Pass The Pen
Chapter Twenty - Five: Ghost Ship
by Olivia

******

"Mr. Bracegirdle, can't you see it is working? It doesn't matter how,
as long as it works. And of course the Indy should come back within
sight soon now we've slowed this lady down. Come help me with those
other sails, the slower the better."

"Mr. Hornblower."

"Yes Mr. Shelley?"

"Don't you think it is time for `plan B'?"

"You are absolutely right, Mr. Shelley, be my guest!"

******

With Mr Shelley leading the charge, the three men surreptitiously
made their way to the anchor deck where the windlass and gear were
stationed. Plan B involved releasing the anchor, thereby bringing the
La Morte Noire to a definite stop. Fortunately, the La Morte Noire
had not sailed too far from shallow water, which afforded ample cable
length for the anchor to claw the sea-bed below.

"Ready, on the count of three" whispered Morton Shelley, as the men
took their place around the capstan.

"One, two, three" they chanted, and in synchronistic fashion they
turned the spindle, which gradually brought the anchor down, breaking
the translucent surface of the water, and taking hold of the rocky
hard surface below.

Shelley et al did not expect the anchor to pass out of its bowels
unnoticed; the plan had merely served to buy time until the Indy
could catch up and lay its British hands on the La Morte Noire.

Within moments, as they expected, they heard the cries of confusion
above deck as to "who in God's name had issued orders for the top
sails to be taken up and the anchor to be released." The news
that "the British prisoner had been set free" and "there were others
lurking about" transpired like fire throughout the ship, and before
the three men had time to flee the scene of Plan B, they heard the
fierce footsteps of furious Frogs firing behind the anchor deck door.

Shelley madly jabbed his finger in three different directions and
dived to a place of hiding a split second before the anchor deck door
flew open to the unwelcome heavy spray of bullets.

Meanwhile, as the British-French trio squirmed like rats for their
life, Kennedy, Bowles and Pellew stood on the Indy feeling elated
that they had been given an irrefutable sign that La Morte Noire was
under British control. "She's laid her anchor, Sir" reported Mr
Bowles.

"Very good, Mr Bowles, we'll catch up with her soon enough"
acknowledged Pellew. "Prepare to broadside her, Mr Kennedy!"

"Aye aye Sir!" said Kennedy, and hoarsely parroted the orders to the
gun crew.

Mr Bowles kept his eye trained on the spyglass for any changes in
development. Though the fog was heavy, he noticed something unusual
on the horizon. "Sir..." he began.

"What is it, Mr Bowles?"

"There's another flagship on the horizon, Sir...it's another French
flagship Sir."

Pellew snatched the spyglass to make his own observation. Indeed, it
was a French flagship making speedy headway towards the impending
scene of battle. But there was something peculiar about the way this
ship moved...it didn't seem to sail so much as to glide upon the
water...

"Keep an eye on her Mr Bowles, and report to me on any progress. I'll
be damned if I'm forced to make a retreat now."

"Aye aye Sir" said Mr Bowles, and trained his eye through the
spyglass. "Sir..." he said.

"Yes, what now?"

"She's gone Sir."

"Gone?" Pellew squinted his eyes through the fog and indeed could not
observe any sign of the French flagship. But then, this was very
heavy fog, and disappearances like that were hardly unusual. They
would just have to tread wearily as they approached the La Morte
Noire.

The Indy smoothly made its way to face the La Morte Noire and
prepared to open fire. Orders for a sweeping broadside attack were
about to be issued. "READY, AIM, F-ENEMY SHIP DEAD ASTERN!!!"

A screaming canon shot flew overhead and crippled the top mast of the
Indy, sending splinters of shrapnel to come down like shooting arrows
on the crew below.

"Return fire! Return fire!" shouted Pellew. He could see the French
flagship making a speedy retreat and wasn't going to let this one get
away. As the enemy ship rounded on the Indy through the fog, Pellew
saw the name printed in bright blood lettering on her hull *Soleil
Royal*.

For the first time in years, Pellew felt nervous. "Mr Bowles, what is
the name of that ship?"

"Soleil Royal Sir...but that's impossible!"

And on that note, the Soleil Royal disappeared into a cloud of smoke.