Now in the twilight of his years, James Kennedy relates the story of his early years, from a modest home in Ireland to the rough and tumble life of the post Civil War Boston waterfront. Framed for murder, he must leave Boston and seek his fortune further west, but not before meeting the love of his life. A chance encounter with a highly successful Texas cattleman begins the journey of young Kennedy from the wild stretches of the Texas frontier to the majestic beauty of the Colorado mountains and the power of the Golden Amulet before returning to Boston to settle old scores.
James Kennedy is an immigrant from Ireland, looking for a better life. What he finds in Boston is hatred. He finds the woman of his future, but framed for murder, he must flee. He meets a man who will change his life, a man from Texas with powerful connections. Cattle drives, a chance encounter with an dying Ute and a fortune allows him to return to Boston to clear his name, exact justice and reclaim the woman of his dreams.
It seems like so long ago and yet, I can remember it as clearly as if it were only yesterday. As I sit now in this room and write, occasionally looking out the window and watching our grandchildren run and laugh and play, their sounds carrying across the fields, I can see it all again.
When the time is right, perhaps I will take my son back to where it all began and pass the Amulet to him. Maybe he, too, must do as I had done. Or, perhaps the Amulet will go to my grandson. When the time is right, I will know.
It is still there, around my neck, its weight and feel as nothing. It has always felt as though it belonged there, its touch smooth and warm.
I have had time to consider my life and the ones who have touched me and the ones whose lives I have touched. It has occurred to me that no one person knows another’s life. Each of us sees another with his own perceptions and prejudices and see only that part the other wants us to see. My wife knows some things and sees me in one way, my son and daughters each see me differently based on their knowledge. My business acquaintances and friends see me another way, just as I see only a part of others that they wish me to see.
The heir of the Amulet will be the only one to see these words and know me as I know myself. Whoever it is will be forever changed.
* * * *
Our family was not rich, but we managed to eat and get by. My oldest brother had gone to America during the potato famine and we seldom heard from him. We really did not know if he was alive or dead.
My father was at sea and that left my mother with two children to raise. We had help from Sean, the old man who lived with us, but otherwise we were on our own.
Our farm was small, but fertile. We had been spared the worst of the famine, but it hurt it us, too. It is hard to watch friends and family die, and know there is nothing you can do.
Sean had always been there, at least to me. My earliest memories always included him. For the first ten years of my life, I assumed he was family. As I grew older, I came to realize that he was there to repay a debt to my father, a debt of gratitude and life. On my eleventh birthday, he told me the story.
“Jamie, come with me,” he called that evening.
My mother was sitting by the fire, mending clothes. She gave Sean a knowing look and returned to her sewing. I didn’t understand it at the time.
We went into the cool evening and walked toward the fields. The night was clear, the stars sparkling above. There was a taste of salt in the air and the promise of a cold winter.
“I guess I should call you James or Jim or something a little more grown up,” he said with a smile.
“No sir,” I said, “I wouldn’t know who you were talkin’ to.”
He chuckled. “Lad, you’re growing up and you have the promise of a fine strong man in you. You need a fine strong name and it’s time to begin thinkin’ of yourself as a man.”
For a boy of eleven it was heady stuff and I straightened myself and felt a sense of pride and importance.
“Now lad, don’t be gettin’ a swell head on me,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
“Yes sir.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to act yet, but old Sean had set a good example.
“James,” he said gravely, “your Father and I sailed together for many years and he’s a fine man, as straight and honest and true as any man I’ve ever known. It’s because of him that I’m here.”
I listened intently, for Sean was speaking of things that I had often asked about, but had never been told. And he was speaking as one man to another, not as a man to a boy.
“He saved my life and he saved my leg,” he said as looked into my eyes. “For both of these things, I would give my life for him, and so I have.”
I didn’t speak, afraid to interrupt and break the spell. His eyes had a far-away look and I hoped he would continue. I waited, almost afraid to breathe. I knew my father, but I knew little of his past. When he came home, there was a whirlwind of activity and we had little time together.
