“Thomas, I must say that was rather quick thinking on your part to summon help from Dover the way you did.” Callum said as they watched the Marines lead the men in dark clothing off toward the Garrison.
“I’m just glad Amos got the signal right the first time.” Tomlin said as he looked at Amos and gave him a smile.
“For a moment, sir, I thought I was sending up a signal to start the laundry.” Amos said as he walked by with a rail gun under his muscular arm. Tomlin went wide eyed a bit and Callum turned and chuckled.
“You think that’s funny, do you?” Tomlin asked Callum.
“Yes, very amusing. I’m going to go check on the boy.” Callum looked at him and went for the gangplank, coming up behind Amos. He stepped off on the deck and went to the steps and went down. Hans was there with Carson in the galley, Carson was holding the boy as the boy was dropping tears from his young eyes. He saw Callum and let go of Carson and went to him, throwing his arms around Callum’s waist.
“Hans,” Callum said as he looked down, the boy lifted his wet eyes, “I’m sorry I was not here to protect you, to keep this kind of thing from happening, I let you down.”
“No, Keptein,…you did not, you come for me,…you save me from, …those men. They hurt.”
“They hurt you?”
“They hurt Carson, and,…the crew, your friend,…Thomas. He fought,…so much, but they were too many.” Hans said with a shake of his head.
“I see. As long as they didn’t hurt you, that’s all that matters. Did they say anything to you, Hans?”
“Ja, they say,…they take me,…to London,…to tower, to wait.”
“They were taking you to The Tower?” Callum asked his expression was almost of shock, “Hans, stay here with Carson, out of sight, alright?”
“Ja, Keptein.” The boy said, Callum turned and went to the door and up the steps quickly.
“Standby to get underway! Windsong! Return to the ship!” Callum yelled as he walked quickly to the gangplank and went down to the stone dock. The hands of Windsong hurried back aboard, Tomlin was standing there, wide eyed.
“Quintan, what is it?”
“They were going to take him to The Tower, Thomas. I have to get underway right now, there will be Regulars that will be coming from London no doubt. Paupling was right in what he was doing, although going about it the wrong way.”
“They were taking him to The Tower? Dear God, Quintan. And you’re going ahead with this? I can have Dover ready to get underway as soon as the Marines return from the Garrison.” Tomlin said and went to move, but Callum stopped him.
“No, Thomas. I want you to stay here in Southend. Wait for orders. If they make me a renegade out of this, I can deal with that. I will not have you sacrifice yourself or the rest of your career in this by going with me. The crew is following my orders and no harm will come to them over this. I want you to take Darin with you, keep him here and don’t get involved, do you understand?”
“No arguments, there isn’t time. Tell Stewart and Carrington about this, and above all else, keep your head about you and trust no one, do you understand?”
“Yes.” Tomlin said, looking defeated.
“Thomas, I thank you for all that you have done for me and for the boy. If I am to be hunted, I hope it is you they send after me.”
“I rather doubt they will, knowing our relationship.” Tomlin said, “Quintan, we could sneak out after dark, catch up to you.”
“No, don’t risk it, please, there’s too much at stake at home for that, Thomas, please be reasonable in this, I beg you, for my sake, please listen to me.” Callum said, almost begging.
“Alright, for you. But, damn it, you had better be careful. Would you mind if I sent word home about this?”
“Keep it brief, in case it’s intercepted.”
“Oh, yes, you’re right, smoke and shadow.” Tomlin rolled his eyes, “Good luck, Quintan.” Tomlin said and gave him a nod.
“Somehow I think I’m going to need it this time, Thomas, thank you.” Callum said and wrapped his arms around his friend, his brother.
“I love you, you thickheaded idiot.” Tomlin said as he returned the hug.
“I love you as well.” Callum said softly and pulled back.
“Ready to cast off, sir!” Amos said. Callum nodded toward him, he patted Tomlin on the shoulder and ran for the gangplank, going up and turned, pulling it up.
“Cast off all lines!” Callum yelled, “Set and make all plain sail! Helm hard to port! Take us out!” Callum looked at Tomlin on the stone dock as the sails dropped. He raised a hand and held it still, Tomlin copied him as he watched Windsong start to move as she took the wind in her canvas.
“Is something wrong, Andrew?” The old man asked with dry parched lips.
“Uh, …no, sir, it’s just rather,…”
“That would be a good choice of word, sir, yes.”
“It’s true, all of it, I assure you. The battle, all of it, the afterward as well.” The old man said and then looked at Dustin who was sitting on the ottoman in his usual spot listening and hinged on every word that was being said.
“You left him there, standing on the dock, Grandfather.” Dustin said as he shook his head a bit.
“I had no choice, Dustin.” The old man said as Dustin rose to his feet.
“There’s always a choice, Grandfather, you taught me that. Why did you leave him?”
“For his own safety. You see, basically, I was kidnapping a kidnapping as it were, a member of a royal house, even though I was returning him home. There was the point that he, the boy, might be of political importance. Had Thomas followed me without orders, he, his officers, and his men would have become like me, outlaws and hunted men. The Admiralty would have sent the entire fleet to hunt us down. For myself, I was willing to risk it, I could always explain that my crew was merely following orders of their Captain, but another ship, another Captain?” The old man shook his head, “That’s conspiracy, sedition, even insurrection. I would not have him or them branded as such. It was too much to ask. So, I sailed alone. We set our course north and plied ourselves to it under full sail. We had little supplies left, possibly a week and I asked Carson, my steward to stretch them a bit and go to only two meals a day.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Andrew said, stopping the old man.
“What is it, Andrew?”
“You have been speaking for hours, sir, without break or refreshment.” Andrew said.
“I suppose I have. I lost myself in it all. The memories are very powerful to me.” The old man said.
“I can certainly see that, sir. Perhaps, if you were to take a brief rest?” Andrew asked and looked up at Dustin for a moment and then back at the old man.
“Yes, Grandfather, you should take a rest. Let me get you some water at least, please.” Dustin said, “I was so caught up in it as well, forgive me for not paying attention. We haven’t even had supper.”
“Understandable, my boy.” The old man smiled softly at him, “What is the time, I wonder?”
“Uh, half past ten, sir.” Andrew said as he looked at his pocket watch.
