The Powers That Be

There was only a month left before my long, four years of service to the U.S. Navy would come to an end. Quite frankly the last two years had been a strange form of hell with eighteen hour days and the stress of the Viet Nam war. I had a few days of rare down time in front of me at our squadron headquarters in Iwakuni, Japan, but my peace was ruined by a summons to appear in the captain’s office. I’d been there before, so, being ordered to drop everything and “report to the captain,” made me pretty nervous. I couldn’t help but wonder what I had done this time to piss him off.
When I arrived, Lurch, that’s what we called him, “Lurch,” because he looked like the character from the Adam’s Family. Lurch, sat behind his desk and after we had gone through the formalities of Navy hierarchy, he invited me to sit down. That was a red flag. Protocol dictated that I should either stand at attention, or at ease in the captain’s office, but, to be asked to sit meant something was up. I couldn’t help but worry about the possibility of bad news from home, however, to my surprise, the subject of our meeting was my upcoming separation from the Navy. He said, “I need to talk to you about your plans for the immediate future.”
He gave me his famous death’s head grin, the one that served him as a smile. I nodded and said, “Yes sir.”
“Well, I have a problem with you deserting your crew right now, I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“Sir?” I inquired.
“You’re an integral part of my flight crew, Wilson, and this deployment has three more months to run. I require your commitment and I want you to extend for the rest of the cruise.”
To say that I was stunned by his request would be a gross understatement. For a long minute, I was speechless, worrying about the possibilities, about whether, in time of war, he was planning to order my extension if I didn’t comply.
Lurch was, how can I put this delicately, a lunatic, not a man you wanted to cross swords with, but extending my service for another three months was not something I was very pleased to do, not for him, not for my crew, and certainly not for the Navy. You see, the Navy had not been especially kind to me over the years, and much of the abuse I had suffered left a lasting impression. For example, there were the nine months I spent in the janitorial service, cleaning bathrooms, after graduating from Electronics ‘A’ school. And, how could I forget the threats of a Captain’s Mast and possible imprisonment over the nuclear arms school debacle for which I was the only innocent participant. There are many more examples, but you get the idea. Most of all, however, was my failure to attain pay grade because of the Navy’s poor planning with regard to filling the technical rate I was in. Any simple seaman can understand that, when you open five slots for promotion and have twelve thousand sailors applying for them, the odds of a promotion are stacked against you. That was the situation I found myself in year after year in my brief, Naval career.
With that in mind, I suggested to the captain, “Well, sir, I can’t see myself extending as an E2, it just wouldn’t be fair.”
“What do you mean?” Lurch wanted to know.
“I mean, sir, that I would consider extending as an E3, but not in my current pay grade.”
Lurch gave me a dark and threatening look. He said, “That would mean a promotion.”
“Yes sir,” I said.
He paused, his brow creasing even further. “I can’t do that, Wilson.”
“But you can, sir,” I corrected, informing him, “You’re an acting captain, in command of a Naval unit at war. It would be a battlefield promotion, sir.”
Now the look became dangerously threatening and he repeated himself, enunciating each word, “I can’t do that.”
Perhaps I was being flip, I didn’t intend it that way, but time in close association and the circumstances we shared had proved the axiom, “familiarity breeds contempt.” I responded to him by saying, “Well, sir, I won’t extend my service as an E2.”
To my surprise, the conversation ended right there and I was summarily dismissed without threats or further intimidation. As I stood to leave, we hurried through the formalities of Navy protocol and then I quickly found myself standing outside his office, relieved that our encounter was over. Perhaps, at this point, some background on our “shared circumstances” would be in order.
In the year before our deployment to Iwakuni, we had been transitioning aircraft, from the Martin, P5-M Marlin, to the new Lockheed, P3 Orion. As such, naval regulations required that each flight crew be requalified in the new aircraft. Qualification was a long, expensive and arduous process of training, practice, and testing. At that time, three squadrons of twelve aircraft, each with a twelve man crew, were making the transition to the P3. Two of those squadrons had begun the process in the year before us, but, unfortunately for the Navy, for the trainers and for those in command, none of those twenty-four flight crews had yet qualified in the new aircraft. In fact, they had all failed their “quals” repeatedly by the time we arrived on the scene to begin our training.
To be fair, there were many difficult challenges throughout the qualification process, some that affected me personally, but those are for another story. What’s important for this story is the qualification portion of our transition. In fact, I can truncate the story even further by focusing on the single mission that resulted in every crew’s failure to qualify. That point of failure for the twenty-four crews ahead of us became obvious to me at the end of the long process. It was a mission called harbor mining and, whoever it was in the training squadron that designed the mining mission, they almost certainly must have some diabolic connection. The mission parameters and the chosen location were so challenging that it must have been designed with the intent to produce failure.
As radar man for my crew, the harbor mining qualification test was a challenge that lay directly in my hands. Not that the other crew members weren’t needed, we work as a team, but the primary burden for success was on my shoulders; in much the same way as the kicker in a football game that is tied in the final quarter and running out of time. The carefully chosen location for this qual-test was a small, fjord-like harbor on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, far north of Vancouver. Our navigator had been given a small, incomplete illustration that depicted the layout of the harbor entrance and a portion of the interior, as it might appear on our radar screen.
The entrance to the harbor was a narrow cut through a three hundred foot wall of coastal cliffs. Inside, the harbor spread open and, as depicted on the illustration, there was a small island, to the south of which lay the target box where we were to drop our practice mines in. On the far side of the small, lozenge shaped harbor, the eastern shore rose quickly from sea level to a mountainous terrain, peaking at the three thousand foot level. All of these features created a significant challenge for the cockpit, but to make matters worse, the entire coast was socked in by a thick fog that made VFR flight impossible the day we were to make our run. The only eyes available to us for this mission was my radar screen, and the whole crew was forced to depend on me to guide our aircraft safely through the maneuvers required to succeed in this mission.
Though Lurch, who was flying left seat that day, could see absolutely nothing from the cockpit, we managed to navigate the harbor entrance, at a flight level of three hundred feet, without difficulty. That said, Lurch was white knuckled all the way in and near apoplexy by the time I gave him his new heading. That much-anticipated command was delayed, however, until we cleared the coastal cliffs because, before that, I had no radar image of the harbor’s interior. Once we leveled out on the new heading, however, the small island I thought was depicted in our illustration came clearly into view on the radar screen, just north of our heading. Upon seeing it, I began to lay out the coordinates for our mining run. I had no sooner done that, than the sweep of the radar began to reveal another island in the southern portion of the harbor, an island that, in appearance, was much more similar to the illustration I had been given than the island I chose initially.
Things happen fast when you’re moving at three hundred and sixty knots and changes in plans can consume a good deal of distance over the ground at that speed, but I made a quick decision to change heading and go for the newly revealed southern island. Unfortunately, that change required that I first confess my mistake to the entire crew, over the plane’s intercom system. It went something like this:
“Flight, Radar.”
“Go, Radar.”
“Sir, I’ve made a mistake and I’ll have to give you some rapid course corrections. I need you to make them as quickly as possible, sir.”
There was no response from the flight deck, but it didn’t matter, I had no time to wait, so I launched into a stream of course changes that began with, “Turn hard to starboard, sir, and take up heading 196.”
With the command given, the plane remained steady on its current heading, forcing me to recalculate and reissue the command.
“I need you to turn RIGHT NOW, sir, hard starboard, and take up a new heading of, 210.”
At that, the plane snapped hard to the right, pressing the entire crew into their seats with about six “Gs” of gravity and driving the navigator, who was standing behind the flight engineer’s seat, to his knees. No sooner had that happened than the plane snapped back to level flight on a compass heading of two hundred ten degrees. I didn’t know at the time, that Lurch was so terrified by the required maneuver that he’d frozen, white knuckled, on the yoke, (the planes steering wheel,) forcing our second pilot, J.J., to take the controls from him. While J.J. flew blind, down the two-ten heading, to our next course correction, I was frantically laying out the rest of our mining run on the radar screen. I didn’t have time to finish, however, before I was forced to give a new heading to the flight deck.
“Sir, on my mark, I need you to turn hard to port and take up heading, 068. Standby, …and, mark!”
Again the plane snapped into a sharp turn, this time left, pulling about the same G-force. At this speed there would be little time for me to carry out the rest of the necessary steps to complete the mission, but I finished marking the critical points on the radar screen and, as soon as the plane leveled out on heading, I called over the intercom, “Standby to mark on top IP. On my third mark… standby, mark, mark, mark. On top IP, sir, and take up heading 092.”
Again the plane leaned right, softer this time, we were in the right place now, but again, there was little time to think or maneuver at our current speed.
“Open bomb bay doors,” I commanded, then, without a breath, “target in ten, etc… three, two, one, drop, drop, drop.”
Whatever the outcome might be, the mission was done, and there would be no changing it. I heard my own voice coming over the intercom then, calmer, even subdued, knowing I had put pilot, aircraft, and crew through a mini hell. I could only hope that I was right in doing so.
“Close bomb bay doors,” I commanded, hastily adding, “remain on heading and climb, climb, climb, sir.”
The plane pitched sharply upward and the intercom fell ominously quiet. A moment later the navigator approached my station, lifted my earphone and said, “Well, you f….d up this time, Wilson. The Captain wants to kill you, you’d better hide.”
“Hide?” I asked, indicating the fact that we were crammed together in a flying tube. “Where am I going to hide?”
The Nav suggested, “Head to the galley and take a seat back there in the booth.”
Now that we were well above the harbor fog, above the mountains, above the clouds and safe, on a heading to our base in California, the ticking time that was in such a rush during our mining run, dragged slowly by, as I awaited my execution. After what seemed a very long while, but still came sooner than I would like, I heard Lurch’s booming voice coming from somewhere forward in the plane. “Where’s that radarman of mine?”
It seemed strange to me that he actually sounded joyful. He repeated his inquiry, in the same jovial manner, so, feeling compelled, I stepped out of the galley and started forward to take my punishment. “There he is,” he said, seeing me and smiling, his arms open wide.
I wondered what could account for this drastic change in demeanor. I learned then, that the call had come from training command that we had dropped three practice mines right into the center of the invisible box where they were intended to go. In fact, we were the only crew out of thirty-six, who had done so, meaning, that soon we would become the only alpha qualified P3 flight crew the Navy had in WestPac. That was a real feather in Lurch’s cap and the fact is, he owed me for it.
So, what was my reward? Two weeks after our meeting in Iwakuni, concerning the subject of my separation from the Navy, I got my orders and flew out of Tokyo to San Francisco, leaving my crew, our plane and the Vietnam war behind. I was assigned to exit the Navy from a little base near the Golden Gate Bridge called, Treasure Island. It sounded good to me, but what did I know?
When I got off the bus that picked me up at the airport, along with forty other sailors and marines, I was directed to the admin. building, where a yoeman looked over my encoded orders, wrinkled his brow, then looked at me and shrugged, saying, “You need to go over to building 139 and check in there.”
He kindly gave me directions, so I picked up my baggage and went on my way. At building 139 another yoeman followed the pattern of the first almost precisely, wrinkling his brow, looking me over, shrugging and saying, “Keep your dungarees, your douche kit, and your skivvies and give me your bags for storage.”
Now it was my turn to wrinkle my brow, but, considering it was the Navy, after all, I didn’t try to make sense of it, I just complied as I had been so well trained to do. He, in turn, handed me a blanket and a pillow saying, “Take your orders with you and go across the street to building 140. At the gate, ring the bell and the Master at Arms will come out to let you in.”
The instructions were simple enough, but as I approached building 140 I noted that it looked an awful lot like a prison. Turned out that it was, and that’s where I spent my last two weeks in the Navy, cleaning pots and pans and scrubbing floors with a scrub brush.
Thanks a lot, Lurch. I’ll remember you in my prayers. Fortunately, good behavior got me out on the day of my scheduled separation and, though my stay was brief, it was enough to give me the feel of prison and the knowledge that I would never want to return, neither to prison or the Navy.


