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The Women on Whitehead Street
The next day at sunset Addie, Harry, and Jason took the trail
from their backyard to Key West's tiny naval base. They walked
to the short pier, next to Fort Taylor, where the USS Detroit was moored.
Wyatt Scott was standing on the shore watching the sailors load provisions for
the hastily-ordered sortie, and greeted them.
Jason saw the men were quiet and listless as they worked. Scott did not have an
extra ship's crew and the other sloops were
at sea, so Jeffers' crew lost the shore leave they usually had between patrols.
"She's a handsome craft, isn't she?" Crawford Wales commented, having walked up
next to them as they watched the crew finish
preparations to sail. "The sloop of war, Detroit, is about sixty feet long with
one tall mast rigged as a cutter, fore with
a jib and one forestaysail. Aft is a mainsail. There are three guns on each side
and they are old, four-pound smooth-bore
cannons. The Detroit was built as a revenue cutter in the 1840s, and fitted with
cannons for blockade service during the
Jason nodded at the marine, assuming the explanation was for his benefit. Wales
was freshly dressed in white trousers and a
dark blue marine officer's jacket; his hair still wet from bathing, the scent of
cologne evident, even in the breeze coming
off the straits. Crawford was coming with them to a birthday party.
"Hello, Crawford," Addie said. "Don't you look nice, all dressed up."
"Thank you. And you are lovely Addie; it hurts my eyes just to gaze upon you,"
Crawford said graciously. Addie was wearing
the yellow dress Jason had bought her and smiled back at the tall, handsome
"So don't do it too much," Jason said, feigning being jealous.
Lieutenant Jeffers came up the Detroit's companionway, saw the group, and came
right over, saluting Commander Scott.
"Are you ready to get underway, Lieutenant Jeffers?"
"Yes, sir, provisions for a month." Jeffers glanced at Jason. "We'll patrol the
area you indicated and engage Jack Carney,
if we sight him."
"Yes, that sounds fine," Scott said. "The crew looks fit. Are they eager for
"Chomping at the bit, sir," Jeffers said as truthfully as he could, but-Jason
thought-the boy lied badly. If Scott chose to
be observant he could see the morale of the Detroit's crew was low.
"Do the best you can. Their spirits will climb when you get to sea," Scott
"Why?" Jason asked Scott.
"Excuse me; what do you mean?" Scott was perplexed, Jason decided, because he
couldn't imagine that anyone would dispute
such an obvious truth, and coming from a naval officer too.
"Why will their spirits rise? I just got back from two weeks at sea. It was a
miserable experience. Too much sun, too little
privacy, and the food and drink were terrible."
"Mr. Pike, some of us were not cut out to be sailors. Others have the salt of
the sea in their blood. Americans all along
the East Coast have a long tradition of seafaring trade and fishing. You
midwesterners, or flatlanders as I think of you,
often don't have a stomach for, or the imagination to appreciate the majesty of
the oceans. In fact, I once heard someone
from Ohio remark, `the smaller the bathtub the better'." And Scott beamed at
Jason, utterly satisfied with himself.
Addie giggled and covered her mouth. Crawford Wales looked away, and Jeffers
"My, I'm not sure, but I think you were insulted, Jase," Harry said.
"Yes, and in a patronizingly patrician sort of way. Good thing I'm not wearing a
gun and you smiled when you said that,
Scott." They all laughed at Jason's response.
Sarah Dumont arrived and Jeffers led her away from the group to say goodbye in
private, while the crew made ready to cast
off. Addie squeezed Jason's arm as she watched Jeffers and Sarah spend a last
moment together. The Lieutenant took her in
his arms and kissed her just as a resplendent, heavy orange sun set, right off
the last of the chain of American Islands.
The Detroit sailed slowly off on the evening tide. Just another frontier, Jason
thought, except he would have to learn to
survive and fight at sea.
Wyatt Scott, Crawford Wales, Addie and Sarah, and Harry and Jason walked as a
group to the Samuels home for the outdoor
buffet dinner Salina and the doctor were hosting. He was sixty years old today,
and they were going to celebrate the
occasion. A red and white tent was set up as an open-sided pavilion amongst the
large, spreading banyans on their lawn, and
there were a dozen tables for the guests.
All of Key West's prominent citizens attended, and most of the guests were
already seated and eating when they arrived. The
doctor and Salina broke away from a gathering of friends and approached.
Salina took both Addie and Sarah in tow and they went off to talk with a
collection of colorfully dressed ladies seated in a
circle under one of the giant banyans. Jason smiled because they looked like
Addie's dolls, except they were animated and
The doctor led the men to his impromptu bar around the side of the veranda.
Crawford and Harry both drank bourbon. Wyatt
Scott predictably drank scotch, and Jason took a brandy neat.
"Perfect weather for a gathering, doc," Jason commented to Samuels.
"The last time Salina planned a party for me we had a hurricane. I suppose this
one is a little better," he said.
"Don't you like parties, doctor?" Scott asked.
"Not really, too prime an opportunity to spread contagion, germs, leading to
disease." And, as if to illustrate his point,
Samuels took a step backwards away from the rest of the gathering.
"You're full of good cheer today, doc," Crawford remarked.
Samuels finally smiled. "I'm glad all of you came. I hope young Jeffers has luck
on this patrol." He looked questioningly at
"So do we all," Scott said solemnly.
Then Samuels turned to Jason. "You've been engaged to Adrian for quite a while.
Have you set a date to marry her, or, young
man, are you a cad?"
Jason smiled. There was a lot of gossip around Key West about Jason living under
the same roof as Addie. "The first week of
July, this year, and you all are invited," he announced publicly for the first
Scott and Wales both nodded smiling, and Harry grabbed Jason around the
shoulders. "Good choice, laddie, I doubt if you
could do better."
"Congratulations," Samuels said. "The house you've got is big enough for the
wedding. I'll tell Salina to start
consultations with Addie for the menu. July is very hot . . ." Samuels paused
and twisted some gray sideburn hair, "I know.
Suppose I go in with you on a shipment of ice from Newfoundland. Middle of July,
such as it is, we would be the envy of all
Key West. And we'll make some money too," he added enthusiastically and they
After drinks they broke up to mingle and Jason ran right into Wade Estes, Laura
Gentry, and a striking, amazingly beautiful
Jason nodded to Wade and said, "You better introduce me. No, don't. You're Laura
Gentry, aren't you?" Jason guessed,
"Addie's friend, the teacher with hair the color of a Key West sunset." But
Jason was also carefully noticing Laura's
"Yes," Laura answered, obviously aware of the direction of Jason's interest.
"And I know you're Jason Pike; everybody does.
Oh, this is my cousin, Miss Melanie Allen. She's from Virginia."
"Oh my, Laura," Melanie laughed. "A pleasure Mr. Pike. You look so tan; have you
been traveling? I'm from Virginia; are you
familiar with Virginia?"
"I was there during the war, Miss Allen," Jason said. By now everyone on Key
West knew where Jason had been during the
"Call me Mel; everyone does. You're a very handsome man. You don't mind me
saying so, I hope. Oh, you do. Look, Laura, he's
blushing. Where did you get so much color?" Jason smiled distressfully and
turned away, completely in chagrin, and not
willing to talk about the cruise to Jamaica. Mel reached forward and took his
hand. "I'm so sorry. I apologize. You'll have
to let me make this up to you sometime," she said suggestively.
Jason noticed Laura was eyeing her cousin curiously; and was pleased when she
finally decided to save him further
embarrassment. "There's Catherine Lowe. I'm sure you want to meet her. She loved
to tease Yankees too, but during the war,"
Laura said, and dragged Mel off, a dreamy glance from those sultry eyes looking
at Jason over her shoulder.
Jason looked at Wade, who shrugged and said, "You're devilishly lucky with the
ladies. What's your secret, Jason?"
The man from Ohio smirked. "I've been told, the smaller the bathtub the better."
It was a warm, easy spring evening-perfect for a party; and Salina Samuels
served a cold buffet of meats, cheeses, and
salads. The presentation was perfect, very detailed and meticulously arranged
with a great selection of condiments. Her
platters were decorated with real orchids and roses made from peeled and curled
tomato skins. Salina topped cheese cake
tarts baked in large clam shells with dollops of sweetened sour cream and
carefully-pitted cherries. The woman had a
culinary gift that all Key West's gentry appreciated.
