PETER PAN AND THE TRAMP STAMP
Peter Pan knew shit was getting out of hand even before Captain Hook snapped Tinker Bell’s G-string.
From where he stood on the second floor balcony outside the manager’s office and overlooking the strip club’s main floor, Peter leveled an accusatory finger at Hook. “Hey! No touching the girls!” Then, remembering what his friend Dimitri had told him when Peter had agreed to take over managing the place for a few days, he added, “That’s extra!”
What the hell was I thinking? It’d seemed like a harmless idea at the time, looking after the club during Dimitri’s vacation. Keep the bar stocked, the customers happy and the girls dancing for a week while his friend plopped his tired ass on a beach far from Neverland for a few days of R&R. How hard could it be?
Tinker Bell, now naked from the waist down, yelled out in surprise and anger at Hook’s crass move before smacking the pirate captain across his face. Peter caught a fleeting glimpse of her bare ass and the tattoo at the small of her back before she vanished in a cloud of fairy dust. Now reduced to her normal tiny size, she darted away from Hook, a streak of bright yellow light following her as she zipped across the room and toward the curtains at the back of the stage.
“Come back here!” the captain shouted, pointing after the fleeing fairy with the curved hook which served as a replacement for his lost right hand. Peter noted that the remnants of Tinker Bell’s G-string still dangled from the hook. “Get her! Don’t let any of them escape!” Around the club’s main room, dancers in varying states of undress scattered in all directions. Scrambling after them were several rough-looking, bedraggled men—members of Hook’s crew—yelling at the dancers and herding them from the stage or the dressing rooms.
Kind of reminds me of Dimitri’s bachelor party.
Several of the girls were following Tinker Bell’s lead, shrinking from their human forms and attempting to escape, and Peter now saw that some of the men were carrying nets or mason jars and were clambering over tables, chairs and one another as they tried to snare the fairies. Some of the dancers already had been captured, while others were having better luck evading their pursuers. Meanwhile, the rest of Hook’s men seemed determined to destroy the club itself, breaking tables and chairs or knocking the spotlights from their ceiling mounts. Two men grabbed a couch along the rear wall and threw it toward the large bay window overlooking the cliffs on which the club sat. Glass shattered outward as the couch sailed through the window and over the edge of the bluff, plummeting out of sight on its way down toward Mermaids’ Lagoon far below. The club bouncers, five in all, were trying to regain some control over the deteriorating situation, but by Peter’s count they were outnumbered at least four to one by Hook’s pirates.
Son of a bitch!
Peter knew that Dimitri would be furious when he saw all the damage Hook and his men were inflicting. FairyTails was Dimitri’s passion; the one place in all of Neverland and perhaps even the entire world where he felt the most content. He had built it almost from nothing, buying and renovating an old barbecue restaurant in order to create an oasis of beauty and delight amid the glut of discount stores, tanning salons, donut shops and fast food joints dominating Neverland’s northern regions. It had taken Dimitri years to revamp the place, during which he had invested his entire savings in order to spare no expense for the club’s furnishings as well as a state of the art sound and lighting system to say nothing of the finest liquor selection around. He also had hired what Peter believed to be the sexiest ensemble of performers it had ever been his pleasure to watch execute a flawless lap dance. Less than a year following its grand opening, FairyTails had become Neverland’s premiere and most popular gentleman’s club.
Seeing it wrecked like this almost certainly would break Dimitri’s heart, but not before he kicked Peter’s ass into the stratosphere.
“Knock off this shit!” Peter shouted. Leaping over the balcony’s railing, he swooped toward the club’s main floor. “Leave the girls alone!” Seeing a pirate latching on to one of the dancers, he changed direction and kicked the would-be assailant in the side of his head, sending him tumbling over a table. Flying past the downed pirate, Peter wrinkled his nose in disgust as he caught the potent odor of sea salt mixed with sweat.
