Chapter 2: The Villain
A furious William Marbry threw a wooden drinking cup across the room. “It has been three months since that witch got her ransom money for the good Lady Speer! The Duke informs me that ever since her harrowing experience with those beasts His Lady has been refusing him conjugal visits. Have you any idea what that can do to a man?”
The target of his fury, one Captain Alison, swallowed hard. Marbry regarded him as a useful rarity to this island, a man who liked women. “Sir, your own physician did attest that she was not poorly used by those ruffians.”
“Ruffians?” Marbry sneered. “Ruffians? Have you any idea of whom you’re talking about? That is the oldest surviving pirate compact in the West Indies, captain! The Jacob’s Ladder has been a thorn in my backside for nearly ten years! Longer than Morgan! Longer than Morrow!” He calmed down a bit, even long enough to gesture to the secretary who stood at his side. The secretary recovered his drinking cup and a crystal decanter of rum. “Of course they didn’t misuse her, captain, almost all pirates are a company of sodomites down here. That is not the point. The Jacob’s Ladder is a crew of monsters today headed by a witch who can smell English money at 50 leagues and who calls the storms when she wishes.”
Marbry sat down in a padded chair and scooted forward to his desk while his bald, dark-skinned secretary poured him a drink. He paused to stare out his window, momentarily ignoring Allison. As the Governor, his mansion had a magnificent view of Kingston harbor, and on the second floor the wind blew through with great effect. But for all its beauty, Marbry knew that this edifice was simply the most comfortable cage in all of Jamaica and he the island’s most pampered animal. He had been appointed Governor of Jamaica precisely because he was too troublesome elsewhere in the Empire but he was an effective administrator when the lives of his subjects were not much at issue. Any island in the West Indies qualified. Jamaica was simply the largest.
As Governor of Jamaica, Marbry had proved brutally effective. He administered The King’s lands and collected the King’s taxes from the local Temporal Lords with ruthless efficiency, not that there was any trouble with him doing so. The lords who had merely invested and sent over administrators got what they wanted out of the islands. Those who had actually come here to oversee their own fields had learned that their less courageous peers were being thieved with both hands. The island was thick with pirates and thieves, only a few of whom had Letters of Marque but most of whom were useful to His Majesty. Even so, the money from the West Indies flowed back toward England in ever increasing volumes to feed the ravenous maw of arms and troops as King George conducted his ridiculous little war with the Dutch. It was not a history of which one could be proud.
For a sailor like Alison, the transition from the Royal Navy that plied the coasts and dropped anchor in harbor now and then to the Navy’s West Indies operation had probably seemed like an adventure. Marbry understood Alison well enough to know that harsh reality had finally set in. Alison had long ago expressed exasperation with rum, found no pleasure in sodomy from one end and no desire to experience it from the other, and was now the man holding the lash rather than receiving it, not that he enjoyed that position either. His one vice remained the whorehouse on Capitol Hill, a vice Marbry shared, as did so many of the well-heeled men of the city for whom the black serving girls or their own fading, fragile wives were little source of comfort.
Although as he thought about it, Marbry thought the Lady Speer qualified as neither fading nor fragile. She was quite clearly in the bloom of her life, a beautiful woman who had defiantly stood out while even that fool of a captain, Hill, had cowered behind a rock. She had been grateful for her recovery, of course, but she had been no delicate flower.
Alison spoke, interrupting his reverie. “Sir, my men and I will catch this pirate.”
“You had better, Captain Alison. My bookkeeper informs me that without my payroll I will have to do drastic things with the taxes imposed on His Majesty’s subjects and that will make nobody happy. There is not much money on this island, Allison, and I do not control it. The only way money gets here is when England sends it here. It only gets sent here because sugar, rum, timber, and the rest go to country. Men here only work because they get the money which king and country send– a sizable fraction of which is now in the hands of pirates!” He was shouting. He took a deep breath to bring his emotions under control.
“I do not naturally put men to test like this, but I understand that your three-year commission to the island is ending in six months. Catch her and I will let you head home earlier.”
Alison was surprised. “Thank you, sir!”
“Do not thank me yet, Alison. If you do not catch her, I may not let you go home at all.”
Alison seemed to explode like cannon. “You cannot do that! We have been here three years, Governor! It is against the law to…”
“To send home men who will merely be pressed into service once again, and those that so choose will get back into their floating Sodoms and once again ply my waters? Only a few really want to go home, Alison and I know by your tastes that you are one of them. If you want to see England again, find her. Kill her for me.”
Alison gritted his teeth and nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“I knew you would see it my way. We will be having a party at Lofn’s tonight. You are welcome to join us, of course.”
Alison sighed. Marbry gleefully took away with one hand as he held out gifts with the other. “Thank you, sir,” Alison said. “You are too kind.”
