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The Elaine Marley Fanclub
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The Elaine Marley Fanclub

Early dawn, Melee Island: Tony Allason grunted, took another step, and hefted his backpack. This section was a little steep. Of course, he knew that, had known it for a long time now. You had to watch your step on this part of the path. It was even more loosely defined than all that had come before: unstable, crumbling rocks underfoot could send you sprawling. And it was a long fall on either side.
The wind whipped at his legs; the horizon all around him was tangerine-edged blue. Then, finally, the rocks in front of him levelled off, forming a small rocky platform. As he always did, Tony stopped and paused for breath. Then, again as he always did, he moved to the right and looked down. There. The Governor's Mansion. Elaine's Mansion.
Tony smiled.
There were other pirates here. Parts of the rocky platform were worn smooth from many years of being sat on. A few odds and ends were scattered across the platform - hooks, peglegs, cracked china mugs. There was even a small plaque, carved on wood and set in a block of stone near the lip of the platform. It said:


THE ELAINE MARLEY FANCLUB


Every one of the pirates waiting here held a telescope or a pair of binoculars.

This was the shrine of the Elaine watchers.
It was a little strange that one woman could attract so much attention: after all, there were other women on the island, as imbalanced as the male/female ratio was. And indeed, Elaine's beauty and charisma only partly accounted for the attention. What really made the difference was her hair. That fiery red, wavy, bountiful, flowing-down-to-the-shoulders-and-then-some head of hair. You could see it from a mile away. To the Melee Island pirates, it called to mind red skies at night, and flaming beacons on the shore. It stirred thoughts of passion, romance, and wistful nostalgia. Elaine's hair roused their hearts.
Most Melee Island pirates made the pilgrimage up here to gaze down on Elaine's mansion sometime in their life. It was almost a coming-of-age ritual. There were only five pirates waiting here now. There weren't many hard-core Elaine watchers, Tony reflected, but they were dedicated. Heck, Old Lemmy here had been coming up for ten years, and he'd been blind the last two.
Tony found his usual spot, set down his backpack, and pulled out a pair of binoculars. "Anything happened yet?" he asked.
James the Fierce, currently squinting through an oily brass telescope, shook his head. He was a tall, bearded man with huge tattooed biceps. "Nah, nothing yet. Guybrush is up." He took a swig of grog from his thermos.
There were general groans at the mention of Guybrush's name. "We'll be lucky to get five minutes in," said Oscar.
Some of the older regulars often complained that you couldn't see as much of Elaine as you used to. And indeed security had been tightened around the mansion: first of all with the killer poodles, and then somewhat more successfully with the trained dobermans. It used to be that you could even get into Elaine's mansion. Scott of the Bahamas had a pillowslip he said came from Elaine's bedroom. Old Lemmy kept a toothbrush from her bathroom.
Not that Tony wanted any of these strange mementos. He just wanted a lock of her hair. That blazing red, burnished vermillion hair. He'd painted his house in the with the closest approximation he could find, but it just wasn't the same. When he closed his eyes it flashed before him in the dark.
He caught a flash of red down below.
"She's up!" cried Tony. "Kitchen!"
There was a flurry of activity around him. "Awright!" said somebody. Tony put his binoculars to his eyes and focused on the kitchen window. Time to see what was happening in the Mansion...

Guybrush was just finishing the paper when Elaine entered the kitchen.

