Daniel Williams

Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

Arwen Blackgrace: Part 4

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 29/07/2013 at 17:45

Beatrice Seastone is wanted for the murder of Giles Corrigan, a crime she is trying to solve. She is taken in by the mysterious Lydia Pryce and young thief, Devon. Lydia Pryce offers Beatrice a way off the island, an offer she accepts, but Beatrice takes the last few hours she has to find out if there is a connection between Giles’ death and the mystery of the long-lost Arwen Blackgrace…

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Four

 

Devon led us through the quiet streets. All the buildings we passed looked much the same. Grey and brown and white and black. It could be very easy to confuse one part of town with another.

I asked Devon who he was taking me too.

He said, ‘There’s two I’ve been thinking about. If you want to know about the Blackgrace’s history and stuff, then we’re best going to see a fella called Underwood.’

Devon had a habit of not walking in a straight line. He would jump to avoid puddles and skip over rubbish.

‘This Underwood,’ he said, ‘is a professor. Or a doctor. Or something. His house is full of books, some of them are really old. You could nick a few and he’d never know they were missing. But then again I wouldn’t know what would be worth stealing.’

‘What about the other man?’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I was thinking about Varney, but he’s not the sort of man you can go up to his house and knock on his door and ask him about the Blackgraces, is he?’

‘I wouldn’t know. I’ve never heard of him.’

He said, ‘You’ve never heard of Varney?’

‘No.’

Devon laughed in disbelief.

‘He can’t be that important then.’

‘Varney runs Seastone. Well, he certainly runs the bits that the Governor doesn’t run. Everything gets back to Varney. He’s probably enough of a rogue to have known the Blackgraces.’

His face turned serious.

‘Quick,’ he said, grabbing my arm.

‘What-’

He dashed off the street and into an alleyway, pulling me along.

‘What?’ I hissed at him.

‘Governor’s men,’ he said.

We hide at the top of the alleyway. We waited until the two officers had passed by the entrance.

Devon said. ‘There’s a bounty on you. More than what Lydia’s paying me.’ He looked across at me. ‘It’d be much easier if I handed you over.’

‘I’m glad I have your unwavering support.’

We went back onto the street, but were much slower and more cautious. My eyes couldn’t help but dart about, expecting to see Governor’s men to appear from nowhere.

 

******

I turned right to go up a street that went up the hill.

‘Let’s just not go that way,’ Devon said.

‘Why? There’s no Governor’s men about?’

Devon stuck his hands in his pockets.

I said, ‘I haven’t got time to waste.’

I went up the street.

‘Go Away…’ I heard him plead.

Along the streets were various stores. Halfway up the street was a butcher’s shop. A trail of blood ran from the door into the street.

Devon walked very close alongside me, with his head bowed down.

The butcher came out from his shop. He wore a white apron covered in dirt and blood. He was wiping his hands on his front.

As we went past, he suddenly shouted, ‘Devon!’

Devon cringed.

‘I see you, Devon!’

Devon slunk over to the butcher.

The butcher said in a loud voice, ‘Where have you been, boy?’

Devon said something quietly.

‘Speak up, boy!’

Devon’s hands moved fast as he talked, but I couldn’t hear him.

I heard the butcher say, ‘And your mother’s been wondering where the hell you’ve been!’

Devon broke away from the butcher, giving his apologies, although the butcher didn’t seem finished with him.

Devon said, ‘Come along,’ to me. And he quickly paced up the street.

When I’d caught up with him, he said ‘That’s just some man who owes me money.’

‘Of course,’ I said.

Devon sighed. ‘When you were a kid did you ever think that your parents weren’t your parents? You know like, it was a mistake you belonged to some other family?’

‘I’m an orphan. I never knew my parents,’ I said. ‘But I know what you mean.’

‘Hmm,’ he said and was, for what seemed like the first time, quiet.

 

******

At the very top of the hill was a house that seemed like any other on the street. These houses were larger than those closer to the harbour and the port. We reached a black door and Devon used the doorknocker.

‘That ought to wake him up,’ Devon said.

The door opened slowly. Standing behind it was a little boy with dark skin. I said to Devon, ‘This is the great historian?’

Devon knelt down and said, ‘Can you tell Mr. Underwood we’re here to see him?’

The boy shut the door in Devon’s face. Devon stood up and brushed his knees. The door opened again. The boy appeared and said, ‘He says no.’

Devon said quickly, ‘It’s about money.’

The door shut.

I said, ‘Will that work?’

‘Got to try.’

The door opened and the boy said, ‘He says does he owe you money?’

‘No, he doesn’t.’

‘He says come in.’ The boy stood aside.

We went in. The boy went down a dark hallway and we followed him to a dark room filled with books. Every part of the wall had a bookcase against it and every bookcase was filled. In the centre of the room was a table covered in paper. Across from it was a large red armchair with a tall back. Sitting in it was a pale man with a bald spot in the middle of his hair. He wore a red dressing gown

‘You? What are you doing here?’ Underwood said this to Devon but he kept glancing across at me. He then stood up, ‘If it’s money you’ve after you can-’

‘No, no,’ Devon said, ‘actually we might be able to pay you for your service.’