“A whole ocean out there,” he called out as he flew at another pirate and pushed him into the nearby wall, “and none of you morons can ever find time for a fucking bath?” Pulling himself up, Peter landed mere paces from Hook and held out his hand. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Hook glowered at him. “Since when do you run this pit of debauchery? Where is that ill-mannered friend of yours? Dimitri?”
“He’s on vacation,” Peter snapped. “That means you deal with me.”
Despite his bravado, he couldn’t help flinching when he once again heard the sound of glass breaking, and looked past Hook to see the giant disco ball suspended above the club’s main stage come crashing down. Two of the captain’s men had knocked it from its perch with clubs and now were proceeding to smash whatever remained into tiny pieces. Others were gathering near the stage, several of them holding nets or jars containing something small and glowing. The fairies!
Returning his gaze to Hook, Peter poked him in the chest. “Tell your men to get their grubby paws off the girls and haul their asses out of here, before this gets ugly.”
Hook only smiled.
Readying his next threat, the words died in Peter’s throat as he sensed someone behind him. Then he felt hands grabbing his arms and legs. “Hey!”
Pulled off his feet, Peter saw that he was being lifted over the heads of four of Hook’s pirates. The harder he struggled and squirmed, the tighter the men gripped him. Then someone punched him in the face and stars exploded in his vision. Dizziness and disorientation clouded his mind and he shook his head in a feeble attempt to refocus his eyes. His vision still blurred and his arms and legs feeling like lead, Peter looked up in time to see the yawning bay window overlooking the cliffs.
Opening his eyes, Peter squinted as he found himself staring up into the bright afternoon sun. He lifted one hand in a futile bid to block the sun from his eyes. His face hurt like hell, and the simple act of raising his arm evoked a grunt of pain. Dropping his arm back to his side, he realized he was lying on warm, damp sand. He reached up to feel his shirt, noting that he was soaking wet. What the fuck had happened?
Window. Cliffs. Water. Ow.
This definitely was not the way Peter had expected things to go after his return from several years spent in the Mainland among normal people. The real world had recaptured his interest for a time as he traveled to faraway lands to see what he had been missing. It was fun for a time, but the friends he missed and the adventures they shared ultimately had drawn him back to Neverland.
Then Dimitri asked me to do him a little favor, and here we are. Shit.
Lifting himself to a sitting position was itself another excruciating experience, with what felt like jolts of lightening piercing his brain as he pushed himself from the sand. He was at the water’s edge of Mermaids’ Lagoon, the base of the bluffs rising up behind him to the plateau atop which sat FairyTails. To his right sat the couch which once had occupied space inside the club, half-submerged in the lagoon, and lying atop it was a mermaid, droplets of water covering her skin and dark hair and glistening in the sunlight. She was smiling at him, and Peter realized he recognized her as one of the handful of performers from FairyTails he had dated following his return to Neverland. For a brief moment, his spirits were lifted by the memories of their first date.
Now, if I could only remember her name.
Something to his left cast a shadow across his lap, and Peter looked up to see Tinker Bell staring down at him, her expression a mask of concern. She had returned to human size and now as she knelt in the sand next to him. When she spoke, Peter winced at the string of the high-pitched bell assaulting his ears, and he held up a hand in protest.
“Stop yelling,” he said, rubbing his temples. He hadn’t felt this bad since Dimitri’s epic bachelor party, a pre-marital celebration so unrivaled in its decadence and wanton disregard for civility, morality and simple safety that at least three of the Lost Boys still were listed as missing in action. To this day, Peter was unable to recall several details of the weekend, let alone how he even managed to survive it when others had been far less fortunate.
Glancing at the mermaid who still was lounging on the water-logged couch drifting in the lagoon, Peter recalled that she’d been at the bachelor party, too.
But what’s her damned name?
Tinker Bell tapped him on the arm and this time, her voice was low enough in volume that it didn’t make Peter’s brain want to leak from his ears.