William Marbry watched the disappointed man retreat from his office as if he were retreating from the central chambers of Hell itself. To William Marbry that is all Jamaica represented: a hot, diseased Hell overrun with Negroes and pirates. He wasn’t sure which were the greater trouble. The pirates may have been mostly white, but they were rarely entirely English crews: many of the older ones were half-breeds and only God knew what kinds of mongrels were the younger ones. They spoke a patois of English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and he was sure that some words from the local savages had worked their way into the pirate vocabulary.
He paused to regard the clock on the table across from him. It was one of those new, smaller models from Switzerland, the kind with the small internal weights that had to be adjusted every day. He liked the thing; it rang with significant power every hour, tracking time precisely, counting down for him hour by hour the moment when he could finally get away from this Godforsaken spit of rock. The clock read ten in the morning. It could read any time of day that he pleased, as nobody else on the island cared what time of day it was: they rose at dawn to either work or drink and stopped when the sun went down or they passed out. But William Marbry was a man of efficiency and discipline, or so it was said by others, and he meant to keep it that way.
But the business with the Piratess Beth was more than a mere mar on his record. It was a curse hanging over his head. A curse he hoped to destroy.
He glanced over at his secretary. “Elvio, have my horse saddled and inform Joseph and Lieutenant Johnson that I am going to the Duke of Coke’s household.” He pulled on a riding jacket and a brimmed hat. “And have a runner sent up to Lofn’s. Inform them that there will be one more on His Majesty’s books, a Captain Alison.”
“At once, sir,” Elvio said in that thick, native accent that Marbry found irritating. The talk, dark-skinned man was almost a pirate himself, with his shaved head and his earring. But he had attached himself to the governor’s rising star with mercenary zeal and Marbry had learned to depend on him to be ruthless when needed. Elvio was also something of a mystery, for he could read and write, although he would not reveal where he had acquired those skills. Marbry suspected a priest engaged in illegal business.
Marbry’s mood swung toward the cheerful as he descended the steps of his abode to find another black-skinned servant dressed all in white and holding a chestnut-colored horse for him. He barely acknowledged the man as he mounted. From his vantage point he could see most of the front courtyard and he could hear the hooved feet of a horse, the rider his chief guard, the man whose principal duty it was to protect his life. “Good morning, Lieutenant.”
“Sir,” Lieutenant Johnson responded, professionally holding onto the reins of his steed with both hands and not saluting. Marbry enjoyed the display of steel in Johnson’s back as the man sat further upright. To rule, the governor thought, was a good thing. He would miss it some day, he supposed, but with the money he had squeezed from Jamaica and some, other, dealings, he would not miss it too badly. They waited until they were joined by three more of Johnson’s men. “Where is Joseph?”
“Here, sir,” replied Marbry’s personal bookkeeper. He was a tall man with blond hair cropped short and a beard trimmed close and clean. He rode with skill and calm, which never ceased to amaze Marbry. His experience with bookkeepers was that they were generally nervous, timid fellows prone to worry about making mistakes. Joseph acted as if mistakes were impossible. That gave Marbry confidence in the man.
The ride to Lord Coke’s mansion took less than an hour. When he reached the gates, he was welcomed by one of the few white servants remaining on the island. The Duke’s courtyard had an unpleasantly Spanish flavor to it, like much of the island, a design that reminded him of Earl Harcourt’s rotted home. He sighed, at once reminding himself that the Spanish were the experts on surviving climates like this one and they had long ago mastered the art of doing so in high style. He waited with the Lieutenant, tapping his boot softly with a riding crop that he rarely used on a horse. Men and women were another matter.
“His Majesty’s Honorable Governor Marbry,” a voice rang out across the open courtyard. Marbry spotted the broad bulk of the man he had come to visit walking across the courtyard. The Duke of Coke had a strong, ruddy face and penetrating eyes, and only the unruly quality of his own hair, uncovered, hinted that he had begun to leave the discipline of the English Court behind him.
“Your grace,” Marbry replied in similar respect.
“Come within, Marbry. Good to see you, Joseph. It is too hot to be standing outside in the day like this, even with the breeze.” The Duke, smartly dressed in pants and a blouse shirt, gestured toward an open doorway that awaited them both. Marbry acquiesced. The Duke led them to another room and the quiet solitude of an upstairs office laid out not unlike Marbry’s own. “It is good of you to come today. I trust you have heard?”
Marbry nodded. It had been the news of the day, and not welcome at all. “I just put the threat to Captain Alison. We cannot have that witch plying the seas if she is who we think she is. We never did find that brat, and she is exactly the right age to be Elizabeth Harcourt. And the Jacob’s Ladder was the Earl’s personal privateer. It cannot be anyone else. We must make sure that that line of the family is killed off forever.”
