Absence Makes the Heart Go Plunder

Tale Spin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan


Chapter 2



(Author's note: This chapter is rated PG for language, mainly toward the end. Blame the big nasty lizard guy, not me! ;-)


Later that evening, after Katarina had retired to an unoccupied room in Pirate Island, Scarlet sat up in her quarters, studying the old map by candlelight. She compared it to an atlas, and the coastline definitely matched that of Pisa, Florence and environs. This, she knew, was the region in which Don Karnage had lived for several years, training as a pirate under a Captain named Vincenzo Barzini. But that was all she knew. Karnage was evasive about that portion of his history. This surprised her, since he had spilled his other secrets already. It seemed the puzzle pieces were not all in place yet, after all.

Scarlet traced the river with her finger, estimating the distance. Florence looked to be about fifty miles inland. A reasonable distance, by ship, from the Mediterranean.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.

A crisp, authoritative banging at her door. Scarlet sighed, gathered up her trailing, light pink night gown, and went to answer it. "Who is it?" she called, although she already knew. Technically Don Karnage had a key to every door on the island, but he was gentleman enough to knock first.

"It is my wonderful self, of course! Open up!" he ordered.

She unlocked and opened the door but stood firm, blocking his entrance. "What do you want?"

"You are angry."

"Oh, good, you're not blind, just stubborn," she replied, her voice dripping acid.

"What is your problem?" he snapped, his dark eyebrows dropping into a frown. "You signed on to my crew. You agreed to follow the Code. You have never dribbled over it before."

"Quibbled," she corrected with annoyance.

"Stop correcting me and start answering me!"

She put her hands on her hips. "Fine, I'll tell you what my problem is. You're refusing to let me make a business deal with my sister because of some dusty old parchment."

"That 'dusty old parchment', seņorita, is the Code that has governed pirate dealings for generations!"

"Since when do pirates worry about breaking laws?"

"The world's laws, no. Our laws, yes. Think about it. Dusty off your blonde brain and think...what would happen if we divided up the plunder not equally? Then the men would fight and steal from each other and mutiny. Would be chaos. No, it must be equal, among all crew members. And that, my narrow-minded novia, is including you."

Scarlet scowled. "But am I really just a crew member?"

Karnage's eyes took a leisurely tour from her soft head of golden hair, down to her dainty feet poking out from under her nightgown. "Of course not, querida. You are much more. But you are still also a crew member. And you must follow the Code like one, too." His tone was a little more gentle, but her eyes flared with renewed anger.

"In other words, the only way for this deal with Katarina to work is for me to quit the crew?" It was a clear challenge, and Karnage hesitated to answer. Finally, he decided to call her bluff, and nodded. Scarlet looked as if she were in physical pain. "Then so be it. As of today, I withdraw from your crew. You don't care about that stupid old Code. You just want the biggest cut of this treasure. You want to force me to obey you. Well, I'm not one of your brain-dead lackeys, Felipe. I know better. And if you're not going to try to see my side of this, to make a compromise, then...I'm not your girlfriend, anymore, either."

Before he could find words to reply, she slammed the door in his face and locked it...with her own padlock.




As promised, Scarlet was packed and ready to leave the next morning. She tossed her two suitcases into the back of her plane, hopped in beside her sister, and was gone. Out through the side entrance of the island, over the ocean, and...gone.

Don Karnage stood on the balcony on the west side of the island, watching the sun sink low over the limitless waters. A casual observer might have judged him uneffected, but closer inspection showed his entire body was tensed, his hands in fists, his jaw clenched.

Good riddance, his ego sneered. She was a distraction. Useless emotional baggage. He didn't need her around, prying into his private affairs and secrets, defying his authority! She signed on as a member of the crew. She signed the Code, agreed to its terms. There was no reason she shouldn't follow them like everyone else.

Karnage paced the length of the balcony several times, his gaze distant. But still it didn't feel right to have her absent. After all, he had shared his deepest secrets with her. What if she went around blabbing them to the world? Not only might she give away the location of Pirate Island, but she could reveal his mixed heritage. The feared pirate Don Karnage...a hybrid. He'd be a laughing stock! The butt of jokes across the entire Pacific!

He stopped pacing, unsheathed his sword and stood, leaning on the blade like a cane.

