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.
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.