“I’m fine,” he said, listening to her tell him how she had arrested his plunge from the club window. “Thanks for making sure I hit the water. Are you okay?” He noted that she no longer sported the remnants of her tiny dancer’s outfit from FairyTails, but instead was wearing a short, green form-fitting dress. “How did you get away from Hook’s men?” After Tinker Bell explained that she had managed to evade the pirates’ attempts to capture her, she gave him the bad news.
“All of the other fairies were captured?” Peter frowned. “Why? What the hell could Hook even want with them?” His mind filled with a succession of scenarios, each more depraved than the last. After all, Hook was known across Neverland for his rather eccentric tastes when it came to indulging desires best left unspoken. Then there was his crew, as perverted a collection of misfits and miscreants as had ever been assembled.
Bunch of dicks.
In response to his question, the pitch of Tinker Bell’s voice rose an octave as she rose to her feet and pulled up the hem of her dress to expose her ass, which was bare save for a black G-string bearing the FairyTails logo. Just above that was the tattoo at the small of her back, to which she pointed.
“What about it?” Peter asked, pushing himself to his feet as he glared at the tattoo. It was an elaborate abstract design, and though he’d seen it a few times he had no idea what it was supposed to represent. Indeed, most if not all of the dancers had their own distinct tattoos in that same strategic location. Beyond staring at them and the asses they accented, hee’d never bothered to give any of the individual specimens much thought.
“I don’t get it,” he said after a moment. “What does it have to do with anything?”
Dropping her dress back into place, Tinker Bell spat out a litany of chimes, which Peter needed to have repeated, because what he thought he’d heard the first time sounded utterly ridiculous.
“Wait. Your tramp stamp’s part of a fucking treasure map?”
With a contemptuous wave, Hook growled at the fairy bent over his desk, her shirt pulled up to expose the tattoo at the small of her back.
“Take her away,” he growled to the two men flanking the dancer. “Hers is worthless.” He had spent an hour tracing the tattoo’s intricate design onto a piece of parchment—a difficult enough task to do without his right hand—along with trying to fit the piece into the map he was constructing on the wall of his cabin aboard the Jolly Roger. In frustration, he wadded up the parchment and threw it into the room’s far corner where it joined a half dozen other discarded attempts. His men grabbed the dancer and pulled her from the desk as Hook’s companion and confidant, Adrianna, sprinkled the younger girl with fairy dust. The dancer had time only to release a shriek of surprise before she shrank back to her normal size and the pirates forced her into a waiting mason jar. The vessel’s lid featured several small holes, and Hook could see the glow of the fairy dust emanating from it as the dancer protested her renewed captivity. Chuckling amongst themselves, the men left the cabin, leaving Hook and Adrianna alone.
“She’ll never forgive you, you know,” Hook said after the doors had closed, punctuating the observation with a chuckle.
Adrianna shrugged as she straightened her form-fitting black gown with its plunging neckline Hook enjoyed so much. “I don’t care. I never liked any of those harlots, anyway. None of them can dance worth a damn, and from what I hear, they prefer to make their money in other ways.”
“I’ve heard that, too,” Hook replied, unable to suppress a wolfish grin.
Rolling her eyes, Adrianna crossed her arms, an action which only served to enhance her already prominent bosom. “And I’ve heard they’re no good at that, either.” She shook her head. “Dancing used to be an honorable profession, until this new generation of trollops came along.”
“There’s no match for experience,” Hook replied, and the remark was enough to earn him a withering scowl from Adrianna. Sensing she was in no mood for his games, oral or otherwise, Hook turned his attention to the map on his wall, which he had created from sections of parchment, each bearing a copy of a dancer’s tattoo. Just as Adrianna had told him based on her own tenure as a dancer at FairyTails, the tattoos given to the other girls all were pieces of a larger puzzle which—when assembled correctly—would reveal the location of the treasure Dimitri had secreted. Though the resulting image contained no words or other telltale markings, Hook had been able to compare it to his own navigational charts and determined that that their target lay somewhere within the largely unexplored area labeled at the edge of most maps as “the Forbidden Reef.”
