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

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 10

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Aidan pushed Kian back against the building. He took one more quick glance around the corner before saying, “Let’s go.” He pulled her back the way they had come.

When they got close to the Jeep, Aidan surveyed the area again. “Now. Quickly.” He set a swift pace across the parking lot. “Darn, couldn’t you buy a car with a remote?”

“Real Jeeps don’t have clickers,” Kian replied, trying to keep up. She wanted to remove her dainty sandals, and would have, but the pavement was hot enough to fry an egg.

“Always have an escape,” Aidan said as Kian jumped in the passenger side. He piled his bags on her lap. Then he climbed in the driver seat. Turning the ignition, he jammed the Jeep in reverse and spun 180 degrees. The Jeep jumped wildly as he took the curb without stopping, and then swung left onto the road.

“The highway is in the other direction,” Kian reminded him as they sped past the ice cream stand. “And slow down, there are kids around.”

Every few seconds, Aidan glanced out the rear view mirror. When he got to the intersection, he turned to Kian, “Does a left get me back to the highway?”

“Sure,” she replied.

Aidan spun the Jeep left.  “Where to, now?”

“Go past those trees up ahead and turn left again.  You’ll come out at a light at Buckston High. Slow down, Aidan.”

Aidan saw an intersection. “Griffith Field Road? Is that what I want?”

“Yes.”

Aidan ignored the stop sign and jerked left again. He spotted the school track and then the high school. “Kian, when we get to the traffic light, get down. You hear me?”

“Why? What are we doing?”

Aidan glanced out the rear view mirror again. “Back at the motel, I saw that SUV.  They could be at the light.”

“Why didn’t you say so? Turn into the drug store parking lot.  There’s a back road. You can take that for a couple of miles, then pick up the highway. And slow down, okay?”

After they turned onto the patched road, Aidan did slow down. He grabbed his cell, held the button and waited for the familiar chirp. “Call JL Power.”

“Calling,” chortled the cell phone.

The line only rang once. “Director Power’s office. How may I help you?”

“Agent Scott here. Give me the Director.”

“Right away, sir.”

Power answered on the second ring. “Yeah, what is it?”

“Listen, sir, that maroon SUV? Well, I think it’s a Mercedes and it is still in the area. I saw it at the motel. Can you get the locals to pull it over and check to see if it scraped a tree?”

“Sure thing. License plate?”

“New Mexico. Maybe 2-5 something. Too far away to see clearly, and I was in too big a hurry to get my…,” he paused, “…to get Ms. Buchanan out of danger.”

“She with you?”

“Yes sir.”

Power’s voice turned smooth, almost syrupy. “Well, howdy, ma’am. Thanks for your help, sweetheart. Are you doing okay? Everything okey-dokey with you?”

Okey-dokey? Kian looked amused. “I’m fine.”

Power continued. “Yes, sweetie, I’m sure you are. I train my agents well. Now if that Agent Scott gets out of line at all, you just let me know and I’ll send him off to Power’s Finishing School.” He chuckled.

“Power’s Finishing School?” Kian mouthed the question more than voiced it.

“Old joke,” Aidan told her. “Power’s sister went there in the 70s. She was expelled, ran away, and joined a commune or something. She got disinherited. It’s my boss’s way of reminding everyone he’s part of the horsey set, and could get us expelled from the D.C. office any time. Right, boss?”

“Right, son. And don’t you forget it either. Have you got anything else to report?”

“Not immediately. I’ll call you later.”

The connection went dead.

“What about that SUV? Is he going to pick it up?” Kian asked.

“Probably,” Aidan replied. But to Kian, Aidan did not sound so sure.

“Look,” Aidan quickly added, “We need to pick up a few supplies. Food and stuff. Where can we go that isn’t obvious?”

“There is an old grocery store up ahead. Hardly anybody goes there anymore. When you get to the next road, take a right,” Kian replied before adding, “I really don’t think your boss has any intention of finding that SUV. Your boss gives me the creeps. I don’t like him.”

“Yes, well, Jimbo would certainly agree with you. You know, he actually did get ‘expelled and disinherited’ from Power’s Finishing School a few months back. He aggravated Power and was sent to some god-forsaken place out west to do background checks, by phone no less. About as low level an assignment as he could get. He quit the agency right after that and has been working freelance ever since. Suits him better anyway.”

“What did Jimbo do to aggravate Power?”

“Don’t really know. He won’t discuss it.”

Minutes later, Aidan turned into a pothole-ridden parking lot beside a rundown grocery store. He hoped the meat, at least, was fresh.

 

 

Photo credit:

By Lothar1976 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 9

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

http://www.cgpgrey.com [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 8

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Aidan was the first to reach the Jeep. “I hope you didn’t have anything valuable in there.”

“The package. Oh, my god, the package.”

Aidan stopped in his tracks. He turned to her. “What package?”

“I got it in the mail the day Uncle Jacob was killed. The note on it said to take it to the ‘Big One.’ That’s what I called Uncle Jacob sometimes.”

“Yes, I remember you saying that.”

“So, yesterday I took the package with me when I went to the mall. I tried calling Stephen because I thought maybe I should take it to him or something. When he didn’t answer, I put it in one of the shopping bags. Aidan, I left everything in the Jeep.”

Aidan picked up the comforter, still secure in its wrapper, and handed it to Kian. He looked around and found a shopping bag blown against the horse barn. “How many bags did you have?”

“Two.”

“What was in the other one?”

“Um, I bought two sets of sheets, three throw pillows, um…, curtains. Besides the comforter.”

Aidan circled the Jeep, but did not spot the second bag. He took a sight line from the front porch. He had “felt” someone last night and there was only one way for that person to escape without being spotted. Behind the horse barn and into the forest. “Kian, stick close,” he said as he headed around the large wooden structure. There, in a heap, they found more missing items. The shopping bag was caught in a nearby laurel bush.

Kian kicked off her delicate sandals and ran to the pile. One set of sheets, the curtains, and three throw pillows. No package.

They loaded the items in the bag before returning to the Jeep. There, demoralized, Kian plunked down on a nearby rock. That was when she spotted the second set of sheets. She got down on her hands and knees and struggled to keep her skirt from rising above her panties as she reached under the Jeep. She pulled the sheets out and handed them to Aidan. Then she crouched down again, tugged her skirt down and this time her head and shoulders disappeared under the vehicle. “I got it, I got it,” she announced and, before Aidan could stop her, she pulled out the missing package and smiled at him.

Kian noted Aidan’s body alert.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I don’t like the creep I feel up my spine. It’s not the first time this morning, but this time it’s not going away. We’ll open the package at the motel,” he said. “Someone’s watching us.”

Uneasy now, Kian moved closer to him. She could feel his warmth, smell his closeness. She actually liked it. “I am not leaving without Lucky,” she told him. “Besides, we should booby-trap the house. If they come back, those two will be in for one HUGE surprise.”

Aidan pondered her suggestion a moment. “I’ll admit it is a good idea. Get those bastards off our tail. Okay, let’s set that trap.”

Kian imagined jagged metal jaws clamping an unwary ankle, but she figured that wasn’t what Mr. FBI had in mind. Did not matter, any trap was good. Aidan, still standing close, spoke softly. “Can you wrap a box, make it look like the package?”

“Sure. That should be easy.”

