Chapter 15 – Expert Treasure Hunter

Victoria and Levi began their walk into the woods.  She held Levi’s hand with her left and in her right hand she clutched the daffodils he had given her.  She barely stood above his waist but for the first time in over two hundred years, she feared nothing.  She had a renewed sense of hope holding Levi’s hand and looked forward to spending time with someone whom she believed God had sent to protect her.

Levi had no idea where the beginning started but he knew it must begin in the woods.  He held a stick out in front of him to knock down the webs and walked in the direction of the beach.  The woods frightened him and the beach exhausted him but he wanted to help Victoria more than he recalled wanting to help anyone so yet again, he journeyed through.  Levi had no confidence.  If God had told him to help Victoria, then he would meander around all night confident the answer would present itself, but he had no vision.  He had no assurances he could help her in the least and he felt sick when he thought about leaving her behind.

Victoria however appeared to have all the faith in the world as she swung Levi’s hand and hummed the same tune she had earlier when Levi watched her sit on her log near the woods.

“Do you pray?” she asked.

Levi smiled.  “Maybe we should use our quiet voices in the woods.”

“I think our footsteps are louder than our voices,” she whispered.

“Yes, you are probably right,” he conceded with a light laugh.  “You are a bright little girl.  Yes, I do pray.  Do you pray?”

“No, but my mother prayed a lot.  She prayed for my dad all the time.  She was scared for him.”

“I pray for my family for the same reasons your mom prayed for your father.  She wanted the Lord to keep him safe.”

She stopped and he paused with her, patient with curiosity.  She tugged on his shirt and beckoned for him to lean closer.  “Will you pray for me?” she whispered.

He knelt with her again and parted her hair.  “I will definitely pray for you.”

“Do you think He will hear you?” she asked worried.

“God always hears the prayers of those who have faith in him,” he assured her.

“I don’t know God,” she whispered.  “Maybe that’s why I am not in heaven.  If you tell him I’m here then maybe he can come get me.”

Levi pondered her words and felt a sense of renewed strength within him.  Victoria’s faith in Levi mirrored his faith in God and because of her faith he believed he truly could send her to heaven.  He had a choice to either save Victoria or leave her behind, and for Levi, he told himself he had but one choice.  He didn’t know how to get her out but before him stood a little girl who wholeheartedly believed he would.  Such faith moved mountains!

“God is everywhere honey.  He knows you are here.  If you believe in him as your mother believed in him, as you believe in me, he will receive you.  He loves you every bit as much as your mother and father because you are as much a daughter to him as you are to your mommy and daddy.”

She grinned as a child does when they are safely tucked in at night.  “I can’t wait to see them again.  I’m so excited!”  She shook and almost laughed with excitement.

“I’m excited for you.”  He stood, took her hand, and they walked again.

“Have you ever met God?” she asked.

“No, but I speak with him about certain things.  Problems I am having, things I am thankful for, and stuff like that.”

“Does he talk back to you?”

“Sometimes.  He speaks to people differently.  He doesn’t always use words.”

“Then how do you know what he is saying?”

“Because when you accept God as your savior, someone who will take care of you and take you to heaven, he sends to you the Holy Spirit and this spirit helps you to communicate with God.”

“Wow!” she answered impressed.  “Can you see the Holy Spirit?”

“He’s inside of me,” Levi said pointing to his chest.  “The Spirit shows me what I am to do.  He moves me with a feeling of emotion.  Like if you see someone who is sad you go to that person and try to make them feel better right?  Nobody tells you to do it.  The good in you encourages you to help the person.  Well the Holy Spirit kind of does things in the same way and he helps me to understand what God wants me to do.”

“Does he want you to help me?” she perked up.

“That’s exactly what he wants me to do!”

 

A few minutes of walking expired and they saw the glow of a lantern ahead which Levi figured was the light he saw from the house.  As the wind blew, the lantern disappeared behind a tree as it swayed back and forth.  Levi stopped and pulled Victoria to the ground with him.

“I don’t know who this person is but I think sneaking around him is best,” Levi whispered.

“I have seen him before at night.  He digs a big hole.”

Levi nodded.  No doubt another treasure seeker he thought.  “Here, get on my back.  Maybe we’ll make less noise if only one of us is walking.”

Victoria didn’t need a second invitation.  She jumped on to Levi and wrapped her arms around his neck eager to enjoy her first piggy back ride in a long while.

