I looked over at the sound of my name. At the time, I was carrying a heavy crate of bottles for the old shop owner who was clearing a cluttered bench to accommodate the burden.
On the step outside the open shop door, our letter carrier in her stark green and white uniform waved an envelope over her head.
“Letter,” she barked.
“No,” I answered.
The letter carrier grit her teeth. “I wasn’t giving you a choice—!”
Surprise seized her round face as she realized I was busy and my hands full. In a flash, she darted into the shop and punched the envelope into the depths of my coat pocket before sprinting wildly back out the front door, earning puzzled glances from passersby as she tore off down the street at an impressive speed which all but guaranteed that I wouldn’t be able to catch up to her to return the envelope because my hands were full and the old man was taking too long.
That carrier is very good at her job.
Eventually placing the crate where the old man indicated, I fished the disfigured envelope from my pocket and offered it to him with a bowed head. “I give you this gift as fuel for your stove.”
Taking the envelope, the old man tore it open to and withdrew a tri-folded letter. His watery blue eyes down elegant handwriting. “Zvonko has the handwriting of a scholar,” he murmured.
I grabbed the page. Looked at it. Giving it back, I crouched down to tie the lace of my left boot which had come undone. “Is he lost again?”
“Not lost, no…” A furrow gathered at the old man’s brow as he read. “What in the world?”
Rising, I snatched the letter again.
The old man reclaimed the page from me with a glare and then returned it in a deliberate and exaggeratedly polite manner. “Now you may have it.”
The letter ran in this way:
First, I hate you.
Second, Lally needs your help.
I’ll explain what’s happened. We made port at Welve for supplies to continue our most recent tropical adventure when we ran into some unsavory characters who’d been plaguing the area. In Lally’s attempt to dissuade them from causing trouble for the locals, our entire crew became trapped in a series of strange and dangerous contests.
When our opponents realized we would defeat them at their games, they attacked us. Nearly all of our people sustained serious injuries including Dr. Cadfam and, among the turmoil, our attackers kidnapped three of our crewmen with whom they escaped by boat. Lally and I learned shortly after that those crewmen were taken for the bounty that had been placed on their heads by the notorious and vengeful pirate Captain Huleikre.
Most of the crew is now under the care of the physician in Welve. The ship also took damage. It’s difficult to admit but, presently, she isn’t seaworthy.
As for those who were taken, their names follow:
— Naia, our navigator
— Baer, the minstrel and swordsman
— Ugo, who continues to have no noteworthy skills aside from his ability to find the dark side of any situation and yet has the highest bounty; personally, I believe he insulted Huleikre during one of our first encounters thereby earning the pirate’s eternal wrath. Thus, I suppose, if Ugo is good for anything, it’s for his insults.
This morning we learned that Captain Huleikre’s ship was spotted in this hemisphere and so time is of the essence. With only Lally and I to stage a swift rescue and limited time to summon allies, I’m afraid we won’t be successful against an opponent like Huleikre if our people fall into his hands.
As Lally’s first mate, it’s my duty to support my captain by any means necessary even if that means begging the infuriating likes of you to fight by his side. If your friendship with him ever meant anything, you’ll help him now.
P.S. See the reverse side for the address where you can find us through the –th of April.
P.P.S. If you don’t help, you’re scum.
P.P.P.S. You’re scum whether you help or not, but if you don’t help, then I’ll kill you and you’ll be dead scum.
P.P.P.P.S. Don’t help so I can kill you.
After rereading the letter, I stared at the front windows which were opaque with condensation from the cool night.
The old man watched me with an annoying emotion on his face. “What are you going to do?”
“Get a pastry and a coffee from the cafe on 11th street.”
I regarded the address on the back of the letter. “I have an appointment.”
[to be continued…]
Author’s note: Thank you, Jennifer Hilty, for asking (no, for DEMANDING!! but in a fun an encouraging way) for more of the “Mesa” story. If you hadn’t said anything, Mesa’s story was legit gonna be indefinitely postponed along with all my other neglected drafts/story ideas. (Yes, I’ve figured out a bunch of stuff that allows me to use the scenes I posted before and still have everything make sense. So, thanks for the push!)