Absence Makes the Heart Go Plunder

Tale Spin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan


Chapter 6



Don Karnage's thoughts reverted immediately to Scarlet. He hadn't told her about Carlotta yet, of course. He nearly had, that day on Cabo Orgulloso, when he told the rest of his life story, but wasn't sure how she would react. There was no reason for her to be jealous. Isabella was a part of his past, and any affection he had felt for her was snuffed out by her mutilation of his ear. And Carlotta? Well, he had sired her, true, but he didn't feel like a father. He had only seen her once, after all!

Now it was time, however. Scarlet deserved to know, and he would tell her...provided he could find her, and save her from whatever danger he sensed she was in. And provided she would listen.

By this time it was well into the evening, and the streets were nearly empty. Karnage's boots scuffed on the cobblestones as he headed downriver. Even after all these years, his feet remembered the way to the Barzini dock. The whole city was a tangle of memories for him, and, in a way, for Western civilization as a whole. Florence was steeped in history, with piazzas dominated by Renaissance churches. Even as he strolled along the Arno, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore towered in his line of sight on the right bank of the river, its red, green and white marble glowing in the setting sun.

A number of pleasure craft were plying the waters of the ancient river, but it was the mast of a distant galleon that held Karnage's attention. The dock was in a disreputable part of town, but well-maintained. The antique ship moored there was equally clean and well-kept, a contrast to the run-down taverns and warehouses nearby. The name, painted in flowery script behind the mermaid figurehead, was La Paura. The Fear.

Don Karnage stood just out of earshot for a moment, strangely hesitant to approach the grand vessel. A part of him was surprised to find it there, unchanged, as if he had never left. Another part dreaded encountering Isabella. Another, large, insistent part continued urging him to help Scarlet. And it was that part that set his feet in motion, down the dock and halfway up the gangplank of the ship.

"Hello!" he called in a loud, confident voice. "Captain Vincenzo Barzini?"

Immediately, the door of the cabin swung open, and a figure emerged with a sword drawn. "Who goes there?" he yelled in Italian. He was a middle-aged fox whose black hair was in the process of creeping backward, with a small curled mustache that made him look vaguely like the villain in a nickelodeon Western.

"Do you not recognize your star pupil, Vincenzo?" he replied cheekily.

The figure on the ship emerged, squinting down at him through the orange glare of the descending sun. "By Neptune's beard! Felipe Karnage, is that you?"

He posed grandly on the gangplank, his nose in the air. "The one and fabulous only!"

"My sainted aunt Beatriz! Where did you come from, boy? Last I heard you were setting fire to Cape Suzette with some raygun straight out of Duck Dodgers!" The elder pirate hurried over with an agility that defied the gray tinges in his hair. He jammed his sword back in its scabbard and threw his arms around Karnage for a rough, paternal hug.

"Yes, well, I have been around. Plundering the Pacific, you know."

"With aeroplanes?"

"Yes."

"Damn, that is fantastic. I always knew you were a smart kid, but that Iron Buzzard of yours is unbelievable. When I saw the newsreels, I nearly fainted like a grandmother!"

"It's the Iron Vulture, but thank you," Karnage said, grinning at the high praise.

"Still wearing that uniform, I see."

"But of course."

Vincenzo laughed heartily and slapped him on the back. "I figured I'd teach you swordfighting and piracy, but I never thought you'd pick up on my fashion sense!" He wore an old-style red uniform, encrusted with gold braid and buttons, in much the same style as Karnage's own outfit.

Karnage shrugged, then, looking around nervously, asked, "Is Isabella here?"

Vincenzo gave a sort of snorting laugh and put his hands on his hips. "Fortunately for you and your ears, no. I haven't seen her in weeks. She's all worked up because I wouldn't split the last load of booty with her. But the way I see it, if you're not on the ship when we get it, you shouldn't get a cut, even if you are my niece. Anyway, she's been even more bitchy than usual."

Karnage raised his eyebrows and twitched his mangled ear. "That is possible? Anyway, I would prefer to keep the rest of me intact, thank you very much."

"I don't blame you. That girl is a spitfire. So...are you here to see Carlotta, then?"

"No, not exactly. I need a little bit of assistance, actually, finding someone," he said, breaking eye contact. He hated asking for help.

"Oh," Vincenzo said, sounding faintly disappointed. "Probably just as well. I haven't seen her in weeks, either. I think Isabella ordered her to stay away. And--well, you know--you don't want to make her mad."

The sun was nearly at the horizon now. The west. Where he needed to be, as soon as possible. "Do you know of a peninsula near Pisa that is shaped like the letter Y?" he asked.

