Part the One Hundred Forty Fourth: Closing the Deal
For too many silent seconds, the Raging Gale’s shore party stood with weapons at the ready. The loud crash that startled them gave way to the silence of the forest and the occasional birdsong.
“So jumpy, Capitáne,” said Esteban. “If a tree falls in the forest, does there have to be a fight?”
The shore party stood down as Esteban smiled. Hope still didn’t trust him and kept a wary eye on the man.
“We don’t have time for foolishness,” said Abigail. “We saw action and need to make quick repairs. We need wood from you, everything that you can conveniently misplace, but we also need all possible stores for the Gale, and that’s where you and your socios come in handy.”
“All the stores as well?” Esteban asked. “Dos mio, how bad was this action?”
“We had to row our way in, going light. We were lucky we did not lose too much sail when the booms and yards were sundered.”
“I’m surprised you’re not asking me to grab a sailmaker to keep you well trimmed.”
“That’d be too risky,” Abigail said, shaking her head. “We need to be in and out without raising alarms.”
Esteban looked intently at Abigail and her party as he stroked his chin in contemplation. Hope did not like the way his eyes kept landing on her and Osei.
“There’s risk here, as you said, no matter what,” he finally responded. “I suppose I could ask for just about anything I wanted, could I not?”
“Are ye turning into a bilge rat on me? Thinking me so desperate that I’d take any bad offer you might make?”
“If your ship is that badly off, Rojo, I’m willing to bet that you have very little to trade with in any event.”
“And ye’d have me broken on the rocks then,” said Abigail with a smile while her hand moved slowly to her side, “with one less steady customer to come to you with goods.”
Esteban inhaled deeply before he replied, “Ah, the practical consideration. I could make a killing now, but that would be bad for business between us, si. And even if making you sell to me one of your crew would insure you get you off Borinquen con la primera brisa, you’d sooner see me dead and take your chances in town then do that.”
“You’re so understanding, Esteban. That’s what I like about you, amigo.”
“So we can talk business after you put that down,” said Esteban with a smile. “Were you going to shoot me or stab me if I pressed my luck?”
Abigail revealed the club handle of the pistol as she adjusted the sash around her hips to show how she was armed, still smiling.
He laughed. “Siempre un placer que hace negocio, Rojo,” he said as she concealed the gun again.
“What an odd way to do business,” Hope said aloud to no one.
“The ways of dealing with crooked Spaniards,” said Osei, shaking his head as Abigail and Esteban negotiated.
“Still, it did seem close there. You and I could have…” she trailed.
“Even if she could,” he said with a weary sigh, “she’d never see me sold into slavery again.”
Hope stared at Osei, hard pressed to respond to that…
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