His frown slowly gave way to an expression of misery. Who was he trying to fool? He clenched his eyes shut, blocking out the melancholy splendor of the sunset. He wanted her back. His arms ached to hold her again. His ears longed to hear her laugh, her amusingly accented Spanish. And not because she could ruin his reputation. Not because she could give away his secrets. No. He wanted her back because, as difficult as it was to admit--he had only spoken the words once--he loved her.

He had been infatuated with plenty of women in the past, of course. He had even watched the sunrise with a few lucky ladies. But never before had he felt the spiritual connection as he felt with Scarlet. Something about her demeanor, her spirit, her eyes...compelled him to open up to her. She and she alone had been audience to his life story. His past... Ignacio... Lorenzo... his father... all of it... he had kept it all locked tightly away, deep in his heart, for years. Never sharing the tale... the pain... with anyone. Until Scarlet.

She brought out the best in him, as well. When she was around, he felt confident, happy with himself, and-- Well, okay, he felt that way most of the time, anyway. He was a magnificent pirate, was he not? Yet there was something genuinely satisfying, calming, about her. In fact, she was a sort of mental anchor, giving him a solid base for his mind. He rarely dared to think of it, but his sanity did wane at times. Of all the enemies he had encounted, obstacles he had overcome, and foes he had vanquished, there was one thing, and one alone, that truly terrified him: going crazy.

Don Karnage's eyes snapped open. The sun had already set, leaving behind a lavender stain on the western horizon. His breath came quickly, and he put a hand to his chest in an effort to calm himself. The trade winds cooled the mist of perspiration on his brow.

This was silly. He had to get a grip. He was not crazy. Just because his brother had lost his mind didn't mean he would. And he did not need Scarlet. It was nice to have her around, but he had gotten by perfectly well without her before. He would adjust. He was Don Karnage, the fierce and famed Air Pirate, the Plundering Wonder, the Scourge of the Skies, the Prince of Pirates! He was fine, dammit!

He yanked his sword from the ground, sheathed it, and stormed back inside the island.




Somewhere in the depths of the network of alleyways in Cape Suzette, a female figure in a trenchcoat stood waiting. Nearby, a stray cat hissed at an unknown threat. She couldn't see what. It was a moonless night, full of unknown dangers and mysteries. She was used to it.

At last, right on schedule, a swarthy weasel materialized out of the shadows. He slid silently up to her side. "The fat iguana dances with the incontinent sushi chef in the twilight," he whispered.

"And the orange balloon lands next to the fireman's barber's mother at high noon," she replied.

The two figures relaxed. "How ya doing, Joey?"

"Good enough. You got my stuff?"

"You got my money?"

"Of course, doll." He sneered from underneath the brim of his fedora and handed her an envelope. She didn't bother to count it. It was too dark to see, anyway, but he had been a good customer before.

She handed over the satchel of ancient papers. He flicked a cigarette lighter, gave a cursory glance inside the bag, and grinned, the dim light glinting off his gold tooth. "Pleasure doin' bizness wit' ya, dollface."

"Call me dollface one more time and I'll shove that cigarette lighter up your nose, Joey."

"Have it your way, Katarina. Keep your eyes out for more stuff like this," he said, indicating the satchel. "See ya 'round."

With that, the two melted back into the shadows from whence they had come.




Across town, in a posh hotel room, Scarlet Hindenfur was lying in one of the two deluxe beds, contemplating the map. Katarina had never given Joey an exact inventory of the papers, so it was simple enough to withhold one sheet of parchment.

Finally, Scarlet ground a fist into her weary eyes and put the map aside. As she reached to turn off the bedside lamp, she realized she had forgotten to take off her necklace. Sighing, she slid out of bed and went to the dresser, where her jewelry case stood open. When she placed the simple gold chain she wore inside, her hand brushed against the smooth, cool surface of the Humberfeather Diamond. This, of course, immediately made her think of the man who had given her that tremendous necklace: Don Karnage. The thought of his smirking face still brought some measure of fury, but even more a sense of bitter disappointment. She had thought she was different. She had thought she held a place dear in his heart. Indeed, hadn't he said he loved her, just two short weeks ago? Yet when push came to shove, he was as self-centered and stubborn as ever. Obviously she hadn't made as big an impression on him as she thought. Don Karnage was a selfish, stubborn, callous lunatic, and she didn't want anything more to do with him. And she would keep telling herself that until she truly believed it.

She slammed the jewelry box shut and flopped back into bed. But sleep was long in coming.




