“I said, make them w—”
It was amazing, and rather alarming, how fast the Governor turned bright red, then purple, and finally white in the face. Gurgling slightly, he tried to sit, but there was something on his chair. This turned out to be his wig. His own hair, sparse and pale yellow, was scattered over his scalp in unattractive clumps. A heavy man, he spilled over the waist of his trousers, his coat gaped open around his girth.
“May I present Sir Raven Willoughby, milord Governor,” Uriah said. “He’s come to make inquiries.”
Raven strode forward, wishing he had a sword to add to his swagger. Instead of armament, he bristled with anger—very real, as it happened.
“You have my ship,” he said in a calm and lethal voice. “And I want it back. If harm has come to it while it’s been in your possession, it shall come out of your pocket.”
“Now, see here!” the Governor tried to regain control. “How do I know you’re who you say?”
Raven chuckled. “You’ll have to take it on blind faith, I suppose. Or take the word of my man, here, who sees my visage every day, when he comes to work.”
“You have no papers? No identification? No letter of introduction?” The Governor felt he was on solid ground now, falling back into bureaucratic territory.
Raven reached into his pocket, producing the papers. He kept copies in every bank where he had a business office. It proved useful at times like this.
“You’ll find it all in order, including a letter of introduction signed by Lord Sutherland.”
Taken aback, the Governor blinked slowly. Taking up a pair of reading glasses, he perched them on his long nose, and squinted at the papers. Shuffling them around, he saw they were all in perfect order. Annoyed, he handed them back.
“And proof of ownership of the boat in question?”
“Ship,” Raven corrected. “The Annabelle, a fair and lovely ship, she sits well in the water. A portrait of my late, lamented sweetheart graces her prow.” That was a lie, he’d bought the ship from another man, and it was that fellow’s dead lover on the prow. “As fair a lass as a man ever saw. Died of a fever shortly after the vessel was built.” Also true. He was able to conjure up a hitch in his voice and a tear in his eyes. “My other ships may have met their end. But I must needs have the Annabelle back. She was my first ship, and is dear to my heart.”
“She’s a ship of death,” the Governor sputtered. “Fit for naught but gathering rust in the dry dock!”
“I’ll have her back,” Raven said, dropping the sorrow. “And she’d best be in good repair, or you will hear from my solicitors. Who is it we use here, Haynes?” he cast over his shoulder at Uriah.
“Sterner and Hope, my Lord Willoughby.”
The Governor paled once more. Sterner and Hope were not only the most reputable solicitors in his territory, they hated him with a passion. This Willoughby must have deep pockets to keep them on retainer.
“My ship, sirrah,” Raven said, slapping the papers against his palm.
“I’ll have it seen to.”
“You’ll show me yourself—sir. I’ve lost precious revenue because of this.”
“You were dead!” the Governor blustered.
Raven’s predatory leer sent a shiver down the fat man’s spine.
Smelling the fear, Raven advanced. “You knew all along it was my last ship. No doubt, you took her to add to your fleet of illegal vessels, which smuggled in all these expensive knickknacks. She’s the fastest thing on these waters. I much doubt, death ship or not, that she’s in the dry dock. What did you do? Reoutfit her, change her name and put her to work under your own sail?”
The older man shuddered, clutching his chest. Raven grabbed his arm, leaning close, his face a mere inch from the Governor’s.
“Don’t die yet,” he said in a friendly, lethal tone. “We’re just getting things sorted. And what fun would that be for me, ravaging your holdings, discrediting your name, taking your possessions, if you’re dead. Not much to stop me, as it is. But I do so love having a man watch as his life is stripped bare. You’re a liar and a cheat. You’ve robbed your people, this territory, and who knows all else. It’s time you paid the piper, Governor. And if you haven’t noticed, I’m the man playing the tune. My ship. Now.” He shook the older man by the shirtfront.
Shaking and wobbling, the Governor led them outside, demanding his coach be made ready. They waited a few minutes on the porch before a coach and four matched geldings, rolled up. They were handsome beasts, all with glossy roan coats and black manes. All else he might have against the man, the Governor knew good horse flesh, and cared well for them. Raven couldn’t help wondering who he’d stolen them from, for he was sure the Governor wasn’t a man to purchase, when confiscation worked so much better.
“My docks,” the Governor told his coachman as they settled.
They rode for some minutes, in silence. Raven watched the Governor with a placid expression on his face, scenting the fear, the treachery, that poured off the man.
©2021 Dellani Oakes
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