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This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. All characters appearing in this work are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.


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© 2016 Robert Frusolone


Published in the United States by Zimbell House Publishing

http://www.ZimbellHousePublishing.com

Distributed by Smashwords


Trade Paper ISBN: 9781942818854

Electronic ISBN: 9781942818878

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016910423

Second Edition: August/2016

10 9 8 7 6 5 4


Dedication

To My Family and Friends

In 2001, my mom, Connie, passed away following a long battle with cancer. She was an amazing, tough woman who along with my grandmother, Irene, raised my brother and me after our father died in 1975. In part, this book is dedicated to these two wonderful ladies who helped make me the person I am today.

I would also like to thank my brother Steve for his inspiration. He is an amazing person and has found that delicate balance between family, friends, career and sports. He has even written his own book, Far Beyond the Field, a marvelous look at managing those relationships and realizing what is most important in life.

I would be remiss if I did not thank the fourteen family members, friends, and acquaintances who all took the time to read and review this work. It was their collective positive responses and improvements that told me I should see this project through.

Finally, there is one other person to whom I am eternally grateful. My wife, Mary, who is my best friend and has inspired me for the last twenty years to be a better person, a better husband, and a better father. She encouraged my writing every step of the way, and when I needed that final kick in the pants to finish, she orchestrated the greatest birthday party of my life with all of my family and friends. Two months later, I finished this book.


Author’s Note

The following account takes place in the early 18th Century. As such, English speech patterns were quite formal by today’s standards. In an earlier draft of the novel, I used this formal speech but found it a bit difficult to work with, let alone to read. Therefore, I hope you will find this version a bit more reader friendly.

In addition, as this is a seafaring adventure, there are a number of nautical terms used throughout the book. For reference, I have included a glossary of relevant naval terms.



Table of Contents

Prologue

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Part Two

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Epilogue

Glossary

Afterward

About the Author

Reader’s Guide

A Note from the Publisher


Prologue

The noise startled the young man as he walked along the dock towards the tall ships. Looking up, he gasped at the skeletal figure hanging in irons above his head.

Tis a warning my son, to all would-be pirates who sail these waters,” his father said in that grandiose fashion of his. The older man resumed his walk as the boy continued to gaze up at the grisly shape. The man, he thought it had to be a man, was well dressed in a fancy white shirt, long black coat, and black breeches. The body was sheathed in iron rings and chained to a lamppost hanging over the footpath along the Thames River. As he studied the figure, the boy slowly realized that this poor soul had no head.

“Father,” the boy asked, “who was he?”

The father stopped and turned back towards his son. “I am afraid the question is not ‘Who was he’ but rather who is he?” Puzzled, the boy looked up at his father. In that condescending way all fathers possess, he looked down upon his son and simply said “Oh Grayson… I’m afraid this is you.”

Part One



Chapter One

It started with a vague awareness of light, growing in intensity, forcing its way into his very existence. The man closed his eyes tightly against this invasion, turning the light into red. This proved futile, however, and he was slowly brought back to life, reluctantly squinting into the bright sky. Lying on his back, a light breeze blew gently across his face. He had no concept of time but gradually was becoming more aware of his surroundings. He could hear the sound of the surf, feel the rays of the sun on his face and sense a smell… but it wasn’t the smell of the sea surrounding him. It was the smell of decay, the smell of death.

The man sat up slowly. In doing so, another sense came roaring back as he felt a searing pain across his brow. He raised his hands to his head and wiped his face. To his dismay, he found his hands covered in dried blood. The stranger staggered to his feet with great effort and made his way down to the surf. He removed the long coat he had been wearing and rinsed his hands and face. Sitting down at the water’s edge, he tried to make sense of everything. He had no idea where he was or how he had gotten here. He tried to recall what happened, anything that had happened. He remembered a vivid dream where he was walking along the docks with an old man and came upon a headless body in chains. He recalled the man saying ‘Oh Grayson… I’m afraid this is you.’ “What had that meant?” he wondered aloud.

The pain in his head had subsided somewhat, and the bleeding seemed to have stopped. Looking out to sea, he again tried to collect his thoughts. However, as the man sat there in the surf, he realized that he had relatively few thoughts to collect. He could recall memories of youth, playing a game of tag with friends, a holiday feast with family… where he saw the same man from the dream. He also remembered the old man teaching about the stars and the moon in the night sky. As other memories from long ago came rushing back, the most vivid of all was the feeling of exhilaration he had felt watching the ships departing for adventure on the high seas. Amazingly, these images were as clear as if they had happened yesterday. Yet sitting here on what he was guessing was some godforsaken island, he had absolutely no idea what had happened. Even more disturbing was the fact that this solitary figure had no idea who he even was.

Clouds passed by overhead and a flash of lightning on the horizon brought him back to the present. It was followed by a long, low peal of thunder. He watched as the bands of a very strong storm approached. The rain striking the sea in the distance resembled the clouds of dust raised in a distant cavalry charge. He sighed and stared down into a tide pool among the rocks at water’s edge. Gazing upon his reflection, he found it impossible to believe that he could recognize the formation of a powerful storm and yet know nothing about the stranger staring back at him. He began to feel the panic rising within. Truly, this was madness.

