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Five Murder Mozart

bab dac js sdw srz

Critch decided that we should play Portsmouth rules, with the compulsory 13 gun salute at Savoy. Scott added the wise suggestions that we observe the Laws of Engagement of The Royal Chilean Navy, Cuviers' Osteology of the Potto, and a tendency to use Russian patrynomics in honour of International War and Peace Month(s). The Emma Amendment (forbidding the mention of underwear) will be held over from earlier games until further notice.

[js] "You are people of some family and education, I collect?" asked Jack, his voice becoming dangerously loud. "Not a pair of mumping, Dutch-built quizzes, as ever fouled a hawse? Mr O'Brian has been most shockingly ill-used. A monstrous impertinence. Infernal scrubs"

Barbara Baker and Scott Wilson shuffled their feet bashfully, not meeting Jack's eye. At length, one of them replied...

[srz] '...Aye, ill-used indeed,' sighed the taller of the two visitors. Then, warmed by Jack's harsh words, his voice rose. 'Now see here, sir: some have called me a merry Andrews, but Barbara?' Crow-hopping awkwardly on one sound leg, he attempted to cross to the windward side of the rolling quarterdeck.

'It's quite all right, dearest,' whispered his companion as she moved with uncommon grace to place an elegant gloved hand lightly on his wrist. 'You've confused the narrator's voice with Captain Aubrey's, so you have; and my name is Barbara, so it is.'

Turning, she lifted her gaze with a captivating smile: 'Captain Aubrey: you must forgive him, for we have...

[bab] Merely been following the immemorial custom of the service and practising fearless Naval English. Then with an elegant jerk of her chin towards her peg legged accomplice, "Hear him...

[dac] sing Sir oh you should hear him sing, just the thing for your musical interludes with the Doctor. Why just this morning during the dog watch he regaled the men with Mozart's Requiem, single handed ! with only tight pair of breeches to help him with the high notes. Why I hazard that voice could charm.......

[sdw] ," but her voice trailed off under the steady gaze of Jack's bright blue eye, causing Barbara to falter and examine her lace mittens [which I was there, Steve: they was mittens].

"Just so, ma'am," said Jack, and then, "Mr Richardson, press that.. man. Perhaps Mr Martin can use him in the choir. Mr Babbington, take Miss Baker and show her

[js] your part..."

A singularly toothless leer spread across Babbington's face. Barbara busied herself in the copy of "Advanced Seamanship for Young Ladies" she carried everywhere with her.

Jack – who had been distracted by the sight of Aspasia chewing on the tails of Wilson's coat, a vengeful gleam in her yellow eyes – continued in a firm voice, "Your part in the running of the ship. And Mr Richardson, take that goat's name.

Stephen appeared on deck."A very good morning to you, my dear sir: I hope I see you well?" asked Jack, concerned about the uncommonly pale cast to his friend's countenance. "Jack, my dear," said Stephen in low, worried tones, "an unpardonable liberty, but I am in duty bound obliged to inform you that

[srz] ...someone — the illiberal, unmannered assassin -- has had his infernal way with my prized potto; the entire right front leg...perhaps I might venture the more nautical larboard...gone, splintered below mid-femur.' Seeing Jack's look of growing concern, Stephen went on, 'No, no, not as who should say a potto, a breathing, beskinned beast: the potto to which I refer is the mounted bones of a once-living creature, the whole delicately wired by the hand of our mutual acquaintance, the widow...'

'Yes, yes, stop for all love, I know which potto you mean,' said Jack, casting a jaundiced eye in Aspasia's direction — the goat was now munching away with a fair show of complacency at a mizzen backstay. 'It's just that Mr. Wilson, here...have I introduced you? Oh, pardon me: Mr. Wilson, Dr. Maturin, ship's surgeon and a particular friend. Dr. Maturin, Mr. Wilson — we shall have Mr. Wilson tip us a chorus of 'Tuba Mirum' one evening, so we shall. And this is Miss Baker, whom you no doubt recall for her part in the...

He trailed off, uncomfortably aware that some little delicacy was required in mentioning that recent affair. 'As I say, they are just come by the mail packet from...

