Life Among The Savages, Part 11.
With his pernicious intentions revealed (by way of the pressing of his knife blade against my throat), and his nose very nearly touching my own, I could no longer characterize Mr. Garrett’s eyes as being “full of life”, instead finding more accuracy in terms such as “crazed” or “murderous.” He possessed an intensity I had not witnessed before in any sane man, and to be sure, both his actions and his aspect spoke to a diabolic and exceedingly troubled character. If only I had followed my first impulses and continued to distrust the strange man hidden beneath my mattress, I would most likely have avoided this predicament. With unsettling insight, Mr. Garrett seemed to sense my very thoughts and chuckled to himself. “How fortunate for me that you are such a trusting soul. Unfortunate for you, of course, but that hardly matters,” he said. I attempted to elaborate on my earlier ambivalence toward him, and how, had I followed my initial judgments about him, I would have prolonged Mr. Garrett’s imprisonment for as long as I could, but a subtle movement of his knife hand averted my qualification before I uttered any more than a few syllables.
“I’ve had quite enough of your exposition, my young friend, so if you value your life, you will not court my wrath by continuing to speak. Then again, your prattling would be ample motivation set to work on you with my blade, so I can’t really claim to have a preference either way.” Here Mr. Garrett revealed a set of intact but varicolored teeth, ranging from white, through yellow and brown, to nearly black, in what I assumed he intended as a smile, though the levity of the current situation was his alone to possess. “Now tell me, does this ship have a skiff or other landing craft that I might procure by threatening to paint its decks with great draughts of your blood?”
“I am afraid I don’t know, Mr. Garrett, ” I said, “as I am merely a passenger aboard the Holy Diver, and was incapacitated shortly after coming aboard. I believe I saw a small rowboat somewhere, lashed to the port side perhaps, but the memory is hazy and unreliable. I’m certain Captain Stagg will be willing to assist you however he can, though, as he is very concerned with and protective of my well-being.”
As I spoke, Mr. Garrett’s smile dwindled, until by the end of my speech, he was scowling in full. “You’ve got a lot of words in you. I find that unpleasant. I am resolved; I shall kill you just a little bit, a minor stabbing in some painful but non-vital part of your body, so that I can relieve some of my bloodlust and still exploit you for my escape.” Mr. Garrett pressed harder against me with his restraining arm and drew back his knife hand so as to proceed with his ghastly deed. It was at this moment that we were both splashed with a moderate quantity of water.
The look on Mr. Garrett’s face was one of complete perplexity, and I am certain that in that aspect, and that aspect alone, our faces were mirror-images of each other. He turned first to the window of the cabin, which was securely closed, and then toward the door, which was now open. Standing inside the room just beyond the threshold, clutching an empty and overturned basin and wearing an expression of considerable fear, was Starkey. I was about to praise the sailor on his timeliness when Mr. Garrett howled in rage and flung himself at the hapless Starkey, leading with his fearsome knife. Starkey, thinking quickly, swung the basin up with all his strength, impacting Mr. Garrett’s chin, with considerable force. This sent the unsavory man reeling into the corner, stunned but still filled with unmitigated violence. He shook his head and dived at Starkey yet again, and they were locked in struggle.
I searched for a weapon, but found only my chamber pot. I picked it up and waited, not wanting to douse Starkey with its foul contents unless absolutely necessary. I watched the dueling pair with great concentration, so that I might find the time when I could come to Starkey’s aid as he had come to mine, and finally, that moment arrived. Starkey broke free of Mr. Garrett’s grip and pushed him across the room. Mr. Garrett collided with the wall and dropped his knife; sensing my opportunity, I flung the villain’s own urine directly into his face. While he reeled and cried out in disgust, I then brained him with the chamber pot, whereafter he fell into unconsciousness.
Starkey stood over the incapacitated madman and swore an elaborate chain of unrepeatable oaths, then inquired of me if I had been injured. I assured him that beyond the distress and shock I was unscathed, and asked if Mr. Garrett had harmed him in anyway.
“Oh no, sir. A bit shaken up, but he didn’t hurt me none. It’s a good thing I came along with your water when I did, or he might have cut your neck wide open!” Starkey said, and laughed nervously.
