Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 12

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August 4th

 

Early the next morning, Jimbo crouched behind the motel, under a bush, camouflage cap pulled low, and a torn branch resting on his back to hide his silhouette. A spider crawled onto his cheek. He did not notice.

“Got it,” Jimbo whispered into his smart phone before giving the license plate number to Aidan. “Call you again after I have a look inside.”

He looked at the motel windows one more time. All the curtains were drawn except one set and he had seen people leave that room an hour ago. It should be safe to peek inside that maroon SUV.

Jimbo crept out from under the bush and squatting, he made his way to the vehicle. Just as he was about to peek inside, he spotted a couple leaving their room. In one swift movement he was back under his bush, the loose branch pulled over his back. He lowered his eyes and adjusted his cap to cover the top of his shaved head.

Jimbo heard the couple as they moved toward the SUV and opened the rear door.

In fact, he could not help but hear. The woman was screaming. “You incompetent little weasel. If you’d gotten that package back in New Mexico, we wouldn’t be in this mess, so man up and stop sniveling.”

“But the Buchanans got away from me. I couldn’t even get close. Besides, there were two of them and just one of me.”

“Yah, well even you could have killed that cripple.” Jimbo heard someone slam the rear door before the woman continued, “If I get my hands on that bastard Red, I tell you, I’ll slice that gringo ear to ear. Same goes for his wife.”

Jimbo wanted to get a picture of the couple but he knew he was too close. Even the slightest movement could be noticed. He stayed down until he heard the two front doors slam and the engine start up. A minute later the SUV pulled out. Jimbo raised his head and watched as it drove onto the road and then to the diner at the intersection.

He texted Aidan. “Perps left. C u in 10.”

 

 

Kian awoke with a start. Lucky nudged her with his cold wet nose. “Too early to get up, Luck-monster.” Her new bed was much too comfortable, so Kian snuggled further under the sheets. Lucky had other ideas and started scratching. Afraid he’d rip the new comforter, Kian peeked out and her eye caught the alarm clock. Past nine. She swung her feet over the side of the bed before she remembered the trauma of the past two days. Pushing the memory firmly aside, she grabbed a pair of khaki cut-offs with a bright t-shirt and went into the bathroom to change.

As she descended the steps, she expected to find Aidan working at his computer, but he wasn’t there. She caught the scent of coffee and turned to the kitchen where she found Aidan holding two steaming mugs. “Jimbo just got here,” Aidan said. “He’s got some news. You comin’ out?”

Kian quickly made herself a cup of coffee, fed Lucky, and joined the two men. “So you guys, what’s up?”

Aidan stood, offering her the most comfortable of the mismatched deck chairs. “Jimbo found our perps at the motel this morning. We ran their plates.” Aidan sat down.

“Yes, and according to their IDs, their names are Mary and John Weber from Santa Fe,” Jimbo added. “Does that mean anything to you?”

“No.”

“Do you know anyone in New Mexico?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Kian, you got a package from New Mexico, then these two show up from there,” Aidan reminded her. “That’s too much of a coincidence for my blood.”

“There’s more,” Jimbo continued. “We pulled up their licenses. Take a look at the woman.” Jimbo turned his tablet computer so Kian could get a look. “Recognize her?”

Kian snorted as her eyes widened. “Cheez, that woman needs to lose that wig. Sandra Dee on steroids. Who can tell under all that hair?”

“Then try this one.” Jimbo took the tablet and brought up another picture. “Do you recognize him?”

“What reality show is that guy from, Swamp Monster TV?” Kian asked before taking a closer look. “Bring up the woman again.” Jimbo did and Kian studied the tablet again, this time more closely.

“It could be fake Stephen and his wife, but I really can’t say for sure.” Turning to Jimbo, she asked, “Where are they now?”

“According to the bug on their van, they are still in town.”

“So what do we know about these Webers?” Kian asked.

Jimbo sipped his coffee before answering. “Not much really, but that woman’s some hellcat, I’ll tell you that. All she did was scream at John about how he was supposed to grab that package from your parents back in New Mexico.”

