Kian and Aidan rode in silence until they reached the highway. All of this, the death, the break-ins, needing law enforcement to protect her–it all frightened her. All she wanted to do was to run to Uncle Jacob, have him comfort her like he always did. But Uncle Jacob was gone now. Once again she felt the tears welling up and once again she fought them back. Not now, don’t think about that now, she told herself. Think about who did it. So Aidan can arrest them and this would all be over. And she bet he knew more than he was saying. Yes, it was definitely time for an interrogation of her own.
“Okay, Mr. FBI, tell me what this is all about. This isn’t just a routine murder, is it?”
Aidan seemed to hesitate a moment before saying, “Kian, I don’t think so. I am afraid this is very serious business. We need to open that package and see what is inside it.”
“Fine, but tell me what you know about this ‘serious business.'”
“In a minute, fast food first.” Aidan pointed to the burger joint up ahead. “Dainty bites of pizza are fine, but I needed more. Volume, that’s what I am after.”
At the microphone, he leaned over Kian and ordered a triple size, quintuple decker something-or-other, and then looked at Kian.
“I want a single size, one deck, and I’ll take a coke. A real coke.”
Aidan handed Kian money so she could pay. He pulled up to the take-out window where they were handed a large bag and their drinks. After taking the food from Kian, Aidan pointed to a spot facing the road. “Will this buggy make it over that curb?”
“You bet, but I know better off-road trails if bruising your butt thrills you.”
“Rule number one. Always have an escape route, my dear,” Aidan replied. “Always know a way out.”
“Don’t tell me you are ex-military, too.”
“Jimbo and I did Navy SEALS together.”
“So, you guys have known each other a long time?”
“Actually, we met in second grade. Neither parent had much use for kids. So we got shipped off to private school, camp, you name it. We just made sure we landed in the same places so we could be together.”
“Parent? Not parents?”
“His mom bolted before he turned two. Left him with a drunken father. My dad died before I was born. In combat. Left me with a drunken mother, too self-absorbed to care. I think Jimbo and I spent our entire youth keeping our parents apart,” Aidan chuckled. “That would have been some combo.”
“It looks to me like you and Jimbo make a great pair.”
Kian took a hearty bite of her hamburger before turning back to Aidan. “Ok, spit it out.”
Aidan’s eyes grew wide and he put his napkin to his mouth.
“The story, not the food,” Kian responded with playful exasperation.
Aidan swallowed and wiped his mouth. “If I talk and eat at the same time, it slows us down. Rule number two. Never stay in one place too long.”
Great, this guy has a rule for everything. She knew she wouldn’t get the story until Mr. FBI was ready, but that did not mean she couldn’t push him in the meantime.
When they had finished, Kian gathered the trash and opened the door, but Aidan grabbed the handle and pulled it shut. “Rule number three, don’t expose yourself until your life depends on it.”
The motel was out of the way. “Inconspicuous,” said Aidan. One of those long, lean structures out of the mid 1950s, it was now updated hoping to catch overflow from the more modern versions closer to the parkway. Kian suspected a booming “no-tell” trade.
Aidan drove around back and parked the Jeep near some bushes. He hurried her to the sidewalk. They stayed close to the building as they walked toward Aidan’s room.
“You got the package?” Aidan asked. She patted her backpack. “Good,” he replied.
The room was small, twelve by twelve, with two twin beds, a dresser, and a small round table under a curtained window.
Aidan reached behind the table to switch on the air conditioner and motioned for Kian to sit. With no forest shade to keep the earth cool, it was always warmer in town, but the heat beating off the blacktop outside was like a furnace. The cool air felt good on her bare legs. She reached in her backpack and removed the package.
Aidan sat across from her. “Tell me again, how long have you had this?”
“Since Wednesday, the day before yesterday.”
“If it was a bomb, it would have exploded by now,” he said. “Still, we should be careful.” He leaned over and pulled a leather kit from his duffle bag. When he unzipped it, Kian saw a number of electronic gadgets inside. Aidan pulled a small cylinder out. “This should detect any bomb residue,” he said as he passed it over all 6 sides of the package. “Seems clean.”
“Is that thing 100% accurate?”
“Good enough for government work,” Aidan replied and broke into a wide grin. He handed her a pair of sharp scissors from his kit. “Yes, it’s safe. Open it.”
Kian cautiously slipped the point of the scissors under the transparent packing tape plastered to the folded brown paper and white string. Taking care, she sliced across the top, then down each side. This allowed her to pull the wrapping apart, revealing a solid ebony box. It was hinged and well constructed. She touched the clasp, but before she could open the hook holding it closed, Aidan grabbed it. He moved the box closer to the window and, standing back, used the pointed scissors to unlatch the hook from the eye. With the point of the scissors, he lifted the lid an inch. When nothing happened he used the scissors to throw the hinged lid open. Inside was a small chest with two figures kneeling on top. One was gold, one was silver. Kian’s first thought was that they formed a handle of sorts. “What is this thing?” she asked.
“Some type of Ark,” Aidan said.
“You mean like a boat?”
“No, a chest or box to hold something important, like the Ark of the Covenant.”
“Oh, you mean like Indiana Jones?”
“Kinda, I guess. Before the movie, Moses brought an object called the Ark of the Covenant out of Egypt. It was believed to have great power–although what that power was is open to speculation.”
Kian reached in removed the Ark from the ebony box. For some reason unclear to her she asked, “Aren’t there supposed to be wings or something?”
“The one in the Bible had Kerubim on top, a type of angel. So, yes, there should probably be wings. May I hold it a minute?”
Kian’s impulse was to pull it away, to guard this thing, and not let it get away from her. A strange reaction. It puzzled her. Hesitantly, she handed the Ark to Aidan.
“Look,” he said, “There are slots for wings. Check the box.”
“They’re not here.” To show him, Kian turned the box upside down. Two note cards fell out. One was addressed to Jacob and the other to Kian.
Kian picked up her note first and read it. A tear came to her eye and she started shaking. “It’s from my mom and dad. It says, ‘Dearest Kian, this Ark has been in our family for more generations than we can count. We should have explained all of this to you when you reached your first moon cycle, but we could not get back home to you. The Ark always goes to the new Keeper when she turns 28. So it is yours now. Jacob will explain it all to you.'”
Tears rolled down Kian’s face. Her voice trembled as she read the next few lines, “‘And, darling, know it breaks our hearts that we could not come back home to you. Know we love you so much. Light and Love, Mom and Dad.'”
Kian touched a dried stain on the paper. Her mother’s tear? “The note was dated ten years ago,” she said.
Moments passed before Kian finally looked up at Aidan again. “Shall we read Uncle Jacob’s note? Is that legal?”
“Legal enough for government work, I suppose.” Aidan picked up the note and handed it to her.
“My dad wrote this one,” she said and began reading. “‘Dear Jacob, by now you know that Cat and I did not return to you. We are alive and well but unable to leave this place we’re in. Or at least I am unable and Cat refuses to leave without me. If you have not already told the Little One, explain it all to her for us and help her shoulder her immense burden. I only wish I could have seen the Ark opened after all these millennia. Give Kian a kiss for me. I miss her so much. In Light, Red.'”
Kian sat quietly for a few minutes. Confusion set in. She did not know how she felt. This was so different from what she imagined, from what she feared. For the last eighteen years she’d alternated between thinking they were dead and thinking that they had abandoned her as unworthy after their last evening together at Jacob’s.
The note was written ten years ago. Were they still alive? And why couldn’t her father leave from wherever they were? She supposed she should be hopeful, happy even, but that old guilt simmered underneath.
“I should have kissed them good-bye,” Kian said. She shrugged and pointed to the two kneeling figures on top of the Box. “So those are angels, right?”
“Actually, I don’t think so. See this symbol?” Aidan pointed to the headpiece both figures wore. “It’s the ‘Throne of Isis.’ So that makes these two figures of the Winged Isis.”
“Isis. Isn’t she an Egyptian goddess, not Jewish? I thought the Ark was Jewish.”
“The Ark–the one in the Bible anyway–was brought out of Egypt. Moses was raised by the Pharaoh’s family, and may have been a Pharaoh himself, before leading the Jews out. The Ark was first and foremost Egyptian. But you are right. The Ark in the Bible had Kerubim on top. The figures on this one look like the Winged Isis, in her Dark and Bright aspects. There must be more than one Ark. Are we ready to open this one?”
“Give it to me. There must be a latch or keyhole or something.” Kian took the Ark and turned it over and over again, but was unable to find any way to open it. Then, she inspected the slots on the back of each figure. They were slots for wings. Then it dawned on her. “It won’t open, not without the wings.”
Aidan looked at her, his dimpled grin spreading slowly across his face.
“Uncle Jacob’s wings,” they both said in unison.
“Okay, do you have any idea where the wings are?”
“No, but probably in the cabin somewhere. Buried among his other treasures.”
Kian placed the Ark back in its ebony box, secured it, and placed it in her backpack. “Get your stuff. We need to go get those wings. Remember, never stay in one place too long.”
“Okay, okay. Just let me pack up first.”
Aidan layered his clothes in his duffle, grabbed his toiletries, and tossed them on top. Then he picked up his computer bag and checked it. His files and computer were neatly packed inside.
Aidan moved to the door and opened it. Kian tried to follow, but he held her back as he looked left and then right.
Squinting, he walked out into the bright sun.
Waves of heat wafted off the sidewalk and caught Kian by surprise. The temperature was climbing quickly.
“I need to check out,” Aidan told her as he headed toward the lobby. When he got to the end of the building, he peered around the corner. And froze.