Watching her exacerbated movements, Brett wondered if Shiloh wasn’t losing her mind. Ever since the incident in the old house the week before, she hadn’t been her usual, spunky self.
Tom wasn’t helping any, insisting after the storm subsided that he and Brett recover the time capsule. Only when they got back to the house, the damn thing was gone.
The whole box disappeared as if it had never existed. Tom was floored, searching the house, the grounds, the gaping hole they’d left in the ground. “Are you positive this is the house?” he asked. Brett couldn’t even find the words to respond as he stared at the line of clean floor where it had obviously been drug away, only to vanish into thin air at the base of the stairs.
All in all, he wondered if Shiloh’s mental episode was not, in fact, based in reality.
But because they had all, as he reminded her, signed a contract they kept at it. Toiling tirelessly through rain and clouds, and even one gloriously sunny day, the three worked their way to a spot on the outskirts of the city.
Tom directed Shiloh to a spot, and that’s exactly where she lowered the excavator’s teeth, dragging up grass, dirt, and rocks. Brett held up a hand, spotting something in the hole just before the dirt could collapse around it. “Did you see that?” he said, looking at Tom. The old man shook his head as Shiloh jumped down from her machine and walked over. “Hey, Shiloh, come here and help me, will you?”
She warily took the shovel offered. “We’re not unearthing another skeleton, are we?”
“Nah. I think there’s a door or something here.” Brett started digging, pausing when he noticed he was working alone. “Uh, Shiloh?”
“Didn’t we learn our lesson the last time?” When she stared at him with those wide eyes, Brett was obliged to throw in the towel.
But they had a job to do. “What did I tell you? Am I going to let anything get you?” Shaking her head, she slid into the hole, using her hand as leverage against the slippery mud to stop her descent. Brett had to hand it to her; for a former VP of a financial accounting firm, and a priss, he was sure, she wasn’t afraid to get dirty.
A sheen of sweat broke across his brow as they shifted the dirt to reveal a trap door. A rusted handle seemed to be inviting Brett to lift it. Bracing his feet, he gave a tug and after an effort the door gave way with a loud bang. Glancing over his shoulder with a victorious smile, he couldn’t help but chuckle when Shiloh made a concerted effort to tear her eyes away from his arms. “Tom! Got a flashlight?”
In his excitement, the older man careened into the pit. His foot caught on a rock and he was airborne, straight for the open trap door. Brett lunged forward to catch him, just managing to grip Tom’s shirt before he plummeted into the dark abyss below them.
Releasing a shaking breath, Shiloh grabbed Tom’s arm and helped him to a safe perch on the edge of the hole. Tom smiled feebly and handed Brett the flashlight, his face stark white. “Here you go.”
Cursing under her breath, Shiloh checked him over for any cuts or abrasions. “Give me a heart attack, why don’t you. Christ Almighty, Tom. Could have fallen in there,” she muttered, “and that thing could be a hundred feet down for all we know.” She straightened Tom’s sleeves and brushed loose dirt off his shirt while Brett snickered under his hand. “Don’t ever, ever, ever scare me like that.”
Sobering when she turned to face him, Brett angled the flashlight down the pit. A wooden ladder hung from the wall, descending into the darkness so deep even the flashlight beam wouldn’t reach all the way to the bottom. He grabbed a rock and dropped it, waiting for the impact. When it finally hit, he guessed the bottom might have been about a hundred feet down. “I think she’s right, Tom. Seems to be about a hundred feet, give or take.”
“Give or take what?” Shiloh asked, staring at him with a blank expression.
Blinking, Brett replied, “What do you mean?”
“You said give or take. Give or take what? Ten feet? Twenty? Thirty?”
“I, ah…I don’t know exactly.” He shrugged as she walked over, wondering what difference an extra thirty feet made to a hundred.
Shiloh bent at the waist to peek over the edge, drawing back quickly. Oh, Brett thought. Thirty feet makes a lot of difference to someone afraid of heights. “I suppose you want to climb down that rotted ladder.”
Laughing, Brett turned her chin towards the excavator. “No. We’re going to repel down, using the machine as our ground.”
Shiloh nodded. “Finally you have a good plan. So, where’s the rope?”
“In the back of the excavator. Want to go with me?” Standing, he brushed dirt off his knees.
“If you think I’m staying up here alone, you’ve got another thing coming.”
Smiling, Brett elbowed her lightly. “You’ve got Tom.”
“Like I said. Let’s do this.”
Fifteen minutes later, Brett had triple checked their setup and stocked his backpack with water and a few snacks. He was helping Shiloh get her ropes set up when Tom approached. “You know what,” he said nervously, “this isn’t worth it.”
Pausing, Brett glanced over his shoulder. “Excuse me? If we find the diamond we can get the hell out of here.”
Tom didn’t look convinced, but he said nothing else as Brett locked an arm around Shiloh’s waist and lowered them into the darkness. “Remember, Tom. Just drop a flare if anything is happening. We’ll keep an eye out.” Glancing at Shiloh, he nodded. “Ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” With a kick, they were on their way into the darkness.
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