Hidden Figures in Black History


When I was doing the research for my novel, “Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar,” I became aware and concerned about the apparent lack of authentic role models available to black youth in America. I use the term “authentic,” to mean role models beyond the entertainment industry’s view, including sports, and beyond the typical characters created for entertainment by the likes of Spike Lee. I’m talking about real role models, and my concern for such was the premise for my story about the life of Henri Caesar, of whom my POV character says, “there is much more to this man’s story than history has yet told.”

So it is for most of the true heroes of Black history in America. For me, that trail begins with  Olaudah Equiano. Although his place of birth, c. 1746, is disputed, the fact that he was sold in Virginia to a Royal Navy ship’s captain was well documented in 1754. He was given the slave name, Gustavas Vassa and taken to England where he eventually came into the hands of a Quaker merchant named Robert King. King gave Equiano the means to purchase his own freedom, which he did in 1766, becoming a merchant himself, traveling much of the world and learning all that he could about the Triangle Trade and English politics.

Back in London, Equiano, aka, Gustavas Vassa, joined an abolitionist group called The Sons of Africa and began pressing parliament for anti-slavery legislation. In 1789, as an activist in the abolition movement, Gustavas wrote and self-published his memoir entitled, “The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano.”

The book was widely read through nine editions and was instrumental in parliament’s passage of The Slave Trade Act of 1807, which put an end to British involvement in the slave trade. Unfortunately it did not include the ownership, or practice of slavery, the end of that horror would require a brutal and bloody war in America.

That said, there is a long and growing list of heroic, black figures that follow Equiano. I won’t attempt to list them here, but I will write about a select few from time to time. I think the awareness of them is vital to our future as “one” nation.

Getting back on track, if you haven’t seen the movie, “Hidden Figures,” then you have missed a truly great story, the kind of story from which flows the compassion and understanding required to change the world. The viewing of it should be mandatory for all Americans. It should be part of the curriculum in our schools. There needs to be more of this type of encouragement and less of a Black America with the kind of hopeless future Spike Lee and his ilk portray. What is required to change things for the better is more of the personal initiative demonstrated by heroes like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and a chain of others that goes all the way back to Olaudah Equiano.

