Chapter 23

Fay looked suspiciously at her fingers.

Mr. Arg was now completely blocking the only exit. “Light fingers,” he said with a frightening grin. “The sort what lift things that aren’t theirs.”

“What?” said Barnaby. “Like pirate coins?” He nodded his smirking face at Fay.

“Ooooh…” said Mr. Arg, “sounds familiar does it?”

“Pirate coin?” said Fay, backing up, and trying to sound as naive as she could, even though she’d had a feeling from the moment that coin tumbled out of the Cinnamon Rogers Box that it wasn’t supposed to be in there.

“Hey guys?” said Skipper, shaking Fay’s arm. “I think they’re trying to get out of the basement!”

Fay glanced at the basement door. Someone was jiggling the doorknob from the other side. “Mr. Arg,” she said, “any chance we could talk about this somewhere else? You really don’t want to be here right now.”

“But I do,” said Ms. Parsnip pushing her way in the front door. She squared off in front of Mr. Arg with her hands on her hips as he staggered back a step. “I want to have this discussion right now! What were you thinking by subjecting schoolchildren to the dangerous conditions we experienced today?” she demanded. “I’ve more than half a mind to report you to the proper authorities, but I thought you might like a chance to explain!”

“Shifty woman!” exclaimed Mr. Arg. “You’ve been follerin’ me?”

“And it seems I’m not the only one,” replied Ms. Parsnip.

“HEY!” bellowed Yellow Tooth from behind the basement door. “What you bloody tryin’ ta do? Lock us in?”

“MISTER Arg!” came the shrill voice of Mrs. Pink as she imperiously pushed her way past Ms. Parsnip. Mr. Green and Mr. Brown strode in behind her looking very grim. Mrs. Pink waved her mobile phone in Mr. Arg’s face. “I had my doubts when they put you in charge of Crunch & Barley. Oh, yes I did. But I held my tongue, and now look what’s happened! I need only push ONE BUTTON to put me in touch with the fraud investigator! Do you or do you not have an explanation for the inventory deficiency?”

“OPEN the blasted DOOR!” screamed Yellow Tooth, his voice getting angrier.

Fay was on the verge of panic. Her spider web was going horribly wrong. “Mr. Arg!” she said. “They’re going to break down the…”

“DON’T try to change the subject Missy!” interrupted Mr. Arg.

“Mr Arg!” said the increasingly ruffled Miss Parsnip. “You are a public safety hazard!”

“Mr. Arg!” warned Mrs. Pink. “See my finger? It’s about to push a button!”

“AAAARRRRRRG!” The basement door crashed onto the living room floor, its frame in splinters.
Yellow Tooth loomed in the doorway, his ugly frame leaving only tiny spaces where Jimbo and Scratchy peered through, scowling.

“So it’s ARRRG as is trying to lock us up, is it now?” said Yellow Tooth in an oily voice, as he coolly drew his cutlass from its scabbard.

“I didn’t lock you up you scurvy sack o’cat litter, but I’ll shake the hand of him what did!” replied Mr. Arg.

“Her,” said Barnaby, pointing at Fay. “Her what did.”

Yellow Tooth fixed his beady gaze on Fay. “Why you backstabbin’, mutineering, little piranha,” he growled. “Maybe you’d be tasty spit-roasted!”

Miss Parsnip shook her finger at the pirates who were pushing and shoving their way out of the basement stairwell. “You don’t work with children at all well,” she said. “I hope you don’t think you’ll be invited back for Pirate Day next year! You really can’t control your behavior, can you?”

There was jostling and grumbling from the rear of the pirate mob.
“Me Flippin’ Eights cup is busted!” whined Hanky. “Larko stepped on me Flippin’ Eights cup!”

“You can play with mine,” offered Buttercup helpfully, “soon as ol’Yellow is done making mincemeat outa’ Arg!”

“What say you booooyy?” said Yellow Tooth, addressing Mr. Arg in what Fay took to be a most disrespectful manner. “Have it out wif’ me right here! Right here in this pretty room.” He pointed his cutlass menacingly, and took a few practice swings at the air.

