Welcome to Bannville, MS, home of the Banned Library and set right in the middle of the dark piney woods where drugs, violence and dark forces are as abundant as the humidity. Our narrator on this journey is Evan Banned, one time director and current owner of the library now trying to bring it back after it burned to the ground and then, right after it reopened, was closed due to funding. Currently Evan is on a Caribbean cruise hosted by his eccentric Uncle Ted and sharing a room with the lovely Tisha Graham. Why didn't Uncle Ted show up to the party on lido deck? Where has Tisha been? Will Evan take the job as the cruise liner's librarian? Will Evan get the library back on its feet with Uncle Ted’s help?
As far as I could tell, Tisha never came back to the suite yesterday or last night. I waited around this morning to see if she would show up for breakfast, but when she did not I went for brunch. Then I went looking for Uncle Ted.
I asked the bartender, Jeff, if he had seen the old man.
“No, sir,” Jeff said. He spun a bottle on his hand and it crashed into the bar and shattered, “Shit. I’ll never get this.” He picked up a rag and started wiping down the wood. I smiled and kept him company for a bit, then went exploring the ship.
Most of the passengers left the ship when we stopped in Jamaica. The staff went about cleaning and loading materials. No one had seen my uncle and everyone thought that strange. They all liked the old man, even though he crashed through a door like a tsunami. Staff and passengers alike all promised they would look out for him, but assured me people wander around these big ships all the time.
I spent some time looking at the port of Falmouth, the little shops set up to sell random shit to tourists off the boats. It looked almost the same as New Orleans, the same crowds gathered to see the boats, only with better water. We were mourned for most of the day and set out again that night for Grand Cayman.
I was talking again to Jeff at the party on the lido deck that night when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Mr. Banned. Where have you been hiding?”
I turned to find Tisha Graham standing behind me. She wore a dark blue dress with sequins strategically placed to draw the eye and parts carved out of the fabric that made the imagination double take. I took a sip of whiskey to settle myself.
“We seem to be two ships passing in the night, Ms. Graham,” I said. I offered her a drink and she ordered a dry martini. Jeff went about mixing it without his usual flourish. Tisha seemed to make him nervous.
“You haven’t happened to have seen my uncle, have you?” I said.
She shook her head and blonde locks waved at her temples. I wanted to reach up and uncurl one, to feel the way it must feel, like threads of silk.
“No. In truth I was looking for him myself. I hoped he would be here tonight. The crew says he rarely misses a party and never twice in a row.”
“That’s my uncle,” I said, “I had the same thoughts.”
“Have you checked his room? Is it possible he had health problems?”
I had checked the room, stood outside and banged on the door. The staff in that area said they had not heard him. They had not heard his snoring, anyway. I had checked a few more times with the same results.
“Maybe we could go check?” she said.
“No time like the present,” she said, “I have nothing else to do.”
I agreed and smiled. We cut our way through the party and were in the staff quarters quickly.
“What do you need my uncle for?” I said.
“Felix, yes, he was interested in getting to the hold to see our cargo. I told him not to worry, but it is very precious to him.”
“I get that,” I said, not really getting it, “here we are.”
We stood outside the room and I banged on the door three times. No answer came. I used the master key card and went through the door.
My uncle lives his life like a tornado. He decorates his room in the same fashion. Loud flower print shirts were thrown around the room and the bed looked like it had been beaten rather than slept in. The mattress was exposed and the sheets were in a bundle on the floor.
“Does he have enemies?” Tisha asked.
I laughed, “Only himself.”
I looked around the room, “He’s not here. Though these are weird.”
Open on the bed were three green suitcases. White cracks appeared on the green colored material, of the sides and fronts and the gold clasps shined. The cases were worn and used and filled with guns.
I looked at the guns and poked at them with a pen. They were real, not props. I looked at the luggage tag and saw the name of the person who owned the cases. Felix Minx.
“What exactly is your uncle into?” Tisha said.
“What is your partner into?” I said, showing her the luggage tag.
“You said you could get the cases without a problem,” a man said. I looked up and saw a man in a green suit staring at me from the door.
“Felix,” Tisha said.
“Okay, who the hell are you people?” I said. My hand reached into the suitcase for one of the weapons.
Felix Minx undid the button of his jacket and stared at me, “Mr. Banned, I will say this once. Step away from the cases and do not do anything-”
I picked up one of the guns and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
“Shit,” I said and Felix grinned.
I threw the gun at him and he came at me low, hands out to grab. I tried to jump back, but the small cabin stopped me from moving much. His hands pulled at my shirt, gripped me and counter balanced and I was off my feet. I hit the floor and he was on me, hands at my throat.
I kicked at the wall and made us roll to the side, but his grip maintained. I forced myself up, my larger bulk getting the upper hand when I felt a crack across the side of my neck.
Once again on my back, my vision went black as I stared at Tisha standing over me with a pistol in her hand, the grip reversed.
“Just go to sleep, Mr. Banned,” Felix said and I felt the grip on my throat get tighter as I lost consciousness.