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1. It was, after all, a pirate city

2. It was finally there, after all those years, right in front of him

3. That would be the downside of teleportation


I almost expected to find Johnny Depp somewhere on the street. It was, after all, a pirate city, even if it was far from Disneyland. The faces I found all around me, though, were dark and fearsome and not at all playful.

I was somewhere in Algeria, I thought, although I’d been out of my head for some time during the voyage. I’d never before suffered from seasickness, and the dull aching thrum in my head now led me to believe that I’d been given more than the usual rum that last night in Johannesburg.

My thirst for adventure had taken me far from a cozy home in Boston, first to a series of stops in the stormy Caribbean, then to a trek through African jungles. I traveled alone, hooking up with guides wherever and whenever I felt uncomfortable being on my own. I always simply trusted my own instincts in finding just the right man for the job. Now, it seemed, my instinct had failed me.

My parents must have recognized that side of my nature that was destined to drive me to situations like this. They christened me Charlotte Amelia, but by the time I was a year old, they were calling me Charlie, and the name stuck to me from then on. At graduation from John Keller High School I wasn’t noted on the honor roll. Still, I’d earned the title of “Most Likely to Go Far.” Ah, if they could only see me now!

At least I was alive and, as far as I could tell, completely unharmed. I woke up where I’d been dumped like an unwanted kitten, in an alley behind a street seller’s tent. When my vision returned to normal and I found that I could stand, I began to assess my situation.

There were people milling about, all with darting, watchful eyes and hidden hands, but I didn’t think a conversation with any of them would be of benefit to me. For one thing, I couldn’t understand a word from the men around me.

Gradually, I came to realize that there were only men within my sight. I took a moment to verify my impressions. Where in the world was I that no women appeared in a busy market? I took stock of my own appearance and quickly realized that I must have been taken for a boy. My clothes were loose, nondescript garments that suited either gender and had particularly appealed to me as being comfortable and hard-wearing for my strenuous travels.