To use a Edgar Allen Poe reference, a prodigious prognosticator.
The character resides in the 17th Century. In a city that has been universally acknowledged as one of the most sinful city in the world. Port Royal, Jamaica.
My pirate friend is a detective. And a spy. A totally unique, quite irritating, completely mesmerizing character rarely, if ever, found in the pages of detective genre. Think, if you will, of a red headed, red bearded TALL Cyrano de Bergerac with a mind like Sherlock Holmes.
That would be Geoffery Armitage Ffolkes.
Yes, there is a book out featuring this creature entitled, Ffolkes Medicine: The Adventures of Geoffery Armitage Ffolkes Begin. Off and on I have been toying with writing a second book of this lovable rascal. I thought I'd share the first two chapters and see if you had any opinions. Good or bad.
So here they are.
By the way, the second book is going to be called, A Ffolkes' Tale.
I was once a man of prodigious appetites.
I valued the nectar of fine wines. Savored and cherished the exquisite aromas and textures of rare cuisine. With much verve and gusto I admired and appreciated the seductive curves of beautiful women. I could converse with artist or critic the fine points of any artistic endeavor in five languages. In my sartorial splendor I was a breathtaking specimen of manhood. I towered over men like the snow capped pinnacle Olympus does setting amidst the ever-present clouds. I strutted a ship’s deck or the halls of powerful potentates and princes with a blatant arrogance only a man as gifted with such genius– such savoir faire–as I divinely possessed. I was a god among mortals. A creature of heavenly beauty sat amidst a sea of puerile peasantry; a rose of exquisite delicacy and refinement glowing disdainfully in the midst of mundane colorless cauliflower.
I was, in my youth, a most handsome rogue.
Women swooned whenever my magnificent personage entered the room. Matrons would hide their daughters–bind them with rope and chain–in their efforts to protect them from my magnetic personality. Men openly admired my masculine physique and martial airs. I was a deadly swordsman, an unrivaled marksmen with pistol or musket, a bare-knuckled pugilist of powerful persuasion.
I was a man who valued freedom. Old World rules and rituals I shunned and abhorred as if they were the plague. As indeed, in my eyes, they were! I made my way to the New World where I became a pirate–merchant–agent provocateur–spy and assassin. In the New World I found freedom and new lands to conquer. In the New World I acquired and lost fortunes time and time again. I was a swordsman–a courtier–a diplomat–and politician. I’ve led pirate fleets into battle and fought the Spanish, the Dutch, and the French on countless occasions.
People have branded me a liar, a thief, a braggart, a fop, and a fool. And indeed I bow and sweep plumbed hat before me most regally at each declaration. I will not deny any. I was a man of great appetites! I vowed at an early age to live life at its fullest and to never confess sorry for being the man the Almighty decreed that I should be.
I have strolled on each and every continent–sailed the seven seas–explored vast reaches of jungles no other white man had ever witnessed before me. I have made love to queens and to charwomen with equal passion. I have stolen treasure from kings and prelates and never regretted for one moment any of these nefarious deeds. I have hunted men and women with the intent in ending their murderous lives because justice of some nature needed to be dealt.
I am, pilgrim, a brilliant orator–a splendid actor–and an audacious, yet quite convincing liar. My mind has the effervescent perspicacity only a genius of rare magnitude can possess. In brief, pilgrim–I am a man like no other you have ever met. Nor will ever meet again in the short and abysmally colorless lives you will live. So attend to my words, pilgrim. Read what amazing adventures I pen to these pages. Sit back in wonder at what I am about to tell you.
It was one of those Caribbean nights of enchanting allure. The soft breeze off the cool dark waters revived all from the oppressive heat of the day; the moon hung like a gigantic white orb just above the eastern horizon and bathed the vast plain of the glass-surfaced sea with glistening wonder. Standing on the balcony of my set of rooms high above the tiled roof tops of the city I stood admiring the night’s grandeur. In my hand was a glass of recently acquired French bourbon snatched from the burning hold of a sinking Spanish caravel just off the Azores a few weeks past.
Below me, in the private garden behind our inn, the aroma of bougainvillea and an assortment of other fragrances drifted into my nostrils. A soft breeze filled with sweet aromas and promised intrigues washed across my Grecian features. I felt my self relaxing . . . mellowing–home from the sea was I and in need of respite. A’pirating in these waters was always an endeavor filled with risk. But of late the Spanish crown had become disturbingly intent on finding ways in ending my illustrious career. It seems they objected to my taking of their ill-gotten riches through the use of either superior guile or blunt force over these last few years. So, in their minds, it was time to pluck from their fattened derrieres the thorn which irritated them the most. That thorn being, of course, my own humble self.