“In the evening?”
“My heavens. Huh, it has been years since I have been up this late.” The old man said and went to get up. He was stiff and sore from sitting for so long. He groaned a bit as he tried to stand straight. Andrew set his things on the settee and stood to help him. He put his hands on the old man’s arms and steadied him, “Well, in future, I don’t think we’ll be staying up so late.”
“Probably a good idea, sir.” Andrew said, “What would you like to do?”
“Get my legs working, Andrew.” The old man looked at him and raised an eyebrow. Dustin came back in with a glass with water and saw them. He went wide eyed and came over quickly, setting the glass down.
“Grandfather, here let me help you.”
“Thank you, my boy. Once I get the feeling back into my legs, I should be alright, I think.”
“Where are we going?” Dustin asked.
“A good question to be sure. I think I need a bit of air.”
“To the front or to the back, sir?” Andrew asked.
“The front door is on more of a direct course, it appears. Perhaps we should head in that direction.” The old man said, Dustin and Andrew just looked at each other and smiled, “What is so amusing?”
“You, Grandfather, your wit is still with you it seems, even though your legs are not.”
“I see.” The old man smiled again and then chuckled once, “At least there’s still something that still works on me.” They both chuckled on each side of him, “Now, watch your course. We’re almost there.”
“You never cease to amaze me, Grandfather.”
“Thomas used to say that to me all the time.” The old man said. Andrew reached out and took the knob in his hand and turned it, opening the door, the breeze came in and filled the room. The old man closed his eyes and stiffened in his stance from it, “A welcome feeling to an old sailor.” He said softly, and stood still in the doorway, “Dustin?”
“When I’m finally gone, do me one thing, please.”
“What is that, Grandfather?”
“Place me in the breeze for a while, so the wind is on my face, hopefully it will carry my spirit and I can join the others on the wind that wait patiently for me.” The old man said softly as he took the breeze on him, giving him strength as it were, a peace came over him with it, “Will you do that for me?”
“Of course, Grandfather. I know how much you have always enjoyed the wind.” Dustin said as he stood next to his grandfather. They looked out into the night together. Andrew left them for a moment and brought back the glass of water.
“A sailor’s best friend, the wind, a true wonder of this world that we live on, don’t you think?”
“Of course, Grandfather.”
“Here you are, sir. Drink this, please.”
“Morning, Andrew.” The old man said as he was sitting at the table, a coffee cup in front of him, Dustin was at the stove, and shrugged as Andrew looked at him from the doorway.
“Morning, sir. How are you feeling this morning, Captain?” Andrew asked as he sat down at the table.
“I feel very well this morning, thank you.”
“Why don’t you tell him why you feel that way, Grandfather?” Dustin asked as he came to the table with a coffee cup for Andrew. Dustin stood next to Andrew and waited.
“It’s not important really, just an old man being addled.” The old man said and smiled briefly at Andrew.
“Well, if you won’t tell him, I will.”
“Dustin,…” the old man frowned a bit as he looked up at him.
“He slept outside all night. I found him out there this morning.” Dustin said as he looked at his grandfather but was speaking to Andrew.
“What? You did, sir?” Andrew asked with wide eyes.
“Yes, I suppose I did.” The old man said and looked down at his coffee cup.
“Sir, you could have caught your death.”
“Hardly that, Andrew. I have slept out many times over my years, I assure you. And you do not need to raise the point of my age either.” The old man said and raised a finger, “I think I am as stout as the next fellow to be sure. Besides it’s summertime time here. We have pleasant weather, and why not sleep outdoors, if it brings one’s body back to rights, I say.”
“Point taken, sir.” Andrew said, “But, I would recommend caution, sir, it rained fairly well just the other day as you know.”
“Yes, it did. But, it did not last night, Andrew. I would not have slept outside in the rain.”
“I’m sure you might have, given the chance.” Dustin said and rolled his eyes as he walked away from the table. Andrew looked at Dustin walk away and then over at the old man.
“As I said, we sailed on into the North Sea. We had not been provisioned as I did not expect this turn of events that led to our sudden departure.” The old man and paused for a moment, “I had a rather difficult choice to make. Do I inform my crew of all that I had learned, bringing them into it fully, or should I remain silent and not let them share blame with me.”
“What did you decide, sir?” Andrew asked as he waited for a long minute.
“They decided it for me.” The old man said, “I was at the wheel, steering our course, as we were shorthanded. I noticed that they were all gathering on deck, then Amos led them all toward me,…”
“What is this?” Callum asked as he looked at Amos before him at the short rail, the others were standing behind him. Amos looked over his shoulder once at the crew and then back at Callum.
“Sir,…begging your pardon, sir, but we were wondering,…” Amos said and was more than hesitant.
“Wondering what, Amos?”
“Well, sir, the lads and I were wondering, why our leaving the way that we did, sir?” Amos asked.
“Amos,” Callum said and paused for a moment, “it would probably be best for you all not to know. It will keep you out of the situation that I am in.”
“With respect, sir, we are in the situation, sir.” Amos said, “Is it because of the boy, sir?”
“As I said, Amos, the less you know, the better off you will all be.” Callum said.
“Sir, we will follow your orders without question and will do our duty, you know that, sir, but we ask, respectfully, to know why we are sailing again. We have been through too much together, sir, for you not to trust you and our hope is that you do trust us, sir.”
“Amos,…all of you, understand that it is not a matter of trust. I do trust you, all of you, with my very life, and have,…and now it seems that the boy needs to trust you as I do. We are sailing to Denmark, to Arhus to take him home. Those men that came aboard and attacked you while I was gone to London, they were Guardsmen, under orders to take the boy to The Tower.” Callum said, “I couldn’t let that happen. I need to make certain that he is safe and taken away from England.”
“Who is he really, sir?” Amos asked. Callum drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly as he held the wheel with one hand looking at all of them.
“He is a Prince of Denmark, a member of the royal house it seems.” Callum said and they all looked shocked, “I don’t know why he was aboard the Dutch merchant, but I do know that several in England want him as they think he knows something of great importance as well as his standing politically. I also believe that the Avion was sent out to kill him.”
“Why do you believe that, sir?” Amos asked.
