Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 15

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

For the fourth time since they had finished dinner, Kian removed the chair wedged under the doorknob and walked out onto the porch. The last rays of the summer sun had long ago fallen below the horizon and now even the twilight had passed. Aidan watched as she switched on the porch light and looked toward Jimbo’s mess kit, tucked behind a nearby bush. She switched off the light and went back into the house. “Still there,” she said. “I’m worried. What if something happened to him?”

“He’s okay,” Aidan said with more confidence than he felt. If there were just three or four people to watch, Jimbo was up to the task. But now there was a fifth and Aidan suspected more were coming, many more if Power had told him the truth. Unless all those perps stuck together, they would be hard to track. Still, he told himself, he would know if Jimbo was in trouble. He always did.

Aidan was just settling back to the task of sorting Red’s papers when he felt his spine creep. “Kian, turn off those lights, someone’s coming.”

Aidan stared at the basement door for a minute. He drew his Sig Sauer with one hand and switched off the living room lamp with the other. The room was pitch black.

The basement door rattled. Someone was trying to get in. Aidan felt Kian jump. He motioned her back and away from the door.

The room was quiet and then the door rattled again, this time more forcefully. “Open this fuckin’ door will ya, Scotty? I’m hungry as hell and this cellar smells like your armpit.”

Aidan laughed, removed the chair, and let his buddy in. “The front door isn’t good enough for ya?”

“Nope, the cellar was closer.” Jimbo stepped in holding his mess kit. “Son-of-a-bitch! Doesn’t this place have electric lights?”

Kian switched on a lamp as Jimbo continued, “You know you really want to secure that stupid ass door down there. I coulda’ pried it open with a toothpick.” Jimbo strolled to the dining table, sat down, and opened his mess. “Have any salt in this place? Watching seven perps is stink-o work.”

“Seven,” both Kian and Aidan moaned.

“Yes, seven and more on the way from what they’re sayin’. Scotty-boy, we gotta talk.”

Kian turned on the old brass chandelier above the oak table. “Let me heat your dinner for you.”

“And spoil this great piece of meat. Hell no. But thanks for the offer.” He winked at her.

While Jimbo ate, Aidan told him about their day, about Power, and their suspicion he was ring leading this fiasco. “You know I never trusted that son-of-a-bitch,” was all Jimbo had to say.

When they told him about finding the wings, then losing them again, Jimbo grinned. He reached into a side pockets in his cargo pants and pulled out a box wrapped in a tattered red bandana. “This what you talkin’ about?”

Kian bolted upright. “How’d you get that?”

“Elementary, my dear lady. That Mary woman was waving it around and bragging she took it from you, so I figured it was important, and I’d better relieve her of it.” A wicked grin crossed over Jimbo’s face. “She buried it inside one of the chambers. You should see what I left in its place.”

“You didn’t,” Aidan said, a wide grin spreading across his face.

“I did.”

While the banter between the two men continued, Kian unwrapped the crumpled bandana, took the box, and opened it. Her eyes lit up, catching the sparkle of the chandelier above her. Two sets of wings, one gold and one silver. Kian reached out to gently touch Aidan’s hand as she showed him. He leaned in closer to her.

Jimbo scowled. Aidan could all but hear his buddy’s thoughts.

After Aidan could pull away, Kian stood and gave Jimbo a big kiss on the cheek. He blushed.

“I’m going to get the Ark.” Kian took the stairs two at a time.

After she disappeared, Jimbo leaned back in his chair. “What are you doing, Scotty? What’s been going on? And I don’t mean with the assignment.”

“Nothing. But man, I won’t lie to you, she makes my head swim. Sometimes I can barely think when I’m around her, she…”

“Goddamit, that’s what I am afraid of, buddy. Don’t be doing anything stupid. Not until this is over anyway.”

“Jimbo, you don’t need to tell me. Strict separation, I swear.”

“Rule number five. Distractions get you killed. I mean, it’s not like you to let anybody sneak up on you like that.” Jimbo cut off another piece of steak. “Distractions cost us both.”

“Jimbo, I wasn’t distracted. Not then, anyway.”

Jimbo gave him a loaded look, but Aidan ignored it.

“First, I didn’t take into account more than two perps. Second, I should have listened to Kian’s instincts. She’s like you. Her gut isn’t wrong. Only she discounted it and I let it slip.”

“Rule number four, listen to your gut,” Jimbo reminded him as he shoveled potato into his mouth.

“It’s the next thing that gets me. You know I’ve always felt it when someone was coming up on me.”

“Yeah, that creep up your spine thing.”

