“You are a fighter, aye. In prison, I heard stories of the infamous Anne Bonny and Mary Read, taking on the King’s Navy together. Just the pair of you.”
She gave a laugh that was partly a sigh. “It’s all true. We would have won that day if Jack and his lads weren’t passed out in the hold from drink. Ah . . . Edward . . . Everyone’s gone now, ain’t they? Mary. Rackham. Thatch. And all the rest. I miss the lot, rough as they were. Do you feel that too? All empty inside like?”
“I do,” I said, “devil curse me, I do.”
I remembered a time when Mary had put her hand on my knee, and I did the same to Anne now. She looked at it there for a moment, knowing it was as much an invitation as a gesture of comfort. And then she put her own hand to mine, rested her head on my chest, and we stayed like that for a while.
Neither of us said anything. There was no need to.
Now it was the time to start putting things right. It was time to tie up loose ends, to take care of business.
It was time to begin wreaking my revenge, to work for the Assassins and carry out their contracts: Rogers, Torres, Roberts. They all had to die.
I stood on the deck of the Jackdaw with Adewalé and Ah Tabai. “I know my targets by sight well enough. But how will I find them?”
“We have spies and informants in every city,” said Ah Tabai. “Visit our bureaus, and the Assassins there will guide you.”
“That fixes Torres and Rogers,” I told him, “but Bartholomew Roberts won’t be near any city. Might take months to find him.”
“Or years,” agreed Ah Tabai, “but you are a man of talent and quality, Captain Kenway. I believe you will find him.”
Adewalé looked at me. “If you are at a loss, do not be afraid to lean on your quartermaster for aid.” He smiled.
I nodded thanks, then went onto the poop deck, leaving Ah Tabai and Adewalé to descend a Jacob’s ladder to a row-boat bobbling by our hull.
“Quartermaster,” I said, “what’s our present course?”
She turned. Resplendent in her pirate outfit.
“Due east, Captain, if it’s still Kingston we’re sailing for?”
“It is, Miss Bonny, it is. Call it out.”
“Weigh anchor and let fall the courses, lads!” she called, and she shone with happiness. “We’re sailing for Jamaica!”
• • •
Rogers, then. At the bureau in Kingston I was told of his whereabouts; that he would be attending a political function in town that very night. After that his movements were uncertain; it needed to be that whether I liked it or not.
So the next thing was to decide how. I decided to take on the guise of a visiting diplomat, Ruggiero Ferraro, and before I left took a letter from within my robes and handed it to the bureau chief—a letter for “Caroline Scott Kenway of Hawkins Lane, Bristol.” In it I asked after her. “Are you safe? Are you well?” A letter full of hope but burdened with worry.
Later that night I found the man I was looking for, Ruggiero Ferraro. In short order I killed him, took his clothes and joined others as we made our way to the party, and there was welcomed inside.
Being there took me back to when I’d posed as Duncan Walpole; when I’d first visited Torres’s mansion. That feeling of being overawed, out of place and possibly even out of my depth, but chasing some notions of fortune, looking for the quickest way to make easy money.
I was once again looking for something. I was looking for Woodes Rogers. Riches were no longer my primary concern. I was an Assassin now.
“You are Mr. Ferraro, I take it?” said a pretty female guest. “I do adore your frippery. Such elegance and colour.”
Thank you, madam, thank you. I gave her a deep bow in what I hoped was the Italian manner. Pretty she might have been, but I had enough ladies in my life for the time being. Caroline was waiting at home, not to mention certain . . . feelings I had for Anne.
Then, just as I realized that grazie was the only Italian word I knew, Woodes Rogers was giving a speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen, a toast to my brief tenure as a governor of the Bahamas! For, under my watch, no less than three hundred avowed pirates took The King’s Pardon and swore fealty to the Crown.”
His face twisted into a bitter, sarcastic sneer.
“And yet, for all my successes, His Majesty has seen fit to sack me and call me home to England. Brilliant!”
It was a bad-tempered, resentful end to the speech, and sure enough his guests didn’t quite know what to make of it. During his time on Nassau he’d handed out religious leaflets trying to persuade the merry buccaneers of New Providence to mend their hard-drinking, whoring ways, so perhaps he wasn’t accustomed to the liquor and he seemed to wobble around his own party, ranting at anyone unfortunate enough to find himself in the vicinity.
“Hurray, hurray for the ignoble and ignorant prigs who rule the world with sticks up their arses. Hurray!”
Moving on and another guest winced as he let fly with his whinges. “I brought those brutes in Nassau to heel, by God, and this is the thanks I get. Unbelievable.”
I followed him around the room, staying out of his view, trading greetings with the guests. I must have bowed a hundred times, murmured grazie a hundred times. Until at last Rogers appeared to have exhausted the goodwill of his friends, for as he made another circle of the hall, he found more and more backs were turned. The next moment he swayed, marooned in the room, looking around himself, only to find his erstwhile friends engaged in more thrilling conversations. For a second I saw the Woodes Rogers of old as he composed himself, drew back his shoulders, raised his chin and decided to take a little air. I knew where he was going, probably before he did, so it was an easy matter to move out to the balcony ahead of him and wait for him there. And then, when he arrived, I buried my blades into his shoulder and neck and, with one hand over his mouth to stop him screaming, lowered him to the floor of the balcony and sat him up against the balustrade.
It all happened too quickly for him. Too quickly to fight back or to even be surprised, and he tried to focus on me with drunken, pained eyes.
“You were a privateer once,” I said to him. “How is it you lack so much respect for sailors only trying to make their way in this world?”
He looked at where my blades were still embedded in his shoulder and neck. They were all that kept him alive, because as soon as I removed them, his artery would be open, the balcony would be awash with his blood and he would be dead within a minute.