The car carried the party
across a causeway and onto
“I suppose you are here to ask about the treasure,” the foreman began.
“That, and the circumstances
of burying it,”
“Of course we should know
that when we get to it. But the most
common idea is it was pirates. It could
have been any of a number. People have
“What about the Templars?” asked Ivan.
hemisphere, sorry. No record they ever had any substantial
interest on this side of the
“I frankly don’t know. All we really have is a jolly deep hole in the ground, a lot of wild rumors and a really bad flooding problem. Treasure seems to be the only bet, because there wouldn’t be any other reason to be doing serious digging in this remote a place.”
“We were told they had found a stone when they
first dug down,” said
“Ah, yes. ‘THE STONE.’ There was a legend about a stone that was supposed to tell you how to get the treasure out. The shaft flooded, of course. Deep holes will. But the people doing the digging were so excited that they decided the place had been booby trapped.”
“The thought was that the pirates had dug tunnels to bring in sea water. The water is salt and seems to go with the tides. But a natural underground channel might do the same thing.”
“Wouldn’t have that been a problem the first time?”
“Yes. That makes it a bit of a mystery. But of course the whole thing is mysterious. The builders put down layers of timber every ten feet. I have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish. It’s as if they thought they were building a pyramid or something. The pyramid builders put relieving chambers over vaults because they could never have built a ceiling that could have supported the weight of the stone above.”
a mechanism then. Some sort of contraption to control the
“Maybe. But we don’t have a contraption that needed protecting. Anyway the stone, if it ever existed, hasn’t been seen for fifty years. There aren’t any pictures of it, which doesn’t wash if it was on public display as some claim. Somebody would have brought in a flash camera, and then we could look at it. Myself I doubt there ever was a stone.”
“Either way, it wouldn’t do
you much good if it was supposed to give directions for opening a flood gate
that has been destroyed,”
“Precisely, Mr. Ivan.”
“So what is your plan, if you
can tell us?” asked
“No secret in general. We have to complete a good hydrologic study of the island. We have to find out why the water is doing what it is. If the tunnels exist, they can be plugged from the sea side. That would be a bit of work, but a lot easier than working down a deep hole. A half dozen people have died going after the gold or whatever it is. If we can seal it off from the sea, everything will be a lot more predictable.”
“Many thanks,” said
“No, I can’t do that. It’s a construction site, so it would not be legal unless you were authorized. And it’s dangerous under any circumstances. And of course there is the security risk. This is treasure we are talking about, and stupid, violent people could give us more headaches than we have.”
“You must be just about down for the season,” said Hapgood.
“Right. It’s getting too cold to work, and a big storm could turn up any time. It’s not cost effective to lease heavy machinery to sit around in a snowdrift.”
“Well you have been really helpful,” said Hapgood.
A man came in wearing heavy construction clothes. “Chief, there are a lot of strangers poking around the perimeter of the dig. What should we do?”
“Call security.” Then he spoke to his guests. “Sorry, I’ll have to take care of this.”
“We’ll get out of your hair,”
“Aren’t you going to have the
police block the causeway?” asked
“Right,” said the foreman. He made a phone call. Then he turned to them. “Well the five of you aren’t going anywhere soon. Come with me.”
They went out and followed
the foreman up a muddy, rock strewn road.
“Spread out,” said the foreman. “Sweep this place.”
It was not in the job description of most of the men, but they formed a skirmish line with the security men on the outside. They came to the end of the clearing and entered the light forest, stripped of leaves.
“I want somebody right down at the water,” shouted the foreman. A security man and a construction worker went down and started picking their way along the bank. “Where were they?” Someone indicated that left would be a good direction. The long line of men swept the woods as far as the shore. The foreman and the five moved along the edge of the clearing.
Presently warning shots were
fired. The skirmish line took cover
“You know these people?” asked the foreman.
“Not really. But look. You have them flanked. Bring this end of the line forward, and see if they’ll run for it.”
The foreman boggled but then ordered his men to move. They bent the line in a long arc until they crested the hill and could see water below. Out in the distance they saw the causeway with police cars flashing to their assistance.
“All right, we’ve got them,”
The foreman gestured and two men cautiously began to work their way toward the water’s edge to look for the intruders coming past. The police cars wailed up to the construction cabin below, and then uniformed men ran up to join them.
“They’ve got guns, officer. But we think we have them pinned down to this wedge.” The police reinforced the line. They started to move again. At this point there was the thunder of an enormous engine cranking up and a sleek cigarette boat roared out of a hidden cove and onto the bay. The police radioed for help, but the cigarette boat was already clearing the headland and turning up its full power on open water.
“How the devil did they get in without us hearing that?” asked the foreman.
“Came in at night under
electric power,” said
The foreman said, “Now I don’t know who you are or what you’re up to. And frankly I don’t care. But you obviously know a lot more about whoever is breaking the law here than the rest of us do. I think the police are going to have a few questions.”
From where they stood the
offshore racing boat was moving eastward past
The few questions took the
rest of the day. The five told the truth. The police made a number of phone calls and
found that their story checked out.
Everyone the police reached remembered and verified details. At last the officer in charge told them that
there were no charges. They were free to
go, but the
The five checked into a local
inn and made their way to the bar before getting supper. They sat around a table in a grim mood.
“Did she ever show you any dances. I mean I don’t dance. But under the circumstances I think a little dancing might be in order.”
“I’m not in the mood.”
“Well would you do it as a
favor? Maybe you could show a few steps
The big man heaved himself up
and walked to the juke box. As it
happened, “Saber Dance” was listed. He
placed a coin and listened for a bit, getting the rhythm down.
This time it was
“Can but don’t. With other Indians it’s can but shouldn’t.”
“Well I’m talking to the Cossack. I think I can drink more than you can. What do you think?”
“I say it’s no contest,” said
“All right,” said
They hadn’t finished the third round before the waiter came over. “With all respect, why are you drinking so much?” he wanted to know.
“We went out to the island,”
“And you came back disappointed. Everybody comes away disappointed. It’s the thing about that treasure. It takes but it never gives. Plenty of people have died, so you can consider yourselves luckier than average.”
“At least we thought we might
find out about the stone,” complained
The waiter lowered his voice. “My mother used to tell me that her grandmother had seen it on display for the tourists. It was taken down and vanished a long time ago. No pictures. Nobody around here was going to waste money taking pictures of a stone they could go look at any time.”
“How big was it?” asked
“Not as big a as a tombstone. You could lift it.”
“How big would that be?”
The waiter indicated a size
of about eighteen inches by one foot.
“And how big were the letters?”
“Like a drawing?”
“No. There were a few lines. Nothing you could recognize. Most of the marks were all lined up like letters. Like it was some sort of code. Nothing else.” He left. It sounded like a story he told all the tourists so everyone could have the sense that they had learned something secret.
The bottle went another round.
“You know what it is,” said
The drinking trial continued
at a leisurely pace. After a time
The others in the room, who
had enjoyed the dancing, now had gathered to watch the contest. They gazed in silence as the glasses filled
and drained. Suddenly
“Did you hear what you just
The barkeep said, “He said foul. That glass doesn’t count. You’ll have to start it over.”
The silence was palpable. “Killed whom?” Hapgood inquired mildly.
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