Julia looked radiant that evening. Sam had forgotten her prettiness.
“What’re you doin’ here?” Sam asked.
“My father’s company supplies Empire Oil…and…oh, goodness. Magnus Sawyer. Your father?”
Sam shook his head yes.
“I just came along to keep my parents happy,” she said.
Sam guided her away from the crowd, to an empty table near the far side of the courtyard. They sat, and Julia Bassi sipped her drink.
“After I left Greenland,” she said, “I got a dream assignment in Antarctica, drilling ice cores with a great university team.”
“Easier to work with than Satsky?” He grinned.
They laughed, and traded tales of Satsky. He told her about Satsky’s accident, and how he and the professor had grown closer over it, and time.
“Did you ever find out about his treasure?” asked Julia.
Sam hesitated. He wanted nothing more than to tell her about the artifact, but Satsky had made him promise to keep it a secret. Still, Julia, of all people, seemed safe enough, and would certainly understand. But not just now. Maybe later. “Want to get out’a here and grab a coffee?”
The local Starbucks was empty at that time of night. They sat in a far corner, among wire-rack trees of coffees and cookies. Their small table sat unevenly on the tiles, lurching and tipping toward Sam every time he rested an elbow on it. He propped one long leg and knee under it.
Julia talked about her time in Antarctica with the ten others on the research team. She’d found the continent magical, its vastness and pristine environment a much-needed contrast to the spit of harsh, rocky land on Greenland.
“Why’d you leave?”
She sighed. “Near the end of the summer, we lost the drills. Winter was approaching, and . . .” She shrugged.
“Lost the drills?”
“Well, the drill heads. Yeah. It was weird. We’d been drilling deep enough to extract cores from about 100,000 years ago—some of the oldest we’d been able to get. That’s nearly half a mile down. Then the drill head stopped and the rig overheated. When we pulled up the half-mile of casings, we saw that the bit was destroyed. Well, it was gone—sheared off.”
“That’s what we thought at first, but GPR scans—”
“Oh, sorry. Ground-penetrating radar. At that depth, there should have been no bedrock. So we moved the drill and tried again. Same thing. Only this time when we brought up the drill head, the bit wasn’t just sheared off. There was a black piece of material stuck to the shaft.
“We rescanned the area,” Julia continued. “Turned out there was something down there, but clearly not bedrock. More like the peak of a mountain. The scans showed it to be only a few hundred feet in diameter, so we decided to just move the drill rig far enough to avoid it. But then winter roared in, and we put the whole thing on hold till summer.”
“Did ya’ ever find out what the material was the drill struck?”
She blinked. “Yeah, and that’s the odd thing. I pried the material off the sheared drill and kept it as a souvenir. When I returned to the States, I asked a colleague to analyze it. His answer made no sense.”
Sam opened both hands, spread his fingers, and raised his eyebrows. And?
“Graphene,” she said. “Which is clearly impossible since it’s a modern material.”
“Holy crap.” Sam was whispering. “Graphene? You’re sure?”
“Yes. Had to be a mistake, but I had it analyzed twice.”
He’d been so focused on what she was saying that he hadn’t noticed until now that someone he was sure he’d seen at Magnus’s party was sitting at a table on the other side of the shop. Odd, he thought. Seeing Sam looking directly at him, the man quickly lowered his gaze and suddenly became very interested in staring at his smartphone.
Sam raised a hand, this time to place one finger against his lips. “I know what it is,” he whispered. “And now it’s my turn to tell ya’ ‘bout Satsky’s treasure. Then, tomorrow, I want ya’ to go with me to the university and meet someone who might be able to shed some light on this. But now let’s go for a walk. I think we’re being followed.”