By Deniece Greene
Copyright 2012 Deniece Greene
What is that god-awful noise?
Royce thought as he struggled to open his eyes through the sledge hammer pounding on his skull. It seemed to be keeping time to the beat of music blaring from very large speakers in very close proximity.
“Oh my God, Jonah, you are giving me a headache,” Natie said rubbing her temples. “I want to relax and work on my tan, not listen to you pound on that stupid crate. I don’t know why Becki had to bring that thing on board anyway. It’s probably full of junk no-one else wanted, a stupid time-capsule or something.
“Well we won’t know if we don’t get it open, will we?” Jonah asked snidely, as he continued to pound and pry using the limited resources he had available on the boat.
“Seriously, leave the stupid thing alone Jonah, Uncle Kurt has the tools to open it at his house, and you are giving me a headache! Give it a rest!”
“My breathing gives you a headache,” Jonah complained, as he threw the hammer and screw driver he had been using into a small tool box.
Becki ignored the exchange between Natie and Jonah; concentrating instead on rinsing the saltwater from her mask and regulator. She would take the equipment home and dump it in the bathtub to clean it thoroughly, but this would work for now. Saltwater deposits could build up and destroy scuba gear if it wasn’t properly cared for.
Becki had hoped to find a few sharks’ teeth while she and Jonah were diving, but they had not had any luck today. She had found a crate though, the one Natie and Jonah were arguing over; of course, they had been arguing over one thing or another for the last four years, so why should today be any different?
As Becki shook her head and continued to clean her equipment, Natie continued to argue with Jonah, and Royce struggled to piece together the events of the past few days. Where the hell was he? He tried shifting into a more comfortable position, but seemed to be tightly wedged into a very small space.
Royce St. John led a Special Operations Force, for the Secret Council of Elders. “The Council” consisted of both mortal and immortal members, and Chief Elder Arimus ruled with a strong hand. Their primary function was to make sure humans continued to believe Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, and other “mythical” creatures were just that, a myth.
Royce’s team had been called in to locate and return a set of coins that had been stolen centuries ago. The coins were quite special and potentially deadly; if this particular set of coins ended up in the wrong hands, the consequences could be devastating to the entire world.
As his brain struggled to analyze exactly where he might be, he heard something that made his blood run cold.
“Jonah, don’t worry about the crate right now. I’ll get Uncle Kurt to work on it,” Becki offered, hoping to avoid the inevitable shouting match between Natie and Jonah.
“Fine,” Jonah agreed, “I’ll just shove it off to the side, and you can deal with it later. Hand me a beer, would you?”
Suddenly, Royce felt himself moving. What the hell?
“Shit Becki,” Jonah complained as he shoved the crate out of the center of the walkway, “this crate seems heavier than it did when we pulled it out of water. Kurt may have to come and pick the bitch up.”
This could not be right, his brain could not be functioning properly; there was no way hell he could be…trapped in a crate?
“Jonah, do you have to cuss all the time? You know I don’t like to hear it. You could say the same thing without using those words,” Natie said, her eyes never leaving the article she was currently reading.
“I don’t like to hear you complaining all the time, but that doesn’t stop you,” Jonah responded.
Becki groaned inwardly the constant bickering between Natie and Jonah were about to get on her very last nerve. If she had to watch him flirt with one more waitress, counter worker, or tourist, things were going to get ugly. He was definitely not the kind of person she would have picked for Natie, but she would tolerate him because she loved her sister.
Natie’s dad had married Becki’s mother when the girls were five years old. From that day to this, the Stephens Girls were a sight to behold and double-trouble when they needed to be. Becki wasn’t sure how much more of Jonah’s obnoxious behavior she could tolerate before he got an up-close look at trouble – in all capital letters.
Royce was a person of process. He needed to think things through from the very beginning, and then figure out how to get out of this mess. He couldn’t just burst out of the crate like some bimbo popping out of a life-sized birthday cake at some old geezer’s ninetieth birthday party.
Royce blocked out the fighting and bickering still going on between the two love-birds, and got down to business.
