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Authors: Beverly Connor

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BOOK: LC 04 - Skeleton Crew
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"Well, shit," said John. He sat down on the walkway, dangled
his legs over the side, and eased himself into the water.

The pond wasn't deep. It came only up to John's chest as he
waded toward the spot were Boote went under. The old man surfaced, sputtering, and John grabbed him before he could go under
again. He yelled and fought as if caught by the alligator. John put
an arm across Boote's chest and glided him through the water the
few feet to the walkway. Jeff and Nate, one arm in a sling, helped
John haul the old man up.

"Don't get your arm wet with that muck," Jeff said to Nate.
"It'll get infected."

John pulled himself onto the walkway, stood and looked down
at his wet muddy clothes, and frowned. "Boote, you better have a
good reason for falling into the swamp." He knelt beside Jeff and
Nate, who were holding Boote in a sitting position with his head
between his knees as he coughed.

"He seems to be all right," Nate said. "Just swallowed some
water."

"That can't be good for him," said Jeff.

"Well, no, I don't reckon it is," said John.

"What happened?" asked Lindsay.

"Can't you see?" said Tessa. "He fell through the railing. It's
your fault, all of you. Moving your equipment up the ramp here
like a bulldozer, tearing up the railing."

She turned her attention to Boote, who had raised his head to
look at her, squinting, trying to keep the dripping water out of his
eyes.

"And you." Tessa pointed her finger. "You were told to stay
away from here. Especially when you're drunk! Have you been
out in your boat in that condition?"

"Now listen here, missy. I been bringing my boy here since he
was little. You people come and run us off ... studying my island.
I could've told you 'bout my island, if you'd of asked."

Lindsay and Bobbie couldn't resist looking at Tessa under
raised brows.

She jutted her chin forward. "It's not the same thing at all." She
turned abruptly and hurried back up the walkway, brushing past
Harper, who had just come through the double doors carrying a
blanket.

"I thought he might need this." Harper placed the blanket
around Boote's shoulders. "You all right, Mr. Teal?"

"Thank y' ma'am."

Nate pulled the blanket close under the old man's chin.

"I'll take you home," said John. "I have to go change clothes
anyway." He put a hand on the old man's arm and guided him to
his feet. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"I was wondering if any of you seen Keith. He's good about
looking in on me. He always brings me Sunday dinner. He didn't
come Sunday last. I went over to the neighbors and used their phone to call some of his friends. They ain't seen him in about a
week."

"Couldn't he have gone somewhere-Savannah or Atlanta
maybe, and you forgot?" asked Nate.

The old man opened his eyes wide. "Atlanta. He has this girl he
likes to visit in Atlanta sometimes."

"He's what, forty years old?" asked John. "I think he can probably take care of himself." John smiled at Lindsay, told her he'd be
back, and guided Boote toward the dock. Lindsay watched the old
man as he walked, unsteady on his feet, supported by John, trailing the blanket like an imperial robe.

"I take it you all know him," Lindsay said to Harper as they
turned and walked back into the building.

"He comes around sometimes. He lives on the mainland near
the coast somewhere. He and his son used to come here years ago
to fish and prospect, before the state took it over and made it a preserve. He's a harmless old guy. Lonely, I think."

Bobbie and Harper led Lindsay through the lobby into a hallway. Lindsay peeked into rooms as she passed. In the first, several
people around a table greeted her curious gaze with frowns. She
assumed they were from the Biology Department.

"This is a private meeting," one of the men said.

"This is Dr. Chamberlain," introduced Bobbie, as if there were
no hostile undercurrent. "This is Mike Altman.... He's Tessa's
husband."

"Look," said Tessa. "What does it take to get through to you
people? We aren't interested in being your friends."

Lindsay thought she noticed embarrassment on the faces of
some of the others. She was glad she was staying on the barge.

The room across from them was filled with computers, printers,
and an array of other electronic equipment, and a chessboard sitting on a table in one corner.

"This is where our two meteorologists keep track of the
weather for us," said Bobbie. "They've got global positioning
equipment and a lot of other neat stuff." She waved at a guy sitting at a terminal. "Good weather ahead?" she asked.

"So far, looks great," he answered.

"This is Dr. Chamberlain. She works with bones." Bobbie introduced two of the weather crew, Terry Lyons and William Kuzniak.
After a few words about the weather, they continued down the hall.

