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The Women on Whitehead Street


Bob Chassanoff

Chapter 8

"Doc Samuels?" Jason asked Harry as they slipped away through the sparse brush, behind the homes on Whitehead Street.

"He'll be waiting at our house. Addie probably sent Sarah to fetch him."

Harry was right. Samuels examined Harry's shoulder, then cleaned and sewed up the bullet crease on Jason's thigh. "I saw the
fire. Anyone hurt over there?" Samuels asked.

"No one you can help," Jason volunteered.

Sarah and Kate seemed satisfied now that they had heard a gunfight, saw a fire, and observed Harry and Jason come home hurt
and wounded. "Well, it looks like you finally did a night's work, Jason Pike," Kate said with stern approval.

"As you wished, Mrs. Asbury." Jason nodded.

After Samuels left Harry and Jason washed and changed to fresh clothes, and just in time because Marshal Jones arrived in
their parlor. Jason yawned and looked at his pocket watch, to let Jones know it was too late for social calls. Being close
to midnight, Jason was ready for a stiff drink and Addie to tuck him into bed. He got the drink.

"What happened tonight? What did you two do at the Lucky Spot?" Jones yelled at Harry and Jason as they sat on the sofa,
both bandaged and in pain under clean clothes.

"Jason and my father were here all night. We played cards," Addie said.

"I won three hands of stud poker and got all of Jason's pocket change," Sarah jumped in, and came to stand next to Addie.

"They were all here gambling at cards. I offered coffee, but Harry and Jason are drinking Jamaican rum," Kate Asbury said,
handing Jason a glass of the same. The marshal looked back and forth amidst the three strong-willed women.

"You will find no evidence that Harry and I went to the Lucky Spot tonight," Jason said, sipping the dark rum.

"Y'awl burned it up good and proper. There won't be any evidence," Jones said. "And you have three of Key West's ladies to
lie for you. I'll tell you this. The judge will take a dim view of vigilante action in his district. I'm glad I'm not in
your shoes, Pike."

Jason reached down, pulled off his boots, and wiggled his toes. "Me too."

After Jones left, Rob Stevens showed up. Harry and Jason went upstairs to bed and left Addie, Sarah, and Kate to fend off
the inquisitive reporter.

The next morning a persevering Rob Stevens was back. Harry met him on the porch and told him to wait, while he got Jason out
of bed. Jason was watching through a second story window, and Addie was right next to him.

"I'll go out for breakfast with Rob," Jason said.

"I'm coming, too," Addie answered.

"Addie, I don't think that is . . ."

"Jase!" Addie threw off her nightgown and started pulling a dress over her svelte figure. "I'm your alibi. I can lie as well
as you, and if Rob Stevens believes I'll back you up convincingly, then he won't imply you and pappy did what he knows you
did last night."

"Another ex-boyfriend, Addie?"

She smiled at Jason in a quirky, devilish manner with her sparkly-bright, early morning eyes. Jason wanted to take her back
to bed, but didn't want to pull on the stitches in his thigh. And there was Stevens waiting downstairs.

"I'm not telling. That is an issue it will be healthy for you to wonder about. Besides, I want to go to Maria's for
breakfast. You men always leaving me home is getting on my nerves," Addie said.

"All right. But follow my lead. Stevens is no fool, and he'll try to trip us up."

"Don't worry about it. I've known Rob since he was seventeen. Even though we're in the tropics, I can snowball him," Addie
said confidently.

Jason knew Addie could have never been interested in Stevens. He was too much of a wisp of wind to attract Addie. Jason
smiled, suddenly curious how Addie would handle the persistent newspaperman. "Okay, Addie. Let's go out for breakfast." They
finished dressing and went to meet Stevens.

"So, you weren't anywhere near the Lucky Spot last night. You want me to print that. You expect anyone to believe it?" Rob
Stevens said, in between bites of Maria's Spanish omelette. Jason nodded and so did Addie, with her mouth full of a guava
and cheese turnover. Stevens was sitting across from Addie and Jason, and from his manner, Jason decided he was very
skeptical. "Damn it to hell. I might lie for you, but not if you don't level with me." Jason was not surprised to see
Stevens had finally lost his temper; but Addie pretended to be shocked at his language.

"Now Robby, let's not be uncivil," Addie said curtly.

"Oh, I'm sorry Addie. It's just that Mr. Pike seems to constantly be expecting my cooperation, without even so much as
throwing me a few proverbial 'crumbs'." And Robby threw up his hands in consternation. Jason ate quietly.

"Rob, listen to me. Jason and my father were home all night. Sarah Dumont and Kate Asbury stayed over too. We all played
cards until midnight and then went to bed. We'll testify under oath, if necessary. In short, Rob, none of my menfolk had
anything to do with the demise of the Lucky Spot. Samson Pool and the rest of those barbarians sliced and shot each other up
over some silly argument. When brutish men are drunk and provoked, they quickly take to violence," Addie theorized. She
delicately licked her fingers, after finishing with the gooey turnover; and smiled at Stevens.

"Huh?" Stevens left his mouth open, and not because he was eating.

"Oh. C'mon, you and everybody else know how that Lucky Spot crowd was. Hooligans, crooks, and unprincipled drunks frequented
the bar every night. Why are you surprised some of them started a brawl that grew into a gunfight? A lamp was broken and the
building burned down. Have you talked to Marshal Jones about who he's chasing from the Lucky Spot crowd?" Addie asked.

"I spoke to Jones. He had nothing to tell me." Stevens was glum. "Jason, Key West is a very peaceful community. In the fifty
years since the colony was founded, we've had only one murder. Even during the war there was no violence here. Now, a bar
burns down, and the remains of five men are found in the ashes."