‘Oh yes?’

Devon gave a flourish. ‘All yours, Go Away.’

I approached the table. ‘I want to know about the Blackgraces.’

Underwood stared at me. He then slowly pointed a finger at me, before retracting it and tapping it against his lips. He then turned his head and shouted, ‘Boy!’  Underwood stood up. ‘Excuse me,’ he said as he rushed out of the room.

Devon whispered. ‘If he’s no good we’ll pinch a few books before we get you on that boat to Pentia.’

A few minutes later and Underwood came back into the room. ‘Sorry,’ he said rushing back to his armchair. ‘Checking about the tea. We have no tea. Sorry.’ He sat down and without looking at me said, ‘Blackgraces. What do you want to know?’

‘I-’

‘The Blackgraces are a pirate family,’ he said, reeling off details without a pause. ‘Started nearly fifty years ago by Thomas Blackgrace and his sons William and Byron, perhaps the most successful and wealthy pirates seen in this part of the world, made their name by robbing tea merchants, caused quite a stir with them, practically bankrupted the Riddick family, built up from there, loathed by own dear Governor, now is this what you wanted to know?’

It took me a second to realise he was finished. That was a lot to take in. I took a seat at the table and said, ‘I want to know about Arwen Blackgrace.’

He was confused for a moment and then his eyes widened. ‘The lost Blackgrace?’

I nodded. ‘What happened to her? Do you have anything here about her?’ I looked around at the books all around me.

He stood up and headed towards a bookcase at the other end of the room. ‘Do you know the full story?’

‘No,’ I answered.

‘The Blackgraces were the most well known pirates, many tried to go against them to prove themselves the stronger. Only one prevailed.’

Underwood rolled a ladder along the bookshelves. ‘This pirate, Grayson, decided to attack the Blackgraces directly would be folly.’

The ladder came to a stop. Underwood put a foot on the first rung and began to climb.

‘William Blackgrace had a wife and two infant children. Grayson and his crew kidnapped all three.’

He took a book from the shelves.

‘Blackgrace went into a fury.’

Underwood opened the door and flicked through the pages.

‘He chanced up a former member of Grayson’s crew and tortured him to find out the location of the hideout.’

Underwood slowly came down the ladder.

‘He raised the entire fleet, and he and his brother Byron stormed the hideaway. It was total devastation. But when William came ashore…’

Underwood walked to the table.

‘His wife and child had died during the cannon attack. Blackgrace was devastated, his wife and child were no more…and all because of his fury. It is said the family were killed when the Blackgrace cannon balls hit.’

Devon said, ‘What about this girl then?’

Underwood wagged a finger at Devon and then put the book next to me on the table.

‘Arwen Blackgrace was not found. William Blackgrace was certain that he should find her and it would prove that he had not been the one to kill his family. He searched for her, for years, finding those of Grayson’s crew that had deserted him…but he found no trace of his daughter. After years he gave up and Byron took control. Arwen Blackgrace was never found.’

Underwood opened the book and began going through the pages. He turned the book around and showed it too me. On the page was a drawing in pencil of a piece of jewellery.

‘The Blackgrace locket,’ Underwood said. ‘Made out of gold. You see the design,’ he pointed at the drawing, ‘green and black gems in the design of a kraken, you see?’

‘But I don’t see what this had to do…’

‘Ah,’ Underwood said, ‘William Blackgrace had three commissioned- one for his wife when they were married, one for his son when he was born, and then one for the daughter. When Blackgrace found his wife and son they both had their lockets with them. The third one and Arwen Blackgrace were never found.’

Underwood stepped back. He looked very smug. ‘You see, people tried to say they’d found Arwen Blackgrace, but without that locket…he would never believe them.’

I leaned closer to the drawing. I had never seen anything quite like it before. ‘But what about the scar?’

‘Scar? What scar?’

‘Doesn’t Arwen Blackgrace have a scar that was supposed to identify her…’

‘Scar? I’ve never heard anything about a scar.’

Underwood suddenly grabbed the book and started going through the pages. He muttered to himself, ‘Never heard about a scar…’

He sat back in the armchair, going through the pages. I hoped and hoped that he would look back up and say he’d found something about Arwen’s scar. But he never did. He took more books from the shelves, but he could find nothing.

‘It can’t be,’ he said.

I stood up. ‘There had to be something, a mention, a-’

‘No, no, there’s nothing. You must have heard wrong.’

I shook my head.

Devon asked, ‘How come you’ve got so much on the Blackgraces?’

‘I have an interest in history of these surrounding areas, plus,’ he said with a smug look, ‘I have connections with the Blackgraces. I know people who are very close to them.’

There came the sound of the front door to Underwood’s house opening and footsteps coming down the hall.

Underwood’s face became grave. He sat back down in his armchair.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said without looking at us. ‘But I knew about the reward. I’m in a lot of debt.’

‘Devon,’ I said, ‘run.’

The doors to this library burst open and the Governor’s men came through. Devon was closer to the opposite door than me and he sprinted away.

