He untied himself from the rope and started to hide it behind some branches.
“Don’t do that!” A girl’s voice sounded behind him. “I want a turn.”
Logan groaned as he turned around. “I thought no one was here.”
The girl’s green eyes sparkled. She leaned forward, looked around, lowered her voice and said, “If you’d come yesterday, no one would have been here, because yesterday my name was ‘No one’. I was an escaped prisoner from the Mines of Certain Doom and Death, and I didn’t want anyone to see me.”
She stood up straight and placed her hand on the hilt of a sword tied to her belt. “Today I’ve got a new name, so please don’t call me ‘No one’. I’ll get my days mixed up, and very bad things happen when I get my days mixed up.”
She scowled at him, and then grinned.
Logan screwed up his face as he deciphered this – obviously, he was dealing with an expert at make-believe.
The girl was probably about eleven. She was skinny, with long black hair plaited down her back. She wore shorts and a T-shirt with a pirate bandana on her head and although it was just eight in the morning, she jumped from foot to foot as if the sand was too hot for her. Poet, his younger foster sister, would say the girl was pretty. Not that he ever paid much attention to that kind of thing. Her sword was interesting though—it looked almost real. He could do some damage with that.
“What’s your name today?” he asked.
“Captain Happy, of course! The friendliest pirate on all the seas,” she said, flourishing her sword, “and I’d be mighty happy if you gave me a turn with that there rope of yours.”
She dropped the sword, grabbed the rope out of Logan’s hands, and started climbing hand over hand, kicking herself out from the cliff with her feet.
“Hang about Captain Happy—you should have safety gear on!” He started free climbing up after her. She was an incredible climber. He had never seen anyone her age handle a rope so fast and skilfully. There probably wasn’t much point going after her, except that if she fell he would be in so much trouble.
“Get down from there. Right now!” a man’s voice shouted from below.
Captain Happy froze. A burst of angry Italian exploded from her lips. She swung back down to Logan and paused.
“It’s Captain Blackbeard the Destroyer. Don’t worry, I’ve got this. Give him a minute to yell at me, and then come down.”
Captain Blackbeard started shouting at her before she reached the ground. “I thought we had a deal. No more climbing unless I’m with you!”
Logan winced. Must be her father. Maybe he should escape to the top of the cliff while he still had time.
“Climb down here, young man, or I’ll come and get you. And I’m twice as fast as she is, so don’t even think about going up.”
Too late! Captain Blackbeard sure sounded stern. If he was faster than Captain Happy, Logan had only one choice. He headed down, hoping he could outrun him if he needed to.
When he got down he stole a few furtive glances at Captain Blackbeard from underneath his fringe. He was a strong-looking man, clean-shaven, with short straight black hair and vivid green eyes, the same colour as Captain Happy’s. He almost looked like a movie star, or perhaps an international espionage agent. Hopefully he wasn’t carrying a gun.
“You must be Logan,” Captain Blackbeard said.
Logan pushed his fringe aside and stared at Captain Blackbeard. He was frowning, though Logan noticed a smile in his eyes.
“Wha … How’d you know that?” Logan asked.
The frown suffocated the smile out of the man’s eyes, so Logan added a respectful, ‘Sir’.
“Janet told me. We arrived two nights ago, so I called in on her to check up on a few things. She said there was a young guy who’d wanted to know if anyone was staying this weekend. She figured you were going to come down that cliff looking for the cave.”
“Snapped!” said Captain Happy, clapping her hands together.
“So, how were you going to explore the cave when you need a rope to climb to it and your only rope is double-knotted and can’t be pulled down?” Captain Blackbeard asked.
“Um …” What an idiot!
There was silence for a full minute. Captain Blackbeard’s stare was intense, like a storm cloud full of lightning. Logan dropped his gaze and watched his shuffling feet. Should he run now?
Captain Blackbeard chuckled—Logan looked up. The smile in Captain Blackbeard’s eyes now reached down to his mouth, and it felt like the sun had come out.
“Did you not read the sign about trespassers?” Captain Blackbeard asked.
“No, actually, I didn’t. I’m really sorry about that.”
Captain Happy spoke up in a serious tone, her nose pointing upwards. “It’s obvious Captain Cliffhanger here has a moral objection to reading. I suggest we make him walk the plank, and once he’s been well and truly mutton-lated by the sharks we give him pancakes till his stomach bursts.”
“You mean mutilated,” Captain Blackbeard said. “Or, we could do the pancakes first and see if he keeps any treasure in his stomach when it bursts open, then feed him to the sharks.”
Captain Happy poked Logan’s stomach with her sword. “What d’ya say, Captain Cliffhanger? Pancakes and sharks with us here pirates, or another boring day at the top of the rope?”
She came close and whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry about the sharks. He’ll forget all about them after the third pancake.”
Logan hesitated, but the look of cheerful expectancy on Captain Happy’s face banished his uncertainties away. This could be fun—even if it did mean acting like a silly eleven-year-old.
“The pancakes sound pretty good to me, Captain Happy. But can I ask one thing?” he said.
“You can speak, prisoner,” she said, her nose back in the air.
“Why is he called Captain Blackbeard when he doesn’t even have a moustache?” He lowered his voice and pretended to look around for danger.
The two Captains looked at each other. “Observant fellow, isn’t he?” Captain Blackbeard said. “Make a good spy.”
“True,” said Captain Happy. She turned to Logan and said, “He’s unco-nerdo.”
Captain Blackbeard frowned at her. “Incognito,” he corrected.
“That too,” said Captain Happy. “But don’t let the disguise fool you. One angry look from him can fry your organs inside of you, even when it’s pouring with rain and snowing on your head.”
She clutched her stomach and took a few staggering steps. “You’ll die a sudden but agonising death.”
That was true, Logan thought. Captain Blackbeard’s stare a minute ago had fried Logan’s insides for sure.
“But you’ll also die smiling, because Captain Happy here makes everyone laugh, even when they’re being tortured by having a bulldog clip pegged on their tongue,” said Captain Blackbeard.
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