Audrey sighed as she pushed the ink-stained papers to the side. The drawers of the ancient mahogany desk were deep, swallowing the secrets of generations of ship’s captains. Varnish, ink and a slight whiff of mildew tickled her nose. Dust wasn’t her forté either. Audrey sneezed. She froze, calculating if she could fit under the desk. She waited. No footsteps—good.
She continued rifling through the drawer until her fingers touched the timber at the base. Audrey growled. Where was it? She started to replace the papers when she noticed the drawer wall wobble. She pried open the fake wall to find a sketchbook. The leather surface was scratched and weather-worn. Audrey unsheathed a roll of paper from her jacket and swiftly copied the directions she needed.
There was no moon to disclose the shadow in the dark which slipped from the back of the captain’s cabin into the awaiting jolly-boat. Captain Audrey and her crew rejoiced on their ship as they slid away silently and quickly toward their new heading.
Audrey decided to drop anchor on the side of the island closest to the treasure. If another ship arrived, they would not be discovered. The crew objected as there were steep cliffs. She assured her men that they were no more than ratlines and spars—they would be fine.
So they climbed.
Toby fell when they reached a ledge with nesting birds. Their shrill, piercing screams alarmed him as the adults pecked at his fingers. The company of pirates crab-walked their way along the shelf until they were out of the birds’ way.
At the top of the precipice, jungle consumed them. Audrey allowed the crew to rest below the shade of a papaya tree. The sweet and pungent juice left a sticky trail as it dribbled down her arm. She scooped the seeds into a handkerchief for the chef to use later as pepper.
The crew continued through the entanglement of gigantic jade leaves and vines, eventually reaching the cave indicated on the map. It was no more than a slit in the rocks. Audrey was the only person who would fit. She slithered through rough tunnels, eventually coming to a pit of water. It was there. The grazes on her forearms stung as she dived and brought the small box to the surface. The once shiny, silver lock had been broken. Nothing remained.
She wondered if her crew heard the curses she screamed.
Broken, the party headed downhill—the easy way. When they heard the scrape of metal and shouts of men near the beach, Audrey had to investigate. There were two ships anchored—the crews fighting and the captains giving cold and greasy stares to one another. She saw it, dropped in the sand. Audrey ordered her crew to stay while she fought her way anonymously through the fray.
That evening, the pouch of jewels was heavy in her pocket as she stood at the helm, slinking away into a dusky horizon.
Written for The Australian Writers' Centre, Furious Fiction, August 2019.