The Pirate Suitor

by Matthew Dexter

Even as a little girl, Samantha Anderson had always been especially precocious. But now she was as well-known for her beauty as she had always been to me for her brilliance.

I watched with awe as she sat leisurely on the wet deck of the sailboat, peacefully embracing the lazy reflections from the water as they fluttered across her angelic sunburnt face. She was gazing toward the jagged protruding shoreline, while the setting sun was hazily painting the Mexican ripples various shades of red and orange. Her head was aimed directly at the waves breaking upon the golden sand.

As I approached, I noticed the Pacific Ocean leaving its final impression of the day upon the cluster of freckles which covered her shoulders, like a constellation, as the salty mist collected on her back for a few lingering seconds in transparent speckles, before evaporating in the heat of the Cabo San Lucas summer. I was immersed in my silent observation of her natural youthful splendor, now initiated by my delayed acknowledgement of her seemingly sudden transition from childhood to womanhood.

I only wanted to protect her, and had actually been successfully in this endeavor most of her life. I kept her away from the steady stream of teenage boys who relentlessly attempted to sneak off with her all week long during our vacation onshore, whether for benign reasons and intentions, or not.

They came in waves, fueled by testosterone and blessed with the convenience of lenient liquor laws. Yet I succeeded in keeping most of these potential consensual molesters at a great enough distance to prevent any negative influence. Since I was her only uncle, it was my self-proclaimed duty to look after my niece. It was my way of keeping my younger brother and sister-in-law company on their adventure below the border.

But now I had a sickening inclination that the scores of young men who were perpetually drawn to Samantha were not attracted by her magnetic personality or mature wisdom, but her eyes were radiant and full of life as she listened to music blasting through her headphones.

My growing shadow was just about to approach the bow when she broached the question of why I was always pestering her with my stern presence and excessive protection.

“I told you not to come so close to me. You’re being punished for terrifying that handsome young man on the dock,” she warned, without breaking focus of the waves and the familiar oceanic melodies dancing through her mind.

“Darling Samantha, wearing bikinis like those don’t leave much undressing to the imagination of your suitors,” I offered back, my shadow now motionless, except for the subtle movement of my short grey hair, gently blowing in the warm tropical breeze.

She smiled innocently and sensed the truth in my implicit suggestion.

“Uncle Will, I’m sorry but I’m almost sixteen now, so you’re just going to have to be more tolerant of my constantly evolving social life. This sometimes involves boys, so be prepared.”

“Boys?” I contested with laughter.

“Samantha, that last one at the dock was nearly my age, and the two at the marina were college kids. I’m only looking out for your best interests. You need to focus on your work and make all your dreams come to fruition. Please don’t let any boys kill your ambitions.”

“Nobody will interfere with my goals,” she promised, accepting the cold glass of lemonade I handed her, after assuming that it was ok to get closer only if I offered a gift of atonement.

It was a nice moment we shared together on that mahogany deck, watching the ocean slowly project an amber glow on the aquatic rocks in the distance, which shimmered like a tiny river running through a submerged corral reef.

It was almost as if we were sailing on the wings of paradise. Riding the crest of our wonderful destinies, and the sunset was welcoming our future and all it had to offer. Only there was much more to this scenic escape than meets the eye. We had actually come here to relieve the recent past, in an attempt to begin to pull the fragmented pieces of our tattered lives together.

Our family had been shattered six months earlier by the devastating news of the death of Samantha’s younger brother, who committed suicide, choosing to hang himself from the brass bar on the roof of the closet where he decided to die. The glass chandelier which adorned the marble fixture of the dining room ceiling one floor beneath the scene of the tragedy was the only sign that anything was ever wrong. The crystal petals shook ferociously, producing a pleasant sound that rippled throughout the empty home for a few ominous seconds of desperation as he gasped for air, attempting to tear through the rope cutting through the flesh of his neck

Yet the braided rope encroaching upon his throat didn‘t snap and break his neck when he kicked the chair to the floor, the way all the websites claimed it would. The chandelier shook for five straight minutes of final waning regret, but his body wasn’t discovered for eight more hours.

The misery devoured our family initially, but as the shock wore away we found strength within one another, and though sadness still exists today, we came down to Mexico in hopes of finding reprieve. It was a memorial celebration which Samantha’s brother would have wanted us to experience, a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Since Cabo San Lucas was always his favorite destination, his remains were scattered in the waves. Samantha had not been able to take her eyes away from the ocean since she helped provide this final wish to her deceased brother, as if she feared he would leave her again if she lost sight of the water.

She had been smothered all week long by potential lovers and admirers but she was really dealing with her own personal struggles, which she kept well hidden behind the immaculate smile she presented to the world.

