INTRODUCTION

At one point or another, I’m pretty sure everybody wonders what being filthy rich feels like. I never believed my mom when she said “Big pockets belong to big liars”, but after spending a week at the Bahamas with the richest scamp on the planet, I think I’m a believer.

As if that’s not shocking enough, this “rich scamp”? He might just be the ghost of a ruthless pirate.

I’m not crazy! Bahamian legends foretell about all the murderous things pirates are capable of. I have lots of evidence to back up my theory.

My suspicions all started after sitting in a squeaky clean limousine…

 

ARRIVING AT PARADISE

Krissy Katz, whose my best friend forever, her parents Tom and Jenny, and I were all sitting cozily approaching our rendevouz… which just so happened to be one of the BIGGEST mansions I’d ever seen in my life.

It was the heat of day, and we’d already been on a boat ride to Freeport, from the island known as New Providence where I’d had the time of my life.

Week’s lodging ahead! I’m in a limo! I texted to Mom, whose back home in California. Krissy was giggling at something her long-distant boyfriend said over the speaker phone.

“Get outta here…. No fair you get to have all the fun!”

“I still can’t believe we’re getting to ride in a real limousine!” Krissy replied. “It’s like a dream, huh Lilly?”

My phone chimed in before I had the chance to answer. I looked down at what my Mom had to say. Enjoy the limo, hun. Sounds fun, call me about it later.

It was when I was about to speak that my eyes drifted behind Krissy at the picture perfect scene of two gates revealing a gigantic casa home. I turned to look out my own window, feeling exuberant from all the hype.

I can’t keep it a secret for very long. My dream to become an interior designer and event stylist is the reason I travel with the Katz. And well, I pretty much thought I had just entered Cloud 9, for sure.

Beach chairs lined an outdoors swimming pool, privately enveloping a garden of colors. The white casa was crowned by a blue tower, fashioned like a lighthouse. One side of the building was yellow. The front door was even green.

Very Bahamian.

“Ohh, Krissy! PINCH ME!” The words flooded from my lips, although I don’t even think my brain and mouth were really attached because I didn’t feel them moving.

“Hey, I wanna see!” Jeffery added impatiently.

“Pinch me, first!” Krissy answered, before leaning over to hang out the window to snap a picture for Jeffery. “It’s so huge! That can’t be where we’re staying… can it?”

Tom flashed Krissy a smile and nodded. I was still gaping at the sight, unable to say anything.

“Did you get the picture, Jeffy?”

“Sure did and ugh. It’s epic. I’m so jealous.”

The driver with a heavy accent spoke through the intercom. YES! The limo had an intercom! “You’ve arrived.”

I swung the door open before the usher even came so I could set foot in paradise. Krissy came, too! She grabbed my arm affectionately. “Oh wow! Look at that!” I followed where she pointed and examined the birds near the pool. They were surrounded by authentically tropical plants. “Even the pool is perfect!”

“Ahhhraw!” Squawk squawk!

One of the birds said hi!  “I wonder if we can get closer.” I took a few steps forward and leaned in to smile at the red macaw. The bird leaned in, too.

But Jenny wasn’t too keen. “Lilly… step back away from the bird, please.” At first I was going to listen, but after I saw she wasn’t even paying attention to anything except her tiny, round mirror and the makeup above her eyes I decided to stay where I was.

The bird’s glassy gaze were intensely on me. No one else… And before I could back away, it mumbled something, making me want to listen. “Twenty-seven. Seventy-nine. Rrr…. Arrg! Arrr! …The end be nigh.”

“Hey, it talks!” I jumped to get Krissy to notice, too. “The parrot talks!”

I suddenly realized I hadn’t been paying attention, because a pleasant Bahamian woman had joined us on the pathway. “Your host will be here shortly. You may come and wait inside. Our ushers will take care of your luggage.” She smiled friendly and invited us in.

Tom and Jenny started towards the door, but I quickly made myself known. “I wanna stay and look at the garden!” Krissy seemed to nod in agreement with me.

We were allowed. That’s good, because I wanted to bask in the sun. When Krissy looked at the parrot again, it had pretty much shut its trap, although it kept eyeing us as if we were intruders.

…I couldn’t help but wonder why the parrot had been reciting a combination of numbers.

 

MEETING TEACH

Twenty minutes later, I was happily curled up on the beach recliner with my favorite murder mystery novel – I’d only read about a hundred times already – when Krissy reacted to the sudden roar of an airplane flying overheard.

“Eek!” She grabbed her hair dramatically.

I rose my eyes and saw a clean, new model swooping in for a landing. Tom would want to see this, so I started over towards the door, open wide for the beachy breeze.

“Hey, Tom! Get out here! The plane’s coming in!”

And sure enough did the plane come in swiftly, outside the courtyard walls. It was a pretty smooth looking ride.

Tom trailed out in search for the plane, obviously interested. “That’s probably Mr. Teach now.” He glanced at Krissy before looking me straight in the eyes. “He owns the plane, taking tourists up to give them aerial views of the island.” He had a gleam in his eyes. “It’s pretty impressive.”

Krissy shot her dad a look, still reclining. “Will he take us in the plane?”

“Yeah, it’s possible.”