I got through the doorway and felt a hand push into my back. It forced me forward and I tumbled over and landed on the floor. I lifted my head to see Devon burst through a door and sprint away.

My arms were pulled behind my back and I was dragged to my feet.

‘Beatrice Seastone,’ the officer said, ‘you’re being detained. Governor’s orders.’

******

Part 5: 1/8/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Three

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 25/07/2013 at 18:00

And now- the belated part three of Arwen Blackgrace, apologies for the delay. Beatrice Seastone is now on the run after murdering a man who twice unsuccessfully tried to kidnap her. Lost and alone, she is no closer to the truth of Giles Corrigan’s murder or the truth of her birth..

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Three

The sun was beginning to rise.

I sat on a stone wall in the harbour. I’d spent the most of the night walking nowhere.

I’d killed a man.

A man who was trying to take me away.

‘I got a man who wants you,’ he’d said.

I felt sick to my stomach.

I’d spent most of the night hiding in alleys and walking with my head down so nobody could see.

Ships were anchored in the harbour. I imagined sneaking on board, sailing away and never looking back. What was in Seastone for me?

My life could have been so very different. If I had known my parents, if they had kept me, if I hadn’t been born on Seastone, if, if, if…

A young man sat down next to me. I hadn’t noticed him approach. He was wearing a red waistcoat and had black curly hair. He smiled at me.

I stood up and walked away. I walked along the harbour and sat down on a part of the wall much further away.

As I sat down, I saw out of the corner of my eye the young man get up and walk my way. When me caught up with me he once again sat by my side.

I got up. So did he.

‘What do you want?’ I snapped at him.

‘Hello,’ he said. In the early morning light I could see his pale face was full of freckles and he was grinning. ‘My name’s Devon. What’s yours?’

‘Go away.’

‘Go away?’ He said following me, ‘Do your mates call you ‘go’ or ‘away’?’

I turned to face him, ‘Go away or I’ll cut your balls off.’ I went to reach for the letter opener but it was gone.

The letter opener was in Devon’s hand. He held it up to me.

‘Give that back.’ I reached to snatch it but he held it away.

‘Allow me to introduce myself properly,’ he said, and held his arms out. ‘I am Devon- thief, vagabond and gentleman rogue, at your service.’

‘Give that back.’ I snatched at the letter opener again.

He took a step back. ‘Look, Miss. Go Away,’ he said, ‘I’ll give you it back, I just have to get you somewhere first.’

My heart sunk. They’d found me already. There was really was nowhere I could go.

He said, ‘I’m working for this lady, works for a church or something.’

‘A lady?’

‘A nice, god-fearing, lady. Heard about your landlord and wants to offer you a job.’

I said, ‘And why should you believe you?’

‘You shouldn’t,’ he said. He stuck his hands in his pockets. ‘Didn’t you hear the bit about thief, vagabond and gentleman rogue?’

The young man shook his head and sighed. ‘Look, some rich lady said find this barmaid for me, and I said, “I could find you a dozen”, she said, “no, I want this one, so I can offer her a job in Pentia”, and I said, “well is she pretty”? And she said, “shut up and have these coins”.’

I said, ‘What job?’

He shrugged. ‘I dunno. Something about Pentia.’

Pentia was a country in the south. A warm sunny place, I’d heard.

Devon said, ‘She’s a nice lady. No funny stuff.’

I looked about.

‘I’ll go with you,’ I said, ‘ only if you give me my knife.’

‘I’d hardly call it a knife, Go Away.’

I held my hand out. He smirked and handed the letter opener back. I held it close to me. There was still blood on it. There was still blood on me.

Devon jumped up onto the harbour wall and started walking along. ‘Come along, Go Away.’

I muttered something under my breath and followed alongside him.

After a while he go bored of walking on the wall and jumped down to walk beside me.

‘Cheer up,’ he said.

I scowled at him.

He turned left and we went from the harbour and towards the town.

‘I bet you don’t even know who’s been seen about recently? Go on, guess.’

I didn’t reply because I had no interest in pursuing his conversation.

He said, ‘Byron Blackgrace.’

‘Where?’ I said.

‘Just his ship,’ Devon said. ‘Heard some of the sailors talking about it. The Black Prince spotted about.’

I said to Devon, ‘Is he heading here?’

‘Byron Blackgrace?’ He laughed, ‘Not likely. What’d a Blackgrace want with this crappy little island?’

I looked across at the young man walking beside me and said, ‘How old are you?’

‘Seventeen,’ he said without looking at me.

I raised my eyebrows.

‘All right- sixteen,’ he said.

‘Oh.’

He started to chew the nail of his thumb and then said, ‘All right, fifteen, but I’m so close to being sixteen that I practically am sixteen. Besides,’ he said skipping around a pile of muck in the street, ‘I look older and I’m very mature.’

At the top of the street was a hotel called The Hollow Crown. It was a tall wide building. It catered for rich travellers rather than ordinary sailors.

We went inside. An older woman, the proprietor, I think, looked across at us, and Devon gave her a wave. He dashed up the stairs, taking two at a time.