“The Avion only attacked merchants that were our size or smaller to disrupt shipping, their primary mission. The Dutch merchant was three times our size, and had already delivered their cargo to Brest. I have no doubt that Battenou knew that, but was sent out anyway. The boy was the target undoubtedly. His uncle hid him intentionally when they attacked.”
“Sir, what do you want us to do?” Amos asked.
“We will carry on and sail to take him home, Amos. Our provisions are light and somewhat thin as you know. We should be there in two days with any luck. We can drop him off, turn around and head back for home.” Callum said.
“Will there be trouble from this, sir, for you I mean when we return home?” Amos asked.
“Yes, I’m almost certain that there will be, which is why I didn’t want to tell you in the first place. Now that you all know, if it does go bad for me when we return home, you must not step in or speak of any of this, any of you. I alone made this decision, and I alone will deal with the consequences.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t let that happen, sir.” Amos said as he crossed his big muscled arms.
“That would be an order, Amos.” Callum said.
“Respectfully, sir, we couldn’t hear you. The wind is howling too hard, sir.” Amos said giving Callum a bit of a look.
“I see.” Callum said softly as he stared at Amos. Amos gave him a brief smile, nodded and turned to the hands behind him.
“Alright, get about your work now.” Amos said. The hands broke up and went about their duties tending to lines and stays. Callum watched them as he held the wheel.
“They loved you, sir.” Andrew said.
“Yes,…yes, they did. And I loved them in return, all of them, and respected them even more. What I didn’t know at that moment was how much they loved me.”
“Why do you say that, sir?” Andrew asked.
“We were about on the course I had decided to take. I wanted to stay out of sight as much as possible. We sailed east directly out of Southend and then proceed directly north. I was taking a chance on that course and not staying close to the coast of the Continent. I did not want to run into any of our patrols or any French ships either for that matter, even though we flew no flag.” The old man said.
“What about the boy, sir? You said he spoke Dutch, but was a Prince of Denmark.”
“Yes. I found out much later that he was born in Arhus, in Denmark. He spoke his native tongue, but was also educated and taught a few languages, it was only because my steward, Carson, spoke Dutch that we were able to find common ground to speak to each other.” The old man said.
“What happened to him, sir?” Andrew asked, “I know something about the royal house, but I don’t recall ever hearing anything about him.”
“Quite right, Andrew, he was never crowned.” The old man said. Andrew went to ask again, the old man raised his hand a bit, “Later.” The old man said and Andrew eased in his asking with a bit of a smile.
Evening came to Windsong, the sun was setting and the wind was still good, filling the canvas and driving her on in her course. Callum steered her north as the crew moved about tending to their duties. Amos had tried more than once to relieve Callum, but was turned away. There were only nine of them on board in total, including the boy. Callum let his thoughts wander as the evening came, thoughts of home and what might happen when he returned. He couldn’t help wonder if Lord Hood would be angry with him over what he was doing or simply have him arrested because of it.
His thoughts went to Dustin as well. He missed him so, being with him. How could he explain this, this turn of events that was keeping him now. He had wished that he could have contacted Dustin, sent him a note to let him know he was alive and thinking of him and that he would hopefully be returning soon after all this was over. He also wondered if Dustin would be upset with him when he did return, upset that he didn’t come home right away, or if he would even understand why he was doing what he was doing, as he really didn’t understand it himself. He only knew that he had to see this through.
“Your supper, sir.” Carson said and broke his thoughts. Callum looked at him and the tray he carried.
“Yes, sir. It’s not much, I’m sorry, but it will keep you going, sir.” Carson said. He went to the wheelhouse and set the tray down, “I have taken a count of our stores, sir, I think we can manage for another week or so out at sea, sir.”
“Very good, Carson. What about the crew?”
“They are taking turns, sir. Amos has divided them up.” Carson said.
“Oh, I hadn’t realized that.”
“Yes, sir. He said he noticed that you seemed a bit preoccupied, sir, and rather than bother you about it, he took it upon himself.” Carson said as he stood next to Callum, “Now, why don’t you let me take the wheel for you, sir, and you can have a bit of a break with it.”
“It seems that I have little choice.” Callum said as Carson stepped in, taking over, forcing Callum out of the way. He stepped back and smirked a bit and went to the wheelhouse and looked at his supper, “Perhaps we could have a bit of a talk then?”
“How is the boy?”
“He is coming back to himself, sir. He wants to keep busy. He is below tending to the crew.” Carson said.
“I see.” Callum said as he ate, “I was just thinking, perhaps we can have him take the spare cabin for the duration?”
“Really, sir, I’m not certain he’d like that, especially after what happened with Mr. Collingwood and all.” Carson said as he looked over his shoulder. He saw that Callum had just about finished eating.
“Well, it might give him a bit more room and he might be comfortable sleeping in something rather than on the deck in my cabin on that pallet.” Callum said.
“I’ll tell him, sir, if you wish.”
“Yes, why don’t you.” Callum said as he finished eating, “This was very good by the way, Carson.”
“Thank you, sir.” Carson said as Callum stepped up next to him and took the wheel again, “I have a bit of coffee making, sir, if you’d like?”
“Yes, I think so, Carson.” Callum said and nodded to him.
“I’ll bring it up as soon as it’s ready, sir.” Carson said and took the tray.
Dorfman stepped up next to his Captain, taking the wheel from him. The hour was very late nearly midnight. The sails had trimmed back a bit for the night as Callum had ordered. Amos had made crew rotations set with the limited number that were aboard Windsong. Everything seemed to be handled and was running smoothly to Callum, he thought perhaps it was a sign of things to come, a good sign as it were. If it continued on like this, they may be back home in a few days’ time. He left the deck in good hands and went below to his cabin. He opened the door and stepped in. He was surprised to see the boy on the pallet on the floor sound asleep.
“He didn’t want to leave, sir.” Carson said softly at Callum’s shoulder, “I tried to explain it to him, sir, telling him it was what you had suggested. He said he felt safer in here, sir.”
“It’s quite alright, Carson. I’ll put up with it until we return him home.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“Don’t give it another thought. Go and get some rest, Carson, it might be a rather long day tomorrow.” Callum said as he stared down at the boy.
