Today was an anniversary. Not the kind that was to be celebrated, but the kind that needed to be remembered. Darien Lambert approached the open window in his hotel room to take in the view. A cool, early summer breeze drifted across the Adriatic Sea and filled the room with fresh air. The morning sun was shining brightly and Darien took a moment to reflect on his recent journey across the Atlantic from Washington, D.C. to Dubrovnik, Croatia. A long, cramped flight, which he still had difficulty getting used to despite his frequency of flying. He hadn't seen much of Dubrovnik yet, but so far it met his expectations that had been established by one of his favorite writers, George Bernard Shaw who had called it "the pearl of the Adriatic" and "paradise on Earth."
Yes, June was an anniversary month for Darien. Fifteen years ago he had given up the life he knew in 2193 to track down fugitives who had escaped justice by being sent back in time to 1993. Dr. Mordecai Sahmbi was responsible for temporting the fugitives to the past and there was no criminal Darien wanted to find more than him. His past efforts to capture him had all been unsuccessful. Darien and his computer Selma had not gotten a lead on him in several years and it concerned Darien that he was cooking up something major.
June 14. That was the date Sahmbi killed Elyssa and escaped into the past and changed Darien's life forever. June 14 - today's date.
Darien sighed and ran a hand through his short, dark hair that was now speckled with bits of gray. Sahmbi would have to wait for another time. He was in Dubrovnik for a different reason.
He turned away from the window and crossed over to the sofa. "Visual mode, Selma," he commanded. His holographic companion appeared across the room looking the same as she always has during their sixteen years together. "I want to review the case. Show me the first e-mail we received."
"Yes, Captain," said Selma. Another holographic image appeared before him.
He read the message out loud. "Lambert, I want to go home. Please come to Dubrovnik and send me home as soon as you can. Valerie T."
"I traced the message and verified that the e-mail account belongs to Valerie Torres and was sent from Dubrovnik, Croatia," said Selma.
"But she's not on our fugitive list."
"No, Captain. She has no criminal record in either century."
"I wonder what she's doing here?" said Darien mostly to himself.
"Your meeting with her is at eleven o'clock today at Onofrio's Fountain in the Old Town."
"We'll have to get there early to make sure there are no surprises."
The fountain was a large, round structure made of stone located just inside the Pile Gate of the wall of the Old Town. Groups of tourists were gathered on different sides of the fountain. Selma had said that this was the place to meet in Dubrovnik. No doubt about that. Darien wondered how he would find somebody in this crowd, particularly someone he didn't know.
He felt the presence of someone rushing up behind him and before he knew it someone was throwing their arms around him. He resisted his impulse to fight off the attacker when he realized that the arms belonged to a woman and she was saying his name. "Darien! Darien Lambert! I knew that it must be you!"
She released him and he was able to turn around and get a look at her. She was an attractive woman with long black hair and light brown skin. She was the same age as Darien. "Valerie?"
"Oh, don't tell me you don't remember me?" She lowered her voice a little. "I lived in Enclave I-6 for about a year when I was 14. I was in Shoemaker. Right next to Bradwell."
The name of the orphanage where he grew up brought back a wave of memories. Shoemaker was the residence hall for girls and Bradwell for boys with the two sharing outdoor recreation space.
"Valerie Torres! Of course! I thought that name sounded familiar. It's been a long time since I've thought of those days."
"It's been much too long." A shoulder bag from a passing tourist bumped her in the back. "Come on, let's go get something to eat. I know a place where there's not so many tourists." She wrapped her arm around his and led him through the narrow stone streets.
On a side street that to Darien looked like an alley, they sat down at an outside table of a pizza restaurant. They decided to order two different kinds of pizza. Darien selected a word off the menu that looked like pepperoni.
"So why did you come to this time?" asked Darien after the waitress had gone.
Valerie took a sip from her wine. "You know me. Always in search of an adventure."
"That's for sure. I seem to remember you dragging me into a couple of those."
Valerie smirked, "Adventures are more fun if they're shared. You always looked so lonely. You needed to get out."
"You just had to see that new meta trope."
"I bet that was the only time you ever got in trouble." She laughed and Darien couldn't help but smile. Valerie continued, "I remember watching this cute, shy boy from my window sitting under the big oak tree reading. I used the excuse of needing help with my calculus as a reason to talk to you."
Darien smiled. "I think we ended up talking more about history than calculus."
They continued to reminisce until their pizza arrived. Darien's turned out not to be pepperoni, but instead it was hot and mild green peppers. They each had some of both kinds.
"I'm so glad that I finally figured out how to contact you," said Valerie between slices. "I had heard several years ago that there was a cop from our time here chasing fugitives, but I didn't know it was you. I still wasn't sure until I saw you."
"So you're ready for your adventure to be over?"
"I sure am. I can't wait to get back to modern conveniences. Dubrovnik is beautiful, though. It's certainly not like this in our time. You have to let me show you around."
They spent the rest of the day walking around the old walled city of Dubrovnik. They fought hordes of tourists as they visited the typical sites such as the Franciscan Monastery with its famous pharmacy and Rector's Palace. They even stopped for some ice cream. In the evening the tourists thinned out and the locals began to make an appearance. Children started playing in the streets. Darien and Valerie enjoyed the atmosphere at Buza Bar which was located through a hole in the wall and perched on a cliff right on the edge of the Adriatic. At the end of the day they ended up in Valerie's apartment above one of the shops in the Old Town. Darien was expecting to send her back, but noted that the apartment was still fully furnished with personal effects still in place. He had to admit that it was nice being able to talk openly with someone from his own time besides Selma. He almost wished that he could spend more time with Valerie before she left. Valerie was looking at him like she wanted to say something, but something was holding her back. Darien decided to start.
"Are you ready to go back now?"
Valerie bit her lip and looked away. "Not exactly." She studied the ceiling for a bit then took a deep breath and it all spilled out. "You see I had this box. It's a small, wooden box. A family heirloom. My parents gave it to me. When I came here I met this guy named Ramiro Diaz. We worked together for a while. He knew how precious this heirloom is to me and when we broke up he stole it from me. That was a few years ago. I've been trying to get it back, but I've only recently found out where he is. I can't go back without it, Darien. My parents are long dead and it's the only thing I have from my family. Please, Darien. Will you help me get it back?" Tears were forming in the corner of her eyes.
Darien was a little thrown by this sudden change of emotion. Then he found his voice. "Of course, Valerie. I'll help in whatever way I can. Where is this Ramiro?"
Valerie brightened. "He's working on a cruise ship called the Oyster of the Sea. It docks in Dubrovnik every so often."
Darien knew how to confirm this and saw no harm in letting Valerie in on it. He took Selma from his pocket and held the card out for Valerie to see. "Valerie, this is Selma."
Valerie looked at him in disbelief. "You named your credit card?"
"No, it's a computer disguised as a credit card," Darien was quick to explain. "Selma, can you tell us when the Oyster of the Sea will dock in Dubrovnik?"
"Yes, Captain," came Selma's voice. "The Oyster of the Sea is scheduled to dock this evening."
"Is Ramiro Diaz listed as a crew member?" asked Darien.
"Diaz, Ramiro. Fitness instructor," Selma confirmed. She proceeded to describe the location of his quarters on the ship.
The ship would be docked in Dubrovnik for a few days because it was between cruises and time was needed to prepare it for the next voyage. The next day Darien and Valerie boarded the ship under the guise of being with Interpol. They made their way through the corridors until they came to Ramiro's quarters.
"So is this guy going to be hostile about you wanting your box back?" asked Darien.
"I'm hoping he won't be here," said Valerie a little sheepishly.
Darien raised an eyebrow. He put Selma against the door. "Scan the room, Selma."
"Not occupied, Captain."
Darien inserted Selma into the key card slot and she opened the door. The quarters were very small. There were two bunks and limited storage space. Valerie immediately went to work searching the small space.
Darien suddenly had a bad feeling about it all. "I don't know about this, Valerie."
"Oh come on, Darien," said Valerie as she pulled something out from a corner. "It's not stealing. It's my box. I'm just taking it back." She fidgeted with the object out of Darien's line of sight as she spoke. Then she turned around and held out a small wooden box. It had an intricate design on the lid and sides. "Here it is," she said excitedly.
"Great," said Darien. "Now let's get out of here."
With one last look to make sure the room was as they found it, minus the box, they quickly left the room and the ship without incident.