The trouble is that the voice of truth, the voice of hope and reason, is often drowned out by the shouts of those who promote selfish agendas, but there is nothing new in this. The manipulation of public opinion is as old as human nature itself and the latest suppression of truth in Black America, of hope and reason, began almost immediately following Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. King’s positive message of character, accountability and personal initiative was drowned out by loud, plaintive demands for equality through entitlement. I don’t need to mention their names, these false prophets continue to drown out truth and hope to this day, and we all know who they are as well as the various organizations that front their ideas.

To conclude, a new paradigm is needed among young Blacks in America and along with it, a lot more men with the vision and courage of John Glenn and, in the historical record, Robert King. Men who will step up and intervene where the scales are being intentionally skewed against anyone of good character for reasons of race, creed, color, gender, religion, or national origin. What’s needed is sacrifice, the willingness to set aside self-interest for the greater good. That is the deeper message of “Hidden Figures.” People of all kinds and colors, working together to accomplish what’s better for all of us.

Project #1, A New Start

happy-new-year-2017-holidaysNow that “Triangle:…” is complete and published, Project #1 becomes a Grail Mythology with the working title, “The Pit”,  in which my protagonist, Rick Townsend, will seek to learn the source and nature of a treasure being sought by a mysterious employer, who’s identity is being kept from him. In the course of his research, the story flashes back to medieval Europe and even ancient Roman times, in the same way that Michael and Kathleen Gear used historical period transitions in their trilogy, “The Anasazi Mysteries.”

In the first of the four novels in this series, our protagonists, Rick Townsend and Monica Scott, begin researching their client’s sought treasure, a quest which leads them from mysterious carvings on an ancient stone, to an elderly widow who holds the key to their quest in an old, family Bible which they will come to call, “The Leichti Bible.” From there, our two intrepid heroes are inexorably drawn  into the dangerous pursuit of objets de magie, long sought by powerful entities who will stop at nothing to gain their prize. At the same time, Rick and Monica become the targets of other powerful entities who are equally ruthless in their determination to prevent them from recovering the well hidden treasures. But, before we go further into plot, or characters, I think I should talk a bit about the genre itself. When I say, “Grail Mythology”, you say….  You see, most people don’t know what I’m talking about.

If you have read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” , or “The Hiram Key”, by Christopher Knight, or “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, by Mark Twain, or the more traditional tales of King Arthur by Thomas Malory, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Maude Radford Warren, or Mary Stewart then you’ve read a grail mythology. Over many centuries the theme of the Holy Grail and its various plots have been very popular, not only as books, but also as screen plays like “The Fisher King.”

More than a few years ago now, Umberto Eco wrote “Foucault’s Pendulum”, a satire on the genre, in the manner of Mark Twain. About that same time, however, in the late twentieth century, the genre took a turn away from the traditional view of the Holy Grail, to a more sinister, denial of Christ, an attack on the orthodoxy of the Bible and the very tenets of Christian faith. Perhaps the first of this new wrinkle in the genre was  “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. The novel’s plot is a complete fiction, though it is presented to the reader as documented history. It was followed then by many others, “The Da Vinci Code” and Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s “The Betrayal,” to name just two. My vision for Gray Empire, however, is to use this sinister turn in plot to direct the genre back to the more traditional tale, but with a surprising new twist at the end, a reveal of an aspect of the grail never before told in fiction, or in truth.

I hope to have “The Pit”, book one of the series called, “Gray Empire”, completed and released for the new year, 2017. At this writing I am more than 51,000 words into the first draft of the manuscript and making fairly steady progress each day. My hope is to use this blog to introduce you, in advance, to the characters in the novel, to talk about the complicated research involved and to keep you up on the progress, or lack thereof, whichever the case may be. I hope you will follow along as our character’s develop and are launched on their quest into the arcane world of grail mythology, a genre of writing that can truly test any author’s skills.

Book Review — Constellation

Evilcyclist's Blog

Constellation by Adrien Bosc is a novel centering on Air France Constellation BAZN flying on the night and morning of October 27 and 28, 1949. Bosc is a French writer and editor. The French edition of Constellation won the Grand Prize novel by the French Academy in 2014, Literary Award for Vocation 2014, and the Price Gironde News Scriptures 2014. The Constellation referred to in the title was Lockheed L-749A airliner. It was four engine propeller driven aircraft. It started regular service in 1947 and was still used by TWA until 1967. The aircraft line was finally retired in 1993.

Without knowing this was a novel the reader could easily think he or she was reading a detailed researched account of a fatal air crash. BAZN was scheduled to fly from Paris-Orly Airport, France to New York City, with a stopover at Santa Maria Airport, Azores. By 1949, transatlantic flights…

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Speed Trap


Speed Trap

by: B. J. Wilson

In the side-view mirror I watched officer Vincent saunter up to the driver’s window of my car. He had a cocky demeanor to him, mixed with a hint of excessive caution, his right hand resting on the shiny, black holster bearing his Glock 9. It made me nervous, as intended, so I kept both hands on top of the steering wheel where he could see them clearly.

License, registration and insurance, sir,” he demanded with cold proficiency, not offering so much as a, “Good morning.”

Vincent began his prosecution while I dug for the documents, handing them out the window, one at a time as I found them, license first.

You know what the speed limit is in here,” he asked, examining my driver’s license, then adding, “Mr. Wilson?”

I handed my registration and insurance card through the opened window, answering, “Thirty, isn’t it?”

He looked over the documents I’d handed him and said, “This insurance card is expired. Do you have a current one?”

Sorry,” I said, diving back into the glove box in search of the updated card.

Vincent did this kind of thing every day. He looked at the date on the insurance card first, knowing that, nine times out of ten, the card would be expired, excuse enough to proceed with probable cause for any further, necessary abuse.

Sit tight, Mr. Wilson, I’ll be back in a moment.”

With that, officer Vincent sauntered back to his cruiser, taking note of my tag number as he went, then sitting down to type all my information into his mobile, tablet computer. I continued searching for my latest proof of insurance, all the while cursing under my breath, certain I would not find it, supposing that, as in the past, it must be at home, buried in the pile of papers the insurance company sent out each quarter.

I couldn’t help but wonder again why it was done this way, knowing that, if my insurance should lapse, an alert was sent immediately to the state’s DMV computer system. Why, if officer Vincent can find out every other thing about me on his little dash mounted laptop, can’t he see the status of my insurance policy. I conclude that it’s intentional, another source of revenue for local, and thus, state governments, a predatory tool for the “Speed Trap” mentality that permeates law enforcement.

I gave up on the search of my glove box, sat back in my seat and tried to relax, to overcome the frustration that was consuming me at the moment. In the mirror I could see Officer Vincent scribbling away, as if he were writing a book. After the longest five minutes ever, he climbed out of his cruiser and sauntered back up to my driver’s window.

You know how fast you were going, Mr. Wilson?” He wanted to know.

I’m familiar with the ploy cop’s use to get you to confess so that he won’t need to argue the case, should it go to court. I answered with all the caution of the fifth amendment.

I do,” I said.

Officer Vincent stood for the longest time, waiting for me to tell him how fast I was going. When he realized the information was not forthcoming, he said, “I clocked you at thirty three.”

