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The Women on Whitehead Street
Big Pine Key had a small crescent shaped anchorage on it's
southern coast. Addie piloted them in, they furled the sails, and
Jason threw the anchor overboard where she directed. The Pegasus had a small
ship's boat that trailed behind her but Addie
said, "I'll swim; you can use the dory," and dropped her skirt. She swam ashore
wearing just a cotton shirt and bloomers.
Jason shrugged, loaded his gear in the rowboat and followed her. Then they
walked inland following a trail through the
evergreens. They traveled the path through the trees for a hundred yards to a
clearing and a wood frame house with rustic
slat siding and the remnants of an orchard, just a few orange trees were left
and rows of fallen tree trunks. "The hurricane
of '72' ended our prospects for a plantation," Addie said, then shouted, "Pappy,
Harry Gorten appeared in the doorway. He was older than Jason remembered, a
tall, barrel-chested man with a broken nose and
a heavily-lined and tanned- face, no doubt from years in the tropical sun. "Jase,
my laddie. It's good of you to come."
"You don't look too bad, considering how old you are."
Harry smiled broadly, and grabbed Jason in a bear hug. "You're still a charmer,
aren't ya laddie?"
"And you still like to pretend you're a Scot instead of the big, Teutonic turd
we all know you are." Harry's eyes were set
deep under bushy eyebrows and half a head of graying hair.
They went wide. Then he burst out laughing at Jason's taunt.
Addie smiled. "Glad to see you two are still best of friends."
When they entered the two bedroom house, Jason saw the Gortens both grow quiet
and uncertain. It was a modest dwelling with
crude plaster walls inside. The furniture was simple, most homemade; and Harry
was no carpenter. The ambience would have
been very dreary except for the paintings. Jason looked around and remembered
how Addie used to draw in charcoal during the
war; now she was using oils and water colors. The rooms were filled with
seascapes and depictions of tropical wildlife. She
was an impressionist: sometimes tranquil and relaxed with her colors and
sometimes intense and piercing. There were
portraits of Harry and Sarah Dumont, and Jason thought her work was very good.
"Have you ever made any money at this?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I sell a few through a shop on Key West, enough for paint and
canvas. That's all I care about."
Addie also made dolls. They were all over the house. "I stuff them with chicken
feathers and sew their clothes myself." The
faces were hand painted on small ovals of wood and every one was perfectly
detailed and different. There was a whole
collection of them sitting in a semicircle on Addie's bed. "Those are my friends
from school," she said.
"Schoolgirls, how come they are so quiet?" Jason asked. When Addie started to
cook dinner, Harry was quick to show Jason
Spanish silver coins and a stick of gold bullion. He also brought out some small
green nuggets and an oval-shaped silver
Inside the box was a gold crucifix and a gold ring. The ring had a large
brilliant emerald as its centerpiece. The crucifix
was spectacular. Jason picked up the cross; it was the first piece of Spanish
treasure he had ever held in his hand. The
cross was almost a pound of soft, hand-carved gold and flawless emeralds from
the mines of Columbia. It was solid with
ornate leafed trim about the four ends. The top of the cross was a pear-shaped
emerald and then four rectangular gems made
up the arms of the cross, with a square stone in the middle. Another heavy
hexagon of an emerald was at the bottom of the
Addie sat down next to Jason and looked at his face, while he handled and
admired the crucifix. "They placed a high regard
on lavish symbols of their faith, didn't they?" she asked. Jason smiled because
Addie had been brought up in a simple
"Yes." Jason nodded. "The Atocha sank during the wars of the Counter
Reformation. Wallenstein and Tilley's armies were
tearing up most of southern Germany because people in Northern Europe didn't
think God was just for the rich and the
priests, those that could read Latin. The printing press spreading the Bible in
English, French, and German was the catalyst
to revolt against Rome. Spanish Hapsburgs needed this treasure very badly for
their war chest. I suppose that's why the
Atocha sailed from Havana during the hurricane season, rather than wait until
the next spring."
"Jase is a nonbeliever, but a good student of history," Harry said, standing up
and walking toward his bedroom. He looked
over his shoulder and smiled enticingly at Jason. "Wait until you see this,
laddie." He came back with a heavy gold chain,
at least six feet long, and draped it over his head.
Jason picked up one of the nuggets. "Are these raw emeralds right out of the
ground?" he asked.
"No. They have been on the bottom of the ocean for 250 years," Harry corrected,
since Jason wasn't impressed by the gold
Jason took out a penknife and dug into the stick of gold. And it was very real.
"What's the Atocha, Harry? Refresh my
"You know about the Atocha; you just said you knew when she sank, during the
Thirty Years War. The Atocha, with the rest of
the 1622 treasure fleet, sailed from Havana on September fourth; and a hurricane
sent her to the bottom off the Marquesas
two days later. I've found the site."
"How did you find it?" Jason asked.
"We were looking for something else and got lucky." He shrugged.
"Me and Jacob Ivy. He was an Indian I was working salvage with in Hawk's Channel
last summer," Harry said.
