by Kristine Williams
"Oh, right, lobster." Blair smiled, "I knew I forgot something."
"Come on Sandburg, I'm not eating those." He waved a hand towards the sink full of sea urchins soaking at the opposite end of the kitchen. "No offense," he added to Katie, who smiled at him and nodded.
"I'm not going back down there, it's just too cold."
"Fine, you can follow me with that camera you're so fond of." He slapped Blair on the back and walked to the door. "Let's go." He could hear Blair's sigh from across the room.
"Okay, okay. I'm coming."
Jim was laughing as they walked outside, "You know, I just can't picture it. No matter how hard I try."
"What?" Blair hurried to catch up and walked beside Jim down the steps. "Picture what, Jim?"
"Professor Hathaway. He's exactly what I picture a college Professor should look like. I mean the grey hair, the sweater, the pipe. I just can't picture you like that."
"Me? Like Professor Hathaway? Come on, Jim, you need to get out more."
Jim laughed again and shook his head. He had tried to form a mental image of Blair Sandburg, with a pipe and cardigan, and it just didn't work. They were approaching the barge and Jim could hear the unmistakable sound of bubbles making their way to the surface. He focused for a moment and could discern the workings of three separate regulators a few yards off the pier. They boarded the vessel and Blair led the way to the bow and into the remote station where Amy was still working.
"Hey, I was just getting ready to send Igor back out." She smiled as Jim and Blair entered, then patted the machine affectionately. "I found your lobster."
"Great. I was just getting ready to go down and look for them myself." Jim was smiling, then looked out the window at the bubbles surfacing just off the bow. "Who's out there now?"
Amy rolled her eyes slightly, "Kenny, Larry and Ross. I don't know how they can do it, after what happened just two days ago." She paused, glancing at Blair. "Lucy is around here somewhere I think."
"I'm right here." Lucy stepped in then and stood in the hatchway. "The guys are coming up now. You'll need a partner, if you're going down."
"No thanks. I'm an old hand at this." Jim glanced at Blair, then Amy. "Besides, Igor here is coming with me."
"That's right. Blair, give me a hand, will you? I need to get his claw attached again, it keeps slipping off."
Jim waited until the two of them left, then he looked at Lucy, who stood farther back now, watching Blair and Amy take Igor to the stern. "I understand you catalogue and pack all the findings from the wreck?"
She turned to Jim. "Yes, that's right. I record them, pack them, and get the customs paperwork straight."
Jim nodded thoughtfully and walked past her, towards the lower hatch. "So, you have a record of everything brought up?"
"Yes. So does Professor Hathaway." She was following Jim now and he entered the stairwell.
"And you record all of your findings?"
"Yes, of course. That ship represents a piece of history, and it involves three separate countries." Lucy continued to follow Jim down and now stood with him next to the tanks. "America, Mexico, and Canada, all have a vested interest in the artifacts. You wouldn't believe the scrutiny when it comes to what is recovered and where it goes from here."
Jim nodded, glancing at the tanks. His and Blair's from their morning dive were still at the end of the row, with three more missing. Lucy reached for the next tank in line and handed it to Jim.
"Need any help getting dressed?"
"Thank you, no." He smiled and raised his eyebrows. He hadn't pegged Lucy as the forward type. "But your friends are back, maybe you can help them."
Lucy shrugged, setting the tank down in front of Jim, and turned to leave.
Jim waited until she was gone before stripping down and putting on a dry wetsuit from the lockers. He checked the tank she had set out for him, tested the regulator, then tapped on the pressure gauge. Everything checked out okay, so he picked up the tank and carried it to the deck. Kenny and his cronies were already onboard, with Lucy assisting them in the removal of their gear. Jim took note of Kenny watching him as he crossed the deck to where Blair was waiting, focusing on the small group of students.
"No, nothing. Don't worry. It's all taken care of."
"Yeah Luce, just relax. By tomorrow, she'll be on her way."
Jim reached the side and Blair took the tank from him. "I'm going to lead you to where Amy spotted the lobster, then I'll use Igor as a grocery bag, okay?"
Jim nodded, still trying to listen to the group at the opposite side of the deck, but they had stopped talking and were beginning to move down below with their gear. "What were they doing?"
Amy glanced at the retreating students and shrugged. "Just having a look around I suppose. I was following them with Igor for a few minutes, but his camera started cutting out again and I had to bring him back up."
"You film every time he goes down?" Jim asked, securing the tank's straps as Blair lifted it to his back.