“Yes, well, this time it was like the perp wasn’t there. Man, I didn’t even feel a presence when that perp took the box. It was like the thief was a shell with no soul, no personality. Ghosts are more solid than that one was.”

“Those miscreants out there, they are into some pretty weird shit, I’ll tell you that. And that woman, Mary. Hell, she’s the spookiest of all.”

“Who’s spooky?” Kian asked as she bounded back down the stairs.

Jimbo jumped up and held her chair for her as he gave Aidan a warning look.

Kian looked from one to the other. “What’s up with you two?”

 

 

“Nothing.” Jimbo shrugged innocently before he sat back down and sliced himself yet another piece of potato smothered in sour cream. “We were just wondering how that person got that box from Scotty today. He’s one hell of a talent at knowing when someone is sneaking up on him.” Jimbo shoved the potato in his mouth and began to chew.

“But I felt something,” Kian interjected. “How come I felt something if Aidan didn’t?”

“You can sense danger,” Aidan said. “I sense people. There is a difference.”

“So nobody can sneak up on you, huh?” Kian grinned.

“Except Jimbo, he does it all the time,” Aidan replied.

“Only when I want to.”

“So, how do you do it, Jimbo? How do you sneak up on him? Maybe that will tell us how the perp did it.”

Jimbo put his fork down, apparently pondering her question. “I worked with an Apache sorcerer once. A medicine man. He taught me to kinda find that part of me that’s my core. It is deep inside. Then I let the edges melt away, if that makes any sense. So I become part of whatever is around. The land, a mountain, the air, even a stream works, although flowing water is tricky. It’s like I become one with the consciousness around me. That’s the best I can explain it.”

Kian, her curiosity peaking, asked, “How do you learn to do that?”

“Like most things, by just doing it. Experiencing it. It isn’t something I can teach you, you just gotta do it.”

Kian understood that. It was like traveling on what Uncle Jacob called the Second Road before she saw her ‘stories.’ She couldn’t explain it to someone. You just had to go out and do it.

“I think it came down from Her-ron-imo.” Jimbo trilled the “r.”

“Her-ron-imo? Who’s that?”

“You know him as Geronimo,” Aidan said. “That’s how he and his warriors were able to appear out of nowhere and go back to nowhere.”

“So are you saying that they became invisible?”

“Not really,” Jimbo replied. “I bet a camera would have picked them up. But they hid their essence, their core. So nobody sensed them; so nobody took notice of them. It’s hard to explain, Kian.” Jimbo leaned back in his chair. “Enough with the jabbering. When are we going to open this box?”

 

Photo attribution: By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) (ARC Identifier: 530880) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 14, continued

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Aidan waited until he saw Kian talking to an officer at the front desk before punching in his boss’s private number. He needed serious FBI backing and if that meant telling Power about the Ark and the stolen wings, so be it.

“Agent Scott, I don’t like this one bit,” Power bellowed before Aidan even said hello. “You both are coming in. And bring that Ark with you.”

Aidan caught his breath. He had not told Power about the Ark or the package, he was sure of that. “The Ark, sir?”

“Look, you can’t handle this on your own. There are too many of them. You, that girl, and that Ark need to get to D.C., now. I can’t protect you if you don’t.”

Too many of them? As far as Aidan was concerned, three was not “too many.”

“OK. Understood,” Aidan replied, now stalling for time.

“And bring that lughead Jimbo with you. I need to talk to him.”

How did Power know about Jimbo?

“Jimbo’s next check in is tonight, I’ll tell him then.” Before Power could respond, Aidan lied a second time, “Kian’s coming out of the store. Call you after I speak to Jimbo.” He quickly hung up. Moments later his cell phone vibrated. Power again. Aidan ignored it and ran the possibilities through his head. Aside from the perps, three people knew about the Ark–himself, Jimbo, and Kian. For sure he had not mentioned the Ark to his boss. Kian had never spoken with his boss, and Jimbo detested and distrusted the man.

Aidan glanced out his window. Kian was still talking to the officer whose gaze was fixed, staring past her. She wasn’t getting much help either.

Confused, Aidan thought back to the morning he’d gotten the assignment. What had Power told him? First of all, that there had been a murder. But something still niggled at the back of his brain. Kian found the body on her way to work, but Power had said the murder was “last night.” A hospice nurse doesn’t work a night shift. Had she found the body as early as eight? And why hadn’t those perps been picked up, at least for trespassing? Suddenly, even law enforcement was suspect.

Aidan watched Kian pound her fists on the desk. The phlegmatic officer, arms crossed, shrugged his shoulders.

