Denise Brown tapped frantically on her friend Astrid’s shoulder to get her attention. Astrid Maxxim’s focus, like the focus of her underwater camera, was fixed on the bright orange starfish, which rested on the top of the coral outcropping as if waiting for its picture to be taken. Astrid snapped a photo before turning to see what was agitating her dive partner. Denise pointed at the shark, and then to make sure that she was getting the message across, made a fin with her hand and put it on top of her head. Astrid held up her fingers about an inch apart in the universal symbol for small. Denise shook her head violently and shot up toward the surface.
In exasperation, Astrid blew out bubbles around her regulator, and then kicked her way back up to the surface of the Mediterranean. She spat out her mouthpiece and pulled the dive mask up onto her forehead.
“We’ve got fifteen minutes left before we’re done,” she said.
“Shark!” shouted Denise, scrambling up the ladder that hung from the side of the small boat.
“Shark?” said Toby Bundersmith, who was waiting topside. He threw aside his Batman comic and helped Denise up the ladder. “That’s lucky. I was hoping to see a shark when I was in the water, but I didn’t.”
“Come on, Denise,” called Astrid. “I still haven’t got a picture of a lobster yet.”
“There is a shark!”
“It’s only a little one,” said Astrid. “It is more afraid of you than you are of it.”
“That’s not possible,” said Denise. “And it wasn’t little. It was big—large, hefty, colossal, enormous, gigantic, mammoth, massive, oversized, tremendous, vast.”
Astrid tossed the camera up to Toby. “It was little—tiny, inconsequential, miniscule, petite, teeny, undersized, microscopic, miniature, did I say miniature already, no? runty, bitty, wee.”
“Come on,” said Toby, holding his hand down for Astrid. “I’m getting bored up here anyway. Let’s go in and have lunch.”
“Hurry up and get in the boat before that shark gets you,” said Denise, helping Astrid up.
“Honestly,” said Astrid. “It was the size of a dachshund.”
“I got bit by a wiener dog once and had to have five stitches,” replied Denise. “He didn’t have shark’s teeth either, just regular dog teeth.”
Toby helped as the girls, one after the other, removed their scuba tanks and stowed them in the aft rack. Then he went forward and took a seat behind the wheel. As Astrid and Denise sat down, the big inboard engine roared to life. Pulling back the throttle, Toby steered toward the dock in Cartagena as the two girls wrapped up in large, fluffy towels.
Astrid Maxxim was startlingly cute, with shoulder length strawberry blond hair and very large blue eyes. Already a world famous inventor, she was enjoying the relative anonymity that Cartagena, Spain offered. Denise had long blond hair and green eyes, and was a little on the skinny side. At five foot five, the two girls were exactly the same height, and had been best friends since they were in diapers. Toby Bundersmith was tall and muscular, with brown hair that hung down in bangs just above his hazel eyes. He turned and gave Astrid a broad smile.