“From My Lady’s description, she is a powerfully strong and able woman. Even wounded, she would be a terrible adversary. And if she should get word…”
Marbry nodded. The current turn of events was not shaping up as he would have liked.
Joseph muttered, “We could always kill him when he arrives in Jamaica.”
Coke dismissed the idea. “It would raise suspicions. Why would the Harcourt family be so cursed as to have all of a father, daughter, and son die of violence, when no other family on the island has had such tribulations?” The Duke shook his head. “No. It has to be by some other means.”
“Poison, perhaps. Or disease.”
“Do you know how to conjure a spirit of illness, Joseph? I thought not.”
Marbry sighed. “I wish I had never heard of this accursed place. I wish I had never heard of Mexico. The money from the mine is astounding, but the cost, My Lord, if we should get caught!”
The Duke smiled. “We will not get caught. We have not gotten caught yet, and it has been ten years. This is a mere… irritation.”
He was surrounded by confident men. That made Marbry feel that he had the situation more under control. “You are correct, My Lord. It is merely more irritating than usual.”
The day passed quietly without any of them saying a word. The afternoons in Jamaica were times when even speaking was too much effort. It was best to just sit back, sip an ale, and wait for the coolness of evening to settle over everything. “You are coming with us tonight?” Marbry finally asked.
“Of course I am,” the Duke responded, his face darkening. “I do not know what kind of spell that pirate girl has cast on my good wife, but it has distressed her no end. She eats well, rides for exercise, but she tells me that the thought of doing her wifely duty distresses her. Yet she also swears that none of the pirates had their way with her. Have you ever heard of such a thing, Marbry?”
“I have, My Lord, but not often. I can imagine that such a moment can change a person. I think this will soon pass.”
“I should hope so. I must produce an heir, after all, and my young wife is due to give me what is rightfully mine. If she will not give it willingly, well, a man must do his duty, and a woman must do hers.” The Duke’s smile looked familiar to Marbry, a feral smile. He enjoyed the Duke’s company for exactly this reason, the feeling of being a wolf among fellow wolves.
Marbry had married but his wife had died before giving him an heir. He had never married since, preferring the company of women who went away when he stopped paying them. When he was a truly rich man, he would have time for a wife.
“We must return to our duties,” Marbry sighed. “I trust you will be there on time?”
The Duke waved a hand dismissively. It annoyed Marbry; he had done most of the work– the Duke had merely provided the money to start the operation– yet he was treated like a lackey. Still, soon it would matter not at all. He would have something more important than a title, or honor, or a name– he would have money. The kind of money he needed to establish himself a place in history.
By the time he reached his offices and had dismissed Joseph, the sun had begun to set. He had little enough time to dress and eat what his servants thought of as a passable meal before he was again on his horse and crossing the town toward Lofn’s.
One of the girls, a pretty creature with too much makeup for his tastes, met him at the door. “Good evening, Governor. We have been expecting you.”
He nodded and walked in. The room was arrayed with a few more women than had been here at his last visit. A consignment of debtor women from Ireland had arrived since his last visit and it made sense that some of them were of the sort that would find themselves here. And there were more men here as well.
Although he had long ago become used to Lofn’s home, he still remained impressed by the quality he saw here. She had a large home, clearly intended as a dormitory for her many girls, with a rear courtyard that provided its own well and its own laundering facilities. It was paneled in a dark wood that came from the mainland, another sign that Lofn was riding high as the main provider of women higher than streetwalkers.
“Governor. It is so good to see you.” Lofn’s lilting Northerner accent cut through the air with marked precision, making him and every other man in the room look up immediately. She had the palest blond hair he had ever seen, and the bluest eyes. He had to admit that of all the women Lofn offered, few were as enticing and exotic as she herself. She had civilized Negresses and moors, of course, but they didn’t count to Marbry.
“And it is good to see you as well, Lofn.” He was careful not to use the honorific ‘Lady’ around her. Others may have called her that, but to Marbry she was nothing more than one who provided a service. A useful one, but not much more than that.
“What interests you tonight, Governor?”
He looked around the room. He had a few he liked best, but it was the new women that attracted his eye more than old favorites. Two that attracted his eye had the pale skin and dark hair of Ireland. He liked the doe-soft qualities in their vision, and he admired the arrogant posture they held as they leaned, side-by-side, against the banister. “Who are they?” he asked, pointing.
“Dymphna and Tullia? They’re recent acquisitions from the troubles in Ireland. Would you like to try one of them?”
“Why not both?”
“I know you can afford it, Governor, and so I would not deny you such a request, but I must ask you if you are really up to such demands.”
Marbry smiled. “What demands, Lofn? They will do what I ask of them and nothing else. If I choose to spend myself but once, well, one will go disappointed.”
