Ne’er trust a pirate

A large solid oak chest full of Spanish doubloons, plundered during a raid of a Spanish galleon, presently sits in the middle of a small row-boat, weighing it down so heavily that even the gentle current is lapping over the sides of the wooden frame, forming a pool of seawater around the feet of it’s three man crew. The men ignore the water and continue rowing, glancing back towards their ship, ‘The Mermaid’s Revenge’ in the distance. They are making their way to the shore of a small deserted Caribbean island, roughly a hundred nautical miles north of the nearest trade route, unmarked on any map and safe from discovery by the chest’s rightful owner — the King of Spain.

As they reached the shoreline, Captain James Blake leapt from the row-boat into the knee deep, crystal-clear water, unravelled the tether and led the boat aground the fine golden sand, which extended from the beach to the shoreline, as if someone had rolled it out especially to greet him. Theirs were the only visible footprints, for this was a secluded island, unused by anyone other than Captain Blake and those who had long-ago informed him of it’s existence, as a safe-haven for stashing stolen goods.

“This is it gentlemen!” he exclaimed to his companions: his first mate Waters and shipmate Crowe. He pointed inland, “We’ll bury it behind that treeline. Beyond the reach of pryin’ eyes.”

“As you say cap’n.” Waters responded with a sigh.

“I’ve told you already.” snapped Captain Blake noting the despondency in his manner,

“It’s too risky to spend this on drink an’ whores right now. Any fool would recognise these ‘ere coins. There’d be no remorse in sellin’ us out at the sniff of reward.” he continued, heeding caution.

Begrudgingly, the men placed the chest on two wooden planks from the row-boat and carried it inland, the sheer weight of it digging into their shoulders, forcing a painfully slow pace. They stopped regularly to wipe sweat from their eyes and catch their breath, now laboured under the pulsating heat of the sun directly above them; Captain Blake, walking ahead, rolled his eyes in contempt each time. As they breached the line of palm trees they lay the chest onto the sand, fell to their knees and drew deep, long breaths of exhaustion. But, before they could recover, two shovels fell to their feet from the hands of Captain Blake. They looked up in contempt, only to receive shrift response:

“Get diggin’.”

A short while later they lay down their shovels and gulped gluttonously at the last of the water they had carried at their hips, and surveyed the fruits of their labour: a pit, large enough to bury the chest from sight and mind. Captain Blake stood at its ledge, looking soulfully down into the hole as if it was the empty reflection of his own life.

“Tis a crying shame — but, it must be done.”

There was a sadness in his voice; after all, his younger self would have happily spent the coin on fine-living. But, he now desired a free life, retirement in a secluded house in the sun, not a lifetime on the run. To that end he knew he must do whatever necessary.

“Lower the…” he began, when he suddenly felt a sharp, searing pain in his lower back. He tried to continue, but the words would not form. Agony was spreading, like a frost encroaching over his body, from his core to his extremities, rendering him helpless. Dumbfounded, he looked down at the hand placed on his shoulder and heard from his assassin,

“Sorry Cap’n.”

Waters drew closer to his captain, to whisper in his ear, but speaking loud enough, as if to an invisible audience.

“Enough is enough,” he exclaimed in a firm tone, “It’s naught for you to decide the fate of these riches. Ev’ry man aboard the Mermaid has a right to their fair share of the spoils.”

A sense of purpose entered his voice as he concluded, “There’s no point in savin’ coin for a rainy day if we all die of starvation; We’ll have our share an’ spend it as we see fit, while the sun’s still shinin’!”

He reached into the chest, taking one of the coins, placing it into the hand of his captain.

“Here — I guess we owe you your share.” he smirked, “Yer relieved of your duties cap’n.” he announced whilst twisting the blade to finish the job.

Blake closed his fingers around the coin, stared at it and began to laugh, releasing a choked, gurgling sound, consisting of half pain and half amusement. Crowe felt disconcerted with this; he was a ruthless man, huge and powerful, driven to do his master’s bidding — which was whoever made the highest offer. Impetuously, he stepped forward and gave Blake a shove, who was powerless to resist, slumping into the hole, still clutching the coin.

He landed with a heavy thud. The wind knocked out of him, he rolled over to stare back at the two men, groaning through gritted teeth. The light was dimming from his viewpoint, even though he could still see the glaring sun directly above him. He raised his arm to hold the coin between thumb and forefinger, eclipsing the sun, giving it a celestial quality; he bathed in it’s aureate glow, resuming his knowing laughter. Unsettled, the two crewmen, grabbed their shovels and began to fill the hole with sand in a hurried silence. The light finally faded as they covered Blake, forcing his final breath, his hand remaining outstretched, and unburied.

The men returned to the row-boat with the chest. But, as they departed their gaze fell back to the fresh grave and away from the scene unfolding behind them. They could not shake the sense of unease, or the sound of laughter, which continued to echo inside their heads; for they could still see Blake’s extended hand, clutching the coin, as a story untold to them unravelled: The horizon revealed the silhouette of an armada of ships bearing the Spanish flag, closing in on the location betrayed to them by Captain Blake.

The men’s gaze remained transfixed on the glistening golden coin, shining like a beacon, as they rowed towards their fate.

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