“Just One more…”
Okay, okay, I am so excited about my latest book that although I told myself, “No more teasers!” I find that I am not listening to my own advice. So…here is ‘just one more’! We are preparing for a pre-release post with where I will unveil the book cover and set the release date.
Chapter 7 – The Meddling Few
The two men continued to crawl further toward the creek, heavily laden with camouflaged packs, and once under the cover of the thick brush and tree boughs overhead they risked additional speed by rising to a crouching position. In this position they made their way down the slope toward the sound of the rushing creek. Their descent was silent and would have been difficult to follow with an observer’s eye. Whoever they were, they were like an apparition of the forest.
The enormous pack on their back did not appear to hinder or even bother the men. Inside were many, many assorted tools, weapons, highly technical electronics; items that were completely unknown to the common man. Yet, with them were also simple things such as any individual could identify and use.
Closer they worked their way toward the stream below. Once within fifteen feet of the bank the two men huddled together and one slid his left sleeve up, revealing a tiny laminated map that appeared to show the mountain range to their left and ahead as well as the creek by which they crouched. No words were spoken, but the largest of the two tapped the map on his arm after having surveyed his surroundings and pointed upstream to the other. The smaller of the two started off as the other man pulled his sleeve back down and then fished his binoculars out and pointed them upstream examining every bush, tree, rock, log, and stump. Nothing escaped scrutiny. They were too close now to get in a hurry. One mistake is all that it would take. Finally satisfied, he slid the binoculars back and followed his partner; catching up quickly and flashing a gloved-thumbs up to let him know it was safe to proceed.
Within ten minutes they were overlooking the wide and dark pool, unaware that it was the new favorite fishing hole of two boys that were just above sleeping off a full lunch of fish. Without a word they stared at it from one end to the other, encircling its perimeters several times with an appreciative gaze. Suddenly the larger of the two spoke up, barely above a whisper.
“This is it.”
“Yep.” Came the reply.
Immediately they quartered the perimeter until they came to the gentle sloped bank and there unburdened themselves with the large packs; dragging them off and quickly opening them. It was show time. They had one hour from now to accomplish their mission and be gone. Quickly the two men laid out their gear on the dirt bank in an organized array. A small cylinder, a belt with several tools attached, a crowbar, a small handsaw, a diving mask and flippers. The layout then took a more ominous arrangement as small carbine came out of the bag as well as several other small packages wrapped a soft bag and sealed in a drab olive Pelican case. Several other items were pulled out and laid on the ground. Then just as quickly the men began to shed their boots and outer clothes.
* * *
Josh Mundy’s eyes came open suddenly. He felt somewhat rested, but it was more the thought process in the back of his mind that woke him then the adequate amount of rest. That deep pool wouldn’t get out of his mind. He rolled his head over and looked at Vern; he was sleeping soundly, his mouth slightly open. Josh lay there a few more seconds, making up his mind, and then quietly spun ninety-degrees on his sleeping bag and poked his feet into his sandals and stood.
Looking around, only moving his head, Josh finally found what he was looking for: Vern’s backpack. Josh was reasonably sure that he knew what he would find and feeling like a burglar and a thief, he stole his way over and carefully knelt down. His knees popped and it sounded like a thunderclap to him. He glanced over at Vern, but he hadn’t moved a muscle. Josh quickly plunged his hand in and started a slow circuit of the bag, layer by layer. Then he felt it! The unmistakable soft, pliable seal of the diving mask. Josh slid his fingers around its faceplate and slowly pulled upwards, past the rest of the contents. Slowly, slowly…slowly, trying very carefully not to create an avalanche of miscellaneous hullabaloo inducing camping gear. Finally, the mask cleared the mouth of the bag, free from any entanglements. Josh held it there for a moment and swiveled his head toward Vern – he was still asleep. Quickly, Josh stood and quietly he made his way in the direction of the creek and that mysterious pool. Once Josh made a hundred feet or so, he pickup the pace up and eventually he was dashing and swerving amongst the thick bushes and chirping squirrels overhead, his heart beating at the rate of anticipation.
* * *
After having carefully hidden their heavy packs in the brush several yards away they gave their gear another ‘once over’. The one diver looked over at the other and initiated a thumb up signal with a gloved hand. The other man nodded and returned it. Only their eyes and noses were visible, everything else was covered in black neoprene and tools and equipment. They immediately started backing their way into the pool, sliding the heel of their flippers along the bed of the creek. Suddenly they were both plunging downward, the bank giving way to nothingness in a simultaneous moment. The lead man turned his head one last time to position his descent and then he was gone. The surface slapped back together, expressing its eternal hatred for the vacuum, as the covered heads of the men disappeared beneath. After several seconds there were only ripples and then after several more there were only small bubbles.
* * *
Josh came peeling up to the creek bank and slid to a stop, his breath coming in short heaves. He stood and stared at the pool, while he recovered from his pilfering flight. It was wide, deep, and nearly inviting. He loved to swim. Always when he was a kid, his parents would have to pry him out of the river, no matter the weather or temperature. He loved to swim. Yet…did he have what it took?
Suddenly, he started to have second thoughts – his imagination beginning to add its input. What was down there? Were those just big fish due to never being disturbed or caught? Then the main question that had him here: How on God’s green earth could a pool in a mountain creek be forty feet deep? He had to know.
Josh dropped the mask beside him and while simultaneously slipping his sandals off he tugged his shirt over his head and then went to work on his trousers. He was going in before he thought too much more about it and talked himself right out of it. He stepped in the water – it was cold. Josh dipped the mask in the water to allow it to acclimate to the stream’s temperature and then splashed some on his face for the same reason. He was going to go as deep as he could his first dive – it may be all that he had the guts to do. Josh knew that he couldn’t reach forty feet; it would be virtually impossible and not safe anyway. He would try for twenty to twenty-five. This depth he had done many times before, albeit with flippers on. Either way he would try. He began to control his breathing and relax his muscles; he needed to allow every ounce of oxygenated blood that he could muster to penetrate the tissue and infuse it with that precious substance as he was fixing to rob it nearly entirely. Now, he was breathing deep and forcefully. Another thirty seconds and he would be ready. Josh splashed water on his face again and dumped the mask out. Deep breath in deep breath out. He was ready. He slipped the masked strap over his head, placed the mask on his face, checked the seal, five more quick hyper ventilations and then he blocked out all doubts in his mind and dove in, striking straight down for the bottom.