“Good, I’ll act like I’m hiding it in that shed over there. Anything of value in it? The shed I mean.”

“Dad’s push mower, hoes, rakes, things like that.”

“Good. Won’t matter if those guys do their thing in there, will it? Should buy us time and keep them away from the house.”

“Aren’t we going to capture them?”

“Not without back-up, I am not capturing them,” Aidan told her. “And, you aren’t capturing them even if I could find an army to back you up.”

 

 

Five minutes later Kian emerged from the house with the wrapped decoy. She handed it to Aidan.

“Make sure nobody comes up the drive,” he told her loudly as he took off for the shed and pulled on the door. It almost fell off in his hands.

He turned around and again spoke loudly as he said, “Good. Nobody will suspect it’s in here with a broken door.”

Kian returned a thumbs-up and watched Aidan as he crossed the rickety threshold.

The corrugated metal shed was not big, Kian knew, about six by six. There were rusted holes in the roof, allowing sunlight to dance off dust particles that spun in the air currents. She watched as Aidan added to the dust by throwing things around. He made quite a ruckus.

Finally, he emerged with a big grin on his face. “Done,” he announced.

Kian followed Aidan into the house. He was still grinning ear-to-ear. “What’s so funny, Mr. FBI man?”

Laughing, he reached under his polo shirt. “Can’t find something not there, can they?” He pulled out the faux package she had so carefully wrapped. It was now flattened. “I didn’t leave the box for them to find. Wonder how long before they give up. Hours, I bet. Time enough to make our move.”

“What move?”

“Don’t know yet. Won’t know until we see what’s in the package.”

Moments later Kian spotted an enormous cloud of dust coming up her driveway. Horn tooting, gravel flying, a huge white monster truck sped toward them. At the last minute, a siren was thrown in for good measure. Kian grabbed her backpack, shoved the package and her purse inside, and followed Aidan out the door.

The man who greeted them was as monstrous as his truck. Six foot six if he was an inch. Kian guessed he weighed maybe 250, all muscle. Shaved head, dressed in green fatigues, and sporting combat boots. She sensed he was more ex-military than FBI. She liked him instantly.

“This is Jimbo,” Aidan said by way of introduction.

Jimbo reached out his huge paw. “James Cameron, at your service. Nice to meet you, ma’am.”

Jimbo took her hand and with a childlike grin, kissed the back of it, before turning back to Aidan, “Fuck! ‘Drop-down-dead-gorgeous’ is an understatement.”

“Hey, watch your language.” Aidan grabbed his elbow. He turned to pull Jimbo toward the woods. “You’re in mixed company.”

“Thanks, Captain Obvious,” Jimbo said, not budging. He grinned at Kian. “He wouldn’t say ‘shit’ if he had a mouthful of it. Oh, I did it again,” Jimbo replied, feigning chagrin. “Sorry ma’m.”

Kian winked at the tall burly man. “No problem. It’s not like I’ve never heard a four letter word before.”

“See, Scotty Boy, no problem,” Jimbo said before allowing Aidan to yank him away.

They talked quietly under the tall pines, Jimbo stealing grinning glances back at Kian. He gave Aidan a thumbs-up as he winked at her. Trying hard not to laugh, Aidan pointed to the shed. Jimbo nodded. Then he marched out of the woods, got in his truck, and pulled it into the shade. He grinned mischievously as he got out again and stretched like a sleepy bear. He pulled out his shotgun and stationed himself, legs outstretched on the hood of the truck with the shotgun propped on his knees. He had a clear sight line to the shed. “By the way, Scotty, I saw a maroon SUV hauling ass out of here. Mean anything to you?” There was a distinct twinkle in Jimbo’s eye.

“Are you telling me our perps left?”

“Sure. Did you really think I’d make such a big target of myself with bad guys hanging about? They are long gone and won’t be back for a while. I can feel it in my gut. Now get going, I need my shut-eye.” With that, Jimbo settled himself against the windshield and closed his eyes. “Man needs his beauty sleep.”

“You are such a clown.”

Jimbo let out a loud snore.

Aidan turned to find Kian casting apprehensive glances into the woods. “Are you sure?” she asked. “About what he said, I mean. Maybe they’re still out there.”

Aidan put his arm around her shoulder. “Let me tell you about his gut, it never lies. Hell, I’d trust his gut long before I’d trust the evening news. Come to think about it, I’d trust a roll of the dice before I trusted the evening news. Well, you get the point anyway.” He chuckled. “Come on, hop in the Rover.”

Kian eyed his car and then eyed her Jeep. “That thing of yours bullet proof?”

“The Rover? Nope.”

“We’re taking my Wrangler. It turns on a dime, can go where no man has gone before, and it saves me from seeing people I don’t want to see. In this case, ones with guns.”

“Is that how you got away from me before?”

“You bet. While you were looking for a place to turn around, I was hopping puddles in a single bound.”

“Then it’s the Jeep!”

“Good.”

 

 

 

Photo:

Dave Pinniger [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 7

 

IMG_2094.jpg

 

August 3rd

 

Kian was careful as she got out of bed. She did not want the floorboards to creak. “Shhh,” she said to Lucky, “Mr. FBI needs his sleep.” She dabbed a little lotus oil onto her inner wrists because it always soothed her and, with that, she tiptoed downstairs and past the living room where Aidan slept contentedly on the sofa.

Once in the kitchen, Kian fed Lucky and made herself a cup of coffee which she took to the deck. She sat and rubbed her eyes. Had the last 48 hours been real? Uncle Jacob murdered. She’d been chased and shot at. Who would want to shoot at her anyway, and why? And why Uncle Jacob? None of it made any sense at all.

Kian was about to go for a second cup of coffee when she saw Aidan watching from behind the screen door. “Sorry,” he apologized, “you looked so peaceful in the morning light.”

“Compliments will win you a place on my deck. Come on out.”

“Hope you don’t mind,” he said holding up one of the few unbroken mugs in the house. “I fixed me some coffee.”

“Do you fix breakfast, too?”

“Only when there is something that goes in a microwave.”

“Ah, can’t cook, can you? Bet I can whip up some mean pancakes with real butter and maple syrup. Stay here. I’ll be back.”

Kian pulled down a box of pancake mix. The intruders had broken all the eggs and spilled out the tin of flour so she could not make them from scratch. She was stuck with the mix and boxed egg whites. It was easier anyway. And less cleanup.

While the pancakes were on the griddle, she poured two glasses of orange juice, found some blueberries, threw a few on top of the pancakes, then flipped them over. She grabbed the real butter–nothing fake–and the bottle of genuine maple syrup. She placed them on the tray and then dished out four pancakes for Aidan and two for herself. With that, she backed her way out the screen door to the deck where Aidan sat at the patio table obviously enjoying the sun on his face.

They both dug into breakfast, the silence companionable once more. Actually, Kian liked having him there. He knew how to think quietly. But, what was he thinking? “Any new thoughts on Uncle Jacob’s murder?”

“No, not really. I do need to ask you about some stuff though. Do you mind?”

“Fresh coffee first.” With that, she cleared the table. Once inside she placed the dishes in the sink. When the coffee was done, she headed back out onto the porch with two fresh mugs.

“So what do you need to know?” She sat across from him.

“Well, first, how are you and Jacob related? You said he’s your uncle, but our records don’t show any blood connection.”

