Life Is Uncertain - Eat Dessert First!
Copyright© 2012 by Stultus
The ship renovations exceeded my expectations and were more than adequate for our task at hand. With all of the new technology, the former crew requirement of over twenty people was reduced to a core of eight. We hired a Captain, an experienced pair of mates, a Chief Engineer and his assistant, a radio/radar tech, and two crewman/deckhands. The crew was mostly Turkish, from the Izmir area, and my brother Dave, with all of his local connections there, was able to get excellent references for them all. Piracy, often a concern in remote waters, was going to be the last of our worries. For the shakedown cruise, we added an electrician/instrumentation guru who turned out to be so technically useful and genial in personality that we hired him permanently to handle the computers and the 3-D seismic/sonar scan equipment, or as we began to call it, our 3DS3 equipment.
We began daily shakedown cruises off of Izmir to begin testing everything we could think of and found very few problems that couldn't be fixed or bypassed on the spot. The new ship's engine, which we had selected for its reliability, ease of maintenance and fuel efficiency rather than cruising speed or power, purred like a happy kitten. Our only notable deficiency was in the ship's galley. Apparently not one of us could cook anything that the rest of us would enjoy eating even once, let alone weeks on end while at sea. We gave up and hired a cook to fill our up our crew to ten and everyone's morale improved dramatically.
We needn't have been at all worried or concerned about our shiny new and untested 3DS3 equipment, it worked like a charm from the very first test. Dave had spent one entire summer season several years ago doing a slow precise sonar survey of a promising area of coastline near Izmir that he believed should have a number of ancient shipwrecks. Instead of towing a small scanner at the crawling speed of 1 knot (as Dave had done in the original survey), we spent just one day dropping sensors across a one square mile area of sea floor and then launched our towed 3DS3 array behind the boat in the center of our search area and fired off our small seismic detonators. Then we compared the results of the two different surveys and the results were spectacular! We could not only get a complete 3-D mapping of the exact contours of the sea floor, but we could also get some subsurface mappings as well. Our new technology did work, and it produced far clearer images than a now obsolete towed sonar scan could produce ... and at a fraction of the cost and time to produce!
The theory and the equipment worked. At a glance, even a novice marine archeologist could now tell a possible bronze age shipwreck from a modern sunken fishing boat, and have the exact GPS coordinates. Even those ancient wrecks now covered completely by sand and mud appeared clearly in the scan, thanks to the ground penetrating 3-D seismic sensors.
Dave was ecstatic. This was everything he had hoped Hugh could create, and more! In just one day of work, we had identified at least six new very promising locations worthy of diving for further investigate later. Dave and his grad students would be busy for years.
In late March, our client and his crew of two salvage divers joined the ship and we set sail for the coast of Cyprus. We never did get a name for the WW-2 era ship he was allegedly searching for, but we were given some old long range B&W photographs and some rough dimensions. Our target was apparently a small tramp freighter that had been sunk by Allied bombers sometime during 1942. We didn't really know exactly what we were searching for, but our client assured us that he'd know it if he saw it.
No problem. If she was anywhere in the area then we would find her. And we did. It took awhile, but the difficulty was in isolating the correct target from the hundreds of other likely wrecks in the area that our scans revealed, including more than a few that might have future archeological significance. Out of the numerous located sunken ships in the search area, five seemed to fit the profile best and our client sent his divers down to each one. The fourth wreck turned out to be the ship that he was searching for and it was fortunately reasonably easy to get to in about 200 feet of water, and it was most definitely a motherlode! The drivers grinned from ear to ear as they each displayed a small bar of salvaged gold, but I still don't think that it was just the bullion that attracted my client to this one particular wreck.
The client made his private plans to secretly salvage his found gold (mostly likely Nazi loot from North Africa), plus whatever else it was that he was looking for, and we received our final promised payment of $1,000,000, plus the signed transfer title to the ship. We never saw our client again and I'm not entirely sure he ever got his gold — or anything else, salvaged. He was involved in an odd 'freak accident' in Istanbul about two months later that screamed out deliberate murder to my mind. Either someone talked to the wrong person about the gold discovery or else there was much more at stake with this wreck than just mundane gold. Either way, our client was now very dead. And now so was Dave.
I was in Istanbul myself, getting the final legal registration papers for our ship and Dave had gone back to Izmir to meet with his incoming students and grad students taking his usual summer field marine archeology course. He had taken the Texas A&M University owned boat out and was doing some shallow test dives in Izmir harbor to make sure all of the diving equipment was in good condition for the summer when he failed to resurface. His body was found by local divers and one of his grad students the next day. An investigation showed that his air tank was filled with pure CO2, rather than compressed diving air. There were some reports that some of the local staff had seen a few odd strangers near the boat dock and the storage areas, but with all of the new arriving students (many of them Turkish) seeing strange faces wasn't particularly unusual and no one thought twice about it until later.