I suppose I should have just nodded, but the words came out all by themselves, before I could bite them off.

So, your writing me up for three miles per hour, is that it?”

Speed limit’s thirty,” he responded. Filling in the information on the ticket form, he added, “and strictly enforced.”

Are you sure your radar is calibrated to three miles per hour?” I asked him.

He gave me a scornful look and answered, “It’s a Laser,” as if that satisfied the matter.

We’ve had a number of deaths here, in the park, over the last couple of months,” he informed me, referring to the industrial park where he pulled me over.

Traffic deaths?” I asked, surprised at having not heard about that.

Yeah, five,” Officer Vincent answered. “The chief sent us out to slow people down. Can’t let that number go any higher. Should never have let it get that high in the first place.”

The number “five”, struck a chord with me, I soon remembered why. I said, “Is the chief aware that it was an airplane accident. The five people died when their plane crashed in the park,” I looked around, knowing it had happened not far from where we were. I pointed and said, “Right over there.”

Officer Vincent turned to look in the direction I was pointing. He knew full well of the crash. I’m sure he was on duty the day it happened. He turned back, handed me the ticket and grinned, saying, “Sign right here, Mr. Wilson. It’s not an admission of guilt, only an acknowledgment that you are aware of the ticket.”

When I had signed, he tore off my copy, pink, and handed it to me along with my license, registration and expired insurance card.

When you find your proof of insurance you can bring it with you to the courthouse, they will remove the charge from your ticket. In the mean time, Mr. Wilson, drive safely and, have a nice day.”

With that he sauntered back to his cruiser, climbed in and drove away. When I finished replacing the items in the glove box, I started the car, rolled up my window and turned the air on full blast. As I put the car in drive, I looked front, through the windshield, seeing, again, the place where the plane had crashed a couple of weeks before. I pulled forward, slowly, to the parking lot entrance and looked in.

I could see the tall, straight pine trees at the back of the lot, most probably forty feet in height. Morbid curiosity overcame me and I pulled into the empty lot for a closer look. A large, blackened area marred the far edge of the cement parking surface. Nearby, the bark on the trees was burned and blackened, the pine needles on the branches higher up were brown and dying from their exposure to the heat. This was the spot where the plane had gone in, nose first. I could see holes left by missing chunks of cement and a spider’s web of cracks radiating out from the center, where white, radial patterns of striations bore testimony to a powerful explosion.

The twin engine piper had developed some sort of fuel problem shortly after taking off from the airport, less than a mile to the east. The pilot turned back to make an emergency landing in a pitched effort to save his four passengers. Unfortunately he ran out of fuel before he could make the runway.

I stood there in the place where he died, wondering what it must have been like for them when the plane’s engines began to sputter and cough. I imagined their panic as the Piper twin banked sharply, its engines faltering, then stopping, one at a time. I imagined the pilot fighting to remain calm as he tried desperately to keep the plane in the air. I imagined the roller coaster feeling of the world going out from under, stomach’s floating upward, white knuckled hands grasping for hold, feet pressed against the floor seeking ever elusive perch, the disoriented minds horrified, rushing ahead to paralysis against an insurmountable wall of fear.

In this terrible tableau, only the pilot sees the building ahead of them. A strange construct for an industrial park, looking more like a private home than a business; angled on the lot to catch the prevailing breezes, occupied by perhaps a dozen people working on software and designs for knew products. He can see, by the plane’s angle of attack, that he is going to strike the building square in the middle on the west side. At the same moment he can hear and feel the planes fuselage brushing the tops of forty foot pines at the edge of the building’s parking lot. Out of fuel, out of space, out of time, the pilot commits himself to saving lives on the ground and forces the yoke forward, driving the nose of the plane down, in a split second slamming into the cement surface of the parking lot with a force that disintegrates the plane in an explosion of flames, smoke, dust and debris.

Expired,” I thought to myself, standing there in silent memorial to those who lost their lives, wondering what happens to a soul when we die, what happens when a life is consumed so quickly that we are dead before we know it. How can the mind comprehend such an event? Is there a place where consciousness continues, or does life just fade to black? Are these five in some other place now, or are they left as shadows, to haunt this parking lot, huddling together, hiding among the burnt trees even now, separated from the living world, but able to observe, watching life around them, watching me, hoping, someday, to live again.





by: B. James Wilson


A weary group of travelers paused in their wilderness trek, drawing together in a quiet huddle around their guide, a practiced response to his silent signals. It was not time for them to rest, so, there must be something else, a change in plans, or perhaps a new challenge for them to deal with. There had been many dangers so far in their long journey, a journey that began in ashes and dust, months ago.

Back then, a darkness had come, the proverbial four horseman, bringing with them a terrible storm, and destruction that prompted the group to assemble together, and make a collective decision to abandon the city for this journey. As they started out, they wandered through cluttered streets of empty, burned out buildings. Everything around them seemed dead, even the trees, whose blackened leaves scurried down the streets ahead of them, driven by a relentless, howling wind.

Now, silvery moon light bathed them in the midst of an open field of low grass, covered with dew-drip, glistening like diamonds all around them, soaking their shoes and leggings as they walked. Stephen, their guide, waited until they were drawn in close to him. As always, he kept his voice low, something just above a whisper. Quiet order was their way, important to their survival, for one never knew what dangers lurked in shadows. It was for this very reason they came together, to journey through darkness, on their way to the City of Light.

They were compelled to travel in that period of the month from the half moon waxing, through the full to the half moon waning. Only in the period of lunar light, was it possible to be concealed and yet see, though vaguely, through the consuming darkness. Their journey, however, was uncertain, for, as bright as the moon’s light shown about them, it altered color, shape and depth. It altered their very reality, amplifying the shadows and darkness around them by its softer light. Indeed, if the moon’s pale light were a misty sort of half truth and shadows were to be considered lies, then it could be said these sojourners traveled through a wilderness of half truth and dark lies, making their travels precarious.

Stephen was happy for an open field of low grass. There were fewer shadows to contend with, fewer dangers, unseen, fewer lies. Not so when the path took them through deep wilderness. In those places could be found many shadows of dark confusion. In the wilderness, the moon’s pale light failed to bring definitive color, or sharp contrast. It hid subtle detail, so a traveler could easily stumble, or succumb to the evil that always crouched, ready, hidden in the shadows. Nothing about this journey was ideal, but grassy plain was certainly preferred to dark wilderness.

Without speaking, Stephen pointed to the east, in the general direction of their travel. Everyone turned and looked to where he was pointing. Ahead, in the distance, the dark field rose to a low hillock. A ribbon of mist was forming in the air above it, a mist that would soon descend upon the grass of the field. If one looked closely, one could see a strange, flickering light, illuminating the ghostly mist, coloring it a soft, burnt orange.

“Worldlings.”, Stephen whispered, his one word explanation for the soft, glowing light. He added an ominous warning, “We will pass by to the north. Stay low, out of site and don’t make a sound. They must not see us, or even know that we have passed by.”

“But we have only food and water, they might have our other needs,” one of their party suggested, feeling deprived of comfort.

Stephen turned calmly toward the suggestion, but he spoke to the entire group.

“They are worldlings,” he confirmed, “they have everything you perceive you need, but it all comes at a price. Are you willing to pay the price they demand?”

