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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"The Brand" - Sneak Preview!!!

           The Iron Maiden arrived at the harbor in Lower Manhattan a week later. Belen and her pirates stole rowboats and boarded the vessel along the dock in Scarborough, which was the closest seaport from York. They killed the resisters and forced the survivors to walk the plank. Sean, Flynn and their men rowed out and boarded the ship as they set sail for the English Channel en route to the Atlantic Ocean.                                                                                                           
A group of ten climbed onto a rowboat and made their way to the docks, where they anchored the vessel and proceeded to the wharf. They had a vague idea of where they were, and made their way up to Broad Street. The smell of charred wood hung heavy in the air, and everywhere they looked they could see construction in progress as New Yorkers worked determinedly to restore the prestige of their beloved city.                                                                                  
“So where is this Fraunces Tavern?” Belen demanded impatiently. “I hope this isn’t some stupid ploy to get involved in some drinking orgy. I’ve got business to attend to in the Caribbean, I’ve already told you. There is a dog who owes me a large amount of money. Besides, with all this chaos in this area. I’ve a mind to take a couple of scores on the way out.”                                          
“And I told you we’ll make this quick and you can cut us loose,” Flynn insisted. “Look, I’ll cut you ten percent of the take if you come back and get us out of here once we’re done.”                  
 “Ten percent?” she turned to her six-foot-ten bodyguard. “You heard him, Abdul. Fine, I’m in. Let’s just wrap this up so I can be on my way.”                                                                             
The Tavern was a two-story building that looked very much like a traditional English pub. Its tiled roof matched the dark cedar trim of the ochre paneling. There were a number of horses and buggies outside, indicating they had already drawn a healthy brunch crowd. Flynn led the way into the noisy, smoke-filled tavern where they sidled their way to a back table. Many of the traders who frequented the establishment were taken aback by the sight of a woman and her black companion.                                                                                                                                        
“Excuse me, sir,” a waiter came over as the group took seats at an empty table. “I’m afraid we  won’t be able to serve you here.”                                                                                                           
“What seems to be the problem?” Flynn asked.                                                                                 
“Women, sir,” he swallowed hard as Abdul’s eyes bulged with anger. “You’ll have to sit in the dining area in order for the woman to be served.” The establishment did not cater to blacks, but the waiter found an easier way out.                                                                                               
“Yes you do,” Flynn tossed a gold piece onto the table. “I’ll need a round of ale and a bottle of rum.”                                                                                               
It was the waiter’s eyes that bulged next as he took the gold piece and hustled back to the bar. Belen’s eyes smoldered as she stared moodily at the crowd at the bar. As she expected, a couple of burly soldiers came over and stood belligerently at the table.                                                     
“’Scuse me, mate, you’re not from here, are you?”                                                                           
 “I’ve just come in from London,” Flynn replied nonchalantly. “Me and my mates.”                       
 “Most reputable merchants bring their officers on shore and leave the ship hands on board,” the tall soldier scowled. “A bunch like this doesn’t do you justice.”                                    
 “Are you stupid or do they just dress you that way?” Belen rose from her seat, causing Flynn to drop his head into his hand.                                                                                                                       
“Belen, please,” he entreated her. “Restrain yourself.”                                                                     
 “Well, this is quite a big girl we have here,” the stocky soldier admired her bosom. “What a shame there’s no one here man enough to speak for her.”                
With that, Abdul hoisted the heavy wooden table into the air, causing it to crash two feet away on its side as he came out of his chair.                                                                                                            
“Sit down!” Belen ordered, and the giant black reluctantly picked up his chair and took his seat. “I’ll handle this!”                                                                                                                           
“Can we discuss this?” Flynn tried to reason with her.                                                                     
 “Hold on there, you men,” a commanding voice called from behind the soldiers. “What seems to be the problem?”                                                                                                                               
The soldiers blanched as they turned to face the officer approaching the table. Colonel Blackmore was flanked by two hulking riflemen as he strode up to face the two men. A couple of waiters rushed over and lifted the table back in place.                                                                       
“Nothing, sir, nothing at all,” the tall man cleared his throat. “We had merely inquired as to where these folks had come. We were informed they have just arrived from London, sir.”                    
 “I see,” Blackmore peered over his gold-rimmed glasses at the woman and the black, surmising what had occurred here. “Although we can’t be too careful in considering the terrorist activity along the coast, we certainly do not want to discourage trading in our fair city. Hospitality should always be a priority, men. As you were.”                                                                         
“Thank you, sir,” the soldiers disappeared into the crowd.                                                               
 “We greatly appreciate your hospitality, Colonel,” Sean rose to his feet. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sean Coulter, I’m a merchant from Dublin. We were on our way to Virginia to complete a tobacco and cotton transaction. We decided to stop here and take advantage of the facilities here in New York. Unfortunately we had forgotten all about the tragedy that took place here, and had already charted our course before realizing our error. Yet I was hoping there might be some sort of recreation available nonetheless, in the form of gentlemen’s clubs or games of chance.”                                                                                                        “And you fancy yourself a sporting man,” the Colonel chided him good-naturedly. He noticed that Sean wore an ascot and an expensive waistcoat, and his mates were dressed somewhat fashionably as well. Even the black appeared to have spent a few dubloons on his stately attire. “What sort of game do you fancy? The races? The prizefights, perhaps?”                             
“Nothing quite so strenuous, sir. I would much prefer a quiet game of cards.”                                
“Cards,” the Colonel raised an eyebrow. “Poker, perhaps?”                                                              
 “Poker,” Sean mused. “I understand it is a fairly new game, somewhat popular in the Southern states. Yes indeed, I would very much be interested in joining a game before setting sail. We expect to be here for a couple of days as we await word from our contacts in Virginia.”                
“There had been quite a number of games available throughout town, but after the fire, much of the locals’ disposable income had to be reinvested in their damaged properties. Still, there are a significant number of travelers passing through in search of a friendly game. Tell you what, Mister---,”                                                                                                                        
“Mr. Coulter. I will leave word here with the barkeep and see whether something can be arranged tomorrow evening before you head out to Virginia.”                                                              
“Splendid, Colonel,” Sean beamed as the waiter set the mugs of beer and the rum bottle. “Join us in a toast, my good man. To your acquaintance and your wonderful hospitality.”                                  
 The waiter filled the shot glasses and stood back as the group toasted one another. Blackmore was impressed as Belen downed her shot without blinking.                                                        
“Good day, milady and gentlemen,” the Colonel bowed as he took his leave, kissing Belen’s hand. “Until we meet again.”                                                                                                                     
“I could cleave his skull in less than a minute,” Belen took a swig of ale as the soldiers left.                                                                                                                       
“You could cleave the skull of eighty percent of the men in here,” Flynn exhaled. “Big deal.”                                                                                                                    
“Ninety,” she stared back, then rose from her seat. “Well, you’ve made your connection, and plunder awaits. I shall be on my way. You know the routine, when you want to hook up, just leave a message along the network and I’ll meet you at a rendezvous point. Be sure to signal if there’s any complications. I don’t intend to lose another ship anytime in the near future.”                               
“I’ll see you soon,” Flynn smiled. She leaned over the table and grabbed him around the back of the neck, snaking her tongue into his mouth as the others watched in fascination. She then grabbed Sean and gave him a tongue kiss before stepping away.                                                       
“Not bad,” she smiled. “Bon voyage, gentlemen.”                                                                            
“What about me?” Bray called softly as she and Abdul disappeared into the crowd.                     
 “Invitation only,” Flynn cautioned him. “I’ve seen her bite men’s tongues off and spit them into the dirt.”

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