“The Reef’s an ideal hiding place,” Adrianna said. “Sailing there is very dangerous.”
“Quite right,” Hook replied as he reached for the glass of rum on his desk. The area was a collection of small islands, most of them uninhabited and surrounded by shallow waters. Without accurate charts—or an experienced ship master as Hook was—the risk of running aground was great. Still, the clues he had so far gathered were sufficient for him to order the Jolly Roger to set sail for that most ominous and unknown of regions.
Adrianna said, “Dimitri was a sneaky bastard. While most of the fairies’ tattoos are part of the map, some of them are of no help whatsoever.”
Several of them seemed to be deliberate fakes, designed as distractions for anyone attempting to piece together a larger image such as the one Hook was constructing. Indeed, even the tattoo at the small of Adrianna’s back—itself a memento of her own time as a fairy—had proven to be one of the diversions. As a consequence of Dimitri’s subterfuge, the map’s center remained uncharted, as none of the tattoos seemed to have matched up with that section.
“We’re still missing at least one key piece,” Hook said after a moment, releasing a sigh of irritation as he swirled the contents of his glass. Downing the rum, he reached for the open bottle on his desk. “Bring me the next girl,” he said, tapping the point of his hook on the arm of his chair.
“There are no others,” Adrianna replied, nodding toward the door. “She was the last one.”
“What?” Hook rose from his chair, his eyes narrowing in disbelief. “How is that possible?”
Adrianna stepped closer to the pieced-together map. “I’ve counted up all the pieces, including the ones you threw away. There’s one missing.”
“That’s not right,” Hook said, turning his gaze toward the logbook on his desk. It lay open to the page upon which he had written the names of each fairy, and whether her tattoo ended up being part of the map or a decoy. “There are fifteen names here, including yours.”
“One’s missing,” Adrianna said. She brushed past him, and Hook found himself studying her round bottom as she pored over the logbook.
“Stop staring at my ass,” she snapped, before reaching over to tap the open book with one long fingernail. “Tinker Bell. She’s the one you’re missing.”
Hook gritted his teeth in mounting annoyance as he dropped back into his chair. “That worthless tart. I should’ve known.” The troublesome imp always had been a thorn in his side, along with her scoundrel boyfriend, Pan. “We have to find her.”
“No, we don’t,” Adrianna countered. “You’ve already narrowed the search to one area of the Reef. We can comb the few islands there and find the treasure on our own.”
Leaning back in his chair, Hook considered her words. While he believed the Jolly Roger now was heading in the correct general direction through the Forbidden Reef, what remained a mystery was a precise destination. Based on the clues already collected, Hook was confident he could plot a course through the dangerous waters to the group of islands where Dimitri’s treasure was hidden, but without the map’s missing section, the captain knew he was making a perilous gamble.
So be it.
“Very well,” Hook said. “We stay the course.”
The sound of the ship’s bell echoed through the open windows at the rear of his cabin, followed by the voice of a crewman from the poop deck.
Turning in his chair, Hook saw the sun already had dropped below the horizon. Nightfall was upon the Jolly Roger even as the ship was nearing one of the islands, which meant that navigation through the Forbidden Reef now would be even more hazardous, but he had no intention of stopping.
The rewards will be more than sufficient to balance against the risk.
Descending through the clouds, Peter bent his body and extended his arms out from his sides, angling his flight so that he now was dropping toward the rear of the Jolly Roger. White foam broke against the vessel’s hull as it sailed deeper into the Forbidden Reef, and ahead of the ship loomed a dark mass; one of the dozens of tiny islands dotting this area. Peter had not been here for many years, when he and the Lost Boys had come here in search of adventure, but Dimitri’s bachelor party and the carnage it wrought had dampened any further desires Peter might have to visit this place. The Reef was known for its narrow, hazardous passages around and between its islands, and legends spoke of the numerous ships which had met a watery doom here.
With luck, the sea would claim one more ship on this night.
