Lally exited the charts office carrying several rolled maps under his arm. His straw hat was cocked back on his short dark hair away from scrapes on his forehead, beginning to scab over. Nasty scratches darkened his chin and the bridge of his nose. A split lower lip showed several day’s worth of healing although, when it happened, it would’ve bled significantly.
He wore a white short sleeved button up shirt that he rarely buttoned and bright yellow-and-red knee length shorts with sandals that gave him the appearance of a vacationer. Both of his forearms were wrapped in bandages from wrist to elbow, and his open shirt showed a patch of gauze taped to his ribs.
Focus lost on the cobblestone in front of him, Lally walked right past me. In response, I followed on his heels and yanked the maps from under his arm.
“Hey!” Lally whirled. “Give those–!” He stopped. “Mesa?”
I dragged him to a table in Wilmer’s Tavern where I made him sit opposite me. He’d yelled at me the whole way but I made a point not to listen until our butts were in chairs.
Lally’s stare didn’t bother me the way he hoped it would. “You didn’t hear anything I just said, did you?”
“You weren’t going to ask me to go with you.”
He shut his mouth. Looked guilty. “If it makes you feel any better, I almost left without Zvonko, too.”
My eyes widened. You what?
Lally held up a handful of splayed fingers. “It was his idea to wait five days. FIVE. You realize it’s going to be impossible to catch up to a ship with that kind of head start. And if we can’t, then we’ll have to save Naia and the others after they’ve been turned over to Captain Huleikre who has a fondness for torture and executions. Our chances of getting them out—no, our chances of everyone simply being not dead at the end of a confrontation with Huleikre are something I don’t even want to think about. After Naia and the others were taken, I wanted to get a small ship and leave right away—.”
Lally’s eyes flicked away from mine for an instant. “My plan was to sabotage their ship to give our friends a chance to improvise an escape in the chaos. But I lost the best shot I had because of Zvonko. I can’t even look at him right now.”
“He wouldn’t have asked you to delay without a reason.”
“Asked? He threatened me.” Lally seethed. “He could barely stand four days ago.” He paused. Sobered. Scratched his head under his hat. “I know he wanted to be able to go with me to watch my back. I know that, and I appreciate it, but—.”
“Get over it.”
He looked betrayed. “What did you say?”
“We’re a party of three now and tomorrow morning, which is day five, we’ll set off on The Constellation. We’ll compare notes once we’re underway.” I considered his face which was red with many emotions. “All three of us.”
I advised him to purchase supplies enough for three people and whatever else he felt we needed by way of weapons. After regaining his composure somewhat, Lally told me where he was staying. He agreed to meet up with me in the meager courtyard of his lodgings first thing in the morning.
After various errands, I found the lodgings that Lally described. Walls painted brown, the structure was made up of rooms that all opened into a central courtyard of native grass. Two breezeways led from the courtyard to the outside; one on the east side by the front office and to the west. The grass was framed by an uneven walkway to prevent patrons from trampling the grass into nonexistence.
By dusk, I was lounging on a rickety bench in a dark corner of the courtyard, chewing peacefully on a piece of beach grass, when Lally appeared lugging several sacks of supplies over his shoulders. He unlocked a door across the courtyard and went inside.
A shadow in a long green coat lingered in the eastern breezeway until Lally’s door had shut. The shadow then limped forward. Moonlight fell across rugged, bruised features. Zvonko. Sighing, he dug a key from his coat pocket and let himself into a different door.
I waited about an hour until night settled quietly over the harbor town. Flicking away the piece of grass, I padded to a certain door. I picked the lock in under fifteen seconds and slipped inside.
Zvonko’s gravelly voice grunted from the darkened room. “Come to kill me in my sleep?”
I hesitated. Crickets sang loudly outside. “That’s a good idea.”
“Shut up and get in here. Close the door.”
[to be continued…]