The Hollow Crown was a much cleaner place than The Hope and Anchor. I hadn’t been inside such a large place, except for the Seastone orphanage.

Devon stopped at a door with a number on it. He waited for me to catch up and then knocked on the door.

‘Enter,’ said a lady’s voice from within.

Devon held the door open for me. I nervously stepped inside. The room was twice as big as mine at the Hope and Anchor had been. In the corner was a large bed with a chest at its foot. On the other side were a table and chairs. And standing next to a window was a lady in a dress the colour of a dark red wine. She was older than me by many years but her face was very striking. She had long dark hair. Covering her neck was a delicate red scarf.

‘Here she is,’ Devon said, ‘Miss. Go Away.’

‘Thank you,’ the lady said. She smiled at me, ‘Please’. She motioned to the table. I slowly walked towards it and sat down. Devon stood nearby.

‘Help yourself,’ the lady said, indicating the jug of wine on the table.

Devon took a glass and filled it to the brim. I didn’t take any.

‘Who are you?’ I said leaning forward. ‘What do you want with me?’

She smiled kindly. ‘My name is Lydia Pryce.’ She walked towards the table. ‘Before I was…married, I was Lydia Seastone.’

She pulled out a chair and then sat down at the table.

‘I was born here,’ she said. ‘I’d lived in the orphanage for fourteen years before I…sailed away. I now live in Pentia. I run an orphanage.’

Devon’s arm came close to my face as he reached for the wine jug.

Lydia continued, ‘It’s a very different orphanage to Seastone. We care for the children, not just while they are with us, but afterwards. Being an orphan can…limit your choices.’ She smiled. But it was not a happy smile.

I said, ‘Why me?’

‘I heard about what happened to you. What happened to…Giles Corrigan.’ Her fingers drummed on the table then they were still. ‘With the death of…that man, I was worried your choices would be limited. I searched for you, until this…young man offered his services to find you.’

Devon raised his glass to me.

‘Beatrice,’ Lydia said. ‘I very much want you to come and work for me. You can leave all this behind you. You’ll never have to see Seastone again, not if you don’t wish to.’

All times I had dreamed that I was on one of the ships leaving Seastone and sailing away…here was my chance. Lydia told me that she had booked passage on the ship, I wouldn’t have to worry about money. All that she asked is that I work at the orphanage she ran.

‘To be born a Seastone is to be limited,’ she said. ‘But with my children in Pentia, we strive to open the world for them, not close it. And who better to help than orphans…like us.’

The red scarf started to slip from around her neck and she quickly pulled it up. Underneath I could a glimpse of something. It looked like a birthmark, but I couldn’t be sure.

Devon said, ‘Sounds great. Can I come?’

Leaving Seastone had been all I had dreamed about for so long. Even if I worked in an orphanage for a year or more, I would still be away from Seastone. I would in Pentia. I’d heard that Pentia was much warmer and sunnier than this island.

But if I went would I ever find out about what happened to Giles? He’d taken me from the orphanage, given me a job, a place to live…and maybe a past. If I left now would I ever find out the truth about whether or not I was Arwen Blackgrace?

Lydia looked at me expectantly. Slowly, I nodded my head. She broke out in a grin.

‘Oh, wonderful, wonderful,’ she said. ‘The boat sails this evening so we can-’

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘there’s some things of mine I’d like to get first. Clothes, keepsakes.’

Lydia’s smile dropped. ‘Well…Devon can get them, just tell him-’

‘I’d rather get them myself.’ I pushed the chair back and stood up. ‘He wouldn’t know what he was looking for.’

Lydia stood up as well. ‘I can get you new clothes, you needn’t worry about them.’

‘Don’t worry,’ I said to her with all the sincerity I could muster. ‘I will be back. I want to leave this place.’

Lydia paused and said in a small voice, ‘If you are…confident…’

‘Yes. I just want to get these things. Devon can go with me.’

Devon put the wine jug on the table. He said, ‘I’ll just add this job onto the bill.’

We left the room and Lydia seemed to cling to the doorframe. ‘How long will you be?’

‘Half a day,’ I offered.

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Oh. Well…’

‘Until later,’ I said.

‘Yes. Yes, later, of course.’

Devon and I went down the staircase of The Hollow Crown and onto the street.

‘So…’ Devon said. ‘Are we going back or did you arrange this so we could run away together?’

I shook my head. ‘No. I’m going back. I’ll take that ship. But there’s something I need to know first. Devon?’

‘Yes?’

‘I’ve got until this evening to find out everything I can about the Blackgraces.’

‘Right.’

‘I can pay you.’

He leaned against the wall of the inn. ‘And here’s me thinking you wanted me for my company.’

‘Do you know who in Seastone knows the most about the Blackgraces and…what happened to the daughter?’

He looked over at me. He looked completely puzzled. ‘I didn’t want to say this, but you know you’re wanted by the Governor’s men? For murder. Widow Pryce was paying me extra to find you before they did.’

Seastone was beginning awaken. There were more people in the streets.