Levi grabbed a tree and pulled himself upward.  He took his time as he tip-toed his way around the unseen ghost.  If the ghost saw him, Levi would wave and pretend like he didn’t have time to talk to the specter as though he saw an unwelcome friend at the market.

His legs burned as he struggled stepping over logs and branches while carrying Victoria.  She remained silent the whole time but did not take her eyes off the digging man.  A couple of times she patted Levi on the shoulder and pointed out to him the man had stopped.  Levi paused while the man drank some water and continued walking once the ghost started digging.

The man wore a muddy pair of pants and a collared shirt with suspenders.  His sleeves were rolled to his elbows as he dug a hole with his shovel and the sight of his wrist watch indicated to Levi he had leaped through time a great deal.

Levi recognized at once the ghost dug where the treasure was buried.  As he passed, the ghost caught a glimpse of Levi’s shadow through the pine trees and crouched low.

“Who goes there?” he called out.  His head darted side to side and he trembled.

Levi lowered his head and kept marching but did not look towards the ghost.  Victoria turned away and gripped Levi.

The ghost pulled out a small revolver and aimed it at the darkness.  “Tell me who you are or I’ll fire.”

Levi sighed once more in frustration at having been discovered.  He thought the ghost clearly saw him and he did not want to get shot so he turned and pleasantly exclaimed, “I’m no one.  Just passing through the woods.  Continue on with your digging.”  He turned to leave.

“You don’t sound like a pirate,” the man said hearing the voice out of the darkness.  “Who are you?  Did you follow me here?”

“Nope, just taking a walk.  Don’t mind me,” Levi called from over his shoulder and kept walking determined not to let this new encounter side track him despite his curiosity in the ghost’s identity.

“Wait a moment!” the man called after him and he jogged through the woods after Levi.

Levi turned and the man met him with the gun at his side.  He was slender and slightly taller than Levi with a thin beard.  He appeared to be at least ten years older and smelled like a smoker.  He examined Levi in the moonlight with the same curiosity Charley had.  “You are not dressed as a pirate,” he stated half relieved and half pleased.

The statement surprised Levi.  This man lived not in piratical times and yet his statement made evident the fact he had encountered pirates in these woods.

“No, I am not a pirate,” Levi answered.

“That’s a relief,” the man responded.  “I expected to see pirates tonight in these woods like the ones from the old stories.  You do know these woods are haunted right?” the man asked curious as to why Levi wandered through them in the dark if he were not the one haunting them.

“Um, yes that’s what I hear,” Levi answered with a slight smile.

“Then why are you here?” the man asked with a nervous squint in his eye.  He raised his gun and stepped backwards.

Levi held up his hands and Victoria struggled to stay on his back, choking poor Levi in the process.  “I’m not here for anything.  We simply want to leave the woods,” Levi croaked.

The man, feeding off of Levi’s anxiety, pointed his gun at the darkness from whence Levi walked, “Why is something following you?”

“No, no,” Levi reassured him.  “We just want to get home to my wife.”

“What’s on your back?  A girl?” the man asked unable to clearly see Victoria in the shadows.

Levi propped Victoria up and turned half-way so the man could see her but turned away to shield her from the gun.  “This is my daughter.”

“Why bring your daughter in these woods?” he pointed his gun from the darkness back towards Levi.  “What are you two after?”

“We’re not after anything.  She’s only a child!” Levi retorted.  “I’m a writer.  I wanted to write about the woods.  I think I may have heard some of the same tales you heard and I thought they’d make an interesting story.”

“A writer huh?  I suppose then you’ve heard about the treasure that might be buried in these woods?”

“I have heard mention of it, yes.”

“Are you sure that’s not what you’re after?”

Levi scanned the sky for a sign of the Storm Woman.  “Trust me; I’m not after the treasure.”

The man poked Levi in the chest with a small branch.  “Well you seem solid enough so you must not be a ghost.”

Levi smiled at the irony.

“No, I’m definitely not a ghost.”

“Though I wonder,” the man pondered, “if you’d even know if you were a ghost.”

“That’s a good question,” Levi responded and gave it a little thought.  “But I am solid as you’ve discovered by poking me and I am certainly in no rush to scare you as I guess a ghost might try to do.  Thirdly did you ever hear in your tales mention of a ghost like me carrying his daughter through the woods?”

The man relaxed.  “No, I don’t suppose I have.”  He glanced at his gun.  “I can’t imagine this would do me much good if indeed you were a ghost anyhow.”  He tucked the gun away and held out his hand.  “I’m Tom Pipken, expert treasure hunter,” he spoke with a puffed-up chest.

