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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 27

Canto Twenty-Seven – Begging for Counter Spells

Valerie-squirrel scurried through the cat door in the back of Mazie Haire’s Gingerbread House.  Once inside the house, she searched all around the downstairs for Miss Haire.  Not finding her anywhere around the kitchen cauldron and fireplace, or the sitting room and reading area, or even the bathroom, the little blond squirrel finally found the witch upstairs, watching something through the telescope.

“So, you still aren’t practicing your natural skills of seeing and knowing, I see,” Miss Haire said to the squirrel at the top of the stairs.

“Chit Chitter Chit-it-it!” said Valerie-squirrel angrily, even though she meant to say, “I need help, I’ve been changed into a squirrel!”

“You don’t have to talk like that, you know.  Just say it in regular people words.”

“Chit-chitter… do I use regular people words?”

“Just like that, girl.  You have to use the acuity of your own intelligent mind to see through the fog the spell put on your brain.”

“Spell?”

“Well, that’s what a witch calls it, of course.  But it is more like a bit of chemistry in gaseous form, I believe.  Did you not come in contact with a cloud of purple smoke at one point or another?”

“Yes.  The Tiki idol filled Mary’s basement with purple smoke right before Mary, Pidney, and I all turned into squirrels.”

“Yes, and somehow you were given some sort of powerful suggestion right before that, I believe.”

“Suggestion?”

“Ideas were placed in your head prior to inhaling the gas, I believe.  Someone talking, or chanting, or telling a story perhaps.”

“There was… some chanting… yes.”

“So, that was the trick of it.”

“Can you…?  Can you cure me?  Or reverse the spell?  I don’t want to be a squirrel, Miss Haire.”

“You are not a squirrel, child.  You are a rather stupid and completely naked girl.  I can’t cure stupid, but you can.”

“What do you mean?”

“You will continue to think you are a squirrel until you take control of your own mind and convince yourself that you are not.”

Valerie-squirrel looked down at her own paws and golden-blond fur.  How exactly was that done?  Everything she saw, heard, and smelled told her that she was really a squirrel.  A human girl in her mind, but definitely a squirrel in all her body parts.

“So, what do I do?”

“Obviously, me telling you that you are not a squirrel is not enough.  So, you are going to have to go back out there and find for yourself the proof you need to turn yourself back into a beautiful young lady, and not a silly, naked squirrel.

“Go back… out there?  Where the cat is?  And that dog, Barky Bill?”

“Yes.  Go back out there and find the focus, find the part of your brain that reminds you that are not what somebody else says you are.  Go out and find the part of Valerie Clarke that is not a squirrel.” Valerie-squirrel swallowed hard and looked back down the staircase.  This was going to be hard.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 24

Canto Twenty-Four – Squirrel Time

It was Skaggs the cat that started the action.   He stared at Valerie-squirrel with evil, mismatched eyes.  He licked his evil cat-lips.  Then he launched himself into the air, intending to come down on top of Valerie-squirrel’s head.

Pidney-squirrel was having none of that.  Faster than the eye could follow, he dashed over to defend Valerie-squirrel, latching on to Skaggs the cat’s left rear haunch with his sharp squirrel teeth.

“Yeeowehrrrrr-owwwerrrr!” screamed the cat as he tumbled over his wound into a very un-catlike pile of Pidney-squirrel-and-Skaggs-the-cat-awkwardness all wrapped up in a fight to the death.

“Chreee-chit-it-it-it!” cried Valerie, trying hard to say, “I’ll help you, Pidney-squirrel!” but not managing it very well.  She caught the tip of the cat’s tail in her mouth and bit hard with her own sharp squirrel teeth.

“Have a care, cat!” said Oojie.  “You can eat the boy-squirrel, but not the girl-squirrels.  I need them alive!”

The enraged cat was, paws and claws, splayed out in agony in four directions at once, spitting his fury and hatred at the squirrels who still had him impaled with buck teeth.

“You will die, beautiful one!” swore Skaggs in the mental language Valerie-squirrel had come to think of as cat language.  “I don’t care what the juju thing says.  He is only someone’s servant!  Not the witch-doctor himself.”

Mary-squirrel pulled at Pidney and made him let go of Skaggs’ hind leg.  She dragged him over to the furnace fixture and up a pipe that was wrapped with black tape where the squirrels could get a decent claw- hold.  Both Pidney and Mary squirrels shot up the pipe and out the open basement window above it.