Kian, lunging forward, grabbed Jimbo’s arm. “My parents? What do they know about them? What did they say?”

Jimbo turned to Aidan, confusion registering on his face. “Her parents disappeared 18 years ago,” Aidan explained. “Nobody has heard from them since.”

“No shit.” Jimbo turned back to Kian. “John was supposed to have grabbed a package from them, that’s all I know.”

Kian sat absorbed in her own thoughts. Were her parents really alive? Had they sent that package? Why were they in New Mexico and why hadn’t they called? “Did they say anything else?”

“The woman called Red a ‘gringo’ and made some serious threats, some about your mother, too.”

Kian shivered. Aidan took her hand. “That’s gotta be why your parents never came home. These people were after them.”

“So why aren’t you guys arresting them or something?”

Jimbo leaned back crossing his beefy arms over his chest. “Yes, Scotty, why aren’t we arresting them?”

“There’s not enough to go on.”

“Bullshit,” Jimbo replied as he leaned forward. “Bullshit. And you know it.”

“Look,” Aidan said, “I can’t make the locals do anything and Power wants more to go on. He doesn’t think we have enough yet. Power wants to wait and see what happens.”

“These fucking guys shoot at Kian and Power wants to wait?” Jimbo pounded his beefy fist on the table.

Aidan leaned back, took a deep breath and shook his head. “He says he needs more to go on, Jimbo.”

Aidan’s tablet pinged. Jimbo picked it up and looked. “Power says he needs more to go on? Okay, our perps just pulled in on the other side of the ridge. I’m on it. Buddy, I’ll get you your shit!” With that Jimbo turned as he grumbled, “Man, you are too trusting,” and disappeared into the woods.

Kian picked up Aidan’s cell and punched in some numbers.

“Who are you calling?”

“The Police. I want that van picked up and off my property now,” she said.

When she completed the call, Aidan squinted into the sun that had just reached over the top of the trees. “Okay, kiddo,” he said, “get something on those bare feet of yours. Let’s go find those wings.”

 

Photo Credit: By U.S. Navy photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 11

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Kian handed Aidan a bottle of wine from the pantry and two glasses. She watched as he poured a bit of wine in a glass, swirled it, and took a sip.

He nodded, filled her glass and poured more in his own.

She took a tiny sip and then looked away. “Listen, I have to tell you something and I hope you won’t think I’m crazy.” She did not wait for him to respond. “The day Uncle Jacob was killed, that morning, I had a dream and it was exactly like what happened to Uncle Jacob. Only it was my parents in the dream. They had gold and silver coronets on their heads, like crowns or something. Like the one Uncle Jacob had around his head. And at one point in the dream they were garroted.”

Kian then described the beginning of her dream to Aidan, explaining the candle and how the tunnel opened up, revealing the vision.

She stopped just long enough to take a needed breath and look at him. “All this scares me.”

“Oh my God, Kian, were you born with the Second Sight, too?”

“What do you mean, ‘too?'”

“Kian, the Second Sight is a sign of the Old Blood. Like the Bucknuns have and the families that have the Arks.”

“You mean they would have had the Second Sight if they had the Old Blood?”

“Yes, Kian, Second Sight would be a sign of the Old Blood.”

At that moment Kian did not know what scared her more, having this Second Sight and being able to see things others couldn’t or being just plain crazy. “Aidan, I don’t like it, having these visions. They scare me. Besides, only crazy people have visions. It’s called schizophrenia.”

“Kian, if you were schizophrenic, you wouldn’t be trying to deny your visions. Or question them. Some people have gifts others don’t understand, but that does not mean they are crazy.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure enough.”

“Then answer me this. How come I saw my parents in the dream, not Uncle Jacob?”

“People with the Second Sight are called Seers and when Seers get messages or even intuitions, they come through their subconscious mind and then they have to be translated by the conscious mind. During these translations, a lot of error can happen. That is because the conscious mind will filter the message, will change it so it makes more sense. Your parents were missing, you didn’t know what happened to them, and you were worried about them. So maybe your conscious mind couldn’t understand why Jacob would be hurt like that, but it could understand that your parents might have been. Does that make sense?”

