Mad Red O'Bryan, Queen of the Caribbean: Chapter 1
by Tami B.
Disclaimer: The following work has been written solely for the enjoyment of fans and not for monetary profit. The rights to the characters initially created for the Daniel Boone series belong to 20th Century Fox and Fess Parker. All other characters are of the author's own creation. No copyright violation is intended.
Joe Snag's river was his domain and he was ruler and master of the entire length and breadth of it. After having gotten rid of the likes of Milo Quaife, who had been his rival, Joe enjoyed sole supremacy. Quaife's ousting had been easily accomplished once Joe learned where he had been hiding. His men were no match for Joe Snag's fine crew. With the river entirely his, Joe anticipated riches beyond his imagination. That thought brought him to a state of pure ecstasy, for Joe was a greedy man.
Unsuspecting adventurers who navigated Joe Snag's river soon found themselves relieved of their goods and valuables. Once their property had been pilfered, Joe sent them along their way with an invitation to come again real soon. Funny thing, Joe thought, they never returned. With a chuckle, Joe rose from the chair he used while observing the river. He stretched his long legs, worked the kink out of his back, and longed for a sighting of a boat, bearing items such as furs and foodstuffs. It was autumn and Joe wished to stockpile his supplies for the long winter ahead.
Joe Snag was still watching the river when Blue Belly, a slow but capable crewmember, informed him of a boat's approach. The trap was set and all he and his crew had to do was wait for the boat to float right into it. Joe brought the telescope to his eye and parted the top of the bush he was standing near. Without the leaves and branches in his way, he welcomed the better view.
"Blue Belly, do you see what I see?" Joe asked.
Standing beside Joe, Blue Belly tried peering past Joe's large hand and the bush, but met with failure. "All I can see is that there big boil on your hand," Blue Belly complained.
Joe immediately released the bush and looked at the back of his hand. "That's not a boil, you fool. It's a water beetle," he said, flicking it from his hand. "Anyway, that boat is loaded to the gills. Look how heavy she sits in the water. There may be furs in the housing to boot."
Dancing a little jig, Blue Belly clapped his hands in delight. "We're gonna be rich," he declared. He suddenly stood still and looked towards Joe. "How do you know there are furs on that there boat?" he asked,scratching his head.
"Because there are traps laying out on the deck in plain sight. Now, why would they have traps unless they had been recently been used, say back in the winter, to catch our furs? They're just now shipping them to us," Joe said, laughing and thinking his explanation was sound. He then slapped Blue Belly's arm. "It doesn't matter no how. Whatever they have will be ours directly. Let's get to my canoe. I must make the acquaintance of these poor unfortunate souls."
Climbing aboard his canoe, Joe took a seat in the middle and waited while another pirate, Little Priest, settled in at the bow. Blue Belly picked up his oar, pushed the canoe from the bank, jumped in, and began to paddle to intercept the boat. From their leafy hiding places, three other canoes quickly emerged to surround the unsuspecting boat.
Joe checked the charge in his three pistols. A master pirate always took precautions. They were ready for firing if he was forced to use them. He tried to avoid bloodshed whenever possible. He might be a thief, but he certainly was not a murderer.
Right on schedule, the boat hit the sandbar that they had built right in the middle of the most narrow part of the river. Paddling fast, the pirates drew close to the trapped boat. The crew members who were not providing propulsion pointed their rifles at the three men standing on the deck of the boat as those three men aimed their rifles at the pirates.
"Don't come any closer," a gray-bearded man said.
"Here now," Joe Snag called out. "Let's be peaceable and reasonable. We'll just take your boat and you can go your way. It's that simple."
"I can't do that," the man said.
Running a hand through his hair, Joe shook his head. 'Why do they always try to put up a fight when they have already lost?' he thought. "Perhaps, you don't know who I am," Joe said politely, waving his pistol to and fro. "I am Master Pirate Captain Joe Snag, and me and my crew will be relievin' you of your boat. We can do this real friendly-like or we can do it the hard way. Since we have ten guns pointed at you, and you only have three at us, the odds are you lose. If you'll just drop those rifles, we'll give you a ride to shore and you can be on your way."
"You don't understand," the man explained. "We just took this boat ourselves and we can't give it up so soon or the new master pirate of this river will keelhaul us for sure." His companions nodded their heads in agreement.
Joe's eyebrows knotted together. He didn't like what he heard. "What new master pirate?" he asked.
From the housing on the boat, ten armed men emerged with their rifles trained on Joe's pirates. One moved into the open and Joe's eyes jumped in surprise. There standing on the deck was a woman - a red-haired woman. She wore dark blue trousers and a light blue blouse underneath a leather jerkin with a wide black belt. Her head sported a wide-brimmed hat bearing a long pheasant feather. On her feet were knee-high black leather boots.
"Allow me to introduce myself," the woman said, leveling her rifle at Joe. "I am the new master pirate. The name is Mad Red O'Bryan, Queen of the Caribbean, but you can just call me Red." She smiled sinisterly and then laughed devilishly, her laugh echoing up and down the river and up and down the spine of Joe Snag, who stood rooted in place, staring at the flaming red hair of the woman who called herself Mad Red O'Bryan.
Four out of five snares captured rabbits as was intended. The small hunter was practically beside himself with joy. "Criminetly, Pa, it worked just like you said," Israel said, hauling up the rabbits.
"You sound like you had some doubts, son," Daniel replied, inspecting the animals he held aloft.
"I did, Pa," Israel stated honestly. "Especially when you said there weren't many rabbit tracks around."
"That's another thing you need to learn about huntin'," Daniel began to explain. "Sometimes you just get plain lucky."
