Like an erratic satellite, Bailey takes an irregular orbit, crossing and recrossing the path that Sally and Georgetta followed along the river as they headed toward what Sally had promised was a pirate cove.
When Bailey finallly returned to the two sisters, they were standing knee-high in water, pulling at a tarp that covered one of the two boats they had come upon. Bailey stared at them , barked twice, and went off again in search of rabbits.
“I can’t see anything,” Sally said, having peeled back the tarp on the boat.
“Maybe there’s a body in there,” Georgetta said. “Maybe the pirates killed the owner of this boat and couldn’t throw the body in the water because they didn’t have anything to weight it down, and right now they’re off getting bricks or bags of sand.”
“Pirates wouldn’t put a body in a boat,” Georgetta said, “and then wander off to look for bricks. Sinking bodies is probably one of the first lessons river pirates learn, and they can probably sink bodies with things you’d never think of.”
Having cleared up the matter of pirates and sinking bodies, Sally contineud to work on creating a gap between the edge of the fasteners holding the tarp in place. When one of the fasteners finally broke free, Sally herself out of the water and into the boat.
“Sally?” Georgetta said, more than a little alarmed that her sister had disappeared.
“I still can’t see anything,” said a voice from beneath the tarp.
“Sally, why did you get in the boat?”
Sally’s head re-appeared in the gap beneath the tarp. “How are we going to find out,” “what the pirates up to if we don’t investigate their boat?”
Georgetta had not expected her sister’s head to appear quite so suddenly in the gap between the tarp and the boat, and she sloshed backwards in the water, almost to the river bank that she’d waded away from a few minutes before. When she’d steadied herself, Georgetta thought about retreating all the way to land and leaving pirate-boat investigation to her sister; but before she could work herself to a decision, she heard voices–men’s voices that were coming from the path that she and her sister had come down a few moments before.
“Sally!” Georgetta whispered, “someone’s coming!”
“I heard them,” Sally whispered back, and she thrust her arms through the gap in the tarp, reaching out: “Hurry, Georgetta, get in the boat with me!”
Normally, Georgetta would have weighed the pros and cons of jumping into a boat the interior of which was almost entirely unexplored and that could have been hosting piles of dead bodies, but with the voices growing quickly closer, she abandoned her normal caution, splashed back through the water to the boat, and allowed her sister to pull her into the darkness.
For a minute, the girls lay in the boat, motionless and holding their breath as much as possible.
When the owners of the voices that had been approaching on the path reached the river bank, one of them said, “There it is!” It was low and rumbly voice–the kind that a pirate would choose if he could. “There’s the boat with the tarp.”
“Where else would it be?” said a second voice, softer and almost whispery.
“We’d best get to it then,” the low, rumbly voice said.
But before the two men could get to whatever it was that needed getting to, Sally and Georgetta heard a sound that they immediately recognized as Bailey’s barking.
“Where did that dog come from?” the whispery voice asked.
“I don’t know, but I can’t stand barking dogs. I’m going to throw it in the water if it will let me pick it up.”
“Not yet. That dog’s not feral. If it is here, it’s owners must be near.”
A few moments of silence followed–if moments can be silenced in the presence of a barking dog–moments in which Georgetta imagined the two men looking around the cove as they tried to figure out where Bailey’s owners were. Then, in Georgetta’s imagination, the men turned their penetrating glare on the tarp-covered boat. “Oh my,” Georgetta whispered to her sister. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
To be continued . . .