"Sure you don't want to come along, sis? I think it'll be fun," Scarlet said. She stood by her plane at one of the lesser-known Cape Suzette airstrips. Her suitcases were already aboard the small two-engine plane. "Buried pirate treasure, just like in the movies! I bet we could even find a parrot or two."

Katarina shrugged. "I would, but I've to get to Remote Location, Peru. There's a load of Incan artifacts with my name on them. And I promised my pal Bernie we'd go skydiving."

Scarlet nodded. "I understand. Thanks again for the map, though. And don't be a stranger."

"I get stranger every day," she said with a smirk.

The two vixens hugged, and Scarlet climbed into her plane. She slipped a pair of goggles over her eyes, started the engines, taxied down the runway, and, with a quick wave, was off into the proverbial wide blue yonder.

Scarlet had never flown this far before. Around Usland, to some surrounding islands, sure, but all the way to Italy? Such a long flight was intimidating, to say the least. Luckily, the gold she had acquired as an air pirate paid for the fuel. She stayed close to the major land masses, skirting the coast of Burma, and then spent a night resting and refueling in India. It was the dry season, fortunately, so no monsoon rains hindered her flying. Being a tourist at heart, Scarlet couldn't resist the temptation to pause in Agra to see the Taj Mahal. A few concessions to local custom were necessary, including a silken veil covering her face. Thus she found herself sitting on a stone bench well after midnight, staring out over the reflecting pools in front of the monument. Oily tendrils of light slid across the waters, and somewhere nearby a wild bird trilled a sad tune. A parrot, perhaps, she thought with irony. Now all she needed was the eyepatch. And the Captain.

She still had several days of flying left before she reached Italy. She had yet to cross the great sandy tracts of Arabia, and a large expanse of the Mediterranean. Still, the journey was already more than halfway over. There was no real hurry. Frankly, after finding the treasure, she wasn't sure what to do. If all went as planned, she would become a woman of means. Even 40% of such a fabulous treasure was sure to be a tidy sum. But what then? She supposed she could simply continue stealing, perhaps hook up with Katarina again and join her in the smuggling business. If she felt particularly honest, she could even go back to school and get her degree in Spanish. But every scenario she concocted felt empty, somehow. Surely she wasn't missing that insufferable slimeball Karnage. True, until a few days ago she had planned on staying in his crew indefinitely. So it was natural to feel displaced. But she wasn't going back. Karnage was an overbearing, obnoxious, greedy, pushy, pig-headed, dishonest, deceitful, egocentric, charming, affectionate, handsome, suave, intelligent, alluring... Wait a minute! What was she thinking? He was a complete jerk, and that was all there was to it!

Scarlet stood and began walking, leaving the bench as if fleeing from her thoughts. Folds of smooth, peach-colored silk fluttered around her legs in the breeze. It was still quite warm by her standards, but after the sweltering heat of the Indian afternoon any drop in temperature was welcome.

Yet it was still humid, and she was tired in both a physical and emotional sense. Soon even walking seemed an unnecessary exertion. She stopped by an elephant topiary and stared up at the faintly-lit domes and spires of the majestic Taj Mahal. Built by an ancient ruler to honor his beloved wife, she recalled. Such a monolithic tribute to love, standing solid and ornate through the centuries... A wistful smile touched her face beneath the veil, soon to be consciously replaced by a frown. No regrets. No turning back. No wasted sentiment. No sense hinging her dreams on a man who didn't respect her.

And no point in staying up until all hours of the night, sighing like a schoolgirl over romantic scenery. She had a long day in the air tomorrow. She needed her wits about her. Might as well get in a few hours of sleep before the scorching sun reared its ugly head again.


A few days later, a light aircraft set down at an airstrip outside Florence, Italy. A hippopatamus with two flags waved it into a dilapidated hangar. A lone vixen hopped out, tossed a gold coin to an oil-splattered rooster mechanic, slung a large purse over her shoulder, and left the airstrip. Florence was an ancient city, filled with narrow streets, breathtaking Renaissance architecture, graceful bridges, and, of course, more than one seedy tavern.

