The Deusy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
or: Temptation in the Tempest

Submitted: March 09, 2010

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Submitted: March 09, 2010

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Bray threw the bow of The Nereus headlong into the succession of six footers radiating from a group of gray clouds far off to the east. She was a salvage ship just over a hundred feet long with an iron crane swung out over the stem, from which a gaggle of cables spiraled downward and spilled out onto the deck, entwining a series of winches and pulleys. Because of her awkward composure, Bray had to point her right at the crests to keep her from toppling over into the sea. The mission was an uncommon one this time around. Usually him and he men set off to surface much smaller things: shipping records, old safes, even small, illicit war mementos from the English Channel some years ago. Whenever a client needed something substantial brought out of the water, however, North Atlantic Underwater Salvage handed him The Nereus.


The sea was swelling into a heavy chop. Bray kept his eyes out over the horizon from the wheelhouse, feathering the throttle and making gentle adjustments to the rudder to keep her easterly. Neglecting the horizon for a moment, he watched the boom of the crane sway a back and forth, reassuring himself it was tied down properly. He finally looked down on his desk toward the amber envelope lying on top of the maps and assorted documents from the company concerning the salvage. Venkatesh, Estate Planning Attorney. He lifted the heap out from under the envelope and started re-reading the order.


A client’s yacht sunk decades ago headed for the Greek Islands. It must have ruined the man’s weekend when he learned the crew he’d chartered lost it all in a bad storm bound for port on the Spanish mainland. Judging by how long he let it sit at the bottom, Bray presumed he was either running from the IRS, a nasty divorce or a warrant. Perhaps a cocktail of all three. The contents, which were withheld from his papers, were resting on the floor in a depth rated storage crate. If the crate had survived the initial wreck, its trip to the bottom, and about twenty years of frigid salt water, everything inside would be in perfect condition. Such would explain the unusually lucrative contract between the proprietor and the firm. Most everything else he’d ever dug up had been ruined.


Bray’s cigarette burned slowly in the corner of his mouth as he stared at the maps and the navigation monitors about the cabin. He hated smoking at sea. He always needed something to occupy his hands, needed something between his teeth. Inhaling made him sick. Instead, he rolled the smoke around his mouth as if it were a cigar. He stroked the three-day’s growth that had crept across his chin, thinking about his race between the dive and the storm. McCrae, one of the two divers aboard, hopped up the narrow stairway to the bridge and sat down across from Bray, sitting upright, trying to see his face over the mess of monitors and navigation equipment.


“We’ll be diving right under that storm then?” McCrae asked, pointing to the gray mass out over the horizon.
“Just ahead of it. We should be able to hoist this crate and skedaddle back to port before we even get rained on.”
“How much longer?”
“Actually not long, maybe three hours. The storm’s a good six away. Think you can tie the lift bags to the case and piss off in less than three?”
“I should hope so. What’s the depth?”
Bray shuffled the mess of papers around a bit. “The old man got lucky, he lost it just over a very high crest on the Azores Plateau. If it had gone in anywhere else he wouldn’t have use for a shallow operation like ours. I’d say about ninety feet. Take your time coming up, yeah McCrae?”
“Yeah, Yeah. Pretty deep dive for Wilkie wouldn’t you say”
“He’s been at it a while.”
“But not this deep. He’ll use up air quick.”
“Just look after him. I’m more worried about Beitel.”
“Ed?” McCrae laughed. “Ed’s golden.”
“Ed’s drunk.”
“He’s always drunk. He’s better on the crane drunk. He passed his operator’s test in the Navy drunk.”
“He was discharged because he was a drunk.”
McCrae shrugged. “Good thing NAUS doesn’t have those kinds of nanny state regulations, eh?”
Bray smiled through a yawn. “Go down to the mess and fix yourself and Wilkie something. Ninety’s deep.”
“Who’s Venkatesh?” McCrae asked, noticing the envelope.
“Not sure.” Bray answered. “Apparently I wasn’t supposed to get it until I came back from this order.”
“How’d you get it?”
“I overheard Jenson talking to this Venkatesh fellow in the office. It was never postmarked, it was just handed over.”
“So how’d you get it?”
“I busted Jenson’s desk open,” Bray said with a smile.
“You can pick locks?”
“I can pick locks, yes, but I really just busted his desk open.”

