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Ark Page 11

by David Wood

  “Bring her in close.”

  Corey complied, and as the object grew larger, Maddock’s heart fell. Even in its current condition, he could tell they had missed their mark.

  “What is that?” Dima leaned in for a closer look.

  “It’s a cannon,” he said.

  “Is that a bad thing?” she asked.

  “In this case it is,” Bones said. “Its way to modern. Probably Civil War.” He turned to Maddock. “I could go down for a closer look just to be sure.”

  Maddock shook his head. “There’s no need. This isn’t the wreck we’re looking for.”

  “But are they the droids we’re looking for?” Bones made a face. “Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood.”

  “Nice try,” Maddock said. “Right now, I think a beer is the only thing that will do the trick.”

  Chapter 21

  Maddock rose early the next morning and sat down on the deck with a strong cup of coffee and waited to watch the sunrise. He took a sip of the hot, bitter brew and gazed out at the horizon. A thin gray line painted across the ocean portended the sun’s arrival. Any day at sea was a good day for him, but mornings were special. He closed his eyes and allowed the cool breeze to wash over him. He was a patient man, especially compared to Bones, but he couldn’t deny his eagerness to find the sunken ship and its lost cargo. He wanted to solve the mystery. The thought of locating these so-called Noah Stones and perhaps the legendary ark itself set his heart racing, but the real drive was to make sure Bones’ family, and Angel in particular, was safe. Though she was not the target of the Trident, he knew she would not hesitate to put herself in harm’s way to protect her grandfather, should the men come after him again.

  “That smells good. Have you got a cup for me?” Dima, clad in track pants and a tight-fitting tank top, padded up on bare feet and sat down beside him.

  “No, but you’re welcome to share this one if you take it black.” He handed her the mug.

  “It’s coffee. I take it any way it comes.” She raised the mug to her lips, took a sip, and grimaced. “My God, that is strong.” She took another sip and handed it back.

  “You’re up early,” Maddock said.

  “I’m a light sleeper. It’s gotten even worse since Robert sent me that document. I just can’t slow my mind down and I imagine I see those guys around every corner, coming after me.”

  “I hope you feel safe with us,” he said.

  “I do. At least, as safe as I’m capable of feeling. I grew up in the Middle East so I’ve always walked on eggshells.” She let out a small sigh. “So, what is the deal with you and Bones? You two make an odd pair.”

  “He’s my best friend. It wasn’t always that way. We hated each other at first, but we got over it. I guess you could say we are yen and yang.”

  “I can believe that. You definitely seem like opposites.” She tilted her head and looked at him thoughtfully. “Are you as big a ladies man as he seems to be?”

  Maddock grinned and shook his head. “Not me. I’m engaged. To his sister, in fact.” He felt a touch of amusement as the lines creasing Dima’s face betrayed the same confusion so many others had felt when trying to picture Bones’ sister. “Don’t worry. She’s not his twin or anything.” He took out his phone and showed her a picture of Angel.

  “She’s beautiful. Is she a model or an actress, something like that?”

  “Professional fighter.” He said, pocketing the phone.

  “A fighter. Are you winding me up?”

  Maddock shook his head. “Dead serious. She’s one-of-a-kind. Kind of like Bones in that way.”

  “He is unique.” Dima bit her lip. “So, what is his deal? I mean, is he in a relationship? Does he even have relationships?”

  Maddock always found these questions awkward. The truth was, Bones had never stayed with one woman for any length of time, but there were reasons for that. Reasons his friend would not want shared. “Sure he does. It’s just taking him longer to find the right girl.” Maddock looked her in the eye. “But I can tell you he’s a good man. Maybe the best I’ve ever known.”

  Dima turned and looked thoughtfully out at the water. The morning breeze ruffled her long, dark hair, and she brushed a strand from her face. Maddock decided he liked her— she was smart, sincere, and lovely. Bones could do much worse. They sat there in contemplative silence until she spoke again.