‘Then I just have to stay out of their way before the ship to Pentia this evening,’ I said. ‘But I can’t go without find out about Arwen Blackgrace. I have to, Devon.’

‘I know a man.’

He jumped up and said. ‘We best get a move on then.’ He darted up the street suddenly. ‘Come along, Go Away,’ he called.

I followed him.

******

Part Four: 29/7/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Two

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 18/07/2013 at 18:00

In Part One, a 17 year-old orphan and barmaid, Beatrice Seastone, is told she maybe the long-lost daughter of pirate William Blackgrace by her landlord, Giles Corrigan. He is subsequently murdered, and the Governor’s officers suspect Beatrice. While she grieves, mysterious men break into the pub, and she overhears them talk about kidnapping her…

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Two

My only way out was to fight. At the very end of the room was a small fireplace and I dashed over to it. In the fireplace were a couple of logs. I grabbed the biggest one I could find.

I stood next to the door with my back against the wall, ready to move when they came into the room.

The men were hushing each other as they approached.

The log was heavy and I had to hold it with both hands.

The door creaked open.

The first man, the short one, came into the room.

I launched forward and stuck him on the back of the head. He cried out and put his hands to the back of his head.

When I turned around the large bald man was in the doorway. He looked surprised as I thrust the log upwards and struck him in the nose. Blood trickled down his face and he stumbled backwards onto the landing.

I ran around the large man to the stairs. I heard thunks as the log fell from my hands and raced down the stairs with me. The men were howling and moaning in pain and they were coming after me.

I crashed into the front door and took off the latch and did not look back.

A big hand grabbed my arm. I kept running and heard the arm of the dress tear away as I ran down the street.

There were a few people walking in the afternoon sun along the street. No one was interested in a girl with a torn dress running past them. But this was Seastone. It probably wasn’t an unusual sight for them.

*****

Children played in the street, dancing around the pile of horse muck. I was in the part of town at the bottom of the hill. I stuck to the quieter streets. I couldn’t help but jump whenever anybody walked past me. The men who had come for me had known about my scar, the same scar that Arwen Blackgrace had. The more I walked and the more I thought the more it seemed that Giles’ death had to be connected with the possibility I was the missing Arwen Blackgrace. Everybody thought I was living with Giles- was I the intended victim?

I found myself heading towards the place where Giles had lived. The house looked like all the others on the street, there was nothing to make it stick out…except for the broken door. That was new. It was broken from the outside. I looked behind me to make sure no one was watching and stepped inside.

Boot marks went along the little corridor. It must have been from the Governor’s officers who’d had to break in.

I turned right and went into the bedroom.

The bed sheet hadn’t been changed. It was covered in dried blood. I gasped. Giles must have been lying in bed, maybe asleep when he was shot.

In the middle of the room was the partition. On the other side was where I had slept. Next to the partition, on Giles’ side was an open window. I picked up a little stool and dragged it over to the window. I stood on it to get a better look. The window was easy enough for somebody taller than me to reach up to and climb up. I leant out of the window and saw no footprints or boot marks on the ground.

I got off the stool and stepped back. The murderer had come through the window. It would have been dark with only moonlight to go by. The murderer saw the partition and thought on one side was Giles, on the other was me. They took their chance and it was the wrong one.

‘Beatrice?’ Called a voice.

For a second I froze until the woman’s voice called again and I recognised it as Mrs. Mulligan who lived across the street. She was carrying one of her cats.

‘Beatrice, is that you?’

Mrs. Mulligan was a little old dear who spent her days looking after her cats and watching out of her window to see what everyone else was doing. She took me across the street to her house. She made me a meal while her cats clawed all over me.

‘Terrible,’ Mrs. Mulligan kept saying, ‘so terrible.’

She said, ‘Those Governor’s men were here, asking me questions. The one lad kicked Periwinkle.’

She petted Periwinkle’s head in a display of sympathy. I sat at her kitchen table, with the cats trying to help me eat the food on my plate.

‘Mrs. Mulligan, did you see anything?’

‘I heard it, all right. I was awake anyway,’ she groaned as she sat down at the table. ‘I don’t sleep anymore I just sit out there and Winslow keeps me company.’

‘Did you see anything?’

‘Thought I saw them coming away.’

‘Who?’

‘The one who did it, of course,’ she said.

‘Did you see who it was?’

‘No,’ Mrs. Mulligan said, half-talking to a cat, ‘but we saw them running away. Jumped right out of the window, they did.’

I asked Mrs. Mulligan more questions but she couldn’t tell me anything. All she knew was that she had seen somebody, could be a man or a woman, tall or short, young or old.

Once I had finished eating, I thanked Mrs. Mulligan for the meal and left. I went back to Giles’ house because it was the only place I had to go. I couldn’t go back to The Hope and Anchor. There was nowhere else for me to go.

