Here is a short excerpt from Caleb Wygal’s latest novel Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure, named a Semi-Finalist in the 2016 Clive Cussler Adventure Writer’s Competition. Enjoy.
You can order here: Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure at Amazon.com.
It must have been a mistake, Darwin Trickett thought. How did no one not see this before now?
Trickett was a graduate assistant at North Carolina State University, working in the archives at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. His job was, for the most part, boring, although it would make a good entry on his resume down the line.
He was a massive human. Standing at six feet, eight inches tall and weighing close to three-hundred and fifty pounds, he had to squeeze himself between the already generous amounts of space in between shelving units in this dank, dark, musty storage room underneath the old part of the museum. At twenty-three years of age, he already had a rapidly receding hairline. The rest of his scalp consisted of dense, puffy, black curls. He wore a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses. He was so farsighted that the lenses magnified his eyes.
His appearance often frightened small children.
Those who took the time to get to know Darwin—who were rare—knew him to be a gentle, caring person who would do almost anything for his friends.
The museum opened a new research wing during the late winter of 2012, and now they were looking for low-paid, recent college graduates to sift through the archives in the old wing to clear out space. Boxes and crates filled the numerous storage areas, filled with artifacts and documents from various types of archaeological expeditions. Most of the contents of the storerooms came from projects and digs located in the Carolina’s. There was a room for prehistory, ancient history, and recent history. In the grand scope of time, the museum curators defined “Recent History” as any time since Christopher Columbus landed in the New World.
Trickett sat on the floor in one corner of the recent history section, digging in a cardboard box of unfiled papers and artifacts from what must have been a small project. A strong, musty odor emanated from the box. A common smell to Darwin. Lying atop a wooden plate, a manila envelope and other assorted kitchen tools was a scrawled note in a large Ziploc bag.
Plum Point Artifacts
Bath, North Carolina
April 16, 1982
That was it. No notation of who worked on the project besides Cole or any indication of why the box’s contents were important. He had been through dozens of crates and boxes, and all had standard documentation: Name of Project, Project Leader, Place, Date, Findings, and Assistants. Trickett couldn’t place the name Plum Point, although he thought Bath was somewhere near the Outer Banks. It sounded familiar.
With no context to go upon, the various artifacts were meaningless. He pushed the contents around, hoping something would jump out at him. The interior consisted of different artifacts that came from everyday life such as plates, cutlery, a wooden box, and cups. Just like most of the other boxes he had sorted through thus far. He grabbed a manila envelope tucked along the edge of the box in hopes of finding some shred of information that would help him decide if he should keep the box or throw it away.
At the moment, he leaned towards the latter.
The packet was a standard manila envelope. It was thick, but not heavy. He released the metal clasp and lifted the flap. The musty smell returned, however unlike the odor in the rest of the box, it reminded Trickett more of an old library than anything else.
Inside was a leather-bound journal—the source of the smell—and another handwritten note. Again, the note did little to help Trickett. It read:
From the Teach ruins.
This is presumed to be the diary of Mary Ormond.
Trickett set the note aside. He wasn’t familiar with the names, although he had a sense he’d seen or heard it somewhere before. He’d have to go back and check later and made a note to do so.
There wasn’t an identifying name written inside the first few pages. The cover of the journal was black and unadorned. The pages were yellowed with age and frayed at the edges. Dates preceded many of the entries with the first one beginning in 1717. Whatever this was, it was almost 300 years old. Nowhere near being the oldest of the artifacts in this basement (there was most of an acrocanthosaurus claw in another room that was over 130 million years old); although that didn’t mean he could take this any less seriously. Trickett thought the thin book was in amazing condition, considering its age.
He leafed through a few of the entries near the back of the journal, and was surprised at the intimacy portrayed. The entries depicted a woman much in love with Blackbeard, who worried about him while he was away. In an entry near the end of the journal, she awoke to a surprise on her pillow: a gold necklace with a large ruby.
Some of the lettering was faded, although Trickett could still make out what was written. Of the few entries he read, this Mary Ormond did not mention the name of her lover. He figured that from the period and the coastal location where Cole came across this journal and from what he had read that the bearded man was the captain of a ship of some sort.
He thought the journal seemed interesting enough, at least, to catalogue. This might be the only thing he’d save from the carton. Trickett was getting ready to close the journal and set it aside when he fumbled it in his hands, causing a folded piece of yellowed parchment to come loose from somewhere in the recesses of the book and flutter to the floor.
He stared at the parchment in surprise. He wondered what was special enough about it that made Ormond tuck it away in her personal diary.
He picked it up between his chubby fingers, and unfolded the frail paper slowly. There was something sacrosanct about it causing Trickett to treat it with even more care than the journal. The parchment had a silken quality. This was expensive paper for the period in which it was made. The left edge of the paper seemed as though it came from a notebook of some sort. Like someone ripped it out in a hurry.
Darwin didn’t know it at the time, but the words and lines on that piece of parchment would change his and others lives as well as rewrite the history books.