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Authors: Beverly Connor

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BOOK: LC 04 - Skeleton Crew
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"I'm sure he has, but he's a little bigoted, for one thing." Trey
lowered his voice and Lindsay had to lean forward to hear him
over the wind and waves. "Another thing, his was the lowest bid,
and I'm sure he suspects it. But his was too low. He couldn't have
met all the safety precautions with the numbers he had in his proposal, and his design was inferior. West Construction was actually
the middle bid of the three. The third was a company called KingSmith-Falcon from Florida. They're the oldest maritime construction company in North America, and one of the biggest. Good
proposal, but too high. John's was the best. He has a lot of good

Lindsay wasn't surprised. She had had a brief look at the proposals, but not the budgets that went along with them. She bit into
the pear and some of the juice ran down her arm. "So you think
this Denton fellow is just using Jones to aggravate us? That seems
like a waste of time he could spend somewhere else making

Trey threw up his hands. "I know it sounds improbable and a
little paranoid, but unless something has leaked-"


Again Trey lowered his voice to almost a whisper. "This is to be
kept absolutely secret. The Spanish archives spoke of another ship,
one of the silver galleons going back to Spain that sunk a year
before the Estrella. It shouldn't have been this far up the coast,

He was cut off by loud voices and clanging coming up the ladder from the dock on the ocean side of the dam.

"That son of a bitch. Jesus-"

Two divers, a male and a female, climbed onto the sand from
the boat dock. The man held a hand to his upper arm as the
woman helped him. Lindsay could see blood seeping from
between his fingers and running down his arm.

Chapter 3

"'SIT DOWN, NATE, and let me look at your arm." The female diver
looked around for a chair. Steven hurried over with one from his

"That sorry bastard-"

"Sit down and shut up." Nate's companion pushed him down
in the chair.

Trey raced to the trailer and came out with a first-aid kit.

"How bad is he hurt, Sarah?" Trey asked.

"It's not that bad," Nate answered. "The water's making it

"Where's the nurse?" Trey demanded.

"She's seasick today," Gina told him.

Lindsay knelt by the bleeding diver. "I'm certified by the
American Red Cross in emergency first aid-" She slipped on a
pair of latex gloves from the first-aid kit.

Gina, Jeff, and others who were topside stood back watching.
Jeff's narrow-eyed glare in her direction suggested to Lindsay that
he blamed her.

Bobbie Lacayo, one of Lindsay's students, came up the ladder.
Her swimsuit and yellow windbreaker told Lindsay she had been
with the diving party. The grim set of her mouth broke into a smile
when she saw Lindsay.

"You all right?" Lindsay asked her.

Bobbie nodded. "A little scared. Good to see you, Dr.

"What happened, Nate?" asked Trey.

"One of those sorry treasure hunters shot me with a harpoon
gun. Can you believe it?"

"What?" asked Trey. "On purpose?"

"Do I look like a fish?"

"Steven, call the Coast Guard," Trey ordered.

Lindsay gently pulled Nate's hand away and looked at the
wound. There was an open gash in his flesh two inches long and a
half inch deep. The edges were clean and straight. Lindsay put a
dry square of clean gauze over it and held it tight. The blood
soaked through, and she put another one over it.

"When this stops bleeding, someone needs to take you into
town-wherever that is-and get it stitched up."

"You can't do it?" Lindsay looked up to see Nate half smiling at
her. Wet ringlets of brown hair hung in his face.

"My doctor's degree will only let me do this much," she said,
and he laughed.

Steven Nemo came out of the trailer and trotted over to them.
"Guard's on its way."

"Sarah," Nate said, "dig in my pouch and get that thing I found
for Nemo."

Sarah Donovan fished an object from the pouch around Nate's
waist and handed it to him.

"Here, Nemo, it's a nautilus. I figure you lost it. Sorry about the

Steven took the spiraled shell and rolled his eyes, the others
laughed. Nate laughed the hardest, then started coughing.

"Are you all right?" Sarah asked.

Nate waved her away. "I'm fine. Just mad as hell."

"How fast did you come up?" asked Trey.

Nate waved his question away. "We weren't down deep or
long. I'm all right."

