Chapter 7

"Are you sure this is such a good idea?" Fredrickson asked.

"You didn't have to come with me." Sharpe retorted.

"But somehow, I always do. Some day it will catch up with me."

They were riding along the levee road, toward the far left wing of Jackson's line where it ran up to the river. Fredrickson held a white flag prominently in front of him, resting on his saddle.

The sun was setting as they drew nearer the American lines. The 95th had taken ten casualties, four of them killed, in Pakenham's "reconnaissance-in-force." Fredrickson had needed to see that the wounded were taken to the surgeon's station without delay and then written letters to the families of the dead riflemen. That had taken up much of the day, which Sharpe had used to consider what he would say to the Jonathan commander, assuming the man would agree to see him. It had been late afternoon before he and Sweet William had set out.

The battery directly ahead of them consisted of two brass twelve-pounders and a six-inch howitzer, all pointed directly at them from behind the high earthwork rampart and ditch. The bore holes of the cannons looked like eyes staring at them. They could see the barrels of dozens of muskets and rifles aimed at them from behind this wall. On the river, about a thousand yards away, the remaining American schooner had its guns trained on them as well. Fredrickson looked at all this and then looked at Sharpe.

"Maybe today's the day."

A voice rang out from behind the rampart.

"That's close enough, Johnny Bull! What do you want?"

Sharpe leaned forward and called out.

"We're here under a flag of truce."

"I hope it's nice soft cloth," The voice responded. "I need something to wipe my arse on."

"We want to talk to General Jackson."

"Maybe he doesn't want to talk to you."

"Whether he does or doesn't, that's his business, not yours. Do you want to tell him you turned away two envoys from the British army?"

Sharpe had heard that Jackson had a reputation in the American army as a man not to be crossed. He hoped it was true. From behind the wall, he could hear some quick, muted conversation. Then, the unseen speaker called out again.

"Dismount from your horses and bring them to the ditch. Keep your hands where we can see them, and no sudden moves."

Sharpe and Fredrickson dismounted, careful to keep their hands visible and raised above their heads. They walked their horses up to the ditch's edge, past the outline of an old brick kiln in front of the rampart. The ditch was eight feet wide and four deep, not that formidable by itself, but backed by a rampart lined with guns . . .

Five soldiers in blue uniforms came around the end of the rampart. One took their horses and led them away. Two stepped behind them and kept them covered with their rifles. A third checked them for hidden weapons. Both Sharpe and Fredrickson carried their swords, but they had tied the hilts tightly to the scabbards with lengths of cord, so they could not draw them. One soldier examined this, determined the weapons were no threat, and took the white flag from Fredrickson. Another soldier tied strips of cloth over their eyes. They felt the nudge of the rifles in their backs and started walking forward, first to the left. They could feel loose earth under their feet and knew they were transversing the rampart. Then they were nudged sharply to the right. The unseen voice spoke.

"Sit down. Stay here while we find out the General's pleasure."

Sharpe and Fredrickson sat on the packed earth ground. They could hear men all around them, and sensed that several rifles were trained on them. They said nothing and gave the Jonathans no provocation. Soon they heard the noise of feet approaching, more muted conversation, and then the unseen voice.

"One of you come with me, the other stay here."

Sharpe reached out, and found Fredrickson's arm, touched it reassuringly. He rose.

"I'll go."

Again, he felt a rifle poke in his back, harder than he would have liked, but he said nothing. He walked a short distance to the left, and then felt firmly packed earth under his feet, he assumed he was on the levee road again. After perhaps fifty yards, he was turned sharply right, and walked along a road under the shade of what he assumed was row of trees. Another sharp turn to the left, he walked some fifty feet, and felt steps under his boots. He heard a door opening before him, walked forward, and sensed he was now inside the Macarte mansion. He was prodded up a thickly carpeted staircase, holding onto the banister to steady himself. He was turned left again, walked another twenty feet, and the unseen voice told him to wait there. He heard the noise of a door opening and closing and muffled voices from behind it. Then the door opened again, and he was prodded forward, feeling now a polished floor beneath his boots. He heard the door close behind him, and sensed a presence to his front. A voice spoke, clear, authoritative, born to command, with a trace of a southern drawl.

"You may remove your blindfold, sir."

Sharpe reached up and took it off. He looked at the man standing before him.