"Five!" Addie looked shocked, and glanced at Jason. Then quickly/confidently said, "And they all shot each other. The
community should be relieved." Jason glanced downward. "Ask Kate Asbury how her father died twenty-five years ago. That will
make a good story and dispel the myth of only one killing in half a century," Addie said.

"That's true," Jason agreed.

"What are you talking about?" Stevens asked, just as Jason saw Judge James Locke walk in the front door. He stood tall and
straight, looking about the room, until he spotted them and immediately came forward, a cross expression riding his harsh
face like a determined jockey on a powerful horse. Addie saw him too. They were at the back of the room sitting against the

When Stevens saw their glances toward the door, he turned and looked over his shoulder. "Uh-oh, here comes the judge! You're
in for it now. Marshal Jones told me he is upset, certainly hotter than the peppers in these omelettes."

"Good morning." James Locke said, his voice deep and authoritative.

"I was just leaving, sir," Stevens volunteered sheepishly, exiting his chair.

"No, you stay, Stevens." Locke pushed the reporter back down, and took the chair next to him, facing Addie and Jason. "Well,
I'm quite hungry. What's there to eat?" the judge said in an unpleasant voice.

Maria came over and offered a menu. "I'll have what everybody else is eating." Maria nodded and left quickly.

"Easy on the judge's peppers," Jason called to Maria as she headed for the kitchen.

"That will be enough of your Yankee humor, Pike. You've got more to worry about than my peppers," the judge said testily.

"Here, Your honor, have a turnover," Addie offered, pushing the platter toward Locke.

Locke ignored the pastries and stared at Jason. "Well, can you name one reason why I shouldn't order Marshal Jones to arrest

"Yeah," Jason said. "There's no evidence I did anything and plenty of witnesses to prove I stayed home last night. Besides,
judges are not supposed to tell marshals who to arrest; we waste the taxpayers' money on district attorneys to do that. Such
bias would disqualify you from adjudicating the case."

"Quite so. And while we're waiting for another judge, you'll sit in jail with no bail. How does that sound?"

"Terrible," Addie said. "You should be ashamed of yourself, your honor."

"That is enough out of you, young lady. I'm not one of your little classmates. Don't presume to lecture me," Locke said,
with his finger wagging in Addie's face.

Addie's eyebrows shot up and her eyes went wide. Jason prayed she wouldn't stab the judge's finger with the fork gripped
tightly in her right hand.

"Rob, will you excuse us?" Jason asked.

"Yes. That might be a good idea," Stevens said quickly. "I have to get back to the office anyway."

"Why did you say all that in front of Stevens?" Jason asked Locke, after Stevens left.

"He won't print any of it, and I want you to know I'm quite serious. Pike, I warned you not to take vigilante action and you
ignored me."

"That was before they killed John Asbury," Jason said slowly.

"You two stop it," Addie said. Maria brought the judge's omelette, so they quit fighting for a minute.

"You think you got me over a barrel, don't you judge?" Jason asked.

"I'll have you pickled in a barrel," Locke said, forking eggs and peppers to his mouth and chewing.

"Ah-h-h! Damn." He grabbed his water glass. "Maria, too hot," he gasped.

Maria came over to them. "Qué pasa? Jalapeños buenos. No?" Maria threw her arms wide in shock.

"Got an uneasy stomach, judge?" Jason asked, with a straight face.

"Never mind my stomach. I'm here to make an agreement or throw you into jail. Pike, you're a very dangerous man. Now, what
do you want to do?" Locke said as he spit chewed jalapeños and egg into a

napkin, his face red and eyes watering.

Locke pushed his plate away. "Maria, two soft-boiled eggs and biscuits, please." Maria removed his plate and retreated to
the kitchen.

"How much are you willing to invest in our salvage venture?" Addie asked.

Jason looked sideways at Addie, wondering what she was up to. "The judge mentioned his interest to Doc Samuels, who told
Salina, who told Sarah, who told me that the judge wanted to invest in our salvage effort," Addie explained to Jason, then
asked the judge, "That is what you meant by an agreement?"

Locke looked at Jason questioningly, sniffling, and wiping his nose.

"Adrian knows the local climate. If she thinks it's best, lets deal. I don't mind selling a share of what we recover, but
how do I know you aren't fronting for my enemies? I don't know your motives, Judge Locke. Are you going to talk to me, plain
and honest?" Jason asked.

Locke looked all around to make sure no one was close enough to hear him. "I would be more comfortable talking to you alone,
Mr. Pike. You have been quite helpful Miss Gorten, but . . ."

"I understand. Women talk too much," Addie said, standing and moving around Jason. "I'll wait for you outside, Jase."

"Here is what I had in mind . . . " Locke started off.

"Forget what you had in mind," Jason cut him off. "How much money do you want to invest? And no guarantees. Searching for
treasure is not exactly like buying triple-A-rated railroad bonds."

"Well, uh . . . " Locke seemed indecisive. "About five hundred," he eventually said.

"That's all!"

"Yes." Locke shook his head emphatically. "I'm just a civil servant, Pike, not a rich industrialist like you."

"For Christ's sake, judge. I thought you wanted an arm and a leg. All you can afford is a fingernail. My business manager is
due in town anytime now. He'll accept your money and issue you limited partnership shares in the salvage venture.

"Now answer a question, judge? I was concerned why I should trust you and if you were fronting for somebody. But you're not
investing enough money for that to be a credible worry on my part. So tell me, why you are confident enough in this venture
to risk your money. What do you know and from whom? If we're gonna be partners you have to be honest with me."