Now that darkness had fallen, the only lights visible on the pirate ship came from the oil lamps placed at points along the deck and behind the port holes along her flanks. The larger aft ports leading to Hook’s cabin also were illuminated, and the resulting light allowed Peter to see the pirate captain, one of his men and an attractive woman in a slinky black gown standing at the ship’s wheel on the Roger’s poop deck. A few other pirates also were visible along the deck, each immersed in some task and none of them on watch for threats from above. There would be other crewmen belowdecks, and Peter knew that even with Tinker Bell’s help he still would be outnumbered. The only advantages he possessed were flight, speed, and surprise.
But if there was an ideal time to strike, this was it.
“Hang on,” Peter said, making up his mind. He looked to his left shoulder and saw Tinker Bell, the diminutive fairy wrapping herself in the folds of his shirt sleeve. “Here we go!” He altered his descent until he was dropping in an almost vertical line toward the Jolly Roger’s deck, adjusting his course to keep pace with the ship as it closed on the island ahead. Within seconds he was shifting his body to level himself, flying just behind the ship as the pirate standing at the wheel chose that moment to look aft.
With Tinker Bell’s warning cry like a chorus of bells echoing across the water, the pirate’s eyes widened in surprise just as Peter flew into him, slamming his fists into the other man’s chest. Rocked backward, the pirate grunted in shock and pain as he stumbled and flailed for balance. He struck the rail encircling the poop deck and rolled over it, plummeting to the main deck below.
“You!” Hook roared, swinging at Peter with his hook hand, but by then Peter already was out of reach. He streaked past, feeling Tinker Bell free herself from his shirt and dart off in her own direction toward one of the hatchways leading belowdecks, leaving Peter to deal with Hook and his men.
From behind him, Peter heard Hook shout, “Stop him!”
The other men on the main deck now were aware of him, each brandishing a sword or a club or whatever makeshift weapon presented itself. Drawing the knife from the scabbard at the small of his back, Peter sliced at any ropes or sails lay before him as he flew across the Roger’s deck. Within seconds he heard shouts of alarm, his sabotage already having an effect as the mainsail’s boom swung across the deck, striking two of the pirates and continuing to fowl the sail itself. Beneath him, Peter saw the deck pitch to starboard as the ship changed direction, driven by the wind and the runaway sail. In the distance but not too far off, large dark objects were visible in the water.
Tinker Bell darted belowdecks and toward the crew billets, hearing the cries of the other fairies as the Jolly Roger lurched and shuddered around her. Members of Hook’s crew were stumbling and staggering to keep their feet as the deck heaved beneath them.
“Get her!” a voice shouted from somewhere behind her. “Somebody grab her!”
Ignoring the threats, Tinker Bell zipped into the crew billeting area, spying the assortment of mason jars and other boxes situated on the long, narrow table running the length of the cabin. Each of the vessels emitted a bright yellow glow, telling her these were the makeshift prisons holding her friends. Releasing a handful of fairy dust, she felt the familiar tingling sensation play across her body as she stretched out of her tiny form and enlarged to her human size.
“Fuck!” another voice cried. “Somebody stop her, or the captain will keel haul our asses!”
With no time to waste, Tinker Bell began pushing the jars from the table, each of them tumbling to the deck and smashing to pieces. Before setting to work on the latches of the remaining boxes, she spread fairy dust across the floor, catching her freed sisters in its warm embrace. The other girls began growing to their human sizes, each of them turning to help another friend as Tinker Bell freed the rest of the captive fairies.
We have to get out of here!
It was the only thing she had time to tell her friends before the entire ship tilted to the right. If the Roger was about to capsize or run aground, Tinker Bell didn’t want to be trapped down here.
What the hell was happening up on deck?
“Look out for the rocks!”
Peter heard one of Hook’s men bellowing the warning, but it came with only seconds to spare as the Jolly Roger bore down on the immense rocks sticking out of the water ahead of the ship. Flying around the vessel’s main mast, Peter angled his way toward the poop deck where he saw Hook standing at the wheel, fighting to steady the ship’s course and avoid the hazards in its path. Next to him and holding a sword was the mysterious dark-haired woman in the sexy dress, whom Peter thought he recognized.
