She was shopping. He’d heard it said that her husband, living in Spain, had tired of his wife’s idle days at their island property. He was demanding that she return to Spain.

Perhaps she was preparing for the journey. He stepped out of the way as she and her entourage passed; her eyes touched his. She didn’t smile or acknowledge him—he was beneath her. She should take care, he thought—there were still pirates aplenty in the water.

He passed some of the less scrupulous bars in the town, bars where it was said that pirates came, pretending to be good citizens of the town.

He knew of one pirate, Mad Miller, who often liked to come to Key West, to drink with the navy men. Despite his name, Mad Miller was not known for being a killer, just a thief. He was friendly with a bar wench, and it was said as well that he would come for her, and they would sail away together. He smiled, thinking that love knew no bounds.

He knew that so well himself.

He forgot the wretched Smith, the haughty Dona Isabella and the crazy pirate Mad Miller. He met Victoria, and, if possible, they made love more passionately.

“I leave with my mentor, Captain Beckett, on a fishing expedition with friends,” Bartholomew said. “I will be gone but overnight—or possibly for two nights. We are going out to catch majestic marlins, for he has friends who enjoy the fight of the fish. Perhaps, I can cancel—“

“No!” she said with horror, “you must not. People will notice that we are not about, doing as we would normally do.” She was quiet for a minute. “Bartholomew, I know how you love this place, how your dreams were here, but I believe we must run away.”

“My dreams are where you are. But we will not run away. Not unless forced in time. I love you, and I care not about any place, but I know that you love your father, and so I will try through my friend, Captain Beckett, to reach your father. Only if we are forced will we go. Let’s give it a few months. I would never have you resent me in time, hate me that you lost the love of your father.”

She cradled his face. “That you can care, when he has treated you so shabbily, makes me love you all the more.”

“Ah, well!” He caught her hand and kissed it. “I will not wait forever.” he teased. “There are places we can go. We can go to Jamaica, Bermuda or even New Orleans. I have friends there still,” he assured her.

“We will wait three months after your fishing trip,” she told him. “Not a day longer. And if we are forced to flee, then later when we have our own precious little daughter, he will make peace with us. He is, at the bottom of his heart, a loving man.”

He agreed; they kissed.

And they knew they must part.

Part II


“Ah, what a beauty!” Captain Craig Beckett applauded, watching as Andrew Morton, a businessman from Key West and a good friend, reeled in a giant blue marlin, a magnificent fish in truth. “What a fine beauty! You’ve done yourself proud, Andrew!”

“Couldn’t have done it with the expertise of your young friend there!” Morton said, acknowledging Bartholomew.

“It was my pleasure, sir,” Bartholomew said.

“A round of rum, a mighty toast!” Beckett said, grinning. He looked at Bartholomew—a look that assured him that he was a good man, and a good man making the right connections.

“Rum, yes! Or grog, rather, I believe—we’ve sugared her down mightily and added a bit of water,” said Peter Yearling, another friend of Beckett’s, who worked as an architect.

“Grog, it is! Peter, soon enough Bartholomew is going to need your services, you know. You had best plan to cut him a fine deal. He’ll be running merchandise up and down the coast, and bringing back the finest goods from all over the world,” Beckett said, accepting the mug handed to him by the architect.

“A home!” Peter boomed. “Indeed, when you are ready, I will build you a fine home, my friend. And as it is done, I will keep the cost down for you—and expect the best in tea, silk, and so on in return!”

Bartholomew laughed with the men.

The conversation went on, and he was pleased, and he thought that he might have a chance of creating a home here, with Victoria. He was befriending men who were respected in the community; he would make the living he must—an honest living—to be a good husband and provider for Victoria.

“What say you, Bartholomew? Onward to the islands?” Beckett asked.

“Pardon?” He had been thinking about Victoria.

“We’ve decided to lengthen the trip. Head for the southern Bahamas,” Beckett said.

His own ship was anchored nearby with Jim Torn awaiting his command.

He smiled. “Sir, if you’ll forgive me, I will return to Key West. I have many books you have given me, regarding money matters and record keeping. I’d study them before we head to Richmond, sir.”

“There’s my man! Stalwart in battle, earnest in peace!” Beckett applauded.

Bartholomew thanked him for his support, said his goodbyes to the others and headed for the ship’s ladder down to his small boat. He rowed to the Bessie Blue, where his men awaited him, and he assured them all that the expedition had gone well.

Pleased with the day, he was heedless of the wind or the weather. He had been away from his love for only days, but it felt like eons.

It was late, however, when they returned to port. He wouldn’t try to see Victoria or contact her that night; he would wait until morning, and head straight for O’Hara’s public house. The family was warm and wonderful, coming and going from Ireland, some embracing America and some returning to the Old Country.

They knew of his love. And they all seemed to be in love with love, and certain that all would end right.

Anxious, and dreaming of the morrow, he headed home through dark and empty streets.

His lodging house was quiet as well, not a man about, and certainly not the mistress of the house, his landlady. He did not expect many to be up at this hour, but he hadn’t even seen the usual drunks in the street. No matter; he gave it little thought.

He fell back upon his bed, exhausted, yet not quite ready for sleep. He took a small measure of rum, swallowed it down and stared at the ceiling, dreaming. He loved Victoria. He truly loved her. She was goodness and purity with spirit and vivacity—and she loved him, as well. They would make it work.

He closed his eyes, content and anxious, dreaming of Victoria and their future.

He felt a soft touch upon his cheek, and his eyes flew open. He smiled. He’d dreamed her touch, just as he dreamed her there.

“My love,” Victoria said, and a kiss fell upon his lips, as gentle as the air. She seemed to float above him.

“I am all right—I am better where I am, for I chose the ending. I could not live with the memory of you, and the touch of another man,” she said. “But now, you must rise. You must not lie here. You are accused. They will be coming for you. They will want you dead.”

“Victoria, don’t fret! No one will come for me. All is well. I am here now. My trip was a great success. We will have many powerful friends. I will convince your father that we can marry, that I can be the husband you deserve and a provider who is strong and resilient and good.”

He heard something outside, some major commotion.

“Run, you must run!” she told him.

“No, my love, I have nothing to run from,” he said.

The commotion grew louder.

He was looking at Victoria, and then he wasn’t.

She wasn’t there; she had been nothing but a dream. A confusing dream, for he couldn’t understand what she had been trying to tell him.

Had he been sleeping?

Then his door burst open. He jumped at the sound, and reached for his sword. He wanted to be a man of business, but he had long been a seaman. He had seen much of war, and he had roamed the seas as a privateer—awakened suddenly, he would always reach for his sword.

He was stunned when men began pouring into the room—David Porter’s men, and a few citizens of Key West.

“Bartholomew Miller! You are under arrest for murder!” cried out a lieutenant.

Aghast, stunned, he faced them all with his sword.

“I have committed no murder!” he cried.