The Spaniard’s choice of instruments to extract the festering boil that I was, as some Spanish friends have described me from a safe distance, were two 80-gunned behemoths named the Sol de Magnifico and the La Madonna del Mahinero. Two of their newest and swiftest fast galleons of the Spanish king’s navy commanded by an old adversary of mine. Don Miguel Alverez Ochoa Rameriez and I had crossed paths on several occasions in the past. Some of these crossing were for our mutual gain. But most were in some adversarial fashion or another. Apparently Don Miguel held the ear of his monarch with some authority and it was my old friend himself who suggested he take on the assignment of removing me from the Caribbean.
Of course I was flattered, pilgrim! To be so honored–to be so entrenched in the craw of the Spanish king, and even more so with Alverz Ochoa Rameriez, it almost made me swoon with delight. And there was a reason why I so enjoyed being the nemesis I was to the Spanish crown. For a brief period of my life some years back I was a guest of the Spanish in one of their prisons. Captured and thrown into a vile pit of rotting flesh and foul smells I survived. Chained to the oars of a fat galley and flogged on a daily basis as I and my chained comrades pulled on our oars and propelled a galley laden with African riches back and forth across the blue waters of the Mediterranean I endured.
The time of my incarceration was brief. The suffering I endured harsh but bearable. Yet more than sufficient to seal into my ebullient personality an undying hatred for tyranny and cruelty monarchies of all nationalities seemed to inflict upon their subjects. Nay, not just the Spanish and their cruelties I despised, pilgrim. The cruelties of all who claimed some moral or noble right to hold others in chains of bondage did I swear vengeance to. I vowed I would hunt down these cruel masters and take from them their power and their wealth. Pirating, dear pilgrim–or more accurately, the acquisition of a Letter of Marque from the English Crown–provided me with the wherewithal to achieve this goal.
A Letter of Marque gave me a legal right to hunt the Spanish, or the French, or the Dutch, if they so became the enemies of England, while I lived in Port Royal. Suffice to say, in all humility, I became quite proficient in such endeavors. Soon after arriving in Port Royal with my partner, a one-eyed, pipe smoking withered old piece of leather named Tobias O’Rourke, I quickly make a reputation of being a quite successful pirate captain. So much so that now, on this very night, I found myself a hunted man.
And glowed like that of a bright lantern on a stormy night in delight on such a compliment.
But pilgrim, a cautionary note; one should not gloat too long on one’s accomplishments for Fate has a way of twisting one emotion into something far, far more sinister. As, in truth, happened soon after I stepped away from the moon lit balcony and thought about retiring for the night. From below I heard men shouting in surprise and anger. Voices I recognized as those of my crew. The thundering hooves of men in heavy boots rapidly ascending the stairs to my rooms came to me–soon following a hurried pounding on the heavy wooden door of my apartment.
"Come!" I shouted, reaching for a brace of flintlock pistols lying on a table beside my bed.
In through the door swept the tanned, wrinkled leprechaun form of Tobias, followed by the slightly taller form of my slant-eyed samurai comrade, Morikami Tademori, a veritable giant of an African moor by the name of Abdul, and several others as well. On their faces were visages of grim determination of plainly etched pain. Something evil had occurred. Something which required my immediate attention.
"Terrible news, you worshipfulness," the thick Irish brogue of Tobias ran musically to my ears. But on this night it was the music of a fugue–the opening notes of a funeral–which rang in my ears. "We’ve found Little Johnnie Boy just a few minutes ago. He’s dead, cap’n. A dirk shoved into his heart."
"Where?" I asked, gripping the pistols in my hand firmly and feeling the color drain from my face.
"On the beach just a quarter mile from here, darlin. I’ve left a few of Tademori’s men there to guard the body and not disturb the site, figuring your lordship would want to inspect the lay of the land fer yerself, as it were."
I nodded and swept past the gaggle of men who hurriedly made room for me to exit and descended the stairs as rapidly as I could. Behind me Tobias, Tademori, and the others followed. Into the warm tropical night we fled, pilgrim. Into the dark night and into an adventure that become both deadly and mysterious. Filled with intrigues and whispering the first dark murmurings of a possible war to erupt between the English and the Spanish if I and my comrades could not extinguish the burning fuse before it burnt its way to the waiting powder keg yet hidden from view.
TwoWith brightly burning torch in hand I knelt to one knee and looked at the body lying on the wet beach. Waves, crashing onto the moon lit sands, would slowly meander its way up to the dead man’s boots before receding. Less than five hundreds yard behind me the first building of the city could be spied, as could the cluttered harbor filled with a hundred or more ships, masts and furled sails filling the dark night like an artificial forest. A strong wind was coming in off the water. Strong in its salty flavor. Yet cool and soothing as it caressed gentle fingers through my long red curls.
Such a beautiful night in paradise. Seemingly too beautiful for anyone to greet the Grim Reaper in such scurrilous fashion.
