Master Tuft cut through the quiet of the night, running the length of the deck in a blind rage.
Fry, the ship’s first mate, turned from the journal he’d been writing by candlelight, “what?”
“An investigation. There must be an investigation.” Tuft wasn’t even pausing for breath. “And what would we be investigating?”
“The Rum. It’s gone.”
“All of it. It’s gone.”
Fry shook his head, “Where has it gone?”
“That’s what we need to investigate.”
Grunt, who claimed to be the helmsman but never did anything but fight, stepped into the conversation, “Bananafish is drunk”
Bananafish was the cook.
He could cook anything, as long as it was fish. Or Banana. Or fish and banana.
“Yes,” Tuft nodded, “Bananafish is drunk, but I’m more worried about the investigation-”
“I think we’ve solved it already.”
The cabin door burst open and Captain Fuller stepped out half dressed. He looked to Fry for an explanation.
“Well apparently, the rum has gone. All of it. Tuft wants this investigated. And Grunt says that Bananafish is drunk.”
The Captain nodded and smiled, “Then we’ll ask Bananafish if he knows where the drink has gone."
Grunt went below deck and dragged the cook out of bed. He stumbled along behind Grunt as he was lead back up before the captain, standing in a slanted parody of attention, “Morning, Boss.”
“It has come to our attention that all of the Rum has gone. Have you got anything to say about this?”
"I beg your pardon?"
Bananafish regarded the Captain through one eye, the other glued shut with sleep, before a look of indignation crossed his face and he threw his hand in the air.
“An investigation” he cried, “there must be an investigation!”
Recovered enough to sit on the poop deck, Bananafish told his tale.
“It was about an hour ago I would say, maybe a bit more than that. I was on the deck with Skiffel…”
Tuft cutting in,"
Where is he? Can he confirm this?”
“No, see, that’s the problem. I was sat on the deck with Skiffel, we were talking, playing a bit of poker. We were not drinking at all, I swear-”
“You swear on your honour?”
“I swear on my honour”
Captain Fuller pulled his cutlass and pressed it to the cook's groin, “You swear on your manhood?”
“-well maybe wis drank a little”
The Captain laughed and nodded for the cook to continue.
“So, I was sat on the deck with Skiffel, and we were playing poker and we had a responsible amount to drink. The sea had been choppy all night, but the sky clear, a strange night. But then the sea grew calm, the calmest I’ve ever seen, and a thick mist began to roll in.
“Soon it was so we couldn’t see anything, and Skiffel began to joke about all the bounties that could be floating by without our knowing. Out of the fog -and I swear this is true- we heard a creaking, as of a large ship right off our bow. Skiffel jumped near out of his skin. I myself remained brave, but I understood how the man felt. We leaned as far over the rail as we could, straining to hear the sound again, or to catch a glimpse of anything through the mist. We heard another sound, it was of an eerie scratching, nails clinging to damp wood, like a cat, and the sound wasn’t coming from out in the mist sir-”
Bananafish paused for effect, looking around the crew's faces.
“The scratching was below us. The sound of something climbing the hull of our ship. Well, Skiffel was caught in a mighty panic, but I drew my short sword and leaned into the mist, ready to strike. My hair stood on end Sir, for I couldn’t make out what it was, but there was definitely something moving down there, clawing its way up toward us. Even more shocking Sir, as I drew my face back up, I found a ghostly face staring into mine through the mist.”
Fry gasped, then caught himself.
Bananafish waited for a second before starting up again.
“The face drew clearer as the mist thinned slightly, and we saw a portion of the ship we had heard. It was old, like a floating wreck, and the men aboard it looked skeletal and weak. They looked, sir, like the Undead”
Tuft shook, overcome.
“The creature staring at me from their deck laughed, such a laugh that cut through to my soul, and his Bony hands appeared out of the mist and dragged Skiffel across to him, screaming. No sooner was poor Skiffel on their ship, then the mist rolled in again to hide them from view. As I felt my heart racing out of control, I felt a presence behind me, and a scuttling sound. Finding the strength to turn, I caught sight of the barrel of rum –all the rum- disappearing over the side, held by a pair of bony hands. Then, as quickly as it had come, the mist cleared, and we were alone at sea again.”
“I see”, Captain Fuller nodded and looked at his crew, all pale and frightened, all trying to to show their fear.
“My word, such a night,” Tuft whispered, peering into the mist that had crept up as the story had been related.
“And tell me”, continued Fuller, “All of this, the whole terrible story, was this before or after you drank all of the rum?”
“Well, it was after –ah-I mean-”
Bananafish turned and made a run for below deck but Grunt was quicker, grabbing the young man by the scruff of his neck. As if on cue, Skiffel himself staggered up from below deck in a drunken state; singing a shanty and wearing a short skirt.
“Prepare the plank,” the Captain called out, “They’re going for a swim.”
And while we're on the subject of Flash, the draw for the XMAS NOIR FLASH CHALLENGE has taken place, and the winners will be contacted soon.