“Tell me where the pearl is, you dirty scoundrel!” Thomas Dalton tried to growl the words, but he had long ago grown bored with the whole endeavor. Even revenge lost its succor after so long.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” The last man from the Ghostly Gaper shook in his boots. His trembling caused the board hanging out over the choppy ocean to wobble back and forth, up and down.
“Then down the plank you go!” Dalton prodded the crewman with the tip of his rapier, and the captive yelped.
“Alright, alright! I’ll tell you!”
Dalton withdrew his weapon and spun his prey around by the shoulders.
“Out with it then,” he demanded.
The young man, no more than twenty, took a deep breath and looked around him as if he expected one of his fellow pirates to leap from the shadows and skewer him for revealing their secret.
Dalton sighed. “For heaven’s sake, man. There’s no one to save you, no one to ambush you. They’re all dead already.”
The bandit shifted his eyes to Dalton’s, not trusting any of his senses. But what choice did he have?
“Old Salt Eye sailed us out to Raven Straits a few months back, in the spring, and he had a couple of the other fellas swim out to Vulture Island. They buried the pearl there under a cypress tree.”
Dalton squinted and studied the man’s face. It was flat, devoid of wrinkles, open and wide, just like his eyes.
He looked like he was telling truth. And that was jarring.
Dalton had entered his current enterprise sure of two things.
First … that the legend of the Ghostly Gaper pearl was just that — a legend.
And second, that his gleaming new merchant ship would draw Salt Eye and his lackeys like flies to a cow patty.
That latter point had worked out just fine, and Dalton was as near justice as he was like to get. Nothing could bring back his family, but he had done his level best to make sure Salt Eye’s gang would never destroy again.
The legend … well, that was supposed to have made it all just a bit sweeter. Dalton had relished watching the panicked sailors clutch for a story they knew didn’t exist when he gave them a chance at redemption.
But, by golly, every single one of the twenty lowlifes had recounted the same story … the straits, the island, the cypress.
Every last detail.
It made the next part just a tad less savory.
Dalton nodded and drew the sword from its sheath once more.
“Turn around, then,” he said, whapping the blade broadside against the crewman’s midsection, drawing blood even through his jacket.
The man screamed in anguish. “But I told you where to find the pearl!” he protested.
“It’s all just legend,” Dalton said. “There is no pearl.”
“But there is!” the man begged.
Dalton slapped at him with the sword again. “That’s for my wife and daughter, you charlatan, you murderer!”
The man stumbled backwards onto the plank, lost his balance, and tumbled into the churning water below.
Dalton never even heard a splash.
He stood there, heaving breaths of grief, of revenge, of triumph.
When the bottom edge of the sun slid into the far reaches of the ocean, Dalton finally sheathed his rapier. He stepped back from the edge of the decking and walked toward the ladder leading down to his quarters.
He was covered with cold, salty seawater, but he collapsed across his bed. He could clean up later.
What he needed right then was deep, peaceful sleep. He had to regain his full strength, sharpen his faculties.
Because, in the morning, he would set sail for Vulture Island.