Jason ate a piece of cold chicken with Creole mustard and sipped at a
wonderfully smooth claret, feeling content, as if
everything was going his way. A navy ship was dispatched to confront his
enemies. Salvage gear and a diving bell had been
fabricated at Triden Foundry in Pittsburgh and shipped by rail to Hoboken, on
the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Also
a boiler and a steam piston engine from the Brooklyn Iron Works were freighted
to Hoboken, all for sea transport to Key
And Jason had received confirmation from his firm in Britain that a battery of
new naval guns were in transit. Along with
the ordnance came a delegation: a gifted engineer from Pike Ltd and a Royal Navy
gunnery officer to observe.
After dinner a stiff-boned man, aged about fifty-five, approached Jason. "Are
you Jason Pike?"
"Yes," he said. "I have that singular honor." Jason was in a comfortable and
"I'm James Locke, Federal Judge of the Southern District of Florida." And he
looked authoritative, like he was used to
giving orders and being obeyed. "We would like to have a word with you in Dr.
Samuels' study. He has lent us the use of the
room for an interview."
Jason nodded, not surprised. If anything he felt the local government was rather
tardy in questioning his intentions. "Does
Samuels have some brandy there, or should I borrow a bottle from the bar?" Jason
"Oh. Even better, he has a vintage of French cognac that is the true nectar of
the gods," Judge Locke said enticingly. Jason
nodded, they both lit cigars, and walked off toward the house.
Two men waited for them in the wood-paneled and bookcase lined study. They stood
when Jason and the judge entered. "This is
James Jones, our U.S. Marshal," and Jason shook hands with Jones. He was shorter
than Jason, thickly built, with a great
round head and face.
"A pleasure, Mr. Pike."
"And this is G. B. Paterson. He is our federal prosecutor," the judge said with
another simple nod-smile-and-shake ceremony.
Then the judge and Jason got fresh cognac from the doctor's cut glass decanter,
and they all were seated for a good chat.
"So, how do you feel about Key West? Do you like it here?" The judge started off
amiably enough, sipping slowly at his
drink. He occupied the doctor's chair behind the large mahogany desk.
"Yes, I do. It's hot for a midwesterner like me; but the ocean is a hundred
yards from my house, so a swim is always right
at hand. For someone raised on a southern Ohio farm, this is no small miracle,"
Jason said, sniffed at Samuels' cognac, and
was curious to know if the judge wanted to talk about salvage rights or violence
from fending off pirates.
"I've heard a good deal about your intentions to raise a Spanish treasure,"
Locke started off.
"I am involved in such an endeavor," Jason acknowledged quietly, and said no
more. This seemed to disappoint the judge.
Jason slumped down in the overly soft, puffy chair and crossed his arms
defensively. They all looked like dentists; he
wanted to see if they could pull teeth.
"Why don't you tell us about it," Paterson, the prosecutor, suggested. He was a
small, bald man with a pug nose and squinty
little eyes. Paterson smiled at Jason while sitting up straight with proper
posture. And that wasn't easy in a room Salina
"Marshal Jones," Jason said, "Bruce Jeffers is sailing south tonight to
intercept a pirate, Jack Carney, who started a feud
with me. What do you know about Carney?"
"Carney has been a thorn in our side for a long time, Jason. May I call you
Jason?" the judge said, walking out from behind
Samuels' desk to pace. A politician, Jason thought, working on his cigar and
cognac. The marshal leaned back, remaining
silent, deferring to Judge Locke.
"Just call me Pike," Jason stated. "Does anybody think Jeffers has a chance of
besting Carney in a sea battle?"
"I don't know anything about that sort of thing," Paterson volunteered.
"Probably won't even find him," the marshal observed.
"Carney has been running the Raven and that crew of cutthroats for twenty
years," The judge commented and produced a
verdict. "No schoolboy like Jeffers is going to do away with Carney or bring him
before my bench."
"I'll tell you gentlemen up front," Jason said. "I won't tolerate this bastard
harassing my salvage venture. I'll use force
to defend my group once we start up diving operations."
"Then I take it you think you have the means to fight off Carney, if he comes at
you?" the judge asked quietly.
"I own cannon factories in Britain," Jason bragged. "Her Majesty's Royal Navy
will defend us if I ask."
"Not in American waters, they won't," Marshal Jones said.
"Quite right," Paterson seconded and Jason scowled appropriately. The judge
smiled and sat down behind the desk again.
"Perhaps we can be of assistance," the judge offered a little too magnanimously,
smiling, tapping his fingers on the desk.
"What have you raised from the wreck? Do you have any treasure?"
"Harry had some lovely pieces and a 130 pounds of silver bullion, but Carney got
it when he raided Big Pine Key."
"So you have no proof of your claim to the wreck?" Paterson asked. The judge's
bushy eyebrows came together and his wrinkled
forehead turned to sharp, concerned ridges. Jason guessed he was supposed to
"Are you aware," the judge asked, "that Carney could pass a unique piece to a
legitimate individual engaged in salvage, and
then he could file a claim for rights to the Atocha?"
Paterson nodded sadly at Jason.
"I don't care about legal claims," Jason responded. "Only Harry and I know the
location. When we set up shop to work that
wreck, we'll have a salvage crew and trained personnel to attend a battery,
which will always be ready for action. Carney or
anyone else can approach us at their own peril, if they so choose." Jason smiled
and stood up to stretch. Salina's goose
feather pillows were hell on his lower back. "And Carney certainly seems to have
developed the habit. I'll shoot first and
you all can ask questions later."
The judge started to say something, but Jason was standing so he cut him off.
"As soon as we get something significant that
fits with the ship's manifest from the archives at Seville, we'll file a salvage
claim." Jason went to pour more cognac.
Locke looked at Paterson and nodded slightly. Jason noticed Paterson had let his
cigar go out. "The legal point is if Carney
files a claim through a substitute, or front, and then wins a battle over the
dive site, he will have physical possession
and a legal claim."
Jason walked over to Paterson's chair and took a wood match out of his vest
pocket. He reached down and scratched it on the
bottom of the chair and provided a flame for Paterson's cigar, while right in
his face. "If that happens, I'll be dead and I
won't care," Jason told him. Paterson helped ignite his cigar by puffing
energetically, and after he started coughing, Jason
walked back to his chair.
Jason sunk into the deep chair and someone knocked on the door. Judge Locke
looked surprised. Rob Stevens, from the
newspaper, opened the door, looked about and smiled. "Well, the legal
authorities and our newest entrepreneur; what are
y'awl up to?"
"We're up to a private conversation," the judge said irritably and Stevens
nodded unhappily and disappeared. Federal judges
were appointed from Washington, so Locke did not have to run for election and
obviously didn't give a damn about the local
press. The judge tapped his fingers on the desk.
"Why don't you just say what's on your mind, judge. I'm getting hungry again,"
Jason offered. "If we stay here much longer,
we'll all get drunk and the ladies will be upset."
"We want to get involved financially," Jones said forthrightly. "And, between us
we can be a great deal of help legally, and
"I'm sorry, but we don't need any investors. Harry Gorten found all the help he
needed, when he invited me here. Although, I
am gratified to see that ultimately you have confidence in our venture."
"I'm concerned about the possibility of violence on Key West. You might very
well need the marshal's help," the judge
"There is a good chance of that happening. I've already fought with Jack Carney
at sea and on Big Pine Key. As I get closer
to my goal I expect them to try for me here. And, I expect the marshal's
help-partner or not-just like any other citizen,"
"That's the point. If you shoot somebody there will be a detailed investigation.
Mr. Paterson's office could keep you tied
up on the island for weeks," the judge pointed a bony index finger at Jason. And
Paterson nodded. His cigar, gone cold, was
in the ashtray on the desk so Jason took another match and held it up.
"Uh, no thanks," Paterson said, waving it off.
"Judge, I've marshaled on this country's frontiers for six years. I've learned
to only shoot the bad guys." Jason finished
"I don't think that is amusing."
"And I don't think that I like the way Jack Carney has a free hand in the
Caribbean!" Jason said.
"I'm responsible for Key West and the island chain only."
