~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Nathan slumped low behind the
ship’s railing, peering through the spyglass he had propped in the small
knothole. He searched the dense
foliage then followed the island coast around to the entrance into the small
harbour but saw nothing.
“Everything is so quiet.
It makes me nervous.” He muttered to Crocker who was crouched down next
“It’s an out of the way
island. There isn’t much traffic
“That’s true,” Nathan
conceded although he still didn’t like the situation.
But of course Zellar wouldn’t pick an island with a major port for his
home base. “We are bound to
attract some attention if we just tack back and forth out here.”
“I thought of that.
O’Neill and Ortiz are unpacking a load of fishing gear now.
We throw some nets out and if anyone pays any attention to us they will
think we are out on a pleasurable fishing trip.”
“Somehow we need to make
contact with Jonathan or Raleigh and find out the lay of the land. I don’t want Zellar getting wind of us but I need to know
he is in residence before I bust in there.”
Crocker nodded, understanding
the reason for Nathan’s haste. Almost
a month had passed since Nathan had last seen his new bride.
Rough weather had delayed the arrival of the sloop from Boston by several
days and some minor damage needing repair had further detained them.
Then there had been the fight… Nathan was adamant about going alone,
consenting only to take Crocker to help him sail the boat.
The crew remaining on his island had threatened revolt if Nathan
attempted to leave without them. Nathan
had privately wondered why so many of his officers had begged off the London
trip but he soon found out.
“Ortiz is going to take the
landing boat in with a small complement, ostensibly for supplies.
He’ll make contact with one or both of our men and smuggle them back
out to brief us.”
“Maybe I should go…”
“No sir. We need more information first and we’ve got to work on
your appearance a bit. Loosing the
beard was an excellent touch,” Crocker nodded at the captain’s clean-shaven
face. “We’ve just got to take
care of a few more details.”
“Like what?” Nathan didn’t like the gleam in Crocker’s eye.
“Don’t worry, sir.
Just leave everything to me.”
“Leave everything to him…
and he expects me not to worry…” Crocker overheard Nathan mutter as he moved
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Darkness was falling by the
time that Ortiz and O’Neill guided the tiny landing boat back to the sloop and
climbed aboard. A frenzy of
activity around the supply vessel as it was unloaded provided the perfect cover
for Jonathan Ford and Raleigh Young to slip on board from their hiding place
beneath the tarps. Crocker quickly
motioned them into the lower decks.
Nathan was waiting.
He shook Jonathan’s hand warmly and embraced Raleigh before motioning
them into chairs. Crocker settled
in the last remaining chair opposite the other men while Nathan perched on the
“Please tell me that you
have found out something that might help us?”
“We’ve tried, sir.”
Jonathan answered as Raleigh reached into the pocket of his coat and
pulled out a small journal. A
folded piece of paper slipped from the book’s cover and Raleigh opened it out
on the desk.
“I’ve walked every inch
of the island that I possibly could. Zellar’s
men did challenge me immediately but a trip to town verified the identity of the
harmless old man who likes to study volcanic rock formations and cleared the
way. They have mostly ignored me
except to warn me away from the house since that time.”
“This is amazing,
Raleigh!” Nathan was pleased with the detail of the map that Raleigh had
drawn. He knew from experience that
the measurements would be exact. Raleigh
was a perfectionist after all.
“I’ve marked the areas
that I think you should use as your entry points.”
Raleigh gestured to three points on the map. “The terrain is a bit harder to traverse here… but these
are their weakest points.”
“Will we be able to make it
from the harbour to the compound without being spotted?”
“Don’t use the harbour.
This stretch of coast… here…” Raleigh pointed to a section of the
map, “should allow you to land
without ever being seen. The ship
should come within ten feet of the sand so bringing your equipment in wouldn’t
take long at all.”
excellent. What about the house?
Were you able to do any reconnaissance at all?”
