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Rated: E · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2318652
This is a short story about the relationship between father and son and a treasure



Ted Maurisak


Paul Muller sat by the deathbed of his father, Noah Muller. Holding his father's hand, Paul thought about the twelve years he had worked with his father at Muller & Son Boat Rescue & Salvage. Now that union was about to be over. His father stirred a bit, then opened his eyes and said.

"Paul, I must tell you something you will need going forward. At the end of the war, I was a lieutenant on a Nazi submarine U-224. We were ordered to take several high-ranking Nazis to Argentina from Germany. We were to have no contact with any other ships. There were only ten of us, enough to run the boat and care for the passengers. We had no torpedoes on board because it was not a hunting mission. We reached Argentina at our German sub-base in the jungle. We were then told to load four crates on the ship and return to Germany. The Reich would receive four crates of gold to help with the war. The captain and five others decided to remain in Argentina, which left just five of us, and I was left in charge at eighteen years old. We put on fuel and provisions for the trip and sailed home. We followed the coastline up to our base in the Dominican, refueled, and continued sailing. We received a communication that the war was over, and Germany had lost. We were told to pull into the nearest port and surrender. I brought the men together to explain the circumstances. Do we give up the gold to wherever we dock, or do we take our chances and go to America? We decided to go to the US and keep the gold. Four of the men had relatives in New YORK and wanted to head there. I was the only person who didn't have a connection in the US. We decided to find a place to scuttle the boat and return after we had settled to retrieve the gold. It never happened. We decided to sail the boat to Marquesas Key. It had a Lagoon and harbor deep enough to scuttle the boat but not too deep that we could not retrieve the gold. It's there to this day. I never heard from the other crew members. I met your mother and the rest, you know. In the safe at the office, taped to the inside lid. You'll find a key for a safety deposit box, which will explain all, son." With that said, Noah took his last breath and passed.

Paul sat at his desk in the offices of Muller & Son in Key West. It had been a challenging four weeks with all the arrangements that had to be made with his father's death. He was checking all the books and other paperwork. that was dealt with by his father. He reviewed his payables and looked at the bank's invoices. They all seemed normal except for the charge for two safety deposit boxes. He looked over at the open safe door, and the safety deposit box key was hanging right where it should be. His mind went to his father's ramblings on his deathbed about a second key. It is taped to the inside top of the safe. He got up and walked over to the safe. He reached into the safe, and the door to his office opened. It was one of his employees. He jumped back, the man said. "Sorry, I hope I didn't startle you, but a call came in for assistance with a boat that lost power and needs help."

Paul replied, "Ok, Jack, saddle up, and we'll take care of the customer."

When Paul returned, he headed straight for his office. He unlocked his door, ran for the safe, reached in, and felt around for the tape. He found nothing the first go around. He grabbed his flashlight, got down on one knee, shined the light in, and started to inspect the lid area. There was a tiny little bump. He pulled out his penknife and slit around the object. He pulled it out, and sure enough, it was a safety deposit box key, the same as the one hanging on the inside of the safe door. He took both keys to his desk and looked at each one. They were the same. The one that was taped to the lid had a number on it. So, his father was not hallucinating in his final hours. He was telling the truth. He commanded a U-boat on a secret mission for the Nazis.

The bank manager knew Paul and his father very well. They had never banked anywhere else. Besides, Key West Bank was the first bank in Key West. Paul walked up to the bank's manager, and greetings were exchanged. Then the manager said, "How can I help you, Paul?"

Paul replied, "I'd like to get into my safety deposit box, please."

They walked into the box area, and the manager headed for the regular box. As he started to put his key into the box, Paul said, "George, not that one. The other one, please."

The manager looked at Paul, holding the other key. He looked Paul in the eye and said, "Paul, no one has ever been in that box. Are you sure you want that box?"

"Yes, George, that box, Please."

They opened the oversized box. It was heavy. He handed the box to Paul, and the manager showed him to his viewing booth. Paul stared at the box for a moment before opening it. He lifted the lid, and the box was jam-packed with maps, paperwork, and memorabilia from the war to Paul's shock. At the bottom was a gold bar. On the top of the bar was the crescent of the Third Reich, the eagle. It was apparent to Paul that this was all real. He put everything into the briefcase he had brought, then returned the box to the space it had come from. He thanked The manager, left the bank, and headed home, not the office.