"Morning Guybrush," she said, kissing him on the forehead. "What are we having for breakfast?"
Guybrush looked down at his own half-eaten portion. "Scrambled eggs, fried fish and toast. I don't think the cook knows how to do anything else."
"It's always done me," said Elaine, chewing down a mouthful of egg. "Healthy stuff. Pass the paper."
Guybrush handed it over. _The Melee Chronicle_, since 1612. Every issue had an illustration of Elaine on the front cover. She used to appear on page three as well, but that was one thing Guybrush had put a stop to.
"See the story about those refugees from Cuirass Island?" he said. Two days ago, Skar Island had sacked and pillaged the smaller adjoining island of Cuirass. It was the third such attack in six months. Yesterday, a group of twenty refugees had arrived in Melee Harbor in a leaking, dilapidated wreck. Stan bought it from them not soon after, but otherwise they were completely penniless.
"Yeah, there was a deputation here last night about that," said Elaine. "They wanted to know where we could house them. Frankly, there really isn't anywhere. We're still trying to find shelter for that group from Lime Island. So I put them in the jail for the night."
"The jail?!" said Guybrush.
"Hey, it's better than most of the accommodation in this town," said Elaine. "Warm. Well illuminated. Sturdy. Lots of food."
"And lots of rats," added Guybrush.
"That's what I meant," said Elaine. Seeing Guybrush's expression, she quickly added, "Joke, okay?"
Guybrush stifled a laugh. "Okay. But we've got to help them somehow."
"I know we do," said Elaine. "If we show support for the refugees the rest of the Caribbean will unite with us against Skar. But we just don't have the money right now."
Light suddenly glinted in Guybrush's eye. He looked up out of the window and saw flashes of light on the peak above.
Guybrush ground his teeth. Those weirdos again. It didn't matter how long he'd been here, he still couldn't get used to being constantly the centre of attention. How Elaine coped with it, he had no idea.
He stood up and crossed to the window. He was bringing the curtains closed when Elaine said, "Hang on, what are you doing? Leave those open! You know I like a nice view in the morning."
Guybrush looked at her, sighed, and pulled the curtains open again. "It's those guys," he said, coming back to the table. "On the mountain."
Elaine giggled. "You mean the Fanclub? They're harmless. Ignore them."
Guybrush struggled with himself. How to say what he truly felt? "It's... not that," he said. "I mean, I married you and I'm the luckiest guy in the world, I know that. But sometimes I'm walking down the street with you and every guy I see is staring at you like you're water in a desert, and then I don't feel so lucky. Do you understand?"
Elaine looked at him. "You're not jealous, are you?" she teased.
"Not really, it's just... I wish you weren't so damn attractive!"
Elaine rocked back with laughter, making the table shake. "Oh dear," she said, wiping her eyes. "From a husband, that's gotta be a first."
The next few minutes passed in silence. Elaine read the paper, still chuckling.
Guybrush, on the other hand, was seething. There were sixteen islands in the Caribbean with a substantial population. Skar controlled four. Elaine, via the Tri-Island pact, controlled three - admittedly, the three largest. Nine islands were ostensibly neutral. Currently they favoured the Tri-Island pact, but if Elaine was shown to be unsympathetic to refugees, that could quickly change.
And this constant scrutiny! The fact that he wasn't the object of it didn't lessen his anger any. How dare they spy on her! Elaine was his wife. Surely they could have some privacy. If only she wasn't so damn attractive...
And then, like a gift from the gods, came the answer.
What if Elaine Marley shaved her head?
Guybrush knew of the almost iconic stature of Elaine's hair amongst the general populace - you only had to read a few issues of _The Melee Chronicle_ to work that out. If she cut off her hair, then she'd cease to be the mythical Helen of Melee whose hair launched a thousand ships, and instead be just another woman on Melee who also happened to be Governor. They might even get some peace around here.
This could really work.
Guybrush cleared his throat. "Uh, Elaine... just to change the subject completely... I had an idea on how we could raise some money."
"Sure, let's hear it."
"You shave your head," said Guybrush.
Elaine looked at him, puzzled. "What?"
"Do it in public. Charge admission. Every pirate on Melee is going to want to be there - well, every male pirate, at least, and if we set the price right we could make a killing!"
Elaine smiled at him, a little uncertainly. "You really think people will pay to see me get my head shaved?"
"Pay? They'll be scalping tickets outside! ...uh, pardon the pun."
"You know, that's not a bad idea," said Elaine thoughtfully. "It'd certainly be interesting."
"It sure would," said Guybrush, smiling.

The posters went up that afternoon. "THE SPECTACLE OF A LIFETIME!!" they announced in very big type. "ELAINE MARLEY SHAVES HER HEAD! ONCE ONLY!" In slightly smaller type, "Admission 30 pieces of eight."

They caused an immediate stir. Pirates crowded around the posters, gabbling excitedly to each other. "Wonder what she looks like under all that hair!" said one. "She's probably bald!" replied another. Heated discussions began, as some of the older pirates began mentioning the names Samson and Delilah. The more self-important pirates wondered how this might affect the Tri-Island pact's image.
None, however, were as distraught as Tony. When he first saw the posters, it was like somebody had stuck an icepick through his chest. The hair... she was going to cut the hair?!? What??? The first thing he did was pick up a copy of _The Melee Chronicle_. Freshly printed only an hour ago, it was twice as long as usual, and stuffed full of Elaine pictures. There were a couple of speculative pictures of Elaine without her hair - Tony could hardly bear to glance at them.
Next, he went to the Scumm Bar to pick up a ticket. There was a sizeable queue inside. "Selling like hotcakes," said the publican, eagerly snatching Tony's money.
Clutching his ticket, Tony walked hurriedly home. He went to his bedroom, stared at the rouge wallpaper, wept and thought.

Two days later, the fateful day finally dawned. Every exit from the Melee Town Square was blocked off by guards in ticket booths. In the square itself, row after row of wooden bleachers had been set up, ringing the square almost completely.