Raleigh smiled, white teeth
gleaming brightly in his dark face. “That
is where young Mr. Ford can help.”
Nathan turned to Ford.
“Talk to me, Jonathan…”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“Be careful! That was my eye, dammit!”
Nathan huffed at Crocker.
“Well stop movin’!
I’ve got to do your eyebrows or the whole thing doesn’t look
“My eyebrows yes… but not
my whole face!”
Gator scrubbed Nathan’s
temple vigorously with the towel thrown over his shoulder then stepped away.
“That should do it. Just
give it a chance to dry then try to avoid getting it wet.
Have a look.”
Nathan picked up the small
mirror on the desk and peered into it, amazed at the transformation.
Crocker had smoothed boot blacking into his hair and eyebrows… then
combed it through. The result was
Nathan with a head full of black hair. He
barely recognized himself and told Crocker so.
“I don’t know how to do it brown so black will have to do.
Wonder what the countess would think if she could see you now?” Gator cursed inwardly the second the words left his mouth,
knowing that mentioning Kristin was the wrong thing to do but surprisingly
Nathan’s spirits didn’t fall as they had done over the past several weeks.
“Are the men in place?
Do they know what to do?” Nathan’s
full concentration was on the mission before them.
“All signs indicate that
the cloud cover will be heavy tonight. Once
darkness falls we move in toward the shore.
Jonathan and I figure that we can get the men and our gear off loaded in
less than an hour. Raleigh will
guide one group and Jonathan will guide the other.
I will take the third. Just
before dawn… we move in.”
“The men must stay alert. I
don’t want any one of them hurt or killed.
This fight is between me and Zellar.
Provide me cover to get to him and keep his men off while I deal with
him. Do not take him on yourself.
Is that understood?” Nathan’s
voice held a captain’s authority.
Crocker immediately snapped
to attention. “Understood,
“Do the men understand that
“Yes, sir! But I will review it with them again.”
“Do that, Crocker.
I know that the bulk of Zellar’s remaining men left today to widen the
search area for Kristin and me but we still can’t afford any mistakes.”
Crocker executed a curt
salute and departed, leaving Nathan alone.
His gaze fell to the braided strand of auburn hair and sapphire blue
ribbon looped around his wrist. He
sighed as his mind slipped back to the moment when Kristin had slipped it on
Both of them were thoroughly
exhausted after their last night together but time had been their enemy and
finally they had reluctantly left the bed to wash and dress. Just before stepping out of their bedroom Kristin had stopped
Nathan and grabbed his hand.
He’d felt the touch of silk
against his skin and looked down to see her gift as she’d carefully tied the
ends around his wrist.
“Kristin… your hair…”
“I wanted you to have something… to keep part of me with you.
I have this…” she held her hand up, gesturing to the sapphire ring.
“…but you didn’t have anything… I wanted… something to remind
Nathan cupped her face. “I
don’t need anything to remind me of you.
I’ll be thinking of you every single second. But this… this is so very special. I’ll bring it back to you soon.
We’ll put it in a special place and pull it out to show Lucas and
Cynthia’s children someday. What
a story we shall tell our grandchildren, my love.”
His fingers trailed over the
silky locks. “Soon, Kristin…”
Nathan whispered. “This will all
be over soon. Don’t give up on
me, my love.”
A knock at the door drew his
attention and he pulled his sleeve down and carefully buttoned it over the
Crocker stuck his head around
the door. “Twilight is coming up
fast, sir. We’ll be ready to move
in about half an hour.”
Nathan’s face looked as if
it was carved in stone. “Good.
Let’s go take care of this bastard.”
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
The sound of the muffled oars
sliding through the water was barely discernible to Nathan’s ears as he
watched the black silhouette of the small boat disappear into the shadow of the
sloop. When a tiny glint of light
fluttered once then twice and was gone he turned back to his men. “That is the signal. Small
and Coates have gained the ship. They
will keep our get away route open in case we have to fall back.”