***

Wilkie and McCrae, after some hot chow, began to suit up under the wheelhouse. They would be over the wreck in under half an hour. Because the sea was far too deep for her to lay anchor, Bray would have to fight the chop in a tight circle around the wreckage. Ed shook himself out of a stupor with a couple cups of coffee and joined Bray in the bridge, waiting for his order to man the cabin of the crane at the other end of the ship. The sky was graying and the ocean was growing restless. The storm was still far off to the east but it was creeping closer and the wind was picking up. McCrae and Wilkie both donned their face masks and switched the radio link to Bray in the bridge.
“Check one, two. You got me up there Bray?” McCrae radioed through his mask, looking up at the bridge from the deck.


Bray pressed the long black button on the microphone mounted to the right of the helm. “Gotcha. What about you Wilks?”
“I’m here, you got me?”
“Loud and clear. All right boys, you’re going to need to use all six bags to surface the crate if the figures here are correct. I’ll throw you the chains for the crane when you get to the surface with it. Let’s keep the deck dry. I don’t feel like circling in a storm this afternoon. Take your time getting back up, you’ll get decompression sickness easy in cold water.”
McCrae and Wilkie carefully climbed down the port side of The Nereus despite its rocking back and forth above the waves and gently disappeared beneath them.
“We’re about ten feet down by now, visibility is already poor. We have to stay close, our torches aren’t cutting through the water nearly enough,” McCrae reported.
Bray looked up at the dimming sky from the bridge. “Bad luck,” he said. Wilkie began counting out the depth.
“Forty feet. Getting colder,” he listed. Bray moved his cigarette to the other side of his mouth using just his lips, watching at what the storm was up to. The grouping of clouds which had been, up to this point, rather benign, spit a single lightning bolt into the sea.
“Eighty feet. We should be coming up on the wreckage now.”
“McCrae, Check you position against the GPS. The wreckage is listed at 38° 30’ North by 30° 60’ West.”
“Yeah, we’ve got it. If that’s right we should be on top of it.”
“Ninety feet. That’s the floor,” Wilkie said.
“Hard to see in any direction down here.”
“Well, you’re losing daylight,” Bray said. “Stick close and do a quick grid sweep.”
“Wilks will use up air quicker than McCrae. He’s cold.” Ed spoke to Bray, somberly.
“He’s also too deep. Deeper than I think he’s gotten used to.”
“Dark, deep and cold,” Ed repeated to himself.
“Anything?” Bray asked into the mic.
“We’ve come across some debris,” Wilkie said. “We’re close.”
“There.” McCrae chimed in. “I think I can see the hull, or a large piece of it.”
“If the yacht’s in pieces we’re fucked. It should be whole.” Bray protested.
“No it’s all here. God, it must have been beautiful. What a shame.”
“Now that you two have it, avoid chatter, you need the air. Wilks especially. Get the bags on the crate and get up here before the storm hits.”
“Gotcha Bray.” McCrae responded.
“Ed, go ahead and start the crane up.”
Ed tipped his mug up, finishing the last of his coffee in a large gulp and stumbled down the narrow stairwell from the bridge into the lower half of the wheelhouse. Bray, concentrating on keeping The Nereus stationary despite the beating it was receiving from the jumping and flailing waves, watched Ed wobble about and climb into the cabin of the crane. Bray shook his head.
“We’ve got it.” McCrae reported a short time later. “It’s in phenomenal shape. The bags are secure, we’re set to inflate them.”
“Alright McCrae, let me move out of the way a bit, I don’t want it coming up under the keel.” Bray responded. Instead of goosing the throttle and fighting the waves ahead, he let off the gas and let the waves ease him back westward. “Ready when you are.” Bray said. Bray switched the mic from the radio Wilkie and McCrae were working on the to the ship’s loudspeaker.
“Ed, get ready with the chains, they’re on their way up.” Bray said. Ed gave him the thumbs up and swung the arm of the crane above the deck to position the boom over the set of chains prepared to lift the crate from the water. As Ed hopped out to attach the chains to the boom, Bray saw a large group of bubbles begin to surface to the port side just in front of the bow. Seeing it was on its way up, he reached over to switch the channel back to McCrae and Wilkie. As soon as the relay turned over, the bridge was flooded with awful screams sizzling over the radio.
“—ut it loose, Wilks! Cut yourself loose! Cut it now! Wilks! You’ll surface too fast!”
“Wilks! Wilks! McCrae, what happened?” Bray demanded.
“He’s caught on the crate!” McCrae belted back. “He’ll die if he surfaces!”
Before he could depress the button on the mic again, six brilliant yellow canopies burst forth from the surface and came to a sudden rest amidst the vast gray monotony of the sea. Bray stood up and the cigarette fell from the corner of his mouth. He stared blankly at the crate bobbing innocently in the water. Bray knew Wilkie’s blood must had come to a boil by then, a horrendous effect of rapid decompression. Ed, ignorant of what had just happened, raised his arms and cheered from the deck below. Bray was ready to dash out the wheelhouse and leap into the water, but just before his feet leapt from the floor of the bridge, the radio sparked again.
“Jesus Christ.” Wilkie said.
“You alright Wilks?” McCrae screamed.
He was breathing heavily. “Yeah...yeah I got myself loose.”
Bray’s legs gave out and he collapsed in his chair, enormously relieved. “Wilks, goddamnit,” he said. “You all right?”
“Oh yeah, just fine. Cold, but I’m fine.”