I suspected Krissy’s lack of enthusiasm. “Don’t worry! YOU don’t have to go on the plane if YOU don’t want to,” I counseled.

“Brawk!! Thar she blows!”

What? My lip curled. I gawked at the parrot like, “For real? Really? You just said that?” Krissy gave me a smile. I think she thought the bird was cute. Of course.

It wasn’t but a few moments before a man emerged from the gates. He stood tall. Strong. His stance was firm, but his face was just a gruff, old man.

Krissy petted my arm before I noticed she’d stood up to be beside me. Quietly, I heard her question, “He looks different than the other people who live around here, isn’t he?”

I could see what she meant. His black coat wasn’t colorful, like those tropically, festive citizens we’d seen on our vacation so far. His beard was long and scraggly. Honestly, I couldn’t help but feel slightly intimidated. I didn’t think we’d be staying with someone so old.

“Ah! The Katz, I presume.”

Tom walked to meet him and held out his hand. “Yes, that’s us. I’m Tom, this is my daughter Krissy and her friend Lilly.”

Mr. Teach graced us with a cordial bow. “Arrh, it’s a pleasure! I hope m’humble abode feels like home to yeh’.”

I couldn’t even believe what my ears heard! Was it just my imagination, or did he sound like a pirate? His voice was deep and rolling. Gruff with rubato. Because of that, I just gaped and stared.

Jenny appeared at the door and approached the circle. She gave Mr. Teach her own introduction. “And I’m Jenny Katz… your abode is anything but humble. It was fabulous from first sight, truly.”

Noticing the parrot, I saw it was extremely quiet now that Mr. Teach was around. My eyes wandered from the big, old man, back to the parrot. Mr. Teach. Parrot. Mr. Teach.

I couldn’t stop picturing a ball and chain on the bird’s bare little ankles; like a prisoner in paradise! But since that was pretty much me imagining things, I smiled and tried to socialize. After all, I had to appear professional. It’s why I came here.

“Do you mind giving me a tour, sir? See, the reason is, interior design is my future career. Therefore, I simply MUST use this opportunity as a chance to do my research. That is. If you’ll give me permission.” I held out my hand confidently for Mr. Teach.

He ignored my invitation to a handshake and laughed heartily. “Ha ha ha ha.”

Krissy was perplexed. She didn’t know what he thought was funny.

It was pretty rude, come to think of it, but he eventually responded. “Aha! Ye wants to pirate me, do ye?” I sort of gulped when he bent in and took my hand, looking me in the eyes. “Yah can… If y’drop the sir talk an’ call me by m’name.”

It’s not like I could look over there, but from the pin-dropping silence I guess I was supposed to respond.

Mr. Teach straightened back up when I didn’t, and glanced around at everybody. “Seein’ as me home be yer home fer the next week, pray tell! Call me Eddie!”

Now, I could shoot Krissy a look. From her reaction, I’m pretty sure my eyes were wider than they should be.

What can I say? I felt fishy.

 

DISCOVERING EVIDENCE

Mr. Teach was gracious enough to give us a tour. His estate was… pretty much a big deal. And when I say that, I mean a multi-million-dollar, six-zeros-added-on-a-check, big deal. Yeah.

And it got me curious (or is it suspicious?) as to how exactly he gets that kind of paycheck. What exactly did he do in order to own this kind of “humble abode”? In the movies, people murder people for money. That’s a big deal, and when I say that, I mean a third-degree-criminal offense, lifetime-behind-bars, big deal. Just saying.

Jenny spoke up. “What a beautiful painting, there.”

At the moment, I was walking down the broad steps that led back to the foyer, where he was going to tell about the bottom floor.

I gave my 4-1-1. “That’s 100% genuine Bahamian art!” I shifted my eyes to focus on Mr. Teach. “Care to tell us where you found it, Teach?” I still wasn’t interested in calling him Eddie.

Mr. Teach laughed at me again. “Ha ha ha ha. Me fair Lilly. It was given to me by a friend. Call it a house-warming gift, if ye may.”

My eyes locked on his triply-studded finger. I could see my reflection in the jewels. It was massive. And despite all the fun I was having exploring his castle, I couldn’t help but feel nauseous from his throne.

 Krissy shared a thoughtful expression with me. I desperately needed a girl pow-wow right now! There was no other way! We just had to talk in private!

Without another word, I abruptly stampeded down the steps, grabbing Krissy’s wrist and yanking her along. “Excuse us for a minute! This- this-“ I stammered to get the words out. “sick inspiration just HIT me!”

 “Whoa!” Krissy reacted.

 Jenny backed up hesitantly. “Girls…”

 Tom eyed Krissy and me.

 Mr. Teach laughed. “It’s all right, Jenny. We mustn’t get in the way of sick inspiration.”

I stopped once I was on solid ground. Krissy seemed high-wired or something. Probably because of me. “Lilly! What’s wrong? What is it?”

Um. I couldn’t tell her, because everybody was staring at me. Not exactly my idea of private, thank you? So I tried to create an alibi. I dug into my purse and pulled out my phone, punching my thumb around to go to the Sketchbook app.