Aidan crawled over to the driver’s side, beeped the horn twice, and motioned for Kian to come out. She ignored him and shook her finger at the officer. Aidan almost felt sorry for the man. He beeped again and motioned her more urgently this time. Kian turned on her heels and stormed out of the station.

“Of all the imbeciles in the world…,” Kian declared as she climbed into the Jeep. “That guy is dumber than dirt.”

“What did he say?”

She turned in her seat and stared at him. “Only that your boss sent them a picture of that SUV at some toll booth in New Jersey and the time stamp is when I was shot at.”

“Power gave them an alibi?”

“He sure did and you know what else? When I told dumber-than-dirt the Webers were trespassing, he said it’s not my land, it’s public so they can camp there. I know where my land starts and stops,” Kian said, “I’m not crazy.”

“Great, just great.” Aidan tore out of the parking lot and turned onto the highway. He looked over his left shoulder. “Kian, anyone following us?”

“No.”

“Don’t want to be seen driving up your road. How close is the back way in?”

“Not far. I’ll tell you when to turn. Aidan, you are driving too fast. What’s wrong?”

“I talked to my boss.”

Just then Kian spotted the pasture leading to the back way in. “See that big bush? Cut in just before you get to it.”

“Where’s the road? All I see is overgrown pasture.”

“There is no road. Turn anyway.”

Aidan swung right into the pasture and stopped. “Where now?”

“See those tire tracks heading into the woods? Follow them.”

Aidan did. Once under the cover of the tall pines, he drove along a depression barely discernible under the pine needles that littered the forest floor. They crested a hill. Down on the other side was a shallow stream.

“When you get to the stream, stay right. Otherwise, we will tip over on the rocks,” Kian told him. He slowed a bit and pulled to the right. They bounced as they splashed through the water and then climbed the incline on the other side. “See that dirt track? Get onto it.”

“Is it wide enough?”

“Sure. Need me to drive?”

“No, I got it,” Aidan said.

The dirt track was full of muddy ruts, most filled with water. Suddenly, the Jeep dipped into a deep hole, sending them both into the air. “Good thing this baby rides high.”

“There’s one rut that’s too deep to ride through. I’ll tell you when.” They drove another couple of minutes. As they rounded the next bend, Kian pointed to the left. “See that puddle over there. It’s deeper than it looks. Skirt to the right. Get as close to that cedar as you can.”

With one tire half in the rut and the other a hair’s breadth from the trunk of the tree, they scooted past, branches whipping at the Jeep.

“Not bad, Aidan,” Kian said. “Another inch over and we’d be stuck! I really should get those holes filled.”

Seconds later they were on the dirt road to Kian’s house. “You own that land, too?”

“I do,” Kian said. “A few thousand acres all together. There are quite a few historical ruins around here. You know about the chambers, but there is evidence of smelting, too. And there’s a cave with ancient pots and stuff way in the back. Dad always said he protected the land, not owned it. But it’s been Buchanan property from way back.”

They pulled up in front of Kian’s house. Before he could open his door, Kian grabbed his arm. “Stop stalling. I want to know what your boss said.”

“First tell me one thing,” he replied. “What time did you find Jacob’s body.”

“About 9:30 that morning. I was just starting work. Why?”

“Power gave me my assignment at 9, not 9:30 or 10.”

He let that sink in before continuing. “While you were in the station, I talked to him. Kian, he ordered me to bring you and the Ark in. I never told him about the Ark or even about the package.”

“No way! I’m not going anywhere. I don’t trust him.”

“Problem is, if I don’t take you in, he’ll cut me off. I don’t have FBI back up without him.”

“Doesn’t sound like you have back-up now. Sounds to me like your boss is the one stonewalling this investigation.”

“I know. I just need you to know where we stand on all this.”

Kian trembled. No FBI back-up, no police support, and nowhere to go. Just two lone agents willing to help her.

“Think it’s safe to go inside the house?” she asked.

“I don’t feel anything. You?”

Kian took a moment to let her senses take hold. It was as if she could see with her skin. There was no other way to describe it. “It’s safe,” she said.

Once inside, Aidan wedged chairs under all the doorknobs, closed and locked all the windows. “Better hot than surprised,” he said. Kian turned on the overhead fans as Aidan pulled out his cell phone.

“Texting Jimbo,” he explained. He punched at the tiny keys repeating the message to Kian as he typed “Trouble. Need to meet.”

A minute later the phone pinged. Aidan read the message and looked at Kian. “Jimbo says there are now five perps out back.”

