IT ALWAYS HELPS TO HAVE FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES.
Re-reading the cartouche, he turned to Jessica, unable to hide the astounded look on his face or the amazement in his eyes. “My God, Jessica what have you found?”
“Now do you believe me?” Jessica demanded with a triumphant smile on her lips. Her exhaustion forgotten, a twinkle lit her eyes mixed with apprehension. “How many times did you translate the cartouche?”
“Enough times to know this isn’t an ordinary pyramid. It isn’t a tomb. Now I know why you called Anthony. Jessica this is extremely significant, we need a lot more security than those two deputies.”
Jessica’s cell phone rang. “Hello?”
“Good morning, Jessica,” Anthony’s cheery voice greeted her.
“And to you, Skip. I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon, but its good you called. I hope you’re going to come down soon.”
“I’ve sometime this morning, after which, I’m booked solid for a week. That’s why I called this early. If we can get together this morning, I’ll jump in the helicopter and fly down. If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t bother, but if you say you have found something significant…”
“Good, come down as soon as you can get here. If it helps, Bruce is here, he agrees with my theory, it is incredibly valuable.” Bruce listened. Jessica’s voice became calm, deliberate, and professional.
“Okay, I’ll be in the helicopter in half an hour and in Okeechobee in two hours. Where do you want to meet me?” Anthony asked. Jessica put her phone on speaker so Bruce could hear.
“Since you’ll be in the helicopter, can you land on the levy three and half miles south of Buckhead Ridge Marina? I think you’ll be able to see us and the two sheriff’s cars parked on top of the levy.”
“Sure, I’ll meet you there. Will you be able to show this…well, whatever it is, to me?”
“Of course, I’ll pick you up in the airboat.”
“Airboat?” Anthony repeated with trepidation in his voice.
“See you when you get here.” Jessica clicked her phone off and laughed. “He’ll be here in about two and half hours. Let’s see if we can clean this lump of mud up a little and make it more presentable.”
Time became irrelevant to the two young scientists on the trail of a historical breakthrough. Time passed unnoticed since Skip’s call until the distant sound of a helicopter broke the sounds of nature around them. Briefly shading their eyes with their muddy hands, they paused to wash them off in the shallow water around the airboat, watching as the helicopter prepared to land. Jessica started the boat, Bruce sat, and they headed for shore, killing the airboat’s engine after beaching it up on the levy. From the lakeside, they could reach the levy and ferry Anthony to the pyramid. The levy canal made it necessary to pass through the locks to reach the marina. The marina was where their cars were permitted to park.
“Hi, Skip!” Jessica yelled over the helicopter’s engine winding down. She jumped onto the grassy edge of the down side of the levy and climbed up the bank.
“Leave it to you!” Anthony laughed and gave her an uncle-like bear hug. Bruce and he knew each other through Jessica. They shook hands.
Anthony “Skip” Sutherland – Head of Archaeology for the State.
“Sorry for the mud,” Bruce apologized. Some of the dirt still clung to his hands.
“Ah, don’t worry about that. I’ve had’em in worse.” Anthony guffawed. He referred to his younger years when he was a Wastewater Plant Operator and worked with Jessica’s parents. They all laughed.
Anthony took Jessica’s comment about an airboat ride seriously and changed into more rugged clothes than his usual suit. Before they boarded the airboat, Jessica pointed out the pyramid, and Anthony clearly saw the object’s shape. His face grew strangely somber, and an enigmatic look entered his eyes.
“How did that go unnoticed all these years?” He asked with curious marvel in his voice.
“I wondered that myself,” Jessica agreed. “Lucky for security the opening is on the lake side.”
Bruce manned the airboat’s helm and gently nudged it up to the pyramid while Jessica secured it to the log. He killed the engine. Jessica explained the significance of the find to Anthony.
“To find a Mesoamerican pyramid in this location would be exceptional. This is without a doubt an Egyptian pyramid. It will cause bedlam, not only in archaeology, but in history. These markings and the now open chamber are significant and will eventually determine what Egyptian dynasty built it. That it isn’t a tomb, is exceptional. This….” Jessica indicated the cartouche she first translated before she called Anthony, “means it is an entrance and proves the Egyptians came to the New World long before the Vikings or Columbus.”
Bruce glanced meaningfully at Jessica. Skip was apprehensive, and he could see she’d picked up on it. He was aware of the close relationship between Jessica and Skip, and that she trusted him. But Bruce sensed something was scaring him and could tell Jessica was aware of it too.
