Ann laughed, but he could hear the tears in her voice. "I am not a dog!" she quoted softly.
"Time passes so much more ... quickly, here," he said, sliding one arm around her shoulders and waving with his other hand at the island's jungly darkness. "I feel as if I've lived here for years ... "
They were walking again, down the beach together, away from the fires. "It's a matter of being suited for it, Jack," she said. "This Governor Rogers could live here for fifty years and he still wouldn't belong - he's all wired up with duties and consequences, and punishment for crimes, and so much money for so much cargo on such and such a date at this here port. It's all Old World stuff. But you, why, the day I first saw you I said to myself, there's a lad who was born for these islands."
These islands. The words were pregnant with images: flocks of pink flamingoes visible at dawn behind impenetrable barriers of high-arching mangrove roots, piles of pearly conch-shell fragments scattered around the sooty crater of a cooking-fire pit in white sand, and blindingly sun-glittering blue-green sea seen through a haze of rum-drunkenness, scraps of smoke-blackened wadding-cloth tumbling along the beach after a pistol duel like the used penwipers of Mars himself ...
And he did fit in here, or could - there was a part of him that responded to the nearly innocent savagery of it all, the freedom, the abdication of all guilts and capacity for guilt ...
She turned to him and kissed him and his free arm went around her waist, and suddenly he wanted her terribly, wanted the loss of identity she could give him; in moments they were lying in the warm sand, and she was hiking her dress up and he was on top of her, panting feverishly -
And a close gunshot deafened him and for an instant lit Ann's straining face, and a moment later a pistol butt slammed down onto the back of his head - it landed on the tarred stump of his chopped-short ponytail, though, and instead of knocking him unconscious the blow only jarred him. He rolled off of Ann on the seaward side and scrambled to his feet.
Ann still lay there on her back; a pockmark in the sand nearby showed where the pistol ball had struck - she wasn't hurt - but she was whining impatiently and hitching up her hips and gnawing on the ragged hem of her dress, and Shandy wanted only to kill whoever had interrupted them and then return to her.
Jim Bonny stood on the other side of her, and he tossed the spent pistol away and raised a hand; Shandy felt the sudden heat in the air around him and flicked his right hand in a quick counter-and-return gesture, then bit his tongue to get blood and spat toward Bonny to give the return more power.
Bonny's hair started to smolder and smoke, but he grabbed a ball of braided fur at his belt, and the heat was dispelled. "Mate Care-For lookin' out for me, you bastard," Bonny whispered. "He and I gonna render you unfit for wife-stealin'."
Too impatient and breathless to be afraid, Shandy snapped his fingers and pointed two of them at Bonny; but Bonny's hand was still on the fur-ball and the attack rebounded, knocking Shandy over and doubling him up with terrible cramps. Bonny took the opportunity to give his wife a kick in the shoulder and to speak a quick rhyme at Shandy.
Blood burst from Shandy's ears and nose, and rationally he knew that he was out-classed here, and should try to flee or yell for help; but he wanted Ann - wanted, in fact, to take her with Jim Bonny's blood hot on his hands ...
But with Mate Care-For protecting Bonny there didn't seem to be much he could do. He hunched up onto his knees and whistled a blindness at Bonny, but despite his best parries it too bounced back upon him, and while Shandy was blind Bonny sent a spastic fit at him.
Shandy collapsed, jiggling and hooting helplessly on the sand like the caller at a Saint Vitus' Day dance, and he heard Bonny kick his wife again and then step over her to get at him.
Shandy knew that it was too late now to try to run or call for help) - he was going to die, here and now, if he didn't think of something, and - more unbearable than the thought of death - Jim Bonny would be the one who would kneel between Ann's thighs; and at this point she would probably neither notice the difference nor care.
Ignoring the pain of a snagged finger, he shoved his flapping right hand into his trousers pocket; there was still grit in there from the ball of mud he had scraped from his boot on the Florida coast, and he rolled it into a lump between his thumb and forefinger. Then he yanked his hand out and flung the bit of dirt up at the sky.
