"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 25 New Bedford/Mattaponsett, Massachusetts…1884 P292~316

MacDonald climbed down from the foremast and
wiping his hands on his trousers looked aloft at the mast
and yards he had just descended from. Work to do, that
much was for sure, a lot of work. Looking about, he
spotted the third mate and motioned for him to come
over.

“Danny let’s get those foremast and mizzenmast
shrouds cathapined,” he said referring to the lower
rigging. “And let’s get a tye block rigged on that topsail
yard,” said MacDonald pointing.

Higgins nodded, “I’ll get some men on it, don’t you
worry.”

MacDonald grinned, “I’m not Danny, if I trust anybody
to get this work done, it’s you.” Young Higgins had
handled the fact well that Dunn was second mate instead
of himself. He understood his lack of experience in ice
filled waters and accepted it. Besides, MacDonald had
assured him of the position when they returned. Leaving
Higgins to his work, MacDonald went to the galley where
he found Ed, the ship’s cook, peeling potatoes.

Ed had been with the ship for what seemed like forever.
A whaleman who was getting too old to work the boats,
he accepted Mason’s offer for the temporary position of
cook and just…stayed. He proved to be a wealth of
knowledge and if anyone had a question or a problem,
the old cook usually had an answer.

“Hey Ed,” said MacDonald, “got any coffee?”

The cook jerked his head over his left shoulder to a
blue enamel coffee pot. Taking a tin cup from a hook,
MacDonald poured himself some and after taking a small
sip, grimaced. Ed made the worst coffee he’d ever tasted.

“How’s things aloft?” asked Ed.

MacDonald shrugged his shoulders. “I got Higgins
working on the fore and mizzen shrouds and rigging a
tye block to the main topsail yard.”

“That’s good,” said Ed. “You might wanna rig some
double trusses on them there lower yards as well Mr.
MacDonald.”

The mate smiled, “That’s a good idea, thanks Ed.”

The cook shrugged, “Makes it easier for the crew and
ya know how heavy that canvas is gonna be.”

“What’s for lunch?”

“Pea soup, bacon and boiled potatoes,” answered the
cook in a matter of fact way.

“That’s gonna hit the spot, especially in this weather.”

“Hot food will keep’em working,” said Ed. “Oh, Mr.
MacDonald, afore I forget, please tell your wife thanks
for them recipes, I’m gonna use ‘em this time out.”

“No problem Ed, she knows you take pride in your
work,” said MacDonald. “Hey Ed, what’s the longest you
ever spent with the Greenland fishery?”

The cook thought for a moment, “Three years the first
time, two years the second time.”

“Christ, that’s a long time. What the hell did you do
when ya wasn’t working?” asked the first mate.

“Worked on my scrimshaw, got laid.”

MacDonald laughed and threw the dregs of his coffee
into a waste barrel, “I’m going back on deck Ed, nice
talking to ya.”

“Always a pleasure Mr. MacDonald,” said the old cook.

Feeling better, MacDonald walked about the deck,
observing the men working at the various tasks before
and occasionally offering advice or brute strength when
needed. On deck he could hear Dunn speaking to the
ship’s carpenter, Anton McKee.

“We’re carrying livestock on this trip, Mr. McKee, these
pens are gonna have to be stronger.”

“I know Mr. Dunn, but why don’t we just put them dogs
below forward?”

Dunn sighed he had had this conversation before and
patiently explained again. “The dogs need fresh air
McKee, if they don’t get it they’ll die and dead dogs ain’t
gonna help us where we’re going, at least not in the
beginning.”

“Yeah, I know that Mr. Dunn, but still…”

“So we got to keep the dogs on deck see? We’re also
carrying three pigs, two goats and some chickens. If
them dogs get in with them, we ain’t gonna have ‘em
anymore, so reinforce them pens, or them dogs are gonna
have a fuckin’ heyday.”

“Yes Mr. Dunn,” said the carpenter.

“Mr. Dunn,” said MacDonald approaching him. The
second mate turned and smiled, “Mr. MacDonald, I trust
you’re as busy as I?”

“Don’t you know it, is everything alright?”

Dunn nodded, “Yeah, things are moving along, they’re
getting done.”

