Authors: Barry Sadler
This is a book of fiction. All the names, characters and events portrayed in this book are Fictional and any resemblance to real people and incidents are purely coincidental.
CASCA: #15 The Pirate
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Copyright © 1985 by Barry Sadler
Cover: Greg Brantley
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Table of Contents
In the dense black smoke from the guns, the two ships came together. The grapnels were thrown, the two hulls lashed.
"Boarders!" Casca ordered and, cutlass in hand, leaped for the other deck, Katie beside him, her own cutlass at the ready.
"There's something wrong, Scarface," she muttered. "Why didn't he fire on us?"
There wasn't time for him to answer. He jumped aboard the ship, Katie Parnell matching him step for step, and for the first time in his life Casca Rufio Longinus felt the odd pleasure of going into battle with a woman he trusted
gray fingers of the tropical dawn fondled the island of Jamaica, and caught in their thin embrace was the shifting figure of the man who had penetrated the defenses of McAdams' compound. The man the intruder had but little time to gain access to McAdams' bedroom. Dawn here was quick like a reluctant lover anxious to get it over with and the man had to make haste. And this one did; he knew his business. He was an old pro. And in this, the year of our Lord 1718, when most of the world as usual had their heads in their asses, knowing one's business was a big advantage.
The intruder needed an advantage. In fact he needed all the help he could get. McAdams' compound was high up in the Blue Mountains, and every damn inch of it was under the eyes of guards. And there were the dogs.
The intruder knew about the failings of human guards, and he knew about dogs. Men tended to relax when the dawn's groping fingers touched them unless they were very well trained, which he doubted these were. And as for the dogs, he had picked the leeward side of the coming sea breeze. They would not pick up his scent.
However, one dog did catch a brief trace of something, came to attention and looked to the half
-darkness. But the scent was confusing, and the dog shared the guard’s indolence; he lay back down.
Two of the sentries saw a flicking movement in the shadows, but thought it was only a wandering goat since there were dozens all over the place. It had been a long time since anyone had tried to enter McAdams' compound. Long ago the guards had settled into an easy existence. There had not been enough trouble to keep them on constant alert. Though when the old man was about they did to all appearances become eager guard dogs themselves, then relaxed once he was out of sight.
They knew their presence was more of a preventive measure than anything else, to insure the planter's privacy which he was rich enough to afford. McAdams had plantations on half a dozen islands and was wealthy enough to afford damn near anything he wanted.
The dog's half attempt to alert them did make them stand a bit straighter than usual and open their eyes a touch more. After all someo
ne could try to get McAdams. True there was as much money to be made in piracy as there was in robbery but not everyone was designed for a life at sea. And rich men always made enemies along the way. There were some who would have liked to see McAdams dead or permanently out of the way.
The thought began to worry the first guard a bit.
"Thought I saw something," he muttered to his companion. "You see anything?"
"No. A damned goat most likely. "
But he too searched the shadows with his eyes.
But it was a bit too late by then. The trespasser was already over the wall and hidden in the shadows.
He was not a tall man, only medium sized, with the thick square body of one who knew the ways of the dark and of close battle. Taking advantage of the tree beside the wall, he looked up into its spreading branches. The guards turned back to their dull routine of circling the grounds. As they turned the corner of the house their uninvited guest was well up into the branches groping for the white painted railing of the balcony.
The rest was child's play. By the time of half
-light he was inside the bungalow and in McAdams' bedroom. Pulling the mosquito netting aside, he laid the point of the Spanish Main Gauche to the throat of the sleeping Scotsman.
On his face a half smile wrinkled the scar running from his eye to the corner of his mouth.
"Wake up, McAdams. You sent for me. Remember?"
McAdams stirred, then his eyes jerked open. His first efforts to rise from his bed were quickly terminated by the point of the narrow bladed dagger pressing against the tender flesh covering his carotid artery.
