Have you ever had to check for someone’s pulse? Gruel never had, so he wasn’t sure if he was doing it right. He had tried the wrist, the neck, and even pressing his ear against his chest. No pulse. Pegleg Pete was dead.
Every inch of his body wanted to bolt. Run as far away from this place as he could and never look back. But he couldn’t. Those words rang around his skull and nailed his feet to the floorboards.
Don’t leave me, kid. I don’t want to die alone.
He didn’t have a chance to answer him before he had a heart attack and died. Gruel decided the least he could for the man who had entertained him all those years and tipped when nobody else did.
Footsteps and voices echoed from the alleyway. With it came the smell of the sea. Gruel had just enough time to slip underneath a loose floorboard before the door to the Black Flagon burst open. Dozens of rowdy men and women stormed the tavern. They all quietened down when new a new set of footsteps entered.
“What a pity”, said a deep, menacing voice. “I was looking forward to looking my old friend in the eye and watching him beg for mercy.”
He paused to allow for the sniggers and sneers of outlaws and murders.
“Tear this place apart.”
What happened next was brutal. The tavern he spent years scrubbing was now being ripped to pieces. Everything was turned upside down and inside out. The pirates had no respect for other people’s property but they had plenty of respect for loot. They took anything shiny and destroyed everything else. But Gruel knew better. There was something they wanted, something they thought Pegleg Pete had stolen from them. It must have been important.
“We’ve run out of time,” yelled the leaser. “Take whatever you’ve found and leave the body.”
Gruel waited until all of the footsteps had gone. Then he waited for another minute, and then another to be sure they were long gone. He lifted himself up to survey the damage. The Black Flagon looked more like a sunken ship than a drinking establishment. This was going to take all night to tidy up.
He started to look for his broom when he heard a different noise. A groaning. It was coming from somewhere inside the tavern. Gruel moved broken chairs and glass bottles and rubble until eventually, he uncovered the source.
It was Pegleg Pete.
“At long last. What took ya so long, kid?”
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