“Lay in a course for Tortuga, Harmon.”
“I’m sorry, Captain, but I can’t do that.”
Captain Wren whipped his sword out of the scabbard and laid the edge against First Mate Harmon. “Why the hell not, Harmon? Is this a mutiny? Are you defying me, your Captain? And it’s Captain John Wren, not plain old Captain. How many times must I tell you that?”
First Mate Bill Harmon gulped slowly and speak carefully, so the motion of his Adam’s apple wouldn’t press against the keen edge of his Captain’s blade.
“I don’t know how to do that, Captain John Wren. Sir.”
Captain Wren withdrew his sword and returned it to the worn leather scabbard hanging to his left.
“Of course you don’t know how, Harmon. That’s why we have a Navigator. Tell the Navigator to do it. I swear, sometimes it feels like I must do everything myself around here.”
“Um, Captain? John Wren? We don’t have a Navigator. Sir.”
“Are you daft, man? We hired one at our last port of call. St. Mary’s, wasn’t it? Yes, that was it. St. Mary’s. We hired Wilson, that wiry little Irishman. Not that I care much for the Irish. But you know, diversity, and all that. Nobody’s going to call Captain John Wren a racist.”
“Never that, Captain.” The Captain whipped his head around to glare at Harmon, putting his hand on the hilt of his sword at the same time. “Captain John Wren. Sir. Never a racist.”
“All right, then. Tell Wilson to lay in a course for Tortuga. I need a new map.”
“Wilson’s dead, Captain John Wren. Sir.”
“Dead? He’s dead? What happened? Did he get caught cheating at cards? Those Irish don’t know how to play fair.”
“No sir, Captain John Wren. Wilson didn’t play cards.”
“Good thing. He would have cheated, I’m certain of it. Then he would have found himself skewered on a crewman’s blade. That, or brought before the mast to be tried, convicted, and keelhauled. And stop with the whole Captain John Wren, man. That’s what I ask my enemies and competitors to call me. And most of the crew. And women. But not you, Harmon. You’re my First Mate, for God’s sake. Just call me Captain. Or even John, over drinks, when it’s just the two of us.”
“Well, Captain, he was skewered on a blade, sure enough.”
“Ha! I knew it. If he wasn’t caught cheating at cards was he stealing someone else’s rum ration? Coin? What? And who did the skewering? We can’t be sailing around without a Navigator. I want to know who did this, and I want to know right now. He’s going to have to answer to me, by God. Or serve as Navigator. Or both.”
“You skewered him, Captain.”
“Me? Why on earth would I skewer my Navigator? My newly hired and only Navigator? Because he was Irish? Because he didn’t follow orders? Because he talked back to me?”
“You said he was a dolt, and navigated us to the wrong island. When you didn’t find the treasure you sought. The One Crown to rule them all.”
“Yes, yes, that was it. I must find the One Crown. The Greatest Treasure of all time. Before that scallywag Captain Biden gets it. Or worse, that mean, devious, cheating Captain Trump.” Captain John Wren grabbed Harmon by the vest and pulled his face lower, so they were nose to nose.
“Do you hear me, Harman? I must find that One Crown. Nobody else should have it.”
“Of course, my Captain. If it exists, you must be the one to find it.”
Captain Wren shook Harmon, then released him and pushed him back.
“Oh it exists, Harmon. Believe me, it does. And I’ve got a map to prove it.”
“Then why do you need a new map, Captain John Wren?”
“Are you crazy, Harmon? We need to go to Tortuga anyway, to get a new Navigator. Apparently, Wilson is gone. While we’re there I may as well get a new map. Then, if the map I have now is fake news, we can sail from that island to the one on the new map. If the One Crown is on an island, that is.”
“Aye, aye, Captain. I’ll see if I can lay in a course for Tortuga. Maybe I can use Wilson’s charts to retrace our course to St. Mary’s, then we can get a map to Tortuga there.”
“And another new Navigator, Harmon. Don’t forget that. We need a new Navigator. Maybe I’ll hire a woman this time. Diversity and all that, you know. Of course, she’ll need to be an ugly one. Otherwise, the crew will be wanting to distract her once we’re at sea.”