"Yes. He relays to a video tape machine here on deck. But lately his camera's been having problems. Cutting in and out, sometimes just transmitting snow for minutes at a time. We keep the tapes for review in case the divers miss anything while they're down."
"Jim, here you go."
Jim accepted the regulator Blair was directing over his shoulder. "You keep the tapes for how long?"
"Oh, usually long enough to go over with Professor Hathaway. The divers have a limited amount of time, due to the cold, so we review the tapes and see if they've missed anything, or find an area they can concentrate on during the next dive. Typically, I'd say we recycle the tapes once a week."
"Jim, what are you thinking?"
"I'm not sure yet Chief. Just thinking." Jim pulled his mask on and gave Blair a thumbs up, stepping over the side.
He hit the water and let himself float for a second, putting his flippers on. When he was ready, Igor was lowered into the water beside him and Jim took hold of the camera, bringing it under the surface. He started off in the general direction of the ship, waiting for Blair to get back to the control room and turn on the propellor. After a few minutes of idle swimming, the large blade began to spin gently and Jim let go, following Igor out past the dock, then down. It was so peaceful under the surface, if a little cold. Jim couldn't help but laugh at Blair's reaction to their first dive. He had learned during his time in the service how to control his body's response to the cold of that first submersion. He always did have a better tolerance for cold, but had also learned how to turn down his sense of touch in a way that gave him a definite advantage over his more sensitive partner.
Igor was moving off to the left now and Jim followed, keeping an eye out for lobster, and anything else that could be cooked or stewed. He had just spotted some strange marks in the sand when he ran into the remote camera that had stopped just in front of him. Sandburg! He recovered and stared at the camera eye facing him. Igor tipped down for a moment, then back up. Jim looked around and saw the pair of lobsters sitting just below him. He reached out, and with one finger, pushed Igor back slightly, then waved his finger in front of the camera. Igor hovered where he was pushed, then held out one clawed arm, extending the bag he was carrying. Jim almost laughed, picturing Blair at the other end of the camera. He flipped down and snagged the two lobsters, then righted himself and stuffed them into the bag Igor held patiently for them. As soon as they were secure, the camera dipped and turned, leading him on. A few yards farther and Jim was able to once again pick up the marks in the sand. It looked as if something had been dragged, leaving a wide imprint in the silt, and scraping barnacles off of several rocks.
Once again Igor stopped suddenly and Jim was able to avoid another collision by inches. He glared at the camera again and looked around, spotting the large lobster just below and to the right. He had just stuffed it into Igor's bag when he felt the subtle change in pressure through his regulator. Quickly he checked the pressure gauge. It read three quarters. He should have thirty minutes of air, and he had only been down for ten. He took another breath and felt the same sensation of pulling, more than the normal exchange through regulator valves. Igor moved forward and stared at him, then turned to move on. Jim took another breath and felt the unmistakable vacuum of an empty tank, pulling back against the air in his lungs.
He didn't need to check the gauge to know he was out of air. Quickly he reached out and snagged Igor just before it was out of reach, spinning it around to face him. He pointed to his regulator and up, adding an urgent motion of slashing across his throat. Immediately Igor spun back around and faced up, kicking its propellor into high and pulling Jim as fast as it could to the surface.
Just as he was ready to break the surface Jim heard Blair racing down to meet him on deck. His lungs were burning, and he spat out the regulator as he let go of Igor, reaching up for the ship as he came out of the water.
"Jim! Give me your hand!" Blair was leaning over, grabbing Jim's outstretched arm as he broke through the water.
Jim filled his lungs gratefully and steadied himself against the barge, letting Blair hold him there for a few minutes while he inhaled again.
"What the hell happened!"
"I ran out of air!" he gasped, breathing again.
"What? The tank was full."
Jim nodded, still too winded for much conversation. He unclipped the tank and shrugged it off, then handed it up to Blair. "Here, take this."
"God, are you all right?" Amy was beside Blair now, and took the tank from him, setting it down on deck before reaching in for Igor.
"Yeah, thanks for the lift."
"Anytime. Come on." Blair reached down to help Jim out. "I hope dinner was worth it."
Jim tossed up his flippers, then took Blair's hand and pulled himself out of the bay and onto the deck. Kenny was there, but just for a moment as he followed his friends off the barge and onto the pier. "What's with them?"
Blair turned to see the others just as they started walking up the pier. "They've been down below until now."
"I'm gonna take Igor inside, and get these lobster up to Katie. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine." Jim nodded to Amy then sat down on a crate in the center of the deck, pulling the tank over to him.
Blair followed and stood beside him, looking at the tank. "What's up Jim? This tank was full when you went down." He glanced at the gauge. "It's still more than half full."
