Art was very naturally taken aback be this announcement, and even more so by the sincere, steely glint to Captain Crow's pale eye as he pronounced it. It all made very little sense to her.

"I take it," she said, careful to keep both her tone and face void of emotion, "you still intend to murder me."

"Murder!" Captain Crow laughed harshly and drew a finger across his lips. "I wouldn't call it that. That sounds ghastly. I'd call it more an 'act of revenge.'"

"Care to enlighten me, sir?" said Art. "I'm quite in the dark. Why do you want to kill me?"

The captain laid down his coffee cup and began with a sigh, "It's rather a long story; I'm afraid most of the details'd bore you. All the same, I might summarize, and t'make a long story short you are the cause of what I am now, what I was then: a coachman."

"I made you a coachman?"

"I was so close." It was obvious that Crow had not really heard her, and his whispery, faint tone conveyed more by way of emotion than a more blustery one would have. "I had followed closely at your heels, and I'd never doubted that you were on the right track. Off to the Treasured Isle we flew! You never saw me. But, then, 'twas my fate to ignored, unnoticed. I watched your sparing matches with the wickedest pirate of them all—Goldie Girl. If I may say so, Piratica, for all your daring ye've not come close to gaining the infamous reputation Goldie did. But enough of that! I was there when you discovered the treasure…the greatest treasure of them all. Like fools, ye destroyed it! Why? 'Twas a rash move, and one I paid dearly for, aye!"

"Why didn't you see fit to stop us, then?" asked Art coolly.

He blinked at her, then sighed again. "The Navy found me. It was all a very toned-down, discreet sort of thing—I was imprisoned, my crew hanged. Eventually I was condemned to death. But I was set free; true, they kept a closer eye on captured pirates than they had before—thanks to you—but there's a lass far cleverer'n you to whom I owe my allegiance, and she sprung me."

"Let me guess," said Art. "Goldie Girl."

Crow gave her a thin smile. "But of course."

"Is she here?"

"And is that all ye can think of?" said Crow, a little resignedly. "Not, 'Ah, he didn't have the happy ending I did!' but, 'Oh dear, I wonder if I can save my own skin again'?" Goldie Girl is not here, I assure you. The glory of your extermination should be mine alone."

Art was beginning to appreciate the fact that the Coffee Bar had so many enthusiastic patrons. Rising (but eyeing Crow all the while), she said,

"Then let me tell you, dear sir, that my merry men are not quite so far off as your not-so-merry lady undoubtedly is. I wish you luck in your 'act of revenge,' but I won't help you in it. Good-day."

It was not long before she stood safe upon the deck of the Unwelcome Stranger. The sun shone brilliantly and Plunquette was her old boisterous self, which did something to calm her nerves—and Felix was such a dear! She intended to tell him all about her conversation with the queer captain at the Coffee Bar. For some reason she couldn't seem to stop thinking about him. What was it she felt? A sense of doom…foreboding…

But that's all for the next chapter!

R&R?