Valerie-squirrel realized too late that she should’ve let go and followed them up the pipe.  The evil cat whipped his injured tail around and launched her toward the stairs.  Mary Philips’ father always kept a waste basket at the foot of the stairs, and Valerie-squirrel, head over tail, spiraled into it.

“Get outside and get the other squirrels!” Skaggs commanded the other cats.  “This one is all mine!”

The other cats disappeared up the cellar stairs and out of the house.

“You cannot kill the girl squirrel!” commanded Oojie with a shout.

“Spare me, little familiar… for that’s what you are, only the witch’s familiar, not the actual witch.  Magic flows through you, but it does not come from you.  You can’t control me.”    

Valerie-squirrel knew she was in deep and dire distress, so she felt around in the darkness for possible weapons.  But how does one wield a weapon with squirrel paws?  And then she realized that the waste basket was made of wicker.  She quickly bit into the soft woody fibers with her amazingly sharp incisors.

“I am going to report you to the master!” Oojie said to the cat.

“Go ahead.  I will have a nice squirrel lunch while you get him.  I have her trapped in this human trash thingy.”

The hole was big enough to squirm through.  And with luck, there was a mouse hole in the basement brickwork right near where she tumbled out on the dark floor.  She wriggled through the opening and into the hollow tunnel that was on the inside of the cinderblock wall.  She could see light somewhere far above.

“Where are you, beautiful one?  How can you be hiding under this paper and string and old apple cores?”

Valerie-squirrel heard the basket being batted away and new light flooded in the door of the mouse hole.

“Aha!  So that is where you have gone.”

The cat’s paw came reaching in through the hole, the only part of Skaggs that actually fit.  He nearly got a hold on Valerie-squirrel’s bushy blond tail.  She wasn’t used to having a tail the way a real squirrel would be.  She tucked it up underneath herself just in time.  Then she began to climb up through the brickwork.  It was a long, hard climb basically going straight up, but she could manage with four splayed squirrel legs.

“You haven’t escaped me yet!” cried the cat.  “I will have you still.” Her tiny heart beat even faster as she climbed.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 22

Canto Twenty-Two – A Beach-Front Home

I followed the naked girl and her pet red panda about a mile along the beach.  She skipped and sang songs in a language I didn’t recognize, but sounded a lot like the Filipino language.  The panda sported about like a playful puppy, following her devotedly.  I didn’t think you found red pandas on small Pacific islands like the one we were on, but it didn’t matter what I thought.  I was no scientist or naturalist, so I didn’t really know.  I kept looking worriedly out to sea.  I mean, I did know for a fact that Chinooki the mermaid could eat people.

“We have been coming to this house, my tahanan,” she said proudly, showing me a beached submarine from World War Two.  It had a large rising sun flag from the Empire of Japan painted on the conning tower.

“You live in a submarine?”

“It is where Mangkukulan wants me to stay while we wait for the volcano.”

“Oh.  It’s like that, is it?  Well, show me.  Do you have any guns aboard?  Or swords?  Something to protect us from Chinooki?”

“Oh, silly captain man, Chinooki serves Mangkukulan.  She will not be harming me.  And she is ordered not to be hurting you also.”

I was a little worried about the actual intentions of this coo-coo man.  I didn’t think he really had Malutu’s best interests at heart.  Not if he meant to toss her naked into an erupting volcano.  I followed her warily up the side of the submarine and down into a hatch near the nose.

“My goodness, this is certainly rusty and rather dreary,” I said as I surveyed the narrow candle-lit corridor in the center of the submarine.  I followed her into the forward section where I really expected to see a forward torpedo room.  I found, however, that it had been hollowed out, lined with bamboo, and turned into a cozy and rather decent living space.  It had a bed in the center of the not over-large room.  There was a potbellied stove that had obviously been put there for cooking.  The room was also decorated with carved wooden idols.  They were the kind of Tiki idols that you could buy in Honolulu if you were a tourist who liked kitschy stuff to decorate your porch back in Iowa with.  Especially one large ugly idol with a man-like body and wearing a frightful carved mask.

“You have a nice home here.  Didn’t you say something about clothes you could put on?”

“Oh, yes.  Or… you could be getting naked too, Captain.”

“No, no.  Put on a dress please.  You need to be decent around me.”

She pulled out a rather nice red cloth dress with a white flower pattern on it.  It was a Hawaiian sort of wrap-around affair.

“This okay?  Or are you wanting the kimono?”

