Officer Balki jumped away from Captain Gorpley’s whirling blade. He thrust at the young man, who countered with a clang of steel.
“Balki!” Mary Anne screamed as the pirate made another, harder thrust. “Watch out!”
Balki turned to the small woman, and that was all the distraction the crafty pirate needed. He smacked Balki’s wrist. The younger man dropped his sword, and the pirate kicked it across the deck. He tripped the lanky officer, who went sprawling. Mary Anne started to help him, but one of the pirates held her back.
“How good are you now, you little nitwit?” Captain Gorpley snarled, pointing his sword at Balki’s chest. “You and that groveling cousin of yours have been nothing but trouble for me.” He moved further, taking delight in watching the Myposian youth scramble against the deck. “You know, Officer, this isn’t necessary. You and your cousin could join my crew and save your lives. We’re willing to accommodate the ladies, too.”
“I bet you are,” Jennifer muttered.
Officer Balki’s eyes flared. “Never! I will never join your crew. I am a member of the USS Dimintri. I refuse to plumber anyone!”
Captain Gorpley sighed. “What a shame,” he said. “Such a fine young man, cut to ribbons in his prime.” He held the sword at Balki’s neck, happy to see the fear on the officer’s face. Mary Anne shrieked and lunged for the pirate, only to be restrained once more. Balki closed his eyes and hoped for a quick death.
“NO!” Balki’s eyes snapped open. Captain Gorpley made a face and rubbed his back. Balki looked beyond him and saw Captain Laurence. Balki never saw him look so angry. He’d removed his jacket and vest, and his ruffled shirt hung half-off his arms. His eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets. Sweat glistened on his revealed chest. He clutched Balki’s lost sword in one hand and pointed it at Gorpley’s back. “Let Balki go, Gorpley! It’s me you want. I’m the captain of this ship. I’m the one who sailed into your territory. This is Balki’s first trip. He doesn’t know anything. Leave him alone!”
“Cousin, you saved me!” Balki exclaimed. “You are not a cowardly lion after all!”
Captain Laurence sighed. “I couldn’t let him skewer you. You’re the best friend I ever had.”
Captain Gorpley rolled his eyes. “All right, Appleton, if you want to die in complete humiliation, I’ll take you on.”
“No!” Balki wailed. “Please, cousin, you are no good with swords! You couldn’t fence if your life depended on it.”
Captain Laurence glared at his taller relative. “Balki, if you haven’t noticed, our lives do depend on it.”
The taller man grinned slimily. “Well, then, this should be done in no time.” He lunged for Captain Laurence, who had enough sense to get out of the way and rush to the other side of the deck.
The Dimintri’s captain swung his sword at Gorpley, hoping to connect with something. He connected with the remainder of the mast. Gorpley took him by the arm and helped him remove his blade from the wood.
“Where were we?” Captain Laurence asked. “Oh, yes.” He launched himself at the pirate, but Gorpley put his hand on Captain Laurence’s head and pushed back as the shorter man waved his weapon. Gorpley finally let him go. He crashed through the crowd and nearly fell over the side.
“Oh, Laurence,” warned Jennifer, who tried to push through a crowd of cheering pirates, “be careful!”
Balki and Mary Anne, both imprisoned between two hairy goons bearing very big knives, watched helplessly. Balki couldn’t stand seeing his beloved cousin defeated. “Right, Cousin!” he called, indicating the pirate captain. “Aim for his right!”
Captain Laurence heeded his cousin’s words. He thrust at the pirate’s right arm. The pirate stopped sneering when Captain Laurence’s sword barely missed his elbow. He countered and ducked behind him. “Thanks for joining us, Appleton. Why didn’t you do that before?”
“Left, cousin!” Balki called out. Captain Laurence went for Gorpley’s side, but Gorpley lifted his arm and let the shorter sailor pass under it. “No, your other left!”
Captain Laurence shot his cousin a look. “Balki, could you be more specific?”
“I’d prefer if he were less specific.” Gorpley nodded at the pirate closest to Balki. “Could you shut the Mypiot up?”
The huge pirate grabbed Balki and clamped a hand over his mouth. Balki struggled, but the pirate was twice his size. His hand covered more than half his face.
Captain Laurence’s eyes grew even wider. “I’ve had enough of this! You let my cousin and my crew go and get off this ship!” He lunged for Gorpley again. “Before I get REALLY angry!”
