British Gold



Charity was bone-tired as she lumbered into the library. What a hectic day! She staggered, and almost fell into the seat in front of her best friend Jack Cates. He gave her a perfunctory look and bent over the map he was studying, a gold-rimmed perfectly balanced on his nose.

“What’s up Rit?” He said three minutes later, when he was done poring over the ancient document he was perusing. He had called her Rit the first day they met back in college, and as much as she had tried to stop him from calling her by the diminutive, it just didn’t work. In the end, the name had stuck.

“Can’t you see that I’m bone-tired?” She was mortified by the way he had ignored her when she first came in. But she quickly recovered and apologized. “I’m sorry Jack, those students gave me no breathing space.”

“I understand, love. That’s why I can never enter the walls of a university in the name of teaching. I prefer to quietude of this library and the ecstasy of working on maps. Both of them had studied archaeology at Cambridge, but had taken different routes after school; Charity taught African and Sub-Saharan Archaeology while Jack chose cartography.

“You miss the joy of teaching.”

“Honey, with the way you’re looking, all I see is creaky bones and that’s no joy.” Charity simply smiled and went to the coffeemaker. They had had these arguments for as long as she could remember, but he was unbending; his love for maps and ancient history amazed her. Not that she had no love for what she was doing, but seeing him bent over a particular map for hours trying to decipher its contents was truly remarkable.

“Uhmmm… Jack?” she called and his head went up for a second before bending down again. “What is your opinion on those recently discovered South African stone spheres?”
He gave her no response as both his eyes and hands worked in perfect harmony. Sighing, she left him and went to the section of the library where she would find the book she was looking for. She rounded the corner, went past the shelf that housed the recently discovered Inuit tablets, and headed down the walkway towards where the books were kept. She saw the book and stretched to take it out of the shelf, but she couldn’t just make it. Then she jumped and in the same fluid motion, plucked the book from the shelf.

But in doing so, her pen fell from her breast pocket into a crevice she had never noticed before. As she bent to pick it up, she realized that the floor, instead of being fixed like the rest, was actually movable. This was strange. She gingerly moved the marble piece and beheld a hole a few feet deep. Inside it was a box covered in dust.

Curious, she brought it out and using her pen knife, pried the lid open. What she saw made her jaw drop. At the bottom of the box, there was a perfectly preserved diary. It wasn’t possible to determine how old it was, but she knew that it had been there for years, probably centuries. She gently brought the book out, dusted it, and went to switch on the overhead light of that area of the library.

Then she opened the book and spent the next thirty minutes reading a part of history entirely lost to the world; a story that if it came out, would alter the history of slave trade era in Africa and probably the rest of the world. She flipped pages upon pages, as it became clearer to her why this story was hidden and could only be found in a long-forgotten diary. Suddenly, she discovered something truly shocking and unbelievable. She ran back and dragged Jack to where she was; he was more experienced and intuitive than she was, maybe he could shed some light on the whole situation.

It took him twenty minutes to reach where she was in the diary, and without a word, he read six more pages, before a piece of folded paper fell out of the book. He delicately retrieved it and with utmost care, unfolded it. It was a map!
“It’s a map, Rit,” Jack commented. He handed it to her, and she drew in a breath. This map added credence to everything that was recorded in the story. And it was a map of Port Harcourt in her home country of Nigeria. The whole story was too incredible to believe, she thought.

They spent an hour going over the document and the map which was found with it. Charity felt that her head would explode from the startling discovery; the British had a chest of gold buried in the sea at Port Harcourt. She straightened, looked at the time, and exclaimed.

“Bleeding potions! Look at the time. Jack, can you keep on reading while I rush to the deli by the corner to eat. I’m starving!” she added.
He nodded and went back to book.

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When she came back, he had brought the box to his desk and was grinning at her, his eyes shining with barely restrained excitement. She also noticed a man in dark overalls and a dark brown face cap sitting in the corner, his head buried in an encyclopaedia. “Found anything else?” she asked, as she dropped the bags containing the food she had bought. She had also bought for Jack, knowing that he would be hungry.

“The diary belong to a member of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord Spencer Brighton.” He took his own food and tore it open. When he saw the jollof rice, he squeezed his face but ate it nonetheless.

“I’m not sure he features in the regular history of slave trade in the region.”

“No, he doesn’t. But his diary looks authentic. He had written it in the 1740s. Can you believe it, Charity?” he suddenly said, as his eyes danced with the thrill of discovery.

“Without this diary, I wouldn’t believe it,” Charity replied, “but the truth is staring at us right in the face.” The man who had been reading stood up, kept the book back in the shelf and informed Jack that he was leaving. When he was gone, they continued, discussing on the various approaches to the discovery. When next they checked the time, it was already 9pm.

They packed up and left the library. Owing to the fact that she found the book, she went home with it, while they agreed to meet the next day to further iron things out.

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As she walked home, her mind was racing with thoughts of what they had found out.
Lord Brighton had recorded that the first time the British made contact with the region of Nigeria was in June, 1743. It was a chance encounter, as they were being chased by a group of unknown savages called the Kerajo. The Kerajo had come upon them while they were in open ocean; a fierce battle had ensued with the British losing many ships, most of which carried chests of gold. They would have all been wiped out had they not come upon the coast of West Africa. The British managed to hold them off as they scampered towards the shore, and then went inland. Luckily for them, the Kerajo had ceased their pursuit of them and they were left alive.

