Manuel Ortega is a spy sent by the king to kill Felipe, the adventure continues...
CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT
Felipe was sitting at the pavilion holding his daughters when a woman came running up smiling, “They have returned!” she said.
Everyone got up and hurried to the cove. The ships were sailing into it and they were riding very low in the water, “It looks as if they were very successful.” Felipe said, smiling at Batu.
They ships dropped anchor and furled their sails as Juan Carlos, Neo, Jean Pierre and Yon Zack dove off of the side and swam to the shore. They all embraced then stood there smiling at Felipe, “You are not going to believe what we have on those ships.” Juan Carlos said.
“I assume that you did well?” Felipe asked.
“Better than you did the first time.” he smiled.
Shayla was turning Neo's head back and forth with her hand, “I do not see any injuries, that is good.”
“Come, let us eat and tell us of your adventure.” they all walked back to the pavilion.
Back in Veracruz, Ortega studied a map of the coast of Belize. He was many things, but he was not a sailor. He was recruited into espionage as soon as he was inducted into the navy because of his ability to speak three languages. His time and experience at sea was very limited. He knew that he could not sail a warship into the river without being attacked by the tribe. His best bet to appear innocent was to charter a small fishing boat and act like he was fishing.
He dressed in very common clothes like a working man then took a carriage down to the harbor. Chartering a small but sturdy fishing boat, they sailed along the coast for Belize. After five days the river came into view as he studied a map. The captain furled his sail and picked up the small anchor.
“What are you doing?” Chavez asked him.
The captain pointed at the line of skulls that lined the beach on both sides of the river, “This is as far as I go. I will not cross that boundary.”
“I paid you to take me to Belize.” Ortega said.
“And we are in Belize, if you want to cross that boundary, you go alone. You can swim to the shore. If you are not back by dark, I will set sail.” the man said.
Ortega reached behind him and pulled out a pistol pressing the barrel between the captain's eyes, “You will sail up that river.”
Back on Tortuga, the decision was made to sail the huge haul of gold back to Belize and secret it in the same Mayan Temple with the rest of it. They set sail for Belize with four ships to more equally distribute the gold, the Vengeance, The Raptor, the Widow and the Dama Del Muerta.
The small fishing boat was easing up the river, “I do not like this, no white man has ever been seen alive once he crossed the boundary of the skulls.” the captain said.
“Quit complaining and get closer to the shore.” Ortega said pointing the pistol at the captains head. The captain obeyed his orders as the boat came close to the shore. Suddenly the captain cried out. His hand went to his neck and he pulled out a long dart, it had a small red feather attached to the end. He looked at it then his eyes rolled back up into his head and he collapsed.
Ortega looked to the shore. Peering through the bushes was the most fierce looking man that he had ever seen. He was huge and as black as the night. His face had white lines of warpaint on it like a tiger. The man was putting another dart in a long blowgun. The bushes parted and many more of them appeared with bows and arrows.
Ortega quickly jumped to the bottom of the boat and pulled the dead captain on top of him to use him as a shield. He could hear the arrows piercing the captain as the wind and current slowly turned the boat back out to sea. The current was strong and soon he heard the sound of waves and smelled the salt air. He cautiously pushed the dead man off of him and peered over the side.
The coast of Belize was abandoned, he saw none of the black warriors. He did not know how to sail so he drifted for several hours. Finally around midday he saw sails coming toward him on the horizon. He took the looking glass and watched as the ships came more into view. He could now make out the name of the lead ship, “Vengeance.”
He smiled, he could not believe his luck, he had actually stumbled upon Felipe. Now all he had to do was to infiltrate the ranks. He quickly went to the small cooking stove and rubbed powdered charcoal under his eyes making dark circles under them as if he had been many nights without sleep. Looking in a mirror satisfied with his appearance, he slid the dead captain over the other side then he removed his shirt and began flagging the ships down.
The ships tacked their sails and a rope was thrown down to him. He lashed off the fishing boat then a rope ladder was lowered to him. Climbing on board he found himself looking at Felipe, he extended his hand, “Thank you sir, I have been adrift for three days now. My name is Manuel Ortega.”
“I am Felipe Montoya, how did you find yourself adrift? There does not appear to be anything wrong with your vessel?”