Levi’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open as he knew the name immediately from the stories he had read about the Woods.  Tom Pipken disappeared after entering the woods looking for treasure and all they found of him were his boat and two gold coins.  Tom had evidently fallen fate to the woods and the curse, like the others who had died there, had damned him to wander among the trees reliving his life.

Levi shook his hand.  “My name is Levi and this is Victoria.”

Victoria gave a little wave and smiled.  Tom grinned and vanquished any fear Victoria or Levi had for him.

“Those are some pretty flowers you have there.  You don’t often see those this time of year,” he said scratching his head in puzzlement.  He shrugged his shoulders, “But I suppose I have seen stranger things.  Well Levi would you like something to write about?” Tom asked.

“I really have to be going.  My wife is getting worried,” Levi fibbed.  He did not want to linger in one place for too long.

This did not sink in with Tom as his eyes widened with excitement at the prospect of a professional writer recording his dig.  “Trust me.  You will want to write about this.  I know where the treasure is!  It’s right over there where I’m digging and in a little while I’m sure I’ll get it!

Levi checked the sky and thought, “Yeah if you keep digging you’re gonna get it all right.”

“You know, perhaps it might be best if you leave the treasure alone.  Maybe there is a curse on it,” Levi suggested.

“There are no such things as curses,” Tom scoffed at the idea and laughed.

“And yet you believe in ghosts?” Levi countered.

“Ah but those I’ve seen,” Tom answered with a frightened look in his eyes, “or at least I’ve seen their lanterns in these woods at night rummaging around and looking for their treasure.”

Tom walked back to his hole in the ground and Levi followed though his legs felt heavy.  Tom stood near his lantern hanging from the tree, reached into his pocket and pulled forth two gold coins.  “Look at these!” Tom thrust out his dirty hand.

The coins felt not smooth and perfectly round like today’s coins.  On one side were Roman numerals just as they were described in the newspaper accounts Levi read.  He flipped the coin.  Engraved on the other side was Caesar.

“I found those a month ago on the beach.  That’s when I started looking for the treasure.  This is pirate gold!  Well, pirate gold after they stole it I’m sure.  The pirates buried their treasure in these woods but a storm struck them before they returned for it.  I have been coming into these woods at night searching for the gold but I found no maps or any real mention of where the pirates hid the gold so I nearly quit.  But then I stumbled on them in the woods.  I couldn’t see them but I saw their lanterns and heard them talking and digging.  I sat undercover for a while until they either walked off or disappeared.  I never saw them but I knew from the distance exactly where they stood.”  He pointed to his hole.  “Right here!” he exclaimed.

Levi set Victoria down and the moment her feet touched the ground, she grabbed Levi’s hand.  Levi handed the coins to Tom.  “What if they come back for it while you are here digging?” Levi asked.

“They only appear on certain nights and at certain times of the night.  I figured it out by watching them a few more times from the same spot.  They won’t be here for a while.  I should be done and gone by then,” he pointed to his head impressed with his wits.  “See, expert treasure hunter like I told you.  Now all I need do is dig up the treasure, divide it into the sacks I brought, and then carry them one at a time to my boat on the beach.  I will be out of here before they arrive.”

Levi scanned the darkness for approaching lights.  A sense of dread burned in him.  Tom jumped into his shallow hole and shoveled once more.  Levi recognized Tom had several more feet of dirt to remove to reach his prize.  Levi did not want to linger for so long a time but he did not know how to continue his protests.  Tom had his heart set on Levi writing about him and Tom’s dead state moved Levi to oblige.

“Do you have a pencil and paper to record what I discover?” Tom asked.

Levi guessed Tom must have mistaken him for a news reporter and not a fictional novelist.  He felt around for paper and instead grabbed hold of his Bible.  He pulled it out and sighed when he felt the water logged pages.  The leather cover would not survive the salt water.  His Bible however would become a treasured heirloom if ever he made it out of the woods even if he no longer used it.

He pulled out his notepad and pencil, broken in two pieces, and pretended to write on the soggy paper, just to humor Tom.  Tom’s smile widened.

“You don’t happen to write for the National Geographic do you?”

Levi smiled.  “No, I’m afraid not.”

Tom’s grin faded a little.

“But who knows,” Levi added hoping to lift the ghost’s spirits, “perhaps I can submit my article and they will publish it.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a camera with me to take pictures of you and your discovery but it is too dark for one anyway.”

