Canto Eighteen – Library Lies
The four young Pirates took the invisible Captain into the Norwall Public Library, into the reading room where all the encyclopedias were kept, along with the piano used for community sing-a-longs after town council meetings. They all took seats around one of the round tables used for meetings and, on rare occasions, students doing homework.
Valerie kept staring at the empty space behind the floating glasses where the Captain’s face actually had to be. If she squinted and stared real hard, she could almost picture a face there, though an older face than the yearbook photo Mary had shown her.
“Uncle Noah,” Mary said, “You have to answer some questions for us now.”
“Well, um, heh-heh… what exactly do you children want to know?”
“How did you become invisible?” Danny demanded. “And can you teach me how to do it too?”
“Why do you want to be invisible?” Valerie asked Danny, while poking him in the ribs with a finger.
“Yeah… well… you see, I could go into the girls’ locker room at school, and…”
“Okay, not that question!” insisted Mary. Pidney beside her was a bright crimson color in the face. “Tell us, Uncle Noah, why you became invisible.”
“Well, that was not a matter of choice. Did you read the log book I sent you?”
“Not all of it, no…” Mary looked at the empty air behind the glasses with a very skeptical expression.
“Well, you see, there was this witchdoctor… also called a juju man… His name was Mangkukulan… He put a curse on me, and made me invisible.”
“Why did he put a curse on you?” Pidney asked.
“Well, uh… you really should read about it in the log book first. It tells the story better than I can here and now… um, before you read it.”
“Just summarize for us,” suggested Mary.
“Well, um… the truth of the matter is… um, I am in need of a… well, a pure sort of… a girl who…”
“What, Uncle Noah?”
“I need a virgin.”
“Cool,” said Danny. “What do you need one of those for?”
“Um, well, I… Mangkukulan needs a virgin to give to the mayap mapali Matuling Lupa.”
“The what?” asked Valerie.
“That wouldn’t be a volcano or something would it?” asked Danny.
“Well, sorta, kinda… the god of volcanoes.”
“And why does Man-coo-coo-man think he needs to get a virgin from you, Captain?” asked Pidney, frowning.
“Because I… well… I sorta… um… spoiled the one he had.”
“You what? And what virgin were you planning to give him in return?” asked Mary, almost loudly and angrily enough to be heard by the librarian in the next room.
“I hate to ask this, Mary dear… but… well… are you still a virgin?”
“What? How can you ask a question like that?” Mary roared.
The librarian, Val’s Aunt Alice, looked into the room just as the Captain hastily pulled the hood of the cloak over his head.
“Is everything all right, Mary dear?” the librarian asked.
“Oh, ah… we are fine. We are just having a friendly little argument.”
“I see…” Aunt Alice frowned at the cloaked and hooded figure slumped down in the chair across the table from Mary. “Call me if you need anything, girls. I have a handy phone on the desk, and there’s a new deputy sheriff in town. We have a deputy who actually lives in Norwall now.”
“That’s good to know, Ms. Stewart. Thank you so much.” Mary smiled grimly at the cloaked Captain.
Captain Dettbarn seemed meek and chastened after that.
“You can’t really believe you can take a girl from your home town and give her to a witch doctor to throw into a volcano?” Mary said quietly through gritted teeth.
“No, I suppose not. But I still might need to know… um, for magical reasons. I do have to solve the problem somehow.”
“You don’t have the right to ask that question,” said Pidney, simmering with anger. “You are talking about a young lady’s honor. She loses something no matter what the answer is.”
“How can she be losing something?” asked Danny, looking thoroughly confused.
“She loses her right to privacy. And besides, if she answers that she is one, the creepy old Captain here may kidnap her and throw her into a volcano.”
“Oh,” Danny said.
“I really need to know, Mary, honey… because the witch doctor’s magic follows me everywhere. And I am afraid he will try to take you if you are. After all, you are the daughter of my good friend Dagwood Philips, and the witch doctor will know that you are important to me.”
“And what will you do if it turns out that I am one?”
“Well, I can’t do anything about that… but your boyfriend here could.”
“Captain!” Mary was angry again, and Pidney was a glowing red with embarrassment again.
“Is Valerie in any danger?” asked Danny, suddenly panicky.
“This pretty little one?” the Captain asked.
“Of course,” said Mary. “Is she in danger too?”
“Well, I don’t know. She’s obviously not as important to me as you are, Mary… but she’s even more obviously a virgin.”
“Well, that’s disturbing,” said Valerie. “Because I have my doubts that Pidney can solve the problem for both of us.” The notion tickled her insides. The idea was not without its good side. But, still, it made her angry that they all made that particular assumption about her.
“I, um… I better be going now,” said the Captain. “I have put you girls in enough danger already. But… I promise, I will find a solution to this problem. You, however, need to read the log book. If I have any chance of finding the right magical spell to save us all, I’m going to need your help.”
With that, there was a sudden burst of light from flash powder, and the Captain was gone. His cloak remained. As did his clothing and his yachting cap.
“Oh, my gawd!” swore Pidney. “What will we do now?”
“I think we have to do some serious reading,” said Mary. “And we may have to think about some other things that kids like us probably shouldn’t be doing either.”
A thrill ran up Valerie’s spine.