He sunk back deep into his bed. Body rigid, he forced his eyes to focus on the dark figure above him.
The face smiling at him in the thin light brought a cold feeling deep inside his bowels, and not because it was necessarily evil. No, it was the face of a man in the prime of life somewhere in his thirties. If it hadn't been for the scar he probably would have been a most pleasant looking fellow.
"You sent for me," the man repeated. "What is it you want?"
"Laddie, I'll talk to no
mon who puts steel to my throat."
Casca, the intruder, grinned approvingly and pulled the dagger back, keeping it in his hand instead of returning it to its sheath beneath his jerkin. Pulling the netting further open he bowed mockingly, "Aye. But I'd be obliged to you, good sir, if you would keep your hands in sight when you leave your bed. I have no desire to find a pistol ball lodged in my own throat." He watched McAdams' eyes. English was still a slightly strange tongue for Casca, and the flowery use of it currently in vogue didn't help matters. He hoped he sounded like the man McAdams had sent for.
Holding up both hands, the Scotsman smiled and began to wriggle out of his tousled bed. He was not as old as Casca had expected, though the full beard made age a little difficult to judge. Probably in his late fifties. He thought the man would have been older to have amassed all the wealth he was rumored to have. Especially since he had been brought to the colony as a bonded servant, little better if any than the blackest African who chopped cane in his fields.
He had a hard look to his eyes with a touch of
humor behind them. Casca thought he could like this tough Scotsman who clawed his way up from the fields to be one of the richest men in the Islands. It took nerve not to be intimidated by the point of a dagger against your throat.
McAdams glanced ruefully at the open window. He spoke quietly, almost all of the Scottish bu
rr gone from his voice, "The guards? Did you bribe them? Or shall I have to dismiss them for their negligence?"
"Neither," Casca answered. "I just happen to be fairly good at what I do."
He meant the boast to be sarcastic, but McAdam’s eyes whipped toward him, probing. That too pleased Casca. It was good to know that this man would take nothing at face value.
The Scotsman barked the words as though he were the one in possession of the dagger.
"You sent for me. You ought to know who I am. "
"I sent for a man called Cass Long who was foolish enough to kill the wrong person in a tavern brawl. It was the Inn of the Caribs in Montego Bay."
"I'm called Cass Long."
"But it's not your true name?"
Casca smiled. He was tempted to tell the Scotsman: "You want to know who I really am
: Casca Rufio Longinus, born nearly seventeen and a half centuries past in the Rome of the Caesars."
No, Scotsman, you don't want to know my name.
Speaking aloud softly: "One name will serve as well as another. It doesn't change the man. "
McAdams nodded his head in silent agreement. "Now about this man you killed in Montego Bay
." He let the question trail off and waited.
Now that was a bit embarrassing. Casca had killed many in his time. He had few regrets about that. But the one at the inn was in truth an accident. The drunken bastard had actually killed himself and fallen on Casca's dagger. But no point in trying to prove that. And since the victim had been from an important family,
Casca had simply gotten his ass out of town and headed up to the hills where the Maroons lived. He had lain in hiding there for the last week trying to figure out a way off the island when he had gotten word from an escaped slave with family in the Scotsman's service that the master wanted to see him a matter of business and travel.
McAdams let the sentence hang in the air as his eyes probed Casca's. "Have you any idea why I wished you to come to me?"
"Have you ever heard of Blackbeard?"
"Aye, who hasn't?"
Stede Bonnet? Charles Vane? Israel Hands? Vauhgn, Moody, Richards, Tarleton Duncan?"
"Pirates all, aren't they?"
"Have you met any of these men I named?"
Casca shook his head, "No, I have not been long in these climes. I know none of them."
McAdams smiled inwardly with satisfaction. "Good, very good. I need a man who isn't known by these cutthroats, a man who can handle himself around them. I want something returned to me that one of them has in his possession. I'll pay 500 pounds sterling. On delivery. "
"What do you want returned?"