And then he was in a boat, passing under a bridge strung with colored lanterns, and instead of garlic and wine his mouth tasted of strawberries. He remembered this - this was Paris - he had been, what, nine years old when his father, having made some money, had taken him out for a good dinner and a boat ride down the Seine afterward. The figure beside him turned to him, but this time it was not his father.
It seemed to be an ancient black man, his hair and short beard as white and tightly curled as those of a marble statue.
"Serious vodun attacks are generally directed at, and take place in, the memories of the defensive combatant," the black man said in a lilting French dialect, "the memories being the accumulated sum of a person. If I meant you harm, you'd find this remembered scene, the remembered people in it, changing in lethal and frightening ways ... very like the delirium experienced during a high fever ... and it would get worse and worse until you either counterattacked or perished." He smiled and held out his hand. "My name is Maitre Carrefour."
After a moment's hesitation, Shandy shook the man's hand.
"Luckily for myself," the black man went on, "I am a loa whose domain is populated islands. I have many dealings with men, and can anticipate their actions, unlike the natural loa you encountered in the Florida rain forest. Your thrown bit of dirt would not kill me - it has lost much of its potency in the week and a half since you brought it out - but it will nevertheless injure me if I stay and refrain from counterattacking. Therefore I am even now withdrawing from the conflict between yourself and Mr. Bonny."
Ashamed, Shandy looked away from him, back the way they had come. Among the pedestrians on the bridge he could see several women; despite the bright lantern light, only their faces were in particular focus, and it occurred to him that that must have been the way women had looked to him at the age of ten. Not anything like the way Ann Bonny had looked to him a minute ago. Which view, he wondered bitterly now, was the narrower?
"Uh ... thank you," Shandy mumbled. "Why ... why are you doing this, letting me off? Bonny said you were protecting him."
"Seeing that he comes to no harm. Do you mean him any harm?"
"No - not now, not anymore."
"Then I am not remiss." Something changed silently in the sky. Shandy glanced up and saw that the stars had become less distinct, as if a pane of faintly frosted glass now hung between them and him; Maitre Carrefour was apparently letting the illusion dissipate. The old black man chuckled. "You are fortunate, Mr. Chandagnac, that I am one of the Rada loas and not one of the younger Petro ones. I have the option of not taking offense."
"I, uh, am glad of that." The taste of strawberries was gone.
"I hope so. You got that tactic, that mud-ball trick, from Philip Davies - and you have wasted it. He gave you something else as well; it would not please me to see you waste that too."
Soft sand was under Shandy's left side and the starry night sky above his right, and he realized he was back on the New Providence beach; and when he heard the thup of the upflung bit of mud hitting the sand, he knew that his talk with Maitre Carrefour had not taken place in local time.
He was now able to deflect Bonny's magical attacks with a gesture and a whistle; he did so, and struggled tiredly to his feet.
Bonny was still flinging them, and Shandy kept knocking them aside.
"Give it a rest, Jim," he sighed. "You're just buying yourself a month of needing help even to lift a fork. Get a lot of liver and raisins and blood sausage inside you and maybe it won't hit too hard."
Bonny blinked at him in surprise, then clenched his fists and, dark-faced with effort, barked out half a dozen syllables.
Shandy deflected it toward the sea, and a fish leaped out of the water and exploded with a blue flash and a wet pop. Shandy shook his head at Bonny. "Keep it up and your hair's gonna turn white too, as well as your gums."
Bonny swayed, took a step toward Shandy and then collapsed limply, face down. Shandy walked around Ann to him and crouched to roll him over so that he wouldn't smother in the sand.
Ann had sat up and half rolled over. "Get over here," she said.
He walked over to her but didn't sit down. "I've got to go, Ann. That ... wouldn't have been good, what we were about to do. I'm only staying on New Providence Island long enough to get the Jenny repaired and provisioned," he said, having decided it only as he was saying it, "and then go take care of some business."
Ann was on her feet in an instant. "Is it him?" she demanded, kicking her unconscious husband. "The tale-bearing dog who keeps Governor Rogers' boots damp with lickin"em? I've been saving up for a divorce-by-sale, and you could buy one for me right now."
