“Drive him toward the beach!” Edward shouted. “We’ll corner him on the shore.”
Levi frowned at the sound of Edward’s plan but at this point he had little choice then to stay the course. He had no time to think up alternative ways to escape.
All three men slowed and Levi hoped no more men joined the chase because he would surely be caught. He jumped off an elevated embankment and plunged into the marsh separating the woods from the beach ahead. His muscles burned so much he felt like he waded through wet cement.
Several seconds later he heard the splash of his pursuers as they followed in after him. Thankfully they too moved like exhausted zombies. Edward pursued in the lead and Christopher followed right behind. Edward now carried a knife and Christopher trudged along with his saber almost falling under a few times.
Levi closed in on a thick patch of reeds and cattails in which he thought he could lose them but the pirates waded only a few yards behind. Levi didn’t have the speed to properly move out of sight, so he continued slogging in a straight line. His pursuers hacked at the stalks with their swords and Levi gained substantial ground on them at this time as they tired themselves further. Christopher shouted death threats as Levi disappeared.
“Death awaits you on the beach you stinking beast! Stop now and we won’t bury ye like we did the woman. We’ll kill ye quick but it won’t be painless.”
“Seriously?” Levi thought. People really spoke like that? Levi ignored his rants but insecurity about what lied ahead plagued him. He might be running straight into a pirate camp on the beach.
Many minutes passed before the thick patch of reeds and grass dissipated. Levi turned and no longer saw or heard his pursuers. He had no idea where they went but knew they had not passed him in the marsh.
He emerged onto Haven beach exhausted, soaked from the waist down and staggered towards his left in hopes he might find a place to hide. The wind blew much stronger on the water than in the woods and on the horizon he noticed a front of storm clouds moving out to sea. Rain had hardened the sand and he stared in amazement to discover it did not look the same as the one to which he often brought his children. It extended into the water much further and around him he noticed hills of sand, like mini dunes.
Across the creek sat Rigby Island which appeared more like an island rather than an oversized sand bar. Strange Levi thought, I’m viewing the beach at a time when years of erosion had not ravaged it.
He considered reentering the marsh in another spot and hiding as he figured Christopher and Edward would emerge from the marsh behind him. If not to continue their pursuit at the least, to return to their ship. Generally, a pirate sloop entered White’s creek between Rigby Island and Haven beach and hid behind the island’s dunes but he saw no such ship.
Then something in the small, ankle high waves caught his eye. A man floated in and skidded to a halt on the shore. Gazing around he saw another a little further down the beach.
He listened for his pursuers and confident they no longer gave chase, ran to the first man and rolled over his bony body. The bumpy redness of his skin indicated the bay creatures had nibbled on him. He wore nothing but a shirt and worn pair of pants. His left hand absent a finger. His beard matched his long black hair and he looked no more than twenty or twenty-five years of age.
The experience captivated Levi and he hurried to the second corpse. Upon reaching him, he saw other bodies floating onto the shore. The man floated face up with a pistol tucked into his belt and a dagger on his hip. He noticed no wounds indicating how he died so Levi speculated he had drowned. He scanned the beach. No Edward or Christopher and he sensed he would not see them again.
Levi proceeded onward and examined each man. One he passed appeared no older than twelve. This boy he dragged onto the beach. His eyes, frozen open with death, stared past Levi at the stars. His head wound suggested he may have died prior to entering the water and did not drown like the others. His long, blond hair smelled of mud. His clothes, much too large for him, must have belonged to another fully grown pirate who no longer needed them or of one killed.
Levi closed the child’s eyes and said a prayer for him. Though the prayer came three hundred years late, Levi knew God heard it and hoped the words would make a difference when the boy had to account for his brief life of piracy.
Levi walked further and spotted a familiar face. To his shock he saw Edward the pirate, one of the men who moments ago chased him through the woods. His face bore far more weathered marks than the others. He may have been younger than he appeared because the hard, sun baked life of a sailor helped one’s youthful appearance, little.