Then they went inland, and met the people who had accepted them; he had commented that it was the first time he had seen a community of black people in their native land. They had an intrinsic love of the sea and they welcomed strangers with open arms. They had stayed two weeks in the foreign land and then they left, bearing gifts of foods and fruits.

When he returned to London, he informed the authorities of his battle and subsequent encounter with the natives in West Africa. They had been incensed by his tale, and had ordered him to keep everything under wraps, which he did. The next fifteen years saw them funding missions and expeditions in order to recover the chests of gold buried in the sea; but they couldn’t locate them. In the end, the treasure had been lost in history, until now.

She rounded the corner of her block, and felt a heavy object land on her neck; her vision blurred, as the darkness engulfed her.

When she came to, she was surprised as she stared into the face of Jack. She was in her living room. His face was a mirror of concern as he applied cold compress on her face. She sat up, and a wave of nausea came over her. But it passed and she smiled at him.

“What happened?” she asked, as he placed the back of his hand on her forehead, feeling her temperature. “Someone had hit me while I was coming into the building.”

“I saw you lying on the road.” She looked quizzically at him. He explained, “I recalled something about the diary that seemed odd. It couldn’t wait, so I decided to come see you.”

“Thanks for rescuing me.” She smiled and tugged his cheeks. “I don’t suppose you saw who hit me?”

“No, I didn’t see anyone. But this can’t be good. What do you think the person wanted?”

In response, she looked at him in horror. She sprang up from her seat and went to her bag. Frantically, she searched her bag; she brought out all the contents but she could not find it; the diary was gone! With a sad cry of defeat and rage, she slumped on the floor. Jack came and sat with her on the floor; he had surmised what had happened and curving his forefinger, he raised her head up and smiled at her.

“All is lost, Jack,” she lamented.

“Not really,” he replied. He stood up, went to his brown duffel bag and brought out a handful of printouts. He passed them on to her, and when she saw the contents, her face brightened and she jumped on him. He had had the good sense to scan the diary and the map. She felt like kissing him, but was afraid of how he would react.

Then they talked late into the night, reviewing the book, and planning on the best course of action to follow. As Charity closed her eyes to sleep, the last thing she thought was that their plan to go for the treasure hunt without disclosing it to any authority was superb. It was high time they made some money from all their efforts. And what an amount of money it would be.

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Three weeks later, they were all set for their expedition in the grey sea of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. They had arrived a week after their discussion in Charity’s house, and had gone to work—mapping out the strategic area, buying of provisions and equipment, and finally, employing few people to assist them. They had also bribed some quarters in order to keep the area unoccupied and free from government supervision while they hunted for their treasure.

“Ready, Rit?” Jack said, as he stretched and donned his swimming gear.

“You bet I am.” She gave a thumbs up to the crew and dived into the warm water, with Jack behind her. They scoured the water for a full three hours, seeing all manner of debris and scanty aquatic life, but no sight of the chests.

Just when they were about to wrap it up for the day and try the next day, she saw the first chest, nestled between two gigantic rocks. She quickly signalled to Jack and he swam over. He became excited and they renewed their search for the rest of the chests.

The remaining chests were found about fifty feet from the first one; they were held together by a mass of weeds and the ropes which were used to secure them in the days of Brighton. They hooked the harnesses to the three chest, beeped the transponder, and watched as the crew above hauled the treasures up.

She and Jack came up and were relishing their moment of glory when the blare of sirens filled the air. They looked about in consternation as police vehicles surrounded them. They were told to surrender, and the inspector in charge of the mission came forward. He faced them and in total shock to Jack, he shook Charity’s hand.

“Congratulations on a job well done, Miss Oni,” he said to her.

Jack’s face was a mask of unbelief as he stared at the person he thought he knew for years. She saw his look and laughed. “Are you surprised, Jack?”

“Charity, how—? When—? Why...did you do this?” he stammered.

“Oh Jack! You thought you were smart, and could deceive me. Thanks to my neighbour who later informed me that he saw you clobbering me that night. That led me to start suspecting you; I made some research into your life and discovered that you were once an antique dealer who later became an international fugitive. I discovered this while in Nigeria, and promptly reported to the authorities. Together, we came up with this plan to capture you. Can you guess how much I would be paid?”

He stared lividly at her, as she continued, “By the way, your real name isn’t Jack Cates. It’s Jeremy Dillon, the notorious antique dealer.” He hissed at her, as one officer clamped his hands together with handcuffs. She smiled sweetly at him and added, “I guess you thought you would do away with me after we recovered the gold and then probably sell it to the highest bidder, but you see? I’m smarter than you.”

Jack was led into a car as she followed the inspector into another car. She paid her crew members and the chests were loaded into a police truck.

As the sun went down in into the sea in the distant horizon, the cars departed, she smiled at the thought of the five million dollars that just got wired into her account—two million for the information leading to the arrest of Jack/Jeremy, and three million in gratitude for the rediscovery of a forgotten history.

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