Valerie entered her apartment with a lightness to her step and was even humming a little to herself. Darien followed a little more slowly with a frown on his face. He closed the door behind him and crossed over to the sitting area.
"Are you ready to go back now?" Darien asked evenly. "Or are you going to tell me what's really going on here?"
Valerie froze. Then she slowly turned around. "What's really going on?" she repeated.
"You haven't told me the whole story," said Darien. "Why are you really here?"
Valerie sighed and sat down in a chair. "I'm a treasure hunter," she said simply. She couldn't look at Darien as she said this. "My parents were treasure hunters too. In fact, that's why I was in Shoemaker that year. My parents went off in search of treasure and didn't want to drag their daughter along. They gave me this box before they died." As she turned the box over in her hands she brightened a little and her eyes got big. "It contains a treasure map, Darien!" She looked at him now, hoping that he would catch her enthusiasm. She opened the lid. The box appeared to be empty, but then she pressed on the corners of the lid and a secret compartment was revealed. Inside was a rolled up piece of paper. It was very old, but it had been well preserved sealed in the box.
"In the early 1800s Napoleon and his army took over Dubrovnik," Valerie continued. "They had been conquering and looting treasure from all over this part of the world, including Egypt and Italy. Legend has it that some of this treasure was buried in the Dubrovnik area while they were here because they couldn't take it all with them. They were going to come back and get it, but never had the opportunity. This map was made so they would remember where it was. My parents recovered the map, but not the treasure. I came back here because I figured it would be easier to find in an earlier time period. But I didn't check my history very well. When I got here, the civil war was going on. I didn't want to get caught up in that so I had to wait until it was safe. When I finally settled in here, I couldn't figure out the map. It still doesn't seem to match what's here. Then Ramiro stole it from me."
"How does Ramiro fit in?" asked Darien.
"I met him when I was living in Spain. He had a salvage company on the coast. We looked for other treasures for a while. I never told him about this map, but he knew the box was important to me. We split up and I came to Dubrovnik once it was safe again. Somehow he found me and ended up taking the box. I haven't seen him since, but I just found out recently about the cruise ship."
She looked at Darien and tried to figure out what he was thinking. He was silent for a moment before asking, "What do you plan to do now?"
"I want to find the treasure."
Darien couldn't help the anger creeping into his voice, "Then what am I doing here?"
"I was hoping you could help me."
"Help you? Hunt for treasure?" Darien was furious. "You lured me here with some story of wanting to go home, and you just want me to help you find a lousy treasure?"
"No, wait. I really do want to go home," Valerie pleaded. "I just want to find the treasure first."
Darien stood up. "What kind of klink do you take me for? I don't care about treasure. I could be tracking Sahmbi right now. Instead I'm on this wild goose chase!"
"I'm sorry, Darien. I didn't mean for it to come off like that."
"If you think I'm going to sit here wasting my time hunting for treasure, then think again!" He started to move towards the door. "All that stuff you used to drag me into when we were teenagers," he continued, "I wouldn't be surprised if you were the biggest con artist of our time! You're a liar and a manipulator and I don't want anything to do with you!"
He rushed out the door and chose to ignore the tears flowing down Valerie's cheeks.
Darien entered his room at Hotel Argosy in the newer part of the city a while later and flopped down on the sofa. "Visual mode, Selma," he commanded. Selma appeared with a disapproving look on her face. "What?" asked Darien, still disgusted, "What?"
Captain," said Selma, "I have never seen you treat a friend like that."
"Some friend. First she wants to go home, then she wants her box, and then she wants to find treasure. What next?"
"While I agree that Valerie has been less than entirely truthful, I would merely like to point out that her vital signs have indicated a great deal of stress over the past couple of days."
"What I mean is that Valerie has shown signs of being afraid to tell the whole truth."
"Oh, I'm sure she knew I wouldn't help her if I knew the whole truth. In fact, I seem to remember her doing something similar way back when. She got me to go with her to sneak down into the basement at Shoemaker to look for something the administrators had taken away from her when she moved in. Turned out she really wanted to find out if the rumor of the basement being haunted was true. We didn't find any ghosts, but we almost got caught by Mrs. Brott." Darien couldn't help but find the memory slightly amusing. His anger began to subside. He looked up at Selma who was looking at him curiously. "I guess she hasn't changed."
Valerie looked out her window at the sun sinking lower in the sky. She hoped she hadn't totally blown things with Darien. As she thought about what she should do next she heard a noise outside her door.
She went over to the door hoping that Darien had come back. Suddenly the door burst open and a man rushed in, but it wasn't Darien.
"Ramiro!" Valerie gasped. She backed up in a hurry and almost fell over an end table. The tall, well-built man kept coming straight at her and leaned over her, as she couldn't help but shrink onto the sofa.
"Did you think you could break into my quarters, steal the box, and I wouldn't know it was you?" he bellowed.
Valerie overcame her surprise and managed to say with conviction, "It's my box. You stole it from me!"
"How did you find me?"
"You're listed on the crew roster. It doesn't take a genius."
Ramiro grabbed her around the chin with one hand. "Shut up! You'd better not mess with me or you're going to be in some serious trouble." He released her and started looking around the room. "So where is it?" He went over to a table and threw a vase to the floor.
Valerie stood up. "Stop it! It's just a dumb box. It doesn't mean anything to anyone but me!"
Ramiro pulled out a drawer, dumped its contents on the floor, and then threw the drawer to the floor. "Oh come on, we both know it's not just a 'dumb box.'"
Valerie was horrified. Somehow he had found out about the map!
"Get out of here, Ramiro!" Valerie practically screamed. "I'm going to call the police and clue them in on your whole operation!"
Ramiro stopped short. Then he came towards her menacingly, "Not if you value your life."
Then Darien's voice came from the bottom of the stairway leading to her apartment. "Valerie?" he called out with concern in his voice. He could clearly see that the door had been broken in.
"Who's that?" Ramiro hissed.
"He's a cop," replied Valerie. "He can take you out before you can blink."
Ramiro started to panic. He threw Valerie to the floor, dashed out the door and down the steps. Darien was rushing up the stairs when Ramiro came flying at him. Ramiro knocked down Darien and then stumbled out the door.
"What the hell was that?" asked Darien as he slowly got to his feet.
"I do not know who that was, Captain," came Selma's voice, "but it appears that Valerie requires your assistance."
Darien resumed his assent up the stairs. He found Valerie picking herself up off the floor. He reached over to help her up and she threw her arms around him.
"Are you all right?" asked Darien. "Who was that?"
Valerie broke the embrace. "That was Ramiro. Apparently he didn't like it that I took the box back."
Darien looked around at the mess Ramiro had created. "This guy's dangerous, Val."
"I've never seen him like this before. He's really changed since I last saw him."
"You can't stay here."
"I have no place to go."
"I'm sure there's another room at my hotel."
Valerie looked a little uncertain.
"Or, there's a sofa in my hotel room," Darien offered. "You can come and stay with me."
Valerie felt more secure with this idea and she began to pack up a few things, including the box. After a while she asked, "So why was it that you came back here tonight?"
"Oh. I came here to apologize for the way I yelled at you. I was out of line."
"I'll accept your apology if you'll accept mine for the way I acted. I'm really sorry, but I just didn't think you'd help me if you knew the entire story."
"Apology accepted. I just hope you can trust me enough to tell me everything from now on."
A faint smile went across Valerie's lips. "Does that mean you're going to help me?"
Darien sighed. "We'll talk about it in the morning."
They secured the doors as best they could and headed for the hotel.
The next morning Valerie told Darien over coffee in his hotel room about her suspicions that Ramiro knows about the map.
"Well he must not know where the treasure is if he's so hot to get it back," said Darien.
"Unless he just doesn't want me to find it before he can smuggle it out," countered Valerie. "That's what he does, you know. He's a smuggler and he gets big money on the black market."
"What do you plan to do with the treasure?" asked Darien, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer.
"I'm more interested in the hunt, the adventure. Ramiro kept the smuggling part from me. That's the reason I broke things off with him. I found out about it."
Darien was relieved to hear that Valerie was not mixed up in a smuggling operation, but he still didn't like this whole situation.
"If only I could figure out this map!" Valerie had taken it out again and was studying it intently.
"Doesn't 'X mark the spot?'"
"It's not that simple. It must be some sort of code. The geography doesn't match either. Here, look at it."
Darien took the map and looked it over. He wasn't that familiar with the geography of the area so he didn't know if it matched or not. He decided to turn it over to an expert. He took Selma out of his pocket and laid her on the map.
