The following morning the crew assembled on the deck of the Revenge. Captain Ardent addresses them from the poop deck.
“Well lads, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve just written another chapter in your own legend. The only crew clever and daring enough to steal straight from Port Royal’s treasury. I tip my hat to you all, you may not be the finest of men, but you are the finest of pirates. Now, I know all you want to do is take your share in what is a very large haul, find a tavern, a homely woman and some good food, and I don’t blame you. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have a problem at all, but I’ve been informed of a target that’s too big to pass up, so big it will ensure our place is legend as the greatest pirates ever to sail the seas and let us live in luxury for the rest of our lives. So are you with me men, will you stay on board, hold off on the taverns and give yourself a chance to make us all very rich men?”
“This goes to a vote. I for one would follow the Captain anywhere, if he says it’s a haul too big to pass up, then I know it must be so, but each man needs to make his own decision,” said Jackson.
“How big is this haul?”
“That’s a good question, Smithy. I don’t know for certain, but if my source is right, and I’m confident he is, it’ll be enough for us all to live like kings, enough to retire if you want.”
“All those against, raise a hand.”
One or two sailors raise their hands.
“All those fore.”
“Everyone else raises their hand.”
“Okay, this one is going to take skill, cunning and lots of planning, so first we head back to base and rest up for a few days.”
Sometime later, in the port of Hispaniola, sits a merchant vessel, one of a hoard of different ships that Ardent has captured and uses for different tasks. In a tavern frequented by the crews of merchant vessels is Ardent, Jackson and eight of their crew, dressed as Danish merchants. They’re drinking and making merry, befriending anyone in the place, buying drinks for other merchants. A group of Spaniards enter. Ardent catches the eye of his men, all of whom are acting drunk, but are bright-eyed.
After a while, Ardent and Jackson present themselves in front of the Spanish Captain.
“It’s good to meet a fellow captain, a man who shares the responsibility of command. Would you let me buy you a drink?”
Ardent grabs a passing waitress.
“Julie, bring out a couple of bottles of that Spanish red wine and a bottle of your best Port.”
He returns his gaze to the Spanish captain.
“It’s not particularly good, but it’s the best I can offer, Captain.”
“Senior, I must decline your offer.”
“Nonsense, I will be offended if you don’t have a drink with me. I am Jos van Werter, captain of the Den Vaag. We’re headed for home after making our fortune, loaded with sugar. It’ll be the first time we’ve seen home since we left five years ago, now you understand why my men and I are so jolly?”
“Congratulations, Captain. In such circumstances I will be happy to drink with you.”
The drinking goes on, both crews get very drunk, and very chummy. At the end of the night they head back to their vessels, wishing each other well.
The next day, out on the open ocean, two ships, both flying the Spanish standards make their way in balmy, breezy weather. One is the Delgrano, a heavily armed Spanish warship, the other is the Valdez, a merchant vessel, still heavily armed, but sitting heavy in the water, weighed down by a heavy cargo. The quartermaster of the Valdez is looking through a telescope, he turns and steps over to his captain.
“Captain, look, a merchant’s in trouble, it looks like it’s been attacked.”
The Captain grabs the telescope, through it he can see a merchant ship, sails all over the place, debris floating in the sea around it, a wisp of black smoke rising from it’s deck.
“It’s the Den Vaag.”
“Signal the Delgrano that we’re going in to check for survivors and see if they need assistance.”
“Captain, I would suggest caution, it could be a trap.”
“Good thinking, Reyez. Tell the Delgrano to keep an eye out for any ships, tell the marines to prepare in case we need to repel boarders.”
Slowly the two ships close on the apparent merchant vessel. The Delgrano keeps her distance, her crew nervously searching the horizon. As the Valdez draws alongside the Den Vaag they see a deck strewn with sails and debris, the aftermath of a fight. The quartermaster shouts:
“Ho there, anyone aboard?”
A few pirate crew, still dressed as merchantmen, looking ragged and weary, slowly creep from hiding places carrying a variety of make-do weapons.
“Captain Rodriguez, am I glad to see you,” replies Ardent. “We were attacked by pirates, we gave them our valuables and then managed to drive them off. We thought you were them returning to try again to take our ship.”
“You look like you put up a good fight, Captain.”
“My crew did me proud, but there were too many of them, my quartermaster, who is also our medical officer, was wounded, have you a surgeon on board?”
“I will send him over presently.” To his quartermaster, “Reyez, fetch the doctor immediately, get the men to fix a plank over to the Den Vaag, tell the marines to stand down and tell the Delgrano to watch for pirates in case they decide to come back.”
