The Hoard

To commemorate the completion of the first draft of my first novel, an extract; packaged as a standalone short story.


Kevin Downing was an experienced diver, and a teacher of other divers. He made a modest

living from the diving school he ran, and supplemented this with other diving jobs,

including some work for the Commissioners of Irish Lights. He also gained occasional

pocket money from fishing competitions, of which he entered many and won not a few.

He would dive the waters where the competition was to be held to get the “lay of

the land”, to see what types of fish were nesting and feeding there, and what bait

or lure would work best. He also earned occasional cash by diving to recover items

lost from yachts; watches, rings, even a silver champagne bucket some millionaire had

dropped overboard when moored near Killiney beach. But by far his most memorable find

was an unintentional one.


While scouting a location for a fishing competition, he had come across a marker buoy,

painted black and suspended some four meters under the water, as if it was intended

not to be visible from the surface. After he followed it down to its mooring among the

rocks on the sea bed, he found out why. Wrapped in plastic and sackcloth were four

bundles, and from their shape and weight he could guess immediately that they were

guns of some kind. Presuming that they had been dropped off there to be picked up

and smuggled into the country for the IRA or some other paramilitary group, he

realised the first thing he had to do was to get the hell away from them, in case

the people who they were intended for were on their way to collect them.


He returned to his boat, and decided not to share his discovery with his father, who

attended his return. Remaining silent during their return to harbour, he tried not

to look too nervous in case his father would sense something was wrong. Throughout

the fishing competition the next day, his eyes, and his mind, rarely focused on the

tips of his rods, drifting instead to a point on the calm sea that he reckoned was

above where the hoard lay. He knew that he should report it, but preferred to do so

anonymously given that the people he presumed were involved would probably be very

displeased if their cargo was discovered before they could recover it. But guiding

the police to a specific spot on the ocean floor was something that was not easy to

do over the phone, and even so, the very fact that he had found it might lead the

police to the fact that he belonged to the reasonably small scuba diving community

on the east coast, so maintaining anonymity would be difficult. And if the police

could find him that easily, the people who put the stuff there might not be far



At the end of the day he had no fish, but he did have a plan. He realised that if

the boat that dropped the weapons off had made the rope on the buoy they attached

so short that it would not rise above the water, they must have had some other means

of conveying the position of the hoard to whoever had to pick it up. He presumed that

there must be some landmark or alignment of landmarks that would guide them to the

general area, as this was a common practice among fishermen, and the submerged buoy

was a final guide for a diver once they got to that general area. He reckoned that

if he could get the police to search the general area, they would find the buoy and

the hoard if they knew what to look for. So all he had to do, he reckoned, was to

figure out what the landmarks were, and give that information to the police. The

problem was, he had quickly scanned the horizon when he surfaced after finding the

hoard originally, but had not seen any easily recognisable landmarks that he could

report unmistakably to the police. To look for them thoroughly, he would have to go

back out to the hoard and anchor above it, which ran the risk of meeting the people

he wanted to avoid, or be spotted looking around a site that they may well have been

keeping an eye on. In the six hours he sat on the beach feeding his bait to the fish,

he decided that the best thing to do would be to move the hoard to a spot that he

could easily relay to the police, and he had also figured out a way to do it without

getting spotted.


Two days later he brought his boat back out to near where he had anchored it the

first time. He reckoned the hoard was about 200 meters to the north of this position,

but to be safe he went an extra 300 meters to the south and anchored there. He had

roped about a dozen large plastic containers together, and dropped them over the side.

As they filled with water, he finished putting on his gear, lowered an extra tank of

air into the water and rolled over the side. The containers sank slowly. Once they

were full they were easy enough to manoeuvre around, if a little sluggish, and he had

quickly guided them to the site of the submerged buoy. His plan was to tie the

containers to the hoard of weapons, then fill the containers with air from the extra

tank so that they would take the weight of the guns. He could then guide the whole

assembly to a place of his choosing, to which he could lead the police.


As he got close to where the buoy should have been, he grew more and more nervous.

Watching carefully for any boats on the surface, as he did not want to meet anyone

else who was looking for the hidden goods, he guided the submerged raft of plastic

containers over the rocks and seaweed of the seabed. He remembered several memorable

landmarks, rock formations, large weeds and such, so he knew he was near to where the

buoy should be, but there was no buoy. Finally he came upon the position where the

hoard should have been, but it was gone. In its place, the weeds and stones had the

appearance of being recently disturbed, with a lot of sand stirred up and covering

the weeds around the space where the weeds had been crushed by the weight of the

contraband. Half relieved and half disappointed, he realised that whoever else knew

that the hoard was there, had already come and claimed it.


Dejected, and feeling a little foolish, he dragged his containers back to where he

had moored his boat, and released a little air into one at each end to cause them

to float to the surface. As he sailed back into Greystones, he pondered whether or

not he should call the police now, but decided that if he had nothing to show them

they would be unlikely to believe him, and even if they did there was little they

could do.


As it turned out, the television news that evening gave lengthy coverage to the

arrests made on a beach in Wexford that morning, where three IRA men had been

captured, bringing a quantity of weapons ashore in a small pleasure boat, after what the

police called a "two month long surveillance operation". Police were apparently

curious as to how the three had managed to bring the weapons from overseas in such

a small boat. Later investigations revealed that they had lifted the guns from a

drop point in the Irish sea under cover of darkness, guided to their location by

strong spotlights beamed in specific directions from points on the shore at specific

times in the night, which when aligned, put them precisely at the position above the

sunken hoard. The same signal had been used to guide the larger yacht that had had

offloaded the weapons there after bringing them up from Libya.


For many years Kevin would fight the urge to tell someone the story, knowing that

it would eventually become an urban legend, and be heard by someone in the IRA, who

may or may not come calling. He knew that no one would believe him anyway, so he

eventually decided that someday he would write a novel about it.


Copyright (C) 2012 A.Keyes All Rights Reserved.