"Selma," he said, "scan the map and make an analysis. Compare the geography to past and present records."
"Scanning," said Selma. Her usual computer scanning noises accompanied this. "Cross referencing." More noises kept them in suspense. "Hmm."
"Hmm? What does 'hmm' mean?" asked Valerie on the edge of her seat.
"Patience," cautioned Darien.
"This map does not, nor has it ever, match the geography of this area," concluded Selma.
"Maybe you've been looking in the wrong city," said Darien to Valerie.
Valerie looked dumbfounded. "No, Napoleon's treasure is supposed to be here, in Dubrovnik."
"Selma, what do you have on treasure related to Napoleon?" asked Darien.
Selma began to relate a seemingly endless amount of information about Napoleon's conquests and lootings, all of which verified what Valerie had said earlier. However, it came down to one simple fact - there was no verification that Napoleon's army had left treasure in Dubrovnik. It was just a legend.
"How can it be just a legend when I'm holding the map in my hands?" asked an exasperated Valerie.
Darien was tired of the whole ordeal. "I'd say it's a fake. I bet the treasure never existed, not in Dubrovnik anyway." He got up from the table to stretch. "Now I can send you back and that way you won't have to worry about Ramiro."
Valerie glared at Darien. "I'm not ready to give up yet," she said in a steely tone.
"If you want to make money from a treasure, just buy one of those antiques they're selling in all the stores and take it back with you. You'll make a fortune selling that." He was trying to make a joke, but Valerie was not amused.
"Why are you trying to get rid of me?" she asked. "I thought you liked me."
Darien mellowed. "Of course I like you. That's why I'm trying to protect you. There's no sense in hanging around here with a klinko like Ramiro running around, especially since there doesn't seem to be a treasure."
Valerie was silent as she continued to look at the map.
"I'll let you think about it," Darien finally said. "I'm going back to the Old Town for a while. Call me at this number if you need anything." He wrote down Selma's number on a piece of paper. Then he put Selma back in his pocket and left the hotel room.
Darien walked the streets of old Dubrovnik. He was fascinated by the walled-in city. On one side, beyond the wall, was a large hill with the remains of Napoleon's fortress on top. On the other side was the Adriatic Sea with many islands dotting the landscape. As Darien stood at the Old Port he could clearly see Lokrum island which was the closest island to the city. Napoleon's fortress or one of the islands; both would be logical places to store treasure, Darien thought. Then he snapped himself out of it. What am I thinking? I sound just like Valerie, he thought.
He walked back in from the port to the crowded, tourist-filled streets. Then his cell phone rang. It was a distinctive ring. In fact, it was the same sound Selma used to make when she wanted to get his attention in public. Now Selma was connected to a twenty first century cell phone so they could talk more freely in public. Selma couldn't understand why it was necessary to use such archaic devices, but if it made her Captain feel more comfortable then she couldn't argue with it.
Darien answered his phone, "Yes, Selma."
"Captain," came Selma's voice, "I think that I should remind you of your duty."
"Selma, I've been here fifteen years. You don't think I know what my duty is?"
"Yes, Captain. However, I see no logic in helping someone locate a treasure."
"We just concluded that there is no treasure."
"Were you not just comparing the geography to Valerie's map?"
Darien was surprised. "So you're a mind reader now?"
"Certainly not. I just know you very well."
"Yes, you do. Maybe a little too well." Darien sat down on the steps of a church. "I'm concerned about Valerie. If she stays here too much longer I'm afraid that Ramiro is going to hurt her. I can't just send her back without her permission because she's not a fugitive."
"Perhaps we should find Ramiro."
"Our little ruse won't get us onto that cruise ship again." Darien thought a moment. "Did you get a good look at him, Selma? All I saw was a blur and the bottom of the steps."
Selma projected the image of Ramiro on the screen of his cell phone.
"Thanks, Selma. Let's keep an eye out for him. I'm going to try to convince Valerie to be sent back tonight. I'm going to get something for her to bring back to give to the Chief. He hasn't heard from me in a while and I want him to know I'm all right."
Darien hung up the phone and began to walk through the streets again. The Chief was the closest thing Darien had to a father figure and even though he had retired several years ago, Darien always referred to him as the Chief. He didn't often have the opportunity to send something since most of the people he sent back were fugitives. He had sent him some cigars a long time ago. He thought the Chief would appreciate a token of remembrance on his 100th birthday.
Darien decided to try a shop that was away from the main thoroughfares of the city so he could avoid the crowds. A narrow passage led him to one such shop. Inside was an attractive display of Dubrovnik and Croatia souvenirs. As Darien entered the shop he was almost startled by the sharp barking of a dog. At first he wondered where it was coming from. Then he noticed the small dog on the landing of a stairway that led to the upstairs living quarters. A couple of large paintings were lined up across the bottom of the stairs. They served two purposes: keep customers from going upstairs and keeping the dog away from the main shop. The dog continued to bark noisily at Darien. A middle-aged woman laughed and spoke with a high-pitched voice in Croatian to the dog. She appeared to be the owner of the shop and the dog. A young man in his twenties was tending to another customer. Darien looked over the assorted items and didn't find any of them to be particularly appealing.
"I guess this was a bad idea," Darien said quietly to Selma. "There's nothing here but junk."
"May I suggest one of the items on your right?" answered Selma.
Darien turned. "A decorated egg?"
"My database indicates that pisanica, as they are called in Croatian, are traditional gifts to family members and other people who are well respected. To give a pisanica is to give a symbolic gift of life. Very appropriate for a birthday."
"Selma, you're a real treasure."
Suddenly the young shopkeeper was standing next to him. "Treasure?" he asked. "You are looking for treasure?"
Darien was taken aback. He hadn't noticed that the other customer had left. The woman had also disappeared from the store. Figuring that something was lost in the translation Darien answered, "Yes, I'm buying a gift. I hope it will be a treasure to my friend."
The man nodded his agreement. "Then you will want this special egg. Wait a moment." The man went into a back room and came out with another egg decorated in a myriad of colors. "This is the egg you want," he said as he held it out in his hands.
Darien took it and admired it. It appeared to be a worthy gift so he agreed to purchase it.
When Darien got back to his hotel room in the late afternoon he found Valerie curled up on the sofa with the map in her hand. She had fallen asleep. Darien couldn't help but smile to himself. Her face was a mirror image of tranquility. He put the bag containing the egg on the bed. As he was sitting down Valerie stirred. She jumped a little bit when she saw him there.
"Oh, Darien, you're back." She looked a little embarrassed.
"I just got here," he said softly. "You all right?"
She stood up. "I'm famished. I haven't eaten since breakfast. What time is it?" She looked at the clock. "Oh, good. They're just about ready to open the buffet downstairs. I asked them about it earlier. It's supposed to be absolutely fabulous." She fixed her hair in the mirror. "Some good food and a stiff drink will do wonders for me." She turned and looked at him. "Ready to go?"
They were gone for almost three hours as they enjoyed an elaborate buffet and each other's company. Valerie was frustrated for not being able to decipher the map, but she tried to hide it by talking about her many other adventures and asking Darien about his. She also ordered several drinks and by the time they were ready to call it a night, she was feeling very happy and boisterous. As they walked back to the room Valerie was clinging to Darien's arm and kept trying to swing him around.
"Something tells me this is not the right time to ask you if you're ready to go back," said Darien as they entered the room.
"Back?" asked Valerie.
"Yeah, you know. Back home."
"Oh, come on, Darien. Don't be such a party pooper."
Valerie laughed loudly. "You're funny." She still had a lock on his arm and she was pulling him toward the bed.
"Come on, Valerie. Let go. You've had too much to drink." He started pulling his arm back, but she held on. For a brief time there was a tug of war and all of a sudden they both let go and Valerie fell onto the bed with a loud crack!
Darien was staggering backwards, but caught himself. "Valerie! Are you okay?"
Valerie was grimacing as she pulled a bag out from underneath her. "What the heck is this?" She wasn't laughing anymore.
Darien took the bag from her in dismay. "I bought this today. It was going to be a birthday gift for a friend back home." He took the egg out. It now had a large crack in it.
"Let me see it," said Valerie. She turned it over in her hands and then shook it. Then she put her fingers near the crack and pried it open. Her eyes lit up as she pulled out five gold coins.
They looked at each other in amazement. "What's going on here?" asked Darien.
"It's part of the treasure! It must be!" exclaimed Valerie.
"But what's it doing in the egg?"
