The Road Home
by Red Door Reads Authors
[Spoiler alert! You've reached Chapter 14 in a story written by Red Door Reads authors in sequence. To start at Part 1, click here.
If you've already read Part 13 by Jerrica Knight-Catania, read on. ]
by Michelle Marcos
Matt stepped toward the gunwale of his boat. “You’re not on any research dive. You’re searching for the gold.”
Turner twisted his features into a semblance of incredulity. “Gold? What gold?”
“Don’t bullshit me, man. SCUBA tours to look for Revolutionary War shipwrecks? It’s all a front…free labor to help you track down what you’re really after. The trunk of gold sent off the Princess Sofia.”
Turner assumed a casual stance, but his pale skin turned a guilty shade of red. “I think you took a few too many knocks to the helmet, Marine. I told you, I’m scoping out sites for dives. Starting with a bunny slope for the amateurs. Look around you. Between those breakwaters and the shallow surf, this is a perfect place to start the SCUBA tours. Right, honey?”
Matt glanced at Heather’s face. Her silent, mechanical nod spoke louder than all of John Turner’s professions. But something Turner said clanged in Matt’s head like a lead bell. Perfect place.
Matt took a second look around. The breakwaters. The rock formation on the beach that looked like a hawk’s beak. The remains of the old 18th century lighthouse inland. Landmarks.
“You found the spot, didn’t you?”
The smile vanished from Turner’s face.
It was all beginning to pull into focus. “This is where my great-great-grandfather buried the trunk of gold. Somewhere it could never be found. Even the most determined treasure hunter of his day wouldn’t find it here, under the water, three hundred feet from shore. The safest place in the world. Until now.”
“Are you saying there’s treasure here?” John asked. “That’s amazing. I’ve got my SCUBA gear. Let’s go looking for it.”
Matt’s eyes narrowed at the transparent bluff. There were dozens of unanswered questions in his mind, each one demanding to be answered first. Why now? Why hadn’t he come for the gold before today, before Matt arrived on the island? If it was because John Turner hadn’t known where to start dredging, what had changed? How had Turner known precisely which spot—in the vast graveyard of the ocean floor—the gold was buried?
Matt pointed a finger in their direction. “That was you two in the graveyard last night.”
“At my great-great-grandfather’s headstone. You opened up his grave.”
“Oh, God!” she cried out.
“Heather.” John’s voice was flat, but his tone was loaded with ammunition.
“The map to the gold was buried with him, wasn’t it? And you desecrated his grave to find it.”
Heather clapped her hands over her face. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Chadwick! I never thought it would come to that.”
“Heather!” This time, John crossed the length of the boat and jerked her by the elbow.
A protective instinct erupted in Matt. “Touch her again and you’ll lose that hand to the elbow.”
Turner released her, and she took a step away from him.
“I found Joseph Chadwick’s last will and testament in the Boston University archives,” she said, her voice cracking. “He wanted to be buried with his favorite possession, a book called Rare Birds of the Australian Wilderness. It was such a weird object that I mentioned it to John. He put two and two together and came to the conclusion that the location of the treasure was written inside the book. And dear God, he was right. I had no idea that this whole crazy scheme was going to turn me into a grave robber. It was the most horrific, unnatural thing I’ve ever done. I’m so sorry, Mr. Chadwick! Please!”
Her guilty admission was more of an attempt to win Matt to her side than to get her husband in trouble. It worked.
Turner’s jaw steeled. “What did you expect, Matt? For the gold to stay buried another 250 years? That money was meant for the crew of the Princess Sofia. It belongs to them…and their descendants. And I happen to be one of them. Tobias Turner had his share coming to him. And I’m here to collect.”
No doubt that had been the subject of the arguments between Matt’s uncle and John Turner. But his wise uncle had seen fit to throw Turner off the island. And now Matt understood why.
“It’s stolen goods, Turner. Regardless of the circumstances, our ancestors were thieves and mutineers. You and I both know how serious it is to overthrow your commanding officer. Even if it was defensible, what possible justification could there be to making off with all the stolen loot from the ship? It’s blood money, Turner. And it should stay exactly where blood was spilled for it.”
Turner gave a derisive snort. “That’s what your uncle said. But I know he just wanted to keep the money all to himself.”
Anger ignited in his belly like one end of Primacord. “Pack up your gear and get out.”
“Are you crazy? There could be millions down there. You’re asking me to leave all that behind?”
“No, I’m ordering you to!”
A low rumble drew nearer and they all craned their necks in its direction. A powerboat came around the bend, and Matt recognized it immediately. It was Samuel’s boat. But there were two heads at the helm.
Matt fixed his eyes on her. As her honey-colored hair whipped around her pretty face, he realized that she was the very embodiment of Chadwick Island—wild, beautiful, the personification of home. And, if he played his cards right this time, his.
The treasure of Chadwick Island wasn’t in the trunk sixty feet below them. It was the girl coming toward him.
Matt turned and faced John Turner. “I’m giving you thirty seconds to—”
And Matt found himself staring into the barrel of a Browning HP nine millimeter.