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Weehawken, New Jersey

July 11, 1804


The smartly dressed, older man came first, sitting erect and still as death in the rear of the long oar boat as it silently rowed across the wide river. The moon cast an eerie glow across the fast-moving, silky, black current.

He was balding, middle-aged, and had dark features. However, he was in a much darker mood, a murderous mood in fact. He was the kind of man who never forgot anything, especially the stain on his honor. His eyes bored holes in the back of the man sitting in front of him, and he did not notice his surroundings, as his mind was lost in thought. He was there to right a wrong he had suffered.

To this end he was joined by two other men seated near him, as well as two additional young rowers and his dueling second at the head of the craft, a total of five. The only sound was the water lapping like a running brook as the oars slipped in and out of the calm, silvery surface. Slowly the boat crossed the dark current. Preoccupied, the passenger did not hear. He was focused only on the task ahead of him.

They beached the long oar boat on the bank, and he and the three men quickly scurried into the woods as the rowers stayed behind. Immediately the four gentlemen began to clear the brush along the ledge facing the water. The birds awoke but no one heard. Their singing cast an odd, joyful sound, contrasting eerily with the morbid events unfolding beneath them.

A blond man younger by a year arrived a half hour later in a similar craft with a smaller entourage. He was a person of importance and seemed rather arrogant. In fact, he had a brilliant mind. Unfortunately he had a habit of taunting others with his brilliance, which is what brought him to where he was at this hour. His pompous mood seemed out of touch with the somber circumstances.

One of his party was a well-respected physician. His second, sitting in the bow, carried an ornate box the size of a breadbasket. Inside were two Wogdon dueling pistols, the finest in the world at the time. The pair of weapons had already claimed the lives of a handful of men. One of those killed had been the younger man’s son.

The first party made themselves known, and the group who had just arrived made their way up the embankment to join them. Salutations were exchanged.

The seconds set marks on the ground for the two men ten paces from each other. The younger man, since challenged, had the option of choosing his spot and had already selected to be facing the river. The two antagonists loaded their pistols in front of the witnesses, which was the custom, and the seconds walked into the woods and turned their backs. This way they would not be party to the scene and could not be charged with a crime, as dueling was now illegal. The honorable gentleman was becoming a rare breed. Times were changing.

The blond man’s second began counting down. Unknown to his charge’s opponent, the pistols had a secret hair-trigger firing mechanism; just a slight application of pressure would ignite the powder. This was a sleight of hand to say the least.

A loud crack rang out. A few seconds later, another. Then a cry of pain. Whether the younger man accidentally fired due to the hair trigger or intentionally wasted his shot, we will never know. Historians have debated this point ever since. His shot missed his adversary and ricocheted into the surrounding trees.

The return fire from his opponent, however, was deadly. The ball pierced his abdomen and did mortal damage to his internal organs before lodging in his spine. He collapsed to the ground.

The acrid smell of gunpowder still hung in the air as the dark-haired man walked up to him writhing on the ground. He was confident in his errand as he stood over him and methodically reloaded his pistol.

“Where is it?” he asked as he calmly packed the powder down the barrel.

The seconds stepped forward out of the brush, but the older man waved them off with his pistol. The New Jersey woods were strangely quiet; the New York lights across the river twinkled in the background, soon to be obscured by the rising sun. Its rays would soon shine a bright light on the deadly events happening below.

“Where is it?” he said again sternly but softly, pointing his reloaded pistol at the man’s head as he tried to lift it off the ground and speak. The long, highly polished brass barrel reflected the early-morning sun.

Blood poured from an open wound in the younger man’s gut. Although mortally wounded and lying in the dirt, he held his hand over the opening to try and stop the flow.

“Go to Hell!” he gurgled as his mouth filled with blood.

“I probably will, but I think you will beat me there.” The darker gentleman chuckled and knelt down beside him. He started going through the bleeding man’s pockets. “I have heard you always carry it with you.” Aaron Burr knew he didn’t have much time before the surgeon and seconds gathered and pulled him off. Inside the man’s blood-soaked coat, he found it.

