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Introduction:

A Slave Ship in the 21st Century
Winston McNeil was pissed off. He had been sacked from yet another job in the tourist resort of Runaway Springs. This time it was for taking home a half finished bottle of port one of the rich white hotel guests had left in their room when they left. Now all three of the main hotels had sacked him he was unlikely to find another job at the resort. He would, reluctantly, have to try to get a job back on the sugar plantation, where he was brought up.

Before leaving Runaway Springs he decided to pay a visit to the Free Library to check the papers for job adverts. It was a hot day and it would be a long walk inland to the plantation and his mothers shack. He would wait a bit until it was cooler. The ceiling fan slowly turned, slightly cooling him as he put the papers back in the racks. Turning round he spotted a book left on the table by a slightly older, well dressed, man who had just left. It was a book on the history of the island of Saint-Marie. Winston sat back down and idly turned the pages.

There were chapters on the island's 'discovery' by the Spanish and on the later disputes between the French and the English over its ownership. There was a picture of an early sugar planter wearing a queer curly white wig who had hanged for piracy. Winston became more interested as he started to read about the importing of slaves from Africa to work the plantations. His ancestors.

He was still reading an hour later. He wasn't a fast reader. He read with horror and anger about the treatment of the slaves. He read of how one ship embarked 600 slaves in west Africa yet only landed 400 in a saleable condition when it arrived at Saint-Marie.

Although he had been brought up with songs about his ancestors being brought over from Africa, his anger and resentment grew as he read in detail how native African traders would seize men, women and children from villages of a different tribe, slaughter those too young or too old to work then march the rest of them to places on the coast where they would be coated with palm oil to make their black skin glisten before selling them to the white skinned 'merchant venturers'. But eventually many of these native traders were unfortunate enough to find themselves seized as slaves too!

Winston had to leave when the library closed for the day. It would be dark in a couple of hours. Although he had been evicted from the workers' bunkhouse there was no rush for him to get back to the plantation. He would be quite happy to sleep under a palm tree just beyond the limits of the hotel beaches.

As the orange sun set below the roofs of the town Winston sat watched the tourists, some drunk, cavorting on the beach. He watched slim bikini clad girls teasing their boyfriends, and their friends' boyfriends, at the edge of the surf. He lay back and watched other girls, presumably single, drunkenly flaunting their lithe, or in some cases not so lithe, bodies before any passing male.

He remembered Anna, a rich, single, young American who he had had to help back to her room. She insisted he come in to 'make sure I'm safe 'cos I'm a bit tiddly.' Even though it was against the rules for the local black staff to fraternise with the guests Winston felt obliged to comply with her pleading. The assistant manager happened along just a couple of minutes later at the moment when Anna was drunkenly trying to pull Winston's shorts off him - that was the end of his first hotel job!

A slim giggling teenager and an older man staggered away from the other guests nearer the hotel to the quieter, darker part of the beach not far from where Winston lay, watching. The boy and girl both quickly slipped off their scanty swimwear and lay on the still warm sand. Their pale naked bodies quickly becoming a single writhing entity as they made love.

As he watched them Winston recalled how sweet little Magdalene who worked in the laundry, thirteen years old with tightly curled black hair with little coloured ribbons, was raped by a burly hotel guest. She had a weeks pay deducted for 'fraternising' with a guest and then, six or seven months later she was sacked as the pregnancy started to show itself by her swelling belly. Two days later she was found floating face down in bed the hotel pool, having been too ashamed to return to her parents.

Winston returned to the library the next morning. He started reading more of the history of the slave trade that had brought his ancestors to Saint-Marie from Africa. He read how the manacled and chained slaves were stacked tween decks like any other cargo, in various arrangements all designed to fit as many bodies as possible in the restricted space available. It described the foul stench that emanated from ships in the slave trade, making them immediately recognisable to any other vessel to leeward. He read how when, during fine weather, slaves were exercised on deck sometimes one would leap overboard to drown.

As Winston was reading how the plantation owners found it quite acceptable for their white overseers to rape the female slaves because they found the resulting half-caste children more aesthetically pleasing than those of pure African lineage he was startled by a voice behind him 'White bastards! '

He looked around at a tall, muscular negro who now stood behind him.

'Wouldn't you like to take revenge for what they did to our ancestors?'

'What the fuck are you going on about' Winston replied.

'I've been watching you reading that book' the stranger replied. 'Its disgusting how those bastards treated the slaves' he paused. 'Our ancestors, our family.'

'But they're all long dead now, the slave traders' replied Winston, wondering what he had in mind.

'Let's take a walk along the coast, my friend.'

As they walked the man, who introduced himself as Osasu, said how the whites regarded all the blacks and coloureds as being the same so he saw no reason for them to regard the whites any differently. At first sceptical ,Winston listened to Osasu's plan with growing excitement.

He was gathering together a crew to capture white slaves to be shipped to Africa in conditions paralleling those suffered by their ancestors two and a half centuries earlier.

'But who will you sell the slaves to?' was Winston's first question.

'I'm not aware of any market for slave labour such as our people were subjected to back then' Osasu admitted.

'Conditions here, on some of the plantations aren't much fucking better now' complained Winston 'Even though we are all free men, and despite us having a black prime minister!'

'However' continued Osasu, ignoring Winston's interruption, 'There is a market for girls to be kept in brothels in North Africa and parts of Europe.' He paused with a sigh 'Unfortunately there seems to be a plentiful supply of young white whores from eastern Europe who flee their own countries without passports or identification and are easily manipulated by the vice gangs.' All we have come up with so far is to land the slaves somewhere along the former slave coast of West Africa, probably in Benin then drug them so they can neither resist nor speak and see if we can sell, or even give them away, to a whore house in, perhaps, Nigeria, making sure we are well away before the bitches come round and start shouting their loud mouths off.

Winston suddenly realised the full import of what Osasu was suggesting and grinned broadly, showing his white teeth 'So - in fact the more of the cunts who fail to survive the sea passage the better!'

As they continued walking in the warm evening Winston considered Osasu's plan. The more he considered the detail the less practicable it seemed. 'But if we can't get much money for the slaves' he paused, getting into the spirit of things 'I mean the cargo; how will you finance the boat, or do you already have a yacht or something we can use?'

'A yacht!' you must be joking laughed Osasu. 'If we do this properly, and film every moment to a professional standard we will be able to sell copies of the film for thousands of pounds on the black market!' He paused 'Black market, yes, I like that' and he laughed and thumped Winston on the back.

'So you will charter a small cargo ship or something?' asked Winston.

Osasu laughed again 'Wait and see, I have something far better than that in mind.'

Osasu arranged to meet Winston the following morning back at the library. Their first task he explained was to start collecting the slaves. It would need to be done slowly over several months and from several islands, after all the disappearance of a large number of tourists from one small island in a short space of time would immediately attract attention, not just locally but probably even internationally.

He was introduced to two more of Osasu's 'crew'. Both were, like Winston, in their late teens. Lincoln was, like Winston, slim and athletic but Robert was eighteen stone with the strength of an ox. Winston and Lincoln decided the name Atlas suited him better and Robert laughed when he overheard them referring to him by that name and suggested that is what they should call him as he would rather not use his real name anyway.

Helena Ford was to start university at the end of summer and had persuaded Daddy that he should let her have a holiday to remember in the Caribbean before the start of fall semester. She even got her father to pay for her best friend, Karen, to accompany her. However her father, concerned that his slim blonde haired daughter might be vulnerable to a holiday romance, arranged for her uncle and aunt to go along too, much to Helena's dismay.

Luckily her uncle and aunt relaxed in the atmosphere of the luxury hotel. Drinks were included in the tariff and her uncle was determined to take full advantage of the fact. She and her friend Karen, who, in contrast to Helena, had jet black hair and somewhat larger breasts, spent much of their time eyeing up several of the younger male guests. They all seemed to have come with wives or girl friends but Helena felt sure she must be able to tempt at least one of them to join her for an evening's fun. After all some of their partners were so frumpy and boring compared to her, or to Karen.

Despite the hotel dress code Helena 'accidentally' allowed her bikini top to come adrift when diving into the pool, while in the sea she allowed herself to be 'rescued' by a particularly handsome man in his late twenties after feigning cramps in her right leg. But it was Karen who got invited back to the room of a hunky muscular businessman from Texas whose somewhat overweight wife had got so drunk that she had ended up spending the night in the infirmary.

Well pissed off Helena decided to walk further along the beach then scramble over the small rocky headland at the end of the bay. There were obviously no eligible young men staying at her hotel, though some of the older, somewhat overweight, male guests had certainly made a few suggestive comments to her which she just found disgusting.

The next beach was dark and deserted. A complete contrast to the beaches in front of the modern hotels at Runaway Springs, but she felt it suited her mood that evening. She slowly walked the length of the beach, then turned and headed back walking along the water's edge, little waves washing over her feet. Hell, she hated rules, being respectable, being responsible. She kicked off her sandals, removed her shorts and bikini and waded out, naked into the cool sea. She knew she shouldn't swim alone after drinking but who cared. She lifted her feet off the bottom and swam straight out to sea. After four or five minutes she could see round the headland and the lights of the resort could be seen. That rather spoiled things so she swam back to the beach.

Unfortunately she had obviously landed in a different place from where she had started and it took her about twenty minutes wandering about the featureless beach to find her shorts, swimsuit and sandals. She was getting tired now and wanted either to get to bed or get drunk. Getting up over the rocks of the headland wasn't so easy from this side but eventually she made it to the top. Just as she saw the lights of Runaway Springs a strong arm wrapped itself round her neck. In just a few seconds she found her arms pinned behind her back and being bound together while another assailant pushed a gag into her mouth, tying it tight round the back of her head. Once her ankles were also tightly bound she found herself slung over the shoulder of a strong heavily built black man and carried into the deserted back streets of a part of the town hardly ever seen by tourists.

They carried her into a hut where her scanty clothing was quickly removed before she was bundled up and further bound in a large piece of sacking.

Although their first capture struggled, twisted and tried to scream through her gag they managed to carry her unnoticed through the town to the fishing beach. Here she was loaded into a dory with a powerful outboard, arranged by Osasu, which carried them at speed to another island.

Osasu actually considered this one of the riskiest parts of the whole undertaking, there was a real risk that such a craft might be identified as a drug smuggling boat and be intercepted by a helicopter from a patrolling naval vessel.