"I wish Ma was here. She could fix us rabbit stew," Israel said, rubbing a hand across his stomach and allowing his tongue to roll from one corner of his mouth to the other.
"I reckon we can put together a stew of sorts," Daniel told him.
"We can, but it sure won't taste like Ma's," Israel said slightly disappointed.
"Isra'l, when we get back home," Daniel said, placing a hand on his son's shoulder, "you snare the rabbits and I'm sure your ma will make you that stew you're wantin' so bad."
"I can snare the rabbits all by myself?" Israel asked with glee.
Nodding, Daniel said, "Yep, you'll set the snares yourself and bring home the catch."
"You won't help me?" Israel queried happily.
"Nope," Daniel confirmed.
"Gee, thanks, Pa," Israel said, knowing his father was showing his confidence in his newfound skill.
"Let's set these snares again and get back to camp to clean those rabbits," Daniel suggested.
"Can I set them, Pa? All by myself?" Israel pleaded.
"Certainly, son," Daniel said, smiling crookedly and pleased with his son's eagerness.
Israel immediately bent to his work in the thicket. Daniel had shown Israel how to employ the spring-pole method. Israel buried the larger end of a springy pole deep into the ground. Then he bent the smaller end over and also buried it to hold it down. To this end, he tied a looped string known as the noose. When the rabbit takes the bait that is lying just beyond the noose and then jumps, the smaller end of the pole is pulled out of the ground, the noose tightens, and the rabbit is lifted into the air and suspended by the neck. This serves two purposes; one is to not allow the rabbit an opportunity to escape, and the second is to keep the rabbit out of reach of predators. Israel then built a hedge around the snare so the rabbit cannot get to the bait without encountering the snare.
After setting the snares, Daniel and Israel walked back to their camp. Israel proudly carried their dinner and brought the rabbits before his eyes to study them. Daniel watched him, displaying a lopsided grin. "I reckon you're wondering why rabbits have short tails," he said.
Israel scrunched his face, looking quizzical. "No, Pa," he answered. "I was thinking about bringing home those rabbits for ma to make into a stew." He then cocked his head to look up at Daniel who had sparked his curiosity. "Why do rabbits have short tails?"
"The Cherokees tell a tale about it. Hasn't Mingo ever told you the story?" Daniel asked.
Shaking his head, Israel lowered the rabbits and was all ears as his father began to tell him why rabbits have short tails.
Drawing in a breath, Daniel spoke. "The story begins when the world was young and at that time Rabbit had a long bushy tail. Why, Rabbit's tail was even longer and bushier than Fox's tail and he was very proud of it. Rabbit would brag about how beautiful his tail was. Fox had had enough of Rabbit's boasting and decided to put an end to it."
"How'd Fox plan to do that?" Israel asked.
"Fox came up with a devious scheme. The weather had turned cold and soon it was so cold that the lakes and streams froze and stayed that way. One day Fox went to the lake carrying four fish. Once he got to the lake, he cut a hole through the ice. He tied the four fish to his tail then sat down and waited for Rabbit to come by. Fox wasn't disappointed because soon Rabbit came hopping over the top of the ridge. Fox lowered his tail into the water.
Rabbit hopped right up to Fox and asked what he was doin'. Fox said he was fishin'. 'With your tail?' Rabbit asked. 'Yes,' Fox replied. 'That's the best way to catch the most fish.'"
"Did Rabbit believe Fox?" Israel asked.
"You'll find out soon enough, son," Daniel said. "Rabbit asked Fox how long he 'd been fishin'. Fox said not long at all. Rabbit asked if Fox had caught many fish. Fox raised his tail out of the water with the four fish still hangin' from it. Rabbit asked what Fox intended to do with all the fish he caught. Fox said, 'After seven days of fishin', I aim to take them to the Cherokee Village and trade them for tail combs. There are only a couple left and I want them.'
Rabbit thought about gettin' those tail combs for himself by fishin' all night. He figured he'd have enough fish by mornin' to trade for the tail combs."
"Pa, why did they want tail combs so bad?" Israel asked.
Daniel pushed his coonskin cap to the back of his head and scratched behind his ear. "I reckon they liked to comb out the tangles in their tails so they would be bushier. The bushier the tail, the better."
"But, Pa, they don't have hands to hold the combs," Israel countered. "How are they going to comb their tails?"
"Son, it's a story," Daniel explained, "that makes a point and what I haven't told you is that Raccoon was contracted to do that service."
"Oh," Israel said, seemingly satisfied with the answer that Daniel had just made up in order to provide some answer that would satisfy his inquisitive mind. "Go on with the story, Pa. What happened next?"
"Fox said he was getting cold and would return in the morning to fish. He ran to and over the ridge out of Rabbit's sight. Rabbit then dropped his tail into the icy water. 'Brrrrrrr!' he shouted. 'That water is cold!' There Rabbit stayed all night long determined to get those tail combs when morning came." Daniel stopped his storytelling for a moment to duck his head before it hit a low-hanging branch.
"Soon after the sun came up, Fox returned to the lake and asked Rabbit what he was doing. Rabbit answered, 'F-f-f-f-ishin'. Fox asked if he had caught anything. Rabbit started to get up, but found he couldn't budge," Daniel said, ducking under yet another branch. "'F-f-f-f-fox, h-h-h-h-help m-m-m-mee,' he begged. 'I-I-I-I'm s-s-s-stuck.' Fox grinned and moved behind Rabbit. He gave Rabbit a big shove that sent him reelin' across to the other side of the lake. But most of Rabbit's tail was still stuck in the ice. And that's why from that day to this, Rabbit has a very short tail. Now, son, what do you think is the point of the story?"
"Never stick your tail in icy water or you'll get it froze off," Israel concluded proudly as he shook his head at the snared rabbit's tails he held before his eyes.