“How’s your sister?” asked MacDonald.

“She’s fine, Aesop. Thanks to that money ya put into
the bank, she don’t need to live with pa or Jabez and
she’s happy about that.”

“I’m glad to hear it, listen I know you’ve been working
on the ship a lot, why don’t ya take some time off and go
see her?”

Dunn shook his head, “She’s happy where she’s at and
I’m happy here, no point in spoiling a good thing.”

“Ok,” said MacDonald, “not a problem. Why don’t ya
come over to the house for dinner? Bess would sure like
to see ya.”

Dunn shook his head again, “Naw, you spend time with
your wife. You don’t need some broken down mate on
your doorstep.”

“Oh that’s nonsense, come on Isaac, she’d really like to
see ya, she’ll make you anything you want.”

Dunn thought for a moment. “You know,” he said,
“That ham she cooked up was sure good.”

MacDonald smiled, “Then we’ll have a ham, that ain’t
no problem, anything else?”

“Some corn, maybe some of that fine apple pie she
made up and…” Dunn looked about before speaking in a
low voice, “some good coffee, that stuff Ed makes would
gag a goat.”

“I can’t argue with you on that one,” said the black man.
“How’s Tuesday sound?”

“Tuesday will be good, I’m leaving on Thursday.”

“Tuesday it is then, bring a big appetite,” said
MacDonald.

Mason sat in his cabin feeling fortunate that the light
coming through the stern windows was enough for him to
do his work, reviewing all the papers scattered about his
chart table was monotonous enough as it was, to do it by
lamp light would have more annoying than the task
already at hand, of that he was sure. As it was he sighed
and pulled the first sheet of many to go over, the crew
listing for the SHY LADY.

NAME RATING
Jon Mason
Aesop MacDonald
Isaac Dunn
Daniel Higgins
Rolf Denhard
Alec Smith
James Black
Richard Walker
David Sanders
Ian McKee
Virgil Smith
Sidney Jones
Robert Visser
Edward Dana
John Davis
Dan Crown
Rolf Braun
Henry Schultz
Antonio Grubber
Dick Goodman
Giorgio Sherman
Jasper Oaks
Ray Irwin
Charles Rivers
Alfred Burger
Joseph Michaels
Timothy Reiner
Jack Hollister
Master
Mate
2nd Mate/Ice Master
3rd Mate
Boat Steerer
Boat Steerer
Boat Steerer
Boat Steerer
Sail maker
Carpenter
Cooper
2nd Cooper
Iron smith
Cook
Seaman
Seaman
Seaman
Ordinary Seaman
Ordinary Seaman
Landsman
Landsman
Seaman
Landsman
Landsman
Steward
Ordinary Seaman
Ship’s boy
Passenger

On the whole, it didn’t look like a bad crew for what
they were about to attempt, most of them had experience
and some had shipped out aboard the SHY LADY before
and knew what to expect as far as Mason and his officers
were concerned and those that didn’t would learn quick
enough, of that he was sure. The list had more landsmen
then he usually liked to carry aboard for such a job, but
that couldn’t be helped, they would have to make do with
what they had and hope for the best. He wasn’t too
happy about bringing this Hollister fellow aboard, but
Roland had insisted. He wanted a writer’s flare and he
was footing the bill for this adventure, as he reminded
Mason. He couldn’t argue with that and in the end just
decided to keep an open mind about the whole thing, who
knows, he might be useful after all.

The next list that required his attention was the list of
provisions they would be bringing with them. It was
enough for 29 men for 15 months. They didn’t plan on
being gone that long, but they knew they would have to
feed the natives that would help them and from the past
histories Jones had provided as well as the tales of
MacDonald and Dunn, Mason was convinced that he had
no desire to starve in the high north.