***

It was only after the crate was safely on the deck did Bray give any thought as to what the contents might have been. McCrae and Wilkie were both back on deck, shivering a bit, but safe and sound. They shed all their gear and took refuge in the wheelhouse and after a shower, threw on some fresh clothing and joined Bray and Ed up in the bridge, both staring at the crate. The storm was still more than an hour out. An hour easterly. They had their cargo and were to head back west.
“Job well done, eh?” McCrae asked Bray, patting an exhausted Wilkie on the back.
“McCrae, do you have any clue what might be in the crate we’ve just taken aboard?”
McCrae’s smile melted. “No idea, Skip.” The bridge fell silent. “Why?”


As with anything left in the sea for too long, the crate, standing just under six foot and more than twice that in length, had an enormous amount of marine growth which gave it a sickly grayish-green hue all over. Several things could still be made out about the crate, however. It was originally bright red and, at least on the side that was facing the wheelhouse, it had a large golden eagle in an oval painted across the middle.
“Bray, what is it?” McCrae finally asked. Without responding, Bray walked past his crew and climbed down into the wheelhouse, onto the deck and right up to the crate. The three men looked down on Bray from the bridge. Ed knew. Wilkie and McCrae watched curiously.
“Straight...eight,” Bray read to himself, squinting. “D-u-e-s-e-n—There’s no way. SJ...the SJ Mormon—there’s just no possible way.”
Bray must have stared it down in front of a hushed crew for several minutes in complete disbelief. He was snapped out of his episode by another lightning bolt, flung into the ocean by the gathering platoon of dark, anvil shaped clouds. He turned, with his head still fixed on the crate, for a number of paces, before climbing back up to the bridge.
“Well?” McCrae demanded.
“It’s an old Duesenberg.” Ed said cracking a smile. Bray sat down.
“A what?” Wilkie asked.
“It’s a Duesenberg SJ Mormon Meteor.” Bray spat out. All three men slowly looked over towards him, surprised. Bray looked up at them. “It’s worth over six million dollars.”

