Chapter 23

Call it Intuition

The locking bar gave off one last flare of sparks, then surrendered to the flame of Jeanne’s torch and fell to the deck. Oliver hefted the dive bag, now filled with cold salt water, and sloshed it across the face of the shipping container doors. The first three applications brought forth sizzling gouts of steam, but soon the metal had cooled enough that Oliver judged it safe enough to touch without melting the gloves of their drysuits.

They each grasped one of the doors of the container. Jeanne had insisted that they begin with this one, located on the port side of the barge, saying that she had a good feeling about it. They both heaved against the rusted hinges and pulled the double doors wide.

Jeanne gripped the door, leaning heavily on it to keep from falling, and stared into the cavernous interior of the shipping container. Beside her, Oliver felt a grin creep across his face as he admired the contents of the container, even as his hopes of actually finding Jeanne’s gem fell.

“I can’t believe you guessed the right container on the first try,” Oliver whispered.

“Call it intuition,” Jeanne said. “This is my family’s legacy. I just had a good feeling about this container.”

“Remind me to call you next time I’m working on a jigsaw puzzle.”

The shipping container was stacked chest high with wooden packing crates for half its length. Each stack of crates was carefully labeled and had once been secured to the floor of the crate with thick elastic cords, but those had rotted and snapped over the years and now lay in tangles on the floor or draped over the crated like thick strands of multicolored cobwebs. Behind the stacks of crates, an assortment of what Oliver assumed to be heavy wooden furniture was stacked up to the far wall, each piece covered with a thick blanket, many of which had rotted away. On the boxes nearest to them Oliver could already read the name, “Blythe” printed in large, sloppy handwriting near the top of each label.

“It’s going to take us forever to go through all of this,” Oliver said. “We’re looking at the packed contents of a whole house here.”

“Not so long,” Jeanne said. She stepped into the container and scanned the labels on the front row of boxes. She would have preferred to go through them all, to dig into the history of this family that had descended from Pitau himself and carried one of Tavernier’s gems to the new world, but time was not on their side, so she would have to rely on the information she had. She reached to shift the topmost crate of the nearest stack. “Help me get these out of the way.”

“We really don’t have time to go through every box,” Oliver said, eyeing the clock in his HUD. He didn’t trust the air quality sensors anymore, but if the filtration unit that he had used at the beginning of the dive had lasted at least an hour before it gave out, then he had to hope that the replacement cartridge would last longer, otherwise he was going to be in trouble about half way through their ascent. More worrying was Jeanne’s supply, as she would soon be operating almost entirely off of the emergency bottle of breathing gas.