“If you say so, sir. Good night, sir.”
“Good night, Carson.” Callum said as Carson closed the door behind him. Callum went to the table and sat on one of the chairs. He pulled off his boots and set them on the floor next to the chair. He got up and went over to the haversack and sat on it and swung his legs and feet up, spreading out the canvas with his hands. He settled into it and closed his eyes.
Many different dreams came to him and his mind, making for a restless night. The sway of the haversack with the waves they rode did not calm him as it usually did. The last dream that came to him was of Dustin, coming down the knoll from the house to meet him near the bottom at the stone fence that divided the property. Dustin had a look on his face that seemed concerned, worried, even scared a bit. He saw Dustin raise his arm and point beyond where Callum stood, as if there was something behind him, something that was dangerous, menacing….
“Good morning, Captain.” The strange voice said in the dark. Callum felt it at his throat, the cold and sting of steel pointing into his skin. He opened his eyes and focused. He couldn’t move as the tip of the heavy sabre held him in place, “I’m afraid your breakfast will have to wait this morning, Captain.”
“Who are you?” Callum asked.
“This might help you recall better, Captain,…how was your trip to Gibraltar?” The voice in the dark asked.
“We never made it. We ran into some difficulty I’m afraid.” Callum said as he moved his eyes only in the darkened cabin. He was trying to remember who this person was. He remembered something about Gibraltar, speaking to someone about it and then it dawned on him.
“So I understand, Captain. Your difficulty was with a French ship I am told. A pity that you were successful in your mission. A number of people that are acquaintances of mine were betting against you, but one held out, saying you would be surviving. I wonder how he knew that. And I must say, you cost me a considerable amount of money in losing that bet.”
“I apologize for inconveniencing you,…Captain Helms, isn’t it?”
“I am honored, Captain Callum, that you would remember me from our brief meeting, roughly here in the same spot in the North Sea from my accounting.”
“What is it that I can do for you, Captain Helms?”
“You have something on board that I want, something that is very valuable and will fetch me enough to allow me to retire early in life.” Helms said.
“I have no cargo aboard, Captain.” Callum said, still pinned down in his haversack.
“I said nothing of cargo, Captain, I am no pirate, sir.”
“Then what,…?” Callum asked.
“The boy, Captain. You know who and what he is. There are those in Denmark and in Sweden that will pay handsomely to have him delivered into their hands. Once I have the boy, I will leave you in peace.”
“Peace eternal no doubt.” Callum said.
“Come now, Captain, I have no wish to kill you or see you harmed in any way. All I want is the boy and we will be gone.” The voice in the dark said.
“You say that with a sword point to my throat. You know, this is becoming rather bothersome.” Callum said in a dry tone.
“How is that, Captain?”
“I had to perform a rescue of the boy just yesterday, from men of my own government.” Callum said.
“Well, then it is to my good fortune that you were successful in that, Captain.” The voice said. The door to the cabin opened, Callum could not see who was there but he heard the deep voice.
“Captain, we found the boy below with some of the crew. We have him and them on deck.”
“Very good, Strother. We will be up presently to join you. Now, Captain,…” The voice said and the light in the cabin grew. Callum shifted his eyes over. He saw Helms, sword in one hand, pointing at and touching Callum’s throat, the other hand was turning up the lamp over the table, “if you please. Get up and get your boots on and we can join everyone on deck.”
“You know, Helms, I could have saved you the trouble in all this as I am taking the boy home to Denmark.”
“The only difference in this is that I am being paid to deliver him, Captain, are you?”
“No, no I am not. It seemed to be an errand of mercy as it were.” Callum said as Helms backed the sword tip away from his throat, “I must say, that feels better.” Callum said as he raised a hand and rubbed the area where the sword had been poking him.
“Do not try anything, Captain. I know of your reputation for heroics and daring. I wish not to kill you, but I will if I must.” Helms said.
“I understand, Captain.” Callum said and swung his legs out of the haversack, Helms backed up, sword pointed out. Callum looked at the tip and then at the man that held it, “You must think me to be a very dangerous man, Captain Helms.”
“Let’s just say that there are several in Stockholm that warned me about you. They say you are the one that overcomes the deepest in odds against you, Captain. I for one do not wish to tempt the fates.” Helms said.
“I can understand that, Captain.” Callum said with a brief smile and then got to his feet, Helms braced himself a bit more. Callum saw it and went over to table where his boots were and sat on the chair. He took one and slipped his foot into it, pulling it on and then stamped it on the deck. He took the other and put it on as well, stamping his foot on the deck, “Well, since I will not be getting my morning coffee apparently, shall we go up on deck?” Callum asked as he stood.
“Easy about it, Captain, I warn you.” Helms said and seemed a bit nervous.
“As I said, Captain, I understand.” Callum said. He crossed the cabin and opened the door to go out, Helms turning the sword and following him at a bit of a distance. Callum moved along and reached the door beyond the galley and opened it, going up the steps. He looked about, seeing Brewer holding his head with one hand and Rafkin leaning against Dorfman, being supported a bit. Callum went toward his crew and stopped next to them, “Everyone alright?” Callum asked softly.
“They gave us a bit of a surprise in the dark, sir, I’m sorry.” Rafkin said as he stiffened seeing his Captain in the early morning light.
“No more than me, Rafkin, I assure you.” Callum said and looked over at the crew of the Rebecca. The boy was in their midst, being held by one of the larger men of the group, a black man. Callum made eye contact with the boy. He nodded slightly at him and the boy eased.
“There are only a dozen, sir, we can take them.” Amos whispered at Callum’s ear.
“Follow my lead, Amos.” Callum said in a whisper over his shoulder, “Do as I do when I move.” Callum turned back and looked at Helms as he held his sword, but was looking at his crew.
“Get the boy into the boat and get him secured.” Helms said to his men and turned to look at Callum.
“I am wondering, Captain, who is it that is offering so much that you can retire early?” Callum asked.
“That is none of your concern, Captain.” Helms said. Callum moved slowly toward him, but Helms lifted his sword a bit. Two of the crew moved with the boy and were going to the port rail with him.