The tiny island of Petite Abandonnee or Saint Armel was almost worthless after the devastation caused by two decades of bauxite extraction. Pierre Moreau had originally taken a ten year lease of the islet with the idea of using it as an extra set for his Guadeloupe based film company. But, unattractive to visitors with its uneven mounds of disturbed earth and an ugly, dlisused drying kiln with a rusting jetty by the main beach, it was an ideal place to gather the captured slaves. Pierre and a couple of guards now lived in the former works manager's house which overlooked the whole island, which was just a barren waste about half a mile across at its widest point and little more than a mile long.

Helena was surprised to just be released when the dory landed just after dawn. She instinctively ran inland away from her kidnappers. It took her less than a quarter of an hour to work out that she was on a bleak barren islet with little obvious means of escape. She could see no other land on the horizon in any direction. Perhaps a boat would be left unguarded that she could steal though it seemed unlikely that they would be that careless. She was tired, thirsty and her feet hurt from running on the gritty mineral waste. There was a large but somewhat dilapidated house on the highest point of the almost flat island, from which three armed men were walking towards her kidnappers on the beach by the boat. She began to find that the fact they were making no attempt to recapture her was illogically filling her with terror. As the sun rose higher through the morning she became even more despondent. She was getting hot and she knew the sun would soon start to burn her fair skin in the absence of a new application of sun-block, especially those parts previously always covered by a bikini. Helena couldn't see a single tree of any size on the whole island. The only shade was likely to come from one of the few small untidy shrubs growing here or there or, perhaps from some abandoned rusty machinery near the beach they had landed her on. While she was exploring she heard the boat's motor as it left but by the time she ran to a point where she could see it it was already too far away to see who had left on it. She sank to her knees on the hot dirt, then slumped to lie on her side, crying.

In the house above the derelict kiln Pierre gave Osasu more details of the boat he had found in Bermuda. Winston listened in amazement as Pierre explained that a former French trawler which had been modified as a film prop for the box office flop "Henry Morgan and the Voodoo Queen" was still up for sale three years later. It was too small for use as any sort of sail training vessel, too rough and badly altered to be converted to a yacht and the work necessary to remove the masts and poop etc. made it uneconomic to convert such a large old vessel back for fishing. But to Winston's eyes the photos Pierre passed round showed a perfect pirate ship, or slave trader.

"But do we have the necessary skill to sail such a vessel?" Osasu immediately queried.

"Don't worry" Pierre reassured him. "It still has the powerful diesel engine from its days as a fishing vessel. Though we will have to find room to store a lot more fuel than its tanks will hold."

Winston couldn’t hold his tongue any longer "I presume we will get the chance to sail it at some point, for you to film? We can force the slaves to climb the masts naked and to haul on the ropes …" he added gleefully.

"NO!" barked Osasu. "You're not taking this seriously. I thought you had been reading about the slave trade; the slaves would never be allowed anything to do with the handling of the ship. The only time they would be allowed on deck would be for exercise, and then only a few at a time."

When the dory returned in two days time it delivered a pair of British girls in their twenties, one quite slim with brown hair dyed platinum blonde the other with larger breasts and her hair dyed in red and black streaks. They tried to refuse to leave the boat and eventually had to be beaten away with rifle butts so their naked bodies were somewhat bruised and bloody when the finally encountered Helena. They stared in confusion at the tearful American teenager with red peeling skin and dusty tangled blonde hair.

Winston returned to Saint Marie on the boat with Osasu. There he teamed up again with Lincoln and Atlas. The following day Osasu drove them to the larger town on the other side of the island.

That evening, before they had really started searching for captives, they idly watched a smartly dressed couple probably in their late thirties, the man at least perhaps in his forties, sat in front of a cafe bar overlooking the sea having a somewhat animated discussion. Winston thought to himself that the lady did look very attractive, even though clearly too old for their purposes. Suddenly the woman stood, picked up her partner's beer and threw it over him, shouting loudly "You cheating bastard, I want a divorce!"

The man leapt to his feet knocking over his chair "You stay here you nosy bitch..."

"Fuck off, and go screw your little tart!" she screamed before turning and striding purposefully away.

"Judith! You bitch! I'll fucking kill you if you don't come back right now!" he yelled after her as he started to follow her. But after a few steps he looked back at the gathering crowd cursing "What the fuck are you all staring at!" He then turned and ran into the hotel across the road, pushing aside the uniformed doorman.

Atlas just looked at his companions with a grin. They didn’t need to speak. OK she may be a bit older than their other captives but this was certainly too good an opportunity to miss. They followed her as she walked to the waterfront then headed along the road out of town. She stopped at a small run down bar, went up to the counter then looked around at the sea of curious, staring dark faces. Without ordering a drink she turned and headed on out of town on the coast path.

Just yards beyond the last brightly lit house Atlas seized her from behind clamping a large hand over her mouth. They dragged her into an area of dense undergrowth just behind the path. She struggled violently as Lincoln and Atlas tore strips from her thousand dollar dress to gag her then to bind her hand and foot. She watched Winston cross the path and hurl her Gucci sandals into the sea before speaking to someone on his mobile phone.

"Does he want her?" asked Lincoln as Winston finished his call.

"He says he'll be here in quarter of an hour to take a look" he replied.

"Well if he doesn't I could sure use her here and now!" grinned Lincoln holding her by the jaw and staring into her wide dark eyes.

Judith spent 48 hours tightly bound naked in the boot of Osasu's car before being shipped off to Saint Armel. She had almost died because Osasu hadn't realised how hot the boot of a car becomes in the mid-day sun. When they remembered her and opened the boot It stank of stale sweat, warm shit and urine and the hot skin of the woman's unconscious body was red and dry. Despite the risk of being seen they carried their naked captive, ankles still bound, down a nearby quiet but not totally deserted beach and bathed her in the tepid sea until she slowly regained consciousness. When she started asking, confused, with slurred speech, where she was they quickly gagged her again and returned her to the car.

There was one particular girl Winston wanted to include in their cargo. She was the daughter of the manager of the plantation on which he had been brought up. Maria was about the same age as Winston, she had shoulder length dark brown hair and bronze skin. She had always ignored him, if he spoke to her she never answered him and carried on as if he wasn't there.

He recalled that she had usually headed of into town, to Runaway Springs, on her small motor scooter on Tuesday evenings. She would return after dark, usually at about 9 pm but occasionally several hours later. Winston set off to wait for her on the road back, armed with a knife and a reel of fishing line.

Maria's piano lesson finished at half past eight. Sometimes she met friends in town afterwards but this evening she was tired, so as soon as the lesson finished she pulled on her helmet before jumping onto her scooter to head home. The scooters small headlight didn't light up the fishing line stretched diagonally low actions the dusty road. Without warning Maria felt her front wheel twisted sideways and the handlebars wrenched out of her hands. She was hurled from the bike onto the stone surface of the road. Her helmet saved her skull, but her cotton shorts and t-shirt were little protection for her body as it bounced along the road. Maria tried to get back onto her feet but felt dizzy and slightly sick, her elbows, knees and right shoulder were badly grazed and she had lost one of her trainers. She sank back onto her hands and knees, but the pain when her cut knees touched the ground made her roll onto her side. In the two years she had had the scooter this was the first time she had come off.

Although it was a quiet road Winston had to act quickly in case anyone else came along. First he had to secure the girl. She seemed dazed and confused as he bound her wrists and ankles with the remains of the fishing line that had been strung across the road. He removed her helmet then retrieved the scooter and pushed it behind some of the dense scrub bounding the road, checking neither it nor the helmet could be easily seen.

Turning back to the now sobbing girl he removed the binding from her ankles before pulling her back to her feet. He made a loop of the thin strong line and passed it over her head then slightly tightened it round her slender neck. As her knees sagged he pulled her up again by her hair and slapped her cheeks. Prodding her in the small of her back with the knife, while still keeping a grip on the end of the line round her neck he commanded "walk."

After only a couple of steps Maria managed to slip off her remaining trainer and leave it in the middle of the road where she fervently hoped somebody might see and recognise it.

When he had lived and worked on the plantation Winston had sometimes fantasised about Maria. Now he had the stuck up bitch tethered and at knife-point, she was under his control, her life at his mercy. He felt his cock stiffen. He should take her straight to Lincoln's shack in the town to await shipment to Saint Armel so he hustled her along the road towards the town. But this was, perhaps, the only time he would have her alone. He suddenly pulled back on the line looped round her neck so it cut into her throat jerking her to a stop. Grabbing her shoulders he turned her round to face him and tore away the ripped t-shirt from her torso, he felt blood under the fingers of his left hand and she dropped that shoulder in pain as he touched the open wound. He looked at her face, staring into her wide dark eyes, the pain and panic he saw there was turning him on, he looked away without releasing his grip.

"I know you!" she said unexpectedly "You used to be on our plantation. Weren't you …" before she could finish he had punched her hard in the mouth splitting his knuckles and breaking the tip of one of her white front teeth.

This was one slave who definitely was not going to survive the sea passage! She had just made herself worthless. As she started crying he roughly grabbed her right arm and pulled her uphill away from the road. She stumbled and fell, the line binding her wrists cutting into her skin as he just continued to drag her across the ground by one arm. She started to scream, Winston needed to gag her, quickly. He pulled down her shorts. She continued to scream, loudly. He then tugged down her panties and stuffed them into her mouth, binding them in place with fishing line.

Unable to shout she kicked wildly at her attacker. Atlas always made controlling their captives look easy but Winston, on his own was having difficulty handling this girl. Frustrated he kicked back at her shouting "Stop that or I'll have to break your fucking legs!"

She didn't stop and he didn't break her legs. He resumed pulling her further away from the road, now dragging her along by her long dark hair. Once he had her at least 400 yards from the road he stopped and rolled her onto her back. Only then, looking down at her body by the dim moon light, did he realise how badly the rough ground had bruised and torn her bare flesh. She no longer looked the perfect girl he had lusted after as a kid, indeed just the fact of seeing her stark naked removed the aura of glamour and eroticism he had always thought she had.

Winston felt tears come to his eyes, sadness at something lost forever. "Bitch!" he spat in her face. "You stupid, stuck up bitch!" he cried, kicking her in the belly. "You slut, you're no better than any of the other girls who work for an honest living."

Maria tried to plead with him but couldn't utter a single word through the gag , She attempted to clasp her aching stomach as he rolled her onto her back with his right foot. He then pushed down on her collar bone with his foot then brandished his knife in front of her bruised tear stained face. He kicked her thighs apart to fully expose her sex.

"Be a good slut or I'll fucking slice you up into little bits you cunt" Winston snarled, trying to sound fierce as he dropped his trousers and knelt between her spread legs.

