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«The Chase», Clive Cussler

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To Teri, Dirk, and Dana

No father was blessed with more-loving children

 

 

GHOST FROM THE PAST

 

APRIL 15, 1950

FLATHEAD LAKE, MONTANA

 

IT ROSE FROM THE DEPTHS LIKE AN EVIL MONSTER in a Mesozoic sea. A coat of green slime covered the cab and boiler while gray-brown silt from the lake bottom slid and fell off the eighty-one-inch drive wheels and splashed into the cold waters of the lake. Ascending slowly above the surface, the old steam locomotive hung for a moment from the cables of a huge crane mounted on a wooden barge. Still visible under the dripping muck, beneath the open side window of its cab, was the number 3025.

 

Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 3025 rolled out of the factory on April 10th of 1904. The “Pacific” class was a common large-sized, high-drive-wheeled steam engine that could pull ten steel passenger cars long distances at speeds up to ninety miles an hour. She was known as a 4-6-2 because of her four-wheeled truck in the front, just behind the cowcatcher, the six massive drive wheels below the boiler, and the two small wheels mounted beneath the cab.

 

The crew on the barge watched in awe as the crane operator orchestrated his levers and gently lowered old 3025 onto the main deck, its weight settling the barge three inches deeper in the water. She sat there almost a minute before the six men overcame their wonderment and detached the cables.

 

“She’s in remarkably good shape for sitting underwater for almost fifty years,” murmured the salvage superintendent of the battered old barge that was nearly as ancient as the locomotive. Since the nineteen twenties, it had been used for dredging operations on the lake and surrounding tributaries.

 

Bob Kaufman was a big, friendly man, ready with a laugh at the slightest hint of something jovial. With a face ruddy from long hours spent in the sun, he had been working on the barge for twenty-seven years. Now seventy-five, he could have retired long ago, but as long as the dredging company kept him on he was going to keep working. Sitting at home and working jigsaw puzzles was not his idea of the good life. He studied the man standing beside him, who was, as close as he could figure, slightly older.

 

“What do you think?” Kaufman asked.

 

The man turned, tall and still lean in his late seventies, hair full and silver. His face was as weathered as buckskin. He stared at the locomotive thoughtfully through eyes yet to rely on glasses. They gleamed blue with a tinge of lavender. A large silver mustache covered his upper lip as if it had been planted there many years ago. It matched his eyebrows, which had become bushy with age. He lifted an expensive Panama hat off his head and dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief.

 

He walked over to the salvaged locomotive, now sitting solidly on the deck, and focused his attention on the cab. Water and muck poured down its ladders and spilled across the deck of the barge.

 

“Despite the grime,” he said finally, “she’s still aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Only a question of time before a railroad museum comes up with the funds to restore her for display.”

 

“Lucky a local fisherman lost his outboard engine and dragged the bottom to find it or the locomotive might have been down there another half century.”

 

“Yes, it was a stroke of luck,” the tall, silver-haired man said slowly.

 

Kaufman stepped over and ran a hand over one of the big drive wheels. A sentimental expression crossed his face. “My daddy was an engineer with the Union Pacific,” he said quietly. “He always said the Pacific-type locomotive was the finest he ever drove. He used to let me sit in the cab when he brought a train into the yard. The Pacific class was used mostly to haul passenger cars because it was so fast.”

 

A team of divers, wearing suits of canvas sandwiched between layers of rubber, stood on a platform as it was raised from beneath the surface of the cold water. They wore the Mark V brass hard hat, large weight belts around their chests, and diving boots with canvas tops, brass toes, and lead soles that weighed thirty-six pounds. Altogether, the divers wore one hundred fifty pounds of equipment. They tugged at their umbilical cords, leading to the surface-supplied diving air pump, as the platform was raised and swung down to the deck. They were no sooner aboard than another team climbed down ladders and stood on the platform as it descended into the waters of the lake, still icy from the long Montana winter.

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