GAVON CROWE - TIME FUGITIVE
The Veechi Heist
The Veechi Heist
Gavon Crowe had escaped many near misses in his travels but he was beginning to believe his luck had finally run out.
He held on tightly as the cargo ship Kanzot, was tossed in every direction. The storm had come up unexpectedly and it had him drenched in rain and seawater. He wiped his face top to bottom in an attempt to clear his vision. The dark night was filled with heavy rain, which was only visible when the sky flashed with veins of lightning. The loud thunder booms made the three-man crew bend their knees as they worked desperately to save the ship. Being only three, the task was difficult. Sailing through a storm made it more difficult and they knew they were in trouble. What they didn’t know was that they were headed straight for Perish Island—a land they’d never heard of before.
MM was at the wheel steering wildly when suddenly a small mast succumbed to the storm and came crashing down onto the deck. He waved to Crowe to come take the helm. Crowe fought his way through the slicing water and rain to take control of the wheel. He then watched MM leap into action trying desperately to secure the flailing sails the storm was threatening to destroy. He worked furiously to keep the ship in one piece. Crowe could just make out MM within the darkness and the sheets of rain between flashes of lightning.
Muloff was off to the side bellowing loudly but Crowe could not hear anything but the wind, the thunder and the crashing waves of seawater. Louder and louder the sounds grew as Muloff screamed to Crowe who struggled to steer the ship over the angry Tenebris Ocean.
MM was fighting his way back to the helm when a wall of water hit hard and flushed him back down to the deck. Muloff was thrown down as well but he quickly climbed out of the water and gulped a large amount of air. MM stood wearily and held on to the shrouds. They were all exhausted. Muloff started his climb back to the helm fighting the violent conditions. This time he made it.
Crowe could now see Muloff who screamed something but Crowe couldn’t make it out. They both swayed with the ship’s wheel as they held on tightly. Muloff moved closer to Crowe.
Muloff screamed directly into the Crowe’s ear.
“We’re headed for land!”
This time Crowe heard Muloff.
MM pointed out ahead as well and as Crowe squinted through the stinging rain, a flash of lighting illuminated rocks peering out of the water and trees further off in the distance.
Crowe’s eyes bulged. The ship was headed towards a large rock. He looked to Muloff and MM and directed them to follow him into the cargo hold. MM and Muloff didn’t understand why but they all fought their way through the passage leading down into the ship out of the storm. What the crew did not see was that any sign of threatening rocks and land were no longer visible.
The ship continued on its own, rising and falling at the mercy of the raging waves. Suddenly a maelstrom appeared and caught the ship in it's swirling motion. The ship was pulled within the vortex and after several circles the whirlpool pulled it straight down into the dark water until it was gone. All that remained was the storm, the rotating current and the darkness.
Qeshing City, Andaqesh – 1695 MT
The courtroom was quiet except for the slight buzz coming from someone who’d fallen asleep. This annoyed Judge Prador who sat reading through a pile of memos. He was getting angrier by the minute at the thought of having to wait. It was too damn hot.
The courtroom clerk was playing with a deck of Mujand Mental Cards. The stenographer was cleaning her shog-like fingernails. The jury sat quietly. The foreperson kept an eye on each juror to ensure they did not communicate with each other. Prosecutor Deubello leaned back in his chair. He was playing a writing game with his assistant, a young and very pretty girl with a head full of red hair. The spectators in the court whispered to each other. They were looking at the defendant who was sweating profusely. His attorney was late.
“Your Honor.” Prosecutor Deubello rose.
Judge Prador rolled his eyes toward Deubello.
“I must protest this delay…”
Suddenly, a crash of the court’s large wooden doors announced the arrival of the eccentric and popular Gavon Crowe. He was disheveled and drenched in perspiration and was missing a shoe. A flutter of voices expressing shock and laughter filled the courtroom. Judge Prador plunged his neck forward and squinted his eyes. This could not be the dashing attorney he’d held in contempt many times before in previous cases they worked together. This was not Gavon Crowe. This man had the appearance of someone who’d just lost a fight with a shog.
Prosecutor Deubello returned to his seat and turned to his assistant. He scowled at her. She shrugged.
Judge Prador bashed his gavel loudly. “Order!” He slammed the gavel more. “Order!!” Prador remained in shock. He held his gavel at the ready but the crowd simmered down. Gavon Crowe made his way to the defendant's table.
“Mr. Crowe,” Judge Prador said in a voice that had lost all patience.
Gavon Crowe turned his back to the judge and worked hastily to fix his appearance as best he could. He tried to do something with his tie, which was all but a feathered burst of cloth.
Judge Prador bashed his gavel once again. “Face the bench when you are addressed, Sir!” Prador ended his statement with one final whack of his gavel.
Gavon Crowe pivoted around coolly and was then facing the judge. He presented his white smile. “Of course your honor. My apologies,” Crowe spoke with as much charm as he could deliver. He of course didn’t feel very charming. He was a wreck.
“Please approach the bench Counselor,”
Judge Prador's voice was scratchy and stern. Deubello recognized this voice as a foreshadowing to a admonishing and perhaps a fine. He grinned at the thought.
Gavon Crowe limped bravely to the judges bench. He hopped up to the platform and plunged his hands into his pockets. Judge Prador leaned forward and wiggled his large index finger, signaling Crowe to lean forward as well. He spoke softly. “Care to explain, Mr. Crowe?”
Gavon Crowe took a breath. He gave a quick glance to the prosecutor’s table. His eyes met with the redheaded assistant. Her red lips were holding back a smile. Crowe turned back to the judge. “Your Honor,” Crowe spoke softly. “As I was set to leave the Astolt Inn this morning, it seems that someone sabotaged my ability to exit my room by sealing the room door.”
Judge Prador raised an eyebrow. “What do you say?”
“My attempts to summon help went unheeded. I knocked and screamed to no avail. My only recourse was to exit the room through the window from the third floor of the Astolt Inn.”
The judge leaned his head onto his fist and listened with a vast amount of doubt as Crowe’s voice became louder so that now the entire courtroom could hear him.