“No. I did not say he is my uncle, I called him Uncle. It was a childhood thing. He and my parents were close, close friends. So we all just started referring to him as my ‘Uncle’ Jacob.”

“Tell me what you remember about him, starting from your earliest memory.”

“Wow, long assignment. Let’s see. I remember crawling around his cabin, getting into everything. Mom would try to stop me but Uncle Jacob would say, ‘The world is to be experienced, my dear. She’s fine.’ He was big on me learning. Not just book stuff, experiencing things too.” Kian imitated Jacob’s professorial voice as she continued, “He’d say, ‘What did that feel like, Little One? Remember the feeling too, not just what you saw or did or heard.’ Or whatever. You know, it might seem odd now, but at the time it just seemed normal.”

Kian looked up. Aidan had a crooked grin on his face. She’d seen those types of grins before. Had she said something crazy? She cocked one eyebrow, “What’s up with you? Are you making fun of me?”

“Not at all. I know exactly what your uncle was telling you.” This startled Kian and she was about to ask why, but Aidan pressed her, “Keep going.”

“Ok. Let’s see. I think things went on like that. Pretty much the same, until my parents vanished. That was in…”

“Hold on a minute. How often would you go over to Jacob’s?”

“A couple times a week at least. I begged Dad to take me when he went. Then, when I got older, maybe school age, I stayed with Uncle Jacob when my parents went on trips.”

“How often was that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. It was sporadic. Not for months and months, and then a few times over the next month or so.”

“Where did your parents go?”

Kian crossed her arms over her chest and her voice raised a notch. “Are my parents involved in this?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “There is something you are not telling me.”

“That’s true, and I will explain. But can we finish this first?”

Although wary, she continued. “I do not know where they went. It was business, but what business a language professor could have, I don’t know either. After I went to live with my aunt in Boston, I would sometimes pester her. All she ever said was, ‘Ask Jacob, I bet he knows.'”

“Did you ask Jacob?”

“Yes, but he said he didn’t know either. Then after my parents disappeared, Uncle Jacob started to go on trips.”

“Where did he go?”

“I used to ask him, but he always said it was safer if I did not know.”

“Safer? Why?”

“Who knows?”

“Okay, so let’s go back to just before your parents left. When was the last time they saw Jacob. Were you with them?”

“Yes, we had dinner and then I was going to stay with Uncle Jacob because they were leaving very early the next morning.”

“Think about that night. Even the smallest detail might be important. What did your parents do?”

“Uncle Jacob brought out two of his treasures, his artifacts, and they were talking about them, how they were important or something. I remember because I wanted to know why they were important and Mom said one day when I got older they would explain. I got really mad and told them I was old enough now.” Tears came to her eyes. “I was still mad at them when they left.” She hung her head. “I refused to kiss them good-bye. It makes me feel rotten just thinking about it.”

Aidan reached out and touched her hand. “Kian, I’m sure they understood. Just try to think about what Jacob had. Do you remember what you saw?”

“It was like two pairs of beat-up wings, one gold and one silver. I don’t know why they thought it was so special, he had nicer treasures than that, believe me. Why is this important?”

“Sometimes it’s the smallest details that count. Do you think those wings could have had anything to do with why your parents left?”

“I don’t know.“ Kian fidgeted. “Can we just move on to something else?”

Aidan looked at his file again. “Our records show that Uncle Jacob administered a trust fund for you until you were 21. Tell me about that.”

Kian looked at the thick file Aidan had in his hand. “Look, Mr. FBI, how do you know this stuff about me? You’ve been watching me or something?” She uncrossed her arms and leaned forward. “And what else do you know? The color of my panties, maybe?”

Aidan thumbed through her file, pretending to look for that piece of information. “Nope, underwear color is not in the file. Wanna tell me?” He grinned. His surprising playfulness was infectious. She relaxed a bit.

“Kian, a man was brutally murdered and we look into things like this. Your name had to come up–he managed your parent’s estate and then your trust fund. Did you know the arrangements for the trust and the estate were made two weeks before your parents disappeared?”

“No.”

“I think that is more than a coincidence, don’t you?”

“Maybe.” Kian fiddled with her mug. “I really don’t know much more.”

“Two more questions, and then we quit for the day, okay?”

Kian nodded.

“What did you and Uncle Jacob do when you were with him?”

“Now that’s really weird stuff.” Kian chuckled. “You know Uncle Jacob was a bit eccentric, right? Well, he always took me to old places and we would sit and he would have me make up stories about what happened there. Mostly it was a lot of fun. A lot of times he would write down what I said, and then we’d type the story for my parents.”

“Are your stories still around?”

“Yes, Dad collected them, put them in this big book he had. Called it the Book of Knowings.”

“Where is that book now?”

“That’s question number four and it’s in Dad’s library. Why?”

“Because I think that’s what our perps were after yesterday.”

“What would they want with a bunch of stupid childhood fantasies?”

“Kian, did this book also have journal entries?”

“Yes, it’s like a family history.”

“I can’t explain why, but I think maybe this Book of Knowings can give us a clue about what’s happening, why your parents disappeared and why Jacob was killed.”

“Do you think the two are related?”

“Most coincidences aren’t coincidental. Ready for the last question? Tell me about Uncle Jacob’s son.”

“That’s not a question, it’s a statement. But I’ll tell you anyway. I only met Stephen a couple of weeks ago. Stephen lived with his mom in London, if I remember. Stephen’s mom left Jacob before Stephen was born, so I was surprised when he came back to take care of Jacob. He seemed concerned enough. Uncle Jacob had made me his Power of Attorney and I was going to see if maybe Stephen should do that when… well, you know.” As an afterthought, she added, “I still need to call Stephen and give him my condolences.”

“Don’t bother. Stephen, or whatever his real name is, left town. Nobody knows where he is. And he is not Jacob’s son. We contacted his son, the real Stephen, who is still in London. He never had any contact with his father. From what I gather, he doesn’t know anything about him, or even care. Said all his mother told him was that his father was crazy and she was glad to be rid of him.”

Kian, stunned and speechless, flopped back in her chair. Stephen seemed so normal, so ordinary. Yes, that was the word, ordinary. He could not be faking it. He wasn’t clever enough. Stephen’s wife, maybe. She was aloof most the time, and when she wasn’t acting bored, she was impatient. Impatient with Stephen, with Jacob, with the whole dying process. At least, that was what Kian observed. But Stephen?

“Tell me, Kian, any chance one of those two intruders was our fake Stephen?”

“I don’t know. I left so fast I did not get a good look at either of them.”

“Could one have been a woman?”

“One was smaller than the other. But I can’t say for sure.” Unnerved, Kian got up and grabbed both their coffee cups. It was logical–she had to admit that. But she would think about it later.

Besides she had questions of her own. “Okay, Mr. Aidan FBI Scott, I answered your questions, now it’s time for you to tell me what’s going on.”

“Okay, I’ll answer that but it’s getting late and we need to think about your safety. Do you have anywhere to go? Your aunt’s?” He stood and brushed some crumbs off his pants.

“Guess you did not snoop hard enough. She died a few years ago. And, you, FBI man, are stalling! You promised to tell me.”

“No, I am not stalling. Here’s an idea. Your sofa was pretty comfortable last night and you should not be here alone. Too dangerous until we clear this up. I can camp out here, or I can see if another agent is free to guard this place 24 hours a day. Frankly, I doubt that, so if I don’t stay, it would probably mean moving you to a safe house.”

