Date: 7-th of May 1719 in the evening
Place: Havana, Cuba
There were many ships to give passage to a lonely man from Maracaibo to Havana. Wasn’t Havana the key to the New World and the colonial capital of New Spain? He was admiring the white stone profiles of the fortress and the castles watching over the city and the harbour equally. Castillo de la Fuerza, more impressive than the others, was his favourite to admire. Everything in the city centre boasted about the rich people there. More luxury than anywhere in Nueva Granada!
Chago liked it, and lately he hadn’t the opportunity to visit it too often. It seemed that his skills were more in need on the islands under British and French authority. Or maybe he was more renowned there, while in Cuba there were others from Dos Caminos de Maracaibo who were gaining their living more often: the Songbird, the Black Widow…
A short stop in the streets around Plaza de Armas, looking for a quieter inn to have a good meal and a refreshing coffee, then a visit to the church of Santiago de las Vegas, where he liked praying whenever he arrived to Havana, and the time passed. Now it was evening, the right moment to head towards Admiral Moncada’s residence.
Being called by the Admiral himself, not by somebody acting in his name, was more than strange, and the mercenary was curious what adventure laid ahead.
FERRAN MONCADA BALAGUER
Immovable like a stone statue, quietly observing the clouds gliding over sea, Don Ferran, Admiral of the Spanish navy was standing in front of his office window. But his mind was neither on the clouds nor the sea. Instead his thoughts were circling around a parent’s almost unlimited faith in their child being alright when all hope seemed to be lost. On his desk were the latest naval reports that, amongst other things, informed him of the loss of the ship La Princesa to an enemy still unknown. As an admiral he had often lost ships under his command and he had often had to sacrifice some good men in order to achieve a greater advantage over his enemies. But La Princesa wasn’t just a regular ship. On it had been his daughter who was not lost either to Davy Jones’ locker or to pirates or whoever had sunk the ship. He wasn’t really sure what would be worse. Her being dead or her being a captive of pirates.
Someone entered his office and Ferran had a pretty good idea about who it was. He had only summoned one person to his home this day and that was a man who had a record of tracking people. Ferran remained standing quietly observing the ocean without looking at the newly arrived guest. He wasn’t yet sure how to make this mercenary understand the importance of this job with mere words. But he would have to try.
“No parent should ever have to mourn the death of their children…
” He then finally said in a low voice as the silence in the room was getting slightly uncomfortable. Then he turned his head and looked at the man who had entered. His eyes were clearly sad and completely made his attempt to keep a proud posture fail. “La Princesa… Was sunk as you might have heard… Hmmp… My daughter… She was onboard…
Ferran took a seat behind his desk and shook his head before looking up and continuing. “But I refuse to accept that she is just lost… for nothing… I her to be found… or at least closure… Know what happened to her… Even my enemies couldn’t deny me closure could they?
This post has been written by MASCHA
El Moreno, in his elegant, dark clothes, was looking like any captain who happened to have been awaited by the admiral, so he had no problems with being introduced to him, especially that the admiral had told his butler that he was expecting somebody.
”Good evening, Admiral!” Chago had greeted politely, without the flourished bow he had intended, because the man wasn’t looking at him. ”I have been told you need my services.”
A long silence preceded the admiral’s words about mourning the death of children, and when he turned to face the mercenary, Chago could see in his sad eyes the impact of the loss. It took only the discipline of a well trained man to not betray his shock at hearing the news. He had seen both the Admiral and his daughter, from afar, a few times. A pretty young lady - not that he had paid her any special attention, but he was an admirer of all kind of beauties… Now, what was the Admiral saying, that she was dead? Revenge was what he wanted? In this case… El Moreno was the right man for accomplishing this!
Leaving him to tell the story as coherently as his deep sorrow allowed for, Chago listened with attention. He didn’t know about “La Princesa”, news of this kind didn’t reach Maracaibo, or maybe they did, but weren’t of interest for the mercenaries.
Then, with the last words of a troubled father, Chago understood.
”If this is what I am needed for, it is a challenge I’d willingly take,” he answered on a calm, low but determined tone.
El Moreno, the well trained mercenary, took his usual professional approach and started asking logical questions about his mark.
”Should I understand from your words that you don’t know anything else than the mere fact that the ship was sunk? Don’t you know if there was a storm, pirates or the war enemies? I’d need any information you can give me about the ship. About your daughter… it wouldn’t be bad if you had a portrait, something the people could recognize her after. Be it a painting or a pendant for the necklace…,” he continued on the same tone.
He was aware that what for him were the details of a challenging good deal, for his interlocutor were deeply troubling questions, but they were questions he needed to know the answers, in order to know where to start and what to do.