Giles’ had a place where he kept his letters along with a pretty silver letter opener. I could mostly read so I took out his letters and started looking through them. I searched for any mention of the Blackgrace’s. But there was nothing. The letters were about business. People wrote to arrange to meet Giles’ in various places, though some, surprisingly, in the southeast part of the port. That part of the port was vicious. There were more cathouses down there than on any part of the island. Everybody knew to avoid that part of the port. But in the most recent letter, somebody was arranging to meet Giles in The Tiger’s Head. I thought of the nights when The Hope and Anchor had closed and Giles had said he had to go and run some errands. He had been doing business in that part of town?

There was a chance, perhaps, somebody who did business with Giles was at The Tiger’s Head. Maybe it was in this part of town he learnt the story of William Blackgrace and his missing daughter?

Inside a drawer Giles kept a small bag of coins. I had never stolen anything before. It made my stomach feel heavy doing it. I also took Giles’ silver letter opener and concealed it.

I waited until nightfall and went to the southeast part of the port.

******

            The Tiger’s Head was nothing like The Hope and Anchor. It was louder and crammed with more bodies. The Tiger’s Head was dark because all the candles were so high up on the walls to prevent drunks from crashing into them and burning the place down.

I made my way over to the bar. A red-cheeked landlord shouted at me, ‘Whatdaya havin’?’

I ordered an ale and when he bought to me I asked him, ‘Do you know Giles Corrigan?’

‘You what?’

I raised my voice and leaned closer, ‘Do you know Giles Corrigan?’

‘Dead, ain’t you heard?’

‘He was here doing business with someone here. Do you know who?’

‘Ain’t got a clue, gal. Whatdaya havin’?’ He turned away to another customer.

I sipped at the ale. It was watered down, but nobody else seemed to mind. I leaned against he bar and wondered what I could do next.

A hand grabbed my arm. My arm was still bare after the arm of my dress had been torn off. I spun around to see a tall, wide, bald man. His nose looked disjointed and out of place.

‘I know you,’ he said.

I tried to pull away but his grip was too tight.

‘You broke my nose, you-’ he said, adding a dirty word. I looked about for the other man, the smaller one, but could not see him.

‘What do you want with me?’

He said, ‘Let’s have a look at that scar.’

I punched him but it had no effect. His other large hand pulled down the other side of my dress, revealing my bare shoulder and the scar upon it.

He grinned as I got the top of my dress back up.

‘You’re coming with me,’ he said.

‘Help!’ I shouted in desperation. ‘Help me!’

All I got was laughter and jeers. The bald man with a broken nose grabbed hold of me and pushed me into the crowd. I felt a man grope me and laugh in my ear. The people in the bar pushed me towards the door. They were trying to help the bald man.

‘Give ‘er one for me!’

The bald man grabbed me and took me out in the night.

‘You hurt my nose,’ he said.

‘Please don’t-’

He struck me across the face.

My cheek hummed with pain.

‘I hate hitting women,’ he said, ‘but you hurt my nose so it’s only what you had coming to you.’

In a quiet voice I said, ‘What do you want with me?’

‘I got a man who wants you,’ he said.

He took my arm and pulled me up the street. We passed drunken sailors and the women trying to be sirens to lure them in.

I was thrown against a small stonewall just next to the harbour. The bald man pointed a big finger at me. ‘Now you stop fighting.’

I turned away from him and with trembling fingers tried to find the letter opener I had taken from Giles’.

‘You’ve got to come with me,’ he said, ‘and I don’t want to be hurting you again.’

The point of the letter opener pricked my finger and I tried not to wince. I managed to get my hand on the handle.

The bald man took a step closer and I turned round and stabbed him with the letter opener.

There was a small spot of blood on his stomach. He looked down at it and then back at me. His face was full of fury.

He raised his hand and swung to slap me.

I drove the letter opener up and it went through his palm.

He roared.

He lunged at me at me and I thrust the knife out again, this time thrusting upwards.

I poked the knife into his neck.

A tickle of blood ran down his throat and onto his chest. He coughed and blood dribbled from the centre of his mouth. The bald, bleeding man stepped forward and fell onto his knees. He tried to speak but nothing came out but blood. He put his hands around his throat like he was choking himself. Blood seeped through the gaps between his fingers.

I threw up next to him.

‘I’m sorry…’ I said

I thought my mouth tasted like something Mrs. Mulligan’s cats would eat and it made me want to throw up again.

‘Over there!’ A voice shouted.

I looked up to see one of the prostitutes was pointing at me.

‘Look! She’s killed him!’ She had a shrill voice. ‘Murder. Murder!’

People were starting to listen to her and looking over at me.

I’d just killed a man. I dragged my feet. My feet began to shuffle. When they shuffled quickly enough I turned it into a run.

******

Part Three :22/7/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part One

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 15/07/2013 at 17:55

Arwen Blackgrace

Part One

 

Seastone was a port town on an island and it thrived on trading goods and sailors spending money ashore. The sailors and their captains and their cabin boys would come ashore and spend money in the taverns and cathouses before sailing to another part of the world. And we in Seastone would be left to count their money and be ready for the next lot to come ashore.

A little way from the harbour was a small pub called The Hope and Anchor. I’d been working there a few weeks, scrubbing the floors and serving the drinks. At nights The Hope and Anchor would be full and I’d be weaving around the drunks to collect empty tankards.

