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The Women on Whitehead Street
"You two can't go alone. Pappy isn't a good enough sailor,"
"Stop calling me that. 'Father' is a more fitting and respectful terminology,"
Harry said in a spotty mood of parental
vanity, which, Jason decided, only aggravated their silly conflict.
"Anything you say," Addie responded obediently and smiled impishly, her dark
eyebrows and deep dimples twitching
"You're not coming," Jason told Addie right off. Jason, Addie, and Harry were
all sitting on the porch of the large rented
house on Whitehead Street. They had just finished breakfast in time to have an
"I wasn't thinking of me," Addie said. She was sitting up very straight in her
chair with hands peacefully resting in her
lap; all her long, curly black hair was hanging around her lovely oval face. "I
have no wish to go to Jamaica to talk to
pirates. Hire John Asbury. He's not doing anything while the Bluebird is being
refitted, and he knows the waters between
here and Jamaica.
You need an experienced sailor, and John Asbury knows his business."
"That's a good idea, Jase," Harry said without hesitation.
"Can we take him into our confidence?"
"How much will you pay him?" Harry asked.
"Pappy!" she exclaimed, hit Harry on the arm, and turned to Jason. Harry looked
up toward heaven with a pleading expression
on his heavily-lined face.
"Jase, I've spent a lot of time with the Asbury Family. John's wife, Kate, has
been like a mother to me. John will help you
if I ask."
"All right, Addie. But we can't have anymore overt association between us and
Asbury. John is already sorry he took us to
the Lucky Spot to meet Samson Pool. It could be dangerous for him or his
"We'll make up a cover story about him having to visit relatives upstate. His
brother lives on Cape Florida," Addie
"You're starting to sound like a good, little conspirator," Jason teased her.
"Offer him twenty-five dollars a week to take
us to Jamaica and back. That's good pay for dangerous work. We'll leave day
after tomorrow. Harry, can you provision the
"I'll start right now. It's about fifteen hundred miles so we should be gone
two, possibly three weeks. We can leave
tomorrow if you want. Got any money?" he asked.
"I might think of something tomorrow I forgot today," Jason said. "We'll start
in two days." He counted and handed Harry a
"Take Cump with you. He needs a walk," Addie pointed out. Harry nudged the
retriever with his foot and the dog got up
reluctantly to follow him.
Addie took Jason's hand and led him to her bedroom, locking the door behind
them. "You're a vamp, Addie," he said as she
came into his arms; and he kissed her gently, as she reached behind and grabbed
"You like that part of me, don't you?"
"It's the only part of you I can squeeze. You're rawboned, broad shouldered, and
muscled all over. There's no fat on you,
"I'm happy you're built a little differently."
They got undressed and made love. Addie got on top of Jason and was energetic as
she gyrated her hips, ecstatic and
quivering, until she climaxed, and fell forward wrapping herself around Jason's
lean, hard body. Addie lie panting on
Jason's chest with him still deep in her. Both lovers were damp and slippery in
their own perspiration. To Jason, Addie
tasted salty and pungent in the tropical morning heat and humidity. "Was that a
spiritual experience for you?" Jason asked
"No, but it was a damned, fine physical experience!" Addie shook her head
gleefully and started kissing his neck.
Jason moved her backside around and felt a renewed excitement in his loins. "Oh!
It's getting bigger. Can we do it again?"
she asked lustfully.
Later, Addie got thoughtful. She was lying in his arms and had a leg lapped over
his in what Jason considered a vaguely
possessive manner. "Jase, is everything going to be all right?"
"I don't know. Are you asking if I'm sure of my decision to go to Jamaica to
talk Uriah Stogger out of joining Carney?"
"Yes. But also the rest of it, the whole salvage operation?" She put her hand on
his neck and collar bone.
"I can only deal with events a day at a time, Addie. I'd like to try and talk
Carney's allies off before having to shoot
them. As for the rest, you know how we are. Men like your father and me won't be
put off from our goals by threat of arms.
It goes against our nature."
"And your past, that's for sure." She was sad and moved her fingers to the other
collar bone. "I just don't want anyone else
to be killed."
"People always have to die, Addie. They have to make way for others," Jason said
"Don't patronize me, Jase. We're not talking about dying of old age." She dug
her fingers in behind the bone, and he grabbed
her hand and sat up to face her.
"I didn't make the world. Some animals eat their newborn when they don't have
enough food and instinct tell them they are in
a condition of overpopulation. I didn't decide how people should treat each
other. All I did was decide I was going to
survive in a world created by others."
Addie bent forward and put her head on Jason's chest. "But we're not animals,"
she said quietly. "I'm sorry. I just wish it
was different, that we were all different." Jason couldn't imagine what she
But, right then somebody started to knock on the front door. The knocks weren't
loud but the house, large and quite hollow,
echoed the faintest sounds. "Oh God! It's Sarah and Salina. They're coming to
take me to see Mary Maloney's orchids. I
Then they heard the front door close, and Sarah's voice called from the foyer. "Addie,
where are you?"
Addie had a dumb, innocent expression on her face. Jason wished a photographer
could have captured her countenance just
then: bewildered and guilty. She was about to embarrass both of them, just
because she wanted Sarah to know they were
sleeping together. She was like a kid that didn't enjoy breaking the rules,
unless she flaunted her behavior for others to
"They came inside. I hadn't counted on . . . "
"Stick your head out the door and tell `em you're washing. You'll be out in a
minute, and they should have a seat in the
living room," Jason whispered and got out of bed to put his pants on. Addie
dabbed some water on herself for authenticity's
sake and started getting into her dress, as Jason climbed out the back window.
He slid down the roof and dropped to the
ground. Jason looked around and saw a woman he recognized as Lillie Watlington
staring at him, along the side of the house,
from the street.
In addition, he heard Sarah's Alabama drawl from inside the window. "Nonsense.
How can you be washing? It's lunchtime,
Jason gave Lillie a weak smile, waved, picked up Harry's hoe, and pretended to
be working in his foolish little garden.
Jason was barefoot and without a shirt, or a prayer. The back door opened and
Sarah Dumont stuck her pretty, blond head out.
"Oh, Jason, here you are. Addie is locked in her room. How come she's not
dressed this late in the day?"
"I don't know. Why are you asking me? I told you I came here to be a farmer."
"Really! What type of crop are you trying to raise?" Sarah laughed. "Jason Pike,
you are a lucky scoundrel," and she wagged
a finger at him, as if she was scolding a child she had found eating candy
Jason could see Addie was upset when the three ladies left together. She would
have to learn from her mistakes, and quickly.
Jason was learning fast enough; he felt too old for this kind of youthful farce.
Harry provisioned the Pegasus and they sailed two days later on the outgoing
tide. Addie was joined by Sarah and Laura
Gentry to see them off. Sarah and Laura waved enthusiastically and shouted,
"Goodbye, good luck," but Addie was silent and
waved mechanically as the Pegasus slipped away from Tift's Wharf.
"C'mon, I'll buy you two breakfast," Sarah said. And they walked over to Maria's
"So, what are you going to do to my cousin Melanie for punching you ten years
ago?" Laura asked Addie.
"Nothing, yet. I'll wait and see if she has changed her ways."
"People like Melanie Allen don't change; except to get worse," Sarah said.
"We'll see," Addie noted Sarah's usual lack of optimism.
Melanie Allen was from Richmond and arrived on the next east coast steamer. Wade
Estes and Laura Gentry met her at the
harbor. And Wade was taken aback. He was stunned at how exceptionally beautiful
Mel had become.
Mel was the quintessential Southern belle. She was a tall, stately young woman
with an oval face and long blond hair. She
had large, deep blue eyes, a perfect nose, and a sensual full mouth. Mel had
been brought up on a plantation, and then sent
to Richmond for a salon finishing in the most prominent homes. The habit of
going by a quirky nickname was fashionable
amongst the well-bred youths of her generation.
"She looks like an angel," Laura said. "Now all the men who don't want to court
me will be calling to see her."
"Don't feel that way, Laura," Wade put an arm around her. "You're a lovely woman
and, more important, a kind human being.
Your Prince Charming will come along one day."
"I'm twenty-four, Wade. An old maid," she said sadly.
Mel Allen came ashore and quickly embraced cousin Laura and greeted Wade. "It's
so nice to see you two again. Cousin Laura,
you're all grown up; and, Mr. Estes, you look so distinguished. I'm glad to come
back to Key West by choice this time. My
parents ordered me here during the last years of the war and I hated being
exiled from my home while the Yankee's laid siege
to our capitol. Spending some time here, now, seems such a pleasant diversion."
Mel smiled at Laura and turned to Wade.
"How is your father-in-law, the general?"
"Very well. He hopes you'll call on him tomorrow, anytime at your convenience."