Kian took a long sip of her wine. “Maybe. Some.”

“Seers need to be trained or they can go off the deep end and into fantasyland. Do you think maybe that was what Uncle Jacob did when he took you places and had you make up stories? What I mean is, did you actually make them up yourself, or did you see them like they were actually happening around you?”

“Like they were movies and I was in it, but the characters could not see me, why?”

“I think he was training you. Because he knew you had the Second Sight.”

“Second sight, third sight, tenth sight, you know I really don’t care any more! Thank you for listening and not thinking I am crazy.” She raised her glass. “Here’s to getting back to normal. Starting now.”

“Sounds good to me.”

 

The aroma of the stew enveloped the kitchen. Aidan sliced a loaf of ciabatta bread while Kian fixed the salads. “How are we getting Jimbo’s dinner to him? If we just leave it outside, the animals will get it.”

“We use his mess kit.”

“We can’t put the salad in the same container with the stew.”

“Forget the salad. He’ll just use it for rabbit bait. The bread we pile with an inch of butter and put it in the mess with the stew. That’s why they call it a mess kit. It’s a mess.”

Kian lifted the cooker from the stove and carefully placed it in the sink. She turned on a slow drip of cold water to cool it and release some of the pressure. After a minute, she turned the release spout. The pressure inside escaped with a loud whoosh. Kian always found the sound reassuring.

“I can’t wait to taste this,” Aidan said.

She removed the lid with a flourish. “Ta-dum!”

With that, Lucky ambled into the kitchen, rubbing at Kian’s ankles, looking expectant. “Tell you what, I’ll feed the beast, you dish out stew for Jimbo.”

Aidan was one step ahead of her. He had Jimbo’s mess open and was slathering butter on the bread. He put four generous ladles of stew in the mess and placed the bread on top. “Jimbo had this thing made special, you know. He said navy-issue kits were made for sissies.”

“Aidan Scott, do you ever answer a question the first time it is asked? How are you going to get it to him?”

“Watch.” Aidan secured the mess kit and found two plastic shopping bags. He put the mess kit in the bottom of one. He put trash in the second bag and placed it in the first bag on top of the mess. When he picked it up, it looked like just one bag. He then grabbed an old can opener and slid it into his pocket.

Kian was fascinated. She followed Aidan to the back door. The rain had stopped, the sun had reappeared and beat down again. It only added to the humidity, tendrils of steam rising from the concrete porch outside the kitchen door.

Aidan boldly walked out as if going to the garbage can. Was he really going to put Jimbo’s food in there, Kian wondered. But just as he reached for the can lid, he seemed to spot something along the tree line. Still carrying the plastic bags, he walked toward it and squatted down. After a minute, he turned to Kian, “Look I found a can opener.” When he stood again, she thought she could see a bit of the plastic bag under a low growing bush. Aidan carried the can opener and the bag of garbage, tossed the bag in the trash, replaced the lid, and walked back to the door.

“But how is he going to get that without being seen?”

“He already has,” Aidan replied. Kian stepped around Aidan and, taking a long leisurely stretch, she glanced in the direction of the bush. The bag and food were gone.

 

Aidan spent the better part of the evening going through Red’s papers. He tried as best he could to place them in piles so they could be filed by topic. It was difficult as they all seemed to point in the same direction. Red had been putting a puzzle together. He had been researching the Ark and its history. Along the way, he had discovered some interesting facts and Aidan filed these facts in his memory. While not relevant to this case, he hoped he’d be able to examine it more carefully in the future. He was especially drawn to translations of what looked like diary entries. Red had entitled these translations The Book of Knowings and Aidan had just started to read some early entries about a storm and lost wings when his cell chirped. He went out onto the front porch to answer it.

“Agent Scott,” Power barked as Aidan held the cell phone farther away from his ear. “Are you still working for me? What did you find out?”

Aidan stared up at the night sky and took his time. He could not explain it, not even to himself, but something was holding him back. An uneasy feeling. When finally he did answer, his tone was measured. “In regards to the girl, not much. All American. Scared. Like you’d expect.”

“The package, Aidan, what about the package?”

