THE FALCON'S TREASURE, Pt. II (A Relic Hunters Short Story)
"Pirate Skull and Booty" photo courtesy of FreeImages, user Dani Simmonds.
The Falcon's Treasure, Pt. II (A Relic Hunters Short Story)
A couple of hours after Bane got off the phone with Catin, Brett Holt arrived in Gaayabaar, Al Shasra. He took a cab into town and stopped at a local cafe for lunch.
While he ate his seafood platter and drank his tropical smoothie laced with Al Shasran rum, his MCD chirped. He pulled it out and, recognizing the number of watcher, Anthony Serrano, answered it.
“What’s up, my man?” he asked.
“I just wanted to let you know that Shinjou Masakatsu has been captured.”
“And the other one?”
“Still at large. But don’t worry, we’ll catch him.”
Brett set down his fork, giving Serrano his undivided attention. His instincts told him the man was wrong.
“No you won’t. He’s on his way here.”
“How can you possibly know that?”
“I know the arael.” Brett thought about it for a moment. “He will have called someone. Most likely Catin Mondragon. I’ll need you to throw them off so they don’t find Masakatsu right away.”
“That can be arranged. What are you going to do?”
“Find the treasure. But can you create a diversion?”
“What kind of diversion?” Serrano asked.
“Something to slow the arael down. He knows the islands better than I do. I just need an hour or two. Think you can swing it?”
“If he’s headed to the islands, yes, I can do it. I’ll make a phone call or two. It’s as good as done.”
“Good. Once I get hold of the treasure, I’ll make sure you get a little extra for your troubles.”
“You know what I want. I don’t care about the money. I want the artifact.”
“If it’s there, you’ll have it.”
“If it’s not, money will do. But if I find out it was there and you took it, I can promise I won’t take kindly to that.”
“We have an agreement. No funny stuff. You have my word.”
“Then I won’t keep you any longer. Good luck, Mr. Holt. I’ll talk to you when you have the treasure.”
Brett hung up the MCD and set it on the table. He picked up his fork and took a bite of the lobster, savoring it. He washed it down with the last of his smoothie, then flagged down a waitress to bring him a pot of quava.
Once she brought him the quava, he pulled an old, leather bound journal out of his pack. The leather was worn, but very much intact. The front cover was embossed with a simple picture of a cog ship. This ship had a flag, and upon the flag was a stylized picture of a falcon. The symbol of the pirate captain, Sahmi Zamada.
Brett smiled as he opened the journal. For a good hour, he sat perusing the journal. He memorized every word on every page he deemed important, burning them into his eidetic memory.
The information he attained wasn’t quite enough for him to pinpoint the location of the treasure, so he decided he would need to get more information from some of the locals, especially older ones who had lived on the islands their whole lives. He would start with the local museum, then take it from there.
He quickly finished his quava, then he slipped the journal into his pack. He asked the waitress for the bill, left a good tip on the table, then he paid the bill and left.
Outside, he flagged down a rickshaw and climbed in.
“Where to?” the young runner asked.
“Take me to the Gaayabaar Museum of Al Shasran History,” Brett answered, settling himself into the seat.
The runner nodded, and a moment later, the small cart began moving.
Brett was long gone by the time the arael arrived. Bane hadn’t checked any baggage, so it should have been a straight shot from the airport to his hotel, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, as soon as he disembarked from the plane and headed outside, a beautiful young woman approached him, her straight, black hair, dark eyes, and olive complexion a dead giveaway as to her Al Shasran heritage before she ever spoke.
“Are you Bane Asmodei?” she asked.
“Yes. Did Catin send you?”
“She did,” the woman answered. She held out a well-manicured hand with long, red nails. “I am Amaani Shafaar. I have a car waiting not far from here. If you’ll follow me.”
She turned and walked away. Bane caught up easily, admiring the way her slender hips swayed with each step.
They made small talk on the way to the hotel, and before he knew it, she pulled the car to a stop in front of a swanky hotel, the kind that Catin would pay for, but that he would have passed up, despite the fact that he had plenty of money to cover their finest suite.
They went inside, and the temperature dove about fifteen degrees. He’d had one too many cups of quava on the plane, and he had to make a trip to the restroom. He excused himself and headed in that direction.
After finishing up, he called Catin, who answered on the second ring.
“How’s it going?” she asked.
“I just got here. Hey, can you cancel the room you got me? It’s too fancy. I’ll get something more modest.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The hotel. It’s too much.”
“Back up, Bane. I don’t know what hotel you mean.”
“You didn’t reserve a room for me?”
“No. I figured you’d have that covered. I didn’t hire you to go there. You went on your own. Why would I pay for anything?”
“So — you didn’t send a woman to meet me at the airport?”
“She says her name’s Amaani Shafaar. Claimed you sent her to meet me.”
“I didn’t send anyone. I don’t know who she is, but I’d bet she’s there on Holt’s behalf. Probably to slow you down.”
“That no good sonofa—”
“Don’t sweat it. Just lose her.”
“Looks like I’ll have to.” Bane went to the door and looked out toward the lobby. He spotted the woman standing near the reception desk. She wasn’t looking his way. “Look, I’m gonna ditch her. I’ll call you right back.”
“Okay,” Catin said, and they hung up.
Bane slipped out the bathroom door, and upon finding the woman still turned the other way, he went down the hallway in the opposite direction. He found a back door and exited through it, finding himself in an alley behind the building. He made his way west, and soon, he ducked into a liquor store.
He called Catin back.
“Alright, I think I’ve lost her.”
“Good,” Catin said. “So, was she pretty?”
“Was she pretty?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Liar.” Catin’s voice wasn’t angry. She was teasing him.
He let it slide. “Have your people found Raven yet?”
“No, not yet, but they’re still looking. Raven can take care of himself. I’m sure he’ll be all right until we find him.”
“Just keep me in the loop, alright?”
“Of course. So what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t had time to think about that. If Brett’s already here, I doubt he’ll take a break and give me a chance to catch up. I should keep moving.”
“You could sleep on the beach. Or you could hang out at Sahmi’s family’s old place.”
“That’s private property. Besides, I don’t want to go there,” Bane said, a slightly ill feeling in the pit of his stomach at the thought. “It’ll just drag me down.”
“Don’t think about it. Just do it. You may find it’s not as bad as you think.”
“Unlikely. Anyway, I’m gonna see about finding someplace near the beach. If nothing else, I can get in some food and rest.”
“Do that. I’ll let you know if they find Raven, and you can let me know how things are going on your end, okay?”
“All right,” he said and hung up.
Things went well for Brett at the Gaayabaar Museum of Al Shasran History. So well, in fact, that he’d gotten the name of someone who might know a lot about Sahmi Zamada and his treasure. After leaving the museum, he got another car to take him to the old man’s house. They were more than half way there when the car’s engine started hammering loudly. Finally, it shut down, and the driver had to steer the car to the side of the road.
“What’s up?” Brett asked.
“It’s overheated. Got to let it sit for a while and cool off.”
“How long will it take?”
“A while. Want me to call you another car?”
“All right. Just let me pop the hood first.”
The driver climbed out of the car and went around to the front. He opened the engine hood, and steam rose from inside.
Brett muttered a curse. Why hadn’t the guy checked to make sure everything was working right? Why hadn’t he maintained the vehicle?
He felt a small sense of relief when the driver came around the side. He was on the phone with the cab company.
He ducked his head into the car. “It’ll be about thirty minutes, maybe a little more. That all right?”
“It’ll have to be.”
“I’m gonna go take a piss. Don’t wander off.”
Brett scowled as he watched the driver move off, then he reached into his pack and pulled out the journal. Might as well do some reading, he figured. Maybe he’d find something he’d missed.
Bane kept to the shadows until he was far enough away that Amaani Shafaar — if that really was her name — wouldn’t find him. Then he moved out onto the sidewalk.
He stopped in at a couple of stores for snacks and water, then he headed for the beach. He knew all about Sahmi’s lagoon. He’d been there many times. It had hardly changed in the 1200 years or so since he’d first been there.
The old Zamada estate was on the way. He dreaded going there. It brought back too many memories, all good. Most days he was all right. But on days like this one, he longed to return to the days of old when he enjoyed his friendships with Sahmi and Dumar, and Luca and the rest of the crew. Thinking of them now put him in a funk he tried to shake off.
He took a southwesterly route along the sandy shore until he saw the large house in the distance. The main house was up on a hill. It had been rebuilt several times, and though the new structure was modern, in his mind’s eye, he could see it as it once was. He pictured Sahmi’s mother, Carmen, standing at the front door and gazing out over the water, as if watching for the return of her favorite son.
Bane had teased Carmen many times about running away with him, though in hindsight, he realized the teasing had only been half in jest. She’d been incredibly beautiful. If she would have agreed, he really would have taken her away. That would have opened a can of worms he was mostly glad he’d avoided, however. He wasn’t sure how Sahmi would have taken his best friend and his mother carrying on. And there was the fact that she was happily married, as well. At least they’d seemed happily married. Bane had always suspected that there was a part of Carmen that longed to be free of Erayo, though he could never prove it.
He gulped and looked away, blinking back the tears the memory had brought to his eyes. He wouldn’t give in. Not now.
He questioned the wisdom of going to the old estate. It would be hard to take shelter near the place that had once been his best friend’s home. But the way he saw it, the estate was the one place in all of Gaayabaar where Amaani Shafaar wouldn’t think to look for him. Everyone who knew anything about him knew that he avoided the place like a plague.
As he approached, he remembered why. Memories of what had been flooded back to him, causing him to stumble. His eyes blurred from the tears threatening to spill over. Of all the friends he’d lost over the last 1200 years, Sahmi’s death had hit him the hardest. It had even been harder than that of his precious Oceanna.
Suddenly, the grief brought him to his knees. He’d never truly allowed himself to grieve, and now it seemed his grief wouldn’t let go of him. A great sob escaped from somewhere deep inside, and he threw himself into the sand and wept bitterly.
He lost track of how long he lay there weeping. He would have continued if it hadn’t been for a dog barking in the distance. From the sound of it, it was a large dog.
He sat up and dried his eyes with the back of his hand. He looked around, and in the distance, he spotted a large, black dog. It was still a good distance from him, but there was no mistaking that it was coming for him.
He pushed himself to his feet, hefted his pack over both shoulders, and ran toward the ruins with as much speed as his legs would give him. He ran until he grew tired. His lungs burned, and still he ran, though his steps were more lumbering by then.
A stone wall loomed up ahead. Bane grabbed onto the top of the wall and hauled himself up onto it.
The dog reached it and jumped, it’s great jaws snapping at his heel. It had just missed his foot by an inch or two.
He lay back atop the wall to catch his breath. Below him, the dog continued to bark threateningly.
Thunder boomed, and Bane opened his eyes in surprise as the first fat raindrops landed on his face. He pushed himself upright and climbed down the other side of the wall. He spotted the old guest house a few yards away. This part of the estate hadn’t been maintained, and it was in ruins. However, one corner of the roof still remained intact, to some degree, and he headed for that.
The dog, still on the other side of the wall, continued barking and scratching at its stones. It would not be deterred by any storm.
Bane reached the far corner of the ruined guest house and sat down on the hard packed ground there. Though open to the elements on two sides, it would serve to keep Bane dry while he came up with a plan.
He took out some pemmican and a bottle of water, and he settled in for what he was sure would be a rough afternoon.