As the doctor appears on deck the Captain walks down to join him. The crew on both ships finished securing a plank to allow them to cross over. Reyez, you have the ship, I’ll go with the doctor.”
He points at two sailors.
“Martinez, Vasquez, with me.”
The four men cross the plank to the other ship. Ardent greets them as they are helped off the other end.
“My thanks, Captain, and to your doctor. He’s this way.”
Ardent leads them below decks to an area where Jackson is lying, looking feverish in some blood soaked sheets. The doctor prepares himself, rolls his sleeves up, opens his bag. As he lifts with bloody sheet Jackson raises a pistol aimed straight at his face. The two sailors are grabbed by Ardent’s men and Ardent pulls a pistol and aims it at the Spanish Captain.
“I’m sorry Captain.”
“What is this?”
Ardent, to one of his men: “Davies, tell the others to prepare, but not to show themselves until I give the signal.”
Davies disappears out the door.
“I’m afraid we’re stealing your ship, Captain, we’re pirates.”
“You’ll never take it, I have nearly a hundred men on that ship, fifty of them are marines. And I have a warship with me, you’ll never outrun or outgun her and she has a hundred marines onboard. You won’t get away. You may as well give up now.”
“It’s a tempting offer, Captain, but we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves yet. Feel free to sit, we may be waiting a while.”
A tense half an hour passes before anyone speaks.
“Face it, Captain, whatever you’re waiting for isn’t coming.”
Some muffled cries come from on deck. Suddenly a sailor shoots his head through the door.
“Sail ahoy, Captain. It’s the Revenge.”
“Very good, tell the others to deploy, making sure to stay out of sight.”
“On your feet please, Captain.”
Ardent leads the Captain, a pistol to his throat, onto the deck. Jackson leads the doctor and two other crewmen bring the remaining sailors. Ardent looks to his first mate and nods. Ardent and the others make for the plank joining the two ships, meanwhile, thirty crew members appear and silently make their way either up rigging or across to the Valdez. The crew of the Valdez are all up at the bow, staring out to watch the Delgrano chase after the Revenge. Ardent and his crew get on deck without being seen.
Instantly the Valdez crewmen all turn round.
“I said: Nobody Move!”
Ardent holds the pistol to Captain Rodriguez’s throat, making sure to use him as a shield. His crew, in the rigging and on the decks of both ships are pointing muskets of all shapes and sizes at the down at the deck.
“I want you all to lay down your arms, right now.”
There’s a pause, nobody moves.
“Do it now or I’m going to blow your captain’s head off.”
Reyez shouts to the crew.
“Okay, lower your weapons.”
They slowly drop their weapons.
“Good, now get moving over the plank and do what your told. If you do as you’re told, no one gets hurt.”
They slowly begin filing down across the deck to the plank and over to the Den Vaag.
“What are you going to do to my crew?”
“Nothing, if they do as they’re told. Richards, you and your squad pick up any stragglers.”
A large guy, Richards, and five other men make for below decks.
“Jackson, get this ship ready to run.”
Jackson releases the doctor, “Doctor, would you please join the others.”
He looks to his captain, who nods and then heads off to join the other crew filing across the plank. Jackson calls to a few other men who begin rigging the sails.
“You’re stealing my ship.”
“Yes, we are, but it’s the gold, silver and precious gems in your hold we’re interested in.”
“The Delgrano will hunt you down. She’ll sink you rather than lose that treasure. You’ll be dead before you can spend it.”
“Now, now, Captain, there’s no need to be like that. In case you hadn’t noticed, your warship is off chasing one of my other ships, a ship she cannot catch. By the time they realise what’s happening, we’ll be too far away to catch. I’m leaving you the Den Vaag so you and your men can get home, so don’t be too bitter, she’s a good ship, breaks my heart to leave her.”
“Then don’t. Get back on her and I’ll let you and your men sail away under my protection.”
“I’m afraid not, Captain. With the haul in your hold I could buy a fleet of ships identical to her.”
As they finish talking the last of the Spanish crew are ushered aboard the Den Vaag. Jackson appears beside Ardent.
“We’re ready, Captain.”
“Signal the men to come over and get us underway, as much sail as she’ll take.”
“Well, it’s time to say goodbye. I enjoyed meeting you, Captain, I hope we don’t part on bad terms, even if I am stealing your ship.”
“I appreciate your treatment of me and my men, Captain, but if I see you again I will kill you.”
“I understand, goodbye.”
Ardent ushers him onto the plank, the minute he steps off it the other end it is ripped away and all lines between the ships cut. The Valdez immediately deploys full sails and moves off, turning sharply and heading away in the opposite direction to the Spanish warship, which is still intent on catching the Revenge.