[bab] Naples where she was hailed as La Colossa".

"Enchante" trilled Mme Baker obligingly presenting a mittened hand to Stephen who gave it back to her. 'Yes' she simpered, 'I am recalled most particularly for my part in the 'The Abduction of Figaro' such a physically demanding role but I dote on Mozart. Quam olim Abrahae...' The last phrase was delivered in a startling soprano that penetrated to the very bilges and awoke echoes from the hens in their coops. Aspasia defecated with intent on

[dac] ......observing which Jack let out a roar "Killick get that infernal beast back in its pen and clear up this damnable mess".

Whilst the furtive look on Killick's face as he rapidly appeared from the direction of the Captain's berth, could have been put down to peering at Mme Baker through the keyhole, the clatter, reminiscent of small bones and wire that immediately preceded his appearance was less easy to explain. By all bar the Doctor that is who......

[sdw] cried out "Killick! Killick there! A word with you". The steward's face was composed in a respectful, an entirely unnatural respectful, vacant stare hard forward. He knuckled his head and stood, for the first time in their long, long acquaintance perfectly quiet. Jack, amazed, walked over and stood beside Stephen, fixing Killick with his bright blue eye and enormous natural authority. Barbara picked a wisp of oakum off her left mitten. Wilson struggled to appear calm while disengaging the goat from his tails. The seaman Zimmermann paused in his work in the mizzentop and exchanged a significant look with his mate Skinner: "Watch out for squalls, mate."

[js] Skinner, a notoriously hard case, nodded and spat neatly onto the crossjack yard by way of signifying agreement.

"Killick," said Stephen, "this is discreditable in the last degree; a very pitiful exhibition. What could a Captain's steward – one whose manners, I might add, could never recommend him anywhere – possibly want with some of the osseous remains of an elderly potto? A creature that led a life of positively prelapsarian innocence. A shabby trick indeed."

Killick hung his head for a moment, feeling the full force of Stephen's moral advantage, and then burst out: "Which rabbits' foots is good luck, ain't they? And rabbits is blameless indiwiduals. How much more good fortune would a potto's foot bring the barky? And we needs all the luck we can get," he added in sombre tones, "what with Admiral Critchley due aboard any minute."

[srz] 'Well, now,' said Stephen, having noted with a small part of his subconscious mind a curiously musical groaning sound emanating from Aspasia's distended belly; the goat had abandoned Wilson's coat-tails and was now chewing thoughtfully on the sadly diminished remains of a holystone carelessly left lying in the scupper. Following her lead beneath his breath, he murmured:

'Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis:
Voca me cum benedictis.'

Jack turned, brow furrowed. 'Wicked he is without a doubt, Doctor; doomed too, and sadly confused — as am I, I do admit — but how the devil do flaming saints figure into it?'

'Eh? Oh, excuse me, my dear; I was reminded of a performance I heard when last we were in London; sadly, one that could not begin to be recommended. I merely observe that Killick will be having but a sad time of it by the midwatch, for the potto's bones, after preservation in just this way, are known to exhibit a strong purgative effect when cracked open and the fumes inhaled.'

'Well, that's a relief, I do declare.' Jack's face turned red and he emitted a kind of gasping wheeze: 'Relief, d' ye smoke it, Stephen? Oh, ha ha ha.' Some moments passed while he struggled to compose himself.

'Killick, lay on supper for our guests before you are taken indisposed. I believe there are a few Parma hams and a dried codfish in my locker, beneath my number one scraper. Light along now; there's not a moment to be lost.' Jack ignored Killick's sour, injured look at the mention of foodstuffs stored in proximity with the holy scraper. 'Why, there'd be nought but stone soup for 'e if I had the say of it,' he muttered under his breath, slouching toward the great cabin to polish the Captain's silver to within an inch of its life.

'Babbington, I believe I see Admiral Critchley's barge pulling up straight into the wind's eye; if I don't mistake, by the time he's piped up the side he'll be thoroughly soaked, wetter than...'

[bab] wetter than ...but wetter late than never. Ha Ha.'