Tom beamed and kept digging.  Levi’s eyes darted around half expecting one of the old pirates to jump out of the woods and once again start chasing him with a sword or pistol.  The pines swayed and clanked together under the moon but the Storm woman did not show.

He put his Bible in his back pocket and leaned against a tree.  Victoria squeezed his hand.

“Are you from here Tom?”

“Not originally.  I came from Maryland.  I’ve lived here for only a few years.”

“How long have you been an expert treasure hunter?”

Tom laughed and wiped his brow.  “For about one month.”.

Levi smiled, “Since you found those two gold coins?”

“Yep, that’s when I became an expert treasure hunter.”

“What are you going to do with your treasure?”

Tom paused and smiled as though dying to tell someone.  “Well, I’ve always wanted to get married and have a family.  My brother has children but I guess I’ve always been a little too wild to settle down.  Now I’m older and want to plant some roots.  I think with this money I can secure me a pretty young wife and start making little Pipkens; maybe even ones as pretty as your daughter there.  Build a house here, far from these woods of course and maybe open a business.  One I can pass on to my son.”  Tom dug again.  “Yes sir, this treasure is going to make me quite a catch.  You don’t find a lot of colored men who own their own business you know.”

Levi forced a smile and tried to mask the pity.  He knew Tom’s future would never materialize.  By the way events had unfolded all night, he knew Tom’s death drew near and a growing feeling to vomit gurgled in him.

Levi sat next to a tree but in a position where he saw Tom clearly, determined to maintain the ruse that he recorded the details of Tom’s dig.  Victoria slumped next to him and laid her head against his arm.

“Are you tired?” Levi whispered.

She nodded and yawned on cue.

“You can lay your head in my lap if you want.”

“I don’t want to fall asleep.  When I wake up I may not be here.”

He squeezed her hand but said nothing.  He didn’t know what would happen to her but she had remained with him despite his jumps through time and this comforted him.

“You’re not going to fall asleep are you?”

“No honey, I’m not letting you go.”

“Are you married?”

“Yes.”

“Is your wife nice?”

“Yes, she is.  I love her very much.”

She said nothing further.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“What if I am supposed to go home with you?  Will your wife be nice to me?”

“I think I am going to get you out of these woods but if you are to come home with me then I know my wife will be very nice to you.”

“You going to school honey?” Tom called while throwing a heaping pile of dirt out of his pit.

“Not during the summer,” Levi answered for her.  He didn’t know if Victoria ever attended school and so wasn’t sure how she would answer.

Tom smiled.  “I bet you’re enjoying your break and spending some time with daddy.”

Victoria nodded and played along.

“Yeah I remember my summer breaks.  Boy did I not like school.”  He shook his head at the memory of it.  “I can remember leaving for school in the mornings and then hiding out in the woods all day until the kids started coming down the road.  Then I jumped back in with them and my momma thought I had been at school all day.”

“You sound kind of like Tom Sawyer,” Levi mused.

“Yes sir I suppose that’s true.  A black Tom Sawyer though,” Tom said laughing.

Victoria, having been born prior to the publishing of Mark Twain’s book, did not know Tom Sawyer.

“I bet you don’t get in trouble like that?” Tom asked Victoria with a smile.  “I bet you’re a good girl.”

Victoria nodded.

“Yes, she is an angel,” Levi concurred.

Tom smiled and returned to work.  “I’d like to have me a family one of these days.  I don’t care if I have a boy or girl as long as they are healthy.  I reckon though I’ll have so many kids that I’ll eventually get one of each.”  He started to laugh again.  “When I find this gold I’m going to build them a big house.  Maybe I’ll even have a couple of horses.”

Levi once again donned a fake smile, “Sounds like a wonderful dream, Tom.”

Tom frowned as though Levi were the one in need of comforting.  “I’m sure you’ll hit it big as a writer one day and make lots of money.  Maybe even this story will put you on the map.  Make your daughter real proud of her daddy I bet.”

“We’ll see!”

After several minutes Tom’s shovel struck metal with a loud “clink”.  He looked at Levi the excited way you’d expect a man to appear who just uncovered treasure.  Levi crawled to the edge of the hole.  Tom reached into the dirt with his hands and pulled free a small length of chain.  Levi jumped to his feet and Victoria stood with him.