“Well, I only ask out of curiosity, of course. What is it that they are paying you?” Callum asked, “Hopefully it’s in gold rather than Danish notes, which are completely worthless as I understand it with the war on and all. Gold would be the only thing of value. Now, if it were English gold, now that’s worth something, French gold is really not all that,…”
“Captain, are you speaking just to hear yourself speak? Or are you thinking something?” Helms asked.
“I was just merely trying to understand your motivation, Captain Helms, I assure you.” Callum said as the two hands reached the port rail with the boy, “If it’s money you want, Captain, I might make you a counter offer.”
“Really? And what would you have to offer, a mere sea Captain, a servant of His Majesty. You have nothing to offer me, Captain. You are as penniless as I, I’m sure.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Captain.” Callum said and gave him a flash of a smile, “Tell me, what is going to happen to him when you deliver him to Denmark?”
“I’m not quite sure, Captain, but they will probably do away with him, knowing the sort that sent me to fetch him in the first place. He will more than likely be dead in less than a week.” Helms said.
“You don’t say? And that does not give you pause, Captain?” Callum asked as he moved closer toward Helms and the port rail, step by step slowly.
“It is all about politics, Captain, which never really interested me in the first place. All I want is what they are offering me to deliver him. I’ll sail for home to New York and be done with all of this, and I will sleep very well, Captain, in my early retirement.” Helms said.
“Sail ho!” The faint voice called out from Rebecca, some hundred plus yards away could be heard, Helms looked in that direction of his ship.
“Where away?!” Helms called back and saw the hand point toward the south. Callum gave it a quick glance and Helms turned and looked as well. Large sails loomed in the distance in the early morning light, Callum smiled briefly as Helms was focusing on what was approaching. Callum moved, leaping on Helms back, grabbing the wrist that held the sword, Callum wrapping his other arm around the throat of Helms, he overpowered him as one of the crewman from Rebecca moved to help his Captain, Callum used his strength holding the wrist and swung the sword, cutting into the man, making him gasp and drop. Callum twisted and Helms grunted and cried out as he collapsed. Callum snatched the sword out his hand and went charging into the group from Rebecca as his own crew moved as well. The clash of bodies was loud and heavy as Callum tried to reach the boy, swinging the sword, killing three more of Rebecca’s hands as he charged in. He pulled back with the sword and went after the large black man that held the boy, but the man used the small body as a shield, Callum stayed his thrust.
“I leave, with the boy.” The large black man said, his eyes fixed on Callum.
“Over my dead body.” Callum said, sword point at the ready.
“I’ve got him, sir.” Amos said with a growl, pushing up his sleeves on the muscular arms, lips in a snarl, and the large black man set the boy down on the deck. The others were fighting behind them and Helms was coming around. Callum pointed the sword at the large man with one hand, reaching out his hand to the boy with the other. The boy broke free, going around the massive frame of Amos and went to Callum, wrapping his arms around Callum’s waist.
“My man, I would stand down, if I were you. Amos here is rather becoming tired of being taken by surprise, and I think he will wipe the deck up with you in just a moment.” Callum said, sword out.
“He can try.” The large man growled.
“May I, sir?” Amos asked without even looking over his shoulder at his Captain.
“Be my guest, Amos.” Callum said. Amos growled deep in his throat and lunged at the large man. The two clashed with a heavy thud and wrapped themselves around each other. Callum turned and faced off with the rising Captain Helms, “Captain, now perhaps we can have another talk.” Callum said as he put the sword tip to Helms chin, making him lift his head a bit, “Why don’t we start with who actually sent you to collect the boy here?”
“I can’t tell you.” Helms said and swallowed hard.
“I am growing very tired of only getting part information, Captain. You board my ship, put this sword to my throat in the dark and want to kidnap this boy. Now, Captain, I am losing my patience in all of this. You will tell me what I want to know, or by God, sir, I will cut off little pieces of you until you do.” Callum said.
“I don’t think you have it in you, Captain. You are too much of an English gentleman.” Helms said.
“Think again, you ass.” Callum said. He swung the sword so fast it was a blur, but Helms screamed out as the sword tip sliced into and across the thigh through the pants. Callum brought the sword back to Helms chin with another lightening move, “Now, Captain, answer my question, or the next flick of my wrist will certainly have you losing your manhood.”
“Alright, damn you, alright.” Helms said, one hand to his wound, the other up in the air to stop Callum. The fighting was stopping now as Callum had him, their Captain, where he wanted them. Amos was swinging still behind Callum, hitting the large black man over and over. He could hear the heavy hits and the grunts going on behind him.
“Who,…sent you?” Callum asked slowly and pressed the sword point to the chin even more.
“Hans, you know this Rofton?” Callum asked never taking his eyes from Helms.
“Ja, Keptein. Bad,…very bad man.” The boy said as he was behind Callum, looking up at him but held onto him at the waist.
“This Rofton, Helms, what did he offer you?” Callum asked, there was no reply, “Out with it, you son-of-a-bitch or I’ll gut you right here.”
“Ten thousand pieces of gold, Captain.”
“What does this Rofton want with the boy?” Callum asked.
“He wants the boy, wants him dead. If the boy arrives in Denmark, he will be executed,…that’s all I know, I swear.” Helms said. The blood from his wound was seeping through the fingers on his thigh.
“Amos?” Callum asked tilting his head a bit. He could hear heavy breathing behind him, then he heard a heavy hit and a grunt.
“Sir?” The voice struggled behind him to say.
“Show our guests off the ship and into their boat if you please.” Callum said, “Carson, take Hans below.”
“Aye, sir.” Carson said. Callum heard another heavy hit behind him with a grunt at impact.
“Just finishing up, sir.” Amos said out of breath.
“I think they have learned their lesson for now, Amos.” Callum said over his shoulder without taking his eyes off Helms. Callum didn’t need to see as he knew what Amos was more than capable of.
“Aye, aye, sir.” Amos said.
“Now, Captain Helms, I think it was time that you and your men be off before that other ship arrives, whoever they are. You can return to Stockholm and report your loss to this Rofton fellow and you can also give him a message from me. If he tries this again, ever, I will be coming for him myself. Do you have that, Captain?” Callum asked. Helms only nodded once swallowing hard, “Good, now get your sorry bleeding ass off my ship and pray our paths never cross again, Captain, because if they do, I’ll gut you like a fucking sheep, do I make myself clear?” Callum asked with a growl lifting the sword tip a bit more, Helms titled his chin back a bit more.