We had no idea what was about to unfurl in the next thirty seconds, but we instantly learned lessons on how to shout at the top of our lungs. I think my voice was more powerful than my niece’s, but her recent sore throat was probably an impediment to the projection of the fear and alarm that struck us both. We knew as soon as they boarded our boat that the bearded men meant potential harm, because their leader was holding a carving knife in his right hand, his other arm pointed at the cabin where the rest of our party was situated.

His attempted gesture with the knife was not an especially effective method of gaining their attention. But the rise in our voices at the sight of this rudimentarily armed mutiny was enough to accomplish their objective, garnering the attention of everyone within seconds. They all looked demented, but the other two intruders were younger and much less sober than their leader, who was eager to announce himself as the new captain of the ship, his crew using rope to tie us to the wheel in the cabin.

“At least it’s not the anchor,” I muttered to my brother, after discovering that the rudder submerged six feet underneath our cluttered bodies was not going to be steering us back to the marina.

“This is no time to joke,” my brother advised.

He was white as a ghost and I could see the terror in his eyes as he spoke.

“Are you pirates aware that this is a privately owned vessel?” Samantha asked.

Their leader flashed her an almost entirely toothless smile, seemingly completely aghast and speechless as he tried to figure out the young captive’s intention and unusual line of questioning.

“We have a satellite tracker device on board,” she lied, “and I thought modern-day pirates only struck cruise ships in Africa, did you guys get lost on your way to Somalia or something?”

She smiled after she finished her polite, yet uninvited inquisition. But since our captors only spoke Spanish, most of her words made no sense to them at all. At least that was my suspicion, judging by the fact that they spoke no English during their demented sailboat hijack.

But they definitely selected the best time to do it. Now the darkness was closing in on us, four innocent victims of an aquatic abduction mission, hidden in the cabin, bound for destruction or whatever else these drunken idiots had in store for us.

“My sister worked for the American police force in a small town outside Amarillo, Texas,” the captain kidnapper suddenly announced with respect, “tracking down criminals and car thieves with global positioning systems hidden in automobiles.”

His face was ashy, with more hair than his head, as he brushed his double chin with a gigantic cigar as if in deep meditative thought, interrupted only by an even deeper puff of tobacco.

“Besides, we came on board too fast for you to signal anyone,” he continued, “which is the reason we have attached you to the wheel, out of sight in the cabin, merely as a precaution.”

He answered Samantha’s question, while debunking my false assumption that he was too stupid and drunk to be bilingual.

“Why did your sister get fired, stealing automobiles?” Samantha continued.

I couldn’t believe that she actually had the audacity to suggest any such connection to his own behavior, but the portly captain did not appear to take any offense to it.

“She was never fired,” he answered, “she was hired because she went to college for criminal justice and she never even missed a day of work.”

“But you said she worked for the police,” Samantha pressed further, “did she get fired?”

I couldn’t even believe that my niece could suggest these inflammatory insinuations, which could easily be interpreted as insults by an intoxicated, armed attacker, who had us bound to the boat he was stealing.

He looked flushed for a few seconds and I was convinced that he had just been disrespected. But then he didn’t get furious like I figured he would. Instead he got very sad, and almost looked like he was about to cry, as tears suddenly filled his already bloodshot eyes.

“My sister died a few months ago,” the captain replied, now beginning to cry.

He wiped his clenched eyelids with both hands, and if he had any hairs in the front of his head he would have lit them on fire. I was almost waiting for him to incinerate his forehead, but it never happened. I imagined that if he had it would have almost matched his scraggly chin and face.

He reached in his right pocket and pulled out a white handkerchief, folded neatly, amazingly clean. He carefully unrolled it in his hand with the tips of his filthy fingers and thumb, exposing a golden lighter that he appeared reluctant to touch.

“This was given to me a month before she moved away from us,” the captain told Samantha, holding out the lighter for her to examine.

“She carved my initials in it,” he added, allowing Samantha to get close enough to read the cursive lettering.

“It’s nice,” she observed.

His knife was now secured in a leather waistband holster a few inches in front of her head, and he seemed to trust or respect her much more than he did the rest of us, who he did not ever address or acknowledge.

“I’m sorry about your sister,” Samantha said respectfully, “I really am.”

“It’s ok,” the captain replied, intricately folding the lighter back into the handkerchief with his other hand, placing it safely back into his pocket.

He left us alone and went to the bow to confer with his companions, who were drinking tequila from a plastic three liter bottle with a rattlesnake trapped inside. The reptile looked alive as it swam from side to side as they raised the bottle to their lips and passed it around.