“Your timing was most opportune,” I told the sailor, “though this rogue meant to hold me hostage and procure escape from the ship. Still, I received a most profound impression that he may not have had complete control over his mental faculties.”
“Can’t be trustin’ the word of no man who’s swinging a knife around like that,” said Starkey.
“No, you cannot,” I agreed.
“Sorry about your water, sir. And the piss.”
I gave the sailor a hearty, fraternal slap on the shoulder, assessing it to be the appropriate gesture. ‘Think nothing of it, Starkey. I would gladly endure all the overturned chamber pots on this earth, if I knew that men of sturdy character would always come to my aid if I needed it.”
Starkey smiled weakly at this and nodded a little, and then after a few moments asked “You mean me, sir?”
At Starkey’s endearing naivety, I myself smiled, and slapped his shoulder again. “Indeed I do, Starkey. Indeed I do,” I said, and his smile found purchase and he nodded enthusiastically.
“I suppose I should tell the captain there’s a stowaway aboard, and a right cracking mad one as well,” Starkey said, with the air of a simple man confronted with relating a peculiar and complicated event to his peculiar and complicated superior – that is to say, with reluctance and exasperation. Here I raised my hand and told him not to worry himself. “I shall tell the captain myself. I have a strong desire to leave this cabin, as I’ve been cloistered inside its walls for too long. The walk will do me good, and I am certain the captain will be more amenable to the ill news of a violent stowaway if he hears it from me, and that you helped to subdue the scoundrel. Stay here and watch this man, and remember: listen not to his words, for he is full of deceit.”
“Yes, sir, thank you sir!” Starkey said, and began to watch Mr. Garrett intensely.
Donning my topcoat, I entered the corridor and saw the cabin door directly across from the room in which I had convalesced open partially. Framed between the jamb and the edge of the door was the radiant widow von Kant, whom for a moment looked startled, and then greeted me with a tactfully obscured enthusiasm.
“How good to see you walking again! I heard sounds from the hall, and thought you might be First Mate Jones. He was… fetching me something,” she said.
“Thank you, Mrs. von Kant, for your well-wishes, and I too am seeking Mr. Jones, and the captain as well. Some dark deeds have just transpired, and grave action will have to be taken.” I lowered my voice and added “I have discovered a violent stowaway and madman in my room. Starkey and I managed to subdue him only a few minutes ago.”
“I hit him in the face with a wash basin!” Starkey called out from my sick-cabin.
“How intriguing!” the widow von Kant said, her eyes widening as she moved further out of her room.
“Please, milady, I am worried for your safety. I must urge you to stay locked in your room until the captain has incarcerated the rapscallion. Starkey is a good man, but the stowaway is extraordinarily strong and driven by inhuman passions.”
“And he has a knife!” said Starkey.
“Perhaps you should take his knife away, Mr. Starkey,” the widow von Kant said to the sailor, and my heart fluttered. Such intelligence in this lady, and also such composure in the face of disturbing matters!
“An excellent idea, Mrs. von Kant,” I said. “I commend your level-headedness. But please, I must insist: stay in your cabin until I return with Captain Stagg. I would hate to see you fall victim to that blackguard’s ravings.”
“I’ve got the knife. By G-d, it’s a big one!” Starkey said.
“Very well,” said the widow von Kant, “but only if you promise to tell me the story of this mad stowaway’s capture, once he has been locked away.”
I smiled at the widow’s words. “Mrs. von Kant, how could I refuse such a request? It would be my pleasure to relate the thrilling tale to you.” I heard steps behind me and turned to see Mr. Jones descending the stairs from the deck, puffing on his pipe, as always. “And look, here is Mr. Jones!” I said. “Your timing is impeccable. I require an audience with the Captain. Might you direct me to him?”
Mr. Jones looked from me to the widow von Kant and then said, “I was about to assist Mrs. von Kant.”
“It’s alright, Mr. Jones. My needs are not pressing,” the widow replied, nodded to us, and then closed and locked her door.
I turned back to Mr. Jones, who was still looking at Mrs. von Kant’s door.”Well, shall we find the captain?” I said.
“Hmm,” said Mr. Jones, and began to retrace his steps back to the deck. I followed, eager to renew my connection to the sea with deep inhalations of brisk ocean air, air that did not reek of urine.