Bay of Biscay, 9 April 1695
Bardsley was defeated, and he resorted to an undignified retreat as his men scrambled out of the small tight spaces within the bowels of the vessel. They immediately got Bardsley’s vessel moving as desperate pirates flung themselves off the “ghost ship” on the ropes they had left behind.
It was a hasty, undignified retreat, but they got moving before Cropson and his crew had time to thrust through more than fifteen of them.
Cropson ordered his men to get to the guns and begin to fire on Bardsley’s ship as soon as they got the guns ready
Bardsley was not concerned in putting any holes in Cropson’s ship, he was only concerned about getting the heck out of there.
His next stop: Brest, France.
Moving at a blistering pace, Bardsley got moving toward his next destination, leaving Cropson far behind his wake. This was fortunate for Bardsley, since he had some “precious cargo” to pick up in Brest. It was about to get more interesting.
* * *
Cropson was flustered. How could Bardsley have gotten away that fast? It’s almost impossible. Though frustrated, he ordered his men to follow the miniscule wake that Bardsley’s ship had left behind in its hasty escape. He ordered the anchor lifted and the sails unfurled.
It was time to make up some time.
Cropson’s crew had been working through the night to catch up to Bardsley. They had him in their sights now. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning off the northwestern coast of France. To Cropson, it seemed as though Bardsley was heading for Brest, a mid-sized city on the coast of France’s northwestern border. Cropson didn’t have any idea what he would be doing there, except for stopping for provisions.
Cropson snapped out of his thoughts. He ordered that the men slow the ship down, so as not to attract any attention from Bardsley’s crew. This was beginning to look like just a big game of cat and mouse, a very big game indeed.
* * *
Bardsley could just faintly see the light of Brest. He was getting close, and the excitement inside him was rising. He could smell the money already.
In Brest, he was going to pick up some . . . supplies, to say the least: Some more crew members, a few items to get his job done, provisions for the rest of the journey, and a brief discussion with his “accomplices.”
He was almost there and he couldn’t wait until he got there. The suspense was building, and the stakes were rising higher and higher, right under Cropson’s nose.
Brest, France, 11 April 1695
Bardsley docked his ship. It was about 10 o’clock in the evening and he was eager to get on with his errands. He told his crewmen to look over the ship while he was gone. He walked down the nearest street, turned a corner and disappeared behind the bustling shops and streets. They watched for a few seconds afterward, and then got back to their morning duties.
Cropson’s ship was docked a few hundred feet away, blocked from view by a large cargo ship that was busily being unloaded. He had docked about a half-hour prior to his nemesis and sent a few spies after Bardsley to see what he was doing here. He was convinced that it was not just bulking up on supplies, since he didn’t take any crewmen with him. He thought spies would be a good idea. It turned out he was right.
* * *
Bardsley was to meet Jean-Luc Scapellión, and Frederick Gämes in a seaside pub to discuss their plans and to pick the necessary supplies and crew. Jean-Luc and Frederick would be providing both from their native countries of France, and Germany and were to meet another unnamed associate in London, when they arrived
As they were talking, a tall, skinny individual entered the pub and looked around, seeming to avoid eye contact with everyone, especially where Bardsley and his comrades were seated.
Reluctantly, he sat down at the bar on one of the high bar stools. He ordered a large ale, and paid with 5 French francs and slowly sipped his ale. He still continued to take in the tavern, he almost looked nervous.
Bardsley was ripped away from his silent vigil as Frederick suddenly tapped him on the shoulder.
“Was Sie tun, finden Sie unter Kapitän? (What do you see Captain?)” he asked, seeing the confused expression on the Captain’s face.
“Ya see that tall lad there? The one sippin’ his ale real slow and lookin’ ‘round?” Bardsley asked.
“Ja, denke ich. Warum? (Yes, I think. Why?)” he inquired flatly.
“Don’t he look just a wee bit suspicious to ye?”
“Nein, nicht wirklich. Warum machst du dir Sorgen? (No, not really. Why are you worried about it?)”
“I dunno. I guess I’m just suspicious about everythin’, ya know?
“Ich kenne das Gefühl. (I know the feeling.)”
“Alright, now what were ye all talkin’ ‘bout?” he said, continuing their conversation.
They didn’t talk about much, just a lot of high hopes for their “big job” as they referred to it. Anyway, they sat and talked for another few minutes and then decided to go and pick up the “goods.”