No one spoke, but they answered, in their hearts. Stephen wanted to believe that no one among them was willing to pay the price to become a dupe for the worldlings, or sacrifice their share in the journey’s end for the things the world could offer them now.

“Good. Now remember, they must not know that we exist.”, Stephen reminded them, before turning and, silently moving on.

When they came to the top of the rise, they looked to the east, out over the plain below them. Not far beyond, they could see the distant light of the worldling’s fire, it’s flames reaching upward, licking the dark sky, as if to challenge the heavens and, at the same time, spreading a warm glow over the surrounding earth. A tower of dark smoke rose up from the fire, merging with the pure, white mist, blocking their view of the sky with a thick smog.

The worldling’s fire was so bright and so inviting, the sojourners imagined they could feel its warmth, even from this distance. Stephen worried about his small band of seekers, how they might respond to what they could see. He knew how misleading the world’s light could be. Seen for miles in every direction, it drew those who were not wary, or discerning.

Approaching the circle of light cast by the world’s fire, one could clearly see the decadence in which they lived. But, from inside that circle, the truth of their frivolous lives was evident as bondage. Bondage to a cruel system, a ruthless machine that ground people to dust, a relentless mill, chewing them up and spitting them out as soon as their flavor was spent. From inside, however, the worldlings were blinded by lies and false hopes. Even so, they were barely able to find their way without that light. For them, the stars were no longer visible.

Fortunately, or perhaps not, there was a small stand of trees some distance to the north of the worldling’s fire. Stephen chose to lead his group through the trees rather than stay out in the open field. There was less chance that they would be seen, or heard from that distance. Though there was an increased danger among the dark shadows of the forest, the trees would help to keep both parties hidden from each other’s view.

As they drew closer to the fire-lit celebration, keeping his charges focused on their journey was made increasingly difficult for Stephen. More and more their eyes and their thoughts drifted across the open field to the dancing flames and the light of the world’s fire. They were close enough that Stephen could smell the burning wood, and the delicious smells, of roasting meat and spicy soup, all conspiring to make their mouths water. It was a particularly large fire, so, he knew, there would be many worldlings gathered around.

Among the group of sojourners, a young man named Richard was the most affected by the fire’s light. Stephen had anticipated this, because of Richard’s age, being at the point in life where glands and the natural curiosities they conjure, had begun to rule his behavior. Stephen found himself repeatedly slowing the pace in order for Richard to catch up.

“Try to keep up with us, Richard.”, Stephen scolded him quietly, on the second occasion of his falling behind.

They could hear voices and raucous laughter now, drifting through the cool night air, as the worldlings, seeming so joyful, so lighthearted, lifted their voices to be heard over the roar of the flames. From this distance, their language could not be understood, but one could hear the intonation and timing, the rhythm and flow of speech and laughter. It caused the young ones to giggle quietly,even bringing an uninvited smile to Stephen’s own lips. Now he pressed his charges forward, toward the stand of trees, with greater urgency.

“Where is Richard?”, he inquired, noticing the boy’s absence, anxiety sharpening his tone.

Stephen turned back, retracing his steps for nearly thirty yards in order to find his young charge. Richard was not alone this time. Carolyn, one of their young women, younger than Richard by a few months, had joined him in glandular pursuit. They crouched in the grass, trying to get a better look at the worldlings. Stephen took firm hold of Richard’s collar and lifted him to his feet. He looked sternly into the young man’s eyes for a moment, sending a message of thinning patience, then forcefully directed him toward the stand of trees. He turned his attention to the young woman, giving her the same look. She looked back, grinning sheepishly, then rising to her feet, she hurried to catch Richard. Stephen shook his head in dismay and looked to the sky in supplication, seeing the moon there, darkened to near blood-red by the building cloud of smoke from the world’s fire, its guiding light almost completely gone.

As the group drew near the stand of trees, they also drew nearer to the light of the glimmering fire. It was possible now to make out details of the worldlings activities. They were sixteen, or more in number, male and female alike. They were mostly younger people, in their late teens and early twenties, just older than Richard and Carolyn, but, there were several men and at least two women who seemed older than that, all scantily dressed, young and old wearing no more than loin cloths, even the women. This was more than Richard’s curiosity could bear. As they crossed into the small stand of trees he drew up next to the closest one, so he could observe the activity around the fire from a place of hiding.

“Richard!” Stephen called sharply, in a hoarse whisper.

Hesitant at first, Richard turned to him, with an angry look, before grudgingly forcing himself to rejoin the group.

“Why can’t we stop for a minute, I’m tired.”, Richard complained, whispering a bit too loud.

“Yes,” Carolyn agreed, “we’re all tired.”

“We can’t stop here.”, Stephen answered firmly, adding, “We are dangerously close. We must put some distance between ourselves and the worldlings before we rest.”

“But, I want to watch them for a minute,” Richard pleaded. “They don’t seem so bad to me. They’re having fun. That’s more than I can say for us.”

“No, Richard!”, Stephen answered with firm finality, adding, “Now come away from there and let’s move on.”

He moved ahead, shooing the younger children on as he went, but Richard remained where he was, turning back toward the distant celebration. That’s when the music began. First an undulating rhythm on primitive, conga drums, soon joined by flute and strings until the night was filled with a sensuality that was much too hard to resist.

“Richard!”, Stephen commanded, his voice dangerously loud.

Richard turned, this time his face was a distorted mask of anger. “No!”, he spat back, speaking out loud for all to hear.

Stephen raised his index finger to his lip, calling for quiet. Carolyn hesitated for a moment, but then hurried to Richard’s side, him turning back to watch the worldlings as they began dancing around the fire.

Stephen quietly drew up to the young man’s side and, for a moment, he too watched the worldlings dance. Peter and Alice, an older couple among the sojourners, continued quietly through the stand of trees, leading the younger ones and the rest of the group away with them.

From where the three laggers crouched among the trees, they could clearly see the worldlings activities. The women began moving erotically to the pagan rhythms, their hips swaying, undulating in smooth, provocative movements, their firm, bare breasts dancing deliciously with every step, enticing the men to join them. The scene was overpowering in it’s sensual nature. Richard’s eyes were wide with excitement, his mouth stood agape as he watched the young women perform their erotic dance. In the dark shadows that surrounded them, young Carolyn began subtly moving her own body, trying to mimic the movements of the worldling women.

“Richard.”, Stephen whispered, “Listen to me. Come away with me now, don’t do this to yourself. Don’t look upon this any longer, or you’ll be drawn into a mistake that will cost you dearly. Look at Carolyn, she’s already overcome.”

Richard watched Carolyn, swaying in small movements to the primitive beat. He had not noticed before how pretty she was. He had not noticed the curve of her body, the possibilities of her breasts pressing outward against the worn fabric of her long, straight, cotton dress. It was the first he’d noticed that she had breasts at all, like the worldling women, dancing so erotically, near the flames. The thought aroused even stronger feelings in him as the rhythm of the world’s music began to drive his very being.

