The Pirate Hunters

The Pirate Hunters by Mack Maloney

Book: The Pirate Hunters by Mack Maloney Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mack Maloney
Tags: Suspense
Bantang a bulky, ancient-looking mobile phone. It was one of many the haki could see the pirates using. While he couldn’t pick out individual conversations, he was sure that this was how the pirates communicated with their Indonesian coconspirators.
    “Old these days means more secure,” Bantang told the haki, showing him the 1980s-era mobile phone. “Anyone can listen in on cell phones, but no one tracks the old stuff. One big rule for us? Owning a cell phone is punishable by death. Cell phones mean detection by people who are not under our pay. Always remember that.”
    Bantang held up the old phone.
    “When our boss puts out a call on his old phone network,” he explained, “his allies act immediately. Other pirates, police, military people we’ve bought off. If he ever needs help, he calls on this and they all come running.”
    But truth was, the haki could barely hear Bantang anymore, because at this point the Ecstasy began kicking in. His head was suddenly spinning with colors. His hands were covered in gold dust; what he imagined was the happy girls’ perfume was suddenly visible to his naked eyes. The stars above him were moving, creating intricate patterns and twirling circles. The night was folding and then refolding itself into one long hallucinatory play, and the haki was just one more actor in it.
    The next thing he knew, he was on another sekoci, speeding along with Bantang, heading for a new destination.
    IT WAS A twenty-minute trip to Skull Island.
    This place was similar to the island where the Great Fortune Lounge was located: lots of shacks on stilts by the waterside, a few dance halls and many places to buy liquor and drugs.
    But this island also had a small downtown and main street, and the most prominent business here was a place called the Red Skull bar.
    Run by a woman named Miss Aloo, it looked like something out of a 1930s movie, especially to someone under the influence of Indonesian Ecstasy. Old, in disrepair, and surrounded by dreary palm trees, it was adorned on the outside with cracked stained-glass windows and pieces of ancient nautical trash like old wooden anchors and the main mast of an eighteenth-century sailing ship. Customers went through squeaky swinging doors to enter the smoky, smelly, vile saloon within, complete with a piano player, an untethered brass-colored macaque monkey, a rope-and-teak bar, hundreds of bottles of exotic liquor and—because of the frequency of fights—a soggy, filthy mop and a bucket that, on some nights, could be filled with both water and diluted blood.
    Bantang and the haki made their way through the mob of customers, ducking and dodging punches thrown randomly in the drunken throng, continuously fending off the monkey, which seemed intent on picking their pockets, and the small army of happy girls who were trying to do the same.
    “Be careful,” Bantang yelled back ominously to the haki as they waded through the madhouse. “Some of those girls aren’t girls at all.”
    They eventually reached their destination, the bar’s kitchen, which, the haki learned, also served as the unofficial bank for the red bandana pirates.
    They were greeted with much respect and fear by the kitchen staff. One bowed and scraped as he opened a door that appeared to lead into a food storage cabinet but actually revealed a huge set of steel doors bound by a combination lock.
    This was Zeek’s local depository. Bantang astutely worked the lock’s tumblers, and soon swung the massive doors open. A vault the size of a walk-in closet was on the other side.
    Sitting in the corner of the kitchen was a man who looked more Middle Eastern than Indonesian. He rose from his seat as soon as the vault door opened. Bantang gave the box of money to him.
    “We wait while he counts it,” Bantang explained. “Then we’ll lock it up and be on our way to our next stop.”
    The Middle-Eastern man counted the money with the dexterity of a casino pit boss. It took him just three

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