At the end of the hallway, a stairwell led to the ground floor
where the conservation crew did their work.

"We meet down here almost every day to debrief," Bobbie said.
"You'll want to meet the conservators. The stuff they do is really
interesting."

The head conservator, Carolyn Taylor, took Lindsay's hand,
pumped it up and down, and introduced her to another conservator, Korey Jordan. Korey worked mainly with the iron objects and
made technical drawings of all the artifacts.

"You should see his drawings. They're wonderful. Korey's had
several showings of his work in New York."

Lindsay could almost see Korey's smooth, dark-chocolate skin
blush under the praise Carolyn bestowed upon his work. His
shoulder-length dreadlocks fell forward as he bowed his head, an
unconscious effort to hide from her compliments. Carolyn slapped
him on the back.

"He won't sing his own praises," she said. "Someone has to. I
heard you found the first skeleton. We can't wait to get him-her?"
Carolyn stopped, waiting for Lindsay's answer, a broad smile on
her face.

"Him," Lindsay said, looking around at the various containers-giant glass aquariums, opaque tubs, and shallow traysholding artifacts being treated. Carolyn had been working on a
shoe with a dental tool. The shoe Gina found was evidently not the
first. Before leather could be rendered stable enough to work with,
it had to be treated, sometimes for several weeks, with a solvent to
replace the water that permeated the tissues.

"Want to see some of the stuff we've found?"

Lindsay nodded and went from container to container looking
at beads, pearls, a pewter cup and plate, a wooden pepper mill, a
thimble, a caulker's mallet, carved ivory tools of some kind, large
ceramic jars, sheets of mounted fabric soaking in what smelled like
acetone, iron concretions waiting for Korey to pour a casting substance in them to make a mold of whatever iron object used to be
inside.

"We have two barrels and a sea chest in tanks over at the warehouse where the ship's timbers are being taken. They weigh over
a hundred pounds apiece. We put all the heavy stuff over there,"
Carolyn said. "We've already found enough artifacts to keep us
busy for years."

"Is this an astrolabe?" asked Lindsay, pointing to an object in a
tub of liquid. Both Korey and Carolyn nodded their heads vigorously.

"Cool, isn't it?" Korey smiled. "I don't envy you guys at the
dam at all. This is the most fun part of the project."

Bobbie grinned back at them. "Maybe, but there is nothing like
the feel of the initial find."

"I understand Lewis is going to build a museum?" asked
Lindsay.

"I wouldn't be surprised. Cisco is backing this project to the
hilt."

Cisco, thought Lindsay. Carolyn must be one of Francisco
Lewis's people. Hardly anyone else ever called him that.

"Is he building a theme park?" Lindsay asked.

"A theme park?" Korey echoed. "You mean with rides? Where
did you hear that?"

Carolyn laughed.

"Tessa thinks he is. She had a fax. I didn't see where it was
from."

"Oh," said Carolyn. "Those people have a new rumor every
day. Theme park. That's the stupidest one they've had yet."

"I understand we kind of usurped their space."

"Well," Carolyn said, "that's the breaks. It's not that those people haven't done it to us archaeologists enough times. You're from
UGA campus, aren't you?" she said, changing the subject. "You
know Gerri Chapman?"

"I've worked with her a couple of times," Lindsay said, eyeing
Carolyn closely. Gerri Chapman was one of Francisco Lewis's
favorites. She had preceded Lewis to campus and tried her best to
get Lindsay's job as head of the osteology lab. Carolyn smiled, a
knowing kind of smile. It wasn't an expression of disapproval, but
one that said she would like to hear the story over a bottle of beer
sometime. "She came to UGA with Lewis," Lindsay added-probably unnecessarily.

"Well, speak of the devil," Carolyn said, looking over Lindsay's
left shoulder.

 
Chapter 7

LINDSAY TURNED AND came face-to-face with the hawkish countenance of Francisco Lewis.

"Dr. Chamberlain. Now that you've seen the dam, the lab, the
crew, and the research plan, what do you think? Can I cook or
what?" He grinned.

Lewis's teeth were so white, Lindsay was sure he must have
them bleached regularly.

"I must give the devil his due."

Lewis laughed out loud, put an arm around her shoulders, and
gave her a gentle shake.

"Trey tells me you found a human skeleton today. I knew you
were right for this dig." His dark eyes glimmered and his mouth
turned up in a slight, lopsided smile.