He turned and looked at
Jonathan, who had been waiting on beach for their arrival.
“Anything further to report?”
“I worked my way as close
to the residence as I could this afternoon.
I observed six different men on the premises.
This didn’t include Zellar and there could be more men indoors that I
didn’t see. The guard watch
changes every three hours. Raleigh
knows where the watch post is and the guard walks about ten minutes out of each
half hour. If you have to take him
out he shouldn’t be missed until the next guard change.
They should change about two then again at five.”
“Okay, let’s move into
the edge of the forest and try to get some rest.
We need to be on the move by two if we are going to take them by surprise
at dawn. Get all the rest that you
can. I’ll take first watch.”
Crocker stepped up.
“With all due respect, sir, you need more rest than any of us.
Your task is the most difficult. I’ll
take first watch. In two hours Ford
and O’Neill will relieve me and so on.”
Nathan recognized the
determination on his friend’s face and realized that any argument would be
futile. “All right, my friend.
The men quickly spread their
blankets beneath the trees and rolled up in them, their gear stowed carefully at
their sides. Within minutes silence
reigned once again.
Sleep evaded Nathan as
thoughts of Kristin filled his mind. He
stared up at the night sky, imagining the stars he knew were twinkling high
above the clouds. It would still be
dark in England as well and he wondered if by any chance Kristin was looking up
at the same stars. His fingers
slipped beneath the cuff of his sleeve and fingered the braid of hair.
“After tomorrow you will
never have to fear this bastard again, my love.
I will be coming to you as quickly as I can.”
He closed his eyes in intense concentration as he projected his love out
over the water, hoping by some miracle that the special link he and Kristin
seemed to share would let her feel it.
Knowing that he needed rest
to be prepared for his confrontation tomorrow, Nathan didn’t fight when sleep
finally came, dozing off quickly to dream of his wife.
In what seemed like the next
instant Crocker was shaking him awake. “Almost
Nathan glanced down at his
watch and noted the time – a quarter till two.
He jumped up and rolled his blanket, tucking it out of sight beneath a
low bush as the other men were doing. Finally
they were all grouped together. “All
right men. Don’t forget your
instructions and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
If any of you are having seconds thoughts don’t hesitate to tell me.”
He stared at each of the nine
men individually. Every man
returned his stare with a resolute mirror image of their own. Finally Nathan gave a short nod.
“Ortiz, O’Neill, Ellis and Masters… you are with Raleigh and I.
The rest of you are with Ford and Crocker.
We’ll see you at the compound.”
Crocker stepped forward and
held out his hand. Nathan took the
hand in his own for a vigorous shake, his other hand clamping down tightly on
his friend’s shoulder. With a
knowing look and one final curt nod the men parted and the groups moved in
separate directions towards the dense tropical foliage.
Nathan’s men moved silently
through the brush, ever mindful of the old man leading them. A single shaded
lantern and the occasional beam of light through the clouds providing their only
illumination. Raleigh knew his
terrain well and took no chances. Almost an hour passed before they reached the
perimeter of Zellar’s compound.
The group stopped
instinctively, huddling around Raleigh as the old man whispered. “The guard tower is about thirty yards ahead of us.
We’ve seen no sign of the man walking but he must be due soon.
Nathan, do we wait or do we forge ahead?”
Nathan thought a moment.
“I don’t want to leave anything to chance.
Any man we leave standing now might become a problem later.
Let’s take him out.”
O’Neill and Ortiz nodded
then moved quietly forward into the darkness.
Nathan listened intently but heard absolutely nothing until about ten
minutes later when O’Neill whispered his name.
“He’s fine, sir… just
standing in for our guard at the tower in case someone looks for him. There is a lantern burning there so it could be visible from
“Any trouble with the
“None at all.
He never knew what hit him. We’ve
bound and gagged him tightly and stowed him in a thicket several yards away from
the tower. He won’t be letting
anyone know that we are coming.”