"Of course I will, Colonel Estes." Mel nodded.
Wade noticed Laura seemed perplexed over the invitation but she said nothing.
"I'll have your bags delivered to Laura's
home," Wade said.
Pegasus sailed east-southeast, crossing the Straits of Florida, and following
the north coast of Cuba. The small ship moved
steadily along until reaching the Windward Passage. Then due south, and Pegasus
traversed the narrows separating Cuba and
Hispaniola. The last leg of the voyage was a west-southwest course for Jamaica.
Their routine was the same every day. Asbury sailed the Pegasus at night, and
Harry and Jason took the day watch. They made
a point to stay far enough off Cuba's coast to avoid the Spanish patrol boats;
and the weather was perfect so they made
steady progress. But for Jason, who knew he wasn't a seaman, the cold, salty
ocean spray, constant rolling of the waves, and
the intense, steady sun came to be very irritating.
One morning Harry asked, "Jase, I don't understand how you got rich. I thought
your father was an immigrant, and a farmer in
the Ohio Valley?" Harry asked.
"I had to shoot my cousin to get rich," Jason said. "It's complicated, Harry."
"You killed your cousin?" Harry was amazed.
"It's a long story."
Harry's arm was draped casually over the tiller. "It's a long cruise to
"All right. It started just over two years ago, when I was a deputy federal
marshal," Jason explained, rubbing his eyes,
trying to trigger his memory.
The time was December, 1872, and Jason had a comfortable two-room suite in a
hotel in Saint Louis, Missouri. Christmas went
on all around him. Soft snowflakes swirled down outside in the cold, dark night,
but inside it was warm and pleasant. He
should have been lonely, with no family, but Jason wasn't; Fiona McEwen was
there taking stock of herself in front of the
full length mirror. She was fretting over uncooperative bloomers and a bodice
that exposed one-eighth of an inch too much
cleavage. Fiona scowled at the problem in that petulant way she had. Jason lay
on the bed resting on feather pillows,
waiting for her.
Jason was ready, being careful of his black wool trousers and white, ruffled
linen shirt. He was slowly nursing a short
whiskey and a cigar, resting on the night table. They were going out to dinner.
A timid knock on the door interrupted Jason's watching of Fiona struggling with
her undergarments. He went to the sitting
room and opened the outer door to face a short, thin man, dressed in a wrinkled
suit and overcoat. A gloved hand with a
handkerchief was retreating from his nose, just as his head tilted back to let
go a massive sneeze. Jason jumped back and
barely saved his shirt and trousers. It was a close call to his only proper
Jason got the stranger seated with a large whiskey and stood a safe distance
away. His cold was terrible and he looked
miserable. "I'm Lawrence Keene, a lawyer from New York."
After Jason convinced Keene he was, indeed, Jason Pike, past commander of the
Sixth Ohio Cavalry and currently working as a
United States Deputy Marshal, Keene told Jason why he had come.
"I'm representing Sir James Kenyon, a London barrister. He's in New York,
bedridden after a rough November crossing of the
Atlantic. He came to America to discuss the details of your inheritance," Keene
said, pausing to wipe his nose, and looking
up, Jason knew, for a reaction to what he said. Jason showed no expression,
mainly because he didn't know what Keene was
talking about, and decided to keep his ignorance to himself.
"Sir James is elderly; in fact, he's ancient. He requests you come to New York.
Sir James was a very close friend and
confidant of your grandfather, Sir Alfred Pike. The estate is quite
A grandfather? An estate? What was this nonsense? Jason's father had emigrated
from Liverpool in 1838 to take up farming in
the Ohio Valley. He had told his wife and son that he was an orphan. There had
never been any mention of, or communication
from family left behind in England. Yet Jason's father had been well-spoken as
if he had had a privileged education, usually
reserved for the wealthy. Now Jason knew why; live and learn.
Fiona appeared from behind the doorway. Her dress was pale blue; and it narrowed
from several petticoats wide at the floor,
to her thin waist, then up to envelop and accentuate her breasts. Fiona's
knowing smile told Jason she had heard all the
pneumonia-bound lawyer had to say.
"Oh, Sweet Jesus! Pike, you're already an insufferable and unscrupulous bastard.
Even worse you'll be, now that you're rich
through no endeavor of your own," she said in a Scottish brogue she had
inherited from her father. "A gift from providence,
I very much doubt, will improve you."
Jason took Fiona to New York. That helped. They went shopping and saw several
plays. Fiona had never been east before and
was very impressed with the sophistication the cities offered, while at the same
time despising the crowded and unhealthy
On the second morning after their arrival, Jason went to see Sir James in his
suite at an expensive hotel. Sir James was a
tall, old fellow stooped over with age, sporting a grandiose mustache, and thick
bushy sideburns that covered most of his
veiny, red cheeks. The room was overly plush and too warm, from a well-drafted
Sir James offered cognac in a delicately cut crystal glass. "Your grandfather
and I were particularly fond of this batch.
It's lasted a lifetime. This is the last bottle. I brought it for you to
sample," he said, sitting on a chaise and tossing a
Scottish plaid blanket over his legs. Jason stood by the window, glancing down
at the busy street.
"It was in the English Channel, 1825. Your grandfather and I were midshipmen on
HMS Windfire, an old frigate. We came upon a
French cargo brig that was floundering on the shoals, and we pulled their crew
to safety aboard Windfire. Afterward, the
French captain sent us a dozen cases of this cognac."
"Very generous," Jason commented. Sir James must be as old as he looked.
"He was from a wealthy family. His parents probably sent it," the old man said.
Jason sipped the delicate, strong beverage and found it exceptional. "This is
"I'm curious about the falling-out that must have occurred between Sir Alfred
and my father, George Pike. Dad never
mentioned his background, yet we all sensed he had seen more of what life
offered than most other men."
"Your father, George, was a nonconformist," Sir James' voice took on a vile
disgusted tone. "A bloody dissenter, a liberal
for God's sake, he was more concerned about the laboring class than his own
family and heritage. Never have I seen someone
reject such a birthright, a legacy most men can only hope to dream about. And
yet it was an era when it was quite
fashionable to be intense about one's political convictions. They finally had a
great, noisy fight and your father went off
to America to till the soil like a commoner. You're certainly more of a fitting
example of your family line."
"I don't understand. How so?" Jason asked innocently.
"Dear boy, you're a soldier. Your ancestors were all warriors, always willing
and damned bloody-well competent at defending
the Crown. Your great-grandfather was at Waterloo with Wellington. His brother
commanded a ship of the line in Nelson's
squadron at Trafalgar, died there, and was brought home to England, preserved in
a barrel of brandy, for a glorious funeral
just as Nelson was. Your uncle John, your father's younger brother, was a
lieutenant in the Light Brigade; he died at
Balaclava charging the Russian artillery. He was the finest horseman your family
produced, except, of course, possibly for
you," the patronizing old British lion paused and smiled approvingly at Jason,
who nodded graciously, but really wanted to
pull on the old man's whiskers.
"Sir Alfred traced your lineage and name back to a common Saxon pikeman in Henry
the V's army at Agincourt in 1415, when
English longbows trounced the proud French knights and their men at arms." He
raised the cut glass with the last of the
French cognac in toast of old victories. "God save Queen Victoria."
Jason stood for his toast, feeling quite self-conscious. He sipped the cognac
and Sir James kept talking; but Jason thought
back to a day very early in the war, when his only concern was harvesting wheat.
His father walked up to him and said, "John Sherman has urged me to raise a
company of volunteer infantry. I have to do it.
I left England a long time ago because of the way the rich treated the laboring
classes. I felt guilty about my place in
that society. I won't run away again."
That was all he ever told Jason about his past. George Pike went off at the
first call for volunteers and died leading his
Ohio infantry against Stonewall Jackson's brigade at Bull Run. For Jason, it was
an absurd shock to find out now his father
had deserted a family and holdings in England.
"Excuse me, what did you say?" Jason asked Sir James.
"After your father's death, Sir Alfred commissioned a firm in New York to keep
track of your movements, send him clippings
of your exploits. He was pleased at your quick rise to command and the
brilliance of your regiment's conduct. He was so
happy he wept when the account of your raid on Ashland and the news of General
Lee's surrender came. He pranced about our
club claiming that by destroying Lee's supply depot you had won the whole bloody
war with one regiment. Then a member
queried why he was so ecstatic over your victory, if you were related. Your
grandfather, always a slave to his pride, just
grumbled and slunk away rather than acknowledge that you were his grandson."
Jason paced back and forth across the wide sitting room. "There were a few
others with me at Ashland," Jason offered
"Why all the covert surveillance?" Jason asked. "Why didn't the old gentleman
just come out and say `hello', if he was so
proud of what I did? The bad feelings should have ended at Bull Run when my
father died, still dedicated to the laboring
class, by the way."