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 14

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

A different dread now cast a shadow over Kian. She had screwed up. The theft was her fault, she was sure of that. She should have paid attention to that creepy feeling that had come over her. She should have told Aidan the second and third time it happened. He would have believed her. He would have done something. She was sure Aidan would be angry with her when she told him, but she had to tell him anyway. Besides, he had every right to be angry.

Before Kian could open her mouth to speak, Aidan grabbed her by the hand. “Come on, we gotta search this place.”

Kian followed him as they covered every inch around the cabin before Aidan drew his weapon and went inside. Kian followed. The three packed boxes were still on the table, packing tape intact. With Kian close behind, Aidan searched first the living area, then the kitchen, and then the bedroom. Nobody.

“Wait here,” he said when got to the ladder up to the loft. Kian watched as he ascended the steps, gun pointed ahead. Then she heard his footsteps above. “Any hiding places up here?” Aidan called out to her.

“No, all open space,” Kian replied.

When Aidan finally came back down, he holstered his gun and went to her. He held her shoulders in his strong grip. “About that creepy feeling you got when we arrived. Rule number four, always listen to your gut.”

“I know, I know,” she said looking away from him. “But it gets worse. I felt it again, that creepy feeling. Starting right before we went out to the garden and then it got worse before we removed the box. This is all my fault, isn’t it? If I had told you….” The tears rolled down her cheeks and she wiped them away with the back of her hand. “I promise I won’t make that mistake again.”

Aidan lifted her chin and looked deeply into her eyes. “I should have been more careful. I could have listened the first time you told me, but I didn’t.” He wiped a tear from under her eye. “Lesson learned, okay?”

“Oh, Aidan, I feel awful. What are we going to do now?”

“I don’t know yet.” Aidan wrapped his arms around her. “But we’ll think of something,” he said softly, his breath close and warm. “We still have the Ark.”

For a long moment they stood with their faces inches apart, just staring at each other. Kian wanted him to kiss her, to reassure her everything was okay between them, and she tilted her head. Then she felt her body arch up as if reaching for him. Suddenly she knew she wanted more than just his reassurance. She wanted him.

Aidan’s brilliant turquoise eyes seem to lose focus as he gently brushed his lips against hers. The most intimate places in her body felt warm, tingly warm, and she reached further into his embrace. He pressed his lips to hers, more urgently this time, grabbing her, and pulling her closer.

Just when Kian started to wonder if her old mattress was still up in Jacob’s loft, Aidan’s cell phone vibrated.

“Oh my god! Jimbo.” Aidan pulled away. “I signaled we were in trouble. Should have called him back.” He put his index finger gently to her lips. “Hold that thought.”

Kian had no doubt she’d be holding that thought for a long time.

 

 

 

It took Aidan’s body a while to calm down. He’d blown it, he knew that. Kian was a “case,” not a lover. He pulled away to get some distance, both physically and emotionally before punching the screen of his smartphone. “Jimbo, sorry. We are both fine. I’m putting you on speaker.” He held the phone out between them.

“Jimbo, one of your perps had us at gunpoint. What happened? You lose surveillance?”

“Fuck, man, I’d a warned you if I did. I still got two perps. They are covering the area with a metal detector.”

“I think we got us a third perp.”

“Man or woman?”

“Not sure.”

“Hold a minute, Scotty, I’m going in closer.” Kian and Aidan waited and listened. Then Jimbo was back. “That’s Stephen alright, but that’s not his wife. Some other broad. Damn, I should have noticed.”

“Tell me about it. I let that creep sneak up on me. I mean I’m telling you I did not feel a thing.”

“Shit, man, that’s not like you.”

“Not making me happy, either.”

“That other bitch could be watching you now,” Jimbo said.

“Right. We’ve been in one place too long. Gotta move.”

“Been here too long myself. Later.”

With that, Aidan and Kian went back into the cabin and Aidan picked up two of the packed boxes while Kian picked up the third.

“You are driving,” he said as they loaded the Jeep and he jumped into the passenger seat.

Kian started the Jeep, threw it into reverse while making a quick turn back toward the road. “What now?” she asked.

“Find fake Stephen’s wife. If we find her, we find the wings.”

 

 

On the way back through town, Kian insisted the local police needed a push. A huge push. “It’s their job to pick up Mary Weber, not yours.”

Aidan doubted the local police would be able to find her, but Kian insisted, “Mary stole those wings from us. At gunpoint. It’s time they got off their lazy butts and brought her in.”

“Kian, we have no proof it was Mary who took the wings. We didn’t see her. Remember that.”