"No, Ann, it ain't him - or only partly. I just - "
"You bastard," she shrilled, "you're going after that damned Hurwood bitch again!"
"I'm going to Haiti," he said patiently. "I've got an uncle there who is going to set me up with a proper ocean-going three-masted ship ... before he hangs."
"Liar!" she yelled. "Goddamn liar!"
He walked back up toward the fires, one hand twitching a parry against any malefic spells she might be inserting among the catalog of obscenities she was shouting after him.
I wasn't lying, Ann, he thought. I really am going to go to Haiti and ruin my uncle if I possibly can, and use his stolen money to buy a ship. But at the same time you were right. As soon as I get a ship that can take the open seas, I'm going to find, and rescue, and - if there's still any worth in me - marry the only woman in whom I can see both a body and a face, and with whom I need not resign one or the other of my own.
And so for the next three days he had plied his weary crew with the most lavish dinners he could assemble and the best liquor he could get hold of, in exchange for which he made them slave at the overhauling of the Jenny; but even Venner, who complained most often, couldn't claim that their new captain was making them do an unfair amount of work, for Shandy was always the first awake in the morning, the one who made himself lift heavier loads than anyone else was willing to, the one who didn't take rest breaks ... and then, when evening darkness made further work impossible, Shandy was the one who cooked the bountiful dinner, making works of art out of whatever marinades and slow-simmering stocks he'd left developing when he went to the boat at dawn.
On the morning of Wednesday, the seventeenth of August, the Jenny sailed out the southern end of the New Providence harbor. She had taken on powder and shot as well as food and drink, and she carried at least twice as many men as she needed, but the deadline for taking the pardon was still nearly three weeks away, and Shandy was bringing no bocor along - he had managed to convey to Woefully Fat a plea to sail with them to Haiti, but the giant sorceror, who had somehow reappeared on the island days before the Jenny had arrived, refused - and so Woodes Rogers decided not to imperil his own still-shaky position by attempting to prevent the sloop's departure.
Shandy's crew was nervous about hurricanes, for this was the dangerous month of August, and in every previous year the Caribbean pirates would be well up the American coast by now, but Shandy argued that the southeast trip to Port-au-Prince was actually a little shorter, and far more direct, than the trip to the Florida west coast had been, and that on the way down they could hug the Exumas and the Ragged Islands and the Inaguas, and thus never be more than an hour's close haul from some sheltering shore. And twice during the three-day voyage they did see the ominous iron-gray helmets of distant storm clouds on the southern horizon, but both times the storms moved west to ravage Cuba before the Jenny got anywhere near them.
On Saturday morning the Jenny tacked in to the Haitian harbor called the Bight of Leograne, in past the fortifications on the jungle slopes at St. Marc and on through the St. Marc Channel to the colonial French village of L'Arcahaye. Shandy rowed the sloop's little boat to shore, and then he used some of Philip Davies' accumulated gold to get his hair cut and buy a coat and a neckerchief to cover his ragged shirt. Looking at least halfway respectable now, he gave a black farmer a couple of coins in exchange for letting him ride along with a wagonload of cassavas and mangoes to the town of Port-au-Prince, eighteen miles farther down the coast.
It was late afternoon by the time they reached town, and the native fishermen were already rowing ashore, dragging their crude longboats up onto the sand beneath the shadowed palms, and hauling away heavy woven-straw baskets and bamboo cages with crabs and rock lobsters moving around like big spiders inside them.
The town of Port-au-Prince proved to be a latticework of narrow streets laid out around a central plaza. The plaza and most of the streets were paved in white stone, though around the shops and warehouses by the waterfront the pavement was nearly hidden beneath hundreds - no, it must have been thousands - of brown, flat-trodden husks. Before stepping out into the crowded square, Shandy picked up one of the husks and smelled it; it was sugarcane, and he realized that this was the source of the gaggingly sweet, half-fermented smell that blended in the afternoon air with the usual rotten fish and smoky cooking odors shared by seaports everywhere. He tossed the thing away, wondering for a moment if it had come from the Chandagnac plantations.