The man was of the same height as Sharpe, though his stiff shock of iron-gray hair made him seem somewhat taller. He appeared to be about ten years Sharpe's senior. He was very thin, almost cadaverous, with a narrow chest and shoulders and long arms and legs. He carried himself as straight as a ramrod, his posture would have made any drill sergeant proud. He was clad in a blue uniform jacket with gold trim, epaulets and buttons, white buskin breeches, and tall black cavalry boots. He had a domineering brow, high cheekbones, a long, straight nose, and a firm jaw and mouth. His complexion was sallow, an indication of a recent illness.

It was his eyes though, that captured Sharpe's attention. They were the color of blue steel, and seemed to bore straight through him. There was a fierceness in them that reminded Sharpe of the eyes of a great eagle. In those eyes, Sharpe saw an iron will, an unconquerable spirit, and he knew for a certainty, this man could be killed, but he could never be beaten. He had seen such power in only one other man's eyes, the Duke of Wellington himself. This was indeed not a man to trifle with.

"Major General Andrew Jackson at your service, sir."

Sharpe stood at attention.

"Major Richard Sharpe of the 95th Rifles at yours, sir."

Jackson regarded Sharpe quizzically.

"They seem to be growing British soldiers larger this year."

"I'm only medium-sized, sir. If I'd known you'd wanted a big one, I'd have brought my friend Sergeant Harper from Ireland."

A flicker of a smile flashed in the eyes and mouth of General Jackson; evidently this formidable man had a sense of humor. He gestured Sharpe to a chair, and then sat down himself. He studied Sharpe for a few moments.

"Have you come to offer the surrender of your army?"

"I'm afraid you haven't quite earned that yet, sir."

"Then what is your business here? And why are you making war on a country that simply seeks to defend its honor?"

"Sir, I'm a soldier, not a politician. I go where the army sends me and leave them to figure out why. I'm here to investigate the alleged British massacres of American civilians."

In an instant, Jackson shot to his feet; the chair knocked to the floor as he rose, his volcanic temper awakened. His voice thundered like a breaking storm.

"By the Great Jehovah, sir, there is nothing alleged about the massacres! They are a damnable fact!"

In spite of himself, Sharpe had to fight down a sense of intimidation. He kept his voice steady.

"What is alleged, sir, is that they are British massacres. My purpose in this country is to determine our guilt or innocence, and if possible, bring to justice (my justice! he thought), those truly responsible."

In an instant, Jackson was once again calm. Picking up his chair, he sat down again. Sharpe had a feeling that he could turn his wrath on and off at will to serve his purposes.

"The evidence of your army's guilt has been found at each site. And there were witnesses."

"The witnesses I'm still trying to figure out. But if we were behind these acts, sir, do you really think we would be stupid enough to leave such evidence behind every time?"

Jackson's eyes narrowed as he studied Sharpe.

"Then what have you found?"

"I'm still unsure about a lot. But I visited Blassenville yesterday, and I'm as certain of this as I am of anything: no British soldiers did that butchery."

"And on what do you base that conclusion?"

"Sir, I've been a soldier for twenty years. I've served in Flanders, India, Portugal, Spain, and France. I've known all types of soldiers, from saints to devils, and I've never known more than three or four in all my years of soldiering that could do something like what I saw in Blassenville. I've been interviewing members of British foraging parties who came on some of the massacre sites in Maryland, and they were sick at what they saw. The work there was carefully organized, planned so none could escape. It had to be the work of at least thirty or forty men. I can tell you there aren't forty men or four men in our force here in Louisiana who could have slaughtered women and children like that."

"Perhaps you hope to frighten us into a hasty settlement that will work to your advantage. Let me tell you, you are sadly mistaken if you think we will fold our cards so easily."

Sharpe held up his hand, shaking his head in denial.

"If we thought that, sir, I wouldn't have been sent across the sea to prove our innocence. I think we understand your people enough to know that atrocities like Blassenville will only make you fight us harder. We would have nothing to gain and everything to lose by such actions. You would be well justified in taking reprisals against our men who are your prisoners of war, and against our foraging parties. We cannot have that. It is in both our interests that I discover the truth."

"If you are not behind these blasphemies, then who is? Surely, you do not suggest that we are murdering our own people just to blame it on you?"

"No sir. I suspect a third party is involved here, one who has something to gain by our battering each other into the mud."

"Do you have any idea of who this third party might be?"

"None, sir. My investigation is at a dead end. That is why I am here, to see if I can find out anything new."

"And what do you wish from me?"

