Deep Blueby Tom Morrisey
While University of Michigan graduate student Jennifer Cassidy is researching the family history of Cecilia Sinclair, a long-deceased Southern expatriate, she discovers that something of great value is hidden in a spring near the family plantation in Florida. Jennifer contacts Beck Easton, a cave
A suspense-filled search for hidden treasure—and hidden truths.
While University of Michigan graduate student Jennifer Cassidy is researching the family history of Cecilia Sinclair, a long-deceased Southern expatriate, she discovers that something of great value is hidden in a spring near the family plantation in Florida. Jennifer contacts Beck Easton, a cave diver and former Marine, to help her. When Beck finds a map, it sets off a race for gold, and both pro- and anti-Cuban groups follow Jennifer and Beck as they travel from Florida to the Bahamas to Lake Huron, tracking clues that pre-date the Civil War.
After nearly losing her life, Jennifer is confronted with the meaning of Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven ... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And she realizes that she will have to make a decision—will she pursue gold and glory or God?
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By Tom Morrisey
ZondervanCopyright © 2004 Thomas Morrisey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJULY 14, 2005 LURAVILLE, FLORIDA
The single-story house was plain and pale yellow, about as architecturally distant from a Miami-Beach art deco as one could imagine. The vegetation across the road was pulp pines, not palm trees, and there was no beach littered with bronzed bodies. In fact, there was no beach, and no body, at all.
Jennifer Cassidy had been to Florida before-she'd come here for spring break at the insistence of a persuasive college roommate. But this nondescript house, sitting alone on a minimally landscaped lot, didn't offer a hint of the glitz and glamour she'd come to associate with the Sunshine State. In fact, were it not for the Bermuda-grass lawn and the palmettos planted along the drive, it wouldn't have appeared Southern at all.
Jennifer slowly drove the fifty yards of concrete driveway and stopped the rental car in front of a detached garage. She moved the shifter to "park," turned the rearview mirror her way, and took a quick glance.
She looked... efficient. Her blonde hair was cut short, short and tufting every which way in a responsible sort of punked-out style. She twisted the mirror down, and her eyes, clear and vibrant blue-the kind of blue that made people ask if she wore colored contacts-peered back at her. The rest of her face had that no-makeup look, like the face of somebody who'd gotten up while it was still dark out, made the thirty-five-minute drive to Detroit Metro Airport in something more like twenty, and had still only barely caught her flight.
All of which was absolutely true.
This was no time for the full treatment. She dug the essentials out of her purse and made two quick passes with her blush and just the barest hint of mascara. But that still looked too unfinished, so she got out her lipstick, squinted at the mirror, and applied two smooth, stay-between-the-lines strokes. Then she finished the job with a soft-chomp on a napkin fished from her Burger King bag.
The face in the mirror still looked efficient, younger than her twenty-four years, and vaguely boyish, mostly because of the hair-what there was of it. She turned the mirror back to where it was supposed to be and put her makeup away. On the journey to "beautiful," "cute" was about as far as she'd ever gotten, and she'd learned to comfort herself with the sentiment that things could be worse. She turned the key, silencing the engine, and then rummaged in her bookbag for the webpage she'd printed out back in Ann Arbor; the address was the same as the number on the eave of the garage. This had to be the place.
Jennifer opened the car door and grimaced at the heat. Okay, maybe I am in Florida, after all. But it sure wasn't the Florida they put in the tourist brochures. The largest body of water she'd seen on the drive down from the airport was the Suwannee River. And the landscape had consisted mostly of stands of scrawny pine trees and open fields dotted with cattle-not the polled Herefords she'd grown up with on the farm in Ohio, but scrawny, humped and wattled creatures that looked as if they belonged in India.
The yard was quiet; no breeze. Just a few birds, probably asking one another for sunscreen. Slipping on her sunglasses, Jennifer took note of a sign that said "SHOP," and followed the paved walk around the side of the house.
Then she stopped in midstep and wished she'd spent more time with her makeup. Because there was a man seated at a table on the brick patio, and he wasn't just any man.
This guy was a hunk: nice, strong profile, good jaw, and a head of brown hair that was just coming due for a cut and going light at the ends from the sun. He was wearing khaki shorts, aviator sunglasses, and a faded blue T-shirt that fit snugly enough to show that he was in shape and then some. His arms, tanned and garnished with blonding hair, looked almost too muscular for the tiny, bent-nose pliers in his hand. He looked older than Jennifer, but not much. She guessed that he was in his thirties, early to mid.
He was working on something with black rubber hoses and shiny metal fittings. It looked like a piece of scuba gear, one of those things divers used to get air from a tank. Jennifer searched for the word... regulator. He was working on a scuba regulator.
"I'll be with you in a second," he said without looking up. "I'm at one of those points in this rebuild where you have to hold your tongue just right..." He tinkered with the device for the better part of a minute, and then he set it aside and stood, wiping his hands on a shop towel. "Sorry about that. I'm Beck Easton. Call me Beck."
