The amazing thing about scuba diving is while it is an exciting pastime in its own right—there is nothing cooler than playing superman while you fly effortlessly over a coral reef on a drift dive, for example—it also opens doors to so many other exciting things. You can explore shipwrecks, hunt for treasure, watch fish, see what a frozen lake looks like from under the ice or slalom in and out of a kelp forest.
For me, diving inspires me to tell stories. I get to let my imagination run wild when I’m making a dive. My latest short story, Put It Back is just such an adventure. This story is the latest in the Jackson Pauley/Withrow Key series of short stories. It takes a bit of a turn from the previous two, delving into the mysticism of the early inhabitants of the Keys. This story is now available to read for free at: http://www.scubadiving.com/community/short_stories. Or, you can get a taste of it below.
The first two stories in this series, Going Down With the Ship and Bait and Switch are both available for free download at www.booksbyeric.com Put It Back
The air was still and hot. The humidity was so thick, it felt like oil. The Florida Keys were almost always caressed by a gentle breeze that made it bearable in the summer time. But this day was different. The air had an almost unnatural feel to it; like something was holding the wind back.
“So tell me again how this all happened,” Jackson asked his friend, Randy Littlebear, as the other man sat beside him on the fly bridge of his boat, the Daydreamer, a 29-foot Boston Whaler Outrage with twin 250 horsepower Yamaha four-stroke engines. Littlebear was scanning the water with high-powered binoculars. He was a federal officer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs—a cop. He worked on the Seminole reservation to the north, but he liked to spend his spare time in the keys, diving and fishing. Littlebear and Jackson met when Littlebear was working undercover to break up a drug smuggling ring. A Navy diver who had served with distinction in the first Gulf war, he was cool and focused. Diving wasn’t what was on his mind today, though, as he searched the water. He was looking for a body.
“Littlebear,” Jackson barked louder when his friend didn’t answer. “Tell me again how we know this guy went overboard?”
“Oh, sorry man. I guess I zoned out for a second,” Littlebear replied, as he dropped the field glasses from his face and rubbed his eyes. “All right. This is all I know. A group of treasure hunters were out here. They’ve been scanning this general area for the last few weeks. Supposedly, they had some good indications that a Spanish treasure ship went down around here.”
“With all the coral growth around here, we could be sitting on top of Fort Knox and I don’t know how you’d find it,” Jackson grunted as he steered the Whaler through the search pattern they were conducting. His on-board GPS unit indicated where to turn to complete the pattern with as little overlap as possible. Several boats were out searching for the man who had been lost overboard. Each was working a grid on a pattern laid out by the Sheriff’s Department.
“True enough, but something told them this was the spot. You know how these guys are. Mel Fisher and a few others hit it rich in these waters, but most of these treasure groups don’t think about the years and millions of dollars those ‘success stories’ took before they paid off,” Littlebear agreed. “So anyway, something showed up on their magnetometer so this guy hit the water and went down to see what they’d found. No doubt they’d done it dozens of times, but you check everything out, or you always wonder if you’ve missed it.”
“You got that right,” Jackson said, silently urging his friend to stop rambling. Normally Littlebear was pretty quiet, but sometimes he got off on a tangent. Jackson knew he would just have to wait it out.
“So, this guy finds this box underwater and brings it up. He handed it up to the guys on the boat and then climbed up on board,” Littlebear continued.
“OK, I got that far, but you said something earlier about things getting a little bizarre, but then never finished it,” Jackson prodded.
“Oh yeah. So, anyway, the guy gets up on the boat and one of the guys hands him the box he’d brought up. The others on the boat all said the boat suddenly rocked back and forth—pretty violently from the sounds of it. It must’ve been a rogue wave or something,” Littlebear said.
“That sort of thing is pretty rare around here. In the Pacific, I’ve seen that. Those waves can cross the entire ocean as little more than a bump in the water and then turn into a monster when they get in site of land. Out here, you just don’t see that,” Jackson said, shaking his head. “At least not when the ocean is this flat and the air is this still. Nothing out here to even cause a rogue wave. I’ve seen heavy freighters throw off some pretty big wakes when they come plowing through here, but you said there was no boat traffic around, right?”
“I’m just telling you what they told me and no, there weren’t any freighters cruising up the coast. So, anyway, this rogue wave hits and the treasure hunter is thrown overboard. He dropped the box to the deck as he fell backward and then he just disappeared below the surface. They said it didn’t look like he tried to swim or struggle or anything. He was just gone,” Littlebear finished.
“Did they dive to find him?” Jackson asked.
“A couple of them jumped in the water almost as soon their buddy dropped. They couldn’t find anything. They searched the entire area. No sign of him,” Littlebear replied.
“Well, that’s it,” Jackson said as he reached down and took the Daydreamer out of gear for a minute. “We’ve covered the entire search grid and no sign of a floating body.”
“All right, I’ll call it in,” Littlebear acknowledged. “I’ve heard a couple other boats report in with the same result. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a good day for the treasure hunters.”
With that, Jackson headed the boat back to his slip in the marina. He would’ve helped out in the search for free, but the Sheriff offered to pay him for his time and fuel anyway, and Jackson wasn’t going to let that slip by.
To read the rest of the story for free, go to: http://www.scubadiving.com/community/short_stories
. The first two stories in this series, Going Down With the Ship and Bait and Switch are both available for free download at http://www.booksbyeric.com