"Your permission to interview those men of your army who witnessed any of the massacre scenes. Perhaps one of them came across something that our men missed."

Jackson cupped his chin in his hand and studied Sharpe carefully.

"Your words strike me as sincere, sir. I am surprised to find I am inclined to trust you. You are cut from a different cloth from most of the British officers I have had the distinct displeasure of meeting. I have not had much cause to love your countrymen over the years."

Jackson indicated a thin, brown, vertical scar above his right eye, and another one on his right hand.

"Do you see these scars? They were given me by a British cavalryman in the War of Independence. I was a prisoner of war, fourteen years old, and this pig of a horse-officer demanded that I clean his boots! I told him I was a prisoner, but I was not his slave. He drew his saber and slashed me across the face and hand. I am not an overly forgiving man, Major Sharpe, and I have never forgotten that day."

"I don't blame you, sir. For myself, I rose up from the ranks, and I always clean my own boots."

Again, there was a flicker of amusement in Jackson's eyes. Abruptly, he leaned forward and changed the subject.

"Now, what are General Pakenham's plans of attack?"

Sharpe didn't hesitate a moment.

"I will not tell you, sir."

"I could clap you in irons until you talk. After the massacres, many would say my action would be well justified."

"You could do that, sir. But you won't. You won't violate a flag of truce."

"What makes you think so?"

"Because I've known a lot of officers in my years of soldiering. I've known men of honor and I've known rotten bastards. And I think I know what type of man you are, sir. But in any case, I will tell you nothing that could harm my comrades-in-arms."

Jackson leant back and studied Sharpe more carefully. This time his smile was more than a flicker.

"I am glad to see that there are still some men of honor among the British army, sir. You are right, of course. However, I should tell you, I was originally not inclined to meet with you. Because of my outrage over the massacres, I was more than half ready to turn you away at the rampart."

"Why didn't you, sir?"

"Because your friend vouched for you."

"Friend, sir?"

Jackson nodded and raised his voice.


The door opened, and a sentry stood in the doorway. Jackson spoke without looking at him, his eyes fixed on Sharpe, an expression of amusement on his face.

"Send in the Commodore."

The sentry wheeled and left. Sharpe heard footsteps approaching, and smelled a tobacco that was familiar from somewhere he could not quite place. Then a man was standing in the doorway. He was a tall man, younger than Sharpe, with a handsome, weather-beaten face topped by a shock of dark gold hair. He was dressed in the double-breasted blue and gold of a commodore in the Navy of the United States. Clenched between his lips was a black cheroot.

For a moment, Sharpe stared in surprise. Then he was on his feet and gripping the man's hand tightly, a smile on his face.

"Cornelius Killick!"

"Hello, Sharpe. This ain't Marblehead, but it's still good to see you."

General Jackson had risen to his feet. He indicated Killick.

"The Commodore has told me something of your kindness to him and his men a year ago at the siege of the fort at Teste de Buch. You would not have gotten your audience with me if he hadn't been here. He saw you approach our lines and convinced me that if any man in the British army could be trusted, it was you. He will accompany you as you interview the men of the 7th US Infantry. They are the only unit here that were in Maryland during the invasion, and the only ones who saw the massacre sites up there. I leave you in his capable hands."

He held out his hand, and Sharpe gripped it firmly. Jackson looked him in the eye.

"And you tell your General Pakenham that I look forward to giving him a proper thrashing when he dares advance against me."

"I'll do that, sir."

Jackson released Sharpe's hand, and Sharpe and Killick walked out the door, Killick draping an arm across Sharpe's shoulders.

"Congratulations, you passed Old Hickory's test."

"Old Hickory?"

"General Jackson. I urged him to see you, and he decided on a test. If you had told him one thing about your army's plans, he would have thrown you in prison. He said that if your own side couldn't trust you, then neither could he, and the British were well rid of you. Oh, by the way, here's someone else you might remember."

Sharpe turned to see a tall hawk-faced man standing nearby. He had long dark hair, and was clad in the brown homespun and black slouch hat of an American rifleman. Slung over his shoulder was a Kentucky long rifle. At first, Sharpe didn't recognize him because he was smiling broadly. In the short time Sharpe had known him, he had never smiled. Then the face clicked into place in Sharpe's mind.

"Rifleman Taylor!"

"I'm glad you remember me, Major."

They shook hands vigorously. Within minutes, they had recovered Fredrickson, and the four of them were sitting around a small table in the kitchen of the Macarte mansion. A bottle of brandy passed back and forth between them as they caught up on each other.