Maria started to sob uncontrollably. She had so often dreamed of how she would lose her virginity, never once had she envisaged this sort of nightmare. She had imagined being taken by force, her pristine body lying helpless on white silk bed sheets as a handsome hunk fondled her intimate parts, making her moist before he firmly held her wrists above her head and slid his member into her. Not lying battered and bleeding on gravelly dirt with some young nigger kid trying first to push his cock straight into her tight, unprepared, vagina then, finding her too tight, pushing several fingers deep into her, twisting his hand viciously trying to enlarge the dry resisting passage.

At last he felt her becoming moist, but when he pulled his hand out it was blood which was soaking his fingers. Was that supposed to happen? He now managed to get his cock deep into her and, grabbing her small firm buttocks, thrust vigorously at her, coming to an orgasm all too quickly.

He released his grip on her arse then ran his hands over her small, firm breasts. She didn't resist, had she lost consciousness? He looked into her eyes. They were dull and unfocussed, yet seemed to follow his movements as he stood and re-fastened his trousers.

Maria's whole world was shattered. She dully realised she had make a big, big mistake when she had let him know she had recognised him. Now he had had his way with her and ruined her body she knew he couldn't afford to let her live. She hoped he would despatch her quickly. Perhaps he would slit her throat and slaughter her like an animal. She just hoped he wouldn't slowly cut up her body, as he had implied, while she still lived.

Winston had intended carrying or leading her to their shack near the beach on foot, but now, realising he was not Atlas, and that there would be too much danger of being seen on the journey, he phoned Osasu to fetch the car.

The collection of slaves continued, intermittently, for three months. Across the western Caribbean the increase in the number of missing persons did not go unnoticed, yet there was no discernible pattern and many women were assumed to have disappeared of their own accord. Sometimes after violent domestic disputes, sometimes after being sought by the police for petty crimes. On Saint-Marie posters were put up in the hotels warning of the dangers of swimming in the sea when intoxicated.

Meanwhile Osasu's preparation of the vessel he had selected in Bermuda had not been without problems. It was still on the beach it had been hauled up onto when filming had finished and when re-launched water poured in through the seams which had opened up as the planking had dried in the tropical sun. Two diesel pumps had to be put aboard and run continuously while they waited for the seams to close up again. It became increasingly apparent that he had bought a film prop rather than an ocean going vessel, though it had an impressive ship's wheel just forward of the poop the boat was actually steered by a smallish iron wheel, which had been in the wheelhouse when she was a fishing boat but on conversion had ended up in the stern cabin. The rigging just did not work and vast quantities of extra cordage and many new blocks were needed if it was going to be possible to set the sails properly. The sails themselves had been rendered useless my multiple 'canon ball holes' having been cut in them and several had been deliberately torn almost to shreds. Some were patched up while several new ones had to be made, but as Pierre wanted his film to have an authentic 18th century look they couldn't use modern bright white sailcloth but instead had them cut from canvas intended for tents or marquees.

On Saint Armel the naked 'natives' were reduced to a pitiful condition. Starved, thisty and sunburned many of them lay sprawled in the slight shade of the disused bauxite kiln. Here each morning a couple of men left the security of the big house, opened a gate through the surrounding perimiter wire and placed out black plastic buckets containing water and food, the later usually rotting waste from the hotel bins on Saint-Marie which had been brought over by boat maybe several days earlier. Sometimes the more recent arrivals would waste their energy dashing from one side of the barren island to the other hoping to see a passing vessel which they might summon help from, or trying to either scale or dig under the fence surrounding the house. Only once did a yacht venture near the island and it was spotted while still a couple of miles off by the guards who rounded up the captives into a pen behind the derelict works which had been prepared for just such an eventuality.

Each attempt to breach the fence was quickly spotted by the guards. As a deterrent the disobedient slave would by bound spreadeagled to the fence wire by wrist and ankles and left for several hours in the blazing sun. At least two of the girls thus punished never again regained full use of their hands and fingers when their circulation returned after that ordeal.

It was stressed to the slaves that they were never to speak with their captors, but one of the British girls clung to the arm of one of their captors screaming "Why've you brought us here? What are you going to do to us? Who are you?"

"You were warned by Osasu never to speak" growled the grim faced man. "Lamar!" he called out to his younger colleague "Time to show these dumb bitches what happens when they disobey us!"

"Dumb!" laughed Lamar "That's the problem, this one isn't fucking dumb."

The girl suddenly found both her arms grabbed and pulled behind her back by Lamar. He forced her to her knees facing the other man who pulled out a curved knife, calling out "Sluts! All of you! Watch carefully and learn." With a swift movement he opened the girls mouth, grasped her tongue then, inserting the knife into her mouth above it sliced out most of her tongue. Lamar held her firmly as blood gushed out, down her chin to splash over her breasts and run on down her tummy.

The other women watched in silent disbelief as the man called out "Anyone else got anything to say?" as he brandished the knife before them.

Not only could that girl never speak again, she didn't eat or drink at all for two days, it would be three weeks before starvation drove her to try eating even the soft mush they were usually fed.



Before leaving Bermuda the ship had to take on fuel and supplies in preparation for its transatlantic passage. As well as filling its bunkers with diesel additional fuel had to be carried in plastic drums stowed in the forepeak and on the lower of the two decks which had been built in the former fish hold. More fuel than originally envisaged had to be taken aboard due to the pump continually running to clear the bilges of water from the leaking hull. As a back up in case of emergency Osasu also purchased an old hand operated fire pump. Then there was the food and water, the slaves would be fed on oats, boiled in a pot on the foredeck. Pierre wanted to film this so insisted on using coal to fuel the galley. As well as the oats and coal they reckoned that they needed water. The slave ships, with the trade winds behind them, took a couple of months for the passage from Africa to the Caribbean. Although they would be heading against the wind they would use the boat's powerful diesel engine for most of the journey. Originally Osasu had decided to take on board 1,000 gallons of water which would last a couple of months, but as the space on board filled up he decided to halve that quantity, after all under power they should get to West Africa in about 20 days. Then the crew's supplies had to be purchased and got aboard, largely tinned food which would need little preparation but did take up more space. Although the boat had seemed quite big when they first viewed it he now began to wonder if they had in fact captured too many slaves.

Only one of the seventy eight captives got away from the island. On the day following her arrival one tiny skinny girl, probably the youngest they had seized, had been traumatised by the sight of the sub-human state of some of the early captures. Especially Margaret Carter, the girl whose tongue had been cut out, who had been reduced to a skeletal creature with blotchy red blistered skin so weak that she could barely crawl from the food and water buckets back to the shade from the derelict kiln. So desperate was she to escape that, even though no other land could be seen, she waded out into the sea and started weakly swimming due east. The boat not being on the island at that time all the guards could do was watch as she slowly headed into the distance until her bobbing head became inconspicuous among the waves washing over it then shrug their shoulders and head back into the comparative cool of the house.

The sight of a dark three-masted vessel closing the island caused great excitement among the women. As it passed the low headland some of the women scrambled across the rocks towards it, shouting and screaming while waving furiously with both arms.

On board the ship, which they had named the Mermaid, Osasu grinned as he watched the excited naked women. With a pair of binoculars he studied a tall bronzed blonde girl who stood, feet apart on the nearest rocks frantically waving both arms above her head. He saw how her breasts bounced and swayed above the outline of her stretched ribs and trim hollow waist.

Although most of the women ran excitedly to the beach as the ship turned into the bay Helena felt a hollow dread in her empty stomach and stood watching. As the anchor dropped into the clear blue water several women swam out to their perceived rescuers. Judith swam right up to the wooden hull of the old boat. She could find no hand hold on the wooden planks with peeling paint. She was getting tired and feeling weak as she continued kicking her legs to stay afloat. Looking up she saw three dark faces staring down at her with white toothed grins. At least one of them she recognised as being one of her assailants. Exhausted she struck out to regain the beach. She just about made it and lay face down on the warm sand, sobbing.

A clinker built tender was launched from the Mermaid and most of the crew rowed ashore. Helena noticed that this time each carried a rifle or a revolver and several of them also carried whips. They waited on the beach as the boat was rowed back out to the anchored ship. A couple of men who had remained aboard lowered three heavy sacks down to the boat using ropes. The now despondent women backed away from the beach, but a few of the crew, including the giant brute known as Atlas, circled inland behind them.

When the contents of the sacks were emptied onto the beach they saw that two had contained shackles and manacles and the third a collection of padlocks. The crew started rounding up the women and locking the shackles onto their ankles. Starting to panic Helena looked around. There was quite a gap between each of the men encircling them behind the beach. Helena ran - she could easily make it through the largest gap, although he was strong she had noticed that Atlas didn't seem to be the quickest on his feet.

She had made it, she was through the gap between the approaching men; but where to flee to on this tiny island? As those thoughts raced through her head a sharp stinging pain encircled her waist, tightening and jerking her to a stop. As she stumbled and fell the whip which had caught her round her thin, soft waist slid free with a burning cutting sensation. Moments after her knees hit the ground a boot kicked her in the small of her back sending her sprawling face down in the dirt. She felt a powerful hand grasp her left ankle and callously drag her face down across the gritty dirt back to the beach. There both her feet were lifted and she felt the harsh steel shackles, connected by a short length of chain, locked round her ankles. Only once these were secure did Atlas let her legs drop to the ground.

Once all the slaves had been fitted with shackles the fitting of neck irons started, Pierre carefully filming as the hinged collars were locked around the necks of the captives. He filmed the fitting of several collars up close, showing how the hard steel rested on the women's collar bones. Winston deliberately tugged one down hard to draw blood as Pierre focussed in, following the two little beads of blood down to her chest. The women were chained by their collars into groups of 10.

Pierre filmed the agony the chained women experienced as they were forced to march across and around the island for several hours under the blazing tropical sun. Those women who had taken care to protect their naked flesh from burning by keeping in the shade of the derelict bauxite kiln now suffered the worst from sunburn and heat exhaustion. As the women tired and some tripped and fell into the reddish grey dust they were viciously whipped and dragged back onto their feet. Winston was particularly delighted when Maria fell, he pushed Lincoln aside to make sure he would be the one to kick her fallen panting body repeatedly until she rolled onto her back so that he could slash his whip across her dust coated belly, ribs and breasts until beads of blood appeared. As Winston pulled her back up onto her feet by her hair Pierre grinned broadly he he filmed the streaks on her dusty skin made by rivulets of sweat and blood.

"Bastard!" she hissed defiantly at him and waited for another blow but Winston just smiled at her then turned away.

Osasu had intended embarking the slaves that evening but there was still work to be completed in the ship's hold. A floor of rough wooden planks had previously been installed by the film company but shelves five foot wide made from planking with open gaps between them had now been fixed along each side three foot up. Joseph was still busy fitting iron ring bolts to the floor and shelves while Osasu worked out how to pack all the girls in. Joseph grumbled about the stuffy heat as he was asked to fit chains running lengthways along the front and back edge of the shelves and in a similar position along the floor.