40 barrels of salt beef
30 barrels of flour
500 pounds medium bread
6 barrels of sugar
50 bushels of corn
450 pounds pork
500 pounds coffee
12 bushels beans
3 barrels salt mackerel
150 bottles of whiskey
50 bottles of red wine
30 barrels of beer
150 pounds potatoes
8 smoked hams
11 crocs of butter
2000 matches
1500 gallons of kerosene
2 barrels of apples
100 barrels of salt pork
3000 pounds pilot bread
7 hogsheads of molasses
8 barrels of pickles
20 barrels dried corn meal
4 boxes of tea
5 barrels vinegar
3 tierces rice
l 5 quintals of salt cod
25 bottles of brandy
30 bottles of white wine
26 bottles of vodka
150 pounds onions
10 blocks of cheese
52 pounds tobacco
3 tons of coal
2000 pounds lard
5 barrels of lemon juice

Livestock would consist of three pigs, two goats and
five chickens, not to mention the load of snarling dogs
they would be bringing with them, as well as the 200
bales of straw and extra corn and corn meal. Mason had
to give the people in New York credit the crew would eat
well on this trip. He made a note for MacDonald to order
an additional 50 bales of straw and have it delivered to
the ship, he had a feeling the animals were going to need
it, probably wouldn’t hurt for the crew either, straw was
a good insulator. The next list consisted of trade items:

10 iron skillets
40 wool blankets
20 knives
20 tin plates
400 matches
20 combs
15 flints/strikers
10 iron harpoons
10 iron lances
1 box of tea
3 bone saws
16 knit wool caps (green)
5 tea kettles
20 pounds tobacco
25 tin cups
20 bowls
10 mirrors
30 red ribbons
30 blue ribbons
30 yellow ribbons
50 pounds coffee
6 lanterns
4 meat cleavers
16 knit wool mittens (green)

Mason thought it was enough, he knew the crew would
be trading their own items and he really wasn’t too
worried about it. He did wonder who added the wool caps
and mittens, he’d have to ask MacDonald about that one,
it sure stumped him.

The third list was actually a receipt of goods purchased
from an arms dealer in Pittsburgh. The items had
arrived just yesterday morning. They were inspected by
Mason and MacDonald and stowed under the supervision
of Dunn. The receipt with the heading of “Crackling
Brothers, Inc.” at the top, contained the following:

Item Qty
Old Model Army Revolver
Forehand and Wadsworth
New Model Revolver
Short Barrel Hopkins and Allen
Frontier Revolver XL No.8
1863 Sharps Carbine
Converted-50-70 Center Fire
Ammunition———–
.44 caliber rounds
.45 caliber rounds
Sharps Carbine 50-70
2

2

2

20

500 rounds
500 rounds
2300 rounds

Seeing all the fire power and ammunition that was
listed caused Macdonald to comment, “Christ Jon, who’s
war we gonna fight? Do you really think we need all
this?”

Mason shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know Aesop, I
hope not but who knows what we’ll run into up there?
Better safe than sorry.”

“Yeah, I know Captain, but still…”

Mason leaned back in his chair and sighed, it was time
to take a break from this infernal paperwork. He needed
to stretch his legs and now was as good a time as any.
Grabbing his peacoat he left his cabin and went topside.
The air outside seemed to take away his fatigue and the
sight of his crew, busy at work reminded him that they
indeed, did have a purpose. This was to be no ordinary
voyage.

Seeing Dunn forward near the try pots, he walked over
to him. “Mr. Dunn, do you have a moment?”

Dunn turned and seeing Mason nodded his head, “Of
course Captain. What can I do for you?”

Mason stopped at the starboard rail. “I was below
earlier this morning, the modifications look alright to me,
do they meet with your approval?”

Dunn nodded his head, “Aye Captain they do. Those
cross beams should buy us some time if the ice begins to
press us, and the bow should hold up ok. If that should
happen, my only concern would be a broken rudder,
Captain.”

“Your concern is noted Mr. Dunn. When are you leaving
for Canada?”

“Thursday this week, Captain,” said Dunn.

Mason clapped him on the shoulder, “Hurry back Isaac.
A lot is depending on this trip and we’re depending on
you.”

“Yes sir,” said the second mate.

Mason smiled, “Back to work Mr. Dunn.”

Seeing his presence wasn’t required he made his way
to the galley where the cook was quietly stirring his pea
soup.

“Hey Ed, got any coffee?”

The cook motioned with his head, and Mason moved
towards the pot and poured himself a cup. Mason
struggled to keep the first sip of the hot brown liquid
down. Ed’s coffee took some getting used to.

