Part the Two Hundred Sixty Fifth: What Men Most Desire
Hope continued to stare at the large map de Colera had mounted, filled with bits of Abigail’s knowledge etched in the appropriate part of the surface depicting the New World where each applied.
“And once he has this,” Hope said as she took it all in, “once he’s committed this to memory, made it as close at hand as it is in your head, he’ll be able to plot course anywhere in the New World with skill beyond any seaman alive. He’d be in and out of ports with nefarious purpose faster than any ship under any flag out there.”
“Save those ships that fly under no flag,” said de Flanders.
“You mean the ones he’d have letter of marque to hunt down on behalf of the King of Spain? He crosses the line between the two with impunity. It would be a very short time before he would become the sole master of the sea.”
“But the Viceroy wouldn’t stand for it,” said de Rojo. “He’d soon realize what was happening and stop him, wouldn’t he?”
“If de Colera could impress others with his skills to support him, or buy them off with his illicit trades, there’d be little he could do to stop him. He’s probably already got quite a cabal out there from the treasures we’ve seized from him.”
“What kind of treasures?” de Flanders asked.
“What matter is that now?”
“It matters quite a bit. Having risked our lives to get this far, and at some cost, is it not fair to wonder what he may have that would make these risks worth it and can be taken with us?”
“Are you suggesting that there needs to be more to move you than just fear of a blackheart roaming the seas, dangerous and unstoppable?”
“A fair question,” said Abigail, “and one any man going on the account would certainly ask.”
Hope turned to stare at her with a stunned expression.
“Mind ye,” said Abigail, “he’s got a weakness that requires him to rely on gold dust as the mood strikes, which is why there’s a fair amount of it under that covering.”
Twice, de Flanders looked back and forth between her and the hidden pile, but when he decided to investigate he ran for it and flung the covering. The chests containing bags of fine gold flakes put a smile on his face as he ran his fingers through the treasure.
“There’s not a sea dog alive,” Abigail spilled into Hope’s ear softly, “that will ever do anything solely out of charity or honor. There must always be a promise of reward to keep him in line.”
“Well,” said Hope, “I’m glad you now all have something that made this journey worth it. And we can take it and run as soon as one last task be done.”
“And that be?” asked Mullins.
“Burn this,” said Hope. “The map must burn.”
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