Lost Treasures of the Heart

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Lost Treasures of the Heart

Charlie Most and Charlene Keel

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Architect Jonathan West is on a big project when he learns his wife, Patrice, has been unfaithful. On a fishing trip in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, he’s wondering what to do about his marriage when he sees a ghost ship. On it is a spectral woman, gazing at him with a plea in her eyes.  

Jonathan buys a house on the beach near the sighting and finds an old sea chest washed up there. Its contents, which include a miniature portrait, reveal it belonged to Kate Russell, captain of the Royal Thomas, which sank in 1721. It’s the same woman Jonathan saw on the ghost ship, and her journal describes a life of piracy. As past and present collide, he starts seeing her everywhere, waking and sleeping. With a haunting desperation, he senses she wants something from him. If he can figure out what it is and find a way to help her, he believes her spirit will finally rest.

 

 

 

Lost Treasures of the Heart

By Charlie Most & Charlene Keel

 

 

Chapter Preview

 

Glancing up, through the doorway into the hall and on into the living room and the big picture window, he was surprised to see a glorious sunset splashed across the sky in gold, pink and lavender, and he realized he was hungry.  He went out to the kitchen, found some paper plates and devoured what Mattie had brought—cold cuts, cheese, coleslaw, chips and orange juice—without really tasting anything.  Then he went back to work on the box.

When he tapped off the knot of barnacles, the lock stayed embedded in the biggest one—but the seam was now clear of any impediment.  Now he could open the chest.

Holding his breath, Jonathan probed the seam with the thinnest blade of his pocket knife until it loosened and popped up about a quarter of an inch.  He let out his breath in a great sigh.  He couldn’t move.

The moment of truth had come, and he froze.

What would he would find inside?  He wasn’t expecting some kind of priceless treasure.  All he wanted to find—what he needed to find—was Kate.

Slowly, he raised the lid.  The briny smell of the sea, mixed with old leather, wafted up and into his nostrils.  The interior of the box was surprisingly dry, and there were five small bundles nestled there.  They were each wrapped in some kind of oilcloth—to protect them from the sea, he supposed—and tied with leather strips.  He opened the smallest, lumpiest bundle first, and his eyes widened when he saw what it contained.

It was a necklace and a jeweled hair comb—and he thought they must be worth a fortune.  Rubies, diamonds and emeralds were set in gold around the centerpiece of the necklace—a large ruby cut in the shape of a heart, with two tiny gold sabers crossing over it.  It was the most beautiful piece of jewelry he had ever seen.  Setting it carefully aside, he reached for one of the other little packages, which was rectangular shaped, like some kind of book.  The leather strip securing the oilcloth covering it came apart in his hands.  He folded the oilcloth back to reveal a ship’s log.  Carefully, he opened it.  Across the tittle page, The Royal Thomas was written in old English script.  The oilcloth had done an amazing job of keeping the volume dry, and he thought the coral might have acted like insulation.  Browsing through a few pages, Jonathan realized Kate herself had made the later entries and a chill snaked up his spine.

There was another little square-shaped package.  He unwrapped that one next.  It was a miniature portrait of a family—a man, a woman and a little girl who looked to be about three years old.  There was no doubt about it—with her auburn curls and emerald green eyes, the child could be none other than Kate.  The man had to be Steadman Russell, her father, who had given her the Royal Thomas.  The woman, Kate’s mother, was wearing the necklace.

Gently, Jonathan placed the portrait on the towel.  He looked at the necklace again, trying to take it in.

Obviously, it had been Kate’s mother’s, and then—obviously—Kate’s.  He stared at it in awe.  To think that she had held it, touched it, worn it against her heart made his mind spin.

The next bundle—the largest one—contained only an old leather vest with some intricate designs burned into it and a couple of gemstones embedded in the leather.  He reached for the last bundle and was dismayed to feel dampness on the bottom.  Using even more caution than he had with the other packages, he slowly peeled away the oilcloth.  It was also a book, and tears sprang to his eyes when he opened it and saw it was Kate’s journal.  For a few minutes, all he could do was sit and stare at it.

He felt faint, weak in every bone and muscle, like he was coming down with the flu or something.  It was almost like being in a dream, but gazing at the artifacts on the table in front of him, he knew it was real.

She was real.

These were her things.  Her necklace, a jeweled comb she had worn in her hair, the miniature portrait she must have cherished, the ship’s log, and a journal in which she had recorded her life.

And she had brought them all to him.  Had laid them at his very doorstep.

The thought steadied him.  He went back to the kitchen, made himself a cup of coffee and returned to his work table with renewed purpose.

Sitting down, he opened the ship’s log again and scanned the pages, gradually adjusting to Kate’s graceful, flowing hand and the old-world expressions and phrases in use before texting had reduced the English language to a garbled form of shorthand.  Her concise log entries about the state of the ship, her crew and their travels were different than the passionate writing in her diary, and it gave him a glimpse into her mind.  She had been educated.  The little family portrait and the necklace attested to her father’s wealth.  Although she had lived in harsh colonial times, she had clearly grown up in comfort, privileged and entitled.  Why had she become a pirate?

And what did she want from him?

Examining the journal more closely, he saw that the last few pages were wet.  He wouldn’t be able to read that part of it until he gave it time to dry.  But he could begin.

Carefully turning the pages, he started reading.  Her words spooled out before him like the tide rolling out to sea, taking him to another place, another time.

He read about the dreams of an innocent maiden in love for the first time, and how her sweetheart had betrayed her, how she’d killed him and how she’d had to leave the home she loved so much.  He made another cup of coffee and went back to the journal, entranced by Kate’s daring and bravery on escaping Blackbeard and his crew.