Daniel laughed. "That's one, I reckon. Although not the one I was thinkin' about."
"Ummmm...Don't listen to foxes because they're sly and deviant," Israel finally said.
Chuckling, Daniel stated, "I think you mean devious. That's part of it. The other part is to be wary about greed. In the this tale Fox used greed against Rabbit, and it cost Rabbit a fine tail."
"So, if Rabbit hadn't been so greedy about getting tail combs, he'd have a bushy tail today. Pa, have you ever been greedy?" Israel asked.
"Not that I can recall," Daniel admitted.
"I didn't think so. I'll remember the lesson. Don't be greedy because it only leads to trouble," Israel said with a smile. Then he changed the subject. "What do you reckon Ma's doing about now? Reckon she's lonely without us, or are the Linwoods enough to keep her company?"
The Boones were visiting the Linwoods. Daniel had met Colonel Linwood, a local militia leader, and his wife a year earlier when Daniel was on a surveying mission. The Linwoods made him promise to return with his wife and son. He kept that promise now. Mingo and Cincinnatus had accompanied the three of them part way on their journey before they went about their own business, which was to do some hunting in these lush surroundings. Sometime after that, Daniel decided to take Israel to the woods for an extended hunting trip. Rebecca allowed them this indulgence and remained behind in the Linwood's home where Mrs. Linwood fussed about trying to make her feel comfortable. "She's most likely enjoying not having to take care of us for a spell," Daniel said, resting a hand on his son's shoulder as they continued to make their way to camp. "The Linwoods are probably spoilin' her something awful by waitin' on her hand and foot. I expect she's seekin' an adventure in a book and is glad for the peace and quiet."
Joe Snag's crew raised their voices loudly protesting this interloper's announcement of being the new master pirate. The shouts of the pirates became amplified as they passed over the water, making it seem as if there were ten times more in their crew than there was. "All right, you pollywogs, pipe down," Joe ordered loudly. "Pipe down!" he shouted when his first order failed to completely silence his crew. After waiting a moment, Joe continued, "This is just a misunderstanding, I'm sure, and if you sorry excuses for human beings will be quiet long enough, I'll get to the bottom of it."
The woman calling herself Mad Red O'Bryan displayed a lopsided grin. She was enjoying playing pirate. It gave her distinction other than just being the wife of Daniel Boone. "That's where you're wrong, Captain," Rebecca sternly said. "There is no misunderstanding. You and your crew heard right. I am the new master pirate and will not relinquish that title."
"That's a title that must earned...Red. It is Red, isn't it?" Joe asked.
Rebecca nodded as she adjusted her hold on the rifle she aimed in Joe's direction. "I have a proposal for you, Captain Snag, but this is no place to discuss it. Perhaps, we can come to a mutual agreement at your base of operations."
"What kind of proposal?" Joe asked.
"A very lucrative one for you," Rebecca said enticingly. "Shall we follow you to your base or shall I order my boys to open fire?"
"Now, there's no reason to get unfriendly. I'm always interested in a deal that stands to benefit me and bring my crew riches," Joe admitted.
"Then I suggest you lead us post haste. I'm not called Mad Red for nothing. I'm not a patient woman," Rebecca said as she cocked an eyebrow and a hint of impatience crept into her voice.
"You have to understand my concern, Red. Nobody knows the location of my place except my crew and few trusted others. The master pirate has to keep that a secret," Joe explained.
"You seem to forget, Captain, that you're not the master pirate. Not anymore. I am, and I make the rules. I grow weary with this delay. Show us to your base or say good-bye to your life," Rebecca finished, raising the rifle to her shoulder.
"All right, Red. You win," Joe said, shaking his hands in front of him in surrender.
"No! You can't give in," Blue Belly, who had moved behind Joe to keep from being shot, told him.
"Blue Belly, let me do the talking," Joe said, turning towards him. "Just keep cowered where you are, you bravest of the brave."
Blue Belly scowled but said nothing.
"Red, I suggest you and I go to my headquarters alone to discuss this proposal of yours," Joe said.
Rebecca smirked as she realized Joe had tried to make it sound as if it was now his idea to talk this situation over. "Excellent, Captain, but I will have my lieutenants in attendance at the discussion. And if your crew will kindly free my boat from this sandbar, we can come to a mutual agreement that much quicker."
After motioning for his crew to do as Rebecca requested, Joe climbed aboard Rebecca's boat and rode with her as they sailed towards the river's edge. Once ashore, Joe led her and two others from her crew up a hill, where they could observe all their men. Rebecca's had been ordered to set up camp in a clearing which Blue Belly would lead them to, and to help out any way they could.
Atop of the hill, Rebecca removed her hat and her red hair flowed to her shoulders. "Captain Snag, may I say it is an honor to met the former infamous master pirate. May I introduce my two lieutenants. This is Graybeard," Rebecca said, pointing to Cincinnatus on her right. Cincinnatus smiled and shook hands with Joe. "This one is..." She paused and looked at the young lieutenant on her left with his boyish baby face. 'Yes, that's it,' she thought. "This is Baby Face."
Lieutenant Adam Liberty of the Continental Army cast a look of annoyance at Rebecca. He was a proud eighteen-year-old soldier, not a boy. Then he composed himself and shook Joe's hand. Since he was out of uniform, Adam reasoned that Rebecca must have completely forgotten his standing as an honorable soldier in General Washington's army, even if, at that moment, he didn't appear to be one since he was dressed to look like a sailor. In his view the name 'Baby Face' was hardly a respectable pirate name. He would discuss this with her at a more appropriate time.
Chuckling, Joe said, "It's been my experience that those using nicknames are either really bad men or are hiding something."