Trey looked at Sarah and Bobbie for confirmation and they nodded. He turned to Steven. "You take Nate to the hospital." Sarah
opened her mouth to protest. "You and Bobbie have to stay here
and talk to the Coast Guard," he said.

The bleeding had stopped, and Lindsay wrapped Nate's arm
with a gauze bandage. "Apply pressure if it starts up again."

"Sure thing, Doc. Thanks." Nate winked at her as he disappeared behind the bulkhead, following Steven down the ladder to
the dock.

Trey turned to Sarah and Bobbie. "Okay, what happened?"

Lindsay didn't stay to hear. She stripped off the gloves and
went to the trailer in search of a place to wash telltale spatters of Nate's blood off her hands and arms. At the door, she looked at her
hands, grimaced, and turned to ask someone to open it. Jeff stood
a few feet away eyeing her.

Great, she thought. I must look like Lady Macbeth to this nut.
"Would you open the door for me?" Jeff hesitated a moment then
came to her aid. "Thanks," she said and stepped into the trailer.

The 25-by-12-foot trailer was cool, which surprised Lindsay.
Principal investigators are not known for their attention to comfort. Then she realized it probably held sensitive equipment. Two
old stuffed maroon couches sat along the walls in the living room.
Several chairs, from brand-new to almost dilapidated, were
arranged more or less around a large table covered with a giant
map of the site. Other maps papered the walls. It looked like a war
room. The stove in the kitchenette off the living room had been
removed to make room for an extra refrigerator.

The blood was drying on Lindsay's hands and getting sticky.
She walked down the narrow hallway and found the bathroom. It
was the typical small trailer bathroom with a sliding door, small
bathtub, toilet, and sink. She washed her hands and watched
Nate's blood go down the drain in a pink froth of soapy water.
Lindsay wondered briefly where the water drained to-not into
the ocean, surely. For that matter, where did the water come from?
She turned off the tap quickly. It obviously had to be boated in and
put in a tank-probably the one behind the trailer.

Lindsay dried her hands on a paper towel and peeped inside
the bedroom next to the bathroom. There was no bed. Instead, an
old desk sat under an uncurtained window. A laptop computer,
printer, and stacks of books and papers littered the surface. By the
other wall stood a copy machine.

Maps of the ocean floor made from the various magnetometer
surveys decorated the walls. Different colored points of ink
marked the spots for anomalies on the ocean floor. On one map,
the cofferdam site was outlined with a black marker with small x's
pinpointing places where other artifacts presumably belonging to
the Estrella de Espana had been found. She looked at the labels to
see what some of the finds were. Two cannons had been discovered ten and fifteen miles away, an anchor a mile from the site.

On the far side of the room, stretching across the width of the
trailer, a closet with no doors was filled neatly with well-used diving gear. It contrasted with the shiny new tanks that Lindsay had brought with her. For the better part of a year she had taken diving lessons in preparation for this dig, after Trey had invited her to
be a member of the archaeology crew. Her lips turned up in a smile
as she thought about his excitement in telling her about the find,
and his further elation at discovering that the new division head,
Francisco Lewis, was willing to raise the money to build a cofferdam, rather than having divers dig blindly in the murky waters.
Lindsay turned and left, reminding herself as she stepped outside
and heard the waves breaking on the bulkheads that this was a
grand adventure.

From the ocean side of the dam came the deep bass sounds of a
marine engine, and she turned to see a white boat displaying the
emblem of the U.S. Coast Guard pulling up to the dock. Trey met
a Coast Guard officer at the ladder and led him to Sarah and
Bobbie, who were sitting restlessly at the table. Lindsay was about
to climb back down to the excavation with the rest of the crew
when Trey stopped her.

"I'd like you to stay. You've had some experience dealing with
authorities, and I understand a lot of them know you."

"Sure," said Lindsay. Angel of Death, at your service, she
thought. She followed him to the table and pulled up one of the
chairs. Trey introduced her to the officer in charge, a Lieutenant

"We were about twenty-five miles out from shore-near an artificial reef," Sarah was telling him. "Nate and I were surveying
some of the magnetometer anomalies, looking for artifacts. It's
hard to survey around the artificial reefs because of the many
recently sunk ships and tanks that make up those reefs. We were
working slowly and carefully because we knew that the newer
objects on top could be masking older artifacts underneath.
Archaeologists have been known to pass over ancient wrecks for
years by thinking the anomalies they knew about were from a
more recent ship known to be there."

