Pirates of Pamlico Sound: Chapter 16

🏴 Present day * Nags Head.

Your barn door’s open, hon,” Bernice said to Collin as he dressed for work. She was sitting at her vanity picking out jewelry to wear for the day.

“What?” he said, looking down. “Oh, jeez.” He zipped up half way and then paused, adding half jokingly, “unless … you’d like me to stop?”

“Cool it down, mister frisky. You’re late as it is,” she said.

“Hey, how can I be late? I’m the boss.”

“Well, you may not care about your clients,” she said, standing up, “but I still care about mine. I’ve got a meeting with a dolphin tour company in twenty minutes.”

“Your loss, babe,” he said, approaching her and kissing her on the head. “What are you doing for lunch?”

“Actually, I’m meeting with Jaya and Nicki. Nicki has a certain pirate jacket that she borrowed from me. I think we’d like that back, don’t you?”

“Aye, lass, I do!”

“Okay, you need to refrain from the pirate talk for now,” Bernice said, standing up and fanning herself. “But I sure appreciate the effort.”

The dolphin tour company meeting went well. They were a start-up operation and Bernice’s magazine was the perfect solution to grab the exposure they needed. She offered some helpful suggestions, as always — such as guaranteed free additional tours in the event that the customers don’t encounter dolphins. Bernice had developed a reputation as someone who could truly articulate the perspective of the customer. When she came across companies that could improve their customer service, she offered her opinion in ways that most reasonable business owners could understand.

This talent gave her the confidence to do something other advertisers rarely did — turn down the occasional client. If you’re not going to do this right, she’d tell them, then you’re not going to be successful and you’re going to feel as though you’ve wasted your money on my business. But, if you take my advice, you’re going to see the return on investment that you want. She’d built up an impressive list of profitable clientele in this way, and the dolphin tour company became her latest addition to this list.

At lunch time, Bernice arrived first to the bagel shop. It was a new franchise shop from some chain that promised authentic New York-style bagels, whatever that meant. Bernice had never been to Manhattan, although she knew a fair deal about the city. What did those big shots on Madison Avenue know about real world advertising that she didn’t, she wondered.

She’d arrived not only first of the three women, but also a solid half-hour prior to their pre-arranged time. She grabbed one of those free weekly tabloids from a stack near the door and selected a nearby booth to pass the time.

She leafed through the paper as she waited for her girlfriends to arrive. There were some rather boring political articles in the front section, some real estate and rental listings in the back, and an extensive section of adult personal ads. She understood the first four categories perfectly well: Men Seeking Women, Women Seeking Men, Men Seeking Men, and Women Seeking Women. However, a fifth category of “Anything Goes” listed a few people seeking arrangements that truly pushed the envelope. She continued to flip through the pages and an auction notice set in vivid color caught her eye. Below many pictures of items to be auctioned, she read the main text, which was offset slightly next to a photograph of Elsie Girard:

Girard Galleries in Nags Head is pleased to present the estate of the renowned OBX collector, Arthur Hitchings of Roanoke, who passed away recently leaving behind an exquisite collection of museum quality furniture, paintings, and jewelry rooted in eastern North Carolina history. This important collection represents a rare opportunity for collectors …

Below that was the date and contact information for Girard Galleries. She was sure she knew how that auction house made enough money to afford such nice ads. Collin alone had coughed up $21,000 recently for just one item — one spectacular item though. Boy, she thought, that Elsie Girard has a great business. But, the ad did catch her attention. She ripped this page from the paper and made sure her calendar was open to attend that auction, if for no other reason than to browse through all of that intriguing OBX history, which she’d been so steeped in after finding the dress.

Nicki and Jayne showed up within minutes of each other. Nicki had brought a shopping bag along containing Bernice’s prized pirate jacket and sash. Normally, they’d have discussed their experiences over the phone as the events unfolded. However, they’d agreed not to discuss the subject again until Nicki and Jayne both had a fair chance at testing the jacket’s potency for themselves.