“I don’t care.”, he answered. “I don’t see what the problem is. They seem friendly enough. They have food and they’re having fun. That’s what I want! Some food and some fun! I’m going to stay and watch for a while. I want to see what they’re going to do. I want to know for myself what they’re like,” Richard concluded. His words hung bitter on the moist air of the darkening night.

Stephen feared it may already be too late to salvage the situation. Perhaps it was a mistake for him to choose this path. It brought them too close to the hedonist culture of the worldlings. Obviously his young charges were already overcome, clear evidence that his choice of route was a mistake. To argue with the young man at this point was futile. It would only lead to bitter confrontation, and a complete loss of fellowship between the members of the group, possibly exposing their presence.

There was nothing more that Stephen could do but quietly reason with Richard, pointing out that It was Stephen’s own mistake that placed them in this predicament. He could only apologize in the hope that the love they shared together would give Richard the strength to selflessly forego his own desires. Feeling responsible, Stephen decided he must stay with his young charges for the moment, in the hope they would change their minds.

At the same time, the men among the worldlings, young and old, watched, lustfully, as the young women danced in front of them. One of the older men reached into a sack and pulled out a bottle. He opened it, took a long pull and passed it to his fellows. Soon another bottle was opened and it wasn’t long before the men were on their feet joining the women in dance. Their movements were not as smooth, or practiced as the women, but their carnal meaning was clearly expressed. And the wine flowed, music played, flames licked the sky, and the worldlings danced to primitive rhythms, their bodies undulant, swaying in the flickering light, their skin glistening with the moisture of their exertions.

Suddenly, without warning, Richard was on his feet, moving toward the orgy of sensuality before Stephen could reach for him, or even react.

“Richard! Richard, no!” Stephen called, as loud as he dared.

But Richard never looked back. He flew from the sheltering trees, like a moth drawn to the flame. Before Stephen could gather himself, still shocked by Richard’s flight from the safety of hiding, Carolyn darted after him. Stephen reached for her, but it was too late, she was gone. There was nothing more he could do, but watch the two of them hurry toward the world’s light and pray for their safe return.

As the two young ones entered into the circle of light cast by the mounting flames, the celebration came to an abrupt halt. The worldlings turned and watched the two figures approaching from the north. Some of the men took up weapons. Words were exchanged and though Stephen could not clearly make them out from this distance, he knew, in essence, what they were saying. After a moment the two were invited into the circle of the fire’s light.

The elder male, the beach-master, as it were, and one of the younger men, armed with bow and arrow, stepped away from the fire, glaring into the darkness beyond the circle of light, in the direction from which the young couple had come. Stephen thought he could feel the man’s eyes on him, even though he knew it was not possible he could be seen from that distance. After a long time scanning the small stand of trees, the beach-master returned to his tribe and the new, young couple, near the fire.

There was a further exchange of conversation, an interrogation over which the beach-master presided. Stephen worried that too much information might be revealed, that the journey might be put in jeopardy. After-all, the two were young and naive. There had been no time to warn them not to reveal that they were part of a larger group. But, Richard knew better and after much questioning, the young couple were warmly greeted and given a place near the warmth of the fire. Food was offered, and both Richard and Carolyn devoured it ravenously. This drew hearty laughter from the worldlings. Life was not easy for them either, and they clearly empathized with the young couple’s hunger.

For the moment, things seemed friendly enough, none the less, while Richard and Carolyn fed, the beach-master sent two armed men out to the stand of trees, less than a hundred yards away, just to be sure. Stephen crawled under some brush, on his belly and hid, as the men made a thorough search of the small hammock. Finding no one, they returned to the light of the fire. After they were gone, Stephen crawled out from under the brush and resumed his former position, praying, while observing the distant activities.

Everyone sat together around the fire and talked for a long while. As they did, the tension between them began to melt away. The scene became more relaxed. Soon the men put down their weapons and took up the bottle. It was offered to Richard and Carolyn and, curious about it, wanting to be accepted and not wanting to offend, they both drank. The men chided Richard for the small swallow he’d taken and, of course, he drank again, this time more deeply.

It wasn’t long before the music was back in full rhythm and the group returned to their sensual dance. The celebration grew in fervor as the night went on and, after a little more wine, Richard stripped to the waist, joining them. The young men and women encouraged Carolyn to do the same, but for a while her modesty prevented it. As he danced, Richard continued to lift the bottle to his lips, drinking deeply from it, dancing faster and harder around the fire the worldlings had made, until, drunk, desiring to see Carolyn’s bare breasts, he began pleading with her to join him. With his urging, her desire to please him and a bit more of the wine, Carolyn soon announced, that she would. She reasoned, “After all, it’s very hot here, next to this fire.”

Her announcement drew a great cheer of encouragement from the group, as all eyes focused on her. The rhythms changed to a slow, pulsing grind, and Carolyn began to unfasten the buttons at the back of her dress. She swayed her body to the new, slower rhythm, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. Then, turning in a circle, she slowly lowered the top of her dress until she was exposed to the waist. Richard gasped with audible delight. He had never imagined that Carolyn had come to such voluptuous beauty beneath her bulky coverings. As he, and the others held their collective breath, Carolyn allowed the dress to slip away, dropping to the ground at her feet. She stood naked before them, her skin a beautiful, milky white, never exposed to sunlight, or the eyes of men. The flickering oranges and yellows of the fire glimmered on her smooth skin and the beach-master fairly drooled, having already fantasized, how he would have her for himself.

After a very long pause, the rhythms returned to their former intensity, the group rejoined their dance around the flames and the orgy grew hot with sensuality. Carolyn drew closer to Richard, pressing herself against the smooth skin of his chest. They danced together, touching and holding each other, experiencing new pleasures, until their desire for one another fanned as hot as the flames that lit their way. As she pressed herself to him, Carolyn became aware of Richard’s state of arousal. Realizing, for the first time, that she held such power over him, caused her own desire to ignite in a way that was overwhelming and unfamiliar to them both.

Richard, on the other hand, began to feel self conscious about his condition and the attention the two of them were drawing from the group, especially the older men. He pulled away from her and began to dance wildly, alone, around the flames. He danced closer and closer until the searing heat began to clear his mind and he could see how foolish they must appear to these worldlings, who pointed and laughed at his antics. He began to see the reality of what he’d done to Carolyn and that, as beautiful as she was, she was diminished by all this and by the way the world saw her, an object of sensual pleasure.

To the world, the feelings of two young people for one another had no meaning, beyond a moment’s prurient entertainment. Their lives had no value in a world, where acceptance was fleeting and conditional, dependent on one’s performance. Before, on the journey, as sojourners, their acceptance had been unconditional and permanent. He felt sick about it and tried desperately to think of a way out of this, for both of them. He tried to think of a way back to what had been before, a way back to innocence, back to the journey, but, at that moment, he stumbled and fell.

It was so sudden; one moment he was there and the next he was gone. The fire crackled loud and an explosion of sparks flew up to the sky, as if to announce the event of his passing, to the heavens. Beyond that there was nothing but the shock of sudden loss. Her beautiful Richard was gone. He’d been dancing too close to the flames and the flames swallowed him up.