"An interesting observation, Captain, but totally irrelevant," Rebecca said taking a seat on log as Cincinnatus sat beside her. "I'm here to make a deal with you. A lucrative deal."
"I'm all ears," Joe said as he sat on a tree stump. All the good places were taken so Adam sat on the ground next to Cincinnatus.
"In a few days, two British supply boats will be sailing down my river bound for Fort Hood," Rebecca began to explain.
"Fort Hood is located on a tributary of my river," Joe said, emphasizing the word 'my'. "They usually don't sail it as it is quite shallow."
"They are aware of rumors that someone might take the shipment, so they are willing to take the risk and use this alternate route. But we are on to them. We expect the supply boats to be heavily guarded. That's why we need you and your crew. Mine is short in number," Rebecca said.
"Who are 'we'?" Joe asked.
"I am the world renowned Mad Red O'Bryan, Queen of the Caribbean, but the British ran us off my island haven temporarily and I fell on hard times. All of my original crew dispersed except for Graybeard. I formed a new crew to menace the Redcoats as much and as often as I can while at the same time attaining some riches," Rebecca answered. "I have aligned myself with the patriots or the rebels as the British call them. I won't be satisfied until the British are sent packing back to England. That is who 'we' are."
"All right. State your deal," Joe urged.
"The deal is this," Rebecca said, "If you help me capture the supply boats, you will reap forty percent of the booty."
Joe's eyebrows jumped in surprise and shock. "Only forty percent? That's isn't a deal. That's robbery."
"That's forty percent more than what you have now," Rebecca pointed out.
"If I take those boats myself then I don't have to share the goods at all," Joe said.
Shaking her head, Rebecca said, "You can't. I told you the Redcoats are heavily armed. It will take both our crews to overwhelm them and seize the boats. Agree to the deal, Captain, and in exchange for your pledge of good faith, I will graciously return the title of master pirate of this river to you and you will receive forty percent of the goods."
"Make it fifty-fifty and you've got a deal," Joe bargained.
"No, we've already done some intelligence work to learn of the British plans for this shipment. That must be rewarded. Thusly, I get sixty percent. Look at it this way, Captain, if the British at Fort Hood can be starved out, then you will have undisputed reign over your river and the patriots will have no fear of an offensive being mounted against them from Fort Hood. Everybody wins," Rebecca stated.
"You make a valid point," Joe said, resting his hands on his knees.
"She certainly does," Adam said. "You'd be a fool not to accept the deal."
"Baby Face, be silent!" Rebecca shouted, rising to her feet. She loomed over him, anger coloring her features. "You are here to listen. Not participate."
"Yes, ma'am," Adam replied, looking sheepish.
Turning back towards Joe, she approached him slowly. "Winter is coming, Captain. Have you sufficient supplies to see you through? There is some money aboard the boats. I'm sure you're interested in money - English sovereigns. English gold sovereigns."
Joe understood why this female pirate was called 'mad'. She had a temper, but more than that, she had spunk and spirit. He liked that and he was warming to the idea of agreeing to this venture, especially knowing that English money could be obtained. "A deal," Joe announced. "As you said, forty percent is more than I have now, and English cash money isn't that easily obtained in these parts."
"A pleasure doing business with you, Captain," Rebecca said, extending her hand and smiling as he shook it.
"I'll tell my crew of our alliance and we'll celebrate together this evening at supper," Joe said.
"An excellent idea. If any of my crew can help, let me know," Rebecca stated.
Nodding, Joe waved as he descended the hill.
The trio watched as Joe make his way to inform his crew. Adam rose and dusted himself off. "The look in his eyes tells me he's going to scheme to do us out of our share," he said, adjusting his tricorn squarely on his head.
"I never thought otherwise," Rebecca commented. "The one thing we can count on is Joe Snag's penchant to be greedy and that's exactly what will drive him to help us. All we have to do is keep our share out of his hands after we get it."
"My men and I will see to that, Mrs. Boone," Adam affirmed.
"Of that I have no doubt, Baby Face," Rebecca teased as she and Cincinnatus stood to their feet. "Am I right, Graybeard?"
Chuckling, Cincinnatus ran his hand through his beard. "Baby Face will do his duty," he said simply.
Irritably, Adam snatched the hat from his head and slapped it against his thigh. "I'd like to talk to you about that name if you don't mind, 'Red'," Adam said, emphasizing Rebecca's adopted pirate name. "Specifically, why that name? At least, you gave Mr. Cincinnatus a name that sounds right for the kind of roles we're playing."
"Since we hadn't conferred on this subject earlier, I thought it better not to reveal your true names to Captain Snag," Rebecca explained. "When I looked at Cincinnatus it was obvious he should be Graybeard. When I looked at you I saw-"
"A baby face," Adam disgustedly concluded. "Why couldn't you have seen something else? Like this scar right here," he said, pointing to his temple. "You could have called me 'Scar Head'."
Rebecca laughed as she peered at the small scar. It was so tiny that a magnifying glass was needed for it to be seen clearly. "Adam, the next time we play pirate I will give you a name that will more befit your station," she promised to soothe his ruffled feathers.
"That's very nice, Mrs. Boone, but that doesn't gain me much now. How am I supposed to be respected as a pirate, as well as by my men, with that childish name you gave me?" Adam asked.
"You will have to command it, Adam. Show them the man is more than his name" Rebecca advised, holding back a giggle. She could see the predicament her words had caused, but they couldn't be taken back now. Had she had more time to think, his name would have been something better suited for him and one he would have approved of unequivocally. As it was, he would have to endure it for the rest of this mission.
"Yes ma'am," Adam conceded. "But that name is so demeaning."
