He had no choice, and he knew it. Our next stop was Kingston.
So it was that some days later Adewalé and I found ourselves roasting in the heat of Kingston as we shadowed the governor as he made his way to his meeting with Prins.
Prins, it was said, had a sugar plantation in Kingston. The Sage had been working for him but Prins had got wind of the bounty and thought he could make the sale.
Storm the plantation, then? No. Too many guards. Too high a risk of alerting The Sage. Besides, we didn’t even know for certain he was there.
Instead we wanted to use Torres to buy the man: Torres would meet Prins, give him half the gold and offer the other half in return for the deliverance of The Sage; Adewalé and I would swoop in, take The Sage, whisk him off, then prise out of him the location of The Observatory. Then we would be rich.
Simple, eh? What could go wrong with such a well-wrought plan?
The answer, when it came, came in the shape of my old friend James Kidd.
At the port, Torres was greeted by Prins, who was old and overweight and sweating in the sun, and the two of them walked together, talking, with two bodyguards slightly in front of them, two behind.
Would Torres raise the alarm? Perhaps. And if he did, then Prins surely had enough men at his command to overpower us easily. But if that happened, Torres knew that my first sword slash would be across his throat and if that happened, none of us would see The Sage again.
The funny thing is, I didn’t see him. Not at first. Instead it was as though I sensed him or that I became aware of him. I found myself looking around, the way you do if you smell burning when you shouldn’t. What’s that smell? Where’s that coming from?
Only then did I see him. A figure who loitered in a crowd at the other end of the pier, part of the background but visible to me. When he turned his face, I saw who it was. James Kidd. Not here to take the air and see the sights by the look of him. Here on Assassin business. Here to kill . . . who? Prins? Torres?
Jaysus. We kept close to the harbour wall as I led Adewalé over, grabbed Kidd and dragged him into a narrow alleyway between two fishing huts.
“Edward, what the hell are you doing here?” He writhed in my grip but I held him easily. (I’d think back to that later—how easily I was able to pin him to the hut wall.)
“I’m tailing these men to The Sage,” I told him. “Can you hold off until he appears?”
Kidd’s eyebrows shot up. “The Sage is here?”
“Aye, mate, he is, and Prins is leading us straight to him.”
“Jaysus.” He pulled a frustrated face but I wasn’t offering him a choice. “I’ll stay my blade for a time—but not long.”
Torres and Prins had moved off by then and we had no choice but to follow. I followed Kidd’s lead, on-the-spot Assassin training in the art of stealth. It worked like a dream. By staying at a certain distance we were able to remain out of sight and pick up on snippets of conversation, like Torres’s getting peeved at being made to hang on.
“I grow tired of this walk, Prins,” he was saying. “We must be close by now.”
As it turned out, we were. But close to what? Not to Prins’s plantation, that much was certain. Ahead was the dilapidated wooden fencing and odd, incongruous arched entrance of what looked like a graveyard.
“Yes, just here,” Prins answered him. “We must be on equal footing, you see? I’m afraid I don’t trust Templars any more than you must trust me.”
They stepped inside and we loitered.
“Well if I’d known you were so skittish, Prins, I’d have brought you a bouquet of flowers,” Torres said with forced humour, and with a last look around, he entered the graveyard.
Prins laughed. “Ah, I don’t know why I bother . . . For the money, I suppose. Vast sums of money . . .” His voice had trailed off. With a nod we slipped inside the cemetery, keeping low and using the crooked markers as cover, one eye on the centre where Torres, Prins and his four minders had congregated.
“Now is the time,” Kidd told me as we gathered.
“No. Not until we see The Sage,” I replied firmly.
By now the Templar and the slaver were doing their deal. From a pouch hanging at his waist, Torres produced a bag of gold and dropped it into Prins’s outstretched hand. Greasing his palm not with silver, but gold. Prins weighed it, his eyes never leaving Torres.
“This is but a portion of the ransom,” said Torres. A twitch of his mouth was the only clue he was not his usual composed self. “The rest is close at hand.”
By now the Dutchman had opened the bag. “It pains me to traffic someone of my own race for profit, Mr. Torres. Tell me again . . . What has this Roberts fellow done to upset you?”
“Is this some form of Protestant piety I am not familiar with?”
“Perhaps another day,” he said, then unexpectedly tossed the bag back to Torres, who caught it.
But Prins was already beginning to walk away. He motioned to his guards at the same time, calling to Torres, “Next time, see that you are not followed!” and then to his men, “Deal with this.”
But it wasn’t towards Torres that the men rushed. It was towards us.
Blade engaged I stood from behind my grave marker, braced and met the first attack with a quick upwards slash across the flank of the first man. It was enough to stop him in his tracks, and I span around him and drove the blade’s edge into the other side of his neck, slicing the carotid artery, painting the day red.
He sank and died. I wiped his blood from my face, then wheeled and punched through the breastplate of another. A third man I misdirected by leaping to a grave marker, then made him pay for his mistake with sharp steel. Adewalé’s pistol cracked, the fourth man fell and the attack was over. But Kidd had already taken to his heels in pursuit of Prins. With a final glance back at where Torres stood, dazed and unable to take in the sudden turn of events, I gave a yell to Adewalé, then set off in pursuit.
“You lost your chance, Kenway,” called Kidd back over his shoulder as we both raced through the sun-bleached streets. “I’m going after Prins.”
“Kidd, no. Come on, man, we can work this together.”
“You had your chance.”
By now Prins had worked out what had gone wrong: his four men, his best bodyguards, lay dead in a graveyard—how apt—and he was alone, pursued through the streets of Kingston by an Assassin.
Little did he know it but his only chance of survival right now was me. You had to feel sorry for him. Nobody in his right mind wants Edward Kenway as his only chance of survival.