Jack and Toby Lambert had been inseparable until the day
Toby collapsed after baseball practice. Twelve hours later in
the hospital, Jack clung to his seven-year-old twin’s hand.
Toby’s skin was a funny yellow color. He couldn’t speak, but
his eyelids did flutter when Jack spoke.
Not far from the bed, behind a curtain, Jack heard a doctor
announce to his parents that Toby’s liver had failed. He called
it something like acute. Toby would need a transplant. Jack’s
parents were instructed not to be too hopeful, for the waiting
list was long, and there weren’t a lot of donors out there.
Pressing his face against the hard hospital mattress beside
his brother’s prone body, Jack sobbed quietly. He didn’t want
his parents to hear. They had enough to worry about.
He and Toby had planned a raid on Nasty Black George’s
awful gang of four tonight. The entire neighborhood—
boasting seven boys under the age of ten—regularly organized
pirate raids and booty captures. Jack and Toby wore the
monikers “Mad Bloody Jack” and “Evil Gentleman Tobias”
proudly. No one stood in their way when they came
a-pirating. Their plunder was piled high at the bottom of Evil
Gentleman Tobias’s closet. Dirty Joe still fumed about his
If his parents had money, they could buy a newliver forToby.
Jack knew that wasn’t possible. His mom had been putting
on a skirt and jacket every morning before he and Toby left
for school. She was looking for work, they both knew, because
dad’s job was “cutting back the fat.” Whatever that meant.
“I’ll help you,” Jack whispered. His brother had not moved
since his collapse. “Mad Bloody Jack will plunder a real
treasure so we can buy you a new liver. I promise, Toby.”
MAD BLOODY JACK KNEW just the landlubbing wreck of a
ship to raid. Hidden in the tower at the center of the playground
gym, he and Toby—er, Evil Gentleman Tobias—had
kept a keen eye over the goings-on across the street from the
city park using their plundered telescope.
The purple house with the gray shutters and wild hedges
always kept its curtains pulled shut. The craziest stream of
traffic steadily pulled up the driveway, and then away. Some
visitors were there less than five minutes. Toby timed them
on his Cap’n Crunch watch.
Pirate Silly Ned had once said his mother was always
calling the cops on that LSD house. They did nasty things, and
shouldn’t be in this neighborhood.
LSD was a drug. Jack had looked that up in the encyclopedia
on the bottom shelf in his dad’s office. It made people
see visions and act funny. And people paid a lot of money for
it. It was also illegal.
Putting two and two together, Mad Bloody Jack decided
where there was LSD, there had to be money.
He eyed the purple house through the telescope. The sun
had risen an hour earlier. Jack should be in school. But he
knew the purple house would be quiet until at least noon, so
he had to act now. Toby’s life depended on it.
Skipping across the street, Mad Bloody Jack insinuated
himself behind the freestanding purple garage, which was
where he’d seen most of the visitors go when they stopped.
Tramping a patch of dandelions, he pressed his body flat
against the wall. A good pirate should practice stealth—he’d
learned that word from last week’s spelling test. The window
on this side of the garage was blocked with black paper. He
checked and saw it was the same on the other side.
A thick steel padlock secured the door, but the wood was
old and warped. Mad Bloody Jack was able to slide a finger
under the crack at the bottom. And there, under some kind of
rug, he felt something cold and metal.
“I DON’T KNOW where he could have gotten this….” Jack’s
mother choked on her astonishment and clung even tighter to
her husband’s arm.
Her son had dumped out a pillowcase on the floor in the
bathroom attached to Toby’s hospital room. “Plunder,” he’d
muttered, and then had gaily announced the family now had
enough money to buy Toby a new liver. He dashed to his
Jack’s father toed the pile of rubber-banded bills. Hundreddollar
bills. “There must be tens of thousands here.”
“Of course not. I’ll ring the police,” he said and instructed
his wife to remain in the bathroom and keep an eye on the
A PIRATE NEVER GAVE UP the location of his best plunder.
Never. But when two police officers escorted Jack’s mother
from the hospital room where they’d been questioning Jack
and his father, Mad Bloody Jack became irate.
“Don’t touch my mother!” he shouted.
“They’re not going to hurt her, Jack,” his father reassured.
“Though I don’t know where they’re taking her. You have to
tell us where you got the money. Please, Jack, to keep your
In a rush of fear and utter exhaustion, Mad Bloody Jack
gave the details of his raid. He didn’t take it all. There had
been too much to carry. Now would they please let his mother
go and get to ordering that new liver for his brother?
Toby died three days later. The police had confiscated the
money. Jack had been inconsolable. He’d done it. He had
found a means to save his brother’s life. And the adults—
they’d done nothing! What was wrong with them? Didn’t
they want to save Toby?
“It was never that simple,” his father said. Keith Lambert’s
face was drawn and his sigh chilled across Jack’s shoulders.
Look for Swordsman's Legacy November 11 wherever books are sold.