***

All four sailors hunkered down in the ship’s kitchen. All four of them stared blankly into the center of the oak table they’d gathered round. Ed wasn’t compelled to drink. Bray wasn’t smoking. They all sat in silent deliberation as The Nereus rocked back and forth, at this point, aimlessly, without a man at the helm. Bray knew he should be the first to speak.
“If one were so inclined,” he began, “one would be able to head to the nearest foreign port and put it away in storage. One could also say that we had reached the wreckage and saw that the crate had already been picked out of the water long before we arrived.”
“If one were so inclined.” Ed echoed.
“A million and a half each?” McCrae asked. Bray nodded, still looking at the table.
“Is it in decent shape?” Wilkie asked.
“One, it doesn’t really matter. People pay millions for horribly dilapidated old cars like this. Only a handful are left in the world. Two, yes, it’s probably in perfect condition. The crate was water proofed and the seams are still together near as I can tell. It would need an oil flush. The gas, if it had any in it, has probably turned to varnish. All the rubber bits would need replacing. Very, very minor.” Bray said.
“This guy welded it shut on his way across the ocean? They would have had to cut it free when they got to Greece?” Wilkie asked.
“I admire that, actually.” Ed spoke up. “I’d do it if I had the money to buy the car in the first place. I don’t trust anything worth that much across the sea.”
“So, what? What are we doing?” McCrae asked, looking to Bray.
“The closest port is just to the east. Libson in Portugal.” Ed said.
“Through the storm?” Wilkie asked. Bray nodded.
Silence billowed in the room again. They all stared, swaying in tandem with the ship. The usual squeaks and pops of the iron hull torquing against the waves was interrupted by the soft cry of a thunderclap, still miles off to the east. Wilkie looked around the room.
“I mean, what would happen if we got caught?” he asked.
“Get caught how?” McCrae asked. Wilkie paused.
“We’re Alone,” Bray interrupted, staring down at Wilkie, “What we say happened, happened. So long as what we say is consistent. So long as we’re in agreement.”
“Wilkie, if we take it to Portugal, we say it was lost when we got down there. End of story as far as the firm’s concerned. This is our ticket Wilkie.” said McCrae.
“Small house on the beach,” Ed began, “Down in Brazil where hurricanes don’t hit and the dollar goes farther.” Wilkie grumbled. Now Ed’s dreams were on the line. “Talisker single malt scotch. Barrels of it,” he continued.
“Six million dollars is a damn slight more than grand theft.” Wilkie said.
“We won’t get caught, Wilks,” Ed said, “Wilks, look.” Wilkie looked up. “We won’t get caught.”
“We won’t do it if you’re not with us Wilkie.” Bray said, “We’ll turn around and take the five grand the NAUS has for each of us.”
“About seven for you, right, Skip?” Ed asked. Bray shot him a dirty look. Ed laughed.
“One point five million?” Wilkie asked.
“You care to retire in, say, a week, Wilks?” McCrae asked with a smile, “Pretty good for a kid just over twenty, wouldn’t you say?”
“It’s a lot of money, Wilks. I could be on this old ship for a lifetime or two and wouldn’t scrape anywhere near what we’re talking about.” Bray said, stoically.
“Ah c’mon Wilkie.” McCrae pushed.
Wilkie pursed his lips and shook his head from side to side. “Ah...all right.”
Bray stood up. “East then?”
Ed looked up and grinned at the boys. “East it is.”

***

From the bridge, Bray began fighting the waves intently once again. Libson was a day and a half away, perhaps more through the storm. The sun had set, leaving just a faint orange wisp to his flank, dimming quickly. He was reminded, listening to the metal twist beneath him, that The Nereus was no spring chicken, built decades prior by the lowest bidder. It was raining fiercely and the horizon line that separated the sea from the sky was blurred into a single, encompassing gray mass. The only distinction between the two could only be made when a wave approached large enough to grow a curl of white foam at the top. Bray had to make sure The Nereus kept her bow directly into the blunt side of the waves. She was unsure enough in storm-tossed waters with her crane at the front, but now she bore over three tons on the deck. Bray could feel her struggling. Ed, McCraw and Wilkie were held up in the wheelhouse just below, watching the storm from the portholes and worrying about the payload in the tossle.