+ + + + + + + + + + + +
Captain John Wren and First Mate Bill Harmon sat at a wooden table in Neptune’s Trident, a popular tavern in St. Mary’s. A ledger lay open in front of Bill, a navigational chart in front of John. Each man had a battered pewter mug, currently half-full of grog. They sat with their backs to the wall. A green-eyed, redheaded woman sashayed over to their table and sat on the bench across from the two men. A red satin, translucent blouse, tucked into close-fitting black pantaloons, covered half her bosom. The pantaloons, in turn, tucked into the rolled-over tops of a pair of Uggs, the latest fashion in pirate boots. Twin sabers hung suspended from a pink sash, one hanging from each hip.
“We’re not looking for service, or to be serviced,” Captain Wren told her. “Please go on about your business.”
“I know what you need,” she smiled. “And that’s my business.”
“What we need is a new Navigator,” Bill explained.
“I know. I’m here to apply.”
“We need a smart Navigator. Not a bimbo.” Captain Wren sneered, as he looked her directly in the chest.
“That’d be me, Aleesha Keze.”
Captain Wren shoved his chart over, lifting his eyes to challenge hers. “Which way is North?” The chart, a square of parchment with tattered edges, showed three islands. The islands were named, and one had a red X marked near its Northwest corner. The compass rose had been torn from the map, so there was no indication of direction.
Aleesha ran her hands over the chart, flattening it out. She studied it for a minute. “This be North.” She pointed to one edge of the map.
“A lucky guess. You had a one in four chance of being right.” Captain Wren reached for the chart.
“Skill, not luck.” Aleesha pointed to the southernmost island. “Barbados.” Above Barbados, she pointed to St. Lucia, and Martinique north of that. “It would have taken me another minute or so if the island names weren’t there.” She released the chart and leaned back as Captain Wren snatched it back to his side of the table.
“You’re smart,” Captain Wren admitted, “but you’re not ugly.”
Aleesha chortled. “Why thank you, Captain Wren. That’s almost a compliment.”
“That’s Captain John Wren. We need an ugly Navigator.”
“And why in the world is that?”
“Someone of your …” Captain Wren motioned towards her breasts, “... stature would draw unwanted attention from my men. I’d spend most of my time protecting you.”
“If the attention is unwanted, I don’t need your protection.”
“Indeed?” Captain Wren leaned back this time. He raised both arms and made a beckoning motion to four of his crewmen. “She’s all yours, men. Give her your full and undivided attention.”
Leering, the four crewmen rushed towards the table and Aleesha’s back. She stood, kicking the bench over, spun, and pushed the bench in the direction of the attacking crewmen. The two in the middle stumbled over the bench. The other two, flanking her, continued to advance. Aleesha whipped out her twin sabers, stopping them in their tracks with a blade at each of their throats. She frowned at the one on her left, then smiled and winked at the other.
“Your attention might not be unwanted. Once you take a bath, that is.” Wrinkling her nose, she resheathed her sabers, turned to face Captain Wren and Harmon, put her hands on the table, and leaned over. Their eyes were drawn to her cleavage, right where she wanted them. “Before you get any ideas, your attention is not wanted, Harmon. Even with a bath and perfume.” She looked at the Captain, smiled, and winked. “You, I’m not so sure about. Maybe with a bath, and some cologne.”
First Mate Harmon reluctantly drew his eyes away from Aleesha’s bosom to look questioningly at his Captain.
Captain Wren raised his eyes to look at Aleesha’s face. He stood and offered her a hand. “You’re hired. Even though you’re not ugly. And even though you’re Irish.”
“Here you are, ma’am.” Two of the crewmen brought the bench over, upright, and offered it to Aleesha.
“Thank you, boys.” She sat, returning her attention from the abashed crewmen to the Captain. “And where might we be bound?”
Captain Wren put the three island chart away and pulled out a small, hand-drawn map. He looked around to make sure the crewmen had moved away from their table, and that nobody else was paying attention. He lowered his voice to a whisper.
“Look closely, and keep this a secret.” He spread out the map. It was more tattered than the chart, and no names or lettering appeared. This map also had 3 islands on it, and a red X, this time on the middle island. All were smaller than Martinique on the first chart, assuming the scale was the same. Captain Wren tapped the red X.
“This is where we’re headed. Can you navigate us to this island?”
“Getting to the island won’t be a problem, as long as your nav charts are current. Getting to the X, covering half the island, is another story entirely, and beyond my navigational responsibility. What are we looking for?”
“Leave the search of the island to me and my crew. And I’m not about to tell you what we’re searching for while we sit here in Neptune’s Trident. Once we’re underway I will tell you that. Just let me say, it’s the mother lode of all treasures.”
