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Authors: Beverly Connor

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Around her she could hear the sounds of the pump, the waves
splashing against the dam, and the creaking of the interlocking
panels that held back the ocean. Now and then she looked over
at the walls, saw water trickling down the sides, and was
reminded that the pump was still pumping water-water that
leaked into the dam. She took a slow, deep breath and went back
to her work.

Near the skeleton's shoulder, Lindsay uncovered part of the
lower jaw. The skeleton lay with his head tilted, chin resting on the
clavicle. The same fabric partially covered the facial bones.
Lindsay wiped the sweat from her face with her forearm, smiling
at her find, working as quickly as she could to uncover the face.

"I saw you looking at the walls." Lindsay almost jumped at the
voice. She looked up from her work to see Gina. "Sorry, didn't
mean to startle you. Just stretching my legs, taking a break."

"That's all right." Lindsay changed positions, stretching her
own muscles.

"I noticed you have a West Construction hat. You know them?"

"I know John West. I met him on a dig a couple of years ago."
Lindsay sat cross-legged on the plank and massaged her tired
shoulder.

Gina sat down in front of her. Her bare legs were caked with
sandy mud, and she had a smear across her forehead from pushing her hair out of her eyes. "He talked to us when we first got
here. Told us how the cofferdam works. The greater the pressure
from the outside, the tighter the walls fit together. It's a matter of
structural geometry." Gina smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and
looked around at the walls. "Isn't it funny that such a big place can
make you feel claustrophobic?"

"Structural geometry not withstanding, when you think that
these walls are holding back the whole Atlantic Ocean-"

"Yeah, boggles the mind." Gina stood up. "Better get back to work. See you around lunchtime. You know we have lunch
catered, don't you?"

"Catered?" Lindsay lay back down on her stomach and started
back to work.

"This place on the coast packs us fresh sandwiches, cakes, and
fruit every day. Not bad, really." Gina looked over Lindsay's
shoulder at the skeleton under excavation. "Our first victim of the
wreck of the Spanish Star. Exciting."

Lindsay teased a dirt-encrusted layer on the frontal bone of the
skull with her trowel and sprayed it with water, gently rinsing
away some of the mud. "No. I suspect that he was already dead
before the ship sank."

Trey, who stood only a plank away, and some of the others close
by looked over at Lindsay. "You aren't that good," Trey said, grinning at her.

"Yes, I am." She turned her head and smiled back at him. "I've
found fabric, and it looks like he was sewn into sailcloth. Isn't that
what they did with the dead on ships before burial at sea?"

"Fabric? Let me see." Juliana rose and pushed past Gina to see
the skeleton.

"Jeeze, Juli-" Gina caught herself before she fell off the plank.

Juliana squatted down beside Lindsay. "Yes, it's fabric. It could
be his clothes."

"Could be," said Lindsay, "but this particular piece looks like it
covers his skull and part of his face. We'll see when it's finished."

Trey and some of the others crowded on the narrow plank looking down on the mud-stained skeleton. The skull, arm, and shoulder were beginning to stand out in relief. Half the skull and
portions of the shoulder were obscured by a brown textured
veneer.

Later, when they broke for lunch, Lindsay was surprised at the
sense of relief she felt as she emerged from the well of the cofferdam into the open sea air. She stood next to the outer bulkhead, letting the breeze cool her body, watching ships that seemed
miniature in the distance.

"Better have a sandwich before they're all gone." A brown
paper bag appeared in front of her face. It was attached to a suntanned arm. She took the bag and looked at the giver. It was the
silent Jeff. "When the diving crew gets here, they'll scarf down
what's left."

"Thanks," Lindsay said, digging into the bag. She found a
sandwich, Twinkies, potato chips, a pear, and two towelette packets. She fished out the sandwich and gave it a sniff. Tuna fish.

"They're all tuna fish," he said. "I hope you like it. The caterer
said they'd have to charge extra to fix different kinds of sandwiches every day. Tomorrow it'll be something else."

"Lucky for me I like tuna." Lindsay tore open one of the small
packets and wiped her hands with the moist antiseptic towel. Nice
touch, she thought.

