Darkness settled over Patitiri as the Zodiac pulled into the harbor. Melanie shifted the infra-red binoculars into a more comfortable position, glancing around the port before she motioned to the right. Gia steered the sleek ship into an open berth at the end of one of the docks. Calista and Zoe secured the lines, and we cautiously made our way onto the wooden pilings and pier, carefully setting our feet on the slippery surfaces.
The boat I had seen was about halfway down this berth. Gia and Calista took the lead, while Melanie and Zoe fell in behind me. We ghosted down the pier as the moon slowly rose in the east. The long dark shadows it produced aided our approach. The four women with me moved with the silence of hunting cats stalking their prey, which is exactly what they were doing.
About a hundred feet from the target, Gia raised her left fist, and we stopped immediately and took a knee. I inched forward until I was certain my voice wouldn’t carry beyond her. “What is it, Gia?”
The tallest of the four slowly lifted her arm and pointed down the pier, trying to minimize any chance someone might spot the motion. “Lord Nereus, there are two lookouts on the ship, one astern, one aft. There are also two other guards at the far end of the pier. I recommend we take them out first so they cannot alert the rest of the pirates before we finish here.”
I nodded, and Gia turned to the women behind us. She held up two fingers and then pointed to the end of the pier before motioning to either side. Wordlessly, Melanie and Zoe eased themselves over the side and slipped into the water. We waited in the shadows, trying to keep an eye out for any sign of either the pirates or other innocent sailors returning to their ships. The only sounds were the waves rustling against the moorings and the occasional hollow thump as a boat ran against the bumpers.
Shifting my eyes to allow me to see in the dark, I spotted the two women rising from the water near the shore. I couldn’t hear the spear guns release their deadly missiles, but the two guards at the end of the pier slumped to the ground without a sound. Melanie and Zoe ensured the pirates were dead before carefully hauling their bodies into the water. Once the bodies were secured beneath the pier, they moved toward us, stopping just out of the lookout’s sight. Melanie raised and lowered her hand once, letting me know they’d move on our signal.
I closed my eyes and concentrated, feeling the Aegean’s power all around me. A cool-mist began rising from the harbor’s waters, and fog slowly settled over the port of Patitiri. Once I was satisfied the wan moonlight would not give us away, I motioned to Gia. She signaled her sisters, and the four advanced through the pilings and around the various crates and gear scattered along the pier, making as much noise as a cat moving across a velvet blanket.
The guard on the bow of the ship never had a chance to call out before Melanie and Zoe took him down. The guard at the stern was staring out over the harbor, his rifle lazily slung over one shoulder, when Gia slid a knife into him while Calista wrapped her garrote around his throat, cutting off any chance of a scream. There was the softest splash as the two bodies were lowered into the water.
Once the ship was secured, I quickly joined the four aboard. Reaching out with my senses, I spotted only two more sailors—one was in the cabin while the other was below, probably in the engine room. I motioned the four into a close huddle and spoke softly. “Ladies, I need someone to answer my questions. The other should join his mates.”
Gia smiled at me like a shark eyeing an upcoming meal. “Do you have a preference?”
“The one in the cabin would be a better candidate. He’s probably on radio watch. But, if he insists on joining his mates, then we’ll make do with the other.”
The four nodded as one and then disappeared into the fog as if they’d never been there. I raised my hand and summoned a tendril from the surface of the water and looped it around me. The saltwater refreshed me, and I formed it into a suit of armor. As a small indulgence, I even created a Corinthian-style helmet, with just the Tau-shaped slot for my eyes and mouth. I heard a splash, and then four figures emerged from the fog, dragging a limp body behind them.
“We’re ready when you are, Lord Nereus,” Gia said.
I nodded, and the four women held him on the deck with his arms and legs splayed. I reached down and slapped him awake. He took one look at me towering over him and started to scream, but a blast of water right into his mouth cut him off.
“No, no, my good man. That won’t do at all. Now, I have some questions for you. You can answer them…” I left the sentence hanging.
He spit out the saltwater and looked up at me with eyes filled with hate. “Or?”