“No way. I am not leaving.” Kian headed for the door. “You can camp on the sofa,” she said over her shoulder. “And you are stalling, so tell me what you know.”

Aidan held the door for her. “Okay, okay, I’ll explain on the way into town. How long will it take you to get ready?”

 

After showering, Kian surveyed her closet. She rummaged through the stacks of tees and crops and cut-offs. Nothing felt right until she spotted her favorite sundress, a bright olive combed cotton that contrasted perfectly with her copper red hair. Fitted to the waist it was belted in gold above a short pleated skirt that showed her long lean legs to their best advantage. She paired it with delicate gold sandals and a dainty shoulder bag, leaving her more cumbersome backpack sitting on her bed. After a quick shake of her head to loosen and fluff her hair, she dabbed a bit of lotus oil on her wrists and headed down to the second floor.

But before she could descend the steps to the first floor, she heard Aidan on the phone.

“I got a bad feeling about this buddy,” Aidan said. “Things aren’t adding up. How long until you get here?” There was a pause. “Okay, see you in an hour. If I’m not here, I’m at the motel getting my stuff.” Another pause. “Yes, well it isn’t the worst babysitting job I ever had, I’ll tell you that right now.” Another pause. “More like drop-down-dead gorgeous. I gotta go. See you.”

Kian smiled as she whirled down the steps. She thought she saw his jaw drop as she breezed past him just close enough to allow him a whiff of her perfume. Did he just whisper that I clean up good? She stood next to him and was relieved to note that, even with heels on, he was still a bit taller. He quickly jumped in front of her to open the door. Cute and chivalrous.

Suddenly, Aidan whipped around and pushed Kian back inside, slammed the door and threw the dead bolt. “Did you lock your Jeep?”

“I…I don’t remember. I was so worried about Lucky I….” She stopped mid sentence and peered out one of the two long glass panels that framed her front door.

There was chaos around the car, the same kind of chaos that had been in her house the day before. Kian started shaking. Not again. Why won’t they leave me alone?

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 6 continued

Screenshot 2017-06-07 08.58.36.jpg

 

 

Aidan sorted through the scattered papers until he heard Kian’s bedroom door lock. He waited a few minutes to be sure she was not leaving her room again before he crept out onto the front porch. With all his senses, he felt around into the night air. He always seemed to know when someone was creeping up on him, when someone was watching him. Tonight he felt nothing. The only sounds were the crickets. He loved that sound, he always had.

Aidan pulled out his cell phone, brought up his contacts and punched number 2. He waited three rings before he heard his boss answer.

“Scotty, boy, about time you checked in.”

“Yes, sir,” Aidan replied.

“The locals report there was some shooting up your way.”

“Yes, sir.” Aidan was not sure why he always addressed his boss as “sir.” Must be military training.

“So what do you know?”

“Nothing that would not be in the report filed by the local police. Someone broke into the house, trashed the first floor before Ms. Buchanan interrupted them. They shot at her during their escape. She’s upstairs sleeping now, but it’s been a rough two days for her.”

“What’s she like?”

“Miss Buchanan?” Aidan was not sure how to answer that question. “Headstrong when she wants to be. Moody. Drinks too much for my taste.”

“I want you to keep an eye on her.”

“So am I babysitting now?” Aidan chuckled.

“Not exactly,” Power replied. “I need to know if she’s gotten any packages lately.”

“Not that I know of. Why?”

“Just keep your eye out for any suspicious packages.”

Aidan felt that familiar creep up his spine, the one that said something was not right. “What is it you suspect?”

Power did not answer, so Aidan tried another tack, “Do you know what might be in this suspicious package?”

“No idea.” Power was clearly irritated now. “You have anything else to report?”

“No, sir. I’m sure the local police report was quite comprehensive.” Click. His boss ended the call.

Aidan sat on the porch and listened to the crickets. His boss was withholding something–about that he was sure. And he was also sure that his spine creep meant something. But what?

Finally deciding the answer to his question would continue to allude him until he had more information, Aidan crept back into the house and, too tired to resume sorting through the scattered papers, grabbed a book from the library and made himself comfortable on the sofa.

 

 

More a shadow than a person, a single lithe figure dressed in black descended from a nearby tree and crept from the woods to the front porch. Crouching down, the shadow peered into the front window. Someone was lounging on the sofa, absorbed in a book.

Satisfied, the figure stole over to the Jeep and tried each door. When none of them opened, a jimmy was pulled out and the back hatch pried. It popped. The figure entered the Jeep and, one-by-one, began tossing the contents out onto the gravel driveway. After emptying the Jeep, the figure methodically checked under the seats and into every compartment, every crack and crevice. Satisfied the package could not be inside the Jeep, the shadow figure emerged again and started a meticulous examination of the items tossed out. A bag of tools was emptied on the ground. Nothing. Nothing with the emergency equipment either. That left two large shopping bags. Just as the figure upended the first and a comforter with sheets fell onto the ground, lightening flashed, illuminating the driveway. The figure ducked and peered around the vehicle. Shit, the agent had come to the window. The shadowy figure felt the agent send out his senses. Fuck! Lightening again, followed by crashing thunder. Stealing another glance, the figure noted the agent had left the window. Two seconds, that was all the time there was before he’d be at the door. The figure kicked the spilled comforter and sheets under the Jeep, silently closed the back hatch, grabbed the second shopping bag, and raced into the shadows, disappearing into the forest.

 

 

Aidan opened the front door but found only the magnificent power of a distant storm. Still, he was uneasy. There had been someone out there, he was sure of it. Should he call his boss? No, the man was more interested in some strange package than in the shooting and break-ins. Aidan pulled out his cell once again and this time punched in number 1.

His buddy Jimbo answered on the first ring. “Yo, Scotty boy. Fancy hearing from you. On a case?”

“That I am. What’re you doing? Busy?”

“Nope, bored as hell. Want some company?”

“Only if you want a fun-packed vacation in the Hudson Valley. Camping. Looking for perps. Getting shot at. Covering my butt.”

“Sounds exciting. Seriously, what’s up?”

Still on the front porch, Aidan plopped down into a wicker rocker and explained the situation.

When he was finished, Jimbo had one question. “Power have you ‘off the grid’ on this one?”

“Yup, another one of those.”

“Buddy, I’m on my way. Should be there in six hours.”

“No, wait until morning. No sense in driving through the night.”

“Got it. See you tomorrow. Be there before noon.”

 

 

 

Photo:

By Katsushika Hokusai derivative work: AMorozov (Hokusai_sketches_-_hokusai_manga_vol6.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 6

 

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Kian waited with Aidan as the local police cleared her house. Once inside, without hesitating, she poured herself a drink.

The first floor was a mess. The two men had not gotten upstairs, but on the first floor, every drawer, cupboard, and closet had been opened. Emptied, the contents had been thrown in all directions. Cushions were tossed this way and that, with every piece of furniture overturned. Only her father’s books remained untouched. They were still on the long rows of shelves at the back of the large room, just where Red had left them. His files, however, had been dumped all over the floor. Off to the left, the adjoining country kitchen was trashed. Refrigerator and freezer were emptied right onto the old linoleum. It looked as if the two thugs had swept their arms through the cabinets and cupboards, knocking everything out.

