Teaser – Roland: of pirates and patriots
Roland: of pirates and patriots – chapter one
September, 1800, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean
The sun was dying again, extinguished by the horizon of water in the distance. The wispy clouds above looked like the eyebrows of an old man. They turned slowly from white to orange to dark gray. Then they were gone, absorbed into the night that was just starting to swallow the remaining day. The ocean was a polished table, flat and still; it was a cause for concern, of course, among the captain and crew of the merchant vessel, but Roland didn’t understand that. His twelve-year-old eyes only saw the beauty of sunset, the purity of nature entering another cycle of wonder. He had come to love the ever-engaging, ever-changing canvas of the water and the movement of the schooner, rocking softly in shallow waves. Conditions had been dead calm for the last twelve days.
Worn and tired and sodden by years of having boards and seas under his feet, sails over his head, and an endless line of worn and tired and sodden men to command, Captain Charles Bigelow watched the boy standing by the rail. Roland’s elbows rested on the wood, his woolen sailor’s cap pulled tight over his ears, his cheeks cradled in his hands as he stared out to the west. The captain tried to remember what it felt like to be absorbed in wonder, but couldn’t—it was just too long ago. Given his present predicament, he doubted the feeling would come through anyway. For two weeks the schooner had floated without a puff of wind. Nothing had guided it. Nothing had pulled it out of the inevitable force of the slow and merciless current pushing it closer and closer to unknown waters. It was like so many other recent events Bigelow could do nothing about.
He choked back tears as he looked out at the last gasp of day and thought about his only son, James, who was now lost to him, taken by his ex-wife, along with almost everything else. The only property Bigelow had kept was the warehouse on Cahir Street in the Isle of Dogs, the center of London’s marine commerce.
However, as the violent events of three weeks before flashed through his mind, he wondered if that had been wise. He had not killed those men, to be sure, but he had been responsible for the events that caused their deaths. His body tensed as he saw again the blood and heard the dizzying whirlwind of movement and screams of men dying on the docks next to his vessel. The captain tried to close his mind’s ears to the gunshots and plunging knives. The sounds that the four murdered men had made as they passed from this world would haunt him forever, he knew—as would the last earthly words of his dear friend, which pulsed in his consciousness: Take care of Roland.
Bigelow wondered what awaited him when—if—he reached his destination. He put his thick fingers to his jaw, still square and strong after all the years that managed to soften other parts of his face, and rubbed his sandpaper beard, considering the decisions he had made.
Was it worth the risk? Was it worth the cost?