Elizabeth awoke to confusion and noise. She had been up too late, worrying
about Will and listening to him toss and turn, and had slept most of the
morning away. Before she could clear the fog from her head, she felt the
ship heel hard to starboard and change heading. Were they giving chase or
running from a pursuer? Looking out the stern windows, she could clearly see
a Spanish brigantine moving fleetly through the water, her sails growing
ever larger against the bright blue of the sky.
Remembering Gibbs' grumblings about Spanish privateers, Elizabeth hastily
pulled on her clothes, located her sword, and made for the quarterdeck. Jack
was there, shouting orders to the crew, and Norrington, watching the
brigantine impatiently and looking very much at a loose end.
Suddenly, he stiffened and cried, "That's an English vessel -- the Wasp!
She's under Captain Gillette's command. Is she flying false colors?"
Jack chuckled mirthlessly and handed Norrington his spyglass. "I don't think
that's Gillette's ship anymore, mate. See for yourself."
Norrington peered through the glass intently, and said, softly, but with
great feeling, "Damn."
This had never happened before. Will would have sworn that the Pearl
could outrun any ship in the Caribbean, and, although Jack hid it well, Will
could see that he too was surprised.
They had loosed every sail to the breeze, but the Spanish had the weather
gauge, and were growing inexorably closer. In a show of bravado, Jack had
insisted on a large breakfast, inviting Norrington to join them and share
what he knew about the former Wasp.
The news was not good. The brigantine outgunned the Pearl; soon they
would be within range of her cannons, and not yet able to retaliate.
Norrington suggested a ploy, illustrating the ships' positions with the salt
and pepper shakers, and to Will's surprise, Jack seemed to take it
seriously, pulling his mustaches and mulling it over, and then carefully
adjusting the pepper to account for a possible shift in the wind.
"Yes," said Norrington eagerly, "But if we can keep our lead until sunset. .
." He altered the relative positions of the shakers again, and Jack nodded
Elizabeth, who had been picking at her food in a desultory manner, was soon
drawn into the conversation, which came to include the butter dish and three
eggcups, standing in for a string of islands to the southeast.
Will had never had much of a head for navigation and the variables soon
became too complex for him to follow. However they sliced it, an engagement
seemed almost inevitable, and if it was going to happen, Will would just as
soon get it over with. His thoughts strayed to Wickham, who had been
returned to the brig after the aborted flogging. With battle imminent, was
it fair to keep him locked up? If the ship were scuttled, he'd have no hope
of escape. But if he were freed would he be a hindrance in battle? Will
turned it over in his mind, and finally sent Tommy to tell Hans to release
Wickham if things took a turn for the worse. No sense having the bastard
underfoot unless it was absolutely necessary.
At breakfast, it had still seemed possible that they might elude the Spanish
ship, but they'd had nothing but bad luck since. The brigantine had moved
with preternatural speed, and once she'd had them in her range, the wind had
died down to the faintest breeze. Jack had employed the sweeps, but when it
became clear that flight was impossible, he'd sent the men to the guns
Now the hellish cacophony of battle echoed in Elizabeth's ears as she raced
around, responding to calls for more powder and shot. Tommy was hauling
powder as well, and they repeatedly collided in the cramped, smoke filled
gun deck. From above, she occasionally heard Will yelling over the din of
the cannons, ordering the men to repel boarders. She clung to this small
reassurance; so long as she could hear him, he was alive.
Through the gun ports, Elizabeth could see the Spanish jeering and taunting,
and in the gloom beyond the guns, she caught a glimpse of a priest in a
bloodstained cassock kneeling beside an injured man. The Spanish guns had
done their work; the Pearl was gaining water, and Jack had been
forced to pull men from their guns to work the pump. Finally, he took a gun
himself, but before he could prime the fuse, there was a thundering crash,
and a ball hurtled through the hull, narrowly missing Jack. The ship lurched
as he jerked out of the way, and he slammed into a cannon with a sickening
James fought as hard as any man on the Pearl, but with little hope
that they'd escape capture. The Wasp was as swift as the
Interceptor had been, and carried an impressive artillery for her size.
But even James had been surprised at how quickly she'd gained on the
Pearl -- he wondered if the Spanish had modified her in some way to
increase her speed. He'd like to have known how she'd fallen into Spanish
hands, and what losses had been incurred in that fight; it was frustrating
to be so ignorant. Somehow James had managed to forget that while he was
marooned, life in the rest of the world had proceeded onward, and the
unpleasant realization made him wonder what other news he'd missed.
Twice the pirates fought off boarders, but they suffered significant losses
with each attempt. The third time the Spanish swarmed over the gunwales,
there were no longer enough men on the deck to repel their advance. James
was fighting at Will's side when he heard someone shout, "Quarter!" The call
was echoed many times, and in the babble of voices, James heard one of the
Dutchman say, "The captain, he is killed!" Will faltered momentarily and his
opponent kicked the sword from his hand. Despairingly, James lowered his
The Spanish sailors rapidly assembled the much-diminished crew of the
Pearl on the main deck. Gibbs, nursing a nicked ear, joined Will and
James by the capstan. "I told 'im so," he muttered confidentially to James,
"Although I'd rather not have been right in this instance." He might have
said more, but a murderous look from Will quelled his complaint.
Gradually the Spanish began to roust the men from the lower decks, but there
was no sign of Elizabeth. Will's face was pale and strained, and there was a
lost, confused look in his eyes. James began to fear for his sanity, if both
Sparrow and Elizabeth were dead.
Finally, just when James had given up hope, Elizabeth appeared, Sparrow
leaning heavily on her arm. Will whispered, "Thank God," and rushed to them.