“Good work, Tim,” Nathan
said then turned to Raleigh. “Lead
Raleigh nodded once then with
an agility belying his age and bulk; he slipped deeper into the jungle.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Zellar’s house was not as
large as Nathan’s island home but it was vastly more ostentatious.
The outer walls were constructed of dark red brick and many of the
windows were elaborate stained glass. The
pirate obviously liked to live well.
Nathan observed all of these
things from his hiding place about fifteen feet from the back entrance just as
the dawn first kissed the sky. He
prayed that the other party of men had reached their position at the front of
At that moment a guard
rounded the corner from the side of the house.
“Ready?” Nathan mouthed
to his men.
At their nods Nathan moved a few yards away from them and opened a small flask. He dumped the contents over his clothes then stepped boldly from the woods and began to stagger toward the house singing an off colour sea shanty. The guard quickly drew a gun but Nathan appeared not to notice as he bobbed and weaved his way toward the house.
Nathan snapped up and stared
at the man with a glazed eye. “What
ish the meannnin’ of this, my good felloow?
I have an appoint… pointme… a meeting wish the president.”
“How did you get here?”
“Well… you shee…”
Nathan lurched toward the fellow, falling into his shoulder and knocking them
both off balance. “Ish like thish…
I was sailing wish my friends… they fish and fish and fish.
I wanted a little drinksy an they put me off the boat to sober up.”
Nathan drew himself up seriously. “I’m
sober as a judddsh… But I had to walk from the beasch… so tired…” Nathan
sank to the ground and laid his head in his arms.
The guard prodded Nathan with
his booted foot. “Get up, you old
Nathan groaned but didn’t
move so the guard kicked harder. This
time Nathan responded by rolling to his back and staring up and the man with a
totally disoriented look. “Wha…”
“Get up!” He pointed the muzzle of his pistol at Nathan’s face.
The sight of the gun seemed
to do the trick and Nathan struggled to his knees then staggered as he tried to
stand. The young guard grabbed him
by the forearm and guided him toward the back door, never seeing the signal that
Nathan made behind his back. Once
the door closed behind them Raleigh moved the team around the fringes of the
cultivated area toward the stables.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
“What the hell is it?”
Zellar snarled at the knock on his study door that pulled him out of a drunken
sleep. The three-quarters empty
bottle of whisky slipped from his hand and fell to the floor with a clunk.
“I told all of you to leave me alone unless you had news of my
An older man with thinning
hair that he tried to disguise and a potbelly hanging over his belt stuck his
head through the door.
“Tezlof!” Zellar groused
to his Slavic second in command. “This
had better be important.”
“The perimeter guard has
captured an intruder. I thought you
should be informed.”
Zellar jumped to his feet,
his muddled senses clearing. “Who
“An old drunk from that
fishing sloop we’ve been keeping an eye on.
He says that they put him off the boat to sober up… when he isn’t
trying to fall asleep.”
Zellar moved around the room
cleaning up the signs of his drinking binge and trying to ignore the pounding in
his head. “Bring him in.”
Tezlof and the guard pulled a
tall lean man with coal black hair into view and pushed him through the door.
He managed to move two or three feet into the room before he fell to his
knees, his face drooping.
“Who are you?”
“I’m the King of
Englannnn… why don you peoples leave me ‘lone?”
The words were slurred.
“Don’t be smart with me!
What are you and your friends doing on that boat?”
“Fishishin… can you
believe that? Leave the little
missus at home for days… weeksh… and all they wanna do is fish?
And they get mad at me for tryin’ to have a little fun… They wouldna
even let me go to port to find a woman.”
“What is your name?”
Nathan thought quickly and
prayed that Zellar wasn’t too familiar with the island community social
register. “Smith… Wendell
“Well, Mr. Smith… if you
have a wife at home why are you so anxious for a woman here. Why don’t you and your friends just go home?”
