I awoke lying wedged between two restlessly sleeping mules. All was dark, and I was sure Ramsey and his crew were now holding me captive until I saw it was Jack wiping the blood from my wounded skull.
“Jack, what did you do?”
She held her finger to her lips and whispered. “Sorry Pratt, I thought you was one of Ramsey's men.”
“Do I look like one of Ramsey’s men?” I said as loudly as I could without breaking a whisper.
“I was cocked and loaded, Pratt. The next man through that door was going into the wall. Sorry it had to be you, but that decision had been made.”
“Am I bleeding?” I asked, touching the sore spot.
“You’ll survive,” Jack said, pulling my hand away. “What’s going on with Ramsey?”
“They’re all up top, drunk, sleeping soundly.”
“Ramsey, Butch, and Stubbs Hennessey –he’s got more, but they’re probably drunk somewhere else,” Jack said. “My plan was to take out the man who opened the door, then run away. But the man turned out to be you. With you here, Pratt, and them all asleep, maybe we’ll stick around. Has Ramsey still got the money?”
“No doubt.” I said, “I was surprised you gave it up so easily back at the Peg Leg.”
“He would have found it anyway. I didn’t want them big sausage fingers groping around under my coat.”
“He doesn’t know you’re a girl?”
“I told you, Pratt, no one knows. Just you and my brothers. If Ramsey had found out, this night would have had a much different ending, much different.”
“Well, how will this night end?” I asked.
“We’re going to leave with our money.”
“No,” I said, “It’s too dangerous.”
Jack assured me it wasn’t. They had been too drunk to tie her up properly when they put her in the stable, and if they had continued to drink—which I was able to confirm—nothing on earth would wake them. She coiled the rope they had used to tie her and hung it from her shoulder. It was much more rope than they needed to tie Jack up, which may have been part of the problem. We left the stable and climbed back on to the human part of the boat, then quickly and quietly, climbed to the top of the cabin. They were sleeping alright, all three of them loudly sawing wood.
“You get the pouch from Ramsey’s coat,” she told me, “while I make sure these fools will never catch us.”
Jack got busy tying the rope around the sleeping bodies, while I crept, on hands and knees towards the largest of the three.
Ramsey was snoring so loudly; I was sure that any minute he would awaken himself or one of his slumbering crew. He looked, for all the world, like a sleeping giant from a fairy tale. I was wishing I had a beanstalk to slide down, as I reached my hand inside the giant’s coat, looking for his gold.
Jack was making quick work of the rope, tying one end around Ramsey’s leg, then threading it through each piece of stray furniture on deck, around the neck of Stubbs Hennessy, then tied the other end around Butch’s leg. Done with her work, Jack stood over my shoulder as I gingerly felt around under Ramsey’s coat. Not finding it on his left side, I switched to the right side and soon had my hand around the fat leather purse.
“Got it!” I whispered.
But no sooner had I spoken when the giant awoke and jerked upright. “No you ain’t, you son-of-a-bitch.”
I held fast to the purse, ran to the bow and leaped to the ground below as Ramsey scrambled to his feet and tried to chase me. Jack ran to the rear of the boat, calling them a bunch of drunken cowards; Butch, now awake as well, rose to chase her. As he got to his feet, the rope pulled the leg from under him and with a thud, he landed flat on his face. The rope around his neck was strangling Stubbs; he tried to scream but the cries were choked off as they left his throat. Ramsey was still on his feet, but when he tried to follow my leap, the rope caught his leg in midair and stopped him short. I heard the sound of breaking glass as his head hit the window of the cabin.
Jack and I ran from the scene followed by the screams and groans of the crew of the Queen of the Mohawk still tightly tethered to their vessel. We ran until we could hear them no more.
“We’ve killed them,” I said when Jack and I had stopped to get our breath.
“Nah,” Jack said, “they’re alright.”
But I was not consoled. I still had their screams in my ears as we lay down to sleep in the woods outside of Troy. We had left them in a bad state, and I was still afraid that one or more of the men might die. I was still under a cloud over the Scotsman’s death; another death would seal my fate. It was the canal; I had to put it behind me.