“It’s dead,” the captain announced, noticing that all four of us were curious.

He brought the beverage closer to the cabin so that we could examine it, using his kerosene lantern to light up the marinating serpent. It looked alive but closer examination revealed that it was in fact dead, though moving vibrantly in the liquid, black eyes wide open, with pieces of flesh and layers of skin floating in tequila. He asked Samantha if she wanted a drink, and thankfully she silently declined his offer with a frightened shake of her head.

“It’s been in there three years,” he advised her, “it’s good.”

“I’m sure it is,” Samantha confided, “but even so I don’t think right now is the appropriate time for such an experiment. With the whole kidnapping and grand theft sailboat thing going on, you know?”

That made the captain smile again, and it seemed that he was getting more interested in talking with my niece than helping his shipmates plot their course on the glossy nautical map they had laid out on the bow with lanterns on each corner.

“I like you,” the Captain confessed to Samantha, “but try to make yourself comfortable because we’re going to be sailing all night.”


I was awake well before the fist light of the new day. I think we all were, since we were up most of the night trying to situate ourselves comfortably, which was an impossible task to accomplish in the dark, cramped cabin. We were trapped, with our arms tied behind our backs, breaking instruments and dials with our feet every few hours.

The first thing I noticed was that there was no land in sight, and the golden horizon was not quite as exquisite as the day before. I was very sore, and we had not been given any food, only two bottles of water which we were unable to lift to our lips. The captain had his crew come down every few hours and offer us their assistance drinking the warm liquid.

I thought my bladder was about to burst when I finally convinced one of the men to let us each relieve ourselves at the rear of the boat, using the ladder. They watched over us, humiliating my sister-in-law as she prayed for them to release us immediately. Samantha sang a sweet song and dove into the ocean, leading to a few moments of frantic commotion as her parents started screaming and our captors struggled to turn the boat around.

We were now gliding, using a steady wind to distance ourselves from whatever the captain wanted to escape from. All three of them were visibly ill and exhausted. If not for the persistent commands from the captain I imagined that the two other vagabonds might not have summoned the motivation to turn around for Samantha at all. But they did and she was eventually pulled aboard, laughing hysterically and looking refreshed and beautiful as ever.

“Well what was all that about?” the captain asked.

“I couldn’t just go to the bathroom with all of the intruders watching me could I?

“Plus I needed a swim,” she added, removing the drenched sweatshirt she had slept in, revealing the same bathing suit top she had worn the day before.

The captain was amused, but not particularly upset with her. Yet her parents and I were furious, and we told her so. It was a dangerous stunt, considering that she had no life preserver, with no land in sight. A reckless and brazen attempt to gain attention. But for some strange reason she knew and trusted the captain would return for her, which he did even before she resurfaced.

My brother was now wide awake and infuriated. He was demanding the captors to return his boat to land immediately because his wife was a diabetic and he needed to examine her health. We figured we would have returned to Cabo San Lucas last night, and therefore had brought no provisions on board for another day. Not until Samantha spoke did the captain even indicate that he had heard any of my brother’s words.

“My mother really does need some basic testing equipment, she‘s hypoglycemic” she politely explained, “so please drop her off someplace near a pharmacy or hospital.”

I was ashamed at myself for getting so upset with Samantha a moment ago, but all my anger instantly changed to pride when she convinced the captain to give his crew instructions to take us back toward dry land to help my sister-in-law.

Within a few hours we docked beside an enormous rock, and one of the crew went to go purchase the medications that my sister-in-law wrote down for him, the captain refusing to allow one of us out of the boat, fearing this would provoke trouble. The captive returned a few hours later and in all that time nobody else approached or came within view of the sailboat.

“I hope you’re satisfied,” the captain told Samantha, “we’re eight hours off course now.”

Samantha’s mother injected herself with insulin and returned the needle to the captain, who now allowed two of us to be untied at once to provide more room in the cabin. The captain spent most of his day with Samantha, asking questions while the crew controlled the sailing and the sky grew dark and foreboding.

Their bond deepened when she learned how the captain’s sister had died, according to him suicide, victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

“They let her carry a firearm,” he explained, “and this new medication she was using to battle manic depression suddenly pushed her over the edge.”

“That’s tragic,” Samantha said with sincerity, as they sat on the deck watching the sunset.

The sun was well above the horizon, but the clouds were so thick that it was indistinguishable. It had been growing darker gradually all day, and the wind had begun to howl persistently. We lost sight of land again hours ago and it seemed we were headed for a storm. Samantha asked the captain if we could make it to shore before the rain began, but he told her we were hours from any land on the map. He said the plan was to get to a small uninhabited island by morning and they had to proceed on track.

