She had lived in New England all her life, when her father's business failed and the family decided to move to California, her heart had cried out at the idea of leaving the culture and society that she had always known. The day that they went down to the harbor and boarded the old ship they had almost had to force her on board. Surprisingly after a day or two at sea, she found that she loved the quiet and the gentle rolling of the waves against the hull. It was a time of calm and rumination and she came to terms with the idea that a new chapter of her young life was about to begin.
She was a lovely young brunette, her figure perfect enough to show even through the restraining clothes of the time with the huge petticoats, the high ruffled collars and the voluminous yards of fabric that a lady of distinction wore for the dual purpose of hiding her figure and enticing those men of imagination that could always see through to the truth of a woman. Her walks on deck were usually closely watched by the sailors, which caught several of them whippings at the hands of the mate who felt that there was no time for such foolishness and secretly desired her for himself. She blushed when a sailor would whistle or the catcalls would echo down from the sails where the hands bustled and climbed like monkeys to keep the ship moving southward ever southward to the Isthmus of Panama where they would transfer to land and then across to the Pacific Ocean to join another ship bound for San Francisco.
The weather was beautiful, it became ever more temperate as they left the North Atlantic and moved south along the coastline of North America, their first port of stop would be in the islands of the Bahamas and then they would continue to Panama for the trek across the Isthmus. She took to wearing less layers of clothing as did her sister and mother and the two other women aboard, the clothing became damp from the sea spray and weighed them down as well as being much too hot for the region. Of course, this only served to enhance her beauty and made it ever more evident that she was a young woman of delicious ripeness. Her ready smile and flashing eyes charmed all on board and the crew began to respect and admire the sweet girl who now stopped and chatted with some of them on her walks on the deck.
The exception was the mate, he became more and more desirous of her and would spend his time dreaming of ways to make her his. He was an uncouth man, large, brutal, with a terrible temper and a hand that was always ready and eager to whip or manhandle the crew. It angered him greatly that the girl had taken a dislike to him early in the voyage and would barely respond to him when he spoke, yet spent hours wandering among the flotsam that manned the sails and deck smiling and laughing as if she were at a lawn party. His eyes followed her incessantly, and his nights were filled with demonic plots of rape and kidnapping.
Somehow, she sensed his lust and kept her distance, when she saw him she would retreat to the family quarters or visit the captain in his cabin to listen to tales of seafaring, wonderful ports of call and pirates. The stories of the pirates were her favorites, she imagined them as romantic swashbucklers who were in all reality displaced lords of the sea who had been outcast by their governments or families and who pillaged and burned ships to protest their treatment at the hands of the various kings who owned the lands they traveled through. The captain was somewhat of a rum hound who never disparaged her ideas of grandeur and adventure regarding the pirates, after all, they brought him the company and attention of a beautiful young girl who would sit enthralled as he told his stories.
They finally reached the islands of the Bahamas and pulled into a bustling seaport. Ships from all over the world were anchored in the bay and there were large boats traveling back and forth to each ship for the purpose of loading and unloading cargo and passengers. The girl and her sister snuck aboard one of the launches headed to shore and quickly melted into the seething crowd on shore.
They wandered from store to store, from booth and stall in the markets, oohing and ahhhing over the silks and beads and jewelry from far and distant lands. They laughed and held their noses as they passed the livestock pens where the beasts were penned before they were shipped to the new lands to the west. They stopped for a quick snack at one of the outdoor booths and sat on bales of cotton traveling from the American south to the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco where they would be transformed into cloth and then altered into clothing to fill the shops of the new frontier. The girl never felt the two sets of eyes on her. One of her admirers was the mate, he had seen her board the launch and head for shore and had followed her with lust in his heart and a dastardly plan in his mind. He planned to somehow get her alone and take her for his own purposes then leave her stranded as the ship moved on in its journey.
