“Ah yes,” said Roberts, “a security measure. Just a moment.”
Around us the walls had begun to glow, letting off a pulsing white light that was as beautiful as it was unsettling. The Sage walked across the floor to the raised platform in the middle and put his hand to a carved indent in the centre. Straight away the sound receded and the room around us was silent again though the walls still glowed.
“So what is this place?” I said to Roberts.
“Think of it as like a large spyglass. A device capable of seeing great distances.”
The glow. The blood. This “device.” My head was beginning to spin, and all I could do was stand and watch open-mouthed as Roberts reached into the coffer with practised fingers, as though it was something he’d done dozens of times before, then pulled out a vial and held it up to the light, just as he had on the day we took possession of the chest.
Satisfied, he bent to the raised dais in front of him and placed the crystal inside. Something happened then—something I still can’t quite believe—the glow on the walls seemed to ripple like mist, coalescing, not into fog but into images, a series of opaque pictures, as though I were looking through a window at something, at . . .
Calico Jack Rackham, as I live and breathe.
But I wasn’t looking at him. No. It was as though I was him. As though I were looking through his eyes. In fact, the only reason I knew it was Calico Jack was the Indian fabric of his coat sleeve.
He was walking up the steps towards The Old Avery. My heart leapt to see the old place, even more careworn and dilapidated than ever before . . .
Which meant that this wasn’t an image from the past. It wasn’t an image I had ever experienced myself because I’d never seen The Old Avery in its current state of disrepair. I hadn’t visited Nassau since the true rot set in.
And yet . . . And yet . . . I was seeing it.
“This is bloody witchcraft,” I spluttered.
“No. This is Calico Jack Rackham . . . Somewhere in the world at this moment.”
“Nassau,” I said, as much to him as to myself. “This is happening right now? We’re seeing through his eyes?”
“Aye,” said Roberts
It wasn’t as though I returned my attention to the image. It was simply there in front of me. As if I were part of it, inside it. Which in a way I was, because when Calico Jack turned his head the image moved with him. I watched as he looked towards a table where Anne Bonny sat with James Kidd.
A long, lingering glance over Anne Bonny. Over certain parts of Anne Bonny. The dirty bastard. But then, oh my God, she looked over from the table where she sat with James Kidd and returned his look. And I mean a real proper, lascivious look. That roving eye I told you about? She was giving old Calico Jack the full benefit.
Bloody hell. They’re having an affair.
Despite everything—despite the wonders of The Observatory—I found myself suppressing a chuckle to think of James Bonny, that treacherous turncoat, wearing the horns. Calico Jack? Well, the poxy git had marooned me, hadn’t he? So there was no love lost there. But he did give us our weapons, ammunition and grub and, well, he did have Anne warming his bed, so you had to hand it to him.
Now, Calico Jack was listening to Anne and James chatting.
“I don’t know, Jim,” Anne was saying, “I haven’t the faintest idea how to pilot a ship. That ain’t work a woman does.”
What on earth were they cooking up?
“Tosh. I’ve seen a score of ladies who can reef a sail and spin a capstan.”
“Would you teach me to fight? With a cutlass, like? And how maybe to handle a pistol?”
“All that and more. But you have to want it and work for it. There’s no stumbling into true success.”
Now Calico Jack confirmed what I thought. His disembodied voice seemed to echo off the stone. “Oi, lad, that’s my lass yer making love to. Lay off or I’ll cut ya.”
“Up your arse, Rackham. ‘Lad’ is the last thing you should be calling me . . .”
Oh yes? I thought. Was James Kidd about to reveal her disguise?
James was reaching beneath his/her shirt. Calico Jack was blustering, “Oh, is that right . . . Lad?”
Roberts removed the cube from the Observatory controls and the image evaporated.
I bit my lip and thought of the Jackdaw. Ade didn’t like our current situation. He was dying to make sail.
But he wouldn’t do it without me.
Now the glow that hung in the chamber before us became something else again, and all thoughts of the Jackdaw’s intentions were forgotten, as Roberts said, “Let’s try another. Governor Woodes Rogers,” and placed another crystal cube into the console and new images formed.
We were seeing through the eyes of Woodes Rogers. Standing with him was Torres and not far away was El Tiburón. Suddenly the vision was filled with the image of a blood vial being held up for examination by Rogers.
He was speaking. “You have a bold idea. But I must think it through carefully.”
The Observatory chamber room filled with the sound of Torres’s reply.
“A simple pledge of loyalty is all you need suggest to the House of Commons. An oath, a gesture, and a simple ceremonial dram of blood taken from the finger. That’s all.”
Christ. Whatever Anne and Mary had been cooking up, it was nothing compared to this lot. Still trying to control the bleeding world—bleeding being the operative word. And doing it how? The English Parliament.
Now Rogers was speaking. “The ministers may give me trouble, but it should be easy enough to convince the House of Lords. They do adore an excess of pomp and circumstance.”
“Exactly. Tell them it’s a show of fealty to the king . . . Against those revolting Jacobites.”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Rogers.
“The crucial detail is the blood. You must get a sample from each man. We want to be ready when we find The Observatory.”
Roberts removed the cube from the console and looked at me, triumph in his eyes. Now we knew what the Templars were plotting. Not only that, but we were one step ahead of them.
The images had gone, the strange glow had returned to the walls and I was left wondering if I’d imagined the whole thing. Meantime, Roberts pulled something from the console and held it aloft. A skull. The skull in which he’d placed the vials of blood.
“A precious tool, you see?”
“Sorcery, that’s what it is,” I said.