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 Two]

Lilah zipped her duffel bag. She looked around the room, ensuring she didn’t miss anything, but the room was bare. Caleb and George were in the adjacent room packing their things. It seemed their weekend getaway was getting cut short. George made the executive decision they needed to get out of there..

As disappointed as Lilah was, she didn’t fight him on that decision. Pirates always excited Lilah when she read her adventure novels. However, knowing pirates were right outside and possibly inside the hotel freaked her out. For once, she was in agreement with George and did not want to investigate what was going on.

Caleb poked his head into her room. “George wants to know if you’re ready.”

Lilah tossed her heavy duffel bag over her shoulder with a grunt. “I’m ready.”

“Alright, we’ll head out in a second.”

Lilah followed Caleb back into his room. She remained in the doorway as George exited the bathroom with a toiletry bag.

“I’m sorry you’re not going to get that massage,” Lilah said.

George cast a somber smile in her direction. “I’m sorry you ended up wasting some money. It’s alright, though. The thought was much appreciated.”

“But the whole weekend got ruined,” Lilah said, sighing. Was she scared? Yes. Did she want to get out of there? Absolutely. But she was still disappointed they couldn’t finish their weekend by the beach.

“We’ll have other weekends to get away,” George replied. He zipped his suitcase, looking over at his brother. “Are you ready?”

Caleb nodded.

Lilah frowned, holding tightly to her bag’s straps across her shoulder. She had never seen Caleb this serious before. She didn’t know if she was missing something or if Caleb was too spooked to be himself.

“Caleb, you go down the fire escape first. Then Lilah. I’ll take up the rear,” George ordered.

Caleb nodded, drawing back the curtain and opening the window. Lilah rolled her eyes, knowing George put her in the middle to keep an eye on her. Yet, the more she thought about it, she realized she didn’t have to lead the way and she wouldn’t have to be the caboose in case something followed them. She was oddly okay with this arrangement.

She followed Caleb out the window and down the fire escape, though it wasn’t without struggle. George had to help get her duffel bag over the edge of the window. Lilah silently swore to herself she would never over pack again.

The three marched down the fire escape in single file. Luckily, it didn’t take long, though they took their time to silently creep out of the hotel. When they made it to the bottom, Caleb headed for the parking lot.

Lilah looked to her right with a clear view of the beach and the pirate ship as they made it to the lot.

“What do you think is actually going on?” Lilah asked quietly.

George shushed her. “Let’s wait until we get into the car, alright?”

Lilah nodded, biting her tongue. She had a weird feeling that they should help. Of course, Lilah had no idea what the three of them could do against pirates. Maybe it wasn’t pirates at all. It could have been a regular ship that happened to get stuck ashore and the creepy black sails were for aesthetic reasons.

That sounded plausible. Right?

Lilah was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed they made it to the car.

George took her duffel bag from her, motioning for her to get into the car. Without a word, she opened the passenger side door while George and Caleb loaded the vehicle with their bags.

Before she entered the car, she narrowed her eyes. The entrance to the beach was across the lot and a few men made their way to the beach. It didn’t seem like they had noticed the three of them at their car.

Lilah opened her mouth to warn George and Caleb not to close the trunk, drawing attention to themselves. When she looked over at them, they too watched in silence.

“They don’t look like pirates, do they?” Caleb whispered Lilah’s thoughts out loud.

In the adventure books she read, pirates often wore clichéd red and white stripes or ruffled shirts. Some wore eye patches, others had cool hats. Most of all, they were muscular. These guys looked like they hadn’t eaten in weeks.

“Wait a minute…” George muttered.

Lilah glanced at him, narrowing her eyes at his horrified expression, and then turned her attention back to the five men headed toward the beach. That’s when she realized – Bruce Campbell was among them.

She rubbed her temples, realizing she had completely forgotten to tell George that their missing client happened to be at the same hotel as them.

“Lilah, doesn’t that look that…?”

Lilah nodded, turning her attention to George. “Yeah, I forgot to tell you amid everything else going on. I saw him when I was in the spa area.”

“Who?” Caleb piped up again.

George started walking away from the car.

“Where are you going?” Caleb demanded in a whisper.

“George?” Lilah asked bewildered.

“I have to see if it’s him,” George replied, still walking away.

Lilah turned to Caleb with her mouth gaped open. It wasn’t like George to act like this. Normally it was her or Caleb wandering away from the group.

Caleb reached over and grabbed George’s arm. “Dude, we need to leave. Now.”

George hesitated, but he finally nodded. “No, you’re right. There’s no way that’s him anyway, right?” he looked over his shoulder to Lilah.