I picked up an empty tankard from a table when a sailor grabbed me around the waist and pulled me onto his lap.

‘Hello there, girlie.’

His teeth were rotting and yellow, and his breath reeked of fish. I struggled to get up, but he wouldn’t let me go.

‘You’re a pretty one,’ he said. ‘How much for you, then?’

I clenched my teeth and thought that I was meant for better things than this.

A voice from across the pub spoke up. The voice of the landlord was soft and measured, but somehow rose over the noise of the pub.

‘Let the girl be.’

The sailor let go of me and I got to my feet.

‘I was only messing,’ he muttered.

I made my way to the bar and put the empty tankards down. The landlord, Giles, gave me a sympathetic look. His eyes were very blue and he had a small white beard. He gently put his hand on my arm.

‘Don’t let it bother you.’

I looked around the pub, at all of the drunks and the sailors. They had no idea who I was. If they knew then they would fall out of their chairs and go out of their way to treat me with respect. That made me smile.

Giles took out a heavy brass bell from the bar and gave it to me. ‘Time, please!’ He called while I rang the bell.

Last orders when taken and the old-timers shuffled out. As I snuffed out the candles, Giles took his keys from his belt to lock up. As he opened the door, I said, ‘Giles, I wanted to ask you-’

He raised a hand. ‘I’m very tired, lass,’ he said. He gently smiled and said, ‘Let’s talk about it in the morning.’

There was so much I wanted to ask, but instead I just nodded.

He said, ‘See you in the morning, Beatrice.’

I went upstairs to the room where I lived. The room was small and it had a dresser, though I hadn’t much use for it as I only had a few clothes. Out of the window I had a view of the harbour and the sea. I sat on the bed and looked outside and listened to the sounds from the sea.

After I left the orphanage and got the job at The Hope and Anchor I’d had to share a room with Giles in his house. It was a smaller room than this, with only a partition across it to separate where Giles and I slept. People gossiped about the landlord taking home his barmaid every night, but it was never anything like that. Even though I had the room above The Hope and Anchor now, I still heard snide comments about living with Giles.

I lay back on the bed and ignored sounds the drunken shouts of the sailors and the fake moaning of their women, and instead I focussed on the sea and the waves. I was told Giles Corrigan was a good man to work for. The girls who’d worked for him had left Seastone to sail away to other parts of the world.

There was so much I wanted to ask Giles. Every time I tried to question him it was always, ‘We’ll talk tomorrow’ or ‘Not now, lass.’  And when I did get him to talk about it, he never wanted to say much, just the same- ‘You can’t tell anybody about this’ and ‘You cannot tell a soul. If, God forbid, any of the Governor’s men should find out… The Governor hates the whole pack of Blackgraces, he’d hang every last one if he had a chance, so if ever he found out about you, Beatrice…’ Giles shook his head and wouldn’t say anymore.

I lay back on the bed and ran the name through my head- Blackgrace, Blackgrace, Blackgrace.

*****

A fist hammered against the front door. Early morning sunshine came through the window as I mopped the floor. The fist thumped at the door again.

‘We’re closed,’ I called.

Thump, thump, thump.

‘We’re closed,’ I called, and said to myself, ‘it’s the opposite of what open means.’

‘We’re here,’ the voice from behind the door said, ‘on the Governor’s business. Kindly open up.’

My heart beat a little faster. I put the mop in the bucket and went over to the door. I took out the bolt and moved the latch. Standing outside were three of the Governor’s officers. All three dressed in identical midnight blue uniform with sabres hanging at their sides. The officer at the door had a blonde moustache.

I said, ‘The landlord’s not in.’

Blonde-moustache officer said, ‘But we must come in.’

Meekly, I moved aside. Their boots echoed around the pub as they came inside. Two officers stood on either side of the pub and the third, with the moustache, sat down and took out a pipe.

‘I’m Lieutenant Wiseacre,’ he said filling his pipe with tobacco. ‘And you are Beatrice Seastone. Is that correct?’

I winced. Seastone was the surname given to any orphan on the island. It wasn’t uncommon. The sailors sometimes left the whores with more than their coin.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘if you want to speak to the landlord-’

‘That’s why we’re here,’ he said. ‘Giles Corrigan is dead.’

My insides turned cold.

Lieutenant Wiseacre said, ‘I was told you lived with him.’

‘Not anymore. I have a room above the pub…’

A sword tapped against the wall as an officer rocked back and forth on his heels.

‘There was a break-in. Somebody came into Corrigan’s room and shot him in the head.’ A puff of smoke came from the Lieutenant’s pipe. He took it from his mouth and said, ‘We were under the belief you lived with Giles Corrigan. So, where were you last night?’

‘Here.’

‘All night?’

‘Yes.’

‘Can anybody confirm this?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘Hmm,’ the Lieutenant replied. He puffed on his pipe.

I said, ‘I liked Giles. He was a good man. He looked after me, he didn’t mistreat me.’

‘Yet somebody put a fatal dent in his forehead.’ Lieutenant Wiseacre said, ‘Perhaps he had another woman?’