Maria brought the judge's eggs and he looked around uncomfortably, and Maria grew concerned again. She wouldn't leave until
he started eating.

"Spill it, judge," Jason prompted abruptly.

"Harrington showed me the cross with the emeralds, the artifact Jack Carney took from Gorten's farm; it is a magnificent
piece of history-should be in a museum."

"Yeah. And it sounds like you should be ordering someone's arrest, other than me. Receiving stolen merchandise sounds like
an appropriate charge."

Locke shook his head back and forth. "Harrington swore me to secrecy. Besides, he told me he only had the cross on loan for
a short time."

Jason nodded, believing Carney would want such a prize back to sell himself on the black market. "For raising local support,
money?" Jason wanted to confirm.

"Yes. And strengthening an alliance against you," Locke said disgruntled.

"You better tell me who gave Harrington the cross," Jason said.

"He wouldn't say."

"Or you won't."

"You already killed off Pool and his gang. Don't you think that will scare off the rest?"

"I'm not sure what to think, if you're dealing with both sides, judge. That's a dangerous game, and your office is not going
to protect you. I hope you are a careful man."

"I'm investing with you, and I'm telling you what I know."

"Okay, judge," Jason said and got up, throwing a silver dollar on the table. "I'll buy your breakfast, your honor."

"Pike, I have to hold an inquest, but I don't see any problem. No one will miss Pool and his crowd."

"Except whoever he worked for. See you later, judge."

Addie was outside and she took Jason's arm as they walked home. Jason told her that he cut the judge in for a tiny share of
the treasure. "Wasn't even worth the conversation. I thought Locke was fronting for Harrington, but he is small potatoes.
The judge is just another amoral opportunist looking for an easy dollar. I've met a few like him before."

Then Jason took hold of Addie by her shoulders. "I want to know why you started us negotiating, young lady? You know how I
felt about keeping the whole pie to ourselves."

"I didn't want Locke throwing you in jail." Her manner was stern and she met Jason's glare with her own; and Adrian Gorten
could melt iron with her stare. "You would be in danger in the local lockup. Imprisoned in a small room without your guns,
even you can be killed. I just saved your life," she said.

Jason nodded. "You're right. I'll thank you properly as soon as we get home."

Addie smiled and reached around to pinch his backside. "You damn well better." Jason grasped her hand, and they walked home
in the bright, warm sun.

By the next morning, Addie's mood toward Jason had soured. She was sketching him as he tried to read the Key West Register,
when a messenger came and told them a ship had arrived with freight consigned to Jason Pike. Addie put the pad down and went
to get her hat. Jason glanced at the likeness. It was not complimentary: his eyes were narrow and dark; the mouth was thin
and determined; his warrior's face was gaunt and hollow.

"Do I look like this to you?"

"The night you and pappy went to the Lucky Spot, you did. You were ugly that night, Jase. You killed five men." She crumpled
up the picture and dropped it in a wicker basket on the porch. Addie took Jason's hand and rubbed her head on his shoulder,
as they walked down the steps. Jason suspected Addie knew she wasn't the most fortunate of women to have fallen in love with

At the harbor, Jason and Addie saw Sam Meeker standing on the dock next to several large crates. Sam, Jason's business
manager in the United States, was holding a leash with an active black dog anxious to be free.

"Those crates, are they our machines?" Addie asked.

"Yes, I believe so. The long one is probably the steam engine, and the large crates are the diving bell and boiler," Jason

"The Jellyfish, I can't wait to see her," Addie said.

"What?" Jason asked.

"The Jellyfish! I designed her; I'm naming her," Addie said. "We'll have to get a bottle of champagne to christen her."

"What do you mean you designed her?" Jason asked. "I thought Harry gave me very standard blueprints to send to the

"I made changes and improvements from the various bells I've seen in Key West," Addie explained. "This is the salvage
capitol of the world, remember Jase? And I'm a diver. I drew those plans. The Jellyfish will be a perfect little haven of
air from which to send the treasure up to the surface. She'll be graceful and move through the water as effortlessly as her

Jason was upset. "You mean you got me to finance a prototype of your design? Addie, if that bell doesn't work, we'll
probably have to sit out another winter season waiting for a new one."

"She works just fine. I already got a letter from Triden. The Jellyfish was tested in the river to fifty feet. They liked
the design so much they want to offer it on the open market and pay me a royalty for every unit they sell," she said smugly.

"I see," was all Jason said, and reached to wipe the egg off his face.

Then another man moved into view from behind the Jellyfish's crate. He was a ghost. Someone Jason had never wanted to see
again. He was older, with less hair, and heavy jowls; but Jason had no trouble recognizing Arthur Franklin. He had worked
for General Grant during the war running an intelligence unit. Franklin had gathered an elite group of operatives, of which
Darcy Lamont and Jason were just two. Another of his spies disclosed the location of Lee's supply depot at Ashland,
Virginia. Franklin and Phil Sheridan chose Jason's cavalry regiment to make the raid and burn Lee's supplies. A hundred good
men had died, before they got back across Union lines.

"Jason," Sam Meeker called and waved unnecessarily, when he saw Jason and Addie walking toward him.

"Hello, Sam," Jason said, kneeling to greet the canine. "Addie, I ordered a buddy for your dog. This Black Labrador female
is a proper mate for Cump. What do you want to call her?"

"She's beautiful. We'll call her Fifi."

"Good morning, sir. I brought everything you ordered, including this animal," Sam said, looking at the Lab distastefully as
if she were an obvious nuisance. The retriever was pulling on the leash and jumping around.

