I woke up in the morning. Or was it almost noon? I did not remember how I got home. Then I looked at my apartment. They were here. Sleeping on any sleeping surface they could find. My new bar friends. Must have carried me home. I looked back to my bedroom, and found a female, I haven't seen before, wrapped in a bed sheet, snoring, her clothes dispersed ominously around the room. Then I heard this loud knocking sound again.
- Bang. Bang. Bang. - went the door in what I recognized as my hall.
I staggered in the direction of the sound. The door knob was wobbling dangerously when I caught it, then tried to escape my embrace. I turned the knob, pulled the door towards myself, then lost grip as someone pushed it from outside, and the momentum sent me sitting down on the floor. Had it not been for the door chain, it could have taken one of my legs, if it opened with such velocity as intended.
- You're here! - sounded an angry voice through the gap - master Jacobs! - the voice belonged, as I realized, to my landlady. - You're lucky the police did not want to wait any longer! what with all the commotion at two in the morning! Told you master Jacobs, if you repeat this, I will force you out of here! You have until tomorrow morning otherwise all you posses will land on the doorstep!
I staggered to my feet again, pushed the door so I could undo the chain, then softly pulled it towards me, still clinging to the door knob as if using the door as a crutch.
- Look at you! What are you doing with this place! drunks everywhere! There was an angry gentleman here too, said he was looking for his daughter! Explain yourself mister, or I will expel your sorry bottom this instance!
- Owww... missus... just... ow my ears... will you cut it down on the loudness, woman... - I started, but this only infuriated her even more.
- You slob! what do you think you are! Let the apartment to an author, they said! It'll give the neighbourhood a posh flair they said! Since you rent here, we got nothing but trouble with ya! You even listen mister?
- Ogh... my head hurts... let me tell you this ... how much do I pay you for rent here?
- Not nearly enough! I can't cover your drunken ass every day, mister! The cost of sending all those people home, and the cleanup... look they even soiled the stairs! that'll be some serious cleaning required here!
- Dammit woman... told you to dial down a notch... - I could not stand any more, I released the door knob and flopped uncontrollably backwards, onto a hall sofa - look I'm weak now... but here - I found my coat laying next to me on the sofa, fished out a bank note from the pocket and tossed it in her direction - take the damn money! and leave me alone! Or rather... come back at three. I will have something I want to talk with you about - she picked the banknote with a sudden expression of greed, eyes still enraged, but pocketed it, got out the door, closed it down to a gap enough to put on the door chain, put the door chain on, then with great velocity, pulled it. The sound it gave out, felt like something fell down form the ceiling. Or maybe it was the gypsum relief falling. I couldn't tell, because I passed out.
* * *
At three in the afternoon, I knocked at Mister Jacob's door. A couple of seconds later, someone undid the chain and opened it.
- Welcome - said the doorman. I looked at his face. He was still visibly pale - I recognized him as one of the drunks I saw this morning. I entered the apartment, and looked around. Everything seemed normal... maybe apart from...
- We apologize, we could not have possibly organized for plasterwork repair on such a short notice - said the doorman - all the trademen we've contacted, were occupied. But we have repair scheduled here in two days, and this afternoon, someone will come to clean up the plaster dust off this sofa.
I continued through the apartment, looking into each room. They were all here. Still slightly damaged faces from laying down on the floor, but brighter and more responsive than the doorman. They were reading afternoon papers, sketching in their sketch books or chatting up their girlfriends. All very gentelmanly and ironed out. That last one, turned out to be master Jacobs. When he saw me, he stood up and extended his hand towards me.
- Welcome. I apologize for the state of us all you have seen this morning. As you have seen I've taken care of all the minor damage that happened this night, apart from the hall's plasterwork, but I heard the doorman tell you about it already. Please sit down with us.
- Now for the business part. You know I came here to London, chasing after a story, that I heard of ... I got commissioned by my backers, to find as many relations and accounts of the events, as possible. This job is taking me sometimes to places, where no self-respecting ladies should ever be seen... I will spare you the details.
- This night, I managed to track down a few trails down by the docks in the darkest pubs. Unfortunately as you know, they won't talk to anyone, who can not drink like they do... but I managed to bring a few of them down. One can not just enter these pubs and then expect to leave intact, especially asking questions like I did. So I dragged some of them to more up-market places, and then, I actually met my fellow authors, the gentlemen you are seeing here now. I made it alive. The woman that got dragged here together with us, is a sister of one of them. Judith, please meet my landlady.
- Nice to meet you - the female bowed slightly, still visibly tired.
- You too, Miss Judith. So what is it you wanted to talk about?
- When I finish this story, it will be the most emotional writing you could ever read... the real story of the queen of the pirates from twenty years ago. I have my backers already commissioning the presses for printing it in hundreds of thousands of copies. This is to say, that the party you've just seen, is the last one. Today I rest, then I will start writing. I write for days and nights no end, that is how I create. Let no one approach my door, apart from the porters carrying food for me, that I ordered from one of London's finest kitchens to deliver every day, from tomorrow, until I send someone with a message to stand down - he paused, looked at me then added - I will pay double for the service, and add something extra for keeping the neighbors quiet as I will be writing.