He turned back from the beach to head inland. He knew he would have to find shelter before the storm hit. Walking up the beach, he noticed movement above the sand. At first he thought it was smoke but as he drew closer, he could see a swarm of flies hovering over the ground like a fog. The man drew closer to see just what had these flies in such an agitated state. It took him a moment to fully comprehend what his eyes reported. The horror that lay before him took his breath away as he sank to his knees. There in the sand lay bodies; twelve bodies in all. His stomach heaved at the sight. Yet as repulsed as he was, he could not turn away, and he forced himself to take in all of the details. Judging by the clothes they were wearing there were eleven men and one woman. As he continued to gape at this chilling spectacle, he knew that something even more macabre was at work here. All twelve of the bodies were missing their heads.

The sun rose the next morning sharply, and the lone figure emerged from his makeshift shelter. The storm that had passed had been furious, uprooting trees and casting debris all over the beach. It had also swept three of the headless bodies out to sea. In order to survey his surroundings, he climbed a small hill behind the beach and from that perspective was able to view most of the island. His new home was quite small, perhaps only a mile or so in diameter. There were stands of palm trees scattered across the dunes, and a rocky outcrop was positioned at one end of the island. Returning to the beach, he mulled over his predicament. While a mystery to himself, he still seemed to have all of his faculties. He recognized the storm as it approached the day before and he was able to fashion a shelter of sorts from some tree branches among the boulders. He could also look out to sea and inherently knew that he was more at home on a ship than on land. He found this quite frustrating and decided to concentrate on the task at hand.

In a situation such as he was facing, he knew that he needed to set priorities. The first would be food and water. During his survey of the island, it was clear that there was no source of fresh water. The storm had, however, littered the beach with coconuts and bananas so provisions would not be an immediate concern. He next took stock of his few possessions. He was barefoot, wearing only a pair of torn breeches, filthy white shirt, and long black coat. In the pocket of his britches, he found a single gold doubloon. Perhaps this was his good luck charm; perhaps not, considering his current state of affairs. The man continued his walk along the beach, letting the warm water run up his ankles. Walking slowly, he contemplated what must come next. The remaining headless corpses were now lying twisted and wet in a testament to the power of the storm. Taking a deep breath, he set upon the grim task of searching the bodies for usable items.

The work was slow and grueling as the bodies were heavy, wet and still reeking with the smell of death. He struggled internally whether or not to search the only woman among the dead. Feeling as if she had already suffered enough indignity, he let her be and promised to bury her first. When his search was completed, he was surprised to have found several useful items—a boarding axe, a pistol with three balls and a bag of powder, two daggers, a broken sword, a small mirror and three gold coins. As he sat down to examine his stockpile, he suddenly felt utterly exhausted. Perhaps he had still not recovered from his own ordeal, whatever that was. He took one of the daggers and reached for a nearby coconut which was lying nearby. The man worked quickly to open the coconut and drank the milky liquid slowly. This slaked his thirst and gave him a bit of energy. It appeared to be about midday, and he knew that it would take hours to bury his silent castaways. He decided there would be time for food later. Using the broken sword as a makeshift shovel, the island’s sole proprietor began to dig.

By the time he had finished, the sun was low on the horizon. He walked back down to the surf to wash up. It was still fairly warm, so he did not think a fire was necessary this night. He did need to eat however and wanted to improve the makeshift shelter he had created the day before. There were plenty of leafy branches up and down the beach from the storm. Gathering up as many as he could carry, he brought them to the area he planned to develop. He turned to head back to the beach for more branches when he happened to notice movement on the horizon. The man ran down into the surf and waded several yards out. This was indeed a ship, and she appeared to be heading in his direction. He remembered the mirror he had found and raced back to his shelter.

He found the mirror but then paused for a moment. He had to think this through. The ship that is approaching, who is she? Could I have come from this ship? Are they responsible for what has happened here? “Are they coming back for me?” he wondered aloud. As he pondered this last question, he remained at his shelter where he was partially concealed by the foliage. The ship continued to draw closer, and he could see that she had taken damage. Torn sails fluttered in the fresh breeze, and her foremast was cocked at an unnatural angle.

The stranger watched as the crew struggled to launch one of the ship’s longboats. Realizing he did not have much time, he quickly disassembled the shelter and scattered the branches into other piles of debris. He gathered up the pistol, boarding axe and daggers and moved further back into the trees. He watched intently from a hidden spot as six men rowed their boat onto the beach. Upon making landfall, the group immediately spread out. Two of them began collecting bananas and coconuts from the beach while the rest set off retrieving large branches. Eventually, one of the men broke away from the others and began heading in his general direction. As the visitor drew closer, the stranger ducked down as low as he could. When the sailor was about ten feet away, the castaway drew his pistol and rose up slowly. Pointing his weapon at the man, he placed his finger to his lips and said, “Shhhhh.”

The sailor looked at him without fear and simply said, “Who are you?”

Chapter Two

Lieutenant William Keefer rapped loudly on the door to the captain’s cabin. “Captain, sir, we’ve spotted a ship on the horizon.”

“Can you identify?” asked the disembodied voice from beyond.

“No sir, but they appear to be closing on our position,” answered the young first mate.

Slowly, Captain Richard Enright made his way to the edge of his cot. Dawn had not been kind this day as he was still feeling the effects of the demon rum he had consumed the night before. “I shall be on deck presently,” he said, more jovial than he actually felt. Normally not one to indulge, Enright broke out the spirits the previous night in celebration of the final week of a very successful voyage. He commanded the Emerald Princess, an English merchant ship that plied the azure waters of the Caribbean in pursuit of trade. The vessel was a Fleut, a three-masted Dutch design, prized for its ability to haul cargo.

As he made his way topside, Captain Enright immediately saw the concerned looks on the faces of his crew. He found Keefer on the fo’c’sle peering through his spyglass. “What do we have here, Willie, my boy?” The lieutenant lowered the glass and Enright immediately knew there was trouble. “How much time do we have?” he asked.