“Oh, like that would scare me,” the pirate captain sneered. He met the enraged sailor head-on and pressed against him. “Face it, Appleton, you’re the loser, and I’m the winner. You’re going to be Myposian lamb shish-kabob in five seconds, and I’m going to turn this oversized pile of floating logs into ashes and take whatever’s left and hide it on the nearest tiny island.”
“Never!” Captain Laurence pushed off with a force that startled Gorpley. He flew against the remainder of the mast, hitting it hard. The Dimintri’s captain pointed his sword at the dazed pirate’s neck. “This is a pirate story, Captain Gorpley. The good guys never lose.”
“There’s a first time for everything.”
A squeal from Mary Anne diverted Captain Laurence’s attention. The pirates pressed knives against her and Balki’s throats. Balki struggled harder, his voice muffled from under the thug’s hand. The rest of the pirates aimed their weapons at the Dimintri’s crew. Three thugs surrounded Jennifer, who brandished her lethal umbrella. Gorpley looked triumphant. “Drop your sword, Appleton, or your cousin, your lady friends, and your crew will die before you can figure out where to stick the thing.”
“You wouldn’t!” Captain Laurence hissed.
“Try me,” Gorpley returned. Two of the pirates took hold of Jennifer. She kicked and squawked, but they ignored her.
The captain panted for a few minutes, his eyes darting from his cousin’s frightened countenance to Jennifer’s angry one, to the stunned expressions on his crew, to the horrified expression on Mary Anne. He couldn’t let the pirate win, but he knew that he wasn’t bluffing, either. He really would hurt the girls, Balki, and his crew. He finally threw the sword across the deck.
“Laurence, no!” Jennifer screamed. “Don’t give up! Don’t let him win!”
Captain Laurence gazed sadly at her as two of the pirates bound his wrists. “Jennifer, he would have killed you. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I know I shouldn’t let a bully like him win, but it’s not worth it to spill your innocent blood.”
“Nice to see that you came to your senses, Appleton,” Gorpley said with a grin. “Now, how would you and Bartokomos like to be the first to find out how hungry the sharks in these waters really are?” He nodded at his crew. “The idiot cousins can walk the plank.”
“No! Balki, stop them!” Mary Anne screamed. Jennifer struggled to reach her parasol, which one of the thugs now had on his belt. It took a whole group of extras to drag the Myposian officer over to his cousin, bind them with stout rope, and shove them both on the thick length of wood that every ship was required to have in a pirate story. Mary Anne burst into tears.
Gorpley leered at her. Mary Anne drew back. “Don’t worry, little one. My men are beasts, but they wouldn’t harm beauties like you and your friend.” He kissed Mary Anne’s hand. She quickly pulled it back and rewarded the pirate’s gallantry with a slap.
Balki’s gasped and would have jumped off the plank and run to Mary Anne’s defense if he weren’t being prodded by a horde of Gorpley’s beasts. “Do not touch her, Gorpley! She is a fair flowering plant of ladyhood, and too nice for a bad pirate like you!”
Gorpley glared at his men. “Haven’t you made those two walk the plank yet?”
Balki gulped as he and his cousin edged closer and closer to the end of the board. “Cousin, are we in trouble?”
“YES!!!!” Captain Laurence hissed. “Yes! We are in very, very BIG trouble!”
“Bigger than being snowed in or blown up or drowned in the basement?”
Gorpley leaned on the remainder of the mast. “I was wondering something. I know there’s a million dollars in gold bullion somewhere on this ship, but I don’t know where. Now, wouldn’t a nice Myposian officer and his cousin like to help a poor pirate find that lovely treasure?”
“Don’t even try, Gorpley,” Captain Laurence snarled. “We’d never tell you where it is, even to save our lives. That gold belongs to the US government.”
“Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous!” Balki added defiantly. “We would never tell you that it is in the locked steel boxes in Cousin Laurence’s room.”
“Balki!” Captain Laurence groaned. “No one is supposed to know that but you and me!”
Balki looked quite embarrassed. “Um, I shouldn’t have said that, huh?”
“Thank you, Officer,” Gorpley leered. “Now, why don’t you boys take a nice long walk of this short plank? I’m sure the sharks will appreciate it.”
Captain Laurence looked down at the blue waters of the Atlantic. He didn’t see any sharks, but he didn’t see the bottom, either. This wasn’t good. “Gorpley, please,” he begged. “You have the treasure and the girls. What more do you want?”
The pirate swung his sword at the two bound officers and barely missed Balki. “I want to see you two wet. Making heroes walk off the plank is a hobby of mine.” He nodded at his men. “I’m getting tired of this. Why don’t you boys shove them in and get it over with?”
The last thing Captain Laurence heard before he and Balki stumbled overboard was Jennifer’s shocked scream.
“That’s not right!”
“What’s not right?”
Tess’ eyes were bright. “Captain Laurence is supposed to win the duel! The bad pirate is supposed to walk the plank, not the captain and his cousin! They’re the good guys!” She looked upset. “Who kills Captain Gorpley?”
“No one does.” Larry frowned. “Captain Laurence didn’t have a choice about giving up the duel. Captain Gorpley would have killed his friends.”
“You mean, he lives?” Tess complained. “Geez, what kind of a story is this?”
Balki tried to soothe the girl. “Tess, you take this story much too seriously. It is just something Cousin Larry and I make up for you. We can stop now, if you want.”
“No, Balki.” Tess smiled. “I’m ok. I was just a little disappointed, that’s all. Go on.”
“I’ll take it from here, cousin,” Balki added. He continued the narrative...
Night fell on the two ships that stood side-by-side in the blue waters of the Atlantic. No one noticed the mismatched pair who climbed the rough wood sides of the smaller of the two vessels, the USS Dimintri. Two young men, one tall, one short, flopped onto the deck. Both were out of breath.
“Cousin,” Officer Balki Bartokomos puffed, “how did we get untied? We were bound hand and foot, and were going to be food for very big fish!”
Captain Laurence leaned over his cousin and whispered in his ear. Balki grinned. “Ohhhh!” He turned to the camera and shrugged as his cousin surveyed the deck. “Sorry, folks, but you wouldn’t believe it if we told you.”
Balki tapped his cousin on the shoulder. Captain Laurence nearly jumped ten miles. “Balki!” he snapped. “Do not EVER do that again! If the pirates know we’re here, they’ll kill us!” He shivered. “I’ve had enough of my life being threatened for one day!”
“I am sorry, cousin,” Balki apologized. “What we do now?” He looked around, too. The rapidly setting sun cast dark shadows on the deck of the Dimintri. Not a soul was to be seen. “It is so quiet.”
“Yeah,” Captain Laurence added warily, “a little too quiet. I don’t like this.” The two sailors flattened themselves against the side of the staterooms. “Balki, we’ve got to find the girls and the crew and win the ship back.”
An angry shriek cut the eerie silence. The door to the captain’s cabin burst open. A very large, hairy, and tattooed man flew across the deck, right past the surprised cousins. He went head-over-heels into a group of barrels. The light from the cabin illuminated a curvaceous figure in a frilly gown. Golden hair spilled out of its bun and onto her shoulders. She waved a steel-shafted, lace-trimmed parasol in one hand and her clenched fist in the other.
“Try that again, smart boy, and I’ll knock you clear to New York City! I wasn’t kidding when I said that I’m not in the mood for games!”
Captain Laurence gasped. “Miss Lyons?”
“Miss Lyons!” Balki swept the young woman into a hug. “Oh, thank goodness you are not ravished!”
Jennifer Lyons untangled herself from Balki’s eager grasp. “No, I’m ok. One of Gorpley’s baboons tried to ravish me, but he made the mistake of giving me back my parasol.” She nodded at the very big and very unconscious figure. “He chased me around the room a couple of times before I finally got mad and knocked him on the head.”
Captain Laurence made a mental note never to get Jennifer mad. “No kidding.” He peered into the captain’s room as Balki gingerly retrieved the pirate’s sword. “Is there anyone else in there with you?”
“No. Gorpley left me with King Kong and took Mary Anne to the Lady Luck.” She nodded at the larger ship. “They locked the Dimintri’s crew in the hold. Gorpley wants to hold Mary Anne and me for ransom and force your men to join his crew.”
Balki looked horrified. “He has Mary Anne! I’ve got to save her, before he takes her flower away!” The agile Myposian officer took a flying leap over the side of the Dimintri and landed safely on the Lady Luck. He darted around the side, disappearing into the pirate vessel’s main cabin.
“Laurence,” Jennifer exclaimed, “we’ve got to stop him! He doesn’t know what he’s doing! If the pirates catch him, they’ll kill him, or worse!”
Captain Laurence sighed. “I wish he’d look before he leaps onto pirate ships. As usual, I have to come to his rescue.” He nodded at Jennifer. “Come on. We’ll free the crew. I’d feel better if the odds weren’t two hundred against three.” He made a face. “And I want my pistol back! It’s bad enough Balki takes my things without asking, much less pirates!”
As Captain Laurence and Miss Jennifer Lyons climbed between the ships, Officer Balki Bartokomos crept slowly toward the main cabin’s open porthole. He peered into the brightly lit room, wincing at a particularly high-pitched scream. Much to Balki’s surprise, the scream sounded like it came from a man.
“What did you do that for?” Gorpley sat on a feather bed with silk sheets and pillows the size of small continents, rubbing his head. “We were just getting started!”
“If you try starting anything with me, I’ll find a much better place to smack than your head!” Mary Anne brandished her pale blue frilled parasol at the tall pirate.
Gorpley leered. “I love it when they talk dirty.” He lunged for Mary Anne, but she ducked away from him. “Oh, come on, baby, at least give me a chance. What are you waiting for, Christmas?”
“I wouldn’t so much as play Trivial Pursuit with a jerk like you!” Mary Anne snapped. “You killed the man I love and left my best friend in the arms of one of your men! You think I’d actually like you after all that?”
Gorpley shrugged. “It was worth a try.” He jumped at her again. “I’ll take you, girl, whether you love me or not! You don’t have your girlfriend or that brainless immigrant to defend you.” They landed on the bed. Mary Anne dropped the parasol as Gorpley pulled at her dress.
Balki let out an angry growl that matched his cousin’s for volume. He dove into the room, knocking the door off its hinges. “Get off of her, Gorpley! I may be a brainless immigrant, but I do know what love is.” He grabbed Gorpley off of Mary Anne. “And jumping on a lady who says ‘no’ isn’t it.” He delivered a solid left to Gorpley, who crumpled on the floor.
Mary Anne gasped. “Balki, you’re alive! I thought you and Captain Laurence got eaten by the sharks.”
“The sharks didn’t like the way we tasted,” Balki explained. He nodded at Captain Gorpley, who lay unconscious on the floor. “What we should do with him?”
Mary Anne pulled up the sleeve of her gown. “Let’s give him a taste of his own medicine. We’ll tie him up until we can get help.” She nodded. “Give me the sleeves of your shirt.” She pulled the satin comforter off the bed and tugged at a linen sheet. “We’ve got to hurry, before he comes to! Gorpley’s going to blow up the Dimintri at dawn!”
As they bound the groggy pirate, Captain Laurence and Jennifer Lyons inched along the dark passageways to the hold of the Lady Luck. They flattened themselves against the walls, trying to avoid being found by another one of King Kong’s relatives.
The hold was a dank, dark pantry at the bottom of the ship. The crew of the USS Dimintri sat forlornly amid barrels of ale and buckets of beef jerky. They played cards, played the harmonica, traded dirty jokes, and harmonized on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
There was a pretty good musical number going when Captain Laurence snuck over to the closest dancing officer, who happened to be Officer Berman. The balding officer stopped singing and nearly passed out again when he saw Laurence. “Captain! What are you doing here?” He rubbed his eyes. “Beg your pardon, sir, but I thought you were dead!”
“We haven’t departed yet,” the Dimintri’s captain admitted. “Miss Lyons and I are going to get you and the rest of the crew out of here.”
Another crewmember, this one much shorter with a heavy mustache, tangoed over to the captain. “Hey, Captain Appleton, you’re alive!” He slapped the captain on the arm. The captain winced and rubbed his now-sore spot. “Want to join us? The guys were just about to try that ‘Major General’ song from The Pirates of Penzance, the one that goes really fast at the end.”
“No, Officer Lucas, I don’t want to join your musical number.” He nodded at the door. “Where’re they keeping the keys to those chains?”
“Captain Gorpley has them,” Officer Berman said. “He keeps them all on the Sharon Stone key chain on his person.”
“Not anymore, he don’t!” Balki and Mary Anne quickly and quietly joined the crew. Balki happily jingled the keys. “He won’t be needing these! Mary Anne and I have him trussed tighter than a tick-tock clock left on the dock.”