Few of the women slept much that night, the hard uncomfortable shackles and in particular the neck irons keeping them awake. Several cried throughout the night.

In the morning the slaves were lined up before Pierre's camera to have steel manacles locked to their wrists in addition to the shackles and collars they already wore. Half a dozen at a time they were rowed out to the ship. As the boat stood by alongside they were hauled up on board by a rope fastened to the chain connecting their manacles. Pierre found the view of their stretched naked bodies being battered against the side of the ship most photogenic. As the boat had to make more than a dozen journeys to and from the beach he had plenty of opportunity to film this operation from different viewpoints. Looking up from the boat gave a view of the girls' private parts as they were swung upwards, although the lighting wasn't too good from that angle. From the deck of the ship he was in a good position to film the pain and terror on their faces as the were dragged up over the bulwarks, and he could film close up the bleeding wounds where the manacles had cut painfully into the soft skin of their slender wrists.

Below decks the cargo were stowed with their feet against the ships hull, the short chain connecting their ankle shackles passed round the outside of the longitudinal chains Joseph had installed. Winston was pissed off when he drew the short straw and got the job of unlocking, looping and then re-locking each of the shackle chains in the hot confined space. To ensure all the slaves could be fitted in they were made to lie on their sides facing the last one already secured, several blows to her back with a rifle butt ensured she snuggled up tight against her neighbour while her shackles were secured and until the next woman was pushed into her place. As Winston, by now stripped to just his underpants, cursed and wriggled about the back of the shelf securing their ankles Osasu explained that this method of stowing was known as tight packing and that in fact in the late eighteenth century some captains had fitted even more cargo in to the available space by alternating the way they faced, putting the head of one slave between the feet of its companion. But he felt sure that they would like to see, and film, all the slaves' sorrowful faces than to just see the feet of half of them!

It was mid afternoon before they were ready to weigh anchor after the cargo was stowed and the supplies of fuel and water were topped up. The wind blowing off shore it was decided to depart under sail for the benefit of Pierre's filming. As Winston struggled on the yards high above the deck almost tearing out his fingernails to unfurl the coarse canvas sails, he wondered why he too was being made to suffer almost as much as the slave bitches!

In the warm light breeze they were still only two miles from the island as dusk fell three hours later, and they were not making any progress eastwards so Osasu had the engine started and sent the unskilled crew aloft to furl the sails, an even harder job than loosing them it took the best part of three hours . But once the sails were all secured the engine could be opened up and they headed due east at over eight knots.

The following morning half the days ration of oats was boiled up, the coal fired galley on deck just aft of the poop being filmed by Pierre, and offered to the slaves. However most of them ate little or nothing, so much of the tasteless mush was returned to the pot to be used for their second meal at the end of the day. The crew began to get bored, Osasu did get them to wash down the decks for a few minutes but released them from that task as he got fed up with their grumbling. The women ate a bit more in the evening, but just after dusk Judith starting screaming and yelling when urine from the woman on the shelf above started trickling down onto her. After a while, when it became clear that they were not to be released to even use a bucket several other women relieved themselves and by morning, when the crew took down the morning ration of hot stewed oats there was a distinct smell of shit and piss in the hold.

By mid-day the easterly breeze had freshened and the Mermaid started to pitch and roll somewhat. Such a motion would hardly have been noticed by a sailor but it was enough to make several of the women in the fetid hold violently seasick. The engine revs had to be increased to maintain the desired eight knots while the auxiliary bilge pump had to be run continuously as the leaking hull strained. Pierre bravely ignored the sickening smell in the hold so he could film several of the girls vomiting violently while others retched and writhed against their companions sweaty bodies despite having empty stomachs.

The crew didn't even bother trying to feed the slaves that evening as the wind increased to a near gale. Most of them didn't even want to eat themselves. Around three o'clock in the morning the engine suddenly spluttered then stopped. The Mermaid swung broadside to the waves and now rolled violently. Thomson, their mechanic, struggled in the engine room to check the fuel lines but with the darkness, the motion of the ship and the smell of diesel in the confines of the engine room he too became violently seasick.

When dawn came the crew and cargo of the Mermaid were in a sorry state. She was rolling broadside to the waves and nearly everyone was, or felt, sick. Osasu had had the hatch cover put over the hold in case a sea broke right over the ship. As soon as it was light they set the large fore and aft sail on the mizzen mast which both steadied the vessel and brought her bows slightly into the wind.

Helena wanted to die. She had long ago vomited what little there was in her stomach but had continued retching for hour after hour until her ribs and stomach were in agony. And it stank. Then the noise and vibration of the engine stopped. The ship started to roll even more violently. First she was almost standing on the inside of the hull, then the ship rolled the other way so she slid across the rough planking of the shelf until her arms and head fell off its inner edge, dangling while the restraining shackles cut into the top of her feet. Then the ship rolled back so once again her feet pressed against the side. She tried gripping the edge of the shelf to stop herself from being slid to and fro but found that she was unable to resist being dragged about by her companions either side. The screams of the other girls deafened her. Again and again the shackles chafed her ankles. Perhaps even Hell wouldn't be as bad as this? And then someone started boarding over the hatch. The stench of shit and vomit started to burn her throat, she tried to stop breathing ... but instinct made her take one more breath - she felt dizzy.

The wind eased slightly during the morning and Thomson managed to re-start the engine after changing the fuel filters. However he expressed concern that the violent motion of the ship had stirred up sludge and water in the bottom of the fuel tanks. He suggested that it might be prudent to stop the engine and to try sailing if the sea got up again. Once the vessel was steaming steadily head to sea the cover was removed from the hatch. The stench from below sent most of the crew scurrying forward to the poop.

The desperate screams from below prompted to Osasu to peer down into the hold. Holding his nose he saw pathetic faces staring up at him from the shelf just a few feet below deck. But lower down, in the bottom of the hold, he could see the floor awash with foul black water running from side to side as the ship rolled, the hair of some of the women down there being washed about like fronds of seaweed. It would clearly be difficult to get to the shackles of that bottom layer of slaves with the water sloshing about. He called forward to Thomson to check the big auxiliary pump. About ten minutes later he returned reporting that it had been running but little water was coming out. He had lifted the suction pipe from the bilge and found it partially blocked with debris which he had now cleared.

Once the water had been cleared and the hold ventilated for half an hour Osasu sent Joseph and Winston down to start releasing some of the women and bring them up on deck; no more than ten at a time he instructed. The first few foul naked bodies brought up were limp and unresisting. Laid on the deck he had them hosed down using the old fire pump operated by Atlas and another strong crewman. Several of them weakly rolled to face away from the powerful jet of seawater but two of them remained motionless. Once they were just about clean Osasu bent down and touched the still, broken bodies, there was no pulse and they weren't breathing.

In all five of the slaves had died, presumably drowned by the stinking bilge water. Joseph bent down with the key to remove the irons from the corpses but Osasu immediately pulled him back "No! Leave the chains on them, we need to be sure they sink quickly."

Pierre filmed as the filthy limp corpses were unceremoniously dragged to the edge of the deck and heaved over the bulwarks like discarded offal. But as they prepared to fling the fifth greyish pink carcass overboard Atlas shouted "Stop!" then went and spoke quietly to Pierre who first shrugged his shoulders then, as Atlas continued, grinned and nodded enthusiastically.

Atlas asked Osasu if he could borrow the flintlock pistol he had occasionally brandished during filming then had the end of the starboard main course brace, a rope which ran through a pulley at the end of the lowest yard, brought forward and tied to the chain connecting the corpse's shackles. Pierre filmed the crew pulling down the other end of the rope to hoist the limp carcass into the air by its feet, swinging out over the gunwale to slowly sway and spin over the sea.

Judith, sat curled up on the deck, watched with disgust the crew leaning on the rail staring at the pathetic body of the thin girl dangling by its feet with its hollow belly stretched and its arms hanging limply. As Pierre continued to film Atlas brandished the flintlock pistol, aimed it at the rope just above the body and fired. There was a bang and a cloud of white smoke but the rope remained intact. Atlas re-loaded the pistol, aimed and fired again. Osasu who had been watching this performance with a pained expression shook his head slowly. The body continued to slowly swing just out of reach. Joseph disappeared into the poop and returned with an axe.

The port brace was used to swing the yard bringing the dangling carcass close to the mizzen ratlines. Joseph clambered up and with a swing of the axe cut the body free to dive into the sea rushing past the hull. The crew cheered, Judith just shut her eyes and rolled slowly onto her side.

It took most of the afternoon to wash all the slaves and to hose down the hold. That night those crew not on watch settled down comparatively comfortable as the Mermaid chugged steadily eastwards.

Over the next three days most of the slaves started eating again. The hold was hosed down once again, this time without removing the slaves. It seemed that both the crew and the slaves were now becoming somewhat accustomed to the smell, although the crew did choose to sit upwind on the deck of the fo'c'sle whenever possible.

Towards the end of the first week the wind, which had dropped, started to blow from the west. Osasu enthusiastically suggesting setting the sails. Pierre filmed while the rest of the crew, apart from Osasu at the wheel, reluctantly climbed up the ratlines and onto the yards. Once the courses and topsails were set the engine was shut down, though the auxiliary bilge pump had to be kept running to keep pace with the leaks. Down in the heat of the dim fetid hold Helena wondered if the voyage had reached its end with all the activity and then the engine stopping. She just wanted to get away from her stinking companions. She hated continually touching their hot clammy skin. She hated them breathing down her neck. She hated them talking on about fantastic impossible plans of escape. She even considered the possibility of strangling one of the bitches using the chain linking her manacles.

"Right!" Osasu spluttered, as he climbed out of the hold with a cloth held over his nose after accompanying Pierre filming the squalor and misery of the foul naked creatures lying there. "Let's start get those filthy stinking cunts on deck to be washed and exercised."

"it's the first time he's been down there this week" muttered Winston rebelliously "I've been sent down there twice a day to feed and water the ungrateful whining shits!" he said to Atlas next to him.

"Pierre seems happy enough to keep going down there filming though" added Lincoln "I reckon he's got no sense of smell!"

"Why can't he feed them then?" grumbled Winston.

As he feared Winston was given the job of unchaining the slaves. If he could get them to their feet Atlas could reach down, grab the chain linking their manacles and hoist them up over the hatch coming to drop them on deck. Of the first group of ten two were too weak, or unconscious, so Winston had to grasp under their armpits and lift them high enough for Atlas to reach.