"Carney's men have shore leave here all the time, and the locals trade with them
and fence what they steal," Jason pointed
out. "You don't have a very law-abiding populace, Judge."
"You're an outsider. It's not for you to judge us," Locke said vehemently.
"You're right. It's not for me; I assumed you had accepted that responsibility.
Why aren't you doing your job, enforcing the
The judge turned red and walked out of the room. His cronies exchanged glances;
both shrugged and followed him. And Jason
"Where have you been?" Addie asked.
"Visiting the local dentists," Jason said, working his tongue around his mouth.
"But it's okay; I still have all my teeth."
Two days later Addie and Jason went to visit Kate and John Asbury and their
children. They had a small, clapboard house on a
sandy bluff overlooking the bight, and Addie went in to talk to Kate. Jason
walked down to the beach where he saw Asbury
working with two others. They were building a fishing boat.
"Mr. Pike, how nice of you to stop by. Come and meet my sons," he said with
They were both tall, rawboned and well-muscled boys with bright blue eyes and
long, shaggy blond hair. Jason guessed there
was a lot of Nordic blood in this family.
"This is Miles. He's the oldest, at nineteen." Jason shook hands with Miles, who
had a grip like a grizzly bear. Jason
grimaced at the unexpected crunching.
"It's an honor to meet you, sir. It's about time someone stood up to the
pirates," he said smiling.
Jason knew he was a mark. Miles set him up for the next iron-handed lad. "Thank
you, Miles." Jason pulled his hand back
hoping the blood would return quickly. The other big blond kid was smiling,
looking happy as a cat with a broken-limbed
"What kind of boat are you building?" Jason said, quickly massaging his hand
behind his back.
"She's to be a Boston whaler for crabbing," Asbury said. Jason turned back
toward the other son, ready.
"And this is Nolan. He's a year younger and a half-inch taller."
Jason grasped his hand firmly. "I always appreciate a hearty handshake," he
said. The boy smiled when he saw Jason would
play their game, but not for long. Jason put his shoulders and back quickly into
the grip, and when Nolan was obviously in
pain Jason let him go.
Asbury laughed. "I told you both that one day you'd try that on the wrong man."
"That's why I always go first, Pa," Miles said. Nolan rubbed his hand and looked
at Jason with a hurt expression, as if
Jason should apologize.
So Jason clapped him on the back and said, "No hard feelings, kid. Just wanted
to let you know, things don't always go the
way you want them to."
Jason and Asbury left the boys to work on the boat and took a walk along the
shore. "I heard you went back to the Lucky Spot
with some others from the Bluebird crew," Jason said.
"Yeah. Charley Dardy and Samson Pool were buying drinks for all of us. They were
curious about you. They wanted all the
details of your stand against Carney on the Bluebird. You've succeeded in
humiliating Carney, and Samson Pool is no great
friend of yours either." Asbury rubbed his chin. "All of you seem to be taking
this Spanish treasure business very
"We are. John, you're a Southerner and I know you fought in the war, but do you
approve of Carney's command of the seas?"
"No, of course not. But its the navy's job to deal with them."
"But none of the locals are putting pressure on the navy," Jason said in
consternation. Asbury shrugged and said nothing.
"John, I think Charley Dardy is working with Carney and he, in turn, is a
conduit for others. There's some kind of nasty
conspiracy going on. It's more than a pirate seeking to steal treasure. Carney
can't pay his men with promises of money
still at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Someone's directing him against us
and financing him."
Asbury stopped walking and looked around. Jason got the impression he didn't
want to discuss this subject at all.
"Charley Dardy was a lieutenant in the Confederate navy. I served with him for
two years. We fought together when Farragut
came up the Mississippi, to take New Orleans, in 1862," Asbury said in a slow,
"I heard Carney at a bar in Ocho Rios tell Uriah Stogger that his pay would be
guaranteed by Charley Dardy," Jason lied. He
knew Dardy was involved from eavesdropping, when Carney was at Big Pine Key. But
he thought the information had more
validity if he said it came from a conversation between Carney and Stogger.
"Stogger! Are you sure? You didn't tell me that before."
"You didn't need to know before," Jason said.
"And I don't need to know now. So, why are you telling me? I don't want to get
involved. And I know Rhinehart wants to get
involved even less. He is already sorry for appearing to participate on your
"I'd like you to get involved, and on my side. Asbury, there is treasure out
there; and you can have a share or, since
you're a practical man, I'll offer to pay you wages.
"I'm not interested in fighting my neighbors at any price," Asbury said
Jason looked around. There wasn't a neighbor in sight. "I wouldn't want people
who deal with pirates for my neighbors. All
I'm asking is that you spend more time at the Lucky Spot, keep an eye on Pool
and watch Dardy. He's working for someone and
I want to know who. They have to meet occasionally."
"You want me to be an informer. The thought puts a sour taste in my mouth."
"I'll pay you five hundred dollars now and a share of anything we bring up. This
is dangerous work. I won't tell you
different. But you'll have money to do something meaningful in your life. Buy
your own ship, or build your wife a big house,
or send your sons to college."
"That's a lot of money. Why so generous, Mr. Pike?" he asked.
"Call me Jase. For two reasons. First, my life might depend on how good a job
you do. Second, I can afford it."
"That's plain enough. Well, you are talking about spying on criminals. Harry
Gorten found the treasure site. It is his."
Jason had hired himself a spy, and subtly did his best not to seem too pleased
about it. "Here's the point. If you can find
out where the money is coming from, I can cut it off and the pirates will sail
away. They'll be no fighting, at least not
until we bring up some treasure." Asbury nodded, listening carefully. "I think
General Harrington is very involved; he is
the figurehead, the source. I believe his go-between with Dardy is probably Wade
Estes. So, I want you to watch for Estes
and see if he meets with Dardy or Pool."
Asbury rubbed his brow; he was troubled Jason observed because he wasn't asking
an easy task of this Southerner. "There's
Kate. C'mon up to the house. Lunch is ready."
Kate Asbury was a tall, plain woman in her forties. She had the same light blond
hair and weathered tan as her sons and
husband. Behind her Jason saw two identical little girls, blondes also, perhaps
six or seven.
"My twins, Emily and Elizabeth," Asbury explained.
They had lunch. The boys went to a barrel and started pulling out lobsters and
crabs. "What would you like, Mr. Pike, Stone
crab or lobster, or both?" Kate asked.
"Any of that will be fine." The boys ripped the lobsters in half and tossed the
tails into a pot of boiling water. The crabs
were committed to the pot whole. And Kate mixed a sauce of butter, cream, and
crushed dry mustard seed.
They ate outside on a large wooden table shaded by palm trees between their
small house and the sandy beach. "Isn't this
delicious?" Addie said, bringing a wood mallet down on a crab claw.
"Wonderful," Jason answered, wiping crab juice from his eye. "Wrap your napkin
around the claw before you do that again."
"Oh, that's a good idea," Kate Asbury observed. Addie tried it with the napkin
"Impressive. She's listening to you already," Asbury teased. "You gotta put them
in their place before you go to see the
Addie looked back and forth between Jason and Asbury. "A good idea is a good
idea despite where it comes from. Jason knows
the only obedience he'll get is from Cump, and that's questionable."
Jason smiled at Addie. "I like you best when you're feisty."
After lunch Addie and Jason walked over to visit Captain John Lowe. Jason wanted
to firm up their deal to lease the
brigantine Harry had shown him.
Lowe owned a small fleet of sponge boats and cargo craft in addition to the
racing yacht, Magic, which successfully defended
the America's Cup in competition against the Royal Yachting Club in 1870. John
Lowe was Key West's favorite son because of
his racing prowess.
Lowe's house was large and a wonderful example of simple Bahamian-style
architecture. He took them up several flights of
stairs to a small gazebo perched on the roof. From this `crow's nest' they could
see all of Key West.
"This is where my wife, Caroline, flew the Confederate flag during the war to
tease the Yankee occupation force. Every time
she displayed it, they came to confiscate the banner; but Caroline hid it
carefully, and they never found the flag," Lowe
chuckled. "She won't even tell me where she used to put it." The city took up
the northwest third of the island and the
structures thinned out approaching the south-facing coast. To the east were
salt-water marshes and the Martello forts.
