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The Ice Diamond Quest

Why is a mysterious yacht flashing a signal off the coast of Newfoundland on a cold November evening?  Tom and Liz Austen, with their cousins Sarah and Duncan Joy, follow a difficult trail toward the truth.  As they search, someone called Hawk and people known as the Renegades cause major problems, but the cousins press on.  Then, in the darkness of an abandoned mine and later on stormy seas, they face great danger together.

"Wilson has a remarkable talent . . . he uses the Newfoundland background and local customs, and touches such contemporary subjects as women's rights, redevelopment and the environment."

                                      Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Chapter 1


The man in the creased leather jacket stared at Tom Austen.


         “What’s that you just said kid?  About an Ice Diamond?”


         Tom pretended not to hear.  He was in a jet approaching the airport at St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland.  His sister Liz was beside the window; the man sat to Tom’s right.  He was about thirty, and smelled of cigarettes.  His fingers were yellow with nicotine; he wore a black T-shirt, jeans and battered boots.  On his head was a cowboy hat, stained by long use.


         The man grabbed Tom’s arm.  “Pay attention when I’m talking to you, kid.  You just said something to that girl about an Ice Diamond.  I want to know why.”


         Across the aisle, a woman with red hair and blue eyes looked toward them.  “Is there a problem, Tom?”


         He shook his head.  “It’s okay, Mom.”

         The man glanced tensely at Mrs. Austen.  Then he dropped his grip on Tom and leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes.  Tom smiled at his mother - who was sitting apart from them because she’d made last-minute reservations - and then he looked out the window.


         As the jet banked over the city, he saw the golden light of the setting sun reflected from the harbour, which was almost enclosed by cliffs.  Spread over the hills of the city was a spiderweb of streets with houses painted many bright colours.  At the narrow harbour opening waves smashed against the cliffs, throwing white water high in the air.


         “I’m looking for Deadman’s Hill,” Tom said to his sister.  “In the old days they’d hang the bodies of convicted murderers there for sailors to see as their ships entered the harbour.”


         “That’s so gross.  Whatever for?”


         “To warn against causing any trouble while they were in port. I bet it worked.”  Tom leaned closer to the window.  “Down there Marconi received the first audio signal from across the Atlantic.  I wonder if it was a coded message for a spy?”


         Liz smiled.  She had on new jeans and a blazer over a white blouse, and wore a patterned band in her gleaming dark hair; her new watch, a gift from her Dad, was already set on Newfoundland  time.  “I can’t believe we were packing our suitcases this morning in Winnipeg, and now we’re looking down at the Atlantic.”


         “Flying still makes you nervous?” Tom said.


         “Of course not!”


         He smiled.  “Then why are you clutching that combination four-leaf clover and rabbit’s foot?”
         “Because you gave it to me, and I always travel with it.”


         “Mom says we visited Newfoundland when we were tiny kids.  Do you remember anything about it?”


         Liz shook her head.  “I was three years old, and you were one.  Mom says it was wonderful going home to Newfoundland, to show off her babies to all her relatives.”


         “Too bad it’s such a sad occasion that’s bringing us back now.”  Tom glanced across the aisle.  “Mom’s doing okay so far.  But it’ll be tough when we go to the hospital to visit Nanny.”


         “I can’t believe our grandmother’s dying.  She was in such great spirits the last time she visited us.”


         “Sure, but that was about two years ago.”


         Liz nodded.  “You’re right.”


         Tom tightened his seat belt as the airport came into view, then the wheels touched down.  Mrs. Austen looked at Tom and Liz as they left the plane.  “I feel so sad about Nanny, but it’s good to be home.”


         “I’m glad we’re with you,”  Tom said, and Liz nodded in agreement.


         At the end of the enclosed ramp they entered the terminal.  “By the way, Tom,”  Mrs. Austen said, “what was the problem with the cowboy on the plane?”


         “I’m not sure, Mom.  Remember I received a letter from our cousin Duncan, just before we left home?  I was talking to Liz about the letter when that man grabbed me.”


         “What did Duncan say in his letter?”


         “He’s really excited to meet us, so he can’t wait for our arrival in Petty Harbour.  Where exactly is your home town, Mom?”


         “Down the coast, south of St. John’s.  Petty Harbour’s a fishing village that faces the open Atlantic.”


         “Duncan said he went up on a hill above Petty Harbour with his old-fashioned spyglass one evening recently.  He was checking out the Atlantic when he spotted a luxury yacht approaching.  It stopped offshore, and began flashing a signal.”


         “Could Duncan understand the signal?” Mrs. Austen asked.


         Tom shook his head.  “He’s only ten, so he hasn’t had a chance to study signalling yet.  But he wrote down the pattern of long and short flashes, then tried to figure out the message using a book on signalling.  He’s pretty sure the message was about an Ice Diamond.”


         “What happened to the yacht?”


         “It sailed away.  But Duncan saw it another evening, repeating the signal, and he’s sure it’ll return again.  He’s hoping we’ll get to Petty Harbour in time to see it ourselves.”


         “If the yacht returns,” Liz said, “we’ll be able to help Duncan work out the signal.”


         Tom nodded.  “Maybe then we’ll understand why that cowboy got so interested when Liz and I were talking about the Ice Diamond.”


         Mrs. Austen shook her head.  “You kids attract mysteries like you’re magnets.”


         “Don’t worry about us, Mom.  We’ll be fine.”


         “Let’s hope so.  I’ve got enough on my mind with Nanny so ill, and your Dad off in Arizona helping their police look for missing people.”


         Soon Tom and Liz were at the luggage carousel, waiting for their suitcases.  Mrs. Austen was at the Tilden desk renting a car, Liz was watching some emotional reunions taking place, and Tom’s eyes were on three men.  They’d come off the flight together and were dressed identically in camouflage gear like something out of a violent war video.  Their heads were close-shaved and their faces were grim.


         Tom glanced at Liz.  “What do you make of them?”


         “Organized trouble.”


         “Their stuff’s arriving on the carousel.  Those bundles look like tents.”


         “Maybe they’re hunters.”


         “Yeah, but what are they hunting?”


         Liz helped Tom take his luggage off the carousel, then said, “I’ll go tell Mom everything’s accounted for.”


         “Okay, and I’ll wait here with our stuff.  Listen, try to convince Mom to rent a BMW.  Tilden has a special on German cars this month.”


         “You dreamer,” Liz said.  “But I’ll give it a try.”


         Tom watched the three heavies exit the building.  A fourth man was waiting outside with a rental van; strapped to the roof was a powerful outboard engine and a big rubber raft that looked like a Zodiac.  The men heaved their equipment into the van and drove off, leaving a trail of white exhaust in the chill November air.  Tom looked down at the suitcases, counting them again, then was startled by the approach of two people.


         One was the man who’d been sitting beside him on the jet, and the other was a younger woman who was also dressed in a leather jacket, jeans and cowboy boots.  She had a beautiful face with high cheekbones and brown eyes; in her left ear were three sapphire studs.


         “Hey, kid,” the man said.  “About that letter you were talking about - I want to know where it was mailed from.”


         The woman watched Tom closely  When he didn’t speak, she grabbed his jacket in both hands.  “Answer him!”


         The man gestured at her.  “Take it easy! You’re attracting attention.”

         Letting Tom go, she looked around.  People were staring, including Mrs. Austen and Liz as they approached from the rental counter.  The man motioned the woman toward the exit, and, as they walked away, he stared at Tom.

            What Do Tom and Liz Discover About the Mysterious Yacht?  

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THE ICE DIAMOND QUEST. Copyright 2012 by Eric Hamilton Wilson
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