“Long before you were born, your father and I sailed together. We were as green as the grass in spring when we started. We had joined a ship leaving from Cork.” He paused, remembering.
“That first voyage was tough on us.” He smiled and looked down at me. “We were so sick I thought they were going to throw us off the boat. To be honest, I kinda’ hoped they would. But, we got over it soon enough.
“She was a British ship, bound for the Indies with trade goods. We were gone for six months. By the time we got back we had our sea legs and were pretty good at what we did.
“After our third trip, your father met your mother. She was a fine looking lass and he fell in love the first time he saw her. It was a fine mess, too. Your mother’s folks wanted no part of ‘im. But he persisted and she married ‘im. Her family still wants nothin’ to do with either of them. It was some wild times, lad.”
I hoped he would tell me more about those times, I wanted to ask, but waited. I couldn’t rush him for fear of sounding like a small boy.
“Anyway, our fifth voyage was the real corker. The waters in the Indies were full of pirates; robbing and taking ships, killing and capturing the crews. So many ships went and never returned.
“But the rewards were worth the risk. A farmer could work for five years to make what we got for one voyage. And your father was ambitious. He wanted to make something of himself and for his family, to show your mother’s family that he could care for her properly.
“We made the Indies in fine time. We had seen little of other ships and we were feeling cocky. As soon as we weighed anchor for the return voyage, things began to change. Half the crew was sick because of something we ate and there was a storm coming. We had heard reports of pirates nearby and everyone was on edge.
“The first three days were spent in the storm. It blew us off course and put us west of where we should have been.
“The fourth day was clear and bright. We had a good wind and were doing well. The crew was still mostly sick, but getting better. Around noon we spotted a ship off the starboard beam on a course that would intercept us. It was a pirate ship.
“We were heavily loaded and wallowed like a hog in a mud hole. The pirate ship was sleek and fast and had no trouble overtaking us. Try as we might to maneuver, we couldn’t run and couldn’t get away.
“They fired at us that afternoon and ordered us to heave to. We had no choice. Every man of us was armed to the teeth and we waited, hiding below the gun’ales. As soon as they got close enough, we attacked them. I think it’s probably what saved us. They expected us to surrender or at least wait until they got on board our ship.
“It was a bloody fight. Your father and I fought side by side. It seemed to go on for hours and hours, but I guess it only lasted about an hour. I was cut deep on my leg. When I went down, your father stood over me and killed any that came near, and there were several.” He looked down at me with a strange smile on his face. “Nothin’ easier to kill than a man down.”
It was cooler. The wind had picked up from the north and clouds were beginning to blow in from the ocean. I shivered, partly from the sharp wind, partly from the thought of the fight of which he was telling.
“The Captain was near us and the fighting was about over. Your father bent down and checked me. One of the pirates lyin’ nearby raised a pistol and aimed at the Captain. Your father and the Captain heard the pistol cock at the same time. The Captain whirled just as your father knocked the gun up. It fired into the air and your father stabbed him with his sword.
“The Captain looked pale and shaken; he had come that close to dyin’ just when he thought he had survived the fight. Your father looked at him and said, ‘Can’t be havin’ our Captain killed by just anybody.’
“They took me over to our ship. The doctor we had wasn’ much. He thought it would be easier to take my leg off than try to save it. Your father was having none of that. He put a gun in the doctor’s face and told him ‘e’d save my leg or lose his life.” Sean smiled at the memory.
“Well, as you can see, I kept my leg, and the doctor lived. The First Officer wanted to hang your father from the yard arm, but the Captain stopped it.
“We brought the pirates ship back, your father was the acting First Officer. When we got back he was appointed a permanent officer. Your mother was proud and sad all at the same time for she knew that he would be going back. About that time you were born and your father asked me to stay and look after his family. With the money we got from the captured ship he bought this place and I stayed.
“Since then he has done well. I hope that when he returns this time they’ll give him his own ship. In my mind he should have had it a long time ago. Men like him and respect him, but there’s a lot of jealousy, too. Politics, lad, is in everything we do.”
That night I dreamed of manhood, far away places, pirates and treasure.