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 An exerpt from the scandulous novel,

For seven years past the brothers had worked almost exclusively as fishermen - trolling the oceans of the world. Not for herring or mackerel, but to harvest the rich bounty of a bygone era that lays hidden beneath her waves. And out of all the seven seas there are none whose hidden treasures have been scattered throughout history with such prolific abandon as those of the far-flung Caribbean. So this had become their cruising ground - their Eldorado. Where the broken necklaces of the Windward and Leeward Isles spill green and gold into the sea. From the spice islands of Trinidad and Tobago in the south-east, all the way around to where the Bahamas flutter like butterflies off the coast of Cuba.

It was August, and getting late in the season for a cruising boat to be lingering as far north as Martinique4, but for the crew of Storm Along, the island's old capital still held one significant attraction.
The morning shadows of Mount Pelee were just beginning to lift above the red, smoky rooftops of Saint Pierre, daubing a splash of colour across the town's sandy doorstep. A fisherman, barely three steps ahead of sleep was already on the beach, rolling his brightly painted dory on rough-hewn timbers to the sea. A hundred yards beyond the breaking surf Ben was awake too. Before the first cock crowed dawn he had ferried his brother ashore in their dinghy, and now from a secret place in their cockpit he watched the landscape come to life. From the lush volcanic peaks rising almost a mile above the stone-washed city walls, right down to the sapphire-blue sea. A picture-postcard morning - but Ben wasn't really interested in any of that. Instead his attention rested on a particular finger of broken rocks that stretched out across the beach from the settlement beyond. One in a handful of narrow, brick openings to an ancient drainage system that burrowed beneath the city - outlets to Saint Pierre's history that, when the tide was low enough, allowed a man to crawl back inside. Jesse was in there. Under the cover of darkness the older man had watched him disappear, and now, on the lookout for trouble, he awaited his brother's signal.
Today was the third day of their venture - the third day and the third tunnel in a series of four potential targets. But with a waxing moon the tides were rising sooner each day. And with the premature summer weather the skies had been clouding over early in the afternoons, threatening rain. Bearing this in mind they had to work quickly, for either one of these possibilities could trap a man inside the system, drowning him in the torrents of a flash flood or (with the streets' drains frozen through centuries of neglect) swallow him up into the creeping death of a slowly rising tide.
It seemed rather incongruous then, that when Ben wasn't scanning the shore, he occupied himself with a local travel guide that he had found. Slow reading, considering it was written in French rather than English but informative all the same. Despite this apparent distraction, the concern that gnawed away inside him manifest at Ben's fingertips as he fiddled distractedly with the dial on a small, two-way radio at his side - determined to minimise communications, but impatient for his brother's call.
Beneath the city streets Jesse waddled on, unable to stand but only occasionally forced to crawl through the narrow river of sewerage that flowed continually along the lower reaches of the system. To very few men this was a beautiful world, and in the tunnel vision of his passion Jesse couldn't help but admire the architecture that had gone into its creation. The arched ceilings and graceful buttresses were the handiwork of true artisans - the tens of thousands of briquettes that had gone into their construction likely to have crossed the Atlantic as ballast stones in the bilges of early European slave traders. Running a rubber-gloved hand along the tunnel walls Jesse noted they were of a different texture to the overhead stone - a heavier masonry that might have been quarried locally from the tough, granitic rock. And beneath his Wellingtons the floors of the aqueducts had been cobbled. Still, they were more difficult to assess, for in the most part they had been covered in a slurry of volcanic material that must have paved the catacombs in 1902 - the time of the island's most cataclysmic eruption. But that was precisely why they were there. Because in an otherwise unmemorable and splintered conversation a four-by-two of inspiration had popped up out of nowhere and hit Ben on the head, hammering home the probability that anything caught in the Mount Pelee lava flows would most likely have worked its way into the city's drains. There, because of the invading water it would have cooled more quickly, cementing into its molten trail the discards of three centuries and in addition to this, the riches of more than thirty thousand people caught in the wave of destruction - for all-bar-one had perished in the rivers of fire and poison gas that engulfed the town.
"Earth to Jesse. Earth to Jesse. Come in Jesse."
The radio gave the young adventurer a bit of a start.
"Keep your voice down will you. I'm right under the bloody marketplace. What do you want?"
"Is your torch on?"
"No. Why?"
