I walked away, trying to figure out how ‘tea’ could be in the 12-letter clue. If I didn’t know their positions, the order they came in, then it wasn’t a lot of help. I re-played Teresa’s words. Redbeard captured it … whole cargo … French merchantman … French! Teresa spoke better French than I did, and sometimes teased me about it. But I knew enough French to figure this out.
Why not a Spanish prize? Or English, or Dutch? She specifically said French. Redbeard would be ‘Barbe Rouge’. Ten letters, one for each player, except her. And the Bible, of course, had something to do with it. I needed to consult it.
I went to the den, and locked the door behind me. I compared ‘Barbe Rouge’ with the verses in the ‘Bible’, and got nothing. Then I realized that I was still holding the teabag she had given me. Why? Eureka! Tea is ‘the’ in French (if you add a little accent over the ‘e’). T-H-E. Could that be part of the code? In that order? I still had no idea what the code said, but it felt like a big piece of the puzzle had just fallen into my hands. Thanks to Lena’s skill at pool, and to the impulse that made take her as a partner. See, sometimes virtue is rewarded.
I unlocked the door, and re-entered the main room. That is, I attempted to re-enter the main room. Ben was right outside the door, and he pushed me back into the den. Barbara was right behind him. She closed the door behind her.
Ben pointed a finger at me. With his other hand, though, he showed me a piece of paper. It clearly said ‘PISTOL’, just like mine. Barbara came to stand beside me, and poked me in the ribs with her finger. Then she showed me another piece of paper. Written on it, with Teresa’s calligraphy pen, was the word ‘KNIFE’.
I wanted to laugh. I mean, it was pretty funny, the two of them standing there with their fingers pointed at me. But they looked serious, so I decided to humour them and play along. Slowly, I raised my hands.
“Do you have a weapon?” said Ben.
– “No.” I answered, truthfully. My ‘PISTOL’ was under the corner of the rug.
– “Give us the Bible, and we won’t hurt you – much.” said Barbara. She did look a little sinister, with the eye patch. But I could see down her cleavage, and it was more than a little distracting.
– “I don’t have it.” I answered. That was also true. It was under the opposite corner of the rug.
– “He’s lying.” said Ben.
– “We could search him.” said Barbara, wistfully. Something about her tone made me think that she was envisioning a strip search.
– “He has it.” said Ben. “You have to give it to us.”
– “I would if I had it, but I don’t so I can’t.” I replied. Try saying that fast three times.
– “What did you do with it?” asked Barbara.
– “I read it.” No point in lying. Claire had to have told them that I had it. That meant that she was in cahoots with them.
– “Then what did you do with it?” asked Barbara, sweetly, prodding me with her finger.
– “He has it.” said Ben. “He’s cheating.”
– “I have an idea.” Barbara stepped away from me, and went to whisper in Ben’s ear. He scowled, but when she whispered some more, he handed her the piece of paper. Barbara pointed her finger at me, and showed me that she now had the pistol. Ben opened the door, and then slipped out of the room, closing the door.
“You never came to visit me yesterday, Colin.” she said. “I was so disappointed. It made me think that you didn’t like me. Or was it that you were afraid of me?”
– “You do have a knife. And now a pistol.” I observed.
– “I would have put down them down, for you.” she said. “We have so much to discuss.”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that, so I chose the better part of valour.
Ben returned, with Teresa in tow.
– “He won’t give us the Bible.” Ben complained. “We know he has it.”
– “Colin, do you have the Bible?” Teresa asked me. “I’m here as the referee, not the Captain.”
– “I do not have the Bible.” I repeated. “I did, but not anymore.”
– “Can we search him?” asked Barbara.
Teresa studied my face for a few moments. “Alright, I’ll handle this.” With that, she ushered Ben and Barbara out of the room. “As far as the game is concerned, you are still in the room, weapons drawn. If he has it, I’ll get it for you.” Ben protested, but Barbara pushed him out. She blew me a kiss before leaving.
– “What are you doing?” asked Teresa.
– “I don’t have it.” I said. “Can I put my arms down, now?”
– “Yes. Claire says she gave it to you.” said Teresa.
– “She did. I didn’t want anybody to find it, and I was afraid that she would want it back. So I hid it. That way, if she asked for it, I could honestly say that I didn’t have it. Just like I told them.”
– “You really hid it?”
– “And my pistol.” I said.
– “Where? Never mind – I don’t want to know. You are either very clever, mister, or very lucky.” said Teresa. She had that enigmatic smile on her face. God, I loved that girl.
“Alright.” she continued “I will tell them that they struck out. But from here on in, you had better find some friends. If they catch you alone again, they could kill you.”
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