A tall tale of vampire pirates living in modern day Virginia
By D.J. Lutz
Blackie Sherwood knew he should call his wife before she heard the news elsewhere. Not that it would make much difference in her leaving, but it was the right thing to do. He looked at the off-white, number ten envelope sitting on the desk, the Fisheries and Wildlife emblem in the upper left corner staring straight back at him, and lamented how the same envelope used to deliver his paycheck was now bringing him the official word of his permanent layoff.
This had been a banner week for Blackie. First, his wife announced she was leaving him to make a new life for herself as a fashion model in New York, with her therapist suddenly changing careers to become her manager. And now, state budget cuts were hitting home, with the Eastern Shore field office and its’ one and only Fish and Wildlife Ranger no longer found on the state’s list of approved expenditures.
In one week, Blackie would be living alone, save the company of Mags the dog, and unemployed for the first time since high school. He knew he should be worried, but the reality had not sunk in yet. As he was reaching for the desk phone, it rang.
“Ranger Office. Sherwood,” he answered.
The excited voice on the other end of the conversation rattled on and on, almost to the point of being incoherent. Blackie tried to thank the caller, but had a difficult time interrupting. Finally, he was able to end the call.
Blackie took a deep breath, looked down at the phone, then over at the letter. Why should I bother? Will anyone at Fish and Wildlife even care about one more dead goat? I have a week to figure out what my life means, where I need to go, what I need to do. Why should I really bother?
Still, Blackie Sherwood had taken an oath to protect the wildlife and though somewhat domesticated, the abandoned goats on the barrier islands still qualified. Someone had been killing goats and draining their blood, about one animal a week, for the past month and police had yet to find a single suspect. The area farmers were on edge, too, and rumors of black magic had resurfaced. Those stories had circulated the Eastern Shore since the 1600’s, brought to the Chesapeake Bay by slaves arriving from Africa. The legend had lain dormant for over fifty years, but was now making a virulent comeback.
“Come on, Mags. Time for a ride in the old Jeep. Looks like we have one more billy goat to bury before coyotes do much more damage.”
Twenty minutes later, Blackie and Mags arrived at the boat launch. It would be another half hour to get to Cobb Island, one of the many barrier islands that protected the sea-side of Virginia’s portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. Somewhere, a panicked fisherman was standing near an emaciated carcass of a goat, probably worried it would come back to life and eat him. Blackie surmised the more immediate thing to worry about was whatever killed the goat.
Cobb Island lighthouse had been abandoned long ago, after one of the more vicious hurricanes had pushed a storm surge over the entire island. A few people escaped, many died. The lighthouse had remained vacant since. Since then, the only people that ever got close to the island were fisherman whose boats ran out of gas and the occasional naturalist, counting flocks of geese. Random herds of domesticated goats roamed the barrier islands at will, no one to herd them.
As the boat approached the island, the ocean kayak belonging to the caller came into view. Blackie looked around, finding no one else in the area. This island was so desolate, Blackie thought it a miracle any cell phone signal caught the attention of the tower in nearby Cape Charles. The Ranger’s boat pulled up to the shoreline. There was no launch. Throwing out the anchor line, Blackie prepared to go ashore. He was going to get stuck in the mud and he knew it.
“You call in the dead goat?”
The man pointed over by the lighthouse. “Yeah. It’s over there. But I swear, I think someone’s in the lighthouse. I ain’t going in there, though. No sir. You can have that job.”
“See anyone in the area? Any fishermen? A passing sub, maybe?”
“Look pal, joke if you want, but something killed that goat and from the looks of it, drank all its’ blood. As for me, I’m outta here. Have a nice day,” he said sarcastically.
Blackie spent the next two hours searching the lighthouse and the surrounding area. No sign of life except a few goats and dozens of birds. The only manmade object besides the lighthouse was an old sailboat that appeared to have been washed up onto the beach over a year ago. Probably from some poor weekend sailor that had to be rescued by the Coast Guard…
After burying the carcass deep enough to fool scavenging coyotes, the Ranger started walking back to his boat. Mags the dog, standing watch on the bow, started barking loader than usual.
“I’m coming, girl. Nothing else to see here. If we time it right, we should get home in time to see the sun set and Trish flip us off on her way out.”
True enough, as Blackie and Mags sailed away, the sun started dipping beyond the treeline, disappearing over the bay side of the Chesapeake.
Had Blackie Sherwood looked back, he would have seen the single hurricane lamp, glowing from the lighthouse tower.
It was dinnertime.
- Vampire Pirates, anyone? (djlutz.wordpress.com)