“Skip, what do you think about all this?” Jessica waved her hand around.
“Jessica, I think you have just secured your and Bruce’s careers. Your discovery will influence history the way most archaeologists only dream,” Anthony paused, scanning the lake, seeing the fishermen and thinking they were tourists too. “But Jessica, I am afraid for you both. There are people who will want to discredit you, and well…do worse.” He looked to each of them. “I am going to assign the most security to this project as the Governor will allow. And for safety’s sake we should keep this as secretive as possible. I don’t want the locals to know about it. Luckily, the chamber entrance faces the lake.” Anthony took out his cell phone and punched in a number.
“Hey Craig. I mentioned to you, I was flying down to Okeechobee this morning.” He greeted the Florida’s Governor, obviously on close terms. Anthony paused and listened to what The State’s Chief Officer was saying.
“Right, well it is crucial. We’re going to need some serious security,” Anthony explained. He listened again. Jessica and Bruce exchanged glances. “Thanks, I’ll clarify the entire situation when I get back. Okay, I’ll tell them and set it up.” He disconnected the transmission. Anthony handed Jessica the cell phone. “This is a secure phone. Call me on it at any time, or use it to call your parents when you need to. Bruce, you can use it, as well. From now on, you’ll have twenty-four hour security and anything else you need.” Anthony handed Jessica a credit card from his wallet. “Use this for your project expenses and any other related expenditures, room and board, food, tools, clothes or equipment. I guess that covers it, please be frugal. Only what is necessary until a proper budget is set up. I’ll have to account for every penny to the budget committee. From what I expect, this dig will more than pay for itself. You both are now the state’s official scientists on this, and on the state’s payroll. I’ll have your salaries sent to you or deposited if you prefer. You won’t be rich, but you’ll eat.” Anthony guffawed and scanned across the lake again. “The real money will come from the commercial endorsements, later when you publish your findings. Okay, one of you ferry me back to the levy. The Governor is anxious to hear about all of this.” Anthony looked around, pleased. “Oh, and the Governor would like a tour when you have the dig a little more under way. Jessica, Bruce, we don’t want the press to get wind of this until we’re ready.” Anthony expressed his concern again about security.
“Sure Skip,” Jessica agreed. Bruce nodded. “Let me know when you want to set up the Governors’ visit. It should take us about two weeks to get this lump of mud looking like a professional dig. And Skip, we don’t want the press here either.”
“Jessica, I’d like to hear from you at least every other day and a written report for the Environmental Protection Agency in a few days is a good idea.” Anthony added to the State of Florida’s list of requirements.
“That won’t be a problem. I’ll have one drafted and an outline of our intent for you before the Governor’s visit. You have my e-mail addy, so send me the address where the report should go.”
Anthony kissed Jessica’s cheek. Bruce waited at the controls of the air-boat to ferry Anthony the short hop back to the levy. He watched Jessica where she stood on the little island of moderately dry grass around the pyramid and remembered her as a child. Her success made him proud and happy as any father. With her parents away, his protective instincts towards her surfaced, perhaps more so because his wife was expecting.
A wave of pre-cognizant suspicion concerning the strange Professor of Archaeology from Chile, who underhandedly butted into his life a year ago, came to mind. He suspected once the news of this discovery made the news, something Anthony hoped to avoid as long as possible, the slimy character would pressure him for information. He had, with other state matters, attempted to use convincingly faked, damaging documents as blackmail.
At first scrutiny, the documents and photographs appeared authentic. However, under careful inspection of a state investigation, the documents wouldn’t stand up. After the press sensationalized the material, though faked, the damage would be done to his career, and to his marriage. The slimy bastard put him in a compromised position to assist his requests, but only to a point. So far, his demands hadn’t related to anything the fool could get off the internet.
Anthony was sure the man was crazy. He repeatedly and cryptically prattled about revealing the location of a lost city, and seemed intent on drawing attention to his discovery without compromising his identity.
If the professor learned about this find, he’d want to be involved. Anthony wouldn’t allow the lunatic near Jessica. She was like his daughter.
muck, almost falling. Laughing, he climbed the levy bank, stepped into the helicopter, and within moments the mud covered pyramid was behind him.
* * * *
Anthony Sutherland – Skip is one of those characters – Jessica couldn’t live without AND will be interviewed at
WEB SITE http://www.sqpens.com – for more excerpts