We had been locked up for over a week. When Gram turned his mobile back on, he had seven new messages from Tom. The first few were calm, with Tom sending regular updates about his progress repairing the Mechanical Gills on the F. Scott. However as he continued to leave messages with out getting any type of response, his voice became more and more irritated. I listened in as the Captain played Tom’s last message.
“…and if you’re out at the fucking bar Gram, I swear to God I’ll walk away right now and you can come get the sub yourself.”
After a few tries, the Captain got Tom on the phone and was able to explain what had happened to us. I could hear the irritation in Tom’s voice turn quickly to concern.
“It’s all right Tom. We’re ok,” said Gram into his mobile. “Bastards ripped out one of my teeth and the son of a bitch won’t stop bleeding but other than that we’re fine.”
He paused for a moment.
“Lewis? Yeah he’s ok too. I think he pissed himself while we were in there but yeah, he’s fine.” The Captain began to laugh.
“Asshole,” I mumbled to myself. I was sitting in the cabin of the truck between Gram and Iseri, who was driving. I reached over and rolled down the passenger side window. I pulled out the pack of Gallos from my shirt pocket and lit one. Iseri, gestured with his right hand that he wanted one too, so I lit a second cigarette and passed it over.
According to Gram, Tom had finished repairing the F. Scott. He and Peoria were somewhere off the coast of Portugal, on their way to meet us. It would take them at least five days to reach Turkey. I threw my cigarette out the window, leaned my head back and fell asleep.
I woke up sometime after midnight. We were driving south along the Gallipoli peninsula. I was cold so I rolled up the window. Gram was asleep. The radio was on and a voice was speaking in Turkish.
“What is he saying?” I asked Iseri.
“He’s saying the Chinese Navy opened fire on a civilian cargo ship from Romania this afternoon,” said Iseri.
“Supposedly they were attempting to smuggle guns through Istanbul to the fighters in the south, in Yalova.”
“Do you believe that?” I asked.
A little after four, we were just outside of Eceabat, a small fishing village on the Dardanelles Strait. We abandoned the truck in the woods and walked the last six kilometers into town as the sun came up. We walked up to a nearby inn when Gram stopped all of a sudden. He looked at Iseri.
“All I have on me are Rubles. Will they take Rubles?”
“They’ll take whatever money you have,” said Iseri.
We got a room with a sloped ceiling and two twin beds. It was small but clean. Gram gave Iseri some money and sent him out for supplies.
While the Captain was in the bathroom gargling salt water, I started looking through my notes to make sure everything was still there. Tucked between my notes from the museum was something I’d never seen before. It was a letter written in Spanish on brittle paper, stained with blood. I scanned it into the Captain’s mobile and translated it into English.
This is what it said:
July 5, 1546
To he who finds this letter,
I come from Barcelona. I was once a captain in the Spanish Armada and took part in the Battle of Preveza. Our forces were slaughtered by Hayreddin Barbarossa, the scourge of the Mediterranean. I was taken aboard Barbarossa’s ship and forced to watch as he executed the last of my men. I was tortured and made to do unspeakable things. I lived for five years, not as a man, but as an animal, kept in a cold damp corner, in the belly of the ship.
As a young Captain, Barbarossa had made a pact with the devil that he would one day command the Ottoman Fleet and be the most powerful man to sail the Mediterranean. He wore around his neck a strange artifact thought to be the source of his power, a foreign metal fish with smooth dark stones for eyes. A gift, no doubt, from the Devil himself.
One night I freed myself of my shackles and killed a guard with a knife I’d carved from bone. Above deck I killed two more men, before I dove into the ocean and swam to freedom.
Unconscious, but alive, I washed ashore in Venice. A kindly monk found me and took me in. He helped me regain both my strength and my sanity.
A year later I returned to Constantinople and found Barbarossa in his home, a bloated old man sleeping in a chair. I tied his wrists and gagged his mouth. With my bone knife I cut him from end to end, bleeding him like a pig. He witnessed in horror as I spread his insides around the room and ground them into the carpet with the heel of my boot. I torn his prize metal fish from the chain around his neck before he took his last breath. I wanted him to know that he knew he would be returning to Hell without it.
You, who have found this letter, understand that I am not a monster, nor a man without purpose. You see before you the body of Hayreddin Barbarossa, a man twisted by evil. I have done the world a great service.
Glory to God, Glory to Spain
Francisco del Herrero