--- Blackbeard's Family Secrets ---
Only His Descendants Know The Truth
a novel by
Coming Spring of 2022
The wax sealed letter with the apropos postal stamp of skull and crossbones affixed, slid down the mailbox shoot disappearing into the depths like an ill-fated buccaneer ship’s one way trip to Davy Jones Locker.
Done . . . now let’s see if he takes the bait.
Entering his study he withdrew volume two of LOST TREASURES OF THE SPANISH MAIN and a copy of WOMEN AND ENGLISH PIRACY from the shelf of one of the floor to ceiling mahogany bookshelves. At his desk, he sat down and placed the books next to his legal pad and then depressed the power button of his laptop.
“Good morning Mr. Kinniston. I brought your morning tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” she said entering the room and then placed it down in front of him. “And the morning post just arrived,” she added, and before he could object, quickly placed the pile on the desk as well and turned to leave with no attempt to hide her snickering.
“Thank you Mrs. Winthrop.” He said, knowing full well his that housekeeper, and unofficial lady of the manor, enjoyed irritating him with the daily flood of trifling junk mail. “What would I ever do without you?” He added, secretly enjoying their daily sparring.
Mrs. Winthrop may be a few sandwiches short of a picnic but to him, she’d become indispensable.
“Give me a pay rise, or you might find out in a fortnight!” She shot back from the hallway in her most annoying cockney accent, another splinter of irritation to her boss.
He repressed his urge to parry, but allowed for a quick grin, one that just as quickly faded as he pushed aside the annoying pile of unsolicited mail.
While waiting for the computer to boot up he leaned back in his chair, sampled the hot tea and let out a sigh. His eyes scanned the wall in front of him and focused on the three ancient relics from the 1690’s displayed inside the glass case mounted on the wall. Of all the artifacts retrieved during his many expeditions to the bottom of the sea, these three antiquities found off the coast of Madagascar were his favorite; Part of the barrel of a blunderbuss, the hilt of a cutlass with a quarter of its blade intact, and a completely unblemished binnacle that still held parts of a ships compass. All three remnants had fragments of the same engravings on them that when pieced together in context, clearly read: 1696 CWK ADVENTURE GALLEY. This confirmed they had indeed not only found the wreck of the Adventure Galley captained by the infamous privateer turned pirate, Captain William Kidd, but that at least two of the artifacts where his own personal weapons.
Absorbed in his brief moment of musing he nodded his head remembering the elation he’d felt on that successful quest, when once again the little voice inside hinted its habitual petition;
. . . It’s about time for a new adventure, Kinniston.
The Microsoft Windows boot up melody interrupted his reveling.
Refocusing, he typed in his password; 11221718, meaning November 22nd 1718, the date of Blackbeard’s death. Now waiting for the desktop screen to load, his eyes darted to the advertisement peppered pile of time wasting junk mail he’d pushed to the side moments ago. Aggravated, he scooped up each piece in one swipe and tossed the entire pile into the rubbish bin.
Forty-five minutes later, emails sent, research done, pressing financials taken care of, and important phone calls made, he powered down the computer and stood to leave.
“Bob’s your uncle,” he said aloud, glad to have finished putting out the daily fires associated with running his philanthropic Foundation. Tossing into the bin his note of hieroglyphic like scribbles taken during his phone conversations, he caught sight of a hand addressed letter with a unique stamp; the skull and cross bones of the Jolly Rodger. Apparently the letter had gone unnoticed hiding among the irksome clutter of the daily post he’d tossed earlier. And yet, somehow it managed to surface to the top of the discarded heap unwilling to let its message die a silent death.
He extracted it from the bin and examined it more closely. The writing was in the distinct style of calligraphy and addressed to him personally in care of his foundation. It had neither name of its sender nor any return address other than the name of a town and state across the pond; Beaufort, North Carolina, USA. He flipped it over noting it was sealed with a dab of wax with the clear image of the same Jolly Roger embedded in it. With piqued interest, he reached for his cutlass designed letter opener, carefully slid it in and slowly drew it along the top, severing the edge of the envelope. Sitting back down, he delicately extracted the letter and began to read.
January 13, 2018
The Kinniston Foundation
Dear Mr. Kenniston,
Stolen treasures from the 1700s buried on North Carolina’s Pinnacle Point Island? Unrecovered Civil war gold from the 1860s smelted into cannonballs, painted black, and shot into the dunes of the nearby intracoastal waterways to avoid confiscation by northern forces? Millions in drug cartel's money dumped and gone missing along the same waterways to avoid seizure by the US Coast Guard and DEA Law Enforcement agency during the early 1980's northern drug runs?
