“Some of man’s greatest thinkers were once thought of as magicians. In reality, they were visionaries, capable of seeing possibility where others didn’t. Even Galileo was once considered heretical, but now he’s honored as a patriarch of the scientific revolution.”
It sounded rehearsed, as if Galileo was his go-to argument.
“Because he proved that the earth revolves around the sun,” Mer said.
“In theory.” Ishmael warmed to his subject. “What he believed couldn’t be seen.”
She ducked her head under the counter and came up with the tide calendar. “Expand your argument. There are plenty of things we can’t see, simply because they really don’t exist.”
“Oh, Meredith. You are a stubborn one.”
She straightened. “I didn’t tell you my name.”
“I read minds.”
Hogwash. She replayed their conversation. Where had he picked up her name? Then it came to her. “The newspaper.”
Disappointment flickered across his face but was gone so quickly that she wondered if she’d imagined it.
“Perhaps I came across it in the article. But wasn’t it thrilling to think I could read your mind?”
“More like creepy. And you lied about it.” She ran her finger down the chart to find the date. “The first moonless night is tonight. I’ll have to check with the owner before committing to holding over a crew.”
“One of my team members couldn’t make this trip,” Ishmael said. “I’ll need an extra safety diver.”
Most of the Aquarius crew were independent contractors, called to work when the need arose. Today, she had Tom and Taylor crewing the Dock Holiday. Tom was like Cuban coffee. Strong, acerbic, and best enjoyed in small increments. Taylor, the captain, was akin to an empanada—warm, flaky, and sweet at her center. The two complemented each other perfectly. But Kyle was the logical choice to serve as tonight’s safety diver. He usually ran the equipment room, but he’d been trying to increase his hours on the boats in order to qualify for his captain’s license. He was crewing the LunaSea and would jump at the opportunity to go out with a boatload of ghost hunters and be part of a documentary.
“Not a problem,” Mer said. “We always staff our charters with a divemaster.”
“Excellent. I’d like you.”
“I really don’t think you do.” She reached for the charter agreement and waivers, eager to end their conversation.
“Nonsense.” Ishmael put his elbow on the counter and leaned toward her. His breath smelled like onions despite the early hour. “Doubting Thomas believed when presented with the truth. I’m certain I can change your mind. Will change your mind.”
Her exasperation bubbled over. “My mother was born in Sedona. She’s been trying to convert me to her crystal astrology woo-woo beliefs for years. I’m a scientist. I deal with facts. Data makes me happy. Adhering to the scientific method makes me downright giddy. To be blunt, your quest for paranormal activity strikes me as silly.”
“Not according to the man you rescued yesterday. Seems to me that you, of all people, should know that.”
Her pen hovered over the invoice.
“Despite what you may think,” Ishmael continued, “there’s far more to your rescue than you want to believe.”
A chill shook her body. She hadn’t shivered since being in the Arctic, and there she had the temperature to blame. Here she had only Ishmael. Well, not entirely. She could also blame the diver and his alleged ghost for sucking her into this maelstrom.
But the diver had gotten to Molasses Reef somehow. The mechanics of how he’d managed this still eluded her, and that left her feeling unsettled. At the moment, she wished magic really did exist. She’d conjure another customer just to save her from this conversation.
Water dripped from the eaves, but the rain had stopped.
“Forgive me,” Ishmael said. He turned his palms up and swept them toward the blue sky now visible through the storefront window. “This discourse is far too serious for such a magnificent day, and with such a beautiful woman.”
Mer planted her tongue firmly in her cheek.
The bell above the door jingled again. Bijoux whirled into the shop and greeted Mer, then turned the full wattage of her smile on Ishmael.
“I trust that Mer is helping you with everything you need?” Her boss’s voice sparkled as brightly as her jeweled name.
Mer focused on the paperwork.
“We were having a lively discussion regarding what lies beyond the edge of science,” Ishmael said.
“I know one thing that’s not there,” Mer muttered as she filled in another line on the form.
Bijoux laughed. “Be careful. Mer is a walking encyclopedia and loves a good debate.”
“You must be the owner,” Ishmael said.
Mer raised her eyes, wary.
Bijoux extended her hand. “Bijoux Fouchard.”
“Ishmael Styx.” He grasped just her fingers and, with a slight twist, raised them to his lips. “Enchanté.”
Mer nearly gagged, but Bijoux didn’t flinch. The woman had endured much worse in Haiti before immigrating to the States.
“Le plaisir, c’est à moi,” Bijoux replied.
Confusion clouded his eyes, but he recovered quickly. “I’m chartering your boat,” he said, “and the possibility exists that I may need it for multiple trips. I was hoping to ask for a favor.”
“Of course.” She discreetly wiped her hand across the fabric of her bright sarong.
“I would very much like to have Meredith serve as a safety diver on the trips.”
Before Bijoux could speak, Mer jumped in. “I’ve already advised Mr. Styx that it wouldn’t be a problem to find someone with more enthusiasm for his project. Kyle would be perfect.”
Ishmael pressed his appeal. “It is exactly because of her skepticism that she would be so valuable.” He opened his wallet and pulled out a wad of hundred-dollar bills. He counted five out onto the counter in front of Mer. “For the crew, if you are among them, tonight.”
“Tonight?” Bijoux looked to Mer for confirmation and then turned back to Ishmael. “My crews are already putting in a full day. I will authorize the trip, but I won’t compel anyone to work on such short notice.”