“My brother died of a heroin overdose,” Samantha told him, “actually it was a suicide. He hung himself, but the heroin would have done it for him sooner or later.”

“Samantha, how dare you say such terrible things to this thug,” my brother interjected.

Her mother agreed and pleaded with her daughter to speak the truth and never lie under any circumstances. Her confession was news to us all, but it seemed to have some kind of mesmerizing effect on the captain, who seemed to relate to Samantha because both of them had siblings who had recently taken their own lives.

“So how long have you stayed away from the needle?” she asked him, pointing to the small depressions from track marks on the inside of his forearms. They were so small that I had not noticed them, nor had her parents, but it occurred to us all that Samantha had some sort of trick up her sleeve.

The waves grew larger and dark, as the mates drank tequila from the snake, and I tried to convince the pirates that we were in for a major storm that might kill us all by morning. The captain pretended that he couldn’t hear me, but I could see in his eyes that he was frightened at the prospect of either losing his boat or his life.

“I don’t want to die,” he quietly confided in Samantha a few hours later, “so untie them and tell them we need all hands on deck. Make sure they listen and obey my commands if they want to live through this.”

We were finally all free from the wheel for the first time, but now the captain demanded that everyone be tied to the ship by an ankle, since the sea was much too rough to be able to maneuver, let alone pick somebody up. Plus, it was so dark that I doubted anybody would even be located if they fell overboard.

My sister-in-law was crying hysterically as she tried her best to use a steel bucket to help one of the mates drain the water from the deck, which was collecting inches by the minute, with the waves crashing sporadically upon us from both sides of the boat. I did my best to help them control the sails, but since the cold wind was ravaging us so mercilessly it took at least three of us to manage the main sail. We had to duck every once in a while to avoid being struck in the head by the metal as it swung wildly about.

We were all tied to the mast, which seemed like a masterful plan, until the mast began to splinter like weak timber and tear apart like crackling thunder, at which point we were commanded by the captain to untie our own legs as fast as possible. We all did so with the knife he lent us, of course only after cutting himself and Samantha loose. We all listened to the wood failing, and before the last crew member had a chance to free himself he was launched ferociously into the ocean. Even his scream was swallowed by the sea before we had a chance to realize he was gone. The captain screamed for us all to tie ourselves back to the boat, to stay low, and hold on for dear life.

We were tossed violently from side to side for hours, bruised and bloodied by the profuse movement of the waves. I prayed that the relentless lighting would target the ship, strike our vessel and save us all the inevitable struggle of drowning individually in the tropical depression. I was ready to die when Samantha was forced over the bow by a surge of foam, disappearing below the water without even a mutter of despair.

Before any of us could act, the captain was up and over the boat. The only sign of him was the rope that connected him to the bow, which almost broke when the slack ran out. The last remaining pirate crewman yelled in Spanish for us to help him pull the rope, and we all did, until the captain finally reappeared at the surface next to the boat, Samantha in his arms. She was choking, spitting out water, coughing uncontrollably. But she was alive, and we pulled them both on board and rode out the storm together in the cabin all night long, as the boat broke apart, from fragment to fragment.

The rising sun seemed to free us from the storm, but forlorn and worn out, nobody held out much hope. Our boat was going down. It took a while, but the waves were finally taking control, and we all knew our only hope was to hold onto the floatation buoys we were using for life preservers since the actual life vests went overboard with the first big storm surge. They were being handed to Samantha and her mother by the captain when he unwillingly conceded them to the sea, an ominous sign.

I remember holding onto a barrel for hours, all of us using separate improvised devices to stay above the surface, rotating between them and using a rope to stay connected to each other. The next thing I know I was spitting up water and lying on my back on a cold steel floor, soaked in bloody saltwater and urine, my family alive and awake beside me, smiling as they realized I was going to be fine.

We were in the hull of a Mexican rescue vessel, being transported to the hospital.

“How long was I out for?” I asked my brother, hugging my niece who lay leisurely beside me, smiling.

“A few minutes uncle Will,” she interjected, “but we knew you’d come around. Who else would be able to destroy my social life so well if you were dead?”

The officials were asking us various questions about our experience, and it seemed like everything was going to be better in the future. We were all together now. One big family. Four gringos, two pirates, and an adventure of a lifetime.

“Where’s the nearest saloon?” Samantha asked, “I feel like a rattlesnake tequila.”

© 2008 by Matthew Dexter


About the Author

Matthew Dexter is an American freelance writer living in majestic Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he writes memoirs, novels, poetry, press releases, journalism articles, short stories of literary fiction, and everything else in between. His work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. He can be contacted at


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