The tension of the room was thick as smoke pouring from burning wet wood. Patrons around the pub were behind whatever cover was at hand, be it a chair, table or the bar itself, with pistols drawn and ready. From the back of the room, the deep voice of Captain Klaus Wilhelm roared.
“Halt!” The German captain ordered, his voice exploding like a blazing cannon shot, eyes burning bright with anger, “That is quite enough! Kapitän Clark! Stand down!”
John “Black Jack” Clark’s eyes flicked in Wilhelm’s direction. Clark licked his lips uneasily a moment, then glanced back at Hunter.
“Where’s yer doctor at?” Clark asked with a snake-like grin.
“Who?” Hunter replied with a bemused smirk.
“Ya know bloody well who!” The scarred man retorted sharply. “Where I see one of ya, the other’s not far away!”
“Herr Clark!” Wilhelm snarled like an angry dog. “You will stand down!” The German captain leaned forward on the table with the look of an enraged bull about to charge. “Look around you, ja? Have you taken leave of your senses?”
Clark’s eyes flicked upwards to the second floor of the pub. Ten figures crouched behind tables, with guns pointed down at him. He briefly turned a shade pale.
“Just … brilliant,” he swore under his breath. “Didn’t think about the second floor.” With a dark look, he relaxed his grip, slowly dropping his pistol into the holster at his belt. Then, suddenly, he turned on a broad smile.
“Well now, no need for all that fuss. Just funnin’ a bit,” John Clark said. “Besides, I just wanted ta see Thorias.” He shrugged awkwardly, “only ta know how the old bean’s doin’, eh? No harm’s done, eh?”
“What? No harm done?” Moira hissed in a low voice, taking better aim at the scarred captain.
“Moira,” Krumer whispered, “stand fast.”
The blacksmith frowned, glaring at Clark, but complied.
Wilhelm stood up straight, folding his arms over his chest with a stormy look at the erratic captain across the room. “Harm? One of your own crew has been shot! Ja, I call that harm! Have you lost your wits?”
Clark rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed. “Oi, well, there’s that.” He glanced overto his right, swatting one of the sailors standing next to him. “What’re ya standing around for? Step lively, eh? Fetch a doctor. We got a wounded man bleedin’ all over.” The scarred captain glanced over to Hunter, “pity Thorias isn’t nearby, he’d deal with it straight off.”
“Quite,” Hunter replied coolly.
Startled from being swatted, the sailor – a tall, young man in a brown long coat with rumpled brown hair – nodded with a mildly confused look. “Oh, er … aye Cap’n! Right away!” Pushing aside his coat to drop his pistol into its holster, the man raced out the door of the pub.
Clark gestured to the wounded man on the floor, “Right then. Now, the rest of ya get him into a chair. Blimey, do I gotta do this myself?”
The other sailors surrounding Clark exchanged a cautious glance, then holstered their weapons. Gathering around the sailor on the floor, they eased the wounded man up and into a nearby chair. All around the pub, tensions slowly drained down to a dull murmur.
Meanwhile, Clark turned around to face Captain Wilhelm with a graceful bow. “There and done, my Cap’n. And to the rest me humblest apologies. Just had a ill moment, I get them these days y’know. Lot on me mind, I suppose. I tell ya what, I’ll buy ya all a drink, just ta show no hard feelin’s, eh?” With another of his wide grins, Clark turned to saunter away to the bar where he ordered a round of drinks for Captain Wilhelm’s table.
“A drink with him?” Conrad O’Fallon spat, “I’d sooner be kissin’ a cow.”
Moira’s eyes were red hot, filled to the brim with temper. “I won’t drink with ‘im! Not with some bat-arse crazy loon. A drink don’t make up for it!”
“Captain, your niece is quite right.” Captain Hunter said hotly, “A drink and an apology? An explanation is more proper, I’d say!”
Klaus watched Clark carefully a moment before he slowly resumed his seat. He frowned thoughtfully. The others at the table followed suit, with an uneasy air hanging above them.