“Oh well, now I don’t have to decide what to keep and what to replace,” Kian mumbled sarcastically. She swept up the broken dishes and tossed them into a cardboard box Mr. FBI had retrieved from the barn.

The agent started in the living room, righting furniture and making neat piles for Kian to go through later. Every once in a while he’d pop into the kitchen and ask her about certain odd items. Kian would explain, but wondered why he wanted to know.

The process brought back sad memories. There was a drawing of the stone structures on her land that had been brought home by her father when Kian was six. There was an old rag doll that had belonged to Kian’s great grandmother. Her mother had said something about a long story behind it and that she would explain later.

“Later?” Aidan asked.

“Yes, when I was ‘old enough.’ Mom would always say that and I hated it.” Kian frowned. “Everything was ‘when you are old enough.’ Old enough never came.”

“I don’t understand.”

“They vanished when I was 10.”

“Disappeared.”

“Vanished. In thin air. They went away like they did sometimes, only this time they didn’t come back.” Kian swung her arms in the air, almost spilling the ice from her glass. “Vanished. You know, left. Gone. Vamoosed.”

“Well, where did they go?”

“Who knows!” Hunching her shoulders, Kian turned around and headed toward the pantry. She poured more Stoli and Kahlua into her glass. “Want one?” she asked.

“No, thanks,” the agent said. “I’m on duty.” He disappeared back into the living room.

Kian went into the bathroom. She filled a large trash bag with old ointments, pills, tapes, and gauze pads. She remembered all of them from her childhood, especially the bandaids. Whenever she skinned her knees, and that happened often, her mother would dress it, always using one with a different design–rabbits, monkeys, ballerinas. Once her mom drew a funny face on one because there were only ordinary bandaids in the house. Kian’s shoulders drooped and she leaned against the sink for support. Memories. Even the good ones reminded her of what she had lost.

“I need you to see something,” the agent said as he rounded the corner.

Kian wiped tears from her eyes. “What’s up?”

“I found this in the mess on the floor.”

Kian took it from him, a puzzled look on her face.

“I think it is vellum,” the agent said.

“What’s vellum?”

“Processed animal hide. The ancients used it like we use paper, but it was far more precious. Imagine a time when what you wrote on was so valuable, so hard to come by, it was like gold. That was vellum.”

The funny marks were not like hieroglyphics or other writings Kian had ever seen. They were more like a series of vertical lines, some short, some tall. The agent looked at her. “Do you know what this is?”

“Never saw it before. What’s with all these lines?”

The agent took the piece and studied it. “I think it is Ogham, a form of writing, but I need to consult someone I know. This could mean something. It could be valuable.”

“Does this have anything to do with Uncle Jacob or with my parents?” That was stupid, she thought, how would he know?

“Probably,” was his response.

With that, Mr. FBI reached for his smart phone and snapped a picture. “Sending it off now,” he said as he touched the screen and Kian heard the whoosh of a departing message. He rolled up the vellum. “I’m going to put it behind your dad’s books in the library. That’ll be good enough for tonight, especially since I will be sleeping on the sofa.”

“What?”

“I am sleeping on your sofa. I am not leaving you alone with some crazed gun-toting thugs out there, especially after you’ve been drinking.”

Kian bristled at that and then spit out, “I am sure your wife and children will love this!”

“No wife, no children, and no girlfriend either.” As Kian turned to leave the room, he added, “You?”

“Me?”

“Wife, kids, boyfriend?”

“Nope,” Kian responded. “No husband either.”

“You like pizza?”

“Sure, why?”

“Find me your yellow pages and I’ll get one delivered.”

“Great. By then I’ll be ready for another drink.”

The pizza arrived an hour later. Kian did pour a third drink, but Aidan gently took it from her. “Look, I know you are upset, but if those bastards come back, I can’t have you impaired.” Kian handed the glass over. He was right. Besides, if she kept it to two, she’d feel fine in the morning.

Out on the deck, the cool evening breeze cleared Kian’s head a bit. Still, neither of them had the energy for conversation. In the end they ate their pizza, sitting in silence watching the stars.

When Lucky started scratching at the door, Kian announced it was time for bed. She felt she should offer the agent something more comfortable than the broken down sofa. There was a spare room on the second floor with a single creaky cot. She suggested that and added, “I could find some blankets or something, too, if you want.”

“I’d rather be down here if those guys come back. Besides I’d also like to spend some time cleaning up your father’s papers, if that’s okay. I’d like to know what the intruders were looking for in there.”

“No problem,” replied Kian. “Can I get you anything else?”

“A blanket or something would be nice.”

“I’ll put a couple on the sofa. You can choose.” Kian reached for the door, and then turned. “You got a name? I can’t keep thinking of you as Mr. FBI.”

“Aidan. Aidan Scott.”

“Well, Mr. Aidan Scott, good night.”

 

NOTES:

Ogham: I was informed by someone in the know that the word is pronounced O-am, not Og-am. The alphabet may have been created by the Druids as a secret method to encode messages during the Roman conquest of Britain about 55 AD.

But has Ogham been found in the Americas?  Yes.

Barry Fell translated many examples. Here are some from West Virginia.

Mystery Hill in New Hampshire may have been built by the Clets, if the Ogham found there is any indication.

There may have been Druids in Colorado.    Although it remains controversial with some.

 

Photo Attribution:

By Rico38 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 5

Screenshot 2017-06-05 09.36.30.jpg

 

August 2nd

 

Kian woke late the next morning to find Lucky sitting by the mysterious package.

But then images of Uncle Jacob’s tortured body flooded back. Kian buried her face in Lucky’s soft black fur and forced herself to hold back the tears. She needed a distraction, she decided. Think about something else until the pain subsided. Then she’d figure it out.

In the six months Kian had been back in the house, she had done a lot of thinking about how to redecorate, where to move what, which things to keep, and what to throw away. What to do with her parents’ room on the second floor, for instance. If she cleaned it out, their disappearance would feel final. She would be condemning them to stay “vanished.” So she had done some rearranging, moving her dad’s favorite armchair into the corner and her mom’s knitting supplies into a basket by the closet.

Truth be told, sometimes she would just walk into their room and sit. It felt as if she could talk to them in there. She would tell her mother about her day and tell her father what she had been reading because, along with her red hair and freckles, she shared his love of books. Wonder what you would make of ebooks. Bet you would have filled up 10 clouds by now.

Today Kian planned to attack a second bedroom, the one overlooking the deck and garden. It had been a combination guest room and catchall when she was young. There was a private bath, as in her parents’ room, and a private porch. It would be perfect for her “grown-up” bedroom. All she needed were new linens and curtains. She would sleep in her new bed tonight. Tomorrow she would make the attic into her study, if she could get all the old furniture down and get a desk up there. She’d been hoping to ask Jacob’s son for help. Now that did not seem like such a good idea.

But she did want to call him about the package. Besides, he’d know what the police had discovered, and she could make sure it was okay to open the package “for the Big One.”

Again she pictured Jacob lying in his bedroom. Lying in a pool of blood. Again, she pushed the images far from her mind. Time to get up and move. Think about something else, she reminded herself.

