“Wha... what’s this?” Sal said. He spat grit and seaweed out and tried to regain his focus. Surrounded by their snarling faces, he beca me aware of the danger he faced.
The Devil spoke in Sal’s mind, “Listen closely, speak slowly. I know these sorts.”
“I’m telling the boys you’re an officer ... you guarded precious cargo for Spanish Missions, am I right, man?” Jacques said. He grabbed ahold of Sal’s arm, testing his strength then checked Sal’s hands for the tell-tale blisters every working man carries.
“Missions? Where am I? Who are you?” Sal said. He stalled, slowing his words.
“I’m your friend, Jacques. We met in Mazatlán. You carried church supplies,” Jacques said. His grin, far from friendly.
“Tell us your name or my mates will toss you overboard,” Jean Paul said. His knife at the ready, Sal could see Jean Paul would take his life unless he proved useful.
“I’m Salvador. I don’t want anything to do with the Mission or the Brothers.”
“You see, he speaks. I’m telling you this man knows things, useful things,” Jacques said.
“He’s no good to us drunk, get him some grub and keep him awake, then maybe the Spanish dog can help us,” Jean Paul said. He turned away from Sal and began to order the other men about.
“We’re going to give you a disguise, Spaniard. You help us grab some of the galleon cargo, and there’ll be a percentage in it for you,” Jacques said. His words sounded full of swagger and false promises.
“Me? What about the real soldiers at each dock and friars waiting onshore? They keep track of everything. They’ve got Mission Indians, mean ones; ready carry the load,” Sal said.
“You see—he knows the routine, he’ll fit right in.” Jacques said. Clearly, he commanded the crew. By the looks of their cargo, he helped himself to unguarded goods in every port, then sold them for a profit in the next port and kept the best of the loot for himself. “Show him our sack of Spanish rags.”
Dumas pulled tangled clothes from a burlap bag and tossed two Spanish regiment jackets toward Sal. A grey cassock, like the one Blas wore, lay wrinkled among the jackets.
“Where did this come from? A Brother’s robe? I’m not part of your thieving,” Sal said.
“You’ll do as we say, or your little pantaloons will fill our costume bag. Now get dressed,” Jean Paul said. He picked one of the jackets and pushed it in Sal’s face. Sal weighed his options, counted the dangerous crew, and realized his chances of escape were few. If only Blas were here, they always found a way out of trouble. A vision of Blas’s crumpled body at Joseph’s feet filled his mind. He tugged on the uniform.
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