Friday, December 6, 2013
History records that the infamous and ruthless lady pirate, Anne Bonny was indeed incarcerated in the tropics and sentenced to hang, but that’s the last written record that exists. Did she keep that date with the gallows? “Where Are You, Anne Bonny?” assumes that was not her fate.
In a steamy Jamaican prison with confederates Calico Jack Rackham and Mary Read, Anne awaits the hangman’s noose for piracy in October, 1720. Anne and Mary plead “their bellies” to escape the gallows temporarily but only Mary is pregnant. Anne must get away and as quickly as she can.
Escape begins a two year adventure of disguises, a trek across hostile Indian lands and a return to piracy. On the run to avoid law enforcement, she makes and loses friends along the way. Some are killed simply for remaining at her side. She comes to believe they all died as a result of her actions. A growing psychosis shapes her future as she struggles to survive.
“Had you fought like a man you’d not be set to die like a dog on the gallows,” Anne Bonny said barely above a whisper. The convicted lady pirate couldn’t lift her eyes to connect with Jack Rackham’s through the black iron bars. She feared succumbing to romantic leanings. Eventually though, she did, pulling her gaze from the rough cobble stones of this St. Jago de la Vega, Jamaica prison floor and glanced beyond the vertical bars of the cell. Jack’s silence attracted her attention faster than a scream would have.
As her eyes connected, “Stand straight, man! Don’t be cowering. Ya hear me Jack? Replace that jelly in your back with a stiff spine.”
Anne attempted advancing on the cell door to get into Jack’s face with her warning but was yanked to a standstill by the leather bindings at her back.
The hulking guard holding her burst into bellowing laughter releasing a spray of spittle into the side of her face. “All the talk I’ve heard was not a’tall exaggerated. My God! You are an evil woman. This is the thanks you give Calico Jack? He’s about to have his neck snapped by the hangman’s noose yet he still offers the magistrate his life in exchange for yours, and then begs for your presence as his final request. You’re bloody cruel, ya know that?” He slammed Anne’s head into the bars, her face forced between them.
“Please, don’t hurt her,” Jack said. “She meant me no disrespect.”
Unable to resist, hands bound as they were, she awkwardly leaned into the bars, face distorted.
Jack kissed her forehead then her lips. “I’m sorry Anne.”
“Me, too, Jack.”
“Nay to that... it’s my fault we’re in this mess.”
“Aye. That be true enough. Still, I don’t wish to see you dead.” While smashed against the bars, she strained to look back at the smelly sweating source of her discomfort, wanting to spit in his face.
The guard shook her hard. “Calico Jack must be daft or the devil guides your tongue,” he said, still laughing. “You talk to him as if he’s a bastard street urchin.”
Anne was finally allowed to push away from the bars and stand straight. “He knows the mistake he made, now that he’s sobered and thought on it.” She raised a shoulder pressing it against her cheek wiping away the guard’s disgusting salivary spray.
Angry lips relaxed. “Now, if you’d remove these leather restraints, I’d enjoy showing you how a woman can pleasure a strong man as yourself. My loins tingle each time I get the full look at you.” Come a bit closer so I might clamp my teeth onto that ghastly lip and rip it from your face. She stepped closer but still at arm’s length and relaxed her jaw, tongue dancing over parted lips. She looked longingly into his eyes.
Becoming mesmerized, he pushed his face toward hers then lucidity snapped into those dulled eyes. “I think I’d have a better chance of enjoyment…and of survival, stepping into a cage with an unrestrained she-devil.” Holding her arms above the elbows, he spun her around shoving her toward the jailhouse door.
For an instant she came face to face with her captor smelling the stench of his foul mouth. Twisting her face into a queasy grimace, she tried keeping her head turned away. But, even the rancid smell of all his recent meals couldn’t erase the other disgusting aroma—unwashed human flesh within the confines of that crude tropical prison. The potency of oily odors triggered an involuntary reflex to pull only enough air to stay conscious.
Time was of the essence. Much needs to be said in the here and now, but precious little time for it. Forced away from her lover’s cell, she craned her neck for a last look. “Now’s your chance for redemption, Calico Jack Rackham.”
The guard shoved harder, forcing her out of the cell house. She twisted her head from one side to the other to keep him in sight a few seconds longer. “You may have failed at the manly thing to end up here but at least you can die like a man, without a whimper. “Ya hear me, Jack? Without a whimper!”
The guard softened in an uncharacteristic show of concern. “By all that’s holy, wench, give the man peace. He’s about to be blue as the sea dangling by his neck.”