"`Was'. Why the past tense?" Jason asked. Addie was at the stove and she turned
around to watch them.
"Jacob died in January. There was a fire in his boathouse and all that was left
was the skeleton," Harry said.
"And you suspect foul play?" It seemed the most obvious question to ask.
"Jacob was a careful person, too careful to get himself burned up."
"But he had a loose mouth," Jason suggested.
"We kept our find a secret all through the fall, but by December Jacob wanted to
sell some silver." Harry looked
disappointed. "Word spread around Key West about Jacob having silver coins that
were obviously treasure; and my name was
connected with him because we had spent the summer together off the Marquesas,
involved in salvage operations."
"Jacob Ivy had a family with mouths to feed," Addie said and
turned back to the stove.
Harry handed Jason a corroded silver fork. `Atocha' was carved on the handle.
"Is this significant?" Jason asked.
"It's proof positive we'll be diving on the Atocha. Here's the manifest." Harry
handed Jason a piece of paper.
"How deep?" he asked.
"Forty feet on a flat, sandy bottom. It's a perfect site for shallow salvage
operations," Harry said.
"I don't read Spanish," Jason glanced at the paper, and walked to his baggage to
get a book. It was entitled Spain in the
New World, written by an American with Monroe Doctrine sympathies, which Jason
shared. He'd marked the page listing the
treasure manifest of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, when he had read the book
during the voyage from Mobile.
"See," Harry smiled, talking to Addie. "I told you he'd do his homework."
"Now, I'm looking at the manifest. Show me something from the main cargo hold.
This cross, the emeralds, the chain could all
have come from any Spanish ship sunk in the Caribbean. I want to see more than a
fork, Harry. That could have been left in
Havana and went down on a ship fifty or a hundred years later."
"All right, take a look at this." Harry lifted floorboards and dragged up two
silver ingots. "They're both sixty-three and a
half pounds. See anything like that on the manifest?"
The manifest listed silver bars at sixty-three point six pounds. All the coins
they had recovered were dated 1621 or
earlier. Harry had, indeed, found the resting place of the Atocha's treasure.
There were forty-seven tons of silver bars out
there, and Harry knew where. There was also smuggled gold and emeralds; only the
two hundred and sixty-five souls that
perished with the Atocha knew how much.
"I did some homework before I came down here," Jason admitted. "I spoke to
several history professors. They told me about
the Spanish treasure fleet system for the Caribbean and they made a suggestion I
"You hired a researcher at Seville, Spain," Addie guessed.
"Yes, how did you know?"
"That was the next obvious step. But Pappy didn't want to sell off any treasure
to pay for the research." Addie looked
indignantly at Harry.
"Don't call me 'Pappy'. My name is 'Harry'. Besides, it was the careful thing
not to do at the time." Jason remembered
Harry's cautious nature had saved his life more than once during the war.
Jason smiled at Addie. "I sent the diving bell plans to Triden Foundries in
Pittsburgh to fabricate, as you suggested. Did
you know I used to work for the firm, selling their artillery in Europe?"
She nodded. "The engineers at Triden know how to make more than cannons."
"Why a diving bell? Why not the French self-contained tank and regulator units.
I've read they work very well. Or the
standard hard hat diving suit?"
"It's an easy dive location, just fine for free swimmers working from a bell
right over the site. We don't need a lot of
heavy diving equipment or experimental French technology," Addie explained.
Jason looked at Harry questioningly.
"Addie dives better than most men," he admitted. "The locals consider her an
That was enough for one night. Jason knew this was a serious and potentially
very profitable venture. He turned the
conversation to Addie and Big Pine Key. Jason wanted to know all about her and
this quiet little island. When they all
started to yawn, Addie brought some bedding to the sofa in the living room for
Jason, and they said goodnight.
That same evening Charley Dardy walked down Front Street and into the Lucky Spot
Eatery & Drinking Establishment. Dardy was
a short, heavy-set man with dark, nervous eyes over a small nose and full lips.
He was bitter because the South lost the
war, and recently his wife left him. Killing the Indian, Jacob Ivy, several
months earlier had been gratifying, but only
temporarily profitable. Dardy was anxious to see more of the Atocha's treasure.
Holly, the bartender, served him a draft and motioned Dardy toward the kitchen.
He took the beer and went to see and hear
Samson Pool standing by the wood stove admonishing the cook. "The shrimp and
fish dishes need more flavor. I pay good money
for dried oregano, basil, Dalmatian sage, garlic, and all the rest." Pool made a
sweeping gesture with one arm to indicate
the well-stocked kitchen. "Look, kid, I know you're a peckerwood from Alabama
and dumb as dirt; but I like you, so you
better learn to cook. People from all over the world are washed up on our
shores, and the least we can do is feed them
The kid said, "I was raised on squirrel and corn meal dumplings, sir. But I'll .
. . I'll try my best."
"Hey, Pool, I don't have all night. What do you want?" Dardy was irritated, only
slightly interested in the Lucky Spot's
cuisine and kitchen staffing.