“An hour, perhaps less,” Keefer replied evenly. “I’m afraid they’re pirates, sir.” The Emerald Princess was not a warship, but she did mount six cannons. Her crew of eighteen was relatively small for a ship of her size. At eighty feet long and nearly 300 tons, Captain Enright had long ago made a decision to forgo additional hands in exchange for the extra cargo his ship could carry. Curious how he had never given that decision a second thought until this moment.

The winds were light, and the Emerald Princess was only making three knots. Despite these conditions, the mysterious ship was moving at twice the speed of her quarry. The lieutenant handed his master the spyglass. Enright did not recognize the strange ship. Built low, with a graceful line, she would look to be moving fast even at anchor. Perhaps most intriguing was the iridescent black color of her hull, causing an unearthly darkness that ran a chill up his spine despite the midday sun. When he completed his survey, he looked over at his second in command and took note of him staring out to sea with anxiety. Keefer replied, “I am fairly certain that our friend out there is the Privateer Sea Raven.”

Sea Raven,” Enright muttered, “What flag is she sailing under?”

Raising his glass, the lieutenant studied the image for several seconds. “None that I can see, but there are more than thirty men on deck. Sir, they’re armed to the teeth!” he exclaimed.

Enright turned to look at his men. Most of the crew had gathered around him as they too stared out towards their enigmatic consort. He had grown fond of his men. They had sailed together for more than two years, and they had helped him to earn a sizable fortune. Of course, the ordinary seaman that made up the majority of the crew barely earned enough to survive. Despite this, the crew felt fortunate to sail with their ostentatious master because they were treated fairly and with respect—a rarity among the trade merchants of the day. “Lower the sails Mr. Keefer,” Enright bellowed. “We shall not fight today.”

But Keefer protested “But sir, these men are devils. They are ruthless and will give no quarter.”

Captain Enright, trying his best to exude confidence, replied “Willie, these men once served the Crown. They may have indeed turned pirate, but they are still gentlemen, and shall be shown compassion. Besides, it’s a matter of practicality… we are outnumbered and outgunned at least three to one.”

Keefer tried to object “But sir…”

Enright stared deeply at him and quietly said, “You’ve put your trust in me for these last two years, William. I will not let you down.” With that, the first mate hesitated momentarily then gave the order to lower the sails.

The strange ship closed the distance in minutes and deftly pulled alongside the Emerald Princess. No sooner had the ships joined then a large man, well over six feet, leapt aboard. He was followed in turn by fifteen of his minions. Enright stepped towards the intruder with Keefer at his heels. The captain surveyed this giant of a man. Bare-chested in a flowing scarlet cloak, he wore a brace of pistols on two bandoleers. His bald head glistened in the sun and was nearly as bright as the large golden earring he wore through his left ear. In accented English, that neither of the officers recognized, the man spoke with a surprisingly soft tone, “You have chosen poorly, Captain, in your decision not to fight. We have no stomach for cowards.”

Keefer shot forward to strike the insolent stranger. He thought he had moved quickly enough to catch the intruder off guard. Much to his amazement, however, he felt the sharp burning sensation of a blade thrust into his belly. It had happened so quickly that he had not even seen the big man move. The stranger grabbed the lieutenant’s shirt to prevent him from falling. Pulling him close he said “So there is honor among this rabble. I am Kraal. You should know this before you die.” He released Keefer from his grasp and withdrew his blade. The body of the young man fell heavily to the deck.

As the boarders rushed forward to subdue the rest of the crew, Enright cried “Willie,” and dropped to his knees beside his fallen lieutenant.

After a few moments, the big hand of Kraal pulled the captain up by his hair. Enright was sobbing softly saying “I am so sorry, my boy.”

“What is your cargo, Captain?”

Slowly Enright raised his head and looked into the murderer’s eyes. Composing himself, he said, “Clearly, Mr. Kraal, you will have to answer for your deed here today. Perhaps not to me, or even the Crown, but ultimately you will stand before the Almighty. I can only pray God shows you the same mercy you have shown here today... which is none.”

Without word or thought, Kraal grabbed him by his hair, tilted his head back and drew his weapon across Enright’s throat. Blood pulsed freely with each beat of the heart. The captain’s eyes rolled back, and Kraal proceeded to cut through the soft tissue to the spine. When he completed his grisly task, he violently twisted his head from his body. Kraal lifted the decapitated head high to show the crew. He then turned back towards his own ship and called out “A fine specimen for your collection, aye, Captain?”

Standing on the quarterdeck of the marauding ship, a lone figure smiled broadly. “I am feeling generous this day Mr. Kraal. Have the men draw lots and have the two lucky ones brought to me.”

“With pleasure,” Kraal replied with a sinister edge to his voice.

The next day, Kraal stood on the quarterdeck behind the Sea Raven’s helmsman. “Continue to steer north by east. We need to make Tortuga by morning, and we cannot afford any delays.”

The helmsman nodded in agreement and Kraal lumbered off. He passed a gang hard at work on one of the twelve-pound cannons. As he walked by, the men visibly tensed at the mere presence of the giant. One of the men actually made a sign of the cross as Kraal moved past. The crew had reason to be nervous. They all had vivid memories of an incident that occurred three days before. One of the deckhands had spilled a bucket of water in front of Kraal. With lightning speed, Kraal grabbed the poor sod by the hair and lifted him off the deck. He raised him into the air with both hands, holding him high over his head. Kraal walked slowly aft chanting something in a foreign tongue as he headed to the rail. Before anyone could say a word, the deckhand was pitched overboard. That was now life aboard the Sea Raven and everyone knew it.

