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Allegiance - Chapter 10

by The Stowaway


Tortuga, a few days later

"Well, damn me black, if it ain't Joshamee Gibbs!" There was a general outcry as the newcomer was recognized. Pirates crowded around him at the bar, shaking his hand and shouting questions.

The grizzled old sailor nodded. "Aye, 'tis me, right enough."

"What the Hell are you doing here?" someone asked, loud enough to be heard over the hubbub.

"Perishing of thirst," Gibbs laughed. Instantly, a brimming tankard of rum was pressed into his hand. He drank deep, smacking his lips and grinning. "Ah, now that hit the spot. Thankee." He turned to face the room, elbows on the bar behind him. "It's good to be back," he said.

"We thought you was dead, Josh. Where've ye been all these years?"

"Oh, here and there," Gibbs replied easily. "Mostly out East. But Jack got a hankerin' to see the Caribee once more and here we are."

A mutter went round the group. "Sparrow! I told ye he was back." Gibbs drank his rum and waited. Finally someone asked what was on every mind, "We hear tell that Sparrow's turned privateer. That true?"

Gibbs chuckled. "Well now," he replied, laying a finger beside his nose, "There's some as thinks so. Amazin' what the Navy will believe, if your papers look real, if you know what I mean. No, men, Jack is as he ever was."

There was a general laugh and a few voices said, "I told ye! Jack's up to his tricks."

"Where is he now, Josh?"

"Oh, not far," Gibbs said with a wink, "not far. But it wouldn't do for a fine, upstanding privateer to be seen here in Tortuga, eh lads?" More laughter and someone refilled Gibbs's tankard. "And, since he can't be here himself, he sent me on this errand." He drank again.

"Come on, Gibbs, out with it. Why are you here?"

I'm recruiting, boys," Gibbs said. "We need a few more stout hands for a venture Jack's got in mind. Don't ask me what, for I can't tell ye particulars until we sail, but there's gold involved." He nodded wisely and buried his nose in his tankard once again.

"Damn it, Josh! You can't expect us to take ye on trust. Give us a hint."

"No," Gibbs shook his head, "Not a word more. Jack'd skin me."

And so it went for some hours. The crowd wheedled and plied Gibbs with rum and he steadfastly refused to tell them aught of Jack's plans. While he seemed to be thoroughly drunk - garrulous and jovial - he was immovable on this one point. Until, that is, toward dawn. The crowd had thinned out, the whores and shills had gone to ground, and the common room contained only a score of seasoned buccaneers.

"Well, alright then. Since it's just us, I'll give you a hint of what's afoot," Gibbs said, leaning forward with both elbows on the table and peering at them through bloodshot eyes. "But not a whisper's to go beyond this room, understand?"

"Oh aye, Josh. You can count on us," they said, eyes glittering as they watched him.

Gibbs took another swig of rum and wiped his mouth. "It's a treasure ship," he said, lowering his voice so that they strained to hear. "Careened on a beach for repairs. And her escort's all lost in the storm that damaged her."

"Where?"

"On Bonaire," Gibbs replied. "In the lake behind Sorobon. Been there three weeks and it'll be another two before she's afloat again."

The pirates nudged each other and fairly drooled at the thought. But one doubter spoke up. "What about the Dutch navy? Surely they are on guard."

Gibbs chuckled. "Ah, that's the beauty of it, lads," he grinned. "With the treasure ship so well hidden, they deemed it best to call no attention to Sorobon. The Dutch fleet is in harbor at Willemstad. I seem 'em myself, not ten days ago. They are keeping the news of this ship mighty close, what's more."

"So how'd you hear of it, then?"

"Why, you know Jack, boys," Gibbs winked. "Friends in the right places."

His audience laughed. They did indeed know Jack Sparrow of old.

"So," Gibbs went on, "Jack'll wait until she's afloat again and then nip in and take her. That's why we need more men - she'll be wanting a prize crew. So, what say ye? Are you with us?"

The men assented with great eagerness, all save one at the back of the group, who slipped out the door unnoticed in the general excitement. The barkeep - passed out behind his bar - was kicked awake and made to find them pen, ink and paper. When these items were produced, Gibbs drew up a list containing the name of each volunteer, who then made his mark against it.

"There we are, all right and tight," Gibbs said, folding the paper and tucking it into his pocket. Meet me on the docks tonight at moonrise and we'll go join Jack and be on our way. Now mind ye, not a word to soul in the meanwhile."

They all assured him of their complete silence and left him there in the tavern. Gibbs finished his rum and sat for a few minutes, gazing into the embers of the fire and chuckling now and again. Had any been there to see him, they would have noticed that his air of inebriation had fallen away as the last man departed. "Well done, Josh," he said to himself, "the bait's taken and the hook set. Barbossa must know by now." He had seen the man slip out before the signing and knew Jack's plan was working. "In two weeks, if our luck holds…" He chuckled again and stretched himself out along a bench at the back of the room and fell sound asleep.

*******

That evening, Gibbs loaded his recruits - every one of whom was prompt to the time appointed - onto a small sloop and they sailed some way down the coast to the Lazarus, where she lay hidden in a rocky inlet favoured by smugglers. When all were aboard, they hoisted anchor and got under way. Once they were well out to sea and headed for the Windward Passage, Jack called the new hands aft and spoke to them from the quarterdeck.

"Welcome, men, to the privateer Lazarus," he said. The pirates grinned and nudged each other, winking. Jack grinned back at them and continued.

"In a moment I shall read the Articles and ask you all to sign them. You'll find them very like to those of other ships you've sailed on, I assure you. There is one difference that I wish to make very clear, so there will be no unfortunate misunderstandings or foolish actions." He looked so unwontedly serious that the men stopped fidgeting and grew still to hear.

"As a privateer," Jack said, "We keep company that may seem strange to you at first; go into action with unlikely allies. We are welcome in places where pirates dare not show their faces. This, as you may believe, is useful and - take my word for it - very profitable. Do not think you know who is friend and who foe; for you are as likely as not to be wrong. Follow my lead and you will be rich men ere long; disobey me and it will not be so well. Are we agreed?"

"Aye!" the men shouted.

"Very well, then," Jack laughed. He proceeded to read the ship's articles and had each man sign or make his mark. Then he turned them over to Gibbs and Anamaria, who assigned them watches and got them settled in. It was almost two hours later when Gibbs joined Jack on the quarterdeck.

"Well, Josh?" Jack asked.

"They'll do," Gibbs replied. "Good men, for the most part. I've my doubts about one or two, but in the main, they'll do."

"And you're sure the news got to Barbossa?"

"Sure as I'm standing here. Don't you worry, Jack." Gibbs chuckled. "Word is, Barbossa's gone a bit mad, of late. Actin' reckless, like; takin' risks no sane man'd take. This 'treasure ship' will draw him like a fly to dung."

"Especially when he thinks he can take the treasure and then have me walk into his trap, eh?" Jack grinned.

"Aye," Gibbs chuckled. "But he'll have a surprise or two coming to him, won't he?"

"He will indeed," Jack replied. "Now, then, we must make our best time to Willemstad. Crowd sail - all she'll take. Give these new hands a chance to show what they're made of."

"Aye, Cap'n," Gibbs sketched a salute with a grin and took himself off.

For some time Jack stood on the quarterdeck, watching the moon soar to the zenith. The Pearl was still in Tortuga, but not for long, he knew. He glanced back over his shoulder. He could feel her, could point to where she lay in the darkness behind them. "Soon, darlin'," he whispered. "Very soon."
 

 

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