The Secret Council of Elders had contacted Royce and his Special Ops Team to recover a set of missing coins. Arimus, the Chief Elder, had explained that the coins were originally Merlin’s, who had “spelled” each of them centuries ago. Unfortunately, the coins had been stolen by Pierce Regan, a rogue warlock, who had then disappeared. Pierce had eventually double-crossed the wrong immortal and met a gruesome end. At some point, the coins had been separated and fallen into circulation.
The coins should have been easy to locate and recover, because Merlin had feared they might someday fall into the wrong hands. He had hidden a unique frequency in each coin as he created them. The hidden frequency should have functioned similarly to a modern day “homing beacon”. However, Pierce had been a trusted friend to Merlin and knew what measures to take in order to avoid discovery. After stealing the coins, Pierce had “cloaked” them all by wrapping each coin separately in a spell crafted specifically to suppress the unique frequency Merlin had so carefully woven into each one.
Witches, working for the Council, had been trying to lift the “magic cloak” for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, the task had turned out to be very difficult, almost impossible. Recently, however, they had been receiving intermittent, random signals from the coins. The Council had decided it was time to turn the reins over to their Special Ops Team. That was where the story ended, according to Arimus.
However, it was beginning to appear that some of the details might have been omitted during the meeting. It seems, that someone or something else was also interested in coin collecting. Royce would be clearing that situation up with Arimus just as soon as he got out of this damn box.
ART, otherwise known as the “Artifact Recovery Team” was Royce’s baby. They had successfully tracked one of the coins from Italy, to Savanna, and finally to Charleston, South Carolina. Royce had then simply walked into an antique shop and casually purchased the priceless coin for a bargain price of two-hundred dollars. The owner of the antique shop had discovered the “rare coin” while cleaning out her brother’s apartment shortly after his death.
“The circumstances surrounding my brother’s, death were a little sketchy,” she had remarked. Evidently his body had been found in an alley, riddled with puncture wounds and deep gashes. The authorities suspected his injuries were sustained as a result of an “animal attack”, but Royce had other ideas as to what might have caused Allen Baker’s death.
Royce had expressed his sympathy at her loss, purchased the coin, and then asked the shopkeeper to wrap it in one of her small velvet pouches “to prevent it from being scratched”. He was somewhat amazed at how easily this coin had been recovered.
Pocketing the coin, he mentally drew a hash-mark; one down, five to go. Royce remembered holding the door open for an older gentleman as he was exiting the shop; the gentleman had tipped his hat, smiled, and wished Royce a ‘good day’.
Something about that little man had seemed off. He couldn’t shake the feeling, so Royce had contacted Sean with instructions to pull surveillance video of the area to review.
“No can do boss,” Sean had immediately responded, “the surveillance cameras are down.”
“Shit,” Royce did not like to be told ‘no’, “when will they be back on-line?”
“Not sure, it shouldn’t be too long. I’ll see if I can get him when he leaves the shop,” Sean had promised.
Still, one coin had been easily secured and in the spirit of celebration, Royce had decided to treat himself to a detour through White Point Gardens. He had planned to enjoy the majestic Oaks and Spanish-moss one last time, before leaving the city. And that is where it all went to “hell in a hand basket”.
“Son of a bitch,” Royce muttered.
“Jonah, I thought I asked you to stop with the language,” Natie snapped immediately.
Oops! Royce almost laughed aloud, but that would not be a good idea, so he settled for a silent chuckle.
“What? I didn’t–”
“Natie,” Becki interrupted, “are you sure you don’t want to go down with me tomorrow and hunt for teeth?” she asked; as if she didn’t already know the answer to that question.
“Need I remind you that if you are finding sharks’ teeth, there have been or still are sharks out there?” Natie shivered.
“Don’t be a big baby. The water temperature is awesome, and I promise to protect you if we run into sharks, eels, giant octopi or any other man-eating sea creature,” Becki said biting her lip. She tried, but could not mask the laughter sparkling in her eyes.
Sharks! What the-?
Had Royce heard correctly?