Edward’s mouth hung agape and Levi saw three gold teeth inside. He contemplated praying for Edward but could not rationalize praying for a man who moments ago fought to kill him; a man who shot his own friend in the back and buried a woman alive.
He walked up and down searching for Christopher’s body feeling a little odd about leaving Edward’s behind to lie in the surf. He figured he should have more compassion for his enemy but he hadn’t the heart to forgive so soon.
He didn’t find Christopher but counted eighteen others on the beach and guessed the remaining crew might have drifted elsewhere.
On the horizon, the fierce lightning and low rumble of thunder from the passing storm faded in the distance. Did this storm destroy their vessel? How did Edward return to his ship when minutes ago he chased Levi? A few minutes more he sailed on his ship and now he lay dead on the beach!
History, Levi deducted, progressed according to plan. Edward, after killing William and Mary, returned to his ship only to have a storm drown him shortly thereafter. This explained why Haven beach appeared so much larger. Levi saw it as these pirates did three hundred years ago. He wondered at what point Christopher and Edward vanished in their pursuit of him. Perhaps Mary’s curse held more power than mere words and her vengeance doomed them.
Mary! He had forgotten about Mary! He hustled to the woods taking a different route around the marsh grass. Though he traveled with little obstacles his chest and legs burned and he moved much slower than desired because of his wet clothes. He had the unsettling feeling that time for Mary had advanced as it had for the two pirates pursuing him. When he reached her resting place, he worried he would locate no remains of her.
Finding his way took time because the woods were unfamiliar and the vegetation had also grown and changed.
After wandering around for twenty minutes, he located what he believed to be the spot where Mary and her husband were killed. As he thought, he saw no fresh soil and a thick layer of pine straw covered the spot. The surrounding trees he recognized.
To be certain he removed his small flashlight that he fortunately had snatched before fleeing his tent, and searched for the tree which Christopher’s pistol ball had splintered. Ahead, just where he guessed, he found a small mark on the trunk. The damage looked old because the tree had healed over time.
Levi placed his hands on his hips and evaluated Mary and William’s burial spot. Fewer than thirty minutes had passed since their deaths and yet the woods had aged decades.
He still heard her heart wrenching cries and curses. Did she die fully buried or did they take time to leave her head above ground?
Few people get to see another murdered especially in so disturbing a fashion. Levi felt uneasy and almost sick when he considered the reality of such evil existing in the world. What might they have done if they caught him?
Two heavy chests were tied to Mary and William’s feet and thrown in with them. Levi presumed the chests contained treasure per Christopher’s mention of their attack on one of King Charles’ ships. Evidently the theory of pirates burying their booty held water.
Charles II was a deposed king of England exiled in France for ten years after his father Charles I died. Years later Charles took his rightful place on the throne but historians theorized when he first fled England he may have sent money to the New World to establish residence because he feared for his life in England.
Could the chests buried with Mary contain the gold Charles delivered to America? If so, then the bounty would comfortably take care of his wife and children. His wife would no doubt view him in a much improved manner and he could escape the belittling torment of his father. He would share with Maxine so she could pay for her husband’s hospital bills. He could even fix up Doris’ home.
He ran back, kicked away the blanket of pine needles, and dug through the dirt with his hands. He completely forgot about the murders he had just witnessed nor considered he unearthed their bones. Digging would take hours but the promise of treasure legitimized the effort and he didn’t want to risk driving all the way home for a shovel and lose this spot.
He unearthed only a few inches of soil when a shrill cry exploded above him. He dropped his shovel and cowered. In the sky he spotted the ghostly figure of a woman floating over the trees. The anger in her loud voice struck fear into Levi’s heart more than any pirate or skeletal soldier.
She is angry with me for digging he concluded! She does not want me to disturb the treasure!
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he shouted, but she continued with her shrieking. In the darkness he felt coming towards him a cold rush of evil. Sticks snapped and he heard the clashing of branches as a force pushed through them intent on getting to Levi. Rather than peer into the darkness and stand frozen like a fool, Levi fled through the trees in terror. I am gonna die he thought!