A Pirate's Tale - Part X
The Robertson Heritage, Part X
06/01/2008 - Special thanks to one of our faithful readers, Rachel Tenney, for her editorial comments and contributions!
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Jikes had heard that when someone was about to die, his whole life would flash before his eyes. He wondered whether or not that was really true. Jikes didn't want to look back over his life.
Still, as the executioner placed the noose over Jikes' head, he couldn't help thinking back. He thought about the family he hadn't seen since childhood. He thought of all the years he'd spent in piracy. He thought of Duke, Charlotte and the rest of his newfound "family" in San Mateo. The people who believed in him – trusted him – for the first time in as long as he could remember.
If only things had been different! Jikes had less than a year in his past that he was unashamed to recall.
Jikes didn't understand his own feelings. Fear was not the word he would he would use to describe them. His heart was racing, he could hardly breath, but he still had a peace of mind he couldn't understand.
He dreaded the pain. What would it feel like? Jikes didn't know. As the drumbeats grew faster, he shut his eyes...
The terrible anticipation of his fate made Jikes feel sick. He trembled and sweat as the minutes dragged on for hours in his mind, but nothing happened. He waited for the platform to drop out from beneath him, but it remained secure. At long last, the drum's ominous rhythm came to a stop...
Was this what it felt like to die? The drums had stopped – that was supposed to signify that the final moment of Jikes' life, but he hadn't felt a thing. Was he in Heaven?
Jikes didn't want to open his eyes, but he forced himself. He started with just one...
He was still atop the platform, noose securely fastened around his neck, looking out over a crowd of angry faces who were hungry for what they perceived as justice. Jikes had not committed a crime, but even he understood that the evidence appeared beyond question to incriminate him. So what had changed?
One thing. Climbing up onto the platform was a man. Jikes wished he could shield the bright sun with his hands and get a clearer view of the stranger, be he friend or foe, but his hands were tied so tightly behind him that they were tingling and numb.
The crowd began to stir and mutter amongst themselves and grew louder until they became a shouting mob.
"Please," the man said, lifting his hands to calm them. "Please, hear me out..."
There was a perceivably resentful compliance from the people.
"I am not judge, I am not jury, but let me have my say in this man's fate."
Jikes recognized the voice immediately! It was Harold Robertson!
"I was all too silent throughout this poor man's trial, but something burns within me that I must say before I stand back and let him lose his life to the rope."
Harold turned and approached Jikes until they were face-to-face. Jikes could smell the man's breath as he spoke in a whisper.
"You told me the truth, didn't you?"
Jikes tried to nod, but the noose was too tight, so he whispered "Yes."
He wondered why Harold had changed his mind, and why he had waited so long to do so, but he listened intently as the man turned again to face the crowd.
"Last night, as I was going through my son's belongings I came across this letter in a small, black, box that was locked shut and buried in a secret compartment I discovered within his luggage." Harold held up a sheet of paper for all to see. "It is addressed to a Walton Crayford. Nothing within the letter in incriminating or related to our trial whatsoever, but I wondered why it was in my son's possession when addressed to another. I found my answer on his nightstand." Harold produced another page from his pocket and held it up before the crowd. "This letter, addressed to the sender of the one I have just shown you and written in my son's own hand, is signed, 'Your humble servant, Walton Crayford.' "
The crowd began to murmur again, but Harold held up his hand for silence and continued. "There are no witnesses for the following fact, so you all will have to take myself and the defendant at our word. Before the trial, I went to visit Jikes in his prison cell --"
The warden raised his hand from beside the platform and interjected, "That much is true, I remember that day! I let Harold in because he wanted to speak to the defendant in private."
Harold continued after a brief pause, acknowledging the warden's words. "I was still grieving for the death of a man that I believed was my son. I found any alibi that Jikes presented to be insufficient to excuse the death of my son. They didn't excuse it, but I was listening to the truth with deaf ears. Jikes informed me that the man was not really my son, but an impostor by the name of Walton Crayford. He told me that my son, Duke, is still alive and is traveling the open sea, searching for me. He told me Duke resides in San Mateo and is engaged to a young lady named Charlotte Rogers, daughter of the Captain of the Guard in San Mateo. What Jikes was didn't know, was that I once knew a man by the name of Rogers. I was in charge of him at the time, as Captain of the Guard myself. I considered him to be a worthy candidate for my position whenever I should decide to resign. However, through an unfortunate set of circumstances I was taken from San Mateo and my son was separated from us. I have never returned to San Mateo since. I found Jikes' story interesting. I couldn't help but wonder if he had spoken the truth, but I was too full of pain to believe him. "This," Harold held up the letters again, "is evidence I find too compelling to ignore! I demand a retrial. I believe it would be unjust to refuse him this."
"To the Honorable General Bainbridge," Matthew read aloud. Then he paused. "Honorable? I --"
"Did you read the whole letter?" Duke interrupted.
"I read the beginning," Matthew replied, with a sigh.
Duke took the letter from Matthew's hand. "I'll read it," he whispered.
Matthew sensed an exhaustion in Duke's voice that he knew was not purely physical. This letter appeared to hold the answer Duke had been seeking for as long as he could remember. Matthew didn't know, but he suspected it was not what Duke had hoped.
Duke read on:
"As you requested, I am writing upon my arrival in Puerto Vista.
Harold Robertson believes me to be his son, so he has entrusted me with the knowledge of his past.
Here is what I've learned:
Harold Robertson was the Captain of the Silverado until he met a woman named, Felicia. Believing he was in love with her, he kidnapped her and married her against her will. Then, he left the Silverado, taking all of the gold and maps with him in the hopes of living luxuriously with Felicia until death.
But through the influence of Felicia, he came to the belief that piracy was wrong.
Unsure of what to do with all of the treasure stored up from years of criminal activity, he hid them. He promised Felicia that from that moment on, things would be different. He never planned to use the stolen gold and their life changed from that point. He became the Captain of the Guard in San Mateo and both of them believed they would never become entangled with piracy again.
Unfortunately, the Silverado crew soon discovered Harold's whereabouts. They kidnapped Harold, his wife, and his baby son, Duke, during a raid on the city.
They tried to convince Harold to tell them where he had hidden the gold, but he refused. The crew of the Silverado then abandoned Harold and his wife on Marooner's Point as a vengeance for taking their gold and abandoning them as his crew. Then the pirates set out to find the gold themselves. The Silverado crew kept Duke and that was the last Harold ever saw of him. As the pirate crew was about to sail away with his son, Harold caught the arm of a pirate named Jikes and slipped a key with Duke's name engraved on it into Jikes' pocket. Jikes had been Harold's right-hand man when Harold had been captain of the Silverado. Harold whispered the instructions to Jikes. The key was to be presented to Duke on his twelfth birthday.
The key unlocked the chest full of treasure. There was only one other key like it ever made. The other key had Harold's name engraved on it instead of Duke's, but Harold misplaced it sometime over the course of their stay on the island.
Harold and his wife were stranded for eight years on that little island – I'll never know how they survived, but they did. While they were alone on the island, Harold created maps to the hidden treasure and built a chest in which to keep them. He dug an underground treasure cave where he buried the chest full of maps.
Finally, Harold and Felicia managed to escape, but concluded that San Mateo was dead to them. The only things it had to offer were mournful memories of the life they'd had and the son they'd lost, so they never returned.
They settled in Puerto Vista instead. Harold opened a trading company and tried once again to live a normal life.
Harold and his wife returned to Marooner's Point seven or eight months ago to retrieve the maps and search further for Harold's lost key. Because they never found the key, they left the island and the maps as they were.
But what Harold doesn't know is our side of the story. I've come to the conclusion that Jikes must have suspected that the key unlocked the hidden treasure and turned it in to the captain, who then found the hidden maps years later on the island, after Harold and Felicia had escaped. The captain must have taken the maps, without the knowledge of his crew and then, when you had arrested him, turned them in to you, along with Duke's key to barter for his life. Now we have the key, the maps and I believe Harold will tell me the rest of the puzzle when I ask him. By the time you arrive, everything should be taken care of. At long last, this mystery will be put to rest and we will be able to live the rest of our lives the way Harold desired when he took the gold in the first place so many years ago.
Your faithful servant,
I don't believe it..." Duke said as he finished, "We're too late."
"You don't know that, Duke," Matthew said. "Until we arrive in Puerto Vista we won't know what's gone on. We'll stick to the plan. This is why we came...to find your father, and we're so close. We can't quit now."
...continued next month