Jude, do you remember when I pitched you the story idea of Captain Hank? Even if you don’t, I do, my dear editor.
“How many charter boat captains are there on the NC coast?” you asked. “You want to profile one? How long have you been at this; is there a newsworthy angle?”
All reasonable responses—all what I knew you would say. What I didn’t know was how you would react when I came back with what made him special.
The priority mail envelope with the cash and dossier only had a headshot of him, which depicted a handsome face with dark hair and matching eyes. I wasn’t entirely prepared for the tanned, muscular body that awaited me at the marina. What a nice treat for the old eyes.
In person it was obvious that he was aware of the impact that he had on women. He flashed me his stunning smile of shining white teeth and waved.
“Are you from the magazine?”
“Yes, I am,” I responded. “You must be Hank.”
“Care to come aboard? He held out a hand to steady me from the floating dock to the boat.
“Oh, thank you. Wow, I’ve never been on a boat this nice before…”
It was a spectacular small yacht that he had raced for years. He was now residing aboard, docked at the marina near Redix. Judith, I have had so little contact with men in any romantic context over the last few years that it wouldn’t take much to turn my head.
Unfortunately, having seen a very dark and sinister side of humanity these many years, it is hard for me to relax and enjoy such interaction. I admit, on that beautiful boat, with his intense charm and lovely muscles … a girl could forget.
I didn’t find anything particularly newsworthy that day, but we spent hours just chatting. Before I knew it, he had made dinner on the grill: mackerel he had caught himself and potatoes.
Wow, he cooks, too! I thought while watching the sunset, the boat rocking gently in the water.
Judith, I didn’t want to leave. When he poured me my third glass of wine, I pointed out that I needed to stop so I could drive home. “Why go home when you could look at this sky?” he gestured above him.
It was a clear night, the path of the moon across the water was shining like a stairway to the heavens. He was so close. He put the wine bottle down and ran his hand through my hair.
“Isn’t the sky beautiful?” he asked, looking at me. He was so close, his wine-scented breath was intoxicating and warm on my face. “I like beautiful things…” He leaned in to kiss me; I pulled away. This was not OK. I was there to arrange the man’s death. I could not start kissing him—or, worse, falling for him.
“I’m sorry,” I said, stupidly gathering my notebook and purse. “I’m sorry,” I repeated again in mid-flight.
Back in my little VW Bug, I reviewed the situation as best I could. I could not sleep with someone I was taking money to kill—even if I didn’t actually do the killing. I might have begun to accept money to use my New Year’s Eve curse, but I wasn’t. I was not going to start having sex with them—him, anyone— beforehand. I slammed my fist into the steering wheel. Then, I rubbed it and murmured an apology to my car. We had been through a lot together, my car and me. There was no need to start abusing it.
He called the next morning to apologize; I let the answering machine take the call. A week later he called again and asked if I would meet him downtown at Blue Post for a drink. I brought my notebook like a shield and took notes for the first hour. Then it trailed off, and he just kept talking in an almost hypnotic voice. He kept moving closer and closer ‘til he was virtually sitting in my lap.
“Can I ask you a question?” he purred. I nodded, yes. “Have you ever seen a real, live treasure map?”
Now I had a newsworthy story; only he swore me to secrecy. Of course, you would have had me involuntary committed to a mental institution had I pitched that story idea. He had gone on at great length about it until I finally extracted myself.
Once home I ran a nice, hot bath and turned on the BBC overnight service. Believe it or not, I really love hearing the cricket scores on the Beeb.
A treasure map?
Well, there were a lot of pirates around here once. Along with the treacherous waters surrounding our county, we’ve earned our area’s moniker, “Cape Fear.”
So maybe unclaimed pirate treasure? But, how and why did this guy have it, and if he did why hadn’t he: a) Gone after it by himself? b) Kept the secret to himself? c) Waited ‘til he claimed the treasure then called the news? Telling a reporter now made no sense.
That’s right—it made no sense. Then again, neither did having a curse that killed people you spent New Year’s Eve with.