“Oh yes, there is always an or. I’m sure you’re expecting me to say, Or, I could kill you, but I’m certain you’re hoping I’ll do that. That’s the way you pirates are. You’d prefer that rather than your friends thinking you’d sold them out. That way, your family would be spared, and you’d be a local hero, dying to protect your friends even in the face of torture or certain death.”
The word torture made his eyes flicker for a moment, but he recomposed himself. I knew he’d never willingly tell me, but I wasn’t there to play nice god. “But, you see, that’s not what I intend to do. If you refuse me…if you decide to be a hero, I’ll ensure you survive. At least until we finish informing as many people on as many islands as we can that you sold out your friends to save your own life. And then we’ll simply turn you loose.”
I reached down and grabbed him by the chin. “Tell me, how long do you think you’ll survive once that word gets out? How long do you think you’ll last once they find you?”
A snarl grew on his face. “You bastard.”
“When I have to be, I can be much more than that.” I pulled the Trident of the Aegean from the straps holding it to my back and set the prongs against his chest. “Think of this as a lie-detector. It will tell me when you are lying.”
I was bluffing. The trident didn’t have that power, but he didn’t need to know that. I would know, but that’s simply because I’ve dealt with mortals enough to spot their lies. I made sure he could see how sharp the trident was before replacing it on his chest. “Here is the first question. What’s the name of this ship?”
His eyes widened. “Sophie’s Pearl.”
“Very good. An honest answer and delivered so decisively. And your name?”
There was a slight hesitation. “Petros.”
I pinked him with the prongs, raising small pools of blood on his chest. “Wrong answer.”
He glared at me, but this time there was no hesitation. “Marco.”
I watched his eyes closely. He didn’t know for certain whether I was lying about the power of the trident, but it had tasted his flesh, and he wasn’t in a hurry to experience that pleasure again. “Now, Marco, let’s get to the real questions. How many men are in this crew?”
I made sure his eyes were focused on mine. “And what is the name of the bar they’re celebrating in?”
He squirmed and tugged, but my companions made certain he couldn’t move. I pressed the prongs of the trident into him just enough to get his attention. He shot a look of pure hate at me, but I stared down at him until he quit moving, a look of resignation on his face.
“The name of the bar, Marco.”
“Xenia’s,” he replied and then spat up at me. His spittle hung on my liquid armor for a moment before being absorbed.
I repositioned my trident on his chest and grabbed it with both hands. “Very good, Marco. One last question.” I allowed some of my divinity to show through, and my voice dropped several octaves as I asked him, “Do you know who owned the ship you sank earlier today?”
He stared up at me, and a look of horror crossed his face. “You.”
I shoved down on the trident, driving the prongs through his body, piercing his lungs and heart simultaneously. “Congratulations, Marco. You were most cooperative.”
While the others disposed of the body, Gia moved over to me, brushing her brown hair out of her eyes. “Seventeen in the crew. Six dead here. Do you require any more assistance?”
I thought for a moment, weighing several options before responding. “I may need your assistance, Gia. However, have your sisters search the ship to see if they can discover the location of the fast boats that attacked the Azure Sea. If they can, we’ll seize them as well. If not, at least have them move this boat to Skopelos port. I’ll have my lawyers put in a claim on any or all of them as salvage, unless its original owners can be found.”
“In the meantime?”
“In the meantime, Gia, I intend to deal with the rest of the crew. I think one Amazon will be sufficient to aid me against eleven mortals.”
There was no mistaking the sarcasm in her voice. “I think one Amazon would be sufficient to aid you against eleven hundred mortals. You’re starting to show your age, Lord Nereus.”
I grinned at her. This was a continuation of an argument we’d had over the past ten years when she and her sisters were lent to me by Ares in return for a favor I’d done him ages ago.
She glanced up and down the ship before turning back to face me. “You have plans for Sophie’s Pearl, Lord Nereus?”
I rested my hand on the ship’s railing, feeling the ship rise and fall with the waves passing beneath her hull before responding to her. “Always, Gia. Why, with a little work, it could be converted into a fishing vessel rather easily. After all, they owe me a ship, and I’m certain I can recruit a new crew to man it. If I know nothing else, Daughter of Ares, I know the sea and its fishermen. But now, it’s time to eliminate this nest of vipers before they slip away.”