A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 5

Nick opened the stable door quietly, unfamiliar with the dwelling.  He didn’t know if the hinges creaked on the large barn door or not.  Slipping in he stood in the dimness and listened for anything that would give him a clue to let him know Ray was there.  His ears perked when he heard a sound that sounded like a plink.  Then he heard the same noise repeatedly.  Taking care, he moved slowly towards the back of the barn.  The noises were coming from the loft up above.  Crouching in the shadows at the back of the barn, he finally heard her speak.  “I almost have enough to pay for my passage out of here.  I don’t care where I travel to, I just need to disappear.”

The words stopped and Nick heard a frustrated groan.  “I will never be able to leave here if Edmund doesn’t let me make enough money.  I need to find another job or I could always pilfer a few pockets.  You taught me well Mama, you taught me well.” 

Nick’s eyes focused on the rickety wooden ladder that went up to the loft.  He had heard footsteps; light ones over the boards above him.  They creaked and then he saw petite feet poised on the rungs.  Crouching down so she would not see him, he peeked from behind a bale of hay.  The horses were raising a ruckus do to his being in the barn.  Ray had come down from the loft and now stood by one of the horses.

“Settle down fella,” Ray reached up and stroked the bay.  “You are the only thing that I will miss about this place.  I’m tired of Edmund’s threats…”   Pausing she pushed the horses mane aside and gave him a big stroke.  “If it weren’t for Jocelyn, I don’t know what I would do.” 

Flipping the mane back down, she smiled at the horse.  “All better.”

Nick watched Ray twirl her ebony colored mane into a long braid.  Twisting the ponytail, she placed it on top of her head and pulled her cap back down on it.  “I’m off to do something that I swore I would never do again, but I need just a little more money to get out of this hell hole.  I’ll just pinch a few pockets and be back here, they won’t even know that I had left.  Just a few pockets.  I would like to see how much that Captain of Jocelyn’s has.  The man paid for the entire week for her.  I wonder if his crew is down at the docks.” 

Nick watched her, a smirk graced her face but the words she had just spoken were about him and his friends.  She was nothing more than a common thief and she had just said that she was going to pick pockets. 

Ray set her cap straight and giggled as she spoke to the horse.  “I’m off to get a few coin down at the wharf, most of that crew will be drunk by now.” 

Nick watched her give the horse a curtsy and leave.  The barn doors were shut as quietly as he had opened them.  Staying in his spot for just a moment he waited, unsure if she had spoken the truth or not.  After a fair amount time and she didn’t return, Nick bolted from his hiding spot.  “That boy, no woman, no girl, is going to steal from us.” 

Standing outside in the dark, Nick tried to get his bearings.  He didn’t hear or see a thing.  “She must be walking,” he whispered to his horse as he mounted it.  “How will I ever find her in the dark and down at the wharf?”  Nick ducked down low on his horse as he went into a full gallop to get to the ship.  “I’ll just be there waiting for her,” as he closed his eyes and rode along.  Those purplish-blue eyes of hers stuck in his thoughts.

Nick began laying his trap in his head.  He would get down to the dock and return the horse to the stable that Kevin had rented the animal from.  After returning the animal to the stable he would make his way to their ship.  Once he boarded the ship, he would wait on the Quarterdeck for her.  The Quarterdeck provided him with a clear view of the entire ship and the comings and goings of the plank.  He couldn’t protect the crew if he were down on the docks, each man would have to be for himself.  The Captain would be so proud of him for doing this great service of protecting the crew and ship.

Dismounting from the horse, Nick tossed the reins to a stable-boy who he had awoke upon his arrival.  “Take care of it boy.” 

Nick ran out the door and down the alley.  Taking a few minutes to catch his breath, he gulped the sea air.  He could taste the salt in the air.  Turning back to the stable, he frowned.  “I hate horses.”

Looking down the street there were very few people out this time of night.  Only doxy wenches and thugs.  As he turned he caught site of slight build making its way towards him.  “There is no way she could have gotten here that fast.”  Nick once again stepped back into the shadows of the night.

The small figure made its way past him and to the same stable-boy that he had just delivered his own horse too.  “Stay here Pete, I’ll be back for you.”  Ray dropped the reins in the hands of the keeper.  Reaching into her leather top, she retrieved a coin and tossed it to the boy.  “Nay say word to anyone, it’s just for a little bit of time.”

Nick stood glaring at the girl from the alley.  He didn’t need to go to their vessel, he could follow her and watch over his people at the same time.

Ray could feel she was being watched and so she decided to give whoever it was the slip.  Getting people not to follow her was a game she had played as a small child.  The game was taught for fun, she would realize one she aged, the game was taught for a purpose.  Brushing the hair from her eyes and fixing her hat, she smiled inwardly.  Like the flight of a bird, she was gone down the alley. 

Nick stood, amazed at the girl’s speed as she darted by him and he lost her in the darkness.  “Damn!”  Nick walked a few steps down the street one way and then backtracked from where he had come from. 

Reaching into his pocket, he flipped a coin to see which direction he should proceed.  After all, she would have to come back for her pony.  The idea was a bright one; he would just wait for her to return for the horse.  He didn’t need to tramp around Devon to find her, he would wait for her to come to him.