“Well, I won’t bore his Honor with the details of my escape from the building but as soon as I hit the street I entered the first carriage available. I asked for a speedy course to the courthouse but instead was driven in the opposite direction in a mad dash through the streets. After several attempts to stop the driver I finally had to exit the carriage by jumping out onto the streets. The mad speed threw me directly into a street cart of eggs, vegetables and the proprietor’s angry dog, which proceeded with the dismantling of my tie and my shoe. The shoe I did not recover.”
Laughter filled the courtroom. Judge Prador was losing his patience.
“After negotiating with the street vendor, I dashed up and down the Qeshing Strand in search of a legitimate carriage but…” Crowe suddenly stopped speaking as the judge raised his hand.
“Mr. Crowe,” Judge Prador spoke with a low voice. “This morning you already have burdened the court’s time immeasurably. And your tale of escape and peril, although a calamitous entertainment, I’m afraid falls within the bounds of extreme improbability. Thusly, I am going to ignore this fantasy of yours and ask that you assume your position as attorney for the defense, who has had the misfortune of hiring you.”
Gavon Crowe breathed deeply.
“Meanwhile, I hold you in contempt and hereby fine you two thousand finto, which you will pay immediately after today’s proceedings.”
With that Judge Prador whacked his gavel loudly. Crowe moved to the defendant’s table and the trial officially commenced.
At the conclusion of the Prosecutor’s case Judge Prador ordered lunch break. He eyed Crowe as he walked from his bench to his chambers. Crowe then limped to the prosecutor’s table and stood between the Deubello and his assistant. Crowe smiled.
“Deubello, I just wanted you and your friend here to know that I don’t hold it against you for trying,” He patted the assistant’s bottom. “But I’m here to tell you—and I am here—I got this.” Crowe slowly stepped away. “Oh, yes,” he nodded and then whispered, “I got this.”
Indeed he did have this. The jury sided with the defendant and Judge Prador admonished Prosecutor Deubello for bringing such a weak case before him. Deubello was on the losing end to Crowe once again. Crowe made sure to flaunt his victory with a pompous exit, which was almost a march.
Outside the busy courthouse, a Mujand Investigator Reporter had stopped Gavon Crowe just long enough to jot down a few words from the triumphant attorney. Crowe was separating himself from the reporter when the Deubello's Assistqnt appeared in his path. He smiled.
“Venente, I just wouldn’t have pegged you as that type of person,” Crowe said. “You fooled me. And almost got away with it.”
“I am not proud of what I did but you are good and…” Venente did not finish her thought. She shrugged.
“You were just doing your job,” Crowe said for her.
They stared at each other for a while.
“I chose poorly,” she said. “You are a promising lad, aren’t you?”
“Oh, I’ve made a promise or two in my time.” Crowe was breezy with his response.
Venente laughed. “Still have your room at the Astolt?” She had a sly smirk at the end of her mouth.
“Why? Going to tie me to the bathroom drain pipe this time?” Crowe asked.
Venente chuckled. “I’ll try to be a bit more creative than that.”
Crowe sighed heavily. Venente took his arm and they walked off.
Later, at his hotel room, Crowe was propped up in bed watching Venente dress herself.
“I didn’t cheat. I just knew something Deubello knew.” He leaned forward and placed his arms on his knees. “I had a slight advantage. So what.”
Venente came and sat by Crowe. “How many times have you cheated the court?” she asked.
“What about you? What was that?” Crowe looked into her eyes.
She stood and returned to a mirror and started to brush her hair. “That was just me making money. Deubello is sick of losing to you. So, I volunteered to seduce you and detain you.” She turned to face Crowe. “I took your money as well, having you believe I was helping you.”
Crowe shook his head.
“Oh, I know… I’m rotten but… it’s what it’s,” she said.
Crowe chuckled his admiration. “I like you,” he said to a bashful Venente.
“I like you,” she said. “We make a good team,”
“Well, we're not a team just yet,” Crowe said.
As they admired each other, there came a loud knock on the hotel door. Venente turned and stared at Crowe. She mouthed the words, ‘who is it?’ Crowe just shrugged. The knock came again, louder. This time Crowe stood. He slipped on his pants and tossed on his blouse. He moved past Venente and she reached out to him, pulling him in towards her mouth.
“If it is Deubello don’t let him in,” she whispered.
“Why in God would he be here?” Crowe frowned.
“What? Why what?”
Crowe shook his head and shoved Venente towards the bath. She vanished into the bath to hide. Crowe moved to the door.
The knock came once more. Crowe opened the door. It was Muloff, the Defendant from today’s trial.
“Hey you. Were ya sleepin?” Muloff walked in without an invitation. He carried a large leather bag and dropped it onto a chair. “It’s all there,” he said nodding at the bag.
Crowe quickly shut the door. “You wanna keep it down?” He was annoyed with Muloff.
Muloff ignored Crowe.
Crowe opened the leather bag. In it were stacks upon stacks of finto banknotes. Crowe lifted a bound stack of currency. “What is this?” Crowe was upset. “I said gold. Ervescent gold!”
“Didn’t have time to exchange it,” Muloff whined. “You don’t understand what’s happening.”
Crowe interrupted Muloff. “I don’t care what your story is today. Do you understand how difficult this will be to exchange?” Crowe stopped and sighed. “Forget it. I’ll take care of it.” Crowe grabbed the bag and tossed it to the floor away from Muloff. “Alright. Thanks. You’re a free man.” Crowe walked to the door and opened it.
“I need your help,” Muloff said.
Crowe chuckled. He closed the door and slowly moved to Muloff. “See this on my face?” He circled his face with his fingers. “This is the face of, I don’t give a damn.”
“There’s something big coming and I need your help to pull it off,” Muloff pleaded.
“I’m an attorney, not a thief,” Crowe said.
“You’re not fooling me. That attorney thing is an act.” Muloff said. “I need you to act like an Andaqesh General.”
Crowe was beginning to get angry.
“I can guarantee you ervescent gold like you’ve never seen,” Muloff said. “And more.”