"It's a method Ramiro uses to smuggle things. He puts it in an object which is then sold through a shop and is then taken out of the country."
"Must either be a small treasure or there are a lot of eggs in the back of that shop."
Valerie laid out the coins in her hand. "This is probably a sample to a potential buyer. They're all different." She held up one and tried to study it, but she was having trouble getting her eyes to focus on it. "Can you have Selma take a look at it? Things are kind of fuzzy for me right now."
Darien placed Selma on top of the coins that were still in Valerie's hand. "Tell us about the coins, Selma."
Selma scanned the coins. "They are approximately 210 years old. There is one each from Malta, Spain, Portugal, Venice, and Istanbul. They are solid gold."
"It's Napoleon's treasure!" Valerie almost sang. Then she turned serious. "Ramiro must have found it. We have to stop him. We can't let him smuggle it out to the highest bidder." She got up fast but only made it a few steps before she started to loose her balance.
Darien reached out to help steady her. "Hold on. You're not doing anything tonight except get a good night's rest. We'll both be able to think clearer in the morning. You can take the bed."
"No. The sofa is too small for you. I don't mind the sofa."
Darien helped her to the sofa. As she settled in she gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Thanks, Darien." She soon drifted off to sleep.
Darien watched her for a moment and then went to the other side of the room to look at the coins. Selma's voice intruded on his thoughts.
"Request visual mode," said Selma.
Darien glanced at Valerie who was sound asleep. "Visual mode." She appeared in a blaze of static and Darien could tell that she was not pleased. "You have something you want to get off your chip?"
"Captain, if you are planning to go after this treasure I strongly advise against it. We should notify the authorities about these coins and what is going on at that shop."
"Not yet. They may be able to lead us to Ramiro."
"Ramiro is not a fugitive. It is not your responsibility to find him."
"I'm doing this for Valerie."
"Look, Selma," Darien interrupted, "Valerie's not going to give up on finding the treasure. If I help her I can at least look after her and make sure she doesn't get hurt. If we can put away Ramiro at the same time then there's one less criminal in the world."
"Yes, Captain. I now understand. You are... 'looking for some action.'"
Darien felt the blood rush to his cheeks. "What? Selma..."
Selma seemed oblivious to his sudden discomfort. "We have not had a substantial case in over a year. You feel the need to bring criminals to justice. You miss the excitement and sense of accomplishment. It was evident in your conversation with Ms. Torres at dinner tonight."
"Oh," said Darien, relieved that he had misunderstood, "I suppose you're right. Valerie's not the only one who likes an adventure once in a while." He thought about his earlier conversation with Valerie. "Remind me to put you on battery charge every once in a while."
Valerie awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and eager to continue the pursuit of the treasure. She couldn't believe the luck that Darien had somehow come away from that shop with one of the items that contained part of the treasure. After all of his doubts and annoyance regarding the treasure, he was the one that proved that it really existed. Now they just had to find the rest of it. Valerie was baffled. How could Ramiro have figured out the map and she couldn't?
Valerie and Darien spent a good part of the day studying the map again. They also discussed possible plans to find Ramiro, but it all seemed to lead nowhere. Valerie was beginning to get discouraged again. Darien needed a break so he took the box the map had been in and laid down on the bed. He needed something different to look at. Valerie continued to talk about possible courses of action as Darien studied the box.
"Are you even listening to me?" asked Valerie, a little annoyed.
"The detail on this box is incredible," said Darien. "Have you ever looked at the design?"
"Yes, of course I have. I had that box for years."
Darien kept looking at one spot on the box. "De fanlaise," he read. "What does that mean?"
"I just figured it was somebody's name."
Darien sat up and held the box under a lamp to get a better look at the two words inscribed on it. The lettering was fancy, but the way the N and E in fanlaise were written was distinctly different from the rest. "It appears to be French," said Darien, "but fanlaise isn't a word and the use of de is strange."
Valerie came over to look at the box. "Do you think it's a clue to deciphering the map?"
"No," said Darien, turning to look at her, "I think the box is the map."
"The paper map is just a decoy. The real map is right here."
Valerie took the box from him. "All right. Explain."
"De fanlaise is written over a picture of what looks like the sun, but the points also look like a compass. An easy way to write a code is to have letters stand for numbers according to the alphabet. If each letter stands for a number except the N and final E, which are written differently, I bet we'll get coordinates for latitude and longitude that will give us the location of the treasure." Darien picked up a pad of paper and a pen and wrote down the information as he spoke. "De gives us 45 degrees, f-a is 61 minutes, n stands for nord or north, l is 12 degrees, a-i gives us 19 minutes, s is also 19 so that could just be redundant, and e stands for est or east."
He smiled broadly at her, but she just looked at him like he was crazy.
"That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," she said. "In fact, it's so ridiculous it just might be true. Can you ask Selma to find out where those coordinates are?"
"Yes, Ms. Torres," came Selma's voice before Darien could respond, "I have already done it."
"Project it," said Darien.
A map appeared before them. "The coordinates roughly correlate with an island not far from here," said Selma. A flashing red light indicated an island just beyond Lokrum island.
"I know how to get to that island," said Valerie.
"Do you have a boat?" asked Darien.
"Yes, of course. La Bella Princesa. It's in the old port."
It was early in the evening before they set out in the boat. Since it was summer, they knew there would still be several hours of daylight left. Unbeknownst to them, Ramiro was standing on the wall near the port. He knew Valerie's boat and he watched them through binoculars as they went out to sea.
As La Bella Princesa approached the island, Darien had Selma project a general layout of the land.
"Any clues on the box as to where on the island the treasure might be?" asked Valerie.
"I've been thinking about that," said Darien. "Fanlaise without the n is falaise, which means cliff. But the whole island looks like it's a cliff. How are we even going to dock?"
"Geographical survey indicates a small, flatter shoreline on the other side of the island that should be suitable," came Selma's voice. "There also appears to be a cliff or bluff on the northeastern part of the island."
"Sounds like a good place to start," said Valerie.
Valerie piloted the boat around the island. Sure enough, tucked between the rocky outcroppings was an area where they could moor the boat. Once they set foot on the island they had to go up a steep incline. As they ascended, Valerie slipped on some loose rocks and Darien reached out and grabbed her arm so she wouldn't slide down the hill. Once they made it to the top, Selma estimated that the cliff was several meters to the left. They had to constantly dodge tree branches as they made their way over the rough terrain. Finally they came to a small clearing at the bottom of a cliff. There were rocks everywhere.
"Scans indicate the presence of gold beneath the rocks piled against the cliff," said Selma.
Valerie almost jumped up with excitement. She started pulling rocks away. Darien started helping her and found a long, sturdy stick nearby to use as a lever for the bigger rocks. Soon they could see an opening in the cliff like a small cave. They cleared away more debris until they could see several large containers in the opening. The containers were very old and were showing signs of their age. They had likely been rusted shut, however the fasteners had recently been broken into and Valerie lifted one of the lids without too much difficulty. Darien and Valerie both gasped when they saw what was inside. The container was full of gold coins, shining just like they had over 200 years ago. They looked in the other containers. These were also full of gold and other treasures.
"This is so incredible," said Valerie. "This is the biggest find I've ever had. Too bad Ramiro got here first. At least he hasn't had time to move it out yet."
Suddenly a voice came from the cliff above them. "That's right, Valerie." They looked up and saw Ramiro standing there with a revolver in his hand. Darien made a quick survey of the situation. Ramiro had the advantage of the high ground, while they were caught out in the open. "I didn't think you'd be smart enough to decipher the map," Ramiro continued. "You must have gotten help from your new boyfriend."
Darien decided to try a bluff. "Maybe we can make a deal. There's plenty here for all of us."
Ramiro raised the revolver. "You're in no position to make deals. Besides, Valerie already told me that you're a cop."
Darien glanced at Valerie who gave a slight shrug. Then he said, "Just put down the gun. I don't care how much gold there is here. It's not worth people's lives."
The sun was getting lower in the sky. In the distance dark clouds were starting to roll in with the occasional flash of lightning. Ramiro began to edge his way down from the cliff to where Darien and Valerie were standing. He was very agile on the rocky terrain.
"I'm not ready to move the treasure out yet," said Ramiro, "and now you've gone and uncovered it." He stepped closer to Darien as if sizing him up. "I need you to put all the rocks back."
