Eleuthera at night
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales. As his voyage home to the Bahamas, he recalls his early life, including his father’s death and working for the mysterious Ribbentrops.
(Author’s note: this chapter contains mature situations.)
For the next few weeks Leon spent hours wandering the grounds. His first suggestion was to replace the gate of iron bars with thick wooden doors. No one could shoot through wooden doors and make a quick getaway. Mr. Ribbentrop agreed and promptly made the changes; however, when Leon also recommended cementing broken bottles to the top of the wall, the master rejected it because he thought the house would look more like a prison than a home.
One day Mrs. Ribbentrop told Leon she felt like going to the market and asked him to accompany her. As they walked among the stalls of fruits and vegetables, she said, “I hope I didn’t put you in an uncomfortable position. I mean, you indeed have many admirable qualities but …you’re so young. What do you know of self-defense? Fighting and such things.”
“You don’t know the heritage of the Johnson family, even going back to a time and place where we weren’t even Johnsons. Back in Africa, we were warriors, not very good warriors. We lost and were sold into slavery. Each man in every generation taught his sons ancient tribal skills. My father taught me secret techniques to protect myself and to kill. Your concerns, fortunately, are unfounded. I might appear young and naïve but I am capable of being a very bad little boy.”
That night Leon awoke with a start. His bedroom was just down the hall from the Ribbentrops’ suite. Instinctively he jumped from his bed and instead of putting on his pants Leon ran naked toward their room though he heard no sounds or saw any lights. Just as he entered two men come through the open window from the courtyard. He dove at them as if he were a rock from a slingshot.
His body rammed into the first intruder, the impact sent all three to the floor. Leon leapt up and saw the throat of one of the men, exposed like a turkey neck on a chopping block. He stomped on it with his bare heel until he heard the larynx crack. Then he pressed down with his full weight until the man’s face turned blue and his last breath escaped his lips.
“For God’s sake, boy!” Ribbentrop yelled as he lumbered from bed. “What the hell are you doing? Have you lost your mind?”
“Heinrich?” his wife murmured as she stirred from a deep sleep. “What’s going on?”
Ribbentrop stormed around the corner of the bed. The second intruder scrambled to his feet and lunged at him with a knife. Ribbentrop’s eyes bulged as the blade slid upward under his ribcage.
Leon turned and kicked the attacker in the back of his knee. He crumbled and dropped the knife. Leon picked it up and rammed it into the intruder’s jugular and twisted.
Both Ribbentrop and his assailant gurgled blood before falling over dead. Leon spun to the window to make sure there were not others waiting outside.
“Leon,” the wife whispered, reaching over to turn on the lamp on the nightstand, “are you all right?”
“Yes.” Caring more about what money he could find than about the life of his boss, Leon knelt by the two strangers searching their pockets. He found a few guineas and took them. “My father taught me well.” He checked her husband for a pulse. “I’m afraid Mr. Ribbentrop is dead. Your husband should have agreed to the bottle shards. They came over the wall.”
Mrs. Ribbentrop rose from the bed and neglected to put on her bathrobe on a nearby chair. A silky nightgown clung to her body. “My husband was a fool. He killed himself. Besides, they came for me. Have you heard of the Romanovs?”
“Yes, my father read the newspaper to me every day.”
“I am a cousin to the czar. We’re a ruthless family. We’ve never had a high regard for anyone’s life, except our own. Heinrich offered to marry me and take me away for a substantial dowery. So what are we going to do now?”
Leon rolled the men onto the bedroom rug. “I hope this was not special to you.”
“That’s the shame of it. Nothing is special to me. Sometimes I wish I could be horrified by blood and death.”
“I have to wrap up the assassins. I have a friend who can help me dispose of them at sea.”
“God, you are a cold-hearted bastard,” she said with twisted humor. “Do you even care the Bolsheviks are after me?”
“The Freeport authorities aren’t accustomed to triple homicides. They will bungle the investigation and be more concerned that a black boy killed two white men than the fact they killed your husband.”
“I’d explain it to them.”
‘Really? Make international headlines so the Bolsheviks will know where you are? I think you care about your own life more than mine.”
“You’re probably right.”
“I’m concerned with body disposal now.” Leon began tugging the carpet toward the door.
“What do we do about Heinrich?”
“Do you have a family physician who would rule his death a heart attack? Remember, you don’t want to make headlines.”
She smirked. “For enough money our doctor will say anything. And how did you come up with a heart attack?”
“Well, his heart was certainly attacked.” He paused. “You better call him tonight.” Leon smiled. “And yes, I’m glad I at least saved you.”
“I think I’ll move to the American West. They know how to handle Bolsheviks there.”
Leon stood and moved to the door. “I have to fetch my friend.”
She stepped over the bodies and went to him. “I’m sorry this means your job is gone. I have a large purse of gold coins in the safe. They’re yours.” She paused to mull a weighty matter on her mind. “I was wrong about you. You are a bad boy. There are jobs for bad boys. Don’t ask me how I know, but I do know. Sometime—maybe soon, maybe later—someone will approach you to do evil things for large amounts of money. That way you can support your family.” She shook her head. “I don’t know if I am doing you a favor or not.”
“Believe me. It is a favor.”
“After tonight we must never see each other again.” She paused to keep tears from forming. “I have one last request as your employer.”
“Of course. Anything.” His mind was a blank as to what she might want.
She put her hands to his cheeks, pausing to consider her white skin against his black face. She pushed her lips against his.
“God, I am a Bolshevik,” she murmured.
Leon felt a surge in his body. She put her arms around his neck. He picked her up and carried her to the bed.
Leon shook his head to stop the memory even though it was very pleasurable. Coming back to the present, he sat up in old Joe’s boat to see the Eleuthera dock. Standing on the keel, he anticipated the landing. As the boat thunked against the dock, Leon bounded ashore.
“Thank you, Joe!”
“Anytime, boy. Give your ma a hug for me!”
He ran down the dusty road, passing the now-empty Ribbentrop mansion. When he reached his family’s little house his mother greeted him at the door with an embrace.
“My little boy! How good you look!”