, dusty air.
He looked across the aisle at the next table, expecting to see Sir Edward crouching there. There was no one under the table.
“Sir Edward?” he croaked out hoarsely, trying not to call attention to himself. “Sir Edward.”
He sighed heavily.
“Well, this is just peachy,” he muttered to himself.
Sir Edward, Lourdburton, and even Uncle Neville had abandoned him. They had absolutely left him in the middle of a market that positively swarmed with pirates.
He looked at his ducks and sighed again. Here he was, covered in bird droppings and rotten fruit, hiding beneath a table and peering out at the legs of strange people, like a common alley cat in a country as far away and remote as the moon.
He sat perfectly still and wondered what he should do. Clearly he had to get back to the Kathryn B, and he had to escape Suarez and the pirates. But how to do it?
Dozens of legs strolled past the table, some in skirts, some in trousers, some naked. Most had sandals on the feet, some had boots, and some had nothing. He caught his breath when a pair of shiny boots stopped right in front of the table. Dipping just below the knees was a pair of purple coat tails, with a fine paisley design on the facing.
Phineas scrunched himself into a little ball. He dared not even breathe lest the man in purple look under the table. He gasped silently when the giant’s nasty bare feet stepped up next to the man with the boots.
“Do you see them, Maldonado?” the boots’ owner asked.
The bare feet shifted awkwardly.
“No, señor,” their owner said.
“How could you be so stupid,” boots asked.
“I am not estupid, Jaffrey,” Maldonado replied. “They got away from you, too.”
“The captain will not be happy with you, my friend,” boots said.
“He will no be happy wi…wait,” Maldonado said, “look!”
Phineas squeezed his eyes shut, ready for the giant’s hand to come down and grab him.
“Something is moving under that table over there.”
The giant’s ghastly bare feet shifted quickly. “Look! It is that English man!”
Both the boots and the bare feet dashed away. Phineas puffed out a gasp of relief.
A table turned over, and parrots squawked, and men shouted, but it was all on the far side of the marketplace. Phineas breathed out slowly, trying to figure out what he should do.
He sat silently with his knees drawn against his chest and his arms wrapped around them, until the yelling and shouting and struggling went away. Even though it was terrifically hot, holding himself so closely made him feel just a little less afraid. A little.
He shifted uncomfortably, listening to the foreign voices drifting around him, and feeling the awful bird droppings and squashed fruit dry on his pants, and swatted the flies that began to gather around him. He couldn’t stay here, and there was no other way out of Jamaica but aboard the Kathryn B.
He slowly, carefully, climbed out from under his table, being careful to keep his head low. It felt so good to get out of his cramped hunker. But he dared not stand up straight, so he rolled onto his knees in the aisle and slowly, slowly lifted himself until his eyes were just above the pile of brown-spotted yellow guavas heaped on the table.
He held his breath and scanned the marketplace from one side to the other, ready to dive beneath the table if he recognized anyone that he didn’t want to recognize. He held his breath for a moment as the big tattooed fellow sauntered past, but let it out again when he was gone by without paying Phineas any notice at all.
Carefully, and painfully, he stood up straight. Slowly turning his head from one side to the other, he looked once more for a sign of Suarez and his men. They were gone.
“Well now,” he muttered to himself. “That’s better, isn’t it?”
He had no idea where he was in town. But it was clear that there more seafaring folk, those with tattoos and pigtails, seemed to coming and going go down the road that led off to his right than anywhere else. With one more glance around, just to make sure nobody was watching him, he walked quickly down the road toward what he hoped was the harbor.
People jostled past, paying him no mind whatsoever. He tried his best to look like he belonged, ignoring the way the knees of his ducks crackled beneath the plaster of dried garbage.
Flies buzzed around his face, drawn to his crackling assortment of guano and ruined fruit. Clap his hands and pat his pants though he did, they buzzed around him, bouncing off his closed eyelids and landing on his lips.
“Buzz off, you blighters,” he swore and twisted on his heel to escape the swarm that pestered him.
He spun so quickly that he collided with the person walking behind him. He stumbled and gasped in horror. It was the tattooed man.