“That one is fine.  You are very beautiful like that.”

“Yes, I am being beautiful for you.  It is being important that I get you to like me very, very much.”

“Oh, yes?”

“I am liking you.  But I must be telling Mangkukulan that you are here now.  Chinooki has done well.”

“Um, maybe we can hold off a bit on telling the coo-coo man.”

“Why?  I am supposed to be telling him immediately… faster if it is being possible.”

“Are you sure that coo-coo man has our best interests at heart?  I mean, it seems to me like he might be trying to hurt us in some way.”  I was imagining being tossed into the volcano along with the girl.

“Oh, no.  This he will not be doing.  I will be sending the juju to tell him you are here.”

She went over to the biggest, ugliest Tiki idol and tapped his tattoos, once each until she had tapped them all.  And she sang;

“Juju do dah goodah… oojie-magoober!”  Purple smoke poured out of the top of the Tiki’s head and filled the room with a smell like burnt sugar.

“Is that a magic spell or something?”

“Yes, it is being something.  We are wanting you to be very comfortable here, Captain mans.  Will you not be taking off your clothes?”

“I most certainly will not.”

“Okay.  We will be doing the talking about it.  You will see.”

To my utter shock and horror, the Tiki man began to glow with an unearthly greenish-blue light.  He moved as if he were alive and trying to shake himself awake.

“It’s alive?”

“Don’t be being silly.  It is made of wood.  But, Oojie-magoober, please be telling Mangkukulan that the Captain is here.”

“Juju doo dah!  Yaya!” said the wooden creature.  Then it scampered out of the room and out of the submarine.

“You are liking Malutu, yes?” she asked me.

“Yes.  You are very beautiful.”

“Good-good!  Now you will be taking off your clothes, Captain.”  And just like that she had me naked.  I was as much under her spell as the wooden Tiki man.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 21

Canto Twenty-One – The Deserted Beach

I was all alone on the island for all I knew, so I immediately got busy on my best Robinson Crusoe plan.  And then my headache made me rethink that, and I went back to sleep for another two hours.  I think it was two hours, estimating by the sun, but I don’t really know how to estimate time by the sun, and as I decided the first order of business had to be to locate any useful wreckage from the ship that had washed up on the shore, my head started hurting again, so I slept again.  Now, I know from re-reading this paragraph that I was probably sleeping way too much… and I didn’t know for sure that Chinooki wouldn’t come up on the sand to eat me, but, well… having this kind of horror-story adventure in the South Seas was really tiring.

When I did finally search the beach, I found almost nothing at all to help me.  I needed a knife, or a hammer, or a gun, or a shovel… but all I found was this log book and a wooden crate full of Pink Fizz Cherry Soda Pop.  Luckily, I also discovered I still had a pencil in my jeans pocket, otherwise I might’ve forgotten everything that happened before I could write it all down.  I know my thinking was a little fuzzy at the time… or possibly Pink Fizzy… but I wrote down everything as truthfully as I possibly could so that whoever found the book would know what happened to the Reefer Mary Celeste and her crew. 

Inland on the island was jungle… a rather thick jungle.  But I desperately needed food and fresh water.  And if I tried walking the beach until I either found civilization or discovered I was on a deserted island; I might die of dehydration and thirst before I discovered I was all alone for certain.  So, I made a brief foray into the island.  If I met headhunters or an evil killer gorilla, I couldn’t do any more about it than writing a scathing commentary on why they shouldn’t be eating me raw in this log book.  I could write that I hoped to give them a fatal case of indigestion as long as they ate my writing hand last.

The jungle was very hot and humid, but I found a rainwater pool a short way into the jungle and was able to slake my thirst. Coconuts and bananas were growing in abundance near the pool.   I also ate.  And it was then that I saw her for the first time.  She was a young girl.  I admit, at the time, I didn’t really know how young.  But she was lovely.  She was Asian-looking with slanted eyes and caramel-brown skin.  She had black hair and dark brown eyes that twinkled at me as she smiled.  And she was standing on the edge of the pool completely nude.  The only thing she wore was an adolescent red panda sitting on her shoulder and grimacing at me with a raccoon-like smile.

“Parlez vous Francais?” she said.  “Tagalog?  Maybe English?”

“I understand English,” I confessed.

“Ah, so good.  I am liking practicing my English.  We don’t be speaking it on this island.  Maligayang pagdating sa masasamang isla.  That means be welcome to Evil Island.”

