Once again, thanks to my reviewers! I really enjoyed writing this chapter, probably because it's all Lord Beckett. Hope you all enjoy!
The sun was just beginning to rise over the ocean as Lord Beckett finished his morning meal. Sipping on his hot tea, he thought over the previous day's events as well as the plans for the current day. There was much to be done, that was for sure. Adding another lump of sugar to his already sweet tea, he made a mental list of the goals that he was yet to reach.
Despite his obsession with business and the East India Company, Cutler still found his thoughts about such matters interrupted by ones of her. And so it was as he sipped on his tea, watching the light of the early morning sun slowly illuminate the sea.
After a few moments his thoughts did return to Catherine, as they were fond of doing in the evenings as well as the mornings. He supposed it was because that was when he missed her presence the most. Evening and morning meals were not the same without her company, and the nights were certainly different. He had once again had to adjust to sleeping alone in his giant bed, and the unfamiliar rocking of the ship did nothing to ease him into sleep. If only his Catherine could be there to offer her company on those long nights….
Lord Beckett's pleasant thoughts were interrupted by a sharp nock on his chamber doors. "Enter," he said without looking up, stirring the sugar into his tea.
The doors opened and Mercer walked in, stopping at the table Beckett was seated at.
The man was terribly efficient in nearly everything that he was ordered to do. Cutler had come to respect and admire that about him, though he kept his praise to a minimum. It was never a good thing to give too much praise to a servant, he had learned. It often had a way of leading to mediocrity, unfortunately.
In Mercer's gloved hand Cutler noticed a piece of parchment and what appeared to be a small chain of some sort.
"Find something of interest, Mr. Mercer?"
"Yes, m'lord. We came upon this a few moments ago, floating in the water. It was in a bottle tied to a barrel, along with something that I think you may recognize." Mercer handed him both objects.
Taking them, he brought his attention first to the chain, which seemed to be a necklace of some sort. At least, that was all that he had thought it was.
To his surprise he discovered a ring on the chain. Mercer had been right, he did recognize it.
It was Catherine's wedding ring, the very one that he had given to her the day that they were married. There could be no mistake; there was no other like it in the world, Cutler had seen to that.
He felt the blood drain from his face as he turned the small ring over and studied it for a few seconds. He then unfolded the small piece of parchment without saying a word, his chest tightening with a fear that he would not allow to show.
Mercer watched as the note was read and then reread, and he did not fail to notice the pallor and obvious change of his master's features. They had grown tight; from anger or fear, Mercer could not tell. It was rare to ever see Lord Beckett even slightly flustered, that was for certain.
Lord Beckett calmly folded the piece of parchment and dropped it onto the table. "You've read it, I'm sure?" His voice was as cool and polished as ever, though inside his mind was racing.
"Yes, m'lord, I have."
"Have every ship in the armada keep a lookout for the Black Pearl," Beckett said after a few seconds. "I want Sparrow's head on a plate this time."
"Shall we send the Dutchman for him?" Mercer asked.
"No. Jones is reckless enough as it is. If he were sent for Sparrow there'd likely be nothing left but ruins." Beckett once again studied the jeweled ring. "Assuming she is indeed onboard, we must be careful of how we deal with the situation and with Sparrow."
"Do you intend to make the trade, then?" The question hung in the air as Mercer gave his boss the necessary time to think, while he still stood patiently before him. After a few moments of careful thought Beckett answered.
"Sparrow won't get what he wants, no matter how good his bargaining power is. He need not know that, however." Cutler stood and walked to one of the great windows in the room, watching the large wake the ship left behind. "For now, let him believe that his little plan is working, and that I intend to give him the heart in exchange for my wife, as he has demanded."
Mercer was dismissed with orders to keep a sharp lookout for the Pearl. It was all that could be done, as they were already in pursuit and still had not spotted the blasted ship.
Alone once more, Beckett allowed realization to sink in, and with it emotions that he hardly ever experienced.
A flood of questions came to his mind at once. How had Catherine come to be aboard the Black Pearl? Had she been aboard the Endeavour until his meeting with Sparrow? This seemed a foolish thought. After all, he was quite certain that he had left her safe and sound in Port Royal, asleep in their enormous bed. That was the last time that he seen her, at least. Was it possible that she had been a stowaway onboard his own ship for several weeks and he had never known? He hated the thought of her hiding in the lower decks, likely dressed as a man and taking what she could to survive. This certainly did not seem like his Catherine. But, as he reminded himself, he didn't really know his wife that well at all.
Since their marriage he had often been too detained by business to spend significant amounts of time with her. As a result, he now realized that he barely knew what she was really like.
To his surprise, he suddenly felt a great deal of guilt with this realization. Guilt and regret were not emotions that Cutler felt often. Indeed, it would not be entirely wrong to say that he never felt them. In his line of work they were unnecessary hindrances that only served to make one weak and vulnerable. He had been vulnerable enough in his earlier years, and had decided that he would never be so again.
With this his thoughts came around to Jack Sparrow. The very man who had brought out Cutler's vulnerability once more, just when he had thought himself free from it with his newly acquired power in the East India Company. He had been younger then, and still somewhat naïve, though he had not thought so at the time. Still, Sparrow's betrayal had left a deep scar on him that he would never be rid of. Even the painful teasing that he had endured as a boy could not compare to it, though he wasn't sure why. All that he knew was that Sparrow had awoken something in him; something that drove him during every waking hour and even in his dreams. Cutler had always been ambitious, but had soon become even more so. In some ways, then, he had Sparrow to thank for his current position of great power.
But now the pirate dared to hold his wife captive and to use her as bargaining power to get what he wanted. In the back of his mind Cutler appreciated such tactics, as they were the ones that he himself used often. However, there was too much at stake this time.
As he watched the waves of the sea roll far below, he thought of how frightened his Catherine must be. After all, she was lady brought up in luxurious furnishings and accustomed to polite, agreeable company. Now she was in the presence of pirates who often preyed on such women. The thought made him nearly tremble with anger.
Cutler looked down at the small ring that he still held in his hand. He turned it over in his fingers carefully, studying the beautiful diamonds and craftsmanship. A small smile crossed his lips as he remembered the moment that he had put it on her finger. God, if any harm came to her….
He slipped the ring into his waistcoat pocket. Now was certainly not the time to be overcome with emotions, he reminded himself. He could not allow Sparrow to set the rules of the game, nor could he allow him to win.
Pulling on one of his fine coats Cutler left his chambers for the open deck of the ship. Now that his mind was a bit clearer he had several important questions to ask his officers. A few of them could soon be seeking other means of employment.
The morning sun greeted him along with a cool ocean breeze. Cutler forced his mind to return to matters at hand, though for the rest of the morning and afternoon he found it very hard to force his thoughts away from his wife. Somehow being separated from her seemed all the more difficult now that he knew whose company she was in.
The afternoon passed without any sign of the Pearl. Cutler had remained on deck nearly the whole day, anxious for a sight of the ship in the distance to assure them that they were indeed headed in the right direction. How Sparrow planned to make the exchange while sailing as fast as he could away from the Endeavour was beyond him.
Hands resting on the side of the ship, he watched as the sun slowly set over the sea, finding it difficult to believe that it had only been that morning that he had learned of Catherine's whereabouts. Hearing footsteps behind him he turned his head slightly to catch a glimpse of who approached. It was only Mercer, and Cutler did not bother to acknowledge his presence.
"Still no sign of the Black Pearl, m'lord. We'll keep a watch out tonight, o' course, but there won't be much of a chance that we'll spot her in the dark."
There was a moment's silence and then Cutler spoke. "She was aboard this very ship for nearly two weeks, yet we never knew. How is it that none of the men noticed a woman such as Catherine? They must all be daft," he added with disdain.
"I suppose they weren't expecting to see a woman onboard, sir, and so didn't pay much attention to her. Many of the men have seen a boy around since we left port, but thought he was employed by the Company. He's been gone since the meeting with Sparrow," Mercer said in his thick accent.
Cutler let out a small sigh. "That was her, then. Bloody hell, she's been living like one of the men since we left Port Royal. What on earth would possess her to do that, I wonder?" He asked this question more to himself than to Mercer, but the other man answered nonetheless.
"You know women, sir. They get foolish ideas sometimes and fail to think on the consequences."
Beckett frowned at this answer. Women certainly could be irrational, difficult creatures, but he had always had a certain respect for them. His mother had been an important part of his young life, and in many ways Catherine reminded him of her. With a keen mind and good reason, a woman could be a formidable opponent; a fact that many men failed to realize.
Wishing to be alone with his thoughts, he dismissed Mercer without another word. The older man walked away, leaving Cutler to once again wonder how and why Catherine had come to be aboard the Endeavour. She had clearly gone against his wishes and had decided to join him. She had also apparently decided not to reveal herself to him, for whatever reason. Despite these things he found it hard to be angry at her, though he was somewhat vexed. Perhaps the blame fell upon himself, as well.
He had not seen fit to explain to her many things concerning his role in the East India Company. He had also decided that it was best if she was not troubled with knowledge of the heart of Davy Jones, or its value to him. Being the intelligent woman that she was, she no doubt had learned enough to make her terribly concerned and curious. He had not trusted her with these things, and so she had likely grown to not trust him.
The thought ate at him and made him uneasy. What was it about this woman, his wife, that made him care so much more than he ever had? Why did thoughts of hurting her wake emotions in him, when he had hurt countless others in many ways without thinking twice?
It was all terribly confusing, and Cutler was not at all accustomed to being confused. As a result he now had an excruciating headache, the kind which he occasionally got when he thought too hard on a matter. He turned and headed for his cabin, where he would likely spend most of the night awake.
The sun was gone now, leaving a golden glow across the sky and on the clouds. Catherine had always loved the Caribbean sunsets, or so she had told him one evening a few weeks after their wedding. Her face had been illuminated by the fading golden light, which made her hair glow like fire. Entering his cabin he shut the doors behind him and slowly walked into the room. A slight smile crossed his lips as he remembered the rest of that evening with her.
Even if it took every ship in the armada, he swore to himself that he would have his Lady Beckett safely by his side once again.