Sir James ignored the taunt. "Sir Alfred had a tragic flaw common to some
well-bred Englishmen." He pointed a bony white
finger at Jason, "Your grandfather had too much pride. He feared you would
reject him just as your father did."
"What's all this leading to, Sir James?" Jason asked, having lost some patience.
"Your inheritance, of course. Your grandfather changed his will from your cousin
Rudolph's favor to yours this summer, just
before he grew ill."
"Your grandparents only had three children, George your father, John, and
Jessica. John died in the Crimean War. Jessica,
your aunt, married Heinrick Von Deisten. He was a Prussian industrialist. They
are both gone now. Rudolph Von Deisten, their
only child and your cousin is a colonel in the army and ardently supports Count
Bismarck. There normally would not be so
much concern in Her Majesty's Government, except most of Sir Alfred's estate
consists of ownership of munitions factories
and naval armaments foundries. Do you know of Bismarck and understand the global
implications?" the old walrus asked.
Now it began to make sense to Jason. All the propaganda about the glories of
soldiering and sailing for England had to be
leading somewhere. With the unification of Germany complete and the emphasis on
imperialism, easily supported by German
militarism, it was apparent the German Hegemony would grow and presumably come
to challenge Britain's far-flung colonial
empire, in perhaps less than a generation. "Excuse me for being blunt and, I
suppose, also rude. But what is the monetary
value of this inheritance?" Jason asked.
"A very rough estimate might be in the neighborhood of one million pounds
"And my cousin is contesting the will?" Jason noted calmly.
"Yes. He is threatening to do just that. The case could be locked up in the
courts for years and the factories shut down,
"You need me to press my claim to keep this inheritance, consisting of munitions
foundries, from falling to a growing and
ambitious rival. Right, Sir James?" Jason studied the Englishman's face.
Sir James stood tall and straight, as best he could, and said, "The Crown
doesn't want Pike Ltd. to pass to the Prussians,"
his voice cracked and tears welled up in his wrinkled old eyes. "We can't have
our lads ever have to advance on the fields
of battle against cannon forged from machinery or expertise developed in
Birmingham and Leeds."
Jason nodded. "Alright, I suppose this matter deserves further investigation and
is worth a trip to Great Britain," Jason
found himself saying as he sipped the last of the cognac. Jason sent Fiona home
to Tucson with the promise of expensive
presents upon his return.
Then Sir James and Jason took passage on a steamship to Bristol, England, and
from there a train to London. Along the way he
studied grandfather's journal and a breakdown of his fiscal holdings. Alfred
Pike had built an industrial empire, starting
with the family's blast furnace business in Liverpool, during the 1780s. Alfred
developed new techniques for mounting both
naval guns and, later, horse-drawn artillery. The patents alone made him a
fortune and he used the money to open foundries
in other cities, and his holdings multiplied. The Industrial Revolution had
Sir James set Jason up at the Dorchester Hotel just off Hyde Park. The first bit
of correspondence was an invitation to
dinner with the American ambassador at his club. Henry Fitzsimmons was the
Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. He was a
big man with a pleasing smile and a direct manner. "A pleasure to meet you Mr.
Pike," the ambassador said when they met in
the foyer of the club.
"Christian names will do with me, Jason." And he offered his hand. But before
they could start any conversation a short,
energetic man, a British navy captain vigorously approached them and said, "Good
evening, gentlemen. Ambassador
Fitzsimmons." And he shook hands with the ambassador. He was in his early
forties with coal black hair and cold, even
"Oh, good evening, Captain," Fitzsimmons said.
"Clane, sir. Robert Clane."
"Of course. I'm sorry, Captain Clane. I remember you now. When did we meet?"
Fitzsimmons smiled. Jason liked a diplomat who
didn't think it was a crime to forget someone's name.
Clane was only slightly amused. "Several months ago at an Admiralty briefing.
Sir James Kenyon told me I might run into you
So, he must be looking for Jason, if Kenyon sent him here. "I'm Jason Pike," he
said to the naval officer.
The ambassador found them a table and they ordered a round of dark ale served up
in heavy pewter mugs. Jason produced a
cigar and the new silver clipper he had purchased that day from a Savile Row
"I work in procurement for the Royal Navy, Mr. Pike, and I do a great deal of
business with Pike Ltd.," Clane said. "I'll be
brief, sir. To be perfectly honest, I have another appointment this evening."
"It will be refreshing to meet an Englishman who can speak his mind plainly."
Jason smiled and enjoyed the Jamaican cigar.
"Sir James indicated to me that you'll fight, if you have to, to secure your
inheritance. Is this true?"
"I never said that to Sir James. That's his evaluation of my past and my
character. Captain, I'm not in a position to answer
questions about what I intend to do. But if you have something to tell me about
Pike Ltd., please proceed. You're my best
Clane smiled, because Jason dropped the crucial hint he was seeking. That Jason
was already working under the confident
impression that Pike Ltd. was his without being crassly obvious, like the
English expected of most Americans.
"Right now you have a stable of brilliant, innovative engineers and
metallurgists. They are on the verge of new designs that
could be extraordinary in the scope of this era's naval gunnery."
Jason nodded and shrugged, "So?"
"If the Germans get Pike Ltd., we lose dies, molds, and patents. But what's
worse is that this team will be dispersed as
they all go to seek new jobs. They're on the brink of a new generation of naval
gun. I came here to tell you that the future
of Pike Ltd. is far greater, and her importance to Great Britain, than the
firm's present value." They talked for a half
hour and then Clane left.
At dinner the senior U.S. diplomat had only one message to convey. "I hope you
can secure this inheritance," Fitzsimmons
said, "keep the Brits happy, and not ferment any trouble between Washington and
Berlin." Jason shrugged and smiled. What
could he say; in this affair Jason was simply a pawn expecting to be well-paid.
The next morning Jason walked back and forth across Sir James' office on
Trafalgar Square. He stared out the bay window at
the cold rain falling on Admiral Nelson, a good statue of a valiant sailor. "Umph,"
Sir James grumbled. "I have four
daughters and they all married the laziest and most unimpressive turds they
could find," he described his family.
"You took one of them into your firm. I met him. What's his name?" Jason asked.
"Exactly my point; he was the smartest ass amongst them, and completely
Jason distinctly remembered the trend of the conversation that day, because it
was when dear cousin Rudy's letter arrived.
He wanted Jason to meet him in Belgium to discuss the estate.
"Why Belgium?" Jason asked.
"Because of Belgium's duelling laws. If both participants are foreign nationals,
the Belgium authorities take a blind eye,
even if a fatality results," Sir James explained.
"Do they do that to encourage tourism?" Jason asked, pacing nervously around the
office. Then he glanced at Sir James and
saw disapproval in those ancient eyes. He walked right up to Sir James. "I'm not
afraid to meet him. I just don't know a
damn thing about those skinny blades Europeans duel with," Jason confessed. The
Englishman laughed at Jason's ignorance of
duelling. What a crotchety old bastard he is, the American thought.
"Dear boy, you're being challenged. Choose bullwhips or crossbows, sabers,
rapiers, or pistols. You two can bloody well
wheel out twelve-pound field pieces and take potshots at each other across a
meadow. You choose the weapon, Jason!"
Jason nodded, "All right," he said slowly. "That's better; a gunfight." Sir
James set it up for two weeks hence in a grove
south of Dinant, a small village halfway between Waterloo and the crossroads at
Four days later Jason found himself in a field south of Ramsgate, a couple
hundred meters from the White Cliffs. Sergeant
Major Connors of the Royal Lancaster Rifles was going to give him some brushing
up in the discipline of hand-held firearms.
He was said to be something of an expert. "This is a British army revolver," he
began, holding up a John Adams Mark II, .455
caliber, double-action handgun. "This is the cylinder. This is the barrel," he
It was an hour before he let Jason shoot the damn thing and Jason shook his
head. "Don't like it at all, balance is off,"
Jason criticized. He brought out his own Colt Peacemaker .45 with a
seven-and-a-half-inch barrel. Jason gave the sergeant
major a competent demonstration of frontier marksmanship until Connors seemed
satisfied. Jason wondered what Her Majesty's
Government would have done, if the sergeant major had thought his abilities were
not up to this contest.
All too soon he found himself in a grove of sparse, leafless elms on a Sunday
morning late in February, 1873, just south of
the pleasant hamlet of Dinant. Jason was in a coach with Sir James and one of
his poorly thought-of son-in-laws. Deisten was
late and it was cold. "Punctual bloody Prussians late for their own damn duel,"
Sir James said vehemently, shuffling
miserably about in his seat, hoping for friction from local movement to create
Jason got out to walk around, which seemed better than shivering in the coach.