“Hey Ed, you ever know anybody who was on the
POLARIS?” The cook had been at sea so long, it would be
unusual if he didn’t know somebody who had served on
another vessel, foreign or domestic.

“You mean the one under Hall and Buddington in ‘71?”

“Yeah, you ever met anyone from that one?”

The cook nodded, “Yeah, I knew two guys who was on
the POLARIS.”

“They ever say anything about it?” asked Mason.

Ed shrugged his shoulders, “It wasn’t somethin’ that
came up in conversation Captain if ya know what I
mean.”

“Yeah, I guess not,” said Mason with a sigh.

The other man sniffed and wiped his nose with the
back of his hand. “It always took a few drinks to get’ em
to talking,” said the cook. “They both said there was a lot
of confusion in orders.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but from
what I heard, Captain Hall didn’t know shit about ships
and Buddington, he didn’t know as much as he thought
about the ice. I guess it didn’t help matters that
Buddington was a bit fond of the bottle.”

“So there was a lot of conflict in command.”

“Yeah, you could say that. They had this German guy,
head scientist or somethin’ .”

“Emil Bessel, Dr. Emil Bessel,” said Mason.

“Yeah, I think that was his name, from what I heard,
he was trying to take power from Hall, really pittin’ the
German crew against the rest of ‘em, and Buddington, he
weren’t much help either way. Some say it was that
Bessel fella that killed Hall.”

“What do you think?”

The cook shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know
Captain, I wasn’t there I’m just telling ya what I heard
that’s all.”

“How many times you been up north, Ed?” asked
Mason.

“I don’t know, been to Boston three or four times,
Halifax about the same I reckon.”

“No, I mean Greenland,” said Mason.

“Oh, two times, Captain. Like I was telling Mr.
MacDonald, the first time was for three years, second
time two years.”

“That’s a hell of a long time, what’d ya do to pass the
time?”

“Worked on my scrimshaw, got laid.”
Mason nodded, that made sense. He poured what
remained in his cup into the waste barrel.

“What’s for lunch Ed?” asked the Captain.

“Pea soup, bacon and boiled potatoes,” answered the
cook.

“Sounds good, I’ll be in my cabin Ed, if anybody is
looking for me.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Back to the grindstone, thought Mason.

Another twenty minutes passed before the cook heard
another person enter the galley.

“Hey Ed, any coffee?” said the familiar voice of Danny
Higgins. The cook gestured toward the small stove. The
third mate poured a cup and as always prepared himself
for the first drink. Ed’s coffee was known throughout
New Bedford.

“What’s for lunch, Ed?”

At 6:00 pm, the Captain decided to call it a day,
satisfied with the work already done. The crew went
ashore and after meeting with the mates in his cabin,
Mason dismissed them for the evening, with the
exception of Higgins who would stay aboard and watch
over things for the night and Dunn, who didn’t really
have any place to go.

Walking the deck, hands clasped behind his back,
Higgins looked about the ship and smiled. Someday he
would have his own ship and this was the start. He
didn’t mind that Dunn was second mate. Higgins knew
he lacked experience in the North and hoped this trip
would help remedy part of that situation. He trusted
Captain Mason and MacDonald and felt lucky to be
aboard the SHY LADY. All his life he had wanted to be a
whaleman, from the stories his father told him when he
was a child, he knew there could be no other life for him.
He quit school at twelve and went to sea soon after,
easily adapting to the harsh life. He was a boat steerer at
eighteen and third mate at twenty-two. When Jon Mason
offered him the chance to serve aboard the SHY LADY,
he didn’t even hesitate. He planned to be a ship’s master
before the age of thirty. He could marry Beth, they could
have a home. This is what Higgins wanted this was
something he could make happen. For Daniel Higgins,
life was good.

In the parlor of their home, Mai-Ling leaned back in
her chair and adjusted her position to make herself more
comfortable, that done, she turned her attention to the
book she was holding, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”
by Mark Twain. In the same room, Mason sat at a larger
table and quietly and patiently working on a model of a
China Tea Clipper, he was making from scratch, similar
to the one he sailed on as a young boy. He worked on it
between voyages, he was in no hurry, it would be done
when it was done.

