15 Sep Pirates
The day is hellish. It’s as muggy as Hades with a hulking swell and a vertical driving rain that’s kept everyone off deck. I’m told – perhaps presumptuously – that we’ll probably be barging the bilge through the thwacker before any respite from the starboard for neigh on six. Whatever the fuck that means. By my reckoning we’re still making decent time though, pushing on through open water aided by a 45 knot sou-wester toward Sulat Sunda – the passage of sea that separates the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra.
The third officer in charge – a Filipino by the name of Raul – is at the wheel on the bridge keeping an eye on the huge radar screen that plots the course of our vessel – the 65,000 ton freighter, Alejandro Rickmars out of Liberia. He talks fondly of his girl back in Cebu, Marie, a four foot seven chiropodist with bucked teeth. Beaming, he hands me a tattered photo from his wallet. I recoil in fright at the sight of her, but disguise it as a swell-induced side step. Singapore is the last stop on his current contract. From there it’s a night in a cheap hotel and double prop jump across the Strait and back to her loving arms. Part of me envies the little fucker.
“That’s not right” says Raul with a troubled tone. I’m thinking the exact same thing. She’s got some big ass teeth, but wisely I keep this observation to myself. With a few clicks of a mouse he zooms in on an area of the radar to the stern of our vessel, before turning a ghostly pale. “P..P..Pirates” he stutters, then at once grabs for the phone.
Without warning it begins. With a gigantic crack from above, a rocket propelled grenade takes out our communications tower and with it, any chance of rescue. A secondary blast destroys the port side of the bridge as a chunk of searing, hardened steel rips a crater in Raul’s chest the size of an eighties mobile phone. Lying in a lake of his own blood he seems more confused than in pain. With his last breath he looks up at me almost pleadingly before gently placing the photo of Marie into the hole in his chest. It’s touching but gross. I do a little sick in my mouth. There’s nothing I can do for him now. The ship’s cat Mrs. Twinkles has already taken off with the remains of his heart. That crazy little kitten.
For a moment everything swims before my eyes, a dizziness consumes me and there’s a ringing in my ears. Then, like a light being switched on, my training kicks in. It’s as quick as that. I steady myself on the chart table and take four deep breaths. Already I’m formulating a plan and part one is to find some mouthwash.
Part of me knew this day would come. I’d spent the last 20 years running. Occasionally even now I’d wake smeared in makeup, naked but for a pair of ladies cotton briefs tied around my head, gibbering in Hindi, holding a carving knife to the neighbours cat’s throat. Things had to change. This will end today. This must end today!
I make like a panther for the cook’s pantry on B deck. There really is no need to be on all fours and it slows me down – a lot – but this is who I must be now. Now until this is over. A panther or perhaps a leopard. No, let’s go with a panther. I like panthers.
To the untrained eye the cook’s pantry is a cornucopia of foreign fare and kitchenware but to me it’s so much more! I mentally begin to take stock of my assets before making out whispered voices in the hallway, then kitchen. At once I recognise the language, Bhasa. “Indonesians“, I scrawl in raspberry jam with a toothpick on the wall followed by the number “III“.
I already know their modus operandi. They’d have been tipped off by dock workers, probably in Jakarta as to which of our containers held the most costly yet compact booty. They’d be selective and make a beeline straight for the three or four containers out of the three thousand we were toting. The numbers ruled out coincidence. The cache? Probably New Zealand housewife porn or the finest Fijian whisky. The victim? Doubtless a big multinational insurance company. And that’s what broke my heart, what tore me up inside. Why God, why? Well it wasn’t going to happen, no sirrreee, not today, not on my watch!
I begin to nibble – a handful of chilly peanuts from Peru, some rollmops from the Netherlands, something brown from New Zealand – in preparation for a fight to the death that may last for minutes, yet may last for days. After 30 minutes of nibbling I’m slightly over-preapared and feel like taking a nap. A shot of buck fifty Ukrainian Vodka snaps me back from my reverie. I finalise my plan. A plan that prays on our most basic desire! It’s so devilishly simple yet appetising it may just work. I smear great swathes of Nutella across my near naked body. This has nothing to do with the plan.
The microwave is an aging Samsung but is going to have to do. I’d found a caterers tin of little German hot-dogs (Winklehoffer brand) and although it pains me to me use them, I set about puncturing the top of the tin with a dozen small holes. Across it on one side I sprinkle a liberal quantity of baking soda, the other, chilly powder and just a pinch of paprika. I set the Samsung’s dial to defrost and power it up. The hook was set, the bait was the tastiest food known to man, here fishy, fishy, fish.
I didn’t have long to wait as the leader of the pirates (let’s call him wispy goatee because he’s got a wispy goatee) catches the scent of the delicious little medleys of miscellaneous meat and leads his two men across the mess to the microwave. Cautiously, as if in slow motion he opens the door. I take cover. Ding! Lunch is served.
With the sudden change in pressure a scalding stream of brine, chilly and paprika spews forth from the microwave. Wispy goatee takes the brunt of the boiling jet directly to the face. He screams and goes down in a sizzling heap. Confusion reigns for what seems like an eternity before the baking soda has a chance to mix with the remaining brine in the tin and do its thing – BOOM – and the officer’s mess explodes in a mix of microwave, hot-dogs and pirates.
As the smoke clears and I take in the carnage all around me I allow myself the smallest of grins, for I know my demons, at least for now, can again rest.
“What the shit is to be fuck happening here?” demands the Captain, surveying the scene whilst struggling to swear in a second language. “What am I to be telling bloody to the authorities shit?” he adds, turning a sheet-like shade of pale.
“Relax Cap’n“, I reply and offer him vodka with a tilt of the bottle, “tell them nothing”, I shrug.
“And bloody hell how do we get rid of mess?” he replies, his voice cracking as he borders on hysteria. Almost on queue Mrs. Twinkles saunters through the door and begins chewing, ripping and licking at the blood, sinew, organs and muscle that wallpapers the officer’s mess. The Captain does a little sick.
“I think Mrs. Twinkles has got that taken care of Captain, don’t you?” I laugh heartily and slap him on the back.
“No you fuck dickhead, I think we are all go to jail!”