Chapter Ten: Code Name Verity

… Aaand we’re still behind. Sorry ’bout that. (I’m on spring break, which means I’m actually busier than usual, believe it or not.)

We’ll try to get caught back up in the next couple weeks, all right? Thanks for hanging with us.

 

~Julia

*********

Chapter Ten: Code Name Verity

The inside of the old woman’s lair proves that she truly is blind, despite the freaky blank-staring-at-people thing. Either that or she lacks a functioning brain, because I have seen garbage heaps with more sense of style than her living room. Everything is ragged and mismatched—each leg on the desk is a different shape and color, and while a sky blue shag rug greets visitors at the entrance, the scuffed hardwood that makes up the majority of the floor gives way to vibrant green linoleum in the far corner.

She sits me on an old plaid sofa that’s patched with polka dot and striped fabric swaths. It droops in the middle all the way to the dusty tile floor—and that’s before I drop onto it.

The pirates gather in the entryway with only the captain and my two personal guards joining me among the Clash of the Patterns. The woman hurries into the kitchen and busies herself at the stove, just visible through the narrow doorway. The captain sits on the edge of a paint-splattered desk that, surprisingly, holds his ghostly weight.

“So, what now?” I lean against the sofa’s back and it lets out a sound like a cat in labor. I jump and scoot back to the edge of the cushion. My guards hack up laughs under their breaths. I shoot the big one a stare, then clear my throat. “What are we doing here? Is she going to chase me around with tar and feathers, or…?”

“Oh, nothing of the sort, dear.” The old witch is back. She holds a tray in her wrinkled, freckly hands. “Tar is far too expensive in these parts.” She sets the tray on a side table she’s situated in the center of the room like she thinks it’s a coffee table (pretty sure being blind can’t account for that big of a mistake) and turns to Rose’s father. “Would you like one sugar or two, dear captain?” Her southern accent sounds a little les strange now that we’re off the French-filled streets.

I lean towards Big Pirate Man. “She does realize y’all are dead, right?”

Quick as whiplash, the woman’s dark, sightless eyes are on me. “You do realize I’m not deaf, right?”

My cheeks flare. I glare. “Blame it on the idiot ghost pirate dudes. After a couple days stuck with these unresponsive goons, it’s impossible not to forget other people can hear.”

She clucks her tongue and smiles like she thinks my reaction is cute. My cheeks grow even warmer.

She passes a steaming mug and a bowl of sugar to the captain, who takes it with a passive shrug, then turns back to me. “Would you also like a drink, lovely Mary?”

My cheeks cool. My throat is drier than sandpaper. “Is it coffee?”

“Yes. Straight from Brazil.”

“Bloody hell, why didn’t you say so!” I reach for the tray and my guards yank back on my moldy, ghost-rope bindings. I sag and stare longingly at the mugs on the tray.

Coffee. Beautiful, delicious, Brazilian coffee. If these pirates do end up coming back to life somehow, I’m going to murder them all over again.

Meanwhile, my bindings might actually be the most stylish thing in this room. Which is the saddest statement known to man.

“Oh, come now.” She clucks again. “Let the girl have something to drink.”

Muttering, the gnarly pirate pulls his equally as gnarly knife and slits the bindings.

I down my mug, black, in one gulp.

I lower it and everyone in the room is staring at me.

“What?” I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. “I haven’t had anything to eat or drink in two days. You’d think you guys would at least let me have a baguette or something, since we’re in a French—”

The pirates turn to their left and spit. Through the doorway to the hallway, the rest of the pirates are just visible doing it as well.

The woman leaps away from Rose’s father, then leans forward to smack him. My eyes widen. Her hand doesn’t go through him, but rather glances off his grizzled beard like beneath it is a real and solid cheek. “Manners!” she scolds.

I regain my composure enough to say, “See, that’s what I’ve been telling them for like two days now. You’re not going to get anywhe—”

“We apologize, madam,” the captain says. “It is simply that those filthy—well, you-know-who-s—have wronged us many a time.”

“Then why did you decide to bring me to French Guia—?”

They turn to their lefts and the woman smacks the captain again. “Don’t you dare!” They suck the spit back into their mouths.

Maybe this lady isn’t so bad after all.

“Well,” I say, “now that we’ve gotten the Coffee and Pirate Smacking portions of the evening out of the way—would anyone mind telling the Apparently Not Special Girl what we’re doing here? Ya know, if this isn’t part of the Sacrifice Her to the Gods part?”

“Sacrifice her to the gods?” one of the pirates out in the hall asks. “Who said anything about sacrificing her to the gods?”

I throw my hands in the air. “What, you’re going to sacrifice me and it’s not even to the gods? Life is so unfair!”

“Mary.” The old woman lowers my hands and perches on the edge of the side table centered before me. “You sweet, sweet child.”

“Good job on the comforting there.” I roll my eyes. “‘Sweet’ is just another way of saying naïve. So you didn’t even comfort me with the truth, because I’m not naïve. At all. Minus ten points from whatever house you’d be in if you weren’t such a Muggle.” I tilt my head to the side. “What’s Trelawney again? Hufflepuff? That would be you.”

“I don’t understand a single word that just came out of your mouth,” says Big Pirate Man.

I huff. “What else is new.”

“Anyway,” says the old lady, “you asked why Captain Delleray and his crew have brought you to my home. They have because I asked it of them. And we are inside, because beyond these walls, at any time, they might be listening.”

“Okay, next round of questions.” I stare at her and hold back a yawn. “Who is this mysterious and so-far-annoying ‘they’ and—oh yeah, I seem to have missed this part: why am I here?” This time I truly do yawn. “Oh, and while we’re at it, who are you people sacrificing me to?”

“Not who,” she corrects. “‘What.’”

“Oh, yay.” I twirl a finger. “You’re not even sacrificing me to a person! It’s an inanimate object!”

“Not inanimate,” says Rose’s father. “Or at least it won’t be afterward.”

“Great.” My eyes droop. “You’re bringing a statue to life using me?”

I had other questions. What were those?

The old lady must read my mind—that must be something people can do—because she says, “To return to your previous questions: ‘They’ are a force not to trifle with. And you are here because I must examine your mind.”

She is speaking far too quickly and I am so tired and everything is spinning and the patterns are melting and I’m starting to hate French people as much as the British and—

“What? Examine my what?” I lift a hand in protest, and my head falls against the gnarly pirate’s shoulder. He shoves me onto Big Pirate Man. The hideous room swirls and dims. It goes black.

“She may not be special now,” the old woman’s voice reverberates in a ricochet through my pounding head, “but her possibilities… she possesses many possibilities.”

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