Crowe stood erect. He was staring at Muloff. At that moment Venente moved into the room. Crowe pointed his finger at her without looking her way.
“Don’t get too excited. He’s a pirate,” Crowe said to her.
“Pirates don’t excite me,” she said. “Ervescent gold does.”
Judge Prador was in his library rereading his favorite children’s series, The Shog of Poneet. A warm yellow light glowed behind the chair he was entombed within. The night was cold and the Judge had wrapped himself with a warm throw blanket. A fire danced nearby casting ghostly shadows throughout the dim room.
“Turns out the Shog is a very funny and nice creature. Not at all a monster.”
Gavon Crowe was standing in the library looking at Judge Prador.
Prador removed his reading glasses, set them on a side table and closed the book. “You’re either late or you’re early but mostly you are annoying,” he said. He stood and walked to a small bar. He pulled two glasses and started to pour the very rare and expensive Tarrotch, an illegal drink from the Ro system.
Crowe was carrying the leather bag and he let it fall to the floor. It thumped heavily.
Prador nodded to the bag. “Is that mine?” He brought the drink to Crowe.
“This concludes our agreement,” Crowe said. He took the drink and sniffed the glass. He made a slight gesture of being impressed. He sipped his drink.
Judge Prador reached for the bag, lifted it and moved to a large desk in the room. He pulled open the bag and looked inside. He pulled out a bar of Ervescent gold, which took the light from the nearby yellow flame and shot a glint of color to Crowe’s eye.
“There is one thing I’d like to know,” Prador said. He set the gold bar inside the bag.
“Just one thing?”
“For now,” Prador replied. He moved away from the desk and back to his chair. He slinked into the chair and gestured for Crowe to have a seat. Crowe sat down across from the Judge. He crossed his legs. “What made you choose me?”
Crowe chuckled. “Well, aside from being familiar with your kind heart, I sat in on quite a few trials. I watched all the judges, including you, and frankly, you struck me as bored.”
Judge Prador juggled his eyebrows. “Bored.” Prador barked. He was surprised.
“Maybe bored is the wrong word. You seemed… disinterested,” Crowe clarified. “Not engaged really. And I thought; here’s a man who needs an escape.” Crowe smiled. “I took a chance. And here we are.”
Judge Prador considered Crowe’s observations. He sipped his drink and pondered on it some more. Then he smiled at his conclusion. Crowe was right. He was all those things and more. “Okay,” the Judge said. “You are a keen man. And that sleeping on the sidewalk thing was brilliant. You knew exactly what I’d do. You are clever.”
“You are kind,” Crowe responded.
Judge Prador considered himself for a moment. “Frankly, I’d had enough of the law,” Prador said. “People and their petty disputes. Crooks and their measly money grabs. Your offer gave me a reason to sit on that blasted bench and listen to those lowlife worms.” The Judge stood and walked back to pour himself more of the drink. “I fell for the game. I gave you what you wanted. I got a large amount of gold. And now, you are going to tell me why.” Judge Prador moved back to his cozy seat. He sat down and hunkered in for the rest of the story. “So, Mr. Gavon Crowe, why would you need me to manufacture a law license for you and how on Blissdane Naive did you always know the Prosecutor’s hand?”
Gavon Crowe smiled at Judge Prador. He leaned forward. “First of all, I am not an attorney.”
“That much I know,” said the Judge.
“Second, I always did know the Prosecutor’s hand because I’d already heard the cases.”
“You what?” Crowe almost screamed to Muloff.
“I figured you’d agree so I told him you would do it,” Muloff said.
“I think we can do this,” Venente said. She was excited.
“We?” Crowe looked at Venente. “We already tried “we” and it nearly got me eaten by a dog.”
Crowe, Venente and Muloff were meeting in a dark pub somewhere in a dark section of Qeshing City. It wasn’t a very upstanding establishment and the seats and walls smelled of stale fermentation. After the money exchange in the hotel, Crowe agreed to meet Muloff later to hear the scheme.
“Why is this one here?” Muloff asked Crowe.
“My name is Venente,” she said.
Muloff shrugged. “So? Venente what?”
“Just Venente. I’m with him,” Venente answered.
“You are the Prosecutor’s Assistant.” Muloff growled. “Didn’t she double-cross you?”
Crowe looked at Venente then said to Muloff, “Don’t worry about her. She’s okay.”
Venente smiled at Crowe.
“I’m weeping buckets. You say she’s okay, she’s your baggage.” Muloff was impatient. He took a swig from his mug and spilled drink on himself.
“So give me the details,” Crowe said to Muloff. “Now that you’ve committed me to this scheme of yours.”
“It’s simple,” Muloff started. “There’s a ship arriving in a few nights at Cenfortan. The Kanzot. It’s a large cargo ship but will not have much cargo. It will anchor and stay in port overnight. How do I know this? Because, the First Mate on the ship is my mate. And we have been planning this for miles and miles.”
Crowe and Venente both rolled their eyes.
“Don’t get so dramatic. Stick to the basics,” Crowe said.
“Yes, yes. It’s in there. They found the treasure.”
Crowe and Venente sat up. They looked at each other.
“Little man,” Venente was low on patience. “What treasure do you speak of?”
Now Muloff took a slow and deliberate sip of his drink. He wiped his face with his sleeve. He lowered his voice. “The Veechi treasure is what treasure.”
Venente’s mouth fell open. She looked at Crowe who did not show any reaction. She elbowed him. “The Veechi treasure! The Veechi treasure!!”
Muloff shushed her. He looked around to make sure no one heard her.
Crowe sat emotionless. He shrugged. “Should I know this VC treasure? What does VC stand for? Vast cache?”
“What?” Muloff was dumbfounded.
Venente nearly fell back off her seat. “It’s Veechi. What’s wrong with you? The Veechi treasure. The world’s most famous treasure reportedly worth hundreds of millions and more and more.”
Muloff looked at Crowe with a raised eyebrow. He stared at him for a few seconds. Everyone was silent.
