Five of us had sat down for dinner just as the storm hit. We had barely taken our seats when the power failed but Geeves, the butler, lit a single taper for light and we carried on in the resultant gloom.
There were six grilled pork chops on a hand painted platter, with a floral design, in front of me. To complement the pork our host had served spring onions, English peas, and morel mushrooms.
Two open bottles of a San Luis Obispo Mourvèdre sat at each end of the table. We ate by the scant light of the single taper and I learned that the charming, ginger haired young woman sitting next to me was called Claire. She lived on a sailboat that she moored in Newport Harbor most of the year. I suppose everyone ate but I had eyes only for Claire.
Claire was a vision. She was tall and slender with sculpted cheek bones and large blue eyes I wanted to dive into. Her sensuous and full mouth kept me entertained, as she dazzled me with stories of artists and writers that she knew and worked with.
Dinner was winding down. The wine was almost gone, the accompanying dishes of mushrooms, peas and onions were gone and only a single pork chop remained on the floral patterned platter. Claire and I would both glance at it from time to time but were both too polite to reach for the last of the meat.
I wanted to get to know Claire a little better and was preparing to ask her if she fancied a nightcap after dinner when the candle sputtered twice.
It had burned all the way down and it winked out, plunging the room into an inky blackness.
Sensing my opportunity I reached for the last pork chop and then screamed and pulled back when a most intense pain spread suddenly, enveloping the end of my arm.
At that moment the lights came back on; Claire’s fork was protruding from the back of my hand, the tines embedded so deep that the tips came out from my palm. Her large blue eyes had doubled in size, whites showing all around and her mouth was open in surprise. Pulling the linen napkin from her lap she offered it to me.
“Use this to staunch the flow of blood.” She said.
I didn’t like it and I told the captain so, “It be bad luck, Cap’n to have a woman on board.”
“Bad luck for whom, Mr. Geeves?” he replied, “Certainly not bad luck for me. Claire’ll be sharing my cabin.” He dismissed me with a wave of his hand, grabbed the girl and disappeared aft.
There was a lot of grumblin’ from the crew behind his back. There was talk of turning around, going back to port. There was talk of jumpin’ ship, there was talk of mutiny.
“What be the Cap’n thinkin’?” the men asked me. “Was she a witch? Had she cast a spell on him? Had he taken leave o’ his senses?”
“Maybe all o’ them things,” I told them, “but it be best if we just carry on. If she be a witch we don’t want to be in the bad graces of such a creature as that.”
The men agreed and we sailed on. We had sailed through two sunsets and one dawn when the inevitable happened at dinner on that second night. The cook had served pork chops with bread, a favorite o’ the entire crew. We hadn’t seen much of the Cap’n or his witch, Claire, since getting’ underway so we were surprised when they both showed up on the mess decks. A silence descended around the table.
All that was left of dinner was a single pork chop, on a pewter plate, and an empty firkin o’ beer when they set themselves down at the table.
“Cookie,” the Cap’n bellowed, “I trust ya got more o’ them chops.”
Unnoticed, Birdie reached up and lifted the chimney from the single lantern mounted on the bulkhead and blew out the flame. There was three gunshots and a scream pierced the darkened deck. My nose picked up a sharp, coppery smell that hadn’t been there afore and when Fast Eddie got the lantern lit again the Cap’n was dead. He was flat on his back on the wooden deck; a knife protruded from his neck.
The witch Claire held her right wrist with her left hand. A single pork chop was gripped in her right. She made no noise but her mouth was open wide in a silent scream as she stared at the seven forks stuck in the back of her mitt.
We fed the Cap’n to the fishes that night. The crew wanted the witch but I convinced them that we’d be better off if she met the same end as the Cap’n so we tossed her off the fantail. We were two days from shore.