One of them was totally limp and unresponsive, she was the one who had earlier had her tongue ripped out, her torso and arms looked like a greyish skeleton but both her feet and lower legs were swollen and brownish-red with a stinking brown discharge from around the shackles. Another brunette had a similarly swollen left foot band ankle, she writhed deliriously on the deck, arching her back rolling her head from side to side.

"Gangrene" said Thomson looking across at Osasu.

As Judith gasped in the delightful fresh air up on deck she looked around the little group on deck. With disbelief she saw a painfully thin young woman twisting and straining her body as a giant crewman flung her back over the rail then, grasping her right buttock, tipping her backwards out of her sight into the sea. Another woman, dead or unconscious followed her over the side. "No!" screamed Judith "No! Please don't throw me overboard!"

"Dance!" commanded Osasu.

Winston lashed at Judith's legs with a whip, making her jump.

"Music Lamar!" Osasu called, and a short plump man with curly hair, wearing just a pair of denim shorts, started drumming a beat on a battered metal can.

One by one the remaining eight women in that group started jumping around, their breasts bouncing as they leaped into the air to avoid the lash. Pierre followed their actions closely with his camera.

After they had been hosed clean they were returned to the hold and another group brought up on deck. During the rest of that morning two more corpses were found and hastily dumped over the side.

When Maria was brought on deck she stared wildly around like a trapped animal. Winston averted his eyes when she looked towards him. She suddenly made a dash for the side of the vessel and started scrambling up over the bulwarks. As her feet left the deck Joseph grabbed hold of the chain between her ankles and hauled her back aboard so that her belly, ribs and chest were dragged over the rail before her face hit it, cutting her cheek. She flopped face down onto the floor. Another crewman rolled her onto her back with his foot and grinned down at her wide eyed face as blood gushed from her nose. She was quickly made to dance with the rest of the group, but after they had been washed Osasu pulled her aside.

While the other women were being chained back up in the hold Osasu had Atlas hold Maria with her back against the steps leading up to the poop and told Joseph to remove her manacles, shackles and collar and instead bind her wrists either side of the top of the steps. Osasu stripped naked right in front of her before putting his face up against hers and hissing "Play time, pretty girl." As he stood back again Maria stared at his massive erection, at least a couple of inches longer than Winston's had been. This was going to be painful. But before pushing his cock into her Osasu gently ran his fingers up and down her labia, tenderly easing them apart. He continued gently massaging her there until he felt her becoming slightly moist, then he gently inserted the tip of his cock. It was still an uncomfortable feeling as it slid in, but nothing like the brutal pain she had experienced when Winston had raped her after causing her bike to crash.

Maria cried with shame as she felt Osasu's huge cock gushing his sperm deep into her as he came to an orgasm. But no sooner had he withdrawn from her another crewman gleefully inserted his member into her dilated canal. Sobbing she wondered when they would be finished with her. It seemed that every member of the crew had his fun with her, some more than once. She didn't notice Winston's absence, indeed she had no idea who was abusing her nor how many times she was raped. When they had finished Lincoln untied her wrists. Her limp body slumped to the bottom of the steps, she briefly looked up, with tears streaming down her face, before toppling forward to sprawl across the deck. Lamar replaced her manacles and shackles before dragging her unresisting body across to the hatch by its ankle bonds. He then slid her head first over the hatch coaming to Winston, who was waiting in the hold to refasten her to the chain on the shelf. As Winston manhandled her he hissed "Slut! You didn't even try to resist them."

Up on deck Lincoln taunted Joseph "I didn't see you take a turn old man!" Joseph didn't reply but felt relief that he had resisted the urge to violate that particular girl, even though he found her particularly attractive. Why did Osasu have to choose her for their recreation? Indeed why was she taken at all? Of all the women she was the one with the darkest skin, he felt sure she must have some African ancestry. It seemed so unfair to punish her, unlike the other paler white bitches they had enslaved.

The Mermaid stayed under sail, making about 3 knots, until the middle of the next day. As the wind veered round to the north then, strengthening a little, to the north east Osasu ordered the sails furled. The crew cursed Osasu from aloft as they struggled to pull up the heavy canvas and secure it with grommets. Winston found the uncooperative stiff flapping canvas tore off two of his fingernails, his blood leaving dark stains on the grubby cream canvas.

Meanwhile down in the engine room Thomson struggled and failed to start the engine. As the ship rolled dead in the increasingly rough sea he dismantled, cleaned and reassembled all the fuel lines and filters. At last, just before midnight, and as he was about to give up after reassembling the machinery for the third time the engine reluctantly coughed into life.

Down in the hold most of the prisoners had finally been forced by pangs of huger to start eating the unpalatable stewed oats, but now the pitching of the ship as it motored into the long Atlantic swell caused many of them to vomit until their stomachs were emptied. Atlas, at the wheel, wished the steering position was either for'ard of the hold or at least up in the fresh air because the stench from the pathetic cargo below, combined with the smell from the hot rattling engine beneath his feet, was making him feel sick too.

For three days the Mermaid charged onward through the head sea. Winston took to stripping naked when he was sent down into the hold to feed and water the cargo, he had found it almost impossible to wash the stench out of any clothing he wore down there. He noticed that when Lincoln or Lamar were sent below to attend to the slaves they weren't down for more than ten minutes, which was hardly long enough to give sixty eight women each a sip of water let alone feed any of them.

Then the breeze died away, before building up from the north the following morning. This caused the ship to roll, an even more uncomfortable motion than the monotonous pitching of the last three days.

By evening the ship was also being lashed by heavy rain. Winston looked down into the hold, he could see that the floor was again awash with foul water. Osasu ordered him to check the cargo.

"But it's not my turn!" he protested.

"I don't trust the others" replied Osasu "I had noticed that only you and Joseph ever check them properly, and Joseph's at the helm."

"You do it then!" Winston rebelliously replied.

The lash of Osasu's whip around his bare torso took Winston completely by surprise. He instinctively raised a clenched fist but within a split second the whip wrapped itself round his forearm.

Cursing Osasu beneath his breath, Winston descended the ladder into the hold. At the bottom his bare feet stepped into about 3 inches of foul water sloshing from side to side. Most of the women on the bottom tier managed to keep their faces turned up just about clear of the dirty brown water, but two next to each other lay motionless, face down. With revulsion Winston realised that pair must have chosen to drown in the filthy water , even though it was contaminated with vomit, shit, urine and oil, rather than continue their miserable existence. He immediately hurried back on deck, Osasu glared angrily at him but he shouted angrily "Has the fucking pump blocked again, there's another two bitches drowned down there!"

Even as Osasu turned to ask him Thomson called out "The pump's working fine, there's just too much water leaking into the hull in this sea!"

Osasu remained silent for a minute or two then started bellowing out orders. "Joseph! Joseph! Where the fuck are ... Joseph, check the hull and find where all this water's coming in." He then turned to Atlas who was hurrying aft from the fo'c'sle "Get the fire pump set up. You and Lamar can work it to start with." Ignoring Lamar's indignant open mouthed stare he continued; "Winston, get all the bitches off the floor up onto the shelf, then get any corpses over the side. Lincoln can help you."

Down in the hellish hold Winston tried to work out how to fit the twenty six slaves still alive on the floor in with the forty already on the shelf. In the end all they could do was make the them wriggle forwards in over the top of those already on the shelf. It then being too crowded to secure them to the chain and the back of the shelf all Winston could think of was to padlock their ankle chains to the manacles on the wrists of the women already there. In the end it wasn't quite such a squash as he had feared because a further three women turned out to be dead. With the ship rolling badly as the wind became a full gale that task took them two hours, Winston repeatedly complaining bitterly to Lincoln that they were getting as battered and bruised as the white trash they were supposed to be punishing. The other crew didn't even notice them in the dark as they bundled the five limp slimy carcasses over the side into the heaving grey sea.

All Joseph could report was that it was "wet everywhere" but he had found no specific large leak, though much of the inside of the hull was inaccessible for inspection. All the crew, including Osasu, took turns at the clanking hand pump. Pierre had been happily filming the other crew labouring away when he too was commanded to take a turn. At least there didn't seem to be much further rise of the water level in the hold.

"Why can't we get the fucking bitches up to work this bloody contraption" Lamar complained when he was told to go back on the pump a second time.

"The slaves never took any part in working the ships" Osasu said once again.

"We're fucking sinking and you're worrying about fucking historical accuracy" Thomson put the thoughts of most of the crew into words.

Osasu turned to Winston "You've seen the state they're in. Do you think they'd be any fucking use?" Winston didn't answer but just sullenly made his way to the fo'c'sle.

Half an hour later the engine stopped again.

All night Thomson worked on the fuel system, but the diesel coming through the pipe from the tank was brown with bits floating in it.

The following morning the Mermaid lay at the mercy of the sea, the mizzen sail was set in an attempt to steady her but after less than two hours in the gale it started to tear at the peak and less than a minute later was completely in tatters.

By late afternoon the wind had eased, in desperation Thomson emptied the remaining contents of the main fuel tanks into the bilge then he and Atlas struggled to pour in fresh fuel from the plastic drums fetched from the forepeak. By the time dusk fell all the pipes and filters had been thoroughly cleaned and reassembled and Osasu watched as Thomson pressed the starter button. The engine turned over and over but didn't fire. Thomson bled the system yet again and tried again. The starter motor slowly turned over the engine, Atlas sprayed the last of the 'Easy Start' into the air intake which produced a smoky cough but no more.

That night the wind died down, but the sea still restlessly rolled the Mermaid from side to side. The entire crew stayed on deck all night, the stink of diesel below decks and in the accommodation being quite nauseating.

The next morning, in light winds, Osasu had the crew set all the sails except the fore and aft mizzen. Joseph was busily cutting and stitching the remains of the film prop sails to make a replacement for the one destroyed in the gale.

The ship made slow progress, less than two knots, to the south west during the afternoon but by dusk, soon after the new patchwork mizzen had been set, the breeze died away altogether. That night the Mermaid still rolled gently in the fading swell from the previous storm. Although the ship's motion had now eased women in the hold still felt nauseous from the stink of diesel in the bilge water. The hand pump finally started gulping air just after midnight so the crew could at last be stood down from that monotonous but exhausting task.

The morning dawned to a cloudless sky and not a breath of wind. Most of the crew felt relieved at the contrast with the recent stormy weather and idled on deck waiting for Thomson to fix the engine. Three times he cleaned all the fuel lines and filters, tried his best to clean the injectors and once more drained and re-filled the main tank. Each time he re-assembled everything the starter motor turned the engine over and over over but it still wouldn't fire. The third time the starter motor slowed right down after several minutes of turning over the engine. Thomson stood, climbed back up on deck and shook his head.

