Welcome to chapter 10 of Arena of Souls, my new, Doc Savage-style, pulp adventure. A new chapter every week! If you missed the previous chapters, you can start at the beginning here:
Arena of Souls
Chapter 10: The Map
“Nothing there, either.” Stone closed the book and pushed it aside. He stood, stretched, and cracked his knuckles. The cracks rang out like gunshots in the quiet of the Library of Congress Building.
A bespectacled man one table away turned a sour frown in Stone’s direction. He opened his mouth, but the words died on his lips as his eyes took in Stone’s size and bulk. His cheeks reddening, he cleared his throat, and turned back to his own book.
“Sorry,” Stone whispered. No need for discourtesy. He sat down again and returned to his pile of books. He’d decided to focus in on the shipwreck that had led to the mysterious two-month gap in his grandfather’s journal. Instinct told him that it was during this time that his grandfather had found the island. Given that he’d kept the island a secret, it stood to reason that he would not have recorded it in his journal.
The ship in question was the USS Syvarris. He’d learned plenty about its history, but could find no specific details of its sinking. Everyone agreed upon the date of the sinking and that there had been no survivors. Stone grinned. Apparently, his grandfather had never bothered to disabuse anyone of that notion. Sighing, he opened another book and flipped through the pages at a rapid clip, devouring every word.
He paused, sensing someone approaching. He knew he was probably safe in a library, but years of training had caused him to keep his senses on high alert most of the time. He tensed and then relaxed as the familiar scent of lilac perfume wafted over him.
“Let me guess,” a soft voice whispered in his ear. “You only look at the pictures.” Trinity gave his shoulders a squeeze and sat down next to him. “How’s it coming?” She kept her voice low and the man at the next table didn’t spare them a glance.
Stone grimaced. “Can’t find the location of the wreck. No specific details in any of these.”
“Have you tried newspapers?” Trinity’s brow crinkled and the corners of her mouth twitched upward as Stone shook his head. “Your girlfriend is a newspaper reporter and went for the books first? I’m hurt. Come on.” She rose from her seat and strode across the room.
Stone followed in her wake, his head buzzing, but not from thoughts of the shipwreck. “You’re still my girlfriend?”
She threw him a withering glance over her shoulder and rolled her eyes. “Yes,” she breathed. “Whether you like it or not.”
Trinity was acquainted with several of the librarians, and her status as a newspaper reporter quickly gained them access to the newspaper archives. The way she batted her lashes at the men didn’t hurt either.
They focused in on newspapers from cities in the Southeastern United States. The logic being that the Syvarris’ voyage from around the southern tip of Africa would have taken it up the East coast. They chose issues beginning the day of the sinking and a week thereafter.
Stone found nothing in the Atlanta Journal, but the Columbia Record offered a tantalizing clue. The Syvarris left San Juan, Puerto Rico the day before the sinking, headed for Charleston.
“Look at this.” He showed the article to Trinity. “If we calculate the distance the Syvarris could travel in a day, we should be able to follow its presumed path and get a fair estimate of where it sank.”
Trinity cupped her chin and stared thoughtfully at the newspaper. “Perhaps, but we don’t know the exact time of the sinking. A difference of four hours could mean a difference of a hundred miles or more.”
Stone nodded. He’d already reached that conclusion. “Still, it narrows things down a bit. I’m going to dig up some nautical maps of the area.”
When he returned with an armful of maps and atlases, Trinity was beaming at him.
“I found another mention of the wreck. A fishing vessel spotted the Syvarris about seventy five miles north of the Turks and Caicos islands. A storm had knocked her off course. Two hours later, that same ship received a distress call from Syvarris. The connection was bad, so they could not get the exact coordinates. The captain headed his ship back toward the spot they’d last seen her, but a storm forced them to turn back.”
Stone read the article. Trinity had covered the essentials. He performed a few quick mental calculations. “Two hundred miles north of Turks and Caicos, another fifty or so north/northwest to the spot where the ship most likely sank.” He considered what he knew about that part of the Atlantic. “There are a lot of storms in that area. I know sailors aplenty who avoid it like the plague.”
“If the stories are to be believed, it goes far beyond mere storms. I’ve heard tell of strange lights in the sky, fogs that spring up out of nowhere, ships becalmed for days, whirlpools, you name it.”
“Mermaids and sea monsters?” Trinity’s eyes sparkled.
“I don’t think you want me to answer that question.”
Trinity’s features sagged. “You’re joking.”
“Let’s stay on task. Here, take a map and search this area.” He tapped a spot about two hundred fifty miles east of Freeport. “The island has to be here somewhere.”
An hour later, his confidence began to flag. All the maps and charts agreed— this part of the ocean was empty.
“But the island has to be there.” Trinity scowled at the pile of maps in front of her as if they had given offense. “Your grandfather survived the sinking. He couldn’t have done that if there was no land for him to swim to.”
“I agree.” Stone rose from his seat. “And I know just who to ask.”