Ghost Memories - By Heather Graham
Prequel to the Bone Island Trilogy
New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham presents the prequel the Bone Island Trilogy….
In the early nineteenth century, pirates and privateers still wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. Bartholomew Miller had been one of them. After years of plying the seas for England as a privateer, he finally found a home and love on Bone Island off the Florida coast.
But Bartholomew also made enemies in his time—enemies that would take everything Bartholomew loved and create a curse to haunt Bone Island for centuries….
Part I: Life
Part II: Death
“Surrender, y’ scurvy bastard!” Bartholomew Miller cried harshly.
There was no hope for the wounded Hellion, a ship captained by Pie-Eyed Wallace, one of the pirates who had been plaguing ships bound for Key West, Florida. Bartholomew, captain of the eight-gun sloop Bessie Blue, was working per request of Craig Beckett, one of the most respected civilians in Key West who had cast his lot with David Porter, commander of the Mosquito Squadron, a naval assignment group sworn to rid the south Florida waters of the dreaded scourge of piracy.
Bartholomew knew the waters, the depths and shallows and reefs, as few men did. He had chased the Hellion to a reef, and there pounded her with his guns. The Hellion was sinking. Half her crew floated dead in the water, and others moaned on a deck that was flooding with the sea.
Just as he knew the reefs, Bartholomew knew sea battles, and he knew pirates. He had never been a pirate, he had been a privateer. He had taken ships by license of the Crown, until he had become a citizen of the United States. Then, he had fought the Crown of England, as he would fight anyone now who brought death, danger and mayhem to his new country.
“No surrender!” Pie-Eyed Wallace called, looking him in the eye across the expanse of water that separated them. Bartholomew had carefully maintained his shallow-drafted sloop in the deeper waters off the reef. His men would prepare the longboats to collect survivors—those who wished to be taken to town for trial—when the inevitable happened and the Hellion went down to her watery grave.
“There’s a chance for life!” Bartholomew shouted. “What of your men?”
“Me men will swing from the hanging tree ’neath the merciless order of the tyrant Porter. Trial! ’Tis a travesty—there is no hope for justice. We will die at sea! Ye’ll grant me that!” Wallace cried.
“Nay, Cap’n, there’s hope!” one of his men shouted from the deck. “We could find mercy!”
Wallace turned to eye the wounded man on deck. He pulled one of several pistols from the long holster across his chest—and shot him.
“There, there is the only mercy to be found!” Wallace said.
Wallace was right; David Porter was merciless when it came to pirates—despite all the good he had done, it was true that the man was a tyrant, keeping Key West under stringent military rule.
Those who were esteemed in Key West lived well and nicely. And in certain fine homes, hastily furnished by trade or through salvage, one could pretend to be in one of the finest drawing rooms in Richmond, New York or even New Orleans.
Those who broke the law discovered that Porter’s justice was harsh.
Wallace stared at Bartholomew. “Will you have mercy, sir?” he asked as he drew out another gun that was long enough to cover the many yards of distance between them. He took aim at Bartholomew.
No choice. Bartholomew quickly drew his own rifle, Bess, and fired in return. The sound of the bullets from both of their guns was explosive; the air filled with black powder again where it had just begun to settle.
Wallace’s bullet crashed into the mast; Bartholomew’s aim was true, and the pirate Pie-Eyed Wallace dropped dead where he stood.
A pirate’s mercy. A quick bullet, rather than the slow death of the hangman’s noose and a slow strangulation with the body flailing, kicking and writhing—and finally, failing.
Bartholomew turned away and spoke to his first mate, Jim Torn. “We must collect the survivors and bring them to the law.”
He was weary as he gave the order and returned to his cabin, anxious to return to port.
He had seen many a hanging, and he had to wonder if they should leave the men to drown. But he had discovered that he admired Craig Beckett, the man who had befriended him in New Orleans and who had encouraged him to bring his ship to Key West. The Island was raw and young, but