Jim unscrewed the regulator and peered inside the mechanism. "I don't know," he said, looking as far in to the tubing as he could. He lifted it to his nose then and took a focused breath. "There's something in here."
"I'm not sure. Something smells strange...Like glue maybe. Or sealant. Definitely something. This gauge has been rigged to read full, when it's probably only a quarter filled." He glanced back up the pier at the retreating students. "I'm afraid there's more to Emily's death than meets the eye here Chief." He looked back out over the water and twisted his head around. "God, my neck is stiff."
Blair was shaking his head, obviously trying to absorb what was happening. Jim unzipped his wetsuit and began to slide the top half down, moving his shoulders around to loosen up stiffening muscles.
"Give me a hand here, would you Chief?"
Blair was still shaking his head when he reached out and pulled Jim's suit down, then he began to massage his friend's shoulders. "I don't get it. I don't get it at all," Blair said. "I mean, you're saying murder, right? You're saying Emily was murdered? But why? What for?" He paused, but he was still rubbing Jim's shoulders. "You think Kenny did it? Am I right? But why? God Jim, what is there worth killing for up here?"
Jim was trying not to turn around, or make any movement that would let Blair realize what he was doing. He knew his friend was so preoccupied with the notion of Emily having been murdered, and Jim just running out of air in a tank that was rigged to read full, that he had no idea he was giving him a massage. And Jim wasn't about to clue him in. He opened up his tactile senses and leaned slightly into it, relaxing his shoulders to absorb the full effect of the impromptu massage. "I'm not sure yet, Chief, but I'm working on it." A little lower and to the left.
"I don't know, Jim. I mean, Kenny's a jerk, but a murderer? And why? What on earth could he have murdered her for? She loved him. And he has his family's fortune waiting for him, so it can't have been money. I don't get it. But if not Kenny, then who?"
Jim hadn't been listening, he was becoming so relaxed with the massage, that he forgot what Blair was saying. "Um, what was that?" God, he could fall asleep right there! This was definitely going to have to happen more often.
"Who? And why? Jim, I just don't get it." Blair continued to massage Jim's shoulders absently
"I saw something down there. It looked like something big and heavy was dragged through the sand and over the rocks, leading from the ship, to the shore. I think they found something down there that they don't want customs, or the University finding out about." Blair was still rubbing his shoulders and Jim tried to move just enough so that his hands would move lower, without him knowing. This was the most Blair had ever touched him, and he knew asking for a back rub would be many years down the road, considering his friend still didn't recognize a simple paint fight when he saw one. Still, if he was comfortable enough to touch him subconsciously, then that was half the battle, wasn't it? He worried sometimes that Blair felt uneasy around him, and never seemed to reach out physically. But he saw his friend react to other people that way too. Was he so afraid of rejection? Did he take Jim's house rules and orders on the job as personal attacks? They were going to have to discuss this soon, especially now that he decided backrubs should be in included in his partner's chores.
Blair suddenly stopped and took a step backwards. "Jim, the crates. There were some crates in the basement that looked like they were packed up in a hurry. Not like the others. Do you think they found something and they're going to try and ship it out with the rest of the artifacts?"
"No, they couldn't get through customs without being inspected." Jim reluctantly stood and picked up his gear. His back rub was over, but Blair didn't seem to have realized it ever began. Just as well. "I'm gonna get changed, then make a phone call. We've got a murderer, or more, on this island. And I think they're getting nervous." He hefted the regulator. "Can you find the tapes from your little camera friend of the last couple of days?"
Blair thought for a moment, then raised his eyebrows. "Sure, but why?"
"I want to see if there's anything on them that can explain those marks on the rocks."
He waited until Blair nodded, then took the gear back down below. What he didn't want to say, and what he would have to keep Blair from seeing, was that he hoped Emily's diving accident would be on one of those tapes. Once below, he set the empty tank in a far corner, then found a plastic bag in a locker and wrapped up the broken regulator. He then finished pulling off the wetsuit and toweled off, walking back over to the other tanks in the dive room. They all read full, except for the three new additions to the back of the row. Kenny, Larry, and Ross had just come up, and each of their tanks read empty. They had been down for the full thirty minutes, but had come back up empty handed. If Amy was right, and they used the film from Igor's camera to narrow the search of each dive team, then the three of them should have come back with something. He doubted the University would encourage too many pleasure dives with rented tanks, in seriously cold water. And Amy hadn't sent Igor down with them. She and the machine were both in the control room when he and Blair boarded.
