Good Morning and happy Wednesday! I can't believe my novels publication birthday is almost upon us and I can't contain my excitement. This coming Monday, April 1st. Squeee! So I thought to entice and entertain you further I'd give you the complete second chapter!
The next morning, my boss arrived bright and very early. I groaned at the bedside alarm clock. It clicked over to 5 AM when he began pounding on my door.
Groggily, I stumbled my way across the small living area of my room and peered through the peephole.
On the other side stood a tall, white-haired man, his closed fist poised in the air. I swung the door wide before he could start pounding again.
“Kristi, my darling, why are you not dressed? We have so much work to do today,” Hans bellowed.
"Well, hello to you too," I grunted as he enveloped me in a bear hug.
“Ah, you look so tired—but you must be as excited as I am about your miraculous find,” he said.
Hans and his exuberant personality was a lot to take if you weren’t a morning person. I spread my lips in a semblance of a smile. I wasn’t tired exactly, more like— hungover. After Emilio and I had left the bar the night prior, he had taken me to another bar owned by his cousin. It took some doing on his part to persuade me to go with him. I wanted to camp out on his boat all night, anchored over the Road.
Emilio's cousin graciously insisted that all of my drinks were free since Emilio and I were like brother and sister, which intern made his cousin and I like family. Whatever his reasoning was, I had several rounds of a neon blue drink. An hour later, I had forgotten all about the irritating Dr. Morrison, Hans’ arrival, and everything else.
“Come on in,” I said, stepping aside.
Hans did, fairly bouncing with anticipation. “Get dressed. I will order you breakfast and coffee, and then we will get down to business.”
I rubbed my temples and fought down the bile that roiled up at the idea of food. “Breakfast doesn’t sound particularly good right now…” then stopped to see Hans already had the phone to his ear ordering god only knew what.
It didn’t take me long to get ready for the day. Since I’m often out in the middle of the wilderness, or desert, or somewhere without luxuries like electricity, mirrors, and hot water, I’ve got my morning prep down to the basics. I showered, brushed my teeth, and towel dried my long hair, combing out the wild tangles—a necessity since it now hung down to the middle of my back. I wiped the steam off of the mirror and frowned at the haggard, hungover face reflected at me. My eyes were bloodshot and puffy, and I had new blemishes on my chin and forehead.
Beautiful, I thought, adding it to the long list of grievances against the man I had met yesterday. If it hadn’t been for that infuriating idiot, I would have finished my drink, went back to my room, and studied the pictures and video until I fell asleep around my usual ten o’clock. The sickly woman in the mirror groaned. I checked my makeup bag for Advil and swallowed two with the half bottle water I had sitting on the counter.
When I was finally ready, I opened the door to see Hans standing directly on the other side. He handed me a mug of coffee and led me over to the couch, where few pieces of toast and a carafe of coffee sat beside my laptop.
I took a small piece of toast despite the rumbling of my stomach and clicked on the first series of photos. Several pictures popped up, showing images of the spiral.
“Amazing, simply amazing,” Hans whispered. “I have to tell you, seeing a mark made by human hands where none have been discovered before is unbelievable.”
“I couldn’t believe my eyes either when I saw it,” I said, pointing at a dark smudge in the last picture. “And do you see that there?”
Hans leaned forward and adjusted his glasses. “All I see is a shadow.”
“I think this is the start of another carving. It doesn’t show it in the photo, but it looked like the start of another spiral and if that’s the case who knows how many there are on this stone.”
“Yes, we will go out today where I can study this miracle first hand,” said Hans, enthusiastically.
I paused, letting his words sink in. “You want to come? Out on the boat? You might be bored—we’ll be out there all day,” praying I had misunderstood him. It wasn't that I didn’t enjoy spending time with my boss. He had become a good friend and something of an indulgent grandfather to me, but he was not the type of man to sit idle. He would insist on being part of the action, such as it was. Or God forbid, he might want to get into the water with me to “help excavate the stone further.”
“But of course, Kristi. You will need someone to assist you topside, making sure you have the necessary equipment.”
“Oh, but Emilio takes care of all of that—” I began.
Hans waved me into silence. “Come, I have already called Captain Emilio and prep his boat for departure; he is waiting.”
Hoisting myself out of my seat, I wondered how he had gotten Emilio’s number. Maybe from the nondisclosure form he signed or something? I didn’t have time to think about it before Hans grabbed my backpack and ushered me out of my room.
