1690, the era of the golden age of piracy, the waves lapped at the hull of the galleon of the Bloody Mary. Captain Susan Monticello stood behind the helm listening to the rustle of the sails in the Caribbean breeze. Her tan skin glistened underneath the hot sun, her cinnamon hair was neatly tied back to keep her eyes clear. So that, she wouldn’t lead her crew into unknown reefs that lurked in the uncharted waters. Her flintlock pistols shone brightly from their daily polishing, her rapier clicked against her leg as her ship rolled between the waves. She was very fond of the weapon earned from the dead body, of the most arrogant English captain she had the misfortune to meet. It was one of the main reasons she had set her base within those waters. With the Spanish and English navy’s pushing further into their territory it wouldn’t be long before they were captured. However, this was the life she chose to live and nothing in the world would ever take away her title, her crew, or her ship. At least not without paying dearly in blood for the right to board her ship.
Her motley crew was a mix of men and women, she had no fear that the men would ever touch her female crew members inappropriately. They learned the one and only time that some fool thought to take what wasn’t theirs. For you see Susan knew her women would gut any man faster than they could blink if they thought to ever touch them without consent. She had personally executed the one fool who didn’t heed her warning. It wasn’t only the women she was protective of she would die for any man that sailed under her command. Yet she felt something was missing from her life as she stared out onto the blue waters of the Caribbean. For Susan, the life of a captain was a lonely one, sure she could take any number of men to her bed. However, that would only ensure that she was placing favoritism onto one of her crew. That was something she just couldn’t afford, they needed to act as one when the time came for the call of battle. Not worrying which one of them was spending his night’s in her bunk.
“Captain, lifeboat off the starboard bow!” her lookout called down from the crow’s nest.
“Lower the mizzen masts, secure the jibs, let loose the topsail!” Susan barked out her commands as she turned her ship. Wondering if anyone was alive on board that small boat. Pondering how anyone could survive in the heat of the summer sun without water to sustain them. “Ready the pole hooks, and the ladder,” she bellowed out as the small lifeboat drew near.
“Hook on Captain,” called out one of her sailors.
“Good, now get down there and see if anyone is alive that we can help,” Susan said with a wicked smile.
Matthew Whitsun dozed in the shade of his makeshift canopy he had fashioned from the torn, shredded remains of the sail he managed to salvage after the frigate he was on sank beneath the waves. For days he had sensed that after all the battles he fought in the French and Indian war he would finally meet his end alone in the middle of the ocean. Rationing what little food he was able to save in the faint hopes someone would rescue him. Unbeknownst to him at that moment that he dozed to sleep the heat off, his fate would forever be changed. He thought nothing of the jostling of his tiny boat as hard sole boots echoed off the seasoned boards. It wasn’t until his canopy was flung off that Matthew knew she wasn’t a delusion.
“This one appears to be alive!” Matthew thought as his dry eyes tried to focus, he thought he saw a halo hanging over her cinnamon hair.
“You, my fine man are truly lucky,” Susan said, leaning over the rail. Matthew’s heart raced as he looked up at those sultry chocolate brown eyes. “Now see, as much as I would like to help,” she said, her eyes running over his disheveled attire. His unkempt sandy blonde hair had loosened from the satin tie, that all English men wore who thought it was the proper thing. His sharp jaw line was shaded in a blue tinge from his week-old stubble. Then the scar that ran his right cheek, studying every inch of it, her mind wandered exploring the possibilities of how he had obtained it. Then to those eyes, there was something about those stunning cobalt blue eyes. Something she knew all too well when she saw herself in her pearl encrusted mirror. Someone who had seen his own fair share of battle. “But unless you have some kind of specialty I see no reason to save you,” Susan said, smiling sinisterly down at those eyes of his.
“How about this you find a free cabin, allow me passage to Charleston and I’ll treat anyone on board free of charge until we arrive,” Matthew said challenging her. How the light played across those brown eyes, he had to see that light again, Matthew had a feeling he would have to tempt fate to see their luster. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think you find many doctors out here,” Matthew said, smirking as a mischievous light played across her eyes.
“Very interesting point Mr.,” Susan said twirling her hand.
“Whitsun, almanbahis adres and I assume the Captain,” Matthew said with a sly smile.