The other set of eyes was a young man, hard looking but with a sardonic grin on his face, as if he knew something that the rest of the world had somehow missed. His green eyes followed the girl, and then noticed the mate lurking nearby. A chuckle broke from his lips and he rose and walked along the shops and stalls in the market, nearing the girl and her sister slowly and coming up behind the mate quietly and with no warning. He carried a sword of intricate design on the hilt and across his back was strapped a large knife, the blade fully 18" long and razor sharp in a doeskin scabbard. As he neared the mate, his eyes made a disturbing transition from sea green to a pale sky blue, his brow knitted with concentration and his step became as silent as a jaguar in the jungles of the lands directly to the west.
The mate was caught completely by surprise when the young man pulled a belaying pin from his belt, cracked it on the back of his skull and dragged him into an alleyway between buildings. Two dark, dangerous looking seamen appeared almost immediately and bound the mate, tied a canvas sheet over his head and dragged him away towards the seaport.
The young man continued his approach to the young lady and her sister, as he passed one stall he stopped and grabbed a coconut from a pile of them, poked two holes in the shell and walked to the girls with a charming smile on his face and a glint in his eye. "After eating that spicy food these islanders prepare, I've found that a drink of fresh coconut milk soothes the fever on your tongue and slakes the thirst", he said.
The blush that came over her face was sudden and delightful to the young man. His eyes met hers as he absently handed the coconut to her younger sister and they locked in on the green orbs filled with hidden fire that stabbed through to his very soul. After an awkward moment filled with meaning, he turned his gaze to her younger sister and said, "I hope you enjoy the coconut milk, it's not a treat that ladies from your part of the world often get to sample."
The younger girl giggled and smiled and drank from the coconut, declaring "but it's so sweet, I would never have guessed!" She clapped her hands excitedly as she passed the coconut to her older sister who lifted the nut to her lips.
As the older girl drank from the coconut it overran her lips and a trickle ran down the side of her face to dribble on her blouse. Her eyes fluttered, and cast downward when the young man laughed and said, "If you're going to spill it, I'll be happy to help you clean it up."
She gasped at his forwardness and blushed again; her eyes remaining down turned and didn't see the look on his face as he watched her reaction. Any man watching would have recognized the look, he wanted her, he planned to have her, and from the way he watched her he was willing to do whatever it took to make her his. His face was set in hard lines, belying his age. This man had done and seen things that men twice his age had never dreamt of and his commanding mien reflected the power that he held and was used to.
Soon enough, the girl looked back up and grabbed her sister's hand. "Its time for us to return to the ship sister," she said, "we'll be pulling up anchor soon and heading for Panama."
The young man took this information in without a movement or acknowledgement that she had given away her destination. "Let me order you ladies a carriage to carry you back to the docks, this really isn't the kind of place you should be wandering around unchaperoned," he said.
Before they could protest, he raised his hand and gestured. A carriage pulled by a large black stallion pulled from under a copse of trees and quickly came at his signal. The girls were loaded onto the carriage and after a brief word with the native driving the carriage, the young man stepped back and waved to them. "May your journey be safe and happy ladies, and if we should run across each other please remember me fondly."
With a smile and a quick turn the young man disappeared into the shadows between buildings as the carriage made its way back to the dock where the girls would board the launch to return to their ship. The driver of the carriage noted carefully which launch the girls boarded and watched them return to the ship, writing down the name.
In a brief time, the ship pulled anchor, even though for some reason the mate had disappeared and pulled into the waning sunlight on its journey south and west to the Isthmus of Panama. A new mate was appointed and the girl and her sister twittered and laughed about the charming young man on shore, how attractive and strong he was and how nice and pleasant he had been.
As the sun fell into the western ocean, no one noticed the double masted schooner with the dark sails slip into their wake in the distance and follow them as a shadow through the night.
The next day found the ship far from land, in calm waters with little wind moving slowly across the Caribbean. The captain was once again drunk, the new mate was a deck officer who had been promoted and hadn't yet learned how to get the most out of his crew, and there was generally a lackadaisical air about the ship. The lookouts in the crows' nest must have dozed off or be just enjoying the bright sun and pleasant calm, so no one noticed when the schooner behind them suddenly approached to within a mile.