When they started talking business Lowe was concerned about the pirates, and
Jason assured him that they would keep a close
watch on the brig once they took possession of her. Jason also promised that his
business manager would be here in a couple
of weeks to close the deal.
The next day Jason went back to examine Lowe's old brig and made notes for the
carpenter Lowe had arranged to hire for them.
Then he went home for dinner, or supper as they say in the South.
"What are we eating?" Jason asked as he walked in and threw his hat on the rack
beside the door.
"Again! I'd pay ten dollars for a steak from a grain-fed cow," Jason said
"I have a new recipe from Salina Samuels," Addie said defensively, as if that
justified lobster three times a week. Jason
wondered if Addie thought they were poor. Only Key West's impoverished ate
crustaceans this often. Some even buried the
shells, rather than throw them out with the garbage, to avoid their neighbors
"Jeffers has been at sea for a week," Harry remarked, sitting at the kitchen
table and stuffing Bahama Bread in his mouth.
"Do you think he has a chance, Jase?" Addie asked.
Jason shook his head. "I don't know much about fighting at sea, Addie. I would
imagine whoever gets a position up wind . .
"To windward," Addie corrected.
" . . . will have the advantage," Jason continued, "and a prudent opponent would
break off and look for another
"`Prudent' is a word that doesn't fit well in the same sentence with Jeffers.
The lad is proud, emotional, not much common
sense," Harry said. He kept eating and talking. "Sam Lewis, Jeffers' chief petty
officer, told me the crew doesn't like him
very much. They don't respect his judgement."
"Did Lewis say it that plain?" Jason asked.
"Is this as bad as it sounds?" Addie inquired.
Jason nodded. "If the men start to second-guess the commanding officer, they
will not react quickly to a crisis, even if the
officer in charge is decisive and his orders correct."
"Jase's first company of cavalry during the war," Harry explained. "They knew he
risked their lives, but they also knew he
would not waste them, like some of the careless or more foolhardy officers.
There's none of that with Jeffers and his crew,
no confidence in command."
Jason picked at the lobster with its buttery, rich hollandaise sauce, but he was
distracted. "More than likely, nothing will
happen. Carney will run, if Jeffers' sloop comes over the horizon. He has
nothing to gain and everything to lose if he has
to tangle with the navy."
"Yeah," Harry said. "He'll find out about our salvage plans and wait. Mind ya, I
don't think he'll like it; but he'll have
to, because that's where the big money is: the location of the Atocha. They'll
wait until we have a month or so of easy
salvage and then attack and try to capture our ship."
"Maybe, but maybe not. We could stir 'em up a little and cause a confrontation
ashore, where we have better control of the
"Ah, I have no doubt you'll do something along those lines," Harry said and
smiled. "But, we'll still have to be ready to
fight at sea."
Addie looked sourly back and forth between them. "And what do you have up your
sleeve, Jase? Have you requisitioned a
cavalry regiment to gallop to our rescue once the bad guys approach us in Hawk's
Jason smiled at Harry and shrugged toward Addie. "Don't you want to guess what
we're up to?"
"No, Jase, just tell me," an irritated Addie said.
"I'm importing naval artillery and armor plate from factories in Great Britain,
and we are going to mount guns on, and
fortify the Sweet Pea. We intend to bring up the treasure and fight for it, if
anyone comes at us," Jason told Addie.
"Oh! I see," Addie said. "Well, that's sort of what I expected. Who's crewing
these guns? I know you and Harry are prepared
for a fight at sea. Who else?
"I'm making arrangements for the proper personnel," Jason said.
"So neither of you have any faith in Bruce or his crew. You both think we will
have to fight Jack Carney." Addie left the
kitchen and went upstairs to her room.
"Finish eating. Addie will be just as upset five minutes from now," Harry said,
like the concerned father that he was.
Jason followed her upstairs and entered Addie's room. He quietly walked around
the bed. "Addie, I'm sorry I upset you."
She was lying on the bed, her face buried deep in a fluffy feather pillow. Her
dolls were everywhere, lending all kinds of
"It's not you. It's just that you're always right about this kind of thing."
Jason barely understood her, which was fine,
because he needed an excuse to sit by Addie and coax her to turn over. "I'm
worried about Sarah. If Bruce gets hurt, she
will be heart broken," Addie confessed.
Jason went to lie down on his side next to Addie and caressed her cheek and
throat. "I tried very hard to help Jeffers, but
Wyatt Scott was intent on sending him off on his own. I did what I could, Addie."
"I know you did." She snuggled close to him. "You didn't like the lobster, did
you?" she asked.
"No. Is that why you came up here? And you knew I would follow."
"Yes, I am glad you came."
That evening Jeffers and his tired crew were keeping the USS Detroit on station
off San Antonio de Cuba, the most western
tip of the island. He stood by the man at the wheel, looking south through his
telescope at the approaching masts. It could
be the Raven, he thought. The timing was right. The sun was starting to set and
Jeffers decided that at dawn he would
position his ship to challenge this northern-bound schooner coming from the
direction of Jamaica and the Caymens. Jeffers
watched the sunset in the big sky and wondered what it would be like to command
the Detroit in a naval engagement, a sea
battle. He had spent his whole life preparing for the morning. Studying naval
history and reading memoirs of past sailors
convinced him he must act boldly at the right moment. Jeffers walked a step to
the stern rail and grasped it with both
hands. He looked up and prayed to God for the energy and wisdom to fight his
On the Raven Jack Carney was standing at the bow peering up at his lookout atop
"I make her to be a federal sloop; just a guess, Captain." It was too far for
even the lookout to make a positive
"Good," Uriah Stogger said.
Carney looked at him sharply. "We need a prize, not a fight."
"I need a ship. If we have to kill a few Yankees to get it, I can handle it,"
Carney was having second thoughts about bringing Stogger and his crew on this
voyage. The idea had been to find an easy
prize to get Stogger and his men off the beach and double the size of their
force. "Ya know," Carney observed, "You're too
damn old to be talkin' like a fool kid."
Stogger laughed, "You are bloody-well right. I just hate Yankees. Besides,"
Stogger pulled on his new pipe and watched the
wind take the smoke as he exhaled, "a federal ship already has cannons I'll
need, and if it is one of Wyatt Scott's
squadron, chances are the captain has no experience."
"All right. We'll try 'em in the morning. But, I'm not risking this ship or too
many of our men. If those Yankees can shoot
straight . . . "
"I understand and agree," Stogger blurted. "I didn't mean to sound reckless. I
didn't get this old by being brash and
"Shit!" Carney swore. "You're just goddamn lucky; that's the only reason you're
And they both laughed, two old desperadoes of the West Indies: dangerous
dinosaurs slowly becoming extinct in a rapidly
The note from Melanie Allen came the next day and was simple enough. It said:
PLEASE COME TO ROOM 212 OF THE
ATLANTIC GULF HOTEL TONIGHT. I
NEED TO TALK TO YOU. MEL
This note had arrived by way of one of the youthful street urchins that seemed
to always be prowling Duval Street. Jason
held up a fifty-cent piece for the barefoot lad to admire. "Did the pretty
blonde lady give you this note?"
"What instructions did she give you, or did she simply tell you to deliver it to
"She said to give you the note, when you were alone." And the boy looked around
to make sure he had fulfilled that condition
of their verbal contract. Jason gave the successful messenger the coin and he
ran happily off.
Jason took a revolver with him when he left the house that evening, after yet
another lobster dinner. Addie didn't ask him
where he was going. She was deeply involved in Cooper's old novel about the
French and Indian War, The Last of the Mohicans.
Jason thought Addie was developing a crush on Hawkeye. She talked as if she was
enthralled by the concept of the Noble
Jason walked to the hotel, often looking over his shoulder. The lobby was empty
and the desk clerk had his back to the door
so Jason quietly crossed the room, and darted up the stairs.
"I'm glad you could come," Mel said after she closed the door behind him. Jason
first, smelled her strong feminine scent,
musky and sweet. Then he looked around. The room was simple enough: one wide
bed, a bureau, and a single chair.
Mel was not simple. She wore a dark blue, silk dressing gown, and Jason guessed
she was not wearing anything underneath it.
