She pointed. “You did more hurting than they ever could, my son. And now you’re here to stir things up again, are you?”
“Things have got to be put right.”
She stood. “Not in my name, they don’t. I’ll have nothing to do with you.”
She raised her voice to address everybody in the tavern. Only a few would hear her, but word would soon spread.
“You hear that?” she said loudly. “I disown him. The great and famous pirate Edward Kenway, he’s nothing to do with me.”
Hands flat on a tabletop, she leaned forward and hissed, “Now get out, no-son-of-mine. Get out before I tell the soldiers where the pirate Edward Kenway is to be found.”
I left, and when, on the journey back to my boarding-house in Bristol, I realized my cheeks were wet, I allowed myself to cry, grateful for one thing at least. Grateful that there was nobody around to see my tears or hear my wails of grief.
So—they had gone to ground, the guilty men. Yes, there had been others there that night—the Cobleighs among them—but I had no desire to account for them all. There is little taste in taking the lives of men given orders. The men I wanted gave those orders: Hague, Scott and, of course, the man who left the insignia of the Templar on my face all those years ago. Wilson.
Men who hid from me. Whose guilt was confirmed by the fact that they were hiding from me. Good. Let them shake with fear. That night, all being well, Scott, Wilson and Hague would be dead.
But they knew I was coming, so my investigations would have to be conducted a little more discreetly. When I left my boarding-house the next morning I did so knowing I was beneath the gaze of Templar spies. I ducked into a tavern I knew of old—better than my pursuers, no doubt—and thanked my lucky stars it still had the same rear privy it always had.
By the back-door I held my breath against the stink, quickly stripped off my robes and changed into clothes I’d brought with me from the Jackdaw—clothes I’d last worn many, many moons ago: my long, buttoned-up waistcoat, knee breeches, white stockings and, of course, my slightly battered brown tricorn. And thus attired I left the tavern, emerging on a different street a different person. Just another merchant on his way to market.
I found her there, exactly where I expected, and jogged the basket on her arm so she’d know I was behind her, whispering, “I got your message.”
“Good,” said Rose, without turning her head, bending to inspect flowers. With a quick look left and right, she whipped out a headscarf and tied it over her head.
A moment later Rose and I loitered near dilapidated stables in a deserted corner of the market. I glanced at the structure, then back again with a jolt of recognition. I’d stabled my own horse there many years ago. It had been new then, and convenient for the market, but the sprawl of stalls had shifted over the intervening years; its entrances had moved, and the stables had fallen into disuse, fit only for loitering nearby, conducting clandestine meetings, as we were doing.
“You’ve met young Jennifer, have you?” she said.
She shifted the basket on her arm. She’d been a young girl when I first encountered her at The Auld Shillelagh. Ten years later she was still young but missing was that spark, that rebellious streak that made her run away in the first place. A decade of drudgery had done that to her.
And yet, like the glowing sparks of a dying fire, there was some of her old nature left because she’d sent me a letter requesting to meet me, and here she was with things to tell me. Among them, I hoped, the whereabouts of her master and his friends.
“I have,” I told her. “I’ve met my daughter. She’s safe on my ship.
“She has your eyes.”
I nodded. “She has her mother’s beauty.”
“She’s a beautiful girl. We were all very fond of her.”
Rose smiled. “Oh, yes. She was determined that she should see you when Mistress Caroline passed away last year.”
“I’m surprised Emmett allowed it.”
Rose chortled drily. “He didn’t, sir. It was the mistress of the house who organized it. Her and Miss Jennifer cooked it up between them. The first his nibs knew of it was when he woke up that morning to find Miss Jennifer gone. He wasn’t happy. He wasn’t happy at all, sir.”
“Meetings, were there?”
She looked at me. “You could say that, sir, yes.”
“Who came to see him, Rose?”
“Master Hague . . .”
All the conspirators.
“And where are they now?”
“I don’t rightly know, sir,” she said.
I sighed. “Then why invite me here if you’ve nothing to tell me?”
She said, her face turned to me, “I mean I don’t know where they’re hiding, sir, but I do know where Mr. Scott plans to be tonight, for I have been asked to take him some fresh clothes at his offices.”
“He has business items to collect as well, sir. He plans to be there personally. I’ve been asked to go there when night has fallen.”
I looked at her long and hard. “Why, Rose?” I said. “Why are you helping me like this?”
She glanced this way and that. “Because you once helped save me from a fate worse than death. Because Caroline loved you. And because . . .”
“Because that man, he watched her die. He wouldn’t let her get the medicine she needed, not her or Mrs. Scott, the both of them ill. Mrs. Scott recovered but Mrs. Kenway never did.”
It startled me to hear Caroline called Mrs. Kenway. It had been so long since she’d been referred to that way.
“Why did he deny them the medicine?”
“Pride, sir. It was him who caught the smallpox first but he recovered. He thought Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Kenway should be able to as well. But she began to get such terrible blisters all over her face, sir. Oh, sir, you’ve never seen anything like it . . .”
I held up a hand, not wanting to hear more—wanting to preserve the image I had of Caroline.
“There was an epidemic in London and we think Mr. Scott picked it up there. Even the royal family were in fear of it.”
“You didn’t get it?”
She looked at me guiltily. “The staff were inoculated, sir. Head butler saw to it. Swore us to silence.”