As unfathomable to the guard as Anne Bonny’s rant seemed, there was understanding in the eyes of Calico Jack; the words a backhanded show of respect for a life well lived by her measure, although angered over an act of drunken cowardice. Had it been otherwise, they’d yet be plundering shipping lanes in the West Indies. Remorse drove down his spirit and shoulders into a slump.
Forced from the small freestanding structure into steamy Jamaican sunshine, she felt as though the foul smelling interior of the crudely constructed log structure had just excreted her with no more respect than bilious spew.
Struggling against bonds and captor, she strained for another look at Jack, intuitively believing in her heart it would be the last. She got a glimpse and that sad expression would forevermore be locked in her memory. Calico Jack disappeared behind the closing door.
As she was jerked about unceremoniously, another man, equally repugnant, came to complete the bookend set. Both pushed and pulled Anne between them making a boyish game of it until she stumbled and fell. The newcomer had obviously been in tropical heat too long. His curly black hair and beard glistened. Sweat streaked his deeply lined and tanned forehead. He straddled her then leaned over dripping perspiration on her face. Quivering from unsatisfied and uncontrollable anger, she blew dust from her lips. “You stinkin’ vomit-slick. If you yank me around one more time I’ll make a special trip back from hell to shove a rapier through your throat just to watch it come out the other side.”
Bursting into boisterous laughter, they shoved one another disbelieving this woman’s audacity in the face of hopelessness. The small one poked the larger one on the chest. “Ya be hearin’ that, mate, we’d better be watchin’ our backs.”
“And our throats,” the other said. He held his neck and made a gagging noise.
The larger man reached around the more jovial of the two and harshly snapped her up by her bindings. She grimaced from wrenched shoulders.
Eyes darting about the compound, she looked for clues that might offer escape. The area was strewn with small log structures apparently designed to hold dangerous prisoners and kept isolated. Calico Jack Rackham must have been considered one. These smaller buildings faced the center of the complex where the main block of jail cells was housed.
Grinding teeth with pent up rage, Anne was forced along until they came to the central stone structure. One of the guards opened the door and shoved her stumbling down a narrow darkened corridor. Her eyes adjusted to the dimly lighted passageway. The massive stones mortared into the walls seemed to reach for her. The stockier of the two guards shoved Anne against the cool stone wall opposite her cell. A protruding stone hammered her ribs and forced air from her lungs in a violent rush.
Groaning over the weight of the door, the bigger guard held the handle with big square hands. He leaned away using his full girth to pull it open. The massive hand-hewn hardwood door squealed on equally massive hand-wrought black iron hinges.
Anne resisted but helpless against the harsh treatment as she was slung inside, hands still bound at her back to join her friend and partner in piracy, Mary Read. Unable to maintain balance, she tripped and fell then rolled across the uneven stone floor.
The door closed and the heavy log locking bar slammed across the outside of it into its sturdy cradle.
She gnashed teeth. “As the saints are my witness I’ll make those two pay for their discourteous treatment of a lady.” She spoke to the closed door. “I wager they’ll soon regret underestimatin’ me.”
“Maybe. But your thoughts should be on greater problems than mindless dolts making merry with your misery,” Mary said.
Anne turned and noticed Mary perspired more than tropical heat should justify. “Love, I see gray in your face behind the grime. You sweat as a horse ridden hard yet lay perfectly still. Are you ill?”
Lying on her side, she nodded. “I’m hoping it’s a natural thing, being with child and all.” Mary pulled the sodden shirt away from her body to fan her burning skin. She pushed up onto an elbow then around to sit, groaning under her own weight. “My discomfort should pass soon but don’t concern yourself with me. You must put your mind to finding a way out. As time passes it will become clear that I am indeed pregnant as we wisely pleaded ‘our bellies’ to the magistrate. But, Love, the same passage of time will reveal that you are not. They dare not hang me by law until the baby is born. I’ll be fine for now. But your fate will be sealed quickly upon discovery. Those wretches might even remove your arms and legs before they kill you for deceiving them so.”
Anne couldn’t debate the wisdom. She nodded and scooted on her backside to Mary to have her restraints untied. She’d have her moment with those two guards, consequences be damned, even if freedom had to wait.
She leaped to her feet and spun to face Mary as she yanked the loosened straps from her wrists. “I’ll not even entertain the thought of leaving you behind if that’s the point you’re attempting to make.”