"A girl. Tarleton Duncan, one of the captains of the coast, took her off a French ship he seized. He has her now as a hostage on his ship, the Scorpion."
Casca said nothing. Only his eyes showed his unspoken questions.
McAdams spoke brusquely: "That's a problem for you?"
"You want a girl who's being held captive on a pirate ship?"
McAdams laughed bitterly. "I know what you're thinking. Ordinarily that would be true. But Tarleton is a bit different."
McAdams snorted. "Not likely! He has the appetite of a bull at stud."
"There's something between Duncan and myself. Know only that he will not ransom her to me or I would have gladly paid. What else there is between us is only of concern to myself and no other!"
Casca eyed his host standing there in a red silk night shirt,
graying hair and thick mutton whiskers alongside fleshy but determined jowls.
"So, you want me to take a girl away from Tarleton and bring her to you. It does seem a bit strange that you would trust such a task to a man you know nothing about."
"Ah... But you are not a simple seaman, Master Long. You were a paying passenger on the Indian Princess. Velvet jacket, feather in your cap, silver buckles on your shoes."
"You know what ship I came on?"
"Aye, she sailed yesterday. Too bad you ran for the hills instead of stowing away on her. You'd be on your way and far at sea by now. In addition to my plantations I also have a share in the Indian Princess. Therefore her master was most obliging when I asked him about you. You paid well and in gold to be brought to these far shores and the master of the Indian Princess performed his task well and did not inform the authorities in London that you were on board. Most fortunate for one again sought for the deaths of three of His Majesty's household guardsmen. As it is well known, the king prided himself on the martial abilities of his personal guard. It stands to reckon that one who could dispose of three of them must know how to take care of himself in dire circumstances.
Casca again cursed his luck which seemed to go from bad to worse where women and liquor were in attendance. So be it!
And like most realists, he knew when he was fairly caught. "This girl you want…"
LeBeau. A relative. As you probably know, often in history we Scots have found France a convenient refuge during our endless wars with the masters of England. The girl is French, but her mother was my half-sister."
Casca scanned him appraisingly. Except for that one moment when he had awakened, McAdams had no real Scottish accent. Well, maybe he lived in Jamaica so long that . . . Still, a small alarm bell rang in the depths of Casca's brain. Was McAdams all that he seemed to be?
"You're a rich man," Casca said. "An extremely rich man. I heard of you even in the short time I spent in Montego Bay before heading for the hills. Why do you need me to take this girl away from the pirate Duncan?"
McAdams sighed. "The trouble with dealing with an intelligent man is that you have to tell him too much.
How much do you know about freebooters?"
"There have been pirates ever since there have been ships at sea. Piracy is a business, a very, very profitable business not just for those who practice the trade, but for businessmen too. Businessmen here in the islands. Businessmen on the coasts of the Americas. Even an American colonial governor or two has had or does have his finger in the pot. And as with many businesses piracy flourishes during times of stress, religious or political. Now, consider Jamaica, Master Long. The Caribbean is swarming with freebooters. There is competition with Spain for control of these waters and the rich lands on which they break. At the same time the working conditions of the average laborer whoever and whatever he may be are such that he is no better off than an outright slave. This I know. So for those with the courage and the few with brains, signing the articles of a pirate captain presents him with a much greater opportunity than swinging a cane knife and waiting out the time of his indenturement. Have you heard of St. Mary's?"
"Aye, it was a pirate kingdom. A small island to the east of Madagascar where a generation ago the buccaneers had their own country. The Red Sea Men, they were called. They became fabulously wealthy preying on the Moslem ships in the Red Sea. Now right here in the Islands there is the chance for the same thing to occur, but on a much grander scale. A pirate kingdom not just on one little island, but taking in the whole region. Hispaniola, the Antilles, Honduras, Jamaica – the entire region. Can you imagine what that would mean? Whoever controls this area is master over all the southern passages to North and South America."