Little did they know that the “skinny lad” was one of Cropson’s spies, and he heard everything they were talking about.
* * *
A small grouping of Cropson’s crew was sitting outside waiting for Skips to return from the pub. A few minutes ago, they had seen Bardsley leave the pub with two other men. One was definitely French; the other German.
As they were thinking over what they had seen in the past fifteen minutes, Skips appeared in the door of the pub and began walking toward them.
“So, wha’d’ya hear? Huh?” Bracken inquired.
“Nothin’ much sir, just a few jokes. But they did keep talking about this ‘big job’ in London as they called it.”
“I knew ‘e was up ta som’n,” Bracken said with contempt. “Let’s go boys.”
They followed Bracken back through the crowded port town of Brest to the ship. They found Cropson waiting patiently for them. They told him all that they had learned and boarded the ship.
“The only thing we don’t know is where he’s going, Cap’n. That would’ve been good if we had found that out.” Bracken said.
Cropson patted him on the back. “That’s okay, Bracken. You’ve done a valiant service. We’ll just be able to follow him. It’s not bad, but it could’ve been better. Now git up to that deck, let’s get goin’!” With that, Bracken hurried out of the room, yelling orders as he went.
* * *
Bardsley, Scapelliòn, and Gämes had left the pub and were now heading toward a deserted shipyard. Trash and scrap were scattered everywhere. It was just plain filthy.
Bardsley followed Scapelliòn and Gämes up to a shabby, old, grey warehouse. Gämes and his two colleagues helped him pry open the industrial-sized, metal sheet door and then they walked inside.
In the large building, they found a group of twenty to thirty shaggy-looking men with pipes and cigars. Some were also carrying along bottles of some form of alcohol.
Well, ‘is looks like a rowdy bunch. What ‘r’ we doin’ with these scumbags? thought Bardsley. They didn’t seem like the type qualified for this job.
“Il s’agit de votre étendu. Ils ne fera un travail à bord du navire un tas, mais ils vont faire ce qu’ils font, une fois que nous arrivons à Londres bien sûr. (This is your extended crew. They won’t be doing a whole lot a work on the ship, but they’ll do what they do, once we get to London of course),” Scapelliòn put in, almost reading his mind.
“’ow many are ‘ere?” Bardsley inquired.
“Dreiβig. Zehn aus England, zehn aus Frankreich und zehn aus Deutschland. Es funktioniert ganz gut, meinst du nicht? (Thirty. Ten from England, ten from France, and ten from Germany. It worked out quite nicely, don’t you think?)”Gämes replied.
“Je dirais donc. (I would say so),” Scapelliòn piped in.
“Well, I guess ‘ey be workin’ out perty well,” Bardsley replied hesitantly.
“Qu’il s’installe. Laissez-nous faire notre chemin du retour vers le navire. (That settles it. Let us make our way back to the ship),” Scapelliòn suggested.
“Ich glaube, das ware eine wunderbare Idee, wir können jedoch, sich aufzuteilen, um nicht die Aufmerksamkeit zu wecken. (I believe that would be a wonderful idea, however, we may want to split up, so as not to rouse attention),” Gämes warned.
“That be just what I were thinkin’,” put in Bardsley. “Let’s be off!”
And with that they rounded up their gangs, each to his own nationality; the French with Scapelliòn and the Germans with Gämes. Bardsley decided to walk alone, while the other two groups took detours back to Bardsley’s ship. He hoped that they wouldn’t all arrive at the same time.
They didn’t. Bardsley made it first and boarded the ship, preparing for sailing. Gämes and his German bunch showed up next, and boarded swiftly. Scapelliòn came last, with his party bringing up the rear. They climbed up the gangplank onto the ship and were off in a flash.
* * *
Cropson had been anticipating Bardsley’s return. He was ready when he saw that Bardsley had returned with a group of eleven Englishmen and hurriedly boarded the ship. Cropson ordered his men to get the ship ready, knowing that Bardsley would leave before him, but that was the idea; follow but not be seen or attract attention. Besides, Bardsley didn’t even know he was here, at least he thought so anyway. But it didn’t really matter.
Soon, he could see Bardsley’s ship in the distance. He kept the distance to not attract attention and it seemed to be working. They were slowly but surely heading northeast, right towards the British Isles.