“How can you not have heard of this treasure?” Muloff asked with suspicion. “Everyone grows up knowing about the Veechi treasure.”
“Okay, okay. The Veechi treasure. How is it on this ship? Can we get on with it?” Crowe was eager to move on. He was feeling exposed.
Muloff hesitated but then continued. “Well. The ship’s crew will be in port to rest and get drunk for a night. The ship will anchor near the docks. No one will be on the ship except my Mate. There will be several guards watching the ship from the dock but we will show up in uniform and get those guards to leave the ship. My mate and I will be your crew…”
“And me,” Venente added.
Muloff looked at Venente with disdain. “And you,” he said with a load of sarcasm and spite. “The four of us,” Muloff said. He looked at Venente. “We will take the ship and the treasure. That’s it. Idiot proof.” Muloff sat back and drank.
Venente turned to Crowe and then back to Muloff.
“It’s idiot conceived!” She groaned and flipped her hand in the air.
Crowe shook his head and chuckled at Muloff. “Either you are completely drunk or you were hatched with half a brain.”
“I concur,” Venente said.
“First,” Crowe placed his elbows on the table. “Why will the guards just leave when we tell them to do so? Second, if they do leave, and I truly doubt they will, how are four people alone going to sail a ship and third, where will we be taking this ship?”
“Fourth, and more importantly,” Venente chimed in. “How do you know this ship has the Veechi treasure?”
Muloff sat up and smiled. “It’s there.” He laughed. “Trust me, it-is-there.”
EIGHTEEN MONTHS EARLIER
Gavon Crowe sat on a sidewalk with a look of bewilderment on his face. People walked past him and flung looks of disdain in his direction. His clothes were different from everyone else’s—quite different. He looked around, hardly able to keep his head upright. He was very tired and very dazed.
A well-dressed man was standing over Crowe. It was Judge Prador. He pulled coins out his pocket and dropped a 5 finto coin into Crowe’s hand.
“Get yourself something to eat.”
Crowe looked at the coin. “Sir!”
The plea stopped Judge Prador in his tracks.
“Where am I?” Crowe asked.
“Did you ask where you were?” Judge Prador was flummoxed. “In Unc’s name! You’re in Andaqesh. Qeshing City, boy.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Crowe was as polite as he could be. “Begging your pardon but I believe I’m under the influence of the memory monkeys.”
Judge Prador was taken aback. “Monsters! Are you saying you have amnesia?”
Crowe thought a few seconds on this. “In that I am unable to recall the essentials of my life I would be inclined to say yes. I have amnesia.”
“Monsters indeed. Come with me young man.” Judge Prador tapped Crowe with his cane and led him down the walk.
“I remember a case I presided over where a man feigned amnesia to try and get away with murder.” Prador laughed. “He did not, of course.”
Crowe was eating like he’d not eaten in a week. In fact, it was more like a month—or two hundred years. Crowe wasn’t certain. He didn’t know such things. His grasp of the science of time or the theory thereof, was loose at best, slippery at worst.
Judge Prador watched as the focus of his compassion devoured everything set before him. “Son, when was the last you ate?” Prador chuckled. “My aim with you was salvation but you might just bust a gut!”
Crowe chuckled between swallowing a meat and potato-like dish, which tasted very close to a pot roast but where he was now, he could not be certain which animal he was devouring.
“I beg your pardon and apologize for this unsavory assault on this food,” Crowe said. He dabbed the edges of his mouth with his napkin and sipped from his cool glass of water.
Judge Prador looked upon Crowe and observed how well mannered he conducted himself. Something was not right. There was also a familiarity. Did he know this fellow?
“Have we met?” Prador asked Crowe.
“I beg your pardon,” Crowe said again. He wiped his hands vehemently. He stood slightly and put out his hand. “My name is Gavon Crowe.”
Judge Prador shook the hand. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Oh,” Crowe said. “What did you mean?”
“I feel as if I know you. As if we’ve met before. As if I am repeating myself.”
Judge Prador was lost in his mind.
“I’m having a bout of amnesia and you are having a déjà vu,” Crowe laughed.
The judge laughed. “Fancy words for a couple of knuckleheads.”
They both laughed.
Outside the restaurant Crowe was thanking Judge Prador once again and they were saying their farewells.
“I trust you will find your way to friends or family and I shan’t find you rooting into the sidewalk like an unwanted weed tomorrow.” Judge Prador looked sharply into Crowes eyes.
“No sir,” Crowe softly said. “I can’t thank you enough for the kindness you’ve shown me today. But thank you.”
“Do you trust him?” Venente asked Crowe.
“No, I don’t trust him.” Crowe was lost in thought. “So why do it?”
“Right. Why go along with it?” Venente asked as if she knew the answer already.
Crowe thought more on her question. He did have a reason to go with Mulof’s plan but he hesitated in telling Venente. Or anyone else for that matter. They were back at the hotel in bed. A dull light from the window illuminated Venente’s white skin. She was propped up on an elbow and looking at Crowe as he thought of the treasure. A treasure he knew nothing about.
“Look,” Crowe started, “I’ve got a pretty good thing going. This treasure thing is a pipedream. Muloff will get us killed or thrown into prison.”
Venente sighed. “Well, I can’t go on working as the Assistant Prosecutor,” she said. “I’m willing to chance it. And frankly, I don’t know what you have on Dubuelo but it can’t go on indefinitely.”
“Yeah,” Crowe said. He stared at the blank wall.
Venente sat up and twisted over to the night gas-lamp. She raised the glow. She looked at Crowe and he sat up as well.
“I need the truth Gavon. I need all the truth. Two months ago I don’t even know who you are. But somehow you convince me to betray my post and join you.” Venente looked at Crowe. “Okay, part of it was the gold. But honestly… the other part was you.”
Crowe looked at her.
“Oh, I know. That’s okay. I knew there might never be a time for us or there would never be an us.” Venente closed her eyes. “Still, I think I deserve the truth. If we go through with this insane scheme and risk our lives, I do deserve the truth and nothing but.”
