Chapter 9: Street Fight

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Hailie lit a cigarette and took a long draw. That felt much better. She coughed a little. At least that should go away soon.

The scent of freshly baked bread filled her nose. Her stomach growled. She wondered if she had enough money. Probably not. She should buy more cigarettes first before she thought of food.

Shen said that the town had gotten better but that was on the surface. He had never lived there before. She could smell the drugs. There were far more prostitutes standing around, and two people were doing something in an alley. She turned her head. There were more bars along the street than before. She was sure that the inn on the corner was not used as an inn, not with so many soldiers and pirates walking in and out of it.

Hailie had been right. There were pirates around, lots of them. She could tell by the fancy clothes that they wore. They wanted to look good in town after months at sea. A fight broke out in one of the bars she passed. Hailie could hear someone crashing into a table. There were cheers. Just walking down the street made her skin crawl. She didn't want to imagine what could have happened if the Captain had left her here with Faith. Faith should never be exposed to a place like this.

"Hailie!"

Hailie scanned the area for the source of the voice. A lady was calling from the window of a familiar diner. She nodded her head in the direction and walked over, dropping the cigarette to the floor and crushing it with her shoe.

The woman pulled her into a bear hug. She looked in her late fifties. A big strong woman that was even taller than Eli. Hailie closed her eyes and took in some deep breaths to calm herself.

"What are you doing here? You just disappeared leaving just a note. We were so worried when those Navy men came here asking about you."

"Good morning, Mrs Gregory. I am just passing through."

The woman held her back and look at her up and down. "What have you been doing? You look even worse than when I saw you last. You just disappeared!"

"Things happened."

"Come in and tell me. I'll get breakfast for you." Mrs Gregory guided her to an empty table. The diner was already half full, and the day had only just started. Mrs Gregory shouted orders to some people at the back of the diner and placed a plate of eggs and toast in front of her. She must have employed more people. It had just been Hailie working before Basil came. She sat down on the other chair and watched while Hailie forced herself to swallow some of the food.

"You still can't eat around people," she said.

"I do not have much of an appetite." Hailie told her what had happened. She had met this woman many years before when she had last been here. She had helped Mrs Gregory set up this place and thrown out troublemakers when they came until she had gotten Basil, an ex-sailor, to take over that job. Hailie had left once the diner had been up and running. She had spent some time on the other islands before she ended up in that fishing village.

"So you need to find someone to help you get this boy back?" Mrs Gregory thought about it. "What ship did you say you were on?"

"The Sea Fog."

Mrs Gregory's face darkened but she put on a smile. "I'll keep an ear open. Many people come in. I'm sure I can find someone to help you."

"Thank you," she said. "Do you know where I can get some cigarettes? This place looks different than when I was last here, and I am running out."

She nodded. "The best place would be Riley's Bar at the end of this street. He has them the cheapest."

Hailie stood up. "I will come back later to hear what you have found out."

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