“See, okay… I must draw in private. In here, Krissy.” I pulled her into another room to make sure we were alone.  Once the others had sloughed me off,  I tried to talk to Krissy. “Krissy I-“ I couldn’t talk! “This place. Teach. It’s just-“ Krissy was staring at me with that totally blank look, as if she hadn’t the slightest idea where I was going with my words.

 I glanced around to try and find an example. Visuals were always more useful in getting my point across.

 And when I searched, something loomed at me from the corner!

 My eyes widened. Krissy turned around to see what I saw.  Sitting there, on the wooden floor next to a piano was a chest! It looked heavy. Hefty, with a bulky lock guarding it so that nobody could look inside.

 “Oh!” Krissy exclaimed loudly, covering her mouth with her hands.

We just stopped and exchanged shocked faces.

“Oh, Lilly! It’s awesome!” Well, at least she sensed my need for secrecy enough to whisper her question, anyway. “Do you think it’s authentic?”

I was ready to give her my intelligent answer, but for some reason she just kept talking. “It’s so old-looking.” Krissy knelt down beside the treasure chest and touched the rusted rim, examining the tiny ornamentation.

“Not only is it old-looking, but there’s dirt between the crevices.” That’s the observation I made. I took notes about it on my phone so I could remember it later.

 Had it been buried at one point? Shouldn’t someone clean it? Wouldn’t someone clean it? It doesn’t make any sense for it to be dirty!

Unless it was freshly dug up…

“I don’t trust Teach, Krissy. That’s why I wanted to talk to you…”

I suddenly heard the floor creak. Oh no… I twirled around, hoping my gut wasn’t right, but Mr. Teach was standing in the doorway!

I scrambled to hide my phone. “I was just admiring your furniture!” Was my excuse. “This piano! How old is it exactly? Two centuries? One?”

Mr. Teach eyed me intensely. His glare lowered to Krissy. For some reason this wasn’t a laughing matter.

Silence buried the room like a blanket of fog. “They be heirlooms.” A low click of his shoe broke the cloud of gloom. “Ye be a smart girl. Yer knowledge be tellin’ ye they be worth a fortune…”

 Maybe Krissy believed me by now. She seemed nervous, so she got up and moved away from the chest.

He spoke a warning. “But ye best not get any delusions of stealin’ a pirate’s fortune, me hearties.” He held open his fancy rococo-fashioned jacket to reveal a key tied to his belt. “I be holdin’ the key, and ye shan’t be settin’ yer eyes on no treasure without it.”

The only thing that ever came out of my mouth was a timid, obedient affirmation. “Ok, Eddie.”

 

DINING WITH EVIL

The hours were literally dragging their feet. After my pow-wow with Krissy sort of crashed, I felt alone in my suspicions. Krissy, she’s my best friend, but she can be a little dense sometimes. And without her support and the ignorance of Mr. and Mrs. Humpy-Dumpy Katz, I was stuck convincing myself I would still be alive five nights from now. Now I felt like I was a prisoner in paradise. It’s crazy when I think I can relate to a bird.

Supper was ready almost immediately once the tour was over. I wished we had some time to go to the room that had been prepared for us, but the chef invited us into the dining room before it was even dark outside.

I have to admit, the dining room was beautiful. Especially for me; I enjoy collecting antiques. But my mind was driving me nuts with all the ideas that everything I saw might be stolen goods. I shouldn’t be admiring them, I should be returning them! That was the thought that kept beating every ounce of enthusiasm out of my brain.  Talk about a killjoy.

I searched the room to see who was here. Krissy was close by, smiling because it was suppertime. Tom was speaking with the Bahamian woman who’d invited us in earlier. Jenny was talking on her phone, and considering she was using that professional tone of voice, it was probably something fashion-related. I guess I forgot to mention I was traveling with a world-famous fashion designer.

I couldn’t help myself. I urgently stepped over to Tom and his company. “What’s the menu going to be?” That came out a big harsher then I meant for it to.

The friendly, amber-skinned woman chuckled, despite my tone. “Wait and see, Ms. Lilly! Don’t worry! You’ll enjoy it!” She moved over to pull out a chair for me. “Sit, I’ll bring your beverages.” She nodded at Tom and quickly escorted herself towards the kitchen.

“Wait!” I stopped her. She looked back, curiously. I just wanted some honesty. “Who are you?”

“I serve guests for Mr. Teach. Keep his house tidy. Good job, he pays me well. I’m very happy! Happiness, overflowing.” Her laugh was contagious I guess, because I heard one from Krissy.

Well, how could I complain about that? At least she’s not treated the same way as the parrot…

Krissy joined me at her place. I felt her hair on my arm when she bent in to speak.  “Look at the stuff on the table! It’s so old!” She pointed around at the walls. Everything is so old, except the house! It’s new! But I hope the food’s good. I’m starved.”

I nodded, my attention only partially on Krissy’s words. I was more interested in the concept she’d just figured. Ancient stuff, fresh abode. That’s what she was saying…

I had to investigate. “Tom. How much do we know about this guy, exactly? I mean…” Tom bent in from across the table to hear me. I was speaking quietly. He waited for me to continue, but then the devil himself interrupted me again!