  “What if Bones is right? What if the wreck really isn’t here? Or what if something did happen to it?”

  “Doubtful. I did a lot of research and I haven’t found any accounts of a Templar ship being found anywhere in this area.”

  “What if… I don’t know, what if it washed away or something? Could that happen?”

  Maddock froze. Something had just clicked into place.

  “If you’ll excuse me,” he said, climbing to his feet, “you just reminded me of something I need to check out. You want the rest of this?” He handed her the coffee and hurried back into the cabin. He hoped his hunch was right.

  “So, explain to us again this hunch of yours.” Willis stood, leaning against the cabin wall, with his muscular arms folded across his chest. The man was a top-notch soldier when he believed in what he was doing, but he always required convincing first.

  “It’s pretty simple, actually,” Maddock said. “The water here is shallower than we had hoped, so the wreck is more likely to have been affected by tides and the like than would a wreck in deeper water. This area has been hit by some major hurricanes and all of them have followed the same path.” He traced the point of a pencil in a line running north by northwest. “The prevailing currents run the same way. Since we believe the ship went down southeast of the island, it’s possible that the wreckage was pushed ashore.”

  “The island is boomerang-shaped.” Corey took up the explanation. “The wreckage could have been driven right into the center of the V, if you will, and trapped there. The Templar’s story indicated that the ship foundered very close to the island so it’s possible that we’ll find its cargo somewhere in this area. That’s one of the pluses of this being a deserted island. No one’s been around to stumble upon any wreckage.”

  “And there are no records of any such cargo being recovered in the vicinity of the island,” Maddock added. “At least, not that I could find.”

  The others appear doubtful. “What if it’s buried in the sand?” Matt asked.

  “Then we’ll find it with metal detectors,” Maddock said. “But I doubt that’s the case.” He took out another chart. “Right here, just offshore of the island, is a deep hole. It’s not as large as the blue holes you find in other parts of the world, but it’s large enough to suck in a sailing ship.”

  Bones raised his eyebrows. “That could explain why the wreckage has never been discovered.”

  “My thoughts exactly.” Maddock knew that if he won Bones over, the others would follow suit. “I know the dive could be dangerous but you can’t tell me it’s not worth a try.”

  “Come on, Maddock. You think we’re scared of a dangerous dive?” Willis asked. “I’ll race you to the bottom.”

  “Excellent.” Maddock smiled and nodded. “Let’s do it.”

  Chapter 22

  “There’s something down there.” Corey’s outward calm could not mask the tremor of excitement in his voice. As Uma descended into the sinkhole, her lights gradually illuminated the bottom. There amongst the rocks and sand lay the unmistakable remains of a shipwreck.

  “Come on, baby,” Willis whispered. By his side, Bones and Dima stood shoulder to shoulder, both watching in tense anticipation. As they stared at the monitor, Dima absently took Bones’ hand and laced her fingers between his. Maddock couldn’t help but smile.

  “It’s definitely a wooden ship,” Corey said. “But I don’t think I will be able to tell much more with Uma. You guys are going to have to check it out up close and personal.”

  “We’ll take it in shifts,” Maddock said. “Bones and I will go first.”
  “Aw, come on man, let’s at least flip for it,” Willis protested.

  “It’s okay, Maddock,” Bones said. “Why don’t we let the second string have the first crack at it? Save the big guns for last.”

  It was a measure of how badly Willis and Matt wanted to dive the wreck that neither of them responded to the second string comment. Maddock wasn’t fooled. Bones hated hanging out on deck when there was diving to be done. Clearly, his friend wanted to spend time with Dima.

  “All right,” Maddock agreed. “One hour and not a minute more. If you get into any kind of trouble, come back up. “

  “Yes, mom,” Matt said. “Would you like to dress us, maybe tie our shoes for us too?”

  “Just be careful.”