“That I would be Mr. Whitsun, now how do I know you speak the truth? For all I know you’re some fiend trying to have his way with a ship full of women.” Matthew swallowed hard as their cruel laughter filled the air.
“If you check my bag you’ll see I speak the truth,” Matthew said to the woman that loomed over him.
“It’s true Captain, it’s full of medicine bottles,” said the female crew member raffling through his bag calling up to Susan.
“Well then, Mr. Whitsun welcome aboard,” Susan said telling one of her sailors to lower a rope to haul up what merger belongings the man had. “Well, do hurry up Mr. Whitsun these are very dangerous waters to be sitting here,” she said smiling evilly down at him. Watching as his weaken body tried to scale the rope ladder, smirking as her crew laughed hearty as he thrashed against the hull of her ship. “I suppose you’ll get your sea legs soon enough Mr. Whitsun,” Susan said, looking down at Matthew as he hauled himself onto the deck.
“Call me Matthew, Captain,” he said, standing on unsteady legs. Taking his medical bag from her quartermaster telling him to follow. Descending to the lower deck, the wood creaked and groaned as the hammocks swung silently in the rows of berths that lined the cargo hold. Leading him to the stern of the ship, pulling out a small brass key, listening as the tumblers fell into place. Susan had kept two cabins at the ready just in case they needed to appear as a legitimate transport ship. However, it’s been awhile since her schemes had taken her anywhere close to ports that would require such daring plots.
“Now Doctor while you are aboard my ship you will heed my orders is that clear,” Susan said sternly staring Matthew down, resting her hand on her hip.
“Understand Captain,” Matthew said, placing his bag on the small desk table that was nailed to the wall.
“Now to business,” Susan said, watching as he unbuttoned his salt encrusted shirt. “There’s something that’s been cropping up around my ship I’d rather it is taken care of now before it hinders my crew.”
“I see,” Matthew said over his shoulder as he turned away from her. Her eye’s running down his bare back, noting the wounds from musket balls, the scars from a blade she couldn’t name. Her mind quickly banished those images as she watched his muscles dance beneath his skin as the fresh pearl white linen shirt slid over his skin. “How long has it been since you first noticed the symptoms?”
“A week, maybe two,” Susan said, tilting her head, tapping her chin. Remembering when her quartermaster had informed her of the illness that had begun to show.
“I’ll need two lanterns and a chair,” Matthew said, turning to look at her as his nimble fingers fitted the slender button through its corresponding slot. “Unless of course you would rather this take place on deck under your careful eye Captain.”
“If you wouldn’t mind,” Susan said smirking crossing her arms. Leading Matthew back to the upper deck, listening as the leather of his bag creaked as it swung on its handle. Setting him up on the Poop deck behind her as she took over the helm from her first mate. “Prepare to disembark you hearties! It’s time we enjoyed the hospitality of Charleston,” she said, her voice carried along the wind. Setting course north-eastward whispering to her first mate to lower their black flag that was flapping in the wind. To replace it with the one they normally used when they ran their smuggling operations to the colonies.
“Quartermaster!” Susan called out watching the pudgy man bounding across the desk. “See to our supplies,” she ordered knowing it was a long trip to the mainland without a friendly port they could resupply for the grueling trip.
“Aye, aye Captain,” he said before disappearing below deck.
“You all set up back there?” Susan asked turning around keeping one hand on the wheel. Noting how he had padded the storage barrel’s that laid secured on their side’s. Setting a wooden crate before them, a few inches lower than the lip of the barrels to give his patient’s a sense he wouldn’t be looming over them.
“That I am Captain, whenever you’re ready to send the first one up,” Matthew said looking out onto the forecastle. Watching as the ship cut through the water, the knocking of the pulley blocks as they banged against the mast. Looking away as she saw how the wind teased his hair, feeling her cheeks burn shaking the thought from her mind. Matthew watched as the first of his patients walked up the wooden stairs. Keeping the scowl from his face when he saw how poor her body looked. If he had to guess the woman weighed no more than a hundred pounds soaking wet.
“Any loss of appetite?” Matthew asked as the woman took her place on top of the barrels.