“How’d you manage to do that?” Captain Laurence exclaimed.
Mary Anne looked confused. “Do what?”
Jennifer sighed. “Never mind, Mary Anne.” She took the keys. “Let’s get the crew back to the Dimintri, before Gorpley and all Hell breaks loose.”
Captain Laurence nodded. “We’ve got to find that gold and keep the ship in one piece.” He grinned. “And I know how. I have...”
Balki groaned. “Oh, God, cousin, don’t say it!”
His cousin ignored him. “...A plan!”
A group of figures scattered across the deck of the Lady Luck. Three men knocked the guards on the deck unconscious and took their swords. Another subdued the pirate playing Tetris on his Game Boy in the crow’s nest, and a third “accidentally” body checked a pirate overboard.
Captain Gorpley, now awake, still bound and gagged, and not happy, watched as Captain Laurence Appleton, his first mate, and their female friends searched his quarters high, low, and everywhere else possible for the gold. “Cousin, I am telling you, it no here!” Officer Balki Bartokomos insisted. “We’ve turned over every possible surface, and even some that we didn’t think were possible!”
Jennifer opened one box. “I found our arsenal.” She tossed Balki his sword and Captain Laurence his pistol. Both men looked delighted to have their weapons back. Balki kissed the handle of his blade, and Laurence checked his gun to make sure it was fully loaded and ready.
“Why don’t we ask him where the gold soup is?” Mary Anne pointed at Gorpley with her parasol. “After all, it’s his room.”
Captain Laurence snatched the pirate’s gag off and pointed his pistol at him. “Ok, Gorpley,” he snarled, “you have exactly five seconds to spill your guts, or I’ll do it for you!”
Gorpley snorted. “You couldn’t shoot straight if you had a map. Besides, I’d call my men in here before you could even debate pulling the trigger.”
Balki, Mary Anne, and Jennifer joined him. “What say you now?” He put his sword under Gorpley’s chin. “Cousin may not be a straight shooter, but I am.”
Gorpley gulped. “Now, come on, Bartokomos, there’s no need for bloodshed.”
Jennifer waved her parasol at the bound pirate. “You didn’t seem to have any problem almost shedding Balki and Captain Laurence’s blood earlier.”
Captain Laurence raised his pistol. “Quit stalling, Gorpley. What have you done with the treasure?”
“It’s in the hold, near where I dumped your crew,” Gorpley muttered. “We were going to bury it at some little barrier island off the coast of New Jersey.” He grinned. “Thought I might make enough to start a nice little casino over there. I’d have a cocktail lounge, a buffet, Sinatra headlining, maybe a couple of strippers in the whirlpool. Nothing fancy, just a nice little Taj Mahal.”
“At least he’s not going to bury it on the Turnpike,” Mary Anne joked.
“What are you going to do to me now that you have me?” Gorpley asked. “Do I get the honor of walking the plank?”
Captain Laurence considered the idea, but Balki shot him a look. “No, Gorpley,” the Dimintri’s captain finally conceded, “we’re not going to stoop to your level. You’re going to go out there and tell your men to bring up the gold and put it back on the Dimintri. Then, you and your men will be placed under arrest by the US Navy and taken back to New York City to stand trial.”
“What if I don’t tell my men to give you the gold?” Two sharp-pointed parasols, a sword, and a pistol were thrust in his face in reply. “Ok, ok, I can take a hint. I’ll tell them to get the bullion, if you untie me.”
“Can we trust you?” Captain Laurence asked warily.
“Of course we can trust him, Cousin, don’t be ridiculous.” Balki nodded. “He won’t do anything if he knows we have our weapons across his nose.”
Mary Anne and Jennifer went about untying the pirate. Balki helped him to his feet, and Captain Laurence pointed his pistol at the buccaneer’s back. “One false move, Gorpley, and you’ll look like a Swiss cheese and roast beef sandwich with extra ketchup.”
“Say, Appleton, that sounds pretty good. I have some roast beef in the fridge...”
Captain Laurence prodded him hard with the pistol. “Just go outside!”
Gorpley walked carefully outside. Laurence kept his pistol trained on his back. “Ok, everyone, I want you to go to the hold and let the crew of the Dimintri go, and bring the gold up here while you’re at it.”
“And make it snappy.” Captain Laurence shoved Gorpley a little harder. “My trigger finger is itchy.”
“Cousin, if your finger is itchy, I have a Myposian rash cream that should clear it right up…”
“Balki, my finger is fine. No pagan cures! I need the use of my arms and I don’t want to sleep for three days!”
“Well, if you’d let me do these things right, instead of doing everything in hurry and gulping my potions…”
Gorpley took advantage of the distraction to elbow Captain Laurence in the stomach. He doubled over in pain and dropped the pistol. Gorpley snatched the gun and pointed it at the Captain’s head, dragging him out to the deck. Balki ran to defend his cousin, but Gorpley pointed the gun at him.
“Come any closer, Bartokomos, and I’ll kill him!” Gorpley twisted Laurence’s arms behind his back. Laurence screamed. Balki moved away, his raised sword falling to his side.
“Laurence!” Jennifer gasped. “Gorpley, let him go! I love him!”
Captain Laurence’s eyes widened. “I...I...you...you...love...m...ME?”
“Didn’t I just say that?” Jennifer gazed wistfully at him. “I thought you didn’t know how to stand up for anything, that you’d back down the first time anyone threatened you, but I was wrong. You’re a truly brave man, and a good captain. I think you’re the smartest, most handsome sea captain I’ve ever met.”
The pirate tightened his grip around the Captain. “That’s so sweet.” He made a face, shoving the gun against Laurence’s temple. “I HATE sweet!”
“Drop the gun, Gorpley!” Another voice boomed across the deck of the Lady Luck. The pirate dragged the navy captain around to face a stately looking older man and a small, middle-aged redheaded woman. The woman brandished a steel-handled parasol not unlike Jennifer and Mary Anne’s. “You are under arrest for grand theft, wanton destruction of private property, assault, attempted rape, and attempted murder, among other things.”
“Admiral and Mrs. Wainright!” Balki grinned. “Are we ever happy to see you! Captain Gorpley was going to make Switzerland out of Cousin Laurence and bury the gold soup.”
“Is that all?” Gorpley rolled his eyes. “I did worse stuff than that.” He waved the gun. “If either of you try anything, I’ll blow Captain Appleton to kingdom come.” He looked around. “Ok, boys, you can come out now. We’re going to get out of here.” He smiled slimily. “We’ll take Appleton and the bullion with us. What could be better than hot rocks and a hostage?”
“I’m afraid not, Captain Gorpley.” Two of Wainright’s men stepped away from the mast to reveal the group of men gathered around it. The crew of the Dimintri, dressed as pirates, held them back with their cutlasses. “Your men have been rounded up and disarmed. It’s over, Gorpley.”
“We’re going to keelhaul your guppies and shift your lizards,” Balki added as menacingly as he could.
Mary Anne sighed. “Balki, you’re so dashing when you use that kind of language!”
Three of Wainright’s men pried the pirate away from the helpless captain of the Dimintri. Balki threw his arms around Laurence as he gasped for breath. “Am I all right? Is there much blood? Did anyone call my next of kin?”
“Cousin, you are fine,” Balki explained. “Admiral Wainright arrested Gorpley before he blew you cloud-high.”
Mrs. Wainright made her way around the boys. “Girls! I’m so glad you’re all right! We thought you’d been taken by the pirates!”
The two young women embraced the admiral’s wife. “Aunt Lydia!” Jennifer exclaimed. “Thank goodness! How did the two of you find us out here?”
Balki and Captain Laurence exchanged surprised looks. “Aunt?” Laurence asked. “She’s your aunt?”
“They’re my aunt and uncle,” Jennifer explained. “They were going to join us with our fathers in New York.”
“We were going to meet the Dimintri for a surprise inspection,” Lydia Wainright told the young couples. “My husband was worried about the gold shipment. He knew you would be sailing into treacherous waters and wanted to keep an eye on you.” She waved her own sharp-tipped parasol. “I’m the one who convinced my brother to make those parasols. Parasols are useful things. They’re both decorative and defensive.”
Wainright gazed around. “It looks like my worries were unnecessary.” He nodded proudly at Captain Laurence and Balki. “You and Officer Bartokomos seem to have everything well in hand.”
The two sailors smiled. “Cousin’s brilliant idea actually worked for once,” Balki explained. “Our men hid beneath the covering of the shiny moon and surprised the pirates, dressed in some of the laundry they had in the hold.”
“A sneak attack in disguise!” Wainright slapped Captain Laurence on his shoulder. He winced. “Sorry about that. That was a good bit of quick thinking there, Captain.”
