January’s short story features my protagonists from my detective fiction series.

I intended this story have an solid mystery and it turned into something completely out of left field. At first, I wasn’t happy with how the story turned out. But, as I continued to write, I realized this story helps me develop my characters by throwing them into a wacky situation.

With that said, this short story is more character-based than plot-based. I hope you enjoy, thanks for reading.

Pirates [Part One]

Lilah stretched her arms in the air, a groan escaping her lips as she grow taller on her toes. She grinned into the bright blue sky, letting the wind brush across her sun kissed cheeks.

“This was such a great idea of mine,” Lilah said. She put her hands on her hips, scanning the horizon of the ocean waves before her.

“Yeah,” George replied with a grunt, “this was absolutely a great idea of yours.”

Lilah frowned, looking down at her friend. “Are you being sarcastic?”

George tossed a folded blanket on top of the cooler. He reached for the umbrella that shielded him from the hot sun. As he wriggled it out of the sand, he shook his head. “Not at all.”

“That sounded like sarcasm.”

“Well, it would be nice if you and your bright ideas helped pack and carry everything.”

Lilah pressed her lips together. For once, she didn’t have a come back. He wasn’t wrong.

“Sorry,” she muttered, picking up the folded blanket sitting on the cooler. She smiled at George.

“I’ll meet you at the car.”

George leaned against the closed umbrella, staring after her in disbelief. “You could at least take the cooler, too.”

“It’s too heavy,” Lilah replied without so much of a glance over her shoulder.

“It’s on wheels!”

*

Lilah held open the door to her hotel room, stepping to the side so George could make it through with all their beach belongings. George shimmied his way through the threshold, pushing the cooler in front of him with the blanket draped over it. He had the umbrella awkwardly tucked under his arm, a backpack strapped to his back, and a tote bag slung over his shoulder.

As Lilah watched him struggle, she bit her tongue. She had suggested he take two trips from the car to the hotel room, but he refused. He seemed to be in a mood, so she didn’t want to poke the bear more than he already had been.

He made it through the door, though, and George dropped the umbrella on the ground, letting the cooler go. He took off the tote bag and backpack, tossing them onto Lilah’s bed.

“Thanks for the help,” George grunted.

Lilah grinned, closing the door behind them. “Of course. These doors are heavy.”

George narrowed his eyes at her. “That was sarcasm.”

Lilah opened her mouth to respond, but the door leading to their joint hotel rooms opened.

“I thought I heard you guys come in,” Caleb said. He walked into the room, sitting down on one of the full-sized beds. “How was the beach?”

“Where the hell were you?” George demanded. “I thought you were going to meet us down there.”

Caleb shrugged. “I fell asleep. It was a really good nap.”

“Honestly, Caleb,” Lilah said, scolding, “George could have used your help. We packed a lot of things, including food for you.”

George gasped turning his attention back to Lilah. “We?”

Caleb shrugged. “Sorry. We can go again tomorrow.”

Lilah clapped her hands. “Oh, yes! That’d be great!”

George pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sure, you guys can head to the beach together tomorrow. You can pack everything and carry everything. I’m going to stay behind and take a nap.”

“But it won’t be as fun without you,” Lilah pouted.

“Yeah, I didn’t get a chance to hang at the beach with you,” Caleb added.

George glared at his younger brother. “It’s bad enough I have to share a hotel room with you. Don’t think I don’t know you purposefully didn’t head to the beach with us to get out of helping to pack and carry everything.”

Caleb grinned sheepishly and that was all the confirmation George need. He scowled at his brother, pushing his way through the door connecting to the two rooms.

Caleb snickered at Lilah and she shook her head in disappointment, but couldn’t help but smirk as well.

“The beach was nice, though. You really should have joined us,” Lilah said.

“I planned to, honest. I really did fall asleep,” Caleb replied. “Did George enjoy himself?”

“I think so?” Lilah said, sitting down on the other bed. “He still seems uptight, though. I thought this weekend getaway would be nice for him.”

“I think he’d be less stressed if Barney was able to get the weekend off. He’d have an adult to talk to,” Caleb explained.

“Are you saying we’re not adults?”

“I’m saying we’re not as mature as George is. Barney would help balance him out since you and I tend to get into trouble.”

Lilah chuckled. “True. I don’t mean to stress George out, though. Maybe we should have had him go on this vacation alone.”

“Nah, he’ll cool down. He just needs to learn to loosen up a bit,” Caleb stated. “Besides, that last case you guys worked on really got to him. His head might still be reeling from it.”