Despite the early hour, the air was already thick with humidity. Hans wiped his forehead absently. “Come, the car is waiting to take us to the marina.”
I slipped my aviators over my sensitive eyes, shielding them against the rising sun, only to see a sleek black luxury car, complete with a suited driver, parked in front of the hotel. The driver got out, smiling and opened the back door, “Good morning, Miss.”
“Hans, the marina’s only a half mile away, we could have walked there,” I said, returning the driver’s smile and wondered where on earth the car come from. There weren’t that many cars on the island since the entire length of Bimini was around seven miles and most people got around by golf carts, mopeds, and bicycles.
He didn’t answer me. He was too busy tapping the screen of his new phone which was a model I’d never seen before. The slim design was shiny, silver, and sleek. I could only hope it was water and shatterproof.
I slid into the very plush back seat. Soft grey leather covered every surface of the interior, including the sides of the door accented in gleaming dark mahogany. CNBC was on the small TVs set into the back of the front seats, the tickers streaming at the bottom of the screen. You could take the man out of the office...
The car glided away from the curb and sped silently down the coastal road to Brown’s Marina.
Even though it was ungodly early, there were a few people all ready prepping fishing gear or cleaning their boats.
Emilio stood at the marina entrance, smiling and holding a thermos of what I hoped was more coffee. My heart sang with happiness when I opened the thermos and the fragrant aroma of my favorite kind of coffee: darkly brewed, black, no sugar, no cream, and strong enough to put hair on your chest.
“Good morning, Kristi,” boomed Emilio.
I winced at the sound and was sure my ears were bleeding. Emilio didn’t seem to notice as he relieved me of my bag, his attention on Hans. “And you must be the famous Dr. Johansen. Nice to finally meet you in person,” he said and escorted us down the dock and onto his boat.
I studied Emilio over the rim of the thermos. From what I remembered from last night, Emilio had drunk more than I had and yet he was as bright and chipper as a bird. There were no bags under his brown eyes or wrinkles from sleep marring his dark skin— Not fair.
“Ah, my friend, it is my pleasure to meet your acquaintance finally. Thank you for assisting one of my most talented archeologists,” said Hans, shaking Emilio’s hand vigorously.
“It has been my pleasure. This is the most excitement I’ve had in years, but I had no idea of the trouble it could attract,” replied Emilio, his tone serious.
“Have you had some trouble?” Hans inquired, pushing his glasses up his nose. “What happened?”
I swallowed my mouth full of coffee, the hot fluid burning all the way down. I had temporarily forgotten about George, my mind gearing up for the dive ahead.
“It's not as serious as Emilio is making it out to be. Last night this man came up to me from out of nowhere and introduced himself as Dr. Morrison. He told me you sent for him to collaborate on my project.”
“Ah, so you’ve met.” Hans looked contrite, and I knew he was regretting not telling me about George. “He arrived earlier than I thought. I didn’t think he would beat me here. I wanted to tell you in person.”
“Yeah, thanks for the surprise,” I said flatly.
“He has quite the knowledge of Caribbean history,” Hans tilted his head thoughtfully. “If he is already on the island, where is he?”
“I thought you would have met up with him this morning,” I said.
Hans shook his head, making himself comfortable on one of the bench seats at the prow of the boat, “I came straight here from the airport and saw no one.”
Emilio rubbed his beard thoughtfully, “I haven’t seen him here at the marina either.”
I thought for sure he would have been at the airport. A shiver of unease trickled down my spine and remembered why I had had such a problem with George. “Did you know he’s looking for the Fountain of Youth and is under the impression that I am too.”
“Yes, I’m aware of his interests. He is another scholar in search of adventure, like you,” Hans said, donning a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
My mouth hung open. Like me? I snorted, then snorted again, “Um, no, what I study is actual history, not a myth.”
Hans shrugged his shoulders, “Ah, but so much of history is a myth until we discover physical proof.” He lowered his sunglasses and waited with a knowing look on his face.
Ok, yeah, so I guess what I was doing was sort of, the same, maybe. Except for the fact I have proof. I studied the other boats in the marina, still in their berth, as we left the dock and began motoring out to the site. “Hans, the guy announced that I had discovered something here on the island in front of a bar full of people. All it would take is one person to note Emilio and I diving on the Road and George’s announcement to pique someone’s interest in thinking there is something of monetary value to be found.”
I let my words sink in and knew I had made my point when Hans nodded once, his fluffy white eyebrows drawing together.