Darien was moving his arm slowly in order to get his PPT weapon out of his pocket without Ramiro seeing. The instant his fingers touched it he said, "I don't think so, Ramiro." He pulled it out in a flash, but Ramiro's reflexes were incredibly fast. Before Darien could fire, Ramiro smashed him in the face with his elbow and Darien crumpled to the ground. Valerie couldn't help the scream that came from within her. Ramiro picked up the PPT that had fallen to the ground. It looked like any other early twenty first century car remote except that the buttons were each a different color. Two keys were attached to it. Ramiro, not knowing what it really was, assumed that Darien had intended to use the keys as a weapon. He threw it into the trees. Then he turned back to Darien who was still on his knees with his hand over his face. Blood was coming from his nose. In the distance was another flash of lightning.
"Now," said Ramiro with an eerie calm in his voice, "put the rocks back."
Darien still didn't move.
Ramiro cocked the gun and pointed it at Valerie. "Put them back or she dies now!"
Darien put up his hands. "Alright, alright! I'm putting the rocks back." He got up and started heaving rocks.
"You too," said Ramiro to Valerie and she reluctantly got to work.
They went about their work slowly. They knew that once the rocks were back in place, Ramiro would have no more need of them. As they neared the end of their task, the sun was on the horizon casting an orange glow on the surrounding clouds. The storm clouds were getting closer and they could now hear a rumble of thunder in the distance.
Ramiro was starting to get restless. "Valerie, Valerie," he said with a sigh. "Where did you pick up this loser?" He laughed. "Well you're not really a winner yourself." Then he spoke to Darien. "She's just playing you for a fool, you know." He turned back to Valerie. "Face it, Valerie. You could never get anywhere by yourself. You're so inferior."
Valerie couldn't take it anymore. She took the rock she was holding and threw it at Ramiro. It would have hit him, but Ramiro dodged out of the way at the last moment. Ramiro was furious. He charged towards Valerie and grabbed her arm, twisting it at an odd angle. Valerie grimaced.
Darien ran over immediately. "Let her go!" He put his arm around Ramiro's neck and started pulling him back. Ramiro let go of Valerie and threw all his weight against Darien knocking them both down to the ground. The impact caused Ramiro to drop his gun. Ramiro had Darien pinned down and he started throwing punches at him. Darien managed to block most of them, and landed a few of his own. They got into a wrestling match as Darien unsuccessfully tried to get up and they ended up rolling down a slant. As Ramiro came at him again, Darien stuck his foot on Ramiro's solar plexus and sent him flying over his head. Ramiro landed on his back with a thud and a groan. Darien got up and brushed himself off. He looked at Ramiro who was conscious, but was in a daze after having the wind knocked out of him.
"Selma," said Darien, "where's my PPT?"
"Forty five degrees, seven point three meters," came Selma's voice.
Darien went over and scooped it up. Ramiro was beginning to recover as Darien came back. Darien shot Ramiro with a blue pellet from the PPT, which knocked him out.
"Wow, I haven't seen something like that in years," said Valerie, referring to the PPT. She came up to Darien and they briefly embraced.
The lightening came more frequently now and the low rumbles were accented by occasional sharp cracks of thunder.
Darien took Valerie by the hand. "Come on. We've got to get out of here."
Valerie glanced back at the cave covered in rocks and Ramiro lying on the ground. Then she looked up at the sky. "But the storm. We'll never make it."
"What are our chances, Selma?" asked Darien.
"The odds are good that you can make it back to shore before the storm hits," said Selma.
"Okay, then. Let's go," said Darien. He set out at a brisk pace, pulling Valerie along.
They didn't get far before they heard a loud bang. At first Darien thought it was thunder. Then he realized it was a gunshot. Ramiro was awake and he was coming after them! Darien and Valerie dodged between the trees trying not to trip on the rocks. The branches scratched their arms as they pushed them out of the way. There was another gunshot and Darien went down. Valerie gasped as she got pulled down as well. Darien had tripped on some rocks. He was quickly on his feet again, pulling Valerie along. They made it back to the steep incline that led down to where their boat was. They could see that another boat was moored next to theirs. Their momentum made it impossible to stay on their feet and they slid down most of the incline. Another shot rang out, but it whizzed over their heads as Ramiro also fell over some rocks.
Valerie and Darien got in their boat and Valerie made the necessary preparations for launch. Darien kept watch for Ramiro who had taken cover in the trees after Darien had fired a green pellet at him.
The wind began to pick up and it started to rain as Valerie piloted the boat away from the island. Lightening was flashing around them on all sides.
"Captain," said Selma, "the storm has increased in intensity sooner than I predicted."
Darien looked back at the island and could see Ramiro getting in his boat as the lightening lit up the sky. "Too late now, Selma," he said.
They sped across the choppy water as fast as Valerie dared to go. Sharp flashes of lightening and the loud cracks of thunder caused them to flinch. In the distance they could barely make out the sound of Ramiro's approaching boat. The waves were getting bigger and it became more difficult to control the boat. Ramiro's boat was more powerful and he was closing the gap rapidly.
Across the water a lighthouse beacon was shining on a far away island providing an image of calm amidst the chaos around them. Just ahead were the lights of Dubrovnik, but they were still some distance away. As Ramiro's boat sped closer to them a gunshot rang out, but it missed wildly because of the unpredictable waves rocking the boats. The rain was beginning to pound down on them now. Ramiro brought his boat closer to Valerie's and nearly missed hitting them in the stern as Valerie made a sharp turn.
"This guy is crazy!" shouted Darien over the noise of the storm. "He's trying to ram us!"
In the headlight of the boat Valerie could see a large rock formation sticking up above the water just ahead of them. She turned the boat in order to avoid it. Just then Ramiro came at them from the port side of the boat. La Bella Princesa was caught up in a wave at the same time that Ramiro's boat hit them in the lower part of the hull. The force caused La Bella Princesa to capsize sending Darien and Valerie into the sea. Ramiro lost control of his boat and it smashed into the rock formation and flipped over.
The storm continued to rage as lightening flashed from all directions and the thunder made it seem as if the sky were exploding. Near Valerie's overturned boat Darien's head emerged from beneath the water. He spat out some water from his mouth and wiped the water out of his eyes. He looked around.
"Valerie!" he called out. "Valerie!"
He was about to go back under the water to try to find her when her head popped up above the water not too far from him. She quickly brushed her hair out of her face. They began the long, difficult swim to shore. Just when Valerie thought she couldn't swim another stroke, they arrived at the stone pier-like structure that stuck out from the wall near the old port. She clung to it as she got out of the water and Darien sat beside her. He watched the water in the area where the two capsized boats were.
"Selma," he said, "any sign of Ramiro?"
"No, Captain," she replied. "The odds of him surviving such an ordeal are 573 to one.
Darien and Valerie left the pier feeling fairly certain that Ramiro had been lost to the sea. They hurried along into the old city to get out of the storm. Valerie's apartment was their best option for shelter. They turned a corner and splashed down the cobblestone street, which was lit by a lone street lamp. The doors in Valerie's building had been fixed from Ramiro's earlier break in and they went up the stairs to the safety of the apartment.
Not long after they arrived the storm began to calm down and soon there was only the sound of raindrops lightly hitting the roof. Valerie and Darien took comfort in each other that night. For the first time in a long while Valerie felt safe and secure as she lay in Darien's arms.
The next morning the sun was shining brightly and there was hardly a trace of any clouds. It was as if the previous night's storm had never happened. About mid-morning Darien decided to go back to his hotel room so he could put on a fresh set of clothes. Valerie stayed at her apartment so she could put things in order after her brief absence. When Darien entered his room he could immediately tell that something wasn't right.
"Someone's been in here, Selma," he said, "and it wasn't the maid." Drawers were open, the sofa cushions were out of place, clothes were on the floor, and various items were scattered about the room. "Scan the room, Selma."
"There is no ion activity. The person must have been here last night."
"Visual mode. I bet I know what they were looking for." He picked up the bag the shopkeeper had put the egg in. Darien had put the broken egg back inside the bag. Now the bag was empty. "He must have realized I wasn't the buyer he was looking for."
"Yes, Captain," Selma agreed.
"Good thing I took the gold coins with me." He pulled them out of his pocket and studied them for a moment.
"I have identified the intruder in my scan for fingerprints," said Selma. "He is Casimir Shimunovich. He has been arrested for three petty misdemeanors within the last five years. His mother, Nada Shimunovich, is the owner of the shop you visited. She has one arrest on her record."
Darien started to pace. "The question is, do they know the location of the treasure and will they be going after it now that Ramiro is gone?"
