Pirate Ophelia, Part 3
Chapter VI: Kingston
Six Months Later
The sun rose over the ocean, its orange reflection bouncing off the calm surface. Tall ships could be seen in the distance. The sunlight brightened the port city of Kingston, shining light into the windows of its houses, their inhabitants still fast asleep. The city was always quiet in the morning, with only the fisherman sitting by the shore and an occasional ship docked at the port.
Celia always awoke before dawn. She liked to walk along the shore before it became crowded with merchants and children. She missed being on a ship—the steady sway in calm seas, the smell of the ocean surrounding her, the loved ones she kept in her heart, as if they were family. The king had instructed that she stay in the town for a month to help the governor get settled in and organize the chaos that was left by the previous government. She had counted the days meticulously up until a week before her return to sea, when she was informed that she had to stay longer. That had been five months ago.
Celia kept track of any news of her seafaring family. Admiral Janneke and Captain Ophelia had parted ways when they left port. Word had spread quickly among merchants, a warning to avoid both frigates if possible. With every sailor that arrived at the docks, Celia listened for news of either ship. The HMS Honeysuckle had been made famous for surviving its attack against the Spanish Man O’War, giving Ophelia an edge over Janneke.
Janneke’s ship, the HMS Hydra had already made a name for itself—a name that merchants feared. Celia had asked Janneke about the name when she chose it for her ship. Janneke had always been fond of Greek myth and particularly liked the hydra—a mythical creature created by Hera to kill Heracles, except he defeated it, completing his second labor. Janneke had said that she never liked the name “Honeysuckle” for a ship, feeling that it was a name meant for a merchant ship, especially one carrying flowers.
The governor received regular reports from the two ships, though the news was often quite old by the time it reached the town. Celia knew he kept a ledger on the estimated inventory for both ships, which he then reported to the king. She had seen the ledger more than once and noticed that Ophelia was beating Janneke, though just barely. The two women seemed to be having a friendly competition on who could take the most ships and plunder the most cargo. Janneke was winning in gold and sugar, but Ophelia surpassed her greatly in rum, which was a very valuable commodity and could be sold for a hefty amount of gold.
The sun rose higher in the morning sky, heating the sand on the shore under Celia’s feet. She liked to walk barefoot on the wet sand, feeling the water splash against her ankles. She adjusted her course, walking farther into the water, until the water was partway up her calf, lifting the bottom of her dress as she walked so it would not get wet. The sand in the ocean was cool and she could smell the sea. She stopped, peering out across the ocean, gentle waves brushing up against her legs. A sloop sailed in the distance toward the rising sun. She hoped to someday return to the sea…to her family and the ship she called home. The six months she spent on land seemed a lot longer, her privateering days feeling like a lifetime ago.
As she stood there, enjoying the peacefulness of the ocean, she spotted a brig sailing toward the dock. As it came closer, Celia could see the ship had sustained damage—cannonball holes had been patched and the sails had several rips in them. The ship raised its sails as it grew closer, slowing its speed enough to dock. Once it was close enough, Celia noticed a Dutch flag flying atop its mast. She stepped out of the water and put her shoes back on before hurrying over to the dock, hoping that maybe the crew had word of either the HMS Hydra or the HMS Honeysuckle.
Celia reached the dock as the captain was leaving the ship. He looked tired and bruised, but otherwise seemed fine. “What happened?” she asked him.
“Pirates,” he replied. “They tried to take us off the coast of Santiago. We escaped. Barely. Another ship attacked them. A frigate sailing English colors. Helped us make repairs once the pirates fled.”
Celia’s heart leapt. “Did you catch the name of the frigate?”
“Nay,” the captain replied, “but the ship captain was a woman. Dutch I believe. Can’t remember her name.”
“Was it ‘Janneke’?” Celia asked, her heart beating faster than she ever remembered.
“Aye. Nice woman.”
The captain walked past her, continuing on his way into town. Celia went over the man’s words in her mind again and again. Janneke was near. Santiago wasn’t far away. Surely she would stop by Kingston if she was that close, even if just for a brief visit.
