“We have the key,” he announced. “Now we need only its location. Perhaps Mr. Roberts will be eager to provide it.”
He waved guards forward.
“Transfer him to my residence.”
That was it. The ghastly procedure was over, and I was pleased to leave the strange scene behind as we began making our way back to the main harbour, where a vessel had arrived. The one containing the treasure, I hoped. I sorely hoped.
“Such a fuss over one man,” I said to Torres as we walked, trying to sound more casual than I felt. “Is The Observatory really such a grand prize?”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Torres. “The Observatory was a tool built by the precursor race. Its worth is without measure.”
I thought of the ancients I had seen in the pictures at the mansion. Torres’s precursor race?
“I do wish I could remain to see our drama done,” said Rogers, “but I must avail myself of these winds and sail for England.”
Torres nodded. That familiar twinkle had returned to his eyes. “By all means, Captain. Speed and fortune to you.”
The two men shook hands. Brothers in a secret society. Rogers and I did the same before the legendary pirate hunter turned and left, off to continue being the scourge of buccaneers everywhere. We would meet again, I knew. Though I hoped the day would come later rather than sooner.
By then one of the ship’s deck-hands had arrived and handed Torres something that looked suspiciously like it might contain my money. Not that the bag seemed quite as hefty as I’d hoped.
“I consider this the first payment in a long-lived investment,” said Torres, handing me the pouch—the suspiciously light pouch. “Thank you.”
I took it cautiously, knowing by the weight that there was more to come, both in terms of money as well as more challenges for me to face.
“I would like you to be present for the interrogation tomorrow. Call around noon,” said Torres.
So that was it. In order to collect the rest of my fee I needed to see The Sage terrified further.
Torres left me and I stood there for a moment on the dock, deep in thought, before leaving to prepare. I had decided. I was going to rescue The Sage.
I wonder why I decided to rescue The Sage. I mean, why didn’t I simply take what money I’d been given, show a clean pair of heels and fill the sails on a passage to Nassau in the north-east? Back to Edward, Benjamin and the delights of The Old Avery.
I’d like to say it was a noble desire to free The Sage, but there was a bit more to it than that. After all, he could help find this Observatory, this device to follow people around. What would a thing like that be worth? Sell it to the right person and I would be rich, the richest pirate in the West Indies. I could return to Caroline a rich man. So perhaps it was merely greed that made me decide to rescue him. Looking back, probably a mixture of the two.
Either way, it was a decision I’d shortly regret.
Night-time, and the walls of Torres’s mansion formed a black border beneath a grey, starless sky. The chirping insects were at their loudest, almost drowning out the trickle of running water and the soft rattle of the palm trees.
With a quick look left and right—my approach had been timed to make sure no sentries were present—I flexed my fingers and jumped, pulled myself up to the top of the wall, then lay there for a second to control my breathing and listen for running feet, cries of “hey!” or the swish of swords being drawn.
When there was nothing—nothing apart from the in-sects, the water, the whisper of night wind among the trees—I dropped down to the other side and into the grounds of the Havana governor’s mansion.
Like a ghost I made my way across the gardens and into the main building, where I hugged the walls along the perimeter of the courtyard. On my right forearm I felt the comforting presence of my hidden blade and strapped across my chest were my pistols. A short-sword hung from my belt beneath my robes and I wore my cowl over my head. I felt invisible. I felt lethal. I felt as though I was about to deliver a blow against the Templars and even though freeing The Sage wasn’t equal to the harm their brothers had done me and this wasn’t going to even the score, it was a start. It was a first strike.
What’s more, I’d have the location of The Observatory and could reach it before they did and that was a far, far bigger blow. That would hurt. I’d think of how much it would hurt them while I was counting my money.
I’d had to make an informed guess as to where the governor kept his state prisons, but I’m pleased to say I was right. It was a small compound, separate from the mansion, where I found a high wall and . . .
That’s odd. Why is the door hanging open?
I slid through. Flaming torches bracketed on the walls illuminated a scene of carnage. Four of five soldiers dead in the dirt, gaping holes at their throats, pulverized meat at their chests.
I had no idea where The Sage had been kept but one thing was beyond doubt: he wasn’t here any longer.
I heard a sound behind me too late to stop the blow but in time to prevent its knocking me out, and I pitched forward, landing badly on the dirt, but having the presence of mind to roll. A pikestaff with my name on it was driven into the ground where I’d been. At the other end of it was a surprised soldier. I kicked myself up, grabbed his shoulders and span. At the same time I kicked at the shaft of the pikestaff and snapped it, then rammed his body onto it.
He flopped like a landed fish, impaled on the snapped shaft of his own pikestaff, but I didn’t stick around to admire his death-throes. The second soldier was upon me, angry, the way you get when you see your friend die.
Now, I thought, let’s see if this works every time.
The hidden blade engaged and I met the steel of his blade with steel of my own, knocking his sword away and slashing open his throat with the backswipe. I drew the sword at my belt in time to meet a third attacker. Behind him were two soldiers with muskets. Close by was El Tiburón, his sword drawn but held at his hip as he watched the fight. I saw one of the soldiers grimace and it was a look I recognized, a look I’ve seen before from men on the deck of a ship lashed to mine.
He fired just as I drove both my sword and hidden blade into the soldier in front of me, pinning him with the blades and swinging him around at the same time. His body, already dead, jerked as the musket ball slammed into him.
I let my human shield go, plucking a dagger from his belt as he dropped and praying that my aim would be as good as it always had been, after countless hours at home spent tormenting the trunks of trees with throwing knives.