“Frederick has been captured by pirates!” Constance announced as she arrived.
Mother looked up from her paper, startled. “However did that happen?”
Constance sat and poured herself some tea. The St John-Smythes were on vacation and were relaxing in the hotel lounge. “He went yachting with a few friends. They all jumped overboard when the pirates appeared but Freddie didn’t want to get his new linen jacket wet.” She took a delicate sip of tea before continuing. “Freddie’s old friend Toby jumped. Apparently they swam to shore using a life ring they had grabbed from Toby’s yacht.”
“But we are in Portugal! There are no pirates in Portugal!”
Constance shrugged. “Apparently there are now.”
“Well goodness knows this place has gone downhill but really, pirates? That is inexcusable, I shall have to have a word with management.”
“We should probably do something about Frederick first.”
As if he had been listening at the door, the very person being spoken of walked into the room.
“Freddie!” Constance jumped from her chair.
Mother, who hadn’t quite digested the news of her son’s kidnapping, was less surprised but still relieved. “Dearest, you’re safe. Good for you.”
Frederick threw himself into a chair and signalled a waiter that he’d like a cocktail. “Of course I’m safe, what did you think?”
“We were told that you were captured by pirates.”
“Oh that. Yes, I was.”
Constance and Mother waited for further explanation in vain. Finally a frustrated Constance said, “Well? What happened? How did you escape?”
The eldest St John-Smythe child shrugged. “They let me go.”
Constance made a derisive noise. “They let you go? Just like that.”
He looked at his sister. “Yes.”
Constance frowned and was about to protest when Mother interjected. “Frederick, tell us what happened.”
Frederick sighed and ordered another drink. “It’s a lot of fuss over nothing. Toby, Bishop and I decided to go sailing, Toby has his yacht down here for the season you see. We were quite a ways out when we discovered that there was no gin. Quite an oversight you’ll both agree. Of course I demanded an immediate return to shore and Toby was in the process of obliging when another boat pulled alongside.” He stopped to take a long swallow of his drink. “I hoped that perhaps these new arrivals would have some gin on board and leaned over to ask when I suddenly found myself with a rather large gun in my face.”
Constance squealed involuntarily. “Freddie! How terrible for you! Whatever did you do?”
Frederick gave his sister a withering look. “I asked them if they had any gin of course.”
Constance looked eagerly at her older sibling. “And?”
“They did, but it was a very poor brand.”
The eldest St John-Smythe girl looked to Mother for support. “Mother…”
“Frederick, stop teasing and tell us what happened.”
He resumed his story. “When I found out the quality of the gin they had, I lost interest. I asked them what they wanted. They said they wanted Toby’s boat and were taking us all hostage.” Constance gulped in fear when she heard this but kept silent. “I looked around and saw that Toby and Bishop had abandoned ship. What else could I do? I wasn’t going to ruin a perfectly good suit by jumping into that water so I agreed to accompany them.”
“Oh Frederick, how could you?”
Frederick looked defensive but all he said by way of explanation was, “This suit was handmade for me.” Mother shook her head in despair. “Anyway, I was taken aboard their vessel, which I have to say I wouldn’t kennel my dogs on, not as nice as old Toby’s boat. My hands were tied and I was made to sit on the deck while a swarthy man with an atrociously-groomed beard stood watch over me. We sat in silence for a while and I began to grow bored so engaged him in conversation.”
“You didn’t!” Constance’s hand flew to her chest in shock. “What did you talk about?”
“I asked him how much he thought I was worth and what he would do with the money.” I don’t know how well he understood me but he declined to reply. I kept talking. After all, what else was there to do?”
“I asked questions about their ship, about the job of piracy and what qualifications it took to become a pirate. I highly doubted that any of these men were real pirates, there was nary an eye patch nor parrot amongst the lot of them. The conversation, if you’ll excuse the use of the term, was still one-sided, my captors choosing to remain silent.
“The first man watching me walked away and a second came to stand guard. I continued to question him about the ins and outs of becoming a pirate. I enquired if the clothes were provided and recommended a very good tailor. I wondered aloud if they slept on the ship or whether they had a hovel on land. This new guard seemed much more interested in my questions, I could tell by the way he kept looking at me, but still he kept silent.
“I began to suggest ways in which he could invest the undoubtedly vast amount of money they would surely get for someone such as I, and proposed that perhaps we could come to some arrangement. You see I have a superior idea for making money that needs only a minimum investment from a willing and adventurous backer. I described my plan in great length but still no reply from my guard.
“After a quarter hour of my making helpful suggestions and offering my guidance, the second guard walked off. I was left alone for what seemed like ages when my guard returned. He grabbed me from the deck and untied my hands. Without a word he returned me to Toby’s yacht. They sailed away without a glance in my direction. Imagine, leaving me alone on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I managed to get myself and Toby’s boat back to shore and returned to the hotel and your charming company.” He smiled wickedly at his sister.
“But Freddie, why did they just let you go like that?”
Frederick took another sip of his drink. “You know, the only reason I can think of is they were intimidated by my intellect. Or they feared that I would drink all of their gin.” He waved a hand. “Shame. There sailed away a very solid business opportunity.”
Copyright Kelly Evans