"Exactly what happened next?" Lieutenant Damon clearly
wasn't interested in their methodology.

Sarah frowned, took a sip of water and ran her fingers through
the tangles of her half-dry curly red hair. "The water's not real
clear," she said. "You can't see far. They just appeared. Two of
them. We thought they were fishing at first, but-" She hesitated.
"I don't know. There was something about them. Some kind of purpose or aggressiveness as they came toward us. We motioned
to them, and they motioned back, warning us away. When we
didn't move, one of them shot at us. God, I was terrified. I've
never been shot at before."

"Why did they do it?" asked Lieutenant Damon.

"Why? I don't know why. Ask them." Sarah still had a smudge
of blood on her freckled arm. She started to cry when she looked
down and saw it.

"Did they think they were being threatened?" Lieutenant
Damon handed her a handkerchief.

"With what? Our Marshalltowns? We're archaeologists."

The lieutenant looked up at Trey, a question on his face.

"Trowels," Trey explained. "The trowels that we use for excavation are made by a company called Marshalltown."

"You don't carry weapons for sharks?" Damon asked.

"No. It was a short dive. They aren't usually a problem. They
aren't as aggressive as people think."

Lieutenant Damon raised his eyebrows. "But you carry a diving knife, don't you?"

"Yes, a small one, for diving. We didn't threaten anyone. We
were doing our survey, and these guys came at us. Nate was hurt."

"I'm just trying to get a clear picture. Who do you think shot at

"Nate thinks it was the pirates."

"The pirates?"

"Pothunters ... looters. You know," said Bobbie, "those vultures out there looking for treasure."

"But you don't know for sure? Did you recognize either one of
them?" Sarah shook her head. "Did Nate?"

"I don't know, really. He thought they were the treasure
hunters. Their boat was out there."

"Did you see the attackers?" the lieutenant asked Bobbie.

"I was topside with the boat. I didn't know anything was
wrong until Nate and Sarah surfaced."

"How close was the other boat you mentioned?"

"The Painted Lady was less than a quarter of a mile away, I
guess," Bobbie answered.

"But you don't know if they came from the Painted Lady? Was
that the only boat near you?"
- -- - - - - - - - - -- - -- -

Bobbie shook her head and several strands of her long black hair came loose from her casual French twist. She pushed the
strands behind her ear. "No, there were some fishing boats farther
away. But who else would do this? Not the fishermen, for heaven's
sake. For what reason?"

"Does Nate have any enemies?" he asked Sarah. "Or do you?"

Sarah scowled at him. "You mean who would come gunning
for us in the ocean? No."

"Can you give me a description of what they looked like?"

I think one had blond hair. The other one a darker color. Both
were about as big as Nate and muscular. They wore black vests
and trunks. I didn't see the brand of diving equipment."

"You are sure they weren't people you met someplace else?"

"No. I told you. I don't know who they were."

The lieutenant turned his attention to Trey. "Have you had any
other trouble?"

Trey shook his head. "Not at this site. West Construction, who
built and maintains the cofferdam, has a twenty-four-hour security
team guarding the place. They have their own divers."

"Could it have been one of them, thinking you were looters?"
Damon asked.

"No-" answered Sarah. "No. This was miles away from the
dam. West isn't guarding the whole ocean. Besides, the West divers
wear distinctive yellow vests."

Lindsay could see Sarah was having trouble keeping her temper. The questions Lieutenant Damon asked could not be called
hostile, but they did seem to Lindsay to be unnecessarily suspicious. She was accustomed to local authorities being suspicious of
archaeology crews, but she would have thought that with a project
of this size and cost, they would be more solicitous.

"We have a very professional security team," Trey added.
"They wouldn't shoot at anyone in that way."

"We'd like to talk to them," said Lieutenant Damon, "... and
Nate when he gets back."

BOOK: LC 04 - Skeleton Crew
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