I didn’t know whether to be frightened or worried about the name of the place, or be incredibly embarrassed that I was talking to a completely naked girl.  “I… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to spy on you while you were bathing.  I will give you some privacy…”

“Huwag pumunta!  I mean… don’t be going away!  I be liking you.  I don’t be wearing clothings on this island, but I am having a kimono back at my bahay… my house.  I can be putting it on if hubad is wrongness for you.”

“Um, well, I…”  I didn’t know what to say. I was seven kinds of flustered and at least three kinds of embarrassed.

“Please.  Gwapong Lalaki and I are wanting to be talking to you.  It is lonely on the island, waiting for sa galit na bulkan…  for the volcano.”

“You… you are waiting for the volcano?”  I looked up at the high mountain peak about a mile inland.  Black smoke curled nastily out of the top of it.

“Yes.  I am being the virgin bride.  I am waiting for my husband to be.”

This of course sounded like some of the worst rumors I had ever heard about South Seas islanders.  It seemed they intended to throw this beautiful, naked young girl into the volcano to appease an angry god or some such nonsense.

“We have to get you out of here,” I said as bravely as I could manage.

“Yes, yes, that is what I am waiting for.”

“Um, you are?”

“Oh, yes, my husband is to be coming and taking me away from here forever.”

I was determined to rescue the poor girl.

“What is your name, sweetie?”

“I am Malutu… the Red Flower of Matuling Lupa.”

“I don’t have a way off the island at the moment, but I can build us a boat or something…”

“First you are coming to the house of Malutu and Gwapong Lalaki.  Follow us.”

She padded out of the clearing on bare feet and back towards the beach.  She apparently had a house to live in while she waited for her evil people to throw her into the volcano.  I followed her, not knowing what else to do.

“Um, Malutu?  You haven’t seen any mermaids on the beach have you?”

“Mermaids?  You are meaning sirena Chinooki?”

“You actually know about her?”

“Of course, silly man…  She is being the one who brought you to me.”

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 20

Canto Twenty – The Evil Island

We were lost because the Reefer Mary Celeste no longer had a navigator aboard, and Chinooki had apparently destroyed the radio and all the other electronic equipment on board as well.  Kooky and I tried to keep her on the course we had been following, but two of us were simply not enough people to manage a ship of the size of the Mary.  We quickly lost our way in a thick fog and we were going in an unknown direction at too high a rate of speed.  We knew how to use a compass and we might even have been able to wait for the stars if our minds hadn’t been turned to Jell-O pudding by the mermaid’s singing.

“She killed all of our crew, didn’t she?” said Kooky.

“She did.  You know, Chuck warned us about her.  We should’ve listened.”

“You are right, Captain.  I realize that now.  But at the time, it was like I was under a spell or something.  She had power over me.”

“Yes, she did.  Over all of us, apparently.”

“I am so sorry, Captain.  I’ve caused the death of us all, haven’t I?”

“None of us should ever have let someone else take control of our lives.  We should’ve realized the danger from the start.  You can’t blame yourself alone.”

It was right after that conversation that Kooky spotted Chinooki sitting on a distant rock.

“I am going to make her pay, Captain.  She is going to regret coming on board the Reefer Mary Celeste.”

Kooky was at the wheel, and he steered the entire ship directly towards the rock where Chinooki was sitting.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I’ll ram her!  I will run her over!”

“Kooky, she’s singing right now.  Do you think maybe she wants us to do exactly what you are doing?”

“Maybe so.  Maybe not.  But I have ta!” And the strangest thing is that I let him do it.  I let him ram the Mary bow-first into the rock.  It tore through most of the front end of the ship, separating her at mid-ship into two parts, both of which sank to the bottom.  I remember swimming in the ocean with shark fins in the water near the horizon.  I remember hearing Kooky call out and a sudden thrashing, and I wondered if it were the sharks or the mermaid herself who claimed him.  I never saw him again.  I never saw any of them again.  I blacked out, and don’t remember anything before awakening on the sand of the Evil Island’s shore.

