This is my entry to the second challenge of the Write the Wrong competition. The challenge: write a 500-word drabble containing elements of mystery. That pretty much sums it up. People (like me) complained about the last challenge being too short, so our benevolent master of the challenges decided to reward us with an even shorter one. :P


Petty Officer Paki Malone kept bouncing his knee on the floor, an anxious habit from days past. He rubbed his bald black head as he continued speaking Japanese into his radio. "Kaeda, did you find it?"

The voice of a girl, no more than 12, reached his ear. "Yes, I think so."

"Read to me the numbers in order from left to right, okay?"

"Okay…umm...37, 47, 41, 136, 50, 7."

Paki scribbled the numbers swiftly. "Thank you, Kaeda, that's great work…" He placed his hand over the microphone and thrust the sheet of paper at his waiting partner. "Get these coordinates to the captain, ASAP!"

"I can hear them shouting," Kaeda whispered fearfully. "I'm hiding in Dad's wine closet. I don't think they know I'm on the boat…"

"That's good, Kaeda," Paki insisted as he hunched over the radio. "I need you to stay with me, okay? Where's your mom and dad now?"

He could hear crying. "I don't know...I don't know where Mom is. They hit Dad and took him to their boat."

Paki tensed as he realized an opportunity. "Kaeda, did you recognize the men who hit your Dad?"

The girl sniffled miserably for a few seconds. "No… they look different. It's like they're Japanese, but not. And they talk strange…"

Another clue! "They weren't speaking Japanese? …Kaeda?"

"No," she whispered. "I don't know…I just want to go home…"

"I know, Kaeda, we'll get you home soon. We're already on our way." He glanced up as his partner came to the door and gave a thumbs-up; the destroyer was heading for the coordinates.

He set his hand over the microphone, trying his best to ignore the quiet crying in his ears. "How long?"

"Two, three hours."

Paki's stomach felt like it was tied in knots. It was so frustrating, being able to do nothing but sit and talk! The girl's best hope was for her attackers not to scuttle the boat or, perhaps worse, find her. Her odds were slim…he knew that if things went bad the best thing he could do was provide closure. For that, he needed to know who was attacking this girl's family's boat.

"Paki…? Are you there?"

"Yes, Kaeda, I'm still here," he answered, fighting to hide his fear. "I'm not going anywhere. Kaeda…I need your help again. Can you do that for me?"

The girl's voice trembled. "I don't know…they're all over the boat, now…I don't want to go outside…"

"Okay, Kaeda, that's okay, you don't have to go anywhere," he assured her, grabbing his pen yet again. "Just tell me, Kaeda, did you see a flag on the other boat?"

The girl was silent for a few seconds. "I think so."

Yes! "Describe the flag to me, okay?"

"They're searching the next room…"

"Just whisper it to me, okay?"

Another tense pause. Her voice was barely audible. "It was red… with two blue stripes. And a star on the left…NO!"

Paki jumped to his feet. "Kaeda? Kaeda!"

The radio fell silent.