“It’s a chain!” he called with the excitement of a small child opening presents on Christmas morning.  Tom’s veins popped as he pulled and pulled but the chain gave way little.  He grabbed his shovel and hacked at the dirt with renewed vigor.

Tom cleared more dirt and pulled the chain again.  The edge of a wooden chest emerged from underneath the soil as though the earth gave birth to it.

“Here it is!” he shouted.

Levi and Victoria scanned for approaching ghosts.

Tom jammed his shovel under the chest and tried his best to pry it out of the ground.  The handle bent and nearly cracked, so with an impatient sigh he continued digging more dirt from around it.  After several more minutes he threw the shovel down and pulled on the chain once more with great strain in his face.  The chest emerged from out of its hole and lay flat at his feet.  The wood had holes in it but the structure of the chest appeared intact.

“Get your pencil and paper ready Mr. Writer!” Tom exclaimed.

He chopped at the decayed wood with his shovel sucking air like a winded smoker.  Levi despite his fear wanted to see what treasures the chest held.  Once Tom had splintered enough pieces, he reached into the chest and ripped pieces of broken wood from the chest’s top until he had created a large enough hole.  He plunged in with both hands.

“I feel something heavy and metal,” he said with a mild strain in his voice.

“Can you pull it out?”

“Yes, almost got it.”  He pulled forth his hands and held before him a rusted ball of iron the size of a softball.  He scraped away the soil hoping gold might peek through but saw nothing more than a common cannon ball.  Disappointed, he tossed it aside and reached once more into the chest.  To his dismay he pulled forth once again another ball worth nothing more than a good story as to how it was discovered.  Tom pitched this one aside and busted a larger hole in the top of the chest with his shovel.

“Hand me that lantern!”

Levi lowered it into the hole and Tom shined it over the broken chest.  He sighed deeply.  “There’s nothing in here but old balls and shot.  Why in the hell would pirates take the time to bury this?”

Levi knew the answer and he felt foolish for not realizing how obvious it should have been.  Pirates didn’t bury treasure.  What fool did such a thing?  The chests prevented Mary and William from escaping.  No treasure existed here and yet how many people died seeking it?  How many people entered these woods in search of wealth after hearing a fairy tale?

Tom turned the chest over.  Nothing but a pile of shot and cannon balls rolled out to his dismay.  He reached for the chain and pulled on the other end.

“I bet there’s something attached to the other end of this.  Maybe it’s another chest,” he said straining.

“Um, perhaps that isn’t a good idea,” Levi suggested.

The dirt gave way and Tom fell backwards as an object flew free from the soil and landed next to him.  Tom brushed off the dirt and held the lantern over it.  He held in his hands a femur bone and on the ground at his feet laid the remains of a foot broken free from the bone as he pulled on the chain.  He threw the bone in disgust and in a panic clawed at the sides of the pit.

“These woods are cursed!  There is a dead body in this hole!” He clawed at the sides to escape what felt like how own personal grave.  “Help me!  Help me!”

Levi reached out and grabbed the man’s sweaty, dirty arm and yanked him from the hole.  Victoria clung to Levi’s waist.

“There isn’t treasure here, just death!  Help me fill in this hole before the pirates see what I’ve done!”

Tom grabbed the tip of his shovel handle and pulled it out.  He threw heaping mounds of dirt onto the old chest and bones.  He paused for a moment with his chest heaving and pleaded Levi for help.  “Please help me, brother!”

Levi seized a thick branch and scraped in the dirt the best he could with one hand.  Victoria released Levi, knelt and pushed in small handfuls.  They grunted and strained until they had filled the hole but it clearly appeared disturbed.

“We have to get out of here!  I’m sorry I asked you to stay!” Tom exclaimed.  He held his left arm in pain.  “Get on to your wife and kids before the ghosts come!  I’m going back to my boat!”  Tom snatched his lantern and shovel and fled without a farewell.

“Where is he going?” Victoria asked.

“To his boat I think.”

“The person in the hole; did something bad happen to them like it did to me and Charley?”

“Yes honey, something bad happened to them,” he replied staring at the soft dirt.

“Did they go to heaven or do you think they are still stuck here like me?”

Levi’s heart sunk.  He had never considered they had not passed onward and his skin crawled.  What if they lingered near?

“I want to go!” Victoria pulled on his arm.  “Why is he running away so fast?”

He caught one last glimpse of Tom’s lantern before it disappeared.

Levi snatched Victoria and ran after Tom but not along the same route on which Tom fled for fear pirates might appear in his path on their way to the treasure which, unbeknownst to them, didn’t exist.