“Aye, an’a good evening to ye!” Mr. Teach stood tall. His hair was combed wet as if he’d cleaned up for the meal. “Are ye settled in nicely?”

Tom replied. “This is great. It hasn’t even been a night yet, but for now I’d definitely consider giving you a five-star review.” As if this was something to recommend! I gulped at Tom’s enthusiasm.

“Har har har! Good, good! I be glad to hear it!”

Krissy kept glancing at everybody to see if they were happy.

Jenny sauntered over to her place and put her phone away. She took a seat and helped herself to the salt shaker. “This… it’s an early model.” Turning it upside down, she deliberately made a mess of the wooden table by making a trail of white sprinkles. “No wonder you use it, Eddie. It functions nicely.”

The waitress made her way back into the room, giving everyone a tall glass of yellow soda. “Goombay punch for everyone! Water, anyone? After the meal, Mr. Teach will request his nightly malt. You’re all invited to one.”

Jenny rose her hand to the water offer. Krissy beamed ear-to-ear at her carbonated bliss. I sipped the glass and a sweet pineapple taste stung my tastebuds. Mmm. Now here’s something I’ll crave after I leave the Bahamas.

The chef was serving us our plates before much visiting was over. He uncovered my plate and there it was, a hot and steamy serving of fish, hushpuppies, and a long, fruity kebab.

“Bon appetit!” Jenny reacted.

It looked SOO good… man, I was hungry. I rubbed my hands together above the steam and gandered over the condiments: salt, pepper, and hot sauce. I wasn’t picky, so I grabbed for them all. But when I reached for the bottle, Tom’s hand grasped it first. I pulled my hand back to let him have it.

That’s when it hit me! All of this in front of us…

What happens if it was a trap?

My stomach churned at the thought.

“Ah, this is me favorite Bahamian meal. Th’cooks really know how t’make a killer fish n’hushpuppies!”

Killer? Did he really just say that?

Mr. Teach noticed Krissy poking her fork around on the fish. “Aye, ye’ do enjoy a good catch, don’t yeh? Speak up, girl.”

Krissy was startled. “Oh! Oh… yes! It looks yummy!”

That was probably a lie… I already knew Krissy wasn’t that fond of fish. She didn’t grow up in Eureka, California like me. With that said, I would’ve thought she’d been more used to it, since she is from Toronto, which fairs its own ports and beaches.

Mr. Teach joked for himself. “Ha ha ha ha! I then ferget the appetites o’ young’uns. Kids don’t seem t’enjoy real food no more. Zu’bout wh’can be swaller’d in FIIIVE minutes! Ha ha!”

Krissy took a bite of hushpuppy after it was all said and done.

Tom handed me the hot sauce. I peered into the dark glass bottle which, interestingly, concealed the color of the contents. I tabbed a sample onto my finger and took a swiff. Secretly, I was trying to find something peculiar…

Jenny continued Mr. Teach’s conversation. “Yes … yes… Teenagers can’t enjoy a pleasant dine without growing nervous as to what it is they’re eating…” With her knife, she cut the fish delicately. The flakes fell tenderly onto her plate. “Ahh… it’s just right.”

Somehow, I felt a poke from what Jenny had said. This is NOT a “pleasant dine”! It has absolutely nothing to do with the food in front of me. I’m ready to scarf it down before she can even put the first bite in her mouth!

So I defended myself. “Normally… I’d want this,” I pointed out, “but THIS-“ Wait! I suddenly realized what I wanted to say! Mr. Teach was sitting right there… So I covered it up. “This brand seems to have waaay overdid the vinegar. Seriously, Mr. Teach, you really need to find another brand.” I looked at him as if I knew what I was saying.

… Jenny laughed, seeming assured she was right. Mr. Teach burst into his own fit of chortles.

“Ha ha ha ha. Aye, me fair Lilly. I shall have the cooks take to the market for a brand more suitable!”

Oh please. I rolled my eyes and looked back down at the plate. I really hoped the chefs hadn’t poisoned anything. I decided to just take the risk anyway… it was either die from starvation or poison, and hey, I gotta say, poison is the more romantic way out.

Tom brusquely changed subjects. “Eddie, you’ve got an impressive air-ride. We saw you come in on it earlier.”

“Arg! Ye liked it, did yeh?”

Tom nodded and took a sip of drink. “Yes, I did.”

Jenny was good at swaying a conversation for Tom. “It seems only right that you grace us with a ride before our vacation is over… You did offer your humble abode to us, and as humble a man as you are…”

I almost choked on my fruit!

“I would think it was only fair for us to enjoy a flight.” Jenny finished her proposition nonchalantly.

Krissy didn’t say anything, but I knew what she was thinking. It wasn’t fair! Tom and Jenny never really cared about what Krissy wanted.

 So I protected her duteously. “Krissy’s not gonna want to, you know. She hates flying.” I thought about it and then corrected myself. “Actually she likes flying, she just doesn’t like looking out the window, which is pretty much the whole POINT of like, recreational flying.”

Mr. Teach was laughing. As if that was something new. “Ha ha ha. Well if she likes the ride but ain’t keen to the view, she can come’ long fer the sailing!”

I fidgeted when he was the one that addressed her fear, and not Tom and Jenny. They seemed like they pretty much ignored the fact Krissy was uncomfortable.

