Chapter Twenty Two "Sight to the Blind"

"I heard the topman's cries," Voller gloated. "My associates are on their way and, if Captain Bellanger decides to resist, we shall all meet the devil soon enough."

In one fluid motion, Prescott cocked his pistol and trained the weapon on Voller's rotund form. "You're going first."

Voller continued to smile, a fact which only served to fuel Prescott's anger. "Captain Tarret, you will not shoot me," he said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Prescott tightened his grip on the pistol. His knuckles began to turn white. Raising his chin he asked, "What makes you so certain?"

Voller shrugged. "Well, as your friend Captain Bellanger was so kind to point out, you are one of His Majesty's most decorated officers." He paused, flashing another greasy smile. "You will not throw away such a distinguished career to satisfy your own petty sense of revenge."

Petty? Prescott squared his jaw. His head still throbbed. His arm still burned. Every movement he made caused some new degree of pain. Petty? This man boarded Loyalty, his ship, and took the whole crew into custody. Voller had no idea that the men he was threatening really were pirates. For all that beast knew, Prescott and the men could have been the Navy's finest. Voller did not know, and he did not care. Petty? Killing this man would be many things. Vengeance and long overdue to name a couple, but killing this man would most certainly not be petty.

"He's right, Prescott," Avery's voice was quiet.

Regarding the pirate, he realized that this was the only time Avery had ever called him Prescott. In the dim light of the brig, he could see that something had changed in Avery's eyes. The spark of mischief was missing. The ever plotting pirate Captain was not standing in front of Prescott. Instead, he was looking at a man who was . . . resigned. But, resigned to what? Surely, Avery did not accept the fact that he was a captive of the British Navy and heading to Kingston for "trial." What would cause such a change in the usually wily pirate's demeanor?

"He's right," Pierce said again. "There will be no talking your way out of this one." The pirate smiled sadly. "This would be murder, in cold blood."

"No less than he deserves," Prescott managed through gritted teeth, noting with distaste that his anger was beginning to ebb as he focused his attentions on trying to figure what the pirate was on about.

"Give me the gun," Avery held out his hand.

"In all my years, I never expected to hear a pirate talking me out of taking a man's life," Prescott fixed his stare on the pirate, searching his face for some hint of what the man was thinking.

"Death's too good for 'im," Daniels said under his breath, but Prescott heard. He heard the rage the youthful indignation. Daniels had not even seen the worst of this filth, but he was ready to send him to the devil. Why in the name of all things holy wasn't Pierce?

"You see, Captain Tarret," Voller's grating voice once again assaulted Prescott's ears. "Even a man like Pierce can see that this course of action is folly."

"What do you mean a man like Pierce?" Prescott's fury once again bubbled to the surface.

"A pirate, like me," Voller answered.

"He is nothing like you," Prescott seethed.

"Prescott, give me the gun," Avery said, ignoring Voller's comments. "Give me the gun, and I'll deal with Voller."

Furrowing his brow, Prescott said, "What?"

"I'm dead already. What's one more black mark on my record?"

"Captain!" Daniels exclaimed.

"I told you I would get you out of all this," Prescott insisted. Dead already? What was Pierce talking about?

"I believe you would have tried," the pirate stared levelly into Prescott's confused face.

Something was not right. Something had changed. Pierce's disposition had been devil may care at best and edging into madness and folly at worst. But, never so far had he been so … uncaring. Something had happened to make this pirate utterly resigned to some dread fate. Lowering his arm, Prescott returned the pistol to it's holster. "I gave you my word, Avery Pierce," he said, deciding for reasons unknown not to accept the pirate's descent into apathy. "So, unless you wish to insult me further by insinuating that my word is worthless, I suggest you let me keep my promise."

Out of the corner of his eye, Prescott saw a smile spread across Daniels' face. Pierce lifted his chin, the resignation left his eyes replaced by . . . trust?

"Ha! I told you that you could not kill me," Voller proclaimed triumphantly.

Quick as the lightning cracking in the sky, Prescott once again drew his weapon and fired upon the fat pirate. The bullet sliced through Voller's thigh, bringing the big man to the floor. Blood oozed out from the wound and covered Voller's pudgy hands.

Avery eyed Prescott with raised eyebrows. "That was unexpected," he said.

"I don't care how many black marks are already on your record," Prescott said. "I will not let you take the fall for me."

"You son of a –" Voller yelled.