"Insufficient data," replied Selma. "However, it is clear that he knows who you are and where to find you."
"And he probably won't stop until he gets these coins back," finished Darien.
"If he has caught gold fever, I advise extreme caution."
Darien was surprised that Selma used this phrase. "Gold fever?"
"Yes. When people are so consumed with greed and obsession for gold that they will do anything to possess it. History is full of examples of senseless deaths of people over the quest for wealth. It is a serious human flaw."
"Greed is usually the underlying motive for any crime. People may find a stash of gold like this, but it's never enough. They just keep wanting more. Especially when they haven't earned it. It's easy money. That's where the obsession comes from."
"Which leads me to ask, why are you carrying the coins around in your pocket?" asked Selma with some concern.
"Relax, Selma. I'm just hanging on to them for safe keeping." He jingled the coins in his hand before putting them back in his pocket.
Valerie grabbed her shoulder bag and headed out of her apartment door. She went over a mental checklist of the things she needed to pick up as she went down the stairway to the shop below. At the bottom of the stairs she paused to check her supply of cash. When she looked up she saw a familiar figure on the street outside coming towards the shop. His right hand was trying to cover up a bulge under his untucked shirt and he was looking over his shoulder. Valerie couldn't believe her eyes. It was Ramiro!
Valerie panicked and quickly turned and ran back up the stairs to her apartment. After locking the door she dug through the pockets of her outfit from the night before. She found the piece of paper that Darien had written his phone number on, but the ink was all smudged and illegible from getting wet. She could hear Ramiro approaching the door. She was trapped!
She looked up at the skylight and got an idea. She positioned a table beneath the skylight. As she was climbing up she could hear Ramiro working on picking the lock. She was surprised that he was trying to enter quietly this time. Valerie heaved open the skylight. As she started to pull herself up onto the roof, the door of her apartment suddenly flew open. Valerie didn't know how he had gotten through the chain so quickly, but she doubled her efforts to get up through the skylight.
Ramiro let out a gasp of surprise when he saw Valerie hanging from the ceiling. He quickly went over and tried to grab her legs to pull her back down. Valerie was expecting it and delivered a swift kick to Ramiro's jaw, knocking him to the floor. With an added boost of adrenalin, Valerie pulled herself up onto the red tiled roof. She steadied herself on the slanted roof and quickly chose a course of action. She jumped from that roof onto the roof of the next building over since the buildings were very close together.
Meanwhile, Darien was on his way back to Valerie's apartment. A flash of movement caught his eye. He looked up and saw that someone was on one of the roofs. There was a crowd around him so he took out his cell phone.
"Selma," he said, "project mode on screen. Zoom in on that person on the roof." The visual appeared on his cell phone screen. "That's Valerie! What's she doing up there?"
"Captain, someone else has come out onto a roof."
Selma zoomed in on this new person just as he climbed up through a skylight.
"Damn!" exclaimed Darien under his breath. "It's Ramiro. He's alive after all."
Valerie was coming to the end of her new roof. Just ahead was the wall that encircled the city. The roof almost went up to the wall. Valerie gathered all of her courage and went running off the edge of the roof, jumping at the last moment, and grabbing onto the ledge of the wall.
Darien's stomach leaped into his throat as he watched this from down below. He sighed with relief as she safely climbed over the ledge and onto the walkway on the wall. But she wasn't out of danger yet. Ramiro was making his way across the rooftops looking determined to follow Valerie wherever she went.
"Selma, how do I get onto the wall?"
"There are two entry points." Selma projected a map of the city on Darien's phone screen. "You are closest to the stairway near the port."
Darien took off running.
Valerie started running on the top of the wall in the opposite direction. This side of the wall was on the inland side of the city. It was a gradual climb towards the highest point on the wall. Valerie looked over her shoulder and saw that Ramiro had made the same death-defying leap that she had and was still coming after her. She picked up the pace.
Darien found the stairs and ascended to a lower part of the wall. He would have to move quickly if he had any chance of catching up to Valerie and Ramiro.
Ramiro was slowed down because he had hit his right knee on the wall pretty hard when he jumped. There were also several twists and turns in the walkway with stairways leading to lookout towers. Valerie wasn't always in his line of sight so he had to make sure she hadn't hidden herself somewhere.
Valerie kept going as fast as she could. There didn't seem to be any sign of help anywhere. There were few tourists on this side of the wall because of all the steps.
Darien ignored the strange looks he was getting from the few people around. His speed, as well as Valerie's, was much faster than typical early twenty first century people and bystanders were more curious about that than why they were running in the first place.
Higher and higher the three of them ran. The June sun was hot and added to their exhaustion. The highest part of the wall was a large circular tower called Minceta at the corner furthest inland. Valerie was slowing down as she ascended the stairs leading to the tower. Her legs were starting to feel like jelly. She needed to rest. At the moment, Ramiro was still a ways back. She entered the enclosed tower and decided to hide in the shadows below a staircase that went to the top of the tower. A short time later Ramiro entered the tower. He went to the other side where the wall continued. There was no sign of Valerie. He quickly went up the stairs to the top of the tower. This was a wide-open space and he immediately descended again when he saw no sign of Valerie up there. Darien was closing the gap and was almost at the tower.
Ramiro was edgy. The handful of tourists in the tower looked at him a little nervously and exited the tower. That's when he saw her. He reached into the shadows and pulled her out by her arm.
"Valerie, Valerie," he said with a sneer in his voice. "What's with all this running and chasing? Did you forget our agreement?"
Valerie was silent, still trying to catch her breath.
Just then Darien raced up the steps into the tower. He paused in the entrance and surveyed the situation. Ramiro pulled out a futuristic mini-torch from his waistband as Darien pulled out his PPT. Ramiro pointed the torch at Valerie's temple.
"Drop it," Ramiro ordered.
Darien let the PPT fall to the stone floor.
"Kick it over here."
Darien hesitated but then obliged. The PPT skittered across the stones and came to a rest near Ramiro's foot. Ramiro lifted his leg and brought the heel of his boot down on the PPT with a sickening sound. Darien looked on helplessly as his only weapon was crushed before his eyes. Ramiro snickered and got a wild look in his eyes.
"Let her go, Ramiro," said Darien. "Just let her go and you can take off and do whatever you want with the treasure."
Ramiro just laughed.
"I think it's time someone had an unfortunate accident," said Ramiro. "Man falls from Minceta tower," he said as if reading a headline. "Such a tragedy."
He started moving towards Darien when Valerie spoke. "There's no need for that, Ramiro. Darien won't cause any problems. We can be long gone before he figures anything out."
Ramiro continued to look at Darien with a crazed look in his eyes.
"Come on, Ramiro," Valerie continued. "This wasn't part of the deal."
Darien gave Valerie a confused look. What was going on here?
Valerie kept her eyes focused on Ramiro. "Let's you and me get out of here," she said to Ramiro. "You need me to get the treasure. Your boat was destroyed. I have another, bigger boat with a crane. I also still have my secret place where I was planning to store the treasure. You need me. It will be like old times."
Ramiro looked at her. "Yeah. Old times." He gently brushed her hair off her shoulders. "And here I thought you were backing out of our agreement."
Valerie put her hands on his shoulders and turned him towards the exit. "Come on, let's go," she said as she looked over her shoulder at Darien. "We'd better hurry."
Valerie and Ramiro left the tower leaving Darien standing there feeling stunned and betrayed.
Darien entered a remote area along the coastline and threw a rock into the sea. Valerie and Ramiro had slipped away in the crowds once they had descended the wall. Darien wasn't sure what he wanted to do next.
"Visual mode, Selma," he commanded. The hologram appeared before him looking sympathetic. "How can I be such a sucker?"
Selma looked puzzled. "A 'sucker,'" she mused. She scanned her database. "A North American fresh-water fish, a shoot from the root of a tree, a lollipop... Ah, here we are; slang phrase for one who is easily deceived. Captain, I would not classify you as a sucker."
"She was manipulating me this whole time and I totally fell for it," said Darien. "I should have listened to you in the first place and not gotten involved." He threw another rock into the water. "I let my feelings for her cloud my judgment. I should have gone about things more logically. Isn't that right?" He anticipated that Selma would reiterate one of her usual lectures on this subject, but what she said was totally unexpected.
"Captain, if I have learned anything from you, it's that logic does not always present the best course of action. Sometimes human instinct and emotion surpasses logic. Over the course of our time together your instincts have been correct 93 percent of the time with the remaining seven percent mostly due to occasions of impulsiveness that lead to poor choices. I cannot ignore such data. You have always been very perceptive and a good judge of character."