Kraal walked down to the great cabin which sat at the aft end of the ship over the rudder. He pounded his fist twice on the doorjamb and said “Kraal.”

From inside the cabin, a quiet voice said “Enter.”

Kraal bent low to enter the cabin and stood before the Captain’s table. “We are on schedule to make Tortuga tomorrow, Captain Renn,” he announced.

The Sea Raven’s captain sat in silence, staring at a chart laid out across the table. “Very well Mr. Kraal. You’ve done well this trip, see to it you get some rest. We will be very busy tomorrow.”

“Yes sir,” Kraal replied, and he left the cabin quickly.

Out from the shadows of the great cabin, Henry Gifford stepped forward and breathed a sigh of relief.

“He frightens you doesn’t he, Henry?” Renn observed.

Gifford walked over to the chart table and stood next to Renn. “I don’t know how you can control him. That man is not mortal, he is a monster.”

“Nonsense, Henry. Kraal is just, shall we say eccentric.”

Gifford snorted “Eccentric! Why I have never seen a man so filled with bloodlust in my life. He truly enjoys the act of killing. You can see it on his face. And yes, he does scare me.”

Renn turned to face Gifford. “Good! You see, Henry, this is what keeps everyone in line. The crew fears him, he terrifies our enemies, and he is helping to make the Sea Raven the most notorious marauder on the open sea.”

“And soon the most hunted,” Gifford chimed in. “Why aren’t you afraid of him?”

Renn smiled and said, “That answer is quite simple, Henry. I give him the opportunity to do what he loves most.”

Dawn broke the next morning as the Sea Raven approached Tortuga. Gifford stood on the fo’c’sle deck and wondered what would happen when they docked. Henry Gifford had been the first officer since she was launched. He remembered that proud day and thought of all the great things they would accomplish aboard this fine ship. He even dreamed of the day when he would become her captain. But those dreams were shattered, and now he only wished to be released from the nightmare he had created. Gifford turned and was startled to see Captain Renn at his shoulder.

“You’re quite skittish this morning, Henry.”

Gifford composed himself, looked back to sea and asked, “When do you think we’ll be back in Virginia?”

In an instant, Renn brutally spun the officer around and pulled him close. Through clenched teeth, he seethed, “We have a lot more to do before Virginia, Henry, and you will not fail me! Is that clear?”

Gifford felt a stab of pain on his right side. Glancing down he saw the dagger piercing his shirt and a small dark stain spreading. He pushed himself free as Renn again smiled at him. He pulled up his shirt and saw a small wound above his hip. He looked back towards Renn and saw that Kraal had arrived, calling “Do you need some help here, sir?”

Now grinning, Captain Renn replied, “No, Mr. Kraal, I was just having a friendly chat with our first officer.” Gifford’s face went white as he stared at both men. He began to tremble as he rushed off to his cabin.

The Emerald Princess sailed into the harbor at Port Royal, Jamaica early on the morning of January 8th. The ship came in with full sails, making about five knots behind a fresh breeze. As she entered the inner harbor, she continued along at a fast clip. The harbor master, Charles Montgomery, came out of his office when he was notified about the incoming vessel. He was astonished to see a figure dive from her gun deck into the water and swim toward the beach. “Sound the alarm!” he bellowed. Turning to his quartermaster, he said, “Please see to it that a detail is present wherever this fool lands.”

“Aye sir,” Jack Barton said, and he departed quickly. Montgomery turned back to stare out into the harbor. His aide, Tom Adams, had also been following him and handed the harbor master his spyglass. Peering through the glass, Montgomery took in the details of the ship. She appeared undamaged as her sails had been finely set and was cruising as if at sea yet he could not see anyone on deck. They estimated her speed at five to six knots, and she was making for the dock at the west end. His aide tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Sir, looks like the Quartermaster has rounded up about a dozen men.”

“Thank you, Adams. They may need your help, why don’t you join the party.”

Over the next few minutes, Montgomery was transfixed on the scene developing before him. The ship continued to close on the pier at high speed, and he saw Barton’s detail running to meet her. Unbelievably, the ship struck the dock at a thirty-degree angle. Instead of a glancing blow, the ship sliced through the heavy wooden timbers and pushed its way nearly a hundred feet up the dock. The bow of the vessel actually rose several feet into the air before crashing down onto a pile of crates. The impact knocked the quartermaster’s men off their feet nearly thirty yards away. When the ship finally came to rest, Barton got to his feet first and advanced slowly. When he reached the ship, Tom Adams was by his side and together they surveyed the damage.

The ship’s hull was ripped open along the port side. The main mast had toppled forward and lay like a bridge from the dock to the deck. The quartermaster took the lead and climbed up the mast onto the Emerald Princess. Adams followed along with the rest of the detail. Once aboard, Barton ordered his men to check for damages below and see if there were any survivors. He moved aft, climbing over the wreckage caused by the crash. He went up onto the quarterdeck and spotted the ship’s wheel. The wheel was tied tight with several ropes apparently to hold the rudder steady. There was no sign of any crew members, and he felt a shiver run up his spine.

Montgomery approached the ship several minutes later. “Ahoy,” he called from the dock.

Barton ran to the rail and said “We’re checking her over now. The rudder’s been tied off, and there’s no sign of the crew.”

“Keep me posted, Jack. I am going down to the Admiralty Office to report.” With that, the harbor master turned and was off.

Barton stood there watching him when Tom Adams staggered to the quarterdeck. The aide fell to his knees and vomited so violently that his entire body shook. “Tom! Tom! What’s the matter? Tom!”

Slowly, Adams began to pick himself off the deck. He got to his feet and grabbed for the rail before saying “Jack… I think you better get below… to the forward hold…”

Barton motioned to one of his men on deck to see to Adams, and he moved forward to the hatch leading below deck. As he descended, he was nearly overcome by the smell. Upon reaching the bottom, Barton was nearly knocked over by one of his men running for the ladder. The man was muttering something unintelligible and seemed to be in a state of panic. The Quartermaster called after him as he ran past but to no avail. Barton pressed forward where two more of his men stood by with lanterns. Stepping through a hatchway into the forward hold, he first took notice of the looks on the faces of his men. They were ashen, staring unblinking into a pile of debris. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he began to realize that what he thought was wreckage, was actually moving.

An hour later, the last body was being removed from the ship. Charles Montgomery stood by his quartermaster and spoke in hushed tones. “I understand two of the crew will most likely live. The others… what, sixteen I believe, will be given a proper burial.”

“That is what I understand, sir,” Barton remarked. “I’ve never seen so much…blood…it was everywhere.” He paused briefly recalling the horrific sight, “And yet two of them were still alive?”

“No need to go over it now, Jack. We’ve notified the Navy, and they will want to speak with you shortly.”

“How is Tom?” Barton asked.

Montgomery just shook his head and said, “The boy may never be the same.”

Chapter Three

The Whydah cruised along at eight knots toward the peninsula town of Port Royal, Jamaica. She was on the third leg of her second cruise and had left Cartagena more than a week earlier. The Whydah was a ship on a mission, she sailed the Atlantic routes that made up the Triangular Trade, and her objective was quite simple. The Whydah would travel from England to Africa’s west coast where her captain would trade liquor, tools and firearms for African slaves. These unfortunate souls, more than three hundred on this particular trip, would endure an eight-week journey to the West Indies, chained together in the ship’s hold. Those that survived the ordeal were then sold for silver and gold, and the profits returned to England where the crew would share in the wealth.

The Whydah’s captain, Lawrence Prince, was a gregarious man whose quick wit made him popular with his crew. His human cargo, on the other hand, feared and loathed him. He was ruthless in his dealings, and he vowed to return a fortune to his partners in London. Prince had proved to be adept at bartering, and the cruise had been highly successful so far. He and his men were soon tested however when their ship struggled to survive the worst storm the crew had ever seen. The Whydah received significant damage, and Prince was forced to find an anchorage to make repairs. Limping along for two days, they came upon a small uninhabited island off the coast of New Granada. Anchoring off the leeward side of the island, a shore party was assembled to gather materials for the repairs. The group launched one of the ship’s longboats and rowed to shore. When they returned, Captain Prince was surprised to find that their numbers had increased by one.

The next morning, the Whydah’s newest passenger was in a hammock on the lower deck next to an eighteen-pound cannon. He lay there quietly as he contemplated what to do next. When the stranger encountered the ship’s crew on the island, he was asked by one of the crew members who he was and quickly realized by this question that these sailors were not responsible for his predicament. Knowing that there would be a lot more questions, that frankly, he could not answer, he feigned illness and collapsed at their feet. Eventually put in the long boat, the man was rowed back to the Whydah and carried aboard. Captain Prince made a cursory examination of him and noted the cuts and bruises on his head. He ordered that their guest be brought below and allowed to rest.

The man decided to keep up the charade of illness and listened intently to what the crew was saying. Over the next few days, he was able to determine that he was on a slave ship called Whydah and that they were heading to England after a stop in Port Royal for provisions. While he knew of both England and Port Royal, he still had no idea who he was. He pushed aside the feeling of panic that rose from within and thought about his situation. Since his arrival aboard ship, the stranger was treated carefully by most of the crew. A few others, however, steered well clear of the man. They whispered about who he may be and they were frightened, very frightened.

“I tell ya, I’ve seen this man before. He’s a pirate, master of that ship Sea Raven,” the Whydah’s second mate, Phillip Gregory said. “They were under the British flag and then turned pirate.”

The ship’s carpenter, Oskar Weiss scoffed, “How do you know all that?”

“In Cartagena, there were two sailors, Navy types, at the tavern on Fortuada Street. They said that this ship called Sea Raven had claimed two victims in as many days and that they were ordered to find her.”

“So what does that have to do with our friend here?” asked Weiss.

Gregory took a long pull from his pipe and said through the smoke “Last year in London, I signed up to work on the Sea Raven. I met the captain, and he thought I would be a fine mate. I was all already to go but the day she left, I busted me leg.”

“Mr. Gregory, I need you up here!” Captain Prince bellowed.

Both men turned to head topside. Still lying in his hammock pretending to be asleep, the stranger had overheard the conversation. As the two men walked away, the second mate said “There was something in his eyes back then. He’s a bad man…that Grayson Fallon.”

Rising out of the mist, the lush tropical mountains of Jamaica stretched towards the heavens. Situated south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola, the island stood as a gateway to the Spanish Main. Columbus first discovered Xamayca, as it was known, on his second voyage in 1494. The Spanish attempted to colonize the island in 1510, but it was evident that their favor lay with Havana and Hispaniola. The colonists were left to deal with privateers and pirates who often ransacked the settlements and the colony languished for more than a century. In 1655, the British captured the island, and it went on to become an important outpost during the many years of war that followed.

On Jamaica’s southern shore, lies a peninsula some ten miles long, creating one of the finest harbors in the world. Known as Palisadoes Peninsula, the town of Port Royal lies at its western tip. Upon capture by the British, their first priority was to fortify Port Royal as a base of operations against the Spanish. Soon afterward, it became a favorite haunt of privateers where they would trade their plunder from Spanish ships and ports. While the line between privateering and piracy is indeed very thin, there was no doubt that Port Royal attracted all types of brigands. Corruption and debauchery became rampant, and the bustling city flourished in a decadent way.

All of that came to a crashing halt in 1692, when the town was virtually destroyed by a massive earthquake, what many considered divine retribution. Port Royal was partially rebuilt but a fire in 1703 destroyed most of the structures, and many of the permanent inhabitants moved to the mainland to settle there. The British maintained a naval base, however, and this remained an important waypoint for legitimate merchants.

Aboard the Whydah, the crew made preparations for landing. They would be in Port Royal overnight only, and there was a lot of work to be done. As the crew rushed about, the stranger stood at the starboard rail gazing at the harbor. Pieces were slowly beginning to fall into place for him. When the second mate had mentioned the name Grayson Fallon, it reminded him of his dream on the island where the old man had called him Grayson. The name somehow seemed to feel right, and although he still had no memory, he knew in his heart that this was his name.

A short time later, the ship eased into her berth and lines were cast to secure the vessel. Captain Prince came and stood by his guest. Dressed in his finest wear, the short, rotund master of the Whydah inquired, “Have you been to Port Royal before? It’s nothing like it was 25 years ago. I came here as a youngster on one of my first cruises. Looking back, I was indeed fortunate to have even survived.” He continued, “I can tell you one thing. My visit here taught me the value of being able to negotiate. Sometimes it is for profit, sometimes for your very life.”

The stranger, who now thought of himself as the mysterious Grayson Fallon, found that he had no stomach for the captain, his crew or their sickening trade. Fallon turned to Prince and announced, “Captain, I will be disembarking here in Port Royal. I shall always be grateful for your assistance.”

Prince turned to him and asked, “Feeling better I take it?”

Fallon did not reply. He simply turned, walked to the gangplank and departed the ship. He spent the better part of the day exploring Port Royal. He spoke with a handful of the merchants who still supply the Royal Navy, and he was able to piece together Port Royal’s checkered past. He could only imagine that the town was a mere shadow of what it once was. Some of the streets were underwater from the earthquake in ’92, and there were many burned out structures remaining from the subsequent fire fourteen years ago.

Beginning to feel hungry, Fallon felt around in his pocket for the three gold coins he had found on the island. Before he could think about eating, though, he wanted to look into something one of the merchants had passed on to him. Adjacent to the harbor master’s office was a ramshackle old building with an apothecary sign in the window. Fallon entered the building and walked to the end of a long counter where an elderly gentleman sat at a desk. He was a kindly looking man with an intelligent face and long white hair. Writing furiously in a journal, he did not hear Fallon enter. “Excuse me, sir,” Fallon interrupted.

The man continued writing for another minute and then looked up at the man standing before him. Slender in build, this stranger looked bedraggled in his stained and torn clothes, yet something about him commanded respect. “How can I help you, young man?” he inquired.

“I’m afraid, kind sir that I am in a bit of a predicament. Would you happen to know anything about a particular ailment with which I am afflicted…?”

They spent the next two hours in conversation. The shopkeeper, Alexander Ridley, was also a physician for the Royal Navy, kept on staff as he had studied in both London and Paris. Dr. Ridley listened patiently to Fallon as he told his disjointed tale. To his credit, Fallon was as truthful as he thought prudent. He talked about his injuries and all that he could remember. While he did not discuss events on the island, he did feel comfortable enough to tell the doctor what he heard about Grayson Fallon aboard ship. Despite all of this, the result was a tale that seemed to make little sense. When they had finished, Fallon stood to leave but toppled back into his chair. Ridley helped Fallon to his feet and led him to a back room where there was a cot.

“Lay here, young man, I will bring you something to eat. Please do not move, you can rest here for a few days if you like.” With that, Ridley scurried off and left Fallon with his thoughts.

Dusk was fast approaching, and Grayson Fallon reflected on what the doctor had explained. His condition was called amnesia and that it can be caused by injury or in some cases by shock or fright. As Fallon had listened, he pressed the doctor with questions about recovery. He was told that healing for such patients differed from person to person. In some cases, the individual made a full recovery after a few months. Others, less fortunate, were never able to remember their past.

Ridley returned shortly with a pot of peanut soup and set the table with bowls and pewter mugs. Walking behind the counter, he came back to the table with a bottle of fine brandy. The men ate in silence as Fallon wolfed down his portion. The doctor would fill his bowl two more times until the soup was gone.

“I cannot thank you enough for your kindness, Doctor,” Fallon said as he sat back in his chair.

Ridley studied the man and decided he liked him. “I think I should tell you something. The harbor master may be looking for you. You see, these last two days have been quite exciting around here. It began yesterday when a large freighter sailed into port at high speed and smashed up the pier. There were quite a few dead among the crew, and the two survivors were, well, let’s just say they were the unfortunate ones.”

Ridley took out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead. Having been called to the scene of the accident immediately, he went on to relay the details of the story to his guest. The doctor paused before continuing, “If that wasn’t enough excitement for the week, this morning, another vessel arrived to take on provisions. It’s a slave ship called Whydah. The crew was given liberty and a couple of the crew members have been spouting off all afternoon that they rescued a vicious pirate who is on the loose here in Port Royal.”