A cold shiver crept up Aidan’s spine. Like when someone was sneaking up on him. He should tell his boss. He really should. What excuse did he have for withholding that information? None.

Lightening flashed, and then a loud crash of thunder followed by more lightening. The connection cut off. Another storm was moving through.

 

 

 

 

Photo attribution:

Szumyk at pl.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 10, continued again

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At the kitchen faucet Aidan watched Kian turn on the water and wash her hands. It was like a ritual; he could see that.

Step one, adjust the water temperature. Step two, pump mounds of flowery scented soap into the right palm. Step three, rub hands briskly together, paying particular attention to the webbed spaces between fingers. Step four, work the suds up both arms. Kian hummed “Happy Birthday” as she worked. That was how nurses timed themselves, Aidan knew, but he was too fascinated by the popping soap bubbles on her freckled arms to see if she hummed it twice as the ritual demanded. Step five, Kian dipped her hands under the faucet again and; Step six, she lowered them, rinsing first one arm, then the other, then her wrists, her hands, and finally her fingers. Step seven, she shook the last droplets of water into the sink and; Step eight, she grabbed a paper towel to dry them.

Aidan had always been fascinated by rituals. Take SEAL training for instance. Step one, “Get wet and sandy,” his CO would shout at the trainees. With just the thought of it, Aidan again felt Step two, the pounding run. Step three, the leap into the cold Coronado surf, the icy chill as the breakers crashed over his body, and the sting of the sea water rushing up his nostrils. Step four, writhing around, grinding the sand and dirt into his fatigues, his forty pound pack, and his skin. It chafed. In order to avoid Step five, the drop-and-push-em-out command for arm punishing push-ups, the trainees had to perform Steps one through four with gusto.

Rituals were important for many reasons, Aidan mused. They calm the soul in many ways. They take one away from the mundane world to focus, to center, to enter a different frame of mind. Rituals help one enter a different consciousness and maybe even a different world.

Aidan brushed off his creased khakis, checked the tail of his crisp yellow polo shirt, and the perfect fit of his neat boat shoes just as the sound of thunder crashed outside. Dark clouds were rolling in. Then the rain started. Large drops plopped through the open window. He closed it against the mounting downpour.

Kian pointed to the knives sitting next to the dish drainer. “Can you peel potatoes?”

“Yes, I do peeling,” Aidan replied.

Kian took several potatoes from the refrigerator and put them in the chipped enamel sink before crossing to the cupboard over the stove where she reached up and removed an old iron pressure cooker. She deftly balanced the heavy cooker over her head without tipping the lid off, lowered it, and then placed it on one of the gas burners.

Aidan supposed he should wash his hands before attacking the potatoes. Internally he struggled with how he was going to tell her about her uncle’s murder. He knew it had been made to look like a ritual killing. How do you explain a thing like that?

Lightening caught his attention, then another clap of thunder. Outside torrents of rain swept through the trees, breaking off bits and pieces. He watched the leaves and twigs swirl around before finally being thrown to the ground.

“Earth to Mister FBI….”

“Sorry, what?”

“I’ve answered your questions, now its time to answer mine. Start with ‘Willing Sacrifice.’ What is that?”

Relieved to be able to start with a simpler topic, Aidan picked up the first potato, washed it off and began to peel. “When we think of sacrifices, we usually think of captives being taken for slaughter. And that did happen, especially in more violent cultures. But there is another tradition in which sacrifices are willing. It goes back so far, we probably don’t know its origin. Think of Jesus sacrificed on the cross, Osiris sacrificed at the hands of his brother Seth, even the Sumerian Tammuz. These were all ritual sacrifices, ritual killings. If done with intent, the sacrifice carries great energy and sanctifies and protects the land. It is followed by a rebirth of the King in the form of the new King, rebirth of the land and society, and a rebirth of hope for the people.”

“So you are telling me the King was willing to be sacrificed. I know about sacrifices, but it’s the ‘willing’ part that haunts me.”

“According to the old ways, yes, the sacrifice had to be a willing one. In fact, there is a long tradition in Britain. Katherine Kurtz talks about it in her book, Lammas Night. There is William Rufus in 1100 AD. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the hands of Reginald FitzUrse in 1170.”

