The Road Home
By Serena Gilley
Damn it. John had a gun and there was no doubt he was ready to use it. Fire and desperation were evident in his eye. The dangerous glance he sent toward the boat carrying Anne and Samuel was evident, too.
"Tell your friends there to stand down," John ordered.
Matt didn't need to hear what would happen if he failed to comply. Every muscle in his body was on high alert―Anne was in danger. Sam's weather-worn boat was bringing her directly into the line of fire and there wasn't anything Matt could do about it.
"All right, all right," he ceded, raising his hands in a show of surrender and waving a warning at Samuel. "It's okay. Cut your engine and stay back," he called out.
Heather squeaked out in shrill terror. "What are you doing, John? It's not worth it; put down the gun."
"Shut up," her husband growled. "We've worked too damn hard for this. Everything we own is sunk into this project. Part of that treasure is mine and I'm going to find it."
"So what's the plan, John?" Matt asked, pulling John's attention away from the others and making sure his voice betrayed none of the anger he felt roiling inside him. "I'm as eager as you to find this treasure. I've brought all my gear; let's go down there together."
John snorted. "Yeah, like I can trust a Chadwick to share."
"I'm not the one holding the nine millimeter, am I?" Matt pointed out.
John's eyes narrowed as he scanned the various players around him. Samuel's boat was tossed on the waves, drifting with the current and Anne was white-knuckling the rail. Matt would have given anything to brush the fear off her ashen face.
He couldn't, though. Not yet. It was pretty obvious John held all the cards. Matt's only hope was that John's greed for that treasure was just a little bit stronger than his grasp of reality. His wild actions and his wife's obvious distress seemed to indicate the man wasn't firing on all cylinders today. Something was off and if Matt had just a little more time he was bound to find a way to take advantage of that.
John wiped icy spray from his face and he seemed to come to a decision. He lunged forward, grabbing his wife and shoving the gun into her hands. She grasped it, but her trembling was obvious.
"Heather has the gun now," John announced, snarling at Matt. "Get your gear. You're going down with me, but if you try anything stupid, don't expect the pretty nanny to be waiting for you when you come up."
Heather shook her head. "No, John... I can't--"
"You can!" he snapped, shaking her. It was a wonder the gun didn't slip out of her hands. "I'm doing this for us. Cover them. If anything happens, take out the girl first."
Heather nodded, raising the gun toward Anne. Her aim was surprisingly steady, even as the boat jostled and rocked. Matt cursed inwardly.
The gray skies spit freezing rain and the cold wasn't doing any good for anyone. It only seemed to fuel John's rage and determination. Matt had to keep things moving before John totally lost it.
"I'm suiting up now," he called out.
John barked orders, insisting that Heather keep her gun ready and that Matt take things nice and easy. It was hard to hear over the wind and waves, but Matt was pretty sure he caught a few words from Samuel. He was comforting Anne, keeping her calm despite the insanity taking place. Matt would thank the old man later, right after he chewed him out for bringing her into this mess.
He pulled on his wetsuit in record time, and slipped into his SCUBA gear. No time for a thorough check, but a quick glance seemed to indicate everything was in order. The gage indicated he had a half hour of air. In these temperatures, that would be more than enough. He hoped.
He just wished John wasn't so damn well-trained and observant. Matt tried to be subtle and strap his knife onto his leg, but of course that didn't go over very well.
"Lose the damn knife," John ordered, watching like a hawk from his boat sidled up next to Matt's. "Throw it over. Now."
Hell, it was a good knife, but he did as instructed. He was pissed, though, and there was no question that John was going to pay for all this.
"We're going in," John said. "My sonar shows a rock formation right below us. It matches the rocks on the map--someone laid them out in a careful triangle. The treasure should be in the very center of that. You're going to mind your manners and help me bring it up here, onto my boat."
"And then I'll figure out what to do with you."
Which, of course, meant he would finally use that damn Browning and leave them all floating face down in the water. Well, Matt wasn't about to let that happen. Knife or no knife, he was going to find out if Navy SEALs were as badass as they always claimed to be.