All nonsense, ask anyone and they will tell you; for three-hundred years Pinnacle Point Island and the surrounding waterways have long been synonymous with wild horses, great hunting, and some of the best boating and fishing in eastern North Carolina. And that's about it.
There are, however, a select few that could tell a very different story.
As the crow flies, not many nautical miles south, lies the historic waterfront boating and fishing community of Beaufort, North Carolina. This town and several others down east are home to some of those select few, I mentioned. They are a small faction of the direct descendants of the infamous Captain Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, the pirate.
He leaned forward in his chair. “Okay you have my attention, whoever you are,” he said aloud and continued reading
. . . They could tell you from 1717 to the late 1900s that Pinnacle Point Island was better known as Edward’s Island, or Teach Point, and sometimes known as Pirate Point. Further, that during their ancestor's short run as the infamous Blackbeard, it was a major stopover for him and the remainder of his bloodthirsty crew after purposefully running The Queen Anne's Revenge aground. Switching to a few of the much smaller ships in his fleet that have far less draft made travel to the island possible plus it served as way to reduce the size of his crew. It was all part and parcel to his plan of eventual retirement on this uncommon island. And for many reasons, some of which I spell out below, the island is by far the most likely location of his, as to date, undiscovered treasure which he removed from The Queen Anne’s Revenge before scuttling it.
After reading the last line, in excitement his heart abruptly pounded behind his ribcage like the succinct rumble of multiple cannon fire from that same ship 300 years ago.
Without looking, he fumbled for his cup of Earl Grey Tea, more out of habit for its calming effect on him than of thirst. He poured the last bit of it into his mouth and immediately spit the cold brew back into the cup.
“Yuk.” Putting it down, he read on.
The Island proved its worthiness many times for Captain Teach during his short and savage tenure as Blackbeard. It made for a safe, deep water haven from both inclement weather and from pursuing British and Colonial warships. The why and how it did that are what made Pinnacle Point of such high value to Blackbeard. The reasons are threefold.
The first relates to its location. It sits approximately at the midway point of the North Carolina coast and inside the protective waters of the Intrccoastal waterways west of the barrier islands of the Outer Banks. This strategic location, if needed, provided a fast escape to the open ocean through the barrier islands by way of the Barden inlet to the south west and the Drum Inlet to the north east. Coincidently Pinnacle Point is also the approximate midway point of the entire navigable eastern seaboard which would significantly cut down travel time between ports in either north or south directions. Plus the excellent marauding grounds of the north south shipping lanes in Gulfstream was only fifty miles offshore.
The second reason is because the island itself is quite deceptive and hard to reach.
To a passing sailor it would not appear as an island at all but rather nothing more than the unapproachable marshy point of the wooded mainland jutting out into the Core Sound. Additionally, the island happened to be surrounded by a myriad of extremely tiny land masses off most its visible shoreline as if it had its’ own mini barrier islands. They ranged in size from a few square yards to a few hundred square yards, most of which were covered with various types of vegetation. As a plus, their surrounding waterways were clearly shallow and unnavigable by ship. This only further enhanced the duplicity of the island and its approachability.
The third and most important reason was because the unique waterways surrounding the island made it not only an easy matter to elude pursuers, but also provided no visible way to approach the island. By demonstration, Pinnacle Point juts out into the Core Sound at the point between the mouths of Jarrett Bay to its north-west and the smaller entrance of Spit bay to its north-east. The only way to actually reach the island by ship is to sail about half a mile past it down the gullet of Jarrett Bay. From there, it requires a near reverse turn to Starboard of about 170 degrees sailing back up into a narrow and somewhat hidden entrance to an east flowing maze of, at that time, uncharted waterways. Because of its jagged maze like path, it was known as Jarrett’s Dagger. On several occasions, ships pursuing Blackbeard would miss the entrance and sail right on by never discovering the secret to his ability to disappear like a ghost in the night.
If a pursuing ship were to discover the entrance to his hidden lair, Jarrett’s Dagger could easily be a death trap if it took a wrong turn in the confusing maze of waterways. Quite easily it could become stranded down a dead end unable to reverse course, or it could run aground in one of the more shallow estuaries.