"Sam, this is Addie Gorten, and I'm going to marry her if she'll have me. Remember, you told me I needed a wife to keep me
from being young, foolish, and having fun."

Addie stepped forward and put her arm around Jason's waist. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Meeker. Jase has spoken highly of
you. And I think you give him excellent advice. Why don't you let me take the dog," Addie offered. "Cump will be so happy.
When will she come in season?"

"I don't know. I have a letter from the breeder," Sam said with some annoyance.

"We've got a big house with plenty of room, Sam. You're staying with us. You can take a nap, or we'll get some lunch," Jason
suggested. Sam nodded and yawned. Jason smiled. Sam was so efficient that sometimes he chose not to waste a spoken word.

Jason paid a dockside street urchin to run over to John Lowe's manager and tell him they needed a couple teamsters and a
freight wagon. Lowe was going to lock up the diving gear in his

warehouse. Harry showed up to keep an eye on the crates, while Addie and Jason started to take Sam home. "We need
transportation for that small crate-personal items," Sam said, and Jason hired a wagon to deliver the crate.

Jason noticed no one met Arthur Franklin, as he inquired directions and walked off down Duval, presumably to the Atlantic
Gulf Hotel. Jason guessed he would see the spymaster later, after dark. Creatures of their nature sometimes shun the light
of day.

Sarah was waiting for them, when they got home; and the ladies attacked the crate, in a robust manner, with a crowbar. At
Jason's request, Sam's wife had picked out an assortment of presents for Addie and Sarah from New York's finer shops. When
the women had the crate's side panel ripped loose, boxes and bolts of cloth fell out across the floor. Jason got two
particular packages out from the mess and walked into the library, motioning Sam to follow.

"Why didn't you tell me you had my new weapons from Colt and Winchester?" Jason asked.

"Why didn't you tell me how patrician your taste in firearms is?" Sam responded. "That rifle from Winchester is ridiculously
expensive," Sam scowled.

Jason said, "You're tighter than a smart duck's rear on a cold northern pond," and opened both packages to reveal two new
Colt Peacemaker revolvers and a long, lever-action Henry rifle from the Winchester Arms Company.

"That's why you hired me, remember," and Sam yawned again.

"I'll let you go to sleep in just a couple minutes," Jason said walking to a shelf with several bottles and pouring a short
brandy for his guest. "Was anyone on the ship curious about our business?" Jason asked, handing Sam his drink.

"Yes," Sam said, slightly surprised. "Arthur Travis, a banker. And he did press me extensively about you and what you are
doing here." Sam sipped his drink. "I didn't tell him

anything but he seemed to know what we are involved in."

"Inspecting the crates?"

"Yes," Sam said. "I caught him twice in the hold examining the shipment."

"His real name is Franklin and he's a thorough bastard. All of that is my concern, Sam. Bringing the diving gear to Key West
was half your job. Leasing the salvage brig from John Lowe is the other half."

"Yes sir, I quite understand," Sam said, put his empty glass down, leaned his head back on the chaise, and promptly went to

Jason smiled at Sam and examined the long-barreled Colt revolver, when he heard a rumble of footsteps, and the heavy oak
doors to the library were thrown open. Both Addie and Sarah paraded in, each draped in bright satin cloth over their regular
clothes, Addie in white and Sarah in yellow. This was what Addie wanted for their wedding.

"Oh! Sorry to interrupt. You're playing with your guns," Sarah said happily. "What, no leather vest and cowboy hat. Where
are your chaps, Marshal Pike?" she asked, and Addie started

to laugh. Sam woke up and stared wide-eyed at the pair. Jason judged Sarah to be a little tipsy. She had been drinking
sherry daily, while in mourning for Bruce Jeffers.

"Glad to see you are getting your humor back, girl," Jason growled good-naturedly.

That night, Jason waited until three a.m. and left quietly through the back of the house, wearing dark clothes and
moccasins, with a new Colt in his waistband. Darcy had sent Jason a note requesting he come over after she had closed. He
crossed Whitehead Street and traversed a couple of backyards, being careful not to wake any dogs, until he was crouching
beside Darcy's cookhouse.

The main building was dark, and when Jason was satisfied he was alone, he walked over to the back door and into the kitchen.
A small shaft of moonlight came in through the window; and Jason saw the outline of two people sitting at the table.

"Close the window drape and I'll light a candle," Darcy said. Jason sat down at the small table with Darcy and Arthur

"You've been working for Arthur, Darcy?" Jason asked.

She shrugged. "He wanted the same answers as you."

"Well, Captain Pike. I had not expected to meet you again. What can you tell me about this situation? And, I have a letter
for you from an old friend." Jason judged Franklin wasn't in the mood to waste any words.

"Nice to see you too, Franklin," Jason said sarcastically. "Let's see the letter. Are you still working for the War
Department or did they send you down here because you directed Darcy and I during the war?"

"The latter, a favor for the administration. Although it is nice to see Darcy again," and he smiled at her. Jason accepted
an envelope and took out the letter to read.

May 15, 1875 War Department

Saint Louis, Mo

Dear Captain Pike,

Congratulations on your engagement to Adrian Gorten. I remember your sergeant major's daughter. It was an honorable gesture
for you to wait until she grew up.

I am aware of your venture and wish you the best of luck, although it sounds a little farfetched to me. In the event you
find a considerable amount of wealth I am concerned for the safety of the same. Any assistance you may desire from this
office and the personnel we direct are at your disposal. Please feel free to show this letter to any member of our armed

You are an experienced soldier and trusted citizen of these United States. This office is confident any commander in the
field will cooperate with you fully.

I am at your service, sir.

