Canto Seventeen – Invisible People
The next day Valerie had a chance to hang out with Pidney and Mary again, so she took it. She road into town on the school bus after school with Danny Murphy. They didn’t actually talk about anything the whole way. Anticipation is often better than the real thing. And it wasn’t often that Mary and Pid were both off directly after school. Pidney had no football practice that afternoon, and Mary canceled whatever school meetings she had planned that day in order to come back to Norwall with him after school. The four Pirates were supposed to meet in the Library for Pirate business.
“There’s Mary and Pid,” said Danny pointing as he and Val stepped off Milo’s school bus.
“Yeah, but who is that?” Valerie asked, pointing at a mysterious cloaked figure standing behind the tree by the Library door. She was instantly reminded of the cloaked man she had seen the day they got the Tiki idol.
“Hey, Pidney!” Danny shouted, “who is that near you behind that tree?”
Pidney was holding the door of his step-dad’s old 70’s Lincoln Mercury to help Mary get out. Mary carried a tall stack of books. They had driven home from the high school in Belle City together.
“What man? Where?” The figure moved out of sight behind the large fluffy pine tree.
“Look behind the tree!” shouted Valerie.
Pid walked around to where he could see behind the tree. He looked back a Valerie and Danny and shrugged. “Nobody here that I can see,” he said.
“You guys need to see what we found in the high school library,” said Mary waving them to come towards the Library building.
Valerie looked at Danny. He shrugged. They both walked toward the Library.
“I found some old high school yearbooks in the library,” said Mary. “We can use them to get an idea what Captain Dettbarn used to look like. He’s kinda hard to describe any other way.”
“And there’s a book about the ship, Mary Celeste. It tells about the old ghost ship, not the Captain’s ship, but I still think it is important,” said Pidney.
Valerie and Danny walked across the street from the bus stop to join the two high school kids.
“Here’s the 1962 Belle City Bronco yearbook,” said Mary, handing the black-bound thin book of pictures to Valerie. “The Captain is in the Junior Class in that one. He had a beard then, just like the one he had on his face the last time I saw him.”
Valerie opened to the page of Junior portraits and ran her finger over the C’s and D’s until she got to Dettbarn. He was kind of a dumpy fat boy even then, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a derfy smile that showed his crooked teeth. He had a rather ratty looking beard, which was perfect for a rodent-like face, that, while it didn’t look like a rat, it did look an awful lot like the face of a woodchuck, or some kind of short-toothed beaver.
“He’s kinda funny looking,” Val said to herself, but loud enough for all to hear.
“Now, see here! I take exception to that remark!” said a cloaked and hatted figure stepping out of the shadow of the evergreen tree by the door.
“Who…?” croaked Mary, leaping away from the figure and towards Pidney.
“Help me…!” squawked Danny as he awkwardly leaped into Pidney’s arms, the football muscles catching hold of the smaller boy easily.
“Don’t you get mad at me!” said Valerie hotly. “It is not like I was talking to you… whoever you are!” She lunged toward the stranger, grabbing his yachting cap and yanking it off his head.
But where the head was supposed to be… nothing at all there except a pair of thick bifocal glasses hanging in the air like they were weightless in outer space.
Valerie looked at the glasses, and then down at the yearbook picture still in her other hand. Yes, it was an updated version of the same style of thick glasses.
“Erm… Captain Dettbarn. It’s you!”
“Uncle Noah?” Mary said. “What happened to your head?”
“Oh, um… it’s still there, Mary dear. Head-hunters didn’t eat it or anything. I am just the victim of a curse. A curse that makes my body completely invisible.” He removed the cloak to reveal a free-standing pair of pants, a short-sleeved red-and-white-striped shirt, and empty neckerchief, and floating white gloves that didn’t seem to be properly attached to the invisible dumpy body wearing the sailor’s clothes.
“Er, uh… sir?” asked Pidney, “What is all this purple smoke coming out from behind the pine tree? It has a funky smell, like burning sugar or something.”
“Well, I hate to say it, but that is an indicator that the witchdoctor himself is watching us at the moment from somewhere not too far away. That purple smoke always seems to come around right before some evil magic happens.”
“Oh, that’s not good. Maybe we better go inside the library before anything bad can happen.” Mary was looking around the street for signs of the evil witchdoctor.
Pidney put Danny on the ground and both boys headed up the Public Library steps.
“Um, uh… Pretty girl, can I have my hat back. I want to go in the library in disguise. No sense in scaring the librarian.”
Valerie frowned at the invisible man as she handed him back the hat and the disembodied gloves placed it back on top of his invisible rodent-like head.
“Let’s go inside the Library,” said Mary. “We have things to talk about and questions to ask… Lots and lots of questions to ask.”