"Not to me," Rebecca said. "I think it's sweet."
"Sweet? Not the image we're trying to achieve, is it?" Adam asked.
"C'mon, Adam," Cincinnatus said, grasping his elbow. "You and I will check on your men and get them used to hearin' you called 'Baby Face'. We don't want them breakin' into laughter every time that name gets used."
"I was wondering what I was going to do the rest of the afternoon," Adam groused as he allowed Cincinnatus to lead him to his soldiers-turned-pirate. "Staving off total humiliation wasn't on the list." He cast a disgruntled look over his shoulder at the Queen of the Caribbean.
Rebecca watched them leave and snickered, allowing her fists to rest on her hips. She thought of the next phase of the mission and wondered if the newest member of her crew would arrive on time. In a day or two, she would have an answer to that question. In the meantime, she would cast her feminine wiles in Joe Snag's direction and hoped he would take the bait.
That night a joyous celebration was held to mark the beginning of the uneasy alliance between the two parties. It was evident neither side truly trusted the other, but Rebecca hoped that would change. They still had a few days before the British supply boats would make their way to Joe's stronghold.
Inside the cave, the cook, Big Bertha, placed bowls of food on the table as members of each of the crews mingled and talked among themselves. Cincinnatus and Adam took special note of the cook. She was quite tall. In fact, she was only slightly shorter than Daniel was. Beauty or even homeliness had left her far behind. She wore a perpetual scowl that left Adam wondering what had driven her to be so miserable. As she exited the cave, Adam and Cincinnatus exchanged glances that said they hoped she wouldn't return soon. Then they concentrated on the meal in front of them.
Joe sat at the head of the table with Rebecca on his left. Next to Rebecca, Adam sat staring at the copious amount of food. As a Continental soldier he rarely saw such an array as this. His soldiers were doing the same, and Rebecca decided she better do something about it before it became obvious.
"Stand to, my crew!" Rebecca ordered, coming to her feet.
Confused, Adam remained seated as his soldiers looked to him for direction.
"Have you all suddenly gone daft?" Rebecca asked, roving her angry eyes and fixing them on each man in her crew. "I said stand to! Now!"
Adam jumped to his feet and the soldiers followed suit. He didn't understand why Rebecca was issuing orders that made no sense, but he was obligated to obey.
"My apologies, Captain Snag, for my crew's tardiness in responding to orders. They seem to be out of practice," Rebecca explained as Joe waved his hand, showing his lack of concern over the matter. "Baby Face..." Upon hearing a snicker from one of the soldiers who was slightly younger than Adam, she stopped her verbal tirade. Marching towards the offender, Rebecca stopped within inches of him and planted her fists on her hips. She leaned into his face. "You find something amusing, mister?"
Shaking his head vigorously, the terrified teenager said, "N-n-n-o, ma'am. Not now, ma'am."
"I didn't think so. There will be no more outbursts from you," Rebecca ordered. Then she looked at each member of her crew. "Or anyone else for the matter. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, ma'am," Adam answered for the men.
"Very good," Rebecca said as she slapped the teenager upside the back the head and then moved back to her place by Joe and Adam. "Baby Face, you will drill the crew tomorrow morning until they are able to immediately carry out an order. I'll not have any hesitation when it comes to following orders. Our taking the British supply boats depends on precision and coordination, which begins by acting on orders without delay. All of you should learn from Captain Snag's crew who work excellently together. You saw how brilliantly they surrounded our boat in the middle of the river as it was held fast. That's what you must do if we are to achieve the desired result. If I see the slightest reluctance to obey an order, the punishment will be swift and harsh. Understood?"
"Yes, ma'am," Adam replied, wondering if Rebecca had taking instruction from any of the drill sergeants he knew who were equally stern with their men.
"And now I would like to toast our alliance," Rebecca said pleasantly, raising her mug high as Joe's crew stood and everyone lifted their mugs as well.
"May the joining of our crews be very profitable in the venture to come and may the bloody British beat a hasty retreat to the tyrant across the sea," Rebecca proposed, adapting something she had heard Adam say once. She then began to drain her mug.
"Hear, hear," Cincinnatus said and drank from his mug.
After the toast, everyone took their seats and the food was passed around. Rebecca filled her plate. "Tell me, Joe, do you have such plaguing problems with your crew?" she asked as she caressed the back of his hand.
Glancing at her hand on his, Joe smiled broadly and reddened a little. "Sometimes, but my crew and I have been together for a long time. They know what I expect of them, and know the rewards they will receive by being in the crew of a master pirate."
"As you can see my crew is young, but they will do what they're told. Baby Face is good at keeping them in line. They just slip up once and awhile and I have to call them on it," Rebecca admitted.
Big Bertha slid a bowl of apples between Joe and Rebecca, causing Rebecca to withdraw her hand from Joe's. Scowling at Rebecca, Big Bertha made a pretense of collecting empty bowls and positioned herself closer to Joe. Rebecca didn't fail to notice and didn't fail to understand what was being implied. Joe belonged to Big Bertha. Trespass at your own risk.
"Big Bertha, take those dirty dishes away," Joe ordered irritably, but she didn't move. She continued to level icy stares in Rebecca's direction. "Get those dishes out of here," he told her again, standing now.
Doing as she was told, Big Bertha moved to the outdoor kitchen, but she kept her eyes trained on Rebecca as she withdrew from the cave.
Chuckling, Joe placed his hand over Rebecca's as he sat back down. "Big Bertha just joined us a few months ago. She decided to stay on after we stopped her boat. Her possessions were so pitiful that it wasn't worth the taking. Our cook had ran off so we had need of her...as a cook," he added hurriedly.
"She acts like there's something more going on than her being only a cook," Rebecca hinted.