Finally they came; their coach stopped and
the Prussian stepped out. Rudolph Von Deisten looked like Jason: black hair,
tall and lean, cruel around the corners of his
mouth, and his dark, intense eyes pricked Jason like cold, sleeting rain.
Jason was wearing a sheepskin coat and tan, denim trousers. The Prussian
certainly had Jason outdressed, attired in an
immaculate powder blue tunic, two ornamental vertical rows of brass buttons, and
a blood-red sash over fine white trousers,
and polished black boots. Rudolph also wore a peaked military cap.
"No points for looking dashing, my boy," Sir James whispered in Jason's ear as
he waved at cousin Rudy. How the hell did he
know, Jason wondered.
The cousins walked toward each other, and Rudolph bowed, clicking his heels in
that pretentious Prussian habit that
irritated most Englishmen and all Americans. "I wish to thank you for coming,
Captain Pike. I am sorry the circumstances are
not more congenial," ventured Rudolph.
"Yes, me too," Jason said, feeling very uncomfortable with this conversation.
"You must be a brave man," Rudolph observed.
"And also one of considerable skill," Jason added. "We are both warriors,
colonel. There can be no other way for men such as
we chose to be."
"We could have been comrades under different circumstances," Rudolph said. "But
the gods chose to make us mortal enemies;
there is no changing that. I am sorry."
"I agree." And they shook hands.
"I have here Captain Pike and Colonel Deisten's procedures for the duel," said
the Dutchman, a neutral retained by Sir James
and Deisten's counsel. "As agreed to previously by both parties: the weapons are
to be modern revolvers of individual
choice. The procedure is straightforward. Both combatants will face off at one
hundred meters and commence walking toward
each other. You both fire at will. The duel ends when one of you is not willing,
or able, to continue. This will be signaled
by dropping your pistol," the Dutchman finished.
Two portable tables were set up a few feet apart. Sir James had his son-in-law
lay out Jason's Colt .45 on one table and
Deisten's companion used the other. The Peacemaker was less than three months
old and the performance was flawless. The
newly-designed pistol was a promotional gift to Jason, because of his United
States Deputy Marshal status, from Samuel Colt
and it would be offered to the public this year, 1873. A Colt factory gunsmith
had worked the trigger assembly to react to a
feather's touch, and the long rifled barrel was what Jason needed for this
Jason glanced at Deisten's Steinmetz eleven milimeter, (about a .41 caliber)
double-action revolver with an even longer
barrel than Jason's Colt. The sharp crooked lines, not at all flowing like a
Colt or Remington, were damned businesslike. It
was such an ugly gun, it must be very precise. Deisten was.
Cousin Rudolph won the pistol championship for the German Army for the last
three years. Sir James found that out two days
after Jason's terms for the duel left London for Berlin.
Jason had lost his temper at the time, and stormed around Sir James' office. The
old man comforted, "Why doubt your
abilities. I don't. Sergeant Major Connors said you handle a pistol like Robin
Hood with a bow."
"That is an absurd comparison. No one knows exactly how talented Robin Hood was
with a bow and arrow, or even if he actually
existed," Jason pointed out.
"Yes! Precisely," Sir James said, staring. "You're exactly the right man for the
"Don't call me, `son', Sir James. I know what you think of your sons," Jason
finished the exchange, thinking that, at worst,
Sir James expected the duel to end in a tie.
Jason watched as Deisten vigorously cleaned the cylinder chambers, then the
barrel. He was meticulous and exact. Deisten
raised the barrel to the rising sun and rotated it slowly examining every
surface, searching for any stray spec of dust or
burnt powder that would dare remain. Sergeant Major Connors would have exhibited
a bright smile at the detailed ceremony.
Then Jason decided to pay his cousin a compliment. When Jason had been in Europe
selling artillery after the Civil War he
had witnessed a battle. "I saw your brigade in action at Koniggrat. It was a
proper and well-timed movement; impressive,"
Jason said, speaking about the Austro-Prussian War, while dismantling the Colt
for a hasty last-minute inspection.
"It was a magnificent day." Rudolph smiled. "We won the war that day!" And they
both laughed. What more could a soldier
possibly ask for.
Sir James walked over, a serious countenance up front. "Jason, Rudolph," he
sounded stern, fatherly, and mildly sad. "I
trust you gentlemen will carry this through with a certain amount of decorum."
"Of course," Rudolph said, with another bow and boot-clicking. "Tell me, Sir
James, are you still active with the British
Foreign Service?" Rudolph queried. A bit late for that type of comment to
unsettle Jason, he thought; a hint of desperation
caused the Prussian to say that, a chink in his armor, a show of nerves.
"We all have conflicting interests, Rudolph. That is why we have this serene
setting to let God choose the victor; rather
this, especially for you two soldiers," the old lion parried dryly, "than a
stuffy courtroom and verbose, powdery-wigged
barristers dictating your fates, and more importantly your fortune."
Jason worked through his pistol slowly, so as not to finish far ahead of
Rudolph. He did not want to stand around waiting
for the Prussian. Finally they were both done. Deisten turned around smartly
holding the Steinmetz at his side. Jason took
off his heavy overcoat, and the cold wind immediately cut right through the
white linen shirt he wore. No matter; this would
not take long.
Jason's tan leather belt had a narrow, low-cut holster on the left side. It was
a worn and comfortable fit. The rawhide
thong tied just above the knee held the holster low on his hip. The leather was
still scented and moist from last night's
oil, as Jason dropped in Colt's new Peacemaker. He was ready.
"Cousin Jason," Rudolph said. Damn, Jason thought, knowing Rudolph was going to
apologize for trying to kill him. "I am
sorry for this affair. You do not have to do this for the British." he said
distinctly, and none too quietly. Sir James
looked at the ground rubbing his eyebrows, while he was groaning quietly. Then
he rubbed his chin whiskers, muffling-what
Jason decided was-a stream of curses.
"Don't think me a patriot, Cousin Rudolph. I'm not doing this for someone else's
queen or country. This is for the money,"
Jason said in a deadly, serious voice, "Drop that revolver. Go home right now,
or I'll kill you," meeting Rudolph eye to
eye. The Prussian shook his head, and they both respectfully nodded at each
Jason walked to the south end of the clearing, and they faced off at a
previously marked one hundred meters. Deisten held
his pistol straight up, arm bent at the elbow in the regular duelling pose.
Jason sneered at the confident Hun bastard, and
Rudolph smiled back. There were no hints of a lack of confidence now.
Jason would have to be in top form today. A self-inflicted pep talk was in
order. If his first round went off center, move
quickly and count on that swift, steady aim as the front sight moved about the
target. Those reflexes got Jason through the
war and the barroom antagonists afterward.
The strategy was simple; get close enough to shoot effectively. But of course
matters of life and death grew infinitely more
intricate. The nuances of a gunfight were like those of a poker game, but more
important because the stakes were higher. The
movement of an eye, the twitch of a cheek muscle, the reflexive jerk of a
nervous thumb tendon: all of these and a host of
similarities just as subtle could set things off prematurely.
The Dutchman signaled the start of the duel with a drop of his pudgy arm and a
hasty retreat behind his coach. Jason began
walking evenly and slowly, his left hand dangling at the pistol's grip. No more
posturing banter; only shootists-deadly
serious-closing on each other.
Jason quickly calculated how fast he was walking. How quickly did the ground go
by? He wanted to shoot at thirty-one meters.
It should have been just a little longer than what Rudolph was used to, Jason
hoped, but still within his abilities. Jason
did not want to get within thirty meters of that devil of Prussian
efficiency-the man or the pistol.
Five seconds had passed, and another fifteen or seventeen would bring them
thirty-five meters apart. No more time for that.
Watch the Prussian; watch the eyes. Jason focused.
They were closer and Jason could see his eyes well now. The American glanced
about one last time, breaking his own cardinal
rule, the Elms, the sun, and the glade. Then it was thirty-five meters . . .
thirty-four . . . thirty-three . . .
thirty-two. The arm with the Steinmetz dropped. The Prussian turned to give
Jason his narrow right side, as the black muzzle
of the barrel lusted toward him.
Jason's right knee buckled, left leg thrusting out as his torso dropped down. He
saw the smoke of the discharge and felt the
chill of whistling death close by his ear, even as he heard the pistol boom. It
was just instinct, reflex now,
instantaneous. As his left foot stamped down on the soft, rotting winter leaves,
the Colt was out, cocked, his left arm
leveling as his right knee hit the ground. With swift and practiced alignment of
eye, rear sight, front blade sight, and the
target-a patch of blue cloth just under a man's armpit, inches from brass
buttons on his chest-the Colt sent forth its
deadly charge. The cylinder turned, the Peacemaker ready to speak again.