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 19

Canto Nineteen – The Log Book of the Reefer Mary Celeste

It would be two days before anything more could happen in the quest to understand about the Captain.  Valerie finally found the time to visit Mary Philips’ house while Pidney was also there.  None of the other Pirates proved available.   Danny had a 4-H meeting to attend in the old Norwall School House, and Ray Zeffer also was in 4-H.  4-H Club was the center of farm-boy life in small farm towns in Iowa.  Both the boys and the girls had their own division of the club.  Heart, head, hands, and health, the 4-H’s were an international organization that encouraged youth development and prosperity through projects and learning goals.  4-H was to farmers what Boy Scouts were to the Army, Navy, and Marines… indoctrination into the secret cult of the tillers of the earth.  Technically, the three Pirates meeting in the basement of the Philips’ house were supposed to be at the meeting too, at least Pidney was.  The Norwall Pirates were also technically a 4-H softball team, so there were definite ties to things that couldn’t be ignored for long.  Still, this secret meeting was temporarily more important.

“I’m glad creepy old Doble couldn’t come,” Pidney said.  “I don’t trust him around you girls.  He doesn’t go to 4-H meetings any more, but he apparently has more important things to do with himself anyway.”

“We have to consider him a Pirate, though,” said Mary.  “He is the only remaining member of the original club.”

“Yeah, whatever.”  Pid was frowning until he looked at Valerie.  Then he smiled.  “But I’m sure glad you could come, Val.”

Valerie smiled her thanks at the big Polack.  He could be kinda dense at times, but Valerie was deeply in love with him anyway.

“I have the log book here,” Mary said, “and we can pick up reading where we left off.”

“About the mermaid?” said Pid.

“Yes, about the mermaid.”

“Chinooki,” reminded Val.

“Let me turn to the book mark,” said Mary.

                The mermaid was a miraculous creature.  Kooky actually had very little trouble catching her in the nets he used for catching prawns whenever we were near the island of Tahiti.  It was like she wanted to be caught for some strange reason.  And we soon discovered that keeping company with Chinooki was something every man aboard desired with a passion.   Her singing voice charmed the men to sleep and suggestibility.  The mermaid possessed every piece of scrimshaw, every golden ornament, and every valuable jewel on board the ship in very short order.

                “Chinooki likes sweet mens,” Chinooki said so often we never stopped to think that it might have a double meaning.

                Chuck Jones was the first man to disappear.  Kooky later told me that Chinooki told him she ate the sweet man.  But she could say practically any scary and awful thing, and then sing a sweet song, and everyone would smile and think she did no wrong.  The cabin boy disappeared next, and Bob Clampett swore he saw the kid’s severed foot at the bottom of the oyster stew Cookie served that same night.

“I am becoming alarmed here at this story,” said Pidney.  “Is this one of those things where you read the scary story in a book and then it comes true in real life?”

“It can’t be,” said Mary.  “You know full well that Captain Noah Dettbarn was a fool and a liar long before he ever went to sea.  He has a reputation in this little town, and the old folks all say that telling a lie is the same as telling a Noah.”

Mary continued reading aloud.

                Chinooki was a favorite of every sailor aboard.  She entertained us constantly with stories and songs.  She could play Kooky’s ukulele, too, like a professional.  She had us all dancing and singing along without being truly aware of what was going on.  Crewmen kept turning up missing.  Then, when Kooky started kissing her on the lips at every opportunity, I realized I needed to confront her.  I think I owe Kooky for that, because if he hadn’t interrupted her songs with his kisses, I might never have returned to my senses.

                “Chinooki,” I said, late one night at the aft rail, “you have to stop doing to us whatever it is that you have been doing to us.”

                “Chinooki not know what you are meaning, nice Captain mans.”

                “Don’t accuse her without all the facts,” Kooky said.

                “The crew likes what Chinooki has been doing for us,” added Bob Clampett.

                “Look around, Bob,” I said.  “Where exactly is the rest of the crew?”

                Bob looked all around the deck.  There was a lot of nobody to count.  His eyes got big and round.  “Good Lord!  You are right, Captain!  Something is definitely wrong!”

                “Ho ho!  Sweet Bobs has seen through the glammer!  Maybe silly Captain mans too!” said Chinooki.  She then wobbled up to Bob using her fish tail to travel upright in the manner of a cobra.  She put her silvery arms around his neck and gave him a big old smooch on the lips. Then she bit deeply into the side of his neck.  Together they pitched backwards over the ship’s rail and fell into the ocean below.  Poor Bob did not even have a chance to scream.

At that point in the story, poor Pidney was so pale, that Mary stopped reading, apparently afraid the big Polish football hero was about to pass out from fear.

“Don’t stop now!” Valerie insisted.  “This old log book thing is getting really, really good.”

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When the Captain Came Calling… Canto 17

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 at 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 was 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.”

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