He sat on the side of his boat and glanced over toward Samuel's. They had floated closer, easier for Matt to catch Anne's eye, but also easier for Heather to shoot. His mask probably hid the fact that he gave Anne a quick smile.
He didn't want her to realize that two men were going down, but only one would come back up. It would be John or it would be him, and he hoped to God it was him. He needed to kiss those strawberry lips again, see the heat of desire in her blue eyes instead of the cold dread that was filling them now.
She must have figured out what he had planned. He couldn't hear her voice, but he saw her lips move. "Matt, don't..."
He just gave her a slight nod and bit into his mouthpiece. It would be a damn shame if he died down there today. The tears welling up in Annie's eyes cut into his soul every bit as sharply as the tears that were there when he'd left her at seventeen. If he lived through this, he made a vow he was never, ever going to make that woman cry again.
"You first," John ordered.
Ooh rah. It was go time. Matt dropped into the choppy waves and let the icy blackness embrace him.
* * *
Anne bit back the childish protests and watched Matt disappear. John growled some sort of warning or instructions to Heather, then he, too, dove into the water. Both men wore insulated suits, but Anne knew that wouldn't protect them for long. If she had any hope at all of helping Matt, she needed to make something happen quickly. She needed to distract Heather...
Samuel seemed to have the same thought. He cleared his throat and called over to the woman.
"You shouldn't worry too much about your man. I hear he's a Navy SEAL, ain't that right?"
Heather seemed unsure about answering, but she did. "Yeah. He knows what he's doing. He'll find that treasure and we'll take our share."
Samuel snorted loud enough for Heather to hear. "Your share? Right. I guess you would think that's what he might do."
Heather's face screwed in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Anne knew exactly what Samuel meant. He was a smart old guy, figuring out which buttons to push. She was happy to play along.
"He's not going to take his share of the treasure," Anne called to her. "He wouldn't need a gun for that. He plans to take all of it, probably leave us dead so we can't argue."
"He wouldn't do that!" Heather defended.
"Then I guess he expects you to do it for him," Anne said. "You're the one with the gun, after all. I just hope your kids never find out about this."
Heather froze for a moment, then instantly she dropped the gun onto the deck of their boat. Whatever spell John held over her, clearly it was now broken.
"Oh my God," she muttered, the wind carrying her voice. "What are we doing?"
She put her hands over her face and began pacing. Anne shifted a glance at Samuel and he set his grizzled chin. Knowing Heather could go for that gun at any moment, Anne was just a little apprehensive when Samuel turned the ignition, starting his engine again.
But Heather didn't go for the gun. She just blinked sad, frightened eyes as they moved closer to her. Eventually their boats bounced against each other, tossing up spray but giving Anne an up-close view of Heather's tear-stained, contrite face.
"What can I do?" Heather moaned. "John's really messed up, but he's not a bad guy. We got into some financial trouble and then he got obsessed with this treasure, and... he just needs help."
"He's going to need a good lawyer if that young man down there doesn't kill him first," Samuel said.
Heather moaned again, but her words were cut off. The radio on Samuel's boat started crackling. Samuel picked it up to reply as Anne recognized the local sheriff's voice over the static.
"Yep, I'm here," Samuel announced.
"You got any trouble out there?" the sheriff asked. "We got a call from Libby Smith that there was some kind of domestic dispute on John Turner's boat and that you and Anne had gone out after him."
"It's something like that," Samuel replied.
"Did you find them? Is everything okay?"
"I think you'd better get out here," Samuel said.
He proceeded to give directions. Apparently the sheriff already had a boat out, so they estimated they'd arrive in about ten minutes. That, however, seemed like an eternity to Anne. Matt was down in the frigid water with an unstable Navy SEAL. There was no telling what could happen in ten minutes.
"I've got my gear," she announced. "I'm going down there."
She expected the fatherly Samuel to argue. It was freezing cold; it was too dangerous, John Turner was crazy. She was only slightly disappointed when Samuel just nodded.
"Yep. I'll help you get your suit on."
For the next installment of "The Road Home", follow the link to Susan Gee Heino's site.