Chapter 21: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Part 1 of 2)

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Cade tells us even Captains Morgan and Drake couldn’t take the fort, but my guess is they were going about it the wrong way. While they tried to conquer it from the outside by way of the sea, we have to exploit its weaknesses from within.

With less than a day and a half until the ball, we don’t have any time to waste and spend the rest of the afternoon meticulously planning every detail.

The elder Kincade would ideally have me sitting aside, quietly waiting for instructions. Unfortunately for him, as the only person among us who’s ever set foot inside Fort Portobelo, my knowledge about its layout and peculiarities is invaluable. When he can’t refute this, Kincade is ready to cut me out of the action by arguing that my face is too easily recognizable in town. However, even this logic falls apart when I reveal that the annual celebration is a masquerade, therefore, every participant’s identity would be conveniently disguised.

He finally relents, and all the major players in the plan gather around a large table on the quarterdeck: Cade and his father, Leonor and me, as well as Femi and Mister Smythe. Over the next few hours, we come up with a list of items we’ll need, as well as the strategy for the undoubtedly ambitious undertaking.

“How well should we be armed, captain?” Smythe at one point interjects.

Although he wasn’t being addressed, the elder Kincade mutters, “Well, dead men tell no tales.”

Cade, however, shakes his head. “We only kill if there’s no other alternative. I won’t have any more blood on my hands than absolutely necessary.”

No one forces the issue, but the complexity of the scheme becomes evident when getting inside the fort and kidnapping Luciana seem like the easy parts. Breaking into the treasury and moving the hundreds of pounds of gold – likely stored as both coins and bars – will be much, much harder.

There are a few other contentious issues – including the exact make-up of the men involved – but once the logistics are worked out to everyone’s satisfaction, it’s time to gather the supplies. Taking the rowboat, five men led by Sailing Master Till leave for shore. Although the man is just the fourth most senior officer on board, he’s the next best thing because Cade, Smythe, and Femi are all potentially too recognizable to venture onto the mainland during daylight hours.

The group returns the following morning on a small sailboat pulling the other, empty vessel. After tethering the boat to the Phoenix Rising, the men unload several dozen woven, straw bags into a large pile on deck.

“Did you encounter any suspicions, Mister Till?” Cade approaches the man as he thirstily finishes a cup of grog.

“No, sir. No trouble at all.” Till wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “The foreman in the local tin mine was happy to sell us his best sacks for a fair price. Tested ‘em myself. They’re quite strong and should do the trick.”

“Good. What about the coaches?”

“We got two of ‘em, as requested. Will be delivered straight from the stables by eight to the discussed locations.”

“Excellent.” Cade pats the man on the shoulder. “Go rest up. You’ll need all of your energy tonight. That goes for you, too, Ana.” He turns to me.

“But I’m not tired. I just recently got up,” I protest, but he’s already gently pushing me toward the stairs to the upper deck.

“Then I suggest you go find Leonor. She agreed to provide you a gown for tonight, and it may need alterations.”

Stopping at the bottom step, I look over my shoulder. “Why can’t I wear the dress I already have?”

Cade leans closer and whispers into my ear. “If this event is as important as you say, we can’t draw attention to ourselves by not looking enough like the local gentry. Leonor can be insufferable, but she does have a knack for fashion.”

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