Home > Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(7)

Dead in the Water (Deep Six #6)(7)
Author: Julie Ann Walker

   Adrenaline made his scalp prickle as they slowly made their way down the long pier. The ship’s upper hull gleamed a shiny gray in the marina’s lights. Her waterline and lower hull were painted a deep, almost blood red. And when the ship’s bell rang without the aid of human hands—a bad omen according to pirate superstition—Will ignored the hairs that lifted on the back of his neck.

   “She looks deserted,” Brady muttered.

   Will checked all the windows but couldn’t find any sign to make him disagree. Not a single lightbulb burned in the pilot house or lower, in the crew’s quarters, galley, or engine room.

   “They wouldn’t leave all that treasure unattended, would they?” Fin whispered.

   “They might if they didn’t think anyone would come lookin’ for it,” Jace countered. “Remember, no one outside their little operation but us and Bernie knows they’ve actually located the treasure.”

   Bernie Lutz was a fuckup of epic proportions. The dumbest of all Jace’s dumbass cousins. A true manifestation of a dink—which was the term Mainers used in place of loser. But Bernie had certainly come through with this score.

   “So what d’ya wanna do?” Brady looked at Will expectantly.

   Will was the oldest of the bunch, having been born a whole seven months earlier than Jace, the youngest of them. Which, in the uncomplicated way of children, meant Will had naturally been assigned the role of leader. And he’d maintained that title in all the years since.

   “Let’s make sure no one’s home first,” he said.

   Brady, always one to jump the gun, cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Ahoy the ship!”

   “Jeezum crow, Brady!” Will hissed. “That’s not what I meant, and I—”

   “Aroooohhh!” A loud bark sounded from the deck and had them all craning their heads up to see the flat, wrinkled face of a disgruntled bulldog. To add to the shock of the moment, the dog’s bark was followed by the crow of a rooster. A brightly feathered fowl alighted on the top rung of the deck railing next to the dog.

   Apparently, Wayfarer II had modeled itself after Noah’s Ark.

   What’s next? Will thought. A pig? A goat? An elephant?

   “They disembarked about forty-five minutes ago,” a low, tired-sounding voice called from behind them.

   As a group, Will and his friends turned to the slip next to the Wayfarer II. A sixty-something guy stood on the deck of the mid-sized sloop anchored there. He had on slippers and a silk robe that was tied loosely around his waist. Gave off a real Hugh Hefner vibe. “You friends of theirs?” he asked.

   “Ayuh.” Will was quick to answer. “Heard they’d just pulled into port. We were hopin’ to say hello.”

   Hugh Hefner’s twin cocked his head. “You boys are a long way from home. Hail from New England do you? Maine? Massachusetts? I spent a fair amount of time anchored in North Haven three years ago.”

   Will’s smile was tight. He didn’t like the thought of standing out in anyone’s mind. He was careful to answer without really answering. “What gave us away? The accent or the Bean boots?”

   “Probably both.” The man hitched his chin toward the island and added, “Try the Harbor Inn. I overheard the ladies say that’s where they’re staying for the next couple days.”

   “Thanks.” Will bobbed his head, hoping he looked convivial. Nothin’ untoward here, bub. Appreciate your help and please tie one on tonight so you forget you ever saw us. “We’ll try to catch ’em there.”

   The man waved a hand and then disappeared through the sailboat’s cabin door. Will didn’t realize he’d stopped breathing until the sound of the door locking tightly into its frame had him blowing out a blustery breath.

   “What now?” Brady whispered from the side of his mouth.

   “Now we amble on down the dock a piece like we’re headin’ to that hotel,” Will said quietly. “Once that old fart is asleep, we come back, board that ship, and take what we came to take.”

   “Think it’ll be that easy?” Fin asked.

   Will gave the only answer he could. “Lord, I hope so.”



Chapter 3


      The Following Day

   11:23 AM...



   Cami stood on the end of the long pier that jutted into Wayfarer Island’s blue lagoon.

   Er…the lagoon used to be blue.

   The approaching storm’s surge had piled the waves over the reef, churning up the sand and silt at the bottom of the shallow body of water and turning the surface a milky-looking gray that was dotted with tufts of white seafoam. The air was heavy with the smell of the sea and burned ozone. Not all hurricanes were preceded by lightning, but Julia had been putting on a show for the last hour.

   Craning her head over her shoulder, Cami shuddered at the scene that met her desperate gaze. The storm’s towering outer wall obliterated the horizon, and the ocean in front of the hurricane looked fuzzy, distorted by harsh bands of rain. A bright, twisted hand of heaven sizzled through the bank of clouds, seeming all the more sinister because she couldn’t hear the accompanying crack of sound.

   “Come on. Come on!” she whispered impatiently, turning back to see the divers climbing the swim ladder at the back of the catamaran. “Come on!” she said louder when none of the wetsuited individuals seemed determined to get a move on.

   I mean, seriously? she thought uncharitably. Can’t you wait to take off your tanks and swim fins until after you’ve come to get me?

   Doc, LT, and Olivia had been at it since daybreak, working in what could only be described as unfavorable conditions to haul up the last of the Santa Cristina’s storied treasure. Dana, the bubbly FMC employee, had dutifully remained on the sailboat’s deck, fulfilling her role as witness to the legality of the salvage. And Uncle John had been the one to captain the vessel, fighting the ever-angrier ocean in a bid to keep the catamaran positioned correctly for the divers below.

   As for Cami? She’d been assigned the role of weathergirl, tasked with staying back at the beach house to monitor the marine channels for storm updates and to keep an eye on Julia via the island’s lone laptop for as long as the satellite internet connection held.

   And why is it weathergirl? she wondered irritably. If the person reporting on the barometer has dangly bits, he’s a weatherman. So why isn’t the term for his female counterpart weatherwoman?

   Or better yet, weatherperson?

   Misogyny and the patriarchy hard at work, she decided. Even here in the twenty-first century.

   And yes, she was purposefully distracting herself from her current situation. Because twice she’d radioed out to Uncle John to inform him Julia had picked up speed. Twice Uncle John had assured her they were almost finished and ready to come get her. And twice he’d called back a couple of minutes later to say, “Scratch that. Hang on a bit longer. They got a few more items to collect.”

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