Welcome to chapter 11 of Arena of Souls, my new, Doc Savage-style, pulp adventure. A new chapter every week! If you missed the previous chapters, you can start at the beginning here:
Arena of Souls
Chapter 11: The Captain
“Brock Stone. It’s been too long.” The corners of Bill Dewitt’s eyes crinkled as he shook hands with Stone and Trinity. The years had been kind to the man Stone knew as “Captain.” More accurately, Dewitt had looked like an old man for as long as Stone could remember. Decades spent at sea had bleached his thinning hair and thick beard, and baked his skin to a leathery brown. His grip remained strong and he moved with the vigor of a much younger man.
“Good to see you again, Captain.”
Dewitt was an old friend of Stone’s grandfather and, in years past, had regaled Stone and his friends with tales of the sea. Many were embellished with ghost ships, sea monsters, and mermaids, but they were also sprinkled with the kinds of details that only an experienced sailor could provide. Dewitt had sailed most, if not all of the known world, and served in the United States Navy during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War. The latter conflict had soured him on the Navy so much that he’d retired, bought a fishing boat, and spent the next two decades trawling the waters of Chesapeake Bay.
While Dewitt made coffee, Stone and Trinity admired the contents of his sitting room. Fishing nets that still carried the faint smell of brine hung from the ceilings. Paintings of shipwrecks adorned the walls above bookshelves that brimmed with artifacts of his sailing career, as well as countless old volumes of maritime history, their spines cracked and pages yellowed. According to Dewitt, the furnishings, simple table and wooden chairs, came from an eighteenth century pirate ship.
“This is promising,” Trinity whispered.
“I should have thought of him right away. I’ve never met anyone who knows as much about the sea as Captain.”
Dewitt entered the room, carrying a tray with coffee in an ornate, china pot, along with three delicate mugs. “I don’t keep milk or sugar in the house, so you’ll have to drink it black.”
That was fine by Stone, who preferred his coffee unadulterated. Trinity managed to hide her distaste for the dark, bitter liquid, taking small sips and smiling politely as Stone and Dewitt spent a few minutes catching up. Stone evaded Dewitt’s questions about where he’d been and what he’d been doing the past few years. Instead, he directed the conversation toward the places he’d seen during his time in the Army, of which there were plenty.
Finally, Dewitt set his cup on the table and leaned back in his chair, his expression grave. “I assume this is more than a social call. Don’t think I’m not glad to see you, but we haven’t exactly stayed in close touch since you went away.”
Stone drained his coffee cup and placed it next to Dewitt’s. “I’m hoping you can help me. I need to know about the Triangle.”
Dewitt laughed. “Oh, I have stories aplenty about that place. Did I ever tell you about the mermaid that tried to drown me? Red hair and the biggest…” He paused when Trinity cleared her throat loudly. “Sorry, young lady. I haven’t spent much time in the company of the fairer sex. At least, not the ones willing to spend time with you for free. Of course, there was one girl in Havana.” His eyes grew cloudy and he seemed to be seeing something far away.
“Captain?” Stone gently brought the old man back to the present.
“Don’t mind me. Just enjoying pleasant memories. Now, which story would you like to hear?”
“We’re looking for a place.” Stone took out a map on which he’d circled the area where he expected to find his grandfather’s island. “It’s somewhere in here.”
Dewitt’s face darkened. “I don’t think so.” He handed the map back to Stone. “I know the maps of this area well, and none of them show an island in this spot.”
“Exactly.” Stone fixed him with a level stare. “Which is why I need you to tell me where it is.”
Dewitt looked away.
“You know, don’t you?” Trinity whispered.
“Captain, did my grandfather ever tell you about the sinking of the Syvarris?” Stone asked.
Dewitt stiffened. He rose from his seat and shuffled to the window, the spring gone from his step. “Don’t ask this of me, son. You should stay as far away from that place as possible.”
“Why?” Stone and Trinity chorused.
“Because you’ll never make it to the island alive.”
“My grandfather made it there and back again, didn’t he?”
Dewitt whirled about to face them. “You have no idea how many good men have lost their lives in that patch of ocean. Thousands, and those are just the ones I know of. That whole place is unnatural. The current is the strongest I’ve ever seen, and it pulls a ship over razor sharp coral reefs like a child playing with a toy. The weather’s all wrong, too. Lightning shoots out of a cloudless sky. The wind changes direction like a woman changes her hat.” This time he didn’t apologize to Trinity. “Your grandfather defied the odds. I don’t know how he made it onto that island alive, and I certainly don’t know how he got away again, but it was a fluke. If you try for that island, you’ll die.”
Stone nodded slowly. “I understand. But I’m going anyway.”
“Didn’t you hear a word I said?”
“I heard it all, and I promise you, I’ve faced worse. Much worse” He rose from his chair and moved closer to Captain. “Grandfather left a message for me. I’m in danger, and will be until I find the island and learn what secrets it hides.” He grasped Dewitt’s shoulder. “I appreciate your concern, but I’m going no matter what. Either I sail around like a blind fool until I stumble across it, or you point me in the right direction. It’s up to you.”
Dewitt’s shoulders sagged. “All right. Your grandfather was the stubbornest man I ever knew, but I think you might have him bested. Give me that map.” He took a pen from his writing desk, made a dot on the map, jotted several notes beneath it, and handed it back to Stone.
“So Grandfather didn’t tell you what’s on the island?”
Dewitt shook his head. “He didn’t tell me a thing about the island. He told me about the sinking—how and where it happened. That was enough. I knew it had to be the same island. It’s the only one for leagues.”
“Thank you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.” Stone shook hands with the old man.
“Just do me one favor,” Dewitt said. “Come back alive.”