"Captain Voller," Pierce interrupted, his eyes never leaving Prescott. "I'd take care not to overexert yourself. You're losing quite a bit o' blood."

"Indeed," Prescott agreed. "I suppose I shall go find the surgeon, before you bleed to death." Pausing, Prescott turned to Voller. "I only hope I can find him in time."


The pirate captain of Nefarious was on the Tribune. Two ships full of ruthless men wanted him back. Carlotta clutched the tiger eye around her neck. The Tribune would be fired on and boarded. After that, God only knew what could happen.

"Voller is imprisoned right now on this ship?" Chris said, his eyes wide and, almost, frightened.

"He is," Bellanger answered, his voice raising.

"They'll attack, then, surely," Chris deduced. "They want him back."

"Mr. Billings," Geoffrey said clearing his throat and allowing his voice to return to normal. "Beat to quarters, if you please."

"Aye, aye, Sir," the lieutenant answered. "Hands to quarters, enemy ship to loo'ard."

Bellanger was going to fight. Of course, he would. Those men bearing down on them were pirates. Geoffrey Bellanger would never strike a bargain with pirates. He would go down fighting, and he may take everyone on board the Tribune down with him.

"Lottie, get below," Chris said, his eyes wide.

"Indeed," Geoffrey agreed. "Get to your cabin. Lock the door."

Nodding, Carlotta practically ran from the quarterdeck. She had faced danger before. Two years ago, she had stood up to a pirate who had threatened her at her home. But that was different. Even without knowing Avery Pierce, she had somehow known that he would not kill her. She had faced danger before. She had never faced death before. Tearing down the stairs, she ran headlong into her brother.


"Lottie," Prescott's voice was void of emotion.

"There's two ships," she said, waving her arms frantically. "They're pirates dressed as East India agents. They board Navy ships and send their crews to be killed, and their captain is in our hold!"

"I know."

"You know!?"

"Lottie, I trust that Geoffrey and your loving husband have already instructed you to barricade yourself inside your cabin. Take their advice."

Carlotta shivered involuntarily. She was soaked through from the rain, but it was Prescott's eyes that made her blood run cold. "Prescott, about before . . ."

"Before?" Prescott repeated the word. Folding his arms, he said, "Could you be referring to earlier today when you called me a conniving liar and gladly chose dear, sweet, innocent Chris' side over mine?"

"Pres, it wasn't like –"

"It was exactly like that, Carlotta," Prescott's voice was quiet, but his words carried twice the volume than if he had been yelling. "Ever since the day you were born, I have looked out for you and tried to do what was right for you. Is it too much to ask for you to trust me?"

"He's my husband, Pres."

"And I'm your brother."

Thunder boomed behind Carlotta. A bolt of lightning flashed. As Prescott shook his head and pushed past her, Carlotta saw the light reflect off of the pair of crosses that her brother wore around his neck. Usually the pendants were hidden beneath the layers of his uniform. She remembered giving him one of those crosses when she was nine years old. Prescott had just passed his lieutenant's examination and was to be stationed on the flagship. Her mother had taken her into town and spent hours following her though every store and street vendor. Her mother purchased the silver cross that now hung from Prescott's neck, but she had let her daughter take all the credit for the gift. Carlotta did not know that he still wore it.


When Prescott finally reached the main deck, the ship was a myriad of activity. Power boys were running back and forth trying to find their stations. Gun crews were readying their guns, prepared to fire at their Captain's command. Bellanger was standing by the wheel yelling orders to the sailing master, and Chris Laffley was standing with a glass to his eye watching the two approaching pirate ships.

The thought briefly crossed Prescott's mind that, with all of the commotion on deck, he could push Laffley into the sea and no one would miss him. However, conscience or self-control got the better of him, and he chose simply to ignore his homicidal impulses. He assumed that Laffley had been the one who knew the true identity of the East India ships. Geoffrey would have mentioned it earlier if he'd known anything about Voller's activities. So, unfortunately, if Prescott wanted information, he would have to ask Laffley.

"How'd you know?" he asked when he stood next to his sister's husband.

"Last year, Voller asked me to join his little enterprise," Chris answered, his eyes not wavering from the approaching ships. "The second ship," he said pointing, "is used mostly to carry prisoners, and whatever loot they've managed to steal. Voller wanted another fighting vessel under his command."

"You refused his offer?" Prescott said.

Taking the glass away from his face, Chris turned on Prescott. Something flashed in his eyes. "Of course, I refused. I wanted no part of it."