Deisten's correct uniform was splotched with a messy crimson hole in his side.
He stepped back faltering, but turned to face
Jason, raising the Steinmetz again. It never could have occurred to him to drop
the pistol. His motions were sluggish and
his brain stunned, a dying man's vain gesture to duty. Jason put the next round
dead center, smashing Rudolph's breastbone
to sharp splinters through his lungs and heart. He fell back and twisted over on
Jason holstered the Colt and walked toward his cousin. The doctor took only
seconds to confirm Rudolph Von Deisten's death.
Jason dropped down to one knee by his cousin's body and picked up Rudolph's left
hand. The small indentation of white skin
on his fourth finger said something painfully obvious.
"You moved, dropped down," Rudolph's second said. "That wasn't honorable."
Jason shrugged. "Where I come from it is, and with Rudolph certainly necessary.
Where's his wedding band?" Jason said to
"He took it off. Rudolph did not want you to know. You just made a soldier's
wife a widow with two small sons," the second
Prussian said sadly. Then he handed Jason a gold band and the American pushed it
onto Rudolph's finger before they carried
the colonel, and placed him in the coach. Rudolph's young family was just
another inconsequential fact Sir James had not
wanted to muddle up Jason's simple, little colonial head with, and Jason had not
thought to ask.
"That's it. That's the story, Harry," Jason said, back on the Pegasus.
"I don't know what to say. And knowing you, its all true," Harry said. He
glanced at the compass to make sure they were
maintaining a south-southeast heading. "How come you didn't consider splitting
the estate? Give Rudolph half?"
"Both the Germans and the British wanted it all. And Cousin Rudolph was still an
active army officer and a patriot. He
wouldn't have cut a deal for less. Besides, Harry, it's hard to cut cannon
factories in half."
Harry looked at Jason curiously, and Jason said, "You think I'm just the same as
"You said it, not me."
They arrived off Jamaica after six days at sea and headed into a sleepy, little
anchorage just west of Ocho Rios in the
province of Saint Ann. Jason decided never to take such a long voyage on such a
small ship again. He never did get used to
purging in a bucket or over the side.
Ashore, Jason and Harry met one minor colonial policeman who smiled most
cordially, after Jason gently bribed him. He
eagerly gave them directions, and Jason decided they should hike to Ocho Rios
along the coast trail. Asbury would parallel
their course in the Pegasus. Jason explained to Harry, "I want to get a feel for
the island, in case we have to head into
the forest in a hurry."
It was a warm, moist walk along the soft, white beach and through the edge of
the tropical rain forest. Occasionally they
had to carefully pick their way along an iron-hard, rock shore creviced and
pocked from the constant onslaught of the sea.
The sharp spiny mountains of Jamaica rose to the south and were surrounded by
lush greenery. They passed fields of sugar
cane and saw cattle and goats roaming loose.
They stopped at noon and took shelter from the sun in a shady grove of coconut
palms bordered by banana trees, thick ferns,
and wild orchids. Harry had a packed lunch of the local, salty, spiced chicken
and fruits he bought in Saint Ann. There were
noisy colorful birds, ants and roaches, and other bothersome insects.
Before they were done with their meal, Harry spotted natives, descendants of
African slaves, skulking about and coming up on
them from the forest. "They're armed with knives and machetes," Harry commented
quietly. "Bandits from the mountains, I
Harry and Jason were dressed commonly to avoid such attention. "I suppose,
because we're white, they think we might have
something worth stealing," Jason guessed.
Harry nodded and Jason stood up as the Jamaicans started to close on them. Jason
pulled the Colt revolver out from his belt
and fired two rounds at a treetop bringing a pair of coconuts to the ground.
"Let's try some Jamaican coconut," he said
reloading the pistol in plain sight of the brigands in the woods.
Harry brought out his shotgun and blasted one of the encased fruits to easily
edible bits. The forest dwellers melted back
into their element. After they finished eating, Jason left some coins at the
base of the palm tree for their uninvited
guests, and the `poor' pilgrims continued on their journey.
During the afternoon Jason and Harry waded through a clean, fast river flowing
into the sea and they dried out on the next
beach. Then the travelers approached Ocho Rios. The small, quiet town had grown
on the side of a good-sized anchorage. Jason
noticed Asbury was already buying food at the farmers' market and collecting
water for the voyage home. His orders were to
keep out of sight on the Pegasus anchored in the bay, after he bought
They found a discreet and reasonably priced inn with little traffic, and for
obvious reasons. The room was a putrid little
lodging with mats spread over inches of old, damp vermin-infested straw. "We
have some lye soap back on the ship," Harry
After it was dark they went looking for entertainment or trouble, or pirates.
Jason wasn't exactly sure what they were going
to run into. There was only one drinking establishment for whites, frequented
mostly by seamen. It was a dark smoky bar, and
despite the open-air windows, the atmosphere was still hot, humid, and stuffy.
Darcy was right, Jason decided. Jamaica attracted a seedy selection of the
world's scum. The bar was filled with
rough-looking sailors of a variety of ethnic backgrounds and bodily odors. Harry
and Jason hunched over tankards of warm ale
at the end of the bar, trying to be inconspicuous and still observant.
Suddenly the door was kicked open and a rowdy group of men entered. They were
dressed in ragged, mismatched clothes with an
assortment of knives and guns tucked in their leather belts. Jason took their
leader to be the big man at the center of the
group. The ones in the front deferred to him when they reached the bar, and
others in the group kept glancing at him.
> From Darcy's description Jason knew this was Uriah Stogger and his men.
Stogger had graying hair and a craggy red face. There was a big old, 1858 model,
Army Remington pistol in his belt, and he
wore a broadsword tethered to his belt.
Jason thought he looked familiar, but the broadsword clinched it. There was only
one man in this day and age that would
carry such a long, heavy blade. Jason had seen Stogger once before, at his trial
ten years before, when the war ended.
Unlike the rest of the Southern soldiers, this man wasn't offered amnesty for an
oath of allegiance. He wasn't an American;
he was an Englishman and a mercenary fighting for the South.
His real name was George Saint Leher Grenfell and Jason had been fascinated by
his exploits and followed the newspaper
stories. He was a large man who had been fighting in other people's wars for
twenty years. Grenfell came to America in 1862
and offered his services to Robert E. Lee. Lee saw him for the dashing cavalier
he was and sent him west to serve with John
Hunt Morgan's Brigade. Grenfell also worked with Braxton Bragg's staff and
fought with Jeb Stuart's Cavalry Corps. After the
war the government treated interlopers harshly. Grenfell was tried by a military
court on conspiracy charges that he was
planning a breakout of Confederate prisoners to sack and burn Chicago. After
being found guilty, he was sent to Fort
Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Grenfell escaped March 6, 1868, with some of the
men that helped John Wilks Booth assassinate
President Lincoln, but their boat ran right into a heavy storm and they were all
presumed lost at sea.
"A round of drinks for these men," Stogger bellowed.
The bartender, a tall heavy-set Jamaican with a wide, toothless smile and big
friendly eyes, came over with two bottles of
dark rum and an armful of glasses. "Yessuh, Captn' Stogger," the chubby black
"Stogger looks tough, experienced, and he's in charge," Harry whispered. "Are
you sure this is a good idea?"
"No! Keep your shotgun ready. We might have to leave in a hurry." Harry shook
his head and sneered unhappily.
Jason knew just how Harry felt as he walked over and tapped Stogger on the
shoulder. "Captain Stogger, may I have a few
words with you?"
Stogger spun around and appraised Jason up and down with sharp, hard eyes. "Who
might you be, stranger?"
"I'm Jason Pike. I want to talk to you."
"About what? I'm buying drinks for my men," he responded slightly irritated.
Apparently his appraisal had not yielded very
"I want to talk about bribing you, and I'll buy rum for your men." Jason put a
shiny gold eagle on the bar. The ten-dollar
coin was an impressive piece in this insignificant little corner of the
He nodded. "All right, over there."
They walked to a table toward the rear of the narrow bar, where it was quieter.
Stogger beckoned to the bartender. "Rum and
glasses," he called over his shoulder.
When they were seated, Stogger produced a lion's head meerschaum pipe, a pouch
of tobacco, filled the pipe, and lit it.
"What's on your mind, Pike?"
A waiter brought them a bottle of Jamaica's tasty and potent dark rum and two
glasses. Jason glanced nervously toward the
front of the room. Stogger noticed, so Jason said, "I'm traveling incognito. I
don't want to attract attention to myself."
Jason fidgeted in his chair as a flea tried to bite his rear.
"Why?" Stogger asked.
"Because I'm trying to avoid Jack Carney."