“Yeller, you pit-faced blowfish,” replied Mr. Arg, standing his ground with equal ferocity. “I don’t need to fight to win back me crew’s loyalty!”

An evil grin materialized on Yellow Tooth’s face. “Yer’ muvver was a cod’s liver,” he challenged.

“A what?” demanded Mr. Arg.

“Ya’ heard me the first time,” replied Yellow Tooth. “A cod’s liver. And she wore smelly stockings!”

Fay barely saw Mr. Arg move, but in the space of a second he’d sprung from the doorway to squarely in front of Yellow Tooth. His sword cut the air with a whoosh, and crashed, in earsplitting ferocity, into Yellow Tooth’s cutlass.

“Me mum…” said Mr. Arg. (CRASH!)

“Did the laundry…”(CLANG!)

“Every Tuesday…”(WHAP!)

“And her stockings…”(BANG!)

“Smelled (WHOOSH!) like (CLANK!) LAVENDER!” (CRASH!)

The kids, Miss Parsnip, and the Board of Directors backed away in horror, but the pirate mob was almost salivating. One moment it seemed that Arg had the upper hand. The next it seemed that Yellow Tooth would surely skewer him.

“HEY!” yelled Tilly who was trying to shrink but still couldn’t hide her indignation. “You pug-uglies are dinging the walls! Mom hates dinged walls!”

“Ding waws!” yelled Lynette. “Pug uggy!”

Mr. Arg’s sword sliced at what little hair there was on Yellow Tooth’s head. “You,” he charged, “are a yeller-bellied, pansy-faced, mutinous mud-sucker!”

“And YOU,” cried Yellow Tooth with a mighty swing which knocked Mr. Arg’s sword right out of his hand, “are a shish-kebab!”

Fay stared as Mr. Arg’s sword crashed to the ground in what seemed like horrifying slow motion. She could not tear her eyes away from what she fully expected to be guts spilling on the living room floor.

Yellow Tooth laughed, a horrible growly laugh, and he leveled his blade at Mr. Arg’s throat. “I’m afraid there won’t be no Davy Jones to welcome you back to the locker Arg. You want to be skewered fast or slow?”

“NEITHER ONE!” bellowed Mrs. Pink impatiently shoving the point of Yellow Tooth’s cutlass away and stepping in front of Mr. Arg. “Mind your manners you blithering barbarian! You’re not depriving me of the satisfaction! I’ve been waiting a long time for this collar!”

A growl rose in Yellow Tooth’s throat as he glowered at Mrs. Pink, and Fay fully expected the cutlass to do its bloody work on both Pink and Arg, but instead, he lowered his blade and the first crack of a grin glimmered on his lips. “You ain’t no lady,” said Yellow Tooth. The grin grew bigger. “No, you ain’t no lady…yer’ a scorpion!”

Mrs. Pink looked at Yellow Tooth with a smile that seemed both coy and deadly. “Yes,” she replied. “A scorpion. About to make a sting.”

“AS AM I!” roared Yellow Tooth, suddenly turning his attention, and cutlass toward Fay.

Fay had never seen such a horrible leer, and backed away, almost falling over Barnaby.

“Hurry it up!” hollered Hanky. “Whack’er head off! We wants ta’ play wif’ the Flippin’ Eights in peace and quiet!”

All that Fay could see beyond Yellow Tooth’s beefy frame was the plastic cup, from the cereal box toy, which Hanky was waving in the air as he whined.

“But Hanky!” she yelled, playing the one desperate card she had left. “You lost your squidger!” She dug into her pants pocket. The coin was still there.

“Me squidger?” whined Hanky. “I lost me squidger?”

“Don’t worry!” called Fay, pulling out the pirate coin. “You can have mine!”

Fay wished, and hoped, and threw—like a girl. As the pirate coin sailed over Yellow Tooth’s confused head, Fay grabbed Skipper by one arm, Barnaby by the other, and yanked them along to plow Tilly, Lynette, Miss Parsnip, and, quite by accident Mr. Arg, out the front door.

In the split second before the screen door slammed shut, she hoped beyond hope that the “plink” she heard was Mr. Arg’s coin landing in Hanky’s plastic cup, and the whooshing sound was a vortex that wouldn’t take no for an answer.

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