“No!” Pleasance Pratt rushed through the door, knocking a surprised pirate out of the way. “Get your hands off my customer!” She beat the pirate holding George with her tiny fists.
George took the opportunity to twist away, ran back into the room, and crawl under one of the bunks. Wynefrede had to jump out of the way to let him past. Then she peered out into the hall.
Two pirates were trying to restrain Pleasance but she fought like a dervish, the narrow corridor making it difficult for the pirates to get their hands on her.
“All I wanted was to throw a few nice parties!” Pleasance yelled, kicking a pirate in the shins. “Help a few lonely people!” She ducked under the hands of another pirate trying to grab her and scratched the first one’s face. “Why do people keep kidnapping my clients?” She grabbed a knife from one of the pirates and backed into a corner, holding the knife out in front of her. Then she jerked her arm back and held the knife to her own throat. “Step back or I’ll kill myself!”
“Move aside! I said, move aside!” A deep male voice echoed down the corridor. Wynefrede froze in place. She recognized the voice.
“I mean it, I’ll kill myself!” Pleasance yelled.
The captain’s heavy steps approached. Wynefrede ducked back inside the room and Benedicta took her place at the door.
“Give her space,” said Captain Kraken. “Now, what’s all this about?”
“They started fighting in there,” said one of the other pirates.
“Separate them,” the captain said.
“What about her?” Wynefrede guessed the pirate was asking about Pleasance.
“If she was going to kill herself, she would have done it already.”
“Come on, do it,” Benedicta muttered under her breath. “Nope, she didn’t do it.” She turned back to Wynefrede and Margarett. “They got her,” she said. George let out a groan from under the bunk.
Then a burly hand yanked Benedicta into the hallway.
“Take this one down to the brig and tie her up.” The captain appeared in the doorway and Wynefrede scooted down the cot, all the way back to the far wall. Margarett pressed against her.
“Now, what are we going to do with the two of you?” He looked down and saw George peering out from his hiding place. “The three of you?”
He bent down to look George in the eye. “We can use someone scrubbing the floors,” he said. “You want to sign up? No? That fine.” The captain straightened and looked back.
“We were going to throw him overboard,” someone said. “He doesn’t match the description, and if he’s causing trouble, then he’ll be more effort than it’s worth.”
“No, no, I’ll sign up,” said George.
“You sure?” the captain asked. “It’s a tough life, being a pirate. I mean, it has some advantages, too. The freedom of the high seas. The thrill of the chase. The booty. Some like it.”
“I’ll try,” said George.
“And you’ll behave?”
“Well, come on then.”
George crawled out. As he straighted up, he briefly turned away from the captain and whispered “I’ll figure out a way to save you,” to Margarett and Wynefrede.
Wynefrede glanced at the captain to see if he’d heard, but he was leaning into the hallway, motioning at someone out of view.
“Take the guy up on deck and have him start scrubbing,” said Captain Kraken. He patted George on the shoulder and then pushed him out into the hall. “And get him some real pants.”
George disappeared down the corridor and then Wynefrede saw Pleasance being dragged past.
“Take her…” The captain stopped and thought.
“There’s still room in the brig,” another pirate said.
“Fine, tie her up down there. Make sure she can’t reach the other one.”
The captain then turned back and stared at Wynefrede and Margarett. “Now, what are we going to do with the two of you?” He scratched under his beard.
“You can let us go,” said Wynefrede. “Whatever anyone is paying you to kidnap us, we can pay more.”
Margarett nodded. “We’re rich,” she said.
“Now, what kind of man would I be if I went back on my word?” said Captain Kraken.
“A pirate? You’d be a pirate.” Wynefrede shrank back as the captain narrowed his eyes at her. “I mean, pirates do whatever they want,” she said. “Don’t they?”
“I live by the pirate code,” said Captain Kraken. “My word is my bond.” He spread his arms as far as the tight constraints of the room would allow. “Out here, on the open seas, there are no contracts. There are no governing bodies. No rules. No regulations. You can truly tell the measure of a man by how he acts outside of society’s constraints. And do you know what kind of many I am?”