“Ahh!” he gloated smugly. He quickly hid the pouch inside his own vest and stood.

“You will never find what you are looking for!” the wounded gentleman said in a whispering laugh. His strength was ebbing. He was going to die.

“We’ll see,” replied Burr.

“He’s all yours!” he called to the second, and the wounded man’s supporter rushed forward and tended to Alexander Hamilton.


Chapter One

June 10, 2018



The seawater thundered over the stern as the old fishing boat attempted to cut through the eight-foot waves, soaking everyone on board to their core. Connor Murray felt the impact in his kidneys as he held on to the ladder for dear life. The tuna tower swayed above him. His arm muscle burned as he prevented himself from being tossed into the sea from the violent movement. Salt water stung his nose. The new motor growled like a wounded bear as it strained against the onslaught.

How long can this go on? he thought.

Connor had puked twice and didn’t relish a third attempt, but the nausea in his gut and throbbing in his head told him it was inevitable. The other two weekend-warrior fishermen with him on the stern were leaning over the side as he contemplated his situation. He heard them groan as they tried to empty their stomachs, but there was nothing left inside them. He was miserable.

The day had started easily enough in the predawn hours as they boarded the boat at the end of New Providence Island east of Nassau. The water was calm this early in the morning. This part of the island was protected by natural reefs. The rapid change in depth as the ocean floor rose to the island caused the ocean and the island currents to crash into each other, and protected the east end from the ocean’s wrath.

He had been planning this trip for weeks with his good friend. Alex, his Bahamian business colleague, had just finished overhauling an old, thirty-two-foot pilothouse cruiser, a labor of love for two years. The boat had been refurbished from bow to stern; many a weekend night they had spent drinking beer on the deck after a day’s work on the “yacht,” as Alex’s wife called it. Connor chuckled to himself. She was a little bit of a “wannabe.”

The boat was not pretty, but she was strong. Alex had seen to that. He took very good care of her. When someone tears down and rebuilds something that intricate, it becomes part of them. The boat had become his passion. His wife didn’t seem to mind; she had her yacht.

Connor had met his friend years ago when Alex was the head trader at a large hedge fund located in the tony Lyford Cay area on the west end of the island. Alex mingled with the movie stars. After trading together for several years and socializing on every trip Connor took to Nassau, they became friends and trusted one another completely. They took care of one another as they both moved firms several times over the years. Their careers flourished and their wealth grew.

This trip was a much-needed change of scenery away from the Bloomberg terminal for both of them. The constant movement of the ocean was a welcome relief from the volatility of the markets. Stress relief was critical in their business. A day or two in different surroundings did wonders for one’s trading acumen. “The three-day weekend was invented for Wall Street,” Alex would often say.

The sun was rising as they cruised past old Fort Montague close to East Point. He could make out the row of old British twenty-four-pound cannons lining the top barricade. The fort had held up remarkably well through the centuries, considering it was constantly exposed to the elements. The history here ran deep. Connor loved it. The islands were in his blood now. The open ocean waited for them ahead.

Today the only possible negative was the sea, as there was not a cloud in the sky. Their luck was not good.

The trip out of the channel was hellish as they crossed the churning waves. The barrier reefs produced a literal wall of water the boat had to climb, as the underwater structures halted the ocean’s momentum. It was no better on the other side, but Connor knew Alex would not turn back. He had promised everyone on board some fish, and this was her maiden voyage. They all quickly decided it was too rough to make the two-hour trek to Exuma, which they had planned. Instead they would stay off Paradise Island. Connor was quietly grateful.

Later in the day, after they had landed three dolphins—a bull and two females—all mercifully decided that it was too rough to continue. Now they were making their way back to protected waters, but it wasn’t easy. The waves beat the side of the boat and refused to provide a respite to the passengers and crew. The fishermen were still hugging the rail in case they had to empty their stomachs again.

Thinking he would feel better higher, Connor climbed up the ladder and leaned into the back support next to Alex. He could see a line of boats making their way into the harbor to escape the violent sea.

The tower swayed violently as Alex strained to control the craft as she muddled her way up and over the crest of the waves.

