Elizabeth Klein - Mar 2012
Man at the Stall - Chapter 2
by Elizabeth Klein
“There’s no more to read. It stops at the bottom of the page. The rest was cut off.”
“You’re kidding!” groaned Josh. “How annoying!”
Roke turned the map over again and stared at it. How intriguing! Was it a real pirate map?
“Maybe you should put it away before a real pirate sees you with it,” Josh laughed.
Roke didn’t laugh. Somehow, that could be a possibility on a day like this. Besides, he’d seen enough Marco Lex movies to know that if someone wanted something badly enough, they’d be spying on them that very moment. He glanced about.
Sure enough, a large man in a white suit was standing at another stall, staring straight at them! When he noticed Roke looking at him, he turned away. A pair of black binoculars was hanging around his neck. Now that was suspicious! Roke rolled the map up and placed it inside his shirt pocket.
Anyway, who dresses like that, except someone hunting a lion in a jungle—or someone looking for a treasure map?
A moment later, the large man walked over, his small, beady eyes fixed on Roke. Was it a coincidence? He didn’t say anything at first, he just smiled, but it seemed fake to Roke. He noticed the man’s stumpy fingers flashing with jewelled rings as he idly looked at the books on the table. Roke could tell he wasn’t interested in buying anything—but he seemed to be searching for something!
Then the man’s eyes drifted to Mrs Trelawney’s box under the trestle table. For a moment, they grew large, as though he had found what he had been looking for. He wet his thick, red lips with his tongue, then glanced at Roke and smiled that fake smile again.
“Young man,” he said. “Could you tell me if that box has been unloaded yet? You see, I’m looking for something...rather specific.”
“Ah,” Roke’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Josh’s sharp elbow in his ribs quickly dislodged it. “Oh, that box? Er...yeah, it has...Sorry.”
The smile vanished from the man’s face. “You didn’t happen to find anything other than books in it, did you.”
You mean a treasure map? Roke thought. As if I’d tell you! He could sense Josh’s eyes boring into the side of his head. His tongue felt glued to the top of his mouth again. He shook his head.
“Er...no. Just books.”
The man watched him curiously, then nodded and moved away from the stall. Despite the warmth of the sun, Roke’s hands shook and a cold sweat beaded on his forehead. Boy, he needed a drink!
He reached for his water bottle in the cooler under the table and then sat down beside Josh. The two boys ignored the browsing people and stared at each other.
“It’s like in the movies,” Josh whispered. “Boy finds map. Villain finds boy. Peril begins.”
Roke frowned. “It’s just a coincidence. He wasn’t looking for the map.”