Paul put his briefcase on the coffee table at home, went into the kitchen, and got a glass of Bourbon. He thought he was going to need it. He sat on the couch, lifted the briefcase lid, and inspected the items inside. Pictures of his father and the crew of U-224, medals, and commendations his father had earned from the Reich. He finally got to the meat of the papers. MAPS. Route maps from Germany to Argentina and back along the coast of South America, stopping in Monte Cristi, in the Dominican for fuel and then a hand-drawn line to the Keys--another map of Marquesas Key. The last map showed Marquesas and Its Lagoon, the entrance to that lagoon, and a big X with depth reading, longitude, and latitude, the exact location of U-224. Finally, there was a document from his father handwritten on everything he had told Paul on his deathbed. But most of all, the Bar of Gold. The bar was standard, like you would have seen in Fort Knox. It weighed approx. Twenty-six pounds is the standard weight at the time. Using today's troy ounce, the bar would be worth 65,258.00 dollars. Paul fell back onto the couch and just stared at the bar.

Paul went over to a cabinet where the map charts for the Keys were stored. He found the Marquesas map on the table.


Marquesas Key is an uninhabited island group about twenty miles west of Key West. It's four miles wide and covered mainly by mangrove forests. It has a large lagoon in the center, a perfect place to hide a submarine. It is in the unincorporated area of Monroe County. This means it falls into FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). They are over the derelict vessel program, which coordinates removing these vessels. That's good for Muller and Son but must be handled on the hush. Muller & Son has another salvage company that follows his boats every time they leave the harbor to see if they can get in on the salvage. That would not be good for the gold on board the sub. This would have to be thought out well. The next thing on the list is to go to Marquesas and do a preliminary investigation without anyone knowing what he was up to.

Paul borrowed a good friend's boat, loaded it with his scuba gear, and headed off to see if a U-boat was at the bottom of the lagoon at Marquesas Key.

Paul entered Longitude and Latitude into his GPS and arrived at the exact location written on the small map. He couldn't see any boat below. He put his scuba gear on, jumped into the water, and swam to about forty feet, which was max for non-gas mix scuba. He could make out the conning tower of the U-boat. It was right where his father said it would be. He returned to the surface and got back on board the boat. He sat there thinking of what his next steps would be. It was time to go back and forge a foolproof plan, and the U-boat would be his alone.

Paul wanted to take this slowly. There was a great deal of preparation before raising the sub. Florida has no laws that could give someone or a salvage company who finds an abandoned boat or ship ownership rights. This entity can claim the property and apply for the title for transfer. This was a German Sub during wartime, so what laws apply? Paul would have to research and search the law libraries for the answers. One thing in his favor was the (FWC) Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They don't care what the rules are. They want the derelict ship or boat removed to protect the habitat. The other salvage companies would also want in on the find and get a share of the bounty. The plan had to be foolproof.

Finally, the FWC and the state of Florida approved the permits to proceed with the salvage. Paul didn't make any mention of gold being on board the vessel. He would act surprised when the gold was recovered from the U-boat because the state would want a share. It was time to put his deception plan into practice to keep other salvagers away from his work area. He moved his main ship to the repair yard on the other side of Key West, where others would think his boat was in for repair or refitting. All this was done before the approvals. He ensured the mixed gases needed for the three-hundred-foot dive were on board. Regular scuba would not work, and it was necessary to keep his men alive. He had a workshop in Miami build a sealing unit that would go around the scuttle valve, which would be placed over the exit valve and sealed. They would then attach a four-inch hose to the unit and start pumping out the water in the boat. Paul hoped his father's letter was correct, and there were no other openings so that they wouldn't pump for not. He just had to cross his fingers so that time didn't create cracks in the hull to allowing water to reflood the interior. All seemed ready for when the permits came through. The state and the FWC both were slow movers. He would send out the smaller ship to perform dives on the U-boat to assess the condition of the boat and locate the scuttle port and hope the sea didn't reclaim too much of the ship that would make it impossible for a successful salvage worth it. If so, pumping the water and exterior airbags would lift the boat to the surface, allowing entry through the conning tower hatch. It looked like this might work, thought Paul, but tomorrow, with the survey of the U-boat, would be the determination to go or revamp his plans.

Since he now had all the permits from both the state of Florida and FWC, it was a go on the project. Paul was ready to deploy as he planned the next day. He, too, would go out and head the examination of the U-boat from the Muller one because he was not certified for those depths.

Muller & Son Two positioned itself next to the location of the U-224. The crew checked the equipment, video, and lighting for their function. The three-person dive team took final instruction, leaping over the side and diving toward the boat. It was a long dive down to three hundred feet. The light from the sun started to disappear, and the water got darker. Finally, the U-boat came into sight, and the three divers began to examine the hull conning tower area and look for the scuttle valve. The camera zoomed in on the scuttle valve. Although the valve was covered in barbicels, there was no damage to the surrounding area, so the manufactured hose connection should fit over the valve and allow water extraction from inside the boat. All the hatches and torpedo tubs were sealed, and all hatches had been closed, as the paperwork from Paul's father had noted. After about an hour, the dive ended, and the information that was gathered was ready to be analyzed, and the divers were to be debriefed. They assembled in the small conference room and reviewed the day's dive and what would be needed for tomorrow's dive to fit the hull's extraction valve and four-inch hose. It was time to return to base and prepare for the second workday.