He took the chair and she sat on the bed, barely four feet from him. Mel offered
him a glass of red wine, but Jason
"This is hard for me to say. I wasn't brought up to be a bold woman. But I'm
getting older. I don't mean in years, but in
husbands. I'm a widow, twice over; both were soldiers. Consequently, the next
man I take up with, I hope he is lucky." And
she stood up and took a step toward Jason. "You seem to be a lucky man and you
are very attractive." She took another step
and loosed the silk belt about her slender waist.
Time for Jason to stand up. This was an ego-flattering experience he knew he
just had to savor. Jason took her gently in his
arms and kissed her deeply, rubbing his hands up and down her thighs and
backside. No underwear.
When he finally broke away from a clinging kiss. "You know I am involved?" Jason
"That's why we're here like this. There's no time for you to notice and court
me. I want you to know I'm a passionate woman,
who can love you as you deserve and bear you strong, healthy children. I'm
well-traveled and educated. I will be the wife
you need, fitting of your station." She reached down, grasped his right hand and
placed it inside her gown, on her left
breast. "Feel how my heart beats for you," she said. Her other hand moved slowly
from between Jason's legs up to his waist,
near the Colt pistol.
So he pushed Melanie away to fall back onto the bed. She bounced and leaned up
on her elbows, looking surprised. Mel's gown
fell open revealing it all: round breasts with pink nipples, a flat stomach,
shapely hips and a thin blond muff of delicate
hair surrounding her sex.
She smiled as Jason examined her perfect figure and said, "I don't mind the
rough treatment, but I really do wish you would
take off some of your clothes, that gun, and come over here."
"You're a whore working for General Harrington, Mel. What's the price to me? How
much do you cost?"
She got up and tied her gown. "What's the matter? Do you like boys?" she spat
out. She even sneered angrily, showing her
teeth. No beauty there, Jason thought.
"I like Addie Gorten, but I wanted to hear your offer." He opened the closet and
took out her dress, her other clothes, and
threw them on the bed. "I'll walk you back to Laura's house if you want."
"You go right to hell, you Yankee scum! I think you're a disgusting man. The
sight of you turns my stomach. I only offered
myself to you because I am a patriot."
"You're a misguided patriot, Mel. The war is done with. Its not Yanks and Rebs
anymore. We're all Americans now."
"My father, my uncles, cousins, my brothers," she yelled, starting to cry, and
became hysterical, curling up on the bed; so
Jason left and tried to walk quietly down the stairs.
Three women sat on a couch in the lobby. Addie was in the center, serene Laura
to her right, and a stern looking Sarah on
her left. Jason shrugged and walked over to them. "Would any of you ladies like
me to buy you a drink? The bar is open," he
"Your father-in-law-to-be is waiting for you there right now," Laura said
In unison Laura, Sarah, and Addie rose, in military precision. Addie took a
watch from her purse. "Barely five minutes. You
are a 'model of virtue,' Jason." Then the three of them marched up the stairs
like an infantry squad.
"What are you gonna do?" Jason called, but not really wanting to know the
"That's none of your concern. We'll deal with the harlot," Sarah said. "But, I'm
amazed. You have character, so rare in a
man. Now, go on, before God turns you to a pillar of salt." She continued up the
Jason joined Harry at the bar and they bought drinks. "That didn't take long,"
he said. "I guess you didn't get to stuff
your pimento into that tasty olive after all." He sipped at a short bourbon and
shook his head back and forth. "I wish that
girl had wanted to tune my piano. I could have played some sweet music with
Jason smiled. Harry should have been a musician, instead of a poet.
When Mel heard the knock on the door she thought it was the Yankee and he
probably changed his mind. "Just a minute," she
called and quickly ran a brush through her long, full hair in front of the
mirror, and pinched her cheeks to get the rosy
She opened the door and saw Addie Gorten's little fist. Then she was sitting on
the floor and the world was a daze; visual
images swimming around rather than steady reality. "Just like old times," Mel
heard Addie say.
Mel shook her head and realized the whole left side of her face was numb. Then
strong hands were tightly holding her arms
and shoulders. On her left was Sarah holding her down with her wrist behind, at
the bottom of her back.
To the right was Laura. "My own cousin! How can you?"
"No. This time you're my cousin, and I'm ashamed of you-coming here to seduce my
Then Mel looked up and saw Addie standing above her. Slowly Addie drew a long
scissors from the folds of her dress. Mel
started to scream and struggle; raw terror ran through her whole being. She went
beyond panic. She became a hysterical,
primal creature confronting a fate she considered much worse than death. Addie
moved behind her and grabbed all her long
hair, roughly pulling back her head.
Mel came to just several minutes later. She was lying on the floor and could see
three pairs of feet by the door. Mel sobbed
quietly, crawled across the floor to the bureau, and dragged herself up to her
knees so she could look in the mirror. Her
hair was intact; the rest was a mess. Her left cheek was already starting to
swell and darken. Her makeup was wet and
smeared across her cheeks.
She looked up at the three women. Addie was curling a long, but small, lock of
blond hair around her index finger. "I only
needed a little bit for a doll. I make them," Addie explained.
"I'll send your things over here. You're not coming back to my house," Laura
"Be on the next ship outta' here," Sarah drawled. "Next time we'll pluck all
your feathers." And they left.
Mel staggered, fell onto the bed, and she cried herself into a tortured, light
sleep. She sailed the next day on the first
ship going anywhere. Melanie Allen wore a veil and kept nervously stroking her
hair. Her ego was shattered. She had no
conscience regarding the Yankee, so she felt no remorse for her actions. But
getting caught and humiliated had left her
terribly upset. Mel just wanted to go home, slip into her own bed, under her
favorite quilted comforter, and stay there.
Jason was sitting on the front porch of Dr. Samuels' house, several days after
Mel Allen ended her visit, when the terrible
news came. Addie kept dragging Jason along when she visited Sarah and Salina.
"You don't have anything better to do?" she
insisted. Jason decided he would have to find something better to do.
A marine on a horse galloped up Simonton Street and stopped in front of the
white picket fence. "We need the doctor right
away," he shouted toward Jason. "The Gulf Queen came in with casualties from the
Detroit. We're bringing them to the customs
"I'll have Dr. Samuels come right over," Jason answered and the marine rode off
to tell others. Jason ran around the side of
the house to Samuels' office and interrupted him lecturing an old "Conch" on the
evils of excessive drinking.
"Doctor, you are needed at the customs house right now. There are wounded
sailors from a fight with the pirates."
Samuels was a physician used to reacting quickly to a crisis. "I'll pack a bag;
will you bring my buggy around front?"
"No, I'll saddle your horse and bring her around. That's quicker. We'll follow
with what you'll need."
"I'm going to need . . ."
"I know what to bring," Jason blurted.
"Yes, I suppose you do know," Samuels said and went to gathering his
instruments. Jason trotted to the small barn and
saddled the doctor's horse. Samuels hurried outside, mounted, and galloped away.
Addie and Sarah joined Jason in the front
"What's all the commotion about?" Sarah drawled.
"What's the Gulf Queen?" Jason asked Sarah.
"Don't answer my question with another one."
"She's a cargo ketch running the triangle trade route between Key West, Jamaica,
and Havana. What happened, Jase?" Addie
asked, her voice harsh, fearful.
"She came in with wounded from the Detroit. Jeffers must have found Carney."
"Oh my God. Bruce," Sarah cried.
Jason hitched Samuels' buggy to a second horse and Addie, Sarah, and Salina
climbed in the back seat. Salina had a carpetbag
full of antiseptic and the doc's sewing kit.
"Use Duval, Jason," Salina said, "As quick as you deem safe."
"Yes, ma'am. I understand." Jason snapped the reins and the horse started off.
Salina directed one stop, which Jason anticipated, at the fabric shop, for a
bolt of white cotton cloth. The shop was
closed, and Jason had to run over and kick in the door. Addie and Sarah were
quick to get what they needed. The women
started to rip long strips and roll bandages in the back seat as Jason drove
The scene on Front Street and the harbor area was chaotic. There were people
milling about and talking to the crew of the
Gulf Queen. A squad of marines was keeping the crowd back from the customs
house. Sarah ran headfirst into them, and
Crawford Wales came over.
"Crawford, what happened? Where's Bruce?"
Wales' long, thin face was grim; his eyes were sad. Dammit, Jason knew he had
nothing good to say. "Bruce is inside. He's
hurt bad." She ran around him into the building.
