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 Three]

Lilah cast a confused glance to George, but his eyes were trained on Bruce. He acted as though the past two months was an ongoing game of hide and seek. He was impressed George and Lilah had finally found him, but why? Usually, if you’re hiding, you don’t want to be found; not to mention they were on a ship, two hours away from home.

“What’s going on here, Mr. Campbell?” George asked.

Bruce shrugged. “You tell me.”

Now George cast a quick glance to Lilah. She was just as confused as he was. Lilah glanced over her shoulder as discretely as she could. Barney and Caleb were no where in sight. How big was the captain’s quarters? They must have found something (or someone) or else they would have definitely seen George and Lilah over here with Bruce, right?

Unless someone got Caleb and Barney.

A shiver ran down Lilah’s spine. Some vacation this turned out to be.

“Your wife has been looking for you. She’s worried sick,” George explained.

Bruce shrugged. “I’m sure she is. But really, did you ever stop to think about why she’s worried sick? Did you ever think that maybe she’s the one you want, she’s the one pulling the strings? I’m not hiding from what you think I’m hiding from.”

Lilah furrowed her brows. That certainly sounded believable.

Shouting sounded from the distance. Lilah walked over to the edge of the ship to see the officers bringing the other four men, all handcuffed, across the beach back to the parking lot.

“Are we to assume you’re not hiding from the police?” Lilah asked. She turned back around to see Bruce watching his friends get taken away. He heaved a sigh, disappointed.

He shook his head. “I told them to scatter and they didn’t listen.”

“Who are those people and how do you know them?” George asked.

Bruce turned his attention back to George, frowning. “It’s too much of a story to explain here and now.”

“We don’t have much of a choice,” Lilah replied. “You either tell us now or we take you off the ship, you get arrested, and we can chat at the station.”

Bruce glared at her for a brief moment before softening his gaze. “You guys shouldn’t even be here.”

“I have a feeling you shouldn’t either,” George retorted.

Before the conversation could continue, the three of them heard Barney in the distance.

“When I tell you not to touch anything, do not touch anything.”

“Sorry,” Caleb replied, “but I’ve never seen a real pirate’s treasure map up close before.”

“It’s evidence!”

George snapped his neck back around to face Bruce. “Treasure. Really. That’s what this is about?”

Bruce grinned. “Oh, but it’s so much bigger than that.”

“Does your wife know anything about this?” Lilah asked.

Bruce’s smile faded. “She’s the one who started all of this.”

George and Lilah glanced at each other again. She was so puzzled and, judging from the crease in George’s brow, she could tell he was too. The problem was, what were they supposed to do now?

They needed to bring Bruce in for more questioning, but they weren’t in their jurisdiction. George had zero power here. Barney and the other officers did, but Bruce’s disappearance had nothing to do with their previous case. At least, Lilah didn’t think it did.

“Get down on the ground!” Barney shouted his demands.

Lilah and George instinctively stepped to the side, letting Barney through. His gun was fixated on Bruce, who simply smirked at the officer.

“I know you don’t work here,” Bruce replied.

“Get down,” Barney demanded again.

Bruce chuckled, shaking his head. “What if I go quietly with you guys and you don’t turn me into the police?”

“He is the police,” Caleb stated, standing right beside Barney. George reached over, grabbing his little brother’s arm, and pulling Caleb behind him.

“I’m going to tell you one more time,” Barney said through gritted teeth. “Get. On. The. Ground.”

Bruce drew in a sharp breath. He looked over toward the beach, but his friends and the other officers were already long gone from the sandy shores. He then looked the other way toward the open sea. Lilah watched carefully. There was no way he’d try to make a swim for it, surely.

Finally, Bruce looked Barney square in the face. “Before I surrender, I need your word that this guy will get put on the case,” he said, nodding his head toward George.

Barney shook his head. “I can’t promise that.”

“Yeah, he’s out of his jurisdiction over here,” Caleb piped up.

“Caleb, shut up,” Barney demanded, not taking his eyes or his gun off of Bruce.

Bruce chuckled in response. He smiled at George. “You’ll be my phone call then.” He put his hands in the air and kneeled, surrendering to Barney.

*

“They’re questioning him now,” Barney said, exiting the police station.

George nodded and together they walked to their cars.

“Then what now?” Lilah asked, following them.

“Did he mention anything about the treasure map?” Caleb wondered out loud.

Barney sighed. “Will you please knock it off about that treasure map?”

Lilah head reeled. What were the odds of her and George having a case that didn’t end well only for their missing client to show up on their vacation? On a pirate ship, no less. She and George were never officially hired to find their client’s husband, so this was something the police here would have to handle. Bruce’s wife would get a call saying that he was found safe and sound. As far as Lilah knew, there was nothing else for them to do and they weren’t going to get to know the ending to this story.