  Fifty minutes into the dive, Matt and Willis high-fived, then turned and gave the thumbs-up to the crew via Uma’s underwater camera through which those on board Sea Foam had been following the divers’ progress. They began working at something in the midst of the wreckage, stirring up a cloud of silt. Moments later, they emerged. Willis swam toward the camera and held up a long, narrow object. Maddock recognized it immediately.

  “A short sword.” The blade was dark and pitted, but the image on the hilt was clear—a Templar cross!

  “Yes!” Bones shouted. “You did it, Maddock.”

  “We’re not there yet. Let’s get ready to take our turn.”

  Matt and Willis surfaced, grinning broadly. “Jackpot!” Willis exclaimed as Maddock hauled him out of the water.

  “Good work.” Maddock accepted the sword from Willis and held it out in the bright morning sun. Time and salt water had done its work on the blade, but it was still a fine piece.

  “You know, this here dive could make us some serious change, stone or no stone,” Willis said. “I think there’s a lot more down toward the back of the sinkhole. We were picking up a lot of hits with the detector, but you know how that thing works. Can’t tell treasure from junk. Lots of metal down there.”

  Maddock had been so immersed in the search for the stone that he hadn’t even considered that this was what they did for a living. “That would be a nice bonus, wouldn’t it?” He handed the sword back to Willis. “You guys can make sure this is properly cared for.”

  “I’ve never seen a Templar sword up close before.” Dima gazed in admiration at the aged weapon. “It’s really something.”

  “Maddock, we should get going.” Bones tone was brusque and his countenance dark.

  Dima frowned at the big native but didn’t ask what was on his mind.

  Maddock thought he knew—early on in their days in the SEALs they had been called on to find another Templar treasure, and Bones had lost someone dear to him. He supposed wounds like that never truly healed.

  “Ready when you are,” Maddock said. They finished their prep, secured their masks, and slid into the cool water.

  Maddock descended slowly, savoring the way the cool, dark water enveloped him. The sea felt like home. Down below, the dark circle of the sinkhole loomed large in his vision. He was about to turn on his dive light when something moved off to the side. A quick glance told him it was a shark—a Great White if he was not mistaken. He motioned to Bones, who spotted it immediately and nodded. No need to panic. Sharks typically kept to themselves unless given good reason to attack. Still, he kept an eye on it as they continued their descent into the darkness.

  By the time they reached the bottom of the sinkhole, all thoughts of the marine predator were forgotten. Here they were, diving on a five hundred-year-old wreck. He couldn’t wait to begin the search.

  Bones operated the pulse induction underwater metal detector while Maddock swam at his side, eyes scanning the wreck. Several times, they stopped when Bones got a strong hit. They sorted through many bits that held no value, but they did find a number of gold coins and a few carved pieces. Maddock secured them in the mesh bag at his waist and continued searching.

  As the minutes slipped past, they added a few more items to the dive bag, but nothing that looked like a Noah Stone. Maddock was beginning to think this was going to be an even bigger endeavor than he had feared, when he felt a warm sensation against his leg. He looked down for the source, absently wondering if something had stung him, and realized it was coming from the thigh pocket where he’d secured the pointed stone—the first Noah Stone. He wasn’t sure why he’d brought it with him. Something had told him not to leave it unattended. He quickly realized the stone itself was heating up. It had never done that before. Perhaps…

  He took the stone from his pocket and began moving it in a broad arc. Nearby, Bones cocked his head and held up a hand in confusion. Maddock continued to sweep the stone around until he felt it grow warmer. He continued this game of “Cold, Warm, Hot” until he found himself at the very back of the sinkhole. Letting the stone be his guide, he pushed aside a chunk of decking and brushed away the sand beneath it. His fingers found something solid…and warm. Heart racing, he once again pocketed the Noah Stone and dug with both hands until he had freed a second shiny stone. It too was triangular and roughly the size of his fist. Aside from being a dark shade of gray instead of black, it was nearly the twin of the first stone, and it burned with the same heat. This was it!