Five am came early. The salvage ship was loaded at the repair yard with the day's supplies and was ready to head out to the dive site. There was still barely enough light to see their way out of the harbor, but it was necessary to keep this secret. Would it work? Who knows? Key West was a small place, and news traveled fast around here.

It was a tight fit for the Muller one ship to maneuver into the lagoon with a boat this size. But slow-going and sure navigation put them into position. The thrusters were set to the GPS location and would keep the ship in the exact position; if not, they would need the anchor deployed. And that might anger the FWC. Four divers were readied; two would work on the scuttle valve cover installation, and the other two would work on getting the cable placed under the belly of the boat to attach to the airbags to bring the sub to the surface. The two divers working on the scuttle valve had a more straightforward job. They cleaned the barbicels from around the hull and readied the hose cover. They had to ensure the surface was somewhat clean because the hose cover used suction to keep it in place. One man held the new cover in place. The other attached a reverse air hose to the unit, which created the suction needed. It worked, and then they attached the hose to suck out the water in the boat. The hose went up to the surface and emptied into a screened pan that would catch any debris that might come out of the sub. The water would then flow overboard. The signal was given, and the pump started sucking water out of the sub. Paul had his fingers crossed and hoped this would work and no other opening to the sea would refill the boat. The other divers pushed massive cables under the ship forward, aft, and center. These cables would attach, as said, to flotation--bags to bring the U-boat to the surface. The divers were having some problems with the sand and coral under the boat, but with the water from the interior being removed, the ship would be buoyant and lift the vessel slightly to slide the cables beneath it. Because they were using such a small port, the process would be about two to three days until all the water was removed, allowing them to start pumping air in.

On the second day of pumping, the water flow started to drop. This was a sign the interior of the boat was emptying. Paul gave the order to begin pumping air into the boat and, at the same time, pushing more water out. The ship rose from the sandy bottom, and the attached airbags filled with helium. Slowly, the boat began to lift. A center cable was slipped under the boat and attached to a crank on the Muller ship. This was to help steady the boat as it rose from the bottom, not to lift the vessel. The ship would slowly be lifted for the next few days until it reached the surface.

On the third lifting day, a Coast Guard cutter pulled alongside the Muller salvage ship, and three people came aboard the Muller one. Paul met the three on deck and escorted them into the ready room. They all sat. Paul asked, "How can I help you, gentlemen?"

One of the three spoke up, "My name is Edward Thomas, Lead supervisor for the state of Florida. We are here because since you applied for the permits to raise this craft, we researched this U-boat with the German government's help to find out why this boat was lost and what it was doing in the waters of the US. Also, the German records state that this vessel was returning to Germany with funds for the war. It was in the form of Gold. Four crates. There was no mention of Gold on your application to raise this craft."

Paul replied, "I didn't know that to be accurate, and no research was done to confirm that hypothesis. We were raising a U-boat that might still be in good enough condition to sell for placement in a museum. If other treasures were found, it would be our duty to notify the state of Florida. As you can see, we are just starting to see the craft break the surface, so it would be another day before we could even get inside."

"Well, that's why we are here, Mr. Muller, to make sure it will be divided between the State of Florida, Germany, and Muller & Son. "That is if anything is found." Replied Paul.

The U-boat continued to rise from the depths, first, the conning tower, then the boat's body emerged from the lagoon. The floatation bags were doing their job, and before you knew what was happening, the entire U-224 was floating on the surface after all the years on the lagoon bed. Crew members were sent aboard to work on the three hatches. The forward hatch, the conning tower Hatch, and the aft hatch. Other crews were checking the rest of the boat for any openings that may cause the ship to crack in half and sink.

The hatches, after several hours, were opened, and the outside air, after all this time, rushed into the boat. Fans were placed at the hatches to blow fresh air into the ship. This would be a twenty-four-hour process.

The twenty-four hours passed, and several men were suiting up to enter the submarine. They were in protective wear from head to toe as prescribed by law. Cameras and lighting were readied. The three men entered the boat through the conning tower, shining lights as they went. The inside looked like its year was nineteen forty-five. Minimal buildup of sea creatures. They made their way to the captain's quarters. Shined the light around, you could see at least two crates, one on top of the other. On board, Muller one Paul watched, alongside was the state of Florida official. Paul didn't say a word, but the official spoke up.

