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After all his worries to the contrary, she was easy to find.
She was burning.
The smoke wrapped around the ship like a shroud, visible for miles. The stench of it crept across the waves. To LeCorbeau’s beaky nose it stank worse than death. It reeked of missed opportunity.
He cursed. Some pirate had gotten to her first!
“Raise the colors! Our own French flag! We will come to her, eh…aid.” He dropped his voice. “Maybe there is something left.” He cursed again, and paced in his small, quick steps, his hands locked together behind him. He eyed the smoke furling and unfurling like sails in the rigging. His own agile ship, the privateer L’Ormonde, glided closer.
“Renaud, the spyglass!”
Renaud, a model of his captain’s taste, more slim than tall, hastened to his master’s side to hand the instrument over. LeCorbeau yanked the spyglass from his mate, jerked it to its full length, and raised it to a beady eye. He made out men rushing about topside. The ship was burning, but only above. The deck and hull were untouched. Not a wisp of smoke bellied up from below decks.
She was still seaworthy. LeCorbeau searched for the name to be sure. It was painted on the bulky bow: Julianne. She bobbed on the brine, her hold obviously empty. Slowly, he lowered the spyglass. Squinting now, Captain LeCorbeau formed a suspicion in his mind. It wasn’t difficult; he was a suspicious man.
He spoke under his breath. “Who would attack her, and take such care to leave her floating?” Which scavenger of the sea would ensure that her crew lived to tell his story? “There is only one so arrogant.” LeCorbeau was too familiar with his methods. Only one captain was so self-assured. One pirate! LeCorbeau’s lip curled.
He spat. Renaud hunched over and grasped the spyglass as it slammed into his skinny belly. His cocky captain stamped his foot while the first mate refilled his lungs and lifted the glass to scan the horizon. Renaud had an ache in his gut, and it wasn’t from the impact of the spyglass.