No Problem Too Large or Too Small, Reasonable Fees
Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)

Hercules was on his way to his local barbershop to catch up on all the latest gossip.  When he got there, the barbershop was all abuzz with the latest news.  Another pirate attack in the Ionian sea.  Another merchant ship captured with the crew being held for ransom. 

"Why don't the Athenians do something? They have all those warships!" someone wanted to know.

"No one knows where the pirates' base is. There are so many islands out there that they could be anywhere."

"And how do you tell the difference between a fishing boat and a pirate ship?"

"There is no difference. The pirates are being careful about that."

And so the chatter went, without accomplishing anything.

By the time he got home, Theseus was waiting for him. Although the prince was now a king, Hercules still thought of his good friend as Prince Theseus.

"I know you've heard the gossip, Hercules. Everyone wants to know why we haven't put a stop to the pirate attacks."

"Why haven't you?'

"Because we can't find them. They recognize every one of our ships. We've disguised them every way we can think of. I even bought two new ones, but somehow, I think they found out about those, too, and did not attack them either. I've had men floating about the Ionian Sea for a month now. Some are hoping to be captured and some are looking for the captives, and none have been successful. I need to hire you, Herc."

"What can I do that you have not already done?"

"I don't know. But you are the mighty Hercules. You have solved impossible cases, and solved them with ease."

Not with ease, exactly, Hercules thought to himself. Still, he was pleased with the compliment.

"I am hoping you will come up with something. You can keep any stolen treasure that you find as your fee, provided you capture these pirates. They are making our waters unsafe and blocking our trade and reducing good merchants to panic."

"I'll do my best, your highness," Hercules nodded.

"Your highness? After all the adventures we've been on together? Call me Theseus, or T as you do sometimes. I'm just T, your good friend, begging for your help."

"You've got it," Hercules promised.

"Find a way, Herc. Find a way before Athens is destroyed."

"Destroyed? Do you thing Corinth is behind this?" Hercules wondered suddenly. It made sense. The city-state of Corinth hated the city-state of Athens. There really was no other word for it.

Theseus shook his head. "No. I think it's actually pirates. I had not realized what an easy target we could be. And that will never do. They must be stopped."

"Yes," Hercules agreed. "They must."

After his friend had left, Hercules gave the problem considerable thought. "Dionysus," he decided. "I'll need Dionysus."

Dionysus was the god of wine and one of Hercules' best friends. One of his magical abilities was to change his shape and look like any living thing, a skill that had come in handy many times. Dionysus had dealt with pirates before.

Yes, Dionysus was the perfect partner for this case. They would need a plan to rescue the people being held captive, and hopefully being held on the same island where the pirates had stashed their treasure, but Dionysus would be delighted to come along for the fun of it. Dionysus was always up for an adventure. The thought of non-magical treasure would certainly grab his attention. He loved to give his wife presents. He could conjure up jewels that he could wear, but since they were magical jewels, and part of his shape shifting, they did not last once he removed them from his body. His wife was a mortal, a very dear one, but just the same, not magical at all. She needed non-magical presents to wear and treasure.

Dionysus could make his own precious jewels to wear to attract the pirates, but Hercules needed something as well. Hercules was not a shape shifter and could not magically conjure up anything. Obviously, it was time to dig up the real jewels he had hidden, buried in his courtyard, his idea of a safe place to keep them. They were left over from a previous case. Hercules had not been able, so far, to find the owner, so he still had them, hidden away. Briefly, he could borrow them. With the help of his good friend, the Minotaur, he strung two necklaces made of the precious gems. Since they were real gems, they sparkled brilliantly in the sun.

"Herc!" exclaimed Dionysus when he saw them. "Can I buy those from you?"

"I'd give them to you if I could, but they're not mine. They're borrowed."

"Wow. Somebody besides Tor and me really trusts you!" With a wave of one hand, Dionysus changed into a rich young man, dripping with jewels of his own.

"Don't get killed," the Minotaur called out as they headed for Herc's boat.

"We'll do our best, Tor," Hercules called back.

Herc and Dionysus shoved off from shore and climbed into Herc's boat. The plan they had worked out was that Dionysus and Hercules, disguised as rich young gentlemen, dripping with jewels, were simply out for a day's fishing. They were small bait compared to a merchant ship, but perhaps the jewels they wore might attract enough attention. Added to that was the number of merchant ships carrying cargo on the Ionian Sea had dwindled considerably. The amazing thing was that their plan actually worked.

They were captured nearly immediately, both pretending to be quite frightened. The pirates shoved them onto the pirate ship, tied them up roughly, and dragged Herc's boat behind their own. They were quite rude. They laughed a lot. They paid their captives very little attention. What Hercules thought was odd was that they did not grab the jewels. They simply tied up their captives and headed off somewhere - hopefully to their headquarters, their captives, and their trove of treasure. There must be someone powerful in charge, someone who planned these attacks. Some one who knew where the Athenian ships were and how they were disguised and when new ones were purchased. Hercules could tell that Dionysus had the same idea by the way he was looking around the ship, looking for clues.