"Aren't you going to try again?" said Winston.

"No use" mumbled Thomson

"What do you mean, no use?" shouted Lamar with growing anxiety.

"The injectors must be contaminated with sludge" Thomson said looking straight at him. Then turning to Osasu he added "Anyway the batteries have had it now. There's no other way to charge them."

There was silence for several minutes.

Then Winston said "It's hot enough up here, I expect the bitches in the hold are being cooked alive. I'll take round some more water." The still heat in the hold was indeed stifling but it was the stench that drove him back up to the fresh air within seconds.

The hand pump was set up to wash down the hold and its nauseating cargo. "This isn't part of sailing the boat" protested Lincoln "Get some of the stinking white trash to work the fucking pump, it is for their benefit!"

No one replied, after a minute of uneasy silence Winston glanced briefly at Osasu then dropped back down into the hold to release a couple of the women.

Judith's eyes smarted from the smell of Diesel oil, her throat burned from the stink of warm shit and urine. Her naked body itched all over, she knew not whether from the stifling heat or from insect bites. She heard rattling and looked across to see the black boy who often brought water round to them untying Ella, a thin faced girl with short straggly dark hair. She watched his naked body, glistening with sweat, as he scrambled over the girls' filthy bare flesh to reach the chains securing Ella's ankles. With envy she watched Winston drag the girl up the ladder to the deck.

Winston gasped the fresh air up on deck with relief. After a minute or so he took a deep breath and descended back into the hold. Judith saw Winston stare into her eyes , then grin for just a moment, showing his gleaming white teeth before clambering over her to reach the padlock on the chain linking her ankles. The smooth sweaty skin of his thighs pressed against her breasts as he straddled her, his back against the deck beams , while he unlocked the chain, pulled it clear of the heavier chain to which it had been fastened and re-locked it before squirming back off the shelf. He then grasped Judith under both her armpits and dragged her off the rough wood of the shelf. Once her feet dropped to the floor he adjusted his position to grasp her beneath her breasts from behind and, shuffling dragged her to the ladder. He then turned her to face the ladder saying "Climb", while pushing her buttocks upwards with both hands.

Osasu viewed the two weak, filthy women with some concern. If Winston had chosen the healthiest ones to work on deck it was likely that few would survive the prolonged voyage now they were solely reliant on sail. They were each given a drink of water before being roughly pushed into position each side of the pump with both hands on each of the handles and told to start pumping. Feeling sick and weak Judith half heartedly pushed the stiff handle down, looking forward through her hair which had fallen over her face she then saw Ella's scrawny body strain to push down the handle on her side. Once the handle on Judith's side had been pushed right up again Judith rested on it momentarily. The long whip hissed through the air before cutting a stinging weal across her back. Judith pushed down with all her weight, but not quick enough to avoid a second lash from Lamar.

Again and again the two women rhythmically pumped up and down, aching all over from the unaccustomed strain while Lamar grinned as he lashed Judith's broad back every time she slowed. He managed to perfect his stroke with the long rope whip so that the end curled round her body to also lightly lash her belly and breasts.

Ella he only struck three or four times. He was concerned how frail she looked compared to Judith, her spine forming a prominent bony ridge and the outline of her ribs visible below her protruding shoulder blades. The lash seemed to cut Ella's skin more easily so that her back glistened with blood and sweat beneath the blazing mid-day sun, whereas Judith's back just displayed a pattern of raised red weals.

Atlas directed the jet of water over the women on the shelf, then tried to direct it into every corner of the hold to wash away the slime and excrement. The diesel pump continued to empty out the bilgewater leaving a stinking oily sheen on the smooth, still surface of the ocean alongside the ship.

Once he had finished flushing the hold Atlas directed the hose's outlet at the two naked slaves labouring on deck. The jet of water knocked Ella off balance, her feet slipped on the wet deck and she fell, still grasping the steel handle of the pump.

Judith watched with horror as, after removing her irons, Ella's frail body was spreadeagled backwards over the now cold galley. She lost sight of her companion as the crew crowded round her but couldn't shut out her high pitched shrieks of pain. Sobbing Judith sank to the deck and curled upinto a ball hoping that the black bastards would satisfy all their lust on Ella.

About an hour later Thomson walked across to Judith "Now, what would you like to play?" he asked with a broad white toothed grin. She saw Ella's bruised limp body dragged aside by one ankle, like a discarded rag doll as her now sunburned left arm was firmly grasped to lead her across to the rest of the still aroused crew. Judith was forced onto all fours, then she was grabbed by the back of her neck and her face brutally pushed down onto the deck while hands grasped and spread her buttocks before she was roughly violated.

Her cunt felt as though it was burning and she could feel blood trickling freely down the inside of her thighs, yet again and again she was raped. One horrid little man had a morbid fascination with her breasts, repeatedly clawing and pulling at them then, apparently bored with that, he rolled her onto her back and started biting at them and licking up the beads of blood his teeth had drawn.

Judith kept the crew entertained for at least two and a half hours before the pain, the heat and the loss of blood and sweat made her too lose consciousness. When she awoke she was once again chained up in the hold. Looking around she couldn't see Ella anywhere on either of the shelves. But then Helena whispered "Down there ..." Judith looked down and saw Ella sprawled still comatose on the floor with her ankles chained to the foot of the ladder. "What did they do to her? I think she's had it." answered Helena. Judith didn't answer but just squirmed around, unable to find a comfortable position where she wasn't either lying on her wounds from the whip or on her sore breasts.

Five long days later there was still not even the hint of a breeze. The glassy sea itself no longer rose and fell at all. Some of the square sails had been slung between the masts and the rail as crude awnings to provide some shade on deck, above which the other sails hung limp and still from the yards. The motionless masts pointing straight up at the bloody sun at noon.

In the still heat of the hold Helena lay on her back, the sides of her body being cooked by the hot sweaty stinking bodies of he neighbours. She took rapid shallow breaths through her dry mouth trying desperately to expel the burning heat from her stretched body. Looking up she could clearly see bright cracks of daylight between the dried out deck planking, yet not a breath of air could she feel. Three times during the last five days she had been dragged up on deck with eight or nine other women to 'dance' to the amusement of the crew. The first time many of the women had trouble keeping their balance and staggered clumsily, tripping over their own chains to crash to the deck. Helena had managed to keep her balance until a bucketful of seawater was thrown over her, knocking her off balance so she too fell, landing on top of Ella who had been the first to fall and hadn't regained her feet despite four cruel lashes of Atlas's whip across her frail body.

On subsequent occasions much of the dancing was done on all fours, each time one of the women was kept behind on deck when the others were returned to the hold. Helena had heard their screams, one was tumbled back into the hold bleeding profusely from her her vagina but another she never saw again. Other small groups had been taken up onto deck, several more girls didn't return.

She also heard the disgruntled crew arguing amongst themselves. On one occasion the raised voices were followed by the sound of a scuffle which was only stopped by a pistol shot. She heard Osasu angrily reprimanding the offending crew. Like most of the women she had never had much of a liking for the stewed oats which was all the were offered and had only eaten it when hunger pains from her empty stomach had become unbearable, but this morning when she had tried some for the first time in several days it now contained some revolting soft bits which, when she pulled them out with her fingers to examine them, appeared to be the boiled remains of large maggots.

Once again she heard one of the increasingly common arguments amongst the crew taking place up on deck. She strained to her what they were getting agitated about this time but that stupid little piece of worthless skin and bones, Ella, who refused to just shut up and die, kept moaning and crying out only a few feet away.

"We're cursed I tell you!" repeated Joseph yet again.

"Don't we deserve to be?" answered Atlas, spitting on the floor. "So do you propose we make a pact with the devil then?"

"Just dump the bitches over the side" muttered Lincoln "There's not going to be enough food and water for them anyway."

"If the weather changes we might collect rainwater, I'm sure thirst will see them off long before they actually die of hunger" pointed out Pierre, who had been stopped from filming the crew's dissent by Osasu.

Osasu followed the arguments in silence. He had already realised that their only hope of survival was to dump the cargo, and all evidence of it, over the side then try sending out distress signals before all their batteries expired. But he wanted the crew to come to that decision themselves, for he feared mutiny if he just ordered them to throw the girls over the side, both abandoning the whole purpose of their voyage and removing their only source of entertainment.

"So we just stop feeding and watering the bitches and chuck 'em over the side as they give out" summarised Lincoln. Winston shuffled his feet uneasily.

Thomson now spoke for the fist time "Its the ship that’s unlucky, not us."

"What d'you mean?" asked Pierre.

"It was a fucking stupid idea to name 'er the Mermaid without giving 'er a figurehead" he explained, staring straight at Pierre.

"You all agreed to the name" countered Pierre.

"Osasu agreed, you mean" muttered Thomson, without looking at their leader on the poop.

"So what d'you suggest?" sneered Pierre "You going to to carve us one?"

"No need" grinned Thomson. "There's plenty to choose from down below - I could make a tail for it though …"

There was silence for a minute as the crew contemplated Thomson's suggestion. Suddenly, after considering the filming potential, Pierre laughed and shouted "Bravo! Fucking excellent! Let's make a start now."

Once again Helena was dragged up on deck, this time with eleven other girls. Instead of being made to dance or wash they had their bonds removed and were lined up in front of the crew. Weak and mostly without hope they no longer even tried to cover their intimate parts with their hands, but just stood submissively with their hands by their sides. Helena just slouched and stared at the dry deck planking, some held on to their neighbours for balance. Ella immediately sank to her knees, then rested her hands on the deck in front of her with her overgrown fringe falling over her eyes.

Rather than just stand and wait to be either selected or rejected for the inevitable rape, Judith stepped forward and defiantly stared Atlas in the eyes spitting out "Bastards! You sick perverted bastards! What the fuck is the point of all this? Why don't ..."

Her outburst was rudely stopped by Atlas's huge fist punching five of her teeth into the back of her mouth. He tried to grab her tongue but he couldn't get a grip on her bloody tongue in the confines of her mouth. "You stupid bitches have been shown before what happens if you speak!" he bellowed as he produced his knife and viciously jabbed it into her mouth three or four times.

Coughing with bright red blood gushing down the filthy front of her naked body she stepped back into line. Atlas laughed victoriously.

"Stand up straight, sluts" said Thomson. Ella remained on all fours. "Stretch your arms out wide" he next commanded, Lincoln had to use his knife to persuade several of them, including Helena, to raise their arms and hold them in position. "Now above your heads, come on; arms straight up!"