His death was ruled an unfortunate accident. I believe it was murder, performed by the same folks who had also killed our client about a week earlier. Either they didn't know about me (Dave had always been the more public figure for our enterprise) or I somehow dodged death myself a time or two without ever noticing it. I did hear a funny story upon our return from our cruise around Cyprus that we had been "reported dead", that another ship in our area had suffered a mysterious explosion and for a day or so it had been assumed to be us. A few phone calls to the Consulate had straightened that confusion out, to everyone's slight amusement.
I made all of the arrangements for Dave's funeral (his ashes were buried at sea in an old Phoenician small jug at one of his older, already excavated wreck sites) and I made arrangements with both of Dave's Universities (Mimar Sinan in Istanbul and Texas A&M in the US) to handle the first few weeks of Dave's classes until a permanent replacement professor could be found. My plans were all set to return home when my last hopes for a happy life there were dashed.
Josie had opened my small office safe and given Blake my bogus, but impressive looking research binder!
Before I had left for Turkey, Josie and I had been getting along as well as we ever had during the two years of our marriage. Especially during our last six months our sex life was suddenly rich and full and we now shared many intimate moments together. She had assured me repeatedly that she had no improper relationship with her 'friend' Blake whatsoever and that she would completely respect my privacy wishes and give him nothing, without my explicit permission.
I had begun to really trust her again. I really had, but ... before I left for my overseas project, I had a professional security company secretly set up a new motion activated secret camera for my office (this time with sound) that connected to an image server on the Internet. If Josie or Blake made any attempt to get into my small safe there, I would know about it. I didn't hide the combination very hard and left it in an obvious place (taped underneath my computer keyboard) where they could find it if they really wanted to find it hard enough.
No one had entered my office for over two months, in fact not until I was back in Izmir handling Dave's estate after his death right before I planned to return home. Josie and Blake together were searching my office and upon finding the combination, Josie opened my safe and handed Blake my fake research binder and then hugged him.
The sound quality was less than perfect. In fact it was pretty awful. Josie seemed to be rather emotional and was crying a bit, apparently conflicted about what she was doing, namely betraying me and my interests to her boyfriend. In the end, loyalty to her boyfriend seemed to outweigh her vows to me. They left the office immediately afterwards hand-in-hand. Again, they hadn't kissed, but their affection was obvious.
This for me was the final betrayal.
I phoned up my old lawyer that had handled my original attempted divorce and instructed him to start it up all over again. I would fly back briefly the next week just to sign the necessary paperwork and to file US registration paperwork for our (well, now I guess it's just mine) ship before returning to Turkey ... apparently to stay for awhile.
The idea of divorce, just like last time, did not apparently meet with her approval. My original petition was once again returned torn in half and I received an angry letter that I didn't read beyond the second paragraph before I angrily threw it into Izmir harbor. I replied with an angry letter of my own that itemized all of her betrayals and told her bluntly that I'd never set foot in the country again as long as I was married to a cheating thief.
Silence. The exchange of letters stopped and we didn't communicate with each other again. My divorce petition seemed to die somewhere in legal limbo but I wasn't in any hurry to remarry anyway. In fact the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that she would be the one soon wanting a divorce so she could marry Blake. I told my lawyer to let my petition sit in Limbo and wait for her to file on me on grounds of abandonment. Then we would stall on her for a change.
It was petty and vindictive, but I felt I had grounds to be angry.
I ended up staying in Izmir for about five years. It is a beautiful part of Turkey and has all of the trappings of civilization that one could possibly ask for, and I got into a pretty nice routine. During the summers I would act as an assistant instructor for Dave's old marine archeology classes, locating ancient shipwrecks and learning the historical recovery and preservation parts of the business. I got my story in National Geographic Magazine (two different cover stories) and the 3DS3 process seemed to make archeological history every time we displayed it for a growing crowd of academic admirers. Soon during some of our summer cruises we would also have a documentary film crews joining us from either BBC, History, Discovery or National Geographic Channel, or some other TV network. I tried to stay in the background as much as possible and gave my late brothers the lion's share of the credit for developing the technology.
During the spring and fall, I would make our ship and crew available for private charter search expeditions, usually for the benefit of a large marine salvage company, but occasionally we did some government work, such as locating an historically important wreck. The private salvage work paid very, very well. We made them understand that our technology could save them years or decades of searching, doing the work in just a matter of weeks, and that while our 'locater fees' were high ... so were our likely results. We kept raising our charter fees but our booking schedules kept getting filled for years in advance. We usually charged a flat twenty percent of the estimated salvage value of a wreck. Payable immediately upon confirmation of discovery. Later salvage costs, taxes, etc., were all to become their problem, and there was no shortage of clients lining up to pay us. Our old boat handled crossing the Atlantic Ocean just fine, and soon there will hardly be a single Spanish treasure galleon left undiscovered in the Caribbean. We even made a trip a few years ago into the Indian Ocean, via the Suez, and went equally smoothly. Someday, we'll make a trip to the Pacific to find some Chinese Treasure Fleet wrecks, too. The world was literally our oyster now!