She sat looking at Crowe and she could see him grappling with himself. Their eyes met and he sighed heavily.
“Alright,” Crowe said. “I will tell you everything but I’m fairly certain you will dress and leave this hotel running. You may run out naked.”
“Don’t exaggerate,” Venente said.
Crowe stood and walked to the front of the room. He turned up a gas-lamp and illuminated the rest of the room. Venente moved to the edge of the bed and dressed into a gown. She sat there waiting for him to speak.
And finally he did. “I’m not from here. From this place.”
Venente tilted her head. “What does that mean? You’re from?”
Crowe walked to his very old looking saddlebag briefcase and pried it open. He pulled out something that resembled a watch but was a wide wristband. He slipped it onto his left arm. It was made of a flexible metal, which glowed a blue hue.
Venente was struck by its odd appearance. She’d never seen anything like it. “What is that?” She asked. Now her chest was filling with air rapidly. Her face showed some fear.
“I’m not from here,” he said again. “I’m from somewhere else. From another planet. From another time.” Crowe looked at Venente closely, trying to gauge her reaction.
She laughed out loud. Suddenly Crowe swiped the metal band and it hummed and glowed a violet light. Venente stopped laughing. Crowe fidgeted with the band and it hummed a high pitch and he vanished.
Venente jumped back and fell off the bed. She stared at where Crowe was just standing. She was in sheer shock. Her chest was pumping fast. She looked around the room.
“Crowe,” she called out. She started to cry.
Then there was a hum and a flash and Crowe was again standing exactly in the same spot. Venente stood and ran to him but stopped just short of reaching him.
“It’s you?” Venente asked.
“It’s me,” Crowe answered. He removed the metal band from his wrist.
Venente stood staring at him. She was shaking. “I don’t understand. What just happened? Oh, Unc my head hurts.”
Crowe took a deep breath. He replaced the band into his briefcase and moved to the makeshift bar and poured two drinks. He returned to her and handed her a glass. The glass shook in her trembling hand. She gulped the entire drink. Her body shivered.
Crowe sipped slowly. “I’ll tell you. But it won’t be easy to swallow.”
The night air was soot filled. It smelled of metal and oil and stale seawater. Muloff, disguised in military dress, stood in the darkness leaning against a dreary shack on the damp docks in Cenfortan. He was desperate to light a cigarette but feared the spark would confuse the plan. It was late and the Kanzot was late arriving. He started having doubts about his mate’s information. Maybe something had changed. Maybe he was found out.
Muloff was getting jittery. His thoughts raced and his breath was getting thin. Suddenly he could see the ship coming in. He grinned. His mate was sharp indeed. He did have all the answers.
Muloff reached in his pocket for a personal incinerator. He flicked it on and off twice in the direction of a large crane. He waited and then came the response. Two flickers of fire from an incinerator.
Again, Muloff grinned. His excitement escaped from his belly. His body shivered. He would soon have the Veechi Treasure in his hands.
Earlier that same day, Crowe was headed to Judge Prador’s home. He walked slowly and deliberately thinking of the risk he was taking with this caper that Muloff had engineered. If this ball of wax failed, which had a high likelihood, considering its architect, he would be a wanted man on two planets. He chuckled at that thought. Had there ever been a wider sought criminal? Wanted in two systems.
Only in fiction, he thought.
But that was his ace. If things started to go south, he could just jump to somewhere else. Then he thought of Venente. How could he let her get so deep into this scheme? He was weak. Her extreme beauty clouded his judgment. Now she was in it knee deep and with Muloff to boot. He smiled thinking of how excited she was. “I need a pirate name,” she said to him. He laughed at that and gave her a hug. It was a bit out of character for Crowe. He smiled now thinking of her.
What was happening? He’d never let a woman take his heart before. Ever. Venente had done so easily. She was special. A woman designed to please and a fighter, crafted to take what she wanted. He admired her spunk and tenacity. He hoped only that they would survive to enjoy each other’s company for a lot longer.
Crowe reached the Judge’s home and walked through the squawking gate and then over a dampened brick passageway to the front door. He planned to tell the judge everything. He owed the man that much. The whole truth. But Crowe also had a proposition for the Judge. Although he worried about the Judge’s reaction, Crowe felt compelled to come clean. He would do his best to prepare the Judge.
The Judge greeted Crowe at the door. “I’m beginning to believe you have no friends.”
“I don’t,” Crowe said. He walked into the house.
They moved to the library, which was the Judge’s favorite room in his home. Crowe sat in a warm chair. The low flame coming from a lamp made Crowe feel enclosed. In the last few weeks, months, years or centuries, the entire puzzle of his life was starting to either fall into place or collapse into many pieces. He would soon learn his fate, if there were such a thing anymore.
“I’m certain my Tarrotch is not the reason for your visit today.” Judge Prador handed Crowe a small glass of the illegal drink.
“Thank you, Sir,” Crowe said.
Judge Prador raised his eyebrows. “Sir!” he snapped, feigning surprise. “This must be very important if you’re addressing me as Sir.” The Judge chuckled on his way to his favorite chair. He dropped into it and took a sip from his glass. He looked at Crowe in an effort to deduce the reason for the unannounced visit. He could not imagine what the trickster had up his sleeve today.
“I’ve come to tell you a tale,” Crowe finally said.
“Ah… I love tales. Please,” the Judge said, encouraging Crowe to tell the tale.
Crowe smiled. “You may not be so eager to chuckle when I am done with my tale.”
The Judge was taken aback. This indeed was a different Gavon Crowe. What on Blissdane Naive could be so sinister?
Crowe stood and paced and then started the tale. When he completed his tale, the Judge sat stunned. He could not speak. Crowe retrieved the bottle of Tarrotch. He moved to fill the Judge’s glass.
“Thank you,” the Judge said half in a daze.
Crowe filled his own glass. He sat down again and crossed his legs.
The Judge leaned forward. “The girl,’ he started. “She’s from?”
“She’s from your planet,” Crowe said. “I took advantage of her personal desires. She is a very hungry woman. Hungry for adventure. Hungry for love.”