She didn’t respond, knowing that was in fact their previous client.

“I highly doubt your client ran off with pirates,” Caleb stated.

“What if he was kidnapped?” George suggested.

“He doesn’t look like he’s being dragged onto that ship, now does he?” Caleb replied.

Lilah let out the breath she had been holding. It wasn’t like Caleb to be the level-headed one. It was certain strange, but she was grateful. Otherwise, she might have wandered off with George.

George sighed, watching the five men get farther away. “I just have this weird feeling…”

Before the conversation could continue, sirens grew louder in the distance. Lilah groaned, seeing a few police cars enter the parking lot. They were never getting out of there now.

The trio watched, holding their breaths, as the police cars screeched to a halt. Officers poured out of the vehicles, shouting orders to each other and to the five men down at the beach. The officers broke out into a run toward the beach, not noticing George, Lilah, or Caleb standing in the middle of the parking lot.

“We definitely need to get out of here,” Lilah stated. She didn’t want to get wrapped up in whatever this mess was.

“Hey, there’s Barney!” Caleb said, pointing to the mess of officers.

Lilah looked over her shoulder to see Barney running down to the beach with the others. She turned to George with furrowed brows. “What’s Barney doing here with them? This isn’t his jurisdiction.”

Instead of responding, George slammed the trunk of the car shut and broke out into a run, following the crowd.

Caleb shouted after him. “I don’t think this is your jurisdiction, either!”

Before shutting the car door, Lilah locked it. She and Caleb exchanged worried glances before following everyone else.

By the time Caleb and Lilah had made it down to the beach, many of the officers already had the five ship-goers on the ground. George, however, was no where in sight. A crowd from the hotel formed, causing Lilah to roll her eyes. Wasn’t the building in lock down?

“Do you see George?” Caleb asked.

Lilah shook her head. “I lost track of Barney, too.”

One of the officers turned around, facing their direction. Luckily, he didn’t notice them as Caleb grabbed Lilah and shoved her back. Being on the beach, there weren’t any hiding spots. They had to be more than careful not to get wrapped up in whatever was going on.

“I feel like we should have waited in the car,” Caleb muttered.

“But then what about George?” Lilah asked in disbelief.

“George is able to take care of him. Besides, Barney is apparently around here somewhere.”

“I don’t understand what got over George. He’s never this reckless.”

“I’m not a huge fan of this role reversal,” Caleb nodded in agreement. “Come on.”

Lilah followed Caleb around the outskirts of the beach. She kept an eye on the officers, talking to the five men, who were now lying face-down in the sand. She wanted so bad to know what was going on, but was too afraid to get any closer.

Then she stopped. There weren’t five men lying on the sand, there were four. But five had gone down to the beach.

“What are you doing?” Caleb asked, stopping.

Lilah pointed to the supposed pirates. “Bruce Campbell is missing.”

Caleb groaned. “Oh, not you too… we know he’s missing. Whatever happened to him did not have anything to do with you or George. You guys solved the case you were hired for and that’s all you can do.”

“No, no,” Lilah replied, shaking her head. “Look.” She pointed to everyone on the beach. “There were five men walking through the parking lot, remember? The police only have four of them.”

Caleb straightened as he too realized the police were missing a person. “Uh… maybe they realized he had nothing to do with anything?”

“Or he got away undetected,” Lilah replied, pointing to the ship. “Someone’s on there.” She walked toward it, being careful to ensure the police didn’t notice her walking around them.

“You’ve got to be kidding me…” Caleb said. “What if George comes back?”

“George might be on the ship.”

Caleb started following her. “I really wish George were here to play his part again… I’m beginning to see why he’s so uptight all the time.”

Lilah smirked. “I thought you’d be excited to go on a pirate ship?”

“I’m thrilled,” Caleb said, matching her tone. “I think it’s cool, but considering that they look like bad guys, I don’t want to get shot.”

“You won’t get shot.”

“How do you know?”

“Pirates carry swords, don’t they?”

“Some of them have a gun.”

“But mostly swords.”

Caleb hesitated. “I’ve always wanted to have a dual.”

Lilah chuckled to herself. She watched carefully as the cops talked among themselves with the pirates still lying on the ground. If they were really pirates, they made this far too easy for the police. Either they weren’t pirates or they were making it easy to distract the police from something else.

“The gangplank is over there,” Caleb said, pointing toward the ship. He took the lead and Lilah followed without hesitation, though she had no idea what he was talking about.

The ship was much larger up close than Lilah thought it would be. Caleb lead the way up the gangplank to board the ship. Lilah looked over her shoulder to ensure they weren’t being followed. Luckily, they weren’t, but she did notice the cause of the explosions.