After reaching White Point Gardens, Royce remembered feeling a prickly-tingling sensation. He scanned the area while reaching for his weapon; they were close by. He caught a glimpse of– What? Who? Witches, it had to be. They had to be the ones responsible for boxing him up like last year’s Christmas decorations. As if simply immobilizing him were not enough, they had evidently then dumped him in the ocean. Why? Presumably, their intent had been to slow him down. If they had wanted him dead, he would be shark food by now. Royce breathed as deeply as the confined space would allow. While he was appreciative of the magical seal around the crate, he would not be passing out forgiveness any time soon; when he found those Witchy women…well, the reunion would not be pleasant.
“Ha!” Natie scoffed, “you know I’m not going down in those shark-infested waters with you. I’m perfectly content right here.” Natie was not really what you would consider the “outdoorsy type”, she didn’t like bugs or snakes, didn’t like the ocean because there were fish in it, was not a fan of camping, hiking, or anything else that did not involve at least four stars and room service. With long blond hair and big blue eyes, she was used to being flirted with, pampered, and catered to. Everyone loved Natie. Well, everyone except Jonah it seemed.
“I wish I could get this stupid thing open,” Jonah said, smacking the top of the crate as he passed by.
He and Becki had been diving earlier in shallow water, looking for sharks’ teeth, when she spotted the crate. It looked fairly new, wasn’t overly large, and turned out to be fairly light weight. Becki sure hoped it wasn’t full of drugs or something else illegal. She planned to text her uncle to see if he could help her open it tomorrow.
Kurt, her mother’s brother, was a master diver and an expert in “all-things-ocean”. He was also a building contractor with a garage full of tools; surely they could find something to pry off that stubborn lid. God knew Jonah could barely open a can of beer, and the thought of power tools in his hand was enough to send her screaming into the next county.
“Don’t worry about it Jonah,” Becki said, standing up to stretch, “I’ll deal with it later. Right now, we need to pull anchor and get back to the marina.” Becki made her way to the captain’s chair calling over her shoulder, “What are you guys doing tonight? Are you going to come in to the pub for dinner?”
Jonah started to answer, “That sounds-”
“No.” Natie interrupted him. “We are going downtown for a carriage ride after dinner, and then having an early night. I have a seaweed body wrap and spa pedicure scheduled for tomorrow morning.” Glancing toward Becki she asked, “Do you want to go with?”
“I guess we aren’t going to the pub,” Jonah sarcastically rolled his eyes.
Becki concentrated on guiding the boat back toward the marina. She loved her sister, but Jonah? Not so much. Together, they could “wear you out like no other”. There was no way that Natie could be happy with him. As high-school sweet hearts, they had been a cute couple, one of the in crowd. The fire had dimmed somewhere around the time that Natie had caught Jonah with their mutual friend Rena. Why they continued to torture each other remained a mystery to everyone. Break-up, make-up seemed to be the theme of their relationship. Their life was nothing but drama, drama, drama. Natie, with her natural charisma, collected admirers everywhere she went, which tended to make Jonah jealous. She loved to look good and thrived on attention, but Natie was a one-man-woman. Unfortunately, Jonah was that one man.
Becki checked the time. Her shift started at six o’clock this evening, so there was no way she could clean off the boat right now. Chances were good that she could talk Landon into meeting her at the marina after work to pick up the crate and her diving gear.
“Have fun tonight, and give me a call after your pedicure and seaweed wrap. You know that appointment is way too early for me,” Becki said as she hugged Natie. By-passing Jonah, she rushed to the parking lot and quickly climbed into her cute little yellow sports car. The car had been a gift from her parents and was just perfect for zipping around town. The down side was the lack of cargo space, definitely not enough room for the crate. She waved at the couple as she zoomed past them.
“Anything before noon is too early for you!” Natie yelled. This was so true. Becki enjoyed nothing more than lazing in bed in the morning. Too bad there hadn’t been anyone she wanted to ‘laze’ with lately. Where was her dream man anyway?
“Royce. Are you there? Royce? Come on man, answer me. Royce!”
