The ship on the horizon came closer by the minute. There was no mistaking they were coming directly for Captain Kruger’s ship. That meant Kruger had not only put his entire crew in danger by stopping on the island but had also revealed the location of the island itself. It was a huge oversight not many people would be happy about later.
As the ship came closer, Captain Kruger recognized its flag: the Royal Navy. They were Seamen coming after pirates. Kruger knew the boys were what the Royal Navy was looking for. He knew they would have to hide. He hoped the children had not been spotted yet but he knew it was likely they had.
“Yer gunna need te go below deck, me boys,” Captain Kruger tells told them. “Tis the Royal Navu come te get ye from me. If ye wan’ te go then ye be welcome te, but remember ye be pirate now. They may not go easy on ye.”
The boys debated only for a second before heading below deck to remain out of sigh of the Royal Navy. Not only did they want to stay where they were, they knew they risked hanging by going with the Seamen. They would rather live on the run than not live at all. The price paid for piracy was your life and they each valued their own.
As they were headed down, the captain spoke directly to James:
“I don’ wan’ ye boys te have te fight any time soon, but if it comes te it, ye may have to,” he told the boy.
“The youngest of us will stay below; I’ll be the firs’ te come up if it gets te gettin’ bad,” James answered.
Captain Kruger knows it will go badly indeed. He knows there will be a fight and he knows it was his own fault for letting the crew rest on the island for a bit. He also knows it may have been worse had they pulled into a port while being followed. He knew things were happening as they were meant to, he only wished that they had had more time to train the boys before these things started.
As the ship came closer, Captain Kruger spoke to Ricky:
“Tis gunna be a bad one an’ I don’ wan’ them havin’ to have no part ‘o it can it be helped; we do this nice an’ peaceful like if we can,” he told the younger man.
“Aye, cap’n. We do this the nice way an’ keep them boys young as long as we can,” Rikey replied. “The oldes’, though. He be ready.”
“Aye, he be. But he be their big brother. We needa make sure he stays with the livin’ so’s he can help them younger ones grow righ’,” Kruger answered. “I won’ let them boys go down with this ship, not even the bigges’ one.”
As the Royal Navy continued to get closer, Kruger noticed no shots had been fired and no cannons had been aimed. They had changed their course to the left a tad in what Kruger assumed was an attempt to stop beside his ship. This was as unusual as a situation could get. He had never dealt with anything like this before. He would have to play it by ear. Luckily, he was good at improvising.
After what seemed like an eternity to the captain, the other ship finally took up residence beside his own.
“Are you Captain Kruger? The captain of this vessel?” A Royal Seaman spoke with clear dictation. He knew who he was talking to before he asked.
“Aye, I be Cap’n Kruger. Wha’ do ye wan’ with me?” Kruger held a strong stance.
“You know what we want, Captain,” the man answered. “Give us the boys and we’ll let you be on your way.”
“Ye tell lies. Ye’d never let a pirate or their ship go. Its against yer laws,” Kruger said. He wasn’t going to fall for the Navy’s tricks. He was much too old and he had hard them too many times to believe there was any truth to it. The Navy would take the boys and blow Captain Kruger’s ship out of the water. He was sure of it. The only thing he wasn’t sure of was whether or not they would let the boys live once they had them.
“Just show us the boys. Their parents are worried,” the Seaman stated. “We just want to make sure they’re okay.”
“I ain’ gunna show ye them boys. Ye will just shoot ‘em down where they stand,” Kruger responded. “They be pirates, jus’ like me.”
“You’re right that they’re pirates now, but they are just boys. Hand them over so we can take them home,” another man from the other ship said.
“Ye wan’ ‘em so ye can kill ‘em and make a mockery ‘o their living choices,” Kruger said.
“They did not choose this life; you chose it for them,” the other man said.
Kruger called for James to come out and speak to the Navy. It was not a decision he took lightly. It was not something he wanted to do, but there was nothing to be done now except to let the boys speak for themselves. James was the reasonable choice.
“We don’ wan’ te go with ye; we’re happy where we be,” James told the Navy.
“Do you really think this is where those young boys want to be? Don’t you think they would rather be at home with their mothers?” One of the men from the Navy stepped forward from the back as he spoke.
“I done talked to ‘em an’ this is where they choose to be,” James answered. “Not sittin’ in a rottin’ ‘ol town with nothin’ te do but learn ‘bout boats. ‘Specially not when they can do it righ’ ‘ere same as there.”
“Is that what you really think young man?” The captain of the Navy spoke again.
“Yessir, it is,” James answered proudly.
“Then, I have nothing left to say to you except: a pirate you be and a pirate’s death you will die,” the Seaman threatened as he pulled his flintlock from his side.
The boom issued from the gun before James had a chance to get out of the way. There was a hole in the right side of his chest before he could say another word.
The pirates sprang into action in a matter of seconds. They had been fired upon, and one of their youngest had taken the bullet, which they did not take kindly to. They had pulled their own weapons, swords and handguns, and were ready.
“Let that serve as a warning,” the Navy captain said. “Give us the rest of the boys or you all die here today.”
“Ye ain’ gunna take not a one of ‘em, ye bastard!” Kruger was angry and fired, hitting his target, before he was finished with his sentence. The Navy captain fell, a bullet hole in his head from twenty feet away. He was dead before he hit the ground.
Chaos erupted around them from both boats. Men sprang into action everywhere. Shots were fired from here and from there unexpectedly. Blood sprayed and spilled, drawing sharks to the ships within minutes. They circled menacingly. They would have quite a feast.
The Navy, with the five men and small ship, were nothing compared to the pirates. Men swung from ropes onto the enemy ship, slashing the offending Seamen as they came down.
It ended seemingly faster than it began.
The bullet hadn’t gone far into James’s chest. It was lucky for him that the Navy captain had been a poor shot. The man had been young as it was. The Navy had sent expendable Seamen to try to take down one of the most notorious pirates known to the world. It was but a warning that they knew where Kruger was and what he had done.
The problem now wasn’t the Navy, though. Kruger was worried about the James even though he seemed to be doing alright for the time being. He was in a lot of pain, but the bleeding wasn’t too bad.
The men took James below deck to patch him up but they would have to be fast. The bullet shifted as they moved him and the blood started to pour out of his chest. He went pale as a ghost in a matter of seconds.
Captain Kruger would have to get James to a port sooner rather than later if he wanted to keep the boy alive.