He was hoping with all his heart the shark was gone by the time they left the ship. That thing had been eight feet long at least. At least. The very thought of it made him feel queasy. Until now, he hadn’t realized he was afraid of sharks. Theater critics, spiders, financial ruin, sure. But a Great White put the hairiest of spiders—and theater critics—into a whole different perspective.
They waited, treading water, their clammy breaths bouncing off the claustrophobically low ceiling.
“That ought to do it.” The metallic reverberation of Jack’s voice jolted Ellery from his uneasy reflections.
“You think?” That had to have been the fastest ten minutes on record.
Jack nodded, said firmly, “See you topside.”
Regulator in place, Jack sank slowly beneath the surface, bubbles popping on the slick water.
Ellery pushed his regulator back in, felt the sweet stream of oxygen, and submerged, trying not to think about whether the shark would be waiting for them when they left the wreck. Probably not. A shark that size probably had his priorities straight. Probably knew better than to waste time on a pair of funny-tasting seals.
His eyes adjusted to the unexpected brightness of Jack’s flashlight beam cutting a swath through the murky water. Jack headed for the doorway in a couple of strong kicks.
Ellery followed, but something—the suggestion of motion in the water behind him—made him glance back, then do a double take. The good news was, the shark had not somehow sneaked inside the compartment. The bad news… Well, it wasn’t bad news, but what the heck was it?
He peered through the cloudy water, trying to understand what he was seeing, trying to make sense of that strange misshapen brown form drifting on an invisible current.
That weird bulbous head like a…like a space alien staring straight at him.
Horror washed through him as suddenly, belatedly, he realized what he was seeing.
He yelled on a stream of bubbles, and Jack, who had slipped through the entrance, shot back inside the compartment as Ellery clambered back to the surface.
Ellery tore his regulator out of his mouth, gasping the too thin air, mostly carbon dioxide at this point. “Holy freaking…moly!”
Jack yanked his mouthpiece out. “What? What is it?”
“There’s something, someone, down there! A-a diver.”
“A diver?” Jack sounded confused, instinctively peering down, trying to see through the turbid pool.
“Maybe? I don’t know what the hell it was.” That was the truth. It had looked like a turn-of-the-century diver. A ghost diver. And in this strange underwater world, he could about believe it had been just that. A ghost.
Jack peered at him in the gloom, then without a word, jammed in his regulator and dived down, brushing past Ellery’s legs as he directed the flashlight beam around the flooded interior.
Doubtfully, Ellery watched the pallid flicker of light, probing here and there, dissolving into darkness. Had he imagined that vision straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?
But no. He hadn’t. Jack was back in seconds, gloved hand clenched on a fistful of what looked like brown canvas.
An old diving suit.
Jack spat the regulator out, said, “We’ll talk surface side. Time to go. Now.” He jammed the regulator back in and descended, heading once more for the compartment entrance.
Ellery pushed his mouthpiece in and followed.
The yellow triangle of Jack’s flashlight beam illuminated cross braces and fallen beams as he propelled himself in strong kicks down the passage, dragging the diving suit behind him. Ellery finned after.
The heavy brass helmet bobbed up and down as though nodding encouragement.
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