The Mysterious Case of the Missing Skeith: Part Seven
Also by fuliguline
Previously, on TMCOTMS:
Scarblade is revealed to have been the mastermind behind Mercutio's disappearance--as well as the Golden Skeith's. It's a race against time to find The Revenge, which inevitably leads our heroes to Krawk Island...
As the group boarded the ship for Krawk Island, Sadie and Sylvette haltingly informed their brothers about the recent turn of events. Suffice it to say, none of them were too pleased.
"Hah, Mercutio! Getting involved with pirates—and Scarblade, no less. Can't say I didn't expect that from a complete fool," said Theodore. "And you, Sylvette—how come you didn't let us know? We may not think much of Mercutio, but we still would have gone with you to Maraqua."
"That's what it means to be a family," added Andrew.
Sylvette looked alternately abashed and gratified. "I—thought you would be furious at me, and that you would never speak to me again. I really am terribly ashamed."
Shylock and Grotson kept their faces tactfully toward the sea as this touching little family tableau unfolded.
"I do say, Shylock," said Grotson after a moment. "How do you propose we go after the pirates? There's only six of us, and at least twenty of them..."
Shylock clapped her partner on the back. "No worries, my dear Grotson," she said. "I have a plan. All we have to do, for now, is to buy some time."
"What do you mean?"
"If my hunch is correct, those pirates will try to Cove the Skeith immediately." Shylock frowned. "It will be harder to get the statue back after it has changed hands, as I suspect it will do quite often over the next few months. We must reach them before that happens."
"I'm still not sure I quite follow..."
"Trust me, my good man," said Shylock, and then gave her colleague a wink. "Have I ever let you down before?"
As she left the Grarrl to ponder this rather debatable question, Sadie quietly approached her from the side.
"Shylock—do you really think we can get it back?" she asked, staring at her hands morosely.
"My dear girl, do you doubt my abilities?"
"It's not so much your abilities, but... it's just... it all just seems so impossible!" Sadie looked simultaneously panic-stricken and ashamed. "I'm trying to be brave for Sylvette, and for Andrew and Theodore, but I feel as if this is all just... a bit much...."
"My dear," Shylock said, after a short silence had elapsed. "I understand your feelings, and how this has all has been a severe trial upon your nerves. But I assure you, upon my honor as Shylock Usulski, that you will have your Skeith back within the day... and, most likely, your estranged brother as well."
Sadie stared at him, dumbfounded.
"Now, Sadie, I will need you to be a brave young lady and hold up the morale for the rest of your family. We are approaching land now, it seems, and we will need all the bravura we can get."
Leaving Sadie to her task, Shylock spared a glance at her pocket watch. "Anytime now," she muttered to herself.
As if on cue: "Shore, ahoy!" the captain called from his perch.
The Cyvisham family members clambered to the railing. Indeed, looming out of the mist, was the dismal outline of Krawk Island.
"It seems as if the game is finally afoot," said Shylock to Grotson. "Well—let's go and test our luck, shall we?"
As the passengers exited the boat, a heavy hand suddenly clapped on Shylock's shoulder.
"This may be a bit late, but I just wanted to say—I apologize for doubting you earlier," came Theodore's gruff voice. "Although," and here he growled warningly, "this doesn't mean I still completely trust you. If this trip is all a ruse, and any harm comes to Sadie or Sylvette, then by Jove! I shall have your long-eared head on a platter."
Shylock was about to protest ("My good man—my ears are perfectly average!"), when suddenly a buxom young Aisha darted into the crowd from the sidelines.
"By the powers, 'tis Shylock Usulski!" she cried. "I thought ye'd be arrivin' about now!" Lowering her voice conspiratorially, she whispered, "Word in the Dubloon be that he be takin' the booty to the Cove, so ye'd better be hurryin' if ye desires to catch up with him."
"Thank you, Rosetta," said Shylock, before turning back to her group. "My friends, this is Rosetta Fontaine, one-half of the famous—or shall I say infamous?—Fontaine sister duo."
Theodore and Andrew looked rather starstruck, muttering a feeble "How do you do?" before lapsing into an awkward silence.
Rosetta laughed, then gave Shylock a hearty slap on the back. ("Oof!" Shylock mumbled.) "Ye be in good hands with this one," she said. "This lassie helped me an' me sister with a rather—sticky situation, ye might say. Trust her, and she be leadin' ye well."
Giving the brothers a wink, Rosetta turned back to Shylock. "I also contacted—ye know, that other one—but 'tis been an hour and still no sign of him." She paused, looking slightly worried. "Mayhaps ye should wait a wee bit before headin' to the Cove. Me sister and me wouldn't know what to do if somethin' happened to ye."