"Thank you, Selma, but I'm afraid my perception of her may have been clouded by nostalgia." He picked up another rock, but held on to it. He fidgeted with it in his hand for a bit. "Why is it that after everything that's happened, I'm still worried about her?"
"You have good reason to be. Ramiro has exhibited signs of an extreme level of psychosis."
Darien thought a moment. "Selma, did you check your database to see if Ramiro Diaz is from the future?"
Selma looked a little offended, "Of course. There was no match."
"On the tower he had a torch that looked like it was from the twenty second century."
"Yes, I agree. It was the same type of torch used by Jason Peterman fifteen years ago. However, Ramiro was in the salvage business. He could have picked it up somewhere from another person from our time."
Darien looked thoughtful, "It's possible. He's also remarkably athletic. You yourself said it was unlikely that he would survive being thrown into the sea during the storm."
"Highly unlikely for someone of this time," Selma agreed.
"And that jump from the roof to the wall..." Darien continued.
"I agree with your assessment," said Selma. "I will run a more detailed scan to include possible pseudonyms." Her pause was accompanied by her usual scanning sounds. "I have a match." She projected an image of him from her twenty second century files for Darien to see. "Diego Ramirez. Born May 5, 2162. He was a suspect in numerous cases for larceny and smuggling, but was never indicted."
"So he's not technically a fugitive."
"That is why his name did not appear on my initial scan."
Darien began to pace. "He's still very dangerous. He's clearly been trying to kill me and Valerie. I can't get over the way she looked at me when she left the tower. She may have been bluffing with Ramiro. Even if they did have some kind of deal, Ramiro is very unstable and could decide at any time that he doesn't need her anymore. She may not be totally on the up and up, but she needs my help." He looked at Selma as if for validation.
"I would say that Valerie's life is very much in danger," replied Selma. "What are you planning to do?"
"They're going after the treasure," said Darien. "We're going to go get them."
"But your PPT was destroyed," Selma pointed out.
"I'll think of something," said Darien. "Voice mode." He scrambled up the rocks to the main land.
The Coast Guard had returned Valerie's La Bella Princesa to its slip in the Old Port and Darien didn't hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity. He got in the boat and set out towards the island. Once near the island he was careful to stay on the opposite side from where he knew Ramiro and Valerie would be. He turned off the motor and let the boat drift towards the island.
"Selma," he said, "project the locations of any persons on the island."
The visual was projected before him. "Captain, I detect three human beings."
"Three?" Darien studied the three flashing red dots representing the people on the island.
"Two males and one female," Selma reported.
"Can you tell if they're armed?"
"Scans are inconclusive."
The boat was drifting closer to the rocky shore. Darien studied the rocks as he prepared to moor the boat before crashing into them. Once the boat was anchored Darien climbed out onto the bow, reached down, and picked up a small rock. Then he climbed back into the boat.
"Visual mode, Selma," he said and Selma appeared in the seat next to him. "Is this quartz?"
"Quartz sandstone consisting of approximately 91 percent quartz grains."
"And quartz is piezoelectric."
"Selma, with your help I think I can build a weapon similar to a cirtcellator."
Selma looked skeptical but then confirmed, "It may be possible. However, the quartz by itself is not powerful enough. You need something else to enhance it. Something that conducts electricity such as silver or copper."
Darien pulled out the five gold coins he was still carrying in his pocket. "How about gold?"
"A suitable alternative."
Darien took out a pair of pliers from the tool kit. Then he took two of the gold coins and put one coin on either side of the quartz rock and pinched them together with the pliers. He finished it off by wrapping some wire around it. With Selma as the power supply, Darien would be able to fire an electronic burst strong enough to knock somebody out, but not permanently harm them. The only drawback was that he would only get one shot before having to wait about a minute until it recharged.
Darien got out of the boat and began climbing up the steep, rocky cliff-face of the island. When he got to the top he had Selma project the locations of the three people once again. One of them was by themselves near the area where the treasure was found and the other two were closer to where Valerie's boat was located. Darien made his way through the trees towards the bluff where the treasure was. Soon the area was in sight. He spotted a man coming through the trees on the edge of the clearing. It was Casimir, the young shopkeeper that had sold Darien the egg with the gold coins in it. He was looking rather weary.
Darien rushed out of the trees pointing his homemade weapon at Casimir. "Police! Hold it right there!"
Casimir was startled, but when he saw the contraption Darien was holding he began to laugh. "What is this? Some kind of joke?"
"I'm warning you. This thing will give you an electric shock. Now surrender."
Suddenly Casimir turned around and ran toward the trees again. A machete was laying on a nearby rock. Darien could now see that a clearer path had recently been cut through the trees. Casimir picked up the machete and turned towards Darien menacingly.
Darien held Selma on top of the pliers. "Now Selma!" An electronic burst fired out the end of his weapon. It hit Casimir and he fell to the ground. Darien's eyes went wide with amazement. "Wow, it actually worked."
Just then Ramiro stepped out of the trees with a smug expression on his face. "You're more resourceful than I thought," he said with an arrogant tone in his voice. "Come to get your share of the treasure after all?"
Darien pointed his weapon at him even though he knew it wasn't fully recharged yet. "I'm here to arrest you. Captain Darien Lambert, fugitive retrieval."
Ramiro wasn't shaken by this. "Yes, I figured out who you are." He smirked, "Mo Sahmbi says hi."
What? Darien couldn't believe it. Was Ramiro really keeping in contact with Sahmbi? "How much longer, Selma?" he whispered.
"Fifteen seconds," she whispered back.
He would have to stall just a little bit longer. "Give it up, Ramirez."
"I don't think so."
Ramiro began to reach back to pull something out of his waistband as Darien lifted up his weapon preparing to fire. Suddenly Darien felt something strike him in the back of the head. Waves of pain went through his head and everything went dark before he hit the ground.
Darien tried to open his eyes. It felt like everything was spinning. He attempted to move his arms in an effort to sit up, but he found them stuck in a position above his head. He couldn't shake the moving sensation. The fog cleared a little from his mind and his eyes began to adjust to the surrounding darkness. As he gradually came to his senses he discovered that the movement wasn't just in his head. He was on a boat. Large wooden containers in the cargo hold below deck surrounded him. He was propped up against one of them with his arms fastened to a wooden beam. A sudden thought struck him.
"Selma? Are you here?" The last thing he remembered was holding the computer in his hands.
"I am in your shirt pocket, Captain," Selma replied.
Darien sighed with relief. "What happened?"
"You were knocked unconscious back on the island."
"Yes, Captain. However, you should know that she was the one that put me in your pocket."
Darien thought a moment to let the information sink in. "Where are we now?"
"Valerie's salvage boat," replied Selma. "We have been heading out into the middle of the Adriatic Sea for about an hour. Valerie is taking the treasure to a secret location. Ramiro intends to throw you into the sea."
Darien was about to reply when he heard footsteps approaching. Someone was coming down into the hull. Darien closed his eyes and pretended to still be unconscious. The person approached Darien carefully and put a hand on the side of his face.
"Oh, Darien, I'm so sorry," the voice whispered. "I hope I didn't hurt you too bad." The person began to move away.
Darien opened his eyes and said softly, "Valerie."
Valerie turned around, "Darien, you're awake." She came over to him again.
"What's going on here?" asked Darien. "Why did you knock me out?"
Valerie began loosening the ropes restraining Darien's hands. "I had to. Ramiro was about to shoot you. I still had to make him think I was on his side."
"What about the deal you two had? What's that about?"
Valerie shrugged, "Ramiro's gone klinky. There may have been some kind of deal years ago, but not now. I just went along with him so he wouldn't kill us."
Darien tried to put all of the pieces together. "Why didn't you tell me Ramiro was from the future?"
"I didn't know."
"Yeah, right," said Darien, not believing her. "All those years you were together, how could you not know?"
"We never talked about our pasts."
"Why wouldn't you talk about your pasts?"
"Probably because we didn't want each other to know we were from the future," said Valerie in a snarky tone. Darien smirked back at her. Valerie, seemingly forgetting to finish untying Darien's ropes, suddenly got up and headed back to the stairs. "I've got to go before they get suspicious."
Darien started pulling on the ropes. "Valerie, wait! What are you planning?" he said in a loud whisper. She had climbed out of the cargo hold before he had finished speaking. "Aargh! That woman! She drives me crazy!"
