The Plank House – Part I

I’ve yet to share a story featuring all four of the S.P.I.R.I.T. kids — until now.

The S.P.I.R.I.T. kids don’t hang out a lot unless they’re on an investigation. But their parents really want them to be closer friends. So recently, their dads took them on a weekend getaway to Dewey Beach, a shore town on the Muskie River. It was a trip none of them will never forget.

The Plank House

“How do you read on that thing?” Matt Romero asked Agnes Smit, who was sitting in a beach chair reading a book on her e-reader tablet.

“I have a sun glare protector,” she answered.

Matt looked over at Maya Gupta, who was waiting for Matt to throw her the frisbee. The sun rested high in the cloudless blue sky. The beach was filled with people — some playing volleyball; others building sand castles. The air smelt like sunscreen. Kids threw footballs and played Marco Polo in the water, while adults just floated around on inner tubes. An advertising plane buzzed by every few minutes with the same banner stretched out from the tail : TEST YOUR LUCK AT CAPTAIN OLI’s PORT ROYAL CASINO.  It was a perfect day at the beach.

“Want to throw the frisbee with us?” Matt asked.

“No thanks,” she said. “I’m really into this book about local pirate history.”

“Um, okay.” Matt wasn’t interested. “Hey, where’s Hans?”

As Matt finished asking, Agnes’ twin brother Hans popped out of a nearby port-o-john. Several people stared strangely at him as he walked out, but he didn’t notice. He never noticed. He was dressed like he was about to go mining for gold. He had on wide green goggles and his trusted utility vest, with wires and other junk hanging out of the pockets. He had on gray fitted work gloves, work boots, and strapped to his back like a mighty sword was a shovel.

“Hello Matthew!” Hans exclaimed, not seeming to think anything was wrong with the way he looked. “Would you like to go treasure hunting with me?”

“Say what?” Matt responded.

“Matt! Come On! Throw the frisbee!” Maya yelled.

Matt turned back to Hans. “No thanks. You go ahead,” he said, then tossed the frisbee to Maya. Agnes went back to reading her pirate history book.

Hans picked up his GoldFinder 5000 metal detector. He could detect metal as deep as thirty feet underground with it! It had what looked like a silver plate at the end of a long extension rod, with a wire that ran from the plate up to a small digital screen. He put on a pair of noise canceling headphones so he wouldn’t be distracted by the playful sounds of the people at the beach.

“Good luck!” Agnes said, but Hans didn’t hear her.

Hans had explored most of Dewey Beach before. He decided to try a new area near some of the old rocks that an ancient glacier left behind millions of years ago.

Not far from where he was searching was an old, abandoned restaurant. It stood close to the edge of the river. There was a massive hole in the roof as if a meteor had crashed into it. It was once painted white, but most of the paint had stripped off, except for the front door, which was solid black. The only way to get to the house was to navigate through a garden of jagged rocks and cross a short rope bridge that looked like it was about to fall apart. At the front of the house was an old boat dock, which rose several feet above the river. It was too high for any row-boat. Some big boats must’ve docked there in the past, Hans thought before getting back to treasure hunting.

Most items Hans found were soda cans, old license plates, and loose change. Last year, he went home fifty dollars in change! Hans scanned the area for more than an hour, but didn’t find anything of value. He was really hoping to find a piece of the lost treasure of pirate Benjamin “Six-Finger” Hansen. He read about it in the latest Ernest Q. Popper book — “Lost Treasures of America.”  Hans listened closely to his metal detector. Nothing. Then suddenly something struck him in the back of the head!

Hans saw colorful flashing spots as he stumbled forward. His head was pounding. He took off his headphones and the sudden noise of all the beachgoers funneled into his ears. Hans turned around and saw a frisbee on the ground just a few feet away.

“Sorry!” Matt shouted. “I yelled ‘look out’!”

Hans picked up the frisbee and attempted to throw it back, but it barely flew half the distance. “No worries!” Hans shouted back, rubbing the back of his head. As he looked at the people on the beach, he heard a very low, but fast, beeping sound. At first he didn’t know where it was coming from but then realized it was from his headphones! Hans quickly slipped back them on. The metal detector was going berserk! He then looked down at the screen and saw a small round object.

Too big to be a quarter, he thought. Hans pulled out his shovel and started digging. For the next forty-five minutes, Hans dug and dug and dug until his hands started to blister. Finally, a shimmer of yellow caught his eye. He reached down and pulled out a gold coin — one he had never seen before. One side of the coin had a crown on it while the other had a giant octopus with its arms stretched out like swirly spokes on a wheel.

“Hans! Where are you?” Hans stuck his head out from the hole. Matt, Maya and Agnes appeared above him. “What are you doing?” Matt asked.

“Look!” Hans exclaimed. “I found what I believe is a rare gold coin.”

Agnes swiped it from his hand. “Interesting,” she said.

“Give it back Agnes!” Hans yelled, grabbing the coin from her. Matt and Maya both exchanged confused glances.

“Time to eat,” Maya said. “My dad’s cooking up some ribs and burgers.”

“There’s also avocado salad, all freshly picked from the Smit garden,” Agnes said with a smirk.

Hans slipped the coin in his pocket and followed them back to the cabin.

The four of them sat outside on a red picnic table waiting for dinner. Mr. Gupta was in charge of the barbecue, and when the food hit the table it was not at all appetizing. The rack of ribs looked like a part of tire, and the hamburgers were as hard as hockey pucks.

“I think your dad needs to turn the grill down,” Matt said softly to Maya, hoping Mr. Gupta wouldn’t hear.

Maya made sure her dad wasn’t looking before answering. “He cooks everything like this. He’s a germaphobe.”

“What’s that?” Matt asked.

“He’s afraid of germs and bacteria and stuff. It’s weird.”

Matt wanted to take a bite out of his hamburger but was scared he’d break a tooth.

Hans and Agnes sat across the table. Agnes dug into her salad with her tablet propped up on a stand so she could read.

“Do you ever stop?” Matt asked her.

“This book is so interesting,” she said, keeping her eyes on the screen.

“Still fascinated by that coin?” Maya asked Hans, who had a plate full of food but wasn’t eating. He was just examining the gold coin over and over.

“Probably fake,” Agnes said, still looking at the screen.

“The weight feels accurate,” Hans said. “I believe this may be a real piece of pirate treasure.”

Matt raised his eyebrows. “Say what? Treasure?”

Hans nodded. “Could be part of the lost treasure of Benjamin “Six-Finger” Hansen”

“Who?” Maya asked.

“Benjamin “Six-Finger” Hansen, the famous pirate of the Muskie River,” Agnes said, looking up at them. “I read an entire chapter about him in this book.”

“Did it mention the treasure?” Hans asked curiously.

“I’m afraid not, Hans,” she answered. “Six-Finger was a low-class pirate. He robbed saloons and stole chickens. He was not one to have a pile of gold.”

“That’s a lie!” Hans exclaimed. “I read he had a massive treasure that was lost when his ship sank during the Hurricane of 1732.”

“Where did you read that?” Matt asked.

“From a book written by Ernest Q. Popper,” Agnes cut in. “A guy known to make stuff up! Nothing he’s ever written about has been proven. Not even this treasure story.”

Hans was furious with his sister. “I’m not hungry,” he said angrily as he got up and stormed into the cabin.

“He’ll be fine,” Agnes said to Matt and Maya. “Just needs to come to his senses.”

Hans paced back and forth in the small cabin. He hated when Agnes acted like she right. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, he thought angrily.

He walked to the bookcase in the living room and read the book titles just to distract himself. Most of the books were murder mysteries. But there were a few books on pirates. Hans pulled one out — “Buccaneers of the Milky Valley.”

He scanned the chapter titles and nothing mentioned Six-Finger. But then he stopped at a chapter called “The Plank House.” What really grabbed his attention was the sketch of the Plank House. Looks like the old restaurant on the river, he realized.

During high tide, trade ships traveled up and down the river. One place sailors liked to stop for a drink and some entertainment was The Plank House, a saloon that rested near deep water. Many pirates were known to frequent this saloon, including Edward Teach, William Kid, Henry Morgan, and Benjamin Hansen.

I need to go there, Hans realized. There could be clues to where the rest of the treasure is. Hans figured since he found one coin that the rest might be close by.

After dinner, Matt parked in front of the TV to watch his favorite baseball team, The Hammerheads. Agnes laid on the floor reading her book. And Maya sat at the dining room table drawing in her notebook.

Their fathers were all sitting outside by the fire pit. Mr. Romero was strumming his guitar and playing classic rock songs that none of the kids knew. But all the dads were singing and laughing along.

Hans took the opportunity to sneak out the side door. He had his utility vest strapped on. His put on his eyeglasses with small little lights attached to the frames. He also grabbed his GPS unit to help him find his way back in the dark. I only need a few minutes, he thought.

It took Hans about ten minutes to make it down to the rock garden and another ten minutes to navigate through it. When he got to the old rope bridge, he suddenly felt nervous. The wooden boards were rotted and the rope looked like it was about to snap. The beach area was really quiet now. Hans could hear all the frogs crooking and the crickets singing all around him. The moon looked like a fingernail in the sky. And the sunscreen air was replaced with the musty smell of molded wood.

Hans carefully took a step onto the first board. The wood creaked and the ropes pulled in tight, but didn’t break. Step by step Hans slowly crossed the bridge until he was standing in front of the large black door of the Plank House.

Hans took a deep breath and reached for the rusty doorknob. But to his horror, the door swung open. The wooden door creaked and snapped as if it hadn’t been opened in a long time. It was pitch black inside. He wanted to turn on his lights but was terrified at what he might see. I shouldn’t have come here by myself, he regretfully thought. Hans felt his hands shaking at his sides.

Suddenly he heard a couple of footsteps and the dark outline of a figure appeared in the doorway. “You’re to young for an ale, kid,” said a raspy male voice.

Hans stood in terror. He couldn’t say anything.

“What’s wrong chum? Lose your tongue to an angry squid? Or better yet, in a poker game.” The man laughed and coughed at the same time. “So…what do you want?”

Hans lifted his arm and in his hand was the gold coin.

The man reached out with dirty hand and grabbed it. “My, my, my…” the man said. “Where’d you find this boy?”

Hans pointed toward the beach. The man didn’t step out to look. “Well,” the man started. “Now that you gave this to me…it’s time to go for a little ride.”

“Ahoy!” shouted another man’s voice. Hans turned and stared at the end of the dock. Sitting there, as if it had always been there, was a large wooden ship, with two tall masts and giant black sails. A man stood in the crow’s nest and waved. It was a pirate ship.

Hans suddenly felt a hand push him from behind. “Go on kid. Get on.” Hans didn’t move. I can’t go on that ship, he thought. They’ll make me walk the plank! My parents and sister will never find me!

“Go!” Shouted the man stepping out of the dark doorway. The man had a long black beard and stringy hair. His eyes were green, and he had a giant scar that ran from his forehead straight across his nose and down his cheek. “Go! NOW!”

Want to know what happened to Hans? Come back next week for Part 2 of this three-part story.






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