“Cause Mishush Smif is a
barrachuda… Hate that wo… wom… witsh…” Nathan knew that the longer he
could keep Zellar distracted… the more time that passed before the pirate
looked close enough to realize who he was really speaking to… the more time
his men had to move through the stables and crew quarters and capture the
majority of Zellar’s staff.
Zellar bent down then backed
away at the strong smell of alcohol emanating from the man in front of him.
“Why did you come to my home, Mr. Smith?”
Nathan raised his head
slightly, taking care to keep his eyes lidded.
“Your house? I wash trying
to find the preshident’s house.”
Zellar rolled his eyes at the
name of the island local brothel. “You
obviously have a one track mind, Mr. Smith.
My property is off limits to everyone on this island, both inhabitant and
guest alike, unless invited. You
were not invited, Mr. Smith. You
are trespassing. Would you like to
know what I do to trespassers?”
“Offer them a drink?”
“I shoot trespassers.
I don’t care if you are drunk. I
don’t want you on my land. Tezlof,
tell the guard to take this man out into the woods and shoot him.”
The guard moved toward Nathan
just as he was reaching for the knife in his boot but a sound in the distance
stopped all of their movements.
Nathan recognized the signal
and leapt to his feet, throwing one arm around Zellar’s neck while his empty
hand freed the knife and brought it to Zellar’s chest.
“What the…” Zellar
began to struggle against the lock around his neck.
Nathan pressed the blade into his captive’s ribs… just enough to
reassure him of its presence.
“Be still, you bastard.
I’d love for you to give me a reason to cut out your rotten heart right
now. NO… none of that… call
your men off or I will end this here and now.”
“For God’s sake back
up!” Zellar motioned frantically to Tezlof and the young guard who were
advancing toward them.
Nathan backed slowly towards
the room’s double doors leading to the outside, dragging Zellar with him as he
“You’ll never get out of
here alive! I’ve dozens of men
out there. When we leave this house
they will cut you down with no remorse at all.
You don’t have to do this. Free
me and I’ll grant you free passage. I’ll
give you money…”
“I don’t want your filthy
lucre, bastard.” Zellar began to
sweat at his captor’s words… and at the fact that his guard dove out of the
door and the man didn’t so much as blink an eye.
“You want to get killed…
is that it? You think that you’ll
make a name for yourself by taking out the great pirate Zellar?”
“Great pirate? You are a two bit thug who won’t even be mentioned in the
history books.” Nathan carefully
lowered his hand holding the knife to the knob of the door and slid the lock
back. Tezlof took a step forward
just as Zellar wrenched himself out of Nathan’s grasp and fell forward into
Both men righted themselves
to find Nathan standing his ground laughing at them but not making any move to
“I won’t go down so
easily. Hardy will be back in a
moment with the rest of my men.” Zellar
glared at the laughing man with the wild dark hair.
Suddenly the laughter stopped
as the man took a single step forward. “Are
you sure about that, Zellar? Are
you absolutely sure?”
Something about the man’s
compelling gaze captured Zellar’s attention and he stared intently,
comprehension slowly dawning. “You…
it’s you… the Rogue!
“Very astute, Zellar.
Something as simple as a little hair dye managed to throw you off for
quite a while. Why didn’t you
just let us go? I wouldn’t be
here if you hadn’t tried to hunt us down.”
Zellar’s eyes gleamed.
“I knew you cared for the woman… both her body and her assets.
You don’t want to give them up!”
Nathan shook his head in
disbelief, realizing that Zellar really believed the fifteen year fantasy he’d
created about the woman in the portrait.
“Don’t you get it,
Zellar? She hates you. You killed her husband and her brother. You tried to kill me. I
had to send her away to keep her safe from you.”
“She’s gone? Where?” Zellar yelled.
“Far away from you…
she’s safe someplace where you can’t get to her.”
“I will find her.
