“You found that?” Amanda asked.
“I found the box. Kat found the dagger,” Will said.
“And you touched them?” Amanda asked incredulously. She spun around, telling Earl, “Get that camera off now!” She pushed him when he didn’t move quickly enough. She whirled to face Will and Kat. “This is an historic expedition. What’s the matter with you? You are not trained or equipped to handle treasure!”
Will’s face didn’t betray an ounce of emotion. “Dr. Channel,” he said, “I may not have your training, but I’ve dived many a wreck. We were gloved down there, just as you were. If you’re disappointed that the value of the dagger outweighs that of the three shabti pieces, I’m sorry. But you will not be able to do this on your own, and if I understand correctly, you barely have permission from the State of Illinois to control this dive site. Only Alan King’s promise of a complete record of the event has allowed you to rush it through. And Mr. King has asked us to work along with you. I’m sorry if this disturbs any of your proprietary feelings about the search, but we are here, we will remain here, and if we’re able to find any artifacts—which will go into the same cache as those you bring up yourself—we will continue to do so.”
“Agent Chan! I am a highly trained historian and scientist!” Amanda snapped.
Jon was behind her by then, but Amanda kept spewing her venom. “You are nothing but a government lackey, here for a ridiculous purpose. And pseudo-Egyptologist though you might be, you’re endangering treasure! You will not pick anything up!”
Alan walked over to Amanda. “What did either of the agents do that could be perceived as any different from what you’ve done?”
“Why, why—they’re trying to pocket treasure!”
“If we were trying to pocket treasure, Dr. Channel,” Kat said indignantly, “why would we produce it for a camera?”
“Hey, everyone!” Jon Hunt cried. “Amanda, they didn’t do anything at all. As long as items are treated tenderly the minute they reach the surface—and only extracted when they can be easily picked up—there’s absolutely no harm done. Come on, let’s be honest. That dagger’s a beauty. I wish I’d found it.”
“Dr. Channel, there are dozens of organizations and companies I could finance on this dig,” King said politely.
Kat thought that Amanda was about to stomp her feet.
She smiled at the woman. “Will may be an amateur Egyptologist, but if so, I imagine he has the knowledge to rival many a person who’s doing it for a living. As for me, I despise mummies, so I will certainly never be stealing anyone’s treasure—or thunder, for that matter.”
“Please!” Jon said. “You—”
“Fine!” Amanda broke in. “Will you at least let us return the objects to cold water until we’re back in the lab?”
Will handed over the dagger and its box. Carefully. Jon was still staring at Amanda; she caught his stare and flushed. “Look, I’m sorry. You just can’t imagine what this means to us. Forgive me, all of you. Mr. King, I’m really grateful. But…what happened to Brady—it was an accident. I feel horrible, but…”
Her voice trailed off. Kat wondered just how bad the woman really felt. Her coworker hadn’t been dead for even forty-eight hours.
But then, maybe Brady Laurie would’ve acted the same way. Maybe to him the discovery had been everything, as well.
“Let’s take an hour or so to eat, relax, chill out,” Bernie Firestone suggested.
“I had Jimmy stock us a galley full of good sandwich stuff,” Captain Bob said. “I say let’s relax so we can get into the second set of tanks this afternoon and take another dive!”
“Turn the camera back on,” Bernie told Earl.
The others were starting down to the galley. Earl paused in front of Kat. “I never turned it off!” he whispered. “Great shots of a diva!” Winking, he walked on.
Only Will was left topside. He grinned at her. “Thanks.”
She shrugged. “Can’t have a team member attacked,” she said.
An hour later they were back in the water on their second dive. This time, Alan King had said everyone was to see what he or she could bring up safely and easily. He’d mollified Amanda by letting her give them a lesson in the collection and care of artifacts. It was mostly common sense, but Kat listened to her drone on.
“Some of the pieces we were able to pick up today,” she said, “were accessible because of the storm and the shifting sands that more or less righted the Jerry McGuen. When something that size shifts through the power of wind and water, things are going to crash around and get broken. So there may be a lot of little treasures we can find. In fact, we probably need a few more days with handheld vacuum sifters to make sure we don’t wreck anything small and precious while we’re going for the big stuff. Also, according to federal law, the ship and its cargo belong to the State of Illinois until it goes through all the courts, so we don’t want to do anything that will bother state officials.”