“Wait,” she called out to the captain. “Did you see which way the frigate went?”
“Aye. She headed off west. Said they was heading to Vera Cruz.”
A feeling of sadness filled Celia, tears welling up in her eyes. She knew Janneke would not purposefully abandon her, but she still felt rejected.
“They was in a hurry, miss,” the captain said softly to Celia, trying to calm her. “Said they was following someone.”
“Thank you sir,” Celia spoke as a tear ran down her cheek. The captain patted her on the shoulder before continuing on his way. She felt childish and selfish. Of course Janneke was busy. She would never just desert her and forget about her, leaving her to rot in Kingston. She would come back one day, and Celia could not wait for the time to come—the time when she could return to the sea.
As Celia began to walk back to the governor’s mansion, she saw him standing in the street, waving to get her attention. The governor was tall and handsome, though his white wig made him look goofy. He was a nice man who could be funny when he wanted, but who also had a bad temper. During her first week, she had witnessed just how mean the governor could get when another privateer was accused of piracy—he had attacked an English ship and plundered its cargo. The man claimed his crew needed food, though the governor did not believe him, accusing the man of taking multiple ships that were not enemies of the crown. The man denied the accusations, insisting that they were lies told by his first mate, a man who wanted to be captain. The governor did not take matters of piracy lightly, stating that the king did not tolerate such behavior. A brief trial was held where the man was found guilty of piracy and faced the gallows that afternoon. His body still hung as a reminder to every one of the fate that awaited all pirates. Celia still wondered if the man had actually been guilty, or if he was just used as an example to prevent others from committing similar crimes.
“Celia!” the governor called as she approached him. “We still have to figure out what to do about the sugar shortage. The shipment has been held up by a storm and won’t get here until next week. The people are already getting angry.”
“I’ll take a look at our supplies and see if we have any to spare,” she replied, her mind still on her lost family. She wasn’t sure what to do, but she did know one thing: she would much rather be sailing the ocean than dealing with a sugar shortage.
Chapter VII: Barbados
The ship was sailing at full sail in an attempt to catch its quarry. Even though they still were a long way back, Janneke knew they would catch their prey before long. They had lost time helping to free a Dutch merchant ship from pirates, allowing their target to gain a good lead. It didn’t matter—Janneke knew where the enemy ship was heading. The enemy would likely be waiting, ready for battle, but that would not stop them. No one escaped the HMS Hydra.
It pained Janneke to be so close to Kingston and not sail into port for even a brief amount of time. She missed Celia and would love to see her for just a minute. She had counted the days until Celia’s duty to the governor would be complete, only to receive news that the king had extended her stay. Janneke understood that Kingston was still in need of Celia’s help, but she wanted her back on the ship…with her. The two were as close as sisters, and that was the only family Janneke had at sea now that Ophelia and Erik were on a different ship. She could see the northern coast of Jamaica off the larboard side of the ship. Kingston was on the south side of the island—a much farther journey, which would allow their target to escape yet again. Janneke shook her head, regaining her focus on the task at hand. She would see Celia again soon, but right now she had to keep her mind on track.
They had been chasing the same man for at least a month, always remaining just far enough behind him. This time would be different. They were closer this time and knew where he was going. Janneke thought of Ophelia—she would probably not be thrilled with this mission. They were out to capture a pirate and bring him in for justice. She remembered Ophelia’s dream to someday become a pirate, hoping that she would never be hunted this way. Janneke laughed to herself, picturing Ophelia’s disapproving glare, then considered the situation. This man was really nothing more than a murderer with a crew; Ophelia was not like him at all. He had killed innocent people just to steal trinkets that were not worth much to anyone but the owners’ who now lay dead. This man killed for sport, and it had to end. The English crown had put a hefty price on his head after he murdered the governor of Barbados, and the crew of the HMS Hydra was going to claim that reward.
* * * * *
Within a few days, the HMS Hydra sailed into the port of Vera Cruz. Janneke could see the murderer’s ship still docked, unaware that he was being pursued. She took four of her best men to form a hunting party and left the ship, heading straight for the tavern.
