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“Three-Fingered Jack”: A Short Story

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“Slow and steady, boys. He’s bound to be around here somewhere. I can feel it. Jamaica’s “Robin Hood” can’t get too far”, Superintendent Nalty sneered to himself.

The party moved through the bushes. They listened carefully, noting each animal call, each bird’s song, each rustling leaf. They searched. They stopped. They waited.

It was the year 1781. A small band of men had received word that Three-Finger Jack was hiding away in the forests of St. Thomas in the East, and the bounty and glory they were due to receive if they could find and kill him drove them in the hunt to subdue their prey. Leading the hunt was the superintendent of the Scott’s Hall Maroons, Bernard Nalty. There were three other white soldiers under his command, but he was depending on the black members of his crew to get the job done. Samuel Grant, John Reeder and Little Quaco had come highly recommended. These were the type of Maroons that Nalty could appreciate – they understood that law and order was to be kept, even if it meant killing their own “brother”.

Then they heard it. A slight shuffle.

Little Quaco swung out sharply behind him in the direction of the sound, chopping with his machete at the shrubs that hung low on his right. He was at the rear of the search party, and gave protection to all the others. On high alert, they quickly they formed a circle, each man facing outwards. In every white hand was a firearm, and in every black hand there was a gleaming machete. Samuel had a long, cruel knife planted in his waistcloth, next to his abeng.

That’s when they heard the footsteps running away.

“Quick, run him dung!” John boomed, breaking formation at the sound.

They plunged through the brushes, armed and hungry for fame and wealth. Superintendent Nalty knew better than to lead the headlong charge and stayed behind, letting his stars steal the show as was previously discussed. No use sacrificing his own men for this kind of work.

The chase was long, but it was a short catch. They cornered Jack near Bull Bay. Usually he would have been able to make his escape through one of the five rivers that were in the area, but there was a large amount of rainfall the night before and flooding made the escape impossible. He would have to fight here on the open plain, with just a few cattle grazing nearby and no protection. Jack drew his cutlass.

“A mi unoo come fa? Unoo mad like!”

“Dead yu’ dead today, bwoy!” Little Quaco shouted. He made the first move, swinging at Jack’s head. The chop was dodged, and Jack thrusted the point of his cutlass at Little Quaco’s heart. Not reaching far enough, he missed and retreated. John charged in from the left, aiming to slice off even two more of his fingers. He found that inside, he didn’t really want to kill this man. Killing another man like him in the name of his white masters would weigh on his conscience. But it had been a difficult year with his ground provisions failing, and he and his family needed the money.

Jack spun and cavorted like a madman, hoping to save his fingers and his life. He was exhausted from running for so long, and felt taunted by the presence of the white men watching leisurely nearby. They could have taken a shot at him on multiple occasions, but they simply stood by and watched. He knew this game. The whites were watching the entertainment, and the blacks were on display. Feeling rage, he prepared himself to lunge again at John, when he felt a sharp pain in his leg. Screaming, he looked down to see that the first strike from Samuel had found its way home. He had been too distracted. Weakened and disheartened, he fell to the grass in pain. Ignoring calls for mercy, Samuel struck again.

The job was done. They had carried out their orders.

Samuel panted, looking at the other Maroons. They looked at their officer, waiting for him to make the announcement. With thought and consideration, he switched his weapon to his left hand and grasped his abeng in his right hand.

He lifted his head, put the horn to his lips, and blew.

 

Blessings in abundance!

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