After the siege of Teste de Buch, Killick had sailed the Thuella back to Marblehead for a proper refitting, and then had linked up with Commodore Joshua Barney's coastal raiders in harassing the British Navy. The Thuella had been scuttled in the Patuxent with the rest of Barney's flotilla when Cochrane's fleet had trapped them.

After that, he joined Barney's makeshift artillery team at Bladensburg.

"You were part of Barney's rear-guard at Bladensburg?" Fredrickson asked in amazement.

Killick nodded. "I would've stayed with Barney until the end, but he gave me a direct order to save myself and my men."

"Then I came within inches of taking you prisoner."

"I wouldn't have struck my colors without a hell of a fight."

"Not only that, Major Fredrickson," Taylor chimed in, 'but you and I traded some shots during our evening set-to five nights ago around the Villere mansion. I recognized the 95th, and I thought that was your voice bellowing orders around the outbuilding."

"I'm glad we didn't shoot each other," Fredrickson said sincerely.

Taylor had told them briefly of the genuine happiness he had found since coming back to his native land and joining General Coffee's Tennessee Rifles. He was now a sergeant, and had a sweetheart back in Natchez waiting for him.

"So what did you do after Bladensburg, Cornelius?" Sharpe asked. "I have a hard time imagining you without a ship."

"A good sailor can always find a ship. I heard tell that the next brew-up would be down this-a-way, so I headed down the Mississippi with all of my lads I could collect, and we offered our services to General Jackson. I got command of the schooner Columbia. We made life tough for you folks five nights ago by the Villere plantation."

"We thought you were a British vessel until you ran your guns out." Fredrickson said.

"So that was you hollering on top of the levee. I figured it must be some lunatic. Guess I was right. And the way you sneaked those cannon up to the levee by dark. Quite a feat, that, I should've figured you'd manage it. And that red-hot round shot was a handful."

Sharpe felt a little ashamed that he and Fredrickson had cheered the Columbia's sinking the day before. It must have shown on his face, because Killick reached over and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Aw hell, don't take it so serious, Richard. Fortunes of war and all. I hold no grudge. Like I said before, a good sailor can always find a ship. For now, my crew and me are manning guns on General Jackson's line. You'll have us to reckon with if you come a'calling."

Killick tipped up the empty brandy bottle. Sharpe looked at his American friend.

"Cornelius, it's time we talked to the men of the US 7th."

Killick had sent out word that a British officer wanted to interview any soldiers who had come upon any of the massacre scenes. A group of about twenty were sitting around the 7th's campfire as Sharpe, Fredrickson, Killick and Taylor approached. Sharpe's time was limited, so he had decided to interview the Jonathans as a group, rather than one by one. As they made their way to the fire, Sharpe noticed that the expressions on most of the 7th's face were anything but friendly. Sharpe positioned himself before them, but before he could speak, one of the 7th's men addressed him bitterly.

"You've got your nerve, Johnny Bull, coming here after the butcher's work your lot have been doing."

Sharpe drew a deep breath. He hated speaking to crowds, but this time, his passions were awakened. It was time to forget who was on what side, and just talk soldier to soldier.

"If we'd been behind the butcher's work, I wouldn't blame you. If you lot came to England and starting wiping out our villages, there wouldn't be a rock you could hide under from me. But I'm here to tell you, we didn't do it."

He began by telling them something of his career, in India, in Portugal, in Spain, in France. He told them of some of the men he'd known, bastards like Hakeswill, Morris, and Simmerson, and friends like Harper, Lawford, and Sweet William. He told them that by far, most of the English soldiers he'd known were not above stealing occasionally, but they drew the line at making war on women and children. He told them of how happy he was being a farmer, but had set that aside to come across the sea to uncover the truth and restore the honor of the Army he had given most of his life to. He described how horrified the men he had interviewed had been, and how sickened he and Fredrickson had been at the slaughter at Blassenville.

"Let me ask you, what would we gain by killing your women and children? Are you ready to surrender? Are you about to give up? Or are you that much more determined? We're not that stupid. We're also not stupid enough to leave evidence all over the place, not once, but again and again and again, each time there was a massacre. We didn't leave the evidence, because we didn't do the killing."

"I think someone is trying to play us both for fools. Someone wants us shooting and hacking away at each other until there's nothing left of either of us. I don't know who, or why, yet, but that's what I'm here to find out. I need your help, because I'm stuck. I can't go any further unless someone can tell me something new. If you want this slaughter stopped, then help me. We need to find the animals who are at the bottom of this and make them pay. This is bigger than the war, bigger than whose side we're on. It's about protecting those who need it most. That's why I'm here. If it were English women and children being butchered, I'd expect you to do the same for me."

Sharpe spoke for the better part of half an hour. He spoke from the depths of his heart, with an intensity he had never spoken with before. As he spoke, he saw a change come over the faces of the Americans, from open hostility, to questioning, to sympathy and support. By the time he finished, the soldiers crowded around him.

"By gum, Major, you've got guts. I'm for you!"

"Me too! Whoever is doing this butchery, they've got to be stopped, and stopped for good!"

In bits and pieces, Sharpe collected their stories, the coming on the deserted villages or estates, the horrible discoveries, the nightmares that followed.

But nothing new. Not one piece of new information. Except for the uniforms, he might have been interviewing the British all over again.

When it was over, Sharpe sat staring into the fire. Some of the Americans had dispersed, others still hung around.

Oh well, it was still a good idea, even if it didn't work out. Now what do I do?

He had no idea. He might have to just write up a report saying that the massacres were done by persons unknown, for reasons unknown. Hopefully, the Americans would accept that. Hopefully, it would be enough to save the peace negotiations in Ghent.

He looked absently at Taylor, sitting next to him, and at his Kentucky rifle.

"Taylor, let me have a look at that long gun of yours."

Taylor checked the flash pan to assure himself that it was empty, and then handed his rifle to Sharpe. Sharpe stood, sighting down the barrel, testing the feel of the weapon in his hands, the butt against his shoulder. Though over a foot longer than the Baker, its smaller bore made it noticeably lighter. It was a little bit unwieldy in close quarters, but he could see how its accuracy at extreme range would be enhanced. It was a beautiful piece as well, with brass fittings, scrollwork, and a polished cherry wood stock. He handed it back to Taylor.

"A fine weapon, but I think I'll stick with the Baker."

A long shadow fell over Sharpe, and a soft, deep, Irish brogue rumbled behind him.

"Ah, 'tis a sad day indeed, when we let English scum sit at our campfire and handle our weapons."

Sharpe whirled, and instantly bristled.

In India, Sharpe had at times seen an animal called a mongoose, which looked rather like a large ferret. The mongoose was famous for one thing: it fought and killed cobras, pitting its speed and agility against the serpent's poisonous strike. The mongoose's young never needed to be taught that the cobra was an enemy. From the moment of birth, they knew it for a natural foe, a thing that they must kill or be killed by.

Right now, Sharpe felt like a mongoose standing before the biggest, deadliest king cobra in all of India. Like the mongoose, he knew, without knowing how, that he stood before his natural enemy.

The man who stood before Sharpe was a giant, standing six foot six, a full two inches taller than Patrick Harper, but he was probably a good fifty pounds lighter than the Sergeant. Powerful muscles rippled beneath his shirt. He reminded Sharpe of the jetis that he had fought in India. But unlike those Hindu giants, this was no slow, clumsy strongman. His every movement spoke of great agility and blinding speed. He was clad in buckskin, but it was dyed green rather than the more common brown. At his belt, he wore a great fighting knife and tomahawk. In his hands, he carried a very long rifle, its' dark blued steel barrel nearly a foot longer than Taylor's, with a stock of dark, almost black wood, inlaid with silver in strange designs.

Sharpe had seen him once, at a distance, standing triumphant over the corpse of Colonel Brooke.

His face was perhaps the cruelest, the most merciless that Sharpe had ever seen. It was a Red Indian's face; dark of skin, with high cheekbones, a hooked beak of a nose, and a mouth so thin it almost appeared to be lipless. His face was deliberately scarred in peculiar patterns, above the eyes, on the forehead and the cheeks, and at the edges of the mouth. But he had white man's blood as well, for his hair was flame red. At least what there was of it, for his head was shaved bare, except for a tall crest that ran down the center of the skull from the hair line to the base of the neck.

It was his eyes though, that were the worst. They were of such a pale blue that they were almost all white, except for the black hole of the pupils like gun bores aimed at him. There was something truly evil in his eyes, and Sharpe had to fight the urge to step back.