Judith coughed, dropped her hands and lowered her head to empty her mouth of blood. Without warning Lincoln turned to her and sank the whole blade of his knife into her belly just above the navel. "No … what …?" she coughed, spitting out more bright red blood onto Lincoln's outstretched arm, before sinking to her knees before him.

He kicked her in the face sending her sprawling backwards then turned to Atlas "String her up, let these stupid sluts see what happens when they don't do as they're told." Atlas tied a length of rope round her neck then used it to drag her, struggling, along the deck to just in front of the poop where Osasu was stood looking down on them. He threw the end of the rope up to Osasu who passed it over the rail in front of him and dropped it back down to Atlas.

Atlas pulled down on the end of the rope hauling Judith to her feet. She frantically reached for the knot securing it round her neck but Atlas gave an extra heave lifting her feet several inches clear of the deck, pulling the knot too tight for her to undo. For maybe three or four seconds she continued to claw at it, half ripping off a couple of her fingernails before moving her hands up to desperately seize hold of the rope above her head to take some of her weight from the rope round her neck while her legs flailed uselessly in a futile attempt to find anything for her feet to get a grip on. Blood continued to run from her belly wound, down the inside of her thighs, to be flicked across the deck by her kicking feet.

After less than a minute she lost her grip on the rope above her head and her arms dropped, twitching, to her sides and her kicking lessened to irregular jerking. As she weakened a tiny trickle of urine joined the rivulets of blood, then she became still. Atlas released his grip on the rope allowing her carcass to drop into the puddle of her blood on the deck. He quickly untied the rope from her neck then picked up the pathetic body, slippery with blood, by the waist and carried it to the rail and tipped it over the side.

Osasu walked across to that side and looked down at the red cloud spreading through the still water surrounding the floating corpse "You stupid thug!" Atlas looked up in surprise. Looking at her pale buttocks breaking the surface and the fronds of hair drifting around her head he added "You should have put the irons back on her so she'd sink!"

Atlas just shrugged his shoulders and turned back to Thomson "Shall we carry on then?"

Thomson stepped back and leaned against the rail contemplating the ten girls still standing, motionless with shock. Helena glanced pityingly at Ella who, sobbing, unsteadily tried to get to her feet, holding the mast for support.

Winston recognised their first capture, no longer as elegant as when they had captured her. She had lost weight, her hair was now lank and tangled while her smooth creamy skin was now sunburned and filthy. He stepped forward and grasping her jaw turned her face towards him. "This one?" he suggested.

Helena felt her face glow with shame as they stared up and down her body. Tears welled in her eyes and she tried to turn away, but Thomson grabbed her thin right arm tightly saying, inexplicably, "Right then, I'll get on and make the tail for it."

Helena found herself roughly manhandled to the deck, someone removed her leg irons only to bind her ankles tightly together. Painfully tight. Panicking she looked around, the other girls were being shoved back down into the hold. She managed to make out that Thomson had bound her ankles and next started to bind her knees together.

"Stop!" barked Osasu.

"What's the matter with this one?" countered Thomson.

"Nothing, but I don't see why she can't entertain us before you bind her up" suggested Osasu.

"No!" screamed Helena as two men grabbed her arms from behind while Joseph rolled a large barrel aft from beneath the forepeak. She closed her eyes tight as she was pushed backwards over the barrel still lying on its side. She felt her arms pulled above her head then screamed in pain as they were pulled back unnaturally to follow the curve of the barrel. Ropes were bound tightly to her wrists then by rocking the barrel from side to side they were passed under it and tied to the rope already seized round her ankles.

Still shrieking she frantically shook her head from side to side as her knees were pushed apart and probing fingers started to enter then stretch her sex.

Osasu called, shouted above her high pitched wailing , for the crew to line up and fuck the siren until it was silenced.

Panic stricken Helena writhed in a futile attempt to free herself, only succeeding in making the ropes bloodily chafe the skin of he wrists and ankles and in agonisingly nearly dislocating her left shoulder. Lincoln thrust first his fingers then his rigid cock into her painfully dry cunt. "No! Not like that! Please." she pleaded with a high pitched scream, that only seemed to encourage him to thrust even more vigorously. Instead of flexing to allow him to enter her she felt as though her vagina was being torn apart.

"STOP!" commanded Thomson in an authoritative yet unearthly tone, his eyes staring widely at the rest of the surprised crew. "We need this woman, her body, her soul and her spirit to appease Yemaya. This ship was cursed when he..." turning to stare accusingly at Osasu "...he gave it a new name without seeking the blessing of his ancestors."

Despite the sun blazing down through the still air onto his bare skin Winston felt a cold chill rising up his back, following his spine.

"This ship he has named Mermaid, he has taken Lasiren's name in vain. We must appease her by giving this ship the figurehead it desires."The crew stood shocked into reverential silence, not really understanding what Thomson was going on about, yet feeling it held great depth and importance. "A figurehead with with a soul, with spirit. So do not destroy her spirit with your lust, she must be prepared with care and respect, our thoughts as we prepare her must be with our ancestors for whom this voyage is their revenge."

Winston looked again at at Osasu, expecting him to be furious at this interruption. But Osasu had been staring down at the deck, or at his feet. He waited until Thomson finished speaking then looked up at his crew. For the first time Winston saw fear in his eyes. He thought about their situation, they were adrift in the middle of the Atlantic with no engine, in a small leaking ship that didn't even sail properly when there was a breeze, which there wasn't. Their supplies of food and water were dwindling yet they were cursed by the presence of about sixty women they had kidnapped and abused, whose presence would surely condemn them to interminable incarceration should they seek help. Now Thomson's blasphemous invocation of the spirits and of their ancestors seemed to make perfect sense.

Helena was left lying bound on the scorching dry planks under the burning mid-day sun. The crew moved to sit resting anywhere shaded from it they could find. Her dry was burning and her throat parched when Thomson returned. With the tail. Still sticky with wet paint , which was leaving blue and green stains on his hands, Winston held her hips steady so that he could ease the wood and canvas construction over her bound feet, drawing the canvas tube up to her waist. However looking down the tail Thomson was dissatisfied with the way her feet and toes pushed out the canvas between the broad flukes.

Shaking his head he carefully pulled the tail back down off her legs. Helena watched with detached curiosity as he ambled off to the forepeak and returned with heavy mallet. He called for Atlas "Hold her down while we sort out her feet." Atlas pinned her to the burning hot deck with one huge hand on her collarbone and the other at the base of her sternum while Winston held her legs.

"NO!" Helena's agonised scream seemed to vibrate every dry shrinking timber of the sun scorched ship as the heavy mallet was swung down onto the top of her left foot. It took six brutal blows to shatter her ankles and reduce both her feet to a pliant bloody pulp. She was sobbing, limp and unresisting as the tail was re-fitted. Now satisfied with its appearance Thomson tightly bound the top of it round her waist, drawing the thick cord tight to squeeze her waist like a wasps. As she was dragged by her upper arms along the deck to the bows the green painted canvas started to turn brown at the bottom of the tail as her blood started soaking through.

Carefully lying her on her back over the rail alongside the bowsprit, with her tail dangling over the edge, ropes were securely bound to her wrists. One was passed beneath the bowsprit to Lincoln on the other side so that she could be carefully lowered beneath it and stretched across the stem. Pierre, who had climbed to the very end of the bowsprit, sat astride it to film the operation, delighting in her pain as her arms, taking her full weight, were stretched back so the ropes could be secured to the rail. This contortion thrust out her emaciated chest above her compressed belly so the blazing sun cast a thin line of shadow below each rib, which somehow made her look even more like some creature of the sea. Less human.

Yet Pierre felt a deep sense of unease. This was a significant departure from the objective of recreating the slave trade of two or three centuries earlier. This scene felt surreal and gave Pierre a foreboding of impending disaster. The crews actions were a manifestation of their subconscious sense of hopelessness. He felt himself wondering if anyone would ever see this beautiful film he had been making.

"We need to be sure she's secure if the wind picks up now we've got a figurehead" Thomson said. "Get a chain round her waist to hold her firmly in place." Hanging onto her shoulder with his left arm Winston, his bare flesh against her shuddering pain wracked body, used his right hand to pass the heavy rusty chain once round her constricted waist before passing the ends up to be passed over the rail and secured to cleats inside the bulwarks.

She could hardly move at all. Even breathing took an effort. Her shoulders suffered agonising pain from the unnatural angle that her arms were bent up behind her. But gradually that pain dulled as she slowly lost feeling in her arms. As the ropes from her wrists stretched she slid a little bit lower down the stem, so the rusty yet unyielding chain dug in beneath her ribs to take her weight. The pressure made her cough causing the rusty links to cut into her skin bringing salty tears of despair to her eyes.

Her cough stirred the heavy still air. Unnoticed by the crew a hot breath stirred the Mermaid's limp sails. However within the hour the ship was undeniably making way. By dusk she was making a satisfactory three knots to the south west, as close to west as the wind allowed.

Watched by most of the crew Winston clambered over the bow to offer their saviour a drink of some of the precious remaining fresh water as night fell.
As an angry orange dawn broke over the heeling vessel plunging through the grey sea Winston clambered forward onto the slippery bowsprit to check their precious mermaid. He watched as the bow rose and fell above the foaming bone its teeth, first plunging the figurehead up to her waist in the churning foam then rising to thrust the ugly barnacle encrusted forefoot clear of the dashing water. He couldn't see her face for she was looking down with her sodden blonde hair hanging over it. The fourth or fifth time the bow sank the wave totally engulfed the limp creature and foamed around Winston's feet; he held his breath until it rose again. The mermaid threw her head back and coughed and spluttered to clear her lungs before desperately gulping in more precious air before she was again engulfed.

He was staring at her heaving chest as her ribs strained against the unyielding chain to fill her lungs when he guiltily realised her wide pleading eyes were directed straight at him. He averted his gaze down, then noticing one of the carved wooden flukes of her tail had torn almost away to hang spinning below here. He irrationally wondered why it wasn't bleeding, did it hurt? Would she never swim again? Suddenly thinking he was going crazy, bewitched by Lasiren's suffering at their hands, he scrambled back onto the deck than ran aft in panic.

"Watch your step!" shouted Joseph as Winston pushed past him.

"Is she still there?" Thomson worriedly questioned him. Winston just nodded. "Good. Our course has veered more to the south in the last hour, we need to wear ship to make more easting."

"Wear?" stuttered Winston, uncomprehending.

"Wear ship. Turn around so we're on starboard tack" Thomson patiently explained "So we vcan take full advantage of this breeze she's brought us."

Breeze? Thought Winston. More like a fucking gale.

