Chapter 1: Spanish Gold
There was no moon. That's the way Jack liked it. Less killing that way. He smiled, gold teeth glinting among the white in the dim starlight, as he looked at the neat little town spread out along the bay before him: Santo Cristobal on the island of Hispañola. Like picking a nice ripe apple off a tree.
The Black Pearl, freshly refitted since Jack had reclaimed her six months before, had waylaid a few fat merchant vessels since setting sail again -- two Spanish, one French, no English: Captain Jack Sparrow wasn't afraid of Commodore James Norrington of His Majesty's Royal Navy, but saw no reason to unnecessarily antagonize him, either. Santo Cristobal would be the first town the Pearl would sack since the refit, and Jack had no qualms about it at all. The mayor of the town, one Don Carlos Nuñez y Silva, was widely known to be a tyrant, indulging in both physical and monetary abuse of his townsfolk when the notion took him. Rumor had it the notion took him quite frequently.
"Montez and Wilkes say the gold's hidden away in the mayor's house," commented Gibbs, close beside Jack, who was at the helm, guiding the Pearl silently into the harbor on the fresh night breeze. Montez and Wilkes were two of the newer crew members, and had actually lived in Santo Christobal not so long since. "Hidden bein' the operative word, ye might say", Gibbs went on. "What if we can't find it afore the garrison comes from Dos Caballos? We'll only 'ave a few hours."
"Won't need to find it. The mayor will tell us where it is," said Jack.
"Aye? And how do ye plan on makin' 'im?"
"Oh, I daresay something will occur to me," Jack drawled. He smiled again, wolfishly, his eyes alight with mischief.
"I daresay," agreed Gibbs, wryly, smiling too. He'd seen Jack in this mood many a time, and knew the raid would go off well. Jack had just the right balance of devil-may-care (madness, some would call it) and level-headedness needed to orchestrate these little enterprises. With a good crew behind him there'd be no stopping him this night. And the crew was good. It had expanded to more than double the number they'd had against Barbossa, and every one worth his salt, as the saying went – Jack was more circumspect about who he took on these days, which was an excellent thing altogether. Barbossa's betrayal and Jack's subsequent exile from his beloved ship had been a hard lesson, but had been well learned. The Captain wouldn't risk losing the Black Pearl again.
Two hours later the town was all but taken. They had dropped anchor and had gone ashore in the longboats, bristling with weapons and warily quiet. Jack had been in the lead boat, on the watch for any sign that they'd been spotted, but the town slept peacefully. This somnolence had included the harbor sentry, a young fellow they'd found snoring at his post, a half-empty bottle beside him. Jack had him gagged and bound securely—no sense using him too harshly: he'd be in trouble enough when his superiors found him later—and they had entered the town unmolested. Then Jack gave the order, and all hell broke loose.
Fairly organized hell, of course. There was a spirited attempt at resistance from some of the townsfolk, mostly the few that seemed more well-to-do, and there had been a small compliment of soldiers with whom they'd had to contend. But the element of surprise had worked in their favor: there had been some injuries on both sides, but no deaths, and the defenders had rapidly found themselves trussed up and stashed in the stable of the inn at one end of the town square. The last one to be subdued was the soldiers' Commandant, with whom Jack had had an interesting bit of swordplay. The soldier was a big man, topping Jack's height by several inches, and was not a bad swordsman, but neither a very good. However, it seemed to be a matter of pride with the fellow to take on Jack, as the leader of the miscreants who were making a shambles of the town. As the mayhem in the town was beginning to wind down, Jack had wanted to simply have him tied up and thrown into the stable with his friends, but the man had managed to throw off the fellows assigned to this task and, grabbing up a sword from the pile of confiscated weapons close at hand, attacked Jack with gusto. Jack, countering the attack with an ease born of long experience, played with him a bit and soon realized the soldier stood no chance of winning on two counts: faulty technique, and uncontrolled wrath. Jack resigned himself to the task at hand, and a number of the crew and cowering townsfolk were treated to an energetic display of the art. Finally, after the soldier managed to put a rent in the pirate's coat sleeve, Jack ended it, disarming him and putting a deep cut in the man's sword arm that would incapacitate him for the near future.
In all this time, the mayor had not made an appearance. His house, however, was right on the town square. "Come on, lads," Jack said to Montez, Wilkes, Gibbs and O'Brien. "We'll pay the mayor a little visit."
They entered cautiously, through a window as the door was barred, and, after a rather lengthy search that uncovered a knot of frightened but unresisting retainers in the cellar (whom Jack locked in by the simple expedient of a broom handle through the twin door pulls), found the mayor and his wife hiding under the bed in their room on the second floor. The Señora shrieked like "a right banshee" (noted Gibbs) as the men dragged her rather portly, balding husband out and bound his wrists behind him. The man babbled at Jack in frantic Spanish.
Jack, fluent in Spanish but unwilling to let the Mayor know this just out of general principle, ignored the man's protests and turned to Montez. "Tell him I want to know where he's stashed the gold, and I want it now or there'll be hell to pay."
Montez related this to the mayor, who got a stubborn look on his face, although there was also fear behind his eyes. His wife, still under the bed, grew more hysterical. Wilkes, swearing, moved to drag her out, but Jack said, "Leave her! We'll take this fine fellow out to the square. I've an idea."
The idea involved the town well, a convenient feature of the square which Jack had noted when they'd first arrived.
"Cut the bucket off that rope and tie Señor Mayor to the line. We'll see if a little swim loosens his tongue," said Jack, giving the trembling man his most callously vicious look. "And bring a few of those swells from the stables to watch."
These orders were swiftly carried out, under the amused gaze of many of the pirates and the horrified ones of some of the poorer townsfolk who had gathered at one side of the square, having been unmolested by the raiders for the most part. The mayor gobbled in fear as he was pushed into the well and dangled above the water. "Lower away, lads!" ordered Jack, grinning evilly. The mayor's protests echoed back up the well until there was sudden silence as the water rose above his nose. Jack listened to the frantic splashing for about half a minute, then had him hauled up again. The mayor coughed and sputtered, and was already nearly weeping with fear. He fixed pleading eyes on Jack, who gave him back a half-mad, contemptuous glare and demanded in a voice of doom, "Where be the gold?"
A shrill voice came from above—the mayor's wife, in her white nightdress and cap, leaned out the bedroom window and shrieked, "Don't tell him, Carlos! Be brave, my love!"
Jack took out his pistol, casually took aim and pulled the trigger. The flowerpot on the window ledge beside the lady exploded. She screamed and pulled her head in, slamming the shutters.
The mayor, pale and dripping, muttered a prayer. "Lower away!" Jack ordered again.
It took only two more dunkings before the Mayor gave up the required information between fits of gasping and coughing. Jack and Gibbs took a small party of men into the house to fetch the gold. The location turned out to be a secret space under the library, the panel door of which had been cleverly designed to resemble the surrounding floorboards and was in addition covered with a beautiful little Turkey carpet. "Nice taste Señor Mayor has!" Jack commented. And he was even more pleased with the fortune they discovered beneath it. Jack's eyes lit up when he saw the bags of coins, eight of them, each holding a hundred coins apiece according to the marks on the bags. There was a little strongbox as well, full of miscellaneous coins and bills. A decorative but sturdy chest lay to one side of the room and Jack had the men discard the blankets that were stored in it and load in the bags of gold. Latching it shut, Jack said, "Connelly, Martin: you two can do the honors. Gibbs, bring the carpet along. I've taken a fancy to it."
"Sure, it'll remind ye of a pleasant evening whene'er ye see it," said Gibbs, sentimentally.
"That it will," Jack agreed. He picked up the strongbox and tucked it under his arm. "Let's go, lads. Our work here is done."
Outside, the rest of his crew had assembled the additional booty to be transported back to the Black Pearl. Jack looked it all over, briefly, then happened to glance at the group of poorer townsfolk who were still lingering at the edge of the square. Most of them were clad in clothing that seemed little better than rags. He frowned, and an idea occurred to him. "Montez, Wilkes! Go back up to the Señora's room and take her clothing, all of it you can find. Mind you don't harm the lady--you can tie her up, if she objects--but gently, see? And be quick about it. We'll start hauling everything to the boats."
Jack watched Gibbs scurry about, ordering the withdrawal. As the last of the crew left the square, Montez and Wilkes reappeared, hauling between them an enormous trunk.
"Lord, you should see the stuff, Captain!" Wilkes exclaimed. "Can't imagine she's worn the half of it, in this out o' the way spot."
Jack chuckled. "P'raps one of her friends here can be persuaded to lend her a dress--though somehow I doubt it! Get along with the others now, lads."
The two hurried to catch up with the rest of the crew, who were well down the path to the harbor already. Jack took a last look around as he followed, making sure all was still secure in the square, and saw again the sad, ragged group of poor folk watching him. He slowed, and then stopped in the shadow of the last building, debating. Finally he picked out one of the group, a middle-aged solemn-looking scarecrow of a fellow, who nevertheless seemed as though he could be the leader. Jack waved him over. The man hesitated a moment, but then straightened and came to Jack, most dignified in spite of sartorial exigencies.
"This is for your people," Jack said, in Spanish, and handed him the strongbox.
The man took it, utterly surprised. He looked at Jack for a long moment, then said simply, "Gracias, Capitán."
Jack nodded, then turned and strode from the square, following his men.