Devil Ship: Devil Ship Series Book 1
Devil Ship: Devil Ship Series Book 1
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Evil haunts the high seas…
For as long as she can remember, Sara Hansen dreamed of living in paradise. Sinking her family’s savings into the Pirate Cove resort, Sara and her husband relocate to the beautiful island of Sainte Isabel. But a shadow clouds the island’s pristine shores. And when Sara researches the island’s history, she uncovers tales of an ancient pirate named Lemaitre.
According to local legend, this cruel buccaneer was so evil, even Hell refused to claim his soul. And the island’s residents believe his haunted ship still prowls the waters off Sainte Isabel’s coast. When a shady salvage captain goes missing, Sara is convinced he has run afoul of the demonic pirate.
Ignored by the local police, she investigates the mysterious disappearance on her own. But some secrets were not meant to be disturbed. And Sara soon finds herself entangled in the terrifying curse of Lemaitre and his descendants.
The Devil’s ship sails on the full moon, ready to claim another soul. Will Sara be the next victim to join its cursed crew?
"Lemaitre was originally a typical French privateer of the late seventeenth century," Theresa said, putting down her tea mug. "A privateer, in case you were wondering, is someone commissioned by the government to attack enemy shipping. A state at war would issue what were called 'letters of marque', essentially commissioning a privately-owned vessel into the navy, making it a legitimate raider of commerce."
The old lady smiled at Sara's evident surprise.
"You Americans used privateers against us Brits, quite a lot as it happens. Well, Lemaitre proved to be very good at it. But when the war ended, he did not want to return to peacetime France. He just kept going, attacking any merchant ship that took his fancy. The French declared him a pirate, and a protracted hunt for his ship began."
"I'm guessing it took a while to track him down?" put in Sara. "Otherwise, he wouldn't have this big reputation."
"Quite so, he was very elusive, a truly brilliant naval tactician," Theresa nodded. "But like all pirates, he needed a base of operations to supply and refit his ship, rest his crew, and of course, unload his loot. Our little island was the perfect place. The inland inhabitants of Sainte Isabel were on his side--les boucaniers, literally bacon eaters."
Seeing Sara's expression, the librarian laughed out loud. It was a surprisingly youthful sound. It made Sara wonder if an adventurous early life had ended with Miss Mountjoy landing on Sainte Isabel and taking up her quaint, sedate job among the books.
"Yes, boucan is French for bacon," the librarian went on, clearly relishing the chance to lecture. "Pigs were brought to the Caribbean from Europe and rapidly ran wild on all the islands. Castaways, refugees, escaped slaves and so on hunted pigs for food, and indulged in a little light piracy. They were famously good shots. Wild pigs don't just walk onto the barbecue, after all. Hence, they became known as boucaniers, or buccaneers. But I digress a little..."
Sara suppressed a chuckle. It was clear that her new acquaintance liked digressing a lot. But it was an endearing quality. And, anyway, Sara felt that a newcomer should learn Sainte Isabel's history in detail.
Theresa went on to describe how Lemaitre had become too successful for his own good. It became impossible for any of the European powers to ignore his depredations.
"He was not only a successful pirate but a notoriously cruel one, it seems. Lemaitre became famous for slitting the throats of anyone who annoyed him and then dumping them overboard. And that was just his standard punishment. He did far, far worse things when he lost his temper. Castrating men who had seriously annoyed him in some way--that was a barbaric act Lemaitre made a point of doing himself. He let his emasculated victims bleed out on the quarterdeck of his ship. It is said the planks of his quarterdeck were black with the dried blood of his victims."
Sara thought about castration and imagined Joe crossing his legs at this point. She crossed hers in sympathy.
"Okay, I get the picture. Lemaitre was no Boy Scout."
Miss Mountjoy shook her head in mild disapproval.
"In such an extremely cruel and violent age, it took quite a lot of effort to become notorious," the librarian pointed out. "Lemaitre managed it. Within a few months, he became so feared that the French, English, Dutch, and Spanish all sent out warships to search for him. Now, those naval vessels were powerful ships with big guns, well-trained crews, dauntless captains, and so forth. A solitary pirate had no chance against them. It was then," she explained, "that Victor Lemaitre supposedly availed himself of supernatural help. A decision that still resonates on the island today. In people's adornments, for instance. But there are exceptions, as you can see."
Sara sipped her tea and waited for the next part of the tale. Then she realized that the other woman had stopped and was holding up her hands. Miss Mountjoy was wearing a crisp, short-sleeved shirt. She had a small watch on her left wrist, nothing else. Then Sara grasped what she was being shown. Or rather, not shown.
"You don't wear a monkey charm," Sara exclaimed, looking at Miss Mountjoy's throat. "But you do wear a crucifix, I notice."
The older woman smiled slightly.
"Not everyone feels the need for a charm. Some of the old money British types on the island--descendants of the sugar planters and traders--think it is beneath their dignity. They are undeniably being snobbish, but as for myself--I was raised in the Catholic faith, and that is enough of a shield for me. Or so I prefer to believe. Now, let me see if I can find--ah yes, here it is."
She reached under the desk and took out a cardboard shoebox. The box was battered, with a faded handwritten label.
"It's been many years since I looked at this," Miss Mountjoy explained, "but I suspected that one of you would be stopping by."
She removed the lid of the box and took out a dog-eared book. It looked to Sara like an old diary. It was in even worse shape than the box, and she guessed it might be centuries old.
"This is a secondhand account by a remarkable Frenchman called Exquemelin," Miss Mountjoy said. "He was a ship's surgeon who served with some of the leading pirates of the day--medical knowledge was much prized given the prevalence of scurvy, syphilis, and of course, all those combat wounds. A good physician was even more valuable than a brilliant navigator or master gunner."
She opened Exquemelin's journal and showed Sara the tiny, faded handwriting. Paper had clearly been at a premium in the age of piracy, as each page was crammed with what seemed to be French words neatly written in what was now brown ink. Sara admitted that she had no real knowledge of the language.
"It might be wise to learn a little French, if you are planning to make a home here," Miss Mountjoy said, with a hint of reproof. "But this is seventeenth-century French, so few of us could be expected to read it. However, with the help of a few reference books, I did get through the key passages on Lemaitre."
Following the text with one finger, Miss Mountjoy began to read.
"'It is said by many that Victor Lemaitre went to a witch-woman in the hills of Sainte Isabel and sought the help of her master, the Devil. In return for pledging his immortal soul, the pirate captain was granted a familiar spirit or demon that would do his bidding--a creature in the form of a monkey. It was also widely believed that his ship, a three-master called the Vengeur, was given special properties that made it almost impossible to detect at sea until it was close by its prey, and allowed it to vanish from sight in an unnatural mist when pursued by ships of war. Also, the guns of this Devil Ship fired shots that unerringly pierced the enemy from stem to stern, slew many men, and were even claimed to be red hot, as if prepared in the very furnaces of hell itself...'"
The old lady paused. "Well, you get the picture."
Sara admitted to being puzzled.
"That makes a great story, but the way you tell it, wouldn't Lemaitre still be terrorizing the sea lanes? He seems to have become unstoppable--like a super-pirate."
"Ah, but you forget that the scales must balance," Miss Mountjoy said, holding up a finger, as if Sara had been a child interrupting a story of chivalry. "Evil always has its comeuppance, usually at the very pinnacle of its apparent success. And, as you Americans say, the fate that befell Lemaitre is a doozy."
She put the book down and again began to talk from memory.
"The year is 1694, the place Sainte Isabel..."
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