The helmsman had turned briefly to see what the following weather looked like; the schooner had come clearly into view and was approaching at an alarming rate. The merchant ship being heavily laden, old, and not built for speed was at a total disadvantage especially considering the way the schooner was stealing the little wind that was available. By the time the helmsman had given the alarm the Jolly Roger on the stern of the schooner was clearly visible. Hearts raced and men scampered about the merchant vessel trying to grab just a little more wind as they changed course toward the distant shore. Perhaps if they could get into a sheltered cove they would be able to hold off the pirates, though they were certainly overmatched in weapons and skilled fighters.
The captain was finally roused and came on deck, he lifted the spyglass to his eye and immediately turned a pale white, uttered the word "Questor," whereupon he fell dead on the deck from a heart attack.
The mate in hearing the word turned to the deck and yelled to the crew to prepare for boarding, get the passengers into their cabins, and "may God have mercy on our souls!"
Within minutes, the black schooner was alongside the merchant ship, cannons poised on deck, a crew of remarkably degenerate appearing sailors at the starboard side armed to the teeth and shouting vulgarities the likes of which most people had never heard
In the cabin, the girl and her sister were hidden in a wardrobe, their arms around each other while their mother and father fretted in the cabin, peering out the small porthole but unable to see anything but the black hull of the schooner as it came alongside. Without even a cannon shot, the crew from the schooner boarded like wild men onto the deck of the merchant ship and disarmed the crew who really had no desire to be slain and thrown overboard.
The crew of the merchant ship was gathered up and placed under guard and the looting and searching of the ship began. The passengers were also pulled up onto deck and held separately from the crew, there was always a possibility of ransom for them. The girl's parents joined the others, but kept silent about the location of the girls.
Just when it appeared that the pirates had found the goods they wished to remove and were preparing to depart, a single figure swung over to the deck from the schooner. Dressed in black, a cutlass at his side and a large knife on his back in a sheathe, he looked like a young lord compared to the brigands who manned the pirates ship. As he walked across the deck, the pirates cheered and whistled and deferred to his passage until he stood before the passengers and looked them over with a set of eyes gone a stark mad blue. "Where is the girl?" he said quietly and with more than a hint of menace in his voice.
One of the passengers, perhaps more foolhardy or braver than the others replied, "and who would be asking young man?"
The pirate's gaze turned ferociously on him, "I am called Captain Questor, the Lord and Scourge of the Caribbean. I ask one more time, where is the girl?"
The man backed up quickly and looked down at the deck, murmuring apologies under his breath and assuring the Questor that he had no knowledge of the girls' whereabouts, but rapidly pointed to their mother and father and stated, "those are her parents Captain, perhaps they will tell you."
The pirate turned and put the full force of his stare on the father, "Sir, I mean no disrespect, but I must know where the girl is. If my crew has to find her, I'm afraid that her treatment will be savage and quick."
The girls' mother started crying then, and the Questor turned to her, reaching out he lifted her chin and said, "now, now, Missus, I promise to treat the girl as if she were my very own ... please stop your sobbing and help me keep her as safe as possible." At the same time as he spoke these words, strange, forbidden thoughts of what he would actually do once he had the girl in his possession flashed through his mind, and his already eerie blue eyes became even more strange and beckoning.
As one, the father and mother threw themselves on the mercy of the pirate and pleaded for the girls' safe treatment, then told the Questor of the hidden compartment in the wardrobe where the girls had huddled.
With that, the Questor laughed a great roar of pleasure and grabbing the mother thrust her to his crew. "Alright me hearties, enjoy her pleasures, but do not harm her as she will be held for ransom and must be presentable when she is redeemed."