Lilah somberly nodded. She had tried forgetting about their previous case. It was a doozy for the both of them with many twists and turns. Lilah gave the detective a good scare when she had figured something out and took it upon herself to check it out without backup. She almost got herself killed and George had been watching her like a hawk ever since.

The case had really spooked him, especially since one of their clients went missing in the middle of the investigation. He seemed to have vanished into thin air and they never found him. Although George and Lilah had solved the initial case, there were still so many odd ends to the case that confused them. However, there wasn’t much else they could do and it was case closed.

Lilah knew George was still thinking about it. She knew well enough that George felt responsible for the husband going missing. On the other hand, the wife didn’t seem as distraught as one would think. That bothered both of them.

The wife didn’t want to hire them to find her husband. George assumed it was because the wife blamed them for her husband’s disappearance. Lilah, however, thought it was because the wife had something to do with his disappearance.

Regardless, they weren’t hired to do anything and there were no clues left from the initial case. There was nothing else they could do about anything.

Lilah had suggested the weekend getaway to help George relax and forget work for a bit. Barney was unable to take the weekend off from the station, but Caleb was more than happy to join them.

“Hey,” Lilah said, thinking out loud, “there’s a spa in the hotel. Do you think George would like to get a massage or something?”

Caleb perked up. “I think that sounds like a great idea. I don’t know if he’s ever gotten one more, but it would be good alone time for him.”

Lilah nodded in agreement. “Let me head down to the front desk and ask about it. Maybe I can book him one for tomorrow.”

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“No, you hang out here. Make sure George doesn’t know where I am. I want him to be surprised.”

Caleb frowned. “You know George is nervous about you wandering around.”

Lilah rolled her eyes. “I’m not a kid and we’re inside a hotel. What’s going to happen? I know I screwed up, trust me. It freaked me out just as much as it freaked him out, if not more. I’m the one who almost died, remember?”

Caleb stood up from the bed, putting his hands in his pockets. He gave her a small nod, but offered no words of encouragement or reassurance.

Lilah shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She hadn’t seen Caleb go this long without a goofy grin on his face. It was this moment Lilah realized she didn’t just give George a good scare – she probably scared all the Florence siblings. She sighed. “I won’t be long. I have my phone.”

The youngest Florence sibling nodded his head. His face then lit up once more as though a light bulb appeared above his head. He walked past Lilah to the bathroom. He turned on the light and closed the door. The goofy grin returned to his face as he stared at Lilah triumphantly.

“What?” Lilah asked, confused.

“If George is looking for you, you’re in the bathroom.”

“That’s your plan…? Really?”

“You have a stomach ache.”

Lilah sighed. “Alright, whatever. I’ll be back.” She grabbed her room key and cell phone from the surface of her bed, putting them both in her back pocket.

*

“Thank you so much,” Lilah said, taking an appointment card from the receptionist at the hotel’s spa area. She grinned at the card, turning away. George had a massage appointment right before lunch tomorrow. She hoped he’d look forward to it.

Lilah was about to open the door, exiting the spa area, but the door opened from the other side. She stepped back, allowing the person to walk through.

“No, please, go ahead,” the man said.

Lilah smiled, walking through the threshold. “Thank you.”

“Absolutely, have a wonderful day,” he said, entering the spa area.

“You too…” Lilah said, her voice trailing off. She watched the man walk toward the receptionist. He looked oddly familiar and she had a feeling she knew who he was. But it couldn’t be, could it?

Lilah and he had only met the one time so maybe he didn’t recognize her. But then again, she could have been the one mistakenly recognizing him.

She drew in a breath, holding it, and pushed open the door again. She poked her head in, seeing the man at the front desk.

“And what name shall I put the reservation under?” the receptionist asked.

“Bruce Campbell,” the man replied.

Lilah recoiled back out into the hall. She covered her mouth with her hand. Now she knew for sure. Bruce Campbell was their client’s husband who had gone missing.

Should she tell George?

No, she couldn’t. He was supposed to be relaxing.

But what if this guy’s massage reservation was near the same time as George’s? George would certainly see him and recognize him.

What if there were multiple Bruce Campbells? It was a common enough name.

Lilah scrunched her face at herself. No, that was stupid. What were the odds of that? And they looked so much alike, too.

Shaking the confusing thoughts away, Lilah decided it was best to warn George.

Before she could take a step forward, a loud explosion rang through the air, shaking the hotel. Lilah nearly fell over, keeping her balance by grabbing onto the wall behind her. She gasped, her breath catching in her throat.