“I knew that would be your mind. But understand, in my condition I’d make a cumbersome burden binding you to speeds unsuitable for escape. You need freedom to move quickly without a sick pregnant woman trudging behind.” She mopped fevered sweat from her face with a loose sleeve.
Anne sighed. “Then when I escape…and I shall, I’ll return for you before your baby is born. I’ll take you out of here so we might raise that child together, far away from those who wish us harm…the French township of New Orleans, perhaps.”
Mary closed her eyes. “Perhaps, but even if circumstances prevent it do not fret. We’ve shared several lifetimes of pleasure and adventure in our brief time upon this earth. My life has been full. I wouldn’t consider it a premature death even if I survive this fever to be hanged.”
“You speak like a person knowing that life is draining away.” She moved in close, probing Mary’s eyes then stroked her cheeks with palms of both hands. Anne held her face steady to look beyond any possible lie.
Mary laid her hands atop Anne’s. “You and I are women...intuitive beings,” Mary said. “I have a small voice telling me to prepare.”
“What sort of gibberish is that?”
“I pray the voice is a product of this stinkin’ Jamaican heat. But on the chance it’s not, I urge you to find a way out and don’t look back...don’t come back either.”
“That’s crazy…just bloody crazy! Do you hear me? You’ve stood under a full moon once too many times.”
“Ah. True enough for sure.”
After a moment, the burst of frustration evened out. She gently pushed Mary to lie down.
As her head touched the straw pillow, “Believe me when I tell you though that my chances are better if you leave without me. You must go alone this very night if you can. It’s nigh thirteen miles south to the port of Kingston. Time will turn from friend to enemy as the coming night yields to the light of day in the morning. Don’t give the bastards any chance to notice you’re not with child.”
Anne readied the debate but stopped short. “Aye. Even in sickness you think clearly.”
Walking to a particularly large stone mortared into impenetrable walls, she fingered a joint where imposing stones met. She allowed cunning to have free rein, thinking over variables that might end in freedom. Thoughts put movement to her feet. She glided laterally along the wall to the small heavily barred window and saw a small yard area void of grass by constant treading of feet. Her eyes drifted to a nearby hut peripherally wondering what it housed. But it was its lengthening shadow that held her interest, signaling the coming night promising deliverance of an ally, darkness. She hoped it would become as dark as the black heart of her jailer.
Anne whirled around. “You’re right. We are women and better than all the men on this bloody God-forsaken island.” We may have been swarmed aboard the Providence by Governor Lawes’ men and brought in chains to St. Jago de la Vega, but overpowered in a surprise attack and being outsmarted are entirely different. There’s no reason you and I cannot outthink even manipulate two guards that can’t put together a single intelligent thought ‘twixt them. By all that’s holy, we can do this,” she said pounding a fist into an open palm.
“Now that’s the Anne Bonny I know and love.” Mary forced a smile and snuggled her head into the lump of straw beneath her head. Weakened, she was fast succumbing to dehydration and rolled about seeking elusive comfort.
The sight squeezed Anne’s heart. She swallowed a sentimental lump. Crying like a love struck child can help neither of us. She ground fresh resolve between her teeth.
Shadows lengthened and melded with fading light, changing the appearance of the landscape. Coming darkness robbed color and a blue moon repainted the night. Anne waited and watched. The night stubbornly held the heat of day and now breathed it into her face through the small window in her jail cell. Activity around the compound ceased. Movement and sound subsided. This Jamaican prison went silent.
“It’s time,” Anne said.
Setting the plan into motion, she removed all clothing and helped Mary do the same. Strategically, she positioned Mary on the grass-filled mattress, fully exposed to the small observation opening in the cell door. She knelt beside her friend so that her nude body happened to be equally bared to prying eyes. Adding legitimacy to their nakedness, Anne dipped a wadded shirt into the oak bucket of drinking water and bathed Mary with it, mopping the length of her body in slow seductive strokes while caressing with the other hand. “Ya know, Love, I would have offered this even if it weren’t part of the plan. Your skin’s afire,” she whispered.
“Though dulled by fever, your hand on my bared belly and legs is a welcome tingle.” She touched her lips with two fingers and transferred the kiss to Anne’s.
Suddenly, the sound of wooden heels on stone captured their attention. The brief erotic spell crumbled. It wasn’t necessary Anne add seductiveness to the stroking of Mary’s body; she must only continue. It was believable because it was real.
