“Malcolm controlled Eugene and made him frame Normand, not because he had leverage over him but his son?” asked Anne as she returned the weapon to Zhang Heng.
“Yes. Many of the colony’s residents have a zero-tolerance policy toward pirates. If that incident was made public, not only would Eugene’s son be booted from the navy, but he would even face the death penalty,” Zhang Heng confirmed.
“No wonder Eugene was so compliant to Malcolm. Before we can ask Eugene to expose Malcolm, we would have to solve his problem first. Did Carmen tell you who the two survivors were?” asked Billy.
Carina shook her head.
“Eugene didn’t tell her the names of the two survivors, but I think I might have a way to find out. The customs have a record of the names of pirate attack survivors. I can write in and have someone look it up.”
“So, our next step is to look for the names of the two survivors. We have to find a way to either kill them or abduct them.”
“I don’t think it’ll be that easy… if it was, Eugene would have done that already. There’s no way he would let Malcolm hold sway over him for the rest of his life. Even if he didn’t do it himself, he could have hired someone to do it for him,” said Carina.
Zhang Heng simply kept quiet.
“What’s wrong?” asked Carina.
“Nothing. I suddenly thought of something, but I’m not sure if it’s the right way to achieve our goal. Can I borrow two men from you? I want them to travel to the colony and check something for me.”
Zhang Heng and his men were on the wanted list of several ports and though he had spent a long time at sea and was now tanned, his oriental appearance still made him stand out like a sore thumb. That said, the Northern American colonies of this era had always fascinated Zhang Heng, and given the opportunity, he would have loved to traverse the lands on a sightseeing tour. All that, of course, on the premise that his core mission had been completed and had earned enough money. He could even pay the retired Roscoe a visit. The old man had taught him so much, not to mention controlling the sails and reading the winds. It wasn’t hyperbole to say he was Zhang Heng’s enlightenment guru. However, those wisps of sentimentality lingered in his mind only briefly – it was simply too risky. It was a shame knowing that with his current identity, he was destined to never reintegrate into civilized society.
“Of course,” Carina nodded, adding, “Pick whoever you want.”
Zhang Heng selected two somewhat competent-looking men and briefed them on the matter they were to investigate. Then, he gave them forty silver coins for their expenses, which had the two pleasantly surprised and pleased. That very night itself, they embarked on a journey back to the colony.
As usual, Zhang Heng didn’t waste any time. After digging around for a bit, he quickly found the pirate gang that Eugene’s son had been a part of.
As a matter of fact, that pirate group had long since ceased to exist. Like most pirate gangs on the island, it existed only for a short time before disbanding in less than a year. It wasn’t even a large group to start with. At their peak, the time when Eugene’s estranged son joined in, there were fewer than thirty individuals. There wasn’t much to gloat either; their most significant achievement being robbing a merchant ship hauling cotton, and that was nine years ago.
After the gang’s dismantling, The small portion who were left joined other pirate gangs, and one after another, they were subsequently buried at sea. There were even a few who returned to their life as fishermen. So, after about a week, and with Brook’s help, Zhang Heng found a guy who used to work on the ship. After asking the man a few questions, Zhang Heng thanked him and went on his way.
Coincidentally, the results of Carina’s investigation were out – she finally understood why Eugene submitted to vicious humiliation all these years and was unable to get rid of Malcolm’s control over him.
Malcolm had sent one of the two survivors to the naval fleet, and the other to the governor’s mansion as a bodyguard. This meant that Billy’s plan wouldn’t work. Unless resolving to a mass bombing akin to Queen’s Anne Revenge’s bombardment of Charleston, it was unrealistic that they could kidnap or kill the two men.
Carina felt a strong wave of frustration ramming into her. They thought they had identified Malcolm’s weakness, but after all that bloody effort, they found themselves at another dead end. Malcolm was like a juggernaut without a flaw. Carina couldn’t help but wonder who was going to win this war. After all, even Normand, the leader of the first generation Black-Market Alliance, lost to a fledgling Malcolm. Compared to him, she was nothing but a dabbling rookie in the industry.
Four days had passed, and Carina still found no solution. She grew more anxious by the day, generally uneasy and edgy. That was until Zhang Heng knocked at her door and said, “Let’s go. The men you’ve lent me are back. We should pay Eugene a visit too.”
“Now? Are you sure you can convince him to give up his only son’s life to be on our side?”
“At least an eighty percent chance,” Zhang Heng answered.
“How is that even remotely possible?” Carina replied with wide beady eyes.
“It’s actually not as complicated as you think. I’ll explain later.”
So that night, the pair arrived at Hayman Manor by carriage. Drew was already waiting at the door. He led them upstairs to the study, where Carmen and Eugene were present. After the latter finished reading the letter in his hand, he grew emotional. He asked with a sniffle, “How do I know what you’re saying is
“If you’ve read the letter, you would know that your son never boarded any pirate ship before he left Nassau. He paid for his journey with what he earned doing odd jobs around the island,” Zhang Heng said. “When Mrs. Smith mentioned you and your son, she said that you both grew apart after the fire, and you haven’t been in contact ever since. And this is why Malcolm’s scheme worked.”
“Do you think that I didn’t look into it at that time? I found a pirate from that ship, and he verified that my son was indeed there! I even had customs check the records of the two survivors. They really were survivors of a plundered vessel! Are you about to tell me that Malcolm planned years ahead just so he could threaten me?”
“No, Malcolm is not God. He couldn’t have planned this so far ahead of time. So, the survivors are real, that pirate ship is real, and the robbery is real too, except for one thing. The person on the ship wasn’t your son. Malcolm must have found out by chance that you and your son were estranged. When he realized that he could use it against you, he only had to buy off one person, the helmsman of that pirate ship.”
Zhang Heng paused, then continued, “I found an old sailor from that ship. It was all very close to what I anticipated. At that time, the ship experienced a very high turnover rate – a common problem among the underdog pirate gangs. If their loot wasn’t nearly enough, it was difficult to retain people. In reality, most either fished or grew crops for a living. They would only rush over if they heard a ship is hiring. Most of them don’t even know each other or would be acquainted for a short while before completely forgetting each other. There happened to be a teenager around your son’s age at that time. Malcolm saw it as the perfect tool to be used against you!”