"Are you suggesting, Red, that Big Bertha and I are a...couple?" Joe asked. Rebecca nodded, and that sent Joe into gales of laughter. He punched Blue Belly, who had the unfortunate circumstance of sitting on his right, on the arm several times. Blue Belly in turn pushed Little Priest completely off the wooden bench. Little Priest laughed, and after getting back to his feet, he snatched the cap from the man next to him who happened to be one of Rebecca's crew and smacked his back with it several times. Receiving a warning glare from Adam, the man immediately unclenched his fist, laughed along, and patted the place beside him for Little Priest to resume sitting. When he did, the pretend pirate clapped the shorter man smartly on the back.
"She means nothing to you then?" Rebecca said smiling broadly, tossing a stray lock of red hair from her forehead.
"Nothing," Joe admitted, grinning. Abruptly, he cleared his throat. "Now, now, let's eat before this wonderful food gets cold."
Rebecca lifted some unidentifiable meat to her lips and ate while hardly taking her eyes from Joe, as he did the same. Cincinnatus and Adam exchanged glances again wondering what kind of game Rebecca was playing and what the purpose of it was.
After the celebration ended rather late at night, Cincinnatus and Adam walked Rebecca to her tent that lay at the edge of their camp.
"I think that went well," Rebecca commented. "The trust between them and us is improving."
"If you don't mind me askin', Becky, what were you doin' cozyin' up to Joe?" Cincinnatus asked.
"Just part of the plan, Cincinnatus," Rebecca answered. "Shower Joe with attention and perhaps, he won't think of robbing us blind once we divide the booty."
"That's taking an awfully big chance, isn't it, Mrs. Boone?" Adam asked with concern. "Considering you are a married woman and all."
"It's just an act, Adam. I won't let it get out of hand," Rebecca promised him. "I will be careful."
"Joe isn't the only person to be careful around. Big Bertha has it in for you," Cincinnatus warned.
"You noticed that, too?" Rebecca asked. "Don't worry. I can handle her."
"Handle her how?" Cincinnatus asked. "If you're thinkin' of fightin' her, you better think twice. She's as big as a barn and twice as ugly."
"You should steer well clear of her," Adam advised. "I will not hide like a frightened child," Rebecca said testily. "If Big Bertha wishes to start something, I will soon end it."
"Becky, that's exactly what that kind of woman wants. She said as much glarin' at you like she did," Cincinnatus explained. "She's ready to part your hair three ways from Sunday."
"Cincinnatus, you are a true friend," Rebecca said, patting him on the shoulder. "Don't fret. Everything will be fine."
"No, it won't," Adam announced. "You keep 'showering Joe with attention' as you phrase it and Big Bertha will be coming after you like a wounded bear, mean and mad."
"Don't forget ugly. Real ugly," Cincinnatus added.
"I think one of us should be with or near you at all times. Just in case," Adam strongly suggested.
"No, Adam. I appreciate the offer, but Big Bertha is my problem and mine alone. I will do whatever needs to get done," Rebecca said. "Besides, how would it look if the Queen of the Caribbean can't hold her own against all challenges to her supremacy?"
"She ain't exactly an ordinary woman," Cincinnatus observed.
Chuckling, Rebecca said, "Well, you know it is said, that the bigger and uglier they are, the harder and uglier they fall."
"Tarnation, Becky, you think this is all some kind of a joke?" Cincinnatus argued. "You think that if you land one punch to Big Bertha that she's goin' to fall like lightnin' strikin' a tree. She's probably made of lead and gunpowder and all you'll accomplish is gettin' yourself killed."
"If Big Bertha is made of the materials you suggested, we should have her delivered to the Continental Army to have the gunpowder extracted and her person melted down into rifle balls to serve the glorious cause of fighting for freedom," Rebecca teased, trying to sound something like Adam's patriotic speeches.
Despite himself Adam laughed out loud and received a look of consternation from Cincinnatus. "Sorry, Mr. Cincinnatus. We should just give up because she's not going to. She's got her Irish up and there will be no dissuading her."
"That's very perceptive of you, Adam," Rebecca said, amazed at the young lieutenant's insight into human nature.
"I've seen it before, Mrs. Boone, from the Irish lads in the army. Tell those boys to back off from a fight and they won't do it unless all hope is lost. An Irish lasses' demeanor is the same," Adam said, smiling.
Throwing his hands up in the air, Cincinnatus resigned himself to the fact that Rebecca was not going to change her mind. "Becky, have it your way," he said. "It's too bad Dan'l isn't here to talk you out of this nonsense. You'd listen to him."
"Not even the great Daniel Boone could talk me out of doing whatever needs to be done to seize those supply boats and if that means confronting Big Bertha so be it," Rebecca stated firmly. "This will be our final discussion on this subject, gentlemen. Good night." Turning on her heel, Rebecca made her way to her tent leaving her two pirate lieutenants thinking that it wasn't easy to work for the demanding Mad Red O'Bryan, but they wouldn't have missed this adventure for anything.
Late the next morning, Rebecca emerged from her tent looking every bit the Queen of the Caribbean she pretended to be, for she was strong and confident. Cincinnatus was sipping coffee by one fire while watching a big pot over another. He handed her a mug when she approached. In the distance, she could hear Adam shouting orders to his soldiers and knew he was drilling them. By the sound of him, he was unrelenting. His soldiers would be in ship shape in time to make a coordinated attack on the supply boats. She knew she could count on her Baby Face.
"Oh, that fire feels good. There's still a chill in the air," Rebecca commented, clasping the mug of coffee Cincinnatus had given her tightly between her hands.
"If you want to warm up quick, join Adam's march," Cincinnatus suggested. "He's putting those boys through their paces."