Echoes of footfalls suddenly stopped. Anne needn’t look to know eyes were on them. Shortly, an unintelligible but gruff whispering male voice signaled the approach of another set of boot heels. Anne casually looked toward the door to see two pie-eyed and likely salivating male faces crowd the small opening by the dim light of a candle one held. The brilliance of the moon streaming through the small window at the rear of the cell placed a silvery spotlight on their nakedness, illuminating them well enough to spark lust. The bait was cast. From the outset the plan showed promise.
Two low voices bantered beyond the door, bringing to mind fish circling impaled minnows.
Anne leaned toward Mary and kissed her stomach below her navel. Mary squirmed slightly and moaned for show.
The mumbling voices went silent.
Suddenly, the sound of the heavy wooden locking bar on the door shattered the quiet as it was lifted from its cradle.
The hook was set.
Squeaking hinges announced intention. The door eased open.
Anne looked up at the approaching men. “I apologize if I’ve disturbed you. I fear my friend has become aroused by the soothing caress of this wet cloth.” She looked away from them and dipped it in the bucket then drizzled water over Mary’s breasts. “Just because we are the captured and you the captors does not mean we cannot work together to satisfy basic human desire. We can all benefit. Don’t you think?” In a measured way, her eyes moved from Mary’s body to them. “If we are to hang anyway, what’s the harm? Why would we not jump at the chance to feel closeness of men at least once more before we die?” She pulled her raised knees wide apart allowing full view. She played the part well, in gesture and tone.
Judging by slackened jaws and pie-eyes, the acting job was suddenly superfluous. The rehearsed invitation plainly fell on deaf ears as the smaller of the two moved with lustful abandon. He ripped clothing from his hairy sweat-glistened body. His attention was fully on Mary. He straddled her.
Anne rose to face the other. “Now, how is it that I might satisfy your need?”
In the single second it took for his eyes to lock onto Anne’s breasts, she assessed the position of the rapier at his right hip and the shorter cutlass on the other. With the tips of her fingers she gently pulled his face up to meet hers. She parted her lips to accept his. I’ll be kissing you when it snows in hell! In a flash she reached across to his side and drew the short cutlass. With a catlike whip, she drew the razor-sharp blade backhanded across his belly, slicing open his midsection through the shirt.
Mouth agape, he stumbled backwards into the wall then looked to the gush of blood and his exposed intestines. He whimpered and held the protruding entrails in both hands. His was the face of a dying man knowing the mistake he’d made and now too late to do anything about it.
Not waiting for death to come in its own time, Anne had a mission to complete with this one. Her mind reeled to every disgusting thing he’d done to her, throwing her around, spitting in her face—making a game of her feelings. She lunged for his rapier pulling it from his waist scabbard.
He only had time to moan pathetically.
Anne snapped the point to his throat, thrusting it entirely through his neck with both hands until visible on the other side.
“Oh my,” she cooed. “That did feel good…just as I thought it would.” She jerked his face near hers with the hilt of the rapier giving the man the kiss he so wanted. “Was it good for you, too?”
As the light of life flickered, his knees buckled and went down crumpling into a quivering heap.
Now aware, the other guard withdrew and attempted a move to get on his feet but Mary reached down and latched on to his testicles and squeezed with all her might. He roared like a hungry bear. It gave Anne a valuable extra second.
The noise he made was all he had time for. Anne whirled about, yanking his head away from Mary’s face by the hair and slit his throat. She held fast to his hair until the threat had passed. The gurgle of foamy blood splattered into Mary’s face. Anne pulled him away and shoved him over onto the floor. He pathetically tried to stop the bloody geyser with both hands. Desperate moves quickly reduced to full body twitching.
“His blood smells so much better than his breath but I still don’t care to taste it,” Mary said, spitting and wiping her tongue on her forearm then her lips with the back of her hand.
Without showing any concern for the lives she ended, Anne took items of clothing she felt more appropriate for her getaway—boots, belt, scabbard and even pants, being cleaner than her own. Hurrying to dress, “When this deed is discovered in the light of day tell them that you had nothing to do with any of this. It was all my idea. Do you understand?” Anne spoke fast, chopping her phrases. “Tell them I did this over protest…you fought me to stop it. Say not a single word in my defense, sweet Mary.” She buckled the leather sash of the cutlass scabbard across her chest. “I’ll be back for you. I swear it.”
Bolting for the still open door, Anne stopped. A closed door would have stopped her no faster than the probable truth. Urgency suddenly vanished. She turned and walked back to Mary. Wiping blood spatters from her naked friend’s mouth; Anne Bonny looked into Mary’s sunken eyes and kissed her—the soft caress of a lover.