Both women seemed excited to start, but Nicki overpowered Jayne. “Let me go first,” she said pulling out the jacket and sash and laying them on the table. All three women placed their hands on the jacket as Nicki spoke. “I have three words about this jacket, okay? And they are as follows: Oh. My. God!”

“What happened?!” Bernice and Jayne said in unison.

“Well, we went to Ocracoke. We had a great day with a bike ride and a romantic picnic, and then Victor put the jacket on in the van during the ferry ride home.”

“So you were,” Jayne began, “together in the van?”

“We weren’t just ‘together’ in the van, Jayne. Girl, I think the van’s going to need an alignment after what happened in the back.”

They all laughed loudly and peered around to make sure no one could hear them.

“So, Jayne,” said Bernice, “tell us if we’re both crazy or if there’s something to this.”

“Well, you are both completely crazy,” Jayne said, adding excitedly, “but not about this.”

“Details!” Nicki demanded.

“It was … How can I put this? It was the most impressive pot of dahl I’ve ever experienced.”

“So, what?” Nicki asked, “You … cooked in the jacket?”

“Actually, I was trying to cook dinner, but Jaya … He did all of the cooking.” She broke into a quiet giggle.

Together, Bernice and Nicki said, “The kitchen?!”

“Quiet down, ladies,” Jayne said, adding quietly with a stifled laugh, “We had what you might call a Mop & Glo experience.”

Nicki chimed in. “Girl, they don’t call that the ‘triple action’ floor cleaner for nothing, eh?”

“Look,” Bernice said, “this can’t be just some freak coincidence, can it?”

Nicki and Jayne shook their heads. They certainly loved the experiences they’d had related to the jacket. But, they also were slightly scared to think that some unknown power had shaped those experiences.

“Tell me again,” said Nicki, “where you got this jacket.”

“I bought it from this woman,” Bernice said, pulling out the ad she’d clipped from the tabloid and pointing to the photo. “Elsie Girard. And, she’s holding another huge auction on Saturday.”

“Is that all you know about this thing?” Nicki asked.

Bernice hesitated. She’d never told them about the dress or the diary she’d been poring over with intense interest since she acquired it — or the scrap of washed-out parchment, for that matter. “Well,” she said, “there is one other thing I’ve held back, and it’s sort of a surprise.”

Nicki and Jayne’s eyes lit up with anticipation.

“There was one other article of clothing in the bag,” Bernice continued. “It was slightly damaged, as was this jacket, and I’ve completely restored it.”

“Good lord, what was it?” asked Jayne.

“Well, it was a dress, a beautiful dress from the same period. I’d wanted to wait until you both came to visit to show you or even tell you about it.”

“Have you worn the dress?” Nicki asked.

“Yes, I have, but it doesn’t have the same effect that the jacket appears to have on men. It’s, apparently, just a dress. But an extremely beautiful one.”

Bernice decided not to talk about the diary or the parchment, which had stirred new thoughts and possibilities in her mind that she knew Nicki and Jayne would not be able to comprehend. This was not because she believed they were any less intelligent than her, of course. Rather, it had to do with the way these newly acquired items seemed to speak to her on a personal, rather intimate level. She was beginning to grasp the nature of Aithne’s interaction with the natural world, a perspective that she’d begun to understand and yet one that she may not be able to articulate to her friends — at least not yet.

Despite her concealing this important, yet private, aspect of the story from her friends, she’d already involved them in her adventure by sharing the jacket, and she definitely wanted their continued participation. “What do you say,” she suggested, folding the jacket and placing it back into the shopping bag, “that we attend that auction on Saturday and ask Elsie if she knows anything further about the history of this thing?”

“Definitely,” said Jayne.

“We’re in,” said Nicki.

“Great,” said Bernice, realizing that they’d been sitting in this restaurant for quite some time without eating. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t I buy you both lunch now before they kick us out for loitering. After all, I’m supposed to be this high-powered executive who runs an extremely prosperous advertising agency, right?”

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☠️ Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog called “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He’s also contributes to various Medium.com publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. “Chapter number” background photo atop piece is adapted from “Light Reading” by Martin (Flickr, Creative Commons).