I sighed. “Good for him. He may have saved you a great deal of suffering.”

“Sir.”

I looked at her. “Tonight, then?”

“Tonight, sir, yes.”

SEVENTY

It had to be that night.

“Are you Edward Kenway?” she’d said to me.

My landlady—Edith was her name—had knocked on the door to my room and stood on the threshold, unwilling to venture further. Her face was bloodless, her voice shook and her fingers worried at the hem of her pinafore.

“Edward Kenway?” I smiled. “Now, why would you say a thing like that, Edith?”

She cleared her throat. “They say that a man arrived on a boat. A man dressed much like you are now, sir. And they say the man is Edward Kenway, who once called Bristol his home.”

The colour had come back into her cheeks now, and she reddened, continuing, “There are others who say that Edward Kenway has returned home to settle scores, and that those against whom he bears his grudge have gone into hiding, but being powerful men have called resources against you—I mean, him.”

“I see,” I said carefully, “and what manner of resources might these be?”

“A troop of soldiers headed for Bristol, sir, expected to arrive this very evening.”

“I see. And no doubt heading straight for wherever this Edward Kenway has his lodgings, whereupon Edward Kenway would be forced to defend himself, and there would surely be a bloody battle, with many lives lost and much damage caused?”

She swallowed. “Yes, sir.”

“Well, you can rest assured, Edith, that no such unpleasantness will occur here tonight. For I’m sure Edward Kenway will make certain of it. Know this of him, Edith. It’s true he was a pirate once and that he did his fair share of despicable things, but he’s chosen a different path now. He knows that to see differently we must think differently and he has changed his thinking.”

She looked at me blankly. “Very good, sir.”

“Now I shall take my leave,” I told her. “Doubtless never to return.”

“Very good, sir.”

On the bed was a bundle of my things that I picked up and slung over one shoulder, then thought better of it; instead I picked out what I needed: the skull and a small pouch of coins that I opened, pressing gold into Edith’s hand.

“Oh, sir, that’s more than generous.”

“You’ve been very kind, Edith,” I said.

She stood to one side. “There’s a back-door, sir,” she said.

• • •

I went via a tavern where I knew to find the Jackdaw’s coxswain, awaiting my orders.

“Birtwistle.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Bring the Jackdaw to the harbour tonight. We’re leaving.”

“Yes, sir.”

I went on to the warehouse district and used the back streets and rooftops. I stayed low and in the shadows.

I thought, Oh, Mary, if you could only see me now.

Scott’s warehouse was one of many near the ports, the masts of berthed ships visible over the roofs. Most of the warehouses were deserted, shut up for the night. Only his had signs of life: flaming tressets that painted a small loading area a shade of flickering orange; empty carts nearby, and standing by the closed door a pair of guards. Not soldiers, at least—had they arrived in the city yet?—but local scarfaces slapping clubs into their palms, who probably thought this was an easy job; who were probably looking forward to a taste of ale later.

I stayed where I was, a shadow in the darkness, watching the door. Was he already in there? I was still debating when to make my move when Rose arrived. She wore the same headscarf as earlier and her basket bulged with clothes for her hated lord and master, Emmett Scott.

The two strong arms at the door shared a lascivious look as they stepped forward to intercept her. Sticking to the side of the adjacent warehouse I crept within earshot.

“Is Mr. Scott here?” she asked.

“Ah,” said a grinning scarface with a heavy West Country accent. “Well that all depends on who’s asking, don’t it, m’dear?”

“I have clothes for him.”

“You’d be the maid, would you?”

“That’s right.”

“Well he’s here, so you better go in.”

I was close enough to see her roll her eyes as they stepped aside and let her in.

Right. So Scott was in there.

In the dark I tested the action of my blade. Mustn’t be too hasty, I thought. Mustn’t kill him. Scott had some talking to do before he died.

I moved around the edge of the warehouse wall, so that the two strong arms were just a few feet away from me. It was just a question of waiting for the right moment to str—

From inside came a scream. Rose. It was no longer a question of waiting for the right time. I’d sprung from the dark, covered the distance between myself and the sentries, engaged the blade and slashed the throat of the first one before Rose’s scream had even died down. The second one cursed and swung his club but I caught his flailing arm, jammed him up against the warehouse wall and finished him with the blade in his back. He slid down the wall even as I crouched at the wicket door of the warehouse, raised a hand and pushed it open.

A musket ball zinged over my head as I rolled into the entranceway, getting a quick impression of a warehouse stacked with tea-chests, and a gantry with offices on it at one end.

There were three figures on the gantry, one of them standing on the rail as though about to jump the twenty feet or so to the ground.

I came to rest behind a stack of crates, peeked around the edge and pulled back as another ball smacked into the wood nearby, showering me with wood chips. But my quick look was enough to confirm that, yes, there were three people on the gantry above me. There was Wilson, who stood with a pistol aimed at my hiding place. To one side of him stood Emmett Scott, sweating as with trembling, frantic fingers he tried to reload another pistol to hand to Wilson.

Above them was Rose, who wobbled unsteadily on the railing, terrified. Her mouth bled. The punishment for her warning scream, no doubt. Her hands had been tied and she wore a noose around her neck. All that stopped her from dropping from her makeshift gallows was Wilson, who held her with his other hand.

If he let go, she fell.

“Hold it there, Kenway,” called Wilson as the dust settled. “Or you’ll have the death of the maid on your hands.”

They’d disarm me. They would kill me, then hang Rose for her treachery.

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