But old Calico Jack was on a roll, and in between splicing the main brace, which is to say carousing, he attacked fishing boats and merchant ships and a schooner.

Rogers didn’t like that. He sent a second vessel after him.

But old Calico Jack didn’t care, and he continued his piracy westward until the western tip of Jamaica, where he encountered a privateer by the name of Captain Barnet, who saw the opportunity to make a bit of money in return for Jack’s hide.

Sure enough, Jack was boarded and his crew surrendered, all apart from Mary and Anne, that was. From what I heard Jack and his crew had caroused themselves stupid and were drunk or passed out when Barnet’s men attacked. Like hell-cats, Mary and Anne cursed out the crew and fought with pistols and swords but were overcome, and the whole lot of them were taken across the island to Spanish Town jail.

Like I say, they’d tried and hanged Jack already.

Now it was the turn of Anne and Mary.

I hadn’t seen many court-rooms in my life, thank God, but even so, I’d never seen one as busy as this. My guards led me up a set of stone steps to a barred door, opened it, shoved me out into the gallery and bade me sit. I gave them a puzzled look. What’s going on? But they ignored me and stood with their backs to the wall, muskets at the ready in case I made a break for it.

But made a break where? My hands were manacled, men were wedged into the gallery seats all around: spectators, witnesses . . . all of them come to lay eyes on the two infamous women pirates—Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

They stood together before the judge, who glared at them and banged his gavel.

“The charges, sir, I will hear them again,” he called to the bailiff, who stood and cleared his throat.

“His Majesty’s Court contends that the defendants, Mary Read and Anne Bonny, did piratically, feloniously, and in a hostile manner, attack, engage, and take seven certain fishing boats.”

During the minor uproar that followed I sensed somebody sit behind me. Two people, in fact—but paid them little mind.

“Secondly,” continued the bailiff, “this Court contends that the defendants lurked upon the high seas and did set upon, shoot at, and take two certain merchant sloops, thus putting the captains and their crews in corporeal fear of their lives.”

Then matters of court receded into the background as one of the men sitting behind me leaned forward and spoke.

“Edward James Kenway . . .” I recognized the voice of Woodes Rogers at once. “Born in Swansea to an English father and Welsh mother. Married at eighteen to Miss Caroline Scott, now estranged.”

I lifted my manacles and shifted around in the seat. Neither of my guards with their muskets had moved, but they watched us carefully. Beside Rogers, every inch the man of rank, sat Laureano Torres, dapper and composed in the balmy heat of the court-room. They weren’t there on pirate-hunting business, though. They were there on Templar business.

“She is a beautiful woman, I’m told,” said Torres, with a nod in greeting.

“If you touch her, you bastards . . .” I snarled.

Rogers leaned forward. I felt a nudge at my shirt and looked down to see the muzzle of his pistol in my side. In the year since my fall from The Observatory I had by some miracle avoided gangrene or infection, but the wound had never quite healed. He didn’t know about it, of course, he couldn’t have. But still, somehow he’d managed to prod it with the barrel of his gun, making me wince.

“If you know The Observatory’s location, tell us now and you’ll be out of here in a flash,” said Rogers.

Of course. That was why I hadn’t felt the burn of the hangman’s noose so far.

“Rogers can hold these British hounds at bay for a time,” said Torres, “but this will be your fate if you fail to cooperate.” He was gesturing out to the court-room, where the judge was speaking; where witnesses were telling of the awful things Anne and Mary had done.

Their warning over, Torres and Rogers stood, just as a female witness described in breathless detail how she’d been attacked by the two women pirates. She’d known they were women, she said, “by the largeness of their breasts,” and the court liked that. The court laughed at that until the laughter was silenced by the rap of the judge’s gavel, the sound drowning out the slam of the door behind Rogers and Torres.

Anne and Mary, meanwhile, hadn’t said a word. What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? I’d never known them lost for words before, but there they were, silent as the grave. Tales of their derring-do were told, and they never once butted in to correct anything egregious, nor even said a peep when the Court found them guilty. Even when they were asked if they could offer any reason why sentence of death should not be passed. Nothing.

So the judge, not knowing the two ladies, and perhaps taking them for the reticent sort, delivered his sentence: death by hanging.

And then—and only then—did they open their mouths.

“Milord, we plead our bellies,” said Mary Read, breaking their silence.

“What?” said the judge, paling.

“We are pregnant,” said Anne Bonny.

There was an uproar.

I wondered if both the sprogs belonged to Calico Jack, the old devil.

“You can’t hang a woman quick with child, can ye?” called Anne over the noise.

The court-room was in turmoil. As if anticipating my thoughts, one of the guards behind nudged me with his musket barrel. Don’t even think about it.

“Quiet! Quiet!” called the judge. “If what you claim is true, then your executions will be stayed, but only until your terms are up.”

“Then I’ll be pregnant the next time you come knocking!” roared Anne.

That was the Anne I remembered, with the face of an angel and the mouth of the roughest jack-tar. And she had the court-room in an uproar again, as the red-faced judge hammered at the bench with his gavel and ordered them removed, and the session broke up in disarray.

FIFTY-EIGHT

“Edward Kenway. Do you remember you once threatened to cut off my lips and feed them to me?”

Laureano Torres’s face appeared from the gloom outside my prison-cell door, framed by the window, divided by the bars.

“I didn’t do it, though,” I reminded him, my disused voice croaking.

“But you would have done.”

True.

“But I didn’t.”

He smiled. “The typical terror tactics of a pirate: unsophisticated and unsubtle. What say you, Rogers?”

He lingered there too. Woodes Rogers, the great pirate hunter. Hanging about near my cell door.

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