“Wonderful!” said Teresa. “Let’s get started.”
We all made space, and ceded the centre stage to her.
“We are playing fast and loose with history here. Imagine a time when women could be pirates, and just as bloodthirsty and ferocious as the men – if not more.” That got a hoot of agreement from the ladies, and when Sheila chimed in with a deep-voiced ‘Aaargh!’, everyone laughed.
“You can all use your real names as an alias.” continued Teresa. “Everyone here has a secret identity. One of your tasks is to find out everyone else’s secrets, without giving away all of your own. Everyone here is in disguise. That might explain why you will not recognize former shipmates, or even old friends. Later on, there will be a murder, and you will try to discover the identity of the killer among you. Finally, there is that rumour about a treasure …”
“Last rule. Everyone must return their character instruction sheets to me. I will keep them safe, and you can return at any time to consult your own instructions. You may also, if you wish, write down any piece of information on those sheets – but you can’t keep the originals.”
“The reason for that is very simple: you could easily prove to someone that you’re telling the truth, just by showing them your secret instructions. This way, you will have to convince them, without any paper to back you up. No one, except me, of course, will ever know if you are truly trustworthy …”
I saw heads nodding around the room. There were gamers among us, who certainly appreciated Teresa’s little ploy.
“Then … we are ready to begin.”
– “Wait.” said Ben. “Who’s been murdered?”
– “No one.” said Teresa. “Yet …”
She gave us one hour to circulate, and to talk to other players, while dinner was being prepared. Leo and I got barbecue duty. We were going to cook up shish kebabs, cubes of beef or chicken on skewers, with green and red peppers, onions, zucchini and so on. By some sort of unspoken agreement, neither of us mentioned our characters, or the mystery roles. There were too many people hovering around.
– “I’ve got this.” said Leo. “Go talk to people. Or get me another beer. Or both.”
I took the hint, and moved away. Ben was standing by myself, so I approached him. He was the person I least wanted to talk, so I decided to get it over with early.
– “Great costume.” I told him.
– “Thanks. You look alright, too.”
– “What do you think, so far?” I asked him.
– “Are you kidding? Did you see Barb? Or Claire? Shit, all of them look incredible.”
– “I hear you. Lena, too. She makes me wish I was six foot four.”
– “In your dreams.” he laughed. I was barely 5’10”.
Then he transferred his beer to his left hand, and raised his right hand to scratch his ear. Ben looked right at me, and touched three fingers to his ear lobe. It was the recognition signal for Redbeard’s crew. For a moment, I considered replying in kind. Instead, I played dumb.
Ben narrowed his eyes and looked at me suspiciously. I’m not sure if I passed his scrutiny, but he gave it up and changed the subject.
I moved off, and settled next to Eric, who was cradling a rum punch while he looked out over the lake. I guess the beard was itching him, or maybe interfering with his drinking: he had pulled it down so that it circled his neck.
– “You look like an Amish pirate.” I said.
– “An improvement, then? Never mind. I gladly accept your compliment.” he answered.
– “Is that you speaking, or your character?” I asked.
– “Why can’t it be both?”
Just for the hell of it, I used the recognition signal that Ben had tried out on me. Eric didn’t even flinch.
– “You’re not a pirate, are you?” I asked.
– “Depends.” he said. “Are you the Falcon?”
Interesting. That was one name I had to fear. “No. I have to watch out for him, too. Or her.”
– “So you’re the one called the Scar?” Eric asked me.
– “Nope. Not me either.”
– “Cool nicknames, though.” he said. “I’m glad you invited me. This could be a lot of fun. So then you’re here to rescue Redbeard?”
I shook my head. “No. Far as I’m concerned, he can stay right where he is.”
– “Really?” said Eric. “And you’re not the Falcon?”
– “Said I wasn’t.”
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