Luckily, it seemed the Doctor had not completely forgotten their arrangement, it also seemed she was resourceful and good at thinking on her feet.
Letitia had almost given up all hope of escape. She was still jammed against the wall by the Black Orchid's big shoulders, the only consolation being that he was ignoring her now that Hanson was seated opposite him and they were deep in conversation about some rival crew who had been spotted in port and the suspicions they had of their planned booty. She could see Dr. Ferris on the other side of the room drinking from a beer mug that seemed almost as large as her and attempting to seem interested in the old man beside her who was showing her the large boil on his hand, but her eyes were steadily fixed on them, and Letitia suspected on Hanson in particular, especially when the bar wench approached them and gave Hanson special attention, almost thrusting her ample bosom in his face. Letitia had to admit that he was a beautiful looking man, so graceful and blonde and as she well knew he was even more breathtaking without clothes. It was such a pity he was an immoral criminal, he would make a fine gentleman to grace the most elegant of ballrooms. Unlike his Captain, she thought, glancing sideways at the feral muscular beast. She pondered, not for the first time, where the Black Orchid had acquired that cultivated accent of his. She had never met anyone so far removed from polite society yet he spoke with intelligence and even occasional eloquence when he was not uttering obscenities or deliberately shocking her. No matter. If the Doctor fulfilled her bargain, she would be far away from him soon enough.
And right on cue, a sudden commotion roused her from her thoughts. It appeared Dr. Ferris had clumsily knocked into a rough looking character and spilled most of her meed down his breeches. She had cleverly picked a drunken young oath to drench and he cursed loudly and grabbed her by her carefully folded neckcloth, but before he could proceed any further with his attack, Hanson had leapt from his seat and launched himself across the room, his fist landing squarely in the surprised man's jaw propelling him into the neighbouring table, knocking tankards and plates flying. The Black Orchid had automatically risen from his seat to follow his first mate and he eagerly threw himself into the fray as the tavern immediately erupted in an enthusiastic scrum of drunken brawling.
Dodging a flying pewter tankard that hit the wall behind her, Letitia quietly slid off the bench and out of the back door where she found Dr. Ferris laughing breathlessly in the filthy alley behind the tavern.
They ran through the lanes, all the way out of town until their breath gave out and they stopped on the very edge of the shore falling down to sit on the sand, both struggling for breath, Dr Ferris still laughing girlishly.
"I know you're a woman," Letitia gasped.
Dr. Ferris abruptly stopped laughing and pulling her hat off stared down at the sand.
"And I know your name is Grace," she added.
"I saw you and Hanson together on Pearl Island."
"You mustn't tell anyone," Grace pleaded, suddenly very serious.
"Why would I? And anyway with luck I will never see those villainous Pirates again."
"If the Black Orchid found out…If any of them found out…" Grace whispered.
"But Hanson knows," Letitia pointed out. "Surely you can't trust him!"
"Joshua is…I don't want to talk about him."
"And you are your own person," Letitia added. "You don't need those scoundrels."
"Unfortunately I do from time to time," Grace said. "They can be very useful."
"For what? Why are you disguised as a man? Why do you need the assistance of pirates?"
"The Caribbean is a lawless place, Lady Howard. It's not a place for the feint of heart or those who wish to abide by society's rules. And it is especially hard for women who have no protection. We have to throw ourselves at the mercy of men or use our wiles. I have chosen to do the latter."
"Then so will I!" Letitia said with determination.
"And how exactly are you going to do that my Lady?"
"I have absolutely no idea," she replied and they both laughed so hard they fell into the sand, tears rolling down their cheeks.
The Black Orchid was seething with a murderous fury. The navy had killed two of his men, there was a blackened hole in the deck of The Innocent and he wanted vengeance. Not just on the navy either. Someone was giving them information and he was more determined than ever to find out who it was. He had a nagging feeling that somehow it would all lead back to Lady Letitia Howard. He had always known he had not done with her yet, no matter how hard he had tried to convince himself otherwise. She had slipped away from him that evening in Nassau never to be seen since, and the traitorous Dr. Ferris had made himself scarce too. It was no wonder either. He was intelligent enough to know what would befall him if he ever crossed tracks with the Black Orchid again. His first mate was none too pleased either. Every time Tom mentioned Ferris's name, Hanson would react with a most uncharacteristic violence, taking his temper out on any poor crew member who happened to be in striking distance. Currently, The Innocent was not a happy ship to be sailing on.
They had made a reluctant retreat to Pearl Island and now Tom crouched by the fire and glared into its embers as Hanson attempted to reason with him.
"We must leave The Innocent behind, Tom. She's in too much disrepair and the navy is hard on our heels wherever we turn."
"And what of the crew? What will become of them?"
"We will have to leave them here under the Bear's watch, but it's ultimately their choice. Either they wait for our return or they find employment elsewhere."
"It's all my fault, Joshua," Tom said darkly. "I should never have brought a woman on board."
Hanson looked away guiltily knowing that Lady Howard was not the first woman to be allowed on board The Innocent, and she was not the first woman to cause heartache either, and a momentary vision of Dr. Ferris's cool gaze clouded his thoughts.
"Didn't you once say Lord Howard might have had connections with the pirate hunter?" He eventually asked, once his head had cleared.
"I thought he might but that bitch of a widow of his would never tell me anything. She thought I was beneath her contempt," and he laughed bitterly. "She didn't seem to know her precious husband very well."
"We found her in Bridgetown did we not?"
"Barbados. It seems like an age ago now."
"Then let us return there and see what we can uncover."
A smile crossed the Black Orchid's face for the first time in days. His eyes glinted sapphire blue in the fire light. "We will hunt the pirate hunter!" he grinned through the smoke. "Play him at his own game!"
Hanson grinned back and gave a wild laugh. It would be like the old times, before life weighed them both down and they could roam free and unfettered looking for their next adventure.