"Because there's a little knob on the top of the radio that says Volume. Turn it down!"
Jesse hadn't thought of that.
"What do you want?"
"You know those little eels that we talked about yesterday?"
"Don't tell me. There's a recipe for them in that bloody book you found?" Jesse had seen only one this morning - slithering off up a side passage before he'd got close enough to squish it and he wasn't about to go chasing off after it now.
"Seems they might not be eels at all. But a snake called the Fer-De-Lance. Lives underground."
"Deadly poison. I'd stop messing with 'em if I were you… Out."
The natural slope in the tunnels meant that Jesse was getting higher above sea level the deeper he penetrated the system, making the footing drier as he progressed and exposing more of the tunnel floor in the process. Although cramped, it was easy going, for the gradient was mostly a slight and constant one. In some places though, the flow had eroded shallow steps into the subterranean pavement. These areas seemed to be linked to the above ground openings, where run-off from the gutters at street level had been agitated by its fall into the stormwater drains below. Near the old marketplace was one such location. Light filtering in from the street also meant that Jesse could see here, and what he saw demanded his immediate attention. A miniature waterfall - where turbulence created by the fall from street- level had pressed an old copper coin against the bank of an eroded pool. Picking it up Jesse was surprised to see another pinned beneath it. Then another… and another! Coins dating back hundreds of years - monarchs from across the courts of Europe, all fallen victim to the combined subtleties of hydraulics and their own growing weight of numbers. By some stroke of luck the lava had bypassed this little oasis and so, one by one they had collected, gallant kings shielding their queens from the ravages of time. Even the earliest captive remained in relatively fine condition and Jesse marvelled at his good fortune.
"The Gift Of God." He whispered.
Though taken aback by the gold piece in his hand, Jesse's reference was not a prayer of thanksgiving, but rather a recognition of the king, born Louis Dieudonne - literally 'the gift of God' and ruler of France for over 7 decades in the transition between 17th and 18th century France. An amazing find on its own, let alone in such noble company.
"The markets. Of course!" His voice raised an octave or two.
Thus inspired Jesse took a chance and lay flat on his back in the dirtied stream to work beneath the crumbling overhangs of rock that led into a much narrower system. Once past this obstruction he could roll over. It was tight for the big man but in compensation the tunnels were dry from this point onwards, and their smooth lava floor enabled Jesse to skid the torch along in front of him as he shimmied into the tapering darkness. Eventually he could proceed no further but at arm's length the beam of light caught a reflection from just ahead. Glowing discs that stood like little flowers in the sun. The flow must have been cooling when it picked them up, floating them through the gloomy canyons to sow silver and gold across this otherwise barren meadow of stone. And here they'd remained, high and dry above the run-off for over a hundred years.
The tunnel was so tight now that it was all he could do to reach them - to pluck them one by one into a tiny bouquet of precious metal… but wasn't it dry in here just a moment ago? Someone must have been hosing down the gutters on the street outside. A minute later and the trickle was a flow.
"Earth to Jesse. Earth to Jesse. Do you hear me down there?"
Jesse couldn't reach back for his radio. He didn't have to.
"There's rain coming over. Not in town yet, but it's bucketing down on the hills. Suggest you come home little brother. Do you copy?"
The call turned his legs to jelly.
Because of his focus on the waterfront Ben had been slow in spotting the downpour higher up on the mountain, but Jesse was already feeling the effects of what had happened. The already saturated water table was surging into the drains, flooding the system! He had to move fast. Forgetting the torch he pushed backwards, slow at first, but the increasing flow backing up against his shoulders was shovelling him on his way. Finally he was clear of the side tunnels, but a quick look told him that the situation was deteriorating rapidly. Although the tunnel was wider here, the many tributaries that drained into this major artery were feeding the flow, stealing the air space that separated him from the low, vaulted ceilings. Fighting to shake off panic he made the underpass, but on the other side it was already waste deep. And still he couldn't stand! The half-light too was deserting him, which meant just one thing - the tunnel up ahead had already submerged.
What to do? Head back up to the higher tunnels and pray the downpour passed quickly? If it didn't, he'd never swim the extra distance. Or should he push on? He must be getting close to the exit by now… Fuck it! With as deep a breath as a drowning man can muster he committed to the swirling darkness. To the straight and narrow course that he swore he would follow for the rest of his days if God got him out of this mess…


 255 pages from Deep End Press printed on wood free paper and delivered anywhere in Australia for Click here to order your copy.