“Mein apologies. Mein most deepest apologies,” the captain replied with a heartfelt sigh, “I have always accepted that the man is erratic. I was, too, in mein younger days. I thought perhaps, with some guidance, he would find his balance.”
“However, this? Walking in and firing around a pub?” Captain Wilhelm indicated with a brief wave of a hand in John Clark’s direction. “This, I just do not know. He has never done anything such as this before.”
“There’s a bit of bad blood between John Clark and myself. Specifically over and around a doctor of our mutual acquaintance,” Hunter explained while he took his seat. He hesitated a moment, choosing his words carefully to be able to retain Wilhelm’s confidence, but not expose his entire plan … not yet.
Anthony shrugged, “I expected he might be irritated, perhaps angry after all this time. This was unexpected.”
Moira shot one more glare back at Captain Clark, then sat down at the table. “Ya did say he’d be ill about layin’ eyes on ya.”
“To kill you as soon as look at you?” Albert replied incredulously. “That is rather bad blood. Sounds more like a vendetta.”
Wilhelm leaned forward slightly, “Kapitän, just how deep goes this ‘bad blood’?”
“Rather deep,” Hunter replied with a heavy sigh. “My word to a judge, along with that of my friend – a doctor by trade – was what deported him to Her Majesty’s shipyards on the Bermuda penal colony. He swore revenge.”
“Ja, I see,” Wilhelm said thoughtfully.
“Ye be havin’ no idea?” O’Fallon asked curiously, as he slipped his revolver back into its holster.
Wilhelm glanced at the Scotsman a moment, then returned to watching John Clark at the bar. “Ja, I knew he had been accused of thievery. Though, I did not know about the revenge.”
“The man be a powder keg searchin’ for a wee place to explode,” O’Fallon said flatly.
Klaus looked at Captain Hunter, “Kapitän, you have mein honor on this when I say I did not know. At least hear what the man has to say for himself. Benefit of the doubt, ja?”
Hunter glanced over at Clark, then to the furrow cut in the table from the bullet that narrowly missed him. Anthony remembered Clark having a natural skill at firearms. At this close range, he should not have missed. The captain turned that over in his mind, then nodded. “Benefit of the doubt, then.”
“Cap’n!” Moira said sharply. “Ya can’t be serious?”
“Moira,” Captain Hunter interrupted her, frowning, “We can entertain Captain Clark’s explanation, if only for a little while. Humor me.”
“Aye … Cap’n,” Moira replied begrudgingly.
Hunter glanced over at O’Fallon, then Krumer. O’Fallon nodded his silent, if not disgruntled, agreement. Krumer, however, had noticed Captain Hunter’s thoughtful expression with regards to the near miss of Black Jack’s bullet.
“Of course, Captain,” Krumer replied. “No better way to get at the bottom of what’s going on here.”
By the time Black Jack returned to the table, he had a drink in each hand and a barmaid in tow carrying yet more. He smiled broadly at the group, setting one of the mugs on the table.
“Drinks all around!” John declared exuberantly. “Just to show no hard feelin’s, that is, right? Right? A’course!”
With a forced smile, the barmaid stepped around the table, depositing pints of dark liquid in front of everyone there. Captain Clark set a large mug of dark stout in front of Anthony.
“A good stout to chase the cold away, eh?” The scarred captain said with another of his sideways smiles. “Pity the doctor can’t be here ta drink, too.”
Hunter nodded a silent thanks, pulling the mug to him. “Quite. But he is a true professional of medicine. House calls, you know.”
“House call, eh?” Clark replied suspiciously. When Hunter did not offer any more detail, Clark reached back, stealing a chair from a nearby table. This earned him a dark glare from the sailor he stole it from. Ignoring the ugly look, Clark pulled the chair up to the table between Captain Hunter and Moira.
At Moira’s sour expression, Clark leaned back in his chair, propped up by one boot resting on the edge of the table. “Oh, don’t be like that, luv’. It’s not like my hands went wanderin’.”
