His eyelids were stuck, his throat was dry, every bone in his body ached and his tongue felt like a cow camel's clitoris after a sand-storm. He had, he thought, the worst hangover in history, the mother of all hangovers and as the first waves of customary guilt mixed with feelings of stupidity began to wash over him, he remembered with a shock that he hadn't been drinking last night.
He heard the long iron pin drawn and the steps of his gaolers as they drew near.
“Is he awake?”
“I’d bet my pension.”
“He looks spent to me.”
“More fool you then. Stand clear lads, while I rouse the blackguard.”
Still blind, he caught the kick at his ribs but released the foot when a cold pistol was pressed to his brow.
“Easy there Lieutenant. You wouldn’t want to miss the show.” whispered a voice at his ear, a voice hated throughout the city.
There was nothing for it. He prised his eyes to take in the ugly twisted face of Major Twenty, captain of marines.
“Well don’t just stand there,“ said the major to his escort, “help Lieutenant Barnacle to his feet. We can’t shoot him lying down.”
* * *
Call me Ack.
For such is the name given me at the font those long years past.
Achilles Hector Kenneth.
At your service.
If you remember, it was back in 1798. Revolution was sweeping Europe and the New World and I was a hand on the old Shannon, a sixteen gunner, lying up in Dublin Bay. Our Master, Captain Barnacle, aye, him himself it was, was to be shot dead at dawn one morning. Not for the sedition, that came later, but for his general thievery and his disgraceful war conduct and so on. Piracy they called it. Well I ask you. The whole of colonial Ireland about to blow and those stuffed shirts worrying about the odd barrel o rum or sack or brandy or whatever we could get. Spoils of war he called it.