The night started like any other. Gruel was scrubbing the floor and Pegleg Pete was drinking whiskey and spinning a very tall tale. “Gather round, gather round, ya rotten land lovers. Open ya hearts and feast ya ears on a story that will chill ya to the core. When the great pirate captain Henry Morgan ransacked the entire town of Portobello.”
Gruel looked around the tavern. The only people left in the establishment was himself and Pegleg Pete. He thought about telling the alcohol-soaked sea dog, but he rather liked this story, and so he left his ears wide open as he continued to scrub.
“It was a scortchin’ day at sea. I was sailing with Henry Morgan, a proud member of his crew. We anchored in the morning, rounded up the townsfolks like cattle and locked em’ up in the church by midday, then plundered the whole neighbourhood by nightfall. But we got too greedy and overstayed our welcome. The Panama Guard rode into town with enough firepower to sink the Spanish Fleet. We all thought we were done for”, he paused to down his glass then slammed it on the table. “Except Henry.”
Gruel stopped scrubbing. He didn’t want to miss the next bit.
“We were surrounded, held up in the very same church we locked away the people we robbed blind. Henry stood up, ordered everyone to lower their pistols and made a speech to the people that was better than any King that has ever lived. We struck gold. Turns out what the people hated more than pirates were the Panama Guard. The priest, the men, the women, the children and even the Mayor marched out that church and created a human shield. We waltzed all the way back to our ship and sailed away without so much as a scratch on our skin.” Pegleg Pete laughed so loudly Gruel was worried he was going to break the chair.
“Most people think us pirates have no honour, but let me tell you hand on heart and swear on me buried treasure we sailed back to that town one month later and . . .”
Bang, bang, bang.
The door shuddered, then slowly creaked open.
In the doorway stood a shadowy figure glowing in the moonlight. “Your time has run out, ya double-crossing dog.”
Pegleg Pete froze to the spot. The colour in his face had drained away and so had the liquor. Gruel had never seen him so scared. With both arms outstretched the figure slowly walked into the tavern. It didn’t take long for the figure to bump into the corner of a table.
“Ouch”, cried the mysterious man. “Why can’t they make taverns more accessible to the blind. Just some foam bits to soften the edges and a couple of menus in braille will do. I’ll be writing to the council about this.”
Gruel had not moved a muscle. He knew better than to get in the middle of a bar fight. They often got ugly fast and were a nuisance to clean up afterwards. Bloodstains are the worst.
“Speak up, Pegleg Pete. I know ya in here somewhere. I’ve got a message for ya that’ll bring a smile to ya traitorous soul.” The blind man pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. Then he slipped out a penknife from his sleeve and thrust it into the table. A sinister laugh filled the room, slowly growing louder and louder. “You didn’t think we’d forget about our little promise, did you, Pete? You’re on borrowed time now. The next knock at the door will be the fate you chose all those years ago.”
He turned around and continued to laugh, then hit his head on the doorframe.
“Oh, for crying out loud. Who moved the door? I really must learn sonar or get a guide parrot before me whole body is covered in bruises. Society needs to start looking after . . .” He mumbled on as he left the tavern and walked down the street.
Gruel walked over to the table to look at the piece of paper. Even he knew what it was.
The black spot.
A pirate’s death sentence.
He looked at Pegleg Pete. He was as blue as the morning sea. The old man was sweating and shaking and shivering and swearing under his breath. He looked like he was chewing his tongue with fear. Clutching at his heart, he stumbled to his feet and looked straight at Gruel.
“Don’t leave me, kid. I don’t want to die alone.”
Those were his last words.
He dropped to the floor like a ragdoll, heart no longer beating, and did not get up.
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