‘It wasn’t like that,’ I said.

‘You wouldn’t be the first jealous lover.’

Slowly I said, ‘It wasn’t like that.’

The Lieutenant looked at me and said nothing. The pipe smoke danced around his face. He took the pipe from his mouth to his hands. ‘Violent murder is something the Governor does not tolerate.’ He got to his feet. ‘If this is unsolved by the end of the day, the Governor himself may take a personal interest in the affairs of Giles Corrigan the landlord. The Governor does not tolerate murderers running free on his island.’

He beckoned to the other officers and led them to the door. As he stood in the doorway, he turned to say, ‘I would stay put. We may have need of you in the future.’

He left, closing the door behind him. I felt myself sinking to the floor and pressed my back against the bar and hugged my knees to my chest.

Giles was dead.

Shot.

And know I would never know…

That day, weeks ago, he’d said to me, ‘Beatrice, what do you know about the Blackgraces?’

I think I was washing mugs and tankards at the time.

‘Only stories,’ I’d said. ‘They’re pirates.’

He leaned closer to me. ‘Do you know about William Blackgrace’s child?’

I had said no and Giles, with some reluctance, told me.

‘The Blackgrace’s have always been the most revered pirates. William Blackgrace was the Captain, with his brother Byron was his second-in-command. William had a wife and two babies- a girl and a boy. While Captain Blackgrace was at sea, rivals kidnapped his wife and the children and held them hostage. The Captain was wild with rage. He and his brother Byron raised a fleet and stormed the island where his family were held. The rivals were slaughtered, but when William Blackgrace found his family his wife and son were dead.

‘His infant daughter, Arwen Blackgrace, was never found. William Blackgrace was convinced his daughter was alive and taken somewhere, maybe to be ransomed again. He searched for years.’

I said, ‘And the baby?’

‘The baby was never found. Nobody knows what happened to her. This was…nearly twenty years ago,’ Giles said. ‘She was looked for, a girl with red hair and blue eyes. And…’ he said, ‘and a scar. A long scar on her left shoulder.’

I was an orphan, abandoned as a baby, never known who my parents were. I was seventeen. My hair was red. My eyes were blue. For as long as I could remember there had been a scar on my left shoulder. I had no idea how I got it.

‘Giles…’

‘You mustn’t say anything about this, Beatrice.’ His watery blue eyes stared hard at me. ‘You cannot tell a soul. We’d both be in danger if anybody knew.’

All my life I had felt like I had never fitted it. Not at the orphanage as a child, not as an older girl, looking after the new orphans. Not even here, at The Hope and Anchor, had I felt like I belonged. I had always felt there had to be somewhere else for me. Somewhere I really, truly, belonged.

But Giles was murdered.

He may have been the only one who knew if I really was Arwen Blackgrace. For a moment, I thought what if he was killed because of me? Everyone thought I was living with him? The Blackgraces were feared-

I dismissed this. Nobody knew. I didn’t even know Giles knew about the scar on my shoulder.

I got off the floor and rushed to the front door. I quickly put the latch on and bolted the door. I told myself there was nothing to be afraid of.

*****

My mind was full of thoughts I couldn’t fully grasp. From the window in the room I live in, I watched the ships make their way from the port and towards the horizon. I wished I could disappear into the horizon like that.

No noise stirred me until I heard glass shattering at the very back of the pub.

I stood up and crept out of the room and onto the landing.

A hushed voice said, ‘-bloody tell everyone that we’re here.’

‘Would you hush up,’ said another voice.

‘You’re the one making all the noise.’

Peering over the landing, I could see the two men in dark clothing. One was large and bald, the other was small and had thick black hair.

‘It’s the one with the scar we want,’ the bald one said. My eyes widened. ‘And the red hair.’

One looked at the other. ‘Just how many bloody girls do you think Corrigan’s got stashed here?’

‘Never know with old Corrigan.’

They were making their way around the bar and towards the stairs. I crept back into my room, heart pounding. They might have been Giles’ murderers. Their being here and Giles’ death could not be a coincidence.

The men were heading towards the stairs. I looked about but I could see nowhere to hide. The steps on the stairs creaked as they ascended.

******

Part Two: 18/7/13

Blog Announcement

In Miscellaneous on 11/07/2013 at 18:30

I guess you could call this a ‘coming soon’ announcement because starting next Monday (15/7/13) I’m going to begin posting a new, nine part story. I’ll put out a new part of Arwen Blackgrace every Monday and Thursday at 6PM.

I normally write ‘drama’ fiction, but this is something very different. If I had to give it a genre I would say it’s pirate-noir. Arwen Blackgrace is a murder-mystery thriller with a few pirates thrown in.

Arwen Blackgrace follows Beatrice Seastone, a seventeen year-old orphan, whose life is in danger after the death of her friend. As she begins to investigate the murder, she discovers it may involve the story of the long-lost daughter of the famous pirate family, the Blackgraces, as well the truth of her own birth…

Check out the blog on Monday for the first part of Arwen Blackgrace.

%d bloggers like this: