I rushed from my office to peer over the railing down onto the main gambling floor. Patrons and refugees fled, presumably going back to their rooms. Security struggled to create order from the chaos. The tangle of limbs sent three people sprawling to the floor, and immediately, my impeccable security team was there, creating a wall and helping them up. My earpiece crackled.
“We have ghosts approaching from the beachside. Um, you didn’t plan a Halloween thing, did you?” one of my nighttime beach supervisors asked.
“They’re inside, too. On the gaming floor. Coming down the–” The voice of my floor manager cut off mid sentence, and from my perch, I watched her flee.
Hot on her heels hovered three celestial apparitions.
I recognized them as if they’d stepped out of some kind of bodice ripper and shook my head. Of course, I should have known. Since I’d heard about the issues with Hades’ portal, I should have anticipated that I’d be seeing them. I sighed.
The faces became recognizable. Redbeard. Blackbeard. Longtooth Jones. Dashing and daring, the thing of legends and fantasies, except here, in my gaming parlor, they became creatures of fright.
I pressed the talk button on the mic. “Attention all staff. Keep the guests calm. Tell them if they’re frightened to go back to their rooms. Private areas will be off limits to them. I think we can work something out here. Tell the guests we were testing something for Halloween and so sorry to have frightened them.”
From the balcony above me, I heard pleas to Mother Mary.
“Can the refugee liaison please come reassure them?”
“Yes. I was on my way back from the kitchens. I’ll be there shortly.”
“Thank you. I’m going to see if I can check in with our new guests.”
I kept my voice calm, even as Minerva raced onto the balcony.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re here. We have ghosts!” She spoke the word the way some would talk about rats or roaches, which once again made me wonder about what experience lay behind that impeccable resume of hers.
“I know. I’ll deal with it. You heard what I said over the communications system?”
She nodded, her eyes wide.
“Why don’t you check in with the other staff members? Set up the Seahorse room again as command central. I suspect we’ll be seeing them for a while, though they shouldn’t harm anyone.” I strode toward the stairs. I didn’t have time to wait for the elevator, which would be packed at the moment ferrying guests, paying or not, back to their rooms. Giving Minerva something to handle would keep her focused. If she stayed in the Seahorse Room, which she considered her home away from her home and office, that’d give it enough permanency that our guests couldn’t enter.
As soon as Minerva left, I stepped into my office and reached into the between space to attire myself in something more fitting. High boots, tight fitting pants the tan color of deerskin and a white blouse with ruffled sleeves and neckline, one that gave a generous view of the of my throat and upper chest, while still remaining very modest. I adorned myself with gold bangle bracelets and earrings, then pulled my hair back with a golden clip in the shape of a mermaid. I’d once ridden the high seas in an outfit very similar to this one. My name? Simply Lady Luck.
I stepped from my office and ran down the stairs to the main gaming floor as if I were going above decks to chew out an unhandy crew. Which, in a way, I suppose I was.
A sense of exhilaration wound through me. Oh to be on the high seas again, the wind whipping my hair, the snap of sails and the chanting of men working the rigging. If I closed my eyes, I’d smell the crisp salt air. Or maybe someone left the door open. Either way, Lady Luck took to the main gaming floor.
The sight chilled me. Ghosts, hundreds if not thousands, mere wisps of gray matter and the sight of bone and tattered clothing, stood around my tables as if they’d arrived to play. I sensed no malevolence, just a thirsty desire to plunder. That, I knew well.
Their translucent forms gave the main gaming room a greenish, watery glow. The initial rush of people slowed, several stopping to turn and gawk. In a horror film, they’d probably die first. I noted no leader. Small groups wandered as they may, not able to leave the confines of the main floor, except to slip between columns into the walkways. I paid close attention to a door which led to a janitorial closet. The apparitions slid across it, as if something kept them from going further.
“A Halloween demonstration is in progress. If you are uncomfortable with the images, please remain in your room. We’ll inform you when it’s complete.” Minerva’s voice gave the announcement over the all-resort PA system.
Good girl, I thought.
As soon as the PA system faded, the air in the room changed. Fear and fright were replaced with idle curiosity, exactly as I’d hoped. Like big sea predators, the dead men before me sensed vulnerability, going after it with precision. They milled in the common area.
Memories hit me like cannon fire to the broadside of my ship, rocking me back on my heels and making me scramble for answers. As if the years fell away, I stood on the deck of a boat, my crew, a mix of men and women seeking a better life, where good fortune would claim them rather than the cruel, harsh fate of injustice from which I’d plucked them. My world turned beneath me, for the men standing before me had tried to take us down.
A pirate ship captained by Lady Luck rarely failed and never fell beneath a volley of cannon balls. Somehow, curiously, they all landed in the water. Oops, not enough gunpowder or something. The ocean could be so fickle.
I strode forward, for now Par Impar was my ship and I ran it with the same ability I had back then. No one had taken Par Impar, and they sure as hell wouldn’t do that now.
“Who dares to board Par Impar? I am Lady Luck, her Captain, and wise men do not cross me.” I laughed. “And we all know that you are not wise men. Ruthless men. Drunk men. Greedy men, yes. But wise? Never.”
“Lady Luck! By Poseidon’s Trident, it’s been a long time. You look radiant.”
The skeletal ghost rushed forward, arms wide as if for a hug. Peg leg and the proverbial parrot skeleton on his shoulder gave little clues to his identity. The humor dancing in his eye sockets and the scraggly remnants of a beard identified him.
He wrapped his arms around her. They whooshed through her with the cold slimy feel of a fish sliding down a t-shirt.
“Live, Laddy. I’m alive,” I finished. “You died at the end of a hangman’s noose.” She paused, an old pain filling her chest. “A fate I couldn’t save you from,” she whispered as the startled ghost of Laddy stepped away from her. “You killed an innocent.”
“Aye,” he replied. “I did and I hold no grudge.”
“Then why are you here?”
His eye sockets twinkled. Reaching for her, his skeletal fingers passed through the large gold hoops in her ears. “Why does a pirate do anything? For gold.”
“For freedom,” I replied and heard the shouts of “Aye!” coming from several of the ghosts. I glanced around the gambling floor, uncertain of what those who remained could see or hear. Some aspects of my past, such as losing Laddy, no matter how just it had been, hurt too much to explain to anyone. Not even Minerva. “So what do you want? There is gold here, yes. Though locked away in my vaults. I am alive, and I do not share with the dead.”
“Then you will die and those who resist with you will die as well.” Blackbeard stepped forward, his cutlass pointed at me. “We are dead men no matter what, Lady Luck. Far better to spend this time pillaging and plundering while we can. We will not be cowards, nor will we be denied.”
I stared at the blade, the light gleaming from it as if the metal hadn’t lain beneath the ocean for more than a hundred years. When I lifted my gaze to meet Blackbeard’s empty eye sockets, I sensed a coldness, a calculation that’d been missing from him during his living years. “Don’t blame me for staying alive.” I spoke cooly, my past coming to haunt me as surely as the ghost ship I’d sworn I’d seen sailing the water. “And do not harm my people.”
Redbeard and the other captains separated themselves from their men to stand with Blackbeard. I sensed a mutiny, one too long in the offing.
“Then give us the gold, Lady Luck, and no one will die,” he said.
“You forget who captains this ship.” I let my human glamour drop just enough so the ghosts standing before me could see the full measure of my power. “And I do not take orders from dead men.”
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