By Dae O’Donnell
From the Missing Pieces Mysteries
by Joyce and Jim Lavene
The old stone building had sat on a small inlet of the Atlantic for more than 300 years. At one time, it was a tavern frequented by pirates and soldiers, where the ale flowed freely and fights spilled blood on the wood floor every night. When the sea off the coast of the Duck, North Carolina was busy earning its name—The Graveyard of the Atlantic—it was there, yellow lantern light spilling out into the darkness as a welcome.
The old place was a hangout for kids who grew up in Duck. Everyone had wandered through it and climbed the half fallen stone wall at one time or another. We’d all taken bets that we could spend the night there or even step foot inside after dark. No one had ever won.
The old tavern was haunted. There were a lot of ghosts and haunted places in Duck. That was nothing unusual. But this wasn’t some family spirit who didn’t want to leave. Not even a rough pirate who missed his former life.
This ghost gave the old tavern a terrible melancholy, a keening sadness that everyone could feel. And at night, there were the awful moans and wailing. No one was proof against the sounds of heartbreaking sorrow.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Dae?” my friend-with-benefits Kevin Brickman asked as we stood outside the building.
The sky was fading orange into night behind us. The waves slapped gently at the shoreline. I was careful not to touch the old stone. I didn’t want to know what secrets were behind them. It was enough that I’d found this green glass brooch and suddenly realized why the ghost was still here.
My gift is finding lost things for people. I’ve done it since I was a child. My grandmother O’Donnell found things before me. But lately, I’d been able to hold an object and learn about the people who made them and held them before me. Sometimes that was more curse than blessing.
“I found this for a reason,” I explained. “I think maybe it will give her peace.”
“I’m surprised the ghost hunting group didn’t want to come,” Kevin said, glancing around like he was still with the FBI.
“Not me. They had a bad experience out here. They won’t be back.”
“Do you want me to come in with you?”
“No. That’s okay.” I looked up the side of the crumbling stone wall. “I’ll be fine. I’m going to put the brooch down and get out.”
I didn’t know how to explain that I felt something for the tavern girl who’d been killed, her glass brooch stolen because someone thought it was something worth some money. The brooch had been a gift from her sweetheart who’d been lost at sea.
I crouched down and went through what was left of the thick, plank door. The brooch felt warm and kind of tingly in my hand. When I’d first picked it up at the market in Charleston, I’d been floored by it. I’d felt the girl’s death and realized the red rust spots on the brooch were her blood.
I wasn’t sure what made me feel like I could help but I knew I had to try. The rough cut floor creaked under my weight. There were no windows, only some light from places where the wall was decaying. I could imagine what it was like when pirates like Blackbeard and Stede Bonner came here for ale and to boast about their treasures.
And suddenly, I was there. The room came alive with the smell of ale and sweat. Pirates swaggered by me and cloaked soldiers watched for a chance to engage them. Saucy tavern wenches walked by with trays of ale, their hips swaying as they alternately winked at their customers and tried to keep their hands from going down their blouses.
“You have something for me?” a young woman with lustrous brown locks and pretty blue eyes asked.
She seemed different from the others, cleaner and fresher. Her white blouse wasn’t pulled as low and her red scarf covered her shoulders.
I looked around before I realized that she was talking to me. “Yes.” I handed her the brooch. “I’m sorry it’s not in very good shape anymore.”
But when I handed it to her, the green glass brooch was whole again, sparkling in the lantern light. She pinned it on her blouse. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” What could I say to her? I was fairly sure none of this was real. “What’s your name?” That was the one thing I didn’t know from the brooch.
“Esmeralda O’Donnell,” she said with a saucy smile of her own. “I’m the tavern keeper’s daughter.”
Someone roared for more ale. I looked toward the sound and when I looked back, she was gone. So was everything else in the old tavern besides the barebones floor and falling walls.
“Are you okay?” Kevin asked, standing beside me. “I thought I heard something. You were just standing here, staring off like you saw something in the dark.”
“I don’t know. Maybe.” It was completely dark now. There was no sound but the surf outside and the wind whistling through the cracks in the ceiling.
“Nothing otherworldly,” Kevin said. “It must have worked.”
“I guess.” I snuggled in close to him and looked around the old tavern, my great-great grandfather’s tavern, one more time. “Let’s go home. I think our job here is done.”
Visit Joyce and Jim Lavene’s website.
Joyce blogs at Romance of Mystery.