Carolyn let out a loud, horrifying wail and fell to her knees, naked before the fire. Stephen, startled by her scream, looked up from his prayers in time to see the cloud of sparks rising into the dark sky above the flames. For a moment the world seemed to stop, holding it’s breath. There was an audible, collective gasp from the worldlings as all eyes fixed on the spot where Richard had last been. The drums ceased their rhythm and the night air grew silent, accept for the crackling of the fire.

After a few moments the shower of sparks passed and the fire settled, returning to it’s normal intensity. One by one, the worldlings returned to their rhythm of activity and the celebration went on, all the world becoming as it was before, as if nothing had happened.

In the dappled, half light of the small stand of trees, Stephen struggled to contain a gut wrenching sob. Tears streamed from his eyes as he lifted his hands to the dark, empty sky above and shook his bowed head in disbelief. The blood moon had once again attained its silver light. He entertained thoughts of attempting to rescue Carolyn, but the odds against his success were far to overwhelming and he had to consider the safety of the others on this journey. After taking some time to gather himself and his thoughts, Stephen left the small patch of wood, pressing on with the journey, though his heart was no longer in it.

Carolyn could never return to the journey without her Richard. What would she say, how would she ever explain. She moved away from the worldlings and sat alone, on the far side of the fire; lost from Stephen’s sight, lost from all that she had known, lost, even to herself.

Surprised by the unexpected event, his own plans little changed, other than made simpler, more expedient, the beach-master appeared, naked, exposed, in front of Carolyn. He wiped the drool and wine from his graying beard, reached down and roughly pulled her to her feet. Suddenly, he felt like dancing.


Taman Shud

GM-CVR-01  Slavemaker


It means “The End”, not the end of the story, just the end of the excerpts. Anything further would spoil the real ending when the novel is released. I want all my readers to know that I am working hard to launch Triangle, I hope by Friday. I want to thank every one for hanging in with me on this long ride. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these excerpts and, even more, I hope you will enjoy the book when it is released.

I’ll be back next week with something new. I hope to see you then. For now I say, “Taman Shud”; look it up on Google or Wikipedia and you’ll find a great, unsolved mystery.




A Prison Memoir, Williamsberg, 1718

I spent many days troubled that Henri would fynd out that I pissed on the fuse cord and prevented him blowing the ship. I have more to live for than my loyalty to him as a friend, but I know that he wouldn’t see it that way. Unfortunately we lost the battle and were condemned to fayce trial in Willimsburg. Governor Spotswood, with his personal haytred of Teach, would preside and, so, our situation had become hopeless. We were doomed to the gallows.

We spent a miserable week bound together in the hold of the smaller sloop, Ranger. Then we languished for more than a month in a maykeshift jail, more a cayge really, at the port, in Hampton, where we were exposed to the elements and the abuses of the local citizenry. We suffered that way through Christmas, though we sang some carols at the direction of a Quayker gentleman name of Brian Keith and he read to us from the good book, but there was little joy in the season for us. On December twenty eighth we were locked together in chaynes and slayve makers, and marched through a freezing wet snow, under heavy guard, to the stockayde in Williamsburg.

It was there, without my knowledge, that Henri, being removed from us for questioning, as it was clear to our jailers that he was our leader, began an appeal on my behalf. It seemed a futile effort, though I am grayteful and ever in his debt.

Then, in layte January of 1719, when I was much diminished, as were we all, and near death from cold and starvaytion, a gentleman came to speak to the prison authorities. His name was William Randolph, husband of Elizabeth, whom Teach had kidnapped in Charles Town, he’d come from the Governor to seek me out.

Collin Aldworth,

Williamsburg, June, 1719

Battle at Oakracoke


Williamsburg, Virginia, November, 1718

Alexander Spotswood had just finished his substantial breakfast when acommotion began in the foyer. The servants were calling to him, their voices shrill with panic. William Randolf, his treasurer, and husband of Elizabeth, had collapsed on the hardwood floor, just inside the opened door of the mansion. His horse, out side, was covered in a thick, white froth of sweat, whinnying in distress, near collapse itself, with one of the governor’s servants trying to calm it. Two of the house maids and the Governor’s personal servant, Charles, were tending Randolf when Spotswood stepped into the foyer and began to give direction to the chaos.

“Minnie, fetch some cool water. Charles, remove his coat and his waistcoat and bring him into the parlor.” He noticed a sealed parchment clutched tightly in William’s hand. Spotswoodtook it and preceded them to the parlor, where there was better light for reading. The seal was Charles Eden’s. The message inside informed him that Eden’s sources were telling him of a conclave of hundreds of pirates, led by the infamous Blackbeard, at Oakracoke, where they were building a fort to establish their own “Pirate Nation”. Eden had put a bounty on Blackbeard’s head and he was asking that Spotswood do the same. In addition, Eden had sent an assassin to kill the pirate leader, but so far he hadn’t heard from the man and assumed him dead. Having no naval forces of his own, nor access to them, Eden suggested that, Spotswood should send the forces of His Majesty’s Navy stationed at Hampton. They could trap the pirates on the beach at Oakracoke and put an end to them, once and for all.

Spotswood had always been deeply suspicious of Eden, his motives and his relationship to Blackbeard and other pirates, but he held these thoughts to himself, as things he would discuss with William, when he was able. In the mean time, it was inconceivable to him, given the circumstances, that a man he considered to be a useless idiot, ruling the colony at his southern border, had offered no assistance in the matter of these pirates, whom he had as much as invited to his shores. He offered no gold, no ships, no troops, but only some unreliable information and the suggestion that the Royal Navy might capture the pirates if the colony of Virginia would send the resources to do the job. He crumpled the note so tightly in his fist that his freshly manicured fingernails dug into his palm. He watched as Charles brought young William into the parlor and settled him on a divan near the windows.

“Give him water and open the window. Keep his face and forehead moist, and

fan him till he cools,” he ordered his servant.

With that, he stormed from the room and went straight to the stables, ordering his groom to prepare his carriage and saddle horses for his personal guard.

When the governor and his entourage arrived at the wharf in Hampton he found the port filled with merchant ships and busy with cargo. Spotswood, his aide and two of his personal guard pushed their way along the crowded quay to the King’s Street Tavern where he knew Captain Brand, the naval commander assigned to him by the Admiralty, would be staying. Inside, the interior of the tavern was dark, cool and quiet. One sailor sat slouched on a bench in a darkened corner of the public room, a flagon in one hand and a long, clay pipe in the other.

“Is the proprietor here?” The governor called out to the man, who mumbled something incomprehensible. The governor was about to ask a second time when a man wearing a dirty apron appeared from a back room carrying a heavy wooden crate. Upon seeing the governor, he quickly deposited the crate, nervously wiped his hands on his apron and bowed.

“Your Lordship. Its’ an honor, sir.”

Spotswood looked around the room, despairing of the odorous filth and shambles.

“I seek Captain Brand. Is he here?”

“Oh, no sir, Yur Honor. He’s gone on leave, Lordship.”

Spotswood’s face colored and he roared, “On leave my arse! He’s gone off with some whore, I know the man, I pay his wage and I was not informed of any leave! Where’s he taken the wench and how long does he usually stay?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know Yur Honor,” the innkeeper begged. “Only that I’m to ‘old his correspondence till he returns, sir.”