Pool looked at his unskilled young cook one last time and then pointed toward
the back door. Samson Pool and Charley Dardy
walked outside, past the garbage, and along Tift's Wharf. The harbor was calm
and briny, like an over-seasoned soup; the
half-moon large and white in the clear, dark sky.
"Jack Carney wants to talk to the general," Pool said.
Dardy nodded. "About time. We need to bring that old outlaw back into the fold.
Tell Carney General Harrington is waiting on
him. Harrington's offer will be very attractive. A new life for all of us."
Pool smiled. "Carney is already working on raising capital for the general's
plan," he said.
"Gorten?" Dardy inquired.
Pool nodded. "Yes. I don't want to see Yankees get that treasure."
"No one does," Dardy agreed.
"Oh! One more thing," Dardy said, "Make that back-woods puppy your dishwasher,
get a decent cook, and even I'll eat here."
The next morning Jason woke up and scratched several flea bites on his legs and
backside. Cump came over and licked his
face. The retriever liked Jason since they went swimming together yesterday.
Jason pulled on a pair of cotton pants and went outside. The sun was bright in
the east, the air cool and always salty.
Harry's farm was not impressive by any means. He only had about ten orange trees
left. There were cut-wood pens for a
variety of livestock: two white horses and a cow, two goats, and a dozen
chickens. Addie had left out a bowl of water last
night. A small white-tailed deer was drinking and he bolted into the underbrush
when he saw Jason. There was also a large
vegetable garden; and they had a salt-water pond, fed by the inlet, where Harry
deposited conchs. A rock and mortar cistern
was built under the house to collect rain water from the roof gutters.
Jason found a path leading northwest and went exploring. The trail led him
through a thick pine grove deep in soft brown
needles, and then to a white sandy beach and the clearest water he had ever
Jason nodded, and found himself envying Harry. What would someone be like who
lived here, in such serenity, after the
terrible war years? "This must be heaven for Addie," Jason found himself saying.
Despite the foolish idea of a citrus grove,
this was still a beautiful setting to retire to in 1865 and raise his young
Jason walked back to the house, and along the way he found Addie in the salt
pond. She was barefoot, holding her white
cotton nightgown up over her knees. She had slender, well-shaped legs; Jason
expected she would.
Addie pulled out a big beautiful shell. "Conch steak and eggs suit you for
"What's a conch?" Jason asked, and she held the shell up for him to get a good
They walked back to the house, and she placed the shell down on a tree stump and
took a hatchet to it. Addie chipped off one
end of the shell and pulled out an ugly, squishy, gray thing. It was squirming
and dying on the stump.
"That's disgusting," Jason said. "I'll just have the eggs."
She smiled in satisfaction. "Jason Pike, my knight in shining armor, being
squeamish." Then she laughed.
They ate breakfast and Jason thought the conch was delicious, once Addie pounded
and fried it with scallions and herbs.
After the meal Harry said he was going to Key West for two days. He caught both
Addie and Jason by surprise. "I want you two
to get to know each other without an old man like me muddying up the waters."
"Pappy, you haven't told Jase near as much about the Atocha as he's going to
want to know," Addie suggested sensibly.
"Addie, don't call me that. Jase has already ordered the diving bell and the
steam engine. He's decided to finance and join
us." Harry looked at Jason, obviously pleased he had endorsed the salvage plan
before leaving Denver.
Jason smirked, and glanced to Addie. "I've always wanted to dig up the
Caribbean." And she smiled back.
"Besides, I've been cooped up here for weeks," Harry complained to Addie, "while
you've been on Key West living the good
life with the Samuels."
Addie scratched her nose and smiled at Jason. "All right, Pappy. You do what you
want. You're too old and stubborn for me to
tell you what to do."
Jason walked Harry down to the cove, while Addie cleaned the breakfast dishes.
"Don't you feel even a touch of guilt the way
you're proffering Addie to me?" he asked.
"I'm doing no such thing. You're a gentleman and she's a proper young lady."
"No! Harry, Addie has had a crush on me since she was fourteen. What do you
think I am, made of iron? She's grown into a
beautiful young woman."
"I believe you'll do right by her. You care for her; you won't hurt Addie,"
Harry said, looking Jason right in the eye.
Harry took the dory out to the Pegasus and pulled up the anchor. "Laddie, tell
her to stop calling me `Pappy'," he shouted
and sailed off.
Jason walked back to the house wondering what he was going to do. Addie didn't
keep him in suspense for very long. They took
her horses, Ulysses and Penelope, and went riding over to the Gulf side. Here
the water was calm and there was a narrow
white beach with shade from palms overhead. Jason and Addie rode along bareback
and barefoot. Cump was playing in the surf.
"Let's go swimming," Addie said and jumped down. She was wearing white sailor's
ducks that were too short for her long legs
and her characteristic white cotton blouse. Addie brushed her black hair from
her eyes and smiled at Jason in a coy manner.
