I thought pirate stories ended with treasure chests full of gold coins,” Sal said. He talked to himself as he scrubbed the deck on his hands and knees.
With Jean Paul as captain, Sal expected empty pockets. “Where’s this mad man taking us now?” Sal missed Captain Jacques as their leader. Jean Paul tried to act the part. “Let me think on this.” He stroked his beard, looking thoughtful. “I’ll wager those Spaniards left cargo with the Indians.” He stood tall, pretending to have hatched a brilliant idea. “We’re going to find the loot with the natives!” He took credit for Sal’s ideas about trading onshore.
“We’re going to find plenty of loot, men. Sal will get us past the Spanish soldiers, right Sal?” All eyes turned to Sal. He took his time before he answered to Jean Paul.
“Aye, aye Captain,” Sal said. He wanted to spit on the deck every time he called Jean Paul, Captain. Sal could have managed the schooner himself, if only Jean Paul gave him a chance.
The voyage from the Channel Islands to the mainland proved easy sailing. A flat sea with no barriers, only the silver dolphins to escort them along the way. The rocky coastline barred their landing with no sign of a harbor or an open stretch of beach.
Sal spotted native men sitting on the cliffs, their long fishing lines dangled in the surf. The fishermen seemed to ignore the pirate ship. Sal wondered, were they friendly or lookouts for the tribe? No one else thought they were important enough to mention, but Sal knew better.
“Look ahead to the muddy waters,” Jean Paul said. “Muddy water means there’s an inlet, a good passage.” He looked at his crew, expecting obedience. “Oarsman! Release the dinghy. You take Sal aboard and head out. Follow the passage,” Jean Paul didn’t even know his oarsman’s name. Why would anyone choose to take orders from him?
Sal crawled over the rail into the small landing barge, ready to get away from Jean Paul. Dumas rowed them toward the muddy water.
Jean Paul got one thing right, the inland passage appeared right away, wide enough for a Spanish landing party. The quiet strokes of the paddles maneuvered the dinghy against the current. Well upstream, Dumas brought the craft to a halt.
“I’ll climb the bank and go on foot from here. You hold our dinghy steady in this spot,” Dumas said.
“You’re leaving me here, all alone?” Sal said.
“Scared, Spaniard? I’ve got to see what lies beyond,” Dumas said. Steep banks rose high on both sides of the river. The small dinghy felt cramped. Sal’s thoughts were dark; he imagined the boat like a coffin.
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