“So you don’t have to be a King then?”

“No. Many times there is a substitute when the King cannot be spared or is unwilling.”

“Any others?”

“Sure, lots. King John was poisoned in 1216. Then there was William Wallace. As the rightful King of Scotland, he was a willing sacrifice for the land. There was also George Plantagenet. He was the brother of King Edward IV. That was in the late 1400s.”

Aidan scrubbed another potato.

“So it doesn’t happen anymore, right?”

“That’s a complicated question. It may have happened as recently as World War II. William, Duke of Clarence, the younger brother of the King, died in a plane crash. Many say it was a Willing Sacrifice. Remember those were desperate times. England had suffered bombing after bombing. Little was left. The German invasion was about to begin. Everyone was sure of that. So everyone involved in the magical arts– Qabalists, witches, occultists, ritual magicians–they all gathered in their respective groups or covens and performed rituals that they believed would repel the Germans. Sir Francis Drake had done something similar four centuries earlier when he repelled the Spanish. So there was precedent in history for such an action.”

“Wait a minute!” She put down her carrot and turned to stare wide-eyed at Aidan. “Are you saying these rituals worked?”

“That is another tough question. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t,” he offered, not wanting to commit himself. “We do know the Spanish Armada was destroyed by a huge storm. And, Hitler got distracted and never invaded England.”

Kian turned back to scalping the carrot. “Sounds like coincidence to me. A lot of mumbo-jumbo. You don’t believe in this stuff, do you?”

“A lot of people believe it and that belief alone makes it worth considering. That’s my job, Kian, to investigate crimes where people act out on their occult beliefs.” Over the past few years he’d had enough spiritual experience to believe certain types of rituals were magical, even if Hollywood versions were truly bizarre. But Kian needed to see and decide that for herself, so he stayed silent.

Kian was silent for a few moments, and then took a deep breath. She picked up her peeled carrots and crossed over to the sink. “Uncle Jacob was strangled, his throat was cut and his face was in a bowl of water. Could it have been a Willing Sacrifice?”

Jacob’s face was beside the bowl, not in it. That was confirmed by the responding officer. So, why, Aidan wondered, had Kian said “in?” Did she know drowning was a part of the ritual? Jacob had not been willing. Was she trying to lead him down that path, make him believe it was willing? He was trained FBI. He had to consider these things, so he studied her, taking in her body language, looking for any sign that might betray her. Nothing caught him as suspicious. The next step was to keep her talking and watch her reaction.

“Kian, do you think it was willing?”

She hesitated at that question.

Still wondering why she asked about willing sacrifices, Aidan decided it was finally time to tell her the truth and see how she reacted. “The preliminary autopsy showed that his hands were bound, but the duct tape was removed after he died. You don’t need to tie someone who is willing.”

“Oh my God!” Kian trembled. Unable to continue, she choked and let out a sob as she broke down in tears and buried her face in her hands.

Aidan pulled her into his arms. He felt helpless in the face of her overwhelming grief and what he said was as much for himself as for her. “Listen to me. The death was instant. Whoever used the garrote knew what he was doing. Jacob’s neck broke instantly. I’m guessing he didn’t know they meant to kill him or he would have struggled. Kian, he did not feel or know anything after the garrote.” Kian looked up at Aidan, tears streaming down her face.

“The autopsy report confirms it, Kian. I swear.”

More lightening flashed, followed by more thunder, a low distant rumble this time. One that did not want to stop.

Kian buried herself into Aidan’s chest. Tears stained his shirt, but still she could not stop crying.

“I am sorry, Kian. I wish there had been another way to tell you.” Aidan wasn’t sure exactly what he meant by that. As he thought about it, it sounded trite. He had pushed her too far in testing her for her reaction. Now there was nothing he could say or do but just be there with her and let her sob.