/s/ W. T. Sherman, General of the Army

Saint Louis, Mo

I Concur, George M. Robeson /s/ G.M.R.

Secretary, United States Navy

"This letter's only good for Wyatt Scott. They're looking for the cheap way out," Jason said. "Take this letter back to
Washington and send a frigate down here."

"The navy doesn't want to do that. Besides, anything they put to sea would probably sink on the way," Franklin said. "Losing
the Detroit to a pirate is a real black eye. The navy and the administration want this station to handle it's own problems.
And Commander Scott has indicated in his dispatches that the setback is temporary, and he expects to get things squared away

"The man has more ambitions than he has capabilities," Jason said. "One promotion too many, or he should have got a desk job
in Washington."

"So Darcy has told me. That's why Sherman was pleased when you turned up here. No one predicted that. I should have thought
of it. I read Gorten's service record." Franklin scratched a dandruff-filled eyebrow and thinning temple in wonderment of
his oversight. Darcy stared at the tiny, white skin flake-fall on her tablecloth and smiled with a slightly piqued
expression at an unaware Franklin.

"So you've known about this conspiracy to steal Harry's treasure, and I just stumbled into it?" Jason asked.

"We've been monitoring Harrington's correspondences," Darcy said, covering a yawn with her hand.

"He doesn't write openly about their plans?" Jason queried.

"No," Franklin said. "They use a cipher, but the distribution pattern of the letters has us worried. He writes to people in
the Carolinas, Alabama, Texas, and his home, Mississippi. That's almost the whole South." Franklin looked right at Jason.
"Pike, even the president is concerned. Grant had the ambassador to Spain look into this matter. Is it really possible you
and Harry Gorten found the cargo of the Atocka?"

Jason laid Sherman's letter on the table, and Darcy picked it up to read. She smiled, Jason noticed, probably at Sherman's
joke about Jason's matrimonial patience.

"Franklin, you know wealth changes hands more often than it is destroyed. That money is out there and I'm convinced Harry
knows where. And, Atocha, is pronounced `a-TO-CHa'. No hard `k' at the end."

Darcy smiled again, looking back and forth between them-Jason knowing she was-trying to judge the level of hostility Jason
held toward Franklin.

"What do they want to do with the money? Do you know? Or am I supposed to find that out too?" Jason asked.

"Darcy's theory makes the most sense. Tell him."

"No, you," Darcy said.

"They want to move into Central America," Franklin said.

"Oh," Jason smiled, wondering if Darcy charged Franklin for delivering his theory. "I see. And they don't want to try and
finance the expedition by selling bonds this time, like they did in 1850. They want to use sunken Spanish treasure to
plunder Costa Rica or Nicaragua."

"What are you talking about, 1850?" Darcy asked. Franklin also looked surprised.

"Narciso Lopez was a Venezuelan adventurer. He invaded Cuba twice with ragtag Southern armies in 1850 and 1851," Jason
explained. "Each time he took about five-hundred carelessly picked men and foolishly failed. They wanted to free Cuba from
Spain and bring her into the Union as a slave state, to give the South a majority in the senate. The second time the Spanish
shot Lopez and fifty others. Harrington acted as his agent in Mississippi for the second invasion, recruiting pilgrims and
raising funds by selling development bonds that all became worthless. I bet he's been hurting financially ever since."

"I remember now. That incident was part of the radical Southern reaction to the Missouri Compromise," Franklin said.

"Where'd you learn that?" Darcy inquired.

"Reading old newspapers," Jason answered.

Franklin scratched behind his ear. "May I smoke?" Franklin asked Darcy.

She was watching the fresh flakes, fall out on his shoulders and her table cloth. "No," she said sharply. "There isn't any
ventilation here."

"Jason, I get the impression you're preparing to fight on your own anyway. Isn't this letter from Sherman enough?" From
that, Jason knew the British had leaked to Washington that he'd ordered naval guns sent to Key West.

"I'll start over," Jason said. "I want a steam-powered frigate from the Atlantic Fleet. That's pretty plain English. You're
lucky Darcy's girls are sleeping, or I'd say it louder."

"You're an obstinate individual," Franklin said, shaking his head. He reached in his jacket and passed Jason a second
envelope. "That's a letter of intent from the War Department to evaluate Pike Ltd's new rifled, recoilless gun. Grant
initialed it."

The navy letter was impressive. Down at a bottom corner was scribbled: "If the British Navy buys your guns the US Military
will, U.S. Grant."

"A hell of a generous bribe," Jason said. And too generous to resist. It was a ploy by Washington to get him actively
involved, and a damn good one. Jason smirked. "All right. Franklin, tell your masters that Wyatt Scott and his present force
will handle the situation. I'll see to it."

Franklin smiled; he had accomplished his mission. "You have delivered your letters. Your business is done here. I suggest
you ship out right away," Jason advised.

"Why?" Darcy asked, looking at him questioningly. And Jason wondered why she wanted their old spymaster to hang around.

"If you stay on Key West, you're going to put Darcy in danger," Jason said.

"I don't understand your point," Franklin asked. "What do you mean?"

"A good number of Yankees are down here. Don't you think you'll be recognized by someone who knows what you did ten years
ago? Any connection with Darcy will implicate her as a spy during the war. And make no mistake, either of you, some of them
will brand Darcy a traitorous Jezebel and," meeting Darcy's eyes straight on, "they will kill you," Jason warned in a quiet,
but harsh tone.

"I see," Franklin said. "I hadn't thought of that." Then he turned to Darcy. "I also understand what you said about Jason
getting older. He is not naive anymore."

"No, I'm not. Be careful. I have to go," Jason said, standing.