The pirates arrived early. By nine o'clock, the bleachers were packed with bleary-eyed pirates, unused to consciousness at this particular hour. And though it was now standing-room only, the pirates continued to pour in. Not only Melee Island pirates: the public head-shaving had drawn Elaine-admirers from all corners of the Caribbean. It seemed like everyone was in town today.
Now, right at the centre of the square, there remained just the tiniest circle of cobblestones, and a narrow aisle connecting it to the nearest exit.
At ten o'clock, two trumpets bugled. Immediately, a hush fell over the pirates. Every head in the square turned to the head of the open aisle.
The booth was gone; the guards were gone. Standing there instead were Elaine Marley and Guybrush Threepwood.
An enormous roar went up.
Elaine and Guybrush slowly walked down the aisle, side by side, Elaine smiling, Guybrush looking at the masses of fierce pirates pressing in on all sides and smiling a little more nervously.
The pirates were jumping up and down and shaking their fits and hitting each other and throwing things in the air. But something, a respectful worship of the Governor so intense it was like a force field, kept them in place.
Guybrush swallowed. This was perhaps not the perfect venue to mess around with Elaine's totemic status. Once the hair was off, who knew how this crowd might behave. They mightn't get out of here alive, he reflected gloomily.
He and Elaine had now come quite a way into the town square, and the crowd could see the parade behind them. First came two guards, carrying a heavy barbershop chair. Behind them were the three members of the Barbershop Quartet, joking and laughing and generally having a fine old time. Lastly, and this figure was so short few people actually saw him, came a man holding a sack and a broom.
Guybrush and Elaine stopped in the centre of the circle. Behind them, the guards set down the chair with a rather audible 'clunk'. The crowd once more grew silent.
Edward Van Helgen came forward. "Greetings, esteemed Melee Island pirates, Tri-Island visitors, and distinguished guests. You are privileged to be here today at this most singular of events, as Elaine Marley sheds her hair!"
Elaine stepped forward and bowed to the crowd, who went wild. She turned, bowing and bobbing again, playing up to them, enjoying the moment. Then she stood, walked to the barber chair and sat down. As Haggis McMutton took a pair of scissors and stood behind the chair, the crowd immediately quietened down to an expectant hush. Haggis snipped once, and a great clump of bright red hair fell to the cobblestones.
The public shaving had begun. Haggis worked with quiet professionalism, his beefy arms smooth and steady. The small man with the broom darted around his feet, sweeping the hair into his sack as it fell. Edward Van Helgen and Cutthroat Bill, looking a most unusual duo, stood to one side and sang piratey tunes. Guybrush stood on his own, looking around and smiling uneasily.
The crowd, on the other hand, were almost completely still - at first. They sat, or stood, and stared as Elaine's hair slowly began to disappear. Already her face was changed somewhat, without the red halo of hair that usually framed it. Her chin was more rounded, her ears more visible. Some of the pirates got the strangest idea that Elaine was turning into an entirely different person.
The noise level began to build. Mutterings turned to shouts and exclamations. The crowd cheered; or cried. It cheered and cried. There was flurried motion at the back.
Haggis made one final cut and set down the scissors, momentarily leaving Elaine's head fully in view. What the pirates saw shocked them: a crew-cut, flame-headed female pirate fierce and unyielding. But before the image had time to sink in, Haggis was lathering her head with shaving cream. He took the razor and began on phase two.
If anything, the tension continued to rise. Before, they'd at least been able to see each strand of hair as it fell to ground. Now, with Haggis working behind a barrier of cream, absolutely anything could be happening. As if to compensate for the lack of visual activity, the pirates grew yet louder, shouting semi-articulate sentences to Elaine (some of them marriage proposals, which irked Guybrush somewhat) and bellowing in each other's ears. A few fights were breaking out.
Haggis was unaffected by all this. He scraped away the last of the cream, took a wet cloth, and rubbed her head clean. With a flourish, he whipped the cloth off and stood back. "Done!" he shouted.
Every pirate in the square stopped and stared. To say Elaine looked unusual would have been an understatement. These were pirates that had never bought a Sinead O'Conner CD, never been to see G.I. Jane. Some of them rarely saw women full stop. There was nothing to which this bald-headed figure now before them could be compared. A dreadful silence fell.
Elaine Marley stood. The pirates seemed to take this as a cue of some kind, and shouted. There were cheers, boos, wolf-whistles and drunken hollerings. En masse, it sounded like "AAARGH!!"
Elaine slowly turned, showing her gleaming head from all angles. The pirates went into a frenzy. Flying objects filled the air. One of the bleachers cracked, sending excited pirates tumbling into the standing masses in front of them. There were screams and shouts and insane laughter.
This was more than enough for Guybrush. "Time to go!" he shouted into Elaine's ear, taking her firmly by the elbow. The Barbershop Quartet, quick on the uptake, began marching swiftly back up the aisle, clearing a path for Elaine with fists and some menacingly waved barber tools. They ran through the open exit, which was immediately blocked by eight glaring guards.
Behind them was a scene of utter chaos. Two more bleachers had disintegrated, leaving behind broken wood and the moans of the newly injured. Pirates surged into the centre circle. One enormous tattoo-covered pirate was crying uncontrollably, one hand clutching what might have been a lock of hair, or bloodstained straw.
Eventually, though, the pirates began to calm down. Someone shouted that they were headed to the bar to get drunk, and this sounded like a good idea to everyone else, so they all (barring the injured) ran like a mob of idiots down to the pier and poured into the Scumm Bar.
All of them, that is, except for Tony Allason.
He'd had a somewhat different perspective on the whole event. While everyone else had been watching Elaine with eagle eyes, once the hair began to fall Tony had lost interest. He'd been watching the small guy with the broom instead. He watched as he swept the cobblestones. He saw each hair as it was bundled into the sack. He saw it bulge as the contents expanded. He could hardly breathe for imagining all the hair inside. And when Elaine and the rest of the party ran for it, Tony knew immediately what he had to do.
As the other pirates poured down the street toward the Scumm Bar, Tony ran the opposite way. There was an alleyway on the far wall, just next to the Rubber-Chicken-With-A-Pulley-In-The-Middle shop, a little dead-end alleyway nobody used. Tony darted inside. Here the walls were strewn with rusting iron pipes, disused railings and balconies for rooms that no longer existed. Tony grabbed the nearest iron pipe and began to climb.
It was tough, almost suicidal work. Twice iron pipes broke in his grasp and Tony had to wildly grab for something to stop an almost fatal fall. Anyone else would have given up long ago, but Tony was seized by an almost irresistible impulse: get that hair.
Two minutes later, he reached the rooftops. Here the roofs were tiled, gently tilted. He ran across the rooftops, headed for where he'd last seen Elaine.
He reached the spot, and looked down. Nothing. He craned his head along the street. There was a group of people at the far end... were they... yes! One of them was bald. Strange how hard Elaine was to recognise without her hair.
Tony began to give chase. Running full tilt, jumping wide gaps without the slightest hesitation, paying not the slightest attention to the long falls on either side: it was just like the pathway to the Elaine Marley Fanclub. Soon he was almost directly above them.
At which point something strange happened. The short man carrying the sack - the broom had been discarded at some stage - was bringing up the rear of the group. Now, he suddenly darted down a side road. The Barbershop Quartet, Elaine and Guybrush were headed toward the Mansion; the short guy looked to be making his way toward the docks.
Tony hesitated at the corner. Should he follow Elaine, or... It was no choice really. Follow the sack.
Tailing him discreetly from above, Tony saw the short man run out onto the nearly deserted docks. Not far away, he could hear the drunken yells coming from the Scumm Bar. The short man ran along the pier, past pirate ships squashed in together like sardines, then suddenly ran up the gangplank and disappeared onto a ship.
Tony looked at the ship. No bigger or smaller than the other ships, it had almost no distinguishing markings, save for a scarlet sail on the mizzenmast. What it did have, most unusually for a pirate ship, was armoured guards. Two of them, swords in hand, stopped the man at a doorway. Tony crouched and listened, but couldn't hear what they were saying. The guards stood back and motioned the man inside.
Tony waited, staring at the ship for several minutes. There was no more activity. Now why had this man taken Elaine's hair? Who needed armoured guards on a pirate ship? And when was he, Tony, going to get his hands on that sack?
These were all big questions. One thing was for sure - he couldn't do anything on his own. Tony started looking around for a way down to the ground.
It was time to enlist the help of the Fanclub.

