As promised to many of you, here is a little snipit from the upcoming anthology, Thirty Days Later. I have been privilaged to be included in this marvelous and, frankly, fun effort. I’ll have to tell all about the meetings over tea, the big laughs, and the joyous sense of family behind this publication. Profits from the sales of 30 Days is intended for literacy charities, such as the San Jose Public Library. We love to read – we love to write!
So … let me know what you think.
A Linear Mystery, or
How all this Madness Got Started!
The Nile River, South of Cairo
November 23rd, 1893
A lost codex found, a vast treasure recovered, and death by a ghostly Minotaur. What could possibly …
The concept had been so intriguing that Miranda Grey hadn’t heard him coming.
What a stupid mistake.
“Do you really want to kill me?” The knife he held at her throat warranted the urgent question. Slowly she set down the pages of her meticulous notes. Her hand shook a little as she settled it on top of the Old Explorer’s journal, praying he wasn’t planning to take that from her.
He gently swept his lips up her ear and kissed her temple, scratching her skin slightly with his rough facial hair. “Not if I don’t have to.” Such a proper English voice.
The desert wind cut across the water and sent a shiver through the sails of the dahabeah as she waited to see what he’d do next. The Neshmet–Osiris slid quietly against the river’s flow, counting on the breath of the g ods to get it up river. It was as cold as the time of year would permit, and in the blood-colored dusk, the river was strangely empty. No one was around to see the two foreigners seated under the boat’s canopy.
“Tell me, Nefer, have you enjoyed my gift to you?”
The knife notwithstanding, Malcolm Drummond Davies was an appealing, wild looking rake, with a slight beard defining his jaw, a linen shirt he left partially open, and thick dark hair. Were she not aware of his history, she might have mistaken him for a local aristocrat, with his dusky appearance and flashing black eyes. But, no, Davies was very English. “Yes, as a matter of fact.”
“Tell me what you’ve discovered from the old man’s cryptic ramblings and I promise we will remain the best of friends.” The knife turned slightly, pushing the blade a little more into her skin without cutting it.
“Why not,” she said with remarkable calm, satisfying her self-esteem. Would he really harm her? What might Davies do for untold wealth? “Do you know what a ‘Perigee-syzygy’ is?”
“The Moon at its closest to the earth. It appears enormous in the sky. Very romantic.”
“Do you know, then, what happens if you have a Perigee-syzygy at the Winter Solstice?”
“A very long, well-lit night,” he smiled slyly.
“And a Moon that appears even larger than ever.”
Davies kept nuzzling her ear. “Obviously important or you wouldn’t mention it.”
Taking a substantial risk, Grey cautiously pushed the knife away. Turning to him, she smiled. “It so happens that there had been such an event on the equivalent of December 23rd, 1424 BC, a year after the Mycenaean invasion of Crete. And again on the Winter Solstice in 1597 – when Sir Charles disappeared, but left this journal on board his ship.”
“Any chance we have such an event coming up soon?” Davies lowered his knife, but kept a tight grasp on it. “I gather strong moonlight is essential to find the location of the treasure? And we might just discover whatever happed to old Smythe and his codex.”
“The find of the century.”
He leaned in toward her. “Then come with me to Crete, Nefer, and we’ll find it together. I know where to look; you understand the Old Explorer’s book.”
“I do wish you wouldn’t call me Nefer.”
“But you are the Beauty of the Gods .”
“Oh nonsense. What are we really looking for, Mr. Davies?”
“The Bull of Heaven and the Heart of the Sea.” He leaned back on the pillows, grinning.
“Allow me to explain …”
Timing, as the saying goes, is everything. The Ministry Agent, whom she did not like, and two of the boat’s crew mounted the stairs in three bold steps and leveled various guns at Davies. “Get away from her!”
Grey tried not to roll her eyes.
Bloody stupid …
Davies took up the knife and placed it firmly again under Grey’s chin. “Don’t block my way. The lady and I are leaving.”
“No, Mr. Davies, we’re not.” Grey slid her left hand under his and pushed it away as she turned. Regrettably, while her knee did find its way between his legs, it did not strike with enough force. It did convince him to drop his knife.
Davies shoved her backward with both hands into the on-rushing men: simple, inelegant, effective. There was no escaping down the ladder – the dahabeah’s crew was in the way. Instead, he smiled, turned on his heel, and dove headlong into the river.
“Damn it!” she shouted, rushing to the rail and searching for Davies in the water.
“Such language, Madam. Let the crocodiles have him,” the Agent snapped. “Be grateful I arrived to rescue you.”
“You arrived to interrupt me. He was about to tell me what we don’t know: where to be on the 23rd of December.”
The Agent looked down at her. “I don’t care. He would have killed you.”
“No. He needs me to provide that which he doesn’t know yet. We have the Old Explorer’s book and he has the location along with additional clues.”
Signaling the crew that all would be well, the Agent folded his arms tightly across his chest. “I’ll have to go after him.” The man was a retired Army major, too set in his ways to be of any use to Grey. She still wondered just what the Ministry was thinking when they sent him to her. “Stay put and work on that book. You’ll be safer here . I’ll take care of Davies.” He picked up the delicate, old journal and dropped it back onto the table. “Thirty days. Can you do it?”
“Finish translating a rambling Elizabethan diary written in Latin, which may be a fake, and locate what Mr. Davies suggested is somewhere on Crete, so that we can discover the ultimate treasure? In thirty days? Perhaps we can.”
“We, Madam Archaeologist?” he asked, pompously.
“Indeed. I’m afraid I’ll need to call in specialized assistance. You do understand, don’t you?” She didn’t wait to hear his protest. She quickly wrote out a note on the back of one of her papers, folded it, and handed it to the Agent. “Please send that urgently to London: to the Punjabi Club.”
It read very simply: Colonel – you are needed.