"Jennifer. Uh, Cassidy."
They shook hands and Easton stepped back, giving Jennifer a long, slow look from head to toe-long enough to take her from flattered to mildly irritated.
"Let's see," he said. "Five-two?"
"And a half."
"And what? A hundred and fifteen pounds?" Jennifer lifted her chin. "A hundred and fourteen, actually."
Easton nodded and walked around to her side. "Good tone. Do you run? Work out?"
"I bike a lot, swim when I can." Jennifer considered a quick sprint back to the car.
"That's great. Strong leg muscles help. We can put a 104 on you for the intro section and go to steel 72s, maybe even 95s for the Full-Cave."
"Not that you have to do it all in one shot," Easton told her, hand up. "Take your time. Work your skills between courses. Do you have your C-card and logbook with you?" "My what?"
"Your certification card and logbook."
Jennifer removed her sunglasses and squinted. "My certification card certifying what?"
Easton cocked his head and looked at her. "Well, that you're a trained diver, of course."
"Oh. I'm not. You see... that's why I'm here."
He removed his own sunglasses. Green eyes-nice. "I'm sorry. You want open-water lessons, then? I can do that, but I've got to tell you, a group class down at Ginnie Springs will be a lot cheaper..."
"No." Jennifer waved her hands and cut him off. "No-I'm not here to learn to dive. I'm here to hire you to do some diving for me."
"Exactly." In fact, that was all she wanted him to put on the credit-card receipt. One word: "Research."
"Well, sure." Easton nodded. "I do some of that. Although I've got to tell you, for hydrology, things like that, there's better people. What sort of research do you have in mind?"
"I need you to find something."
Easton rubbed his nose, crossed his arms. "Find what?"
"I... I don't know."
Easton looked at her in silence. When he spoke again, his voice was low. "Can I ask how you found me?"
"Well, I did a Google search on 'cave diving' and 'Live Oak,' and found an equipment company called Dive-Rite. When I called there, I talked to a man named Lamar, and told him I needed a good diver who won't blab what I'm doing. He said I should come see you."
"O-kay..." Easton smiled, just a bit, and glanced at the patio table. "Here, let me get this stuff out of our way. Can I get you something to drink?"
"Sure." Jennifer grinned. Man-is this guy good-looking. "That'd be great. Would you have a beer?"
Easton shook his head. "Soaking suds and blowing bubbles doesn't mix," he told her, tapping on the regulator. "I've got Coke, Diet Pepsi, root beer, and I think maybe even some Dr Pepper-had some locals diving with me last week. Or I've got some iced tea that I just made up. But I've got to warn you-it's sweet."
She grinned even more. "Sweet tea's fine."
"Great. Grab a seat. Facilities are in the shop if you need 'em."
* * *
The tea was still a little warm, so Easton heaped two heavy glass tumblers full of ice, added a stout wedge of lemon to each one-he never had figured out what good it did to slide a wafer of lemon onto the rim of a glass-and poured the tea in, the ice crackling as he did it. A car door slammed out in the driveway as he did this, and when he slid open the door to return to the patio, he saw why: his visitor now had a large black-nylon catalog case next to her and was removing thick file folders from it.
"Looks like this is going to get involved." He set a glass on a paper napkin in front of her and took a seat on the opposite side of the table.
"Well, it's... complicated." The young woman took a sip of tea and smiled her approval. "Where do you want me to start?"
Easton glanced at the sky. "Plenty of daylight left. Start at the beginning."
"Okay." Jennifer wiped a bead of condensation off her glass and then looked up at Easton. "I'm a graduate student at the University of Michigan, the School of Information Science."
"Like IT-information technology?"
"That's part of it." She grimaced just a little as she said it. "But information science deals more with application than infrastructure. It's about sleuthing out facts, finding where the information is hiding."
"Like being a detective."
"More like a librarian." Jennifer laughed. "Sometimes both. Anyhow, I'm a second-year MS candidate, but this is my first year at U of M; I transferred in from Case Western. That put me low on the totem pole for any kind of assistantship work over the summer, but I was trying anyway-so I could keep my apartment and, you know-avoid going home and waiting tables in Wapakoneta."
Easton nodded and wondered if she was going to ramble. True, female customers at a cave-diving operation were few and far between, and this one was cute as the proverbial button, but he preferred to deal with people who could get to the point.
"Anyhow, it was starting to look as if that was just what I was going to be doing. But then my department head called me in, and there was this attorney in his office, looking for research help." She handed Easton a business card:
LOUIS F. SCARVANO Attorney at Law SCARVANO, MARTOIA AND WOODWARD, LLC. 1 Peachtree Centre-Ste. 3459, Atlanta, GA 30309
"I know the address." Easton handed the card back. "High-rent. I'd expect that anyone who hangs a shingle there could afford to keep his own paralegals on staff."
"He can and he does. But he didn't need legal research. He needed a family history."
"He traveled to Michigan to have you do his family tree?"