As the group entered, Janneke looked around. The man was nowhere to be seen. She thought maybe they would get lucky and find him there but had serious doubts. Nothing was ever that easy, especially when hunting a very dangerous criminal.
“Captain, he’s over there,” one of her crew whispered, pointing out the window and toward a nearby house. “I just saw him go in that house.”
“Then we better hurry before he kills someone else,” Janneke replied. She exited the tavern, her hunting party right behind her.
The five of them quietly approached the house, its window still wide open. Janneke peered in the window, but she could not see the man or any signs of life. The hunting party silently approached the front door, its lock posing no threat to the expert locksmith in the group. Two men waited outside while the rest entered the house. If their target tried to run out, they would stop him.
Janneke and her two men ascended the stairs as quietly as they could. At the top, there were two rooms, both with their doors open. Janneke could see the man lying in a bed, seemingly fast asleep. The three entered the room, aiming their pistols and preparing for an ambush.
“Captain James?” Janneke said plainly.
The man jumped to his feet, reaching for his sword. He hesitated, giving the hunters enough time to grab him, throwing his weapons on to the bed.
“You are under arrest,” Janneke continued. “We are taking you back to Barbados to stand trial.”
“I’m innocent!” the man yelled, fear in his voice. The group laughed at the man while still keeping a firm grip on him.
“Sure you are,” Janneke chuckled. “That’s what they all say.”
“But I am, and I can prove it.”
“You are guilty of murder. We are taking you back, alive or dead. Preferably alive, since that will give us a higher reward.” The group laughed again. It was nice to be part of the justice system, but even better when there was a promise of gold.
“I didn’t kill anyone!” the man shouted. At this one of the crew hit the man over the head, knocking him out. It would be easier to carry him to the ship unconscious rather than fight with him the whole way. The three exited the house where the other two joined them and set off down the path to the docks. They would return to Barbados and collect their reward, as they had done with so many other criminals all over the Caribbean. Bounty hunting was proving to be more profitable than simply taking merchant ships.
* * * * *
The journey to Barbados was a long one. The crew had wanted to stay in Vera Cruz for at least a day, but Janneke insisted they leave immediately. She didn’t like the idea of keeping such a dangerous criminal on board, even if he was chained and locked in a jail cell below deck. The longer he remained on the ship, the better chance he would escape, possibly killing crew members and definitely erasing any chance at the reward.
Janneke oversaw any food and water deliveries to the man known only as “Captain James.” He maintained the notion that he was innocent, trying to convince her every time she approached the cell. She refused to believe this, seeing it only as some kind of trap he was setting in an attempt to either escape or to kill her, or possibly both. While she still did not believe him, she thought he did make a compelling argument. He claimed that the crown wanted rid of the governor of Barbados and used him as a scapegoat because he and the governor had been close. He told her that he sailed for years as a privateer, making Barbados his base and returning there whenever his ship was full of cargo and coin. The story was amusing, yet it seemed too farfetched to actually be true. Janneke questioned why the crown would do something so sneaky, but Captain James did not have an answer to this, only saying that he did not know and insisting that his story was true.
Days later a call came down from the crow’s nest. Land could be seen in the distance—they had almost reached Barbados. Captain James had continued to claim his innocence, becoming more frustrated and upset with each passing day. Janneke started to wonder if there was any truth to his story, only she had no way to be sure. James had insisted he could prove his innocence, but Janneke was not about to let him leave his cell. Instead, she decided to first meet with the governor, hoping to get a feel for the situation before handing over James to an executioner.
The HMS Hydra docked in the harbor, much of her crew cheering as they left the ship. Janneke instructed two of her best men to guard Captain James while she and two others met with the governor. She missed Erik and Edward but had found her own crew and trusted a handful of them with her life.
As the three walked up the street to the governor’s mansion, Janneke noticed a small group watching them, whispering to each other. She put her hand on her pistol, ready for an attack, but they never moved from their spot. Janneke and her men turned a corner and could no longer see the group.
