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Chapter 5: Loaded to the Gunwales

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  • Dedicated to Tim

Now that we're out of danger, reality hits me. With the exception of a short, restless nap yesterday afternoon, I haven't slept in almost a day. I struggle to keep my eyes open, and my legs can hardly support me. I'm so tired all I want to do is fall face-first into bed and not get up until tomorrow. I notice Mister Smythe limping, however, and offer to look at his injury.

"Oh, it's nothing, miss. The lads out there have it much worse." He points toward the deck. Following him outside, I'm ill prepared for what I see.

The ship is littered with remnants of the battle. Broken crates and barrels have spilled their contents, mixing wheat and spices with molasses and rum. Their sweet smell combines with that of blood and gunpowder, turning my stomach. To keep from getting sick, I breathe through my mouth as I survey the full extent of the damage.

The able-bodied men are laying their worse-off mates in a row on one side of the ship. On the other side, one unlucky man places the dead into sacks in preparation for burial at sea.

The body closest to me is Petey.

I cover my mouth and run to the railings. I lean overboard and wretch, but only a bitter liquid comes up.

"You really should go back inside, miss," Smythe kindly advises from behind me.

Turning around, I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand before I answer. "No. I want to help. Do you have a surgeon on board?"

The old man nods toward the dead. "Second from the end."

I shudder. Straightening my shoulders, I take a deep breath and point to the men moving the injured. "Someone should tell them they're making it worse. It's too hot up here. You have to get them below deck."

With my head clearing, I look over the scene again. My attention focuses on a man who's vainly using a dirty rag to stop the bleeding from another's thigh. I run to them, remove my belt, and kneel on the sticky planks before grabbing the blood-soaked material away.

"Give me that!" I throw it behind me, all the while tightly wrapping the belt around the man's leg above the wound. The native healers on my mother's side of the family had always employed more effective methods than any Spanish physician. "Have someone boil seawater. Soak all the rags you can find in the still scalding liquid. Only then can you use it to wipe the blood away, do you understand?" I ask the surprised-looking sailor.

He nods, but remains motionless.

"Well, go on." Smythe instructs him, affirming my command. "What else can we do, miss?"

I try to remember everything else I learned about medicine back home. "Get me the clean rags and a pot of hot water as soon as possible. I'll need needle and some sturdy thread, as well."

"You heard the lady! Get 'er anything she needs," Smythe yells at someone, but I'm now focused on my patient.

"What's your name?" I ask, ripping his trousers to get a better view of the wound.

"Butler," he whispers. His face is soaked with perspiration, making his dark hair stick to his forehead.

"Butler? You're the lookout from up in the crow's nest, aren't you?" I remember the captain addressing him last night.

He sighs. "Aye, miss."

"Very well, Mister Butler. You don't need to talk any more. I'm going to fix you up, all right?" I smile, but he's already closed his eyes.

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by RS Kovach
He just wants her booty, but she'll end up stealing his heart. ...
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