Elizabeth and Will flanked Sparrow, their heads leaned together. Envy
twisted in James' chest; even now they clung to one another, as if nothing
else mattered so long as they were together.
Their tête-à-tête was interrupted when the Spanish captain stepped on the
deck, announcing, "I am Capitan de la Cruz of the Princessa de los
The Spaniard was the picture of elegance: his black velvet coat showed not a
spot of dust; his slender, aristocratic hands were lily white; and his
English was impeccable, barring a very slight lisp. If James had not
witnessed the fierce skirmish, he would have assumed the man had come
straight from his valet. De la Cruz raked his eyes across the battered
Pearls, contemplated James in a disconcerting way, and then continued to
Sparrow, whose tatterdemalion attire and bedraggled appearance made a poor
contrast to the Spanish captain's stunning perfection. "And you must be Jack
Sparrow took a halting step, grimacing as he did so, and James wondered if
his leg had been broken. But as he watched, Sparrow stood up straighter, and
bared his teeth in a savage grin. James was reminded of their first meeting
on the docks in Port Royal; James hadn't realized it at the time, but that
was a similar sort of performance. Sparrow excelled at the role, but
familiarity had enabled James to see behind the mask.
"Captain. Captain Jack Sparrow, if you please."
De la Cruz gestured at the prisoners standing closest to Sparrow. "And these
are your officers, I presume?"
"Aye, except-" James caught Sparrow's eye and desperately tried to convey
how essential it was that he not be named as an officer of the Royal Navy.
If the Spanish found the Commodore of the Jamaica fleet on the Black
Pearl, apparently condoning his attacks on Spanish ships, they would
have all the provocation they needed to start a war in the Caribbean. De la
Cruz had no reason to believe James' story, and much incentive to discount
it. Jack jerked his head a fraction of an inch.
"Except the lady, of course. She's a captive - took 'er off an English ship,
and we're waitin' on a ransom." Jack leered at Elizabeth, and she made a
passable imitation of injured femininity, but James could see that de la
Cruz wasn't deceived by this ruse.
"Do you take me for a fool, Capitan Sparrow?" It is known throughout
the Main that you sail with a pair of fiendish bitches who are as
black-hearted and dastardly as the rest of your crew." Striking with the
suddenness of a snake, he grasped Elizabeth's wrist and pulled her
dangerously close to him.
Will started forward with a growl, and James only just managed to hold him
back. De la Cruz wiped his thumb through the soot on her face, and peered at
her coldly. Elizabeth held stock still, looking down her nose at him, as
much the aristocrat as he, despite the grime that coated her face and hands.
He pushed her back at Will indifferently and cleaned his hands with his
handkerchief. "Not a mulatta, so this must be the Governor's runaway
daughter." He waved his hand. "Para ahora, llevadlos al calabozo."
No sooner were they in the brig than the mask slipped entirely, and
Sparrow's face contorted in pain. From the opposite cell, Will and James
watched as Elizabeth helped him to the floor. Will gripped the bars tightly
with frustration and anger, and James felt an unexpected twinge of sympathy
"Jack, let me look at your leg." James knew Elizabeth well enough not to
expect feminine vapors and faints, but the grim practicality in her voice
was something of a revelation.
"First things first, darlin'." Sparrow reached into his voluminous pocket
and produced a small flask.
While he drank, Elizabeth began to ease his breeches down his legs. The
fabric was stuck to his leg with splinters and dried blood, and what would
no doubt have been a crude jest was cut off by a hiss of pain. The skin was
torn and abraded and an enormous purple bruise was blooming on his thigh.
Elizabeth brushed her fingers across it and Sparrow swore vehemently. It did
seem that he could bend his knee, although the effort cost him dearly.
Will winced in sympathy. "Is it broken?"
"I think not. Just as well, since I have nothing to splint it with. But I
should get these splinters out and bandage it up."
James forbore to mention that, the way things were looking none of them
would live long enough to worry about the splinters festering in Sparrow's
With Elizabeth's help, Sparrow struggled out of his coat and shirt. She
shredded the worn shirt to a pile of strips, and began the painstaking task
of picking out the slivers of wood, stopping often to mop up the blood that
dripped from the deeper wounds. James had to admit that she was a competent
and resourceful nurse. When her fingernails proved inadequate, she pulled a
tortoise-shell pin from her hair and used it to tease the splinters out.
Even with this tool, it was a slow, tedious process, and clearly quite
painful for Sparrow.
No one spoke; the brig was silent except for the occasional grunt from
Sparrow. It was miserably hot, and Elizabeth's grubby face was soon streaked
white with sweat. James longed to take off his coat, but it felt
ill-mannered to interrupt the vigil. Perhaps Will felt something similar,
for he too stood by, unnaturally stiff and barely breathing, as if his
concentration could somehow ease Sparrow's suffering.
Finally Elizabeth wrapped the bandages tightly around Sparrow's thigh and
knee. "Keep it as still as possible -- that will help the pain."
Sparrow gave the flask a little shake. "No, love, this will help the
In a surprising display of consideration, he offered it to Elizabeth, who
refused to drink. With a small shrug, Sparrow settled back, and took a long
pull on the flask, staring off into the distance. Absentmindedly, his hand
slid over the boards, as if he drew some reassurance from the feel of the
Will's fingers slowly slipped away from the bars, although his eyes remained
fixed on Sparrow and Elizabeth. His stomach rumbled and James was
immediately aware of how long it had been since breakfast. The sun was
setting outside the tiny porthole, turning the waves a fiery red, and
there'd been no suggestion of supper. With a sigh, he crumpled up his
borrowed coat to make a pillow and leaned against the corner of the cell; if
there was to be no food, he could at least get some rest.