“Where are we going?” Victoria asked.

“We need to make sure Tom is okay,” he answered through huffs and puffs.  “His story is almost over.”

His indirect route delayed his arrival on the beach.  Tom already sat in his boat smacking at the water with his paddle when Levi and Victoria emerged into the moonlight.  Levi thought he must have appeared no different the day he fled the creek in his kayak after hearing a branch snap.

“Go home!” Tom tried to shout but he couldn’t muster the breath.  He stopped rowing and motioned with his hands for Levi to leave.  “Get out of here,” he tried to say, but he had no gas left.

Levi ignored Tom’s waves.  He set Victoria into the sand then fell on his knees next to her, fixated on Tom’s position.

The sound of harp music drifting on a delicate breeze once again reached Levi’s ears as it had when he first spotted the Spanish galleon.

Tom heard it first and peered over the water.  The same Spanish galleon Levi saw earlier manifested over the creek and floated towards Tom’s boat.  Its hull and sails appeared light and wispy as though fabricated them from clouds.  Levi had seen the real ship as it existed hundreds of years ago and now witnessed the spectral version that even today still haunted these woods and one Tom Pipken evidently encountered on the night he fled the treasure.

Victoria cried out and wrapped her arms around Levi.  Levi, too paralyzed with awe, failed to seek cover for them.

Tom shouted an obscenity and smacked the water in panic with his oars to remove his boat from the ship’s path but little strength remained in his arms and lungs.  One oar lock came loose from his boat and Tom dropped the oar in the water.  He scrambled to the side to retrieve it but in doing so he released the oar in his other hand.  It too disappeared into the water.  The ominous ghost ship approached like a storm front and the harp music grew louder.  Tom grabbed his shovel and plunged it into the water.  For a few seconds he achieved a little propulsion, but the ship fell upon him and fear struck him in the heart.  He dropped the shovel and grabbed his arm.  The intense pain pulled him downward and he sat on the edge of his boat aware of nothing other than the immense stabbing agony slicing through his chest.  The moment he sat, the boat tilted heavily to one side and he fell into the creek.  If the pain had not stricken him so violently, he never would have made such a novice boating mistake.

Tom did not resurface; he had no struggle left and he sank beneath the water as the faint shadow of the ghostly ship passed over him.  The coins he had discovered on the beach remained inside the boat destined for members of the community to find.  The town recovered no remains of Tom.  Local fisherman pulled his boat ashore and left it to rot out of superstitious fear.

Levi held Victoria close, stroked her hair and rocked her as she cried into her chest.  Levi said a prayer for Tom.  His dream of having a wife and child never came true.  He died from fear as had another pirate earlier in the night when he fled from the storm woman.

To his left the pirate ship rose and glided through the tall pines.  Tom’s death so depressed Levi he paid little attention to the phenomenon.  The ship emitted no glow but the lanterns of a few crew members pacing on deck lit the trees as they passed.  Shouted orders echoed over the deck as the ship slowed and came to rest hovering sixty feet or so in the open air and moonlight.  The tops of the trees swayed to and fro through the hull of the ship like sea grass in the ocean.  The anchor chain roared as it plummeted through the trees and struck the floor of the woods with a loud clang.  Levi heard a few more voices barking commands.

He carried Victoria, who still clung to him crying, to the water to get a better perspective.  The spectral ship floated in front of the moon but its ethereal form hid the moon’s radiance no better than a sheet of worn wax paper.  The hull and sails now glowed with a golden brilliance.  The ship rocked and swayed in mid-air and at times even turned as though it battled the waves of real water.  Ghostly figures climbed over the railing and disappeared behind the trees as they descended to the ground.

“Those are the pirates,” Victoria hissed.  “We have to hide!”

The sight of ghostly, brutal spirits spilling over the side of their phantom ship chilled them and any normal person might flee and drown themselves in the Bay.  Levi however had endured so many frightening experiences over the course of the evening they had nearly numbed him … nearly.  He wasn’t so foolhardy as to stand in the open on the beach, but he also knew the pirates remained fixated on seeking their mythical treasure; the bounty that did not exist.  They would not disturb him if he did not disturb them.

“We will hide,” he said to her.  “I will protect you.”

Levi left the beach, once more ran into the woods and decided never in his life to set foot on the beach again.  As he neared the trees and the wind died, he heard the gruff arguments of digging pirates.

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