A cooling breeze came up from the gulf. The air felt good after the long hot still days of summer. Soon the wind would fill the sails of the galleons. The great fleet of Mother Spain would set sail, loaded down with it's cargo of gold, silver, coconuts, and woods, taken from the new world.
The ship, Aterrizar de Dorado, set low in the water. Its belly full. Tomorrow it would set out to sea on its return home. The longshoremen, were like ants, crawling over every part of the ship, everything had to be checked, then recheck. The ship would be at sea for nearly twenty-eight days before landing on the Canary Islands. The dried food stuff, water, and rum had been stored, now all that remained were the fresh food and yucca bread.
The night before the launch, was the busiest of times. The ship's crew and officers checked and listed everything in the ship's log. The King's booty was checked, if one coin or gem was missing it would mean their lives. Two hours before the sun rose the passengers were on board. The great wooden ship left the port of, Pota y Cuba. The passengers watched the land vanish from their sight.
Many had come to the new world poor, but now they returned rich. Gone was the hardship of the islands of Hispania, Cuba, Dominicana, and Puerto Rico. Now they would live the good life in Spain. There was a few tears, but within a few weeks they would live out their lives in the comforted of civilization.
Once the ship was out to sea, the crew was busy with their work. The sails had to be check, so no rips would tear them. The mask and rigging needed daily inspection.
The lookout in the crow's nest kept his eyes open for land but most important in the first few days, pirates. The unbelievers of the devil's own nation, England allow these thieves to roam the seas and they even protected, as well as stocked them.
The English ships were not as strong as the Spanish ships, but they were faster. But if the ship reached the jet stream, the Spanish secret route, they would be safe.
The ship was in its second day, the winds filled its sails. The heat of the land replaced by the cool ocean air. The sailors were getting into their routine went the voice called from the crow's nest, "barco."
The Captain looked in his glass. He saw the ship. It is coming from the North, that is not good, he thought. The devils had set up colonies in the North. They didn't care that these lands had been claimed for Spain. Even the Pope himself had approved this claim. His hope was that the other ship hadn't seen them yet. He knew he was taking a change setting out earlier then the other ships, but his cargo was most important for he carried the Lady Maria de Martinez, niece of the King of Spain.
He ordered his ship to change course to the South, to the Leeward Islands. He kept his eye on the other ship. Mother of God he thought when it changed its course. He yelled to the crew to open the sails and head southward. Then he ordered each man to man his station and prepare for battle.
They had a little over two hours. The lookout called down to the Captain, every change he saw. As the ship came nearer the lookout could soon make out her lines, his heart was in his trough as he yelled, "barco de Ingles, pirata!" The Captain was studying the ship through his own glass.
As he made out the colors his face turn pale, the skull and cross bones in a sea of red. "Sweet Jesus," he said. He was going to battle with one of the most feared pirates on the seas, Bloody Red Richard.
He could no longer run nor could he expected any help. Now he and his crew were in a battle for their lives, for this one took no prisoners. He ordered his ship to keep their port to the pirates ship. His one hope was to blast them from the waters. His cannons were larger then the ones used by the dogs of England, but that meant he had to get closer in order to fire them.
Richard's spies had done well. He had received word of one ship setting out early carrying a cargo worth more then he or his crew could spend in their life time.
The Captain knew his ship thought, Richard. He knows he can't out run me so he isn't wasting his time. He plans on fighting. Now Richard orders his own ship to change course.
The English ships were lighter then the ones of Spain, which made them faster.
But a couple of good shots of the sixteen pound balls would sink him. His strategy was to keep to his enemies bow or aft.
The Spanish cannons were hooked down and pointed on the port or stern side of the ship. The English were able to use their cannons from any part of the ship.
The Spanish Captain ordered a shot. This was more for show, range, and aim then any hope of hitting the enemy. The pirate vessel stayed out of range of the cannons.
Richard ordered his ship to head to the bow. He knew this was the weakest part of the boat. The back and sides were built with aged wood, which was as strong as iron. His orders were to damage the boat but not to sink it.