Jason walked out Darcy's back door and stood still smelling the air and listening. But he was impatient, and after only
thirty seconds ran across the yard toward the cookhouse. There were several men waiting, and when Jason saw their movements
it was too late to turn back. He was in the open, and cursed as he ran. They'd want to do it quietly, if possible, probably
with knives, Jason guessed.

Jason crouched down on the side of the small wooden building, and the first one, a wiry-muscled little Negro, jumped out of
the window right on top of him, and they both tumbled to the ground. The attacker got up on one knee and swiped at Jason
with a long knife that caught Jason's side, cutting his shirt and slicing along his ribs. Jason pulled the Colt, and shot
him in the chest. Another man reached out the window and slashed above him with a blade. Jason rolled over away from the
window and fired the Colt again, right between his eyes. The third man in the cookhouse ran away.

Then Jason heard Darcy scream. There was a figure in the alley next to the brothel. He had a container of some kind giving
off flames. Kerosene in a bottle with a rag wick, Jason guessed. Damn, Jason didn't have a good enough shot from where he
was, and no time to get closer. Someone fired a shot from within the house, and the arsonist ran to the next window to throw
the fire bomb. It easily torched Darcy's fancy front room with the floor length drapes. Jason rolled back to the cookhouse
and got up, looking around. The scratch on his side was not serious, and now Jason wanted to see Darcy and her girls running
out of that house.

Darcy's Place would go up like a match. All of Key West was a firetrap. Only major hurricanes did more damage. Jason knew he
should have brought Harry to guard the back door. Having started with the hammer over an empty chamber, he only had three
rounds left in the Colt pistol.

Jason dashed across the yard, onto the porch, just as the back door flew open. A beautiful, naked, black girl ran out of the
kitchen and right into Jason. "Where's Darcy," he shouted.

"Darcy stayed to fight the fire," She said as Jason pushed her past him down the porch steps. The other girls were behind
and quickly followed.

Jason ran to the foyer and bumped into Franklin coming down the stairs. "Darcy?" he asked. Franklin didn't have a shirt on
and was holding up his pants with one hand. He had a big Remington pistol in his other hand, his eyes were wide and his face
shaken and frightful.

He cares for Darcy, Jason decided, ignored his advice, and didn't waste any time getting into bed. What a surprise from the
spymaster, and Darcy's last mistake.

Jason jammed the .45 in his belt, ran, and opened the door to the barroom. It gave way easily, and he fell into an inferno.
The room was broiling hot and filled with smoke. The velvet burgundy drapes were blazing at every window.

Darcy was lying in the center of the room. Jason ripped his shirt a little further than the little bastard outside had done,
and used the cloth to cover his mouth and nose as he crawled toward her. The flames were already licking at the petticoats
under Darcy's robe. When he got closer Jason saw the rug was burning under her.

Jason grabbed Darcy's arms and drew her up, off the smoldering carpet, and pulled her out of the lounge to the foyer,
stopped, and started ripping off her petticoats because they were on fire. "Get Darcy's shoulders, pull her out of here,
fast." he shouted at Franklin.

Franklin moved like lightning; he dropped the pistol, grasped Darcy up, and pulled her out the front doorway.

"No," Jason shouted. "The back . . ."

But it was too late. Franklin pulled Darcy across the porch, and almost seemed to be falling down the stairs to the street,
when the blasts sounded. Twin booms from a double-barreled shotgun cut them down. Jason dived to the porch picking up sharp
splinters on his arms from wrists to elbows, even as he got the Colt out.

Jason heard Harry yell, "Dardy!" and then the explosion of Harry's shotgun. Jason got up and saw a short figure with a rifle
or shotgun retreat back down an alley across the street.

He dashed down to the street where Darcy Lamont and Arthur Franklin had fallen. They were both dead, shredded by Dardy's
shotgun. Jason could smell the acrid scent of Darcy's burnt flesh.

"It was Dardy, Charley Dardy," Harry shouted, running to stand next to Jason. And Marshal Jones was right there too, groggy,
barefoot, but with an old Colt Army pistol. He looked down at the two bodies and seemed disgusted by the gruesome sight.

The sharp smell nauseated Jason as they stared at the burnt, dead woman and her would-be lover. "Dardy was after me," Jason

"What else is new," Jones responded. "Who's this?" He pointed at Franklin.

"He was a friend of Darcy's," Jason said quickly.

"Darcy Lamont doesn't look much like you," Harry observed. "Let's go get Charley."

"All right, but we do it my way," Jones said. "Both of you stay behind me."

"Lead off, marshal," Jason agreed. "Harry, got any .45 ammo?" Harry pulled Jason's other Colt from his waist and handed it

"They'll be no shooting unless I start it," Jones said.

"No problem, marshal," Jason offered graciously, looking around at the gathering crowd.

Jones, Harry, and Jason trotted to the waterfront, then along the shoreline to Dardy's house. He was out back hoisting sail
on his schooner. Already untied from the dock, Jason knew Dardy was hoping to catch the brisk wind from the south to get him
out of the harbor. Dardy fired his shotgun at them as Jason, Harry, and the marshal ran up to his pier.

"Marshal, get over to Captain Lowe and then the navy. See if one of them can cut Dardy off from getting into the straits,"
Jason ordered. The marshal nodded and left the scene, and Jason was pleased Jones forgot that he wanted to be in charge.

"Jase look at that," Harry pointed down at the water just under the wharf. There was a rope line from Dardy's schooner
trailing in the water right below them.