"The letter Y?" Vincenzo's dark eyebrows came together in thought. "Not exactly... There's Terror Point, which is sort of Y-shaped. It's pretty much a straight line, but with a large sandbar on one side. Why do you want to know?"

Karnage sighed. "Sit down. This might take a few minutes." They perched themselves on a cannon for the time being.

Some minutes later, when he was done explaining the situation with Katarina, Scarlet and the treasure map, Vincenzo shook his head. "That is a mess. Hmm..." He digested the information before speaking. "Did that old map have a date on it?"

"No."

"Was it older than, say, 1600?"

"I am believing so, yes."

Vincenzo stood and drew his sword, pointing westward. "In 1639, there was an earthquake offshore of Terror Point, and the shaking and the tidal wave destroyed half of the peninsula. Before that it was shaped like a Y. Now there is just a sandbar."

Karnage jumped to his feet. "That is it! It has to be! Let's go!"

A husky, infuriated voice sliced the air as loud footsteps hurried up the gangplank. "UNCLE! Is that insubordinate brat of mine hiding out over here? When I find that girl, I swear--" A lithe vixen stomped up onto the deck, saw the blue-garbed foxwolf standing beside her uncle, and stopped in her tracks, speechless. There was a jaded, worldly air about her, but was clearly no older than Karnage. She had an unkempt look: Her jet black hair was piled messily on her head, held tenuously in place by a pearl comb and some bobby pins. She wore denim cutoffs, fraying at the cuffs, a thick, orange-splotched sash around her waist, and a leather vest that left little to the imagination from the waist up. And she was glaring at him with a burning hatred that seared straight through his defenses, rendering him equally speechless. At last, she broke the silence.

"YOU!!!"

"Uh...hello, again, Isabella," he stammered, unconsciously putting a hand on his sword hilt.

She approached, taking strong, deliberate strides, and glared at him with an intensity unparalleled by some hypnotists. "You! You! You bastard!" she seethed. "You left me here, alone and pregnant, you slimy, miserable, hateful, disgusting--"

"So nice to see you again, too," he said flippantly.

"--stupid, inconsiderate, demented, repugnant--"

"I just love happy reunions," Vincenzo remarked.

"--dim-witted, impudent, vile--"

"And Carlotta wondered why I never married you," Karnage said with a frown.

"--sordid, barbaric, arrogant, little..." She paused, shaking with fury, apparently searching for more insults, and finally concluded, "bastard!"

"Are you done?" he asked.

"Yes!"

"Good." He then slapped her.

With a primal growl, she jumped at him, but he grabbed her wrists and kept her immobile.

"I would insult you, too, but you used up all the good words."

Her teeth bared, she snarled, "What are you doing back here? What do you want? What rock did you crawl out from under this time?"

"I do not live under rocks. In fact, I have been spending my time with a woman who is much more beautiful, much more understanding, much more wonderful, and generally much more better than you!"

"Why, you--" She stepped sharply on his foot, twisted from his grasp, and spat on the deck before him. "I'd wring your ugly neck, but you're not worth the effort, you pirate parasite!"

Looking annoyingly amused, Vincenzo finally intervened. "Now, kids, don't fight," he said, stepping between them.

"Shut up, uncle," Isabella said, folding her arms on her chest defensively. "So, why did you drag your miserable carcass back here, Felipe?"

"I came," he said, narrowing his eyes dangerously at her, "in search of a buried treasure...and a member of my crew. She arrived before me, but she is in much danger."

"Since when do you give a rat's rear about your lackeys? Or anyone besides yourself, for that matter? Unless..." Isabella cocked her head and studied his expression carefully. "She's your lover, isn't she?"

He crossed his arms on his chest defensively. "And what if she is?"

"Then she's an even bigger idiot that you are!"

Karnage's tail bristled. "Scarlet is not an idiot! She is almost as brilliant as my fantastic self, and certainly more smarter than you. But she is in danger, and she needs my help!"

"And being involved with a lunatic like you isn't dangerous?" she mocked.

"At least with me she won't end up with a mutilated ear!"

"Oh, go play leapfrog with a unicorn, 'Flippy'," Isabella said, spitting in his direction again.

"Never call me that, wench!"

"Bastard!"

"Slut!"

"Idiot!"

"Prostitute!"

"Hybrid!"

A sharp whistle came from Vincenzo. "All right, all right! You hate each other! We established that years ago!"

"Oh, hate doesn't even begin to describe it," she snarled.

"To say I hate you would be a compliment," he said with equal vehemence.