Kneeling beside me was the leathery from of Tobias. One hand holding his long stemmed pipe, his one good eye intent on studying the corpse as it lay motionless at our feet. He was, this garrulous old Irishman, as good at reading a dead man’s life and death as I was. In silence the little man was using one hand to push and prod and examine the body. As for me, my eyes were trying to look at the signs in the sand, making an effort to separate the churned up sand from those who stood guard over the dead man from those that might be that of both Little Johnny himself and Little Johnny’s killer.
Behind us Tademori, Abdul, and a few others huddled over us like lurking vultures, each holding torches over our heads to give us more light. Standing up I half turned, my eyes falling onto the giant form of Abdul.
"Send two of your best men that way," I said, pointing at a set of tracks the seemed to separate themselves from the clutter surrounding the body and hurried off into the night away from the city. "See where they lead to. And hurry, we may yet find our killers near by."
The Numidian nodded and disappeared for a moment. Seconds later two of his black African kinsmen swept around us and disappeared into the night. Handing the burning torch to Tademori I knelt down beside Tobias and reached for the right hand of the dead man. The hand was twisted up into a fist, yet in the dim light of the torches, there appeared to be something in the man’s grip.
"Ah, Lil’Johnny," the Irishman beside me moaned. "Too close to the deadly flames you flew. Tis a sad world it is now that you’ve left us. I’ll raise a cup of two of real Irish Whiskey up in salute to you later tonight."
"Dead for several hours," I grunted as I strained to pry open the rock like fingers of the fist and retrieve from its grip whatever it was the dead man desperately held onto.
"Aye, cap’n. From the way his stomach is bloated and the color of his skin I’d venture to say at least six or seven hour hence. Sunset. That would be about the time of the dar’lin man’s demise."
My Irish friend was no physician. Just a plain seaman of vast experience. Yet a man of acute vision with his singular eye. And with a mind of infinite curiosity. Two qualities in a man I valued the most. Although . . . most assuredly, pilgrim . . . I would never admit this to my Irish rogue. The man’s sardonic wit and sharp edged tongue would never allow me to forget my sudden weakness in complimenting him.
"The blade of a dirk, cap’n. Just below the third rib underneath Lil’ Johnny’s left arm. That was the blow which brought such a beautiful man to his grave."
I nodded, having observed the blade’s entrance through the flimsy cloth of the dead man’s shirt and the amount of blood which it had absorbed. I also noticed the bruising on the man’s face around the jaw and the left temple. There was also deep cuts on fingers and palms of his one free hand. Obviously our friend fought for his left. Fought desperately.
"Tademori, hold the light closer to our friend’s hand, if you please."
"Hai!" the samurai grunted with interest and knelt down beside me to comply.
One by one I strained to stretch out the dead man’s fingers and retrieve the sliver of paper to tantalizing near to apprehending. Behind me I felt the presence of the men leaning closer, they too as curious about the ragged piece of paper the man clutched with a dead man’s grip. It took some time to complete the task but ultimately the paper was removed and I stood up holding the thick and coarse paper in hand as I turned toward my samurai friend.
One glance told me enough. It was the right hand corner of a map. There was a partial outline of the coastline of some land mass–possibly an island. In dark ink an arrow was drawn to a small X marked on the very tip of a piece of land which seemed to be the entrance to a small inlet. In Little Johnny’s handwriting were the words ‘heavy redoubt.’ Another roughly sketched line disappeared off into the ripped off portion of the missing map. But the words ‘Two league’s sail from De . . . .’ were visible.
Nothing else was visible.
Frowning, I tossed back long locks of my shoulder length mane and looked down at the dead form lying at our feet. The dead man had fought desperately for his life. With at least two or more assassins. They had pursued their query across the sands of the beach, killed their man, removed the map from his hands, and then hurried back from whence they came. Port Royal, only a few hundred yards away, lay on a spit of land which jutted out from the main portion of the island known as Jamaica. From the direction Lil’Johnny was running from was in direction toward the main island. But in that direction was nothing but jungle and wilderness. He was running for his life toward Port Royal. Running and clutching a map. A map he thought so important he fought his assailants with only the use of one hand. And paid for his foolish mistake dearly.
What was so important about a piece of paper it cost a good man’s life? A good man who happened to sometimes be in the employment of Tobias and I as a gunner on one of our ships. And who? Who were the assassins who were determined to bring him down before he entered the pit of infamy known as Port Royal?
Glancing at my Irish imp of a friend I saw the light in the man’s one clear eye. He too was very curious as to what set of circumstances brought a friend of ours to his grave. It would be a matter of honor. In a city renowned for its cutthroats and piratical heresies, it was a matter of honor on our part to track down the rogues who so brutally took the life of our comrade and bring them to justice. But more, pilgrim. Much more. The ragged piece of paper torn from a map had captured our attention. Our interests. Would a treasure map–the first obvious thought to flash through our minds–be worthy of a man’s demise? A treasure map like so many others to be had for a pittance in any pub in Port Royal. Why this one so steeply purchased in the blood of a good man’s death?
Yes, questions to be answered. A puzzle to be solved. And more importantly; justice to be exacted.