Soon they reached the gate to the governor’s mansion. The guards allowed all three to enter as long as they left all of their weapons behind. None of them were comfortable with this, feeling vulnerable among the armed guards. Still, they agreed and proceeded onward, following a guard into the mansion’s study where the governor awaited them.
“Sir,” Janneke began. “I bring news of Captain James.”
“Where is he?” the governor asked impatiently.
“He was spotted in Vera Cruz recently.”
“That’s nice captain—”
“Admiral,” Janneke interrupted.
“Fine, admiral,” the governor continued, sounding both irritated and impatient. “I don’t care where he was, only where he is now.”
“What are his crimes to warrant such a large reward for his capture?”
“He killed the previous governor! Honestly, admiral, can you not read?”
“Yes sir,” Janneke replied. Something did not feel right to her. It made sense that the governor’s mansion would be heavily guarded after such a crime, but something felt off. “How long ago was his crime committed?” Janneke asked.
“I don’t know. I have only been here for four months. I assume it was sometime before that. Now, if you haven’t yet apprehended the criminal, then I have no need for you. Be gone and do not return,” the governor said with a wave of his hand before leaving the room.
Now Janneke knew something wasn’t right. According to the wanted poster she took from Saint Kitts, Captain James had fled after murdering the governor less than two months ago. He had supposedly been around Havana before that, sinking English ships, killing all on board in the name of the French. If any of that was true, there was no way he could have killed the governor of Barbados.
Janneke maintained an unbiased expression. They were unarmed and needed to return to the ship without bringing unwanted attention. The three collected their weapons from the guards on their way out and headed back down the street. She noticed the small group still watching them as they walked past. The three continued on their way, aware of the whispering group who was now slowly following them. Janneke and her men boarded the ship and the group watched from a bank next to the docks. Several of the crew were still in town collecting supplies and drinking in the tavern. They would have to wait until the next day to sail, and Janneke planned to find out what the small group wanted before they left.
* * * * *
As night approached, the crew that remained on the HMS Hydra cautiously watched the whispering group on the bank. They had moved around that evening, even leaving at one point only to return sometime later. Janneke was concerned about the crew members in the town, beginning to fear for their safety. As long as she could see the little group, she felt reassured that no harm would come to her crew or her ship. She had checked on their prisoner multiple times since her return, making sure that he remained within the confines of his cell. After her meeting with the governor, she informed Captain James that she was hesitant to turn him over, but still did not completely believe him. Some of the crew were quite unhappy with this, feeling that they had worked so hard for nothing and had been cheated out of the reward. Janneke tried to calm them, promising that they would soon find another reward, to which they reluctantly agreed to continue with her plan.
As the sky grew darker it became harder to watch the small group on the bank. The moon was nothing more than a narrow sliver in the sky, barely reflecting any light in the darkness. Janneke had only looked away for a few minutes when she lost sight of the group—they had moved, taking advantage of the darkness. She quietly rallied the crew on board, readying them for a fight. If the group planned to take the ship or its prisoner, they would have to fight for it.
Silence filled the air as the crew of the HMS Hydra waited, listening for sounds of an enemy on board. Janneke waited near the entrance to the cell where Captain James was confined. She figured this group was either there to free him or to take him and turn him in themselves. She heard scuffling on the deck but resisted the urge to leave her spot. Her crew had to deal with them on their own—she couldn’t always be there to save them. She heard more fighting, followed by footsteps coming in her direction. She stayed in her position around a corner, waiting for the right moment. The footsteps grew nearer, the person trying to quiet the sound of his own shoes. He was almost on top of Janneke, right around the corner. Janneke pounced at just the right moment, seizing the man by the neck. Only it wasn’t a man.
Chapter VIII: Captain James
Janneke held her sword to the woman’s throat as they walked out onto the deck. She ordered the remaining attackers to throw down their weapons, threatening to kill the woman if they didn’t obey. At least one hesitated, but the remaining three obliged quickly, insisting that the fourth comply with the admiral’s request.
“This isn’t what you think,” the woman spoke. “We are here to help.”