"What happened to the Detroit?" Jason asked.
"Carney took her as a prize."
"What!" This was the worst thing that could happen. Jack Carney, a pirate, had
taken a United States ship as his own.
"Commander Scott is expecting you. I'm sure he has more details," Wales said.
Dr. Porter, on leave from Fort Jefferson, was working on Jeffers, with Sarah
watching from a distance. Samuels was tending
to the other casualties. Addie and Salina quickly went to assist him. Jason
looked at the injuries and guessed the fight had
taken place at least twelve hours ago. The blood on their clothes and bandages
was thoroughly dry, and the most critically
wounded had already expired.
"Mr. Pike, over here," Scott said from a doorway at the end of a hall.
Jason followed him into a small office and he closed the door. Scott looked
shaken, like Wales, and there was blood on his
usually impeccable uniform. A third man in the office was thin and tired
looking, a crimson bandage on his arm. Jason placed
him in his mid-forties.
"This is Sam Lewis, chief petty officer of the Detroit,"
Scott introduced him. "Tell this gentleman what happened," Scott directed.
"Where should I start, sir?" he asked.
"When you sighted the Raven bearing down on the Gulf Queen."
"Lieutenant Jeffers ordered general quarters, and we maneuvered the Detroit for
position to give battle. It took an hour.
Finally we both came to be tacking east, with the wind from the north."
"Carney didn't try to run?" Jason asked.
"He had us outgunned and was spoiling for a fight. We were sailing parallel,
about sixty yards apart and trading rifle fire.
We were both heeling over too far to starboard for cannon fire." Lewis meant the
Detroit's low side was to the Raven, and
her guns were pointed into the sea. But the Raven's high side was facing the
sloop, and her guns were elevated too high,
even for a shot at the rigging. "Then they pulled away from us, until the range
was two hundred yards, and fired a broadside
of five guns, six pounders is my guess, of grapeshot. It arced up and down on
us, raking the deck. Half the crew, including the lieutenant, fell. After that,
I didn't have enough able hands to sail the
ship and man the guns. Eight men were bleeding to death, and there was nothing
we could do.
"They circled and ordered us to yield. Carney told me if I scuttled or burned
our ship, he would sink the Gulf Queen and
leave us all for the sharks. What could I do, Commander Scott? I had to abandon
the Detroit. I had no choice."
"All right. You're dismissed, Mr. Lewis." Scott nodded and Lewis left.
The door opened and Addie came in. Her face was tear- streaked and pale.
"Commander Scott, Lieutenant Jeffers wishes to make
his report to you and requests you come to his bedside."
"That's not necessary. The lieutenant has done enough."
"It's his last request," she spat. "You better come along too, Jason."
"Yes, ma'am. I know," he said.
Sarah was sitting on the bed, holding Jeffers' head and shoulders in her lap. He
was all wrapped in bandages, but still the
life force was seeping from his being. Wales had told Jason that Jeffers had
taken a piece of shrapnel through his middle
and out his back. A kidney was smashed, his stomach shredded, and bile was
leaking and eating away at him. Jeffers was
feverish and sweating, still gritting his teeth against the pain, despite the
laudanum Porter had given him. Opiates could
do little to lessen the agony of a stomach wound.
"Commander Scott, I needed to see you before I go to join our Lord. The pirates
have killed me, decimated my crew, and taken
my ship. I've failed as a naval officer. And now I must beg your forgiveness,"
Jeffers said slowly, his voice slurred from
the drug, yet still pained from the tormenting wound.
"Oh, Bruce be quiet. You need make no apologies now," Sarah said, wiping his
sweaty forehead with a damp cloth.
Scott's face was sad and he stood still as stone. Then Scott murmured to
Jeffers, "You found the enemy and you engaged. You
have nothing to apologize for."
"No! And this is the time . . . I'll have no other. Ah, Sweet Jesus," he
screamed in excruciating agony; Jason and Addie
both went to help Sarah keep him from flailing about uncontrollably. "I wasn't a
good sailor and never should have sought .
. . or accepted command." Blood bubbled from his mouth as he groaned against the
burning misery where his body had been cut
through. "I'm so sorry my men died because Carney outfought me. I was
incompetent . . . and now I go to meet my Lord as a
soul whose negligence was criminal and immoral," he judged himself, his voice
weakening, growing distant.
"Why did you choose to engage? He had five guns to your three, even if you could
get them high enough to bear," Scott
finally asked the same question Jason wanted to ask.
"I felt obliged . . . to engage the Raven whether her broadside was five guns or
fifty-five. The honor of these United
States, her navy, and my command were at stake." Sarah grasped him tighter, and
he took some comfort in her close attendance
during his last moments.
"I forgot to pray for luck," he whispered absent-mindedly as his consciousness
wandered. "Napoleon thought all commanders
needed luck. I forgot to pray for luck!"
Pain took control and Jeffers clenched his teeth into a piece of leather until,
mercifully, he passed out. Jeffers died an
hour later. Sarah took the leather thong from his mouth and wiped away the
blood. She cried and wouldn't leave Jeffers'
Salina came to comfort Sarah, and Jason took Addie's hand and drew her away,
outside into the clean, salty night air. "I
can't stand how men treat each other," she said and walked away, and then back
to Jason. "The world would be such a pretty
place, if God hadn't made people."
"If he made us in his image, he's not my God."
Addie hugged Jason as tight as she could and cried, "We're going back to Big
Pine Key, and we're going to stay there the
rest of our lives; and . . . and you can use your money to build me a big house
on my island in the sun," Addie said
wishfully. Her slender body convulsed in spasms of sorrow, and tears ran down
Addie's pale cheeks to Jason's chest. "And
there will be
no more talk of treasure, or anything for you to fight over with anybody else,"
Addie tried to say forcefully, almost as if
she was really in charge. Jason smiled sadly at Addie's fantasy and tightly
clutched her to him.
The next morning Addie went to the Samuels' House to visit with Sarah. Jason
walked over to the naval base. The marine guard
told him Commander Scott had just left for the Martellos; so Jason walked home
and saddled Ulysses, Addie's stallion that
Harry had brought back from Big Pine Key.
Jason rode east to the first Martello tower and saw Wyatt Scott standing under a
palm tree with Crawford Wales. Commander
Scott was in his formal uniform, while Wales was in field dress.
"Good morning, gentlemen."
The lieutenant nodded and the commander spoke, getting right to the point.
"Pike, I'm assigning a second squad of marines to
the sloop Shenandoah, as soon as you start salvage on the wreck. Lieutenant
Case's orders will be to patrol the lower Keys
from Big Pine west to your location and to keep an eye on your operation. He
will engage the pirates, if they approach."
"That's no good. He'll only be around once a week with that route. Give me Wales
and one of his squads on my salvage brig.
Have Case lay on the lee side of the Marquesas, until he hears gunfire and comes
as quickly as possible. That is the proper
way to set a trap, Scott. I've done more than a few in the past," Jason argued.
"No, I'm not putting marines on a privately owned vessel," Scott said
emphatically. "That would create all kinds of
administrative and logistical problems. Forget that idea, Pike."
Jason was fed up with Scott's bullheadedness. He should have been anxious to
make use of Jason's past experience and his
willingness to fight, but Jason decided Scott's pride was his tragic flaw. "Damn
it. If you listened to me last time and
sent two ships, instead of that dead brave fool, Jeffers, by himself, we'd be
done with this whole affair. This is the last
time I'm going to try and help you save your career, Commander."
Scott turned red and stiffened. "Excuse us, Mr. Wales," Scott said. Wales looked
back and forth between them, and walked
away so they could yell at each other in private.
"Don't you ever talk to me like that again," Scott threatened. "I'll have you
clamped in irons . . ."
". . . and thrown in the brig, no doubt," Jason finished for him. "You can't do
that to a civilian without declaring marshal
law. You could challenge me to a duel. Then I would kill you and get on with my
Scott walked right up to Jason. "You started all this damn trouble. Everything
was quiet until you got here."
"So put that in your next report. It'll be easier for you to blame the loss of
the Detroit on a live civilian, than a dead,
well-intentioned, but incompetent lieutenant."
