Nick's arms strained as he lifted the box onto the back of the truck. "Sure, don't bother to help," he muttered, catching sight of Cody talking to the auctioneer. "It's nothing, just my back nearly breaking!"
Nick set the box down and felt Cody's hand on his shoulder. "Are you trying to impress me with your biceps, or was there another reason you didn't wait for me to lift this thing?"
"The doctor said you need to take care of your back, Nick."
Nick shrugged again. "Let's get this stuff home."
Cody got in and started the truck.
Cody grinned. "Well, don't get too excited, Murray. It's just old ship parts."
"Still!" Murray said. "A blind auction, a box of mysterious stuff – isn't it neat?"
Nick and Cody shared an amused glance. "Sure is, Boz."
Nick opened his pocket knife and sliced through the tape keeping the box together. "Let's hope the parts we need are in here. It's getting to be a real bitch getting replacement parts for the old lady."
Cody's head shot up. "Hey!"
"Look at this, guys."
Murray was holding a gear the size of his hand, and by the way he was holding it he was struggling with its weight.
"Oh, great! These things cost a fortune." Cody slapped Nick's arm. "See, I told you it'd be worth it!"
"No, guys, I mean this." With that, Murray turned the gear on its head and showed them the parchment attached to the underside.
"Gimme that." Cody grabbed the map and turned it this way and that. "I think that's somewhere off the coast of Mexico."
Nick took the map. "So what? It's a map. We have tons of them for navigation."
Murray snatched the map back from Nick. "No, guys. This is a treasure map Look, here – this is a pirate symbol. And here's an X! There has to be a treasure!"
"It's in the middle of nowhere," Nick said, but Cody and Murray were already talking over each other in their excitement and didn't hear him.
Nick checked the heading. "Should be there by tomorrow morning."
"Good, because Murray is passed out over our maps after doing research for two days straight. He's so excited I half expected him to go and buy an eyepatch and a parrot before we left."
"I woulda been fine with the eyepatch," Nick said, "but he'd better not show up with a talking chicken."
Cody chuckled. "Where's your sense of adventure?"
"My sense of adventure is just fine, it just doesn't include cleaning up bird shit."
"Good point." Cody looked ahead. "Do you think we'll find anything?"
They all looked down into the fifth hole they'd dug. "Guess not," Cody said. He slung an arm around Murray and steered him back to the Ebbtide.
"Pity," Nick said. "A treasure really woulda come in handy."
As the three left the beach, a large crab fell into the hole. It struggled to climb up the sides and slid back down several times. On its last attempt, it dislodged a stone and brought an avalanche of sand down on its head …followed by a tumble of loose gold coins and jewels.