“She’ll hold up, eh Ed?” McCrae asked. Ed was the nearest thing The Nereus had to an engineer.
“She’s seen worse, I’d imagine, though I’ve never serviced her in anything worse. And the payload is quite high.”
“She’ll hold it down.” McCrae repeated, unsatisfied. The loudspeaker interrupted their private distresses and snapped everyone to attention.
“Ed, get to the bridge.” Bray announced. Ed rose and headed up the stairwell, leaving the McCrae and Wilkie watching out over the desight outside.
“If we have to ditch,” Wilkie began, “How do we explain why we’ve headed the wrong direction, right into a bad storm?” McCrae didn’t answer.
Ed walked up into the bridge and confronted an uneasy side of Bray, his weary eyes overing over the deck. “Ed.” Bray began.
“Yeah Skip.”
“I need the crane arm out over the bow,” Bray said, “I need to keep her nose down on the backsides of the crests or we’ll roll her. The weight over her front should help.”
Ed looked out to sea. He remembered that the crane arm had been slipping for some time. The gears were worn and sometimes the cogs beneath him would rattle and scream, sending the arm just a bit too far left or just a bit too far right of where he’d aimed it. Bray knew, but the boys didn’t. “I don’t want to move the arm in the wind.”
“Is it still shearing?”
Ed nodded. “Pretty badly.”
“How bad?”
“How bad do you need the weight out front?”
“The waves are getting higher. She’s pitching on the way down because her keel comes loose from the water. It’s all the weight on the aft side of the deck. I just need more traction.”
“Do you want anything on the boom?”
“No just tie it down.”
Ed took a deep breath. “Let me get my rain gear on, then.”

***

Bray watched as Ed stumbled across the deck, this time, not because of drink, but because of the massive turbulence on deck from the storm. Each crest brought a huge tongue of white water screaming across the bow and onto the deck. He watched as Ed moved across the deck to the cabin of the crane at the front and clumsily climb in it, slamming the flimsy door in a hurry, although he must have been absolutely waterlogged. The wiper on the cabin wind screen started up, exposing Ed’s face in short bursts. He hands were flying about the hash of levers, switches and pedals and the crane jumped as he had summoned. The hydraulic pumps, powered off the massive diesel engine below deck, shuddered and churned as the old beast came to life. He began to swing the arm over.


As they had for a long while, the gears below snarled as they fought to remain stationary against Ed’s commands. The wind was strong and the boom at the end of the arm was already swaying heavily. Bray watched on fiercely.“Ed,” Bray said over the speaker, “If you swing out at the wrong time, you’ll throw all that weight to one side and she’ll go in. As soon as we’re in a valley, swing it over so it’s over the bow by the time we’re headed down the next wave.” Ed gave the thumbs up and cocked his head over his shoulder, watching the storm. McCrae and Wilkie, who had not been told anything aside from this rather sudden message over the speaker, rushed up to the bridge to watch what was happening. The Nereus crested a high wave and ventured her way down, and at its lowest, Ed threw his foot into the left pedal, swinging the arm above the Duesenberg’s protective case and out over the port side.
“C’mon baby.” Bray chanted. The Nereus began to pitch dangerously to the left.
“Kick over, kick over, c’mon.”
Before the arm could get past ninety degrees, she was headed up the crest of the next wave.


“No.”


The incoming wave swallowed the boom dangling from the tip of the crane’s arm as she pitched ever further to her port side under the weight. The crane was going in. Bray looked to Ed, his horrified face only visible to the beat of the wiper on his cabin. The tip of the arm was swallowed up as well. The sea threw it back toward the boat, and at once, the hydraulics burst, stalling the engine. The massive machinery responsible for the crane’s movement finally gave way, cracking and ripping apart in an appalling symphony. The engine continued to choke. The pumps ceased. The crane, however, completely buckled behind the advancing gray curl and was heaved backwards and was sent careening over the deck again, striking the crate and busting it open at the seams. The arm, now with no power behind it, continued to trek over the starboard side just as The Nereus headed back downward again. She began to pitch to the right.