Suddenly, Jonathan remembered the framed map he’d found at the thrift store, still in the back of his car. He went down and got it and hung it on the wall next to Kate’s pictures and the drawings of the Royal Thomas.  With a fingertip, he retraced her journey from Queen Anne’s Creek to Charles Town, and then to Nassau.

Taking his place at the table again, he read of Kate’s encounter with Girard Fournier and then with the corrupt British captain who had tried to ravish her.  He read of her growing attraction to the Frenchman and felt a stab of jealousy, especially when he got to the part where she told Fournier she intended to take him as her lover.

And there, Jonathan’s journey came to an abrupt end.  The remainder of the pages were too wet to turn.  Frustrated, he went online and researched how to dry an old book without damaging it.  Following the most logical instruction he found, he stood the book on its spine with three other books supporting it (books left behind by some time-share tenant, no doubt).  Then he found a lamp, set it on the table next to the journal, plugged it in and switched it on.  He glanced out the window and was surprised to see that it was night.  He called Dr. Barclay anyway, and left a message.

“Hi—it’s Jonathan West again.  I—uh, I found a book inside the chest.  It’s a journal.  I was able to read most of it but the last few pages are wet.  I need to know how I can dry it—you know—what’s the best way.”  He left his number and hung up.  There was nothing more he could do but wait until morning.

Stepping out on the deck he felt instantly refreshed.  There was a breeze coming off the ocean and it was the perfect time for a walk on the beach.  Wisdom pervaded at the last minute and he took a flashlight.  He had no idea how long he walked but he was vaguely aware of laughing softly to himself, delighted he’d been victorious in opening the chest.  Then he had to blink away tears as he recalled parts of Kate’s story.  Why had she delivered it into his hands?

And what did she want from him?

He knew she wanted something—that’s why she had come to him.  If he could figure it out, maybe he could help her.  Then maybe her spirit could rest.

At last, he returned to the beach house and to his work table, where he leafed through the ship’s log once more, reading bits and pieces of it until his eyes grew heavy.  Taking the sea chest with him, he set it gently on the bureau in his bedroom, as if he could not bear to be parted from it.  He didn’t think he would be able to sleep but he stretched out on the bed, on top of the spread, and closed his eyes, trying to envision what life was like for Kate on these barrier strips of land that were just barely protected from the ravages of the sea.

A little while later, something woke him.  He glanced at the spot where he’d placed Kate’s little trunk.  Somehow during the night, it had fallen (or been placed, he thought) onto the floor.  It was open and he was stunned to see a bright light coming from it, pouring out of it and streaming upwards, toward the ceiling.  Amazed, he sat up slowly, scarcely daring to breathe.

The light, which had a perfect oval shape, was about the size of a full-length mirror.  Jonathan got up and went to investigate.  As he got closer, he realized it wasn’t just a light.

It was a portal—and he could look through it, as if through an open doorway.  What he saw within was unbelievable.

Kate was there, in her ship’s cabin, fully visible through the shimmering gateway.  She was sitting at a desk with candlelight flickering across her lovely features.  She was wearing a white linen nightgown and her long auburn hair fell past her shoulders in a waterfall of waves.  She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

He watched silently as she wrote in the journal—that same journal he had found—with a quill pen.  Tears were streaming down her face and a tiny dog—a Chihuahua—was lying on her bunk, looking at her with concern.  As she was about to dip her feathered pen into the inkwell, she beckoned the dog to come to her.  Taking it in her arms, she whispered to it.

“There, there, my little Stewie.  I know I have you and my dear babe, who is the treasure of my life.  But it looks like I am destined to be alone, with no husband nor even a lover to comfort me.  But there now—we’ll be home soon.  I can only hope there is still a home to go to.”

Why is she alone? Jonathan wondered.  What happened to Fournier?  Did he abandoned her, or betray her as her first love had done?

Involuntarily, he reached out to her.  To his astonishment, his arm went inside the portal and he saw the light from her candle reflecting off his hand.  He put his other hand in, and then his head and shoulders.  She looked up, surprised, and he could see she’d been crying.  Her need drew him to her and he stepped into the oval of light.

And he was in the captain’s cabin, aboard the Royal Thomas, with Kate.

Without a word—for words were not necessary—he went to her.  She was so petite, and very young—not much more than twenty.  She looked up at him with such sorrow he could not bear it.  Trying to comfort her, he wrapped his arms around her.  Sobbing, she buried her face against his chest and he felt her pain, her loneliness.  Holding her close, he lightly stroked her back, inhaling the pure sweetness of her.  She looked up at him, puzzled, and then standing on tiptoe, she kissed his cheek.  Her innocence, her fragrant body against his—it was a bliss unlike anything Jonathan had ever known, and he would have been happy to stay with her there—wherever there was—forever.

A bright, relentless sun blasting through the window woke him the next morning.  He was alone in his bed—and there was no light coming out of the open chest, which was back on the bureau where he’d put it.

It had been a dream.  He knew that.  He knew it was impossible to step through some kind of weird light, three hundred years into the past.  Sighing and rubbing his eyes, he came back to reality.

Just a dream.  Nothing more.

But when he got out of bed and put his bare feet on the floor, one of them landed on something sharp.  Something sharp on one end and soft and feathery on the other.  He looked down, puzzled, and logic flew out the window.

It was a quill pen—the pen with which Kate had been writing.  It was lying on the floor next to his bed, in his bedroom at the beach house.