Chapter 26: Skulls and Bones
Three days had gone by with little or no event on the Endeavor II. Jo-Anne spent most of her time in the weapons vault of the former coast guard cruiser. No one on board seemed to notice her activities, not even Cederic who had become a bit of a recluse himself in his research with the strange book. Steede spent his days intoxicated, as he attempted to stave off the effects of motion sickness, and although no one noticed Ginger and Timothy we falling for one another.
The female barkeep had taken to following the man around while he was on duty, talking about nearly every aspect of the ships operations and navigation systems. Ginger Malloy had never been on a ship before the Endeavor II and she had gotten it into her head that it was not such a bad life. Roaming the oceans on adventures with Lady Bassalt and Cederic van Bloodsliver. During his off hours he in turn followed her around like a love lost puppy. While normally this behavior would have caused Jo-Anne Bassalt more than a little concern, she was too wrapped up with the skulls to have seen it coming. Timothy was a special person to Lady Bassalt and she would have normally noticed if he had taken interest in someone she thought was not worthy, and she still did not trust the barkeep.
Jo-Anne could not put her finger on exactly what it was about Ginger Malloy that set her nerves on end, but there was something about the barkeep that made her more than just a little uncomfortable. Her willingness to dislike the woman used to be caused by her assumption that she and Cederic had shared more than just casual conversation at the Drunken Maiden, but Cederic had assured Jo-Anne that Ginger Malloy was nothing more than a good friend. The male archeologist had also told Jo-Anne to just accept that the barkeep was nothing to fret about. Lady Bassalt was not willing to take the man’s word on the subject of Ginger, but it didn’t matter with her preoccupation in the skulls.
Jo-Anne had taken to almost constant polishing, and primping of the twelve skulls locked in the Endeavors weapons vault. The crew of the Endeavor II had begun to murmur regarding the sanity of not only her, but also Cederic. The male archeologist had taken to sequestering himself for long periods of time in his room. No one knew or understood what the two archeologists were up to, but after a full week where neither of them were seen Timothy decided to break rank and interrupt their studies.
Timothy had been dealing with his own problems during the week. The fine skill of negotiating with foreign governments, many of whom were not friendly to the United States, for water passage rights had occupied much of his time. When he was not engrossed with the task of diplomacy the ships captain had taken to ducking into back hallways and areas of the large ship trying to avoid Ginger Malloy. It seemed that the female barkeep had taken a sudden liking to the captain, a feeling that he did not return. Certainly the woman was a tempting distraction for him, but Timothy had managed to survive his life without the constraints of a relationship, and he had no desire to let a woman into his life at the moment.
The captain of the Endeavor II had experienced nothing but heart break from the women who had been part of his life. It had all started when his mother had abandoned his father when he was six months old. His father had always told him that his mother was an angel who could not be tied to this earth by such things as family. Timothy had placed his mother on a pedestal above all other women, so when girlfriend after girlfriend treated him poorly he retained the dream of his mother. When the man was twenty he hired a private investigator to locate her, but only ever had an address. He refused to listen when the investigator tried to tell him about her.
When Timothy had grown the courage to track her down and confront her he had learned the truth about her. She was a prostitute strung out on half a dozen types of drugs living in Las Vegas trailer park. After that he had lost all interest in women, learning that the woman he had idolized for his life was nothing more than a myth. Then when his father died and he assumed the helm of the Endeavor II he understood the ship was the one woman who would never betray his heart. That is why Timothy never let women get too close to him, and he knew that he couldn’t stop Ginger from getting too close if he let her in.
Ms. Malloy was not the only one who was experiencing unrequited love, Steede Bonnet had misinterpreted the barkeepers friendliness for signs of attraction. He had taken to following her around the ship, trying to interfere with her chance meetings with Timothy and get her to himself. When Steede was not following Ginger like a lost puppy he was drowning his sorrows away with a fifth of Jack Daniels that seemed to be perpetually half full. There were physical changes in the man as well, he had done his best to clean up the scar around his missing eye and wore a white patch to conceal the worst of it.
The doctors on Isle de Maize had done a good job patching him up, but the damage done was traumatic and total reconstruction was not possible He had after all had a large eye patch, bolted to his face removed by force. There were chunks of bone missing from his skull, and the deformation the missing pieces caused could not be completely concealed.
The little drama playing itself out on the Endeavor II proved to be both entertaining and concerning to the crew uninvolved with it. So when Timothy decided he had enough of Jo-Anne and Timothy’s behavior a quiet sigh of relief went around the vessel.
“Get your arse out of there” screamed the ships captain at the sealed weapons vault.