Twisted as her moral code was, Scarlet wasn't the type to frequent dens of iniquity. The loud music, fog of cigarette smoke, lewd stares and lack of sanitation usually kept her away from such places. Today, however, she needed to find a guide. Someone who knew the area, and, more importantly, could be paid to keep their mouth shut. She didn't like the idea, and it would be risky, but she had little choice. She had no knowledge of the city, where to find digging supplies, nor even exactly where this peninsula was. The map was unfortunately vague, not to mention old. In the past few centuries, storms and erosion had probably changed the coastline. There were only the vaguest of latitude and longitude coordinates. No, like it or not, she needed to find--no, hire an ally.

There was a run-down tavern by the Arno river which had been painted red several decades ago, but only the faintest traces of crimson on the untreated wood remained. There had also been glass in the windows at some point, but most panes were cracked or missing. Obnoxious music blared from a tinny record player on the bar. Definitely not a place for an innocent woman. Fortunately, Scarlet wasn't innocent.

Her dagger displayed prominently on her hip, Scarlet strode in, trying not to cough at the lingering stench of cigarette smoke, and plopped down at a barstool. The bar was stained and scratched, with a number of initials and profane comments etched into its surface. The place wasn't particularly crowded. A number of drunken sailors languished at a corner table. Their eyes were too clouded with drink to even leer at the barmaids. There were only two on duty. One, a squirrel with a large number of rings pierced in her ears, was mopping something sticky off the wooden floor. The other, a startlingly young vixen, was tending the bar. When Scarlet entered, she meandered over with a tired but genuine smile. "Cosa desidera?" she asked.

Scarlet hesitated, trying to remember something from the Italian phrasebook she had shoplifted back in Cape Suzette. Flustered by actually being face-to-face with a native speaker, however, all she could remember was the most important saying: "Parla inglese?" ("Do you speak English?")

It was a long shot, but, surprisingly, the barmaid brightened and replied in halting but comprehensible English. "Yes. I speak a little. You are tourist?"

Scarlet tried not to look too relieved. She hadn't wanted to begin looking through the book in her bag for translations. "Yes," she said. "A strawberry daquiri, please."

The young barmaid shook her head apologetically. Whether they didn't have it, or she didn't understand, Scarlet wasn't sure. Rather than refer to her book, she tried, "Whiskey?"

The vixen nodded vigorously and filled up a glass. "Where you from?" she asked.

"Usland."

"Been in Italy for long time?"

"Just today."

"Two days?"

"No, today."

"Oh. Today. Oggi. Si." She slid the glass across the counter and handed Scarlet a napkin.

"Tenga le mani a posto!" the squirrel barmaid yelled suddenly, striking one of the customers over the head with her mop. ("Keep your hands to yourself!") Apparently one of the inebriated sailors was conscious enough to grope at her voluminous tail. Scarlet wasn't too alarmed. Business as usual in a place like this. Instead, she concentrated on the friendly vixen who had served her.

She was quite young, clearly no more than fourteen. She was at an awkward stage of development wherein her limbs seemed too large for the rest of her body, and her curves were an uneasy mix of girl and woman. Her hair was jet black and straight, complementing her dark eyes. At first glance she appeared to be a fox, with orange-brown fur, dark-tipped ears, and a bushy tail. However, there was something odd... Her exposure to the Karnage family had attuned her senses, and Scarlet was soon convinced...the barmaid was a hybrid. Her tail had a light underside rather than a foxlike tip, and her snout had some wolfish angles.

Scarlet sipped at her whiskey, (not the best she had ever tasted,) and tried not to stare. She was unsure if it was that obvious, or if she really was overly aware of such things, considering her recent company. Either way, she found it really didn't matter to her anymore. She felt no scorn or disgust, but instead a faint pang of annoyance...and, she loathed to admit, lonliness...at the reminder of Don Karnage. Forget him. Worry about the matter at hand. Speaking of which...

"Excuse me," she said, interrupting the barmaid from polishing the taps, "what is your name?"

"I am called Carlotta. And you?"

"Scarlet."

"Pleased to meet your acquaintance."

"I was wondering...do you know of anyone who could show me around the area? A guide?"

"A guide?" she repeated, testing the sound of the word and silently translating. "You pay?"

Scarlet hid a smile at her bluntness. "Yes. I pay one gold coin each day." She tried to phrase her statements as simply as possible to avoid confusion.

The girl's eyes lit up in interest. "Gold? Oro? I live here all my life. I am smart. I know people. I help to you?"

"Maybe," Scarlet said. "Do you know this area?" She pulled a map out of her pocket and spread it on the bar, unintentionally absorbing the puddle left by a previous customer's glass. It was not the original map stolen by Katarina, but a rough copy she had traced.

