The Fox

by Richard Beland

Alan O’Dunne, known to every buccaneer and sailor on the high seas as the Fox, was captured, and the Bones had him. An infamous dungeon, the Bones was almost always the last gasp for criminals, and those not sent to the gallows would wallow in their cells, shackled to the wall, until nothing remained but a skeleton, which was left on the cold stones as a ghastly reminder to new inmates that theirs was a grim fate.

He was a hard man, a seasoned pirate who earned every bit of his notoriety. It was always a mystery how he acquired his nickname or his peg leg. How many fell beneath his sword is unknown, nor how many hearts his dagger pierced. He and his terrible crew robbed merchant ships and sank them to the bottom of the sea. They plundered ports and disappeared into the rolling mist. So reckless, so brazen, was O’Dunne, that no man in his murderous mob ever sailed with him long, for most were killed in battle or captured and hanged, yet the Fox always managed to elude the authorities, often by the skin of his teeth. He was captured only once, early in his career, but escaped his South American prison, despite the fetters that held him to the concrete floor.

Now he was in the Bones, left to rot, and even he brooded on his plight. His left hand was manacled, the heavy chain set deep in the brick wall. He had companions, skeletons who had long ago slipped away from their bonds and lay strewn about the floor. Crows perched between the bars of his cell window, waiting for the Fox to die so they could peck at his skull. Those bars were almost as thick as a man’s wrist, but the bricks and mortar which held them were crumbling. A powerful, wiry man, the Fox knew that if he could reach the bars he could tear them out of their moorings; then he could flee into the wood and quickly lose any pursuers in the clustered pines.

A ration of bread and water was brought to his cell in the morning, but the pirate was nowhere to be seen. An alarm was raised, but the Fox was long gone. Still, they learned how he had gotten his nickname and peg leg, for there on the floor lay his bloody hand, which had been chewed off.

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