I’ll never give up. She
was meant to be mine!”
“She is already mine and I
don’t share. As for the not
giving up… that is why I am here. This
thing ends today.”
Zellar’s ears pricked up as
he heard the doors swing open behind him. “You
are right. It ends today.
First you are going to tell me where the woman is.
Then, if you are very lucky, I might let my men kill you before they
dismember you. Take him!”
“I don’t think so, you
stupid…” Crocker let loose a string of profanity that made even Nathan
Panic flickered in Zellar’s
eyes as he noted two more strangers standing behind the Rogue’s second in
command. He swung back toward the
Rogue just as a young black man and the old volcano explorer stepped through the
outer door to join him.
“My men… what have you
done?” The significance of
Raleigh’s presence dawned on him. “You’ve
been planning this… you had him here to watch my movements.”
“Good strategy, Zellar.
That is what wins the game. Is
the perimeter secure, Mr. Ford?”
“Aye, sir. All of the pirate’s crew are under heavy guard in their
“Very well played,
Captain.” Zellar executed a mock bow. “I
am at your mercy. Tell me… are
you going to kill me now? Or make
me suffer first?”
One eye squinted and his lips
pursed as Nathan thought a moment. “Suffer
I think… you definitely need to
suffer. The way that I’ve
suffered this past month having to be parted from my wife.”
“Wife… You married the woman!?
My woman! You stole her from
me and you planned this entire operation so that you could murder me in cold
blood! You call me a thug… what
does that make you?”
“I am not going to murder
you, Zellar. It is going to be a
fair fight. Your men have been
locked away simply to make sure that they don’t interfere.
The subterfuge was necessary to make sure that no one else got hurt.
This battle is between you and me… not the crews of our ships.”
Zellar glanced at Tezlof who
shrugged his shoulders. “I
suppose I should say that it is damned decent of you to give me a sporting
chance but I am not feeling very magnanimous towards you at the moment.” Zellar muttered to Nathan, realizing that he had no other
choice. “What happens if I win?
Your men slaughter me?”
“My men will not lay a hand
on you… but my men will make damned sure that you never find my wife.”
“This is a fair fight,
Gator. If he kills me he goes free.
But if he makes one move towards my wife… ever… you know what to
Crocker didn’t like
Nathan’s answer but he knew the kind of man his friend was.
In a way, Crocker was glad. Although
he didn’t like the idea of Nathan fighting the man he knew that his captain
wasn’t the type of person to kill a man in cold blood, no matter what heinous
crimes that man had committed.
“She will be safe, sir.”
Nathan nodded sharply at his
friend then turned his attention back to Zellar.
“Swords or pistols?”
“Why… swords of
“Mr. Ortiz, assist Zellar
in getting his sword. Mr. Crocker,
we want no interference. Secure
Crocker quickly pulled a
length of rope from the loop on his belt and secured Tezlof’s hands and feet.
When the paunchy balding man protested Crocker happily shoved a wad of
cloth in his mouth to shut him up.
“Where do you wish to
fight, sir?” Ford asked.
“The light is high enough
now. We can fight on the lawn.
Will you check the lay of the land?”
“Right now, Captain.”
Ortiz reentered the room with
a sheathed saber, having followed Zellar’s directions to the letter.
Zellar reached for the weapon.
“Uh uh uh… not yet.
We fight outside where the light is better.”
Ortiz led Zellar out while
Crocker pushed the bound and gagged Tezlof behind them. When they reached the porch he quickly secured his prisoner
tightly to one of the porch columns.
O’Neill approached with
Nathan’s sword, having retrieved it from the place in the bushes where it had
been secured. Nathan grasped the
pommel like an old friend and unsheathed it.
He turned and took his stance then nodded to Ortiz.
Miguel pulled Zellar’s
sword from its case and carefully inspected the edges before laying the blade
across his forearm and offered the hilt to Zellar.