“Quite clear, Captain.” Helms said in a strained voice. Callum pulled the sword tip back a bit. Helms swallowed hard, he looked at his men and gave them all a single sideways nod. They started over the side down into their longboat that was tied off to the rail. All hands of Windsong followed them to the port rail, pushing them along. Helms settled himself at the tiller. Callum nodded at the lines that tied the boat. They were untied and tossed back into the longboat. Hands pushed off the side of Windsong and oars were grabbed and started to be set into the water. They pulled away a few yards.
“Oh, and Captain,…” Callum said loudly, Helms looked over and up at him. Callum looked the sword over for a moment, “a beautiful weapon,…perhaps you should learn how to use it.” Callum said and tossed it toward the longboat, point forward toward them. The men in it went wide eyed as the sword came at them through the air, they ducked as it sailed in and clattered around in the bottom of the longboat. Callum smiled a bit, “Man the rail guns. We’re getting underway, set and make all plain sail.” Callum said, the hands jumped to it as Callum stood there watching the longboat pull toward the Rebecca. A boom was heard in the distance. Callum looked in that direction toward the bow of Windsong.
“Someone get aloft and see who the devil that is!” Callum yelled out as he looked toward the coming sails for a moment. He looked over toward the longboat, they were pulling for their lives it seemed after the boom of a cannon. Patkin went aloft quickly and got set on the platform on the Mainmast. Callum looked up at him, “Patkin?!” Callum called up as sails were being dropped into place.
“I can’t tell, sir, not yet!”
“Better be one of ours.” Callum said mostly to himself.
“No flag, sir!” Patkin called back down.
“Odd. I wonder who the hell it is.” Callum said to himself out loud. He looked about on the deck, “Amos?”
“Give me a hand with these dead men getting them over the side, I want to get this deck cleared.” Callum said.
“Aye, aye, sir.” Amos said and came toward his Captain as another boom went off. Callum looked for a moment toward the approaching ship about two miles off. He and Amos set to work getting the four bodies over the side and into the water, just tossing them. Callum looked over at the longboat that was just about to Rebecca now as another boom went off. Callum and Amos got the last body over the side.
“Get down to my cabin, Amos, grab as many pistols as you can and get them up here and hand them out to the crew.” Callum said, Amos tipped his hand and went quickly toward the steps, “Brewer, are there any muskets left below?”
“Yes, sir, there are.” The large young man said, tipping his hand.
“Get below and start getting them up here on the double along with extra shot and powder.” Callum said as he pointed toward the gangway stairs, “Patkin, what do you see?!”
“Hard to tell, sir! No uniforms! Still no flag, sir!”
“Keep an eye out!”
Callum looked forward at the coming sails and then over to Rebecca. The boat was now alongside, the crew and Helms were going up on her deck. Callum watched them for a moment and then looked at Amos that was beside him. He handed a pistol to Callum, who took it and it in his belt then he handed Callum his sword.
“Thank you, Amos, very thoughtful.” Callum said with a smirk.
“Just in case, sir.” Amos nodded and smiled briefly. He walked quickly away and started handing out pistols to everyone on deck. Brewer was coming back up the gangway stairs, muskets hanging off his large shoulders. Callum saw him as he put the sword through his belt. Brewer climbed up and was on deck coming toward Callum. Callum held out a hand taking a musket from the large young man.
“Arm every man, Brewer.” Callum said.
“Rail guns at the ready! Dorfman!” Callum called out over his shoulder, “Steer us at that ship! Come down the windward!”
“Aye, aye, sir!” The older man called back from the wheel.
Callum looked forward again as he held the musket in his hand. No flag was flying from the ship, another frigate, Dover’s size. Callum thought they would be crewed with about one hundred fifty, possibly more. He was outnumbered yes, but the way he felt right now and with all that was going on because of the boy, Hans, he felt he could take the approaching ship singlehanded if need be. He watched carefully seeing her gun ports were opened, but not all. He knew it was a merchant of some kind, not a ship of the line, neither English nor French. Callum looked over at Rebecca. Helms was dropping sail and getting underway. Callum saw men working quickly tying lines as the canvas came into billow, he looked forward and then saw the approaching ship lay over to her starboard a bit, changing course, heading for Rebecca. Callum thought they were either going to fire on Rebecca or join them. He braced himself, taking the musket in both hands.
“The American ship, the one you came across just after finding the boy, Grandfather?” Dustin asked as he sat on the ottoman.
“Yes.” The old man said.
“You said you tried to have the boy go with them originally.”
“Yes I did. And after this turn of events, I was certainly glad that the boy had insisted on staying with us.” The old man said and smiled briefly, “Things have a way of working themselves out, don’t you think?”
“Well yes, but it was very good fortune for him that he did insist on staying aboard with you. He might have been murdered as soon as they put into port.” Dustin said.
“What happened after that, Grandfather?” Dustin asked.
“I stood there on deck and watched as the frigate made a turn coming up behind the Rebecca and they rolled out back to port a bit firing several times on her as they made that turn with the wind dying down. It was almost perfect in the way it happened actually. Every shot made contact and did damage. It was not a full broadside you understand, but just enough to drive the Rebecca off and away. Helms ran for his life as it were and never looked back as he sailed north and out of danger. My fear now was that the ship was turning and heading for us.”
“We had no guns aboard as you know to defend ourselves against attack, only small arms. The rail guns were only good for short range and against men and not a ship. The thought occurred to me that the end was now upon us. All of everything that we had survived thus far, the Avion and her attacks, the taking of the installation that guarded her, all of it might have meant nothing as I watched this frigate in her graceful turn coming directly for our stern. If they came on us and fired, we would be matchwood, sinking and drowning here in the North Sea. It just couldn’t end like this, I thought, our sacrifices and struggles, the loss of Abel,…”
“Grandfather,…?” Dustin asked softly as he touched the old man’s arm with fingertips. The old tired eyes shifted and looked at the young face and then the soft smile crept over the old lips,…
“Ahoy!” Came a voice from the frigate, “Mon Capitaine Callum! Ahoy!”