He knew I was right for the dig? Lindsay thought. Even though
she had not been reassigned to a smaller office or lost the faunal lab,
when her summer osteology courses were given to Gerri Chapman
to teach, she had thought Lewis was beginning a campaign to ease
her out and put in the person he brought with him. Instead, had he
shifted the teaching load to Gerri and given Lindsay this plumb
assignment? She couldn't imagine him choosing her over one of his
pet people. Maybe Trey had talked him into it.

"Yes," Lindsay said. "He's in good condition, too."

"When do you think it will be ready to come up?"

"Tomorrow, perhaps. It depends on how much the night crew
get done."

He nodded. Lindsay could almost see the wheels turning in his
brain, so she was not surprised by the next statement.

"We'll want to make a cast of the skull right away. I understand
you're an artist ..."

"Well, I'm competent, but ..."

"I hope you won't be offended," he went on as if she hadn't spoken. "I'm going to get a sculptor to do the face. You don't need to
be spending time on that anyway. I would like the bone analysis to
be finished as quickly as possible, especially on this first one."

This first one, thought Lindsay. Lewis was certainly optimistic.

"Frank tells me you're good at visualizing personal stories from
a collection of artifacts. That's what I want here. Make it personal.
We've got the journal, and I understand it's turning out to be quite
interesting. I'd like you to match up the skeleton with the descriptions of crew members in the journal." He shook her again and
grinned. "Glad to have you aboard." He turned and went to where
charts and maps were hanging on the walls. It looked as if he
would be conducting the debriefing.

"Energetic, isn't he?" Bobbie said.

"And optimistic."

"He likes you." Lindsay and Bobbie turned and faced Carolyn.
"I bet that puts Gerri's nose out of joint." She looked as if that
pleased her.

Lindsay and Bobbie sat down on a sofa next to one wall. Bobbie
pulled up a dilapidated coffee table to prop their feet on. Slowly,
members of the crew began filing into the room and taking seats
wherever they could find them. Trey came in with Nate, who
raised his fists in the air like a fighter, showing off his bandage.
Everyone clapped and whooped.

"Eight stitches," he shouted.

Trey banged on the table with the edge of his clipboard. "OK,
everybody. Let's get on with this. Some of us want to squeeze in a
life while we're here. We've got Francisco Lewis with us. He'll be
staying for a while and has a few things to say."

Lewis stepped forward. His slacks and shirt looked expensive,
contrasting with the combination of torn blue jeans, shorts, and
swimsuits the crew were wearing.

"I just wanted to say that I think you guys are doing a great job,
and a fast job. I know archaeology is not meant to be a fast undertaking, but this is an unusual dig." He paused. "We've had an
unfortunate incident with pothunters. I've spoken with Trey and
John West, and we're taking steps to make sure nothing like what
happened to Nate happens again. All of you know the problem
sites have with pothunters when all that's at stake are ceramic pots and projectile points. You can imagine how the stakes are raised
when people hear the words Spanish galleon. Please don't let
today's incident disturb your work.

"As Trey said, I'm going to be here for a while." He grinned.
"We're having a television crew-" There were groans from the
crew, and Lewis raised his hands. "I know. They can be a pain, but
publicity gets us money, and this is an expensive undertaking. So
grin and bear it."

"Now, I understand Lindsay Chamberlain found the first
human skeleton and wins the pool, which has a grand total of
twenty-five dollars in it. I'm glad inflation hasn't hit the ranks of
archaeology and we are still cheap." He got a laugh, not because
he was funny, Lindsay thought, but because he was Lewis. "Come
up, Lindsay. Trey has some cash for you."

Lindsay made a face, swung her feet off the table, reluctantly
stood and walked to the front. Trey gave her the cash, and she
waved it over her head to the applause of the crew and went back
to her seat. Trey took over the meeting, and the focus went to the
day's accomplishments and problems, illustrated on a map of the
site and twenty miles of surrounding ocean. A quarter-mile east of
the dam the scuba teams had found a few barrel hoops and
another cannon similar to the first two. "We're not sure the cannons came from our ship," he said, "but we suspect they may
have. The Spanish archives said only one ship of the 1558 fleet
sank off the coast, and so far we haven't found any evidence to dispute that. We'll know more when the cannons are cleaned up."

BOOK: LC 04 - Skeleton Crew
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