The sound of two people breathing heavily.

"Look, you can stop touching my head now."
"But it feels so weird!"
The front door of Melee Island's mansion opened, and Elaine and Guybrush staggered inside, Guybrush still reaching up to touch Elaine's fuzzy bald scalp.
"Boy," said Guybrush, "that hill sure takes it out of you."
"Especially when you're running most of the way."
Behind them, the Barbershop Quartet entered the mansion. Elaine straightened up and kissed them all on the cheek. "Thanks very much for coming at such short notice," she said. "I think it worked out very well in the end."
"Anything for a friend," said Cutthroat Bill.
"Anyway, I had the cook whip something up," said Elaine. "So we should be able to have lunch in half an hour or so." A thought struck her. "And who was that short guy you got to do the sweeping up? I suppose he can join us."
Silence.
"Say, where is that guy?" said Guybrush. "Wasn't he following you guys?"
The Barbershop Quartet looked at each other. "We hav'na seen him since we left ta square," said Haggis.
"Maybe he was detained in the crowd," mused Edward Van Helgen.
"We don't actually know him," said Cutthroat Bill. "The guy approached us on the docks, asked if we were doing the snip job on the Governor, and offered to help. We were happy because it freed up one of us to do the singing."
"Look," said Elaine, "I don't want to sound unreasonable or anything, but that hair is sort of important. Could you, Haggis and Edward try and find this guy for me?"
"Sure thing, Governor!" said Bill.
"And one more thing: don't tell anybody about this," said Elaine.
"Not a soul," said Haggis. The three barbers immediately turned and pelted away.
"It's not really worth getting worked up over, Elaine, is it?" said Guybrush. "After all it's just a sack of hair."
"Just a sack of hair?!" said Elaine. "Look, we may have come out ahead on the whole admission thing, but that hair's where the real money lies. We could make hundreds of pieces of eight for just one lock!"
Guybrush shook his head. And to think he'd thought he had a more cunning business mind than Elaine's. "You'd actually sell your hair?" he said.
"Sure. Why not? I can guarantee you he will be. Which means time is of the essence."
Guybrush sighed. "I get it. Back to Melee township, right?"
"Right."

Tony Allason found James the Fierce outside his house, sitting in a chair and smiling for all the world to see.