What have those Witches done?
Royce wondered. Now I’m hearing voices. Could it get any worse?
“Royce. It’s me, Sean.” Royce wrinkled his brow. That voice sounded awfully real.
“I know you hear me man, respond!”
He couldn’t even think straight, much less respond. That sounded a lot like his Techno-Expert, Sean.
“Royce, your watch is a video transmitter. Talk to me.”
Glancing in the direction of his wrist, Royce saw a glow. Angling his wrist to get a better look, which was not easy in the confined space, he saw Sean’s goofy face on the screen of his watch.
“It’s about time, I was getting worried,” Sean complained with a grin.
“Worried? How long have I been MIA?” Royce croaked. His throat was dry, but at least the drum beat in his head was subsiding. Note to self; next time you leave for a quick snatch & grab mission, stick some pain killers in your pocket. “You do have someone on the way to get me out of this damn box, right?”
“Sure thing boss, help is on the way,” Sean answered, seeming less than confident.
“So, how long have I been in here? The days have run together.” Royce asked again.
“It’s been-, well, right at twenty-three months since you dropped off the radar,” Sean answered hesitantly. “Wait till Joanna finds out. When the alarm tripped on the tracking system earlier, I thought it was a false reading,” he continued more enthusiastically.
“Come again?” Royce roared. “Did you say twenty-three months?”
“Well-, yes; but, we never gave up hope! We knew you would surface eventually.”
“Eventually? Twenty-three months, that’s two years!”
“Not quite,” Sean inserted quietly.
“What the hell have you been doing? You have the best technology in the world at your disposal, and you haven’t been able to find me in the last two years? I’ve been in this box for two damn years?” Royce’s temper was quickly reaching the boiling point. He banged angrily on the sides of the crate with his fists, and although it moved slightly, it would not open.
“Hey man, calm down,” Sean soothed. “You’ve been in a box? So that’s how they did it.”
“That is still a mystery. But, we suspect the Witches.”
“Ya think?” Royce responded sarcastically.
“I’m showing your location just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.” Royce could hear the keyboard clicking as Sean typed furiously. “It looks like a marina.”
“No shit Sean, marinas are normally located close to large bodies of water. Like the one I’ve been hanging out in, trapped in a box, for the last two blasted years.” Royce was yelling now, his voice getting stronger and louder.
This was the voice Sean knew; the voice that made his team quake in their boots when someone screwed up. Each member of the team, hand-picked personally by Royce, knew that mistakes were not tolerated. Mistakes in this line of work could result in death; yours, another member of the team, or worse yet; the death of an innocent. Mistakes could also, it seemed, put you at the bottom of the ocean for indefinite periods of time. Royce took a breath, held it for a moment, and then released it in a rush. He had made a big mistake, committed the cardinal sin by relaxing his guard. That did not sit well with him. Thank God he had been the only one to pay the price, this time.
“The crate is spelled, Royce. That’s why we couldn’t track you,” Sean explained. “Your last known location was just off Battery Park twenty-three months ago. We dispatched a recovery team immediately, but there was a storm, and we lost the signal.” He breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m so glad you are ok. But – you did have a great funeral,” Sean added quietly.
“You had a funeral?” Royce asked, chuckling. “Well, I’m not dead you idiot, so get your ass down here, and get me out of this damn box!”
Royce, who normally did not mind confined spaces, was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic. He needed a drink, a cigarette, and a woman, in that order. He pounded again on the sides and lid of the crate, testing for weakness, looking for a way out. How did they even sandwich his body into this thing? He frowned, noticing that his body was not really all that solid. It was, in fact, almost transparent. “Damn Witches,” Royce muttered.
“We had to have a funeral Royce,” Sean explained. “We knew you would resurface, but for everyone else-, you know we had to do it. By the way, the ‘wicked Witch of the west’ is on her way. She has a few things to talk to you about.” Sean didn’t envy Royce this particular bit of family business, especially as pissed as she was at the moment.
“Don’t tell me – Joanna?” Royce groaned. “You just had to call her, didn’t you?” His head began to pound again.