“Just where did you get this map?”
“I bought it from a drunken sailor, here on St. Mary’s. For a single doubloon.”
“And why would anyone with a map to the mother of all treasures sell it to you, for … never mind. You’ll be paying me to navigate, and that’s what I’ll do.”
Peering around anxiously, Captain Wren quickly pulled the map back to himself and secreted it away.
“We sail with the tide in the morning,” Harmon told her. “On the Sea Skimmer.”
“You’ll bunk in my cabin,” added Captain Wren.
“It’s that or the crew’s quarters.”
“We’ll see about that.”
“My ship, my rules.”
+ + + + + + + + + + + +
Captain Wren and First Mate Harmon stood to the side, watching half a dozen crewmen continue digging in a large, deep hole. Navigator Keze stood across, on the other side of what looked like a ten-foot deep grave. A rope ladder, tied off at the base of a palm tree, hung down into the hole.
“Someone must have moved it, Harmon. It should be right here.” Captain Wren pointed to the red X on his map. “I wonder who got here first? And where they took it?”
Aleesha sashayed over to the Captain and took his arm, pulling him away from the hole and towards a large boulder. He followed her around the boulder, out of view of the tired, dirty crewmen.
“What did they move, John? What are you looking for? What are we looking for?” She took his face in her hands and gave him a warm, wet, long kiss. “I think I’ve found what I’m looking for. Haven’t you?” She pressed against him, squishing the map between them. Captain John Wren disentangled himself from her embrace and stepped away.
“I’m looking for the One Crown to rule them all. It’s supposed to be right here.” He thrust the map out in front of himself, in her direction.
“Really? It’s supposed to be on the red X on a map you bought for a gold doubloon?”
“Of course it is.”
“And how many maps like that have you bought?”
“You’re so sure it was here? And somebody moved it? Why would they do that?”
“To keep me from getting it, Aleesha. To keep me from getting it.”
“You’re not getting it, all right. I don’t know if you’ll ever get it.”
“Once I find the right map, I will. I’ll find the One Crown, and I’ll rule them all.”
“There is no One Crown, John. If there ever had been one, don’t you think the person who possessed it would be ruling now? They wouldn’t have buried it.”
“You don’t understand, Aleesha. I need to find the treasure. I’m a pirate; it’s what I do.”
“You’re not the only pirate around here, John. I do understand. I may not be a Captain, but I am a pirate. And I used to search for treasure, just like the rest of us.”
“Used to search? Aren’t you searching now? With me? For the One Crown?”
“I found my treasure on this voyage, John. Treasures, I should say. Love, and you. Aren’t I enough treasure for you, as you are for me?”
“You are a great treasure, my dear. And so is our love. But the One Crown rules them all.”
“If you rule my heart John, and you do, who else do you wish to rule?”
Captain John Wren pulled his sword and touched the point to Aleesha’s belly button. “I wish to rule them all, Aleesha.” He re-sheathed his blade and shook his head. “I wish to rule your heart, my love. And I wish you to rule mine.” He pulled out his sword again and held it to his own throat. “The One Crown. I must have the One Crown.” He tossed his sword to the ground at Aleesha’s feet. “What am I doing? I must be mad.”
“Not mad, John. Obsessed. With a passion to find something that never existed.”
Captain John Wren went to his knees. “But you exist, Aleesha. Our love exists.” He fell to his knees. “Will you forgive me?”
Aleesha went to her knees in front of Captain Wren. “I do forgive you, sweetheart.” She grabbed up his sword and held it to his throat. “But if you ever pull a sword on me again, I’ll show you how much love can hurt.” She laid the sword by his knees, gave him a hug, and helped him stand up with her.
“Captain, this hole is empty. Must the men keep digging?” First Mate Bill Harmon yelled from the treasureless pit.
“Stop digging, Harmon. I’ve found it.” Captain Wren turned, keeping one arm around Aleesha’s shoulders, and led her around the boulder to face the First Mate and crew.
“You found the One Crown, Captain?” Harmon’s voice went up an octave and cracked in his excitement.
“I found the One True Treasure, Harmon. Now we can stop searching for the One Crown and find our booty elsewhere.”
“Hooray!” The crew shouted, dropping shovels and climbing out of the hole.
“Hooray!” shouted Harmon, tossing his cap in the air.
“You better not find any booty elsewhere, Captain John Wren,” whispered Aleesha. “Or you won’t have a head to wear any crown upon.”