By R.W. Van Sant
Jerry watched as Ellie bandaged his hands, unsure how he was going to tell her about her uncle. He was feeling sick to his stomach and nearly vomited. Instead, he fought to calm himself, eyes closed and breathing deeply.
“There you go,” Ellie finished wrapping Jerry’s hands. He was exhausted, more than he could ever remember being in his life. He slumped back into the lawn chair and let his aching muscles relax. “I think you’ll live.”
“Just rest for a little while.” She handed him a glass of water. “There you go, my brave little shark teaser.”
“It would have killed us if you hadn’t come along.”
“You’re welcome.” She planted a kiss on his lips that briefly made the world fade away. “Sorry,” Jerry said as she pulled back.
“About what? Causing me to wreck my boat, being high maintenance or lying to me about the dive? Grandma’s bust my ass.” She said. “That thing looks more like a lockbox.”
“Sorry I was late for our date.” He sat up with a grunt of pain. “I think we can still make it if we hurry. “He held up his bandaged hands. “Is there a dress code?”
“Yes, and neither one of us could get in like this.” She indicated her swimming suit.
“Could we change our reservation time?”
“You’re in no shape at the moment. Did I mention the dance floor?”
“Can we reschedule it?”
“You still want to?” Elli sounded surprised.
“More than ever.”
“You’re crazy, but alright. Just as soon as you can dance and pick up a fork correctly.”
“Ellie, what were you doing out there?”
“In the boat, I’m not complaining. Good god, no. I’m not complaining, but shouldn’t you have been getting dressed for our date. Or did you assume we’d screw it up.”
“I was looking for Paul. He’d been giving me the third degree about what you guys were up to. I thought he might have been dumb enough to beat you to the treasure, or whatever it is you found.”
“I thought so. I also wanted to see why you were willing to risk your lives. And, I was worried something might happen.”
“Something did. It was pure luck we made it all.”
“Every Teller tries to find something down there. They all died.”
“We’re not Tellers,” Jerry said.
“Whatever you call yourselves you’ve got it now, haven’t you. Just help me fix my boat, and we’ll call it square.” She said. “Paul, on the other hand, I can’t even count how much of his equipment you destroyed. I hope that what you found is worth something. Otherwise, you might end up working with me at the restaurant to pay him off.”
“I think we’ll be alright.” Ted came up behind them, dressed in dry clothing.
“Why did you agree to teach us? Don’t tell me it was for the money. You could have asked a lot more than he offered.”
“Okay, “she sighed. “Don’t get mad; Uncle Paul wanted me to find out what you were up to. Everyone knew that you were going after something. Every Tel— Sorry, all your relatives were after it, none ever said what it was.”
“You spied on us?” Jerry asked, looking a little hurt.
“No, yes—kind of. He told me I could help you, maybe save your lives. Two novices diving alone in dangerous waters. You’d have died, both of you. I didn’t want anything to happen. No Teller who has gone into that cove has ever come out. I did save you, after all. I think that should count for something.”
“We’ll pay off what we owe, but Ellie…” Jerry started, unsure as to how to tell her about her uncle.
“Well, any remainder I’ll make Jerry work off.” She teased.
Jerry raised his bandaged hands. “Was I—are you just here as a spy for your Uncle?”
“No! I mean I agreed so I could help you, or talk you out of it. I really didn’t want you to end up like your parents.”
“Do you think there are any secrets around here? Everyone knows the legends. Old man Teller used to get drunk and talk about monsters and gold. Uncle Paul told me your parents tried to get it, just as your grandfather did. No one knows what happened. They were never seen again, none of them.”
“We know,” Ted said. She looked at him with sad understanding.
“How long do sharks live?” Jerry asked.
“No one knows for sure. I’d heard that scientists are studying their DNA to make anti-aging medicine.
“I think this one’s been around a long time.”
“What makes you think that?” she asked.
“You found the pictures?” Ted asked.
“Last night, the shutters were flapping, I found them looking for something to tie them down.”
“Someone, I’m guessing, someone my grandmother knew sketched it when she was a kid,” Jerry explained. “It looked a lot like that shark.”
“I won’t let the nasty shark get you.” She changed the subject. “I pulled you off the reef. You’re salvage, and I plan to keep you.”
“Ted?” Jerry could not bring himself to tell her about her uncle.
“So, “She looked over the diving bag that lay on the grass with the remainder of the equipment.” You actually did it. Where was it?”
