1 -- Sometimes They're Really Dead -- Wilmington, colony of North Carolina -- July 1776 -- The pirate's head had disappeared. William heard the speculations from a group of idlers on the quay nearby, wondering whether it would be seen again. -- "Na, him be gone for good," said a ragged man of mixed blood, shaking his head. "De ally-gator don' take him, de water will." -- A backwoodsman shifted his tobacco and spat into the water in disagreement. "No, he's good for another day- two, maybe. Them gristly bits what holds the head on, they dry out in the sun. Tighten up like iron. Seen it many a time with deer carcasses." -- William saw Mrs. MacKenzie glance quickly at the harbor, then away. She looked pale, he thought, and maneuvered himself slightly so as to block her view of the men and the brown flood of high tide, though since it was high, the corpse tied to its stake was naturally not visible. The stake was, though- a stark reminder of the price of crime. The pirate had been staked to drown on the mudflats several days before, the persistence of his decaying corpse an ongoing topic of public conversation. -- "Jem!" Mr. MacKenzie called sharply, and lunged past William in pursuit of his son. The little boy, red-haired like his mother, had wandered away to listen to the men's talk, and was now leaning perilously out over the water, clinging to a bollard in an attempt to see the dead pirate. -- Mr. MacKenzie snatched the boy by the collar, pulled him in, and swept him up in his arms, though the boy struggled, craning back toward the swampish harbor. -- "I want to see the wallygator eat the pirate, Daddy!" -- The idlers laughed, and even MacKenzie smiled a little, though the smile disappeared when he glanced at his wife. He was at her side in an instant, one hand beneath her elbow. -- "I think we must be going," MacKenzie said, shifting his son's weight in order better to support his wife, whose dist ...
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