“Must have taken on some water,” Alex growled. “I can feel it sloshing back and forth down below. It’s hard to control this pig.”

Connor wasn’t listening. “Tell me the latest on our discovery,” he said.


April 23, 1696


Captain William Kidd turned one last time and looked over his shoulder at the Plymouth landmass disappearing in the background. The city that produced the Pilgrims had long since lost its dominance as a critical port for the Crown. The coastal lights faded in the mist.

Kidd would not miss England. He would, however, miss his beautiful wife of five years, Sarah, and their daughter in the English colony of New York, recently acquired from the Dutch, who called it New Amsterdam. The city was on its way to becoming a cultural and economic center of North America.

Sarah was one of the wealthiest women in the New World, primarily due to her inheritance from her first husband. Already she had been twice widowed, and was only in her early twenties.

He had left them several months ago to fulfill his dreams. He would not see them again for three years. Such was the life of a sailor.

This voyage has started very badly, he thought. Maybe it was a sailor’s intuition, but he had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.

He turned his attention back to the Adventure Galley. He had overseen her construction himself in London. She had been built in record time, so there would be leaks and other imperfections to deal with, but she would do the job. Kidd had sold his former ship, Antigua, in order to raise funds. The King was lusting for pirate blood and treasure. He made no secret of his haste for Kidd’s voyage. The new ship would have to do.

She was a strong, thirty-four-gun privateer and would be formidable when he engaged pirates. Her design was elegant at 284 tons. Her oars would be an important capability when maneuvering against an enemy. His crew, however, was another story.

He had tried to leave England several weeks earlier with an altogether different group of men. His mission was financially speculative. The men would be paid the prize booty they could seize from legitimate pirate or French ships. Therefore he wanted men of good character who were excellent seamen. Having personally chosen each of the 150 men, he took pride in his selections.

In a hurry to depart London, he had chosen not to salute several Royal Navy vessels leaving the mouth of the Thames. It had been a mistake. This was a long-standing tradition, and not following it was a direct affront to the English Navy and the King. His men had even taunted the English yachts as they passed, showing their backsides. Hence the Adventure Galley was boarded, and thirty-five of her best seamen were pressed into the Royal Navy. It was another several weeks before he could get Admiral Russell to return sailors to him to fill his crew. He received back landsmen and troublemakers rather than the original able-bodied seamen.

He was now on his way to New York to fill out his crew with another eighty good men. Then he could chase pirates.

“My crew will not like to be sailing under an unlucky captain,” he said aloud. Perhaps it was nothing to be worried about. “Maybe we have gotten the bad luck out of the way at the start.”

He turned around and faced the bow.

The open sea helped calm his nerves.

Captain Kidd was very glad to be leaving England in command of his own powerful ship. The crew could be dealt with over time. He was a restless man.

He had desperately wanted a commission from the King to command a Royal Navy vessel, and had sailed to London from New York in late 1695 in search of this honor. He loved the sea and had been a respectable member of New York society for several years. He had used his considerable maritime skills as a merchant seaman to build his wealth. Kidd was in love with his beautiful Sarah and their young daughter of the same name, whom he adored. But his first love was the sea. He wanted adventure.

He had sailed to London with a recommendation letter to request an audience with the King in his quest to become a Royal Navy Captain. While there, he became involved in a scheme to help the monarch with his pirate problem while making money for himself and others. Several financial benefactors backed him in building a ship and outfitting it to sail against any pirate he could find, with the booty paying the mission’s expenses. The profits would be split among Kidd and the powerful English gentlemen. These included the Earl of Bellomont and other aristocrats. He’d never met the King, but he did receive a written commission to perform this duty. The King was to receive ten percent of the take.

This was a dangerous gamble, and Kidd knew he was sailing in treacherous territory. He was already at odds with the Royal Navy, who presumed it was their duty to deal with the piracy issue. It was an unlucky start indeed.

He had no friends at sea, and he suspected as much as he crossed into the Atlantic. The rewards, however, could be great and in his mind were worth the risk.

Looking out over the vast ocean, he felt at peace for the first time in many years. His wife and daughter were the furthest subjects from his mind. He was with his love at last.


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