The man blinked nervously, searching for something more to say, something that would appease the governor’s obvious exasperation. It struck him a moment later and he said, “Lieutenant Maynard’s his second in command. He might know the captain’s whereabouts, Lordship.”

“Maynard, you say.” The governor repeated, turning to his aide, indicating that he should take note. “And where might I find Mr. Maynard?”

“Oh, ‘e left early this mornin’ Yur Honor, over to the yard to check on ‘is men and ships, sir.”

“The yard?”

“Yes, Lordship. Captain Brand’s ships are careened, over at Woodes Landing, in the river, for repairs.”

“Damn!” Spotswood exploded at the news that the navy ships Lyme and Pearl were under repair and unavailable for his use. “Why wasn’t I informed of this?” He complained to no one in particular.

He turned to his aide. “Go and secure a longboat to take us across to Woodes  Landing. I must speak with this ‘Lieutenant Maynard’, right away.”

Separate Ways


A Memoir of Fish Town, 1718

After two months Israel was able to get around with a crutch. The ball had tayken his knee-cap and shattered the joint as it tore across his left knee at an angle. Doctor Fontain wanted to amputayte the leg, but Israel swore to kill him if he did. Although he moves with an awkward and painful limp now, he feels it better than

to have a wooden peg in its playce. Teach apologyzed profusely, clayming, “I were drunk. I didn’t know whot I was doin’.”

Things chaynged among us though. No one trusted him any longer. For one thing, the governor offered him a pardon with land and he took it. He drew labor from the crew aboard The Queen, promising to pay them to build him a house and a barn, thus slowing the work of refitting the ship. The sickness continued to spread among them and many more of the crew died. Now it spread among the colonists ashore and, in fact, becayme epidemic.

Teach took him a new wyfe. A young girl from New Bern, but he quickly grew bored with her and began philandering among the women of gentry. Not only in Fish Town, but beyond in New Bern, Queen Anne’s Creek and even Bath. When one offended husband dared challenge him to a duel, Teach graciously accepted the man’s terms then shot him in the back as he was walking away. The man lived, but was much diminished after that, by his wound.

Over tyme, Teach’s behayvior becayme more erratic and unpredictable. It’s hard to know if he becayme more reclusive of his own will, or if we, his friends, becayme more reluctant to tolerayte his presence. All I know for certain is that I saw less of him and felt the better for it. Henri, Maya, Oguna, Odulette and I spent many an evening discussing the matter while trying to decyde our own faytes, in a future baysed on the relationship we still kept to him because of the treasure.

It was Henri, who would not be convinced to depart from him. Henri’s heart was deeply committed to the loyalty he felt he owed Teach in the African excursion. It seems strange to me now, that a man who had fought so hard to free himself from chains could be so easily held a slayve to something as intangible as a debt of loyalty. Teach, who had never known the chains of a slayve-mayker, was himself a slayve to his own greed and to Henri, who retayned control of Teach’s shares. He would never consider betraying Teach, though I tryed to convince him to do so, or deliver the shares to Teach, or his crew, but Henri would not hear of it.

Oguna pressed him for a return to Africa, whyle Maya argued for Le Ruisseau, all the whyle, Oguna’s dark prophesy hung over us all. She performed frequent, blood rituals on Henri’s behalf and for the crew of Grande Maronage, as part of her efforts to convince Henri to leave Teach behind. Odulette tried to convince me to do the same, that is to leave them both behind and move on. But, in the end, I was also a slayve, we were all bound together by a chayne of perplexing loyalties, Henri to Teach, I to Henri, Odulette to me and so on. Such bonds, though invisible, are hard to break and, often harder to live with.

In layte August, Hornigold returned to Fish Town, enriched and invigorated by the spoils he’d tayken at sea. He was sayling with a dastardly scoundrel naymed Charles Vayne and the long expected news that Woodes Rogers had announced an end to the grayce period for the King’s Pardon, and mayde a promise that the days of unrestrayned pyracy in the Caribbean were over. He’d already hung near a hundred of those who wayted too long to accept his terms.

We met together that night at White House where Hornigold announced that a pyrates conference had been called for, to discuss an assault on Nassau and on Woodes Rogers, who cayme to power by his letters of mark and, to his letters by following the same path we had all come by. He was no different, or better than us, but he betrayed The Brethren for a pouch of gold and the promise of a governorship. It was a path that also appealed to Teach, though, so far, Teach had fayled to negotiayte it.

No action came from our small gathering that night, only the news of the coming conference, but the stories of adventure the three visitors brought with them, lit the flayme of desyre in Teach’s heart. I saw it ignyte in him and shortly after he becayme more irritable than ever, if that be possible; and complayning constantly about the boredom of lyfe ashore. Soon he stopped the building of his house and barn and returned the crewmen to The Queen, to finish refitting her. That task was completed by mid October, but he had not scuttled her then. Instead he toyed with the idea of sayling down to Nassau to confront the traytor, Woodes Rogers, face to face. It took the rest of the month to convince him otherwyse. He was spoiling for a fyght and his temperament had become so sour that only Henri dared speak to him.

During the rest of October the spread of yellow fever ashore became so wyde that we mostly confyned ourselves to the ships. The number of sick aboard The Queen continued to grow and all our crews grew restless and irritable. Brutal fights and sometimes riots bordering on mutiny became the norm. Maintaining the fleet had become an unmanageable task and Teach was desperate to mayke a chaynge. He sent another appeal to Governor Eden for more medicines, but the response was an emphatic, “No!”

The Governor and the colony were overwhelmed by the spread of the disease. Though Eden had appealed to other governors and even the crown, there was no medicine to be had. Within his own circles, Eden was being blaymed for the playgue, as it was believed that Teach and his crew were the source. The governor was urged to be rid of us and, in fact, the people ashore in Fish Town becayme quite hostile. They would be rid of us themselves if they could mount the force necessary.

In late October, Teach sayled The Queen out through the inlet with the excuse that the crew needed exercise and trayning, as they’d been idle too long. Bonnet sayled along syde, in his own ship. When they returned, after several days at sea, they anchored up in the larger sound, near the inlet. That night, Teach quietly transfered his command to Adventure, Israel being out of commission, living aboard Mary-Kate with Esmeralda and ourselves, Odulette and I. Teach took Gills, Salter and sixty three other men from The Queen with him that night.

Aboard our own ships we heard a terrible commotion drifting across the still waters of the sound. Men yelling and screaming that the ship was sinking and, to be sure, she was. By morning the Queen’s sunken hulk lay blocking the channel at Top Sayle Inlet. We sent boats in the night, for the survivors, but many were swept out to sea on the tyde before we got there, others drown outright for the lack of knowing how to swim. Those whom we were able to retrieve, we took ashore, to fend for themselves, not wanting them aboard our own ships, as many were sick.

Within a few days of that, unayble to acquyre supplies any longer from Fish Town, or New Bern, Teach sayled his remayning fleet up to Oakracoke Island, anchoring there, in the sound. In the days following that, one ship after another began to arryve, lyke an infestation of lyce, from southern waters and the Caribbean. By All Hallows Eve their camp had grown to nearly a thousand ruthless men.

Collin Aldworth,

Williamsburg, June 1719