Skinner laughed appreciately. 'Goldilocks said ''Wetter late than never". I said, he said "Wetter late than never".

'He will be laughing on the other side of his face when the Admiral hears that goat. Why, when I was a little lad in the Billy Ruffian I seen Captain Critchley have three tenors and one treble flogged at the grating for bum notes'

Skinner scratched himself thoughtfully for a while then enquired 'What did he have against bumboats then?'

Zimmermann gave his mate a sharp glance and then visibly relaxed as if something had occurred to him. 'You were born on the Surrey side weren't you mate? Dorking.' he added significantly.

Skinner was summoning his wits to deny Dorking when a long, loud, dying cackle as of all the inhabitants of a hen coop perishing at once brightened and uncontorted his features for, by a delightful co-incidence, it provided a descant to the bosun's piping aboard of the sodden Admiral Critchley. 'Somebody's going to cop it mate and I bet it's that ...

[dac] Doctor of ours who'll save our bacon so he will, I hear Old Swabber suffers from gout cruelly so he does.

Stephen meanwhile with well hidden amusement was watching the Admiral limp aboard. Jack had on several memorable occasions spoken of "swabber Critch" one of the oldest Admirals on the list and who, if rumour served, looked upon the Admiral of the Fleet's longevity as a personal insult.

Starting out before the mast "Critch" had never been the most polished officer in terms of manners, but you could be assured that given enough salt and pepper pots, cutlery and mustard spoons he could always be relied upon to fight a good Copenhagen at dinner.

"Aubrey, good to see you" growled the Admiral, 'xpect this is the surgeon young Sir Joseph is always wittering on about. I'll speak with him later if you don't mind, 'bout the gout so it is.

The Admiral winked at Barbara then turning to Scott he asked "I imagine you find that goat attached to your coat an annoyance sir, filthy creatures, carry the gleet I'm told" Then to Babbington "don't just stand there lad get someone to dispose of that beast."

"Would you like to inspect the ship sir?" asked Jack in an attempt to recover some ground. The Admiral raised a grizzled eyebrow and suggested a glass or two of claret first.

"We'll give those grass combing buggers of yours a chance to clear up all that goat shit first shall we Aubrey?" he said quietly as they walked towards the cabin.

[sdw] Jack bent closer to the Admiral the better to hear his words, which were somewhat in the background of the noise made by his armament. In addition to his regulation sword, an especially fine presentation sword awarded for Copenhagen dangled beneath it, a heavy cavalry saber competed for space with a French fencing foil on his right side, three highly ornamental dirks were in his belt, a rapier was in his right hand, a pike commemorating the Glorious First of June was in his left, and a finely serrated gold-plated runcible spoon peeked out of the pocket of his navy waistcoat. Skinner looked at Zimmermann, closed one eye and said "Sharp fellow."

[js] "Sharp fellow?" said Zimmermann, "Oh, wery good, wery good. You could set up for a comedian, you could, young Skinner."

Skinner was a dull fellow, not normally known for his wit. "Thankee," he said, with a look of perfect bliss and something as near to a girlish giggle as his tough, battle-hardened frame could produce.

Just then, a hideous metallic clatter, accompanied by a hoarse, wild and peculiarly indignant roar broke out from the Captain's cabin. It drowned out the powerful voice of Wilson, who was treating the afterguard to a chorus of "Dies Irae".

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" thought Stephen, an expression of ludicrous dismay crossing his face. "That nodulous sample of powerfully ferro-magnetic rock, the lodestone... I left it behind the guest's chair at Jack's table!"

[srz] He rushed into the great cabin to find Jack attending to the Admiral, pinned as he was to the chair and still wild-eyed with indignation. 'Killick, pass the word for the bosun and the carpenter; Admiral, hold fast.'

Skinner and Zimmermann, mounting to the mizzen crosstrees, ignored the bustle on deck as men hurried aft with boring bits, adzes, stout line, a boat hook and double-purchase blocks. 'Bartholomew fair, young Skinner, what? Never a moment's peace in this 'yer barky; nor nothing like when I come into 'er under old Crumblebits, as we called 'im, I can tell 'e that.'