Joanna was a valuable member of ART; she was also his sister. She would yell at him for getting caught, little sparks of angry blue light shooting from her eyes. After she got that out of her system, she would fling her arms around him and hug him too tightly making him promise never to do something like that again. Royce really hoped they could skip the crying part of the reunion, he hated crying.
Joanna’s mother had married Royce’s father when Joanna was two years old. Royce had spent the last 20 years of his life watching over her, trying to keep her safe; which was not an easy task when it came to Joanna. Her special skills had started to manifest around age three. Royce, who was at that time a teenager, hadn’t known that Witches truly did exist. He certainly hadn’t known his father’s beautiful new bride was a Witch. He also had no clue that his father was leading a special division of warriors who worked with a secret council to keep the planet in balance.
Royce grew up quickly that summer. He learned that the world was full of things that could not be seen or heard, but could be felt, if you were paying close enough attention. He was a natural at paying attention, so he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps to serve the Secret Council of Elders. After many intense conversations with his father, Aaron, and step-mother, Tammy, Royce began training with ART while he finished school. He kept a close eye on his baby sister, sometimes studying in her room while she played or napped. When Joanna started floating objects and making things disappear, it had been quite a shock; however the day she got mad and turned him into a goat had been the worst day of his life. Her teen years had been a challenge for them all, because teenage Witches could experience horrific mood swings.
Joanna also joined the team as soon as she could talk her parents into it. Of course, she used the argument that Royce would be there to take care of her, and she could help take care of him. “Taking Care” translated to “meddling in”, and she often pushed the boundaries of her power if she suspected he was in danger. He loved Joanna more than anything in the world and couldn’t wait to see her.
Joanna’s mother, Tammy, had retired from the Secret Council at the same time his father retired from the Special Ops team about five years ago- well, actually seven years ago. Royce could not believe he had been gone for almost two years. Aaron and Tammy now spent their time traveling and making their own adventures. Maybe he should get in touch with Tammy and his father to act as a buffer until Joanna calmed down. This time, he thought, she might actually turn him into a “braying ass” as she had threatened to do so many times.
Sean sighed, “She was more-than-pissed that I lost you. I’m trying to get back in her good graces. She said she is on her way back to the States and mentioned something about Eeyore, but I didn’t catch it all.”
“I called your parents too. They said to give you their love and they would see you soon. Tammy wanted to come right away, but Aaron said they would let you get your bearings first.” Still typing at warp-speed, Sean reassured him, “I’m assembling a recon team Royce, so just hang in there. It might take a few days before we can get to you. The coin that surfaced in Rio turned out to be very tedious, so everyone has been dispatched to bring it in. The Council doesn’t want to take any chances. Evidently this one is particularly nasty.”
Royce started to ask for details on the ‘nasty’ coin, but he could hear voices approaching. Details would have to wait until he got out of this box, which he hoped would be sometime very soon.
“Someone is approaching, we’ll discuss it later.” He whispered to Sean. However, there was one tidbit of information that wouldn’t wait, “Do you have any idea when this thing will open?”
“It seems to be connected with the tide or moon. I’m not sure, but I’m working on it.”
“Work faster, damn it.” Royce instructed, clenching his jaw tightly.
“Thanks for coming out here with me Landon.” A female voice filtered through the crate.
That sounded like the girl who found him earlier today- Becki? He owed her, for the accidental rescue. He would have to send flowers from an anonymous admirer.
“I know it’s late, but I wanted to get my gear home and cleaned up tonight. Uncle Kurt would kill me if I waited ‘til tomorrow.” She puffed out her chest and spoke in a deep voice, imitating her uncle, “Your diving gear is your lifeline. Treat it that way,” she said with a scowl. Immediately a smile replaced the mock scowl, “I’ve heard the lecture a hundred times, so thanks for the save.”
Landon flashed a dimple, “You know he just wants you to be safe.”