“Then we will hurry,” he said, pulling out his phone once more, “I will try Dr. Morrison now.”
I sat back against the padded bench seat and studied the horizon, inhaling long deep breaths, trying to shed the hundred-pound weight of dread that settled onto my shoulders. For the first time, I noticed how slowly Emilio navigated the boat. Doesn’t this thing go any faster? Gulls swooped and called to each other as Emilio cut the engine and dropped anchor beside the site. I was happy to see no one was around. The nearest boat motored in the opposite direction, loaded down with fishing equipment.
Emilio, always the expert tour guide, gave Hans a brief history of the island, the Road, and anything else he could think of. Hans’s attention was rapt as Emilio began explaining about the popularity of the Road as a dive site among the tourists.
“Have you ever heard of the clairvoyant, Edgar Cayce?” asked Emilio, as he maneuvered the boat over the site.
“Yes, he was the man that was known as the sleeping prophet in the early 1900s,” replied Hans.
“Yeah, that’s the guy; In one of his recorded readings, he predicted the location of the lost continent of Atlantis would be revealed in 1968 or 1969, right here in Bimini. When a hurricane in the late sixties uncovered the Road, hundreds of people, convinced that the Road was the actual remnants of Atlantis, flocked here looking for treasure.”
“Speaking of treasure hunters, did you get ahold of George yet?” I asked, checking over the line that ran from the oxygen tank to my respirator.
“No, I have left several voicemails for him.”
I grunted as I began the arduous task of pulling on my wetsuit. George was probably still skulking around somewhere. When we had exited the hotel this morning, I had half expected to see him waiting for us. He was here to help, wasn’t he?
It wasn’t long before I had my air tank strapped on and had secured my GoPro camera to my dive mask. Emilio, with eager assistance from Hans, attached the large red and white dive flag high above the boat.
“We’re all set, Kristi, whenever you are ready,” said Emilio, giving me the okay sign.
I gave a thumbs up and fell backward into the warm water.
The stones that make up the Road were only about twenty feet under the water. For the most part, the marine life wasn’t as spectacular compared to, say, an intricate coral reef, but I had become biased and thought the gleaming white sand and underwater flora and fauna was breathtaking.
I kicked hard, propelling myself until I hovered just over the stone I had marked with an orange flag. The sand had already reclaimed the stone, so not a bit of it showed. I was sure spotting the carving a couple of days ago had been divine intervention, and was devoutly thankful for the higher beings that controlled fate. Carefully, so as not to disturb any more sediment than necessary, I gently wafted the sand away from the stone with my hands.
Briefly, before the sand settled once more, I saw the curved top of the spiral. My hands shook, and my heart pounded as if I were seeing it for the first time. I felt like crying. It wouldn’t be the first time. The day I had found it, I spent most of the day in a dream-like trance, and it wasn’t until I got back to my hotel room that the tears came in an uncontrollable wave. It was the first time I had ever felt such overwhelming gratefulness and excitement that my body shut down and I slept for ten hours straight.
I swiped the sand away once more and decided to ask Hans to send for a vacuum to help with the sand removal. There was no way I’d be able to remove a sufficient amount of sand with my bare hands to do an in-depth study of the carving.
My hands and arms began to ache as I continued to wipe the sand away. It was heading towards noon, and I thought about taking a break when I saw what looked liked the beginnings of a pictogram, or rather a glyph, running parallel to the spiral. I ran my fingers over the grooves of the rock. It was hard to distinguish what it was supposed to be — an animal of some kind— bird maybe. It was a thick line with two half-moon shapes winged out on either side at one end of the line.
I swiped again and again, furiously until I could see— for the briefest moments— that it was a symbol; A symbol I had seen before — on Crete. I ran my finger along the surface. The bumpy texture of the stone made it difficult to see clearly, but I could depict a double-headed ax. I expelled a cloud of bubbles as my breathing picked up and my body tingled in excitement. It was too good to be true. In the back of my mind, I tried to keep calm, but the front of my mind was screaming and whooping because this glyph— this glyph— was evidence to cement my theory. If it were possible for my heart to beat out of my chest, it would have.
I glanced at the oxygen level on my regulator to see I was running low but was loathed to leave before I had too. Two more minutes, I told myself. If I did run out of air, I could probably hold my breath for another two minutes, maybe. Or, should I remark the area and head up, so I could start reviewing the video with Hans. My decision was made for me, however, when I heard the rhythmic thumping of a boat engine. I had, over time, become accustomed to hearing boats of all varieties cutting through the waters, but this boat was close and coming closer—fast.