- Master Jacobs. I think you realize, that I need more information than that. Who do you think will be going up your door ? I am sure your rich friends here all can be persuaded to not visit you, you don't need me to stop them from doing that.
- They all are friends of the Story I will be writing. They are going to stay with me. But the story... it has a certain dark pull to itself. You know what story I'm talking about.
I nodded. Hardly anybody couldn't tell, here in London, the story of the mysterious queen of the pirates. Granted, it must have existed around in as many versions as there were people to tell it; I alone, heard it in at least three different incarnations.
- The story of the queen of the pirates - I said slowly - it is very unusual...
- Correct - he interrupted - I heard as many as ten different versions, and many of them contradict each other to great extent. It seems, there are not many people around, who remember the time it happened. And those who could have taken part in it, either died of alcohol overdose, or ended up in jail or in an asylum. All the versions agree on one thing however... well, two things. Frances Cotton Hannah O'Neill was a real person. That's one. And that she was suffering from a rare medical condition, that sadly made her pass from this Earth, almost exactly to the day, twenty years ago. I selected this apartment, because at the time when it all happened, this building used to belong to her family.
I nodded. I knew this. My late husband, God have mercy on his soul, entered a lease agreement and then, with no contradictions from the O'Neills, proceeded to buy this building, a nice, terraced house in upmarket London. Rumor had it, that the queen of the pirates herself, before she became one, was a frequent guest here.
- Is this... where she used to visit her family ? - I asked.
- Yes. I hope I will be able to tune in to her vestigial presence, and out of that, create a masterpiece, that will tell the world, what's true and what not.
- You're not the first that tries this - I looked into his eyes - you know what happened to those, who dared to do it before...
- Yes. Some died in the pubs, some have been found at the bottom of the canals, some jumped in front of the Tube trains... but ... they did not know it all. They all started writing it down, when they did not finish piecing it together... I traveled all around the coast, gathering evidence, I went to Ireland, I read through the trial files. I think I can with very good confidence, tell the world, what actually happened. It's all in my head. Now I will be writing it down.
I stood up.
- I understand now - I said - I hope you can bring some God's peace for those who died in this story, and for this story... my late husband, God have mercy on his soul, once tried to accomplish the same thing. He had a lot of the pieces - but he never really achieved what he set out to do - one evening he did not come back home, and no one has seen him where he said he was to go... I will guard your door, Master Jacob. Not for you... for her.
Mister Jacob stood up slowly, same did Judith, and so did I. Then I turned around, and just as I was looking away, I caught a ghostly figure in the corner of my eye, sitting on the sofa next to Judith. I headed for the front door.
It wasn't until this night, that I realized, that I know this figure... it was my husband.
* * *
- That was the last I ever saw of him.
- What happened then ? - asked the interrogating police officer.
- Well - replied the landlady - True to his word, Master Jacob did set out to work.
- How long did work on it?
- He managed to survive about three days.
- On the night of the fourth day, I heard a strange sound outside. I peeked out of the window, but the gas street lighting was off - I wanted to light a candle to illuminate at least some, but something... told me not to... and then the moon came out from out of the clouds... I saw them!
- Who did you see?
- I saw a dark mass of human-like figures... marching in to the square in front of the terrace... where they set foot, darkness fell on the ground... My window was facing away from where they were looking, so they didn't notice... but I saw...
- You saw what?
- I watched as they approached the house where Master Jacob lived. They scrambled and amassed all over it... creating a human pyramid... until the mass of them exceeded the strength of the house until it collapsed. There were a few bright flashes as it fell. And then, on the next blink of an eye, they disappeared...
- So it wasn't a gas explosion ?
- No... it wasn't the cause of the collapse, it was the result, as it fell, it ruptured some pipes and Master Jacob's candle must have found itself in the rubble.
The policeman rubbed his cheek - well you know... I think I better leave it as a gas explosion...
She opened her eyes wide - What?! you have taken my account of all this for what then !
- I haven't taken any written account - he replied and pointed at his notebook - and if you don't shut your mouth, we will make sure that the rest of that building is done for too!
- It is too early for this story to be told - he added - we are sorry for your loss, but we, as the Government, will make sure that you live the rest of your days without as much as a peep from you on the topic of the queen of the pirates. It is your choice, whether you'll live longer, or whether we have to cut your deal short - he glanced at her menacingly - do you understand?
- But... why? and ... is my husband... also cut short?
- It wasn't our doing - he replied - there are two distinctly known sides to this story, and he took the opposite view... of the crowd version... technically, he didn't really uncover whatever we already didn't know - we tried offering him protection, but they were quicker. But now you are under our protection, you need not fear.
- I... see... well... I hope you have a good evening, officer.
- You too. Shall we ask a cab for you ?
- No thank you, it's not far. I shall walk, I need the air.
- Take care then.
- You too.
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