I went down to deck level, grabbed hold of the rail and hung on. The signs of the fight with the Royal Navy MTB were plain to see. Two largish holes in the superstructure where cannon shells had hit and dozens of bullet holes in the hull that could only have been made by heavy machine-gun fire.
I went up fast and surfaced a good thirty yards nearer the shore than theKathleen. Binnie was the first to see me and waved his hand. They hauled in the anchor, McGuire started the engines and coasted towards me.
‘You’ve found it ?’ Binnie asked as they slowed beside me and McGuire let the anchor down again.
I nodded. ‘I’m making my first dive now to assess the situation.’
I got a grip on my mouthpiece again and went down fast, hanging on to the deck rail while I adjusted my air supply. Then I switched on the lamp and went head first down the companionway.
A small amount of grey light filtered in through the portholes, but not much and it was as eerie as hell in that passage. One of the cabin doors swung gently to and fro. I shoved it open with my foot and a body lifted gently off the bunk opposite in the sudden turbulence and subsided again, but not before I’d seen the face, swollen to incredible proportions like something out of a nightmare. Another drifted above my head, pinned to the cabin roof. I got out and closed the door hurriedly.
I found what I wanted the moment I entered the main
saloon for several large boxes were jumbled together in the angle between the centre table and the bulkhead where the boat had tilted. Most of them were padlocked, but one had been opened and the contents spilled out in an untidy pile like children’s bricks.
Gold is heavy stuff and the ingot I picked up must have weighed a good twenty pounds, but I was conscious of no particular elation as I moved back along the companion-way. The chips were down with a vengeance and a hell of a lot depended on what happened during the next ten or fifteen minutes.
I surfaced beside the ladder McGuire had put over the rail and held up the ingot. Binnie came down the ladder and stood knee-deep in water to take it from me, hanging on with one hand. It was a heaven-sent opportunity and as I passed the ingot to him, I slipped my diver’s knife from its sheath and pushed it down inside one of his paratrooper’s boots.
His face, as usual, gave nothing away. He handed the ingot over the rail to McGuire, who turned excitedly to show it to Dooley. Dooley was more interested in watching me.
‘Are you all right, Major?’ Binnie asked.
‘It’s bloody cold,’ I said. ‘So let’s have that net down pretty damn quick. I want to get out of here.’
McGuire, helped by Binnie, pushed the winch arm out over the rail. They had akeady fixed a heavy net to the pulley hook which they now let down. I adjusted my mouthpiece and went after it
Filling the net was a laborious process for as I needed the lamp to negotiate the interior of the wreck, I could only carry one ingot at a time. It took me a good
twenty minutes to move six. Which was very definitely enough, so I hauled on the line and followed them up.
As I surfaced they were already swinging the net in over die deck. ‘Jesus, man, is this the best you can do ?’ McGuire called.
‘It’s bloody hard work/1 told him.
‘Well, you’d better get on with it or we’ll be here all day.’
I glanced at Binnie, who was crouched over the rail, busily engaged in moving the ingots. Dooley stood against the rail towards the prow watching me, so I gave him two fingers and dived.
I went nearly all the way to the bottom before changing direction and striking for the surface again, keeping directly under the keel of theKathleen. When I was almost there, I unbuckled the straps of my aqualung and got rid of it, surfacing gently on the other side ofKathleen.