QSFer Stephen del Mar has a new paranormal book out:
Paddy Sheehan invites a few of his grandchildren and nephews aboard the “Song of Erin,” a sailing yacht, for the family’s traditional Thanksgiving holiday sailing trip. They leave Bennett Bay and venture into the Gulf of Mexico for the Sweetwater Keys. The keys are a small cluster of islands with a mysterious pirate past. Caesar el Rojo used Blood Isle, the main island, as his base of operations during the Golden Age of Piracy. What the crew of the “Song of Erin” don’t know is pirates, of one kind or another, are still on Blood Isle.
This story takes place approximately two years after the events in “Return to Cooter Crossing.” We spend time with Sky and Storm, who are now nine. Sean and Ethan are near the end of their first semester of college. And we meet cousin Jimmy’s little sister and brother.
“A Night on Blood Isle” is a short story that’s sure to have FBI Special Agent Bowman handing the Mulder Award over to JJ. (See “The Demise of Bobby & Clyde.”)
Short story ~7.4K words
[Setup: The boys are camping in the dunes on the southern tip of Blood Isle. Ethan is a graphic artist and created the graphic novel Marauders Macabre based on the historical pirates in the Bennett Bay area. He starts to tell a campfire story about the pirates. Sky and Storm are nine-year-old fraternal twins.]
“There weren’t too many pirates on the Gulf coast of Florida,” Ethan said. “The shipping and the rich colonies were in the Caribbean. The gold route for the Spanish took them up Florida’s east coast and then out into the Gulf Stream.
“But that made the Gulf a good place to hide, because no one was looking for them here. Jose Gaspar had his hideout on an island down south around Fort Myers, but the most ruthless pirate in all the history of the Gulf of Mexico built his fort right here on this island.”
Sky leaned forward. His curly, blond hair glowing red in the firelight. “Who was he?”
Ethan looked over at Storm. His dark hair and eyes made him seem like a shadow. “Do you know who he was?”
The boy shook his head and moved closer to Sean.
“Come on, tell us,” Sky pleaded.
Ethan smiled. “The Red.”
Sky sat back. “The Red? What kind of name is that?”
“Well, he was known as Caesar el Rojo, which is Spanish for Caesar the Red.”
“Why’d they call him that?”
Noah leaned in and said, “Probably for the bloody mess he left after he got done with a captured ship’s crew.” He smiled, when he saw Storm squirm.
Ethan frowned. “Maybe, but most of the accounts I’ve read say it was because of his red hair.”
“He had red hair?” Storm asked as he glanced at Sean’s bright red hair.
“Yes. They say he was fierce to behold. He had dark-tan skin like an African slave, sea-gray eyes, and dark, reddish hair.”
Sky squirmed around on the blanket. “Where he’d come from? How’d he become a pirate?”
“Don’t know.” Ethan shrugged. “Some stories say he was an escaped slave from one of the plantations on Hispaniola. They say he joined up with a pirate crew to stay free and he worked his way up to captain. You know, pirates were the only truly free men back then.”
Noah snorted, “Really?”
“Yes,” Jimmy cut in. “Everyone belonged to someone back then. Even so-called, free white men owed their allegiance to kings or governors. Besides the disruption to shipping, the real threat the pirates presented to the governments of the day was an example of men living free under their own rule.”
“So what do the other stories say?” Sky asked.
“About how he became a pirate?” Ethan asked.
The boy nodded.
“They say he was captured, when he was just a boy, during a pirate raid on a big sugar plantation. It was part of the pirate code to set slaves free when they could. The stories say he was taken by the captain to be his cabin boy. They say he gutted his first prisoner at the age of eleven.”
Storm looked into the fire and quietly asked, “What’d he do here?”
“Unloaded his ship, La Muerte.”
Ethan glanced over at Sky. “It means death. He’d hide his treasure here and kept prisoners, hoping to get paid a ransom, or just play with them.”
Sky frowned. “Play with them?”
Sean cut in, “Evil pirate games. We don’t need to talk about that right now.”
“Right,” Ethan said.
Sky looked between Sean and Ethan. He hated it when grownups wouldn’t tell him stuff. “So what happened to him?”
Noah grinned. “Did they catch him and hang him. Isn’t that how most pirates died?”
Ethan turned and looked at him. He held his gaze. Noah fidgeted and then looked away. “What makes you think he died?”
Noah looked back him. “Well, he had to die…somehow. That was hundreds of years ago.”
“Oh, come on. You trying to tell me he’s still out there?
Ethan looked around, then up at the sky. “Well, something lives in the fog on Blood Isle.”
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Stephen del Mar is a fresh voice in Southern Gay Fiction. His Bennett Bay collection of books and stories explore life in that unique corner of the American South known as Florida. He also writes fantasy and science-fiction. Del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay region of Florida and enjoys Key Lime Pie and mango margaritas, but not at the same time.