The father cursed and wept as his wife was torn from him, then made a mistake, which almost cost him his life. He lunged at the Questor, enraged, face beet red and grabbed the pirate by the throat. The Questor's hand leaped to the hilt of his sword, drew it and then instead of gutting the man, crowned the father with the ornate hilt driving him to his knees and then into unconsciousness. As he turned to the cabin he stated to his men, "keep the women passengers, if any of the males give you problems throw them to the sharks, otherwise place them with the crew so they can carry the message back to their homes that the Questor is holding their women for ransom."
The Questor did not hear the weeping and cursing behind him as his men separated the passengers, nor did he notice the two splashes, which followed his departure. His mind was set on one thing; he must look into the girl's eyes again and claim her for his own.
The girls were listening for any sound in the cabin outside, while the old ship was not the fastest or staunchest ship on the seas, it had been built well and so they had no knowledge of what had happened on deck. As the Questor entered the cabin, his eyes seeking the wardrobe and a smile transforming his face into that of a handsome, dashing young lord, the girls thinking their father had returned pushed the door open.
The younger girl looked at the pirate and giggled, she remembered the coconut and the pleasant mannerisms of the man on shore. The older sister was more wary and tried to hold her back... The younger girl dashed out of the wardrobe and looked around for her mother and father, not spying them she turned to the pirate and asked him, "Do you know where my parents have gone kind Sir?"
The Questor merely smiled and tilted his head toward the deck; his eyes were intent on the green-eyed beauty still lurking in the shadow of the wardrobe. As the young girl sprinted through the passageway to the deck he approached the object of his affection.
She saw the look in his eye, even though she was young and inexperienced, there was no mistaking that look. She felt like a mouse being watched by a feral cat. His disturbing blue eyes pinned her to the floor and her breathing became ragged and fast.
When he stepped forward and grabbed her hand she lashed out with the other and cracked him across the face with a ringing slap. "Take your hands off of me Sir," she spat.
His response was to slap her back. With her ears ringing and her eyes tearing the man then grabbed her hair and pulled her to him. His eyes bored directly into hers for the briefest of moments, and then his lips pressed against hers in a long and hungry kiss.
He lifted her into his arms and carried her up onto the deck. His eyes swept the deck; he noticed that as usual his men had acted with precision and discipline. He was not a Captain who allowed his men to act in a manner, which would bring dishonor or hatred to his name. While he was a pirate, a brigand, a thief, and a kidnapper, he believed that discipline and control were more effective than brute power and careless destruction. He was not however above killing or punishing anyone foolish enough to tread on his toes. Many men had discovered that the young pirate while pleasant enough one second was a deadly as a jungle cat and as quick to respond to a slight.
"Good job men!" he called to them as he came into their sight. They had already moved the crew of the merchant ship and the male passengers into the holds where they would remain until they could break out of the locks his men had placed to hold them. The women passengers were being loaded onto his ship, shackled and chained together where they were taken to a common room in which they would be held until he decided which would be ransomed and which would be given to his crew for their pleasure.
He carried the girl to the side of the ship and then up onto a board they had put across the space between, he lifted her to his shoulder and like a dancer moved across the open space quickly and gracefully. On the deck of his ship he looked to his mate, "take this wench to my cabin, chain her and leave her on the deck, I will deal with her later."
The pirate ship pulled away from the merchant vessel and quickly disappeared into the distance, the girl's father one of the first to break free of the hold raced to the deck and looked fore and aft but there was no sign of the Questor's ship. The mate came on deck and looked at the haunted man, then ordered the crew to set sail for the closest port of call. It would take them two days after which they would find out how to either track the pirate or arrange for payment of the ransoms.
A couple of hours passed, the girl remained shackled and laying on the floor of the Captain's cabin. The pirate had gone to the common room, talked with the ladies there and divided them into two groups. One group was to be given to his crew for their amusement, with the strict orders not to be harmed or scarred in any manner. The others were women of substance; their families would be able to pay a ransom. If they didn't then they would be sold at auction on one of the pirate islands and used for scullery maids or whores.