“Of course I’ll give ye a ride, if it so be yer desire.” He pointed at Tom. “Tomorrow!” Mr. Teach held his hand up in the air and continued. “I’ll be takin’ the Katz on a time of ther lives!” He hit the table with his palm, making my glass shake. “Ye’ll gaze on the ocean from the best view in the islands! The sight’ll leave yeh breathless, fer sure.”

Without warning, he grabbed his goblet and held it out forcefully. Yes! He had a goblet! The greedy glimmer was there, shining in his eyes. Or was the light coming from his golden tooth?

“To life! Unafraid! And livin’ on to defy the gloomy grave!”

Tom held up his own glass and laughed, amusingly. Jenny followed his lead.

Krissy shrunk back. She looked creeped out.

For good reason!!

I scrambled to try and figure out what to do. What do I say? How do I react? So as not to be suspicious, I jumped out of my chair and clinked my glass to Teach’s goblet.  “To life!!!”

My smile was fake. I anxiously returned to my place so I could whisper a promise in Krissy’s ear.

“After this is over, you and I are gonna figure this out!”

 

REALIZING THE CRUX

It was the dark of night. The lights were FINALLY dim. Krissy and I had been escorted to our room.

I was ready to talk this out. I wasn’t going to pretend for another minute there wasn’t something going on here.

After I sent Mom my message telling her about all the things I’d seen and done, I checked Krissy out to see if she was ready to talk. I had contemplated writing Mom and saying “Help!! I’m imprisoned by a pirate!! This is my last message! Goodbye!” But I didn’t feel safe telling her any of it. She’d probably just overreact and ship me back to normal life.

It’s not like I wanted to stop traveling with the Katz, even if they were totally oblivious to danger sometimes…

“Krissy! It’s awesome. The graphics were epic, especially when the dragon came crashing in for a landing and all the villagers start screaming. You want me to show you now?”

Jeffery was on the webcam. Sitting down beside Krissy on her bed, I curled my legs underneath me and leaned in to speak to Jeffery. “NO. Jeffery, no. I need to talk to Krissy. It’s important.”

Jeffery gazed at me blankly and then looked at Krissy, giving her a sheepish shrug.

Krissy shrugged back. “It’s about Mr. Eddie Teach, huh?”

“Definitely.” I confidently settled into an explanation. “Teach is the guy we’re staying with.  He’s kind of an old coot, tall and big and strong. Mainly just freaky. I’ll send you the pictures over the phone about all the clues I’ve been keeping track of, Jeffery.”

Jeffery shrugged again. “What’s the big idea?”

I turned my eyes to Krissy, wanting the backup of my friend. “Krissy…” I hope she’d pick up where I left off.

“Oh… Oh well. Mr. Teach has all these antique things in his house… Like paintings and pianos and treasure chests… and he drank out of a skull goblet. And he has rings on his fingers…. And he wears a jacket like all the pirates in the movies. Actually, he looks a lot like the pirates from the movies. Except, he doesn’t wear a pirate hat. But he told us not to even think about stealing his pirate treasure in the chest, because he’s got the key with him at all times.”

I nodded eagerly, turning my eyes from Krissy, back to the computer screen so I could see Jeffery’s reaction. He seemed to enjoy listening to what she had to say.

“At dinner,” Krissy continued, “he toasted about life and death.” She bit her fingernail thoughtfully. “That was kinda creepy.”

Silence followed. I knew she was finished. I was thankful she had said that. Partially, I wanted to hear the story from another point of view. While I was writing my Mom, I felt stupid being so nervous. Nobody else even seemed to notice! But after everything Krissy said…

“It’s as bad as I thought it was.” I wasn’t delusional!

I heard a half-unsent chortle coming in from the speaker. “Sounds like a major case of fanboyism to me!”

“What?” I was so unamused.

Jeffery tried to clarify. “Maybe he’s just a cosplayer.”

I grunted. “Jeffery! Stop it. Did you get my pictures I sent you?”

Jeffery stopped smiling and glanced down, as if checking his phone. “Hold it… Oh yeah.”

Krissy pursed her lips to the side. “Well I thought it was just an act but. Do you really think it could be true?”

Jeffery’s eyes were bright.  He stuck out his tongue when he saw the pictures. “What did you say his name was?”

“Eddie Teach.”  I didn’t hesitate.

“Haha, yeah. He looks like a pirate.”

“Duh!” slipped my tongue.

Jeffery didn’t mind. “But I mean come on… we’re talkin’ old-school. Like 18th century… There’s no way he’s that kind of pirate.”

I quickly tried to figure out an explanation. “There are a lot of ghost stories surrounding the events of that, you know.”

“Yeah, but… you don’t really believe in ghosts do you?”

“I don’t know!”

I finally shot a look at Krissy to see what she thought. She was wearing a funny expression. “Wait a minute! What are you guys talking about? You can’t be meaning that… you think… Mr. Teach is… a pirate ghost?”

It got really quiet in the room. I didn’t know what to say. Krissy was waiting for an answer.

Finally, Jeffery spoke up. “Hey… I searched the name ‘Eddie Teach’ and you guys won’t believe what the second result I found was.”

