Chapter 3

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

Spencer's vision was blurred with tears. She could just see the other three liars standing huddled together among a noisy crowd. She could see Aria's face, scared and confused, if slightly indignant. Spencer wanted to go to her, to tell her of her mother's fate, to hold her tight in her arms and be the shoulder she cried on. But she couldn't. The short greasy man in the raggedy clothes still maintained a grimy grip on her elbow as he led her forcefully through the crowd. He was a lot stronger than she'd expected and the shock of discovering Mrs Montgomery's dead body had left her too weak to struggle.

She wiped away her tears with her free arm. She could see then that virtually everybody aboard the Liberty was gathered there in the Conference Centre. She wondered if A was there as well, and the thought sent shivers down her spine. The furniture had all been either thrown into the corners or smashed to pieces, except for table which was placed in the middle of the gathered crowd, upon which a man stood proudly. Spencer did not recognise him. He was wearing clothes similar to those of the short greasy man, with the addition of a leather tricorne worn over the top of his long braided hair. His goatee, which was also braided, gave him an appearance of utmost untrustworthiness.

Spencer rather doubted that this was part of the cruise's entertainment programme. Most of the people in the room were just as bewildered as she was and made it quite clear in their protestations that they did not want to be there. So why had they all been coerced into this horribly chaotic situation? Where were the captain and the crew? And why were these unpleasantly aggressive people, who had had them surrounded, in pirate fancy dress? Most importantly, though, where was A? Surely whatever this kerfuffle was all about, it should certainly stop, now that there was a murderer among them.

As she was led towards the man on the table, he bent down to her eye level and looked at her slyly.

"Mr Pintel," he said to the short greasy man, "I hope you haven't been mistreating this ravishing beauty."

Spencer did not know whether to be flattered or to be absolutely terrified by this comment.

"I found her," the greasy man replied, "tryin' to run away, Cap'n."

"You're the captain?" Spencer asked, surprised.

"Captain Jack Sparrow," the man removed his hat and bowed his head slightly, "at your service."

"Well, Captain Sparrow," Spencer finally wriggled free as Pintel had loosened his grip, "I think you ought to know that—"

But her tears were welling up again as the image of Aria's mum's lifeless figure sprawled across the toilet seat flashed across her mind. She began to sob and could not finish telling him.

"See, Mr Pintel," said Jack Sparrow casually to his crewman, "another girl breaks down at the sheer sight of my stunning good looks," and then to Spencer, "there, there, you still have a chance with me. I'm all about giving chances."

Spencer was disgusted. A horrible murder had happened on the ship and the captain was teasing her! She tried to swallow the tears and spoke in a broken voice, "Mrs Montgomery, she's—dead. Her killer's still—around here somewhere. Please—help us."

Captain Jack Sparrow leaned towards her, until his nose was barely an inch from her face, and grinned to show his various gold teeth, "Sorry, dear, but I'm only here for the rum." Then he drew a flintlock pistol from his belt and fired a shot into the ceiling. There were several short high-pitched screams and then the crowd went silent.

"Now that we have order," he said loudly, "Mr Gibbs, bring me my compass."