This mysterious waterway eventually widened and flowed into a hidden bay on the northern side of the island. The bay is several miles long and just as wide between the island and the mainland. From there Blackbeard would navigate his ships into the secluded lagoon of the island whose draft could easily handle the smaller ships. As a major plus, a blockade of Jarrett’s dagger could never trap Blackbeard’s ships in the bay because the eastern end of it provided a way of escape down a similar maze of confusing water canals. This eastern cousin of Jarrett’s Dagger eventually flowed into Spit Bay to the north east of Pinnacle Point and like it’s twin to the west, its exit point was equally difficult to see.
Over the past 300 years, hurricanes have drastically changed the landscape and all but wiped out Jarrett’s dagger and its eastern cousin. Today, all that remains is the tip end of the dagger to the west and next to nothing but small islands on the eastern side. But back then Pinnacle Point Island and its surrounding waterways were tailor made for Blackbeard and served him well until fortune ran short for him and his crew on the 22nd of November, 1718.
Mr. Kinniston, as a distinguished 21st century explorer and academic historian of all things pirate related, with the exception of Pinnacle Point, of which I’m confident that until now, you were not aware of, I know you are intimately familiar with the story of Blackbeard. That said, like the island, I am quite sure there’s much more you do not know. So, if you will be so kind as to continue to indulge me. . .
British forces under the command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard struck a victorious blow in a bloody battle off nearby Ocracoke Island. Legend has it that it took five musket ball wounds and 20 sword lacerations to kill the barbaric buccaneer.
If anyone just scratched the surface researching the historic short run of Edward Teach as the feared Blackbeard, any maritime historian worth their salt would tell them of that battle and his brutal demise. But, if someone such as yourself dug deeper, they would hear a different story from the select few of his descendants I mentioned, should those few be drunk enough to tell the family secret.
I am neither drunk nor of unsound mind and my family may call me a cutthroat traitor or they may just cut my throat and call it a day once they learn of my betrayal. Nonetheless, here is the rest of the story, the real one that only we select few know, and the only story they don't want told. And it starts with:
HE DIDN'T DIE...
Kinniston sat forward in his chair and lowered his hand holding the letter. Deep in thought his expression was like a chalkboard wiped clean, blank and waiting for the answers to be revealed. He stood up and still holding the letter walked to the far left wall of his study and looked at the large map of coastal North Carolina affixed to it. For years he’d been studying the life and times of this notorious pirate considering it to be the mother of all projects. But, for the past 4 years he’d been stonewalled having discovered all he possibly could and coming up short as to his next step. And knowing full well hunting for Blackbeard’s treasure was one that he would probably never be able to take on, he had tabled the notion. Now, totally unexpectedly, if true, a significant piece to the puzzle has fallen into his lap like embers of a nearly extinguished fire floating in the currents and landing willy-nilly where they please. And to anyone observing him, it would appear those embers were burning a whole in his pants by the way he was furiously dancing a jig as he slid his finger down the map stopping on a small land mass at the described location. With a huge grin, he stood there and finished reading the letter.
. . . The reason I reached out to you with this letter and this, before now, untold story is twofold.
1. We are not all like our ancestor, and,
2. I have studied the news stories of your expeditions for years and your love of mystery and adventure, and of course, your kind and generous philanthropic ventures. If you want to know the rest of the story, I can tell you unequivocally it would be in your best interest, including financially, to look into Pinnacle Point Island before it is too late. It will be listed for sale in April of this year.
G. C. Teach
(More letters to follow)
Still holding this startling letter in front of his face, he read the signed name again;
G. C. Teach.
As much as I have studied Blackbeard and the towns he supposedly lived in, I’ve never run across any reference to Pinnacle Point Island. Places like Bath and New Bern North Carolina for sure, but never this mysterious island.
He rubbed his jaw.
And surprisingly, it never occurred to me that there might still be any living descendants of that rogue living in coastal North Carolina. Let alone, of course, the idea of them being a viable source for accurate information, especially of some mysterious island or that the bastard lived, he thought, still rubbing his chin.
Of course this letter could just be a hoax perpetrated by one of my old university students. It wouldn’t be the first time.
He quickly dismissed that last thought as a possibility when the small voice inside returned;
Here’s your next venture, Kinniston.
Without hesitation, he pulled his mobile out of his pocket and placed the call. “George, call the crew.”
-To Be Continued-