Scott shook his head back and forth in disbelief. "You are a truly belligerent
"Sometimes," Jason had to agree. "Scott, why don't you ask for help? Get them to
send you a frigate from Wilmington. I know
it will hurt your career, but Carney has to be stopped, and you don't have the
firepower, or the expertise to do it," Jason
said, seeing in Wyatt Scott's eyes that he knew exactly what Jason meant.
"If only they would send me a frigate to command. But they won't. They'll send a
ship with a senior captain. He'll get
Carney and all the credit. I have to do this myself, or I might as well resign,"
Scott said in frustration.
What Scott meant, Jason decided, was that Andrew Case and Crawford Wales would
have to do it. So Jason asked him again to
assign Wales and a squad of marines on his salvage ship.
"No, damn it. I'm not giving you a crew of marines. And that's final." He walked
away. Jason wondered if Scott would
consider his resignation as an alternative to a duel, where he would certainly
send a nasty, .45 caliber chunk of lead
bursting through Scott's chest.
The next day Jason sat quietly with Addie in Saint Paul's Church and listened to
the eulogy for Bruce Butler Jeffers
delivered by Reverend Cramden Fisher. The testimonial made Jason think they had
lost God's own warrior angel, Michael,
instead of a rather inexperienced naval lieutenant. After the funeral service
came the burial in Saint Paul's graveyard.
Sarah was calm, but seemed disoriented and slightly shaky on her feet. Addie was
on one side of Sarah and Salina on the
They lowered the casket into the open grave and Cramden Fisher performed more of
the prescribed ritual. Jason was standing
behind them next to Dr. Samuels. The weather was relentless: a blazing sun in an
endless blue sky, ninety-plus temperatures
and humid. "Sarah's dress is too confining. She can hardly breath," Jason
whispered to the doctor. The dress was black silk,
and the bodice tight, constricting her middle.
"I'll order Sarah to dress down to baggy cottons, like you and Addie wear when
you frolic in the surf."
Jason glanced sideways at the good, but nosy doctor. "Frolic, I have never, nor
will I ever,
`frolic' with anyone in my life. But I'm glad you agree with me about that
ridiculous dress Sarah is sweltering in."
After the service Jason escorted Addie to the Samuels' home to pay their
respects. Andrew Jackson Case, the lieutenant
commanding the USS Shenandoah, stood in a corner sipping a glass of port with
Crawford Wales. Addie had told Jason what he
looked like, so he guessed the lieutenant with Wales was Case. He was a tall man
with a handsome countenance and an
aristocratic bearing. Jason's first impression was that he should have been
named for Alexander Hamilton, instead of that
Southern, backwoods Indian fighter.
Jason got a glass of brandy from Samuels' bar and walked over to Wales and Case.
"Hello, Wales," Jason said.
The marine nodded. "A. J., this is Jason Pike. Jason, this officer is Andrew
Jackson Case. We call him `A. J.' for short."
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Pike, as long as you don't call me `Andy'."
"Come outside with me, Case," Jason requested. "I want to talk to you. Will you
excuse us?" Jason said to Wales, who nodded
and walked away.
Case and Jason went out to the large, wrap-around porch. "How do you feel about
fighting pirates with your sloop?" Jason
asked, straight to the point.
Case looked around to make sure no one was close enough to overhear their
conversation. "I've been teething at the bit to
take on Carney. At least now, with this new patrol route, Commander Scott is
giving me a chance at an encounter with Carney.
It's up to my discretion how much time I spend at the western end of my patrol
"You're the most experienced officer Commander Scott has. Why didn't he use you
instead of Jeffers?"
"I don't know for sure. I can only speculate, and I am not sure I know you well
enough to take you into my confidence," Case
"Scott might think it would look better to his superiors, if his
least-experienced captain defeated Carney. Sort of like he
was bringing young Jeffers along as his protegé. You would have gotten all the
credit if you had defeated Carney."
Case smiled. Jason guessed he liked the analysis. "Too bad Scott didn't sail
with the Detroit," Jason said. Case laughed,
until he realized where they were, and why. "I've got some friends in the War
Department. I'll write a letter," Jason said.
"Scott's uncle is an admiral. I hope your friends are high up too."
"I can clip that marionette's feathers close in. As soon as we start salvage
operations, your command will be assigned to
watch over my group exclusively. We'll work together to finish Carney and any
other cutthroats he recruits."
"You sound rather confident Mr. Pike," Case said. "I hope luck is one of the
resources at your beck and call, sir." And
Jason smiled, wondering if Case had heard what Jeffers wished for, just before
he died. Jason knew Case thought he was
behaving with casual bravado and Case was right too.
"Jase," Addie called. She was at the French doors glaring at them. "You two get
back in here right now. That's an order!"
Most of Samuels' associates and neighbors left in the late afternoon, and only
family and close friends were left for a
quiet meal. Jason was nervous because, while he stayed on the fringe of the
group, he expected Sarah would open a tirade on
him because he had started the fight with Carney, which ultimately resulted in
Jeffers' death. Instead, she said to him
conversationally, in front of everyone, "You outwitted Carney with kerosene. I
watched. Then you escaped from his grasp on
Big Pine Key. Why couldn't Bruce win a battle?" She started to cry and everyone
in the room looked toward Jason for a
Don't speak ill of the dead, Jason; he reminded himself; then glanced at Addie
and she shrugged her shoulders, offering no
help. "Bruce Jeffers was young and inexperienced, Sarah. Certainly a brave and
dedicated officer, but there is no
substitute, no amount of training can teach the immediate decision-making
process a commander must deal with in actual
combat. I admired Jeffers' devotion to duty, but I feel a more experienced
sailor and warrior should have been sent against
Sarah nodded, all sorrow and grief, and turned back to weep on Salina's already
thoroughly damp shoulder. Jason didn't know
if Sarah blamed Wyatt Scott for Jeffers' death and the loss of the Detroit, but
he did and had no reason to keep it a
Jason took Addie home, and after she undressed and changed to a nightgown, she
came to his room and curled up next to him in
bed. "I can't make love tonight, Jase. Will you just hold me," she said and
started to cry softly until she fell asleep.
When it was late and all 'good' people were home and asleep, Jason got dressed
and went to see Darcy. The stove was still
hot, so Darcy put on a pot of coffee for the two of them as they sat in her
Darcy started to rekindle the burning coals, but Jason took over for her and
laid some twigs to the embers, and then some
larger cuttings from the pile next to the stove.
"Oh, you know how to do that?" Darcy said, condescendingly, as if rich people
couldn't, or wouldn't, know how to build a
fire in a stove.
"This is a disaster," Jason said. "Carney took Jeffers' sloop. And the boy
captain got himself killed too."
"Don't be cruel, Jase. Young Jeffers was brave, rather than cautious. Sometimes
the gods favor the foolish," Darcy advised,
and yawned. Jason had bounced Darcy out of bed unexpectedly, and while
classically contemplative, she was not in the best of
"The lad confessed he wasn't up to this task when he was dying. I wonder what
Sarah Dumont saw in him?"
"She saw a man-child who needed caring for," Darcy concluded. "So, what do you
think? Are you worried because Carney now has
a second ship? I certainly would be if I was you."
"He's just escalating the situation," Jason said. "I can bring in more manpower
and another ship, if I need it."
Darcy shook her head back and forth. "I have to conclude Carney is also taking
this treasure nonsense seriously. I thought
he had more common sense."
"Carney is working for somebody who wants that treasure to finance an endeavor.
I get the feeling ambition is running the
show, not common sense."
"That is quite often how men run their affairs. What kind of endeavor? Starting
the Civil War again?" Darcy looked
"No. Not quite that. First, Harrington: a disgruntled and bitter old politician
and general who lost everything. He is
writing frequently to people all over the South for no overt reason. That old
man wants to be in charge again," Jason
"Who else? I'll admit Harrington would like to fancy himself as a king but he
can do little without bishops and knights."
"Next, a lawyer with a chip on his shoulder: Wade Estes. He lost his wife in the
war and some of his soul. Now, he's
Harrington's dark bishop. Then a couple local island toughs run by Samson Pool,
to do their bidding on Key West, and
contacts with Carney for offshore work."
Darcy nodded. "That does make sense. But, where's the army? Need pawns to start
a war," Darcy said.