Landon was quite the lady’s man, with thick muscles, blond hair, and baby blue eyes that almost danced. He was the stuff dreams were made of. Landon and Kurt had been friends most of their adult lives. As surrogate Uncle to Kurt’s three daughters, he had immediately included Becki in that category when she moved in with her uncle last year. Becki normally worked the late shift, so it was nice to have a night-owl like Landon around when she needed the odd “late-night rescue”.
Landon had just closed down the One-Eyed Parrot. He had spent the last two hours trying to dodge the blond, busty, female barracuda circling the bar. He knew with certainty that he didn’t want her to catch him, even if her husband was paying more attention to his poker hand than he was to his wife. Becki’s call had come in the nick of time giving Landon a way to bow out gracefully.
Landon had never been married and did not have children of his own. Someday, he hoped to meet his mate, but right now he was enjoying his freedom and having fun. Landon’s kind mated for life, so he didn’t mind playing the field for the time being; there was no need to rush into anything. He would go to the ends of the Earth for Kurt’s girls, which now included Becki. Tonight’s rescue was not an inconvenience to him.
Clarissa, the oldest of Kurt’s three daughters, recently turned sixteen and started dating. Her first date had sent Kurt and Landon into a panic, and ok-, perhaps they hadn’t handled it in the best way-; the night had ended with Clarissa stomping up the stairs and threating to move away. It seems that her date took offense to the camo gear and firearms strapped to their chests.
Kurt’s younger girls, Leann age fourteen and Mandy twelve were sure to be heart breakers as well. Maybe they would get it figured out before Leann started dating, but neither of them was willing to make any promises.
Becki, Kurt’s twenty-two year old niece, had recently moved to South Carolina. Her mother had laughed and told them that Becki was “their practice run”, a chance to watch over and worry about someone who is reaching for independence. It was a much more difficult job than they had thought it would be.
“I just love it here,” Becki said stepping off the pier and onto her boat, left foot first. “I’m so glad I have family – and great friends – to help out in my times of need. Thanks again,” Becki said as she gave Landon a quick hug.
“There it is,” she said motioning toward the crate. “Could we put it in your truck and drop it by my house?” Becki asked. “I’m pretty sure it won’t fit in my car.”
“That’s no surprise. Not much will fit in that little clown car,” Landon said, as he sized up the crate.
“Hey, be nice to Bee. I look hot driving her,” Becki said laughing as she slugged him on the shoulder.
Leaving the crate to Landon, Becki turned to start gathering her dive gear. She and Jonah had been looking for shark’s teeth, but didn’t score any today. Local shop owners loved to get sharks’ teeth because they were a big hit with tourists. She had found a Megalodon tooth that had sold for over two-hundred dollars. Hunting for teeth was a hobby for Becki. It was like an underwater Easter egg hunt, and the fact that she could make money doing something she loved was a bonus.
“What do you have in here anyway, a body? It’s heavy,” Landon groaned as he tested the weight of the box. He could have carried the thing all the way home in one hand but didn’t want Becki to know the extent of his strength. It would lead to questions he did not want to answer.
“Don’t be such a sissy; use those big muscles. I put it on the boat myself it’s not that heavy,” Becki scoffed.
Put it on the boat herself? It had to weigh more than two hundred pounds
. “I’ll be right back. I want to see if Jack has a two wheeled cart we can use,” he called to her as he jumped onto the dock with superior agility.
Seriously, what is wrong with him?
Becki rolled her eyes as she watched him stride away. He didn’t seem to have trouble lifting kegs of beer, and they were heavier than that crate! Becki would just load it in his truck herself, while he was tracking down Jack and the cart.
As she moved toward the crate, she heard a voice saying “Move faster, damn it”. She looked around, but didn’t see anyone. Ok, that was kind of creepy, but sound does travel funny on the water, she told herself. Landon would be back any second-, she hoped.
Becki grabbed a hold of the crate and started to pick it up only to find that she could not budge it. “Shit, this thing is heavy,” she said out loud.
It was certainly heavier than she remembered. Frowning, she wondered how she was able to heave it into the boat earlier. Maybe it was just waterlogged now. Suddenly her cell phone vibrated, signaling an incoming call. Her sister’s picture flashed on the display.