“Yes,” she said, her curly brown hair held back by a red scarf. Watching almanbahis giriş his hands as he probed along her slender legs, wincing as he touched her thigh. Matthew could feel the swelling in her legs he just hoped it was what he thought it was. Holding the back of his hand to her forehead scowling when he couldn’t discern between the heat of her skin from her time under the sun, or the fever he suspected was burning within. Matthew didn’t need her to raise her shirt to see the tiny red dots that marred her mid drift.
“Open, please.” Matthew quickly added he wasn’t a fool to miss the signs of what kind of ship he was on. Seeing her bleeding gums solidified his hunch of what plagued her crew. Stepping away thanking the woman, telling her to send the next one. As the hour past into two sweat beaded along his brow as he labored under the harsh sun. Dismissing the last of her crew that was affected by the disease. “Captain,” Matthew said, leaning against the railing that overlooked the deck.
“What did you find Doctor?” Susan asked trying not to look at the man. Her mind just couldn’t keep her eyes from seeing how he looked in the late afternoon sun. How the waning orange light played across his skin, to how it set his blonde hair ablaze in the dwindling rays. Susan tried to ignore how her heart raced, how her skin heated whenever she felt his eyes on her.
“It’s scurvy,” Matthew said in a low breath. “I’ve seen it a few times it’s easy to treat that is if you have the right remedy,” he said, turning his head giving her a small smile.
“Which is,” Susan asked, looking out at the darkening sea.
“Oranges, or oysters though they’re had to keep.”
“I see,” Susan said, chewing on her lip. Havana was only two days away, she knew she could acquire the fruit from the seller she had past dealings with. Yet the man asked too much for such a simple thing, namely her adoring his bed which never once crossed her mind. “Martha, take over the helm,” she commanded calling down to the woman as she worked around the main mast. “Come with me Matthew.” How her body tingled as his name left her lips.
“Lead on Captain,” Matthew said with a nodded. Following after her as her quartermaster and her first mate filed in after them as she led them into her cabin beneath the Poop deck. Matthew was in awe as he stepped foot into her private quarters. Items dotted the room that even his own family could barely afford. Spotting items from Africa, to the India subcontinent, to the Spanish treasure fleets that roamed the waters. Matthew wondered how many ships this crew had raided during their time sailing those blood-soaked waves. Eyeing the chests that lined the wall to his left. Pondering just what kind of booty they had plundered over the years. The highly carved rope bed that set secured to the other wall, it’s overstuffed down mattresses covered in sheets that were better suited in the fine Lords and Ladies manners of his homeland. Yet he wondered to himself how it would feel as it contoured to the twisting bodies that it hid within its depths.
“Thanks to our fine Doctor here,” Susan said, glancing up from the unrolled map on her desk. The flickering light of the whale oil lantern played across her eyes, Matthew could see himself falling into those brown eyes of hers. “We now know what is affecting our crew, with his knowledge we have a choice we either sail to Havana,” she said, pointing at their current location on the map, drawing a line to the Cuban city.
“And deal with that vile pig,” spat her first mate as her hand rested on the hilt of her six-inch dagger that rested on her hip. “I’d rather see that man bleeding out at my feet after I gut the fool, after what he tried with Anna the last time we were there.”
“Agreed Caroline,” Susan said, rising from her position nodding in agreement. Yet they couldn’t take such rash action against the man he was just too powerful within the city itself, and one of the few that dealt with people with her kind of vocation. However, they needed the fruit which wouldn’t be that expensive to her own coffers. “Tell me Matthew,” she said, leaning against the seal of the stained-glass window behind her. Crossing her arms noting how his eyes studied her, smiling inwardly letting him view her to his heart’s content. Her mind wondered just what had caught his eye, was it her breasts, her legs, hips, or was it her ass. It wouldn’t surprise her if it was all of them it wasn’t common to see a woman commanding her own ship. Was she an oddity to him? Was that why those cobalt eyes looked at her with such longing, or was it something else altogether? “Just how many oranges will they need to cure them?” The plight of her crew weighed heavily on her.