Was she up to something already, he wondered? Addie turned and walked into the
ocean slowly. Jason left his shirt behind and
Addie turned around when she was knee deep, bent down, and playfully splashed
him. Jason walked right up to her, enjoying
the warm water, the breeze, and the bright sun all alone in the cloudless blue
sky. This was better than Denver, Colorado in
the winter, Jason decided.
"You look beautiful, Addie."
"What are you going to do about it, Captain Pike?" Addie said, and ran her
tongue slowly along her lips. A dimple on her
left cheek twitched mischievously, and Jason took it for a naughty gesture. He
stepped forward and put his hands on her arms
and massaged them drawing her to him slowly. Addie put her hands on his chest
and lightly ran her fingernails up to his
neck, to his cheeks, and they kissed tenderly.
Jason and Addie grew more passionate and their tongues intertwined. She paused
and unbuttoned her shirt. "I know I'm being
brash, but I'm so terribly in love with you." And she put his hand on a round
breast. He fingered the pert, pink nipple,
then bent and kissed her there.
They made love for the first time lying on the sand as the Gulf of Mexico's
gentle waves caressed them. Cump came over, took
a look and a sniff, and decided to leave the lovers alone. Jason reached down
between her thighs and touched her. Addie
closed her eyes and sighed deeply. When he felt she was ready, he slowly,
carefully, exquisitely entered Addie. She gasped
at first and clutched at him with an energy he hadn't suspected in her svelte
body. Addie wrapped her long legs around his
waist and pulled him into her with a sudden hunger. "I've wanted you for so
long," she whispered, darting her tongue in his
ear. The intensity of their lovemaking increased, and they became slaves to
their own driving union. Addie scratched at
Jason's back and bit his neck. He climaxed and they stayed there entangled, the
light surf lapping at them until they both
became aroused again.
And then they started over. This time Jason moved down her body, spread her
legs, and tasted her sex. He held Addie to him
and pleasured her until she moaned and quivered. Addie climaxed and told Jason,
"The sensations were incredible! Where did
you learn to do that?"
They were in each others arms as the warm water softly embraced their bodies.
Jason had been apprehensive at first, being
out in the open. But Addie's easy and calm demeanor captured him. Jason came to
realize people didn't have to make love in
little dark bedrooms all the time.
"I'm so happy. I wish this moment could last forever," Addie said. "Do you think
you'll fall in love with me?"
"I haven't had any problem so far and don't foresee any."
"Well, don't sound so confident." Addie sat up and rubbed his chest. Then she
planted an elbow on Jason's solar plexus.
"Ow," he said.
"It's not going to be all that easy. I'm a woman of virtue."
"You're brave, Addie." Jason looked around. "I'll say that for you."
They moved from the surf and lay naked on the beach until Addie told Jason he
was getting too much sun. It was the middle of
the afternoon, when Jason and Addie rode the horses back at a leisurely pace
through the pine glade and the occasional
groves of palms. Once they paused for Cump to chase a small deer and Addie found
a lime for Jason to divide with his knife.
They both tasted the lime's sour pleasure, pulled the horses together, and
kissed, sharing the sensation and their intense,
When they reached what was left of Harry's orchard, and the house lay beyond,
Cump trotted happily out front. They were
thirty yards from the house when the Labrador stopped and sniffed. Jason pulled
up when he noticed, knowing they were down
wind from the house.
"What's the matter?" Addie asked. The dog growled.
"Send him forward," Jason directed.
"Gaw head," she shouted and motioned with her hand. Cump got halfway to the
buildings and started to bark.
Men came out from behind the house. They all had rifles. "Call the dog, Addie.
Let's get the hell out of here!"
They turned to run. "Shoot the horses," Jason heard Carney's dark voice; and
then the first volley thundered and broke the
Addie's horse took a round in her hip and went down. Addie fell hard to the
ground; and Jason was sure the wind was knocked
out of her. He pulled the stallion around and galloped to Addie. Jason reached
down, got her arm, and pulled Addie up behind
him on Ulysses. Bullets broke branches around them.
"They shot Penelope. How can anyone shoot a horse?" she gasped. Penelope whined,
crying, laying on her side.
Jason kicked Ulysses hard with his bare heels. This was the first time he'd ever
been caught in an ambush without spurs.
They galloped into the brush, Cump barking and chasing after them.
Jason and Addie rode for five minutes to get well away from Carney and his men.
Addie pointed off to the left toward a trail
running northeast to the Gulf. But Jason pulled up and jumped down to talk.
"Where are we going? There's no place to go,"
"We've got another boat. A little ship's yawl is hidden at the east end on the
lee side. There's a cache of provisions too.
We'll be able to sail to another island, even to Key West."
Well, that was just like Harry taught Jason during the war. "It'll be dark in a
couple hours. How do we sail at night?" he
"We sail slowly," Addie explained. "There'll be a bright moon and this is a tiny
boat. When we hit a sandbar you get out and
push us off."
"What kind of supplies are there?" Jason asked.
