Monday, May 10, 2021

Canker Barrels (2)


Previous Holmes, Watson and Colton are invited aboard a ghost ship.

Our steam launch bobbed in a gentle swell as it nosed alongside the derelict. The three of us made use of a rope ladder to reach a port on the gun deck. Long bereft of powder, the cannons didn't represent the threat promised by Captain Weehauken. An oppressive mist arose to engulf the ship in a pall of gloom. The pirates were expecting us.

I had to duck the low beams bracing the main deck. "Abysmal place. It smells of rotting fish."

"As well it should, matey." Weehauken closed a creaking hatch behind him. He'b brought his attire up to date, had even replaced the hook with a gloved prosthesis. The outlandish hat looked much out of place. Regardless, it served as the nidus for him to take shape as a gray-fleshed corpse with one staring eye. 

Holmes balanced well on the swaying deck. "I understand you're in possession of forbidden facts."

"I be for a fact." The captain swept his hat in a mocking bow. "I didn't have it all 'til I tricked one of the hellspawn into coming aboard. We'll let him do the talkin'." He opened a chest and removed a moldy coat. It bucked in his hand, arms flapping, emitting a maniacal scream.

"Stow that blarney, ya scabrous bilge rat!" Weehauken forced it to limp compliance. "Assume the form by which ye profaned this mortal plane." A figure materialized.

"My word!" Colton took down the handkerchief covering his nose. "His name was Barnes. He disappeared over twenty years ago, highly placed in the exchequer." 

The captain leered. "Where else but centers of power and money, news, and education. That's where the rotters always be."

"I say," I mentioned to Holmes. "That's an unfortunate word for him to use."

"Yes," Holmes said. "Shall we hear from Mr Barnes?"

Weehauken interrupted. "You won't like it. They'll start their evil empire by taking down the greatest of the free nations. That's you, unless the Americans manage to overtake you. And don't think royals haven't invited themselves to the party."

I was about to protest this aspersion on the queen when Barnes launched into his dreary prophecy. The Illuminati were planning decades ahead. They dreamed of a world drastically shorn of population. They even had theories as to what form this magic bullet might take, right down to the necessity of inducing the public to believe their unwitting suicide a good thing. But first, they must create class structures and pit them against each other.

"Diabolical!" I burst out. "This is mass murder on a record scale!"

"With Illuminati at the top," Holmes mused. "Gentlemen, I must speak to the captain alone."

Reluctantly I accompanied Mr Colton back to the launch. Holmes rejoined us twenty minutes later, having little to say about the proceedings.

Next day, the newspapers described the disappearance of a derelict ship surrounded by anchor buoys. 

"Hmpf. I say, Holmes, the pirates have gotten away. Do you think Captain Weehauken will make good his threat to go 'canker barrels' on the world?"

"Not the world, Watson--the Illuminati, wherever he finds a chance to bedevil them."

I continued reading. "Curious. It happened during routine maintenance, when one of the buoys was briefly unchained. How could the pirates have known?"

"As you say, old boy." Holmes picked up his fiddle. "Most curious, isn't it?"

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