Judge Prador shrugged. “I guess both she and I were easily bought.”
“Please don’t look at it that way,” Crowe said. “I did see a weakness in both of you, it’s true but it was something else that attracted me—desire. A need screaming to get out. Maybe you compromised your ideals but it was my belief that both of you knew that there was more to life. More to your life. And you were missing it.”
The Judge sat up at attention. “You don’t believe that administering the law is a noble thing to give your life to?”
“Sir, take your money and go,” Crowe said.
The Judge scowled at Crowe. “Go? Go where?”
“Where you really want to be.”
“And how would you know where I really want to be?” The Judge was snapping at Crowe.
Crowe looked at the Judge for a long few seconds. Then he spoke. “I went back to you—when you were a child.”
The Judge’s mouth fell open. “You what?”
Crowe nodded. “Your parent’s summer home. Some miles outside Qeshing City. You spent days alone looking out to sea. I saw you many days doing the same thing. Watching for ships on the horizon. Then I decided to speak with you. That day, you were on the beach sitting on a large piece of driftwood looking out to sea again.” Crowe looked right into Prador’s eyes.
The Judge seemed to slip back into his past. He mumbled something. He couldn’t speak clearly. He was deep in thought.
“I approached you. You looked up at me and I smiled at you.”
The Judge was off in his mind.
“You love the smell of the ocean,” Crowe said. “You love ships.”
Prador closed his eyes and inhaled slowly. He could feel that day clearly…
Crowe walked up to the boy, who sat staring out to sea. The boy turned to see the strange looking man. He noticed the iron thing around the man’s wrist.
“You like the ocean?” Crowe asked the young boy.
“I do,” said the young lad. “I’m going to sail to unknown lands when I grow up.”
Crowe smiled at the young Prador. He placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“What is that?” The boy nodded to Crowe’s wrist.
“One day I will tell you,” Crowe said. “But you must promise to not be afraid.”
“I promise,” the boy said. He was half way mesmerized.
“One day, you will learn this big, big secret. A secret that will be hard to believe. And when you do learn this secret, remember this; you have a dream. You have a dream. Remember your dream…”
The Judge looked at Crowe. He smiled. “I remember you,” the Judge said.
Crowe nodded and smiled.
“You sat with me for a while. Yes.” The judge was recalling it all now. “I was no more than a nine year old boy at the time.” The Judge’s mind wandered. “I loved the smell of the ocean.”
"Yep," Crowe said.
Judge Prador snapped to. “Good Unc almighty. That was you!”
They saw the signal from Muloff. The Kanzot was a large ship, which was designed for cargo and not war.
Crowe signaled back to Muloff.
“The five of us alone are going to sail this beast?” Venente whispered her doubt.
Crowe shushed her.
“Don’t shush me,” Venente whispered at the top of her lungs. She was dressed as a man with a long black coat and her hair was up tight, hidden under a bandana.
Crowe gave her a look of frustration. He was dressed in a military uniform with Andaqesh General insignia. He looked terribly official.
“Yes, I know. I chose to join this mad scheme.” Venente shook her head. She looked out to the darkness and at the large ship. “That thing is huge. It’s bad enough we’re depending on those two shogs out there.” She nodded her head in the direction where Muloff was hiding.
“You need to calm down and remember why we’re here.” Crowe put his hand on her shoulder. He nodded. “The VC treasure,” he said.
Venente giggled. She turned around. “I think he was dropped on his head as a child,” she said to Judge Prador.
“That might have been yesterday,” the Judge responded. The judge was wearing an eye patch and a terrible tricorn hat.
Crowe looked at them firmly. They looked ridiculous.
“These babies were designed to be sailed by an efficient crew,” Prador said to Venente hoping to calm her down.
“Efficient crew, okay. Magical crew, not!”
“Will you two hush,” Crowe said in frustration.
“I was just trying to ease her mind,” the Judge said.
Venente smiled at Prador.
“Thank you Judge,” she said with a small curtsey.
“Remember, you need to wait for your signal. Muloff and I will meet with the Commander. I will address him and dismiss the guards. If all goes as planned, the guards will leave for the night and we will be clear. Wait for the three flashes of fire and head for the dock. Muloff’s Mate will have the transport boat ready for us to get to the ship. Got it?”
“Aye cap’n, Grackle.” Venente said sarcastically. She and Prador laughed. They were giddy.
“Listen, if things start going bad, the two of you just leave. Muloff and I will be on our own,” Crowe said.
Both Venente and the Judge looked at each other. After a moment, Crowe turned to Venente. He produced a band the same design as his time band, but not as wide.
“I want you to wear this,” he said to Venente. “Do not remove it under any circumstance.”
She instinctively held her left arm up and Crowe snapped the band around her delicate wrist. Venente smiled her brilliant teeth at him.
“We’re not going steady or anything,” he said to her.
Venente didn’t care. She was pleased he gave her some type of jewelry.
“Pretty soon you’ll be able buy me a matching shoehorn, if we do get our hands on that treasure.” She laughed.
The Judge prodded her. They shared a chuckle.
“Be still you two,” Crowe said.
They stood silently in the dark waiting for the next signal that would send Crowe to the dock.
“I hope that damn treasure is there,” Crowe said.
“For Muloff’s sake, it best be,” Venente said.
“Do those ships have facilities?”
Both Crowe and Venente looked at the Judge.
Suddenly, the second signal was cast.
“There. That’s it,” said Crowe. “Okay. I’m off.”
“Wait!” Venente said.
Crowe looked at her.
“Why didn’t you use that thing to make sure you weren’t late that morning at the courthouse?” Venente tilted her head.
Crowe exhaled. “I couldn’t risk changing things.”
Venente wrinkled her nose. “Things change?”
Crowe sighed and started walking off again.
“Wait!” the Judge barked.
“Are you kidding me?” Crowe snapped.
The Judge moved closer to Crowe. “When you moved through time to witness those cases, did you see yourself arguing them? Was I the presiding Judge?”
Crowe hesitated. “We were not there.”