"Food and water, clothes, a foot-long Bowie knife, and Dad's old Spencer
carbine. How could anyone shoot my horse?" She
shook her head in disbelief.
Jason had shot a few in his day. He couldn't remember how many horses' ears he'd
hacked off with a saber by accident during
"Let's leave them a false trail and get to the boat. Even a pirate can follow a
horse track, if there's only one per
island." They trotted along the trail and Addie held Jason tight about the
She sobbed for a time and then rubbed her nose on his shoulder and said, "I'll
try to be brave."
"You're a tough girl, but cry if you want. Nothing wrong with honest tears."
Addie rubbed her face into the back of his neck. "Jase, there's not a tough
square-inch of skin anywhere on me." She reached
up with her right hand and grasped at the hair at the center of his chest as the
horse bounced along.
They came into another pine grove which turned to a mangrove swamp bordering the
Gulf. Harry Gorten's second boat was only
twelve feet long. He had it out of the water, tied sideways to a tree. Jason
untied a knot and it just fell over into the
water. He knew Harry planned so Addie could launch it herself, if need be.
She waited until he had examined Harry's supply cache and was cleaning the
excess grease from the old lever-action Spencer
to ask, "You're staying, aren't you?"
"I've had enough of Jack Carney. I'm going to kill the bastard, if I get a
chance. I've seen how well you handle a sailboat;
and you told me how confident you are at night; so you're leaving and I'm
staying." Jason could see she was very worried.
"It's not as bad as it sounds. His men will see you sailing west on the Gulf
side and think we both got away. So surprise is
on my side. I might not get another chance to meet Carney on my terms, off the
deck of his ship. Besides, there's a good
chance they'll leave, when you're out of their reach."
"Me? Isn't this between you and Carney?" she asked.
"He wants you; then your father will be forced to take him right to the treasure
site. Carney must know what we're up to;
everyone else does," his tone frustrated. "Revenge isn't a profitable enough
motive for that bastard to mount this raid. I
want to kill the son of a bitch before he tries for you again."
Jason helped Addie put up the mast and grabbed Cump's collar, to show him he was
"He could help you," she suggested.
"He already has. I'll be okay." Stealth was called for, and Jason doubted Cump
would obey orders about when not to bark.
Addie paced nervously in the small, soggy clearing. He knew she was angry,
enraged at Carney, mad at him, and sad about her
dying horse. "You better be okay! Jason Pike, if you get yourself killed now,"
she started to lecture but turned terribly
sad, "I'll . . . I'll have to live the whole rest of my life on just one memory
of making love with you. I'll probably just
crawl up around a palm tree and cry, until I die and rot away." She was on the
verge of tears.
Jason took Addie in his arms and kissed her. "Now get going." He helped her into
the boat. Then Jason pushed her off with
his foot and Addie drifted away from him. She reached out and he waved.
"Remember to send back the cavalry," Jason requested light-heartedly.
"I love you, Jase. Please be careful." She brushed at a tear on her cheek and
then turned to use the oars. Addie rowed the
yawl out of the mangroves to the Gulf of Mexico.
Jason let the horse loose and put on the dark clothes and shoes Harry had
provided. Then he walked west along the shore to
watch Addie's progress as she sailed away to Key West.
The sun was starting to set as Jason saw the first coast watcher. He was sitting
on a rotting log smoking a cigar. When the
pirate spotted Addie, he fired his rifle in the air, probably as a signal. Jason
went inland to the trail they followed
earlier, moving quickly west. This sentry took two minutes to fire off three
shots for his comrades while Jason moved around
him. Then the pirate started walking toward the others.
Carney's man walked next to the bush where Jason was crouching. Jason stood up
and rammed the brass butt plate of Harry's
Spencer into the side of his head as hard as he possibly could. Jason didn't
want the pirate's muzzleloading Enfield, but
found a good Smith & Wesson revolver and a dozen rounds. The tide was going out,
so he dragged the body down to the beach
and committed the corpse and rifle to the deep. Then Jason ran east through the
bush to get away from the area.
There was a full moon in a clear sky that night and the wind was strong off the
sea. Just west of Big Pine, Addie easily
crossed from the Gulf to the Straits of Florida, making excellent progress.
Addie was sad because of Penelope's death and
very worried about Jason. "Why couldn't I fall in love with a coward?" she said
to Cump. The black Lab sat in the bow,
looked up at the moon, and howled.
The mosquitoes on Big Pine Key were irrepressible. After dark Jason had to move
slowly and he served as a meal for quite a
number. In addition, he often wandered into thorny patches of brambles that cut
and scratched his arms and legs.
Jason traveled west along Big Pine's southern coast, wanting to get between the
house and the anchorage, where he saw the
Raven anchored. She was well-lighted, with lanterns hanging all about the ship,
and there were obviously at least a dozen
Jason went back toward the house, cautiously paralleling the trail. The pirates
were cooking dinner; he could smell meat
roasting. Jason saw no guards and took an hour to reconnoiter the yard and
animal pens, locating no hidden sentries either.
