II: The Deep
Perhaps one diver
in a thousand would have noticed the faint glimmer on the ocean floor.
Dante Lewis spotted it immediately.
Heart racing, he deflated
his buoyancy compensator vest and began to descend toward it, passing
towering coral formations and clouds of sea life.
The Hidden Shoals
off the Caribbean island of St. Luc boasted some of the most spectacular
colors on the face of the earth the brilliant turquoise of a parrotfish,
the electric magenta of red algae, the neon yellow of a snappers
tail, the shimmering violet of a school of Creole wrasses.
Dante perceived none
That wasnt exactly
true. He could see everything and far sharper than the average
person. But only in black and white and shades of gray.
The promising thirteen-year-old
photographer was colorblind. That was why he had accepted the diving
internship at Poseidon Oceanographic Institute. Not to learn color
his brain wasnt wired for that. But maybe he could learn
to detect it, deduce it from the clues he could see light,
dark, and shading.
He checked the Fathometer
on his dive watch. Forty feet.
So far, the plan was
a dismal failure. Descending in full scuba gear, Dante swung around his
Nikonos underwater camera to snap a picture of a flamingo tongue
a rare spotted snail, supposedly orange on peach. To Dante, it appeared
gray on gray.
Everything is gray
on gray, he reminded himself glumly. And it always will be.
Sixty feet. He looked
down. The glint of silver was still far below.
Now he was stuck on
a backward island in the middle of nowhere for the whole summer. There
was nothing to do but dive, an activity that he wasnt much good
at, and liked even less. He had almost gotten himself killed at least
And for what? Gray
fish, gray plants, gray coral.
But there was money
in these waters. From centuries of sunken ships. Dante and his companions
had already found an antique Spanish piece of eight. His brow clouded.
The three-hundred-year-old coin had been stolen from them by their supervisor,
Tad Cutter. The interns would not make the mistake of trusting the slick
Eighty feet. It was
deeper than he had ever been, but he barely gave it a second thought.
He was completely focused on reaching the source of the glimmer.
And then his flippers
made contact with soft sandy bottom. He peered down at the object that
had drawn him to the depths.
A Seven-Up can.
surged like the clouds of bubbles that rose from his breathing apparatus.
he berated himself. It was crazy to believe that every glint in the ocean
was some kind of lost treasure.
But it would have
been sweet to snag a pile of silver and rub it in Cutters face!
The institute man had done a lot more than swipe one little coin. He and
his team had taken over the wreck site it had come from.
over there right now, digging up our discovery!
It was a huge rip-off,
no question about it. Yet the whole business didnt seem to bother
Dante right then. Instead he felt pretty good. A dull pleasant fatigue,
like a runners high.
Funny he was
normally pretty nervous on a dive. Underwater seemed like a place that
people simply werent meant to be. But today he was confident. Fearless,
A curious lionfish
ventured close a mass of spines and fins and stripes.
An underwater porcupine
in designer clothes!
In some remote corner
of his mind, it occurred to Dante that he should take a picture of such
a remarkable fish. But he made no move for the Nikonos tethered to his
arm. Instead, he reached out to touch an elaborately striped fin.
The attack came from
above, knocking him backwards. His dive partner, fourteen-year-old Star
Ling grabbed him linebacker-style around the waist, driving him away from
his quarry. She shook a scolding finger in his face, then whipped out
a dive slate and scribbled: POISON!
Dante squinted at
the message, his vision darkening at the edges. He could see all the letters,
but for the life of him, he couldnt put them together to read the
word. What the young photographer didnt realize was that he was
experiencing nitrogen narcosis the rapture of the deep. Under deep-water
pressure, the nitrogen in air dissolves in the bloodstream, producing
an effect similar to drunkenness. In diving lingo, he was narced.
All that registered
with Dante was that he was having a fine time, and here was Star, ruining
it. The lionfish had gotten away, leaving Dante sweating from his efforts.
Who needs a rubber
suit to dive in boiling water?
horrified eyes, Dante unzipped his lightweight tropical skin suit and
began to peel off the thin material. In his narced state, he had forgotten
that the wetsuit was not for warmth; it was for protection from the sting
of coral and other venomous sea life.
She grabbed him and
held on. He fought back, the upper half of the wetsuit flapping from his
That was when she
saw the shark.