Chapter 17: Benji Caught

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This was it. He was at his limit. His arms were too tired and he was running on only a few hours of sleep. It had already been six days. Where was she? She said she was going to come for him. Maybe she had gotten into trouble. He was worried about Faith. If Hailie was in trouble and Faith was with her, or if Hailie got in trouble and Faith was alone... Benji shook his head. He shouldn't think like that. They were fine. They were on their way. Soon he'd be able to see his sister.

A wave hit the side of the ship and it rocked violently. He wanted to throw up. He still wasn't used to being on a ship. He'd give anything to step on dry land again and sleep in a proper bed and never see another hammock ever again or eat any more of that sorry excuse they had for food or drink any more disgusting grog. At least he had it better than Zigzag. He'd only seen him once since he agreed to become a pirate and he'd looked worse than before. He must have a history with these men. Somehow Zigzag still managed to flirt with him when he went in to help carry the food. Maybe all those hits messed up his head.

There was a loud explosion on the other end of the ship. He held back a smile and scrubbed the deck with renewed energy. There was only one benefit to his situation: he'd never had so much fun destroying things before.

Men were yelling all over the ship. They ran back and forth trying to out the fire. So far Benji had destroyed the oven in the kitchen, tore a sail, jammed the tiller for a few hours and now three barrels of gun powder were on fire. Of course, he'd never been anywhere near those areas when those things happened. If he was right, he'd slowed down the ship for at least a day. If he could do a little more damage he would be able to keep them from reaching Meldan for another day. He'd also managed to cause enough trouble so that no other girls had been brought up. He just hoped Hailie reached soon. He couldn't keep this up forever without anyone seeing him.

He heard his name being called. Alfie was looking pretty serious and his eyes were darting all over.

"The Captain's coming. He thinks you're the one doing these things. One of the guys said they saw you doing something with the tiller and the sail. You're in trouble." He looked behind him. The Captain was walking over to them. Alfie ran.

Benji tried to go back to scrubbing the deck but his mind was working fast. He needed to come up with a good excuse for everything.

A hand grabbed the back of his shirt and he was dragged to his feet. The Captain had fire coming out of his eyes.

"What have you been doing to my ship?" he shouted. The man towered over him. His jaw was tense.

Benji didn't have to pretend to be startled.

"I-I didn't do anything," he stammered.

"Amin, what did you say?" the Captain asked. One of the men who had been in the brig took a step forward. They were attracting a crowd. The men were circling around them like wild dogs. He tried not to think of all that he read about dog fights. Falling was suicide.

"I saw him do something with the oven and he's the one who filled the tiller with wood shavings so it would stick. That explosion just now was his doing as well," the man said.

"What else did you tell me?" the Captain asked. His voice was deathly still and it sent chills down his spine. At least he now understood what that expression meant.

"His name is Benjamin Morris not Ben Cook. His father is the famous lawyer Peter Morris."

"Can anyone else confirm this man's claims?"

Benji looked at the man. Why would he sell him out like that? Weren't those people his friends? Did he want to see them be sold? The man just gave him an apologetic shrug.

"He's lying. I didn't do any of that!" Benji said.

"You were told the rules of the ship. Betrayal in any form is punishable by death," the Captain said. "But that's a little too quick and why kill someone when we can make a profit." The men started making noise. They wanted him dead regardless of the money. They were all fools. Anyone within smelling distance of them could tell that much. "Shut up!" the Captain shouted. They went silent. All he could hear were the wave and the flap of the sails. At least they could follow orders. Maybe he should tell them to sit and roll over. "You still need to be punished. Alfie, go get the cat."

A cat? Unless they had a starved tiger he didn't think it would do much to scare him.

He was grabbed from behind and dragged towards the main mast. His shirt was ripped from his back and his hands were tied around the post. He caught a glimpse of the tool in Alfie's hand, a cot-o'-nine-tails. So it was that kind of cat.

"A vote!" he shouted. "You said no punishment would be administered without a vote."

"Is a vote necessary men?" the Captain asked.

There were shouts of "Whip him!" and "Betrayer!" and "Throw him to the sharks!"

"You heard them," the Captain said. "Your punishment is five lashes. You will not be able to survive any more than that."

Benji was disappointed when he didn't pass out after the first lash.

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