"I think I will observe them for awhile," Rebecca answered. "Want to come along?"
Shaking his head, Cincinnatus answered, "I'll stay here and keep an eye on these beans and rice cookin'. When Adam brings the boys in, they're goin' to be hungry."
"All right, Cincinnatus." Rebecca said as she finished her coffee and then she headed towards her crew. After having walked only a few yards, Joe joined her. At his approach, she smiled pleasantly. "Good morning, Captain."
"And to you, Red," Joe said pleasantly. "We've known each other a day now. Don't you think you could call me Joe?"
"Joe, I'm on my way to check my crew. Would you care to accompany me?" Rebecca asked.
"It would be a pleasure," Joe said, extending a bent arm to escort her like a gentleman. "I have just returned from there. Baby Face is drilling my crew as well. They have never looked snappier."
"That's my Baby Face," Rebecca admitted proudly, taking a step towards the field that was being used as a parade ground. "Despite his youth, he's got a knack for instilling discipline like no one I have ever seen - except for myself, of course."
"That I believe," Joe said, chuckling. "He acts more like a soldier than a sailor," he observed as he stepped over branches across the trail.
"He was a soldier before he was drummed out of the service for stealing his superior's horse. The poor boy was insufferably in love and took the horse to fly to his true love's side, only to find her being courted by another," Rebecca explained, making a mental note to inform Adam of this past that he didn't know of since she had just invented it. Then she wondered if she might not be weaving a tangled web from which she would be unable to extract herself later.
"How did he come to join your crew?" Joe asked.
"Graybeard knew him and convinced him that he had a future with us. He's been trying to forget his lost love ever since," Rebecca said with regret.
"Any lost loves you're trying to forget?" Joe prodded suggestively.
Giggling, Rebecca said, "Why, Joe, that is quite a personal question and one I can't answer. You should be ashamed of yourself for asking."
With a chuckle Joe stopped in his tracks and looked into Rebecca's bright blue eyes. "Bashfulness and shame have never been traits of mine. Bold and brash master pirate is what I am."
"Just the kind of man that sets my red hair aflame," Rebecca teased, gripping his arm tighter as they resumed their walk. "What about you, Joe? Any lost loves?"
Throwing his head back in hilarity, Joe laughed until he thought his lungs would burst. "Red, there are so many lost loves of mine that I have forgotten half their names. It's quite natural, you understand - me being dashingly handsome and all. Women are uncontrollably attracted to me. They flock to me like bees to honey. Sometimes, I have to beat them off with an oar."
"Why would you want to beat them off?" Rebecca asked, continuing her tongue-in-cheek conversation.
"Oh, Red, I do like you," Joe said, chuckling and draping an arm across her shoulders.
She lifted his arm and narrowed her eyes at him. "Tsk. Tsk. Tsk, Joe Snag. You're being much too forward. We're actually only acquaintances."
"Not for long, Red, if I have my way...and I will have my way," Joe said, not certain himself if he was joking or not. Making a fist, Rebecca slugged him in the arm with force and he yelped in pain. "What did you go and do that for?" he protested.
"Remember, Joe Snag, I am my own woman. I will do the choosing - not you." Rebecca said firmly and with fire. "Besides, you were getting too bold and too brash."
Rubbing his arm, yet smiling, Joe said, "You are some kind of woman, Red. I doubt there is anyone that could tame you."
"You're right. No one can. Not even a master pirate," Rebecca agreed as they found themselves on the drilling field. She placed her fists on her hips and watched Adam march her crew as well as Joe's. Beside her stood Joe with a smile on his face, chuckling as he observed some of his men stumble and others completely fall to the ground. "Your men need a lot of work," Rebecca said, smirking.
"They perform where it counts - on that river," Joe said in defense of his crew while pointing towards the river. "What's that boy saying?" he asked unable to make out Adam's words.
Listening for a moment, Rebecca answered, "He's using what passes for a German accent and so his pronunciations are a little off. It's how he learned to drill in the army."
"However he chooses to say the orders, your crew answers smartly," Joe said.
"They certainly do, but as you pointed out, what matters most is how they perform when it comes to taking the supply boats," Rebecca said.
"Are you worried, Red, that your boys will let you down? If my crew has to pick up the slack for your crew then we would be entitled to more of the booty," Joe stressed.
"You would, but it won't come to that. My crew will do their part and more," Rebecca assured him.
"Perhaps, you would like to place a wager on that?" Joe said invitingly.
"What kind of wager were you thinking of?" Rebecca replied, pushing her floppy hat to the back of her head as if that would enable her to hear clearer.
"We split the booty more in my favor, sixty percent for me and forty percent for you," Joe suggested.
Lifting a corner of her mouth, Rebecca was amused by Joe's bet. She had thought he would take more than his share rather than bargain for it. She hesitated to agree. If she lost, then only forty rather than sixty percent of the goods would go to the Continental Army, and she well knew they needed every percent they could get. Gambling with that was out of the question.
"Having doubts, Red? Maybe you really believe my crew will out do your crew," Joe egged her on.
"I was thinking that I'm not getting anything out of this wager. What's in it for me?" Rebecca asked. "Shall we make a deal that I receive seventy percent while you will have to be satisfied with thirty percent if my crew's performance is superior to yours?" She didn't think Joe would agree to this as thirty percent was a pitiful sum.
"And if the crews are equal-" Joe said.
"Then it's back to the original deal - sixty percent for me and forty percent for you," Rebecca interjected, pulling her hat from her head and shaking her hair so that it flowed in the breeze.
"You drive a hard bargain," Joe stated, rubbing his chin. "Thirty percent isn't much for the work my crew will have to do."