Valerie had loosened the ropes enough that with a little effort and power of the mind, Darien was able to free himself in a short time. He rubbed his sore wrists and got to his feet. "Selma, give me the layout of this boat and the locations of the people on board."
She projected the visual in front of him. Valerie, Ramiro, and Casimir were clustered together in the bridge.
"Selma, what we need is another one of your great diversions," said Darien.
The sun had set and the only lights visible on the sea were that of the boat itself. Suddenly there were sounds of approaching boats coming from all around them. A voice came out of the darkness.
"This is the Croatian Coast Guard. You are completely surrounded. Shut off your engine and prepare to be boarded."
Ramiro and Casimir started to panic. They went from one side of the boat to the other trying to see what was out there. Valerie just smiled to herself and kept the boat going. She recognized that the voice belonged to Selma.
Darien emerged from below deck. Casimir had just run by and was now looking over the railing. Darien approached him. The movement caught Casimir's eye and he spun around swinging a fist at Darien's head. Darien ducked and came up with a backfist that landed in Casimir's face. The younger man groaned but went after Darien again with a right cross. Darien caught the punch and used Casimir's momentum to send him sprawling across the deck. Casimir hit the railing and started to tumble over it. He dangled there precariously until Darien grabbed him and hauled him back in to safety. Casimir collapsed to the deck in a daze.
Meanwhile, the scuffle attracted Ramiro's attention. He drew his gun and came towards the two. Suddenly, Valerie came at Ramiro from the side. She grabbed his arms and attempted to get the gun out of his hands. Darien noticed the two of them struggling. The gun was being waved in many different directions as Valerie and Ramiro fought with each other. Darien started coming over to help. Just then the gun went off. The blast caught Ramiro and Valerie by surprise and the gun fell to the deck floor and slid away from both of them. The force caused Valerie to be thrown to the floor as well. Someone yelled in pain and when Valerie turned to look she saw that Darien was on the floor too. He had been shot in the upper part of his right leg. The bullet had gone clean through.
Casimir was beginning to come to his senses and he saw that the gun had slid over next to him. He picked it up.
"Casimir!" yelled Ramiro. "Finish him off!" He pointed at Darien on the floor. "Shoot him!"
Casimir stood up and pointed the gun at Darien, but he hesitated. This man could have easily pushed him overboard, but he didn't. Why did he save him?
"What are you waiting for?" bellowed Ramiro.
Darien was grimacing in pain as he put pressure on his leg wound, but he could still see the uncertainty in the young man's eyes. "No one should have to die over this treasure, Casimir," he said. "Ramiro's crazy. He's been consumed with greed. If you kill me, then Valerie will be next, and then you. Ramiro's not going to let you have any of this."
Casimir's hand began to shake, but he kept the gun aimed at Darien. Since Ramiro was fixated on Casimir and Darien, Valerie used this opportunity to sneak away below deck.
Ramiro started walking towards Casimir. "Do it now or give the gun to me!" he shouted.
Suddenly Casimir spun towards Ramiro and pointed the gun at him. Ramiro stopped in his tracks. "You've been cheating me and my mom for a long time," said Casimir. "Why should you get all the treasure?"
Ramiro sneered, "You don't have the guts to shoot me."
Casimir put both hands on the gun and took a step towards Ramiro.
Darien spoke up, "Casimir, think about this. You're not a killer. Don't throw your life away. Not for him. Your mother needs you."
This last statement seemed to get through to Casimir. The tension released from his body and he lowered his arms. Then he threw the gun into the sea.
"No!" screamed Ramiro. "You idiot!" Ramiro flung himself at Casimir and the two tumbled towards the stern.
As Ramiro and Casimir fought each other, Darien took the opportunity to do something about his leg. He ripped the sleeve off of his shirt and tied it securely around the wound. Thanks to his accelerated healing capability, the bleeding had just about stopped. He slowly got up and limped over to where Ramiro was pounding Casimir relentlessly. Darien had to help Casimir and bring Ramiro under control. He was just about to grab Ramiro when Valerie came running up from below deck.
"Take cover!" she yelled as she ran towards them. She grabbed Darien and pulled him down to the floor just as an explosion rocked the boat. A fireball lit up the night sky, as the bow was ripped apart. Ramiro was still standing up when the explosion happened. The force of it caused the boat to pitch sharply sending Ramiro over the railing and into the sea. Valerie helped Darien up. He was amazed to still be in one piece. The boat was tilting with the bow going down into the water.
"Valerie, we're sinking," said Darien.
"Don't worry," said Valerie. "There's a life raft."
She grabbed an inflatable life raft and launched it. Casimir was starting to come to his senses and Darien helped him up. They were about to get into the raft when Ramiro climbed back onto the sinking boat. He pulled out the same futuristic mini-torch that he had back on the tower. He pointed it at Valerie and started coming towards her with a crazed look in his eye.
"You blew a hole in the boat on purpose, didn't you?" he said to Valerie. "Didn't you?"
Valerie looked him in the eye. "You bet I did."
"Why would you sink the treasure?"
"There was no other way. Look what it's done to all of us."
Darien pulled Selma out of his pocket. "Selma, reflective frequency mode," he whispered.
"You're not getting out of here alive," Ramiro hissed.
As Ramiro was about to fire, Darien stepped in front of Valerie with Selma in his outstretched hand. The beam from the torch hit Selma and was reflected back at Ramiro. Ramiro let out a scream as the beam cut through him. He fell back over the railing into the dark sea.
Valerie and Darien embraced, but quickly realized that they needed to get off the boat, which was sinking faster. The three survivors helped each other board the life raft. As they sat there, they watched as the boat disappeared into the water. The stars were shining brightly in the clear night sky, providing the only light besides the emergency light on the raft. Selma had already notified the real Croatian Coast Guard of their location and predicament and would soon come to their aid.
The following day as Darien entered Valerie's apartment he noticed that the shelves were bare and boxes were situated around the room.
"Looks like you're getting ready to leave," stated Darien.
Valerie put some books in a box. "It's time to move on," she said. There was an awkward silence between them until Valerie spoke again, "I suppose it will take awhile before you get your new PPT."
Darien smiled mischievously as he pulled something out of his pocket. "Actually, I have it right here."
"What?" Valerie came over to see it.
"Selma put an ad in the Washington Post when the other one was destroyed. This appeared in my suitcase a couple hours ago."
"In your suitcase?"
"Yeah, it used to be that all temportations occurred in the basement of the Smithsonian, but they've made advancements that allow them to temport to any coordinates that Selma provides."
"Wow, I'll have a lot to catch up on when I go back." She became distracted by this information and wandered around the room. She came back up to Darien. "So with that you could send me back right now?"
Darien looked down. "I could."
Another lengthy silence had them both feeling uncomfortable.
Finally Valerie blurted out, "Look, I can't stand all this awkwardness! You have to believe me that I wasn't scamming you. Everything that happened between us was real. At least it was to me. Darien, I want you to come with me."
Darien put a hand on her arm. "Valerie, I care about you and I believe that you care about me, but I can't go back. My work here is still not over. Sahmbi and a few others are still out there."
"You've been here so long. Can't they send someone else?"
Darien shook his head. "I made a promise a long time ago that I would get Sahmbi. Ramiro might have been able to lead me to him, but now I'll never know if he was still in contact with him or not." He took a step back. "Besides, you know that I'm not into treasure hunting, or salvaging for that matter." He looked at her with a knowing look in his eye.
Valerie frowned, "What did you find out?"
"Selma did a little checking. It seems that you have a claim to the salvage rights of the part of the Adriatic Sea where the boat went down that will still be in effect 200 years from now. We made it to your secret place after all."
Valerie looked away, feeling a little embarrassed that her plans were uncovered so easily. "There's nothing illegal about any of it," she said.
"I didn't say there was. Just promise me that you'll be careful."
Valerie crossed her arms. "I can handle myself." She shrugged. "But it was nice to have someone looking out for me for a change." She turned and stacked a couple of boxes. "Well, you'll know where I'll be if you change your mind." She looked at him expectantly.
Darien looked away knowing that he couldn't say what she wanted him to say. He decided on the next best thing, as he looked her in the eye. "I'm really going to miss you." He gave a sly smile as he tried to lighten the mood. "You always get me into trouble, but I'll miss you."
Valerie laughed. "Oh, you always play things so safe. I don't see it as trouble. I see it as an adventure. And you have to admit, it was a pretty good adventure."
Darien smiled at her. "It was a grand adventure."