"There was supposed to be four crates on board, not two. He pushed the mic button to talk to the men on the boat. "Keep searching. There should be two more crates somewhere."

Paul had no expression, but in his mind, his father had said four crates of gold. Eight bars each. Was he just mistaken, or were there more crates somewhere on the ship? He knew that no one had entered because of the buildup on the outside, and inside, no one had been in there for years. What was going on?

After the three men cleared the interior and deemed it safe for entry, Paul and the official from the state climbed down the conning tower ladder into the U-boat his father had commanded. It was a time capsule from WWII. The two men walked into every nook and cranny they could find, and it was clean of all indications that this had ever been used to sink allied shipping in the Atlantic Ocean and elsewhere. They entered the captain's quarters, and it was clean. No clothing was found anywhere. Most importantly, there was no logbook in the room. The only thing there was two crates. Through The rotted away wood lid, you could see shiny gold. The entire boat was the same; no one on board left anything.

Paul and the official exited the boat. The official ordered his men to retrieve the crates with the gold. He stated that the state of Florida is taking the position of the gold until it can be determined the owner or the rights holder. The boat belongs to Muller & Son to do what he likes. If you have your attorneys, contact my office and fill out the appropriate rights form for these sixteen gold bars. I'll be waiting to hear from him."

Paul said, "Thank you, but when you arrive in your office, he will already be there with the completed forms."

With that said, the official and his men left the Muller one, pulled away from it, and headed to Miami.

Paul's crew continued with the recovery of U-224. He also had the men clean the number on the conning tower to make it loud and proud.

The U-boat made it back to the refit yard, and all Key West turned out to see the gold ship, as it was called, that was right under their noses. History Channel had been filming the entire process and paid Muller & Son a hefty sum for the right. Now, it was up to the courts to determine what Paul's company would get, which would take years.

Days later, Paul sat in his office at Muller's, pondering the entire story from his father and the story Paul was told. Four crates, no logbook, and the taped key. Why only two crates? No logbook, two crates less? A captain always takes the logbook with him, so did his father do that? Paul sat back in his chair, staring at the wall above the safe. His eyes then dawned to the safe, and he remembered that there were two keys: the regular business key and the taped key. He jumped up, grabbed the safety deposit box key, ran out the door, and headed for the bank.

At the bank, he opened the company box and rifled through it. There was the Logbook and an envelope with his name on it. On it was written Use Where the logbook entries stop. That was all that was in the box besides company info and his will.

Paul didn't go to the office. He went to his home where he lived with his parents, and now he would be alone. He sat down in the living room again and went through the logbook. It had all the crew for that trip from Germany to Argentina. There were no names of the three passengers, just an entry that they were important members of the Nazi party. It then had a note that crew members wanted to stay in Argentina and not return to Germany. It did not state who each person was. It did say that Paul's father would be the captain on the return trip with four other crew members. On the way back to Germany off the coast of the Dominican, a message came in that the war was over, and All U-boats were to pull into the nearest port and surrender. The crew was polled if that was what they wanted to do. It was unanimous that they go to America. Four crew members had family in the New York area, and they would start a new life there. The logbook ended there.

Paul opened the envelope and read. This is a continuation of the logbook for the U-224 electric boat for Paul Muller's eyes only.

A decision had to be made about the gold on board. We could not carry all that gold or even bury it in this marshy key. So, we decided to take half the gold and give each man one gold bar. It was easy to transport to start their lives in America. I would keep eleven bars because I would stay in the Keys. I had no one else like the others did. When they were settled, they would find me, and I would give them bars as needed. I would also keep an eye on the U-224 in case it was found and declare it ours. No one has ever contacted me from the crew, and if you're reading this, no one has ever seen the U-224. The eleven bars are close, and I never lost sight. The booty, matey, is yours. My son have a great life: your father, Noah Muller.

Paul sat on the couch his parents had purchased years ago. They never spent a dime on themselves. Where could his father have hidden it? It was never out of his sight. His father never hid things from the family except millions of dollars and a ship. Now, another riddle. He sipped his bourbon and tried to think of places eleven gold bars would be. Booty Matey? His father never played pirate. Looking across the room was a chest that his father once said when he was young belonged to a Pirate of Key West but never mentioned the pirate's name, and it may have had treasure in it, but Alas, there is no treasure now. The chest had a lamp on it, but the lamp was never used because it was too bright to watch TV with it on. He opened the chest, and there were eleven shiny gold bars. Paul closed the chest cover, walked over to the couch, sat down, picked up his bourbon, raised the glass to the sky, and said, "Here's to you, pirate Muller!"


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