There are maritime rules when a dive flag is displayed. One of these rules is that all boats must keep a hundred-foot distance. This boat broke that rule as it slowed and came alongside Emilio’s, close enough that they looked as though they would hit. What the hell? I thought, and rechecked my watch. Not only was it dangerous to enter a dive zone, but I had an all-encompassing need to protect what I had just found. I remarked the stone with another orange flag and kicked to the surface ready to do battle with whoever had ventured over here.
When I surfaced in a cloud of bubbles, I was surprised to see a boat I had viewed several times during my stay, though never outside of the marina and never the owner. The boat was a pristine white and had a single red strip running along the side, with the name “Greta” in glossy blue script on the bow.
I wiped the water from my eyes and glared up at the captain of the Greta and nearly choked on a mouthful of seawater. He stood as tall as Emilio, but that was where the similarities stopped. The Greta’s captain reminded me of a beautiful Nordic god with thickly muscled arms and legs and a strong square jaw. Mirrored aviators covered his eyes and contrasted against his tan and short sun-bleached blond hair. He looked as if he should have been in some specialized military branch protecting the innocent in a war-ravaged country.
I was so mesmerized by the Thor lookalike that it took me a moment to noticed the other man who had already boarded Emilio’s boat. He had traded his suit for a t-shirt and blue and white board shorts, and his brown hair blew softly in the sea breeze.
“Good morning Dr. Brickham,” said George, smiling down at me. He grabbed a towel and held it out as I climbed the short ladder.
I snatched the towel from him, causing the ends to snap, and clicked off my GoPro. “Nice of you to finally join us.”
Emilio stepped forward to assist me with my tank. He didn’t look happy either, eyeing George and the other boat captain. If George was the reason the other boat captain violated the dive flag parameters, it was a huge safety violation that could see the captain heavily fined.
“I had a bit of a slow start this morning. When I realized you were out here diving, I was lucky enough to find someone that was willing to shuttle me out,” said George, scratching at the stubble on his jaw.
Now that I was closer to him, he didn’t look much better than I had when I woke up this morning. His face had an ashy grey tone to it, and the corners of his mouth pinched downward.
“What was so pressing that you couldn’t meet us? You knew what hotel I was staying in,” I asked, throwing the towel aside, eyeing the other boat captain again.
He still stood there, unsmiling, his massive arms folded across his chest— listening to our conversation. I wondered why he wasn’t departing now that he had dropped off his passenger.
“Yes,” Hans agreed, “I too, would like to know.”
George's face paled, ever so slightly, when he remembered the man who had hired him, stood behind him. He turned to Hans, “I wasn’t feeling well this morning, Sir.”
Hans seemed to accept this, though he admonished him about tardiness and failure to call. I, however, wasn’t so easily swayed. Yesterday’s confrontation was still fresh in my mind, and I didn’t think George was sincere. He had that same tightlipped look of evasion when he hadn’t been upfront about his theory.
I sank onto one of the benches and started removing my gear. Throwing my fins, gloves, mask and everything else I had on into a pile for washing.
“Did you find anything new, Dr. Brickham?” asked George.
I didn’t answer, only peeled my wetsuit off and added it to the pile. Did George have no discretion at all? I could feel Thor’s eyes boring into me, and I didn’t think it was because I was standing in my bikini. Who knows what George told him to get him out to the site. I turned to see Thor had finally moved to leave but was still within hearing distance. I noticed he took his time, looking over his shoulder at me and my dive gear. Finally, he started the engine back up and idled away, with only a wave to Emilio, who didn’t return the gesture.
Hans took the seat beside me, “I am glad you have met up with us, Dr. Morrison. Kristi has informed me of your meeting yesterday.”
A wise man would have noticed that Hans tone had changed. He sat straight, and his usual smile was gone. Annoyance rolled off him as his sharp blue eyes focused on George. Yes, a wise man— freshly hired— would have apologized and maybe did a wee bit of groveling, but no, not our George. With the mention of his name and yesterday’s meeting, George’s eyes lit up. He explained about the pottery he found in Florida and the connection with the earliest Caribbean’s Native American myths and stories of the Fountain of Youth and Bimini.
I remained speechless as George went on and on and on. It wasn’t until Hans suggested an early lunch that George stopped. I decided that if I survived the next hour with George, I was going to kill Hans for inviting this him down here.