“It can’t be.” Callum said as he held the musket in hands at the port rail. Amos came up next to him.
“Who is it, sir?” Amos asked as he watched the frigate coming up on the stern now.
“If I’m not mistaken, Amos, it is the Captain of the French frigate we captured.” Callum said.
“Can it be, sir? The one that we sent off in the boats that night?” Amos asked.
“I think so, Amos.” Callum said, “Ahoy! Who are you?!” Callum called back.
“Mon Capitaine, I am crushed that you have forgotten me so soon!”
“LeBeau?! Is that you?!”
“Oui, Mon Capitaine, oui! May we come alongside?!”
“You will understand if I were to say no, Captain! I would hate to have you try and take my ship from me!”
“Mon Capitaine, I thought we were friends, no?!”
“I thought after the war!” Callum said and smiled wide.
“Mon Capitaine, you do not trust me?!”
“It would be difficult after what I have done to you, sir!”
“I do understand, Mon Capitaine, but after saving you just now from those American pirates?!”
“Yes, I do owe you a debt it seems. I thank you, Captain LeBeau, and for your timely arrival, sir!”
“You are most welcome, Mon Capitaine! I do count you as a friend!”
“And what do I owe that honor to?!”
“Your suggestion, Mon Capitaine, to find something in England! I did, and it might interest you as well! May we speak together, out of the wind?!”
“Have you a boat, Captain, or did you leave them in England?!”
“Leave them in England?! What?!” LeBeau thought for a moment and then laughed out loud, “You are very clever, Mon Capitaine, leave them in England! Lower a boat, mez ami, I have respects to go and pay!” LeBeau walked down from the Quarterdeck as a boat was being prepared for him.
“Watch him, Amos, watch him carefully.” Callum said quietly, “We will allow him aboard, but only him.”
“Any hint of weapons and we will deal with them swiftly.”
“Perhaps, I should have shot the son-of-a-bitch that night.” Callum said and Amos went wide eyed, “He is a Frog, you know.”
“Yes, sir, but,…he does seem genuine in his feeling and manner.”
“I suppose you’re right, Amos, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for the moment. It all depends on what he does.” Callum said.
“Agreed, sir.” Amos said and gave a nod as he watched the boat being lowered. Callum set the musket down against the rail as he watched the boat being lowered. A few of the hands from the frigate climbed over the side and down into it and then LeBeau went over the rail and settled down next to the tiller. They pushed away and oars were set, they dipped in the water and the boat approached Windsong. Callum turned and looked up into the canvas seeing there was little or no breeze at all. He turned back and saw the boat coming closer and the smiling bronzed face of LeBeau. Callum waited for another minute as the boat made its turn and came alongside.
“Welcome to Windsong, Captain.” Callum said and gave a slight bow of his head as he looked down.
“Mon Capitaine, at last. It is good to see you.”
“And you, Captain.” Callum said, “I would ask under the circumstances that only you come aboard, as I’m sure you would understand.”
“I do, Capitaine.” LeBeau said as he stood up in the boat, “Mez Ami, please wait for me, I shall not be long.” He said and stepped over to the side of the boat and reached up for the side of Windsong, Callum reached out a hand and clasped LeBeau’s. They looked at each other for a moment and LeBeau smiled. Callum pulled and helped him up and over the rail, “Thank you, Mon Capitaine.” LeBeau said.
“You are welcomed into the ship, Captain.”
“Come, we must speak,…in private.” LeBeau said quietly and Callum gave him a look, he held out a hand to show the way across the deck.
“Amos, keep the watch and stay at the ready.” Callum said without looking at him.
“Aye, sir.” Amos turned and looked down at the boat and the men in it, crossing his muscular arms and gave them a firm and menacing look. Callum and LeBeau walked away.
“You are very guarded, Capitaine.”
“There are reasons why, and it has nothing to do with the war.” Callum said, “What are you doing here, LeBeau?”
“I was looking for you, Mon Capitaine.”
“Well, you seem to have found me. The North Sea is becoming very busy and crowded as of late, I seem to be very easy to find.” Callum said.
“Exactement. After you sent me away in the boats that night, we landed in Dover. I made my way to Bristol and found a man by the name of Phelps. After I explained to him what I was doing and what had happened to me, of course, I mentioned your name as being the cause of my misfortune,” LeBeau said and Callum rolled his eyes a bit, “he gave me a posting with his company, a shipping company and gave me this ship that you see. He also introduced me to a man, a man in your government, his name is Upton, I think he is a very bad man, Mon Capitaine, I think you know him, yes? I can see by the look in your eye.”
“I know of him, but have never met him.” Callum said.
“Well, he knows you. He has many bad things to say about you. Do you want to know what he said?”
“No, it is not important, LeBeau. What was does he want you to do?”
“If I were to meet you at sea, I am to tell him where you are and where you might be going,…and if I were to have the opportunity, I was asked to kill you.” LeBeau said.
“And is that your intention, LeBeau?” Callum asked as he folded his arms over his chest.
“No, Mon Capitaine, we are friends, yes?”
“I suppose we are.” Callum gave a brief smile, “Did Upton offer you something?”
“He did. I played along with him to find out what he really wants.”
“What did he offer you?” Callum asked.
“I think you play the game as well, my friend, a very dangerous game.”
“What did he offer you?”
“Power, Mon Capitaine, power over so many lives that no man should ever have, even more than the Emperor has.”
“How?” Callum asked.
“You should not be concerned about that, Mon Capitaine, you should be more concerned about something else.”
“What is that?”
“The boy.” LeBeau said and Callum narrowed his eyes.
“What about him?”
“He wants him, and he will take him from you by whatever means he can. He told me who he really is and how valuable he can really be.”
“Are you telling me that you are going to try and take him, LeBeau?”
“No, but those men, Mon Capitaine, those Americans, they will be back. But, you have another problem.” LeBeau said.
“What is that?”
“Your family. Upton knows about them and where they are. They are in danger, Mon Capitaine. I am here to warn you of that, as I know what family truly means.” LeBeau said and Callum went wide eyed.
“What did he say about my family?”
