The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 13, Part 10: In the Clutches of the Witch [section 5 of 7]

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His demented eyes stared at me, and he came at me with deliberate stride, switchblade in hand. I took off running, clambering up the mammoth tree nearest the catacombs. I had to think quickly.

I wasn’t invisible to him at all and certainly couldn’t outclimb him – as the master of a sailing ship, he’d doubtless scaled rigging with the surefootedness of a mountain goat and, by extension, could scale a tree the same way.

But he was a big man, 350 pounds if he weighed an ounce, while I weighed 75. I could perch on limbs that wouldn’t remotely support his weight.

I had to get up to those limbs as fast as I could. It wasn’t easy. He came up the tree after me like a cat after a squirrel, my feet staying only an inch or two beyond his grasp

And didn’t it have to be at that moment my asthma kicked in big time.

If I stopped to use the inhaler, he’d catch me; if I didn’t, I couldn’t breathe to climb fast enough to get away. It seemed hopeless no matter what I did.

Then I had an idea: I sprayed Captain O in the face with my inhaler. He pulled back reflexively, only for a few seconds, but long enough for me to take a hit and, grabbing a lungful of air, get nearly two-thirds up the tree before he could regain his former distance, out on a limb that would barely support even my weight.

He couldn’t get me, and I could use my inhaler in peace to get my breathing back completely. Even while my breathing began to return to normal, Captain O roared something sounding vaguely like English, but I couldn’t make out what it was. The witch’s magic had restored a tongue to him that had probably been removed during dissection, but he’d yet to regain full use or control over it.

But what he couldn’t tell me of his intentions in words he made up for in showing me, placing mammoth hands on either side of the tree’s trunk and shaking it.

I shinnied close to the trunk, trying to minimize the motion on my perch, then clung to the branch for dear life.

The shopkeeper at Whitfield’s had said to keep my wits about me. Okay, what did I know now that I didn’t know a few minutes ago? The only thing I could think of was that Captain O didn’t have control of his tongue yet. What if other senses or functions hadn’t fully returned? Sight? He could apparently see me well enough. Smell? Who knew, who cared. He couldn’t tell me, and impaired smell on his part wouldn’t help me in any event. Hearing? A hearing impediment might help, but I didn’t know how, yet – insufficient data to know, in any event.

Then Captain O shook the tree especially violently; I almost lost my balance and fell. That’s when the thought struck me – hearing wasn’t all the ear did: The sense of balance was also rooted in the inner ear. His sense of balance might be off enough – just barely enough – that I could use it to my advantage.

But how?


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