Jennifer shook her head. "Not his family history..." She pulled a glossy photograph out of an envelope and handed it across to Easton. "... Hers."
Easton took a look and straightened up just a bit. The picture was obviously a copy of a much older image. Yet even rendered in shades of gray, and partly obscured by creases, the woman in the image was a stunning, raven-haired beauty with eyes that seemed to reach out and lock with his.
"Who am I looking at?"
"Cecilia Sinclair, although she was still Cecilia Donohue when that picture was taken. Daughter of Cameron Donohue, who owned a plantation near Branford. That's near here, right?"
"About half an hour away."
Jennifer returned the photo to its envelope. "That was shot the day they announced her engagement to Augustus Baxter-"
Easton shook his head. "You said her married name was 'Sinclair.'"
"Henry John Sinclair was her second husband, originally from Baltimore, although he and Cecilia moved to Ann Arbor after the war. That's why Mr. Scarvano came to U of M for his research; Cecilia Sinclair's personal documents are kept in the archive library there, and you need a stack pass to access them."
Easton nodded. This was making sense. "And you, being a grad student, have a pass."
"Exactimundo. Cecilia's first husband was originally from Georgia."
"So that's the Scarvano connection-his client is from Georgia, one of Baxter's descendants?"
Jennifer's face went to something that was halfway between a grimace and a scowl. "I asked him, and he wouldn't say-attorney-client privilege."
Easton nodded for her to go on.
"Anyhow, Augustus Baxter's father was a plantation owner, like Cecilia's, and apparently that's how they met; their fathers knew one another; Baxter was invited to Cecilia's cotillion-her coming-out ball-chemistry happened and they got engaged. Baxter even took a job at a bank in Jacksonville, to be nearer to Cecilia. They were only engaged three months, which would have been scandalous back then, except for the fact that this was 1861. Florida had already seceded from the Union, and Baxter had accepted a commission as a captain with the First Florida Cavalry. There were a lot of hurry-up weddings down here that year."
"You seem to know a lot about the period."
Jennifer smiled. "I was a dual-major undergrad-English and history. And I've always been interested in the Civil War. Not so much the battles, but the culture. How it affected people."
She took a sip of her tea. "Cecilia was a diarist, and she wrote every day, even when paper got scarce during the war. I read her journal-pretty sad story. Her father was in the war as well, and he got injured, came home, lingered, and eventually died of his wounds. Then Augustus Baxter was killed outright in a skirmish in Virginia, and that left Cecilia alone to run a plantation that was drowning in debt and hadn't cleared a dime in more than four years."
"So she lost it to banks up North?"
Jennifer nodded. "You've got it. Northern banks bought up the loans from failing banks down here. Then the banks up north hired traveling agents who went around selling off estates, liquidating the assets. And that's what happened with Cecilia. They swooped down and sold her home right out from under her."
Easton took a sip of his own tea, lemony and sweet and satisfying. He couldn't believe he'd grown up drinking it plain. "So where does Sinclair come in?"
"I don't know." Jennifer frowned. "In the journals that I have, August of 1865 shows her destitute and scraping for a living. That's how that volume ends. Yet when the next one starts, it's later in the same year-1865-and she's up in Michigan, happily married, comfortable and living on an apple farm. That's one of the mysteries."
"One?" Easton shifted in his chair. "There's more?"
Jennifer nodded, eyebrows up.
"There's a big one." She opened a thick three-ring binder and leafed through photocopies of pages covered with a refined and feminine handwriting. She stopped, read a little, and tapped the page. "On the night before their wedding, Baxter is staying down here, at the Donohue plantation. He comes to Cecilia after dinner and tells her something. In fact, she says that by the time they get done, it's midnight.
Excerpted from Deep Blue by Tom Morrisey Copyright © 2004 by Thomas Morrisey. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Tom Morrisey is a mountaineer, aviator, shipwreck diver, and explorer, who holds a Full Cave certification from the National Speleological society - Cave Diving Section. He has launched, edited or contributed to numerous national publications and is an award-winning adventure travel writer. A popular speaker, he is also active in both youth and prison ministry. Morrisey earned an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, and his fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines. His previous novel, Yucatan Deep, was a 2003 finalist for the Christy Award. He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book is a winner, though not quite up to the standard of Yucatan Deep. Beck Easton, a widowed 5th level black belt with military intelligence background has all the requisite skills for his role, but barely escapes being somewhat flat. Jennifer Cassidy, an attractive research specialist, is a more colorful character with a vulnerability that makes her believable and winsome. The fascinating glimpse of historic cave diving before scuba gear is a delightful plus for this book, and some of the strongest writing. The technical cave diving ¿ the hook that drew this reviewer to the book ¿ received less attention than I had hoped for. The competing interests that all characters become obsessed with ¿ and the clues to an ancient treasure in gold ¿ seem contrived, but are almost imperative to drive the story. Still a good and enjoyable read in spite of the weaknesses. Overall a well crafted story with some intriguing historic tidbits.