Skyler pulled the truck over to the side of the gravel road and stepped out. He didn't have much of a cell signal to begin with, and he knew it was worse inside the truck. The call went through, and his father answered in a weary voice, "Hello?"
"Sorry to call, but I accidentally deleted that map you emailed me with the landmarks. I'm somewhere near the place, but I just can't find it."
"I'll send it again." There was a brief pause and he heard his father say, "Thanks. Your mother is sending it for me."
"Don't know how well I'm going to be able to cover this by myself. This is a huge property."
"Just do what you can. We have three days, and maybe some of us will get over this bug to come help."
Doubt it, Skyler thought. The stomach bug had been going around, and most people were out for a week once it caught up with them. "I'll do my best."
"You've been out with me enough to know what you're looking for. Narrow it down. I know there are going to be some valuable pieces there. Just got to dig that hole and pull them out." He groaned and said, "I've got to get off here."
"Okay, Dad. Email just came through. I'll get a coil to the soil."
"Keep me posted."
Skyler disconnected the call and checked the email. As soon as he saw the map, he felt like an idiot for forgetting an obvious landmark he'd passed only a mile or two back. The only consolation was that he hadn't missed the mark by too much, and should make it to the property with plenty of daylight.
This was his chance to prove himself to his father, and if he found anything, it would be a pretty good payday. The one advantage of working alone was that there was nobody to split the proceeds with other than the property owner - and the company cut, of course.
It was a good thing, because he was going to miss the Nude Day party at the lake. It had started out fairly tame three years ago when everyone was treating it as a joke. Last year, things had turned quite interesting when several girls had shed their tops shortly after arriving. Most of the crowd had ended up nude or seminude before it was over, and he'd hooked up with a hot blonde. From all indications, this year was going to be even bigger - and probably wilder.
Jumping back in the truck, he put the missed party out of his mind and managed a three-point turn on the narrow road. After only a few minutes, he reached the spot where a huge walnut tree stood at a fork in the road, and went the opposite way this time. Memory refreshed by the map, following the rest of the landmarks was simple enough. Having lost less than a half an hour, he pulled into the driveway.
The gray-haired woman who owned the property stepped out the front door of the house as he put the truck in park. She knew he was coming, and the large "Detecting History" banner on the side of the truck couldn't be missed. Skyler hopped out and made his way to where she stood at the top step of the porch.
"I see you found me," the woman remarked as he approached.
"It was a bit hit and miss for a few minutes, but yes. I'm Skyler. Dad told you that most of the crew is down sick, right?"
She nodded. "Yes. Your mother called me yesterday."
"They may be able to make it out later, but for now, it's just me. I'm ready to get to work, though."
"Go right ahead, dear. I have some renters in a house over to the west. I'll give them a call and let them know you're here. I've already spoken with them, and they don't mind you looking there, so long as you don't dig up their flower gardens without asking. They're a bit odd, but good folks."
Skyler laughed. "I appreciate it. We've had renters walk up on us with loaded shotguns before because the landlord forgot to tell them we were coming."
"Hoping that word will get around that you've been here. I've had to call the police to chase off people out here without permission."
He shook his head. It was hardly the first time a property owner had mentioned scumbag, illegal diggers. "You're in an area where there might be Confederate artifacts. They're such big money that people are willing to risk it. If they know professionals have scoured the property, they usually don't bother coming back."
"That's good to hear. I was wondering, do you ever find things that have history, but just aren't worth a lot of money?"
"Yeah, that happens a lot."
"If you find anything like that, I'd like to see it. May be that I'll want to put it on a shelf or donate it to the local history museum."
"We can certainly do that. Unless it's pure junk, we always bring everything we find for you to see."
"Good then. I won't keep you any longer. Since you're by yourself, you can have more time to look if you need it."
Skyler grinned, knowing his father would be pleased to hear that. "If I have any luck, that might just come in handy. I'll go get my gear and get started."
"Just knock on the door if you need anything."
Already feeling digger fever, Skyler headed for the truck to suit up.
The whine of the metal detector in his ears caused Skyler to pause. It wasn't a huge hit, but he stopped to dig it anyway. The find was hardly treasure when he pulled it from the earth, but it was yet another sign that the area had seen some combat during the Civil War. He slipped the carbine bullet into his pouch, put down a flag from the holster on his back, and continued on.
Eventually, he hoped to sweep the whole area, looking for more war artifacts, but for now, he was on the hunt for the real prize. Somewhere on the property, there had once stood a well-appointed home. It wasn't supposed to have been as large or opulent as a plantation house, but the owners were still wealthy. As best as his father's research could determine, it had been located on the west side of the property.
Not one to waste the steps, Skyler kept his detector in motion as he scanned the landscape, looking for clues that might point toward the location of the house.
Topping a rise, he did see a house, and assumed it was that of the renters the property owner had mentioned. A quick check of his GPS let him know that the entirety of the yard around the house should be within the larger property he had permission to dig.
When he looked back toward the house, he got a hit that registered on something other than the metal detector.
"Damn," he whispered as the two women walked out of the back door wearing short-shorts and bikini tops.
Even from a distance he could tell that they were both what his mother called blessed up top. One had flowing locks of golden blonde, while the other sported a shorter cut in light brown.
After drinking in the initial look, he returned to the task at hand. As good as the scenery was, the last thing he wanted to do was look like a creeper and get tossed off the property with next to nothing to show for it.
It was at least a little compensation for missing all the boobies he would have otherwise seen the next day at the lake.
The lay of the land had him excited. He was atop a rise that overlooked a lot of the countryside, and that was exactly the sort of view a wealthy person would choose to build their home. He was a little worried because his instincts were telling him that the best possible position was within the manicured section of the women's yard. Even though he had permission, someone who took such good care of their lawn wasn't likely to be happy with him digging it up.
Edging that direction, he kept his eyes open for signs of a foundation, and his detector in motion. Once again, a whine sounded in his headphones, and he pulled the shovel free of the loop on his belt.
This was a much stronger hit, and a little deeper. Cutting the turf so he could replace the sod had him chomping at the bit, but he kept his cool and meticulously excavated down to the depth indicated by his detector. The scrape of metal on metal let him know he was there. A little clearing with his fingers revealed a spherical, metal shape, and his nerves jumped on edge.
It appeared to be a cannonball, and he knew that some were both explosive and viable, despite all the years buried in the earth. Digging carefully, he looked for any sign of a fuse or detonator while steadily freeing his find from the grip of the soil.
"Did you find something?"
Skyler sat back and gasped, his heart pounding. He'd focused so much attention on the cannonball that he hadn't even noticed the two women approaching.
The blonde giggled and said, "I'm sorry. We didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay. Just startled me," he said as he did his best not to stare. Now that they were closer, he could tell that the women were older, but still in great shape. Their exposed tummies were reasonably flat, and both had legs that went on for miles - well-displayed by their shorts. Their breasts looked even larger up close - bikini tops straining to hold them contained.
"So, what is that?" the brunette asked, pointing at the hole.
"It's a cannonball. I won't know for sure until I get it out of there, but I think it's a Confederate twelve-pounder."
"It won't explode, will it?" the blonde asked while taking a step back.
Skyler laughed. "That's part of why I freaked out when you snuck up on me - but no. I'm pretty sure this is a solid cannonball."
The brunette asked, "Is it worth a lot?"
"Could be worth as much as four or five hundred to the right collector."
Both women started at that revelation and the blonde asked, "Seriously?"
"Yeah. Civil war artifacts - especially Confederate ones - go for big money."
.... There is more of this story ...