  He turned toward Bones, held the stone up, and gave the thumbs-up. Bones returned the gesture emphatically. They moved to the center of the sinkhole, where Maddock secured the mesh bag containing the items they’d recovered to a large lift bag, and proceeded to fill the lift bag with air from his scuba tank. Once filled, it slowly began to rise, and Maddock and Bones swam alongside it.

  As they exited the deep hole into open water, Maddock again spotted movement nearby. He turned, expecting to see the shark, and was forced to dodge to the side as something small and fast-moving sliced through the water where his head had been an instant before. A diver, armed with a harpoon gun, had been lying in wait for them. Another harpoon whizzed past them, this one from the other direction. Maddock and Bones released the bag, letting it fly free, and dove for the sinkhole. There wasn’t much safety to be found there, but they’d be sitting ducks if they swam for the boat right now.

  They were in trouble. Neither he nor Bones carried a weapon other than a dive knife. He considered his options. There were no good hiding places inside of the sinkhole, no spot from which they could ambush the attackers. If the crew, watching through Uma, didn't see what was going on and send help in time, they were done for. Or were they?

  He reached into his thigh pocket and pulled out the first Noah Stone. He had no idea if it would work underwater but it was worth a try.

  He dragged the blade across his forearm, cutting deeper than he had when he had used the stone previously. A cloud of blood swirled up and he concentrated. It was working! He could feel the mysterious bond between him and the stone forming.

  He reached out with his mind, just as he had at Archer’s house, and his thoughts connected with the shark, which still lurked nearby. He called out to it, at least that was the best way he could think of to describe what he was doing. As if on command, it turned and made a beeline for the attackers.

  One of the newcomers had broken off the attack and was swimming for the lift bag containing the items they had recovered from the wreck. The other was closing in on Maddock and Bones, his harpoon gun loaded and held out in front of him, ready to fire.

  Maddock focused his thoughts on this man and tensed. Would it work?

  In a flash of gray and white, the shark appeared in the circle of light at the top of the sinkhole. The diver with the harpoon gun had only an instant to turn and fire a shot that went wild before the shark was on him. Its jaws closed on the diver's leg. The surprised man dropped his harpoon gun and began beating ineffectually on the shark’s snout. A few moments of violent thrashing and then the shark swam away with his prey in tow, leaving a thin cloud of blood trailing behind.

  Bones turned to look at Maddock, saw the Noah Stone, and nodded. Without wasting another second,
they swam for the boat.

  When they reached open water, there was no sign of either diver. How had the second man gotten away so fast? That question was answered when they broke the surface and found their friends waiting for them.

  "What happened down there?" Matt asked. "A diver surfaced holding the lift bag. About the time we realized it wasn't you, another guy came zipping by on a Sea Doo, fired a few shots across our bow, picked up the other fellow, and was gone."

  "We wanted to chase them, but we didn't know what had happened to you. Matt and I were about to come in after you." Willis' tall, muscular frame quaked with suppressed rage.

  "They took the lift bag?" Bones asked. "Holy crap. They got the stone."

  "No they didn't." Maddock reached into his thigh pocket and pulled out the second Noah Stone. "There's no way I was letting either of these babies out of my sight for a second." He took a moment to enjoy the surprised grins of his crew mates. "Now let's get out of here before they realize they failed and come back with bigger guns."

  Chapter 23

  Dima turned the stone over in her hands, her fingers tracing it smooth surface. She held it up to the light, transfixed by the sparkles that seemed to emanate from beneath the surface of the glossy black stone. It was all almost too much to believe.

  She looked out the cabin window at the darkening sky. They were headed south, eager to put as much distance between themselves and the Trident, if that’s who, in fact, they had encountered earlier, as possible. Their destination was Key West, where Maddock and his crew made their home. She considered how odd it was that she had so quickly and completely put her trust in these men but instincts told her it was the right decision.

  She glanced up as Maddock and Bones entered the cabin.

  “Are you enjoying your pleasure cruise?” Bones asked.

  “Oh, yes. Getting shot at today was a high point.”


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