I held my breath. But he didn’t say anything, so finally I piped up. “What, Jeffery? What! Don’t freak us out!”

“Blackbeard the dread pirate. His real name is Edward Teach.”

Krissy covered her mouth.

“Wikipedia says ‘He was an English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the Eastern Coast of the American Colonies.”

I clutched onto Krissy’s hand and tightened my grip. “Jeffery! What’s the West Indies!”

He paused. “Hold on, my connection is being slow, but I’m pretty sure…”

Suddenly! Tap tap tap tap tap… A loud, incessant noise filled the night air. I glanced up to see what it was.

The red macaw was at our window! He was flapping and hitting his beak against the window!

“Ahh!!” Krissy shrieked at the exact same moment Jeffery answered.

“You’re at the West Indies!”

I was completely speechless. I just stared at the macaw, trying to figure out what it was doing at our window.

Krissy leaned in closer to the computer. “Jeffery…. What happened… to Blackbeard?”

Jeffery was surfing the internet for answers. “He was brutally killed by Robert Maynard on November 22, 1718, being shot numerous times and mercilessly stabbed by the Navymen of Robert’s ship.”

“Blackbeard’s neck was slashed first when he was trying to defend the ship from attack. Afterwards, his body was thrown into the ocean while his head got suspended from the ship, victoriously.”

“…that’s what Wiki says, anyway.”

My heart was beating fast from all the hype. The red parrot was bobbing its head up and down, watching us the whole time. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got up and closed the curtains forcefully so I couldn’t see it anymore. I spun around to keep my eyes away from it.

“But hey, don’t worry about it. This happened on an Island near North Carolina. It’s not the Bahamas… besides. Teach still has his head intact, right?” He laughed at himself for even asking that.

I slowly stepped over to the edge of the bed, my stance straight and brave. “That doesn’t change anything, Jeffery.”  I couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see me, but I knew he could hear me. “That doesn’t change anything one bit.”

A big grandfather clock donged, telling the midnight hour.

Jeffery gave his final words. “Look, I gotta go… but really, guys. Let’s exchange theories. I think Eddie Teach is a descendant of Blackbeard. Just because he looks like a pirate doesn’t make him one. He’s probably telling the truth. Just… don’t overreact, ok, Lilly? You’re freaking Krissy out.”

“Whatever, Jeffery.” It’s not like I was meaning to scare anybody.

“I really gotta go…” He shook his head and waved. “Bye, Krissy.”

Krissy was as quiet a mouse, but she waved back.

When he clicked out, the tapping at the window went away. All was dark and dreary. I just dropped back to the bed and pulled Krissy into a hug, trying to make her feel better. I guess I probably had been the one to cause the whole stink.

“Sorry, Krissy. It’s not like I know what’s going on but… honest, I’m not trying to make you nervous on purpose. Ok?” My voice didn’t crack, but my throat sure was all in a knot.

Krissy shrugged it off. “It’s ok.”

I just had a feeling I was right, somehow…

 

FINDING THE CULPRIT

As if last night’s discovery wasn’t bad enough, what was worse was the fact that Tom and Jenny were totally SNOWED about what was going on. It was so bad, they were allowing Teach to get us into a plane so that he could do what? Fly us around like a madman and crash the plane? If he really was the ghost of Blackbeard, he wouldn’t be affected by a second death. Or a third, or fourth, or fifth…

It was a horror. Truly. Believably.

This was possibly the worst crux of the century.

…Maybe even the worst crux of the millennium.

We all stood in the foyer for Teach to call us out to the plane. But I was determined not to set foot in that thing. Not after last night.

While I was supposed to be sleeping, I was considering running away with Krissy, but really. How far could we run? Besides, I cared too much about Tom and Jenny to do that. They’d done everything for me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them (which I know, sounds crazy, but I really do love traveling).

So I decided instead, I’d just have to convince them that Teach was Blackbeard, once and for all!

I swallowed and looked over at Krissy. “We’re so not going flying.”

Tom was standing, his camera strapped around his shoulder. He was ready to take his photography seriously. That was only one of his freelance jobs he got paid to do for a living.

Jenny was the one who actually reacted. “I’m sorry?”

I nodded. “No, you heard me. Krissy and I aren’t going flying. And you’re not either.”

Krissy nodded in agreement.

Tom crossed his arms suspiciously. “Why not?”

I was just going to tell him like it was! “We have GOOD reason to believe that Mr. Teach is a ghost pirate. And no, you’re not changing our mind!”

Jenny laughed, but when she saw it was inappropriate, she narrowed her eyes. “Krissy, what is this?”

Krissy furrowed her brows. “Mom, Dad. Just listen to Lilly. She knows what she’s talking about!”

Tom shifted his eyes to Jenny. “Are you girls serious?”

Jenny gave an exasperated sighed and stepped away, taking it all in.

Tom muttered something under his breath. “I didn’t know they’d take it so literally.”

“What, Dad?”

Tom looked me straight in the eyes. His blue gems had sort of calming effect on me, like the ocean waves. “It’s his job. He’s an actor. We pay him to give us a real pirate experience while we stay in the Bahamas.”