He didn’t generally think a lot about those early days,
the years before he became Jon Mason and he didn’t talk
about them much to anyone except Mai-Ling, and even
she didn’t know the whole story, only bits and pieces of
his past. He didn’t regret much, the life he had lead was
one of survival and Jon Mason was if anything, a
survivor. There were times when he thought about his
parents, the fire they had died in, such a senseless way
to die. He left flowers on their graves and gave the
caretaker extra money to ensure the resting site of his
parents was kept neat and fresh flowers placed on their
graves every month. It was the least he could do, they
were decent people they deserved a better life than what
they had. He made inquiries and what he discovered
caused him more pain than he thought possible. When
his ship was posted as overdue, questions were asked, it
wasn’t until after the war that they found out about the
GREEN LEAF’s run in with the ALABAMA and the
missing whaler, NORTH STAR. His mother wouldn’t
accept that her only son was missing and possibly dead.
She continued to hold on to hope and told people she
knew her son was alive and she expected him home any
day. His father accepted the news of his death with
bitterness and guilt, he felt himself responsible, if only
he hadn’t been so permissive his son would be with his
mother and father where he belonged, not in some
watery grave, so far from home.

The son blamed them for nothing it was just the nature
of things. It was something that he understood and
believed in from his years in the orient and his
experiences in general. If he had stayed home, they
might still be alive and everything would be different.
When he found time after he had come to the east he
tried to look up Raphael Semmes, the captain of the
ALABAMA, only to find that he too was in his grave,
having died in August of 1877, he didn’t really know
what he would have said to the old Confederate
gentleman anyway. It was pointless to think about it now
he knew that, still…

Mai-Ling placed a ribbon inside the page she was
reading and closed the book placing it on the table next
to her and yawned, it was getting late. She gently ran
her hand over her belly which was getting larger with
each day’s passing. She was 10 weeks pregnant and it
was showing. She closed her eyes, a baby in their home,
a child would make it complete, they would really be a
family. She felt some pressure on her left foot and opened
her eyes to see her man gently rubbing it, his touch
alternating between soft and hard, just what she needed.

“Jon, that does feel good,” she said stretching out her
leg.

“Well,” he said, “you need your rest, and a foot massage
is good for you.”

“Tell me Jon, do you want a little boy or a little girl?”

Mason smiled, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter to me as
long as it’s a healthy baby.”

Mai-Ling frowned. “All men say that, what if you had a
choice?”

He shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know, maybe a
little girl.”

“A little girl? Jon Mason you’d spoil her silly!”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“Yes you would. Look how much you spoil me. With you
around I feel like the Empress of China!”

“I saw her once,” said Mason.

“Saw who?” said Mai-Ling with a tired yawn.

“The Dowager Empress of China, I saw her when I was
younger.”

“You saw the Empress of the Great Western Palace?”
said Mai-Ling with some skepticism, her voice betraying
the fact that sleep would soon take over.

“A long time ago,” said Mason, remembering. The year
was 1868, Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” and “The
Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins were published and
“Whitakers Almanack” came out in England, much to the
delight of readers throughout the civilized world. In the
United States, Andrew Johnson was the President and in
Great Britain William E. Gladstone had become Prime
Minister. In the Far East the Shogun Kekei of Japan was
forced to abdicate, the Shogunate was abolished and the
true ruler, the Meji Emperor was restored to power and
Japan began to flourish as a modern country and in
China…

It was summer, hot and humid. The moisture in the air
making it appear as waves, and anyone moving through
it would create faint ripples as if interrupting the
stillness of a pond, lazy paper fans pushed air like waves
on some distant shore.

Robert Wyatt was eighteen and had been with the
Chinese pirates for five years. In that time, his past had
slowly begun to fade away as he had become so absorbed
in the life he was living, he could fight and hold his own,
take from others and feel no guilt, he had to be strong,
emotionally and physically to survive the world he
occupied. He had learned two dialects of Chinese and had
earned the trust of those he was associated with, so
much so that he had been initiated into the Brotherhood.
He was one of them and always would be.