"Why?" Same dead pan tone and unobtrusive countenance as before. Stogger's regal
pipe gave off a cloud of pungent smoke that
hung over the table. It was sweet vanilla and pervasive.
"We're starting a salvage operation soon and Carney wants to know the location."
Jason wondered how honest to be with
Stogger. Certainly he might have already been contacted by Carney. Stogger might
have a derringer, under the table, aimed at
Jason's stomach right now. His right hand held the pipe, but his left hand was
below, out of sight.
"Who's `we', and salvage for what?" Stogger asked.
"I have a partner in Key West. We're going after a seventeenth century Spanish
galleon," Jason said and Stogger laughed out
loud, so even his men at the bar knew they were having a good time.
"No wonder Carney wants you. He's always looking for the `pot of gold at the end
of the rainbow.' What has this damn silly
mess got to do with me?"
"I found out Carney wants you to join him. He's on his way here now to ask you.
He doesn't want to come at me alone. He
needs your help."
Stogger smiled. "Think a lot of yourself, don't you?"
"No, but Carney should. He has come at me twice and each time I've gotten the
best of him. But, unfortunately, I wasn't
lucky enough to kill him. I told Carney he ought to try and learn from his
mistakes, but the man just won't listen to
reason," Jason said, sipping rum.
"How do you know he's coming here to talk to me?"
Jason told Stogger that Carney came to Big Pine, and how he overheard their war
council before killing Luc Chevarant.
"You killed Chevarant. I liked him. He was a gentleman; odd, considering he was
a Frog," the Englishman said.
Right then the large door at the front of the bar opened and Alvarez entered
with Jack Carney. Wonderful timing, Jason
thought. A bunch of their crew followed. Jason bowed his head and shut his eyes
for a second. This was not good, he decided.
Harry would avoid eye contact also and wait to see what happened.
Jason leaned forward and whispered to Stogger, "I've got to leave quickly or
there will be a gunfight. Listen, I know who
you are and what you have been through, Grenfell. Don't get mixed up with piracy
in American waters," Jason warned.
Stogger looked into his eyes, surprised to be recognized. Jason knew it was the
last time he would be able to talk to this
old warrior, a man who had survived beyond his time. Grenfell was an
anachronism: a soldier too young for the Napoleonic
Wars and certainly too old for the American Civil War.
"I don't like you bloody Yankees," Stogger said in a deadly whisper. Then he
leaned forward, smiled gloatingly, and shouted,
"You're always bloody-well trying to tell other people what they can't do." And
the newcomers attention was directed their
way. At least Jason knew whose side Stogger was taking.
"Hey, Stogger," Jason heard Carney's gruff voice as he got up to leave, keeping
his face averted from the front of the room
and Carney's crew.
"Pike! That's Pike," Alvarez shouted. Jason turned to see the Cuban pointing
with his right hand.
"You take up with Carney against me and I'll kill you," Jason said to Stogger.
Then he pushed the table into Stogger so the
Englishman fell backwards to the floor with the table between him and the
gunfight that was about to start.
There was ten feet of open space to the cover of the bar and the rear door was
beyond. Jason tried walking quickly and
looking out the corner of his eye. If Alvarez went for a gun, Harry would take
Alvarez did. His right hand dropped to a pistol in his belt. And the men behind
him were also reaching into their clothing.
Harry was still hunched over the bar, the brim of his slouch hat low on his
forehead, watching the action at the front door.
He was barely fifteen feet from Carney and Alvarez, when Alvarez got his pistol
Jason stopped walking and drew his pistol. Harry swung around and brought his
shotgun out, and up, from under his coat.
Shock registered on Alvarez's face as he tried to shift his aim from Jason to
Harry. Harry fired both barrels so close up
that he cut down Alvarez and the two men standing behind him. The close pattern
of .30 caliber buckshot tore livid red holes
through them and knocked all three backwards, into the doorway.
Carney had dived to the side when he saw Harry's shotgun and pulled a table over
in front of him. Now he came up with a
pistol in hand. Harry ducked behind the bar and Jason knew he meant to use it
for cover, while he ran back to join him.
Those close to Jason saw him pull out the .45 Colt and dived for the floor,
ducking under the tables. Jason aimed at
Carney's head, all he could see. He fired and the bullet smashed a stucco wall,
revealing ancient brick, just an inch above
Jason glanced to his left at the table Stogger and he had occupied. Stogger was
lying on the floor behind the fallen table.
He stuck his head out and waved an empty hand at Jason. No gun in sight; Stogger
was backing off. Maybe he thought Jason had
been joking about Carney, when he decided to be loud. Anyway, Stogger, who
started this gunfight, did not want any part of
it. His lion's head pipe lay broken on the floor, shreds of tobacco still
Harry charged up the bar to reach Jason, so they could exit through the rear.
The fat bartender saw Harry coming but was
struck witless and frozen, and he was too heavy-set to get out of Harry's way in
a timely manner. At the last second he put
his hands out in a useless gesture. Harry hit him low, lifted, and flipped the
portly drink-server onto the bar, where he
thumped hard and groaned. Jason crouched against the rear of the bar, chambered
another round, and waited for Carney to come
Harry kept on, almost reaching Jason, when Carney popped up to fire. Covering
Harry's back, Jason aimed but the corpulent
bartender chose to roll off the bar to the floor, and right into Jason's line of
fire, Carney's too. The pirate fired and
Jason saw two bloody holes burst forth in the Jamaican's stomach just as he
heard the report of Carney's gun and felt the
impact of the bullet, in the wood veneer of the bar, inches from his own head.
The bartender screamed, his legs scrambling about as he clutched at his big
belly. Blood and shredded intestine poured from
the entry and exit wounds. He examined himself and his screams took a higher
Jason stood and aimed at Carney's head and shoulder, but switched to the door
where more of Carney's men were coming in,
guns ready. Jason turned sideways to give them a thin profile, as he took aim
and quickly fired three shots cutting into two
of Carney's men. The third man dropped back from the doorway, just as Harry
passed by headed for the back door. Jason turned
his aim back toward Carney and fired one more shot at his head peeking above the
table. Then they both hotfooted out the
back door of the bar and into the mountainous rain forest.
"What the hell is all this about?" Stogger yelled as he kicked away the table
and a chair, and climbed to his feet. "Goddamn
it, Carney. Bloody hell! What kind of shit are you trying to get me into this
Carney was cautiously leading several men toward the rear of the bar. He had his
pistol ready and paused just past the
dying, whimpering bartender. "What the hell you doin' drinkin' with Pike?
"He was buying," Stogger answered dryly.
"Jesus Christ!" Carney grimaced at Stogger then turned to his men. "Go after
them. Get Gorten alive and kill Pike!" he
barked and his men ran out the back door.
"C'mon outside, Stogger. I want to show you something," Carney said.
They skirted past the bartender, ignoring him. He looked up at them with wide,
pained, fearful eyes. Two small, skinny
Jamaicans were trying to help him up, but the bartender was too fat and the
bloody floor was too slick underneath his large,
Outside, in the moonlight, Carney showed Stogger the gold and emerald cross.
That's all it took to recruit the old English
rogue. What Carney didn't know was that Stogger and his crew were beached. His
last ship tore her bottom out on a reef off
Oracabessa, just east on the coast. So, when Carney offered to take him and his
men along on the Raven, Stogger had to jump
at the opportunity. It was the only way to hold his crew together.
Jason and Harry quickly hid in the thick undergrowth and let the pursuit force
of Carney's men pass them by. When it was
safe, Jason and Harry made a slow, and roundabout movement back to the anchorage
and stole a rowboat. Asbury, after hearing
the gunfire, had the Pegasus rigged with sail, and they were out of the harbor
All the pirates also left Ocho Rios on the next tide. The local police were not
formidable enough to confront the group, but
after the gunfight, Carney knew they would telegraph Kingston for
Aside from the threat of regular troops the Raven got out of Ocho Rios only
eight hours before a British steam-powered
frigate, HMS Hercules, arrived. Her captain, Alan Croft, had orders to seek out
and remove any pirates from the northern
Caribbean. Croft sent a detail ashore to procure firewood. Then he paced across
the quarterdeck, listening to an account of
the gunfight from witnesses, and impatiently waiting for the fuel to be loaded.
Croft had the honed instincts of an old fox and the relentless talents and
energy of a well-bred bloodhound. He knew how
close he had come to finding Carney and the Raven anchored in Ocho Rios' inlet.
Captain Croft was determined to further his career by ending piracy and
smuggling in the Caribbean. Until the next war this
was the most challenging duty in the navy; and Croft, the most ambitious and
vain young captain in Her Majesty's Royal Navy,
intended to be an admiral before his hair grayed, or even worse, receded.
When they got out from the shore Jason said to Asbury, "Lay in a course to Fort
Jefferson. I'd like to stop there on the way
"Why?" Harry asked.
"Only a handful of soldiers left. The army is pulling out of Fort Jefferson,"
Asbury informed Jason, and spit tobacco juice
over the side.
"I want to have a talk with a jailer," Jason explained.
The wind was from the east and Pegasus sailed west-northwest, until they rounded
the western tip of Cuba. Then the tiny ship
sailed leisurely back northeast for the Dry Tortugas.
One day there was no wind at all and they drifted westward toward Mexico.
"Harry, break out the oars. I don't like
jalapenos, tortillas, or tequila," Jason said.
Harry responded with an exasperated stare. "I got enough callouses, laddie."
Asbury laughed. "The wind will change, probably by tomorrow. Relax, enjoy the
cruise," he advised.
Jason sat in the cockpit in shorts, getting very tan while reading Dana's Two
Years Before the Mast. It was a bad choice. By
the end of the week he had had enough of the seafaring life. In addition to the
author's miseries, Jason now had his own. He
was scratchy and dry from the sun and from bathing in seawater, tired from not
sleeping well, and disgusted with the
redundant, lackluster meals.
They were all very happy when Fort Jefferson finally came up on the eastern
horizon. Jason was impressed with the fort. It
was a heavy hexagon-sided fortress with row after row of embrasures with a heavy
Columbiad at each. When they got closer, he
could see the walls were red brick, forty-five feet high. The largest guns,
Rodmans and Parrots, were on the barbette, the
height providing maximum range. These massive cannons could throw a thousand
pound iron ball over three miles.
"She looks invulnerable," Harry said.
Asbury nodded in agreement. "Fifteen years ago she was invulnerable. No naval
fleet on Earth could have reduced her," he
said. "She still looks formidable. An old red giant that guards the approaches
to the Gulf of Mexico."
"This fort used to be proof to anyone that the Gulf of Mexico is actually an
American lake," Jason said. "And as a prison
for certain dangerous incorrigibles."
"No one has ever escaped from her," Asbury said.
Jason smiled and nodded. "So they say."
Asbury piloted up to a wooden pier, and Harry and Jason tied off Pegasus fore
and aft. Jason jumped in the ocean to wash and
even shaved before digging a clean set of clothes out of his bag.
"I might have to tell some lies and I don't want surprise all over your face
giving me away," Jason told Harry.
"We'll get the sergeants to entertain us," Harry said. "You mix with the
Jason left them on the dock and walked over to the drawbridge spanning the moat.
A thin, young lieutenant met Jason under
the portcullis, out of the sun. "May I help you, sir?" He was sunburned, sweat
dripping from his head, and utterly miserable
in his proper uniform.
Jason was wearing light, baggy cottons, both pants and shirt. A Panama hat
protected his nose. And he had even gotten used
to sandals by now.
"My name is Jason Pike. I'm a U.S. citizen and apparently a yachtsman since I
came to these waters." Jason lit a thin
cheroot of delicious Jamaican origin. "Want one, lieutenant?" he offered.
"No, thank you, Mr. Pike. I don't smoke." He dabbed a handkerchief at the beads
of sweat on his forehead. "What can I do for
"I would like to see your commanding officer.
"No problem, sir. The captain loves to see a new face."
He led Jason across the expansive parade ground to the officers' quarters. All
the interior construction was red brick and
mortar, like the walls. There were barracks, armories, an oven for heating
cannon shot, and vegetable gardens.
Captain Jonathan Trumbull was a big man, heavyset and tall. He had puffy red
features and seemed plump everywhere; Jason
noticed even his wrists and fingers were overly layered in fat. The lieutenant
introduced them. "Come in Mr. Pike. You're
just in time for lunch. Will you join me?" A corporal was standing next to
Trumbull's desk. "Wiggins, do we have enough to
feed Mr. Pike?" the captain asked.
"I think I can manage it, sir."
"Good. We'll eat on my sun porch," Trumball said, and glanced at the lieutenant
"I can't handle your sun porch, sir." The lieutenant rubbed a tender nose and
Trumbull led Jason across the parade ground to the nearest bastion, then up a
narrow, spiral concrete stairway, and onto the
barbette of the heavy fort. Right there, at the top of the stairs, was a
fifteen-inch Rodman gun mounted on a recoil track
pointing south. The sun was bright, the wind brisk, and the sky blue and clear.
They were forty-five feet high. Jason felt
quite comfortable up here; he could see to the far horizons in every direction,
and there were American guns and their
garrison right at hand..
They walked over to the wall and Trumbull struck a match for his cigar. "The
Rodman weighs twenty-two tons. Fires a 450
pound projectile. I saw one of these kill eighty-seven men once," Trumbull said
with a beaming smile.
"Where was that," Jason asked.
"Petersburg, a couple weeks before they set off that idiotic bomb in a mine
shaft under the Rebels."
"How do you know exactly how many Rebs were killed? Did you ask for a truce to
go over and count the bodies?"
"Oh, no. They were our men. The Rodman blew up and wiped out six gun crews and
more than just a few observers. The captain
of the battery was fooling around with a new type of charge he invented. He was
very proud of it. Luckily, the designer was
right there and died with the rest. Otherwise there would have been a devil of a
court-martial," Trumbull explained.
"Yes," Jason agreed. "Providence was merciful with him." Gazing out at the
ocean, he asked, "Do you find duty in such a
remote place lonely?"
"Oh, it's not so bad. I'm a bachelor married to the guns. I ran the Twelfth
Corps' batteries until George Mead took over the
Army of the Potomac, and I got myself a transfer to the Washington city
garrison. I didn't really take to dashing all over
Virginia chasing Rebs. Besides I like the Columbiads and the newer, big guns are
even better." He smiled like a child happy
with his toys. "It's a clean and simple existence. I can hold gunnery practice
any damn time I choose. There aren't any
silly civilians to complain about the report of the guns or a stray round
butchering a cow."
Jason decided he liked the big artillery officer. "I suppose the men amuse
themselves with sports, plays, and pageants, like
any frontier post."
"They do a lot of swimming and fishing. And we rotate them with the Fort Taylor
garrison on Key West regularly. Keeps their
"I know what you mean," Jason said. "Didn't Sherman recommend the fort be
abandoned? I read that a couple years ago." he
"Yes. We had an outbreak of yellow fever in January of 1873, followed by a
hurricane. Sherman wasn't happy. We pulled out
most of the garrison last year. You can see I only have a skeleton crew. There's
talk they are going to pull out the
construction crews this year." Trumbull was unhappy at the idea.
"Masonry fortifications aren't what they were ten years ago. Rifled guns can . .
"That's not the half of it." Trumball said. "The whole damn place is settling
and cracking. Seawater is leaking into all the
cisterns. We've got two condensers that can process 7,000 gallons of seawater to
fresh in a day, but to support a full
garrison we'd have to burn a shipload of coal every month."
"Sounds expensive," Jason said, getting right to the crux of the matter.
Right then an officer in his mid-twenties emerged from the spiral stairs and
looked around. When he saw Trumbull he started
toward them. The officer was medium height with a forceful bearing and a
"Here comes Doc Porter, our surgeon," Trumbull said. "He's a local from Key
"Good morning, Captain Trumbull. I caught two men fishing off the barbette this
"Put them on report. Doctor, this is Jason Pike. Mr. Pike, this is Dr. Joseph
Yates Porter," Trumbull introduced them.
They shook hands and Jason said to Trumbull, "Do you dump your sewage right in
"Ah! I see you understand the problem," the doctor said.
"I soldiered in Tennessee for a while, and we ate trout out of mountain streams.
Our men knew to fish upstream from the
latrines," Jason said.
"I'll have another talk with the sergeant major. We'll put a stop to it once and
for all." Trumbull shuffled his feet.
"And what about the kerosene I need to kill off the mosquitoes; where is my
shipment? Trumbull, I don't want to fight
another outbreak of yellow fever. Either I get my kerosene or I will resign my
commission," Porter threatened.
"That is your privilege, sir," Trumbull said, obviously annoyed but controlled.
"And we need another fishing boat or to start buying staples from the local
fisherman," Porter said. "And citrus fruit too."
"Doctor," Trumbull cut him off in an irritated voice. "I've forwarded your
requests to my superiors. The matter is out of my
hands. Mr. Pike is staying for lunch. Do you wish to join us? And the invitation
is conditional that you adopt a pleasant
"No, I'm busy. Good day, gentlemen." Porter obviously had his priorities at hand
and walked away disgusted.
"He's a damned alarmist," Trumbull said when the doctor was out of earshot. "He
keeps raving on about scurvy and dysentery.
Wants to pour oil or kerosene on every fresh-water puddle on the island to
prevent mosquitoes from breeding. I can't imagine
a grown man afraid to death of pesky little insects. Can you? Oh well; he's
young, foolishly passionate. He'll grow out of
it, or out of public service." Jason said nothing, but nodded in agreement.
"So what brings you here, Mr. Pike?" Trumbull asked.
"Actually, something quite trivial. A request from my cousin in England about
his wife's cousin who died while incarcerated
here. The whole thing is kind of embarrassing," Jason confessed, lying as well
as he could.
"I wouldn't be concerned. He wasn't your blood relative," Trumbull offered.
"She's curious about what really happened. He was the black sheep, but they grew
up as friends. You know how sentimental
"I have five sisters." Trumbull chewed his cigar and reflected on his own past.
There was an awning spread from posts and a table and chairs underneath. "I
could use some shade," Jason said.
They got seated and Wiggins showed up with two bottles of liebfraumilch. The
corporal left the wine, glasses, and a
corkscrew. Jason smiled because Trumbull liked quality but not protocol. He
handed the tool to Jason who plucked out the
cork. The wine was almost cold. Jason went to pour Trumball a glass, but
Trumball reached for the corkscrew instead.
"Keep that one for yourself," Trumbull said, going to work on his own bottle's
"Do you have a wine cellar stuck deep down in one of the dark, cool dungeons?"
"Yes," Trumbull said jovially. "I have. Clippers from Europe always bring
shipments of wine. I place my orders a year in
advance and always get what I want. Do you want to see the cellar?"
"Ah, not this trip. I'll be in the area a while."
"Splendid. We play cards on Friday nights."
Wiggins walked up with table settings, a basket of fresh hot rolls, and a crock
of butter. Trumbull put his cigar down and
broke a roll in half. He scooped up a hefty slab of butter from the crock and
generously applied it to the bread.
"The individual my cousin's wife is concerned about was the English mercenary,
George Saint Leher Grenfell."
"Oh! He was a nasty fellow. That was before I took over, but I remember the
story. He led an ill-timed escape. Took a small
boat right into a major storm in 1868." Trumbull smiled, then remembered he was
talking about Jason's cousin's wife's
cousin. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound uncompassionate."
"No offense taken, sir. He was a brigand and had no business messing around in
"Agreed. We certainly didn't need any help," Trumbull said, rapidly stuffing
heavily-buttered bread into his cavernous
Wiggins brought a platter to the table. It was silver with a huge grilled fish
in the center surrounded by vegetables and
"That's a good-sized one," Trumbull commented.
"A twenty-five-pound grouper, sir. Private Henry Smith's compliments," Wiggins
"Bravo! Private Smith is a first-class fisherman. He takes a boat out, away from
the fort," Trumbull said, glancing at
Jason. He picked up a carving knife, and Wiggins held a plate right at hand.
"I'll give you some of everything. We've got an
excellent commissary. Right, Wiggins?"
"Yes, sir. The fish was brushed with butter and lime juice while over the
coals," Wiggins said while Trumbull cut off a
two-pound filet and laid it on Jason's plate. Wiggins also produced a bowl of
"That's plenty," Jason said hastily and took the plate from Wiggins before he
could add more food.
Trumbull started to carve his own hunk, when a flock of pigeons descended on the
parapet. They stood patiently until Wiggins
threw them crusts of bread and they eagerly joined the feast.
"Not exactly the typical army fare I was used to during my service. Does the
whole garrison eat as well?"
"Our soldiers can eat as well as they choose. Some fish on their own and cook it
themselves. They can catch most any fish or
crustacean on the reefs around the Tortugas. You can see the vegetable gardens
in the quad. A lot of the men eat salted or
smoked meats that come by ship. People tend to eat what they are used to, what
they grew up on."
"In his letters, Grenfell wrote that he was starved, or fed terribly, and beaten
"That's true. It's a different story with the prisoners. We can't really let
them go off fishing on their own. That's why
they do it from the fort. Some, with money, buy fresh food from the guards; the
rest are dependent on our commissary. I read
the records and journals. I won't dispute any letters written in his hand and
sent to relatives in England."
"What did happen to Grenfell while he was here?"
"There was a sergeant who was his jailer. What the hell was his name?" Trumbull
kept eating, as if the movement of his jaws
would help the cognitive process. Then he finished a glass of wine in one
swallow and said, "Virgil Gould, that's his name.
Gould was a sadist and Grenfell would not submit. He was having Grenfell
punished regularly for assaulting guards. Gould and
his cronies beat Grenfell or flogged him a couple times a year."
"Your predecessor let it go on?"
"He was a gentleman and hated his role as a jailer. And he never had more than a
handful of prisoners here at one time after
the war ended, so he just left it to the sergeants. When I took over here, I got
rid of Gould once I judged his nature. I
knew the prisoners would be much more docile if well treated. And, hell, it
wasn't costing the government anything extra to
treat them reasonably." Trumbull cut a second grouper steak for himself.
"Confinement was bad enough for those poor devils.
Cruelty was certainly not called for."
"I agree," Jason said, and belched quietly.
"Have some more. You eat like a bird."
Wiggins brought a key lime pie topped with fresh whipped cream and cups of
coffee. Trumbull ate half the pie and stole
additional whipped cream from the rest.
"How about observing gunnery practice? My boys can shoot the tail off a whale at
a thousand yards."
"That's a tall tale if I ever heard one," Jason responded and they laughed.
The pie was delicious and Jason loosened his belt. They chatted for several
hours, then Jason begged Trumbull's pardon and
told him his schedule was tight. Jason had found out about Grenfell's grudge;
now he wanted to get back to Key West. Jason
thanked Trumbull for his hospitality, and the bellicose, gluttonous ambience of
The Pegasus arrived at Key West the next day before sunset, but laid off the
island a mile west until after dark. This way
Asbury could return home undetected. Asbury confidently piloted them into the
bight and up to the beach, where he stepped
Then Jason and Harry put up just the mainsail to carry them west and south to
Tift's Wharf. They walked down Whitehead
Street until Cump smelled them and ran to jump and lick. Addie followed and
threw her arms around both her men. "Thank God,
you two are all right. And John?"
"He's fine lassie."
"Good. I've got supper for you two intrepid seamen. I suppose you have a story
of action and bloodshed to tell me?" she
"No," Jason said. "It was a very restful and serene voyage."
"We didn't even kill one pirate," Harry lied.
Addie looked back and forth between them. "I thought you two went off to do a
job. What did you do? Spend the last two weeks
fishing? That's what you smell like."
After dinner Jason went looking for Wyatt Scott. Scott's office was dark, so
Jason went behind to his small, private
residence and caught him out of his perfect uniform.
"Pike. What do you want?"
"To deliver some information. I know where Jack Carney is."
Scott's room was small and tidy. There was just enough space for a bed, dresser,
and writing table. Scott was wearing
cottons and small, soft slippers on his white feet. He sat on the bed and
motioned Pike to the chair by the table.
"Carney was in Ocho Rios. He refitted the Raven with guns at Grand Cayman and
sailed to Jamaica to recruit mercenaries."
"How do you know that?" Scott asked.
"Where do you think I got this tan? I haven't been sitting under a tree writing
poetry. I went to Jamaica looking for the
"How did you know he went to the Caymens and then Jamaica?"
"I've got sources. I won't say more on the subject, so don't ask."
Scott got upset, even flustered.
"If you can send two sloops south to intercept Carney . . ."
"One is enough. Jeffers is coming in on the morning tide. I can turn him around
and have him ready to sortie in the evening.
Pike, I'm giving a hell of a lot of credit to your information. I hope this
isn't another wild goose chase."
"Send a second ship. I don't know exactly what Carney picked up in the Caymens
or Jamaica, but the Raven could be a
formidable opponent, maybe too much for one sloop," Jason warned.
"All three of my sloops have six guns, a full complement of sailors and a squad
of marines. No pirate would eagerly engage a
United States warship. They'll run. That's always been the problem. Carney's
schooner can hoist more sail and always outruns
my armed sloops."
"Send two. Scott, don't underestimate these pirates. Someone is paying them to
fight. I know as well as you that thieves
avoid a determined confrontation. But I'm telling you this crew is different.
Carney is out for blood and he's recruiting
the toughest bastards in the Caribbean."
"That's ridiculous. You're an alarmist, Pike. Jeffers is eager to fight. I'll
send him south. If we are very lucky, maybe he
might do some damage to the Raven before they run off."
Jason wondered why Scott didn't call him 'Mr.' anymore. There was no changing
his mind, so Jason went home to make love to
Addie. It was the perfect ending to a very mediocre cruise around the Caribbean.
U.S. Federal Copyright 'TXU 603-893
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