"I'm going swimming, Harry. Take good care of these papers; they're important," Jason said, handing over Franklin's letters.
Then Jason sat down and pulled the pistols out of his belt,

laying them on the dock. He lowered himself into the water and reached forward, just barely catching the knot at the end of
the line.

Jason wondered if Dardy had a crew on board his schooner as he trailed along, bobbing up and down like a porpoise, as the
small ship silently slid through the water. Jason decided not to wait to see if Dardy's ship was intercepted by the navy or
one of Lowe's sloops. In the dark, both possibilities were long shots, and Jason didn't want to risk being pulled out to

He drew himself up the line closer to the ship, until he heard voices that seemed to be alert and nervous, yet hadn't
noticed the trailing line; and Jason wanted to listen in on the conversation.

"I killed me a whore/spy and her boss. I wish I'd caught that bastard, Pike, in my sights. Yankee scum and carpetbaggers,
all of 'em."

"Yas sur' boss. You mixed up in some nasty shit," a Negro responded. "What we gonna do?"

"Join up with Carney, I guess," Dardy said.

"Boss, I ain't goin back to bein no slave."

"Even Carney had to change with the times. The darkies in his crew get a share of the prizes like anyone else," Dardy
explained. Wonderful, Jason thought. So Reconstruction was actually working after all in the deep South.

"Go forward and set the jib," Dardy ordered, and Jason pulled himself closer to the schooner. Dardy sat down in the stern
and took the tiller as his darky hoisted the jib.

Jason took off a moccasin and wedged it between the rudder and the stern of the ship. When Dardy was distracted by the
sluggish handling of the tiller, Jason grabbed onto the gunnel just behind Dardy and lurched up, throwing a leg over the
side, heaving himself up. Dardy started to turn around, but Jason brought his right fist up and swiftly down on the back of
Dardy's neck as hard as he could.

Dardy grunted and pitched forward to the deck of the small cockpit, and Jason climbed aboard. When Dardy started to get up,
groaning, Jason put his foot on Dardy's backside and violently pushed him down the companionway. The door was knocked open
because Dardy's head hit it very hard. He fell forward and down the several steps to the cabin.

The crewman was standing on the top of the cabin looking down at Jason. He was done tying off the jib, and drew a big
fisherman's knife from a sheath on his waist. "I'll cut you with this," he said, but too reluctantly for Jason to feel

Jason was tired and wet. There was water squishing around in the one moccasin he still had on; and Jason had had enough to
do with knives for one night. "The hell you will! Throw it overboard right now, or I'll take it from you and slice you open.
What the hell are you doing working for garbage like this?" Jason pointed down at Dardy. "I spent five years of my life in
Union blue to free you people from his kind. Now I see one of you working with them by choice." The Negro looked around,
undecided, and then back at Jason. "Throw the goddamned knife in the water right now!" Jason roared at him.

Dardy's man thought for a few seconds and then did as Jason ordered. Which was fine with Jason, because while he felt
comfortable fighting with cavalry sabers, knives-close, in the dark-scared the hell out of him. "I don't want no trouble
with you," the ex-slave said.

"Good. I've had enough trouble tonight. Put a match to a couple lanterns and get us turned around. Back to your boss'

Soon enough, they pulled up at Dardy's pier. Marshal Jones, Harry, and a crowd of locals were waiting for them. "Send all
these people home. We can't conduct a proper investigation in the center of a crowd," Jason said to Marshal Jones.

Jones cuffed the unconscious Charley Dardy and the Negro. "Just roughed him up some. I'm surprised you took Dardy alive,"
Jones said curiously.

"Yeah, me too," Jason admitted, wet and cold suddenly, as a breeze came up. He looked around. It was graying in the east,
dawn in a half hour. Jones took his prisoners away and the crowd followed.

"Let's search Dardy's home," Jason said to Harry, who nodded.

"I want to come along." Rob Stevens came out of the shadows. He was already scratching away at his note pad.

"What have you observed so far tonight, Stevens?" Jason asked.

"I saw Darcy and the visiting Yankee in the street, and two nigra boys dead behind the burning whorehouse," Stevens said.
"All the girls got out of the house. They said that you saw to their well-being; you made sure they got out."

"I didn't get Darcy out," Jason said bitterly.

"Jase," Harry called from the back porch of Dardy's house. "Charley left the door open."

They walked to join Harry as Jason said to Stevens, "What we find is evidence and might be very useful. You can come along,
but you can't print anything I don't want generally known."

"Agreed." Rob Stevens nodded unhappily.

Dardy's house smelled bad, like sour milk and moldy cheese. The air was thick and dust laden, since none of the windows were
open to the ocean breeze, and Harry sneezed. The furniture was cheap, ragged, and the house was a dirty mess of strewn-about
old newspapers, dirty plates, and old socks. There was a mouse on the kitchen table eating yellow cornbread crumbs from a
cast iron baking pan.

"Maid's day off," Jason observed.

"Dardy keeps his ship in shape; doesn't give a damn about his house, at least not since his wife left," Stevens commented.

Jason started searching in cabinets and under things. Dardy kept the largest cockroaches he had ever seen. Florida, with its
constant warmth and growing season, grew roaches to two inches or more. From what Jason saw at their short stop in Tampa,
all Florida was flat, hot, and wet. He could not imagine this territory ever becoming heavily populated. The bugs, the heat,
the swamps, and the regular disastrous hurricanes should put off most intelligent Americans from settling in numerous
numbers on the Florida peninsula.

Harry went upstairs first and, predictably, found Dardy's stolen valuables under the mattress. Harry held up the cross of
gold and emeralds stolen from him, when Carney raided Big Pine Key.

Rob Stevens asked, "May I see that?"