The Judge stood erect. “How is that possible?”
Crowe shrugged. Then he said, “You know when you run a light through a prism, the white light breaks up into its spectral colors?”
“Yes,” the Judge responded.
“I think the same can be done with time.”
The judge considered this. He shook his head. “Who was the sitting judge on those cases?”
“I’m sorry. We don’t have time,” Crowe said.
“I showed you no favor,” the Judge said with conviction.
Crowe looked at Prador’s steely eyes. “I know. You are an honorable man.” He turned and hurriedly walked out of the darkness and towards the dock.
They were not hiding far from the guards and soon Venente and Prador could see the plan falling into place. Crowe approached the two men, one being the Commander the other Muloff. Hands were pointed and heads were turned. Arms were raised and shoulders were shrugged. Soon, the Commander was barking orders back to the guards. Just as quickly, the men were leaving the docks and headed away. The Commander saluted Crowe and he was off as well. Within seconds the coast was clear.
Vanente and Prador both breathed a gulp of air.
“Pop, you ready for an adventure? Venente asked.
“More than you know, sweetheart,” the Judge responded with glee.
Vanente turned to the Judge and gave him a monster kiss on the lips. “That might be your last one if we don’t make it through alive,” she said.
They both hurried out of the darkness and headed toward Crowe and Muloff after the signal for them to do so was cast.
Muloff was true to his word. The taking of the ship was as easy as he said it would be. The five members of the team hurried through the ship searching for the Veechi Treasure. Muloff’s Mate was not privileged to know the area it was hidden but it didn’t matter, there was no other cargo on the ship.
The five newly crowned pirates reached the very lowest cargo hold on the ship. The door was opened. There was a large item inside covered with a canvas sheet. It had to be the treasure.
Crowe, Venente, Prador, Muloff and Muloff’s Mate slowly moved towards the heap. The sheet was removed and Venente was the first to react. She fell to her knees.
“We are in big trouble,” she said with much concern.
“You ain’t just whistling Dixie,” Crowe said.
Muloff looked at Crowe, who tended to say strange things and each saying was getting stranger.
The treasure was vast. It was housed in multiple chests and streaming out onto the floor. There were heaps of jewels in brilliant colors, ervescent gold in multiple forms, coins upon coins, crowns and tiaras and much more.
“Everyone to their positions,” Muloff’s Mate shouted.
Soon, the five-man team was in full action. The anchor was raised, the sails were cast and the ship started its slow departure. Fortunately there was a strong wind blowing. The weather was on their side.
On the tenth day of their journey the crew of five was pleased with themselves. Muloff’s Mate proved efficient and well prepared. Not only was he correct in all his statements on how things would go but he had also hidden a stockpile of food for the journey. Along with the food there were animals for milk and eggs. Mullof’s Mate, who they started calling MM, was an asset and a fine ship’s captain. He did the work of five and with small contributions from Venente and Prador their voyage was going great.
“MM,” Venente called out.
MM was at the helm guiding the ship through choppy waters. “Miss V,” he said to Venente.
“Yes, it seems to me we are no longer going in the direction of Lia Antootica.” Venente was looking out to sea.
MM eyed her. “You are correct,” he said.
At that point the complete crew appeared. They stood moving with the sway of the ship, waiting for MM’s response.
“It’s my belief,” MM started, “that when Andaqesh officials learn of the heist, they will send the fleet after us. The entire fleet. And I’m sure they’ve done so already.”
This made everyone a bit apprehensive although they all more or less agreed with MM.
“It is also my belief that they will send most of those ships in the direction of Lia Antootica because that is the most logical place for us to go.”
They all could see MM’s point.
“And so we are sailing to where Captain?” Crowe asked.
“To one of the nameless islands off Nebogrador,” MM said. “We’re sailing for the other side of the Mujand Republic.”
“Sailing past the Mujand Republic?” Prador asked.
“We will hide within all the ships in the area, then sail south,” MM said.
The crew looked upon the captain with doubt.
Captain MM chuckled. “I see you have doubts. But believe me, I’ve done this many times. We will be fine once we make it past Mujand waters. We will then sail through the Sea of Fault and through the Emblaring Sea toward our destination. Then we lay low.”
Each of the crew looked upon each other. Their hope was that MM’s calculations were true.
“Are there nice dress shops in Nebogrador?” Venente asked.
They all laughed and the weight was lifted.
At that moment Crowe looked to the sky. Thick clouds were gathering.
The storm came suddenly making their afternoon sunset a dark evening and then a frightening pitch-black night. The waves were spitting up from the agitated depths and showering the ship and the crew. The rain poured nonstop in blinding sheets of water.
Venente and the Judge took refuge in the cargo hold with the treasure. They were both ill prepared to ride in such rough seas and were not doing so well. The animals were screaming as they were tossed back and forth.
Venente looked to Prador. “Maybe poverty wasn’t such a bad thing after all.”
“I’m only glad I got my last kiss from someone as beautiful as you,” Prador said with a chuckle. He was trying to lighten their shared feeling of doom. They held each other.
What Venente and Judge Prador did not know was at that very moment, MM, Muloff and Crowe were trying to out-sail an Andaqesh fighter frigate that had appeared behind them. No shots had been fired, which was likely due to the frigate battling the storm itself.
MM kept looking back over his shoulder. The ship was still there, very near catching them. Suddenly, a small mast gave in to the storm and came crashing down. MM waved to Crowe to come and take the helm. Crowe fought his way through the slicing water and rain to take control of the wheel. Taking control of the wheel, he then watched MM leap into action trying desperately to secure the flailing sails the storm was threatening to destroy. He worked furiously to keep the ship in one piece. Crowe could just make out MM within the darkness and the sheets of rain between flashes of lightning.
Muloff was off to the side bellowing loudly but Crowe could not hear anything but the wind, the thunder and the crashing waves of seawater. Louder and louder the sounds grew as Muloff screamed to Crowe who was trying desperately to steer the ship over the angry Tenebris Ocean.