Like kill a man, Kat couldn’t help thinking.
She stayed silent and apparently attentive, as did Will.
Soon they were heading back down.
Divers always checked their tanks before donning them. She saw Will looking at her as she checked hers, arching a brow.
She smiled, and arched a brow in return.
In truth, it wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate the fact that they were bringing up treasure from millennia ago. What a marvel that such artistic objects could have survived time and the deep cold waters of Lake Michigan.
But once again she was drawn to the broken-out part of the hull that seemed to be a window into the grand salon. She could see where the deck had been, and where a large gash had been ripped in it. Staring into the salon, seeing the ghostly wreckage that remained and remembering what she’d seen in a dream, she found herself thinking of the cold that had suddenly come to her. The ridiculously low temperature of her hotel bedroom had surely brought on that vision! But in her dream the couple had passed her, and then she’d turned to look out at the sea again.
There had been a nebulous shape, huge against the ice storm that was coming and the strange light and darkness created by the full moon.
She realized that while the other divers had moved on, toward the hold, Will was waiting for her. Again, she noticed his striking eyes behind his mask. He was watching—and wondering what she saw.
He sensed she was seeing something, and that made her oddly uneasy.
She turned away from the salon and smiled around her regulator. She let out a little more air from her BCV and kicked her fins slightly, passing him. He followed.
Amanda had her waterproof chart and marker dangling from her belt; she hadn’t forgotten the observations she wanted to make.
But she seemed more obsessed with finding little treasures that had, most probably, fallen from various containers when the Jerry McGuen shifted. She was studiously examining the silted flooring of the ship.
This time, Kat took a good look at the cargo hold. The ship had been built with the customary precautions, bulkhead doors to prevent flooding from one compartment to another. Some were closed tight, Kat saw, and she assumed that what lay behind those doors would be well preserved. Some were just ajar.
The real work of salvage would take months. Maybe even years. But the others were busy picking up whatever fragments they could find in the sand, and she went to work with them until Will nudged her, pointing to Jimmy, who was tapping his watch. She checked her air gauge and knew he was enforcing a safety time with a few extra minutes. She had no urge to argue.
Once again, they began their ascent.
When they surfaced, Amanda was ecstatic at the amount they’d brought up. She talked to the camera, describing their findings, talking about what might still remain and what had probably been lost. But they were walking into a time machine, recovering treasures from the days of Ramses II that had been lost during the Victorian era.
As far as any threat of danger went, the day had been entirely calm.
The only upset was caused by Amanda, who wanted to dive again. She was argued down by Alan King; he warned her that they were looking at months of work, and that while she might have the stamina, he didn’t.
“But we need to work quickly. There’s so much that could be stolen by other divers!” Amanda protested.
“We have a boat guarding the area. I have men continually coming and going from the boat so they’re alert and ready. They’re all licensed divers and licensed security,” Alan said. “We’ve been given this chance, and others haven’t. Let’s take it slowly and carefully,” he advised her.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Alan said firmly.
Will sat next to Kat. He was quiet, his expression solemn. She imagined that he was inwardly smirking.
“Amanda, look at the many treasures you’ll have to study every night,” Kat said.
To her surprise, the woman cast her an angry glare. “It’s the integrity of the situation!”
“Something I mean to maintain.” Alan didn’t raise his voice but his determination was unmistakable.
Kat glanced over at Earl. He wasn’t aiming the camera at Amanda. Kat was certain Amanda had no idea she was being filmed, but she could see the little red light; Earl hadn’t let a minute of her argumentative behavior slip by unrecorded.
Jon spoke up quietly. “Amanda, we’re lucky to be where we are. This whole thing’s in court—to decide exactly what our percentage will be and how the salvage will be handled. In the meantime, we’re here at all because of who we are—and because we’re documenting everything so carefully. Let’s enjoy the process, huh?”
“I thought it was a great dive!” Jimmy Green said cheerfully.
Kat watched the Chicago shore and its renowned skyline as they motored back in. She could see the various harbors and, to her right, the peninsula with the Shedd Aquarium and, beyond that, the magnificent skyscrapers. The city was beautiful, she thought. “City of the big shoulders”—she remembered from an American lit course that this was how the poet Carl Sandburg had described it.