THE PIRATE’S BLOOD AND OTHER CASE FILES (Chapter One)
It was about seven o’clock on a Tuesday evening in the summer. The sky was the clearest, deepest shade of blue I think I’d ever seen, and the air was motionless and warm. I’ve just had a look in my dictionary, and the perfect word to describe it is balmy.
So, not exactly the kind of weather or the time of year you’d expect to come across a tale of blood-chilling horror. And yet, that was exactly what I was about to come across.
I was standing outside my garden shed, with a jam jar of red poster paint in one hand and a brush in the other. As readers of my earlier case files will know, I’d been fighting a losing battle with the wooden sign—Saxby Smart: Private Detective—which I kept trying to nail up on the shed door. It kept falling off. I am not good at practical things like that.
It had taken me a surprisingly long time to hit on the simple idea of having a painted sign instead. I guess even brilliant schoolboy detectives like me sometimes miss the obvious, ahem, ahem. Anyway, I’d decided on red lettering against a white rectangle painted directly on the door.
I stood back to admire my handiwork. It said: Saxby Smart: Privat Detective.
“Oh rats,” I muttered to myself. I painted in the missing “e.” It looked a bit squashed, but it was okay.
“Hi Saxby,” came a voice from behind me. I turned to see a boy from my class at school, James Russell, poking his head around the garden gate. He looked as nervous as a kid in his first spelling bee. “I need your help.”
I opened the freshly painted shed door and ushered him into my office. “Sorry, just step around the lawn-mower,” I said. “Watch out for the garden hose, that’s it. You sit in my Thinking Chair, I’ll sit on the desk. Now then, you have a tale to tell me?”
“It’s a tale of blood-chilling horror,” he said shakily.
“Excellent,” I said. “Begin.”
For a moment or two, James cast his eyes around the cluttered interior of the shed. He was known around school as a quiet, serious kid. He had a face that looked like it had been sculpted out of assorted sizes of triangle, and a shock of curly hair that tended to sway as he walked.
“Have you heard of Captain Virgil Blade?” he said.
“Nope,” I said. “But I’d love to borrow his name sometime.”
“He was a pirate in the seventeenth century,” said James. “He commanded a ship that raided merchant vessels all along the French and Spanish coasts. Pirates never lasted long in those waters, because the local navy ships went after them, but Captain Blade outran and outgunned them for ten years. He was the most feared pirate on the seas, and he thought nothing of killing entire crews just to get at a valuable cargo. It’s said he had his own grandmother beheaded, just so she couldn’t give away his location.”
“Nice man,” I muttered.
“When he was caught in 1675,” said James, “he swore to gain vengeance from beyond the grave. As he stood on the gallows at Portsmouth dock, he vowed that his ghost would haunt anyone who ever touched his possessions. A lot of artifacts survive to this day. His coat, a hat he wore, there’s even a bottle that’s supposed to contain some of his blood.”
“Oh yuck!” I said. “For real?”
“It was collected from Blade’s dead body by his cabin boy. There were those who believed he’d come back from the dead one day. Over the centuries, there have been rumors of strange noises and eerie sights every time his possessions were moved.”
“And they’ve been moved recently?” I said quietly. I was starting to get a cold feeling at the back of my neck.
James nodded. “My dad is curator at the local museum, up in town. A whole load of Virgil Blade’s stuff arrived there a couple of weeks ago. And, I swear to you, Saxby, I think his ghost has arrived along with it!”
THE PIRATE’S BLOOD AND OTHER CASE FILES Text copyright © 2011 by Simon Cheshire