The gold and jewels would be nice, but the only jewel he was thinking of was wearing a dress. The bastard of a Spanish King would pay dearly for his niece he had told his crew.
Now Richard's ship was in the front of the gallon. As the Spanish ship tried to turn, Richard kept to the front. His cannons began their own booming.
His crew had been in many battles and each man was well seasoned. The pirate's ship kept inching closer to the Spanish ship. Soon they would be close enough to use their grappling hooks. The main mast of the Spanish ship was struck and fell.
The thick smoke of the cannons fire was beginning to blind everyone. The pirates throw hooks onto the yardarms. The Spanish crew saw the pirates flying through the air like demons.
Richard's men knew that the Spanish crew were ready for a fight. They knew that it was kill or be killed. The deck was full of smoke and flames, set off by the knocking over of the lamps. The Spanish crew were brave fighters but the fear of these demons were to much. Soon the pirates had taken the deck.
The pirates now were in control of the ship. Now the survivors were rounded up and the passengers taken to the deck. The booty was now brought up. The rum, gold, silver, and jewels was placed into a pile. The passengers saw that their years of hard work was now for nothing.
Out of the fog walked one man, tall with reddish blond hair. The pirates open a path for him. He ordered some of his men to take the booty to the ship. The prisoners were scared; scared for their lives. Some of the foodstuff was brought up. Richard ordered a plank of wood to be put out over the water.
Cries were heard among the Spanish passengers and crew. When the food was hauled up onto the deck Richard told his men to throw it over along with the dead.
Within minutes the water was boiling as the sharks fed and fought each other.
Richard looked at the ship hands, everyone was surprised as he spoke to them in Spanish. He said, "I feel no ill will for you, after all we are brothers of the sea. I will give you a choice, walk the plank and die for those who give you scraps as your rewards or join me. If you join me then each of you will get an equal part of what we win. The choice is yours."
Never had the sailors heard about this, they had always been told that Richard killed everyone. To a man they stood and swear their allegiance to Richard. Richard now looked at what remained of the ships officers, a hope that they might live was not to be their fate. Richard ordered their formal crew to place them onto the plank.
One by one they were forced to walk the plank. Each man begged for mercy as they stood on the end of the board. The crewmen pushed them off with pikes.
They screamed as they were pushed and fell, then there was a splash, and their cries stopped as the sharks fed.
Richard now turned to the passengers. Each of them had lost the color in their face.
"What shall I do with you?" he asked. "I have your gold, and you have no wealthy families to pay to get you back."
Then one voice, a female voice used to being listen to spoke up, "I am the niece of his majesty King Philip of Spain. My Uncle will pay my ransom as well as the rest of my fellow passengers," she said.
Richard looked at her, this one wasn't afraid, and she was sweet to the eye. He smiled bowed his head slightly and with a wave of his hand invited them aboard his ship.
As they were going abroad one of the pirate crewmen grabbed Lady Maria, she quickly turned and slapped him across the face.
"How dare you touch me," she said. She then shrieked as he raised his hand to her.
Before he could deliver the blow, Richard had sprung into action. He caught the pirate's fist in mid air, twisting his arm into a hammerlock he now had it pined behind the man's back.
Speaking to him and the rest of he crew he said, "no one lays a hand upon my guests without my leave. Do you understand me?"
"Aye, Captain," they all said.
Richard had all the hostages taken below deck. He had them locked into a storage area then posted two guards. He chosen them from the new crew members.
"No one is to enter or leave without my say so. Food is to be given to them at the door. If my orders are disobeyed you will have a long swim. Do you understand?" he asked them. They said they did.
The stores of the Spanish ship was checked out. Anything of use to them was brought over to their ship, the rest left. The one prized Richard needed was the head of the Captain. This was to be sent to the governors of the islands as proof Richard had taken the ship. This along with letters written by the hostages would go through the chain of islands from one hand to another until it reached the right authorizes. If all worked out well Richard expected word back in three weeks then payment within two more weeks.