George unlocked his car when they approached it. “Get in the car, Caleb. We’re going home.”

“But what about Barney?” Caleb asked.

“I’m staying here for a bit to ensure things are completely wrapped up on our end. This is probably a matter for this police department, but I want to make sure there are no loose ends for us,” Barney explained.

“Get a picture of that treasure map,” Caleb added.

Barney glared at his brother. “Caleb, they’re not real pirates. They’re smugglers.”

“What are they smuggling?” George asked, curiously.

“The officers here wouldn’t tell me.”

“Then why did they call you in?” Lilah asked.

Barney shrugged. “Bruce Campbell was involved in our previous case. Assuming his whereabouts here were connected to that, I was called in to help and possibly bring him back to our jurisdiction. However, it seems as though he’s been involved in something much bigger. Until they can figure out what they’re smuggling, where they’re smuggling from, and where they’re bringing it to, he’s under the custody of the police here.”

Caleb huffed. “I’m sure that treasure map has something to do with it.”

“Caleb,” George said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“But he might be on to something,” Lilah said, pointing a finger at him. “Was there a destination on the map? Or was it just the layout of someplace.”

“There were multiple X’s on the map,” Barney answered for him.

“What if those X’s mark the spots of what they’re trying to get? Or where they’re dropping off their smuggled goods or something?” Lilah suggested.

“That’s not a bad thought,” George agreed.

“Maybe so, but it still has nothing to do with us,” Barney stated.

“How come you listen to Lilah and not me?” Caleb asked.

Barney rolled his eyes. “Because I know deep down you believe those X’s are marking actual treasure spots.”

Caleb grinned. “Man, that would be so cool, wouldn’t it?”

Lilah nodded. She didn’t want to admit out loud, especially since George and Barney were giving each other annoyed looks, but it absolutely would be cool if it were real treasure. However, if they were smugglers, then it made more sense that the map led to drop off or pick up locations for whatever it was they were smuggling.

“Anyway,” Barney said with a sigh, “the police here have the ship and are going to search it top to bottom. Bruce Campbell may or may not be released to us. I have to get back to the station and let the chief know about this.”

“We need to head out, too,” George said. “I’m sorry our vacation got cut short, but I don’t think the hotel is going to give us our room back.”

“What happened to the hotel, anyway?” Lilah asked.

Barney shrugged. “As far as I know, it closed. A fire broke out from the explosions. I don’t know what exploded, but we believe the pirates are responsible.”

“Ah-ha!’ Caleb said triumphantly. “You do think they’re pirates.”

George waved his little brother away but looked at Barney. “What do you think they were after at the hotel?”

Barney shrugged. “It might not have been the hotel. It might have been the beach. They could have been trying to clear the whole area to get what they wanted. All I know is they didn’t get anything. They were caught first.”

“Were all of them caught, though?” Lilah asked.

“We assume so.”

“Only five guys were caught. Don’t you find it strange that there are only five guys on that huge ship?” Lilah suggested. “I don’t think they’d get caught so easily, too. They all gave up fairly quick, including Bruce.”

Barney hummed to himself. “You do bring up a good point. I wonder if any other crew members were hiding out in the hotel or something. They might have had a few people working on the inside at the hotel as a cover.” He sighed, looking back at the police building. “Alright, I’m going to head back in there and let them know about this. Maybe they’ve already figured it out, but just in case.”

“Want me to come with you?” Caleb asked.

“No,” Barney replied quickly.

“Come on,” Caleb said, sincerely. “I’ll wait outside by your car. It’s a two-hour drive back home. Let me keep you company.”

Barney hesitated, but he finally nodded his head. “Alright, fine. Wait here, I won’t be long.” He said his goodbyes to George and Lilah and disappeared back into the police station.

George and Lilah then said their goodbyes to Caleb shortly after, getting into George’s car.

“Can we get coffee on the way home?” Lilah asked. George groaned.

*

Lilah opened the front door to their home, tossing her duffel bag to the side in the hallway. She stepped out of the way, allowing George to enter with his suitcase. As she shut the front door, she noticed a person rounding the corner from behind the building.

“George?” she called quietly. “There’s someone roaming around the yard.”

“Huh?” George grunted, letting his suitcase drop to the ground. He walked over to the door, poking his head out. His face stretched in surprise. “Mrs. Campbell?”

Lilah let a soft gasp escape her lips. The police must have called her to inform her they found her husband, but why did she decide to come here?

“I’ve been waiting,” the wife replied.

George sighed. “My apologies, but we’re closed for the weekend.”

“I know you found my husband,” she replied.

“I can assure you that was completely by accident,” George stated. “He’s in custody of the police from a different department. We have nothing to do with whatever is going on with him.”

“Would you like to?” she asked.

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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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