After a second, Lockhart tried not to clink and clank his way across the room as he hustled for the keys. Katie studied the hole in the wall. The ship had been built with double thick walls. The outer wall only had a small hole in it where the sea splashed in from the occasional wave. By the time she decided it would take hours, if not days to sink the ship at the rate it was taking on water, Lockhart handed her the keys. She quickly unlocked her shackles and handed the keys to Lincoln.
“Just checking.” They heard a man’s voice on the steep ladder-stairs that led up to the upper deck. “I thought I heard something.” Lincoln quickly turned his back to the stairs so what he was doing would not be obvious. He found the key for Alexis’ shackles. Apparently, they did not all use the same key. Lockhart and Katie each jumped to the sides and a bit behind the stepladder so the man would not see them at all unless he turned his head to the side.
Katie reached through the steps as the man descended. She grabbed his feet, so he fell forward, face first. Lockhart punched the man in the head as he went past. It was not an affective punch, but he hit the man’s ear and it made the man dizzy for a second. Then the man hit the lower deck with his face despite the effort to catch himself with his hands. He may have broken a wrist.
Katie jumped on the man’s back, reached around and found an errant rag left from a former prisoner or slave. Plenty littered the floor. She wadded the rag and stuffed it in the man’s mouth before he could shout out. Lockhart put his knee down hard on the man’s neck so he could not get up. He tore the man’s shirt and tied it around the man’s mouth so he could be properly gagged, while Katie tied the man’s hand behind his back. One shelf on the wall held plenty of rope and leather cut to just the right size for the job. Katie guessed they sometimes tied the prisoners, or with the shackles, they might tie the feet together. She decided that was a good idea, so while she tied the man’s feet together, Lockhart stripped the man’s knife, short sword, and took his pistol, which he looked at once and handed to Katie.
The man opened his eyes wide, but he did not say anything, even after Lockhart lifted his knee from the man’s neck.
Katie finished tying and grabbed the small bag of powder, wadding, and couple of poor excuses for bullets from the man’s belt. She looked at the pistol while Lincoln finished getting free. To be honest, she felt afraid to fire the pistol, thinking it might blow up in her hand. The wick looked good. She thought she knew how to load and fire it, but she had to decide if it was worth the risk. She half decided it might make a better club.
“Ready?” Lockhart asked. He stood, one foot on the bottom rung of the stepladder, the short sword in his hand, a dirt streak on his cheek from rummaging around the floor.
“Ready,” Lincoln said. He had the knife. Alexis had her wand.
Lockhart climbed and looked carefully. Sailors were wandering the deck, pretending to look busy. The ship’s captain, or an officer of sorts stood on the poop deck by the man who held the steering oar. The doctor also stood there, talking with the captain, and watching as the ship slowly crossed the Bosporus. Two men, Lockhart thought guards, stood lazily by the railing, taking about something and occasionally glancing at the hatch, probably waiting for their friend to come out.
Lockhart pulled his head back below the hatch before he got seen and reported what he saw. Lincoln and Alexis agreed to keep the crew back. Lockhart imagine that would be Alexis calling up her magic. Katie and Lockhart argued over the two leaning on the railing. Finally, Lincoln got the job so both Katie and Lockhart could invade the poop deck. Alexis assured Lincoln that she would help, when Lockhart said, “Ready?” With affirmations, he said “Go.”
Lockhart ran, but Katie outran him. Alexis first pointed her wand at the two by the railing, and one went right over the side. The other angrily grabbed his rifle, but the shot misfired because of the wind, and Lincoln got there before the man could change his mind and pull his knife or sword. Lincoln poked his knife into the man’s belly, grabbed and pulled the sword and said, “Drop your knife and down on your knees, hands behind your head.”
Katie hit Stygria in the jaw with a staggering blow. As an elect, she was as strong as a man and had the speed and reflexes better than most. The man fell, like he had a glass jaw. Lockhart crossed swords with the captain, and while the captain maybe had the experience on his side, he was old, fat, and small. Lockhart, young and a bit of a giant at six feet tall, quickly overpowered the man.
The doctor, though older himself, nevertheless prepared for such eventualities. He had a large knife and showed from his stance that he knew how to use it. Katie, a marine trained in hand to hand, could have taken him down, probably without a cut, but she did not feel the need to risk it. She had lit her wick off the lamp in the hold, so she squinted and fired point blank into the man’s chest. The man dropped his knife and fell. She grabbed the knife and turned to face Stygria who was getting up, one hand on his jaw. She put her knife to the man’s throat and disarmed him. Then she told him to get down on his knees and put his hands behind his head. She saw Lincoln did the same thing with the man by the railing.
“Tell the crew to stand down,” Lockhart said. “Lincoln, bring that man up here,” he ordered. “Alexis, can you raise the wind?” She nodded, and immediately the sail filled, and the ship jerked forward. “Katie, when Lincoln arrives, you need to go down into the cabin and find the doctor’s bag.” He raised his voice. “I assume dumping the stuff in the sea will end the bacteria threat.”
“That will do it,” Alexis shouted back.
Lockhart turned to the ship’s captain who also got on his knees. “Take us safely to the dock and I will let you live and keep your ship. You have been paid, and I have a few extra coins if you cooperate.” Lincoln always carried some coins in a pocket on his person.
“A bargain,” the captain said. Lockhart shook the man’s hand. Stygria threatened murder, but Katie kicked him, and he quieted.
“Stygria,” Katie said. “Order your men to come forward and lay down their guns by the mast. I want them weaponless and face down in front of the poop deck, here.” Stygria looked at her and she smiled. “I could cut your throat.” He believed she would. He gave the order, and the guards came out from where they were hiding. The weapons went by the mast and the men came forward. One spoke.
“Chief. Corben and Miletes are missing.
“One went overboard,” Lincoln said as he arrived with his prisoner. “The other is tied up in the hold.”
“You are welcome to fetch him,” Lockhart said, as he stepped on the captain’s sword. “Drop us safely in Constantinople and you can have all this for free.” The captain shrugged, like maybe it was worth the attempt before he started doling out orders to the crew.
“One thing before I check the cabin,” Katie said. She slipped the knife in her belt and picked up the body of the doctor. She heaved him over the side from amid ships. She saw Stygria nod and rub his jaw. “He might have been carrying the plague on him,” she said and stared at the captain. “You come with me and show me everything he brought on board, unless you don’t mind getting the plague.” The captain went with her, but then he would not touch anything. Katie figured that.
Lockhart and Lincoln looked at their prisoners while Alexis kept the wind in the sails.
“My wife is an amazon,” Lockhart said to Stygria and gave him a big grin. “I’m surprised she did not knock your head clean off.”
“My wife is the witch, so you better behave,” Lincoln added.