The Pirate Captain - By Kerry Lynne

Chapter 1: Journey

May, 1753

“On deck there. Sail ho!”

“Where away?”

“Larboard abeam, sir, ’bout three points.”

Ezekiel Pryce looked to the tops. It was Damerell up there, what sung out. An extra ration of rum and the best pistol on the prize would be his, if he be correct. Heaven help the blundering bastard if he weren’t, and the Cap’n not obliged to raise a finger.

The Cap’n stood peering through his glass.

“What be in yer mind, sir? Be it them, are ye thinkin’?” Pryce asked, coming up alongside.

“The bearing is fitting,” the Cap’n said, intent on the speck of white against the east Caribbean blue.

“Nary a ship from England what don’t come from that-a-ways.”

The skipper lowered the glass. A cat on the prowl, he was, and no prey was safe. “Then they’re fair game, are they not? The last two proved to be a hare’s chase, but fat prizes, indeed. If nothing else, the lads need the practice. We’ll burn the rust out o’ the guns, eh?”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

“Bearing sou’west,” Damerell called from his roost.

The Cap’n raised his glass, looked to the compass, and then said to the helmsman, “Make it so, Mr. Squidge.”

“Sou’west, aye.”

“Prepare to bring her about. Full cover!” The Cap’n was in high spirits now. “Fly every rag she’ll bear.” 22minutes

The ship beneath Pryce’s feet quivered. Aye! She knew. She smelled the prey. She’d throw her shoulder to the wind, take every bit of canvas and beg for more.

“It makes for a fair night, Master Pryce,” the Cap’n said, looking skyward. “Light every lamp, so we’ll glow like a damned fireship. We’ll allow them the night to think about the hell what is about to be visited upon them. She might try to duck and run under the cover of dark, so double the lookouts, and we’ll rig the grates for the first slaggardly lout caught napping.”

Clear skies, a steady glass and fair course: no creature of the sea could ask for more. Only a dirty night could save the hapless prey.

“D’ye think she’ll turn and fight, sir?”

“How often does the rabbit bite the fox, Mr. Pryce? If they opt for blood, then it shall be theirs what runs the decks.”

“The last ones we stripped to nature’s own and burned to the waterline.”

“Aye, well, ’tis the price of resistance, is it not? Pass the word to the Master Gunner to pray have his guns ready by…make it eight bells of the morning watch.”

“Hands to yer stations,” Pryce bellowed over the break of the quarterdeck. “Clear the braces and stand by to come about!”

Staring at the line where sky and water met, the Cap’n went uncommon quiet, a rare sight indeed when sniffing prey.

“I’ve the feeling on this one, Pryce. The Devil burn me, I don’t know why, but this one… this one is different.”


A few days earlier:

Cate Mackenzie watched the oily sea roll past and wondered if this would be the night to finally end her misery.

Behind was England and everything that constituted a life, everything she had ever had—home, husband, family—and everything she had lost.

Ahead, nothing.

The Constancy, a merchant ship, had been riding the trade winds for nearly two months, bound for Kingston, Jamaica—the West Indies. There was little reason to believe the long arm of King Georgie’s courts couldn’t reach there. Worse yet, there would be no one there either, no one to know whether she lived or otherwise.

With the impact of her body hitting the water, there was the possibility of pain, an intriguing prospect to be sure. Numbness had been a permanent state of being, moving woodenly from one day to the next. To feel anything apart from wretchedness was well worth the risk.

Captain Chambers emerged from the flickering shadows and drew up beside her. The weather rail was the reserved domain for the ship’s captain, but there he was at the lee side, seeking her out once again. He nodded a silent greeting, his sharp green eyes narrowing.

“You must be anxious to meet your family in Kingston,” he said around the stem of his cold pipe.

For a while now, he appeared to have a sense of what she was about, always watching. His attempts at small talk were maddeningly awkward. It was all a part of their jousting game: he trying to learn as much as possible, while she strove to tell him as little as could be managed. She cringed. On the docks in Bristol, she had told him there would be family waiting—a necessary lie to be allowed passage. Since then, she had come to