The serialisation of Eric Douglas’ short story focusing on adventurous photojournalist Mike Scott concludes…
Approaching the warehouse door, Mike looked the building over. The warehouse was a steel frame construction with tin metal walls. The side he approached lacked windows and there was only one door facing the parking area. The building backed up on the water and Mike was sure there would be a roll up door and a dock where the fishing boats could approach and deliver their catch. It was a fairly typical set up where the owner of the warehouse would act as a middleman between the resort buyers and the fishermen. The fishermen didn’t make as much money for their efforts, but it streamlined the process and helped them get paid regularly. They effectively consolidated their sales and supplied the island with fresh fish.
Mike reached his hand out and started to knock and then thought better of it. He was expected. He grabbed the door handle and opened the door.
Mike entered the warehouse and let his eyes adjust to the dim light inside. The odor of fish instantly struck his nose as he scanned the room. The warehouse ceiling opened 20 feet over his head and there were fish cleaning stations on tables down either wall. The room’s sole occupant was seated at a small desk going through papers. Mike headed his direction across the concrete floor, still damp from where workers had washed everything down.
Scully looked up as Mike approached him. Mike could tell the man was smaller than he was, but his shaved head, scruffy beard and the gang tattoos on his neck told Mike that the man meant business.
“I was told you were going to give me a logical explanation for why I saw five dead Tiger sharks yesterday with their fins cut off,” Mike said when he got close.
“I’ve checked you out, Mr. Scott. You are famous in certain circles. One thing most reports about you mention is your tendency to take risks. I’m sure there will be an investigation into your disappearance, but when nothing shows up, the police will simply decide that you took one too many risks and it caught up with you.”
“I didn’t really think you were going to tell me anything. I see you have my tablet and laptop,” Mike said, glancing at the man’s desk. “It’s interesting that you’ve already planned my disappearance.”
“And now that you’ve brought me your camera, I can make all the photos you took disappear.”
“You think I’m going to give up everything without a fight? Sure, I’ll just give you my cameras and let you kill me. Obviously, you haven’t done enough checking.”
“No, Mr. Scott, I don’t expect that at all.”
Mike heard a noise behind him, but before he could react, two men grabbed him from behind. One man wrenched his right arm behind his back while the other punched him in the ribs. They knew exactly how to hurt him. The pain from the blows to his already battered body shocked Mike so badly he couldn’t fight back. Before he knew it, he was bound to a chair with his hands behind his back. They tossed his camera bag on the desk beside the laptop.
“Mr. Scott, you already know how this is going to end. I just need to know if there are any other backups of the photographs you took. You can tell me now and save yourself a lot of pain. Or we can do this the hard way. You’ll eventually tell us and everything will end the same.”
Mike simply smiled at Scully from where he was bound to the chair in the fishing-processing warehouse. “I’ve been told I always make things difficult.”
Scully’s men took turns punching Mike, making sure they hit his existing injuries to amplify the pain. Mike refused to answer Scully’s questions.
“You might be important in America, Mr. Scott, but right here and right now you are nothing. You are simply going to die. My men will use you as chum to bring in more sharks for the slaughter. Your death will actually help us kill more of them. Does that make YOU feel important?”
Mike felt the hard muzzle of the pistol press into the skin on his forehead as Scully pushed his head backward, bending his neck and forcing him to look at the ceiling.
“Scully, please be patient,” Mike heard someone say from across the room. “You haven’t gotten the answers you need. It is premature to kill him. I told you I needed to be here to make sure you didn’t do anything stupid.”
Mike felt the pressure of the gun muzzle on his forehead drop away. Slowly, he moved his head forward and tried to focus on who interrupted Scully’s interrogation.
“Boss, he isn’t going to tell us anything. Let’s just get rid of him,” Scully said, clearly angered by the interruption.
“You will do as I say, unless you want to join Mr. Scott.”
Finally able to focus on Scully’s boss, everything finally became clear to Mike. It was a setup, just not the one he expected.
“So, you brought me a doctor. How nice of you,” Mike said. “I wondered how your men knew exactly where I had been hurt. They did a great job of finding every tender spot on my body. I guess dinner is out.”
Dr. Cardinal, the local physician that had patched Mike up after the shark bite and the fight with the thief, stood quietly in front of Mike.
“I’m genuinely sorry it has come to this. Not for your sake of course, you might have been fun for a night or two, but I don’t really care about you,” Cardinal said. “Unfortunately, your disappearance is going to attract too much attention to my operation. We’re going to have to shut things down and move on.”
“If you’re going to shut everything down and move on, why go to all this trouble. You could have let me nose around for a bit, and made your escape. Adding murder raises the stakes quite a bit,” Mike asked.
“Mike, there is a lot going on here that you don’t know about, of course. I was a doctor back in the states, but I’m not any more. I provided special services to members of organized crime for many years. They paid me very well, but when it all fell apart, I lost my medical license. I learned a few things from the organization and met some people that I’ve been able to work with now,” Cardinal said patiently. “Understand, this isn’t the first murder I’ve been a part of. Not even on this island. So, you see, I couldn’t let you simply disrupt everything and run away. It’s a matter of principle. And I really don’t like the idea of running or hiding.”