“Yes, well it was Mary and Stephen who shot at me, I’m sure of that, even if nobody else is. Besides,” she added, “they haven’t picked up those other creeps on my property. Trespassing is against the law.”

Kian pulled into the lot and parked the Jeep. “You coming with me or not?”

“Yes, as soon as I make a call.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Attribution:  https://img.haikudeck.com/mi/245c979e7dd1ff1dc687ba5238a79d80.jpg

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 13, continued again

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Once outside at the Jeep, Aidan stowed a small leather kit under the passenger seat before he climbed in. “Drive past the road where the perps parked, the one that goes to the chambers,” he told Kian. “But, don’t go down the road. I just want to see how secluded it is.”

“It’s not really a road, more a dirt track.” She drove to the county road, and then turned left pointing to the rutted dirt track as they passed it.

Aidan took a look and then studied the map on his tablet. “Not on the map, that’s for sure.”

“Nope, it’s not.” From there, Kian drove straight to Jacob’s cabin.

When they arrived and got out of the Jeep, Kian felt a creepy dread pass through her. She swayed and leaned back against the side of the Jeep.

Aidan looked at her, concern showing on his face. “Are you okay?”

Kian pushed the dread from her mind as she pushed herself away from the Jeep. “Just feeling creepy, I guess. Last time I was here, well…you know.”

At Jacob’s front door they found the crime scene tape broken and the door wide open. The lock had been smashed off. Inside was chaos. Everything had been turned over, dumped out, or flung away.

“Not very methodical, our perps.” Aidan let out a long hard sigh. “Better start in one corner and work our way through. This could take a while.”

They had barely begun when Aidan called to Kian. He showed her a faded old kachina that had been on Jacob’s sideboard. “Some of these artifacts are genuine. Too valuable to leave in an unlocked cabin. Hand me that box, will you? We should pack some of this stuff up and get it out of here.”

They worked for two hours and when they were finally finished, both of them were covered in dust. It clung to their damp clothes and streaked in the sweat pouring down their faces. Three boxes of packed artifacts sat on the dining room table. They had not found the wings.

Disappointed, Kian flopped down in Jacob’s easy chair. “The thieves must have taken them. They’re gone.”

“I’m not so sure. Something that valuable? Well I would never leave it in plain sight.” He perched himself on the stuffed arm of Kian’s chair. “Think back and tell me what else you remember about that night.”

“Like I said, we looked at the wings, then had dinner, then my parents left, and I was mad at them so I went to bed without saying good-bye. Do we have to keep going over this?”

“Humor me. What happened next?”

“I went to bed, I read a while then I went to sleep, I guess.”

“Let’s try something. Close your eyes and think back to that night. Think about the last time you saw the wings. Tell me where you are.”

Even though she felt this was useless, Kian closed her eyes. “It is just before we ate dinner. I’m in this living room. I’m sitting on the sofa next to my dad.”

“Where are the wings?”

“On the coffee table in front of me.”

“Did anyone take them to the dinner table?”

“No.”

“Okay, good. After dinner, did anyone pick them up or look at them again?”

“No, because mom and dad left right after dinner.”

“Uncle Jacob?”

“No, he went into the kitchen to clean up.”

“What did you do then?”

“Like I said, I was already up in the loft reading.”

“Okay, good. What happened before you turned off the lights and fell asleep?”

“Nothing.”

“Did Jacob go to bed right after he finished in the kitchen?”

Kian thought back, trying to remember. He’d finished in the kitchen and then she heard him moving around below her. “No, he cleaned up the living room and then went outside to work on his stone wall. I snuck over to the window when I heard him go out. He fixed one of the stones and then came inside.”

“Why was he fixing the wall?”

“Beats me,” Kian said opening her eyes.

“Tell me about the wall.”

“Well, Uncle Jacob and I built it. Well, actually he built it and I was his helper. He showed me how to shape the stones so that there were no cracks between them when we stacked them. Also how to make it so the rain would run off without going down into the wall and making ice.”

“That’s a strange thing to teach a child.”

“Yes, well Uncle Jacob liked to show me how to build all types of stone structures like the ones on my property. We made a miniature village, and he showed me how to align the structures to the stars just like in my visions. He seemed to think it was important. Weird, huh?”

“Maybe, maybe not. Let’s go have a look at that wall.”

Kian stood and felt herself sway. That creepy dread again. Would it never stop haunting her? She hated that feeling and pushed it away. No more craziness, she decided for the hundredth time since moving back here.

Aidan followed her to the garden.

At the stone wall, Kian still felt the dread but forced herself to focus as Aidan inspected the stones.