Confident bastards, he decided, and would make them pay for their laxness.
Jason crept right up to an open window and listened to the voices he heard
inside. "They've gotten away. Caulder saw their
sail. Harry Gorten outfoxed you. He had a second boat." It was Alvarez's voice.
Jason remembered his Spanish accent.
"But, what happened to Caulder? He fired his signal and disappeared. Where is
he?" That was Carney.
"Caulder was a fool," a third, French sounding, voice said. "Probably killed by
Pike. He sent Addie Gorten away, and is
skulking about in the woods. The wind is picking up from the north. She could
make Key West early tomorrow morning. We
better consider our plans for tomorrow."
"You don't think she'll attempt to cross through to the straits at night. That's
the only way she could arrive early, Luc,"
"What I'm saying is, we shouldn't underestimate Addie Gorten's sailing ability .
. . nor Harry and this mysterious, and
apparently resourceful, Mr. Pike." Luc was definitely French, by accent, and
Jason wanted a face to connect with the voice.
"I think Charley was right. Uriah might be the precise person to bring in to
handle Mr. Pike. Keep in mind, Jack, Charley
will pay for Uriah," Luc said.
"Eventually, bringing in more people will come out of our end. I don't
understand. So they slipped away this time. We don't
need help to handle two men and a girl," Alvarez said. "Let's take Charley's
money and do it ourselves."
One of them got up and paced; Jason heard his footsteps. "No. We don't cross
Charley," Carney said. "He's always played
straight with us. There is too much at stake. Aside from the treasure, I like
the plans Charley has discussed with me. This
could be a new beginning for all of us, land and wealth.
"We'll leave on the morning tide and stay in the area. Maybe they'll come back
in a day or two. If not, then we'll sail
south to find new guns and recruit Uriah. You know where to find him?" Carney
"On the north coast, in one of several villages," Luc answered.
Right then an emaciated little pirate walked around the corner of the house and
bumped into Jason as he was kneeling below
the window. Jason jabbed him in the gut with the Spencer carbine's barrel and
jumped up, pushing him into the side of the
house. Then Jason punched the pirate in the jaw with his right fist and he sat
Jason palmed the Smith & Wesson from his waistband with his left hand to work
the window. And he was just a touch ahead of
Carney. The pirate was looking right at Jason through the window and drawing his
own pistol. Jason fired off all six rounds
through the opening as the pirates dove for cover. Then Jason ran around the
corner, across the field, and into the trees.
Within an hour several pirates skulked through the dark from Harry's house to
their ship's longboat and returned to the
Raven. At dawn the Raven raised her anchor and the crew made sail.
Jason was wary of a trap as he approached the house, but they had all left
except one. He had been laid out on the bed in
Harry's room, and bled to death from a hole in his side. Jason knew he must have
shot him when he randomly fired off the
Smith & Wesson revolver through the window. A piece of paper was pinned to his
shirt: 'Luc Chevarant' was written on it.
Jason nodded in approval of brigands with respect for their fallen comrade.
The pirates had found Harry's treasure under the floorboards. The silver ingots,
the cross of gold, and the emeralds were
gone. Jason shook his head back and forth looking down at the empty hole under
the floor. And they had taken his weapons:
the Winchester rifle and his Colt pistols. Damn, Jason thought, wondering how he
could have gotten this endeavor off to a
There was not much to do, after he carried Luc Chevarant's body outside, until
the reinforcements arrived. So Jason ate
breakfast and went to sleep against a tree looking out over the ocean.
Jason woke in the afternoon when a United States sloop of war arrived. It was
the USS Detroit; and a young, trim navy
lieutenant stepped ashore leading a squad of marines armed with Springfield
Rifles. Addie hadn't found any cavalry, so she
sent the navy. Jason left the Spencer carbine by the tree and walked over to
them, keeping his hands in plain view. He was
aware he looked like a shiftless beachcomber, unshaven, his shirt and trousers
ripped and dirty.
"I'm Jason Pike."
"Lieutenant Jeffers, commanding the USS Detroit. We're happy to find you alive.
I take it the pirates have departed," he
guessed. Jeffers was a tall, handsome man with wide, innocent eyes.
"Due south about seven hours ago. Where's Addie? Did she get to Key West?"
"Yes. She's following an hour behind us with her father and Sarah Dumont, in
their sloop. I didn't want to bring them on a
warship with the possibility of action."
"Thank you, lieutenant. I appreciate that. I assume you are going to give
"Of course. Apparently you're not in need of our assistance?"
Jason nodded. "I'm fine."
"Then good day to you, sir." He turned away, and then came back to Jason. "Sir,
Miss Gorten told me why you stayed behind. I
believe your decision was ill-advised and reckless. You're lucky you remained
hidden and did not confront the pirates. After
all, you are a civilian. These matters are better left to professionals."
"Of course. I'm sorry, lieutenant. I assure you it won't happen again." He was a
foolish and presumptuous young officer
Jason decided, and walked back to the house to make dinner, since guests were
The pirates had emptied Harry's storehouse, so he had to start from scratch.