During the winters I began to take it easy and just relaxed to smell the roses, literally. I have a beautiful large villa on the hills of Izmir and a gardener with a penchant for growing magnificent heirloom roses. I have more money than I can ever spend in a normal lifetime, let alone an abbreviated Morrissey one, and I think I have found the perfect companion to share these probable last few remaining years of my life with. Dave's permanent replacement, a lovely dark-haired professor named Yonca.
Vivacious and utterly uninhibited, Yonca now shares virtually every moment with me and together we tend to astonish many of our new summer students with our very 'clothing optional' Mediterranean lifestyle. From the very first cruise out to a wreck location, topless women are very much the norm onboard the boat and by the end of the summer, full nudity for everyone is pretty much the rule, rather than the exception (unless there is a film crew on-board).
Yonca was only a bit younger than I am and her biological clock was starting to tick a bit louder. She knows that legally I am still married in the US but that didn't stop her from deciding that I was excellent father material nevertheless. The baby was expected to be born about the time I turned thirty-nine, so the odds were decent that I might still be around to at least hold my child. Now I had a legacy to leave behind after me and perhaps the fates would be kinder to this child, my son to be, otherwise our branch of the Morrissey name was just about extinct.
One late spring, five years into my most pleasant exile, we were finishing up the last few bits of a channel mapping survey for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas' (and satisfying my own personal curiosity about the nature of the megalithic era submerged Bahama 'road') when we had an unusual visitor; The US Assistant Secretary of State for the Navy. He had apparently flown in to Nassau straight from Washington where a Bahaman naval patrol boat was waiting for him to speed him over to our ship.
Frankly, I had been quite surprised that I had not heard anything at all from the Navy since my separation from Josie. Undoubtedly, they would have soon figured out that my faux research notes were all quite useless. Since the 3DS3 process had been repeatedly proven to be extremely successful I had been half expecting them to show up hat in hand and groveling for forgiveness, and begging for some scraps from my table. Well, I was only half right, but still better late than never.
He made the usual expected appeals to my patriotism, sense of duty, etc and I in return appealed to his own sense of self-preservation ... leave now or become ballast at the underwater end of our towed 3DS3 array. He used the words, "emergency" and "critical national security" a lot, but I had been to college and in the Navy myself and knew some big words too. Like "bilge", "twaddle", "bullshit" and (my favorite) "No and Hell No".
Yonca, nearly seven months pregnant with our son and (as usual) topless, was loudly encouraging me to feed this distinguished personage to the local sharks (if they would have him) and I was more than half inclined to agree. The sneaky bastard had one final card to play though, and he outmaneuvered me. If I performed this one mission for the Navy, my wife would willingly in return sign my divorce papers.
Damn. The things we do for family. Yonca still wanted very much to marry me, or at least be able to give my name to our son, to keep the family line going — her idea not mine. I figured that somehow or another I would be dead within the next year or so and my name was really the only important thing left that I could give my young son. It was worth letting 3DS3 get within the greedy grasp of the Navy. I'd have to patent the process very soon anyway, so that my widow and son could license the technology and provide for their long term futures. Sure we were currently worth many tens of millions, but life is uncertain and a guaranteed long term income is always useful for a family.
An hour later we were in a dry dock in Nassau, where a large crane was lifting our small ship onto a flatbed truck to take it, equipment and all, to the airport, where a giant Air Force C-5 cargo plane was waiting to carry it and us to Langley AFB, near Norfolk, Virginia. On the short flight, I was given the mission briefing and understood why my 3DS3 equipment was so desperately needed.
Josie's boyfriend, Captain Don Blake (he had now been apparently promoted up from Commander) was commanding a test cruise of a new ultra-stealth technology mini-submarine in the James River that was designed for SpecOps missions, such as by SEAL teams. It was extremely sonar and magnetic detection resistant and in fact this was part of its testing, to be able to sneak it by a pair of Navy Destroyers and several other smaller ships that were actively searching for it in the river.
Something went wrong, and/or the new stealth mini-sub worked a little too well. They had suddenly lost communications with it and had been unable to locate the boat for two full days now. Supposedly there was enough air inside to last for about another twenty-four hours, at most optimistic estimates. I had less than a day to find this 'undetectable' craft lost somewhere in the James River between Hopewell and Newport News, with the added bonus of rescuing the man that my ex-wife had apparently preferred over me.
The distance to be searched was a bit of a concern, being about forty miles or so of twisting river, but it was the twists and bends that would make the seismic work a bit harder to do. It had been raining quite a bit in the region lately and the James River was at near flood stage with a fairly fast moving current. This made me suspect that our target would be unlikely to be located at the furthest upstream areas. In fact, the unusually fast current and all of the mud stirred up made it seem likely to me, and several of the other Naval officers I spoke with, that the craft (assuming it had lost all power) would have been washed into some muddier or deeper corner of the river near a bend, and possibly now mostly or completely covered by mud deposited by the currents.
Charting out the likely current patterns, I picked ten areas that seemed to me to be the mostly likely areas to search. With the amount of oxygen Blake and his crew had remaining, this was about the most area I would have time to search in any case. Under normal circumstances, searching a forty mile stretch of twisting river would have taken me weeks to do the job carefully and properly.