“Why did you slow down for us?” Jack asked.
“We want to know who you are.”
“We're nobody” Jack replied. “Literally. We're.... former Americans. Just looking for someplace safe.”
“Ah.” the shadow said. “We're in same boat, ha ha! Men without country. Good. Good! You are armed, no? Sail with us to Saint Martin. We help each other. Is safer, no? We have no weapons, and your boat is very small. We go together.”
“What about the other ship.” Willie stated more than asked.
“Oh, same thing.” the dark figure answered. “They have eight men left. No weapons there too. They go ahead, to scout. I talk to them on radio before you come alongside. They will wait for us now, so we go together.”
“Explain to me why I should trust you” Willie said. “You're mutineers, not exactly trustworthy if you ask me.”
“We are like you.” the shadow said. “The officers, and some crew, they want to return to home countries. Many different countries, these crew. I am from Ukraine. Vasiliy is my name. I, and many others did not want to go home. The others, they try to force us. So we mutiny. Most go into lifeboats, some get killed. A few heroes, they pretend to mutiny, then try to take ship back. I think all have been stopped, but no way to be sure. So now we are six, when used to be sixteen.”
Jack looked at Willie in the dim moonlight, trying to catch some sign of what he might be thinking, but his stoney expression yielded no clue.
“Calculating” Jack said under his breath, but not quite low enough to go unheard.
Willie shot him a sideways glance, and just barely nodded his head, once. His gaze quickly turned back to the figure at the ship's rail. Then he turned to Jack, and said “It's your call captain.”
“What do you make of him?” Jack asked in a low voice.
“I wouldn't trust him any farther than I could throw him. But I don't think he has any ill intent. He's got nothing to gain.”
“I guess it couldn't hurt then. Hell, we're going to the same place anyway.”
Willie turned back to the shadowy figure. “Vasiliy, we will sail with you to Saint Martin. Under two conditions... One, you lead. We will follow on the windward side. If you so much as flinch, we're outta here. Two, no more radio. I want complete radio silence. Agreed?”
“Good. Good! Yes, agreed! Is much safer, you know? How you say, the more the merrier, no?”
“It can help. My name's Willie, and this is Jack. Let's get going, shall we?”
“Yes! We go!”
Vasiliy vanished behind the bulkhead once more as Jack eased First Watch just behind, and to windward of the ship. A few moments later, several figures appeared on the ship's deck, and Vasiliy's voice could be heard barking orders. They climbed into the rigging and began to set sails. Willie watched them with hawk-like intensity, his left hand resting on the rifle that lay on the cabin roof beside him.
An hour passed before the ship carried enough sail to make eight knots in the dropping breeze, and Jack was relieved to finally shake out the reef in his sail. The ship's crew descended the rat lines, then disappeared below deck. Willie's eyes had been locked on them for the duration, and his hand never left the rifle's stock. Now he relaxed a bit, though he still made it a point to scan the ship's deck every few seconds.
Rubbing her eyes, Linda appeared in the companionway.
“What's up? I felt the change in the boat's motion.” she said.
And then, blurry eyes cleared, she saw the ship next to them.
“What the hell?”
“We've got some new travel companions.” Jack said. “They're headed to Saint Martin.”
“Alright then! You boys need some coffee or something?”
“That would be nice.” said Jack. “It's been a long night, and it ain't over yet.”