What Lies Beneath
Suffering from nitrogen narcosis, Robert Damien's losing consciousness when a ‘mermaid’ appears and pulls him to the safety of Goliath, an underwater habitat which Rob financed for Global Institute of Oceanography so that he could secretly dive for treasure from the Santa Marta, a Spanish ship which reportedly sank off the coast of Catalina Island.
Length: Mid Novel
Word Count: 64,064
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Alex DeShanks, May 2010
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Seventy feet beneath the ocean surface, Rob paced the tilted twenty-by-thirty foot lock-out chamber of Goliath, the underwater habitat. He checked his watch, thought about the next predicted storm. Should he wait?
He didn't want another meal with his food rolling off the table. He glanced at his little sister, Andie. She sat on one of the skewed benches biting her nails, looking twelve instead of fourteen.
He moved down to the open hatch. Water swirled below, luminescent as black pearl. Light spilled through the "doormat" or pocket of compressed air, forming a shimmering portal to an endless liquid cave of wonders.
His dive instructor had said night dives were more dangerous, but he planned to fix the cable, one of four that held Goliath in place, and come right back. He didn't need Sam for that. He pulled on his gloves, checked his helmet light and adjusted his mask. The wetsuit felt tight and uncomfortable, like wearing stiff long johns, the tank like a heavy turtle shell.
He winked at Andie as she came toward him, her tennis shoes clomping on the metal floor. "You're not going alone, are you?" Her blue eyes wide, her hands clung to his arm as they had at their father's funeral.
A twinge of anxiety fluttered through his belly, but he gave her a confident smile. "I'm just going to free the cable. Gotta get everything ship-shape before the next storm comes through." Besides, he had a company to oversee; his vacation was running into overtime; and he was so damned close to recovering the treasure he tasted emeralds and doubloons in his breakfast. He lowered himself to the edge of the hatch and pulled on his fins.
"Wait for Sam," Andie pleaded. "You're supposed to have a buddy. It's pitch black out there."
Sam—the closest thing Rob had to a brother—was in the other room, on the radio talking to a tech at Global Institute about a camera monitor damaged during the previous day's storm. He'd been there two hours. If he waited for Sam, he wouldn't get back to the hunt for at least another day—longer if the second storm hit. Besides, he learned best on the job.
"Don't worry," he chided gently, feeling a well of love for the only family he had left. He tapped his full-face mask and joked, "While I fight the sharks, I'll give you the play-by-play over the headset. Be back before you miss me."
He paused, adjusted his light helmet, took a breath, and stepped over the air pocket. It was like walking off a diving board in a coat of armor. Water surged around him, swallowed him, and then slowly seeped beneath his wetsuit. At this depth, the Pacific was icy, its gelid fingers crawling across his skin. He gritted his teeth and kicked, his fins propelling him through the water. Bubbles sprayed around him as the dark water flowed across his mask like smoky silk.
Although he’d logged twenty daytime dives, the night sea was definitely a world apart from them—dark, vast, infinite. He felt a rush of adrenalin as he slid his hands along the bottom edge of the hatch.
Determination rippled through him. At thirty-five, the challenge of scuba diving, the lure of Spanish gold, beckoned like the arms of a high-spirited woman. And in the ocean, the failures in his personal life faded away….
At this depth, new divers were susceptible to nitrogen narcosis. "If you start feeling drunk or paranoid," Sam had warned during their first dive from Goliath, "tell me, grab the line and come in. Whatever you do, don't get overconfident and don't panic, or we may not find you until you're only good for fish food."
"No problem," he murmured to himself now as he used his fingers to identify the top loop of steel that connected the habitat to one of four cables. During the storm, the first cable had snagged on coral and now held the structure like a lopsided spider, its daddy long-legs anchored to the sea floor.
He grabbed the cable and started down. "Can you see me, Andie?"
"No." Her voice sounded tinny. "And I miss you already." He imagined her standing in front of the video monitor still biting her nails.
"Worry-wart," he murmured, visualizing her switching from monitor to monitor. Goliath, Rob's nickname for the habitat, had six outside cameras with lights.
"Someone needs to worry about you." Her tinny-stern voice sounded comical.
He stifled a chuckle she wouldn't appreciate. Sam had said almost the same thing, "You need a girlfriend. Then maybe you'd quit jumping from planes and driving too fast."
Rob had laughed. "Hell, I'm into diving now, buddy. You don't have to get me hitched to save my neck. Besides, women are more dangerous than anything else I've come up against."
A surge of exhilaration shot through his belly as he found the first marker and descended another ten feet.
"Okay Rob, I see the back of your tank," Andie was saying as he looked up the beam from his helmet, beyond Goliath into primeval darkness—an endless black hole. Each kick of his fins took him farther over the edge, into the eerie unknown. He'd conquered his demons on land; he'd do it here too.
At ninety feet, he located the snag. He unfastened the cutting torch from his belt, remembering Sam's warning, "Whatever you do, keep focused." Under the gauzy haze of light, the coral looked like petrified cauliflower, delicate and easily destroyed. "Okay, let's do this as gently as possible." He began to talk himself through the job, the sound of his voice reassuring. "Find the switch, turn on the torch." Sparks shot through the charcoal water, reminded him of sparklers on the Fourth of July. "Make a smooth cut through the coral. Not too fast…."