“Ellie, please, “Jerry couldn’t let her continue without knowing about her Uncle. “ Your uncle—”
“Paul beat us there,” Ted said.
“He promised he wouldn’t. I’m sorry. I’ll get back whatever he took, I promise.” she said.
“I don’t think he took anything,” Ted said. “He didn’t have the chance. Ellie, I think… I found Paul’s dive watch and tanks on the reef. They—they were ripped apart.”
“No.” She turned to look at the cove, tone firm.
“I’m sorry,” Jerry said.
“He’s not dead. He’s a good diver, one of the best.” She said.
“You saw the shark. It was a monster.” Ted said. Jerry sat silently.
“Did you see a body? Was there any blood?”
“No, I didn’t see a body, but you should have seen the tanks. Something ripped them apart. The blood would have been washed away when the tide came in.” Ted said.
“How about his boat. Did you see his boat?”
“No,” Jerry said. “But the bottom of the cove is littered with boats. It’s a graveyard down there. I couldn’t see ten feet. It might be—”
“Then you don’t know.” She snapped.
“Not for certain. No.” Jerry did not want it to be true either. It would have been so easy to give into her hopefulness. In his heart, however, Jerry knew the truth.
“He could have made it to his boat and gotten away. He could have reached the shore. He might be home now.” Ellie reached for her pockets. “My phone is in my car. Can I use your phone?”
“Yeah, sure. I really hope Paul answers.” Jerry said.
“You should call the coast guard. If he’s in a boat, he might have drifted out to sea.” Ted offered
“Yeah, okay.” She moved quickly toward the house, Ted following to open up the door. Jerry just sat there, not knowing how to feel.
“A squad car will come out later and take our statements.” Ted returned shortly, followed by Ellie. “I left a message on Mr. Warren’s machine. We might need him.”
“Can I help?” Jerry kept his attention on her.
“No. No bodies have washed up on shore. Great Whites only bite once. Most shark attacks are accidents. If he was killed…” She paused to swallow past a lump in her throat, and then she continued. “Sharks don’t swallow their victims’ whole. He’d wash up.”
“That’s good to know.” Jerry refused to believe that the creature in the cove had ever followed the shark’s rulebook. He was not about to say anything that would further distress Ellie.
“In any case, they will call if they find anything. My parents are combing the coastline, but if he is dead, then he’ll most likely wash up in the cove. Ted said I could stay here and wait for news. Is that okay with you?”
“Yeah,” Jerry shrugged.
“Thank you.” Ellie lowered her eyes. “Can I ask what it was, that was worth your lives? Now that you’ve gotten it, it can’t hurt to show me. I promise I won’t take it. I won’t even tell anyone if you want to keep it secret.”
“I don’t see the harm.” Ted retrieved the netted bag and, with a loud grunt, dumped it on the white plastic lawn table. The table shook uneasily under the weight but did not collapse. He pulled the metal box from the bag. It was a little over a foot in each dimension, a nearly perfect dirt encrusted cube with just a hint of yellowish glinting between the muck, so much like the promise of their future.
“Is that gold?” She asked. “Old Teller’s stories were true.”
“It’s gold if his journals are correct,” Jerry said.
“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about paying off Ted’s boat.” She said in awe.
“Ahem,” Ted pulled a red satin pouch from his pocket. He reached inside and pulled out an iron key with gold adornments.
“Ted?” Jerry asked.
“I don’t know for sure if it’ll fit, but look at the markings.”
Jerry took the key and studied the ornamentation. The similarities in the markings visible on the box were undeniable.
“That opens the box?” Ellie asked.
“How did you get it?”
“I think it does,” Ted said. “It was passed down, like the house and logbook. I found it at the bottom of Captain Teller’s chest. I didn’t tell you because you had enough to think about.”
Ted turned the box over until Ellie found a keyhole.
“It’s pretty gunked up. I don’t think it’ll go in.” She said.
“I’m starving, what do we have to eat?” Ted announced. Jerry’s nervous stomach agreed.
“Why don’t I call a cab? We can get my car from the dock and grab some food from the store.” Ellie said. “I’d like to have at least one car around, just in case. Maybe we should have a pro look at your hands.”
“I’m all right, “Jerry said. “You do good work.”
“Good idea,” Ted said. “I’ll get the BBQ going and start cleaning the box. I’ll call a cab while you and Jer can clean up. There are some women’s shirts in the closet, in the first bedroom. I think they belonged to our grandma when she was your age. They should fit.”