“Help with what?” Janneke said through gritted teeth. “Help relieve us of our ship?”
“We need to leave now,” the woman replied.
“And why is that?” Janneke asked angrily.
“Because the governor knows you have Captain James on board.”
Janneke held her breath, her heart in her throat. She had unknowingly lessened her grip on the woman, giving her the opportunity to escape Janneke’s grasp. “How is that possible?” Janneke asked, flummoxed by this news.
“One of your crew was an English spy,” the woman stated, gesturing toward a man lying dead on deck, a knife piercing his heart. “We need to leave NOW,” the woman commanded, pointing at the street leading to the governor’s mansion.
Janneke followed the woman’s finger, gazing into the distance. There were at least fifty soldiers headed toward the dock, armed and ready for battle. She had so many questions, but they could wait. They needed to leave. She gave the command to set sail, leaving port as fast as possible. The soldiers began to run in an attempt to catch the ship, some leaping from the dock, falling just shy and into the water. They were out of reach, returning to the ocean, and they had left many of the crew in Barbados to an unknown fate.
“Who are you?” Janneke asked the woman.
“We are the crew of Captain James, or at least the loyal ones.” Her four crewmates joined her, standing together behind the woman in front of Janneke. “We sailed under him for years, until the English turned on him, accusing him of multiple murders.”
“Yes, I’ve heard this from him,” Janneke mumbled, the claims now seared into her memory. “Why would they do that?”
“Like yourself, James was favored by the crown. He was very profitable, and the crown likes anyone who can make them money. But he refused to give them a larger share. They wanted him to cut out the crew, or at least part of them, when dividing the plunder. He refused, and they didn’t like that. Soon we were being chased by pirate hunters, even though we had never committed acts of piracy. That doesn’t matter to the crown—we had a lot of gold on board, and they wanted it. The old governor sided with James, agreeing that it wasn’t fair to not pay the crew, so they sent another governor to replace him.”
“What happened to the previous governor?” Janneke asked, suddenly intrigued by the story.
“He sailed with us for a while, but, just like your men in Barbados, we left in a hurry, leaving him behind,” the woman said, sorrow in her voice. “I think it was in Cartagena,” she added while her crewmates nodded in agreement.
“Well,” Janneke began, “then we’re off to Cartagena. I want to get to the bottom of this before I pick a side.” She glared at the woman and her crewmates, sizing them up. “Since we’re short a lot of men, you five will have to help.”
“We’ll do what we can,” the woman stated. “I’m Rose by the way.”
“I don’t care,” Janneke barked. “Not yet anyway. Not until I know the truth.”
“Fair enough,” Rose replied with a smile.
The HMS Hydra was barely out of sight of Barbados when a call came down from the crow’s nest. An English ship was closing in on them fast. The crew prepared for battle, though there were very few of them left on board. They would have to utilize their cannons to their fullest capacity if they were going to survive this fight.
As the ship came within range, Janneke gave the order to fire at will. She knew all of the remaining crew were fully capable of handling the situation without direct orders, and they needed every second they could get to take down the enemy ship. The HMS Hydra had initially been equipped with only a dozen cannons, but Janneke fixed that as soon as she could, upgrading it to twice as many cannons and adding a mortar cannon. She was never happier to have the added extra artillery than at that moment.
The mortar fire struck the enemy first given that it had a longer range. They were able to hit the English ship twice with the mortar cannon before it was in range of the starboard cannons. Rose led the others in their volley, striking the enemy ship’s larboard side. Once the ship was close enough, she instructed the crew to load half of the cannons with chain shot and the other half with grape shot. They fired again with dead aim. One of the chain shot caught the enemy’s main mast, bringing it down onto the deck. The grape shot hit many of the English soldiers on deck, killing them and lowering their numbers. They had time to fire one more round of grape shot before the enemy ship was on top of them, its remaining soldiers ready to board the HMS Hydra.
