He took the helm himself as they headed out. Lieutenant Preston was at his side. “Sheridan’s a jerk,” he said above the roar of the motor.
Thor shrugged. “He’s all right. He’s just really passionate about history, I guess.”
Preston snorted. “Yeah, but did you see his face when Genevieve knew something he didn’t? Thought he was about to have a stroke. I guarantee you he’s on the phone right now to some grad student, reaming them out for missing a cross-reference.”
Thor shrugged. “Hey, finding the ship is the important thing, right?”
“Man, she’s nice,” Preston murmured then, studying the console. “There a second helm in the cabin?”
“Radar, sonar, GPS…she all but drives herself, huh?”
Thor turned, aware they were no longer alone. Genevieve was standing behind him, wearing her wet suit. Beyond her, the other divers had already attached their buoyancy control vests to their tanks, and tested their regulators and air, ready for the water when they reached the reef.
Gen had a touch of challenge in her manner. “Great boat,” she told him seriously. “I’m really going to enjoy it.”
He had to smile, then glanced down at his instruments to hide his pride. Marshall was leading at the moment, and in fifteen minutes, they would be dropping anchor and tossing out their dive flags.
“You’re point man,” Thor said to Preston, who nodded. Thor headed back to don his own gear. One of his fellow divers had already taken care of his BCV and his tank. Nevertheless, he checked out his regulator and air, along with the security of his tank.
“Don’t trust me, eh?” she said softly, next to him, sliding down on the seat to secure her vest.
“Never trust anyone when you’re getting into the water,” he said.
“Don’t worry. I don’t. But if you’re with any of us, that’s all you have to do. Final checks. We take care of each other.”
He felt his teeth grate. Was she suggesting that he’d never dived with anyone trustworthy before?
She stood, balancing perfectly with the weight of her tank. Preston hurried up behind her, but she was already moving. “Hey, we’re partners!” Thor called after her.
She waved. “I’ll be hanging at the surface. Waiting. Take your time,” she added sweetly.
Sweet? Like hell.
He was quickly ready, stepping off the dive platform to land beside her in the water before sinking slowly.
Ten feet away, Jack and Alex gestured, indicating their parallel paths.
Thor believed strongly in the methods they’d used to determine the location for this search, but down here now, their depth a little over fifty feet, he wasn’t at all certain they would make a discovery. They were a little west and south of the customary beaten dive areas, but they might as well have been pleasure divers off any tour boat. The reefs were majestic here, dangerous for anyone who didn’t know the path to navigate through them—or forced onto them in the midst of a roaring storm. There were areas where the coral outcrop—with its rich abundance of life—gave way suddenly to greater depths, and then fan coral would suddenly shoot sharply toward the surface. The colors seemed brilliant today. Purple fans, then a riot of fire coral. Blue-and-yellow tangs. Clown fish. A huge grouper…a lone barracuda. Something seemed to glisten in the sand deep below, and he propelled himself past the coral and downward.
The object was covered in sand. He dug, adrenaline racing through him. His fingers curled around the object, and disappointment washed through him. There was nowhere near enough sea growth on the object for it to have been in the water any length of time.
He had found someone’s lost dive knife. A nice one, actually. But definitely new.
He looked back, ready to let his dive buddy know it was nothing. She was right behind him, as ever, perfectly still and buoyant. She nodded her understanding.
He swam on.
No! Good God, no.
She was there. Thor was just ahead, but she was there. The woman with the long blond hair.
I don’t see you! Genevieve raged inwardly.
The woman’s head rose. The woman smiled with poignant, aching sweetness.
She was a ghost, Gen told herself. She wasn’t there. But she was. She reached out…but didn’t touch Genevieve. Then it seemed that a ghost of a ghost, an image of the woman but even paler still, rose from the creature weighted to the bottom. Rose…and pointed.
Thor looked back. Genevieve tried to stare back with perfect calm. She pointed.
Apparently he saw nothing. He frowned and looked in the direction of the woman, then swam toward the area bordering the coral where Gen indicated. He stopped just to the side of the ghost and gently began to sift through the sand.
So she was insane.
But the ghost’s specter or aura or whatever was pointing, as well. Genevieve forced herself to breathe, listening to the lulling sound of her regulator. Okay, she was crazy. But the ghost wanted her to go in a certain direction.