The young woman shot a sugar-sweet smile at Black Jack. Then, with a short flip of her shoulder-length hair, replied, “be a mighty good thing, too. A git might be walkin’ away with a few less fingers.” With a quick pantomime of biting something in half, she flashed a toothy grin, which only partially covered the look of pure acid in her eyes. Only then did she look away, sipping on the drink in front of her.
“Oh, a right proper sauce that one’s got!” John laughed, but his eyes watched Moira uneasily. “So, Hunter, way I hear it, you’ve been busy,” the man said giving Hunter a malicious smile.
“Quite. It could be said that,” Captain Hunter replied coldly, taking out his pocket watch and flipping it open. By now, he assumed Thorias and Tonks should be well on their way searching the docks. He just needed to buy them more time. “I understand the same can be said of you, sirrah?”
Clark took a long drink of his stout. “Oh, just this and that. Countin’ crates in the altogether cold, when I don’t leg it inside to warm me arse. Gotta keep the Revenge in supplies, y’know.”
“No where else?” Krumer asked casually.
“A’course not, Canuck, where else would I be?” Clark replied with a shrug. “No shipments to be run for nearly a week.” The captain looked around the table, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “So, just what am I bein’ interrogated for?”
“Ya come bustin’ in here, shootin’ up tables, then threatened to kill Cap’n Hunter,” Moira snapped back. “What’re ya expectin’? Somebody to bake ya a cake?”
Clark stared daggers at the young woman, then glared around the table. “I apologized to the bloody lot of ya. Yet none of ya got the decency ta accept!”
Hunter snapped his watch closed, stuffing it into a pocket, “Moira, let it be.”
“But Cap’n! He came in wavin’ a gun around,” Moira exclaimed. “He tried to shoot you!”
“Quite,” Anthony replied calmly. “He also missed.”
“Fool’s luck,” Clark snapped, looking uncomfortable.
“Doubtful, not at that close range,” Hunter said. “You missed … and you did it knowingly.”
Black Jack shot an ugly look at Hunter, “Why would I not go an shoot one of the two bloody bastards that sent me to prison? Especially when he’s sittin’ right there … right in me sights!”
Hunter watched Black Jack calmly, studying him. Clark glared back, angry, agitated.
“You would … if you needed them for something,” Anthony replied. “A chance at Thorias, perhaps?” Black Jack snorted derisively in reply.
Anthony sat back in his chair. “Or not. You could have hit me, John,” Hunter explained. “Why did you miss?” Abruptly, a thought struck the captain like a bolt from the blue, “unless you were making a show of it all, just to make a point clear to me.” The captain paused before he leaned forward slightly and asked, “All right John, I get your point. You could have killed me, but didn’t. Why?”
Black Jack hesitated and his features softened, showing a genuine look of helplessness mingled with a brief flash of desperation. He glanced around the pub, and as he did, abruptly, a wall of anger came crashing down around his mannerisms. “Bollocks! I don’t know what I was thinkin’. I’ve got a ship ta resupply,” he said with an ugly snarl, before storming out of the pub, rage burning in his eyes. “I don’t have time to waste on the likes of you!”
“Something haunts him,” Krumer said sagely, as soon as Black Jack vanished out the front door. “It’s as if the hounds of hell are snapping at his heels.”
“Or a guilty conscience,” Moira said sternly. “Which I’m thinkin’ he rightly earned!”
“Captain Wilhlem, where’s the Revenge berthed?” Hunter asked quickly. “If Black Jack is headed for his ship, I’ve a need to be there as well … especially given his current state of mind.”
“You still believe he is involved with the Fair Winds?” Klaus asked.
Hunter looked Captain Wilhelm in the eye, “Indeed, I do. But I’m doubting my own conclusions as to his reasons. Just a gut feeling I have. “
“What would his reasons be, then?” Wilhelm asked curiously.
“I don’t know … yet,” Captain Hunter admitted. “John mentioned he had to resupply his ship. He’s erratic, perhaps even mad, but not stupid. He wouldn’t make such a casual slip after stating he has been in dock for some time. I suspect he was trying to tell me something.”
“Such as?” Krumer asked curiously.
“I could be very wrong,” Anthony replied, “but I think he may have been asking for help.”