“Drive him toward the beach!” Edward shouted. “We’ll corner him on the shore.”
Barnaby frowned at the sound of Edward’s plan but at this point he had little choice and in his fatigue could not think up alternative ways to escape. He looked to his right but he could not see the road so he pressed on.
All three men began to slow and Barnaby hoped a fresh man wouldn’t appear from out of nowhere to join the chase because he would then 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 that 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.
Ahead Barnaby saw thick patches of reeds and cattails in which he thought sure he could lose them but the pirates waded only a few yards behind and Barnaby didn’t have the speed to properly move out of sight, so he continued to proceed in a straight line. His pursuers began to hack at the stalks with their swords and Barnaby gained substantial ground on them at this time as they tired themselves further. Christopher shouted death threats as Barnaby disappeared.
“Death awaits you on the beach you foul beast!” he shouted. “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?” Barnaby thought. People really spoke like that? Barnaby ignored his rants but insecurity about what lied ahead bothered him. He might be running straight into a pirate camp on the beach. If this occurred, he would have no where to flee.
Many minutes passed before the thick patch of reeds and grass began to thin. Barnaby looked behind and could no longer see or hear Edward and Christopher. He had no idea where they went but knew they could not have passed him in the marsh.
He emerged onto Haven beach exhausted, soaked from the waist down and began to stagger 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 could see an army 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 looked more like an island rather than an oversized sand bar as Barnaby always considered it to be. Strange Barnaby thought, it’s as though he were transported back through time to an era when years of erosion had not ravaged the beach.
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, but he noticed no ship present on the water. Generally a pirate sloop would enter into White’s creek between Rigby Island and Haven beach and hide 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. Barnaby looked and saw another a little further down the beach.
He listened for his pursuers and confident they no longer pursued him, ran to the first man and rolled him over. He was gaunt and 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. A finger on his left hand was missing but this appeared to be an older wound. He had a beard and long black hair and was probably no more than twenty or twenty-five years of age.
Engrossed by this experience, Barnaby hurried down the beach to a second corpse. Upon reaching him, he saw further down 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 saw no other wounds on him indicating how he died so Barnaby speculated he had drowned. He looked around. No Edward or Christopher and he sensed he would not be seeing them again.
Barnaby proceeded onward looking over each man. One he passed looked no older than twelve. This boy he dragged onto the beach. His eyes frozen open with death looked past Barnaby at the stars. It appeared from the wound on his head that 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 who had been killed.
Barnaby closed the child’s eyes and said a prayer for him. Though the prayer came three hundred years late, Barnaby knew God would hear it and hoped the words would make a difference when the boy had to account for his brief life of piracy.
Barnaby 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. He looked the same but he no longer held the knife he carried while chasing Barnaby. He appeared older than the other pirates judging by the creases in his face, perhaps about forty or forty-five but appearances could be deceiving. Because of the hard, weathered life he led as a sailor, he could have been five to ten years younger and only looked old.
Edward’s mouth hung agape and Barnaby could see three gold teeth inside. He contemplated praying for Edward but could not rationalize why he would pray 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 could not find Christopher but did count eighteen others on the beach and guessed the remaining crew might have drifted elsewhere.
Barnaby looked outward to the horizon and noticed once more the fierce lightning and a low rumble of thunder fading in the distance. Could this storm have destroyed their vessel? How did Edward get back onto his ship when minutes ago he chased Barnaby? Minutes after that he sailed on his ship and now he lay dead on the beach.
History, Barnaby 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. Barnaby 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 sunk the ship.
Mary! He hustled back 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 back took a while because he was not familiar with the woods and the vegetation had also appeared to grow and change with time.
After wandering around for many minutes, he found 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 were definitely the same ones.
To be certain he removed his small flashlight he fortunately had kept in his pocket rather than leave in the tent for the Spaniard to hack to bits, and searched for the tree which Christopher’s pistol ball had splintered. Up ahead, just where he guessed, he found a small mark on the tree where the projectile had struck. The damage looked old because the tree had healed over time.
Barnaby placed his hands on his hips and looked back to Mary and William’s burial spot. More than thirty minutes could not have passed since their deaths and yet the woods clearly looked decades older. He still heard her heart wrenching cries and curses. He wondered if she died fully buried or if they took the time to ensure her head remained above ground.
Few people get to see another murdered especially in so disturbing a fashion. Barnaby 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. Barnaby presumed the chests contained treasure considering he heard Christopher mention their attack on one of King Charles’ ships. Evidently the theory of pirates burying their booty was not so far fetched.
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 that when he first fled England he may have sent money to the New World so he could set up residence because he feared for his life in England.
Could it be possible the chests buried with Mary contained the gold Charles delivered to America? If so, then the bounty would have to be substantial. It would be enough to 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 could 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 began digging through the dirt with his hands. He completely forgot about the murders he had just witnessed nor considered he would be unearthing their bones. He knew it would take hours but the promise of treasure made the effort more than worth it and he didn’t want to risk driving all the way home for a shovel and lose this spot in the woods.
He fell to his knees and like a dog began digging with his hands. He unearthed only a few inches of soil when a shrill cry exploded above him. He stopped digging and cowered as he looked upward. In the sky he could make out the ghostly figure of a woman floating over the trees. The anger in her loud voice struck fear into Barnaby’s heart more than any pirate or skeletal soldier could.
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. Out of 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 Barnaby. Rather than peer into the darkness and stand frozen like fool, Barnaby fled through the trees in terror. I’m gonna die he thought!