Kian showered and went in search of something to wear. She put on a pair of rolled khakis, a golden cami-top, and a vibrant orange scooped neck tee over the top, adjusting them so that the cami showed. She surveyed herself in the hall mirror. Not bad. With that she headed for another cupboard at the end of the hall and grabbed a pair of orange and gold sandals. Slipping them on, she hopped down the steps and stopped at the front door long enough to grab her oversized backpack and rummage for the keys.

Once outside, Kian double locked the door and gave it a jiggle. Then she remembered the package. She went back to get it, stuffed it in her backpack, and, as she walked to her Jeep, she punched Stephen Steiner’s number into her cell phone. Again there was no answer and no way to leave a message. She decided to try later ending the call before she noticed she had a message. She retrieved the message, but the reception was not good. “FBI” and “coming over” were the only words she could understand. They were enough.

“I thought we settled this,” Kian mumbled to herself. “You got no jurisdiction here. You want to know something, you go through Owen.” Kian tucked her phone back into her pack, unlocked her Jeep, pulled herself up and in. Seated comfortably, she started the engine and took off for the mall.

Just past her driveway, Kian turned onto the dirt road leading to the two-lane highway into town. That was when she saw a cloud of dust up ahead, a sure sign someone was coming to visit her. She slowed down and pulled over to make room. A Land Rover barreled toward her. She pounded her horn fiercely. The Land Rover swerved. As it passed, she saw Mr. FBI. Without hesitating, she lurched forward at full speed, throwing more gravel back in his direction.

Because there was nowhere wide enough for a Land Rover to turn around, Mr. FBI would have to go all the way to the house before he could swing around to follow. Kian also knew all the short cuts. So, instead of heading toward the highway, she turned onto a dirt trail hidden by a huge pine tree. Here she picked up what her parents had lovingly called the “back road,” but it was more like a back ditch. She drove through a puddle, watching as the mud splashed the sides of her Wrangler. Next came the stream, washing some–but not all–of the mud away. Finally she drove through the pasture. Tall blades of grass whipped at the sides of the Jeep. Must get this cut, Kian reminded herself, as she turned onto the highway, now significantly closer to the mall.

Once at the mall, Kian quickly selected a new comforter, sheets, curtains, and a few throw pillows. She was not an enthusiastic shopper. Usually she got what she needed in a store and left as soon as she could. Having taken care of the linens, she grew more and more distraught as thoughts of Uncle Jacob kept intruding. As hard as she tried, she could not keep them at bay.

She had had enough of the mall. She bought a slice of pizza and a coke, devoured these quickly, and hurried back to her Jeep. As she tossed the bags of linens on to the passenger seat, she remembered the package. She slipped it into one of her over-sized shopping bags. She’d try calling Stephen again when she got home.

The drive back was boring, at least compared to the drive out. Kian smiled a bit as she remembered leaving Mr. FBI in the dust. She wondered if he might be waiting for her at the top of her road, so she took the short cut, splashed back over the stream and through the puddles, and turned onto her road. No sign of Mr. FBI. She turned left toward her house.

As soon as she got to her driveway, she felt a knot in her stomach. Must be the coke and pizza, she reasoned.

Her body tightened. She wanted to stop the Jeep. But, shaking this off as just more craziness, she pulled in front of the house and was about to stop the car when she noticed her front door wide open. She thought back. Yes, she remembered locking it. Kian reached for her cell phone just as two people bolted out of the house. It took a moment for the full impact to hit her. The two were racing toward her and one had a gun.

Kian dropped her cell phone, put the Wrangler into reverse and spun 180 degrees. Then, she floored it, kicking back more gravel and dust. She hoped it would obscure her assailants’ line of sight, but through the rear view mirror she saw one of them take aim with the gun. She swerved back and forth across the road just like she’d seen in the movies. Her eyes darted back to the mirror. She saw the second man shove the first to the ground. The bullet went wild. Flooring her jeep, she spun around the bend. No short cuts this time. Better to be on the normal road. When she spotted the highway ahead, she started to think she might live after all.

Then she saw the Land Rover parked off to the side. Please be FBI, please!

Aidan Scott was leaning against his vehicle inspecting his nails. As Kian braked sharply, a cloud of dust kicked back in his direction.

“Watch it!” he yelled brushing off his perfectly pressed Khakis.

Having driven past Mr. FBI, Kian threw the Jeep in reverse, backed up, and flung open the door. “They broke into my house. They shot at me. My cat is there. You gotta do something.”

“Who are ‘they’?”

“Two men. Ugly ones.”

Kian spotted a cloud of dust coming down the road and pointed it out to Aidan.

He grabbed her by the arm, pulled her from the Jeep, shoved her behind the rear end of his Land Rover, and pushed her to the ground. “Stay there and don’t move!”

Aidan grabbed the Sig-Sauer from the retention holster attached to his belt and crouched beside her. “Don’t move,” he repeated. “Not until I say so.”

Swerving to miss Kian’s Jeep, the two men, now in a maroon SUV, sped past. Turning onto the paved road, the SUV scraped a tree. Two seconds later, Aidan maneuvered himself around Kian. Still crouching, he inched his way until he could see past his back bumper. By then, the SUV had vanished.

Aidan holstered his weapon and turned to Kian. Breathing heavily, he asked, “You ok?”

“I…I think so,” Kian stammered.

Aidan reached for her hand and pulled her up. “That was one hare-brained stunt you pulled this morning, running off like that. You could have gotten yourself killed.”

“And how was I supposed to know there were people going to shoot at me?” Still shaking, Kian brushed the dirt and leaves from her pants.

“Well, if you had stopped this morning, I could have told you.” He waited for his statement to sink in before he continued. “Someone broke into the Steiner cabin last night. It had been ransacked. So I called to see if you might know what they were after. Plus I had some questions for you. I’d say you’re damn lucky.”

Visions, dreams, murderers, midnight burglars, gunshots, garbled phone messages, it all terrified her. Things were out of control–way out of her control. So this time Kian did not try to ditch the agent. Whether she liked it or not, she was beginning to think she needed him.

 

 

Photo Attribution:

By Wayfaringemu (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 4

 

bl russ.jpg

 

It took Kian’s eyes a moment to adjust, but when they did, Kian paled as her focus narrowed. There in a pool of blood lay Uncle Jacob.

Supporting her weight on the window ledge, her arms threatened to give way. But then her emergency training kicked in. Kian took one long, deep breath to clear her head and heaved herself over the sill into the room. She landed with a hard thud and a grunt. Pushing the officer out of the way, she rushed to her uncle. Check for a pulse, she reminded herself. Is he breathing? “Oh, please, please be breathing,” she sobbed. “I don’t want to lose you. Not yet anyway.”

Even as she knelt down to render aid, Kian knew it was too late. Uncle Jacob had been dead for hours. His body was waxy cold. Blood was matted in his hair and the pool under him was thick and dark. Then she saw the coronet of gold about his brow, a tightened noose around his neck, and a bowl of bloody water tipped precariously to one side. Just like in her Vision of her parents. She shuddered. “Willing sacrifice.” Jacob’s earlier words were all she could think about as she recoiled from the scene in front of her. A shiver ran down her spine and tears began rolling down her ashen face. Kian’s world crumbled before her once again, leaving her alone and scared.

