I slapped a hand over my mouth with a shriek, unable to tear my eyes away as blood spurted from the gash and then the man dropped. Dead.
A scream erupted by my ear and I spun around to see my mom standing beside me, horror written all over her face as she stared at the scene below.
“Don’t look,” I said, hugging her trembling body to mine. “God, please, don’t look.”
How could he do that? How? To someone completely innocent. And right in front of his son who couldn’t have been older than seven.
Tears filled my eyes and my breathing became uneven. Who was this man? I had trusted him so completely and so easily, but someone who could do something so…atrocious—and do it so callously—I couldn’t even—
“I found a man tied up at the bottom of the ship,” Mom whimpered into my hair. “And we both just witnessed a murder. I don’t care what you think or say, we are getting off this ship.”
Boots thumped and I looked up as Carter stepped back onto the deck. His white shirt was stained crimson with the man’s blood and the sword in his hand dripped the red colored liquid on the wood. He met my eyes for only a moment before he turned to Catherine. She took his sword from his hand and started guiding him in the direction of his study.
“Brother,” said a very despairing voice and I turned to look at Nathaniel as he took in his Carter's appearance, “what have you done?”
“What I had to.”
I clutched my mother tighter to me, blinking the tears from my eyes, and yelled over her shoulder, “That’s bullshit! You didn’t have to kill—“
Carter threw Catherine off, rising to his full height and bellowing, “If anyone is unhappy with my actions, then I invite you to challenge me for my position as captain here and now.” He paused, meeting his brother’s gaze then my own. “No? Then you will shut the bloody hell up while aboard my ship or deal with the punishment of doing otherwise. Are we clear?” Again he met my gaze.
Who are you?
I nodded and clung to Mom.
Mom and I couldn’t get away from Carter quick enough and she was insistent on showing me the man she’d found below deck. I tried to explain to her that James deserved everything he got, but she still insisted that I take a look.
The door to the brig was already open and I pushed Mom behind me as we entered, on high alert as we tiptoed into the dark room. We moved slowly, careful of where we stepped, until a voice called out of the darkness.
“You need not be so frightened.”
I recognized the voice and relaxed, moving to the back of the brig quicker. “Sierra, what are you doing down here?”
She looked up at me from where she sat beside James. She was almost unrecognizable from when we’d found her, her skin clean and her new clothes devoid of any hint of the experience she’d gone through. If it weren’t for her immense stomach and the cuts on her face, no one would have any clue of her suffering. She blinked her wide brown eyes at me. “I am keeping him company.” She smiled at James shakily through his cell bars.
I looked at James, who Carter had not only locked in a cell, but also handcuffed to one of the beams inside the cell. James didn’t so much as lift his head to look at me, but I could still see a massive bruise forming across his jaw and there were several fresh claw marks on his chest and shoulders.
I looked down at Sierra. “Did you do that?”
“No.” Her eyes went unfocused and she rubbed her belly absently.
Mom looked at me with alarm, having no idea what she should do in this kind of situation.
Slowly, so as not to scare her, I sunk down to Sierra’s eye level. “I think you should come upstairs with us. You must be hungry. Perhaps I can find you something—“
“I am not leaving him,” she snapped at me, her eyes becoming feral. “Not again.”
“Of course not,” I said soothingly. “I’m just suggesting you take a break from your...vigil.”
She blinked. “But he needs me.”
“So does your baby.”
Immediately, her breathing picked up and her hands fisted over her stomach. “My baby.”
“Lizzie,” my mom tried, “maybe we should—“
“Go with them, Sierra,” James croaked from inside his cage.
Sierra’s breathing paused and she looked at him. “I can’t leave you.”
“You have to eat. Go with them.”
She blinked, not moving for a moment, before nodding and grabbing on to one of the bars to help herself up.
I reached out and pulled her the rest of the way, meeting Mom’s fearful gaze over her head.
“Why haven’t we gone back?” Lydia demanded as she paced the small room that Carter had allowed her to sleep in. Mom and I sat on her cot.
It took Mom a little time to get over the shock of seeing Lydia in a genuine nineteenth century wedding gown, but she was getting much better at not openly gawking.
“The moment Caspian realized Stone was not with him, we should have returned to Springriver and rescued him.”
“Lydia, I’m sure Carter would have done that if Stone was still at Springriver,” I said soothingly. “As of right now, we have absolutely no clue where he’s being held. He disappeared with Lawrence and—“
“Don’t be daft, Beth.”
“I don’t—“ Mom started.
“Mom, stay out of this.”
She gasped at me. “Elizabeth—“
“You saw him, I know you did,” Lydia said, cutting her off. “You saw what he did to that poor fisherman. Whoever this man is that has taken up residence of the captain’s body has no interest for anything but himself.”
“That isn’t true,” I argued.
“Really?” Lydia stopped pacing and met my eyes. “Then what are we doing to retrieve Stone? Tell me. Because I have not heard even a whisper of a plan from the captain.”
Lydia was right. Carter was different, but even in his bloodthirsty state, I knew there was no way he would forget about his friend. “Lydia,” I said, “you and I have both seen firsthand the lengths which the captain is willing to go in order to save the people he loves. Granted, he’s changed, but I am completely certain that he will do everything in his power to get Stone back.”
Lydia dropped down on the cot beside me, staring off at the wall across. Since Stone had been taken, not once had Lydia gotten that disturbing faraway look that had been so common just one day before. But there were still moments, like this one, where her eyes would become very sad and her whole body would droop with the weight of all her thoughts crushing her.
“Why do you still defend him?” she whispered.
I blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“You’ve heard of the terrible things he’s done, you’ve witnessed one this very day, and yet you maintain complete and utter faith in him. Why is that?”
I felt Mom studying me out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t acknowledge her. Instead, I met Lydia’s blue eyes and said, “Despite what Carter has done today, there are many times he has helped us—saved us. I trust in him because I know his loyalty is an unshakable force, and he will stop at nothing to get Stone back.”
Lydia smiled sadly. “Perhaps his loyalty to his family was unshakable but I fear that--like all men who allow revenge to cloud their vision--his only loyalty will be to finding and murdering the man that has wronged him. He will gladly allow Stone to fall to the back of his mind if it means he will have the opportunity of exacting vengeance on Lawrence.”
I shook my head. “You are wrong.”
“His vision is blocked by revenge, but yours is distorted by naiveté.” She looked at my mother and then at me. “If Caspian—or should I say Carter?—does not show some sign of looking for Stone in a week’s time, I will find him on my own.”
“Lydia, that is—“
“What would you do?” she asked, a tear slipping down her cheek. “If the captain was being held somewhere by the very monster that forced himself on you and no one made any attempt to find him? What would you do, Beth?”
I didn’t say anything at all, looking at my hands folded uselessly in my lap. I knew exactly what I would do.
So did she. She put her hand on my shoulder. “Then you cannot possibly ask me to do differently.”
I met her gaze and promised her, “Then I will come with you.”
I turned to my mom. “We both will,” I said. “Won’t we?”
I saw all the different protests she was about to make flash across her brown eyes, objections that she quickly realized wouldn’t matter because if she went with me then we’d be off this ship and away from the pirates. She nodded. “Yes, we will.”