Ghost Trap - GHOST TRAP RICK HAUTALA Although it was often...

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GHOST TRAP RICK HAUTALA Although it was often part of his job, Jeff Stewart hadn't been expecting to find a body today. It was Saturday morning, and he was doing some diving for his friend and drinking buddy, Mel 'Biz' Potter. A storm had passed through the night before, and they were looking for some of Biz's lobster pots that had broken off their buoy ropes in the rough seas. Locals called such lost traps 'ghost traps' when they lay on the bottom of the ocean, where a lobster could still scuttle inside. If more than one lobster ended up in a trap, the bigger, stronger one would kill and eat the others, but that only prolonged its captivity until, eventually, it died of starvation. Even on the sunniest day, there was no light down as deep as Jeff was. Today, following the storm, the sky was as grey as soot, the seas choppy. Even at six or seven fathoms, Jeff could feel the powerful tug of the tide. He'd agreed to help Biz out - like he did once or twice a summer - for the comradeship and the simple pleasure that diving gave him. No matter how much Marcie, his girlfriend, bitched about him screwing around on the one day of the week they had to spend together, Jeff took advantage of any and all excuses to dive. He relished the freedom, the sense of weightlessness and total isolation. His day job was working search, rescue, and recovery for the U.S. Coast Guard, so Jeff had seen more than his fair share of drowned bodies - 'sinkers', as he and his coworkers called them. When this one came into view, illuminated by the diffused beam of Jeff's underwater light, he couldn't help but be startled. Most drowning victims, if you found them soon enough - say, within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, before the lobsters, crabs, and other scavengers scurrying around on the bottom of the ocean started to consume the dead meat - ended up the same way. Once they were dead, the blood pooled in their rumps and lower legs, weighing them down so they were sitting on the ocean floor with their legs splayed out in front of them. Their arms invariably would be raised and extended, like they were reaching for something to cling to, something solid so they could hoist themselves back up to the surface. In all his years of diving, the one thing Jeff had never been able to get over - the single most fascinating thing - was the dead person's face . . . especially the eyes. Once the blood drained out of the head and upper body and settled into the lower trunk, the puckered skin turned as white and translucent as marble. Winding traces of veins stood out like faded tattoos just beneath the skin. Of course, someone with darker skin wouldn't be as white as alabaster, but the effect - at least on every body Jeff had ever recovered - was as fascinating as it was gruesome. The eyes - if some sea creatures hadn't gotten at them yet - would be wide open and staring with an expression of stunned surprise. It was as if the victim still couldn't believe he or she had actually drowned.
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