"Having doubts about your crew, Joe?" Rebecca threw back at him, crossing her arms, her hat in hand.
Pausing momentarily, Joe rubbed his chin harder and then he stomped his foot. "A deal," he suddenly blurted out with his hand extended.
Taken aback, Rebecca dropped her hat. A deal, he had said. It wasn't supposed to take this turn. Joe was to decline and that would be the end of it. Why wasn't he going along with her plan? There was no way she could foresee to an escape to this predicament without practically making an admission that her crew had the potential to be inept. Reaching for his hand, Rebecca shook it.
"A deal it is," she said, sounding confident when she was everything but. When Adam drilled the men on taking British boats, he would have to stress to them the importance of doing it right and doing it expediently. There would be very little margin for error. She regretted having to burden them with the added pressure, but they were soldiers and should be able to bear up well.
Unknown to either Joe or Rebecca, Big Bertha had followed them. She peered through the trees to see Joe and Rebecca standing side by side as they observed the men march. Having warned Rebecca the evening before by her facial expressions that Joe was off-limits to her, Big Bertha grew more angry by the second. She decided that the redhead needed a lesson. Charging from her place of concealment, Big Bertha ran clumsily towards Rebecca.
Hearing the sound of breaking branches and heavy footfalls, Rebecca turned in the direction of the noise. Before she could do anything else, Big Bertha emerged into the clearing and slammed into Rebecca, sending her crashing to the ground. Somehow managing to roll away from the prone woman beside her, Rebecca climbed to her feet as fast as she could. Big Bertha also rose and crouched as she prepared to come after Rebecca again.
"Hey, now, stop that," Joe said as he made a half-hearted attempt at stopping the fight. He stepped in front of Big Bertha as she prepared to charge again. Then as she took a few steps, Joe moved out of her way for fear she would run him over.
Rebecca waited for her. As Big Bertha was just about to pounce on Rebecca, the redheaded lady pirate stepped slightly to the side and forward, positioning her foot so that it caught Big Bertha's ankle. The large woman landed on her face on the ground. Taking advantage of the situation, Rebecca grabbed the woman's hair and yanked it. Big Bertha rose to her feet, but rose slowly.
The two crews took notice of the fight and Adam declared them dismissed as they ran towards the squabbling pair. Adam raced ahead of the pack. He had known it was going to come to this. He and Cincinnatus had warned her, and she hadn't taken that warning seriously. The crews surrounded the pair but gave them some distance. Bets were quickly placed, with Joe's crew counting on Big Bertha to win and Rebecca's on the Queen of the Caribbean herself. Joe placed a bet himself on Rebecca. He knew Big Bertha didn't have a chance; not against a lady pirate with a name that began with the word 'mad'. None of Joe's crew disapproved of his choice. They didn't usually cross the mostly amiable pirate.
Rebecca slammed an upper cut to Big Bertha's chin that served more to hurt Rebecca than it did Big Bertha. The tall woman only blinked and then rapidly swung a fist catching Rebecca in the neck and jaw, sending her reeling and down to one knee. Scrambling to her feet, Rebecca dodged a blow that was intended for her head and then was able to tackle Big Bertha about the knees. Grabbing her wrists, Rebecca struggled to keep a grip, but Big Bertha was very strong and it wasn't long before Big Bertha extracted her hand from Rebecca's grasp and a blow landed on the lady pirate's face. Momentarily stunned, Rebecca released Big Bertha's other hand. A second strike to the face sent Rebecca to the ground, landing on her back. Feeling lightheaded, Rebecca began to wonder for the first time it she hadn't taken on more than she could handle. Hearing the voices of her crew cheering her on though, she redoubled her efforts in order to put this threat to her person down once and for all.
When Big Bertha came after her again, Rebecca bent her knees and thrust outward with great force. They found their mark in the middle of Big Bertha's stomach. The big woman stumbled backwards for several feet as Rebecca ran towards her. Before Big Bertha regained her balance, Rebecca struck her a couple of times in the midsection and then went for the face. The final blow was to the back of the neck using clenched hands. At last, Big Bertha toppled over like a giant dying oak tree.
Cheers for Rebecca rang loudly around her. Joe handed her hat to her and she raised it in victory causing her crew to renew the cheer with vigor. "Mad Red! Mad Red!" they shouted. "She'll knock you dead!" They repeated that cheer until Rebecca called for it be quiet.
Swinging her hat before her and bowing deeply, Rebecca then stood tall while placing her hat on head. "My crew I thank you for your enthusiastic support. Go and enjoy the afternoon's repast and a respite. Afterwards, Baby Face will commence drilling you on the art of seizing boats, especially those manned by the bloody Redcoats."
Her crew began to do as she ordered, but then, one by one, they noticed a new arrival standing in their midst. He was dressed peculiarly. It took Rebecca a little longer to see him than the others as she was concentrating on rubbing her sore cheek and neck. She lifted her head towards him as he began to speak.
"I see, Red, that you have succeeded in forming an alliance in your usual manner, by inciting a physical altercation," the new arrival said. He was tall and wore a bright red bandana tied about his head. His ebony hair was pulled back and secured in a queue. He wore a white shirt that was opened wide at the collar, revealing a muscular chest. His shirt was tucked into a pair of skintight black pants; so skintight it made one wonder why he needed the wide red belt to go with them. He swaggered as he approached Rebecca either because that was the way he walked, or because his trousers fit rather too snugly. The large gold hoop earring he sported in his ear gleamed in the sun as the light reflected from it. His thigh-high black leather boots looked as if they had been recently polished and shone almost as brilliantly as the earring.
"Black Mood Murray!" Rebecca exclaimed in delight as she rushed forward to greet the grinning man.
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