“Hey! Were you at Dimitri’s bachelor party?” he asked as he flew past.
“You were an asshole at that party!” she shouted, slicing at him with the sword.
Peter blew her a kiss. “And you were incredible!”
“Pan!” Hook shouted, swinging the sword he held in his left hand while his hook held fast to the wheel. Peter avoided the strike with ease, sailing past the captain and his lady friend.
“Sorry, Hook!” he said, offering the captain a mock salute as he headed out over the water. Looking over his shoulder, Peter saw streaks of yellow light emerging from the hatchway leading belowdecks, each of them one of the girls taken from FairyTails. He recognized Tinker Bell at the front of the group, leading her friends to freedom, and breathed a sigh of relief. At least she and the others were safe.
“Abandon ship!” Hook yelled, and Peter turned in time to see the captain and everyone else leaping over the railing and into the water as the Jolly Roger continued forward. Seconds later it struck the rocks and the air was filled with the horrendous cacophony of wood and metal giving way to unyielding stone. With only the moon to provide illumination, Peter watched as the ship broke into several pieces and at once began foundering, swallowed by the unremitting sea. Figures were scattered about in the water, each of them swimming away from the wreck and grabbing on to whatever debris floated their way.
That was pretty fucking cool, Peter conceded as the last of the Jolly Roger vanished beneath the waves.
Even more fucking cool than watching a ship sink, Peter decided, was staring at a bevy of fairy strippers, each of them lounging in the sand with their tanned, toned asses presented to the sun.
“Okay Tinker Bell,” he said, standing in the midst of the near-naked beauties, each of whom had graciously agreed to help him as he worked. “Get down there in the middle.” It had taken him hours to interpret the designs comprising each of the dancers’ tattoos and arrange the girls into what he thought was the proper configuration, so that he could see how they all fit together. It was demanding work to be sure, but Peter felt it was a task he could entrust to no one else. That impression only was strengthened each time he asked another girl to lie down on the sand and show him her backside.
Dimitri, you sly dog, you.
As Tinker Bell took her place among the group, Peter studied the tattoo at the small of her back. After getting her to shift her position so that she pointed more toward the sea than inland, he realized that the design highlighting her skin now fit with the rest of the Dimitri’s map. That Tinker Bell’s head now was resting on the ass of another stripper was an unexpected yet welcome bonus.
“Holy shit!” he exclaimed, pointing to the tattoo. “That’s it! We’ve found it!”
With the map revealed, locating the precise location of Dimitri’s treasure stash became a simple matter, and within an hour Peter, Tinker Bell and the rest of the fairies found themselves standing in a small cave deep in the island’s jungle, staring at the chests of gold and silver coins, tableware and jewelry his friend had hidden here.
“I can’t believe he managed to collect all of this,” Peter said, his eyes wide as he took in the booty. Tinker Bell explained that Dimitri had taken up a hobby of diving to the numerous wrecks to be found here in the Forbidden Reef, salvaging what he could from each of the sunken ships. It was all just sitting there, waiting for some brave soul to come and find it. The Reef’s dangerous waters provided ample protection from all but the bravest—or most foolhardy—ship captains, offering Dimitri plenty of hiding places among the various islands.
“What a sneaky asshole,” Peter said, though he actually admired his friend’s savvy. Of course, with Captain Hook certain to continue his own search for the treasure, Peter knew he had no choice but to find the treasure first and relocate it for Dimitri’s sake. “With luck, we can get all of this moved before he gets back from his vacation.”
Then, Tinker Bell reminded him of one important thing.
“Shit, the club,” he said, thinking of all the damage Hook and his men had inflicted upon FairyTails, and how his friend was sure to react once he saw what had become of his beloved stripper haven.
“Dimitri’s still going to kick my ass, isn’t he?”