“Come with me and see how we deal with pirates,” Brother David said. “These buccaneers are not the first we’ve seen. Low supplies and hunger plague all the sailors who pass this way. Give them food, and they move on.” His voice offered no charity, only resignation, and scorn.
Sal stumbled through the dry chaparral, following Brother David past the cook fires. The monk would never be a match for Jean Paul and the crew. What did he think he could do?
Sal spotted he frog trappers, the two native boys, scampering toward the water’s edge carrying baskets of fish and nuts to Sal’s dinghy. The natives loaded it with their own food supplies.
“Brother David, you are in danger. They will come after you,” Sal said. He waded into the water toward the dinghy. Two men, with black mud smeared on their faces, secured the boat.
“And you, Sal? Will you return to your pirate friends or stay here?” Brother David said. His voice trembled. Did he struggle to control his temper?
“I know these men. Captain Jean Paul will come to kill you at high tide,” Sal said. He pulled on the dinghy, but the natives kept him from boarding. “What’s on their faces, some kind of war paint?” Sal longed to make a quick escape.
“If you stay, they will guide the dinghy back to your friends. They wear mud to hide their faces,” Brother David said.
“You’ve got to let me go. I’m no good,” Sal said. The river water chilled Sal, body and soul.
“Will you walk away from another friend? Brother David needs your help,” Sal heard Blas’s ghost beg him to stay.
“God will forgive you, no matter what you do,” Brother David said. “But we would welcome your help, Sal.” He reached out a hand to give Sal a blessing. “Let the men take the dinghy to those pirates. We need you: please stay.” The dinghy glided toward the open sea. The native men pushed it as they swam close to the waterline.
Sal, paddling like a dog behind them, tried to keep afloat. “Tule,” a native pushed a hollow reed toward Sal, showing him how to use it like a straw to breathe underwater.
The dinghy cut a path through the reeds, on a direct course toward Jean Paul’s ship. Beds of kelp surrounded the boat, hiding the natives and Sal. He knew Blas’s spirit wanted him to stay. Another part of Sal knew this might be his last chance to escape.
Near the ship, he heard the pirates talking. “They shot our Sal and sent us this food as a peace offering, the dirty cowards.” It was Jean Paul’s voice. The other pirates reached toward the lone dinghy full of food.
“How’d they move the dinghy, Captain?” Dumas said.
“Those heathens use dark magic. There’s probably a hundred of them on the hill watching us. We’d never stand a chance,” Jean Paul said. Hidden behind the kelp bed, Sal listened to the Captain. He realized Jean Paul never planned to wait for his return.
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