"You know, you'd think after spending millions on this dig,
they could spring for a little extra so we could have a choice." He
bit into a pear. "Can I ask you a question?" He looked in his late
twenties, but the tone of his voice made him sound like a kid.

"Sure," she said and took a bite of the sandwich. The tuna
salad was made with celery, raisins, and small chunks of apple.
Jeff didn't have any cause for complaint, she thought.

"Exactly why do they call you the Angel of Death?"

 
Chapter 2

"WHO CALLS ME the Angel of Death?"

"People. You know. From digs."

"What do they say? That I portend death or that I kill people?"
Lindsay grinned, but she saw that the brooding Jeff merely waited
for an answer.

Lindsay waited, too, taking another bite of her sandwich.

"They say that people die at the sites you visit." He stared at her
with unblinking eyes.

"Was this at night around a campfire?" Lindsay shook her
head. "Two sites I worked on were associated with crimes, and I
was not the only archaeologist who worked at both sites. I suppose
they associate me with them because I was involved in the solutions. I've worked on lots of sites where no one died-at least not
in several hundred years."

"I see. You were just unlucky."

"Or the victims were, depending how you look at it." Lindsay
watched one of the crew spread a beach towel on the sand and
stretch out in the sun. The scent of suntan oil drifted her way.

She turned back to Jeff. He had finished his pear and was
throwing the core into the ocean.

"I need to talk to Trey. Thanks for picking up my lunch." She
walked off toward one of the trailers before he had a chance to say
anything else. "Angel of Death, indeed," she muttered.

Trey stepped out the trailer door, followed by a woman in crisply
pressed khaki shorts and a white tank top. She walked easily beside
him with her hands in her pockets, laughing, as if sharing a joke.
Trey caught sight of Lindsay and waved a notebook at her.

"Here's your copy of the journal," said Trey. "And this is the
translator, Harper Latham."

Harper stuck out her hand and Lindsay took it. "I'm glad to
meet you. This the same journal you told me about-the one by the
passenger on the Estrella?"

Trey nodded. "Harper is absolutely the world's greatest translator." He touched the journal with his forefinger. Harper laughed
and raised her eyebrows at Lindsay as if Trey had told a joke.

"The passenger wrote in his own archaic Spanish and Latin
shorthand. I'm having to decode the thing as well as translate it,"
Harper said in a cheery voice.

"That must be very difficult," Lindsay said. "You certainly have
my admiration."

"It's the most challenging thing I've done, and I love it."

"It's slow," Trey added. "But we're hoping that between this,
our other documentation, and what we find here, we can positively identify this as the Estrella."

"You don't know that yet?"

"We're pretty sure, because of the ship's manifest and from documentation we found in the Spanish archives. But this journal is a
rare find and will add a lot to this project. It details the life of the
crew on board ship. Other than the Salazar letter and the Diego
journal, there's almost nothing like it. And to be able to attach it to
a ship under excavation is nothing short of amazing."

"The journal was almost lost forever," Harper said. "I don't
know if you've heard how it was discovered."

"No, I haven't," Lindsay said.

"A UGA alum inherited an estate in St. Augustine, Florida. She
was doing some renovation and found trunks full of really old stuff
walled up in the attic. She had no way of knowing what any of it
was, so she shipped it to a UGA librarian friend to look through it.
The librarian happened to be an archivist with some knowledge of
Spanish documents. She couldn't believe her eyes when she came
upon it. If that archivist hadn't recognized what it was, it probably
would have ended up in a trash heap or a garage sale."

Trey shook his head. "It's amazing how often fate plays a part
in science. Francisco Lewis wants to put excerpts from the diary in
the newspaper, like a serial. I think it might be a good idea. Public
support is a good thing."

"Trey said you just arrived today," Harper said to Lindsay.
"What do you think of his little operation here in the middle of the
ocean? Pretty spectacular, huh?"

"It's like the eighth wonder of the world. I was just looking at
the ocean all around the dam."

"Yeah, great, isn't it?" Trey obviously wasn't suffering any of
the feelings of anxiety and vulnerability that the dam was producing in Lindsay. He was definitely in his element.