"Tony!" he shouted as he saw Tony. "Guess what I've got!" He sprang up and thrust something into Tony's face. "A lock of Elaine's hair!"
"Huh?" Tony took the lock from James's hand and looked at it.
"Some shifty guy in a trenchcoat was selling them on the corner of the street. Real cheap prices, too."
"James - this isn't real," said Tony. "It's just ordinary hair that's been painted red. The paint isn't even dry yet!" He showed James the thin lines of red paint on his hand.
"Oh," said James the Fierce, crestfallen. "And he said it was genuine, too."
"Never mind that," said Tony. "I've got something very important-"
At this point a pirate came running up the street. "Hey!" he shouted at them. "Haven't you heard? Some short guy's gone and stolen Elaine's hair. And there's only one short guy around these parts. Everyone's off to teach him a lesson!"
He ran off. James the Fierce would have run off after him, but Tony grabbed his arm. "James," he said urgently. "Listen. I saw the short guy steal the sack of hair. I know where he is. But I'm going to need your help, and everyone else's in the Fanclub."
James the Fierce went crosseyed, a sure sign he was thinking something over. "Wait here," he said, then dashed inside. Moments later he dashed out again, carrying a four-foot-tall painted wooden carving of Elaine.
Tony was taken aback. "Wow," he said. "you never told me you had anything like this."
"I only use it for emergencies," said James the Fierce, setting the carving down on the street. "Now all we have to do is wait."
Sure enough, barely twenty seconds later Scott of the Bahamas had turned up to gawk at the statue. Old Lemmy followed shortly after. Soon all five Fanclub members were there, gawking soundlessly at the carving.
Tony was the first to snap out of it. "Guys!" he said. And he told them the story of how he'd trailed the short guy to the docks, and about the heavily guarded ship he'd boarded. The other Fanclub members listened, first with rapt attention, then with growing outrage.
"Bleedin' bastards!" Scott of the Bahamas said.
"So it's up to us now," said Tony. "We might not be the fiercest pirates - sorry, James the Fierce excepted - but we're sure as hell dedicated. And if Elaine can't count on us, who can she count on?"
"Yeah!" shouted the Fanclub.
"So I want all of you to head home, load up on weaponry, and meet me at the docks in ten minutes. Let's go get that hair!"
"Yeah!"

It wasn't a very long walk from the Mansion down to the township, and Guybrush was trying unsuccessfully to use the time to get a conversation going with Elaine.

"The way I see it," he continued, "merchandising bits of yourself off is only going to encourage these guys. It's not healthy! You're not just a figurehead to these pirates. You're an individual. You've got your own life to lead. Stop trying to give these pirates the impression that you're an integral part of their lives: sooner or later they'll start believing it. And then things could get ugly."
He paused, giving Elaine a chance to respond. She didn't.
"So maybe this theft is a blessing in disguise. Maybe it's an omen. Perhaps we should just head back home and forget about it!"
Still nothing from Elaine. Guybrush gave up. "So, where are we going?" he asked.
"I thought we might pay Wally a visit," said Elaine.
"Why... ahh."
They were now in the township itself, and it was completely deserted. Or at least this section was. Yet, not too far off, they could hear the drunken yells and violent noises of a large angry mob.
"That sounds like it's coming from the square," said Guybrush.
They rounded a few corners, and sure enough, a large violent group of pirates had gathered. Certainly they seemed irate about something - they were hurling themselves at each other, hitting the walls with iron bars, and snarling and cursing. The object of their ire appeared to be the Rubber-Chicken-With-A-Pulley-In-The-Middle shop. Unfortunately for the pirates, their attacks were having little effect. The Rubber-Chicken-With-A-Pulley-In-The-Middle shop had only one narrow door (which was securely bolted), no windows, and no other apparent means of entry. The frustrated pirates were making a dent on just about everything else in the vicinity, but the RCWAPITM shop remained unharmed.
Guybrush and Elaine, standing on the edge of the square, watched with alarm. "They must be after Wally," said Guybrush. "We've got to stop them!"
"'Not a soul!'" Elaine said sarcastically. "When I see Haggis again..." She walked toward the mob. When the first pirates turned and saw her, she shouted. "STOP!"
Her clear, unmistakable voice cut through the noise. Silence fell as the pirates turned toward her. Some of them looked sheepish.
"You've been misinformed," said Elaine. "The thief who stole my hair isn't short. He's medium-sized, overweight, bald, has a pegleg, a scar across his chest and a recurring facial tic. So go get him."
The pirates stayed where they were, staring doubtfully at Elaine.
Elaine got cross. "Well, go on! What are you waiting for?"
The first pirates started to move, still turning back every now and then to look at Elaine's bald head. The other followed. As they got further they began to pick up the pace, and by the time they were out of the square they were running, excited and hollering.
Guybrush joined Elaine's side. "That description you gave them sounded a lot like Bald Meels."
"Yeah, well, it was about time I did something about him," said Elaine. "I don't like the way they hung around there. Like they didn't respect my authority quite so much. You know, Guybrush, maybe getting my head shaved wasn't such a good idea after all."
"I'm starting to think the same thing," said Guybrush.
They stood in front of the RCWAPITM shop door. Like before, it was locked, but unlike the pirates, Guybrush and Elaine knew the key was hidden inside a hollow brick. They retrieved the key and opened the door.
Inside, the store was dark and cool. Rubber chickens hung from the ceiling. The air smelled of oil. There was another door at the back, also closed. They crossed the room and opened it.
Inside, working in the intense yellow light of a wax candelabra, was Wally. Hunched over his workbench, making intricate markings on a parchment, he was the very picture of uninterrupted concentration.
"Wally!" said Guybrush sharply.
Wally blinked, and looked up. "Mr and Mrs Threepwood!" he said. "Nice to see you guys."
"Didn't you hear the noise?" asked Guybrush.
"Noise?" said Wally. "What noise?"
"The insane mob outside trying to demolish your store!"
"No," said Wally. "Why, has something been going on today?"
Guybrush nodded at Elaine. "Only the biggest hair-cutting event in history. Elaine had her head shaved. Haven't you noticed yet?"
Wally looked at Elaine. "Oh, yeah. Looks weird." As ever, Wally was unflappable. "So, what is it you two guys need help with?"
"Well, someone stole my hair," said Elaine. "He was fairly short-"
Wally immediately bristled with indignation. "Oh, I see. You see some short guy and immediately you think, 'Wally'. Every week it's the same old story. Sheriff comes along, says some bozo saw a 'short guy' running from the scene of the crime, asks me where I was that night etcetera. I do have a private life, you know. That kind of thing should be my business-"
"Wally," said Elaine, "we know it wasn't you."
That stopped him. "Oh," he said.
"We also know that you can help us find him."
"Ah. Vertically Challenged Pirates, you mean?"
"Yes."
Vertically Challenged Pirates was a society Wally had formed soon after moving to Melee Island. Membership was very simple - if you were under five foot four, you were in. They met every Wednesday night in the RCWAPITM shop and exchanged stories. The meetings were a cross between a self-help group and a social gathering. Aside from Wally and the other members, only Guybrush and Elaine knew of the existence of VCP.
"I don't really like giving out information on VCP members to the general public," said Wally. "But for a crime this serious, I guess I can overlook procedure for once."
Was that sarcasm? Elaine decided to ignore it. "Well, the guy we're interested in had messy black hair, sideburns, fairly chubby arms, and stubby legs. He looked sort of child-like."
"Oh, I know who you mean," said Wally. "Cassius Amon. He was one of my first members."
"Where's he live?" asked Guybrush.
"Oh, he's not on Melee Island anymore," said Wally. "He moved out a few months ago."
"Where to?" asked Elaine.
"Skar Island," said Wally.