There was a fire on the other side of the hotel. Firefighters battled it as people still ran out of the hotel. No wonder a crowd had formed. They went from lock down to evacuation. Lilah was glad they snuck out when they did. Not that it mattered because instead of heading home, they were on board a pirate ship.

Caleb continued walking the moment he made it onto the ship and Lilah had to jog to catch up to him. The ship was quiet and there wasn’t much to the main deck. When she turned her attention back to Caleb, she noticed him headed toward the helm where George and Barney stood. Lilah let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding onto.

“What are you guys doing here?” George demanded.

“What are you doing here?” Caleb retorted.

“Did you really expect us to wait in the car?” Lilah asked dryly.

Barney sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Seriously, why is it that you guys are always involved in something like this?”

“Why are you involved?” George asked. “We’re way out of your jurisdiction.”

“I happened to be at the nearby station because someone reported seeing Bruce Campbell,” Barney explained. He held up a hand before Lilah could speak. “And yes, George caught me up. He saw the culprit boarding the ship and I followed George.”

“So where is he now?” Caleb asked, looking around.

Lilah slowly turned her head, hoping this wouldn’t turn into a horror movie set on a pirate ship. That would be interesting to read in a novel or watch on the big screen, not live it.

“We don’t know,” George replied. “The moment I got onto the ship, I lost sight of him. Then Barney boarded and distracted me.”

“I distracted you?” Barney snapped. “You’re disrupting my work.”

“You don’t work here.”

“Neither do you.”

“Guys!” Lilah said, raising her voice. “I hate to be the voice of reason, but I don’t think now is the time to argue. We either need to find Bruce Campbell or get off this ship.”

“Where have you guys looked?” Caleb asked.

Barney shook his head. “No where. We’ve been arguing.”

“Talking,” George corrected.

“Bickering,” Barney revised.

“Heated debate at best,” George amended.

Lilah groaned.

“Well,” Caleb said, putting his hands on his hips, surveying the area, “this is a solid ship. We should split up into pairs of two and search the place top to bottom. My first thought is our culprit is either hiding the in captain’s quarters or the crow’s nest.”

The other three stared at him.

“Since when do you know so much about ships?” Lilah asked.

“We all used to play pirates as kids,” Caleb said proudly.

Barney smirked. “I think you’re the only one who actually remembers anything about ships, though.”

“You can thank me now and let our guy get away or you can thank me after we’ve caught him,” Caleb replied.

George looked up toward the crow’s nest. “It makes sense he would climb up there. Who would think to look up there? And there’s no room for a tussle if someone goes after him. He’d clearly have the high ground.”

“But the captain’s quarters is also a smart idea. The door most likely had a lock on it and I’m sure there are plenty of valuables that he needs to hide,” Barney added.

“I vote we check out the captain’s quarters first,” Lilah suggested.

“Agreed,” Barney replied. “The four of us should stay together. We don’t know how dangerous Bruce Campbell is and we don’t know if anyone else is hiding on board. But, someone can keep an eye on the crow’s nest to ensure no one tries climbing down while we’re checking out the captain’s quarters.”

Without waiting for another to approve or disapprove his decision, Barney took his gun out of his holster and headed toward the door to the captain’s area. Caleb followed close behind as though he were at work as well. George was about to follow when he stopped himself and looked back at Lilah.

“Are you good?” he asked.

Lilah sighed, nodding. “Go ahead, I’ll keep an eye out.”

George hesitated, but he eventually turned away to follow his brothers. As soon as he did, Lilah reached over and grabbed his arm. He faced her again and Lilah pointed to the bow.

Someone was on the other side of the ship.

“Do you think they know we’re here?” George asked.

Lilah shook her head. “It doesn’t seem like it. His back is to us.”

“Where did he come from?”

“No idea.”

George headed toward the bow of the ship, taking quiet steps. Lilah looked over her shoulder but couldn’t see Barney or Caleb in sight. They too were quiet, so they must not have found anything or anyone. So that George wouldn’t be alone, Lilah decided to follow him.

“Mr. Campbell?” George called.

Lilah sighed in annoyance. This stranger could possibly be a bad guy, they may die, and George decided to be polite.

The man turned around and, sure enough, it was Bruce Campbell. He leaned back against the railing, smiling at George and Lilah. He crossed his foot over the other, lounging backwards.

Lilah glanced at George, trying to read his mind. Bruce was being far too calm and laid back for a man who went missing a month ago.

Bruce grinned. “Hey, you found me.”

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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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