The crate, now broken free from the chain restraints that held it down, slid across the deck with the pitching ship. Ed struggled violently to gain some manner of control over the crane. Bray sent McCrae and Wilkie to the engine room in a desperate attempt to get what was left of the hydraulics under the crane working again. The Nereus pitched so far to her starboard that she started taking on water. The crate, now pressing against the starboard rail along the ship, gained a bit of buoyancy from the massive amount of water rushing underneath it and began to lift.


“No.” Was all Bray could muster.


The crate tumbled over into the sea with a bellow and was quickly consumed. Without the weight over her deck, she instantly lurched the opposite way, evening her keel and easing her temper. The storm was, by then, past its worst. The massive engine kicked back on and sent a gurgle through the pumps as they began again and a flicker about the lights in the wheelhouse. Ed saw the arm was swinging with the ship back to the port side and threw the handbrake down as soon as the arm was parallel with the deck once more. Bray and Ed stopped, looking at each other from their posts with their mouths gaping open, both in disbelief. They stayed there, staring, not wanting to admit what had just happened, until the engine below deck shivered and started up again, snapping them out of a daze.
McCrae and Wilkie ran back up through the wheelhouse and into the bridge, heaving their eyes out the windows to see what had happened. Their expressions went blank the moment they saw the deck. Their breathing was labored and heavy, filling the room with the only sound anyone dared make. Everyone just stopped.

***

“That’s what she looked like.” Bray said pointing into one of his books.
“God damn. So that’s a Deusy, huh?” McCrae asked.
“That’s a Deusy. The SJ Mormon Meteor.” He replied.
“So Jenson still pissed about the hydros on The Nereus we busted up?”
“Oh yeah, he’s pissed alright.”
McCrae laughed, sitting back, flinging his hands behind his head. “You can kiss this office goodbye, he said. It’ll be mine here in a bit.” Bray rolled his eyes with a smile.
“Excuse me, gentlemen.” Interrupted a strange man in a suit, appearing at the door.
Bray quickly closed the book. McCrae looked over Bray’s desk nervously.
“Can I help you?” Bray asked.
“Are you Tobias Bray?”
“I am.”
“I’m Howard Venkatesh. I sent you the letter.”
“Oh. Oh, Jesus, I’d completely forgotten about that. McCrae, excuse us a bit. Please have a seat.”
“I trust you’ve read it by now, I’m so sorry the salvage didn’t work out.”
“I’m sorry, what? How do you know about that?”
“Mr. Bray, have you read the letter?”
“Actually, no, it’s completely slipped my mind. In fact I’m not quite sure what this is about at all.”
“Mr. Bray, I’m your father’s attorney.”
Bray froze.
“The letter concerned your father’s final testament. I’m sorry to be the first to tell you this but I’m afraid he’s passed away.”
“I see.”
“He has told me that you two did not get along after he moved off when you were a boy.”
Bray huffed. “That’s a bit of an understatement. I never knew the man.”
“Yes, well, he wanted to make up for that before his passing but it was quite sudden. He did, however, finalize his will with me, which I have here. Now, your dive over the Azores, was anything salvaged?”
“Ah...no, I’m afraid it was picked clean when we got down there. Mr...”
“Venkatesh.”
“Mr. Venkatesh, how do you know about that dive? There’s a confidentiality agreement between the company and the client.”
“I was the client, Mr. Bray. Well, your father was, really. If you’d have read the letter, you’d understand that the dive was to recover a large portion of your father’s estate. Actually, it was almost all he had left towards the end of his life. Everything else is owed to creditors.”
“I’m not following, Mr. Venkatesh.”
“Resting at the bottom, at least until it was pillaged, was your father’s, let’s see here,” Said the man, reaching for a piece of folded paper from his jacket, “Duesen—berg, I believe it’s called. Quite a valuable car. It was lost in the ocean while it was being shipped to Greece some years ago, as I’m sure you’ve read in the order reports. He left it to you.”


© Copyright 2020 Irom. All rights reserved.

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