Vincenzo raised his hands. "Okay, fine. Now, my boy, you said you needed my help? This girl of yours is headed for Terror Point? So let's go find her!"

Isabella interrupted Karnage's reply. "Who's more important? His latest wench or your grand-niece?"

"What?" Vincenzo said.

"Carlotta is missing!"

"What?" Karnage said.

Isabella rolled her eyes. "As if you care. As if you've ever cared!"

"I didn't know you were pregnant when I left!" he yelled.

"If you'd stuck around longer, you'd have found out, now wouldn't you?"

Vincenzo spoke up. "Carlotta is missing?"

"Yes. I mean, I know sometimes she goes off flying or something, but she always leaves a note. This time she just up and disappeared!"

"That's not like her," Vincenzo said with a concerned frown.

"No, it's not. Not that you would know," she said, directing the last comment at Karnage. "I'm afraid something's happened to her. I knew that Baltsaros guy was bad news. But, dammit, she got herself into that mess, and by Blackbeard's beard, she should get herself out of it, too!"

Again Vincenzo interrupted. "Baltsaros? The Komodo dragon that runs that tavern down by the Ponte Vecchio? What does Carlotta have to do with him? He's a madman! I've seen him strangle customers to death with his bare hands just for giving a lousy tip!"

"I guess Carlotta broke some glasses at his bar or something, and he's been making her work off the price, serving drinks and things like that."

"And you let her?!" Vincenzo yelped. "That lizard is crazy!" He saw his former protègè wince at the word, and added, "And of course you're not, Felipe." Karnage smiled. "But seriously, Isabella! What were you thinking? Letting little Carlotta work for that savage lizard!"

"She's nearly fourteen years old. Old enough to start taking care of herself. I don't like Baltsaros, either, but--"

"It's not liking or disliking, it's safety! Baltsaros is dangerous! He's killed more men than I have!" Vincenzo said.

"You? You're a big old softie, uncle," Isabella scoffed.

"Compared to Baltsaros, Attila the Hun was a softie!"

"I thought it would be a good experience for her. Dealing with the consequences of her actions. A lesson her illustrious father never learned!"

"I told you, I did not know!"

"A good experience? Death is not a good experience! Have you asked Baltsaros about this?" Vincenzo exclaimed.

"I tried, but he wasn't there. I talked with one of the barmaids. She said some rich Uslandic vixen came in and paid off Carlotta's debt with a handful of gold coins. They left together, and no one's seen them since. Baltsaros disappeared at the same time. Said he'd be gone a few days," Isabella said, her scowl diminishing with maternal concern.

"Uslandic vixen? With gold coins? What?" Karnage said urgently.

"Listen to the concerned parent over here," Isabella grumbled.

"No, listen! A vixen from Usland, with gold coins? That is my Scarlet!"

"Your what? Your pronunciation always was terrible."

"Shut up your putrid mouth, wench! Scarlet is a million times the woman you are!"

"Oh, now I understand. She's the dame-of-the-day."

Vincenzo moved in before another screaming match broke out. "So it sounds like Carlotta and your girlfriend are together. That simplifies things. I imagine your girl hired Carlotta to show her to Terror Point."

"Would Carlotta know the way?" Isabella asked.

"I think so. She was with us when we went on that plundering trip to Genoa last year, remember? When we were caught in that storm? We anchored in the lee of Terror Point to ride it out. You remember."

"Yes. That's right."

Vincenzo set his jaw grimly. "If Baltsaros is after her, it may already be too late." Isabella put a hand over her eyes and shook her head in denial.

"Wait," Karnage said suddenly. "What did you say this Baltsaros is? A dragon?!"

"A Komodo dragon. Big, ugly creatures. Strong as an ox. Tempers...well, tempers worse than Isabella's."

"Hey!"

"A dragon," Karnage murmured. "Madre de Dios. The dream..." He snapped out of his reverie and drew his sword. "Let us get moving! There is not a second for wasting!" Without asking or waiting for confirmation, he ran to the anchor chain and threw all his weight on the lever to raise it. The other two followed his lead, scrambling with ropes and rigging to get the ship ready. Vincenzo yanked on the bell chain by the cabin door, calling in his crew from the nearby taverns. Before long, a motley bunch of canids and mustelids came running, some weaving drunkenly, but all ready for action. Within minutes, the small galleon La Paura was sliding down the Arno river to the sea, racing with every scrap of sail.

Once underway, Don Karnage stood, panting for breath, at the bow. Hang on, querida, he thought. I'm coming!




On to Chapter 7
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This story and the characters Scarlet, Vincenzo, Isabella, 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.