“The captain died of a sudden illness three days ago. I chartered this boat to go fishing for grouper, I do not know anything about sailing a boat. I am a farrier. He began to smell very badly so I buried him at sea.”
“You must be hungry.” Felipe said.
“I am famished.” Ortega smiled.
“Come then to the galley and let us feed you. We have business in Belize but as soon as we are done we can return you to a safe port, you can then book passage back to wherever you came from.”
They all walked down to the galley where Carlos began ladling hot stew into a bowl and pouring him some wine. He made a big show of wolfing down the food quickly acting as if he were starving to death. Juan Carlos was sitting beside him when Jean Pierre walked into the galley.
“Where were you Jean Pierre? We found this man adrift at sea.”
Jean Pierre sat directly across from Ortega looking at him, “I was on the cannon deck inspecting the cannons, who are you?” he asked looking at Ortega.
“I am Manuel Ortega he said, smiling and extending his hand.”
Jean Pierre just studied him with his clear blue eyes, he did not extend his hand.”
“He wants to shake your hand.” Juan Carlos said.
Jean Pierre tilted his head looking into his eyes, “Something is amiss, this man is hiding something. He is not what he seems.” he said.
“As I told your friends, I am a farrier. I chartered a small fishing boat to fish for grouper. The captain died and I know nothing about sailing. I have been adrift for three days.” Ortega said, withdrawing his hand.
“His sail wasn't even deployed.” Felipe said, “Obviously he knows nothing about sailing.”
“If you have been adrift for three days with no sail deployed, why is your skin not burned red?” Jean Pierre asked him.
Ortega just looked at him and said nothing. Jean Pierre reached across the table and grabbed his wrists turning his palms up, “You have no callouses on your hands, you are not a farrier.”
“I wear gloves.” Ortega lied.
“No farrier wear gloves, you are lying, that I can see. I will ask you one more time and only one time. If you lie to me again, I will skin you alive and bind you in rock salt.. Now, who are you?”
Ortega had been in many tight spots as a spy, his face was impassive. But inside he had no doubt that Jean Pierre would do exactly what he said. He chose to say nothing.
Jean Pierre quickly reached up and grabbed his hair at the top of his forehead and tilted his head back. He then picked up Ortega's napkin and dipped it into his wine. He began rubbing under his left eye then held the napkin up for everyone to see the black smudge. His left eye was now white while the right eye had a dark circle under it.
“Who are you?” Jean Pierre demanded flicking open his gleaming straight razor. Still Ortega said nothing, “Very well, watch him and watch him closely. I will summon Isabel.” Jean Pierre rose and quickly walked out of the room.
Ortega looked around the table at everyone staring at him, then just looked back down at his plate, “You seem to have suddenly lost your appetite.” Felipe said.
Jean Pierre walked back into the galley followed by Isabel, he pulled the chair out directly across from Ortega and she sat. Ortega looked at her, she did not look at all threatening. She was in fact quite beautiful. She had an oval face and flawless skin, long curly, light brown hair but it was her eyes were unnerving. They were hazel but as he looked into them it was as if she was boring into his brain. He felt as if he were caught in a whirlpool being sucked into her eyes. He tried to avert his eyes but to his surprise he found that he could not as hard as he tried.
Isabel studied him for a full minute, “This man is a spy, but more than that, he is a spy that was sent directly from the king, not the viceroy. He was sent here to find you Felipe and to kill you.”
Juan Carlos hit him hard, breaking his jaw which hung crookedly down and to one side, blood began to pour out of his mouth dripping in his wineglass. Still, he could not avert his eyes. Juan Carlos stood up and grabbed him by his neck,
“Wait Juan Carlos, there is more, he is hiding much more.” She tilted her head slightly looking into his eyes. All eyes were on her as her face turned a bright red and they saw first shock, then anger in her eyes. No one had ever seen Isabel angry before, “Yes, it was you. It was you running for the storm.”
She looked around the table, “This man is directly responsible for Andreas's death. It was his riflemen who killed him he recruited them”
Juan Carlos yanked him to his feet and hit him hard again, Ortega fell to the floor where Juan Carlos pinned his arms down with his knees and began giving him a savage beating. The crew silently watched for a few minutes until Felipe grabbed Juan Carlos's hand and said, “Enough, this is too good for him” he looked at Jean Pierre, “How long has it been since we scraped the barnacles off of the hull?”
“Too long, they are as long as your thumb and sharp as razors.” Jean Pierre said.
“We will keel haul him.” Felipe said.
“Just as well, it will save me all of the trouble of skinning him, I will still bind him in rock salt though. Jean Pierre said smiling at Ortega.
They yanked him up and pulled him to the deck. They marched him to the mainmast then Felipe and Batu walked toward the front of the ship. Felipe took a long coil of rope and played off a lot of it handing the end to Batu. He then tied a large iron ring in the middle and tossed it under the bow of the surging Vengeance as she cleaved through the waves.
They walked back amidships and Felipe played off more rope as Batu pulled his end up. The ring came up and they bound Ortega’s hands. He tried to protest but could not speak with his broken jaw. They then tied his hands to the ring and ripped off his shirt and pants then marched him to the rail. Yon Zack took the rope with Felipe as Juan Carlos stood before Ortega, “This is for Uncle Andreas.” he said, shoving him over the rail. He splashed into the water and Felipe and Yon Zack began marching across the ship dragging Ortega under the ship. He had tried to hold his breath but the pain made him scream underwater and he began to gag. The forward momentum of the ship pressed him firmly against the hull and the razor sharp barnacles and he waved back and forth as the water surged over his body. The pain was incredible, worse than anything he had ever imagined as the skin was cut to ribbons on his chest and legs. He tried to push himself off with his hands and knees and they too were quickly shredded down to the bones. Unable to take it any more, he rolled over to give his chest relief as his back was also torn to ribbons.
Finally he emerged from the water on the side choking and gasping for breath, “Haul him up, we do not want him to drown just yet.” Felipe shouted. Four men hauled him up to the rail where he hung there bleeding. His skin was almost completely gone, only tattered pieces of it remained in places. He was bleeding badly.
Juan Carlos looked at him, “This too is for Andreas.” he hit him hard in his broken jaw making him scream out in pain, then they dropped him back into the water.
Again they drug him under the ship ripping off what little skin he had left. When he was finally was hauled over the side, he saw Jean Pierre shaking a keg of rock salt in a thick layer on a piece of canvas whistling. His eyes went wide in terror as they drug him toward the canvas, then shoved him down on his back. The rock salt burned like fire and he screamed at the top of his lungs as Jean Pierre sprinkled a thick layer across his face, chest arms and legs. He then folded the canvas and tied it closed with ropes.
Felipe looked at him and then put the tip of his boot in his mouth to stop the screaming. Ortega looked at him with terrified eyes, “I am going to write a letter to the king and send it with you now.” he removed his boot then walked back down to his cabin. He took out a piece of paper, a quill and a bottle of ink and penned a letter.
To king Phillip of Spain,
Please allow me to return your miserable failure of a spy Manuel Ortega. This fate or worse awaits all others that you send to do harm to my men or myself. Your daughter and grandson are doing well, you also have two new grand daughters. Thank you for the gold from the forts, please accumulate more so that we can take that as well.
He blew on the paper until the ink dried then sealed it in a piece of oilcloth to waterproof it and keep Ortega's blood from seeping through it. He then went to the carpenters shop and got a hammer and a large nail. He walked back up on the deck and knelt beside Ortega, “I want you to see this.” he said.
He held the paper on his forehead over the top of his head so he could see Ortega's eyes. He pinned the paper down with his fingers, then placed the nail there. Ortega's eyes again went wide with fear.
He struck the nail and drove it into Ortega's skull, he did not hit it hard, just enough to get it started. He continued to tap it down slowly a little at a time while Ortega screamed. Finally with one hard blow he drove it all of the way to the head. Ortega took three more ragged breaths then his eyes locked open in death.
Jean Pierre wrapped the canvas around his head and tied it as well, “The salt will absorb the blood and preserve him nicely, he will not even stink as he makes the long voyage back to Spain and his King.”
“And the short journey to hell, I would imagine that he is already there.” Felipe replied. They drug his body below and into the hold of the ship. The vengeance surged forward toward Belize.