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Sweet Trade of the Red Coral

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Chapter 1

Floor boards creaked as patrons passed to and fro, sloshing mugs overflowing with alcohol.  The smell of rum perfumed the room, especially the breath of the men seated around a rickety table playing a game of high stakes poker.  The Peg Leg was not a pub for the faint of heart, but rather beckoned the cutlass of every gentlemen o’ fortune, in other words, pirates.  

Captain Ezekiel Jones sat in one of the chairs around the poker table.  Only one other player was left out of the seven that had started, Captain Argus the Black.  The game became tense as each man kept upping the ante each round.  The men were rivals not only at sea, but every time they met on shore.  Captain Argus’ eyes shifted uneasily back and forth between his cards and Captain Jones’ face.  He was holding three Jacks and up until now felt certain of his hand, except that Jones sat there so calm, the smoke from his pipe curling lazily around his face.

“It’s to you, “ said Jones.

Argus shifted in his chair and said, “I tell ya what.”  A crafty idea started to form in Argus’ mind.  “Let me loosen up the purse strings and throw in something that’ll really interest ya.”

Jones paused then leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, “Really, and here I thought you’d thrown in all but the barnacles on the bottom of your ship already.”

Argus scoffed and spit, “Ha, you wish.”

“Well then,” said Jones.

“I be bettin’ Red Coral,” Argus said quickly.

Jones raised his eyebrows, genuinely surprised, “Red Coral?  That’s awful bold of you.”  He took a deep breath and leaned forward again, “But I imagine it’s time to put you out of your misery.”  Jones pushed in the rest of his booty to add to the heaping pile of money, gold, jewelery, even a small jeweled scabbard already in the middle of the table.  “I call.  Your cards, Captain Argus.”

Argus grinned from ear to ear smacking his three Jacks down on the table.  Now it was his turn to lean back in anticipation.

Jones took another deep breath, “Three Jacks.  Well, that does beat my three nines.”  Argus started to lean forward to sweep up the heap of treasure.  “But, it doesn’t beat a full house.”  Argus froze with his arms in mid air then he brought his fists down hard on the table.

“You lily-livered, scurvy dog, son of a...”  

“Now, now,” Jones said fingering the hilt of his cutlass.  “There’s no need to get all upset o’er a simple game of cards.  You bet and you lost, fair and square.  I’ll be ‘round tomorrow to pick up the Red Coral.  What say you, noon?”

Argus forced his hands to unclench as he pulled back slowly into his chair a grin playing across his face.  “Aye, noon it is.”

Jones gave him a hard look, “You wouldn’t want to cheat me on a bet, Captain Argus, I would chase you down where’er you sailed if you did.”

Argus returned the hard look, “I ne’er welch on a bet.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.”  And sometimes, he thought to himself, you win even when you lose.

Captain Ezekiel Jones stepped lightly out into the tropical night air feeling thoroughly pleased with himself.  After tonight, he could finally make good on his promise to his first mate, and friend, Casey, and make him the Captain of his own ship.  Captain Casey Dawkins, had a nice ring to it, he thought, as he hurried towards his own ship to make plans for tomorrow.

The sun was directly overhead and hot with only a faint breeze coming off the sea as Captain Jones along with Casey and four other swarthy sailors at their heels headed straight for the sloop to take them to their new ship.  Casey Dawkins couldn’t hide the pleasure in his eyes at possessing this formidable ship that rivaled Captain Jones’ The Jewel of the Damned.  The group’s pace slowed as it neared the sloop.  A large group of the Red Coral’s crew gathered around with Captain Argus standing squarely out front.

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