Back turned, Justin was poking at his phone.
“Hey!” Eric yelled. “Are you with me or aren’t you?”
He slid the phone into a back pocket and hurried to catch up with Eric. “Just leaving a last message in case I don’t come back,” he joked.
Eric nudged him. “Let’s hurry.” He quickened his pace; the boat they’d chartered was waiting at the Sebastian River Marina. “Cher and Tina are probably already there.” They had only two days left of vacation before they had to return to college up north. He didn’t want to waste it.
They raced along the dock until they got to the slip where the boat was waiting. They’d all chipped in on the rental, and Eric couldn’t wait to get out on the water.
“About time,” the girls crowed as they got on-board.
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s get this party started!” Eric said.
Captain O’Reilly started the engines, and Bobby–first mate? his crew?–cast off. It took half an hour to reach the dive site, and the group spent that time climbing into wet suits and scuba gear. O’Reilly had gone south out of Sebastian Strait toward Vero Beach, paralleling the shoreline.
Bobby dropped anchor at one end of a shallow inlet. “You’re carrying enough air for about an hour. Keep an eye on your gauges.”
The friends were experienced divers, having grown up in the area. They nodded, climbed on the rear of the boat, and one by one, fell backward into the water. They’d agreed to keep at least one person in sight at all times, but otherwise were free to explore.
Time passed quickly. As always when underwater, Eric was enthralled with the fish along the limestone-and-coquina rock reef. A few hundred yards away were the remains of a wreck that had gone down in 1715; treasure hunters had been over it a zillion times. He had no interest in it.
He glanced around frequently, keeping an eye on his friends. Cher and Tina were sticking together and poking around in the rocks. Justin was farther away, digging in the sand on the ocean floor.
Eric spotted a red grouper, then almost immediately spied a smooth trunkfish; the white polka dots and puckered lips were a dead giveaway. He swam past lazily and saw a group of banded butterflyfish dart into a tuft of seaweed.
All too soon, Eric was signaling it was time to go topside. They gathered as a group, then slowly ascended, grinning at each other through their masks, pleased with their outing.
Back on the boat, they stripped off their gear and wet suits while O’Reilly and Bobby broke out the food and drink. Eric grabbed an ice-cold beer and dropped into the seat next to Justin, who was opening his net dive bag. Gold glinted.
“Hey, find a coin down there?” he asked, sipping.
“Found several.” Justin laughed. “Maybe I can sell ’em for enough to pay for next quarter’s textbooks,” he said with a chuckle. It was a sad fact most Spanish coins weren’t worth much.
Bobby looked at the haul in Justin’s lap. “One of those is not like the others.”
Everyone moved closer to get a better look. “He’s right,” Eric said. “That one is larger and rounder than the rest.”
“Hey, boss?” Bobby called to the bridge. “You’re gonna want to see this.”
O’Reilly joined them, took one look at the coin, and beamed as brightly as if he’d swallowed the sun. “I’m an amateur treasure hunter. If I’m not mistaken, that large coin is a Tricentennial Royal. Christ, what a lucky find!”
Justin closed his fingers around it. “Yeah? What’s that mean?”
Bobby pulled a gun, thumbed off the safety, and shot Justin in the chest. The coins in his lap rolled to the deck as he fell back and sideways. Three more shots followed, one for each of them.
Eric, lying under the dead weight of the girls, retained consciousness long enough to hear Bobby say, “I’ll raise the anchor. We’ll dump the bodies at sea.” Eric heard the metallic clink of coins striking each other. “Imagine that kid finding a coin worth half a million bucks. Talk about beginner’s luck!”
Not the vacation I planned, Eric thought and died.
This story was inspired by real-life treasure finds in this area of Florida. Follow this link for more info on one of them.
Word count: 707
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