The Bimini Twist and Island Sushi restaurant was crowded with sunburned, happy tourists, talking loudly and eating heartily. With the foresight that he was famous for, Hans had called ahead and reserved a table for three, Emilio opting out.
The hostess greeted us and led us to a corner table, setting out menus.
“What do you recommend?” asked George.
I said nothing and could feel George’s eyes on me. He was pleased with his explanation. Hans too, had relaxed and had warmed to George’s explanation of his theory. Well, I thought, good for him. It was Hans’ money. If he wanted to donate to George’s wacko theory, what did I care? So long as his project didn’t get in the way of mine.
A young waitress with a name tag that said Tracy bounded up to our table, pen in hand. “What’ll Y'all want to drink?” she twanged.
I stared up at her in surprise. The over the top Southern drawl was so out of place.
George stared too, but I suspected it wasn’t the accent. Tracy was not only six inches taller than my five foot and a few inches but had a slim, toned body, a dark tan, and hair so blond it was nearly white. Oh, and she had hiked up her ample cleavage to around the collarbone area of her chest.
She smiled, flashing perfect white teeth. “Well, fancy meeting you again, Handsome.”
George grinned sheepishly at Hans’ and I, “We met last night at one of the nightclubs.”
If the lingering look between the two was any indication, it explained why he wasn’t around this morning.
Hans piped up. “We will start with a bottle of your finest white.”
“I’ll just have water,” I said, leaning back against the padded booth. For some reason, even if I’m only underwater for a short period, I feel like I’ve just crossed the Sahara.
“So, Kristi, what did you see? You have been very quiet,” said Hans, finally giving me his undivided attention.
I paused, frowning at George who was leaning forward with interest. “Um, I found another glyph under the first spiral. We need to get a vacuum. The sand fills in as fast as I pull it away.”
George’s brows lifted, “A spiral? You found glyphs on the side of one of the stones?”
Tracy, who had managed to approach our table unseen, patiently waited for us to finish. She smiled, again, and set our drinks in front of us.
I drank several gulps of the cold liquid. I had forgotten that George didn’t know what I was doing here; Only that I had found something that required knowledge of Caribbean history.
“Have y’all decided what you'd like for lunch?” asked Tracy, her attention flicking to each of us.
After we had all ordered and Tracy was a distance away at another table, Hans’ continued his inquiry, “What did the glyph look like?”
“I don’t have a definitive answer yet, of course, but it looks like a double-headed ax. Actually, it’s a near replica of that painting of the ax I found in that temple on Crete.”
“Yes, I remember. I believe you called the ax a labrys.”
“Yeah, that’s the one,” I said, “from what I could make out, the glyph here is a perfect match.”
George folded his fingers together, resting them on the table. “I’m confused, what’s the connection between the two?”
I placed my hands flat on the table. Old feelings of defensiveness bubbled up whenever I shared my ideas with outsiders. “I believe it’s proof of an Atlantic crossing in the Bronze Age,” I answered, staring him down. Let him say one negative thing about my project, and I would murder him with the bottle of wine Tracy had just set down. Instead, I poured myself a glass.
George’s eyes widened, then narrowed, then he smirked as if he was let in on some sort of joke. “And I was called here to help find evidence of travelers from Crete to the New World in the Bronze Age? Why didn’t you say anything yesterday?”
Seriously? “Because you accosted me like some deranged wack-a-loon in the middle of a bar.” I sucked my lower lip into my mouth so I wouldn’t say something I would regret later. Don’t be rude, don’t be rude. I had spent too many years on Crete studying the Bronze Age culture of the Minoans.
Instead of answering his question I explained. “They were the most advanced maritime culture of the Bronze Age, and I have compelling evidence, through the frescos and maps in several Cretan temples, that they sailed outside of the Mediterranean and far beyond.”
George rested his chin on his steepled fingers, “Interesting.”
I wasn’t sure what he went on about after that. His voice droned on as I ate as fast as I could. My stomach protested at the half-chewed inundation of seafood, but I had to get out of there. George had barely touched his salad as he continued to talk and talk, and talk. My head began to ache along with my stomach. “Well, I’d better get back to the boat, gotta clean all my equipment,” I said.
“Are you sure,” said Hans. “I thought we could talk more about what you saw?”
“I’ll see you later,” I said and left them with their heads together talking about George’s career, the Road, and how the possibilities of George’s insight would propel our investigation further— heaven help me.