Zellar grabbed the blade and
hefted the weapon into the air just once before he abruptly attacked.
Nathan wasn’t caught off guard, his weapon slicing up to block
Zellar’s first blow. Thus was the
Zellar bore down hard,
hacking away at Nathan in an attempt to unsettle him quickly.
Nathan was ready for every move, giving ground to the larger man then
using his leaner frame to advantage to twist the fight around so that he had
more room at his back.
The all out assault was
causing Zellar to tire quickly and Nathan encouraged him as he deftly parried
each blow. Zellar finally broke off
and back up slightly, keeping a wary eye on Nathan as he struggled to catch his
breath. His eyes narrowed as he
realized that Nathan wasn’t breathing heavily.
When he reengaged his thrusts were smoother and more controlled.
Nathan finally began to do
more than just defend himself and soon Zellar was giving ground under the
onslaught of Nathan’s saber. A
miscalculation saw a glancing blow catch Zellar’s left forearm and blood
flowed to the surface, turning the sleeve of his white shirt red.
“First blood goes to you,
Rogue, but that doesn’t make you the better man by any means.”
“I’ll always be the
better man in her eyes, Zellar, no matter what happens here today.”
Zellar laughed evilly.
“Your wife is a whore, Rogue, high born lady or not.
I barely had to touch her to have her wet and panting in my bed.
She was begging for me to take her.”
“Liar!” Nathan knew that
Zellar was trying to mess with his head to throw him off balance.
“She screamed at my touch,
begged me to bite her breasts, to touch her… she wanted a real man between her
thighs. And she was so warm and
tight when I drove into her…”
Nathan only lost his
concentration for a single second but that was all that was needed. Zellar saw the slip and used it to his advantage, driving in
ruthlessly. Nathan didn’t feel
the cold steel as it sliced through the skin of his side, realizing that he’d
been hit only when he felt warm blood flowing down his leg.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Cynthia wiped her mouth
daintily with her linen napkin then laid it on the table as she rose, following
her mother’s lead. Lucas raced to
pull the chair back for his mother and then his sister as he had been taught.
“You are becoming quite the
young gentleman,” Kristin praised her son while ruffling his hair as she
beamed at him.
“Thank you, Mama.
I’m trying to remember everything you’ve been teaching me.”
Cynthia smiled her thanks at
her new brother as well.
“What are our plans for
this afternoon, Mummy?” She asked as the small group entered the hallway.
“Lucas will be working on
his lessons. None of that now,
young man,” Kristin laughed as Lucas tried to stifle a small groan.
“You are doing excellently but you still have a great deal to learn.
There are other subjects besides the sciences, you know.
I shall soon have to arrange for a proper tutor for you.”
“Katie will be joining us
this afternoon to visit so if you work diligently you may join us on the terrace
for tea later, hmm?”
Lucas leaned forward to kiss
Kristin’s cheek. His lips had
just brushed her soft skin when he heard her gasp.
He instinctively grabbed her waist to hold her as she screamed, her hands
falling to her side, just above her hip.
“Mummy! What’s wrong?” Cynthia quickly knelt as Lucas lowered
Kristin to the floor then followed, supporting her torso with his own.
“Mama? Do we need a doctor?”
“Pain… oh God, the
pain…” Kristin gasped as she clutched her side.
Lucas quickly averted his
head as Cynthia ran a hand along the area Kristin was clutching.
“I don’t feel anything, Mummy. I’ll
have Godard send for the doctor in the village.”
Kristin shook her head as she
began to breathe easier. “No…
it’s ebbing… Help me stand,
Lucas. It must be a muscle cramp.
Walking will help…”
Lucas and Cynthia shared a
worried glance. It was obvious that
something more was going on with Kristin than just a simple cramp.
Once Kristin was on her feet
Lucas wrapped his arms around her and carefully guided her towards the parlour
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~
Crocker jumped forward but
Nathan waved him back as he righted himself and pulled his sword level.