His voice echoed through the steel chamber and fell onto Jo-Anne Bassalt’s ears. The woman was pale and gaunt, having foregone food for nearly a week, drinking only enough to sustain herself. The twelve skulls in the room sparkled in the darkness, or at least they would have if they had not been emitting a strange blue glow which filled the room. The skulls were not always lit, at least that is to say they did not emit a steady light. The skulls flashed on in off, as though communicating with one another and the female archeologist.
“Damn-it woman open this door…”
Jo-Anne’s gaze did not leave the skulls. She awaited instructions from them, their voices echoed in her head for only her to hear. It was obvious from her outside appearance that the female archeologist had not slept for since she had last been seen four days earlier. Her face was pale, and she shook slightly even though she was not moving. The skulls continued to blink on and off, conveying their message to her. Then the room went suddenly dark, and without any movement from the female archeologist the door swung open silently.
When Jo-Anne emerged from the dark room she had to squint from the harsh white light of the florescent light bulbs. Her hair was stringy and greasy and she barely resembled the woman that Timothy had known for almost his entire adult life. Lady Bassalt was normally the picture of perfection, at least in her outward appearance. This image of perfection was greatly aided by the woman’s naturally possessed beauty and poise, but she ensured that what aspects she could control about her appearance she did. What emerged from the weapons vault was not the Jo-Anne Bassalt Timothy knew and bordered on disturbing.
The woman was far from her normal perfection, she was barely recognizable. The Jo-Anne Bassalt who emerged from the vault was sickly gray, her hair greasy and heavily mated. Despite a feeling of revulsion at the sight of his long time friend the captain of the Endeavor II rapidly changed his feelings when Jo-Anne collapsed onto the steel floor.
Cold sweat dripped from the woman’s brow and pooled on the steel floor. Timothy dropped to his knees and cradled the unconscious woman in his arms.
“Get me that Englishman, in her room now!” barked the ship’s captain.
The man stood effortlessly with the now waif thin female in his arms. He had not noticed that Jo-Anne had lost as much weight as she had, but he was convinced she did not weigh 90 pounds as he carried her down the narrow corridor.
The burden Timothy carried was greater than any he had before. Each step fell and echoed in his heart because Jo-Anne was the closest thing to family that he still had. She was sister, cousin, friend all wrapped together; and he did not like to see her hurt. There was a certain loyalty that the young sailor owed to the Bassalt family, and he was not going to let the opportunity to repay a little bit of his life long debt go bye. As much as what he owed both Jo-Anne and her father he felt obligated to take care of the woman during her time of need.
Sliding open her stateroom door clumsily Timothy carefully guided the unconscious woman through the portal and to the bed. The bed was neatly made and showed no sign of having been slept in since they had left port a week and a half before. The man noticed that upon closer examination his friend was wearing the same clothing as well from when they left Wilmington, and there were no signs of dirty laundry in her stateroom either, A noticeable cringe crossed his face as he lay the woman on the bed.
“Where the hell is Cederic?”
As the captain barked his question Cederic slid into the room through the narrow portal. The male archeologist did not look any better for the wear as his female counterpart. He appeared tired and drained, he had clearly not showered for days and he was sporting a thick growth of hair on his normally clean shaven face, “What is going on here? Would anyone mind telling me what happened to Lady Bassalt?”
“You look like the cat dragged you in,” stated Timothy. The captain was restraining a laugh.
“Yes I know l am a bit rough, but tell me what happened to Jo-Anne.”
The captain of the Endeavor II replayed the events leading to this point. He included the fact that neither archeologist had been topside in a weeks time and many of the others onboard had thought they may have been rekindling old flames. The whole time the captain of the Endeavor II spoke Cederic examined the unconscious woman.
Although he was a marksman in the Royal Air Force he had been taught basic first aid and could easily spot fatigue. He determined his colleague’s body had just shut down, and when it had rested long enough she would wake back up… at least that was what he hoped would happen. Cederic would be the first to admit he had not paid nearly as good of attention as he should have during his first aid training, but he also understood he was all they had for the time being.
Cederic knew that he could do very little for his longtime friend. Jo-Anne was out cold in a deep sleep, but she seemed ok in every other sense. Checking the woman’s pulse once more, just so he looked like he was doing something important the male archeologist asked everyone else to leave the room. He was certain that the small group of concerned Bassalt Industry personnel that had gathered in her quarters was not going to help her sleep.
Cederic stopped Timothy as he was about to leave and shut the stateroom’s door. “I need you to please make certain no one disturbs her sleep.”
“I will tell the crew not to disturb her, but you ned to make certain our other guests don’t interrupt her sleep either.”
Cederic had nearly forgotten that Ginger and especially Steede, who seemed to crave anything in a skirt lately, would be concerned. “I will make certain that they leave her be.”
“Do all of us a favor will you Ced and go clean yourself up! You smell like a dead ferret.”