“Indeed,” Lofn said. Marbry realized suddenly that neither would go disappointed. Both would get paid with his gold. Lofn gestured for the two women to join them. “Dymphna, Tullia, this is Governor Marbry. He has requested that the two of you perform for his interests tonight.”
The door opened and Marbry heard Captain Alison speaking with the Duke of Coke. The distraction was ended with the taller of the two women taking his elbow and leading him upstairs. He allowed himself to be led away from the party and up to one of the corner bedrooms. It was pleasantly cool this evening, and he sat on the bed. “What would you have of us, governor?” one of the women asked.
This was comfortable territory. He liked being in command of his simple pleasures. “Undress one another,” he said. He had already forgotten which was which. It did not matter to him, he cared not for those dreadful Irish names anyway. The shorter turned around and let the other unlace her dress. “Slowly. Touch,” Marbry ordered. He watched as the hands of one reached around and stroked and caressed the breasts of the other.
His own sex raged hard within his pants, demanding to be freed. He told himself to wait: he would have his way with these creatures all in his good time. His patience had always been his strength. He watched them touch as they undressed, taking their time, knowing that they were getting paid for every second that they spent with him.
And they seemed to be enjoying his watching. Or were they enjoying each other? “Finish, and then come remove my clothing.”
They did as they were told. At least they were obedient. He found that quality charming in women, regardless of its origin, in fear or in money. His heart sped as their hands were on his body, unclasping the buttons of his shirt and pants. His sex sprang free and the smaller one instantly had her hands on it, stroking the length of it. “Oh, sir,” she gasped. “It is a monster!”
He enjoyed the sound of that. A monster of a prick. It befitted a man admired for the terrors he instilled in the natives of whatever Godforsaken land he had been appointed to administer. “Take it in your mouth,” he demanded.
She looked up into his eyes apprehensively. Men in the islands were rarely clean. Being asked to mouth an unwashed Caribbean prick was degrading. Marbry wondered if she would object, but she closed her eyes and placed the head of his prick against her lips. He watched her inhale, smelling it, trying to decide if it would be as foul as a pirate’s. Of course, it would not. Marbry had some sense of cleanliness. He preferred not to itch every moment of every day, even if the clothing of the islands itself seemed to make that impossible.
She took it into her mouth. He sighed with pleasure as her tongue slipped along the length of his prick. The other sat to his side; he stroked her breasts absentmindedly. The physical pleasure of her attentions aroused in his heart a burning desire to take her, to have his way with her sex.
“Stop.” She backed off. “You,” he said, pointing to the one to his left, “attend to me.”
He pushed her back onto the bed and spread her thighs. He reached for the other one. “Get on top.” She did as he asked, straddling her partner, face to face. “Kneel.” They were arranged, face to face, one atop the other, their pudenda exposed to his eyes. “Kiss.”
They did as he ordered. Their mouths pressed together, and he was pleased to see that they had no particular experience at that. They were not accustomed to the illicit pleasures of women together. He got behind the one who knelt and waggled his prick at the gate of her sex. She was not especially ready for him, but he did not care much. He pressed his sex between her pink lips and burrowed his way into her body. She moaned what Marbry hoped was at least something of an objection; it was not right for a woman to really enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. That was a thing for men.
He grabbed her hips and began a brutal assault against her sex. He bore into her, his eyes greedily watching his prick sink into her and return undaunted. A grunt from the bottom woman, used as their platform, their mattress, was a joy to his ears. His hands creased the flesh where he dug his fingers into his choice, and the bed groaned under the force of three people engaged in such an outrage of nature.
He pulled out and with a forceful shove pushed the one on top aside, plunging down into the other one. “My Lord!” she gasped as he entered her, his cock taking her completely. He ravished her with as much energy as the last one.
“I said I would have my way with both, and I shall make sure of it,” he said through clenched teeth. His need would not be denied for much longer, and in one dim grunt of pleasure he climaxed within her.
He turned over in bed. “Leave me,” he gasped. “Take your clothes and leave me.”
“Did we displease you?”
“No. I just would like to be alone.” He lay down on the bed and waited for his heart to stop beating quite so powerfully. At his age, such strength was not to be exercised often, he knew, and he feared that someday it would give out on him. He did not know or care if tonight or any night he had sired a bastard with any of the wenches who worked here. All he cared about was that he live long enough to sire a real family, one of which he could be proud. And now, after such an intense fucking, he was so very hot that he could not stand to be touched. He did not want those women around– the heat of their bodies and thestench of their class were more than he could bear at the moment.
The money. That was all that mattered, in the final analysis. The money, and getting out of Jamaica. He had the one, and the other would be coming soon. And he had one loose end to tie up. The Harcourt family. The two halves of which must be kept apart.