“I won’t have to find
your wife.” Zellar sneered. “Once
she finds out you are gone she’ll be running back to me, desperate to have me
warm her bed. She’s a wild one
and she won’t be long without a man to plow her.
She’s already had a taste of me… I’ll wager she’ll want more.”
Zellar could see the blood
oozing from Nathan’s cut and knew that his opponent was growing weaker.
He continued his taunting.
“Were it not for her age
I’d have her heavy with child every year until my hunger for her dissipated.
As it is I’ll have to be content with bringing her back here and tying
her to my bed naked.”
With a roar Nathan launched
himself at Zellar, steel flashing in the early morning sun as his adrenaline
rose. Zellar was forced backwards
beneath the wild assault of Nathan’s blade.
He missed the slight rise in the ground and stumbled.
The tip of Nathan’s sword
caught the back of Zellar’s hand then rimmed the handle of his sword and slung
it across the lawn. Zellar fell on
his back with a loud ‘oomph’ then opened his eyes to find Nathan standing
over him, the tip of the Rogue’s blade pricking the hollow of his throat.
“Captain!” Nathan barely
heard Crocker’s voice over the blood pumping in his ears. “You don’t have to do this, Captain. You defeated him. We
can hand him over to the authorities.”
“No, he deserves to die.”
“That may be, Cap… but
you don’t have to be the one who commits the deed.
He’ll be judged for his crimes and hanged.” He moved slowly toward Nathan.
stopped at Nathan’s shout. “How
could you do it, Zellar? You
don’t remember or care, do you? Innocent
people die and you don’t even remember their names.”
“I’ve killed a lot of
people. You can’t expect me to
remember every one.”
“My wife’s husband and
brother… do you remember their names?”
“Come now, Captain. They
weren’t important. The ship was
important… the portrait in the watch was important.
Unfortunately my men destroyed all of the papers in the owner’s
quarters in a drunken celebration before I found the watch and the beauty
within. All I knew was the name
Carruthers… but my inquires turned up nothing.
Finding the woman… that’s been my life’s goal since the moment I
“Don’t listen to him,
Captain. He’s messing with your
head. That’s his game, that’s
what he does.”
“I have to finish this.”
Nathan’s voice was hard as stone.
“Then finish it.”
Zellar bit out. “Go ahead, kill me, run me through! If you let me live I will go after her again, I swear it!
I’ll never let her go!”
Bridger stared into the eyes
of the man he held at sword point and realized at that moment that Zellar was
truly insane in his obsession with Kristin.
“Nathan…” the name was
spoken softly but in a voice that Bridger recognized immediately. He didn’t let go of his sword but he did let up on the
“Let him go, Nathan.”
“I can’t, Bill!
He’ll come after Kristin and I have to protect her.”
“Trust me, Nathan.
I did some checking. Zellar
is a deserter from the US navy. I
have enough men of rank with me to convene a court martial.
Let Zellar be tried for the crimes he has committed.
Let the law take care of him.”
Noyce’s words finally
penetrated and he broke his stare with Zellar to swing his eyes up to his
friend’s face. The topsails of
three US frigates were visible in the distance over Bill’s shoulder.
His eyes questioned.
“When you sent for the
sloop I knew what you were doing so I came after you.
Luckily Crocker had given me the directions you obtained from McLeary.
The authorities in Georgetown have been after Zellar for years.
They were glad to join me. They
are waiting to take him into custody. We’ll
convene a tribunal and court-martial him right here.”
Bill waved Ford and Crocker
forward to take hold of Zellar as Nathan slowly lowered his sword and moved
away. Zellar was dragged away,
kicking and screaming as Bill wrapped his arm around his friend’s shoulder.
“You’ve done the right
thing, Nathan… Nathan… NATHAN!” Bill
struggled to hang on to Nathan as he fainted dead away.
~sQ~ ~sQ~ ~sQ~