Her long raven hair fell over her shoulders, the ends caught up in the wet cloth she dragged along the bar mopping up the spills and crumbs. It’d been a busy evening. Had taken her forever to shoo everyone out and on their way home. But go they’d had to for there was a meet at midnight on the dot. She loved this tavern, she truly did. It suited her. She was a flirt. She freely admitted it. And every sailor who’d darkened her door was in love with her. It gave her a sense of power. And that was important given what she did.
She hardly looked presentable. The top of her kirtle was soaked with sweat from standing near the hot cook fire all day, her two-layered, pink- and green-striped skirts felt like they weighed as much as a bloody anchor over her graying and worn petticoat. She untied the once-white apron and hung it on a peg behind the bar, then began to undo the leather laces of her bodice. Lord, it felt good to be able to breath again.
“Are ye done out there then?”
He was impatient tonight. The hour was late and they needed to be about their business. She loved that man, though he could be demanding at times. Claimed he was just looking out for her interests.
“Aye, Fergus. Everyone’s gone and the place is practically pitch dark.”
Hearing the bell over the door tinkle, she quickly tied the laces off a bit looser and shoved her hair back over her shoulders. She smelled them before she saw ’em. Gawd! Why can’t men ever take a bath, she thought. Putting on her sweetest smile, she turned to meet the three, rough-looking sailors.
“We heared ye be lookin’ fer more crew.”
The man who’d spoken removed his hat and held it before him waiting. They were all filthy from head to toe. Pictures of each other they were — brown woolen breeches, sweat-stained overshirts. The speaker held his red hat, one wore blue, and one none at all. Their shoes were good though. You could tell a deal from looking at a man’s shoes. This lot wore good, solid boots. Aye, they knew what they were about, all right, she figured. She motioned for them to sit at the bar.
“Where’d you last work,” she asked. She could see them licking their lips, thirsty for a drink of the demon rum. But she was a smart one. She knew what could happen when men got to drinkin’ together. Three against one? She didn’t like them odds. She reckoned she could take them, though. Didn’t get where she was by being soft.
Just then the half door to the kitchen swung open on well-oiled hinges and Fergus shouldered his way through, smoothing his shirt sleeves down over his elbows as he came. His bald head shimmered with beads of sweat, his wiry orange brows and mustache drooped in the humid summer heat. He got straight to the heart of the matter.
“Not from around here, are ye?”
The red-capped one answered for them all. “We’ve been on the Molly B. out of Portloe for 18 moons.”
“The Molly B. sailed day afore yesterday.” Fergus eyes narrowed and he leveled a don’t-you-dare-lie-to-me look at the three. “Get in a bit of trouble on ‘er, did ye?”
The three exchanged glances and grinned, checker-board teeth showing through their lopsided smiles. “Aye, jest a wee bit,” red said, winking at his mates. “We likes the drink a bit too much.”
Fergus rolled his eyes and looked her way. She gave the barest shrug of her shoulders and slipped through the door into the kitchen. Gonna be a short discussion, she thought. Best leave them to it.
Fergus fixed them again with that evil-eyed stare. “I brook no shenanigans aboard the Sea Jade, boys. I’ve keel-hauled my fair share of bloody sea dogs like you. I’d like as not send ye on yer way ‘cept we sail tonight. Fast. Hit our mark, and get the bloody hell back home.” Fergus leaned his muscled arms on the bar and waited.
The three eyed those muscles for a time, then blue asked, “What’s the job then, eh?”
“Och! It speaks!” Fergus spit, raising his bushy brows. “Well then, there be a payload of coin and a shipment of wine leaving St. Just-in-Penwith tonight. We plan to do the deed soon after they set sail and be back afore the sun rises. We split the spoils equal. Each man gets ‘is fair share. What say ye, then? Do we have a deal?”
“Sounds fair to me,” said the bareheaded sailor running his hand anxiously through his curly chestnut locks.
Fergus slammed his hands down flat on the table. All three men jumped. “Good! The Sea Jade is moored in Mount’s Bay just around the cape. Tell Albie that Fergus sent ye. Stow yer gear aboard and make yerselfs useful. We’ll be right at yer heels.”
“Hold on, there,” red said, forehead wrinkled with an unspoken question. “How many men be in this crew? To share the bounty I means.”
“Eight men and one woman.”
All three men grew wide-eyed. “A woman! Och, ’tis bad luck to have a woman aboard a pirate ship. Dinna yer cap’ain know that, man?”
“Well I dinna know,” Fergus said as the kitchen door swung back open. “What say ye, Cap’ain?”
Grinning she tucked in Fergus’s old shirt, hitched up her britches, sat a floppy-brimmed hat fixed with a white feather on her head and gave them a wink. “Ain’t been a problem so far…”
This is a response to a prompt on A Writer’s Path. Write a scene with a recruiting company for pirates. (reposted from 1/29/15)
Picture Credit: www.pinterest.com