Rather than wait to be boarded, Janneke gave the command to board the enemy ship. A few of the crew remained on the HMS Hydra, firing from their defensive positions with muskets, protecting their ship at all costs. Janneke fought alongside Rose while the rest of Rose’s crew blended in with the crew of the HMS Hydra. There were still a lot of enemy soldiers on board, but the two crews seemed to work well together, watching each other’s backs and fighting as a team.
Janneke and Rose fought their way to the enemy captain. His soldiers made many attempts to block them, but most of the enemy crew lay on the deck, either dead or surrendered to defeat. The enemy captain was strong and very experienced with a sword. Janneke had excellent sword skills to match, yet she could not beat him. He knocked the sword out of her hand and hit her in the face, knocking her to the deck. She lay there, unarmed, as he towered over her, ready to kill her. She heard a gunshot and the enemy captain dropped to his knees. Seconds later, a sword pierced his chest from behind. He fell forward and lay just beside Janneke. Her vision was still a bit blurry from the blow to the head. A slender figure stood over her now, offering her a hand to get up. She grabbed it and got to her feet.
“Are you okay, admiral?” the figure asked. Janneke’s vision was returning to normal, allowing her to see the one who had saved her.
“Yes,” she spoke. “Thank you, Rose,” she said as she placed her hand on Rose’s shoulder for support. “I would be dead if it weren’t for you.”
The crew returned to the ship, leaving any living English soldiers on board their severely damaged vessel. Five of the enemy soldiers asked to join the crew. Janneke was hesitant at first, but they needed more men, so she agreed. They had lost three of their own crew in the battle. Considering how outnumbered they were, three was not a bad number. However, Janneke hated losing any of her crew, especially those who were most loyal to her and their cause.
Janneke found Rose talking to Captain James in his cell. He had heard the battle and insisted he could have helped. Janneke was surprised to hear Rose tell him no, explaining that keeping him hidden was the best way to protect the HMS Hydra and the crew on board. Had the English seen him, they just would have sent more ships in pursuit. Rose had now saved them from more harm three times. Janneke wondered if her actions were genuine, or if they were an attempt to lessen her own guard.
* * * * *
As they sailed on their way to Cartagena, they stopped at every port they could in search of more men. When they had enough crew, they took a random ship here and there, breaking off a group and assigning one as captain of that ship. Janneke knew the actions in Barbados would not go unpunished, so she decided to build up her own fleet in preparation. She felt in her gut that Captain James and Rose had been telling the truth, and she would not return to work for the English if the story was true. She wished she had a way to warn Captain Ophelia and Celia but knew that they were safer without the information. Either way, she and her crew would be charged with piracy after attacking an English ship, and she was not going to let any of her crew hang for defending their ship and their lives.
They sailed into the port of Cartagena, its Spanish flag flying over the city. Janneke had expected to meet some opposition after the number of Spanish ships the HMS Hydra had taken over the past six months, but they docked without issue. She noticed that the city was well protected, with many soldiers in the streets and a large fort watching over the port. Rose accompanied her into the city, along with two of Janneke’s most trusted men. They first stopped in the tavern, hoping the barkeep would know where to find the man for whom they were searching. He knew a man matching Rose’s description, though he rarely visited the tavern. The man was often seen in the company of the governor of Cartagena and was almost always surrounded by guards. Rose and Janneke exchanged looks, realizing that they would have to find a way to meet with the governor in order to resolve the questions Janneke had about Captain James. They left the tavern and headed toward the governor’s mansion.
The streets of Cartagena were bordered by beautiful Spanish style buildings. Merchants could be found on almost every corner. Rose and Janneke walked past a marketplace filled with shoppers. Janneke had only been to one other thriving Spanish town—Vera Cruz, where they captured Captain James. But Cartagena was bigger and clearly more prosperous. She wondered how many of the merchants here were once plundered by her crew, relieving them of the goods they would be selling in the marketplace. They passed a bank as they approached the governor’s mansion, the number of guards increasing as they continued up the road. They could finally see the mansion, which was surrounded by guards.
“What do you think?” Rose whispered to Janneke.
“Let’s just tell the truth. They might let us in,” Janneke replied as she walked toward the two guards blocking the entrance.
