“Who is this little girl in pantaloons?” a buccaneer said. The new arrivals laughed at their first glimpse of Sal in nothing but Long Johns.
“Give him a bottle of your whiskey. I guarantee he’ll pay us back,” Jacques said. Sal drank from a dirty liquor bottle while the buccaneers worked to retrieve their stash from a nearby cave. The liquor helped to wash away some of his grief over Blas.
Stolen loot was dragged out of the caves and packed in crates, chests and burlap bags. Then the men hauled it to their vessel anchored offshore. Even a few live chickens squawked in one box.
“All aboard!” Jean Paul said. The men hauled Sal onto the boat. He slumped over on the cramped deck, thick with scum and moss. The ship’s sails were tattered and streaked with seagull droppings. He shut his eyes and pretended to sleep.
“I tell you he’s the lad we saw in Mazatlán, the military man who held the cargo,” Jacques said. He stood astride the deck as if he captained a fleet instead of this renegade pirate ship.
“You’re talking about the soldier who refused our liquor for seven days? Now, look at him. He hasn’t let go of the bottle,” Jean Paul said. “Why keep him? He’s no use to us. We’ll move faster without him.”
“Let him speak,” Jacques said. He dumped a bucket of slimy water on Sal’s head.
“Wha... what’s this?” Sal said. He spat grit and seaweed out and tried to regain his focus. Surrounded by their snarling faces, he became 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.”
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