“Oh no, now what?” she muttered as she lifted the phone to her ear, “Natie? Hello?”
“I’m so sick of his ass,” Natie mumbled.
Becki heard her sister sniffing and knew she was crying, again, over that idiot.
“He thinks he can just do whatever he wants, and I should be ok with it. He gets mad when I ask where he is going and what he is doing, but is it any wonder I don’t trust him! He’s been texting someone all evening. I know it’s that bimbo from the restaurant downstairs.”
“Oh Natie, I’m sorry. Do you want me to come over?” Becki offered.
“No,” Natie answered, “you don’t need to come all the way downtown.”
“I know you’re probably not in the mood to hear this, but you deserve better than that jerk,” Becki said, feeling her face turn red with anger. “I would dump his lame ass in a hot minute.”
“I know,” Natie sniffed again. “Well, I hear him swiping the key card now. He’s probably so drunk he has it in backwards. I need to go let him in before he wakes up everyone else in the hotel.”
“Yes, it would be a shame if he was arrested for public intox,” Becki agreed, wanting nothing more than to drive downtown and beat his head in.
“Don’t be mean to him when you see him tomorrow,” Natie begged. “I love you, and I’ll text you when I’m done with my pedi. Night.”
“Night, call me if you need me.” What a total jackass, Becki thought as she ended the call.
Landon strolled down the pier; pushing a cart in front of him, “Success!” he bragged, wiggling his eyebrows up and down.
“It’s about time,” Becki replied, glancing around. “Did you see anyone else close by?”
Landon frowned, “No, why?” he asked, breathing deeply. If anyone were around, he would know it. He did not pick up the scent of anyone close by. “Is your imagination working overtime, scaredy-cat?” he teased, as he maneuvered the cart as close to the boat as possible.
“Oh, kiss my ass. Why would I be scared with a big strong bone-head like you to protect me?” Becki asked, fluttering her eyes in mock adoration.
“Exactly,” Landon made a fist, showcasing his “guns” “Now let’s get this loaded so I can get home before the sun comes up.”
As if it mattered, sunlight did not bother him in the least, unlike Vamps who dealt with daylight limitations. In recent years, their “daylight allergy” had become less of an issue due to new breakthroughs in technology. In Landon’s opinion, Vamps were bad enough at night without technology enabling them to roam during daylight hours. Progress was not always a good thing.
“Whatever,” Becki said, moving to the opposite side of the crate. “You were the one who had to go find Jack so you could use the cart. Let’s get this show on the road, my feet are killing me.”
It had been a long day with Natie and Jonah and an even longer night at work. The kitchen was backed up, customers were grouchy, and two waitresses had called in sick. The approaching tropical storm didn’t help anyone’s attitude. Hurricane Hugo had devastated the area years ago, so everyone watched tropical storms pretty closely now.
Landon gripped his side of the crate. “Now, when I say lift, we lift and walk toward the pier and set it down close to the cart. Ready? One, two, three… lift.”
Royce braced himself, certain that he was about to be dropped. Oh shit, here we go.
Landon made sure to support the bulk of the crate, but let Becki think she was helping. Soon it was loaded into his truck, and they were on their way to Becki’s house. Shaking his head, he watched Becki take a corner at warp speed; she was practically on two wheels. Fast was the only way she knew how to drive a car. Why her parents ever bought her a sports car, he would never know. She really needed a Sherman Tank. She was already trudging up the steps to the front door when he pulled in the driveway. Landon knew she had been out on the water today and then worked a full shift. She looked like she was dragging.
“I’ll get this,” he said, when she started back down the stairs to come and help him. “You go in and sit down a minute. I’ll come through to say goodnight before I leave.”
“Deal,” she answered gratefully, “I’ll let you in the back door.”
Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he slid the crate out of the truck-bed. Once on the ground, he strapped it to the cart, wheeled it into the back yard, and placed it on her deck.