He had accompanied three others to a thriving
metropolis, a crowded city teaming with life, sights and
smells. Chickens clucked and dogs barked. Heavy carts
loaded with goods moved down narrow streets, pulled by
man and animal, it didn’t matter really both were the
same in the eyes of many. Food cooked, the smells of fish,
beef, pork and spices mingling in the air with smoke
from burning fires, flies flew around trash heaps the heat
making the smell worse if that was possible, other
winged insects buzzed or crawled about annoying some,
ignored by others. Babies cried and merchants haggled,
coolies with long braided pig tails sweated and chanted
as they toiled, rickshaw boys pulled Mandarins of
various ranks dressed in rich silk gowns with peacock
feathers sticking from their round caps. People spit,
others urinated, some smoked opium or brushed poetry.
This was Peking, capitol of the Chinese Empire. And
though it was interesting, especially to someone who had
never been there before, it was not the reason that Wyatt
and his four companions were in the place that contained
the “Forbidden City” of the Chinese Emperor, they were
not there to see unusual things or to purchase strange
curiosities. They were there to kill a man.

He was called Huang, a member of the Brotherhood
who had betrayed his fellows, to save his life at the
expense of theirs, and because one is never a former
member of the Brotherhood, they hunted him down like a
dog. Payment was required for past transgressions. They
had searched for over two years and received a break
when it was discovered that one of Huang’s men was
working aboard Captain Lau’s pirate junk. They made
short work of him but not before they found out where
the traitor Huang was hiding. That had been three
months ago and now they were at this place, closing in
on their prey. Wyatt was sitting on an overturned box
across from the large ornate main gate of the Forbidden
City, the Imperial Palace, chewing on a fried chicken
wing and drinking a small bowl of lukewarm tea. He was
dressed like most around him, straw sandals, faded blue
cotton trousers, tight at the waist with a loose crotch to
allow the air to circulate between his legs, a light cotton
vest and a soiled red cloth, wrapped around his head in
the style of a turban. His skin was dark from the sun and
only if someone got close enough to look at his face, they
would see that he was not from China, but somewhere
else. He watched everything around him as was his habit,
looking for anything that might threaten his existence, if
the outlaw way of life had made him paranoid there was
good reason for such, the barbarian young man was
known to people who would not treat him well if they
should meet, and that was something Robert Wyatt
would do his best to avoid.

Surrounded by a crowd, he heard bugles and the rough
voices of soldiers cursing the people about and pushing
them out of the way. Wyatt threw the remains of the
chicken wing he was eating
to the littered ground and stood up on the box he was
sitting on to get a better view over the bobbing multitude
of heads and see what all the fuss was about. A large
group of armed men in colorful uniforms and shining
armor, with sharpened lances and swords came marching
through the main gate with banners flying the Imperial
body guard in its finest. After what seemed to be at least
200 men a huge heavily curtained litter came out
followed by more armed guards. It didn’t take a pure
blooded Chinaman to know that this was Tsu Hsi, better
known as the Dowager Empress of China the true ruler
of the Middle Kingdom departing for her Summer Palace,
where she would relax with her dogs, prized Pekingese
Pugs cared for by a large number of eunuchs, surrounded
by freshly cut flowers which she adored and enjoy the
various presentations of Chinese opera. The life of a
sovereign was such a taxing one.

With a cleared path, the procession moved forward,
around it a strange silence as if any noise, human,
animal or otherwise would offend the most exalted
contained within. All within sight stopped what they
were doing and kow-towed to the most supreme and
honored mother that by fate that day had graced them
with her presence. Wyatt could see the curtains move
and from his vantage point, he saw an old woman, her
face solemn, some might even say sour and wrinkled
with age, stare back at him. It seemed like a long time,
but it was probably more like two minutes, maybe less,
that the two stared at each other, the most powerful
woman in China and the boy pirate from far away, each
in their own way a little envious of the other. The curtain
closed and the Dowager Empress and the Imperial guard
moved on. Wyatt stood up and wiped his greasy fingers
on his trousers, after which he sat back down on his box
and turned his attention to his tea.

The leader of their small group and his two
companions appeared, with the information that would
help them complete their assigned task. Huang occupied
a small villa in the hills on the outskirts of the city. If
they left immediately they could be there by night fall.
Wyatt himself never had any doubt about the job at hand.
The Brotherhood was the only family he’d known for five
years. The traitor was responsible for the deaths of men
Wyatt knew and he had no second thoughts about what
needed to be done. As planned, they arrived after dark
and after a twenty minute assessment killed four of the
guards that patrolled the villa grounds.

