Thirst. Hunger. The pangs of a man’s will to live. Even a pirate had such needs, and Bentley James Chadwick Easterton II was no different. He licked his parched lips and ducked behind the massive coupling pipe.
Thwop, thwop, thwop echoed off the tin can’s empty corridor, signaling Agent Turner’s slow withdrawal.
Bentley sighed and slumped against the piping that just saved his hide. Time ticked by, but there wasn’t much of it left to waste. Gritting his teeth, he stood and dashed down the same passage Turner’s lazy footsteps meandered moments before.
He skidded around the corner and backtracked almost as fast. “Argh and double argh.” Turner and his associate conversed in hushed tones at the other end of the hall, bathed in the light of the open escape pods bay.
“Our client assures me it was Bentley and his crew that stole the artifact.”
“The intel says Bentley’s on this station somewhere. He and his men docked around the same time as the artifact went missing, but the apprehended crew members taken with the ship swear they know nada.”
Bentley peeked around the corner to get a look at the two. They were alone, but who knew who was in that escape pod bay.
“I would consider that Easterton is working on his own, but I can’t imagine he’d leave his ship behind.”
“No sir,” said the smaller man. “And all the escape pods are accounted for, so he must still be on Merryweather Station.”
Bentley thumped the back of his head against the metal wall, breaking the hushed atmosphere with a dull kong. He held his breath as the voices down the hall silenced. Argh, argh, argh! Where is my crew?
“Is someone there?”
He scooted sideways down the hall, jamming his hand into the pocket of his spacesuit, rifling through the contents. A stick of gum. A wadded up tissue. A galactic holomap. A paperclip. Is that the artifact they’re talking about? His emergency beacon. Yes!
If any of his men made it off their cruiser they’d be hiding out, but hopefully they’d follow the beacon. He stopped at the first door and jabbed the button to open it. Without looking, he stepped in, letting it whoosh closed inches from his face.
“Well, that was a close one.”
“It’s only going to get closer. Drink?”
Bentley stiffened at the sound of that voice. Slow and deliberate, he swiveled. “Venicia.”
“Oh Bentley. It’s been too long.”
She held a glass of water out to him which he took, quenching his thirst with only a slight qualm about the one offering it.
Her lips formed a seductive pout. “And here I thought I’d made myself clear.”
Bentley handed the glass back and sidled along the wall as far from Venicia as he could get. “You made yourself perfectly clear. Clear as the waters of Abaddon under a full moon.”
The tinkle of her laughter sent his skin to crawling.
“Don’t worry, Benty-boo, I forgive you,” she said, placing the glass on a table, and stepped close. She walked her fingers from the zipper of his suit, up to his chin, and tapped his nose, donning a wicked smile.
Bentley tilted away as muffled voices grumbled from outside the room.
“Well, just this once, I think we have a common interest.” She practically cooed. “I shall hide you. But just this once.” Venicia backed up and motioned Bentley to follow her. She pressed a button on the wall, opening a laundry shoot. “In you go, you naughty pirate you.”
Bentley hesitated but nodded as a knock sounded on the door.
“Mrs. Vellum? It’s Agent Turner. May I come in?”
Venicia’s lips smirked while her eyebrow raised in question. “Enter!”
“Thanks,” Bentley said, breathless and hurried as he dived into the shoot. The door slid closed and darkness enveloped him as the angle of the tube shifted from diagonal to vertical. “Should ha’ gone the other way ’round!” His words had a metallic ting in the tight tube as he sailed down to the depths of Merryweather Station.
Just when he thought he’d die upon impact A bright light flashed below him and he found himself falling into a pile of dirty clothes, all smelling of Venicia’s alluring Earth flower scent. He laid there a second to catch his breath.
He sat up with a start when a tight pressure gripped his ankle.
“Mr. Debeers! Ye scalawag. Gave my heart a jolt.”
“Sorry, Capt’n, sir. I saw that distress signal and after seeing how the rest of the crew was captured, I knew I had to come find you myself.”
“They took the entire crew?”
“I and you be all that’s left, Capt’n.”
“I’ll be damned. Agent Turner is looking for something, and he thinks I’ve taken it. Who’d have given him that idea?”
“When I was hiding in the hangar I overheard ’em talking about an artifact, and Mrs. Vellum was there.”
“Venicia?” Bentley crawled out of the pile of laundry and took Debeers by the shirt collar. “What else did you hear, boy?”
“Well, sir, Mrs. Vellum says it was you who took it, and it was her who it belonged to.”
“The vixen wench! I took nothing from the likes of her. What does she say I took?”
“Something special, worth lots. A . . . a, uh, painting by some bloke named Money?”
“Yeah, that’s it! Monet.”
“That painting is insured for 70 million quariks! Why accuse me? If she doesn’t get it back, she’ll be richer than the owner of this station. C’mon, Mr. Debeers. There’s a little woman who begs to be questioned.”
Bentley and Debeers journeyed up from the bowels of the station and back to the heights from which Bentley fell . . . in more ways than one.
He hesitated only a second before rapping on the metal door. Woosh. There Venicia stood, just as beautiful as ever with her dark curls and sapphire eyes, dancing with temptation. The shimmery Earth dress she wore hugged her every curve, but it was the half smile hiding her hatred and desire that caught Bentley’s attention.
“Why Mr. Easterton, I thought we were done here.”
“Not when you go accusing me of something I didn’t do.” He pushed past her with Debeers on his heels. “I didn’t take your painting and I want you to tell them that.”
“Not a chance.”
“I’m a lot of things, pirate included, but I’ve never stolen a thing from you.”
“Wrong. You stole my heart and broke it, you–you space bum.”
“It was the other way around. I leave for a year and come back to find you properly tied to that Vellum knave. No doubt, you wanted the luxury his stacks of cash could offer.” Bentley picked up a golden apple from the table and threw it across the room.
“Not until you promise to call off your dogs. Turner’s got to release my men and my ship.”
“I said . . . get. Out.”
“I’m going to find that Monet and clear my good name.”
“Go ahead and try. You’ll never find it. Now leave before I call Turner.”
“I’m leaving. C’mon, Mr. Debeers. We’ve got ourselves a painting to find.”
He and Debeers stepped out, but Bentley turned to look at Venicia once more only to have his eye caught by something bright and rectangular poking out from behind a sofa. The door shifted closed, blocking out the vision. What the . . . ? Nah . . . . It couldn’t be.
K. I didn’t think I’d get a story written for today’s Battle, but you can thank my kids for this one, if you like it. If not, the blame better just lie with me. I told them I needed to write a pirate crime/detective story, and this is the conglomeration of what they each contributed in suggestions.
A space pirate story about something that was stolen by someone else who got the pirate accused, but it turns out it was really the owner who stole their own thing to get the insurance money! Did you get all that? 1000 words didn’t quite fit, though. I went over by about 175! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!