“Kian, look at these. There’s no mortar in this wall, and each stone is so perfectly shaped, you could not get paper between them, let alone my knife. How did Jacob do that?”

“It’s hard to explain, but it takes practice.”

“More than practice, I think.” Aidan studied the wall another minute. “So what part of the wall was Jacob working on that night?”

The creepy dread was growing now, but Kian was determined to ignore it. “Let me think. When I saw him that night, Uncle Jacob was kneeling here.” She pointed to the back and right hand side of the wall.

Aidan knelt. Using his fingers, he tried pulling the stones out but could not get a grip on any of them, let alone enough leverage to pull one out.

“Here, let me try,” Kian said. She knelt down. Using her two fingers, she pushed on first one side of a stone, then the other. She did this to each row of the first column of stones. Nothing happened, so she went to the second column. Still nothing.

Aidan crouched down beside her. “Show me what you’re doing.”

“It’s something Dad showed me once. It’s how he would open secret compartments in walls and things.”

“Secret compartments?”

“Strange, huh? When I was a kid, I thought every house had them.” Kian pushed on the right side of the second stone in the third row. It grated against the stone below as it moved. She pushed harder and the left side popped out.

Aidan looked at her, shook his head, and slid the stone out of the wall. He now peered into a deep dark hole.

Kian’s stomach tightened as suddenly the constant feeling of dread now threatened to overwhelm her. She almost doubled over, but determined to fight through it, Kian reached in and retrieved a smaller version of the ebony box containing the Ark. It was battered and water damaged. The clasp had broken off, and the lid was tied with string.

They both jumped when a deep commanding voice ordered, “Don’t turn around or you are both dead.” It was just feet behind them. “Now stand up.”

They did as they were told, arms raised in the air. Kian could feel her heart beating so fast she thought it would fly out of her chest. Her head swam. Focus, she told herself, focus.

“Put the box on the ground and kick it back to me.” The voice had a slight lisp. Or was it an accent? Kian realized she could not even tell if it was a man or a woman. She looked at Aidan, but she could see he, too, was helpless. He just shook his head and said, “Do as he says.” But Kian hesitated. “Please, just do as he says,” Aidan pleaded.

Kian bent down, placed the box on the ground, and pushed it back with her foot.

Kian saw Aidan reach under his shirt and thought he might be reaching for his gun. But then she saw his fingers on the cell phone tucked in the waist of his pants.

Kian fidgeted. “What’s happening?”

Aidan shoved Kian to the ground and spun around, grabbing his Sig-Sauer as he turned.

“DAMN!”

The thief and the box were gone.

 

 

 

Photo Attribution:

By Thamizhpparithi Maari (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 13, continued

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Chapter 13 continued: Kian’s Vision

 

The woman came into the valley knowing what she would find–a home for herself and her adopted people.

As she stood surveying the valley, her brother Samus came and put his arm around her. “You have done well. The Sight has not abandoned us altogether, I see.”

They were the last two of their people to survive the journey from their sinking lands to the East. A dozen or so had made it to this wild shore. Now only Mageon and Samus were left. They would have to marry into the tribe that had taken them in. Otherwise their line, their heritage would not survive. Mageon could think of a couple of men she fancied. Samus had already taken a bride and had a son.

“We will put up stone shelters and cover them with earth. When the rock storms come from the sky, we will be safe there. The storms will not last forever, I think. One day the earth will find her balance again and there will be peace.”

The thunderbirds, taller than a man and with wingspans to match, had followed the people west, although they, too, had diminished in number. When the rock storms came, it was hard for a bird so big to escape.

Samus set about building shelters, showing the other men how it was done. Many of the stones were piled. They selected the most beautiful rocks they could find. In the firelight, they sparkled. When the stones were piled high, sometimes around dirt mounds to hold the corbeling in place, they used sails made of animal skins to lift the one large flat stone that would be the roof. This they learned by studying the aerodynamics of the thunderbirds. The winds of the shifting planet quickly caught the animal skins that were tied to the rock. It was not so much a matter of lifting the rock as it was of holding it down and guiding it in the strong winds.

Many shelters were made, one for each family. Then Samus’s medicine chamber was built into the side of an earthen mound. Samus fashioned a small window in the back so that the setting sun would form a light show as it sank down on the two equal days of the year, the Equinoxes. With this, generations to come would be able to track the seasons, knowing when it was time to plant the grains, to move out to hunt, but most of all when it was time for the festivals that would bring the earth back into balance.