[bab] What did you say? Speak up, lad, e-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-e.' On a whim, Zimmermann tried popping his poor ears and found that they had been only partially deafened by Wilson's heroic tenor.

Thus it was that he became aware of the sound of the instruments of his art being wielded below, of bulkheads crashing and of muffled shouts. Skinner leant out at a reckless angle to peer past the mizzen topsail and report what he saw – a confused procession of Jack, Killick, the admiral and the chair making its way from the great cabin to the quarterdeck.

He had barely time to enunciate his observations to the carpenter before a demented cry of 'Chips! Chips there!' penetrated his consciousness . He passed on the remark to Zimmermann who, after a decent pause, condescended to lay down his awl and pop his ears again before making his stately way down to the quarterdeck where he re-encountered his grinning assistant whose meagre calves still smoked gently from their precipitate contact with the backstay.

The carpenter was enchanted by the scene that met their eyes. This would require all his professional skills. For Aspasia, having escaped Babbington's supervision, had, seemingly, indulged her immoderate appetite by disposing of poor prostrate Wilson's wooden leg not to mention half of the captain's best chair and was attempting to devour the binnacle to which Babbington clung with the desperation of one who had almost certainly witnessed the fate of Mme Baker's wooden teeth. The carnage was rendered even more striking by the delayed effect of digested potto's bones on the goat's lower alimentary tract. Perhaps more charming yet to the carpenter's recovering ears was the anguished howl of that f*cking Old Swabber – a cry of the damned which rose above the shrieks of all the other victims and even smothered the clash of his own ironmongery:

Inter oves locum praesta
Et ab haedis me sequestra

Grant me a place among the sheep
and separate me from the goats.

The End

But then...

[dac] Once Stephen had finished administering to the Admiral ("With extraordinary bad grace"), Jack thought, he wandered of to the Orlop rather excitedly looking forward to lancing a particularly vexing boil on the Gunners glutius maximus. And thus by the time he and the howling gunner had finished, (Stephen having sent Jack his apologies for his probable late arrival at dinner), the catastrophe had been cleared away and dinner was nearing its close.

But not quite, indeed The sight that met Stephen as he entered Jacks cabin was one that he could not have dreamed up with several hogsheads of laudanum.

It was obvious that both the Admiral and Jack had immediately not only taken Brandy for shock, but eventually deduced the nature of the extraordinarily strong lodestone, and then sunk several bottles of claret before thinking up their current pursuit.

They had now moved on to Jack's champagne, but it was the opening thereof that amazed the Doctor.

They were fighting Copenhagen again without a doubt, but Jack was sitting half way down one side of the room and the Admiral the other side at one end. The lodestone was sitting at the other end of the room the same side as the Admiral both Jack and the Admiral swaying heavily held a brace of vintage magnums.

At Jacks cry of "Engage more closely" the Admiral let go of the canon that held him in place which meant he and his chair slowly moved down the room towards the lodestone. As he past Jack they both shook the bottles aimed and cried "Fire" .

The episode as it had done the last three times ended with the Admiral in a tangle of cutlery fastened to the lodestone upon which Jack tottered over and disentangled him whilst they drank what was left in the bottles.

"A whiff of grapeshot no doubt" mused Stephen as he crept away leaving two drunk but gloriously happy officers.

[sdw] On deck, Babbington was taking charge of the situation. He had found places in the Admiral's barge for Mme Baker and Wilson. Skinner and Zimmermann were sent along to see the lubbers safely to shore. They picked their way carefully to seats over the mounds of daggers, fids, knives, toad-stickers, grapefruit spoons and other sharp objects collected by the Admiral on that day's tour of inspection of the fleet.

Eventually the shouting, rolling and popping stopped coming up through the skylight. Stephen attended to Critchley, handing the objects to Bonden who placed them under his arm with considerable sang-froid. Killick and most of the afterguard set to work in the cabin, and the barge shoved off. Jack and Stephen watched them go, as did Aspasia, her mouth busy at some momentarily neglected article, so that the last thing the barge saw of this uncommonly elegant female was her beard waving, waving, waving.

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