“’Night,” Landon called as he walked through the living room on his way out the front door to Becki’s house. “I put the crate on your deck. Lock up when I leave to keep the crazies out.”
“I think it’s too late.” Becki laughed, “One already got in.” Following him to the door, she handed him a glass of sweet tea to-go. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks again for rescuing this damsel in distress.”
“Any time darlin’,” he said stepping through the doorway and pulling the door closed behind him. He stood waiting until he heard the lock click into place. “Get some sleep!” Landon called as he stepped off the porch and walked silently to his truck.
He would make someone a nice catch Becki decided. She would start keeping her eyes open for someone she thought might be good for him.
“Sean,” Royce whispered, “they have moved me to a new location.”
“I’ve got you,” Sean responded immediately, “and you will never believe where you are.”
“You are talking to the guy who just spent two years ‘swimming with the fishes’,” Royce responded. “I’ll believe just about anything.”
“Let’s not dwell on the past.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“You remember Ryker’s house on Isle of Palms?” Sean quickly diverted, “It looks like you are on his deck.”
“No shit? Come and get me,” Royce growled, “I think my spleen is bruised from being pushed out of the truck bed.”
“I’m en-route now Boss; I should be there by mid-morning. I’ve talked to Joanna who said the moonlight should have triggered the unlocking sequence associated with the spell. It looks like they vaporized your body, but she said everything should return to normal when the crate opens,” Sean reassured him, then added slyly, “with little or no side effects.”
“This son-of-a-bitch is still locked up tight,” Royce said as he tested the top and sides of the crate again with his fists. “I guess I’ll sit tight, and I do mean that literally, for the next few hours. Tell Joanna she had better be right about this.”
“She is working on a contingency plan, just in case,” Sean said cheerfully. “I’m getting ready to go through the mountains, so I may lose you.”
“Alright, just hurry,” Royce urged. Thinking back to what Sean had said earlier, he asked, “What ‘side effects’ are we talking about?”
Of course, there was no immediate response.
“Sean? Sean! Damn it, this is not funny.”
“Sorry Boss, just kidding.”
Royce heard rustling sounds from Sean’s end of the conversation. He was multi-tasking; Sean could never do just one thing at a time. He had too much energy. It wore a man out trying to keep up with him.
“I’ve got to take this link from the council. I’ll see you soon,” Sean said in a rush, disconnecting before Royce could get a straight answer about the possible “side-effects” Joanna had mentioned.
What the hell is going on with the Council? He needed a full update on the status of all missions. He also needed this damn crate to open, his body was becoming more solid, and the son-of-a-bitch was getting tight. Why were the Witches involved, Royce wondered, and why did they care about the coins? He could not believe they had done this to him. He had known the majority of all practicing Witches for most of his adult life, counting them as friend, not foe. It didn’t hurt that his sister was half Witch, which probably explained why they hadn’t just killed him. He might as well try to get some sleep while he waited for the moon to work its magic. As he closed his eyes, trying not to dwell on how hot it was getting inside that box, he wondered what morning would bring.
Inside the house, Becki turned out the lights and headed to bed. Before putting her phone on the charger, she sent a quick text to Kurt; Stop by tomorrow? Need ur help. Nothing wrong! Night love u B. She added the part about there being ‘nothing wrong’, because she didn’t want him to jump in his truck and drive over to her house the second he was conscious enough to read the text message.
Kurt was very much like his father, Becki’s grandfather. Both men were fiercely protective of their girls and worked hard to keep them all happy. Papaw always said he could “fix anything but a broken heart“. He could too, she thought smiling. The world needed more men like that.
Becki thought about the crate, imagining what might be inside. Just before sleep claimed her, she felt a shimmer of unease crawl down her spine and prayed she had not found Pandora’s Box.
* * * *
Treasure Tides by Deniece Greene – available on Smashwords November 2012.
WIN a FREE download of Treasure Tides – Like Deniece Greene’s Facebook Page to register for a chance to win a free download of Treasure Tides – The Coins – Book 1 (CLICK HERE)
Follow Deniece Greene on Twitter @DenieceGreene