The next few hours seemed like days to Kian. There were questions to answer, forms to sign, and then long hours of just waiting while others did their jobs. She used the time to call her office and have her other appointments rescheduled. She was scheduled be off for almost a week, but she figured the time would be filled working with Jacob’s son. So much had changed and it was overwhelming. Her mind raced through the things that needed to be done. His funeral. Closing the house. An estate to settle. And what will happen to Jacob’s artifacts? Will his son want them? He’d certainly shown interest in them, or at least his son’s wife had.

By the time Jacob’s body was removed, Kian knew she had reached her limit. Exhausted, she wanted to get out of there, get home, pour herself a drink, and find something to eat, in that order. She checked her cell phone. Two-thirty in the afternoon.

“Kian? Oh my god, Kian are you okay?” She looked up to see a tall lanky man rushing toward her. There was something familiar about him.

He knelt in front of her and took her hand. “I came as soon as I heard.”

She looked at the nametag prominently pinned on his plaid shirt. Officer Griffith. Recognition tickled the back of her mind. “Owen? Owen Griffith? Wow, you became a police officer like your dad.”

“Yup. Day off or I’d been here sooner. I am so sorry about Jacob. Here, I brought you something.” He reached into a brown paper bag and took out a cold coke in a glass bottle.

“You remembered.”

“I did.”

He smiled at her, a sad smile, but a smile all the same. “Never could figure out why your mom wouldn’t let you drink the stuff.”

“We used to sit behind your barn like a couple of druggies who’d just scored,” Kian replied. The memory made her eyes shine. “I don’t think your mom approved of coke either.”

Owen took an opener from his shirt pocket, popped the cap, and handed the bottle to her. “Here, drink up.”

The coke was cold, ice cold the way she liked it. It burnt as it went down. The first few swallows were always the best. “That’s good. Thanks.”

Owen placed his hand on her arm. “Kian, I gotta ask you something. Did Jacob ever explain things to you?”

“What things?”

“Just things.”

“Ow-en, what things?”

Why, she wondered, did it always feel like everyone had secrets that she was not allowed to know? And why wasn’t she allowed to know them?

“We’ll talk about it later. Kian, you look exhausted, what can I do for you?”

“Just get me out of here. I can’t deal with this right now.”

Owen stood. “I understand. I’ll take care of a few details and then get you home. You do look exhausted.”

Kian closed her eyes and sank back into her thoughts only to be aroused minutes later. She looked up to see Owen confronting some man, a dark haired man.

“I’m here to talk to her. It won’t take long.”

They looked like two bull elephants facing off. Leave it to Owen. It wasn’t the first time. Seemed he’d spent their childhood keeping others from getting in her way, fighting her battles for her.

“FBI’s got no jurisdiction here,” she heard Owen tell the man. “You want to talk to her, you come through me, got it?”

“Got it,” the man said as he stepped around Owen and took two long strides toward Kian.

She stood, grabbed her bag, and headed for the door. Maybe having a bull-headed “guardian” was a good thing after all.

The FBI agent stepped in front of her. “May I ask where you are going, ma’am?”

“Home,” she replied, without looking up. His pants were neatly creased, she noticed, his black wing-tip shoes were immaculately shined. A neatnik, she thought. She took note of the agent’s coal black hair, set off by sparkling blue, no, almost turquoise eyes. Odd combination. But effective.

“Kian, you don’t have to talk to this man,” Owen said, crossing the room. “The FBI’s got no right to be here.”

Kian looked the agent straight in the eye. “FBI? Did Uncle Jacob cross state lines or something?”

“Special division,” he replied.

“Oh, like the X–Files.” Kian moved to get past him.

“Please, not so fast. Are you Kian Radha Buchanan?”

He pronounced her name correctly. Most people said “Ky-an” but it was “Key-an.” And as for her middle name, the butchering it took was worse. It wasn’t “Rad-ha,” it was “Row-ha.”

“Look, I am tired. All I want to do is go home and sleep. I’ve answered enough questions for today,” she insisted. “If you want to know anything, talk to Officer Griffiths over there.” Owen gave her a thumbs-up, but the agent did not budge.

“Do you know what Kian Radha means?”

“Whatever,” she said as she tried to squeeze past him. She knew very well what her name meant.

“It means Ancient Vision. Radha also means red. You were aptly named, I see.”

With that, Kian swung her flaming hair around, causing him to take a step back, and this time she was able to push past him.

Interesting but irritating was her assessment.

Pushing past Owen as well, Kian hurled herself into her Jeep and took off, kicking back gravel.

Through her rear-view mirror she could see Mr. FBI dusting off his perfectly pressed suit. Definitely interesting but irritating.

 

 

As Kian arrived home, she spotted the mailman jumping back into his truck. She waved as he drove out. When she got to the front porch, she found a package sitting there. She picked it up. It had postage stamps, the kind you lick, and had been hand stamped from somewhere in New Mexico. But it was the wrapping that caught her attention. Even though the package was now covered in clear packing tape, Kian could see that the brown paper had been precisely folded into neat mitered corners and tied with white string. Who does that anymore? Kian turned the package over. Someone had carefully printed, “For the Big One.”

While unlocking her front door, she thought she caught movement in the woods. It must be deer, she decided. People never came to visit at her secluded home.

As she fed Lucky, she couldn’t push the vision of Uncle Jacob and the pool of blood from her mind. She remembered her visit, the unease she felt that morning, how spooked she was when she got to Jacob’s cabin. Who would have done such a horrible thing? Jacob had no enemies—not that she knew anyway. Who could hate Jacob that much? Who?

Her mind went round and round with that question until she decided it was all too much. She really needed that drink. A stiff one. A Black Russian with orange Stoli, the best Vodka to her way of thinking, even if a bit out of fashion. A double shot with Kahlua. It would dull her mind, make the spookiness go away. It always did. Like in the emergency room when she knew a child had been abused. Nobody would believe her when she tried to say the child was not just accident-prone. Then, as now, it nagged her and she could barely wait to get to the local bar with her friends and throw down a couple. Then she felt normal again, like she was one of the gang, not some crazy outsider. Yes, to her way of thinking, vodka was a miracle drug. Dulled the pain, dulled her senses, and with them her crazier feelings, the ones that brought the Visions, the premonitions. No, not Visions, not premonitions, she reminded herself, they were coincidences. She poured a second double Vodka, this time with less Kahlua.

Kian knew her limit was three and only under extreme circumstances. But if today didn’t count as extreme, nothing did. The long climb up two flights to her attic bedroom was the best antidote for her desire to pour a fourth drink.

As she stumbled past the dining room table, she picked up the package. She’d call Uncle Jacob’s son tomorrow, she decided. Maybe he’d know what to do with it.

When she got to her attic bedroom, Kian heard Lucky jump off her bed. He scrambled under the small desk as Kian tossed the package on top. Lucky waited while Kian undressed, turned on the fan, and crawled under the sheet. Then, with one leap, he was on top of the desk. He spent the night as if keeping watch next to the still unopened package.

 

Notes:

Drinking and psychic abilities:

Whether alcohol dulls or enhances psychic abilities is controversial. Some psychics, for instance Jane Roberts, took small amounts before going into trance.

It is clear, however, that the over-use of alcohol dulls the conscious mind, thereby limiting not only psychic input, but also the emotional effects as in Kian’s case.

 

Photo attribution:

My own.

 

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 3

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Kian squinted into the bright sun as she walked across the wide porch to the driveway. Her white Keds® crunched in the gravel. She inserted the key into the driver-side lock of her battered-blue Jeep Wrangler and opened the door. Throwing her bag onto the passenger seat, she grabbed the handle over the door and climbed in.