He had seen eyes something like that once before, in one other man: Obediah Hakeswill. But Hakeswill had been a coward, a bully only to those weaker than him. Once Sharpe was an officer, all he had to worry about was not turning his back on the Sergeant. But this man was no gutless back stabber. He was obviously as deadly a fighter as Sharpe had ever seen. He could have broken Hakeswill in half without even raising a sweat. And then eaten him for breakfast.

From his shoulders, a cloak draped, apparently made of some sort of animal skin with the hair left on. The skin was of varying shades of black and brown, and seemed to be of a patchwork pattern. With a sudden start of disgust, he realized it was made of human scalps.

Around his neck, the man wore a necklace of pointed teeth, about thirty or forty of them, most between one and two inches long. One, at the bottom of the necklace, was larger, nearly three inches long. A knot in the cording indicated that the necklace had recently been broken and repaired. It reminded him of something he couldn't quite place.

The man noticed where Sharpe's attention was. His voice was incongruously soft for one so terrifying.

"Do you like my necklace, Englishman? I got the teeth from an alligator I killed with my knife."

With a single, smooth motion, he drew his massive fighting knife. Its broad blade glinted in the firelight as he held it up.

"I cut out his heart and ate it in the blackness of the swamp. The alligator became my totem, my protector. I gained his strength, his speed, his battle-fury."

Sharpe tried to answer lightly.

"What did he get out of the bargain?"

The man looked down and Sharpe, and smiled broadly. Sharpe felt his gorge rise within him, and he fought to keep the loathing from his face.

The man's teeth were filed to vicious points. He looked more alligator than man.

"What did he get, Englishman? Why, death. Death."

He drew the word out as if he relished it. Then he turned the attention to Sharpe's head.

"You have a fine head of hair, Englishman. It would look splendid on my cloak. And you have a long sharp knife. A long sharp knife from across the sea."

Gator spoke as if he were remembering something, but there was no mistaking the menace in his voice. Sharpe took a step backward, wondering if he could break the restraining cord and get his sword out in time. Killick stepped between them.

"He's here under a flag of truce. You can't touch him."

The man grinned his terrible toothy grin.

"Ahhh, a flag of truce. One of your foolish rules of war. How can you ever win with them tying your hands?"

He sheathed his knife as he turned his attention back to Sharpe.

"We'll meet again, Englishman. 'Til then, take care of that hair."

He moved away from the fire, back towards a half dozen men who lurked in the shadows. Sharpe could see that they were Indians, clad and armed like this man. Killick touched his shoulder.

"Well, you've met the devil and lived to tell about it."

"Who is he?"

"His name's Red Gator. A half breed, Irish on his father's side. Claims to be a Choctaw on his mother's, but I think he's really a Creek. Works for us as a tracker and a scout. Knows the swamp like the back of his hand. Leads a band of Indian scouts called the Brothers of the Swamp. The best marksman with a rifle I've ever seen. Not even the Tennesseans can match him. Goes absolutely blood-crazy in battle, I wouldn't want to cross blades with him."

"I've seen his work."

"Well, be careful. He seems to have got a yearning for your scalp, and he usually gets what he sets his sights on."

Sharpe had been trying to remember something that lurked just beyond his recall. And suddenly, a chill came over him.

He reached into his tunic pocket and retrieved the object he had found at the slaughter grounds of Blassenville.

It was an alligator's tooth.

A twin to the large one on Red Gator's necklace . . .

A necklace whose cord had been recently broken and repaired . . .

On a sudden impulse, he turned to where Red Gator was talking to one of his men, about twenty feet away.


The pale blue eyes turned on him.


He tossed him the tooth. Instinctively, Gator snatched it out of the air and looked at it. Then his eyes met Sharpe's, and for a moment, an expression of demonic rage passed over his face. Then it passed, he smiled his toothy smile, turned, and made his way off into the dark. The Brothers of the Swamp followed him. Sharpe stared off into the darkness where he had disappeared.

In that look, an unspoken message had passed between the two men. A message of death.

Before this was over, one of them would kill the other.

As he strode through the darkness, Red Gator fingered the tooth, the tooth he had lost when that squalling woman had clawed at his necklace just before he cut her down.

The long sharp knife from across the sea, and borne by an Englishman! But I will defeat the Shaman's prophecy. The Englishman is a dead man. And I'll have that fine scalp of his, with its black hair and streak of white.

Red Gator smiled in anticipation.

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Copyright © 2001 Alan Kempner and his licensors. All rights reserved.
Last update 15/7/01