Samus, now an old man, had one more task: to build a replica of his lost city so his sons and their sons would remember. Using fire and water, he shaped hard rock into semi-circles. Then he placed them in 3 rings. Each represented a ring on the isle that was once their home. There were 12 rocks in each ring, representing the 12 constellations. Spaces were left between each stone in each of the rings so that a straight channel was created from the center to the outside of the ring. In their homeland, these channels were waterways, used to travel.  

If he’d had the right metals at hand, Samus could have lined each ring with the proper ore, making a coil that would do… what? Samus’s memory was faltering. He could no longer remember.”

 

 

Kian recalled the vision perfectly. The details were so clear, she had seen it, not heard or imagined it. The people in the story had walked in front of her as she sat there, had talked and moved as if real. True, the different scenes faded in and out, but each had been tangible, as if she could reach out and touch the people. Even as she listened to Aidan reading, she could see and feel it all again. It was so real, it scared her.

“Kian, I want you to see something.” Aidan pointed to the bottom of the printout. “Whose writing is that, your dad’s or Jacob’s?”

“Dad’s, why?”

“Because it says, ‘Kian’s vision verified by translation #S516 (Samus history of Bucknun settlement) & N534 (Naesus ap Samus entry).’ You still think this is make believe?”

Kian, lost in a fog, picked at a loose thread on her recliner. She did not know what think.

“Do we need to find those entries, or shall we take your father’s word for it?” Aidan asked, a smug smile on his face.

“Okay, okay, stop gloating. If he said it, I believe it,” Kian replied.

“I am not gloating and I think we should go see those chambers.”

Kian’s heart seemed to stop. “Oh my god, the other side of the ridge where those thugs parked their van, there’s a dirt trail that goes to the chambers. You don’t suppose that’s where they are right now, do you?”

Aidan snatched his cell phone from the coffee table and punched the main button. “Text Jimbo,” he said.

When the screen came up, Aidan punched at the tiny letters. He hit send.

A minute later his phone pinged. Aidan read, “At stone ruins with perps.”

“Tell him not to let….”

“I got it,” replied Aidan. He punched in the text, “Do not let them destroy. 12,000 year old site. Going to Jacob’s.” He punched send.

When Jimbo’s message came back, he showed it to Kian. “Got it covered. Won’t let them move a pebble. Tell me more later.”

Aidan took Kian by the hand and led her to the door. “Come on, let’s go while Jimbo still has them under surveillance.”

 

 

Notes:

Kian’s vision is based on the structures at a site called Gungywamp. I have transplanted the structures found there to Kian’s property in Putnam County.

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 13

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

This time Kian put on her running shoes. If she was going to be chased and shot at, she wanted to be prepared.

When Kian got downstairs, she found Aidan perched on the sofa, his blanket and pillow neatly folded beside him. He was staring at his computer. “We have a translation of the vellum.”

Excited, Kian hoped this would give them some answers. “What’s it say?” She removed his duffle and set it on the floor so she could sit in the dusty old recliner next to the sofa.

“It is a deed of some sort, to this property, I think. If this date is correct, it was drawn up about 1000 BCE.” He turned the laptop screen toward her.

She studied it before replying, “That’s crazy.” She turned his laptop back toward Aidan.

“Maybe not so crazy. Most likely the vellum is a copy of an inscription from a stone buried on the property. That’s the way they did it back then. It lists one Cyrme from Bucknun as the person claiming it.” He looked at Kian. “Mean anything to you?”

“Yes, Mr. FBI. That’s the same name that was on the stone Dad translated. The one about the lost wings.”

Aidan smiled. “So, how did your parents come by this property?”

“Dad inherited it.” Kian absently scratched at the frayed binding on the recliner. “According to the town records, it’s been in his family since the 1600s. Your friend must have translated the date wrong.”

“Very unlikely. When did your ancestors come to this country? Do you know?”

“I guess the 1600s, when the first white settlers arrived. That’s what we learned in history class.”

“Forget what you learned in classit is all wrong. People have been traveling across the Atlantic and settling here for millennia.”

“Now you sound like my father. He said someday he would explain it all to me.” Kian slumped down into her seat. “That was another ‘someday’ that never came.” She pointed to Aidan’s computer. “So what else do we think we know? Anything?”

“The deed mentions some stone structures. Are there any old chambers on the property?”

“Yes, out back. Some old stone walls, some cairns, a huge stone circle, too.”

“Kian, what do you know about those structures?”

“Nothing really, but Uncle Jacob and I used to go out there when I was little and I would have these dreamlike visions, so we’d make up stories about them. Then we would come back and type them up for my parents.”