First, Jason picked up three conchs from their
salt pond and dug up some potatoes from the vegetable garden. There were also
leeks, onions, and tomatoes. He got a fire
going in the stove to boil potatoes and used his knife to chop vegetables. Jason
was making a pot of vegetable and conch
chowder. He knew his guests had arrived when he heard Cump barking. Within a
minute the retriever was sniffing all around
the house. Harry walked through the door first, with a .45 Colt in his hand.
Jason owned one like it until yesterday. Now he
had a Smith & Wesson.
"Harry." Jason pointed to the hole in the floor. "They got your treasure." Harry
walked over to the hole and knelt down.
Then he looked up at Jason. "What did they pay for it?"
"Two dead," Jason admitted. "I would have done better but the whole action was a
surprise and I didn't know the terrain."
Harry nodded, his eyebrows raising. "You took good care of Addie. That's what
was important. Thank ya, laddie."
Addie peeked through the door next, jumped at Jason, and threw her arms around
him, kissing his face all over. Jason pulled
her off when she started down his neck. After Addie came Sarah Dumont. Then
Addie saw the conch chowder. "And you made
supper too! I am impressed, Jase." And she started kissing him again.
"You didn't have any problems sailing last night?" Jason asked.
She smiled wide, showing lots of dimples. "I can handle a sailboat. Night or day
doesn't matter." She stroked his cheek and
kissed him again.
Then they looked around the house. "There's blood all over this wall, and holes,
bullet holes," Sarah said, and examined
where Luc had fallen when Jason shot him.
Harry followed the trail of blood stains into his bedroom. He came back and
said, "Who bled to death in my bed?"
"A Frenchman, one of Carney's officers. He's out back, if you want to see him. I
thought you might, before we bury him,"
Jason said and Harry nodded.
Then Jason stirred the chowder. "This will be ready in a half-hour. I hope none
of you are too famished to wait." Addie
changed Harry's bedding and Sarah scrubbed the wall and floors before they sat
down to eat.
"I leave you two alone and look what happens," Harry said, spooning chowder up
to his eager mouth. Jason knew Harry was
pleased he had killed a couple of Carney's men.
"I don't understand. When we passed Bruce, he indicated there had been no
violence," Sarah said.
"Who's Bruce?" Jason asked.
"Bruce Butler Jeffers," Sarah said looking at Jason disappointed, like he was a
child who had soiled himself. "You just met
him a short time ago. Don't you remember?"
"They're engaged, Jase." Addie was beaming. "Sarah is the first belle between
Key West and Mobile brave enough to marry a
Yankee in uniform. And I introduced them!"
Sarah was brave so Jason decided not to tell her he thought her fiancé was a
twit. "Jeffers saw I was fine and assumed I
avoided the pirates. There seemed no reason to take up his time with a full
account. He was anxious to get after Carney."
Harry laughed and banged a meaty fist on the table. "Probably told you that you
were a damn fool and insist you stay out of
Jason smiled at Harry, then turned to Sarah. "Your lieutenant was a perfect
Sarah looked down and used her spoon, almost surgically, to pick up the smallest
potato on the surface of her soup. Old,
gruff Harry and his plain talk was a little too rough for her to take. Jason now
knew Sarah had come along to worry about
Jeffers. Addie probably communicated enough concern about Jason to get her
thinking about Jeffers. And he was still out
there. Sarah looked back and forth from Harry to Jason and then to Addie.
"I'm surprised you didn't go with Jeffers to pursue the villains," Addie said.
"I was lucky to survive this hasty encounter. If I have to tangle with Carney
again," Jason glanced at Addie, and added in a
serious tone, "we'll be very prepared."
"If your Lieutenant Jeffers catches the pirate," Jason said to Sarah, "I expect
he will have his guns loaded and the marines
Sarah nodded, "Yes, I hope so, too." She continued to peck at her soup.
The women went to bed when Harry got out a bottle of rum. "Try not to be such a
coarse barbarian in front of Sarah. You're
embarrassing your daughter," Jason told him, squeezing some lemon juice into his
"Ah, Sarah's a tough little filly," he said, dismissing Jason's advice. "So,
tell me what happened, laddie?"
"I overheard a conversation of some intelligence," Jason summarized.
"Start at the beginning," Harry said.
"Addie and I were riding back to the house after spending the morning at the
gulf-side beach and Carney's band fired on us."
Jason finished the narrative with when Harry walked in the door this evening.
"Anyway, the conversation I overheard," Jason
said, sipping rum.
"What?" Harry asked anxiously.
"They are getting money from someone named 'Charley'. They also want to bring in
an individual called `Uriah' to handle me.
Got any ideas about either name, Harry?"
"There could be twenty `Charleys' in the Keys. Hell, maybe
twenty-five. The only `Uriah' I know is old Uriah Parsons up on
Marathon; and he's blind in one eye and crippled from gout in both feet."