Carlotta swung up and sat on the bar, studying the map with a critical eye. "Could be...that place near Pisa...the name I forget. A good place to stop a ship during a night. I know it. I have been there with mio zio...my uncle. He has ship."

Scarlet could hardly believe her good fortune! A naīve teenager who recognized the peninsula in the map! Who better to hire as a guide? "Good," she said nonchalantly. "Then I suppose you could--"

There was a crash from the kitchen. "CARLOTTA! WHERE ARE YOU?" bellowed a harsh, deep voice. The barmaid immediately got to her feet and shrank back behind a barrel, her black eyes shining with fear. The squirrel began mopping with renewed vigor and looked away. Scarlet sat back, her eyes wide and a hand on her dagger, as the door on the back wall slammed open violently, shaking a sprinkle of plaster loose from the ceiling. A gigantic Komodo dragon dressed all in black burst into the room with the force of an earthquake. His tail lashed like a bullwhip behind him, sending a chair careening across the floor on its side. Carlotta flinched and held a tray in front of her protectively. The squirrel quietly ducked out of the room.

The burly lizard stormed up to the bar, towering a full seven feet tall, and glared down at the young vixen, his eyes speckled emerald slits. "I TOLD YOU TO GO GET SOME MORE SCOTCH! THE CUPBOARD IS EMPTY, YOU USELESS PIECE OF DUNG!" he roared in a voice so loud it hurt Scarlet's ears. He spoke in English, but with an accent she couldn't quite place.

Carlotta cowered behind the bar, her ears laid back flat on her head, and stammered excuses. "I-- I-- I tried, Baltsaros, sir, b-b-b-but the s-s-store was c-c-closed! Th-th-there was a riot, the Fascists w-w-were th-there, with f-f-fire and, and--"

"NO EXCUSES! I KNEW I SHOULD NEVER HAVE LET YOU WORK FOR ME! YOU ARE A BASTARD HYBRID! A WORTHLESS, INCOMPETENT SLUT!" the Komodo dragon yelled with such vehemence that the chords in his neck stood out, and Scarlet feared for the girl's life. What had she walked into?

"I-- I'm sorry, sir! It won't h-h-happen again! I p-promise!" Carlotta whimpered.

"DAMN RIGHT IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN, YOU HYBRID SCUM! YOU'RE FIRED! THE NEXT TIME I SEE YOU, YOU'RE GOING TO PAY ME THE REST OF WHAT YOU OWE ME, IN FULL! OR I'LL SLICE OPEN YOUR SCRAWNY NECK!" He bared his considerable claws at her, and looked completely able to carry out the threat. Tears streamed down Carlotta's face, and whatever hints of womanhood she carried faded away. She was a child, for heaven's sake! Scarlet couldn't just sit by and watch this kind of abuse.

Mustering courage from somewhere, she spoke up, "Excuse me. How much does she owe you?"

"WHO ARE YOU, FOREIGN WHORE?" he spat.

Scarlet scowled and bared her teeth at him. "Never mind who I am. Just tell me. How much does she owe you?"

"MORE THAN SHE WILL EVER EARN BEING A FAT, LAZY, INCOMPETENT--"

*CLINK*

The unmistakable sound of coins falling brought the hulking lizard to a halt. Scarlet raised her nose haughtily and gestured at the handful of gold coins on the bar. "Would that cover it?"

"Yessss..." he hissed thoughtfully, at last returning his voice to a reasonable decibel level.

"Then take those, and leave that poor girl alone," she said daringly. "Come on, Carlotta." She stood. "You're working for me now."

The girl looked up in utter surprise, still clutching the tray to her chest like a shield. Her face was wet and blotchy with tears and terror. "What?" she said numbly.

"I said, come with me," Scarlet said with a little less edge, nodding her head toward the door. Carlotta dropped the tray with a clang and hurried to her side.

The brawny lizard greedily snatched up the gold pieces and spat in her direction. "Good riddance, hybrid trash! I never want to see you around here again!"

Scarlet put an arm around Carlotta's shoulders. The girl was shaking as if to collapse. "Come on, dear," she said quietly, leading her out the door.



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This story and the characters Scarlet, Carlotta and Baltsaros are (c) Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Katarina is (c) Kayleen Connell and may not be used without permission, either. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Tale Spin and all related indica, etc, are (c) The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.