The next morning, Fallon arose early and left the apothecary before Dr. Ridley awoke. He set off down Queen Street, gazing into vacant shops and eventually making his way to High Street. There on the corner, a tall building, slightly askew, caught his eye. The entire structure leaned to the right and it looked as if it could topple over at any moment. A broken sign lying in the street told Fallon this was the Theatre of Port Royal. He placed his hands on the door frame and gave it a sturdy shake. As precarious as the building looked, it felt solid enough so he pushed the door open and stepped inside.

The theater appeared to be quite ornate, and it looked as if it could have held a hundred patrons in its heyday. The main room was littered with debris, and several benches were piled against the stage. Fallon made his way through mounds of rubble and stepped up onto the stage of the playhouse. He walked behind a dark curtain, which hung limply from the rafters, and found himself in a room that was well lit from large holes in the ceiling. Poking around, he smiled as he spied what he desired—a large trunk tucked away in one corner next to a dressing table. Sweeping away the debris from the top of the trunk, Fallon opened it to unearth a wonderful mix of costumes, wigs, and makeup cases. After inspecting the cases, several outfits and wigs were assembled on the table.

About thirty minutes later, a stately old gentleman with silver curled hair emerged from the theater. He was dressed in a long cloak, with a thick collar around the neck and a cape draped over his shoulders. Beneath the cloak, he wore a white shirt, a silver waistcoat and a cravat loosely tied at the neck. The man’s breeches came down to his knees, and white spatterdashes covered his lower legs. His shoes were highly polished with bright silver buckles. Although still not sure of his past, Grayson Fallon felt like a new man and was determined to pursue his identity relentlessly.

Fallon’s first stop was back at the apothecary where he found Dr. Ridley washing up at the basin in the back room. “Good morning Doctor,” he called in a deep voice.

Ridley turned and stared at the intrusion. “Do I know you, sir?” he asked.

The stranger replied, “Considering I do not even know myself, I would find it hard to think you can know me, Doctor.”

Ridley continued to stare and then finally said, “Grayson?”

“What do you think? Can I pass for a society gentleman?”

The doctor looked Fallon up and down remarking, “Indubitably. Now, what do you intend to do?”

Fallon walked to the front of the store to gaze out of the broken window. After a few moments, he replied, “I need to find out about Grayson Fallon and this ship called the Sea Raven.”

Remembering the story Fallon had relayed, Ridley said, “There may be an opportunity for you. While you were out this morning, I was informed that an East Indiaman was lying to about a mile off the coast and would be docking shortly. She is bound for America and carries more than a hundred passengers and crew. They will be here for two days before setting sail.”

Jack Barton, the Port Royal quartermaster, was shouting orders to the various teams working the docks. There were at least two dozen men dismantling the wreckage of the Emerald Princess. The ship was a total loss after colliding with the dock two days before under very bizarre circumstances. In addition, Barton had a crew working to unload provisions from the Iberra. The Iberra had docked earlier that morning and the men had been offloading supplies all day. She was a large freighter known as an East Indiaman. At nearly 160 feet long, and 35 feet wide, the ship weighed in at seven hundred tons. Her crew numbered more than one hundred, and she carried twenty cannons of varying sizes.

Barton walked to the gangplank that stretched out to the Iberra’s gun deck and called out, “Permission to come aboard.”

Dressed in a dark blue overcoat with gold piping on the sleeves and lapels, the gallant looking figure standing aboard the gangplank replied, "Granted."

With that, Barton proceeded to board the ship, pausing to salute as he stepped aboard.

The man in the blue coat returned the salute and announced, “Welcome to the Iberra, I am Captain Paquette. And you are?”

“Jack Barton, quartermaster here on Port Royal. The harbor master, Mr. Montgomery, sends his compliments.” The two men shook hands and studied each other for a few moments.

Paquette remarked, “Mr. Barton, your men have done a fine job with the supplies. I hope they will be as efficient when loading. We would like to depart day after tomorrow.”

Barton looked down upon his men scurrying about the pier. “None to worry sir, they are a fine lot. They’ll have you squared away in no time.”

Captain Paquette joined Barton at the rail and looked out over the dock. Several buildings were visible, and he said, “It’s been quite a while since I’ve been here, Mr. Barton, has much of the town been rebuilt?”

“I’m afraid the rebuilding process has been slow, and I don’t know if we will ever return to the splendor of the past,” replied Barton with a hint of sarcasm.

“Splendor, Mr. Barton? I am not sure I would have ever categorized Port Royal as splendid. It was always a fine place for sailors and the like to partake in, shall we say, more lustful pursuits. Is that still the case?” asked Paquette.

“Yes sir, there are a few local establishments that can cater to the needs of your men.”

“Excellent Mr. Barton, we will be wrapping up here shortly. May I invite you and the harbor master to my cabin for supper this evening?”

Barton smiled politely and said, “That is quite generous sir but let me instead extend an offer for you to join Mr. Montgomery ashore.”

Paquette paused, smiled and said, “I thought you would never ask.”

As the sun went down that evening, the crew of the Iberra received liberty and fanned out throughout the town. Many found their way to Captain Henry's, a large inn on Lime Street, named in honor of the legendary Henry Morgan—buccaneer, statesman, hero. The inn was very crowded, and there were only a few seats available when Philip Zack and Roger Oxley entered. They were two of the Iberra’s deckhands and best of friends. They found two seats at a table where an old man was already sitting.