Harry handed him the heavy gold cross. Stevens cradled it reverently with both hands, and Harry held up a lantern so it
illuminated the cross in the dark, dirty room.

"My God! You have found Spanish treasure," Stevens whispered. Jason reached forward and raised Harry's hand with the
lantern, so the light showed him Stevens' thin countenance.

A stupefying wave of surprise came ashore on Stevens' narrow face. The reporter's mouth was hanging open and his pale eyes
were wide. "I didn't believe it until now," he said. "So many others claimed to find Spanish gold and silver."

"Great, and now you can't write about it," Jason told Stevens. Then, to Harry, "C'mon, let's get out of here. Time to go
home and go to sleep."

Just after dawn Wade Estes went to see General Harrington. The general was sitting in a chair on the back porch watching the
small waves coming off the straits lap at the shore. He was wearing a long flannel nightshirt and a heavy wool robe, yet
also enjoying the brisk cool breeze off the sea. The old man was slowly eating a bowl of porridge, sipping a cup of tea, and
nursing a glass of bourbon. Wade sat down at the table.

"Your expression and demeanor tell me you bring bad news, Wade," the old man said.

"Charley Dardy killed Darcy Lamont and Arthur Franklin, but Dardy was captured alive."

"And Pike is still alive? Dardy didn't get Pike? Is that the bad news?"

Wade nodded. "Your fancy Richmond temptress was sent home scared to death and lucky to keep her long locks. Pool and his men
are dead and now Dardy is in jail." Wade sat down.

"What do you mean to say, Wade? Spit it out, counselor."

"Jason Pike is a tough bastard. So far everyone has tried to kill him. We haven't so much as shed a drop of his blood." Wade
stood up and paced back and forth. "Let's offer him a deal. Let's cut him in. He has vast resources we need anyway,
artillery, and maybe influence with the British government."

Harrington's eyebrows raised. "Do you really think that is possible?"

Estes shrugged. "We have nothing to lose. I know his father-in-law-to-be would love to own five or ten thousand acres of
tropical plantation. Sugar, bananas, and citrus are the major cash crops of the future."

Harrington gulped the last of his bourbon and grimaced. "I hope you can manage another magnificent success like you
engineered for Forrest's cavalry-the June 1864 raid in western Tennessee," the old man said, and Wade was startled
Harrington remembered.

Nathan Bedford Forrest's brigade, while Wade was chief of staff, had rode deep into Tennessee and captured a large federal
wagon train of needed supplies. But what Harrington was referring to, what made this particular Southern cavalry raid
special was the three wagons of medical supplies the horse soldiers brought home. Wade nodded. "We were heros. Because of
the Northern blockade the Confederacy was desperate for chloroform, laudanum, morphine, quinine, and the surgical tools we
brought back.

"We'll do what we can to bring Pike on board," Wade said.

After only a few hours rest, it was 10 a.m., and Jason and Harry had to get up. Sam Meeker was waiting, and they walked over
to the bight to keep an appointment with John Lowe.

Then a hard negotiating session, and Jason signed a lease for the Sweet Pea, with a purchase option; and then they went to
lunch at Maria's Cafe.

Over a pail of beer and a pile of steamed shrimp, Sam Meeker complained about paying Lowe too much. He was very unhappy, and
for good reason. He went into the negotiating session with his legs cut off: Jason had already ordered the armor pre-cut for
the Sweet Pea; they had to have that brig. Sam looked disdainfully at Jason, as he ate a shrimp and dropped the tail on his

He was also nervous and scared. Sam confessed, "I've never been awakened before, in the middle of the night, by gunshots."
He had the shakes ever since learning of the murders. Jason was just happy Sam kept his composure during the session with
John Lowe. After a lengthy lunch, Jason and Harry took Sam on a tour of Key West, showing him Fort Taylor and the Martellos.
Despite the tour Sam's mood remained melancholy.

Addie was reading on the porch when they came home. "Hi, strangers. Been off making more trouble for us?" Addie asked.

"Lassie, we got the Sweet Pea from John Lowe. We start work on her the first of the week," Harry said.

"Good. Sarah is coming to help with dinner. I bought a large cut of beef for yawl; steaks and potatoes for dinner." Addie

"Oh?" Sam looked curiously at Addie. "I thought you ate mostly healthy seafood down here? I was hoping for crab or lobster."

Addie laughed. "All you carpetbagging Yankees are a lot of work for us poor, conch womenfolk. I'll serve up lobster for Mr.
Meeker tomorrow."

After dinner Jason excused himself from the group and walked over to the naval base and entered Wyatt Scott's office without
waiting for permission.

Scott looked up, his mouth open. "Pike, what happened last night?"

"The moon came out," Jason said calmly.

"Don't be facetious with me, Pike. A whorehouse burned down and the madam was shot to death in the middle of the street.
This isn't Dodge City."

"The culprits are dead or in jail. I saw to that. What were you doing while two government agents were being murdered? Did
you have a good night's sleep? Did the screams and the gunshots wake you?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Arthur Franklin worked for the War Department. He brought me this letter." Jason showed him Sherman's note. Scott's face
lost color as he read it.

"Darcy Lamont worked for Franklin. She gathered intelligence on Carney and the others. There appears to be a major
conspiracy in progress against interests-specifically mine-that are valued by the United States. Let's go for a walk. There
is a nice breeze off the straits; and I want to discuss my needs and your orders, right now, where no one is listening
outside a window."

"Yes, of course," Wyatt Scott got up and they walked outside.

Chapters - Prologue - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 -11- 12 - Epilogue

U.S. Federal Copyright 'TXU 603-893

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