FERRAN MONCADA BALAGUER
It would have been logical to assume that the Spanish Admiral had summoned a man like El Moreno to have someone killed. After all he was a mercenary or a hired blade. But this was not what the good admiral wanted right now. He wanted information. Despite having heard rumors and had vague reports from his navy on his desk about the fate of La Princesa, each tale was different and where some claimed that pirates had sunk the Spanish ship, others claimed that the enemies of Spain had done so. Then there were of course the more colourful versions such as the ship being claimed by a sea monster or mysterious storm. But that was more drunken tavern talk than actual facts. No. To Ferran it was clear that the ship had either been claimed by pirates or the French/British alliance. He hadn’t really responded or even paid much attention to the mercenary’s words before he started inquiring a little more information about the ship. It seemed only logical that the man needed a place to start his search for answers. Ferran nodded and got up from his chair. He walked over to another desk where he shuffled through a few naval documents, mumbling a bit absent-mindedly to himself until he found what he was looking for. He handed document to the mercenary and revealed that it was in fact a map showing the supposed route of La Princesa. There were even a little circle around the area where the ship was presumed lost, based on where it had been last seen and where wreckage parts that could have hailed from the ship had been seen. For a moment Ferran just looked at the map silently before getting to the next issue. How his daughter looked. He pointed to a painting on the back wall where he had been depicted along with his daughter in a very formal position.
” He said and looked at the picture before getting back to the man’s question about the specific job. He had asked if he should just get him information. “No I want her back here if she is alive somewhere… But if that is impossible then I must at least know who is responsible and then… THEN… We can start talking about what other services you may be offering…
This post has been written by MASCHA
Chago was waiting quietly for answers to his questions. Of course he needed an idea how and where to start. He received the map and he nodded in thanks, with a little, barely sketched smile. Any wider one would have been an offence to a father’s grief. He watched the map with interest, his mind spinning in all directions. The area in question was towards the Winward Passage, so pirates, French and Brits were equal possibilities to have attacked the ship. This meant he should try to learn something in Kingston, in Port de Paix and in Tortuga alike… or maybe even in Nassau. But if there was any prize taken to Nassau, the news would have spread to Kingston too, so this was the place he wanted to start from.
Chago didn’t waste a thought, for the moment being, to the fact that he was actively looking for a mere excuse to head to Kingston first of all.
He looked at the family portrait on the wall and he recognized the impressive young lady.
”With all the respect, Sir, I can identify your daughter without looking at this picture. I have seen you and her, a few times, at social functions. I would need something smaller, to take with me, so that I can show it to people when asking about her. This is what I have been asking for.”
He understood perfectly the Admiral’s position. Of course he wanted first of all news and, if alive, his daughter back. Afterwards, he would want revenge too, it was logical.
”If anybody can learn about her, it’s El Moreno!” he stated proudly. ”So should I understand that no ransom request had been received? This is strange, given that, as far as I understand, this has happened nearly two months ago.”
He also understood that until deciding to ask for a mercenary’s assistance, an admiral had surely sent his Navy men and spies on that quest, but presumably without any success.
FERRAN MONCADA BALAGUER
As Ferran handed the detailed map to the mercenary, he noticed how the man's mind started working. The two men probably had some similarities in their way to approach a problem. It reasured Ferran a little. Had it not been because of his age and the fact that an Admiral could not just go AWOL to find his daughter, who all logic would consider dead already. Now Ferran sent the young man a reassured smile and a nod of approval to the man before continuing. Chago had asked for a smaller picture of his daughter so he could bring it along. It was with much hesitation that Ferran reached down into an overfilled drawer in his desk. He moved some items that had probably never been touched since being placed there years ago. But he finally managed to find a fine necklace with a small locket in it. He looked at it for a moment.
”This is not as recent as the painting...
” He started slowly while extending his arm with the necklace towards the mercenary. ”It was my wife's... I would appreciate if you would keep it safe so I don't loose that too...
Ferran then sat back as the Mercenary made some last inquireies about what the current situation was. When he questioned if he was correct in his understanding that no ransom had been demanded despite it being months since the actual sinking of the ship, Ferran frowned before shaking his head.
”I have heard nothing about my daughter...
” He said in a voice that seemed a bit hoarse and old. ”I would not employ your services if I knew it all, would I?
He then leaned forward in the chair and placed both hands on the desk getting half up from the chair, leaning slightly in over it while looking the mercenary in the eyes.
”Be swift but thorough...
” He said in a determined voice. ”She went missing two months ago and I would like some answers before her tracks dissappear and I can only seek my answers with the Almighty...
This post has been written by MASCHA
Chago’s mind was already running in all directions, thinking how and where to start searching. He liked the Admiral’s approving smile and nod. When he finally found the necklace and showed it to Chago, the mercenary bowed in thanks.”I’ll take care of it, I promise I won’t lose it. I’ll bring it back, and I’ll give you any news I can gather. For the moment being, I am asking only for an agreement about the travel expenses to be covered. I am ready to start the investigation. The price will match directly the news I’ll be bringing and it will be discussed upon my return, given the special nature of this mission.”
He was not a man of many words. He knew what he had to do, and he hardly waited to begin.
– THE END –