Nothing. Nothing at all. Sand, without a hint that something might be lying beneath it. He looked back again. His partner was moving. She looked back at him and indicated that he should follow her.
She had the strangest expression on her face.
Shit! The woman was seeing things again. He was sure of it.
He waved, determined to get her attention, to snap her out of whatever strange hallucination had seized her. He had no idea where she was going, or why.
She nodded to acknowledge him but ignored his signal, indicating that they should circle around the coral outcrop rather than move on.
She didn’t appear to be distressed; maybe he was jumping to conclusions. But neither did she seem willing to allow him to take the lead. With a controlled motion of her fins, she went shooting on farther to the southwest.
He followed her. She had stopped again, as if following some unseen guidance.
She dove deeper, past a strip of high fan coral, down to the seabed, another fifteen feet or so. He followed. It was as if she knew exactly where she was going. There was no hesitation in her movements.
At the bottom, she stopped and stared at the sand, then began searching.
She had lost it, he decided. Completely.
It was just sand. No different from the sand she had pointed to moments ago.
All right. He would give it a go. They were searching for a pack of needles in a pile of very large haystacks, so what the hell.
He began to search, as well, carefully, trying not to roil the sand. He unearthed a small ray. Disgruntled, the creature shot away.
She was sifting the sand, as well. She dug calmly, at first, but then she began to search frantically.
He watched her, ready to haul her up and, once they reached the surface, explode. Hell. He wasn’t diving with her anymore, and that was that.
He reached out for her. She was strong; he hadn’t planned on that. She wrenched her arm away from him. When she did, her hand hit the sand, hard. The granules danced up into the water, darkening it. He was about to go for her with a more powerful grip when he noticed something that didn’t quite belong. Something that looked like a black, crusty blob.
He reached for it instead of for her.
When the object was in his hand, he felt the familiar—and pleasurable—adrenalin rush. He wasn’t sure, but…
He reached for the dive knife in the sheath at his ankle, snapped it out and scraped carefully at the piece. He looked up as the black coat of time, oxidation and sea growth slowly gave way.
She was staring at him, waiting. Dead calm, perfectly buoyant, as if she were floating in air. Those eyes of hers, behind the mask….
He looked at her and nodded slowly.
“I don’t understand,” Bethany said, seriously confused. She untangled a length of her freshly washed hair with her fingers. “You should be on cloud nine. That was a Spanish gold piece you found. Minted in Cuba, Marshall thinks, though he admits he isn’t sure yet. But if so…then it has to have come from the Marie Josephine.
Genevieve nodded, brushing her own hair out before the mirror. “I am delighted.” Delighted? Did she dare tell the truth, even to Bethany?
“Well, Thor picked it up, right?”
“He’s the one who actually found the piece.”
“Don’t bite my head off. You two were together. The first discovery goes to you as a team. That will teach them to rib you! As if you could possibly be crazy in any way. They’ll be sorry.” She giggled. “I’ll bet you Victor is sorry right now. I mean, you are his diving partner, really. I’ll bet he’s kicking himself right now for what he said.”
Genevieve’s brush paused halfway through the length of her hair. She turned and studied Bethany. “What if I told you I saw her again?”
Bethany laughed, flinging herself back on the bed. Then she realized Genevieve wasn’t laughing and sat up soberly. “You’re kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“If you repeat this, I will call you the worst liar in the world,” Genevieve said forcefully, taking a seat on the edge of her bed. Bethany was staring at her with worry in her eyes.
“Oh, Genevieve…you are teasing me, right?”
Bethany closed her eyes. “I don’t think I want to hear this.”
“Then…then I won’t say any more.”
“No! You have to talk to me…. I just don’t think I want to hear it.” She hesitated. “Please, Gen, go ahead.”
Genevieve sighed. “I was down there with Thor. He was moving a little ahead. I felt as if I were being called, so I looked back, and…there she was. Exactly where I saw her before.”
Bethany frowned. “I…wow. I don’t even know what to say.”
“Here’s the thing. Have you ever seen one of those movies with…astral projection, except that it wouldn’t be exactly that…or heard about people who died on the operating table and were floating above themselves, looking down at their own bodies?”