|"Dis-moi qui tu hantes, je te dirai qui tu es."
A man is known by the company he keeps.
Every day at 3pm, sharp, a lackey entered the office of Lord Cutler Beckett and placed a small tray of sandwiches on the coffee table. Each sandwich was cut into four perfect triangles, every one decorated with a tiny flag showing the emblem of the East India Trading Company.
"I have to say that I'm delighted you accepted my invitation for tea, dear Anne. We have so much to discuss regarding the future."
Anne Norrington's fingers drummed impatiently on the table. 'How deceiving appearances can be', Cutler Beckett thought once again. Iron will and ruthlessness well hidden behind dark locks, gentle brown eyes and an angelic face. What Anne wanted, Anne got, and a year ago, she had decided that she wanted to become Mrs. James Norrington. Now she wanted to become his widow, a decision that found Lord Cutler Beckett's full approval.
"I don't understand how you can be so calm, George! He's done it again! How is it possible that we lose ships almost every week, but James and his bloody Molly return safely every single time? What's wrong with pirates these days?"
"Language, Anne, language! You're cursing like a sailor. That's no way for an English lady to behave. Not that you are an English lady, but at least you look like one; try to keep up appearances."
"A pity he didn't drink that wine."
"It would have been most unfortunate for me if he had. I told you I need certain information first before we can - dispose of him."
"Who could have known that idiot of a lieutenant would drop the bottle! If only he had drunk from it!"
Lord Cutler Beckett nibbled on a sandwich, then carefully tapped his lips with a napkin.
"Dear Anne, I'm afraid Thomas Gillette really is unsinkable. So far he's survived stabbing, bullets and hurricanes. Not even cursed pirates managed to free us of his presence. I fear he'll survive us all and dance on our graves."
Anne Norrington sipped her tea, then set the teacup back on the saucer.
"Why don't you send Gillette to serve on another ship then, far away from James? There's always some war happening where he could get himself killed."
"My dear, the East India Trading Company is not the Royal Navy. We don't decide who serves on what ship. Not that we don't make suggestions at times... look at it as a marriage: they bring in the power, we bring in the money. But it's the East India Trading Company that has more fun between the sheets. Your beloved husband doesn't wish to part with the man, and I don't feel like arguing. I find dear James' sarcasm rather tiring at times."
Anne slammed her fist on the table. Lord Cutler Beckett swiftly caught a plate before it fell to the floor and gave her a disapproving look .
"Countenance, my dear. We're not in Holborn."
Mrs. Norrington, who didn't appreciate being reminded of her humble origins and former employment in an establishment of questionable reputation in London, was infuriated.
"George - I want him gone. Gone! I don't want to spend the rest of my days in this hell hole, with a boring old stiff for company! He's a failure in every respect. I married a commodore and ended up with the captain of a fishing smack! I want him dead! I want to be free to find someone else!"
Lord Cutler Beckett had finished eating the sandwich and was now wiping his fingers on the napkin.
"A failure in every respect? I see. How regrettable. So this is a matter of lust and romance then? Silly me - I thought it had something to do with the money dear old James inherited after his father's death and your wish to marry into an old family."
Mrs. Norrington arched an eyebrow at Lord Cutler Beckett, then she smiled.
"Your sense of irony is one of your most endearing traits, George. I can't deny there's some truth in your words."
She ran her fingers slowly over the back of the man's hand, a gesture that would have looked intimate and gentle if there hadn't been that wicked smile on her lips.
"You wouldn't regret it if you could find a way to get rid of James once and for all."
Lord Cutler Beckett removed his hand from her touch, steepled his fingers and watched Anne Norrington thoughtfully.
"Only my irony? Quite a blow for my reputation as a skilled lover. But be that as it may, my dear, I assure you that James will be gone as soon as I know where Will Turner is."
"George, you're obsessed. Will Turner is dead."
"That's what James told us, but I don't believe him."
"Don't be ridiculous. Why should James lie about it? He hates the man! Turner tried to escape, James shot him and he went overboard. If it hadn't been for that little bit of heroism, James would very likely be swabbing the deck on a ship of the East India Trading Company by now."
"Royal Navy, Anne, Royal Navy. Do I speak in tongues?" Beckett stood up and began to pace up and down. "Will Turner is very much alive, I'm absolutely sure of that. And he still possesses Captain Sparrow's compass. I want it. And I will get it."
"George, let's assume for a moment that you're right. Maybe you haven't tried hard enough then? Every man has a weak spot - why not use it? Admittedly, you can't throw James in prison and torture him; that might not go down well here in Port Royal. But maybe somebody else could?"
Cutler Beckett arched an eyebrow.
"You're an admirable strategist, dear Anne. Just imagine what would happen if, heaven forbid, somebody were to commission a pirate to capture the Joyful Molly? A great loss for the Navy, of course, but then she should have been scrapped long ago."
"That would be terrible. Poor James. Fortunately nobody would think of doing such a dastardly thing."
Cutler Beckett sat down at his desk and reached for the quill.
"Indeed," he said. "Fortunately."
He wrote a few lines, signed and sanded the parchment, finally sealed it. Then he snapped his fingers.
"Mr. Mercer, would you be so kind to forward this document to the gentleman who served us so extraordinarily well last summer... what was his name again..."
Mr. Mercer, Lord Cutler Beckett's factotum, came forward, bowed deeply and took the parchment.
"I suppose you're talking about Captain Logan, my lord."
"Ah yes, indeed - Logan was the name. A capable man. If anybody can deal with dear James, then it's him. But please make sure that he clearly understands Captain Norrington may not be disposed of before I have the information I want."
"You can rely on me, my lord."
"And tell him how very pleased I'd be if Thomas Gillette's throat was cut in the process," Anne threw in, which made Mr. Mercer smile with delight.
Cutler Beckett wagged his finger.
"Ah, ah, my dear Anne, what did we just discuss? We need them both alive."
"And why would that be, George? James I understand, but what do you need Gillette for?"
"Anne, I'd thought you to be more intelligent. James wouldn't tell anybody where Turner is, not even under torture. He's so disgustingly noble and loyal. But it might help his memory if his silence proved a danger to a good friend. Don't you agree, Mr. Mercer?"
Mercer smiled, which earned him a disapproving glance from his lordship.
"Mr. Mercer - I hope you will not forget to mention that under no circumstances may Mr. Gillette be seriously injured. I have other plans for him. Have I made myself clear?"
"Crystal clear, my lord," Mercer replied, but he looked very disappointed.
* * *
Ragetti's random notes: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich and self-proclaimed inventor of the sandwich, died in 1792, so Lord Cutler Beckett eating sandwiches for tea is hopefully not an anachronism. As the Earl of Sandwich held, among other positions, that of First Lord of the Admiralty from 1771 to 1782, I felt it was nothing but fair to include him here.
The Royal Navy and the East India (Trading) Company are not the same thing. Really. Trust me on that. I'm aware the movies could give the wrong impression there but – not the same thing.
|CHAPTER 2: Tea for Two
by Molly Joyful