The Melee Island docks presented an eerie picture at the moment.

One the one hand, the pier was packed. Ship after ship were docked side by side, with barely any room between them. All sorts of boxes, goods and other equipment were stacked up on the pier.
On the other hand, there was nobody about. All the pirates were either still getting drunk in the Scumm Bar, or off in pursuit of Bald Meels (current location unknown).
The sails flapped listlessly in the wind; seagulls circled above; otherwise, there was no movement.
It was an environment in which the Elaine Marley Fanclub stood out rather sorely.
They stood at one end of the pier, a ragged group defiantly clutching their telescopes, binoculars and eyeglasses.
"Which ship is it?" asked Oscar.
"There," said Tony. "With the scarlet sails."
"Roight!" said Scott of the Bahamas. "Okay mates, time for some spry reconnaisance."
They all ducked behind various crates, and brought their telescopes, et al, to bear on the scarlet ship.
"Keep a lookout for guards," said James the Fierce. "We wanna know how many we're up against."
It soon became clear there were four armed and armoured guards. One of them marched around the top deck, while the other three could be seen below, glimpsed through various portholes and windows. Even as they watched, the solitary guard on top went below, leaving the ship seemingly empty.
There were also two figures in the Captain's room. A short black-haired guy ("That him?" asked Oscar. "Yeah," said Tony) and a big bald guy wearing a studded leather jacket.
"Anyone know who that is?" asked Tony.
"Looks like the Carl Rubcek, Governor of Skar Island-"
"Oi!" Scott of the Bahamas shouted. "It's Elaine!"
Everyone instantly turned to pick her up. Yes, there was Elaine, with Guybrush beside her. They seemed to be heading toward the ship with the scarlet sail.
"They're talking to each other!" said Tony. "Can anyone hear what they're saying?"
Old Lemmy spoke up. "All right, guess it's time for me to use my super-hearing senses greatly magnified by my inability to see." He paused. "You gits." He got out his ear horn and inclined it in the direction of the couple.
"But it doesn't make any sense," Guybrush was saying. "Why steal hair? What possible benefit could Carl get out of it?"
"I can think of some," said Elaine grimly. "Maybe he'll sell the stuff himself. Make a huge profit. It might even entice some pirates to leave the Tri-Island area. Or maybe he just wants to humiliate me in public."
"Yeah, but..." That ship was getting alarmingly close. "Shouldn't we at least get a few guards? I mean, this could get dangerous."
"There's no time. For all we know they might be sailing now. If you want my opinion, the ship won't even have anyone on it. They can't know we've tracked them down. The crew are probably in the Scumm Bar now, laughing all about how they outwitted the Governor of Melee Island. I'd like to see their faces when they get back."
"What if the hair isn't on the ship?"
"It will be," said Elaine. "Where else is Cassius going to put it? He doesn't live here anymore."
They'd made it to the ship. Elaine started up the gangplank; Guybrush swallowed, looked around, and followed her up.
The deck was deserted. "See?" said Elaine. "Nobody here." They spent a minute searching the deck, but found nothing. "Must be down in the hold," said Elaine.
She climbed down the stairs. Guybrush had just jumped down beside her when a two armoured guards appeared on either side out of the gloom. Each held a sword in one hand.
"Oh, crap," moaned Guybrush.

In the Captain's room, lit by glowing sunlight from the edges of the drapes, Cassius and Carl were playing chess.