“What kinds of things did you see?”

“Aidan, they were just make believe.”

“Tell me anyway.”

“Well these people who built the chambers escaped from somewhere and found this valley so they settled here. I mean I saw these people building the chambers and things. But like I said, it was make believe, stories my dad put in something he called The Book of Knowings.”

 

 

Intrigued by what Kian had told him, Aidan got up and went to Red’s library. There he picked up one of the stacks of Red’s notes that he had been sorting, a stack he had tentatively label The Book of Knowings. He handed it to Kian. “See if you can find the story about the chambers.”

“This is a waste of time,” Kian replied as she took the papers into her lap. “How is this going to help us anyway?”

“Just humor me, okay?”

Aidan watched as Kian divided the huge stack into two piles, one with yellow legal paper, the other with computer print-outs. The larger stack, the one with the legal paper, she handed back to Aidan first. “These are the translations Dad did of some old family records.”

From the little time Aidan had been able to spend with these documents, he knew them to be records of births and deaths, good times and bad for the Bucknun ancestors.

Aidan took a minute to glance through them again. Stapled to the top of each page was a photocopy of what he assumed to be the original. Under that was a translation.

Red had been meticulous in his translations, Aidan noted, often referring back to the original with musings on how differing authorities might suggest alternative meanings for the words. Unlike modern languages, archaic languages were more difficult to decipher. There were no common spellings and many words along with their meanings had been lost. But more than that, people thought differently. Trying to force modern words on old ideas could not truly convey the feelings or meanings behind the words. Many times Red had suggested several different translations before finally settling on the one he thought best.

Still, one common element underscored all the translations. The history of what Red translated as an “eron.” A more modern translation would be “ark.” This further convinced Aidan that there was more to Kian’s family than Kian realized.

“That’s just the beginning,” Kian informed him when finally he placed the stack on the coffee table. “The ones he was working on when he left. There are more in filing cabinets upstairs.”

She held up the second stack of papers. “These are my stories.”

Aidan wanted to ask about the rest of this Book of Knowings, but now was not the time. Maybe after this was over. He focused back on Kian’s visions and what that might mean. “Can you find the one about the chambers?”

“Easy.” Kian leafed through and found a printed document with hand-written notes and crayon drawings attached. “That’s it,” she said and handed it to Aidan. “But I am telling you, this is a waste of time.”

Ignoring her comment, Aidan began to read, “‘This is based on what Kian Radha saw in her vision. She described it to me as it happened. After the vision, I asked questions for clarity. The details are exactly as Kian described them to me.'”

Aidan looked up and smiled. “It’s signed by Jacob Steiner. Shall I go on?”

“Since I can’t stop you, go ahead. But I am telling you, it was just a made-up story.” She sat back and crossed her arms over her chest as he began to read again.

 

 

 

Notes:

There are, indeed, stone cairns, chambers, dolmans, and walls all up and down the Hudson River. Most seem to be located in what is now Putnam County.

The chamber pictured is on Route 301 and can be seen from the road. At both Beltane and Lammas, the sun shines directly into this chamber, perfectly illuminating the back wall. This makes it a calendar that marks Beltane, the time of planting and Lammas, the time of harvest. The picture was taken at sunrise on Lammas, August 1st.

I was interested to find that Burke and Halberg (2005) report seeds left overnight in this chamber (and others) had shown enhanced growth and production rates(pp 61-72) further tying these chambers to the cycle of planting and harvesting.

The question of who actually built these stone structures is open for debate. Many were probably built by the Native Americans. Similar stone chambers are still being built by native people in the north close to glaciers. It would not be a stretch to substitute rock for ice blocks in areas where the climate has warmed making the traditional igloo uninhabitable.

On the other hand, we have no evidence the native people followed the solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter days (half way between equinox and solstice) as did the people of northern Europe. Additionally we have found Ogham and Punic writing as well as other evidence of European presence in New England and elsewhere in the Americas.

For me it is a “chicken and egg” question. Perhaps there was more contact between northern Europe and North America than we currently believe and each shared equally in the development of stone as a building material, each using stone for their own purposes.

 

 

For more information and pictures of the stone structures in New England, including those in the Hudson Valley, see The New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA).

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Burke, John & Halberg, Kaj (2005). Seed of Knowledge Stone of Plenty: Understanding the Lost technology of the Ancient Megalith-Builders. San Francisco: Council Oak Books.

Used copies of this book go for $70, but it is now available as an ebook for a more reasonable price.

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

Upcoming_Storm_Clouds_2.jpg

 

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