Prescott pursed his lips. "Right, because you're made of such unwavering moral fiber."

"Prescott, it doesn't matter what you think of me –"

"There are not words in the English language for what I think of you, Laffley," Prescott growled.


Her cabin was the safest place on the ship. Located near the Tribune's center, she would be more protected from cannon fire. If she locked the door, she would be relatively safe from any pirates that boarded the frigate. Carlotta, however, was not in her cabin. Instead, she stood at the top of the stairway that led into the brig. She could just make out a rather portly gentleman lying in a cell, with the ship's surgeon tending to a wound in his leg. This man, she assumed, must be Captain Voller.

Tilting her head to one side, Carlotta mused that Voller did not look like a man capable of overrunning well-armed Navy ships. She knew better than most, however, that a man could be very different than he appeared. Her own husband perfectly fit the description of and upstanding British citizen and hero of the King's Navy. Avery Pierce perfectly fit the description of a vile pirate driven by greed and lust. She had found out over a year ago that Avery was so much more than a pirate. He was the man who had dropped everything to help Prescott find her. Slowly, she was beginning to understand that her husband was also much removed from his description. She did not fully comprehend what had happened aboard the Intrepid all those years ago during the pirate attack. She did know that Chris had lied. Even if his version of the tale were right, he had still lied to her face everyday of their marriage.

Avery had never lied. He had never pretended to be anything other than who he was.

Prescott lied often. He lied to Admiralty. He lied to Geoffrey. He probably even lied to that pretty little wife of his. Prescott never lied to Carlotta.

Shaking her head, she could not believe how blinded she had been by Chris' reappearance. For two years, Carlotta had pleaded with God. She had prayed for one more day with her husband, just to tell him how much she loved him. She had promised God that she would give up anything for that one more day. Well, God had given her more time with Chris, and now Carlotta realized that she could not keep her side of the bargain. Seeing the hurt in her brother's eyes, she knew that she could not give up Prescott's trust and respect. Remembering the kiss she had shared with Avery in the brig, she knew she would not be willing to give up the pirate's affections.

All at once, Carlotta's spine tingled and she had the distinct impression that she was being watched. A smile spread across her face. "How long have you been standing there?" she spoke into the darkness.

"What're ye doin' down 'ere?" Avery said stepping out from the shadows.

"Looking for a pirate," Carlotta replied.

"There's a pirate up on deck," Avery's voice was low and empty. "I'm sure he'd be 'appy to accommodate ye." Turning his head, he avoided making eye contact.

Carlotta took a deep breath. She had never been very good at apologies. She was so seldom truly sorry for her actions. Reaching out, she put her hand on the side of Avery's face, and forced him to look at her. "I don't owe the pirate on deck an explanation," she said. Avery's jaw clenched. Stepping back, he pulled his face out of her reach. "The pirate that I'm looking for needs to know that I was a fool," she paused and lowered her eyes. "He would be perfectly justified if he never wanted to see me again. And, I know that I don't deserved his forgiveness, but I am asking for it."

The pirate's expression did not soften. "You should be in your cabin. It won't be safe for you when Voller's crew attacks." Avery did not linger. He turned abruptly and ascended the stairs without so much as a backwards glance.

Closing her eyes, Carlotta leaned her back against the wall. Her knees grew weak, and her body slid to the floor. As much as she hated to cry, Carlotta could not stop the tears from tumbling out from her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. The damage was done. She had betrayed Avery, and he could not forgive her.


"The second ship carries prisoners," Prescott asked Chris, who seemed to be completely taken aback by the hostility in Prescott's earlier comments.

Chris simply nodded.

"Then is it not a possibility that sailors loyal to the Crown are in her hold right now?" Prescott's mind was reeling, desperately trying to come up with some sort of plan. The Tribune was the fastest ship in the Caribbean. They could have outrun both of Voller's ships. Bellanger, however, would not run from pirates. So, instead they were preparing for battle, and the odds were stacked heavily against them.

"Yes," Chris said. "You're probably right."

"Right," Prescott turned his gaze to the second pirate vessel. If he could board her and manage to free any prisoners, then they just might have a chance.

"Let me go with you," Chris offered.

Prescott's head snapped back to his sister's husband. "No." He would be damned if he was going fight alongside of that lying swine.

"Look, I know we have our differences, but I do love your sister. I will do anything to protect her."

Eyebrow raised, Prescott said, "I will have enough trouble with the enemy in front of me without needing to worry about one behind."