“No entrada,” one of the guards spoke.
“We need to speak to the governor,” Janneke said, hopeful that their request would be granted.
“¿Qué?” the man asked.
“I got this,” Rose said as she stepped forward. “Tenemos que hablar con el gobernador.”
“No,” the guard stated.
“El capitán James necesita ayuda,” Rose continued.
“Let them pass,” a voice said in the distance, the words spoken with a heavy Spanish accent. The guards parted to allow the two women to pass while another guard escorted them to the speaker—a well-dressed man sitting on the patio of the mansion. “You are looking for capitán James?” he asked.
“Not exactly,” Janneke began, exchanging another look with Rose. “We are trying to clear his name. Heard the governor he supposedly killed is alive and well here in Cartagena.”
“I see.” The man looked toward the open doorway of the mansion and motioned for someone to join them. Another man appeared and cautiously walked out onto the patio.
“Rose?” he asked when he spotted her.
“Governor!” Rose cheered happily and greeted him as if they were old friends.
“Well, not ‘governor’ anymore. Call me Rupert.”
“This is Admiral Janneke. She is trying to clear Captain James of your murder.”
“Yes, well, as you can see,” Rupert bowed, “I am in very good health. I have been enjoying the company of Alejandro here, after this lot abandoned me here,” he laughed as he waved his hand toward Rose.
“Can we speak in private?” Janneke interrupted.
“Of course,” Rupert said. “Follow me.”
Janneke turned to Rose, motioning for her to stay put. She needed to know the truth, and she didn’t want Rose influencing Rupert’s story. Janneke appreciated Rose’s loyalty to James, but if she was going to defy the crown, she needed to know it was for a good reason.
Rupert led Janneke into the governor’s lounge. He approached two chairs that were positioned close to each other and sat down on one, gesturing for Janneke to sit on the other.
“I need to know what really happened,” Janneke began as she sat down.
“Well, James and I had been friends for years. We actually sailed together for a while, back before they made me governor”
“Did he defy an order from the king?” Janneke asked.
“Yes. The king wanted a bigger percentage of James’s loot. He sent a messenger with a letter telling James to cut out some of the crew. James would never do that and wrote back, telling the king it wasn’t fair to the crew. The king then sent another letter, commanding James to follow his order. James did not reply and still refused to obey. After a few months, the king sent bounty hunters after James, accusing him of piracy, murder, and being a traitor. I had tried to help James, explaining to the king that the crew was likely to slack off or simply leave if they knew they wouldn’t be paid. He insisted that they would stay for food and shelter.”
Janneke felt a sigh of relief. This was the same story Rose had told her, and unless they had developed some elaborate plan that extended all across the Caribbean, she had not defied the king without a good cause. “They accused him of multiple murders, claiming that he killed a family just for trinkets,” she told Rupert.
“An unfortunate event,” Rupert began. “That, I assume, was the king’s way of discrediting James. Surely no one would believe the word of a murderer.” He smiled as Janneke nodded in agreement. James had claimed the whole time that he was innocent, which she saw as a murderer simply trying to escape his punishment. “I believe those murders were committed by mercenaries hired by the king. The household in question was one that did not care for the king and was quite vocal about it. I suspect it was the king’s way of killing two birds with one stone—eliminate those who oppose you and blame their murder on one who defies you. Or it could have been just a random crime that happened to work out well for the crown’s little story.”
“And your ‘murder’?”
“Another lie to make James seem like a monster. They sent a replacement governor and I was to return to the king. I insisted I would travel with James, and I did. I was on the ship when the pirate hunters attacked and was accidentally left behind when James fled Cartagena. It is a rather lovely city though. One could hardly complain about being marooned in such a wonderful place. Alejandro and I became friends in just a short period of time.”
Rupert continued on about his life in Cartagena, but Janneke had stopped listening. They had attacked an English ship and surely would have to face some sort of consequences. The only way she knew to test this was to sail into an English town after word of their attack had spread. They would remain in Cartagena for a week and then set sail for Kingston. If the English had put a price on her head, that was surely the easiest way to find out.