Sure enough, the pirates soon pulled into a cove and dropped anchor. It was not only a small island, it was a volcanic island, which is probably why the ships from Athens had not spotted the pirate camp. The volcano puffed out continuous clouds of steam, which settled as fog over the island and hid it from sight. It was a very good hiding place.

They were shoved into a pit with other captives. It was a very deep pit, with no way to climb out, unless of course you were the strongest half-man half-god in the world, or a full fledged god, like Dionysus, who could shape shift into an eagle or any living creature at all, with or without claws.

"I hate the smell of that volcano," a voice from above reached them in the pit. "The sulfur smell gets in your clothes and your hair. And you can't get it out," the voice whined. A face looked down at them, a face they recognized. It was a gentleman's face. He was an important leader in Athens and a very good friend of the king himself. Hercules quickly looked down at his feet, hoping not to be recognized. It did not do him any good. He had not been fast enough. The gentleman gasped. "You fools!" he bellowed at the pirates. "This is why you follow orders. You do not go off and do whatever you want. Do you know who this is? Do you?" the gentleman was nearly foaming at the mouth, he was that angry.

Dionysus swiftly changed into a crow. The crow was sacred to Apollo. Anyone who killed a crow had a big problem on his hands. Dionysus only remained a crow long enough to fly safely out of the pit. He changed instantly into a monster with large claws and very sharp teeth and charged. The pirates ran screaming for their ship. The gentleman would have followed them, but he found himself unable to move. His feet were magically stuck in the mud. 

"Dionysus!" Hercules shouted as he clawed his way up the wall of the pit. "Don't let the pirates get away,"

Dionysus laughed. "It's a sad thing, Hercules, but I fear their ship will do nothing but sail in circles. And all of their weapons are gone."

"They could swim!"

Dionysus laughed. "Did I forget to mention the sharks I placed circling their ship?  Unless they wish to be fish food, they will have no choice but to stay aboard and wait to be captured themselves."  Dionysus found it quite amusing.

"Remind me never to get on your bad side," Hercules laughed as he clawed his way out. "What should we do with him?" Hercules jerked his head at the leader.

"Leave him. My bet is that he stashed a second ship somewhere on the island for his personal use. I'm going to look for it." Dionysus turned into a crow and flew away.

"Wait! We have to get these people out of ...."  Hercules looked down at the captives who could not decide whether to cower or cheer. "He'll be right back. Let me introduce myself. I am Hercules and I am here to rescue you."

Which decided the matter. The captives cheered!

"I did so want to put a hurtin' on those pirates," Hercules sighed. "Ah well."

Dionysus soon returned. He had found another ship, just as he suspected. What he did not suspect was that the leader's ship would already be loaded with gold and jewels and treasure of all kinds. The pirates, who used to be on board to sail the ship as crew, had been removed by Dionysus, who had dropped them off near the top of the volcanic mountain. By the time they climbed down, Dionysus, Hercules, and all the captured merchants and their crew would be long gone. With the pirate crew removed, and dropped off at the top of the volcanic mountain, there was plenty of room on board for the still cheering captives.

"You're sure there are no more boats?" Herc asked his friend.

"Only yours, and I moved it to drag behind us. The ones out there," Dionysus pointed at the pirate ship in the harbor, "have sharks circling. I also took their sails and their oars. I directed some sharks to circle the island as well. No more boats. They're stuck here," Dionysus laughed.

Dionysus did not want any of the treasure except some fruit made out of gold and some beautiful jewelry for his wife. That left the rest of the treasure for Hercules. For a minute, Hercules thought he was rich. But on the trip back to Athens, he discovered that although the captives were very grateful to be freed, they were also very broke since they had lost their ships and all their trade goods, except for the goods already loaded on the leader's ship, the one they were on right now. The pirates had sunk their merchant ships. They would have been too easily recognized. Questions would have been asked. The captives told Hercules they suspected some of their goods were probably still hidden on the island somewhere.

Hercules knew it was his treasure. He could go hunting for it. Prince Theseus, who had become King Theseus, had given any treasure he found to Hercules to keep as long as he captured the pirates, which he had. But he would get no pleasure from it knowing it really belonged to the merchants. Instead of keeping it all, he kept one new shield and one new sword. He also kept a beautiful string of pearls as a gift for the Minotaur, who loved them so much that he hung them from his horns for many weeks. Hercules turned the rest back to Theseus to handle and divide fairly amongst the captives. Once Theseus' men had removed all the treasure from the island, Theseus left all the pirates and their leader behind on shore, and sunk the last remaining pirate ship. He put the word out to avoid the island at all costs, as the volcano puffed and puffed and puffed.

Hercules named this case The Case of the Ionian Sea Pirates. He marked the cover PAID IN FULL, and filed it away with the other case files from the Hercules Detective Agency.