MM was fighting his way back to the ship’s wheel when a wall of water hit hard and flushed him back down the steps. Muloff was thrown to the ground as well. Muloff climbed out of the water and gulped a large amount of air. MM stood wearily and held on to the shrouds. They were all exhausted. Muloff started his climb back to the helm fighting the fierce conditions. This time he made it.
Crowe could now see Muloff who screamed something but Crowe couldn’t make it out no matter how close to each other they stood. They both swayed with the ship’s wheel as they held on tightly.
Muloff screamed directly into the Crowe’s ear.
“We’re headed for land!”
This time Crowe heard Muloff.
MM pointed out ahead as well and as Crowe squinted through the stinging rain, a flash of lighting illuminated what appeared to be rocks peering out of the water and trees further off in the distance.
Crowe’s eyes bulged. They were headed right for a large rock. He looked to Muloff and MM and waved to them to go under. Both Muloff and MM shook their heads not understanding. Crowe pointed to the passage leading down to the cargo hold.
The three men hurried down into the ship and out of the storm.
They entered the cargo hold where Venente and Prador had taken refuge. They were holding each other tightly when the three men entered.
“Everybody, do as I say!!” Crowe shouted. “Gather into a circle near the treasure.”
“Crowe…” Muloff started but was cut short.
“Do as I say, man!”
The men did as Crowe instructed. They gathered themselves together with Venente and Prador and soon were holding each other in a semi-circle. Crowe then placed himself within their embrace. They were desperately fighting the wild movement of the ship.
“Crowe! Quickly!” Venente screamed.
Crowe then produced the time armband and placed it on his left wrist. The men looked on with curiosity. They’d obviously never seen anything of that nature.
Then, the air was pulled from their lungs as the ship fell forward and downward. They all screamed and within the frightful fall, Crowe’s armband produced its light and hum and they all vanished.
Back on the unsettling surface, the storm raged on. The Captain of the Andaqesh frigate could see the ship of his quest fall into a whirlpool and into the ocean and darkness. His crew was fighting hard to escape the fate of their prey. The Captain looked on with fear and in a flash of lightening, he peered through the whirling rain thinking he’d seen land. Suddenly, a wild wave hit the frigate and he fell onto the deck. He fought his way back up. Looked out ahead of him. His ship had made a drastic turn to safety and he could no longer see land. It was a trick of the eye, he thought. The storm had given him illusions.
The Andaqesh frigate sailed onward and continued to fight its way through the storm.
It would survive to report to Andaqesh Officials that the storm and the ocean had swallowed the ship and the treasure. For weeks afterward, the Andaqesh Government sent several ships to search for the treasure and the stolen Kanzot. It would never be found.
The Mujand sun was hot but the air was cool. Slowly opening their eyes, they each realized they were no longer on the ship. They were now on land. But where? As far as they could tell, they were nowhere.
Venente groaned. “I have a hole in me,” she said.
Muloff agreed with her. “What in Blissdane did he do to us?”
“Judge?” Venente shook Judge Prador as he lay there.
The Judge moaned.
“Am I alive? Or has the farm been mortgaged?” He rolled over and coughed.
MM looked around. There was a thick group of trees off in the distance. The sands were pearl white and the sea was teal and clear. The shore was filled with large rocks jetting out of the water. The strong tide crashed into the rocks and sprayed the water into the air. Overhead, the sea birds squawked their songs while the sound of the waves washed onto the shore again and again.
“I dare say, we are not on Kanzot anymore,” MM said.
They all looked around the immediate area. It was beautiful but very deserted. Regaining their wits, they all stopped their gaze upon the treasure. It was sitting there with them.
“Where’s Crowe?” Venente asked.
Now they looked around fiercely. They shouted his name but there came no answer. He was not with them.
Some time passed as the four castaways sat on the sand, each searching their own thoughts. This adventure had truly taken a strange turn. After a rest, they decided to explore their immediate area to learn where they were.
Why and how? These were questions they ignored for the time being. The four of them moved over the warm sand looking at the wild rocky shore.
“I know those rocks,” said Mulloff. “We nearly hit them last night.”
MM acknowledged Muloff’s observation. They continued on and the jungle started to envelope the four. Once off the shore the green trees and tuffs of vines became so very thick and humid. It’s as if they were in an ocean.
“Good Unc it’s hot,” said Venente. “Where are we?”
They all looked around and could see nothing but green. The sun shot down through the thick jungle in beams.
“This is too wild to be civilized,” Judge Prador said. “Any of you mariners have a clue as to where we were headed last night?”
“Are you kidding, Judge?” Muloff said. He pointed to MM. “This one might have a clue but today I’m just fortunate to have a life.”
Then they all stopped. They stared straight up before them. They looked on with shock and fear at a ship that was in the middle of the jungle. It sat covered in vegetation that must have been growing and wrapping the ship for many, many years. They turned to each other—their mouths open.
“Is that the Kanzot?” Venente asked.
“Can’t be,” barked Prador. “This has been here for tens of years. Hundreds.”
They slowly moved closer and started to circle the enormous cargo ship. There they saw upon the side of the ship, the name Kanzot.
They returned to the treasure and sat in silence. Each was in deep thought. It was the Kanzot. But this ship was hundreds of years old. It made no sense to either of the four. There was an odd mood between them. They sat quietly for a time.
“You!” Venente finally broke the silence. She was looking at MM.
MM acknowledged her with a nod.
“What is your name?” Venente asked.
MM hesitated. He gazed to the ocean and then looked back to Venente.
“Veechi. Greer Veechi,” MM said
Venente laughed. “Very funny.”
Venente began to remove her long coat. She then threw it aside. She started working to let her hair down and turned her gaze toward the sea. She squinted. On the horizon she could see a ship.
“Oh, no,” she said. “We have company.”
They all turned toward the sea. The sighs and moans of frustration were audible.
“Andaqesh?” Asked the Judge.
“That would be my guess,” MM said.
MUJAND REPUBLIC TERRITORY OF WEST JUNEE THE KUNINGANNA TERRITORY NATION OF ANDAQESH PERISH ISLAND PONEET ISLANDS