Caveat Emptor

A low fog rolled in over the bay, encompassing Port Royal's night in a muffling gloom.  Many who remembered the incident of the cursed Black Pearl arriving in their harbour remained in their homes with their doors and windows locked and barred.  The difference between natural and evil is subtle, and though most can feel it, they choose not to see it. 

Droplets of water falling from the rooftops filled the alleyways, and one man's boots sloshed through the numerous puddles.  He walked slowly, one hand close to his sword, the other slightly extended from his body and seeming to keep rhythm to an unheard beat. 

The newer and more affluent neighbourhoods of Port Royal boasted glass windows, but this was not one of them.  Windows were either left open, or shuttered with rotted planks of wood or tattered cloth.  The lone man in the alley stopped for a moment and turned to his right towards a two-story rooming house faded grey with time, and looked up. 

To all appearances, the building looked deserted.  He stepped closer and reached out for the door on his left.  At his touch, the handle fell and clattered to the cobblestones, sending a dull clang echoing into the night.  The door swung open, and Captain Jack Sparrow stepped inside. 

An old lantern hung by the door, and it took several minutes to coax a flame to the worn wick.  If anyone did remain in the building, they defiantly knew of his presence by now, but that was better than the prospect of wandering around blind.  He wasn't here to be stealthy anyhow; the person he sought had specifically asked to be found. 

Jack whistled softly, anyone deliberately hiding here had to be out of his or her mind, or desperate, and sneaking up on either possibility didn't sit well with the pirate.  The door squealed on its rusted hinges as it swung closed behind him.  "Is anybody there?"

Only silence met his query, and old boards groaned under the weight of his boots.  Things were not right here, and he could not place one cause for his unease because it came from everywhere. 

It took time to search the entire building even though the multiple rooms were bare of furniture and belongings.  Just because there were no beds or tables, did not mean nothing was left behind.  Evidence of the former tenant's poor housekeeping could be seen in the decaying crumbs and debris caked into the corners.  Cobwebs stretched from rafter to wall and though most of them looked fresh, higher up Jack could see the remains of web that might have been years old.  One upstairs bedroom kept his attention longer than the others.  Empty like the rest it looked the same at first glance, but the door caught his attention.  The bolt for this door lay on the outside. 


The window was boarded up tightly, not even the wind could find it's way in through the planks lined carefully up to the frame.  And there were marks.  Faint scratches along the boards, darkly stained in some places.  Jack found the same at the door.  Scratch marks from human fingernails, and the dark stains were blood. 

A faint rustling sound like dried leaves moving through the wind came from behind his back, but when he looked, the silence had returned and still there was nothing to see.  "Is anyone there?"  Jack called out again, louder this time. 

Nothing answered. 

Rising to his feet, Jack held the lantern high and made his way back through the house.  Just before leaving back into the alley, he turned and looked into the bleak interior once more.  "I came.  I kept my word."  The words echoed against the walls and made his voice sound hollow. 

Again nothing answered. 

Jack turned to the door and stepped outside, back into the night. 

"So, did you find 'em?"

Still dripping rain, Jack walked into the tavern and took a seat beside his first mate.  "Found th'house.  Didn' find the man."  He reached over and plucked the drink out of her hand to take for his own self.  In answer to Anamaria's look of disgust, he simply shrugged and downed what was left. 

"That means we are done here."  Anamaria pushed back her chair and stood up, ready to leave. 

It took a moment for him to argue the point, and Jack raised up one hand with his index finger pointing to the ceiling.  "Not precisely."  The finger now pointed directly at Anamaria.  "We've still got a man t' find."


He grinned.  "We."  The tavern felt unnaturally quiet compared to the places the pirates normally preferred, but it would do.  Port Royal may be the prude of the Caribbean with its Royal Navy scurrying about, but there were places for its more unsavoury elements to come and relax.  Places like this one, where even on the best of days you didn't ask what went in the stew. 

The only hitch came in convincing his crew that staying a few extra days wouldn't be so bad as it seemed.  Considering that it was his own self who almost got hung a couple years back, it would follow that he should be the one with the biggest reason to stay clear of Commodore Norrington.  The crew however, believed the invitation to hang extended to every member on board the Black Pearl and not just its Captain, and they were probably right. 

But how hard could it be to behave for a few days?  He'd have left them in Tortuga if he thought that they couldn't manage it, and indeed the ones he knew could not manage it did stay in Tortuga for a short vacation.  

"What d'ya say t'this?"  Jack leaned towards Anamaria, who to this point remained standing with her hands firmly planted on her hips.  "We take a quick look 'round, make a few inquiries, an if we find 'em, great.  However, if we take a quick look an 'e is not t'be found, then I stay in Port Royal and you sail with the crew back to Tortuga and wait for me.  How's 'at for a plan?"

"I don't like it.  Last time you were here, it was for the gallows.  You can't 'ave forgotten that."

"Ah, but t'wasn't here I got caught.  I haven't forgotten and as I recall it was because of a missing ship that I ended up there at all."

"The first time, Jack." 

"Again, not my fault.  And I think our Mrs.Turner is over with taking dives off cliffs.  So it's settled then." 

"No, Jack."

"The sooner we look for Morris Ettie the sooner we get off this piece of rock."  He stood up, still dripping from rain, and sloshed over to the bar to order himself his own drink, plus one for his lady. 

Authors note: Thanks to everyone reading, and to my beta-reader for making it readable.

This is a mystery story… based on a true case, but I cannot say what one because that would be giving too much away.  So… on with the story and I hope you keep reading.