“He said that he would use them against you, to get what he wants, the boy and what he can mean, and to get to you.” LeBeau said. Callum became enraged. The fear of what LeBeau had said overcame him, clutched his chest and his heart making it difficult to breathe, there was almost a panic in his eyes as they flashed, “Mon ami, please,…” LeBeau said as he reached out and grabbed Callum’s arms, “I am here to help you, not to hurt you.”
“I have to return to England,…now.”
“I will go with you.”
“No.” Callum said and flashed his eyes, “Where were you suppose to sail?”
“We are taking cargo to Copenhagen, I am to see another man there, a man named,…” LeBeau was struggling to remember precisely.
“Oui.” LeBeau said, with sudden recognition, “How did you know?”
“I think he and Upton are working together, the Captain of that American ship mentioned his name as well. They are sailing there as well. But my family is in danger. I have to get to them, now.”
“I understand. But, if you do not want me to go with you,…”
“My friend, we can work together, but apart, do you understand?”
“I think so, but,…”
“Listen, you need to continue on in your sailing, go to Copenhagen, meet with this Rofton. I will work it from the other direction, my way. I have my orders as well, which I cannot divulge to anyone, but we are working toward the same thing. You need to find out as much as you can from your end. We can meet later, when I know that my family is safe.” Callum said.
“Where can I find you?”
“I live in Birmingham, but am ported in Portsmouth. My ship is Dover. My officers and my crew know where to find me. I will leave word with them.” Callum said and looked up at the sails, “Damn, if only there was wind.”
“There will be, mon ami, there will be. I will do what you ask of me.” LeBeau said. Callum looked at him.
“Do you have a family?”
“Oui. A wife and two girls. They wait for me and my return to them in Calais.”
“I’m sure they are very lovely.” Callum said, “I have a son, he’s five.” LeBeau smiled softly.
“He is probably as clever as you are, no?”
“Even more so. He can work anything he wants with his dimples.” Callum smiled, showing his.
“Like his father. I will go back to my ship now.” LeBeau said and walked across the deck with Callum toward the rail. Callum stopped him after a few steps out of sight of LeBeau’s men. Callum reached out his hand, LeBeau looked at it for a moment and then took it.
“I am Quintan.”
“Arto.” LeBeau said.
“I thank you for bringing me this news, Arto. But, you must be careful. As I said that American is going to meet with Rofton as well.”
“I will be careful, mon ami, and I have my ways of dealing with that American. I will find you after I return from Copenhagen.” LeBeau said. He took his hand back.
“I will be waiting for you, my friend.” Callum said. They walked to the rail, Callum watched as LeBeau made it down into the boat, they pulled away and headed back toward the frigate.
“Is everything alright, sir?” Amos asked.
“No.” Callum said as he watched the boat, “We have to get underway and get back to England as fast as possible, Amos.”
“What about the boy, sir?”
“I’m going to take care of that right now. You have the deck, Amos.” Callum said and walked away.
“Hans, I need to speak with you for a minute.” Callum said at the galley doorway. The boy looked at the Captain and turned to face him. Callum could see that he was upset by everything that had happened so far.
“Carson, I will need you as well. In case he doesn’t he understand fully what I’m going to say, I will need you to interpret for him.”
“Of course, sir.” Carson said and came over to the boy and put a hand on the young shoulder.
“Alright.” Callum said and looked at the boy, “Hans, you know why those men were aboard, why they wanted to take you from us.”
“If I take you home, you know what might happen to you, don’t you?”
“Ja, Rofton, he will have me,…killed.” The boy said and firmed up when Callum thought he might have fallen apart.
“Hans, I don’t want that to happen to you, do you believe me?” Callum asked.
“Ja, Keptein. You saved my life,…more than once. I believe what you say to me.”
“We must return to England. I have found out that my family is in danger. I must get there and see to them.”
“Sir,…how,…?” Carson asked.
“The frigate, it’s Captain had this news.” Callum said.
“Keptein, you must go,…your boy he,…needs you.”
“Thank you, Hans.” Callum said and smiled at him, “But, I am concerned for you as well, and I have a thought, if you will hear me out.”
“I want you to come home with me. I can hide you and protect you until we figure out what else to do. I will not let anyone take you or hurt you.” Callum said.
“Sir, if I may,...”
“May I accompany the boy as well, sir?”
“Call it,…an understanding, sir. I could help protect him as well, sir.” Carson said with a look that Callum had never seen before with him.
“Well, I have always said that I wanted you to visit my home in Birmingham. Dustin said more than once that my aunt could show you some finer points of cooking.” Callum gave a smirk.
“Well, that will give me a chance to speak with Mr. Perkins and to give him my opinion on that, sir.” Carson said and flashed his eyes a bit.
“Just don’t tell him that I said that.” Callum said and gave Carson a wink with a smile. He looked at Hans, “Hans, would that be alright with you, if you and Carson came home with me for a time?”
“Do you ride?”
“Horses, Keptein?” The boy asked, Callum nodded in reply, “Ja.” The boy perked.
“We have lots of horses to keep you busy then at my home.” Callum smiled, “Hans, what about your family, your mother?”
“She,…” The boy lowered his head a bit, “was the one, Keptein,…that sent me away,…with my uncle. She did not,…want me with her,…anymore.”
“I’m sorry, Hans, truly I am. But, I have an aunt that is going to simply adore you, I assure you.” Callum said, “Alright, now that that’s settled, as soon as we get the wind, we will sail for Portsmouth.”
“What about Captain Tomlin and Dover, sir?” Carson asked.
“I will send word to Southend once we reach Portsmouth.”
“Yes, sir.” Carson said softly. Callum nodded once to him and went to walk away. He looked at the sad boy again.
“Whatever I have to do to make this right with you and to keep you safe, Hans, I will I swear.” Callum said.
“Thank you, Keptein.” The boy said softly. Callum nodded and walked away. Carson looked down at the boy and pulled him around gently to look at him fully. The boy looked up with his big sad eyes.
“He means what he says, you know that.” Carson said in Dutch.
“I know. He is a very good man, very brave for doing what he is doing for me.” Hans said.
“He does it because he cares.” Carson said, “He will die for you to keep you safe.”
“I hope he does not.” The boy said looking very grown up all of a sudden in his expression. Carson gave him a half-smile as he was in thought over it all.