I felt my heart drop. I think he kind of sensed my shock, because he asked me a question. It almost seemed like he really cared about what I thought… “Do you have evidence that he’s a ghost pirate?”

I tried to stand my ground. I did have evidence, as a matter of fact. I spent all yesterday gathering up information to back up my theory. “Yes! One. He’s got loads of antiques he calls ‘heirlooms’, but what happens if they’re just stuff he pirated? I mean salt shakers? Really?”

Jenny shrugged and posed nonchalantly like, “oh well.” Obviously she didn’t think that was much of a reason.

“Two. He’s got a key and a really old treasure chest he won’t let anyone touch. It was only by accident we were caught seeing it. Notice he didn’t make a big deal about it in our tour.”

“True,” Tom understood.

“Plus! Three, he’s got a slew of parrots outside that look like they know something.”

Jenny put her hand over her mouth, stopping me from seeing her smile. Yeah, I knew it was there. She couldn’t hide it that well.

“Besides that, four. Blackbeard faired these seas, and his name is Edward Teach, which is an awful lot like Eddy Teach if you ask me…”

Nobody said anything at first. I think I was doing a pretty good job winning the case!

Tom exchanged looks with Jenny before holding out his hand. “Kristen, let me see your phone.”

Krissy reluctantly pulled her phone from her purse and handed it to her dad.

“That’s all very observant points that you made.” He was toying around with the phone while he spoke to me. “You’d make a great investigator.”

I waited for him to say “but”. Then he didn’t! He kept gazing at me until I smiled and took his compliment. Hey, I really liked the sounds of that.

But you need to make sure to check all the facts, not just the ones that prove your theory.” Tom returned the phone to it’s rightful owner. Krissy shared with me a looksee. “If you look on his website, you’ll see that his real name isn’t Eddy Teach. It’s actually Mickel Curry.” Tom pointed behind him. “The antiques are all props, to give his home a fancy appeal. They were probably all fashioned to look old.” He shook his head. “It’s not cheap to stay here for a week, and he’s got plenty of customers booked.”

I eyed all the details on the website. It was a business one, with banners in big colorful letters bragging, “Explore a pirate mansion!” “Be served authentic Bahamian cuisine!”

“Lilly, you should have told me sooner that you didn’t feel safe here. I could have explained all this yesterday.”

I still didn’t know what to say. Jenny was the next person to tell me something. “Lilly, I may be able to tell you who the culprit really is, behind your suspicions.”

I opened my mouth, a bit surprised! Did Jenny believe me? “Who is it?” I asked, eager to hear her own theories.

She continued. “’The Murder of Twila Berman.’”

My jaw dropped. That was the name of my favorite mystery book! I brought it with me on vacation. I’d read it hundreds of times before. Why would she say that?

“That novel is a very detailed book. Tom and I read it to see what you were so interested in. It might be the culprit to your suspicions, Lilly. I believe what you read can become what you think.”

I hung my head, thinking about everything they were saying. Krissy gave me a shy smile when I looked over that way. I furrowed my brows, feeling frustrated at first, but …

Hey. They were probably right. I mean, the website was right there. It said this was all just a goofy joke for tourists.

I nodded. “Ok, so it’s just a big hoax.” Tom laughed and I felt the jab from his good humor at first, but it really wasn’t a big deal, so I tried to laugh with him. “I can’t believe I fell for it!”

Jenny smiled and reached out to put her arm around me, before pulling Krissy over to join the hug. “Now… are you girls all right? I dearly want you two to be with me when we go flying…”

“Yeah, we’re fine.” I gave Krissy a poke and hollered “Woo!” excitedly. “I really can’t wait to fly!”

So, as it turns out, I guess now I know what it feels like to be filthy rich. Like Mom always says, “Big pockets belong to big liars”, and even though Mr. Teach may not be a pirate, he’s definitely a big fat liar who gets a really fat paycheck for his pirate act.

It was just like Jeffery said! He’s just a silly cosplayer. Ha! Some people never grow up.

To be real, though, I can’t complain. He was gracious enough to let me stay in his palace, and for that I’m grateful, even if it wasn’t for free. I’d even come back if I had the chance.

I’ve been sketching out all my own designs while I stay at paradise. I need to enjoy it while I can. It’ll be over before I know it.

lilly_portrait-delighted

CONCLUSION

“Looking back, I’ve really enjoyed my week at paradise,” I said to Krissy, reflecting on all the furniture in the bedroom one last time. “I got a bunch of ideas for my designs. Plus, I learned a lesson or two.” I stuffed my makeup into my luggage,  before zipping it and slinging it over my shoulder. “You coming downstairs?”

“I’m ready!” Krissy smiled at me. “Ahoy, matey! A pirate’s life for me!” She gave a laugh and I couldn’t help but chime in my own. Krissy was so corny, but hey, I guess I was melodramatic, so we’re some pair. “Who’d have thought we could have so much fun living with a pirate ghost?”

I shoved her playfully, but when I realized my strength I grabbed her back my way. “Get outta here, ye blimey mate!”

We started down the stairs, still joking around and impersonating pirates. Who I didn’t expect to see what Mr. Teach standing at the front door, as if he was ready to go somewhere. I inquired as to where he was going.