"They need a war chest first. After they have the treasure, Harrington will
recruit the army, and not to fight Yankees
again," Jason speculated. "Possibly to invade Cuba and draw us into a war with
Spain or, more likely, another weak country
in Central America, somewhere there's a void of government and military power."
Darcy was about to protest again, but Jason went on, "You know it has happened
before, the conspiracies of Southern slavers
to move into the Caribbean or Central America. Their game is plain and simple
conquest. Wouldn't Thomas Jefferson turn over
in his grave, if he knew?"
"Aaron Burr might fancy the idea, I think," Darcy said flippantly. Then she
changed the subject. "You went to Jamaica. I
heard about a fight. You drove Uriah Stogger right into Carney's camp. How did
you manage that little debacle?" The coffee
Darcy poured was bitter, and there was no sugar on the table.
"Bad timing. That incident was a ludicrous accident. I was talking to Stogger in
the back of a bar, when Carney and his men
walked in. Alvarez saw me, and started a gunfight. Harry and I shot him and a
few others." Jason shrugged. "Nothing else to
"Why didn't you get Stogger out of a public place to talk to him?" she asked.
Darcy had her arms on the table, her fingers
intertwined. Her slender, pointed thumbs were slowly revolving around each
other. She reminded Jason of a stern school marm
disappointed in her favorite student. Darcy, Stogger would have grown very
suspicious of an assassination attempt, if I had
tried to get him alone to talk. And I didn't have time to hang around Jamaica to
slowly get to know Stogger. The whole thing
was just bad timing."
"What did you find out about Stogger?" Darcy asked next.
"He's English and a scoundrel too. That's all," Jason said. He saw no reason to
tell Darcy what he knew about Stogger. She
wanted to know everything he learned on the trip, but this wasn't the Civil War
and their relationship had changed; Jason
wasn't her courier anymore. Now, she was gathering intelligence for him to
analyze, and act on. And Jason didn't know if
Darcy might also be working for others. He knew she sensed his distrust, and
Darcy turned away politely to cough, probably
dismayed he would not confide in her.
"If you're right, this could turn into a nasty situation. You and Gorten going
up against Carney, Stogger, and whoever else
General Harrington and Estes may bring in. And, the navy is apprehensive to help
you." Darcy stopped twirling her thumbs and
took to drumming fingertips rhythmically on the table. "You need more friends,
"Who doesn't. Most of the resources I need are right at hand. The rest are
"Well, you used to be lucky. I hope you still are. This is turning into a
serious matter. There are many aspects to be
And Jason presumed Darcy was going to tell him about some of them. "Everything
would be easier," he said, "if Jeffers hadn't
gotten himself, half his crew killed, and lost his ship. If Heaven is for fools,
I would just as soon go the other way."
"That is a distinct possibility," Darcy said, and Jason looked at her curiously.
"Is this treasure worth all the fighting
and suffering it might cause like during . . . ?"
"Don't make a comparison between this and the war. This fight is for money, not
principle. No draftees this time, no kids
pulled from schools or off the farm." Darcy's manicured eyebrows went up a bit,
so Jason went on. "I'm more concerned what
the treasure will be used for if my opponents get it. There are enough
coincidences to indicate a conspiracy to use this
wealth for evil purposes. Hell! If I get the money, I'll just put it in the
Darcy smiled. "You have your justifications all laid out. You always were
articulate and well prepared, I'll give you that,
"You scoffed at me just a few months ago, when I told you about limitless wealth
under the shallows. Want to buy in now?"
"No," Darcy said. "Not my type of investment. But the most amazing facet of your
situation is Wyatt Scott's intransigence on
this matter," Darcy summarized Jason's problem.
"I wrote a letter to Phil Sheridan offering my services if he directs Scott to
cooperate, take direction," Jason said.
"Sheridan! Sheridan will have to forward your note to Sherman. Sherman is in
charge of the army. Why should he care about
pirates in the Florida Keys?" Darcy smirked just a bit and shook her head back
and forth. "And he is the worst communicator
in Washington. I doubt if the navy will enjoy having Sherman try to shove you
down their throat."
"Sherman has Grant's ear, and the president might urge the navy to reinforce
this station with a squadron of steam frigates
and a competent officer. That would solve my problem. I could put away my guns
and just do business."
"That is a possibility," Darcy nodded. "I hate when the navy draws their belt
tight and leaves the Northern Caribbean bare
and open to opportunists."
"I suppose your business is better when the navy has a high presence here. Damn.
I thought there was a squadron based here.
That picture in Harper's Weekly last year: there was a naval review with a
flotilla of steam frigates having torpedo
practice just off key West."
Darcy smiled. "Of course. That was Admiral David Porter's European squadron
brought home to threaten Spain, after their
Cuban patrol boats captured the USS Virginius with a hold full of arms meant for
Cuban revolutionaries. Jason, the review
was a terrible disappointment. The fleet was in ghastly shape. None of the ships
could do more than four and a half knots;
most needed dry-dock work and fresh paint. Some newspapers suggested selling the
whole lot for firewood and scrap."
"And the ships we need are tied up in Wilmington harbor collecting barnacles and
"A penny saved is a penny earned," Darcy quoted.
"Yeah, and a stitch in time saves nine. The navy has to react to this outrage."
"If their budget is tight, they will send a senior officer to confer with Scott,
maybe interview you, and then act on his
report," Darcy said.
"That could take three months. I won't wait," Jason declared. "If I stop and let
my guard down somebody will try to kill me.
Harry Gorten and Addie are also vulnerable. It's the right time of year to get
going on a long salvage operation. We will
need all summer."
Darcy nodded and yawned, which Jason took as a cue to say goodnight. He went
home and got some sleep that night, because it
had been a very long day.
At first light Addie woke and quickly dressed. She took Cump with her and walked
over to the Samuels' House. Her instincts
were right. Sarah was up early too, sitting on the wicker love seat on the
veranda, sobbing quietly. Addie sat wordlessly
next to her and pulled Sarah over to lie down with her head in Addie's lap. She
stroked Sarah's hair as Sarah curled her
legs up into a fetal position. Cump went to sleep, when he sensed the sad mood
of the girls and that no one was going to
play with him.
"Addie, I loved him so much," she said. "I knew he wasn't the warrior he wanted
to be. I loved him even more, because he was
not tough and hard, according to his own definition of what a naval officer
should be. I loved him for his humanity, his
kind and gentle manner. Bruce needed me, and only now I know how much I needed
him. I'll never love another man like I loved
him, like I still love Bruce."
Addie started to say that Sarah would find another love, but decided not to. She
wiped a tear from her own cheek and watched
a new sun rise in the east. We never learn, she thought; we keep making the same
mistakes again and again.
That morning Rob Stevens came to see Jason. Jason got them each a cup of Harry's
strong, black coffee, and they sat outside
on the porch watching the sparse traffic on Whitehead Street. "I'm writing a
story about the loss of the Detroit," he
"You wrote one yesterday. I read it, factual, but not much detail," Jason
"Yes, I want to write a follow-up, a longer piece. I interviewed Sam Lewis, the
chief petty officer, last night. Now, I want
to know what you think?"
Jason guessed Stevens had heard what he said at the Samuels' house about
Jeffers' inexperience. "You already know what I
think. What I want to know is, are you prepared to criticize Wyatt Scott for
sending the youngest of his puppies against an
old, savvy cat like Carney? Certainly the chase is great fun but the dog is
going to get a sliced-up snout, if he catches
"I'm considering the issue. That's why I want your opinion." Jason decided that
Wyatt Scott and he could not be on worse
terms than they already were so he told Stevens his views, the same as he told
Case yesterday, after the funeral.
"Well, what is Scott going to do now? According to your analogy he has a bad
bloody nose," Stevens said.
"I don't know," Jason said, as honestly as he could lie, "and I doubt if Scott
wants to discuss his future plans with you,
so you can print them for my enemies to read about."
Rob Stevens grew a sour expression like any reporter should when told he was not
privy to military plans. "I guess you
aren't going to tell me anything else," Stevens finally said.
"I don't see what else there is to tell you at this particular time," Jason said
Rob Stevens nodded, exercised his frustration by twirling his droopy chin
whiskers with thumb and forefinger; then he stood,
and said goodbye.
U.S. Federal Copyright 'TXU 603-893
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