"Miss Fontaine, you know as well as I do how quickly Cove items sell," said Shylock. "As much as I would love to wait, I fear that there just isn't time. Now then," she turned back to the group, and then glanced at Sadie and Sylvette. "If you wish, ladies, it may be wiser for you to stay in the Dubloon. Things may become a bit dangerous, and Theodore has kindly promised me my head on a dinner plate should either of you come to mischief."
Theodore flushed, and was about to say something, when Sylvette quickly cut in. "Of course I'm going," she said. "This all happened because of me and my stupidity. And wouldn't you know it, us Cyvisham girls are famous for our tenacity." She shot Shylock a timorous smile.
"I'm going too!" cried Sadie, and threw in a glare for good measure. "There's no way you're leaving me behind, Shylock Usulski."
Shylock turned to Theodore and shrugged her shoulders, as if to say, Well, I tried.
"I must confess, my dears, that I admire your bravery. All right then, let's be off! To the Cove!"
"Ye be careful, Shylock!" came Rosetta's faint voice as the group began their journey.
Shylock waved at her, and then turned back. Theodore and Andrew looked vaguely jealous.
"A client's gratitude is a remarkable thing," commented Shylock to no one in particular as they walked along.
After a few minutes, Shylock suddenly stopped. "Scarblade may recognize you Cyvishams if we arrive as we are," she said. "Best to take some precautions."
Saying this, she reached into her overcoat and brought out several assorted hairpieces.
"You've been keeping those in your coat all this time?" asked Sadie, taken aback.
"You'd be surprised at what she has in there," Grotson murmured from the side.
"My motto is to always be prepared," replied Shylock, who was busily smoothing out one of the wigs. "Now then, ladies and gentlemen... if you would."
The Cyvishams stared at each other, and then each hesitantly took a wig. There was a bit of a squabble between the males, as the loser was to end up with a balding haircap. Andrew won, and Theodore was forced to don a combover for the duration of the trip.
"I must say, you all look splendid," said Shylock. The wigs were truly hideous.
"Now then," she said. "Let's be off!"
The group continued moving, and before long they arrived at a deserted tract of sand. "If I'm not mistaken, the Cove should be around here somewhere," mused Shylock, scanning the horizon.
They hadn't taken two steps further when a shabbily dressed Tuskaninny popped out from behind some driftwood. "Ahoy, mateys... ye be lookin' for a good deal?" he offered hopefully.
"We are, indeed." Shylock wasted no time in stepping forward. "Why don't you show us what you have, my good man?"
The pirate motioned for Shylock to follow. Before long, they had arrived at a small cave, hidden by awkwardly-placed planks and dense island flora.
"'Tis in here," the Tuskaninny said, and they entered. There, strewn across the floor, were various baubles and gadgets, ranging from the potentially practical to the utterly absurd.
"Sloth-approved hair gel," read Sadie on one of the labels. "What on earth is that?"
"I hope to be makin' these sales real quick-like," said the Tuskaninny, eyes darting back and forth nervously. "I'm willin' ter to go reseller on all these."
"Why are you in such a hurry?" asked Andrew. Spying a bunch of grapes on the floor, he tried to pick a few, only to quickly recoil his hand in shock. "Ow!"
"I wouldn't touch those, 'em grapes be angry," said the Tuskaninny. "As to yer question: word be that Cap'n Scarblade be makin' his way o'er here today, and I don't want to be around when his crew be hereabouts."
As if on cue, a shadow suddenly fell across the entrance, and the Tuskaninny looked up, panicked. "Shiver me timbers, 'tis them! They be here!" An immense black ship sat on the horizon, its sail casting an ominous outline over the deserted stretch of coast.
As the Tuskaninny scrambled to make his getaway, Shylock hastily turned to the others. "Now, I implore you, you must all remain calm. Try and act like you are interested in his wares. We must stall him for as long as we can."
"And then what?" asked Theodore. "So what if we stall him? We haven't got the dubloons to buy the Skeith back, we have no weapons, and by Fyora! We only have six people versus his entire crew!"
Grotson suddenly spoke up. "I understand how difficult this all must be, but please, you must trust Shylock. It's asking for a great leap of faith, I know, but she has never let me down before. It will all be all right, I assure you. Just trust what she says."
Grotson's small speech had a somewhat mollifying effect on the group, and when the first of Captain Scarblade's crew walked in, the feigned interest on the Cyvishams' faces could almost be interpreted as genuine.
To be continued...