"Uriah is going to come from an island that has at least several villages on a
north coast. Also, where can Carney buy
cannons? Go get your sea charts. I want to narrow this down. We should take out
Carney; before we start salvage operations,
and before he tries to kidnap Addie again." Harry's shoulders went back and he
sat upright, his face getting red and harsh.
They talked long into the night. Jason had many suspicions and Harry had a lot
of fears. Jason decided digging up this
treasure would not be as simple or pleasant as children on a beach working their
little shovels and buckets to erect a sand
The next morning Jason woke up early. It wasn't a flea bite this time. "I want
to go swimming," Addie whispered just before
she nibbled on, and then bit his earlobe.
"Be quiet, you big baby. What's a little pain to someone as tough as you?" She
smiled and kissed him. Addie was in her white
cotton night gown and her curly dark hair was tumbled all around her smiling
face and tanned shoulders. "C'mon, let's go
while Pappy and Sarah are still asleep."
Jason got up and slipped on clam diggers. Addie grabbed his hand to lead him out
the door, but he broke away and went to get
the Spencer. She stopped in the doorway and stared at him.
"I guess that's how it is these days," she said and reached for a machete behind
the door. "There are poisonous coral snakes
and they're so pretty you might want to pet one. I'll have to point out their
markings to you."
They walked arm in arm, with their weapons, along the trail toward the anchorage
and the Pegasus. "Addie, we're being very
indiscreet in front of your old man and your best friend; and you know it. Can I
have an explanation?"
"Pappy doesn't mind. He thinks you're perfect and expects you to marry me. He
doesn't care if you `milk the cow before you
buy her.' And you're right about Sarah and me.
"See this," and she showed Jason a small, white scar on her right forearm which
was only easy to see because she was so tan.
"Sarah and I are blood sisters since we were fifteen. We made a treaty in 1865
that we'd be true and loyal friends forever,
despite the world around us."
Jason pointed at the machete. "You didn't bring that along to try to negotiate a
treaty with me, did you?"
"No." She smiled. "If tall, strong men with nasty weapons can't force you to
bend to their will, why should I try."
"I figure you're doing this to make Sarah envious," Jason said, "so she'll want
to hurry up and marry Jeffers. But what
about the question of your honor? No personal regrets?"
"Not a one." She reached down and rubbed Jason's leg. Then she stopped and they
faced each other. "I know how you are. Other
women would be put off because you're so cold and indifferent."
"Thank you." Jason smiled. "I just eat up compliments."
"But, I see how you look at me. There's only love and caring or concern when you
glance my way. I feel safe with you. I feel
comfortable with you. I know it's because of seeing you with Harry all the time
during the war, but I can't help it."
Jason knew Addie was a typical army brat. "Does that mean I have to make a
confession, too?" he asked.
"You do as you choose, Jase," she said, her voice cracking yet resolute at the
same time. She was up on her toes, her nose
close to his chin. The hope, the longing was there to see in her big, moist
eyes. Jason couldn't resist her. He was lonely
and he knew he needed Addie Gorten.
"I want to marry you when this is over. You're all I've ever wanted in a woman."
Then Jason reconsidered. "You could be more obedient sometimes."
"I shaved my legs for you. That's as far as I go," she said
petulantly. "Do you really want to marry me, are you sure?"
Jason held her in his arms, and she kissed him before he could say a word.
"Yeah, I want to get married, and now that you're
They swam out to the Pegasus and made love while the sun rose and warmed them.
Afterward, as Addie lay cradled in his arms,
Jason knew she would have purred if Addie had been a cat. "I'm not a very
sophisticated girl, Jase. I haven't been to Europe
or a finishing school."
She was comparing herself to Jason's first wife of one year, Virginia Court, who
had died in 1866. "I know you're not a rich
man's daughter," he admitted. "Just listen to me, Addie. I see what you are.
You're clean and simple and beautiful. Look
around at where you grew up. You're nature's child and you're so damned
innocent; I need some of that from you."
Her eyes grew wider still and she held Jason as tight as she could. "I'm not as
innocent as I used to be."
"You mean I truly was the first for you?" Jason joked.
Addie squinched her cheeks up and shook her head back and forth. She could
barely control herself.
"You'll wrinkle up like a prune if you keep doing that to yourself." Jason
Addie punched him in the stomach and they started wrestling. "I might turn into
a raisin, but never a prune." He let her
win. It was more fun that way. And then they made love again.
When Jason saw smoke from Harry's stove they went back to the house. Addie went
into her room to change and Jason got a cup
"What's for breakfast?" Jason asked Harry.
"You've already had breakfast," he answered, giving Jason a sour glance. Sarah,
also sitting at the table, stared nastily at
Jason with unapproving eyes. Then she followed Addie into the bedroom and
slammed the door. Jason also followed and planted
his ear at the closed door.
"Addie Gorten, you're a shameless hussy. You're no better than one of Darcy
"Sarah, Jase asked me to marry him."
"Oh! That's wonderful. I'm so happy for you."
"Ah, you're a bonny lad," Harry said, as he listened at the door right next to
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