Cardinal signaled Scully’s two men and they stepped forward to hit him again. And again. Mike’s head lolled to the side as he struggled to catch his breath.
“Mike, please tell me if there are any more backups to your photographs and how to get rid of them and we will end this. You don’t need to suffer any more.”
“I have to tell you, I really didn’t suspect you,” Mike said chuckling, after he spit blood from his mouth “I thought it was Pettibone who was corrupt.”
“Pettibone is not involved at all. He’s simply a bureaucrat. He is easily manipulated and has been known to accept financial incentives to make things go easier, but he isn’t part of my operation.”
Cardinal looked at Mike for another minute before speaking again.
“Scully, I’m afraid you were right. He’s not going to tell us anything. Kill him. We’ll take our chances,” Cardinal said, looking a little sad as she made her decision.
Scully stepped forward with a feral look on his face and cocked his handgun.
“I think you better stop right there!” a new voice interrupted. It was Frazier.
“I don’t know who you are, friend, but I think you better turn around and leave. Or, you’re next,” Scully growled.
“You can’t kill all of us,” Frazier, said with a grin.
“All I see is one of you, but now that you’ve seen me here, I can’t let you leave either,” Cardinal, her face grim as she approached the filmmaker.
“Like I said, you can’t shoot all of us. It’s time you give it up,” Frazier said, not giving an inch.
“All of you? Where are the others?” Scully asked.
“I’m here,” a man said as he stepped forward. It was the fishermen who warned Mike earlier in the day.
“Over here.” Two more fishermen said as they came through the door.
“You men better leave or your lives are ruined. You have your families to think about…” Cardinal said darkly, glaring at the fishermen who had entered the warehouse.
“How ‘bout us?” Three more men stepped into the warehouse.
“Or them?” the first man asked, gesturing toward the roll up door at the back of the warehouse. The rising door revealed four more men in a boat.
Seeing themselves surrounded, Scully’s shoulders slumped. He accepted defeat. Cardinal, on the other hand, began to shake. The fishermen she thought she controlled were turning on her and her plans were falling apart. She lunged forward and grabbed Scully’s gun and then turned to point it at Mike. Except Mike wasn’t there.
Using the distraction of the appearance of more and more fishermen, Frazier cut the duct tape holding Mike to the chair. When Cardinal whirled around looking for her captive, Mike took the opportunity to gain some retribution for the torture and beating he suffered. He hit the former mob doctor in the jaw with a left hook, knocking her out cold.
“I’ve never hit a woman in my life, but that doesn’t really bother me,” Mike said, shaking his head as he looked down at the woman on the ground. He kicked the gun away from her.
Scully never budged. He simply waited for the police to arrive and take him away, getting his wish a few minutes later. Anticipating what might happen, Mike had placed an audio recorder in his camera bag and recorded everything that happened in the warehouse. Once Scully and Cardinal were in handcuffs and local medics checked Mike over and bandaged his fresh cuts, Frazier stepped up to check on him.
“Thank you for everything, Mike.”
“Thank you, Frazier. You’ve saved me from two beatings now. I owe you,” Mike said with a grin that turned into a grimace. Nearly every part of his body hurt after the ordeal of the last 24 hours. “When I asked you to bring help if I wasn’t back soon, I expected you to bring the police. Where did all the fishermen come from?”
“I called the police, but they weren’t sure they believed me. I was afraid they weren’t going to be here in time. So, I went to the fishermen and told them what you were doing. They were concerned about their families at first, but Malcolm shamed them a bit. He said if you were willing to fight for them, they should be willing to fight for you.”
“Who is Malcolm?”
“Dat would be me,” the first fishermen Mike spoke to said as he approached with a grin. “Er, sorry. That’s me, Mike.”
“You’re going to have to tell me your story sometime, but I appreciate the help.”
“Not a problem, my friend. There are times it helps to let people think I am a simple fisherman. And other times when my real life as an FBI agent comes into play.”
Malcolm was investigating Dr. Cardinal and with Mike’s help, he was able to bring the fugitive from justice back home.
It took Mike a couple days of recuperation, sleeping in the sun at the resort, and an examination by a real doctor to make sure nothing was seriously damaged by Scully’s beatings, before Mike felt most of the way normal. On his last full day before he headed home, Mike was able to get back in the water with his camera to photograph Tiger sharks. The story he filed with his magazine ended up being about more than he expected when he first arrived, including the breakup of an illegal shark finning operation, but for Mike, the most important part was he was back in the water surrounded by sharks.
Second Edition September 2015 by Eric Douglas
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Visibility Press, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Tiger Shark Cover Photograph by filmmaker Frazier Nivens at Tiger Beach, Bahamas. You can learn more about Frazier at OceanImaging.com
This is a Visibility Press Original
Copyright 2015 Eric Douglas
All rights reserved.