slightly swaying table was arrayed with tankards and bottles. Cards were
thrown in a desultory fashion. Belowdecks the heat was like sitting in an
oven, but it was no better above, and the rum was handier in the great
cabin. The oppressive heat held the smoke from Marty's pipe at a level just
above their heads. Anamaria, being seated on the tallest stool, had to
slouch to keep her eyes from smarting in the acrid layer; she didn't
complain because she rather liked the sweetish, herbal scent and even
better, it took the edge off Marty's temper.
Gibbs threw down a Queen of diamonds. "Can't fault my luck this night," he
chortled. "Unless you can beat that?"
Anamaria merely shook her head and dropped her four of clubs on the pile,
muttering an oath.
"Eight bells! Change the watch!" cried Cotton's parrot.
Jack declared, "Cotton's right. It's time to settle debts and find a
hammock. Or share one, depending." But the corner of his mouth barely
quirked. It was too bloody hot to engage in anything so vigorous as
flirtatious teasing. The captain had merely exercised his drinking arm this
night and not been part of the gambling, arguing he needed to save his
strength for "piracy and scalawaggery"; Gibbs suspected it was on account of
that Jack was stony broke at the moment.
Anamaria and Marty each shoved a few final coins in the direction of Gibbs
and Cotton's pile of loot. Marty's words were a little slurred as he said,
"I'll be taking that back from you next time. Just you wait."
"Brace the fo'ard yards!" screamed Cotton's parrot. It wasn't always clear
what Cotton meant when the parrot spoke, but mostly folks just heard what
they wanted to hear anywise, so it mattered not much. Everyone shuffled off
to find their slumber, except Anamaria, who lingered at the table.
From his pocket, Jack thumbed a large, round copper bossed with the faces of
William and Mary. He tossed it onto Anamaria's pile, where it fell with a
"Penny or no, my thoughts ain't for sale this night, Captain."
"Not even if I pay in advance? Pity. I had something I was wondering in
regards to yourself."
"I've no reason to be telling you my secrets. Not when you still owe me."
"That's exactly what I wanted to ask your opinion on." Jack took another
slug straight from the bottle. "What sort of ship was it you were hoping I
might provide you with? Short of asking for the Black Pearl back
again, of course."
"Don't torment me, Jack. I'm in no mood."
"I'm deadly serious, Anamaria. My sources tell me there's inbound a small
convoy of Spaniards passing over the North Riff in two days time. We can run
at them with the guns out and blazing and the black aloft. We'll drive one
onto Silver Bank at ebb tide, I'll take the plunder, and when the water
rises, you can keep the ship I owe you. What say you?"
Anamaria shook her head. "Won't they be heavily armed? At present we're low
on shot and powder both. We can't stand a long firefight."
"We'll bluff them," Jack whispered, leaning in as if imparting knowledge of
a great conspiracy. "Use all our powder up in the first few minutes of
engagement. Besides, they'll flee in terror as soon as they see our sails.
Barbossa's seen to that for us. We're still the fastest ship in these
waters." Jack sat back and grinned, "I'll sweeten the bargain for you. You
may take with you any three volunteers from my crew, saving only my
officers. How's that for generous, eh? All I need from you are these two
things: a solemn oath that you'll never turn your guns on me and my crew,
and your agreement that this discharges my debt to you, for owing you one
ship to replace the Jolly Mon."
Anamaria sat quietly contemplating. It was exactly what she'd been asking
for, for months. Why now? Why had Jack never offered to do this before?
"So, I ask again." Jack's voice was low and earnest. "What say you? A ketch
or a sloop? I don't know if there will be anything as large as a barque in
the convoy, but certainly we can manage to get you as much as a brigantine."
"Are you so eager to be rid of me, Jack?"
"Aye, that I am." Jack's eyes betrayed nothing.
"I think you know."
"Pretend I don't. Pretend I've never known."
"With you aboard, I'm... " Jack stood and walked to the broad hull, and
thrust out an arm for support. The wood of the Black Pearl was warm
beneath his hand. Of course it was, so was everything else. This infernal
heat soaked into everything. "What it really comes down to is I've taught
you enough. You're ready to be captain yourself. I can't hold you here any
longer. Not unless I want to risk mutiny. I'll never allow that to happen
"I see." Ana waited a little longer, just in case Jack managed to find his
courage in the bottle he still clutched in his hand.
He took another prodigious swallow, but no more explanation was forthcoming.
"I'll take a sloop, then. Gaff-rigged if we can find it. Easier to handle
when I'm short on crew. I can take a bigger ship after I've established my
reputation as captain."
Though she couldn't see it, she thought she heard Jack smile.
The smoke was clearing as the rest of the convoy showed a good pair of heels
to the scene of the conflict. The battle hadn't quite been managed
without a shot fired, but since only the smallest ship had been cut out of
the convoy, the rest had considered themselves lucky. More than half of the
sloop's Spanish crew had deserted to swim for the fleeing fleet, and it had
been a simple task to "encourage" the remaining Spaniards that the main
chance was to be found in making themselves scarce via the sloop's small
Jack did have a knack for taking plunder without killing anyone. Anamaria
wondered if she should seek to emulate him in this. Maman would have
appproved, for it was one of those things she had often mentioned about
The little ship was a lovely thing, sleek and built for speed, and her name
was Rainha das Estrelas which Marty said wasn't Spanish but rather
Portugee. She'd consulted Marty on which crew members to take with her and
settled on Moises and Ladbroc and eventually, Duncan; Tearloch turned down
her offer. Still, it was gratifying that anyone chose to leave the notorious
Pearl for a smaller, poorly-gunned ship with a less-experienced
captain. She wondered if Jack had offered the crew any additional
"incentive" on the sly.
Not likely. But not impossible, either. He was eager to be rid of her, but
he also seemed to be genuinely concerned that her ship be sound and
seaworthy. Could it be he actually cared?
Anamaria stood at the tiller, a captain on the sea once more. From the
Pearl's quarterdeck, Jack waved his tricorne dramatically as they
She whispered, "Goodbye, Papa."