“What the hell was that?” Lilah asked out loud.

When the shaking ended, Lilah steadied herself on her feet, taking her cell phone out of her back pocket. She had no messages from George or Caleb. She put her phone back into her pocket, running through the hall.

People opened their room doors, poking their heads out and murmuring to one another.

Ignoring them, Lilah booked it down the hall to the stairs. She didn’t dare take the elevator, even though her room was on the second floor.
It was a good choice because as soon as she opened the door to the staircase, she stood on the first step, gripping the railing as another explosion was heard in the distance. The hotel shook again. Her breathing grew rapid as panic set in. She gripped the railing with both hands, attempting to steady herself. The hotel had stopped shaking but she was wobbly on her feet with nerves.

As soon as she felt confident enough that she had pushed a panic attack away, Lilah raced up the stairs, taking two steps a time.

When she made it to the second floor, she raced down the hallway, relieved to see George standing in the middle of the hall with Caleb holding the door open to their hotel room.

“Seriously?” George demanded the moment he saw her.

“I don’t think now is the time to be scolding me,” Lilah gasped, breathing heavily.

She made it to the door and Caleb stepped to the side as George ushered both of them inside the room.

“The hotel is in lock down and we lost power. You’re lucky we had the door open looking for you,” George said, closing the door behind them.

Lilah stared at the door. “How do you know?”

“There was an announcement over the speaker, but it got cut off. That second explosion knocked the power out,” Caleb explained.

Lilah bit her lower lip. She wasn’t paying attention at all. Her panic certainly got the better of her.

She turned around, away from the door to see George closing the blackout curtains in the room, draping the room in darkness. As her eyes adjusted, she saw George reappear into her room with a flashlight.

“What do you think is going on?” Caleb asked.

“No idea,” George replied. “I’m just glad the three of us are together and unharmed.”

Lilah frowned. She didn’t know if that was a jab at her for wandering out of the hotel room without telling him or if he really was relieved.

Caleb leaned down, whispering in Lilah’s ear. “The bathroom trick would have worked if the first explosion didn’t occur.”

Lilah tried to smirk but couldn’t find any humor in their situation. She felt his hand gently pat her back in reassurance when she didn’t respond.

“Where did you go?” George asked. It wasn’t a scolding tone this time.

Lilah sighed. She pulled the appointment card out of her pocket and handed it to him.

Confused, George took it and read it using his flashlight. His brows lifted in surprise. “What is this for?”

Lilah shrugged. “You’ve been stressed out lately. I wanted to do something nice for you to help you relax.”

George sighed, placing the appointment card in his pocket. He grinned at Lilah, nodding his head. “Thank you, that was thoughtful. I hope I’m able to go.”

“Me too,” Lilah said, a shiver running down her spine.

“I hope the power returns soon and they’re able to tell us what’s going on,” Caleb stated.

“Surely a transformer blew or something, right?” Lilah suggested, attempting to remain hopeful.

George shook his head. “That would explain the power being cut, but not the explosion.”

“I thought they made loud booms?”

“They do, but what we heard was an explosion, not a boom. Besides, a loud boom wouldn’t make the whole building shake.”

Lilah swallowed a lump in her throat, sitting down at the foot of her bed. She used to complain to George about him sugar coating things. So, he stopped. But now, when he didn’t sugar coat things, she wished he had.

Caleb peeked out through the curtains, watching outside. “It looks like you guys came back from the beach just in time.”

“What’s going on?” George made his way to the window, standing beside his brother.

Lilah remained on the bed, unsure of whether she wanted to know or not. When George whistled and mentioned he had never seen anything like it before, Lilah’s interest was piqued.

She stood, making her way over to the window. She peered through the curtains from the edge, giving the two brothers some space as they took up most of the window. Lilah’s mouth gaped open upon seeing the beach cleared of people aside from a large vessel sitting at the shore.

“That is one big ship,” George muttered.

“That’s a pirate ship,” Caleb stated.

“Don’t be ridiculous. There are no pirates around here.”

“How do you know?”

George didn’t answer.

Lilah agreed with Caleb as she stared in awe at the large black sails blowing in the wind along the horizon.

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Rachel Poli

Rachel Poli

Author

Rachel Poli is a multi-genre author with a soft spot for mystery.

She often experiments with short stories and flash fiction, however, she's currently working on the first book of her detective fiction series.

When she's not writing, she's usually cleaning, reading, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.

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