“Oi! Where ye headed, Teach?”

Mr. Teach spun around at the sound of my voice. “Ar! Me fair Lilly!” He glanced around, as if making sure there wasn’t anyone he didn’t suspect. “An’ it be me mate Krissy.” His thick boots approached me. He grabbed his jacket from a table nearby. “I be wishin’ta see off me favorite mates, but I caught drift of a whisper on th’wind. Seems that be treasure a’waitin ta be plundered, an’I be plannin’ on makin’ it mine.”

Krissy was amused at the old man’s story. “You’re funny, Eddy. But I wish you could wait just a little while long. We’ll be leaving soon.”

While I watched Mr. Teach slip his arm into his pirate jacket, I suddenly spotted what I’d never seen before. There on his neck was a scar, large in length. It had to be at least six inches across.

I took one last step off the stairs and bounced up to be beside the old man. “Where’d ye get that scar?”

Mr. Teach peered down on me. He pulled his collar away from it to let me see it again. “Ar, this? Har har har, it be from a long time ago. Got plenty o’ scars from th’wars I were in. This’un I nearly lost me head over. Har har har.”

I cocked my head, thinking about what he said.

His gaze turned to the big window, where the moonlight was glowing along the panes. “Aye, it be a brightly fated night, th’night I got me scar. A full moon lit th’sky. Jes like th’full moon that’ll be fillin’ thar that sky t’night.” He pointed at the bright sphere that was clearly visible in a cloudless sky.

“Aww. What war were you in?” Krissy wondered.

There was a small pause. I wondered the same thing. “It be an insignificant war. Yer sure not t’have ‘eard of it.”

We all stood there for a minute, in awkward silence. Finally I decided to just hug Mr. Teach. “Well, if you’ll be going before we can have a formal farewell…” I glanced up, trying to be serious. His height was towering over me now that I was so close. “Bye, Teach.”

Krissy joined in. “Yeah, Mom and Dad’ll be sorry to miss you.”

“Aye, I be missin’ yeh.” He paused and pulled away from us. “Arg,  ye be makin’ me eyes get all teary now. I can’t be sailin’no ship with me eyes all sogged out.”

I wanted to correct him and ask, “You mean airplane?” But I let it go.

“Ahoy me, Polly!” Mr. Teach glanced around as if expecting his parrot to arrive. “Where ye be?”

“Umm…” Krissy pointed to the door. “He’s outside… isn’t he?”

“Arraw!!” It sure was, but the red macaw flapped his wings and flew in from the open window!

“Wow!” I exclaimed.

“Ye called? Ye called, Captain.” It mounted on Mr. Teach’s arm. “Brawk.”

“Aye, that I did, bird.” The old man spoke to his pet affectionately. He turned to us one last time and tipped his hat.

“An’ now it be time fer me to be leavin’ ye. Th’ moonlight calls fer me adventurin’ spirit. Me Polly bird, ye have the coordinates tha’ we need, don’t ye?”

“Twenty-seven. Seventy-nine. Rrrar. Arr! The end be nigh, aye now.”

I gawked with Krissy. The bird watched us as if we were intruders. Mr. Teach stepped out the door.

I watched him go, as bittersweet as it was. I’d grown to like the guy. Let’s just say he had a lot more bark than bite.

“Oh….” Krissy pointed at something. “Lilly…”

I wanted to know what Krissy was reacting to, so I watched her pace over to the table where Mr. Teach’s coat and hat had been.

It was the key that Mr. Teach had apparently forgotten.

“Eddy!” Krissy stopped before she even started to run. We peered outside and…

Mr. Teach was nowhere to be seen.

I quickly ran out into the night sky to search for the man, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. So instead, I turned back around and went inside, closing the door behind me.

“Krissy…” I kept still until I decided to just take the key from her hand. “I’m going to open the chest.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“Are you sure you wanna do that?”

“No doubt.”

There it was in front of me. Finally, I had the key. I dropped to my knees next to the age-worn chest. Without another word, I placed the long skeleton key into the lock and began to turn it.

Click. It worked.

“Here we go!” I put my palms on it and readied myself to raise the top. “I’m about to reveal a dirty secret here!” I laughed because I was pretty much joking.

“Let’s do it.” She flashed me a smile.

The top was heavier than I thought it would be. Krissy helped me open it. We hung over to discover together.

It was empty, except for a scattered pile of sand. I scattered even more. Come on, there had to be something in here that would be worth the lock!

Finally, after enough push and shove, a wrinkly corner was revealed. It was a thick, rolled up piece of paper. When I touched it, it felt soft, like cloth.

I did my best to pull it out without tearing it. When I held it up to show Krissy, I noticed a seal holding it together.

It was the same design that I’d seen on one of Mr. Teach’s rings!

“Krissy! This seal!”

Her eyes were round.

“Should I open it?” I asked her.

She didn’t say anything.

So I peeled the seal off skillfully and slowly unrolled it to reveal an intricate map, full of detail, however worn and ancient it was.

I studied it until I saw 1 small line of words at the bottom of it, written in a fresh shade of red.

27.0 LONGTITUDE 79.3 LATITUDE
“The end be nigh”

openmap

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