The Problem with Looking for Trouble

The coast of Gaul glowed golden in the mid-morning sun. Tiny white caps dotted the water and dashed on the rocky shore. Phillipe closed his eyes as his body absorbed the crests and troughs that tossed the ship. It was a caravel out of Portugal and bound to return there on the tide. The hull bobbed light on the water, but it was no less a target for all that. Heavy ships meant cargo. Light ships meant gold and bank notes. He could only hope. ‘The problem with looking for trouble is that no one talks about where to find it,’ he mused. In the weeks before, he and Deirdre had visited every waterfront bar in Albion and Northern Gaul. Perhaps her disguises were better. He leaned in a corner and unfurled the painting. Her eyes were still the wrong color, but he searched them any way. In the last day, he had learned far more about her than he wanted to know. Those not-quite-pale-enough eyes held so many secrets. “Pretty girl.” Phillipe looked up. A grizzled sailor stood there with his arms crossed over his chest. “You know her?” “Never met her,” he said, “but I think you should put that away. Captain can hang pirates at sea. No questions and no trial.” “Why would my having this portrait mean the Captain would want to hang me as a pirate.” He rolled the canvas as he spoke. “Girl served on the Amantia. The ship was taken off the coast of Ostia. Every soul from captain to cabin boy took a dive off the yardarm and their boots as never touched the deck again. Captain Barrett counted them up after, but ‘though he was certain he saw her hanged, they never found any body. Amantia’s still out there, they say. If so, the Baroness sails her with a crew of ghosts.” “But why hang me?” Phillipe persisted. “Amantia carried in her hull one of the biggest piles of loot ever seen. Enough for every man to live on forever. When Captain Barrett had her searched, they didn’t find a pin. He thinks the Baroness got away with it or knows where it’s hid. Emperor Maximian, he thinks so too and busts Barrett down to captain of a cargo freighter. Barrett swears any man who knows her, but can’t give him the treasure forfeits his life. Now, just you guess who captains this ship.”

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