Huang was in the room that served as his place of
meditation, one that was quiet and free of distractions.
He did not hear Wyatt enter the room but sensed his
presence. Without speaking he turned to see the outline
of the young pirate in the door way, and he became afraid.

“Who are you? Why are you in my house?” Huang
asked in Mandarin, trying to put up a brave front. Wyatt
moved from the doorway in silence and staying in the
shadows, observed this person who had a limited amount
of time to live. Huang was about fifty years old, fat with
short black hair, cut so that it looked like bristles on a
brush. He was dressed in a fine silk robe, dark blue in
color so that it almost resembled the color of purple or
black. His fingernails were long and his hands were soft
like that of a woman.

“Who are you?” He asked again, his voice trembling
with fear,
“Why are you here?”

“I’m here to serve justice, Master Huang,” said a calm
polite voice.

“Whose justice?” asked the frightened man.

“That of the Brotherhood you so thoughtlessly
betrayed,” answered Wyatt.

There was a sharp intake of breath and the man slowly
nodded his head, “I knew it was only a matter of time.
You found my man then?”

Wyatt nodded, “Suen, yeah we found him, that’s how
we found you.”

“Did he suffer much?”

“Yes,” replied Wyatt. The silence hung in the room as
the older man took in the information he was just given
and pondered his very short future.

“You are the barbarian boy, the one Lau fished out of
the water, all those years ago.” Wyatt nodded his head.

“How appropriate that he should send a boy to kill me,
and a barbarian one at that, the one that shall collect for
all my mistakes,” said the older man.

“Not all, it’s just your more recent ones that have
brought me into your home.”

“And you feel nothing about the act you are about to
commit?”
The younger man shook his head. “You were trusted,”
said Wyatt. “And because of you, men died, my friends.
The Authorities were not kind. Their bodies were hung
out for the birds.”

“I know,” said Huang with resignation, “I saw them, I
saw them.” He stood up and walked to a window and
looked out into the night. “You speak our language well.
Do you know of the concept of Yin and Yang?” asked the
old pirate.

“Yes,” said Wyatt, “I know a little bit about it, why?”

Huang shrugged his shoulders, “It is found in
everything. Yin represents those things that are negative,
passive or docile, the feminine side of a half if you will.
The Yang of course is the more masculine side, full of
energy, active, the opposite…more…”

“Positive,” said Wyatt, “so what? You can blame your
actions on anything you want. That still won’t change
outcome of this evening. You will die and I will walk
away.”

“No young man, you misunderstand me. I do not place
the responsibility of my past actions on Yin or Yang nor
for my present situation, I simply mean there is a great
cosmic plan in which we all play a part, our actions are
all related in one way or another.”

“So you’re telling me it’s destiny that is responsible for
the loss of my friends?” said Wyatt with some doubt.

The older man smiled, “I don’t know, perhaps. All men
die, that’s part of the plan. I will die this night, you may
die tomorrow or in a year’s time, you may live a very long
time yet, I do not know. We all have different paths. I
don’t know why Lau saved your life, normally he
wouldn’t have, but maybe it was for this moment now.”

“And when I’ve finished my business here, the cosmic
plan is fulfilled?”

Huang shook his head, “No, for me the plan is fulfilled,
my part is played, for you, it’s just beginning. Thank you
for allowing me the time to talk. It makes it…easier.
Thank you.”

It didn’t take long but the execution was messy. The
young pirate was well versed in the use of a knife and
cutting a throat was bloody. It was just after 10:00 pm,
the hour of the pig and Wyatt was anxious to be away
from there. The group leader confirmed the death of the
Brotherhood member and with the job finished the men
dispersed into the night…

Mai-Ling was asleep and quietly snoring in her chair.
Mason placed her feet on a cushioned foot stool and
gently placed a quilt over her to keep her warm. Finish
this job, he thought, just finish
the job. He began to wonder if he hadn’t been stretching
his luck all these years. Maybe final payment was due.

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