I were right about th' rum. When dawn came I were hurtin' worse thin I'd thought. Th' fat man's shiv had done me in th' shoulder, and once in th' leg, and give me somethin' that would be a new scar above me right eye. "Nearly had me wif that 'un" I thought as I wiped th' dry blood from me forehead. Well, me hurts weren' that bad in comparison to Smythe's. Poor soul were cut near in half. Me clothes, the costume I'd put together so carefully, were freshly dyed a new color and lost to me purpose. I bundled 'em up, and toss'd 'em inna sack so's I could burn 'em. Mister Connolly were disappearin' today, an' I had no desire to have 'im traced to me. A few slugs from th' bottle I'd rescued got me on me feet, an' I went back to them garments what open winds, seawater, and time had fitted comfortably to me frame. There were an opium den near that had what I needed most - not the drug, the owner. Lam, we called 'im. Ol' Lam were an ace wit a needle, and me sails needed some mendin'. On me way out, I tossed me sack on th' fire, and let poor Connolly go to meet 'is father.
Lam's place were known to us pirates, but not many others. Aye, it were a fine spot fer chasin' th' dragon, but moreover it were a quiet house fer quiet things. Not like Th' Rose - no buyin' or sellin' here, save fer souls. Hands 'ad been shanghai'd here, contracts terminated suddenly, lusts fulfilled, debts settled. Th' last were my wont - Lam owed me a favor. One night a crew o' Portugese 'ad gotten well in thir cups, an' I helped to escort 'em out. Well, I escorted th' one that weren' already speakin' wit Santo Pedro. Fer th' others, I helped Lam an' 'is daughter get rid of 'em. Least I could do - Lam were a true one to us scallywags. Th' big manchu by the door knew me by sight, and let me pass wifout complaint. Slow mornin' - a few o' dem what have given up on life layin' about, but not many o' my kind. Knockin' on 'is door, I called to 'im - "Lam," I said, "it's Em. I need ye thread, mate."
"How I know it Em?" His voice was thin from behin' his door - prolly a full musket's length from it.
"Cuz I know yer daughter's got a tattoo."
"She have many. Which one you know?"
"Th' tiger on 'er belly."
"She have no tiger. You no Em."
"Hah! I promise she has it, Lam. I saw it whin I woke up." Th' door opened like a shot, and there were Lam. Half a man by our standards, and thin as a beggar. Th' musket in me face appear'd like magic, twice the size o' th' man behin' 'er, and 'e looked 'ard at me over it.
"When you wake up with Ling, eh? I no lemember her mally pilate scum."
"No marriage, Lam, jus' a fine night o' Go, massage, and sleep wit a woman I's sure wouldn' put a knife in me belly while I slept."
"You sreep with Ling? Eh? Pilate take Ling flom me? You dead, Em!"
"'Er virtue is sure, Lam. I'd not offend me dearest friend, th' great surgeon and healer, master of the nine celestial forms, and owner of th' finest smokin' house I've known fer the sake of lust. There be plenty of houses fer that, and yours ain't one of 'em. Though some day, should I be graced with luck and fortune," I knelt before 'im, layin' it on thick, an' 'e kept 'is musket pressed to me skull, "I should be so lucky as to have a wife of such purity an' honor as your daughter Ling. An' to combine it wit the gift of callin' ye me father, I should have great luck indeed." It were all I could do to keep from laughin'. Lucky fer me, me leg were bleedin' again, an' me shoulder felt like it'd been ripped from me - cryin' were closer thin a belly laugh.
"You furr of shit, Em. I heal you two. You make rove rike monkey, and yerr rike one, too."
"Well, I'm only a poor American, without th' benefit of yer eastern philosophy." He were grinnin' at me, and I were grinnin' back.
"She miss you, pilate ass."
"An' I her. But fer now, I'm leakin'. Reunions kin happen later."
"Okay. You take off crothes, ray on table." He closed th' door behin' me, and I were back in the Orient. Lam were a genius, sure. 'Is home were mined out from underneath the town, bigger'n the Governer's mansion, complete wif waterfalls, gold buddahs, an little mutant trees. I dropped me clothes on th' floor, and laid on 'is dinner table. "I no have opium. This hult, Em."
Takin' another slug from me bottle I said, "'S alright, Lam. I'd rather hurt some thin bleed t' death. Just be quick, and ferget th' scars - I'll take 'em as marks ov honor."
"If you say sooo.."
Thirty minutes an' a lifetime of pain later, 'e were done puttin' me right. "You okay, Em. No move too fast, no fight, thlead hold." He were grinnin' like a proud mother. Whatever that little chinaman's sins may be, he done right by me, and were happier healin' a man thin corruptin' him.
"Wif any luck, Lam, I won' be fightin' anyone fer quite a while. Ye have me thanks, and we're square on yer debt."
"We square for long time, round eye. But you friend to house of Lam, and I happy to help."
"EM!" Ling had, apparently, 'eard me screamin'.
"Ling! Glad to see ye, las....oomph!" What I'd thot were a friendly hug were a fine snap-kick to th' jaw, and I were on th' table again.
"You are a son of a bitch, Em. I should kill you."
"Aye, well, for that, uh..."
"Who's the white bitch that's been asking about you, Em? A girlfriend? A wife?"
"Eh? White bitch? Nay, lass, I've no ring on me finger. What arr ye talkin' about?" I sat up, fearful ov another kick, but too curious to keep on me back.
"Says her name's Mary, and that she has business with you."
"Ma...Mary? Already? Damn me, that woman's fast. Aye, we have business, Ling. I've done 'er a favor, an' she's payin' 'er debt."
"Nae, not like you."
"Good." Ling look'd me over like a fatted calf, ready fer slaughter. "You look like shit, pirate."
"And yer still a goddess, Ling."
"Get some sleep. I'll tell your business partner to come back tomorrow. You remember the way, don't you?"
"Aye, Ling, I do. Thankee." I slid meself off the table, pull'd on me shirt, and headed fer Ling's pavilion. I were tired to th' core, and lookin' forward to a good sleep.
"Em! Pilate ass!" Lam were roused. "You no thank me? Pilate all the same! Asshore! Unglateful! Ling! You no risten to your father! Em bad news, I say! He have prans! He no good husband for you! What you doing? You never risten!" Ling went back in t' th' den t' 'ave a talk wif Mary, and I grinned to meself fer Lam's sake. Aye, someday I would take Ling as me own, and I'd be lucky to call Lam me father. That weren't no lie. But fer now 'e were right. I 'ad prans.
There's no need to stand on ceremony, nor call to impress.