“Thanks, Admiral.” Captain Laurence put his good arm around his cousin. “Balki helped a little, too. He and Mary Anne are the ones who caught Gorpley in the first place. They had him wrapped up like a birthday present in his stateroom before Jennifer and I made it on the ship.”
“Balki was wonderful, Mrs. Wainright!” Mary Anne insisted. “He rescued me in the nick of time! That horrible Captain Gorpley was going to ravish me!”
Balki blushed to the tips of his black-brown hair. “Aww, it’s nothing,” he admitted. “It’s not like I haven’t rescued people in the St. Nicholas of time before.”
“Could we get on with the happy ending?” Jennifer asked impatiently.
“Certainly.” The admiral nodded. “There was a million dollar reward for the capture of Captain Gorpley and the Lady Luck. That money is now yours, along with the Lady Luck, and,” he smiled at the two eager young women, “the hands of my niece and her best friend.” He gestured toward the sailors. “With their consent, of course.”
“Oh, Laurence!” Jennifer embraced him and kissed him passionately. “I love you so much!”
Captain Laurence beamed. “I know.”
“Oh, Balki!” Mary Anne grabbed the tall officer and kissed him with such passion that she nearly knocked him to the floor.
Balki came up dazed. “Uh, yeah,” he gasped. “I love you, too, my little Myposian pig snout pot pie.”
“Balki, you’re so romantic,” Mary Anne giggled.
One of the Admiral’s men brought two medals on a velvet pillow. The admiral pinned a large gold medal on Captain Laurence’s rather tattered ruffled shirt. “These are for bravery and loyalty above and beyond the call of duty.”
The captain grinned. "Gosh, sir, I'm speechless."
Mrs. Wainright presented Balki with a slightly smaller silver medal and attached it to his navy-blue vest. “I get one, too?” the Myposian officer asked in delight.
“You’re as deserving as Captain Appleton,” Lydia Wainright insisted. “Your loyalty to your country and your cousin and your amazing prowess in battle is to be commended.”
Balki turned to his cousin and Jennifer. “Cousin, I’ve been commended! I’m a true American Navy officer now!”
Captain Laurence smiled. “I’m proud of you, Balki. Without you, we never could have save the ship and the gold.”
“Yes, but it was your idea that caught the pirates,” Balki pointed out.
“Yeah, but you were the one who tried to stop Gorpley from taking me hostage.”
“But, cousin…” Jennifer and Mary Anne gave them more passionate kisses before the argument could go any further. Lydia Wainright sighed dabbed at her eyes with a lace handkerchief. She handed one to her husband, which he gratefully accepted. The crew of the Dimintri smiled and “Awwwwww”ed.
The two happy couples held each other and watched as the sun rose, revealing a brilliant, blue-and-gold Technicolor sky. Music crashed, waves rolled, and the Lady Luck and its content crew faded from view...
Tess reached for the remote control. Balki and Larry slept on the other end of the couch, Larry’s curly head resting on Balki’s shoulders. Balki snored too loud to let her sleep. His mouth was open so wide, she was surprised there were no flies darting in and out of it.
She really liked the story Balki and Larry told her. She wished they’d been able to finish it before they fell asleep, but she didn’t have the heart to wake them, so she switched on the TV instead and watched Full House and Family Matters. They were two of her favorite shows, but now they were over, and she wondered what else was on.
“Oooh,” she said to herself as she turned to the next channel, “the late show!” She loved the late show. Old movies that never ran anywhere else could be seen on the late show. Her dad sometimes let her stay up for Flash Gordon or Gunga Din. She set the remote on the table and leaned closer to hear the TV better. She didn’t want to turn it up and wake Balki and Larry.
“How Deep is the Ocean, How Long is the Plank?” She frowned. “What kind of pirate movie is that?” Her eyes widened at the sight of the first two actors on the screen, a tall man with straight black-brown hair and large brown eyes, and a short, nervous man with curly brown hair and hazel eyes. They were awfully familiar. Too familiar, really…
“Cousin, what you doing up there? Are you watching for birds?”
“No, Balki, I’m not looking for birds. I’m looking for pirates. These waters are full of them.”
Tess quickly turned the TV off and settled under the afghan on the couch. That was a little too familiar. Maybe she wasn’t feeling so awake, after all….