 

 

Once Kian regained her composure, she slipped out of Aidan’s arms. Walking over to the stove, she found it comforting to focus on cooking even while all of this willing sacrifice stuff swirled around in her mind. She layered the cubed beef, carrots, and quartered onions over the potatoes in the pressure cooker. It was one her mother had used, not a modern digital one all pre-programmed for you. This one heated on the stove. It was faster and, if you knew what you were doing, the food came out perfectly, not over or underdone.

“Turn around,” she said to Aidan.

“What?”

“This is an old family recipe and it’s secret. So turn around and don’t look.”

He did.

Kian took several bottles from the spice shelf. She remembered her mother’s instructions perfectly. “Marjoram goes in first, then some thyme. Add a little parsley, sprinkle on some salt…not too much, dear.” Kian took a half-used bottle of red wine from the refrigerator and put some in the pot along with bouillon cubes and a little water. She secured the lid on the cooker, turned on the flame and announced, “Now you can turn around.”

Feeling stronger, Kian decided she could handle more information. “Why use the garrote on him and why the bowl of water? I mean, why not just use a gun? Why not something simpler? You said one of the Kings was poisoned.”

“Well, I think his murder was made to look like a ritual sacrifice to throw us off. It is just like something called ‘the three-fold death.'”

“Three-fold death. Okay, now you have really lost me.”

“It’s described in a book called Life and Death of a Druid Prince. Someone found a body in a peat bog. You know that peat preserves bodies, right?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“It tans the skin almost like leather. Well, they found this preserved body in a peat bog and initially everyone thought he was some poor victim of an ancient highway robbery or something. But as the scientists looked closer, they found evidence of a ritual meal in his stomach, some kind of burnt cakes. There were other clues, too, like the way he died, that led them to believe it was a ritual sacrifice.”

Kian could feel Aidan watching her as he continued, “This man had been strangled, drowned, and had his throat cut—hence a three-fold death.” Kian did not react. She was numb as she stared at the floor. “The killer or killers may have read the book and copied the means of death to send us looking in the wrong direction.”

“Or they may have sacrificed him. Don’t lie to me Aidan, was this a sacrifice?”

“Honestly, Kian, I don’t know.”

Tears welled up in her eyes. It was time, Kian decided, to come clean and tell Aidan about that dream.

 

Notes:

Willing sacrifice:

Willing Sacrifice is an ancient concept, mostly attributed to the Druids. The death described is taken from Life and Death of a Druid Prince: How the discovery of Lindow Man revealed the secrets of a lost civilization by Anne Ross and Don Robins. Their description of the archeological research done on a bog-body found in the English midlands is both vivid and compelling.

 

Lammas sacrifice:

Aidan’s description of the history of Willing Sacrifice came originally from Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz. I verified this with a British occultist now in her 80s who well remembers her elders participating in a night of ritual to prevent Nazi forces from invading England.

 

Photo attribution:

By Hustvedt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 10, continued

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As Kian and Aidan drove back to the house, dark clouds tumbled one over the other. The winds had picked up and thunder rumbled over the mountains. It only served to unsettle Kian more.

“Hey, where’s Jimbo?” she asked as she climbed down from the Jeep. “He should get inside before the storm hits.” She shouted his name into the woods.

“Don’t waste your breath.” Aidan unlocked the back of the Jeep. “He won’t be coming out until he is good and ready, but you can bet he sees us, the shed, probably every entrance to the house, and then some. Let’s get inside before we get soaked.”

With that, they both grabbed an armload of groceries and ran for the front porch. Aidan set his groceries down on the wicker rocker and ran back for a second trip. He grabbed his computer bag and duffle, slammed the rear door, and tested the side doors. He made it back to the porch just as the first drops hit the dusty driveway.

Kian had gotten her groceries inside. When she picked up the grocery bags left by Aidan, she noticed an oversized mess kit. “I don’t remember seeing that before.”

“It’s Jimbo’s,” Aidan explained. “He’s expecting us to feed him. Better be good or he’s likely to catch himself a rabbit and offer us the leavings.”

Kian did not like the sound of “leavings.” She picked up the kit and brought it inside, too.

As soon as the door was shut and bolted, Kian kicked off her sandals. She and Aidan put away the groceries before Aidan plunked down on the sofa and flipped open his laptop. “Ah, connected,” he said, when finally he logged onto the FBI website. “I feel better already.” His fingers flew across the keys. “Now, let’s see what I can see.”