Once the Spanish ship had been looted the orders went out to set the ship on fire. As the pirate ship sailed away they watched it burn to the waterline. No traces would ever be found of it.
Now they set sail for home. It had been closed to two months sent they had seen it. When Richard had received word of this ship and it rich cargo he had set out. First he had gone to the lesser Antilles then up to the Leeward Islands then to a base of operations on the Virgin Islands. His spy's information had been right. He knew when the ship was to set sail and its course.
Richard's island fortress, looked just like any of hundreds of other islands. But this one had a very deep and twisting river opening onto a lake of clear water. This spring held the castle that was home to Richard and his men. As the hostages were lead off the boat they were shocked to see not a den of thieves but a village.
The hostages were taken to Richard's home. This place could have matched any of the grand estates of Europe. Each person was given their own room. Before he left to see to the unloading of his ship he said they were free to roam the grounds, and even visit the shops. The one rule was not to try to escape. First there was no place to go since they were on an island, and second there were dangers. And anyone who tried and survived would find the rest of their stay in irons.
The hostages spoke among themselves about what a strange man their host was. One minute he could be blood thirsty then the next he show the skills of a gentleman.
Lady Maria said to them, "we are here, nothing can change that fact. For now we must obey his rules if we have any change to get out of here alive."
Dinner that night was beyond anything that they had expected. Their plates were gold, the cups were silver with gemstones. The table was truly fit for a king. And the food, fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, and fresh baked bread with cheese.
No king ate this good. Richard saw to it that his guest had their fill of the finest food and drink. As a host he would have been the envy of all in the mother lands, his manners were that of a nobleman, not of a low life pirate.
After dinner and wine he bid each of them goodnight and began his nightly rounds. Soon each of them followed their host and went to their rooms.
The Lady Maria was preparing herself for the long night. She was brushing her hair as she set in front of the mirror. She saw the handle of the door turning, slowly so as not to make a sound. She watched as the door open and in stepped Richard. She was already on her feet facing the door. For a second Richard looked at her. Her dress was off and she had on petticoats and a stiff corset.
"A gentleman would knock before entering a lady's boudoir," she said returning his stare.
"Would my lady have me knock at my own door?" he asked
She covered the distant between them in two steps. Her arms locked around his strong neck. Their lips met, tasting the salty sweetness. Their passion had been building for each other. For four days they had been so closed yet unable to touch or even speak without arousing suspicion. Now however they could once again be together. "Oh darling it seems like ages since you last held me," Maria said as she kissed his face.
Richard returned her hot kisses, his strong arms held her. "It's been only since the night that you set sail," Richard replied. But the truth is he had missed his little spy.
Of all the people, who would suspect the King's own niece of spying for a common pirate. But Richard wasn't a common pirate, he was cousin of the Queen of England. Richard had met Maria first in Paris, and it had been love at first sight. But like Romero and Juliet, theirs was a love that could not be. Duty to ones country would never allow an Englishman and Spanish woman to live a normal life.
Richard had been heartbroken their last night together and set sail for the Carolina's. On the way to the new world he got the sea into his blood as the saying goes. He bought an old boat and set out as a buccaneer. For five years his reputation had grown. Richard had been daring, he had walked into the Spanish Islands to gather information. Many Governor's would have been surprised to had known that they had hosted the most wanted man in the Spanish world. Only once had Richard feared for his life.
Just over a year earlier at a party held for the special guest of the Governor of Cuba he came face to face with his Maria. She acted as if she didn't know him. It was as they danced that she asked if he ever heard of the awful pirate, Bloody Red Richard. His heart leap into his throat. She had whispered something into his ear and quickly ran off.
Richard had waited until all the lights went out, all but one lonely candle. Richard climbed up to the second floor and entered that window. He wondered if he could trust Maria or would he be putting his head into a noose!
Maria was waiting for him. They had not seen each for almost four years, but their reunion was as they had just parted. Richard and Maria held each other so tight that they felt as if they would break each other. Their kisses were as hot as the tropical sun. Richard picked Maria up in his strong arms and took her to the bed. They started undressing each other, stopping at time to kiss and touch.