Nick sat on the ground, the stench of the livestock assailing his nostrils and lungs.  All he wanted to do was sleep in a bed that didn’t sway on the sea.  He wanted a soft mattress.  The mere thought of woman to accompany him had crossed his mind but he wasn’t in the mood to go chasing after one.  Chuckling to himself as he heard the bell tower chime that it was two in the morning.  “The Captain is right, find a good whore and keep her.”  Sighing to himself, he closed his eyes just for a second. 

Nick was roused some time near sunrise by the shouts of angry men.  “Where did that lass go!  She took my money!  I want her, and I want to have at her too!  Damn whores!”

Startled awake, Nick stood up suddenly.  Nick moved quickly enough back to hiding spot.  Dawn hadn’t broke and the darkness still prevailed.

Ray was out of breath; these two men were much faster than the ones she had stolen from earlier.  The one man was quiet and soft spoken.  It didn’t take Ray long to figure out that the man was one of the crew from Captain Richardson’s boat.  A feeling of guilt tickled at her just before she lifted a few coins from the man.  “My name is Brian.” 

Ray journeyed out of the tavern and went to the next place that she could think of.  A dock-side game of cards was taking place.  It was there that she had shed her disguise and played at being a strumpet to lift a few more coins.  By her own calculations, Ray almost had enough currency to pay her way out of England and go back to France.  She just needed a little bit more.  Running into the two men that were now following her, scared her.  She had played the part of trollop, in a manner of speaking.  Being around Jocelyn, she had her heard talk.  However, talk was the only thing she knew.  She sucked the air into her lungs, she felt the stingy pain in her side from running.  Her boots were making noise on the muddied boards but she couldn’t hear it because the only thing she could hear was the sound of her heart pounding in her ears.

A hand covered her mouth and dragged her backwards into a portico off the alley.

Ray kicked and punched at the person.  Her body was slammed against the building as she heard the shouts of the two thugs that she had just stolen from.  Ray only stopped fighting when she recognized the tuft of hair that was sticking out from under the wool cap her attacker was wearing.  If she had to be chased, she would prefer her captor over the two men that were seeking her out. 

A large, looming man yelled down the alleyway.  The shadow that he cast was enormous.  “Aye boy, you see a bit of fluff come down there?”

Nick nodded knowing the man could see but not clearly.  As he nodded he yanked Ray’s hat back down on her head.  “Aye I did, she went that way.   Whatcha’ needin’ her for?”

“The little chit didn’t deliver, I paid her well and she took my money.”  The man peered down the alley.  “Whatcha’ got back there boy?”

“Just my brother…  Mind your own…”  Nick yell back was interrupted as another man joined the man.  It was painfully obvious to him that Ray was scared but a little upset with him for scaring him.  A elfin foot shod in an old boot had just been slammed into his calf.  Stopping his body from tumbling over he listened to the men talk.

“Let’s go Claude, we can find her.  When we do, we’ll both have a go at her.  We can take turns.” 

Nick heard Ray’s sharp inhale and covered her mouth.  “Quiet,” he whispered as he watched the men tramp away.  Never taking his hand off her mouth, he pushed her towards the stable.  “You are mad.  Why are you down here stealing?”

Ray shrugged as she approached her pony.  “You had better get to your ship before your Captain returns and discovers your not there.”

Nick pulled the reins from the young boy that was holding Ray’s tethered horse.  Grabbing a coin from his own pocket then he flipped it towards the boy.  “Say nothing to no one.”

Nick mounted his horse and pulled Ray’s pony out into the shadows.  They rode a fast and steady pace back to the tavern without speaking to each other.  Nick watched Ray turn the horse out to a paddock.  She had rode bareback and only a bridle.  Such a display from a woman was unheard of.  Nick wondered what her parents had thought.  The earlier comments of that her mother had taught her well, haunted him. 

“Ray, you shouldn’t steal,” Nick followed her into the barn.  Ray went up the ladder to the loft. 

“I do what I have to do to stay alive.  I want to go back to France.  I don’t belong here.”  Ray settled in a bed of straw.  “That sounds very odd coming from a privateer’s cook.”

Nick was standing at the ladder and then froze when he heard the booming voice.

“NICK!” the shout came from just outside the barn door as it was flung open.

Nick gulped, great, just what he needed.  Kevin should be lying between Jocelyn’s legs, not down here checking on him. 

“What are you doing here?  I thought I told you to go to the ship.”  Kevin stood, his hair mused, his breeches hanging at the hips; he had pulled his boots on but not his shirt.

Nick grinned, that was hours ago he thought.  “I did Kevin and then I came back for breakfast.  I really like the food here. They have a magnificent cook.”

Kevin shook his head in disgust, he had heard noises that had to be investigated.  “You might do well to get with Edmund’s cook.  You might learn something.  I have never tasted finer mutton.”

“I bet I can,” Nick frowned as he heard Ray move around up above him, he needed to get Kevin out of the barn.  “Well, I guess I need to tend to my horse.  It’s not good to let him stand in his own sweat.”

Kevin’s eyebrows formed crossly, Nick was up to mischief.  The what would come later; right after he could find Jocelyn who now would be done with her ladie’s bath.  Kevin couldn’t seem to get enough of the woman that he had bedded over and over again most of the night.  To be rudely awaken at daybreak by his charge was most annoying. 

Nick tended to his horse as he watched Kevin stomp back into the backdoor of the inn.  “That was very close,” Nick whispered as he placed his forehead on the horse.  He was so tired from lack of sleep.

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