Kian decided her next order of business was to hide the Ark. There were half a dozen good places in the house. If the intruders came back, she wanted it in the last room they would check. Probably the attic. She flew up the steps taking them two at a time.

Once in the attic, she found a frilly pink silken scarf she’d gotten on her sixth birthday. She carefully wrapped the ebony box in it, bent down, and crawled under the bed. There she pressed on one end of a floorboard, causing the other end to lift into the air. She removed that board, slipped her fingers under the next one and removed it too. The space revealed was a twelve-inch cube. She set her carefully wrapped bundle into it before replacing the floorboards. Even if the thugs did get up there and move the bed, the key floorboard was balanced such that the pressure by anything more than two fingers would not budge it. There. Find that!

Determined not to spend another night in her stuffy pink attic room, Kian had decided that, tonight, she would sleep in her new, more adult bedroom on the second floor. But before she could do that she had to make the bed and hang the curtains.

Still barefoot, Kian hurried down the steps to the main floor where she found Aidan butt-perched on the edge of her father’s desk inspecting some papers. “Anything interesting?”

“I was going through your father’s notes and found this.” He handed her three sheets of notes stapled together. They were in her father’s handwriting.

The top sheet had an eight-by-ten photo stapled to it. It was a rock with chipped lines.

“Now look at this,” Aidan said as he removed the vellum from behind the books where he’d placed it the night before. Handling it gently, he placed it on the desk and the photo next to it.

“Wow, the lines look the same.”

“They are. It’s a script called Ogham pronounced Oh-am. The ‘g’ is silent.”

“Can you read Ogham?”

“Ogham is an alphabet. I do know some of the sounds, but the really hard thing is to figure out the language, in this case,” he tapped the photo, “a Celtic precursor. Your father translated it. It’s an inventory of artifacts, ones that belong to families ‘of the old blood.’ It specifically says, ‘old blood.’ The artifacts are mostly boxes, what could be called arks. According to your father, the third line down reads, ‘Box of Isis.’ Your father thought ‘Treasure of Isis’ was a better translation. Then it reads, ‘Bucknun family. Terrible storm. Wings lost.'” He looked at Kian.

“It says that? ‘Treasure of Isis?’ ‘Wings lost?'”

“It does.”

Dazed, Kian continued to stare at photo. “‘Bucknun family?'”

“Kian, there is lots of other stuff in these notes, too. Your father was translating this for a reason.”

Kian’s mind raced. Her dream of her parents. Jacob murdered. Willing Sacrifices. A sacrifice for what? Some Ark? It was too much to take in, Willing Sacrifices and Old Blood, and now some stone telling her she had this Ark and the wings had been lost. But Jacob had the wings. Was he dead because of it?

“No, that’s insane,” she told Aidan. “Scary insane. I’m getting a drink.” She headed for the pantry.

“Kian, you need to stop and think about this. Your history helps verify the stone your father translated. This is a list of families of the old blood entrusted with safeguarding treasures, like arks. One of them is named Bucknun. Like you. Think about it.”

Kian, now half way to the pantry, turned to stare at him. “It doesn’t make sense. Uncle Jacob would have told me.”

“Maybe he was murdered before he could. And remember that note your father wrote him; it said to tell you everything. Look, if you are of the old blood, then your parents were too, and we think they sent you the Ark. If we can trace that package, we might be able to find your parents.”

Kian’s eyes filled with tears. “Do you really think they are alive and we could find them?”

“Maybe. The Ark is the clue.”

“Aidan, I have something to ask you, and please don’t think I am crazy, but does the term ‘Willing Sacrifice’ mean anything to you?”

“Could be it does. Look, I’m hungry. You cooking or am I?”

“Are you stalling again?”

“We can cook and talk at the same time.”

“Well then, I’m cooking and you are talking,” she replied as she turned her back on the pantry bar. For the first time in years, Stoli was not a priority. It wasn’t even in the top ten.

 

 

Photo Credit:

By Gary Dee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons