Beauty Queens

13,040
05.03.2019

“What’s up, Cap’n?” Ahmed asked, wiping sleep from his eyes.

Still in Petra’s bathrobe, Sinjin paced on the narrow strip of sand. “Lads, something’s a bit dodgy here. That black shirt couldn’t be a coincidence. He must’ve followed us here.”

“How? We rubbished the radio.”

“Don’t know. But you can’t deny that body was one of them. And if they’ve found us, the ladies are in trouble as well.”

“Cor,” George said, shaking his head. “What we gonna do?”

Sinjin cast a glance toward the camp where the girls still slept. “We’ve got to leave. Now.”

“We can’t just leave the girls here without so much as a ‘ta for the grubs,’” Ahmed insisted. “They’ll think we’re absolute wankers.”

“Better that than we put them in danger, yeah?”

The pirates fell into hushed argument.

“We don’t even know if the ship’ll hold, Captain,” Duff said.

“Well, we’ll just have to suck it and see, mate. We’ll find land and rustle up help.”

Ahmed rubbed at his chin. “What if this is a trap? What if it’s what they expect us to do?”

“Only one way to find out,” Sinjin said. “Look, are we naff reality-TV, fake rock-star pirates, or are we something more? Time to be noble, lads. Who’s with me?”

“Aye,” they whispered in unison.

They took just enough provisions to last a few days, then the pirates pulled up anchor and pushed the boat quietly into the deeper water. In the moonlight, the beach where the girls still slept was a series of undulating curves.

“I hope they’ll be all right,” Sinjin said. ‘"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.’44 Take care, Petra.”

“Captain?” Ahmed asked. The men looked to him for orders.

“Hands on oars,” he commanded.

The pirates bent over their paddles, rowing in rhythm until they were a safe distance from the island. They hoisted the sails and headed out to sea.

In the sheltering canopy of a giant tree, Harris used his binoculars to watch them go. Good. They’d taken the bait. He’d left them a little present on the boat, a bomb made from Lady ’Stache Off. Once they were farther out to sea, he’d detonate it using his phone. Jonesy might not have told him about the pirates, but Harris knew. He didn’t need Agent Jones telling him what to do. Everyone misunder-estimated Harris Buffington Ewell Davis III. He snickered, thinking about how he’d set this up by himself. Now The Corporation would have to see that he was a player. CEO by the time he was thirty? Shoot, he’d be running the ROC before he was twenty-five.

44Play the A Tale of Two Cities head-lopping game, available as a Corporation Phone app. Void where prohibited in states where the school board has banned A Tale of Two Cities because Charles Dickens is clearly a  p**n ographic name.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Nicole woke with a feeling of unease she could not shake, though she couldn’t say why. Perhaps it was left over from her dream in which an unseen monster made its way toward her small fishing village in Japan, and she was expected to do battle with it. She left the hut and made her way to the beach, where she realized that something really was wrong. The pirate ship was missing. So were the pirates. So, too, were the girls’ stores of rainwater and smoked fish.

“Bastards!” Adina growled. The girls had assembled in their horseshoe formation.

“And after all we did for them,” Miss Ohio said.

“We fixed their freaking ship!” Jen kicked at a tree. A coconut dropped dangerously close to her head.

“I got their computer up and running,” Shanti added.

“I let Sinjin have my best heels,” Petra said. She wanted to cry, but she was too angry. She looked around, counting. “Hey, anybody seen Mary Lou this morning?”

They searched the camp, the lagoon, the fishing lines, the jetty, everywhere they could think to look. Mary Lou was nowhere to be seen.

“Do you think she went with the pirates? Or maybe they kidnapped her and held her for her booty.”

“Booty is treasure, Tiara.”

“Oh. Noted.”

“She said she was going off into the jungle to search for her prince,” Petra said.

“Great. Swell,” Adina growled. “Stupid romantic fantasies can get a girl killed.”

“That’s just being bitter,” Petra said.

“Yeah? Your BF just sailed away with our food, water, and your best shoes, Petra!”