"If you can think about it without being scared, it's quite wonderful to be able to walk on the bottom of the ocean," Lindsay
agreed.

Trey motioned Lindsay to one of the tables and chairs not far
from the outer bulkhead and the three of them sat down. It was
like an outdoor cafe with an ocean view. Several of the crew were
sitting, eating their lunches. One person had binoculars, looking
out at the ships at sea. Lindsay guessed they'd have to eat somewhere else on windy days. She could imagine the waves coming
up over the walls nine feet above the ocean. Even on this pleasant
day, she felt an occasional spray from the waves splashing against
the bulkhead wall.

"Scared?" Trey gave her forearm a reassuring grip."Oh, it's safe
here. West and his crew maintain a constant presence." Lindsay
looked over to the West Construction barge not far away. John and
some of his crew were having lunch. She waved but she didn't
think he saw her.

"I've hired meteorologists just for this project. They watch the
weather minute by minute. Lewis got us enough money to do this
right. Speaking of which, he'll be here in the next few days to do a
little trowel work himself. I think he's bringing a television crew."

Lindsay laughed out loud. "He's such a show."

"Don't laugh too hard. Publicity gets us money."

"And pothunters, too, I'll bet."

"Some, but it also educates the public on what we're doing and
why it's important."

"John mentioned Eva Jones," Lindsay said, pulling a Hostess
Twinkie from her bag.

"Yeah, she has a yacht out there somewhere. There're rumors
flying around about the Estrella being a Spanish treasure ship. I
hear she's got her crew searching the ocean bottom. I've tried to
put the word out that the Estrella was heading from Spain, and
wouldn't have treasure, only supplies for the mission colonies. But
you know, the Atocha was found just down the coast of Florida,
and Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge was found a little ways from here off the coast of North Carolina. When word got out that
we had found a Spanish galleon, I guess gold fever kind of took
over." He squinted at the horizon. "I think that may be her out
there." He pointed at a tiny sailing ship on the horizon.

Harper and Lindsay shaded their eyes, looking toward the
ship.

"Fancy boat," said Harper. "Who is this chick?"

"Depends on who you ask," answered Trey. "Some call her a
looter, others a collector, and some call her names I won't mention."

"She sounds intriguing." Harper stood. "I guess I'd better get
back to my translating." Trey started to stand up and Harper put a
hand on his shoulder. "I'll find my way down to the dock. See you
this evening. Nice to have met you, Lindsay. Come by my apartment sometime and visit." She winked at Trey and made her way
to the ladder.

"Isn't she great?" Trey said, watching her go.

"We look a little smitten," Lindsay teased.

Trey's cheeks turned a little darker under his tan as he smiled
and nodded to Lindsay. "Maybe."

"She does seem like a delightful person and a very talented
translator."

"She's both of those." Trey spread his own lunch on the table
and unwrapped his sandwich. "Harper is-well, I've never met
anyone like her."

Lindsay watched Trey and smiled inwardly. Yeah, she thought,
he's smitten. "Did I understand you two are going out this
evening? Is there a place on the island? I thought it was only a
research facility."

"We'll take my boat and go up the coast to a restaurant on St.
Simons or Sea Island."

"Where does the crew eat, by the way?" Lindsay looked around
as if perhaps there were a restaurant on the dam she had missed.

"We have a cook on the barge, and there's a cafe on St.
Magdalena that's not bad. It's actually a break room, but it's kept
stocked with soup and sandwiches. Occasionally, some of the
crew take a boat and go to one of the restaurants along the coast.
You're welcome to come with us," he said. "It's your first night
and-"

Lindsay shook her head and laughed. "I think Harper would be a little disappointed. I'd like to poke around the island a bit." She
gestured toward the sailing ship. "Jones must have some credible
evidence of treasure. I can't imagine her spending money chasing
a wild rumor."

Trey finished his sandwich and took a Twinkie out of the bag.
"For one thing, she's being egged on by Hardy Denton. Denton
would like to cause us trouble."

"Why? /1

"He wanted this contract."

"Surely he's lost bids before." Lindsay finished everything but
the pear. She held it in her hand, wondering whether to finish it
now or save it for later.

BOOK: LC 04 - Skeleton Crew
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