It was nearly half an hour's hard work for the crew to turn the ship away from the wind then brace the sails for the wind on the other side as she rolled crazily before turning her on round into the wind again on a north easterly course.

But although the heading was more satisfactory Joseph thought the ship now felt decidedly more sluggish and heavy to steer than earlier. "Check the hold!" he yelled to Lincoln.

Less than two minutes later Lincoln returned "It's flooded two or three foot deep, half the bitches are drowning!"

Atlas and Thomson looked up from the pump they had been working for the last hour "It's pumping out full bore, there must just be too much coming in!"

A cold feeling of dread came over Winston, he dashed once again to the bows and peered over. Their beautiful figurehead was broken. The tail had been totally ripped away laying bare its bound human legs, worse still one arm had been bloodily torn away at the shoulder so it trailed at the end of its rope in the wake back alongside the hull on the port side, while the rest of her body was twisted and crushed against the stem by the encircling chain. She moved slightly! Then as if sensing his presence she twisted her head round to look up at him. But when she opened her mouth to cry out crimson blood welled up in it and gushed down onto her breasts as with a crack, which Winston felt more than heard, the bottom ribs on her left side snapped under the tightening chain to burst out like white tusks through her stretched skin before she was again engulfed I the cleansing foaming bow wave.

But the crack was followed by a deafening crash and Winston was thrown sideways against the rail. Looking back he was horrified to see that the mainmast had snapped at deck level and fallen over the starboard side. As rigging was torn asunder he saw that the foremast only feet away from him was also about to go by the board.

Within less than four minutes the ship was reduced to a waterlogged tangled hulk. The mess of tangled rigging even made it impossible to work the pump any more. Atlas pulled the big inflatable dinghy out from beneath the tarpaulins which had covered it while Pierre was filming and started vigorously topping it up with a foot pump while Joseph collected water and supplies of food. Winston and Lincoln were sent below to start bringing slaves up onto the rolling deck.

They certainly weren’t going to fit in the dinghy so there seemed to Winston to be little point in the risk and effort in getting them out of the hold. When challenged Osasu replied "Once we've got rid of them all we'll send up flares and start a fire on deck, there's a chance we might be seen!"

The next time he went below Winston he found himself wriggling alongside Maria's motionless body. Whether she was alive or dead no longer seemed to matter, but as he dragged her clear of the swirling oily water and debris now washing over heads of the slaves every time the ship rolled she looked straight at him, weakly crying out "Thank you!"

Winston looked around, Lincoln had just dragged another corpse up on deck. Instead of taking Maria up through the hatch he dragged her to the low doorway connecting with the engine room. Grabbbing her hair he took a deep breath and ducked through the door pulling her after him. Ignoring her pitiful screams as she dragged her up out the water he grabbed her chained wrists, lifted her up and hooked the short chain over an exhaust pipe mounting bracket just below deck level. He didn't look back as he ducked back through to the hold to release another half drowned girl and drag her up onto deck.

Atlas had finished preparing the dinghy and now got into his stride grabbing limp or weakly struggling girls by their shackled ankles and swinging them around him, up and over the rail into the foaming sea. Surprisingly the only one to put up any resistance was emaciated and battered Ella who managed to hook the chain linking her manacles onto the shattered stump of the fallen main-mast. Instead of stepping back and unhooking her, Atlas just rolled her onto her back and stubbornly kept tugging violently at her ankles. Impatiently Osasu grabbed an axe from by his cabin door and in almost a single movement swung it round and down across her stretched abdomen. It ripped open the left side of her waist but failed to completely sever her spinal column. Even as her lifeblood drained away across the deck Ella tried to spit at her tormentors, but unable to draw a breath blood just gurgled from her mouth. A second blow of the axe managed to completely shatter her back bone and as the ship rolled heavily, dipping the rail into the oncoming waves Atlas, firmly grasping her limp stick like legs, fell back tearing her dead lower half from her still weakly straining upper torso.

"Get the fucking dinghy over the side !" Thomson yelled to everyone, and no-one in particular.

"I'll take the rope called back Winston, taking hold of the painter and struggling forward along the wave washed deck. As soon as Thomson slid the dinghy over the side the rest vest of the crew started jumping in. Running aft Lincoln slipped on the bloody mess of tangled entrails now only loosely connecting the scattered parts of Ella's carcass and fell head first into a stanchion, splitting his skull open. Winston saw his friend's body twitch twice before she wave washed it across the deck and down into the flooding hold.

Osasu tried to set off a parachute flair but the awash deck's lurching caught him off balance so the blazing ball got caught up in the shredded main course setting it alight. Giving up he too leapt for the dinghy.

As soon as Winston cast it loose the dinghy span wildly riding the crest of a wave then disappeared behind it. He crawled after to the engine room companionway then waist deep in water felt about for Maria.

Once he got her up on deck he needed her help to release and launch the clinker built rowing boat stored on chocks over the galley. He unlocked her remaining shackles and collar, throwing them and the key over the side.

"Where's everyone else?" Maria asked as they struggled to drag the small but heavy boat across the deck.

"The crew have gone in the other boat" he replied.

"And the rest of the girls?" Even as she asked the question Maria noticed the scattered pieces of Ella barely joined by strands of bloody flesh.

"Dead. Drowned." Winston paused, seeing the look of horror on her face. "Flung overboard."

The ship lurched to starboard, debris washing across the decks. "Quick, in the boat" he shouted, the panic clear in his voice. They had barely pulled clear before the Mermaid's waterlogged hull slipped below the waves leaving a mass of debris floating on the surface; spars, sails, barrels, bottles and barely floating tangles of rope.

And a broken carved mermaid's tail.

By the following morning the wind had dropped and the cloud had cleared, though the boat was still being tossed about by a heavy swell. Winston had been sick all through the night as the boost had been tossed about like a cork and now he listened in silence to Maria's questions.

"Where are we?"

"Will we get rescued?"

"How long can we survive without water?"

"Where's the other boat with your friends?"

Winston didn't know the answer to any of them, so he stayed silent. Though he did wonder whether to deny they were his friends. Lincoln had been a friend, he was dead. He wished Maria could be his friend, but knew that was now impossible. It had always been impossible.

He stared at her lying curled up in the sternsheets. He wanted her, but he desperately did not want her to hate him even more than she did.

His mouth was dry, tasting of vomit. Now the wind had died away he was getting hot. Sweating. But he knew that sweat was wasting precious water his body so desperately needed. Maria moaned and he saw her slowly roll onto her back. He stared at her panting chest, admired her naked reddish brown body. Once she looked in his direction but, seeing him staring at her quickly averted her gaze.

He must have fallen asleep but he was woken up by cool water sprinkling onto his parched bare skin. It didn't feel like rain. He looked up to see her leaning over him sprinkling water over him from her cupped hands.

"We can't drink the sea water, but we can use it to cool ourselves."y

Winston didn't answer. He needed to piss. He put his hands to the waist of his shorts to pull them down but then, seeing her watching, felt embarrassed. Why? He had crawled I alongside her stark naked to chain and unchain her. He had raped her as she lay stunned after he had made her scooter crash. But now he just urinated into his shorts, surprised how little came out. But it stank. He tried to go back to sleep. It was getting dark again, at least it would be cooler at night.

The next morning, as the burning sun soared upwards again, he saw the silhouette of a bird circling above. A dove perhaps – a sign of land nearby. Or an albatross. Was that a sign of bad luck – surely it couldn't get much worse? Or was it good luck provided you didn't shoot it?

Confused Winston tried for the first time to speak to Maria. His voice croaked "Alba.." She wasn't moving, was she dead? Perhaps the bird was a vulture, drawn to her rotting carcass. To meat. Meat which could sustain him. Perhaps the blazing sun would roast her, he looked at her stretched carcass glowing red in its rays.

"Albert? Who the fuck is Albert?" His dinner spoke to him. Winston tried to sit up but the movement emptied his bowels into his shorts. He dropped back down and lay with his head hanging back and his dry mouth open.
He thought he felt her delicate fingers exploring his body, but when he looked up she was still lying motionless on her back.

The sun was getting low in the sky when he heard her excited voice. "A ship! Look a ship! Get up. Wave to it. They can't see us!"

He weakly rolled onto his side and looked. But he couldn't see properly. Had the sun burnt out his eyes. He shut them then opened them again. There was something. Something black, with white sails. "The Mermaid?" he croaked. It couldn't be. He had seen it sink, it's masts had fallen, its sails were torn to shreds.

"We're saved, they're getting closer!" Maria's cried in hoarse excitement, trying to sit up.

It wasn't right, he knew it wasn't right. The black rotten hull of the ship towered over them. It stank. It stank of rotting humanity, of unwashed bodies confined in a burning hold. Or was it just his own shit that he was sitting in. Winston tried to wave but his arms wouldn't move.

Someone peered down at him from the deck of the ship high above. A woman with long white curls. No, not a woman, a man. The man from the book in the library. A sailor in a striped shirt with long hair tied back in a queue was lowered down on a rope which he fastened round Maria's chest before calling up "Haul her up!"

"There's no room!" the man in the white wig called down.

"We can't leave her, she's almost dead!" the sailor pleaded.

"We'll make room then!" the man above called down before disappearing from view. Then Winston saw the shiny black skin of a naked young girl, shackled and manacled, trailing rusty chains, being pushed, protesting, over the side of the ship towards him. His little sister!

"No!!" Winston cried out as she plunged past him. She hit the surface of the water with a splash and the chains dragged her on down. He had to save her! Winston rolled out over the side of the boat after her. Into the darkness of the cool welcoming water …

******************************************************************

Maria stared in horror as her tormentor turned saviour suddenly dragged himself over to the side of the boat almost capsizing it then rolled over the gunwale and sank down beneath the waves. Just as rescue was at hand! She looked back up at the giant blue and white container ship now less than a quarter of a mile away, slowing down as it approached her tiny frail craft. Her dry sunken eyes started crying tearlessly.

Of course it made headlines all round the world. How a pretty young girl who had just disappeared on her way home from piano lessons was inexplicably found months later adrift naked , starved, sunburned and dehydrated in a tiny rotten rowing boat in the middle of the Atlantic. It seemed she remembered nothing between riding home on her little motor scooter and waking up in a cabin being tended to by a medic on a Liberian ship bound from Jawaharlal Nehru to Southampton.

Once home her mother did her best to protect her from the prying press and didn't let them find out that she was expecting. Maria could shed no light on how she had become pregnant, so her parents couldn't understand why she was so insistent on calling the baby boy Spencer. "After Winston Churchill of course." They were equally horrified that, after they had with great difficulty managed to keep the birth a secret, Maria insisted on inviting every one of the estate workers to his Christening.
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