Jim decided then that each and every one of the students must be in on it. Whatever 'it' was. Maybe Amy wasn't, but Lucy had made sure Jim picked the right tank, even after checking the level himself. And all four of them had been on the pier when Emily died. He had to get evidence now, but at least no one would be leaving their little island any time soon. He finished drying himself and changed quickly. The cold was beginning to seep in, as he had turned up his tactile senses to get the most of his impromptu back rub. Now, his newly relaxed muscles were getting cold. Once dressed, he returned to the control room where Blair and Amy were stacking video tapes on a counter.
"Hey, we found the last three days of tapes." Blair said, looking up as Jim entered the room.
"Yeah, but I don't think you'll find much here." Amy waved a hand over the stack of tapes. "The camera was acting up a lot during this time period. Professor Hathaway and I haven't gone over them yet, but while Igor was down, I was having nothing but trouble with him."
"You know, I don't get it." Blair walked over to the camera and picked up a screw driver. "I've been all through this thing, and I can't find anything wrong."
Jim picked up the tapes and noted the labels, choosing the two that were marked as having been taken Friday and Saturday. He glanced at Amy, who took note of the tapes he had chosen and looked at Blair. "Hey Chief, why don't you check this thing out? If I'm right, someone's been tampering with it."
Blair looked up and held Jim's gaze for a moment, then glanced down at the tapes he was holding. "Yeah. Maybe I can fix it."
"I'll give you a hand. Here, you can take these up with you." Amy handed Jim the bag of lobsters.
Jim nodded at each of them, then turned to leave, pausing for a second at the hatch. "Let me know if you find anything, okay Chief?"
With that he left, carrying the tapes and the bagged up regulator. He knew Blair understood, and he was grateful for his willingness to stay there, and not try to watch the tapes. Although if Jim was right, there might very well be nothing on the tapes to find. At least, nothing that they would see here. He'd have to give the tapes to Tim, to be taken to his Precinct and analyzed. On the way back across the pier Jim stopped, glancing into the bay. He focused through the dark waters and was able to pick out footprints along the high tide line, where someone had crushed the mussels clinging to the rocks that lined the beach, circling the island. He strained to listen, but could only pick out the sounds of the waves as they crashed against the rocks. The wind was picking up again and the sky was beginning to cloud over. There would no doubt be another storm soon, he'd have to get inside and phone Tim, get him out there first thing in the morning.
Once inside he quickly glanced around, but could find no one on the first level. He changed focus, and could hear Katie and Clive upstairs, discussing the coming weather, but no one else was with them. After depositing the squirming lobster in the sink, he went upstairs.
"Ah, Jim. I was just telling Clive his supply plane won't be out again today." Katie had turned to face Jim when she heard him coming up the stairs.
"Well, if he had just come out this morning, when everything was calm, like I asked him to, we wouldn't have to worry." Clive set his pipe down and shook his head. "I really need to reevaluate our relationship some day soon. Get us a skipper instead of a cheap float plane pilot."
Jim looked around the room, trying to remember where he had seen the phone. "Mind if I use your phone?" He had spotted it on Clive's desk.
"Of course, help yourself." Katie stepped aside, then noticed the tapes. "What are these for?"
"They're the tapes from that underwater camera, I need to have a look at them, as soon as I make a phone call." Jim set the tapes and the regulator down on Clive's desk and picked up the phone. He held up the receiver and immediately noticed the lack of dial tone. He tapped the connectors a couple of times, then hung up. "Your phone's out."
"What? It can't be." Clive stepped over and picked up the receiver, listening for a moment, then hung it up with a frown. "It was working a half hour ago."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I was just downstairs eating lunch and heard Kenny on the other extension. Our phones never go out, we've got an underground cable out here." Clive was still puzzled as he walked to the stairs. "Let me check the one down here."
Jim didn't stop him, but he knew what he would find. "Is there a shortwave on the island?"
Katie shook her head. "No. We've never needed one since the phones were put in, five years ago. They've never gone out before."
"Is there another way off the island? Any boats?"
"Well, there is an inflatable Zodiac for emergencies, but it couldn't handle rough seas." She paused, watching Jim as he was glancing around the room. "What is it, Detective? Is there something going on?"
"Yes, I'm afraid there is. I need to have a look at these tapes, where can I do that?"
"Over here." Katie walked over to a table and pushed aside some papers, then pulled out a small television and VCR. Jim helped her set them up, then pushed in the first tape as Clive came back upstairs.
"I don't understand. The other phone is dead, and I can't find Kenny anywhere."
"The Detective thinks there's something wrong, dear. Where are Larry and Ross?"