The men plopped down into a couple of chairs, and a barmaid appeared within seconds. Both men ordered up some grog and shepherd’s pie.

Oxley followed up by saying, “And bring a pint for our new friend here,” gesturing to the old man at the table.

Zack leaned closer to his friend, whispering, “’Have you lost your mind? We ain’t got paid yet and here you spending money we don’t have.”

Oxley just laughed and pushed Zack away. “You’ve got to learn to live a little, my friend.” Turning to the old man, he said, “Wouldn’t you agree, my good man?”

Grayson Fallon smiled and nodded his agreement.

Philip Zack and Roger Oxley continued to wolf down their food and drink as Grayson Fallon just sat back and listened in amazement at their escapades. Sitting with the two, disguised as the old man, he was encouraged that the more they drank, the more talkative they became. At one point, Oxley mentioned the Sea Raven and Fallon pressed them on the issue.

“When we made port a couple of weeks ago in Santo Domingo, we saw two men row ashore in a ship’s launch,” Zack began. “They were the navigator and a cabin boy from a ship called the William Galley. The story they told was enough to curl your real hair, old man.” Fallon said nothing but sat transfixed on every word.

Zack took a sip of his drink and continued, “The two men were barely alive. They had been beaten to within an inch of their lives. We helped the boy to the infirmary, but the older man wanted us to hear his story. He told us they were attacked by the British privateer Sea Raven even though they were flying the St. Georges Cross.”

Oxley then spoke up, “Yeah, and he also said that they didn’t seem too interested in their cargo. All they were looking for was a fight.”

Zack glared at his shipmate, annoyed by the interruption. He continued, “I wouldn’t call what they did a fight. The navigator told me that once the ships were tied together, a big, bald man boarded the ship followed by a couple dozen men and they began to attack the crew. He said three men grabbed him and the cabin boy and tied them up to watch. He said they slaughtered the crew, one by one and made the men suffer.”

Fallon finally broke in to ask some questions. “If I may sir, how do you know they were not interested in the cargo? It would seem to me that once the crew was out of the way, they could plunder the ship at leisure.”

“Aye, you stupid bloke, you didn’t let us finish,” Oxley snapped.

Zack put a hand to his friend’s mouth to shut him up. After a moment he said, “They told us that about half the crew was cut with knives on purpose, and then thrown overboard. There are sharks in those waters and in no time, they had themselves a feast. The rest of the crew put up a fight, but they were no match. Those that remained were either killed or wounded. The navigator and the boy were then beaten, put in the ship’s launch and set adrift.”

Oxley continued in a more subdued tone, “When they cut the ship loose from the Sea Raven, she was set afire. He said they could hear the screaming from those of the crew who were still alive.”

“My God, that is appalling,” Fallon exclaimed. “Who would do such a thing?”

Zack shook his head and said, “That’s the funny thing. When the two survivors rowed off, the navigator said a man called out to them from the deck of the privateer. He said a figure dressed all in black shouted, ‘Never forget what you have seen here today, gentlemen, compliments of Grayson Fallon and the great Commonwealth of Virginia.’”

A shiver ran up Fallon’s spine, and his head began to spin. He needed some air. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his three gold coins and tossed one on the table. “Thank you, gentlemen… I, ah… I need to be going.”

Zack and Oxley looked at each other, not quite sure what to do next.

The man known as Hutchins was one of the few permanent residents of Port Royal. Several years before, he had been a crewman on a Dutch freighter and was a sailor by trade but a thief by nature. The crew did not trust him and after a night of drunken debauchery, he awoke to find that his ship had set sail without him. Since that time, he relied upon odd jobs for his survival. To supplement his meager income, he would prey upon those visitors he considered weak. Hutchins stood in the corner of Captain Henry’s observing everything and everyone. He took notice of the dapper old man when he came in and kept his eye on him. He nearly fell over when he saw the gentleman remove three gold coins from his pocket to pay his tab. “Where there’s three there must be more,” he said to himself.

Grayson Fallon stumbled as he made his way to the door of Captain Henry’s. He was in shock after hearing the story of the Sea Raven and just felt like he had to get out of there. As he stepped outside, he began to walk slowly back towards the apothecary. He did not notice the thin, scraggly man following a few paces behind. When Fallon reached the alleyway between Lime Street and High Street, he was brutally shoved into the dark passageway. Hutchins continued to push him for several feet until they were out of sight from the street.

“Good evening, kind sir,” Hutchins began. “Can you help a fellow out? I’m a bit down on my luck this evening.”

“Get your hands off of me! What is the meaning of this?” Fallon protested.

Hutchins let go but remained close. “All’s well, Gov’nor. I just need a few of them gold coins you have in your pocket. What say you hand them over now, and I’ll be on my way?” With that, Hutchins slid a long thin dagger out of his waistband and waved the blade in front of the old man.

This seemed to awaken Fallon, and whether it was instinct, training or sheer stupidity, he lunged forward and grabbed Hutchins by the wrist. He spun the assailant around and shoved him to the ground. Hutchins lay there for a moment, slowly got to his knees and stood, startled to find out the old man could move so fast. He was even more surprised to see him still standing there.

“You shouldn’t have done that, Gov’nor,” Hutchins said as he spat out a broken tooth. He still held the dagger in his right hand, and the two men squared off. Fallon said nothing and stood there with his hands at his side. Hutchins looked him up and down, decided the old man had just gotten lucky and leapt forward. Fallon gracefully sidestepped the thrust to the right and kicked his assailant in the back as he went past. Hutchins again landed face first in the dirt.


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