The sack of hair was beside them on the table, open to the air. Every minute or so Carl would take a look inside it. At first Cassius had thought he was merely checking up on his acquisition; but now, he was starting to wonder.
"Check," said Carl suddenly, moving his bishop forward. "Your mind elsewhere, Cassius?"
"I was just thinking," said Cassius, "about my pay."
"Ah." Carl laughed. "Rest assured, you'll get every gold piece once we make it back to Skar. Oh, and what will happen once we do!" He swigged the bottle of grog beside the board.
"Good," said Cassius. "I was just thinking it seemed like a lot to pay for a bit of hair. Maybe you just wanted to attract my services then give me the cold shoulder."
"You ever hear of Helen of Troy?" asked Carl suddenly.
"What?"
"They said she had a face that could launch a thousand ships," said Carl. "Elaine, you see, is the modern equivalent. Except it's not her face. It's her hair. This stuff" - he plunged one hand into the sack - "is magical."
"But... it's just hair, isn't it?" said Cassius slowly. He watched Carl slowly move one hand inside the sack, heard the slither of Carl's fingers through the hair. This was getting disturbing.
"That's precisely where you're wrong, Cassius," said Carl. "I've done my research. Five years ago I first saw her hair: and I haven't seen it on anyone else since. I've checked up all the women on Skar, all the women on all the other islands we've conquered. Nothing remotely similar. Do you know, it's even impossible to come up with a paint dye the same colour! Now how is that possible, I ask?"
He pulled his hand from the sack, and it was clutching a clump of red hair. He shoved it in Cassius's face. "This stuff," said Carl, "makes you do things. Controls your actions. Makes you burn, rape, pillage. It'd make you walk off a cliff, if its owner told you to do so. It haunts your dreams. It's the colour that stays when you shut your eyes."
Cassius stared at Carl's hand. A lump bulged in his throat. "Er... yeah," he said.
Carl laughed, and threw the hair back into the sack. "But we've got it now. So it'll work for us. Right?"
"Sure thing," agreed Cassius hurriedly. He looked around nervously for another exit. As he'd thought, there was only the one door.
Even as he glanced at it, the door flew open. Two of Carl's guards stood there, keeping a firm hold on the struggling bodies of Guybrush and Elaine.
Elaine's eyes narrowed as she saw Carl. "Carl Rubcek. Only you'd be insane enough to try something like this. When the rest of the Tri-Island dignitaries hear of this-"
Carl cut her off. His smile was wider than seemed physically possible. "Really, Elaine, I don't know what you think you're doing. Cause I've got the hair. Your words are useless against me now."
He nodded to the guards. "Kill them both."

The Fanclub had seen it all. "They've got Elaine!" shouted Tony.

"We've got to do something!" said James the Fierce, following the action through his binoculars.
"Roight!"
"They're being shoved up onto deck!" shouted Oscar, watching with horrified eyes.
"So let's stop watching and do something about it!" said Tony, peering through his telescope. It felt like it was glued to his face. Stop gawking and do something! But he couldn't make his muscles move.
"Gotcha, mate!"
"They're being taken into the Captain's room!" shouted James the Fierce. "They're inside!"
"Come on, you guys, get going!" said Tony.
"I can't!" yelled Oscar helplessly. "I can't stop watching!"
Tony tried to put down the telescope. It was impossible.
Right at that moment, he caught a glimpse of Elaine through the porthole. In particular her shaved head. And he remembered what they'd came here for in the first place.
He jerked the telescope from his face. He jumped up, knocked James the Fierce's binoculars away, swatted Oscar's telescope to the ground, and snatched Scott of the Bahamas's retracting telescope. Soon the Fanclub members were on their feet; muttering darkly, but no longer looking at Elaine.
"Okay," said Tony. "There's no time to lose. Everyone get out your sword and let's storm that ship!"
There was an embarrassed shuffling of feet.
"Well, come on, get out your swords! You do have swords, right?"
Nobody wanted to speak. "Ummm..." said someone.
"James! You've got a sword, don't you?"
"I pawned it for that statue you saw," said James the Fierce. "Most of us guys, we've sold off just about everything for Elaine memorabilia. Have you got a sword?"
Now it was Tony's turn to be sheepish. "Uh... I sorta figured you guys would have some."
"Right!" said James the Fierce. "So we've got no weapons except for a few telescopes and binoculars. Is that it?"
"Well, they might cause some damage if we swing them fast enough," said Tony. "Besides, we've got an advantage over them..." He suddenly looked along the ground, ran off, and came back with two tin cans and a length of string. Working quickly, he made two pinpricks in the cans, threaded the string through the tiny holes, and knotted them securely.
"What on earth are you doing?" said James the Fierce.
Tony gave one can to Oscar, and the other to Old Lemmy. "Simple. Oscar stays here and keeps an eye on the ship. He can tell us where all the guards are, so we can avoid them and get them from behind!"
The other Fanclub members were taken aback. "Tony, mate, that's a great idea," said Scott of the Bahamas.
"Let's go rescue Elaine... and that hair!" shouted Tony. He, James the Fierce, Scott of the Bahamas and Old Lemmy immediately ran at a fair clip toward the ship. They clattered up the gangplank and onto the deck. As before, there was nobody in sight.
Old Lemmy was relaying information from Oscar. "Those two guards are still in the Captain's room, and the other two are below deck."
They moved forward, listening intently to Oscar's instructions. James the Fierce was the first one to head below deck, followed immediately by Tony. The passage they were in branched twice, once in front, once behind.
Old Lemmy whispered to them from above deck. "One's coming along the passage in front of you." James and Tony immediately threw themselves against the wall, grasping their telescopes tightly. They could hear the heavy footsteps of the guard.
The guard appeared. Before he had time to turn his head, James had swung his telescope at his face, while Tony dropped down and grabbed the guard's legs. The telescope connected with an intricate smashing sound, immediately knocking the guard out cold, while Tony made sure he didn't fall over and make a huge clatter on the floor. They gently rested his body against one wall, out of sight of the other passages. James took the guard's sword, mournfully letting his broken telescope fall to the floor. "So much for that telescope," he said.
"You'll get another," said Tony.
One more to go. Scott of the Bahamas had joined them. "Where's the other guard?" Tony whispered up to Old Lemmy.
Pause. "He's coming up the same passage," Old Lemmy relayed.
This time, it was Scott of the Bahamas who destroyed his telescope (and the guard's face). They rested the second guard's body next to the first. With both James and Scott now armed, they were a much more formidable invasion force.
They ran back up the stairs. The Captain's room was built under the poop deck. All the windows facing them were draped over, fortunately. The only door in was shut.
Tony's whole body shook. Partly fear - and partly the knowledge that behind that door was a sackful of Elaine's hair. Could they really be this close to their goal?
He rushed forward.