"Wrong? What's going on?" Clive stepped over to see what they were looking at. "I don't know where the others are, I haven't seen them since lunch."
Jim was watching a tape of three divers as they approached the wreck, then entered the hull at the same spot Jim had gone in earlier that day. The camera followed them down, then the screen was filled with static. "I'm not sure exactly, Professor. But I have a feeling Emily's death wasn't an accident."
"Oh my God." Jim could hear Katie step closer to her husband. "You think she was murdered? But who?"
"I think I know." Clive said. "But I can't say I'm not shocked."
Jim fast-forwarded the tape, watching for the point when the snow would clear. After several minutes of static, the picture sharpened again and he hit play, watching as Igor followed three divers back up to the surface. "I think our answer is down there." He said, taking out the first tape and putting in a second. "Or was down there."
"You think they found something in the wreck? Like the gold we were talking about earlier?" Clive asked, leaning forward to watch the second video tape as it began to play back.
"But those stories aren't true." Katie said, still standing behind her husband. "And even if they were, how on earth could they bring up gold, then get it out of here, without us finding out?"
"I have an idea about that, too." Jim said, once again fast forwarding through the static that began as soon as the divers entered the hull. "You said Kenny, Ross and Larry were on the pier when Emily died?"
"Yes." Katie replied, stepping around both men to stand behind the desk where she could face them. "So was Lucy. She's the one who came up to get me."
"And who went in to the mainland for the coffin?"
"Kenny and the boys. Lucy and Amy were both here. They spoke with the Inspector for a while, then they got into his boat and went to the mainland. Lucy came up here with the Inspector, I assume they were discussing the accident, then she went back to the barge with Amy. The two of you showed up just about an hour later. Inspector Phillips was sure it had been an accident. But then, so was I...Oh dear God. The coffin?"
"We had no reason to suspect anything dear. No reason at all." Clive reached over the desk to pat his wife on the arm. "What do we do now, Detective? Are we in danger?"
Jim stopped the tapes. It was useless. Until they had better equipment, they weren't going to find anything on those tapes. They needed to find the gold, or whatever it was that Kenny and his pals had been bringing up from that ship. "We need to find them, get that phone fixed, and get some help out here." He walked over to the windows and glanced down at the pier to see Amy rushing up the steps towards the building. "Where do you keep that boat?"
"There's a shed, on the other side of the island. It's in there, but I don't think they'd be fool enough to take it out in this weather. Those swells are getting pretty rough. And once they get out into the channel, it'll be too dangerous for such a small boat."
"Detective, we found the problem." Amy was breathless as she appeared at the top of the stairs, hurrying over to Jim. "It wasn't in Igor, it was in the recorder on the barge."
Jim took the object Amy was handing him and examined it. "A magnet. That would effectively erase anything on the tapes." He turned it over in his hand a couple of times, trying to find some identifying marks. "But if it was left in, the entire tape would be erased."
Amy nodded, still trying to catch her breath. "I know. But Lucy was there, each time, helping me with the equipment. I was always controlling Igor, and she was recording. Blair figured she must have put the magnet under the case whenever they were approaching something they didn't want us to see."
Jim looked around the room then, "Where is Blair?"
"He said he had an idea where they were, and for me to come up here and stay put."
Jim was about to say something when there was a sudden clap of thunder, followed immediately by every light on the island going out.
"What the...?" Clive stepped forward and Jim put out a hand.
"Hold on. Is there an emergency generator?" It was mid-afternoon, but the now darkened sky effectively put them at a visual disadvantage with no power.
"Yes, but it's not automatic. I'll have to go outside and prime it up."
Jim opened his focus enough to fill the room with light. "No, you three stay up here. I'll go." He gently pushed the three of them towards the couches, glancing outside as the sky opened up with rain. "Where is it?"
"On the south side of the island. Take the trail you were on yesterday, and follow it all the way till you see the shed."
"Amy, did you see the others on your way up here?"
Jim nodded, "Okay, you three stay here." He moved easily to the staircase and descended, keeping his eyes focused enough to let him see in the growing gloom. The sky was entirely filled with black clouds now, and the rain was coming down in buckets, adding to the darkness. He crossed to the main door and found a coat, then moved to the middle of the room and listened. He expected the three wouldn't leave without their bounty, but if they knew they had been found out, they just might get scared enough to take the emergency boat and leave the island. But he didn't think they had. He moved his head slightly and thought he heard movement in the basement. Stepping closer to the staircase, he let his eyes lose focus and concentrated on his hearing. The instant between the thunder striking outside, and the pain exploding between his ears, he realized his mistake.
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