Uncle Jacob was to be her first stop. She planned to check on him early before seeing her other patients and then return that evening for a quiet birthday celebration, just the two of them.

Several days ago he’d promised to “tell her everything” on her birthday. Whatever that meant.

Uncle Jacob. Now scooped with age, the small wiry man stood two inches shorter than Kian. He had always called her “Little One,” so she had always called him, “Big One.” Even after returning from Boston, she called him that. It was really kind of a joke, now. Most people found it quite amusing. But not Jacob’s son Stephen or Stephen’s wife.

Odd, Kian thought, as she braced herself for another deep rut in Jacob’s driveway.

It was also strange meeting Stephen after all these years. Odd that a son who had been told his father was dead should show up just when he was dying. Perhaps Stephen thought there would be an inheritance. She wondered if he knew Jacob’s cabin was part of the Buchanan estate. Stephen and his wife mostly left when Kian showed up. But still, they seemed devoted to Jacob.

As Kian pulled around the last bend, she spotted the log cabin, serene in the midst of the forest trees. It was smallish, actually one large room that served many purposes. A little wing was added sometime after the cabin was built. Jacob used it as his bedroom. There was a loft, too, mostly used to store Jacob’s “treasures,” the ones that had not found a spot in his overly crowded living area. Jacob, a retired antiquities professor, had many “treasures.” Like her father who was an ancient languages professor, Jacob had many books. Two of a kind, they were. That is why they had been such close friends and why Kian knew him as her “uncle.”

Kian shuddered as she climbed out of her jeep. The place had a spooky feel about it today. Just my imagination. What’s wrong with me this morning?

Kian crossed the front porch and knocked on the front door, calling Jacob’s name. No answer. She then pounded on the door. Still no answer. She pulled out her cell and called his number and heard his phone ring, but Uncle Jacob did not answer.

“Maybe he’s out back,” Kian remarked to herself. She picked her way through the overgrown bushes and past the bulkhead that went down to a cellar.

A familiar stonewall surrounding the garden area came into view. Kian had watched Jacob build this wall, showing her how stones were shaped and stacked to withstand the years. It taught Kian how the stone chambers, cairns, and walls out behind her own house had been built. Jacob had also erected a small stone circle in the center of the garden, a replica of the one near her stone chambers. Jacob had used it to teach Kian about astronomical alignments and the “shifting of the ages.” His was set to align with the shift between the age of Pisces and Aquarius. “Your circle,” he said, “is much older and one day I’ll show you about it.” Maybe that’s what he wanted to talk about.

Kian caught a flutter from of the corner of her eye. There was a curtain hanging outside Jacob’s bedroom window. Odd she thought, that it should be outside. She took a few steps closer and saw that the screen was pulled out. It lay carelessly on the ground. This was not right. Her heart pounding, Kian pulled out her cell and punched the number for the local police. A young female voice answered.

It was all Kian could do to control her voice. “Hi, my name is Kian Buchanan and I am a visiting nurse. My patient Jacob Steiner didn’t answer the door this morning and it looks like someone might have broken in. Please send someone quickly.” She gave the address.

“Do not go in, wait for the police,” warned the woman on the other end of the line.

Yeah, like I would be that stupid. “No problem, just hurry,” she said pacing around the house. To fill the time, she tried Jacob’s son’s cell. No answer there either.

Unenthusiastic was Kian’s assessment of the officer who finally arrived. He climbed out of his car and glanced around, seemingly without noticing Kian.

“Thanks for coming,” Kian offered by way of bridging what felt like a silent abyss between them. He did not respond.

He ambled to the front door and pounded his beefy fist against it. It sounded like dull thuds against the aged wood. No answer. Again he pounded on the door, this time yelling “police officer,” but again, no answer. So the officer turned and made his way through the brambles to the back of the house.

“That the open window?” He pointed but did not turn to look at Kian.

She wanted to say, “Sure looks open to me.” Instead she just feigned a sweet smile and replied, “Yes.”

“You been inside?”

“No.”

“You try calling his phone?”

“Yes. He doesn’t answer.”

“Any relatives?”

“They aren’t answering their phones either.”

“Terrible storm last night. Blew out lots of screens, I reckon. The old man probably went into town to get a new one.” With that the officer turned to leave.

“So what do we do now?” Kian hurried after him.

The officer kept walking. “Wait for him to come back.”

Kian hurled herself around the burly officer, blocking his path to his cruiser. “Look officer, this man is my patient. He has trouble breathing. He’s weak and may have fallen. We need to check. If you aren’t going in, I am.”

The officer glared at her, took out his cell phone, and walked into the woods.

At least you could answer me.

When the officer returned, he grabbed a nearby rubbish can and set it under the open window. Still silent, he eased his bulky body up and pushed his way in.

“Should I come, too?”

Again, silence. Kian jumped up on the can to follow the officer. Just as she was pulling herself up and into the window, she heard the officer exclaim, “What the fuck!”

It took her eyes a moment to adjust, but when they did, Kian paled as her focus narrowed. There in a pool of blood lay Uncle Jacob.

 

Notes:

Stone cairns, chambers, and walls in the Hudson Valley:

About 50 miles north of Manhattan, the Hudson Valley is riddled with mysterious stone chambers, walls and cairns. There are several different theories about them.

One theory holds that the early settlers built the chambers as food storage, but this theory has been discounted for the most part. None of the chambers have means to keep small animals out. Any food storage would have been quickly consumed by wildlife. In addition, chambers are topped with large heavy stones. This is labor-intensive and easier means of building were available.

Early settlers re-purposed the structures, adding doors in some cases. But for the most part the structures were probably on the land before the settlers arrived.

A second theory holds that the stone structures were built by the native peoples inhabiting the area, perhaps as shelter, hunting blinds or burials.

We do know that indigenous people near glaciers still build similar stone shelters. The techniques to build with rock would be a bit trickier, but not that different from building igloos. If this is the case, then these chambers were built at the end of the last ice age. The Hudson Valley was covered by glaciers up until about 15,000 years ago, so these structures are quite old indeed if they were built at that time.

If it is true that indigenous people followed the receding glaciers north and built in stone along the way, one wonders why there are no rock chambers north of New England.

The third theory holds that Europeans built these structures long before Columbus made his famous voyage. The structures are quite similar to those found in the northern British Isles. We have also found artifacts with Runic, Punic (Carthage), and Hebrew writing along with other metal artifacts from these cultures.

Indeed, there is evidence that travel was common between the “old” and the “new’ world. The Americas may have been a refuge for displaced Europeans millennia before Columbus re-discovered it. That is the premise of this story.

 

Shifting of the Ages:

This is more formally known as the “precession of the Equinoxes.” Approximately every 2000 years we go from one age to another. Right now we are changing from Pisces to Aquarius.

The ancients, we have discovered, often oriented or aligned their structures to particular stars in the sky. We can now date many old stone structures by comparing the alignment of structures with maps of the night sky because the orientation of stars will change through the ages. This type of dating has been done with Stonehenge, the Pyramids and other structures both in the “old” and the “new” world.

Uncle Jacob has dated Kian’s Stone Circle as “much older” based on this system of

 

 

 

Photo Attribution:

By dbking (Flickr.com) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons