Cracker Steve the Somali Pirate

Steve was unemployed and spent his days at the library reading books illustrated by Andrew Wyeth. Of these, the books about pirates were his favorites. Unlike Steve these pirates had plenty of fun and adventure and gold. Of these three things he had none. He would read until about five o’clock and look at the pictures. Then he’d go home and watch the news on the BBC.
One particular day he was watching the news with extra focus because a friend had left a roach in the ashtray and he’d consumed it. It was the day before his rent was due.

“Look there Willy,” he said to his old shabby cat, “The Somalis have grabbed another oil tanker.”

Willy’d seen it all before. The Somalis would grab a tanker, hold it for ransom, and get millions of dollars.

“How much will it be this time Willy?”

“Three million pounds sterling,” said the BBC newscaster, “or maybe more.”

That was it. Cracker Steve had enough.

“Willy, if I had a boat, and a couple of AKs, and maybe a rocket launcher, we’d be rich.”

He took off his red paisley tie from a hanger and put it round his head instead of his neck. He regarded himself in the mirror.

“Now pay attention Willy, ‘cause this is how I’ll look.”

Willy was used to this ****; he’d seen Master Steve in one of these moods before. He never carried them out. But this time it would be different. This time it was dangerous. The master had money in his hand. The rent money.

Before he could say a thing, and even if he had said anything, it would have been a mere “Meow,” anyway, the master was on the phone buying a one-way ticket to Mogadishu.

Uh oh.

Mogadishu Madness

Cracker Steve found the cheapest hotel in Mogadishu, and if you know the place that can be pretty cheap. He needed money to buy his supplies with. He sat down in the cramped dirty room and made a list.

1. Rocket launcher
2. Two Aks
3. One small boat
4. A crew

“The crew will be first,” he said to no one but himself, “because they’ll be able to get the rest.”

Lots of imagination is what Cracker Steve had, and very little sense.

“I’ll go to a sailor bar, that’s where they’ll probably be.”

He saw through the smudgy window, that the sun was taking a dive.

“As soon as it’s all the way dark.”

He didn’t have long to wait. Half- an hour longer, and his feet hit the streets.

The bar was where every sailor bar in the world was. It was down near the dock. What a foreign taste of a bar it was. The sign on the front said its name, “Blue Angel”.

Cracker Steve Meets Marlene’s Lookalike at the Blue Angel

It was crowded and smoky and stunk of piss round the back in the alley, like a typical sailor bar should. It was, all in all, just what he expected. It was packed full of strange types, like in Star Wars Mogadishu- Collector’s Edition. It was, in a word, great. It was, in twelve more words, strange, exotic, or “most common” to any "proper" English lord or lady.

At a round shabby-wood table he sat.

A woman who had been singing a song walked over and sat down. She was blond and had fantastic legs, made even more fantastic by the fact she wore fishnet stockings. On her head was a silk top hat. She took off the hat as if she was going to stay and said what you’d expect her to say which was,

“Why don’t you buy me a drink?” in an incredibly low voice with a German accent.

How could our cracker boy refuse? He couldn’t.

“I’m looking for a pirate crew,” he offered, “Seen any pirates around?”

She took her drink and cast her eyes around the room like a net.

“That depends what you’re hall is and what you intend to do.”

“I figure about three million pounds.”

She hesitated.

“Three million pounds of what? Fish?”

“Pounds sterling.”

Her eyes brightened immediately and she offered her hand.

“Glad to make your acquaintance,” she said, “I’m Lola Lola.”

“I’m Steve,” he answered, and shook it with gusto.

She leaned closer and whispered, “The trouble with these Somalis is you can’t trust them. You need someone you can depend on. I have a friend, Captain Jacques, he’s half French.”

Cracker Steve’s eyes narrowed, “So you can trust him half-way, eh?”

Lola took a slim finger that was tipped with a perfectly polished nail and lifted one of her blond locks away from her eye so she could look him good. (and I don't mean "see")

“Yes, and I know which half of him to trust.”

It was settled then; they’d wait for Captain Jacques. Two drinks later and three sheets to the wind, Steve waited, hoping Jacques would show up soon before his brain set sail and he could no longer do business with a clear head.

Captain Jacques

Just then Captain Jacques arrived, saw Lola and greeted her with,

“Lola, my darling, how very good to see you, who’s this?” He eyed Steve with the suspicious look only a lover can give.

“This is the man who is going to make us rich.”

His demeanor changed immediately.

“Such a man I must meet! Introduce us!”

There were introductions all around. Captain Jacques looked like Johnny Depp in a French sort of way but was taller. He was, as they say, a man who knew his business. Then, after looking around to see if the coast was clear, they began to plot and plan. In hushed tones, their plan was formed and reformed.

“I can get you the AKs, there are plenty here left over from the civil war, and dirt cheap.”

“The rocket launcher?”

“Available,” he answered, “for a price.”

“A boat?”

“My friend, I already have that.”

“A crew?”

He looked at Lola, who was smiling, then at Cracker Steve.

“Mon ami, we already have that too!”

“This is too dangerous for a woman!”

“I’m the best shot on the east coast of Africa!” Lola protested.

“It’s true my friend, she makes your Annie Oakley look sick!”

“All right then, it’s settled, we have a deal.”

Hands shook all around. The deal was sealed.

The next morning Steve and Jacques went in search of arms.

“We can’t get the rocket launcher from the usual places,” Jacques cautioned, “We’ll arouse too much suspicion.”

“I understand that, and I agree.”

“Besides,” he laughed, “I can get you one wholesale! A dealer I know, he gets them cheap!”

Into the back alleys of Mogadishu they trod. It was a nasty and smelly trip.

The Syrian

Finally they arrived at a gate near a wall with red bougainvilleas climbing to the top. A small boy let them in. It was the garden of Hakim, the Syrian.

“Aha,” he said, “It’s Captain Jacques and a friend! What have I done to bring such honor upon my house?”

“Just knowing a man such as you brings honor to us old friend. Long may the house of Hakim prosper.” The captain gestured with his hand moving it from his heart, to his lips, to his head.

In a small pavilion they sat on silk cushions on a rug made in Samarkand and drank tea served by a maiden whose face was a fair as the moon. After they were finished it was,

“My friend here has a job to do,” stated captain Jacques, “and needs,” he gave Hakim a sly look, “certain supplies.”

“My warehouse is open to you, and may your needs always be filled.”

“For a price?”

He laughed, “For a price. But a discount price if Allah wills it.”

“Can we see?”

“Your wish is my command.”

With that they got up and stepped across the alleyway and in through a door. It was full of wooden boxes, equipment of all sorts from helmets and uniforms to boxes of ammunition and the thing was, if you noticed, that they came from all over the world. Through another door, this one locked, they disappeared like thieves in the night.

“Gentleman, what are exactly your requirements?”

“We’d like a rocket launcher,” said Steve, “if you have any.”

“I have a few,” he answered, but they’re not cheap.”He showed them the Stingers from the USA and the Soviet RPG 7 and gave them the prices. They were shocked.

“We love the quality and variety but not the price tags. Got anything cheaper?”

“Well, I do have something this week on special. It’s a two-fer deal. Two for the price of one.”

Jacques looked at Steve.

“We could test one on the water. I’ve never really shot one before; we could practice and still have another.”

“Tut tut Dear Sirs, these guns are simplicity itself. You will master them in a New York minute.”

“That’s it then, we’re sold. If…you throw in an AK with each.”

“A man who gives to the needy is surely blessed and will spend his days in paradise.”

Hakim took out a receipt book and scribbled on it.

“It shall be written. It shall be done. Do you want then delivered or is this “to go”.

“Deliver them to my boat Hakim, and make it free.”

“Tomorrow before ten o’clock. It is done.”

It was as simple as that. The boat and crew were assembled. Business in Mogadishu in such things was thriving. Now they had only to wait for news of an oil tanker. And that didn’t take long. Captain Jacques had a short wave radio and could tune in to all the calls at sea. A tanker was leaving Kuwait City, heading to Mombasa, and would be there in two days.

“That’s just enough time to pack and make our rendezvous,” announced the Captain, “Be ready.”

“Aye aye,” Steve answered, and left.

The next day Cracker Steve packed his Jolly Rodger, which he had left over from Halloween, intending to run it up the mast. He packed some sea-sick tablets just in case. He went out and splurged on lunch, figuring it was his last chance to eat good for a while. Then he went to bed early to get extra rest. It didn’t hurt to be careful.

When Captain Jacques came by the next morning to pick him up, it was eleven o’clock but he still wasn’t up.

“What’s the matter,” he asked, “Hung over?”

“It’s not that Cap. It’s the Mogadishu two-step I’ve got. My *ss**** is a machine gun!” he said weakly, and I mean weakly.

“I need something to stop me up! But I’m afraid to get more than two steps from the toilet.”

“I’ll be back” the Captain said, turned and left.

When he returned he offered him a black pill.

“What’s this?”

“Something to stop you up. What else?”

He put it in his mouth and realized that whatever it was it wasn’t in a capsule. Mainly because it tasted like dirt.

“I’ll be back in a half-hour. You’ll be better by then,” and he left.

“Fat chance of that,” Steve said to himself, and stomach growling, ran once again to the toilet.

But within a half-hour things began to change. His stomach quieted down, and his attitude changed too. He was so relieved. He didn’t feel bad any more. In fact, when he thought about it, he felt good. The best he had ever felt.

“I must write down the name of this remedy in case I get the runs again,” he concluded and just then the door knocked.

Jacques took one look at him and knew where he was at.

“You’re alright now eh Mon Ami? Let’s go.”

The drove to the docks where Lola was waiting with her bag at her side. She was wearing a sailor’s cap with a red pom pom on the top and white pleated pants with cork healed deck shoes. Cracker Steve had never seen a better looking sailor and he knew it. The day, it seemed to Steve, was incredibly clear and dream-like. Everything seemed perfect. Silver puffy cumulus clouds billowed on the horizon and white gulls swooped overhead.

A Sailor’s Life for Steve

The harbor had all varieties of boats. Most were commercial fishing boats in stages of disrepair. For example, the one tied up to the dock nearest them was a lobster boat, and had traps still on the deck. Its’ paint was flaking, and everywhere metal showed, the metal that held it together, there was rust. The only spots that didn’t have rust were covered with black grease. So imagine the surprise Steve felt when the captain and Lola started putting the supplies on board. Right there on its fragile deck. Even more surprised was he, when Captain Jacques, while twisting his moustache between his finger and thumb, announced proudly,

“Ah, she’s a trim craft isn’t she?”

“This is our boat? This is it?”

“I can tell, Mon Ami, by the tone of your voice, that you’re pleased!”

Evidently the captain knew nothing of tone and its implied meanings.“The Ann Marie is the fastest boat on the coast,” said Lola, who had a keener ear for tone and its meaning, “Don’t worry, she’ll do the job.”

“Well, I was a slightly worried; she looks a bit….beat up.”“That’s camouflage, you’ll see,” answered the captain with finality and that was that.

They pulled away from the dock, then from the harbor entrance, and headed out on a course meant to intercept the tanker.

The Storm and the Stomach

There was still three hours to the rendezvous when a squall came out of the south. With the wind at their fronts the waves stood on their legs and grew. Then they began crowing and growling. The Ann Marie began to pitch from side to side. Cracker Steve’s stomach began to do the same.

“Stomach still messed up?” said Lola, “Here.”

Before he could say “No” she flipped him another black nasty pill and then gave him a kiss so he’d wouldn’t spit it out and had to swallow. It had a dirt-bitter after- taste. (the pill not the kiss.)

“That’ll calm you down.”

“Calm me down? I thought it was supposed to stop me UP.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll do both. Opium is good medicine.”

She lit a cigarette. His chin dropped.

His mouth was open so wide by the time that she lit it, than when he inhaled he tasted the sulfur from her match. Hot sulfur inhalation.

“So that’s how this is gonna be” he managed to think. But that was about all he could do…think. The lights were on but nobody was home. The shock of what she’d just told him made him faint straight away.

“How’s he doing?” Captain Jacques asked with concern, when she walked up to the wheel and placed the cigarette in his mouth.

“Good. He’s taking a nap.” Only Lola could be Lola.

The squall disappeared as quickly as it had come. Now with their WW 2 binoculars the Syrian had thrown in for free, Lola began to search the northern horizon.

The tanker was there.

“Get out the rocket launcher,” she ordered. When Lola ordered you followed, even if you were the captain. He woke up Cracker Steve and helped him carry up the box. They pried it open and looked inside. There were only two parts, the launcher and the rocket.

The head of the rocket was shaped like a pointy mushroom and had a name written in white on it.

Panzerfaust? What's That?

“What’s it say?” asked Cracker Steve.

“I can’t read it. I’m half-French. But I think it’s in German,”

“It says Panzerfaust ,” said Lola, after giving it a glance, “See the date, it was made in nineteen forty-two.

“No wonder it’s rusty” observed Steve.

“And there won’t be time to practice,” said the captain, and put down the binoculars. He pulled down his captain’s hat and made it straight on his head. It had a gold shell on the front over a red shield. Maybe his daddy had pumped Shell Oil. I think he had.

“‘Cause here comes the tanker.”

Both of them ran to the rail.

There appeared, on the rim of the world, a mammoth. Floating with the authority and danger of an iceberg, a small rectangular continent of steel, under its own power. It was so damned impressive. And, on the other hand, such a big target. How could they possibly miss?

“Ready the guns.”

The AKs were locked and loaded. Each had an extra clip tapped to the stock for quick release. The Panzerfaust? Assembled.

Now the three were ready for business.

“Aim for the wheel house” was the order.

“And blow up the roof. They won’t need it where they’re going.”

“Aye aye,” was Lola’s answer. A German girl for a German machine.

The tanker crew spotted them and was starting to hail.

Cracker Steve tied his red paisley neck-tie around his noggin pirate-style, then ran the Halloween Jolly Rodger up the mast. Yes, it’s true. He’d had read too much Sabatini and probably thought he was Captain Blood or The Sea Hawk. But it didn’t matter because it was now or never.

Cracker gave them a burst above their heads, to give them something to think about. Lola took aim and let loose the Panzerfaust, and it barked with a sort of growl and a scream and a big enough “whoosh!” to wake the dead.

After melting the wall of steel plate, it entered the wheelhouse and blasted straight through its roof. To put it mildly, the place would have to be swept.

“Everyone knows the Germans make good stuff.” said Vince, the guy on the shopping channel. (though he wasn’t even there) If he’d seen the way German terror weapon hit that wheelhouse, he would have shouted more than, “Shamwow!”

The Crew of the Hokaido Maru

The crew, it turned out was from Nippon. And I don’t mean Ramen. They were, in fact, Japanese. No one was hurt but the captain and the man at the wheel. And their faces were only blackened and mustaches singed off… that’s all. The worst part for them was the stench their mustaches gave off since they’d grown them right under their noses where they couldn’t be avoided.

The three rounded the crew up and locked them in the galley where they had plenty to eat. Then they made the call from the ship’s own radio.

The Japanese radio man was there to help and to watch.

“We want three million pounds Sterling,” Jacques told the owners. He figured his accent would make it hard to place him. What?

“And tell them, if they don’t give it soon, you’re going to blow up the boat;” said the radio operator, “We get overtime if you threaten to blow up the boat.”

“Has this happened to you before?”

“Three times in five years.”

“ If we don’t get it fast we’ll blow up the boat. Make it in gold. And make it exact.”

The Japanese radio man had his finger and thumb together making a circle, giving him the OK .

They returned to the galley and with their Nikons and Cannons and Minoltas and Yashicas, the crew took many pictures of the pirates and especially pictures with Lola, whose long legs proved quite an attraction, long legs being in short supply in Japan, and therefore a rarity.

Then, finding out they were getting overtime they broke out the rice wine.

That’s when they heard the swoop swoop swoop of helicopter blades delivering the gold. Oh yes, they’d decided on gold, since it had no marks and couldn’t be traced, and even if it had they planned to melt it down anyway.

Captain Jacques ran to the deck and with a bull-horn and directed the helicopter to land the sack of gold on the deck of the Marie, as it was so heavy it would save them the trouble of trying to lift it. When they complied, the Marie lay lower in the water; the waves were almost up to the scuppers.

They released all of the crew, who were done eating and drinking by now anyway, and after Lola delivered a few kisses to the captain and mate with black faces, they regained the Marie. When they shoved off, they had no more marks on them of the whole affair other than the black smudge on Lola’s pretty nose.

However, when the tanker got underway, it revealed something ominous on the horizon, and I don’t mean the storm clouds, because there were plenty of those. It was just a speck, but the speck was steaming towards them at about 25 knots.

Our threesome didn’t notice it right away; they were too busy with the gold. It was all bars, clean wrapped and shiny. On top was a sack and when they opened it up, it was full of Kugerrrands.

“Why this on top?” exclaimed Lola.

“I told them to be exact. Obviously they’re men of their words.”

They passed them around and filled their pockets.

“Well, we can’t spend this here gentleman, so let’s go.” When it came to money, Lola was good at spending it.

“Hello, what’s this?” said Jacques, and took up the binoculars. He’d seen the speck.

“It’s a frigate,” he reported, “and it’s flying the Union Jack.

It was true. The call had been picked up by the HMS Bat’s Bellfry and the Royal Navy was in hot pursuit.

“There’s only one chance,” said the captain calmly, we can’t outrun them so we’ll escape into the shallows, where they can’t follow.”

He twisted the wheel to bring the Anne Marie about. The wind picked up and white-caps appeared. They were in for a storm. A race and a storm all in one. And if there was one card that was to be dealt in the favor of our terrible trio of pirates, it’s the fact that Her Majesty’s Ship Bat’s Belfry was commanded by none other than Lord Harry Habersham, the terribly sea-going fop.

This, Mi Amigos, is where things get exiting.

Lord Harry Haversham

Lord Harry, since everyone here except Cracker Steve looks somebody else, looked like Edward Fox, the British Actor, God bless him.

“There’s a pirate ship dead ahead,” announced the lookout to Lord Harry, who was standing right there on the deck.

“How can you tell it’s a pirate?” his Lordship quizzed.

“Because me Lord, they’re flying the Jolly Rodger.”

“Good show Beddoes. Good show. Shows you have deductive reasoning.”

“Thank you sir, I’ve studied my Conan Doyle I have.”

“You’re a credit to your class. Full speed ahead, and what is it the Yanks say?”

“Damn the torpedoes, your lordship?”

“That’s it! Damn the torpedoes etcetera, etcetera…and so forth.”

The crew knew a leader when they saw one. He wasn’t Captain Bligh but then again he wasn’t Fletcher Christian either. For them Lord Harry was more than enough.

Lord Harry, Saints preserve him, tightened his pink silk ascot, put on his gold cufflinks from Harrods, and readied for action.

Whistles blew, alarms sounded, and every man took his station and stood to the ready. The wind was up, the sea was choppy, but the guns were dry and cold. They wouldn’t be for long.

“Put one over her bow,” ordered His Lordship.

The nine incher spoke with a bark that could not be ignored. There was a whoosh, then a splash, and a plume of water rose up not ten yards from the prow of the Anne Marie.
“I think they want us to come about,” observed Cracker Steve.

“No ****,” Lola agreed in a dirty way.

“Mais non,” said Captain Jacques, “we need some more time, the shoals, they are close, only a kiss away.” French Captains are so romantic.

“Then we need to stall them,” said Lola, and she ran into the cabin, and into the head.

“Sacre blue! These women, eh? Putting on the makeup just to be arrested!”

A Silky Surrender

Lola rushed out with something white in her hand. She grabbed at the line on the mast and gave it a tug. Down came the Jolly Rodger. And up went a white flag, well, not exactly a white flag, more like white silk lace panties.

“Panties? You’re using your panties?” screamed Cracker Steve.

“If they think it’s a white flag they’ll think we’re surrendering! If they see that it’s panties, same thing.”

Jacques and Steve looked at her, then at each other. Her logic was unshakable. Damn Germans and their cool-headed logic anyway. She pissed them both off.

The Anne Marie was nearly to the shallows.

From the poop deck of the Belfry came the question,

“Is there any answer?”

“A sort of an answer Your Lordship. An answer of sorts.”

“What’s that, Beddoes?”

“They’ve struck the Jolly Rodger and run up a pair…”

Lord Harry was getting tense, maybe because of the situation, or the fact he’d adjusted his ascot too tight, and cut Beddoes off.

“Of signal flags?”

“I believe they’re women’s…” he could hardly say it, “undergarments sir.”

His lordship took the binoculars and looked. He was as cool as one of his own cucumber sandwiches.

“What do you make of it?”

“Sir, what to make of it is an executive decision, and respectfully, your Lordship, not within my rank.”

While the captain and the crew of the Belfry are playing a thousand questions, the Anne Marie is getting away, and now within reach of the shoals.
“Is she still moving Beddoes?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Then give her another shot across the bow.”

Now the storm was moving in closer, and the frigate and her gun began to pitch. You could hardly blame the gunner for what happened next. He had no control over nature.

The shot was aimed when the frigate was on the top of a roll, but when he pressed the trigger it wasn’t. Simple as that. Unless you were on the other end of it.

Just as the Anne Marie reached the shoals the shot struck her. Explosion and flames fifty feet high, the crew flung out every which-way, splinters and debris cast everywhere in all directions. Chaos. She went straight to the bottom to escape the havoc on top. The storm raged even harder when the Belfry arrived at the scene to look for survivors, but even a ship of the line had to give up, because of the storm, to even recover the bodies.

On the coast the next day, when it finally got light, the debris from the boat was strewn on the sand for hundreds of yards. Here you’d find a bit of beam or plank, there some canvas or plastic foam that was put in the hull to keep her afloat. Over there, under the palm tree jutting from the shore, there on the sand…a head. A head? Yes!

And better than just a head, a living head. Cracker Steve’s head still attached to his body.

With the dawn he woke up, just as sore as he could be. Down the beach was Lola, who felt the same way. And down the other way, now you mention it, was Captain Jacques. All three quite alive and none the worse for wear.

They made it back , and I knew what happened by putting two and two together. First there was the fact Cracker Steve had been gone for a month. I was the one feeding Willy and when I was there I saw the news on BBC. I recognized the fool immediately when I saw the red paisley tie I’d given him for Christmas tied round his head. You couldn’t mistake it.

Then there was the fact that he was now living with some French idiot and some German girl with amazing legs. They were down to their very last Kugerrand.

But they were not finished.

They were leaning over a map, spread on the kitchen table, all three of them, having some kind of a conference. I nearly tripped on the aqualungs stacked against the wall and the wet-suits piled on the floor.

That’s the trouble with Steve. You can never tell what he’s up to.