As soon as Carl said 'both', Guybrush felt the grip on his arm loosen. He immediately ran forward, out of reach of the startled guards, past Cassius still rising in his seat, grabbed the sack of hair, and jumped to a window.

"Nobody move!" he said. "Or I'll throw the hair right into the sea!"
"Really?" said Carl. "I'll be most interested to see how you throw a sack of hair through solid glass."
Guybrush glanced at the window. It was shut, the latch closed, and no obvious means of opening. He scrabbled at the latch, trying to move it. Nothing worked.
Cassius started laughing. The guards, more than happy to take up the cue, also started laughing.
Everyone in the room had their eyes on Guybrush.
So when Tony burst open the door and ran into the room, nobody was in a position to react. The guards were still turning as he jumped and smacked one on the head with his telescope. As the first guard reeled, James the Fierce ran in beside Tony and knocked the sword from the second guard's hand.
Elaine, now freed, turned and jumped at Carl. He ducked back, right into the path of Old Lemmy, who'd somehow wandered in behind everyone. Scott of the Bahamas jumped forward and tackled Cassius.
Soon, the Fanclub had carried the day. The two guards were stripped of their swords and armour and, together with Carl and Cassius, were tied up in one corner.
Elaine looked at the sack of hair. "Well, well. I never dreamed this stuff could cause so much drama. Doesn't it look all strange cut up like that! I'm starting to think you might be right, Guybrush."
She looked at the Fanclub (Oscar had run in once battle had begun). "So you're the Fanclub, are you?" she said, smiling as if the world had just played a very good joke on her. "I guess we owe you our lives."
The Fanclub stared and stammered. Accustomed to viewing Elaine through a lens, they were completely unmanned by her solid presence. "I... guess," said Tony.
Cassius nudged Carl in the ribs. "Look at em going beet red," he whispered. "Told you the hair wasn't that important."
"Shut up."
"And I suppose I owe you a reward," continued Elaine. "So what'll it be?"
Tony looked at the other Fanclub members: they looked back at him. "Well, speaking for myself, there's only one thing I want," he said.

Later that day, Guybrush and Elaine were back at the Mansion.

After they'd stripped his ship, they'd finally allowed Carl and Cassius to set sail for Skar Island. Which they immediately did, tail between their legs.
Posters were put up announcing that the hair thief had been recovered; unfortunately, the hair itself had been lost in the struggle. One by one, the pirates returned to Melee township. Normality reasserted itself.
After they'd finished their dinner, Elaine counted the take from that morning's public shaving. "Twenty five thousand gold pieces," she said proudly. "More than enough to house those refugees from Cuirass."
"Looks like everything turned out for the best," said Guybrush. He thought of Elaine's hair, dumped carelessly in a garbage bin, and smiled. He looked at Elaine, got up, walked over, and ran his hand over her head.
Elaine sighed. "Look, will you stop doing that!"
"It just feels so weird!"

In the days that followed, there were rather fewer Elaine pictures plastered up around town. _The Melee Chronicle_ no longer ran Elaine illustrations on every front page.

A thriving trade in fake Elaine hair sprang up, but died out after a few days.
The body of Bald Meels was never found.

In his bedroom, Tony Allason got ready to settle down for what should be a long, satisfying night's sleep.

He wasn't going to climb the mountain tomorrow. For one thing, he'd finally met the Governor. After he'd named his reward, they'd spent the next few minutes chatting. He'd gotten more enjoyment out of those few minutes than a whole lifetime of spying from afar. Sure, he'd miss the rest of the guys, but there was so much more he could be doing with his life.
For another thing, he didn't need to see Elaine's bright face in the morning. She'd be with him every night.
Tony uncurled his fist, revealing the thick lock of Elaine's hair he held tightly in his palm. A paltry reward by some people's standards, but not his.
Tony climbed into bed. Now, where should he put the hair...? He tried putting it on the sheet beside him.
Somehow, that didn't seem right. Tony picked it up, and placed it under the pillow.
There. That was better.
Almost immediately, Tony fell asleep.

THE END

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Heather Oglevie for C&C, and Sarah Scott for the idea of Wally's dwelling.

 



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