“Oh not much I say, an orange a day for the next two weeks should clear it up,” Matthew said, trying not to blush knowing he had been caught staring at her heavenly face. His mind just couldn’t help but take in the beautiful image before him. Her high almanbahis cheek bones would have many of the women in his father’s court envious, her sharp jaw line, her fine straight nose, Matthew knew she put every highborn he had the unfortunate pleasure to know to shame. Even the woman his family had betrothed him to (All done when he was halfway across the world and expected Matthew to fulfil his duty and marry that woman.) This was the reason he wasn’t on a ship this second headed towards England. He needed time to figure out if he should return altogether. “Two barrels full should treat the ship so this doesn’t happen again, Captain,” Matthew said wondering what fate would bring.
“Then another two at Charleston and whenever you’re in port,” Matthew said, his military training kicking in standing at ease. Wondering how she would see this one simple gesture.
“And that’s it two barrel’s every time we are in port. This disease won’t ever show itself ever again?” her quartermaster asked in disbelief.
“Yes, as long you give them one a day you shouldn’t have this problem again,” Matthew said nodding to the portly man.
“It’s a simple fix Captain and not too expensive,” Caroline said, smiling as an idea formed in her mind. An idea where they wouldn’t have to deal with that lewd man within the walls of Havana. “Here Captain,” she said, pointing to a small sandbar island. “It’s only a day and a half away and we can gather what we need without having to pull into a port.”
“Good. Daniel see that the course is changed,” Susan said, rolling up her map glad to finally have something to do even if it was a simple transport job to her. “Caroline, see to rounding up a group to fetch our supplies once we get there,” she said, sliding the map into the watertight leather cylinder.
“Captain,” Matthew said stepping forward, “If I may, I wish to join them.”
“Why?” Susan asked arching an eyebrow.
“There might be herbs I could use to augment what supplies I have with me,” Matthew said, producing a list he had worked on while examined the sick crew members. Herbs that he knew grew within the region, while he wasn’t naive enough to think that the island would have every single one. Yet if he could find at least four of these items it would be a blessing, Matthew knew his medicine wouldn’t keep forever and the herbs were just a way to prolong their use.
“And all these have some kind of healing property?” Susan asked, eyeing the list skeptically.
“Yes Captain, though most won’t have a use on this ship, but there are many that do,” Matthew said, tapping the name of the cat’s claw herb. “That single herb is as useful as morphine is just less deadly.”
“I see,” Susan said, looking to her quartermaster and first mate. Who looked at the man who might have saved their crew undo pain in the coming years long after his departure. “Then we will hunt for these herbs while you and the rest of the crew see to our food stores,” Susan said, looking at Matthew taunting him to refuse her assistance.
Links flew through the hawsepiper in a loud hum, as the five-ton anchor raced beneath the waves to reunite with the lost items that lined the sea floor. Matthew stood on the forecastle out of the way of the working hands as they prepared to lower the rowboat in the calm waters of the lagoon. Looking out onto the forest that dominated the small island, listening to the faint animal life that lived within. The hurried steps along the deck drew his attention, the clanking of the musket rifles in the cabin boy’s arms resounded across the quiet deck.
“You ready Matthew?” Susan asked having replaced her rapier for a machete to aid their trek through the dense foliage.
“Aye Captain, just waiting for the boat,” Matthew said smiling warmly at her.
“Call me Susan,” she said blowing softly in his ear. Noting how his body reacted as her hand gently ran along his arm as she moved off to check on her crews progress. Turning her body slightly to allow him to view her profile as she conversed with her quartermaster. All the while appearing not to study Matthew as he stood there so stalwart.
“We’ll meet back here an hour before nightfall,” Susan said as they gathered around the rowboat once they reached the white sandy shore. “We’ll see if we need to stop at Nassau before heading to Charleston,” she said before drifting off with Matthew in tow. “So Matthew how did you get those wounds?” Susan asked as she chopped through the entangled vines that blocked their way.
“I was stationed along the Mississippi at Fort Condor when the French and the Cherokee attacked,” Matthew said, looking through the underbrush smiling when he found a mature cat’s claw plant. “For days we held waiting for reinforcements to arrive,” he said, using his knife to cut through its root’s. “After the fourth day they had forced a whole through one of the walls,” Matthew said placing the plant into the burlap sack. “Many fled their post within the medical tent,” dark shadow’s played across his eyes as he remembered that horrific day. “I, however, stayed knowing the people under my care were in no condition to defend themselves. It wasn’t until I woke a few days later that I realize how lucky I was to survive that battle.”