Margarett shook her head. “No?” she whispered.
“The kind who kidnaps and tortures innocent people?” asked Wynefrede.
“The kind who keeps his word,” said the captain. He pulled Margarett to her feet. “I like the look of you,” he said. “You can stay in my room.” He dragged her behind him as he turned and walked out into the corridor. “The other one can bunk with Fishlips.”
Margarett grabbed the doorframe and looked back at Wynefrede, who jumped up and tried to get a hold of her friend. She wrapped her arms around Margarett’s waist and planted her foot against the doorframe. But the captain yanked hard and tore Margarett out of her arms.
Wynefrede retreated back into the room as the first two pirates came back in.
“Looks like we’re getting our room back,” said one.
“Yeah, we were going to have to sleep out on deck because of you lot,” said the other.
“Well, I still might. You snore.”
“And you smell.”
“You cheat at cards.”
“You drink too much and they cry about how much you miss your ex.”
One of the pirates grabbed Wynefrede by the shoulder, squeezing so hard it hurt. She tried to jerk away, but he squeezer tighter and she squealed in pain.
“Behave,” the pirate said. “We have to keep you alive, but nobody said anything about keeping you in one piece.”
“You know what Shorty’s hobby is?” said the other pirate. “He likes slicing thin strips of skin off his victims and then rubbing salt into the wound.”
“Then I tan the skin and make it into leather,” said Shorty. “I already collected enough for a friendship bracelet.”
The other pirate held up his wrist, which had a braided leather strap wrapped around it.
“Now I’m working on a whip,” Shorty said.
“And if you think he’s bad, wait until you meet Fishlips.”
They took Wynefrede up the stairs to the upper deck, then towards the back of the ship. That’s where the officer’s quarters were on the Santa Marina. The Queen’s Revenge looked to be roughly the same size, now that Wynefrede saw it in the sunlight for the first time. George was already on his hands and knees scrubbing she tried to catch his eye as she was dragged past, but he looked away, probably to hide the tears on his face.
“What did you do to him?” Wynefrede asked Shorty as he pulled her through a door into what looked like the officer’s mess.
“Don’t bother yourself about him,” said Shorty. “You’re going to have bigger things to worry about soon enough.”
He pulled open the door of a cabin and pushed her in. There was only one bed in the room and she stood in the center, wondering what she was supposed to do. She looked around. Fishlips didn’t go in for decorating. Other than the bed, the only other things in the room were a storage chest and a chamber pot. She glanced up at the porthole. It was open. If the pirate gave her a couple of minutes alone, she might be able to climb out.
But Shorty continued to stand over her, his hand firmly gripping her shoulder.
She looked away from the porthole. On the wall across from the bed there was a poster, a wood cut illustration of a kitten hanging from a sail spar over the water. The text underneath said, “Hang in there, baby.”
Shorty’s friendship bracelet friend came back holding a chain and an armload of blankets. He threw the blankets of the floor.
“You can sleep on those,” Shorty said and held her tight as his friend chained her to the cross brace under Fishlips’ bed. “I hope you don’t snore,” he added. “Fishlips has a bad temper.”
After they left, Wynefrede fruitlessly pulled at the chain then tried opening the door. It was locked from the outside. She sat down on the floor on the pile of blankets, leaned against Fishlips’ bed, wrapped her arms around her knees, and stared at the kitten poster.
What kind of a monster was she going to be sharing a room with, if even Shorty thought Fishlips was bad.
She glanced at the chest, then back at the door. She’d have a few seconds if someone came in because they’d have to unlock it first.
She shifted around until she was on her knees in front of the storage chest. There was a lock on it, but it wasn’t bolted all the way. She pulled it apart, opened the lid, and gasped when she saw what was inside.
She slammed the lid shut, then locked it tight and backed away as far as she could.