The next few days Jake hardly slept. He worked tirelessly ripping down vines, clearing away trees and brush exposing incredibly well preserved buildings. There were twenty cylindrical and four rectangular houses uncovered during the initial investigation. The houses were constructed of mortared stone and stood two stories high. The exteriors were decorated with carved stone heads adorned with stones representing elegant feather headdresses. The interior walls of many of the houses were decorated with pre-Inca mosaics. This led Jake to believe the city could date back to 500 A.D. or earlier.
A strange sensation came over him walking through the city. Nothing he could sign and date, it was sort of a deja vu. It was much different than the original rush he’d felt finding the site.
After a week he received the confirmation of what he’d been waiting for. Bill and a bunch of eager students were on their way as soon as they could arrange transportation. He decided it was time to return to the village and get a full crew. The return journey was much easier and with lighter spirits. Still, Jake’s brows spent a great deal of time battling each other, trying to pop the brain pimple that was nagging him. It pressured him constantly and he couldn’t get a grip on it. Something he was feeling and not seeing.
He did feel an urgency to get headed back to the city. But without some help he was just sightseeing. Something took hold of him there. Something that was a part of the spring that wound him up and made him tick. Something unknown he had to find out about.
Jake was glad that Bill was coming. He wanted to share his find with him and besides, he was just a fun guy to have on a dig. He had amazing energy and his voice filled any room. He was thirty plus years Jake’s senior and Jake had a hard time keeping up with him At two hundred and forty pounds, he over scaled Jake by fifty pounds and had skin like an old saddle with a permanent tan. Whenever it started to fade, he would jump in a plane and fly somewhere to recover from a lack of solar energy. It was such a joke around the department that he was often the recipient of Ultra Man paraphernalia.
Being a dinosaur of sorts himself, Bill made the perfect archaeologist. If he’d been a fish it would have been a salmon. He was forever swimming up any stream that turned against him. Most people, with any wisdom, just left him alone; it was a futile waste of energy not to. He looked at some one attacking his methods, or him, as fun sport, and he had always won his little games.
If Jake were to ever hold anybody up as an idol, it would have to be his adopted father. Bill had helped Jake come out of his book shell and become a part of the bigger world. Bill had taken the role of absent father and had personally insured that Jake would get his PHD. The fact that he towered over everyone, including Jake, gave him the presence to pull off his stunts.
Jake and John drove to the small town, down the mountain that had the only landing strip in the area, to wait for Bill. He was so tired he slept in the jeep on the way down despite the rugged road. He hadn’t done much of that at the site.
The day Bill flew in was the kind of day they film and put in the commercials to advertise a vacation paradise. The sun shown brightly, as if nature knew Bill was coming and didn’t want to offend him with bad weather.
Standing at the tiny airport, Jake searched the sky. The plane was late. Off in the distance, a rumble of engines turned from faint to omnipresent and the transport appeared over a mountain top, an older twin turbo prop. After an unceremonious landing, it reminded Jake of an overweight pelican that couldn’t slow down, a door amidship popped open and Bill jumped out. Jake rushed over to greet him.
With one hand he shook Jake’s hand vigorously and the other came slamming down on his back.
“How the hell are you Jake!” He said smiling showing a great number of teeth. “I tell you, you called just in time. I swear I’ve been locked up in my office forever. If I’d had to get up and shave this pale mug one more day, I would have cut my own throat!” He let go of Jacob and turned to the open hatch.
“I want you to meet somebody.” She had long blonde hair and was about, five six, with curvy athletic body. Sound sort of fell away as Jacob looked at her. She wore no makeup that Jake could discern. She had neutral European features that were almost plain except for the life force that seem to radiate from her. A sprinkle of freckles ran over both her cheeks and across the slightly curved bridge of her nose. Her eyes were between blue and green like the sea, her eyebrows light, almost as blond as her hair and her lips full and naturally pink. A stunning woman.
Jacob shook his head to bring himself back to reality when she jumped from the plane into Bills arms. Bill caught her and held her weight easily. She giggled as Bill kissed her on the cheek and set her on the ground. Jake’s jaw dropped open, but nothing came out. Struck speechless would been like saying bee stings hurt.
Jake stared stupidly at Bill and Bill erupted with laughter at his slapped in the nuts expression. Jake had never seen Bill so thoroughly entranced by another human being. Unless the human being happened to be two thousand years old and wrapped in rotting cloth.
“This is my daughter! Idiot.” He roared. “Did you think I had broken my sacred vow and gotten hitched again?” Jake flushed red and joined in Bill’s laugh.
“This is Lillian, my first wife Angie was carrying her when she left me. Damn woman never said a word to me!”
“Nor to me.” Lillian interjected. “When my mother died, my stepfather told me who my natural father was, he thought it would only be fair that I got the chance to meet him. I started reading about him. Then wrote and asked if I could came for a visit.”
“Seems like there’s a lot of me in her.” Bill piped in. “Drove poor old Angie crazy!” This thought gave Bill immense pleasure.
“Daddy please!” She said with mild irritation.
“Sorry honey.” Bill turned back to Jake. “I’m starved, let’s gather up my flock and get something to eat!” The students Bill brought along began to file off the plane like baby gophers coming into the sun for the first time.
“Got four bucks and three does, more flippin’ women coming on these things all the time.” Lillian retorted by giving Bill a quick shot in the arm with her elbow. “You don’t count darlin’, you’re half me, and that makes you more of a man than any of these wick dippers!”
Lillian started to say something, seeing her expression, Jake ran interference. “Ah, Bill, did you ever wonder why your wives left you in such a hurry?”
He looked at Jake curiously. “Lack of intestinal fortitude?”
“Not exactly, but I would find it very hard to look at Lillian and in any way compare her to a man and I doubt she’d want me to.”
Bill squinted, his eyes met Lillian’s, who was now standing beside Jake with her arms crossed. “Oh Lilly, I meant that as a high mark, I didn’t mean to get you upset.”
“Daddy, women are just as capable as men, when are you going to join the twentyfirst century?”
“Sorry, sweetheart, you’re old man’s been barking at cars too long to stop.” This left Lillian puzzled and Bill turned to Jake. “What are you driving Jake?”
“Truck, a big one, it’s parked at the field house over there.”
“Will you two will be so kind as to drive the truck over here? I’ll gather the children and unload our stuff. Hopefully we can get this done expeditiously and I can eat sooner.” Bill turned toward the plane then stopped. “I almost forgot, Amy gave me a letter for you and she sends her love.”
“Thanks Bill.” Jake took the letter and started to walk to the truck. Lillian followed along. “How long have you been with your father, Lillian?”
“About two months. What was that barking at cars thing?”
“Old dog new tricks.”
Lillian chuckled and rolled her eyes. “He is a bit coarse, but I can feel a real warmth in him. I look at him as sort of an over grown teddy bear.”
Jake laughed out loud. “I wouldn’t tell him that to his face, but I wouldn’t argue with that description either.”
“I do call him that when we’re alone. I only threaten him with it in public.”
“You’ve had quite an effect on him. I never thought I’d see the day that Eat Them Alive Bill would apologize so easily to a woman, to any one for that matter.”
She smiled. “A man’s greatest weakness is his daughter.”
Jake nodded his head. It made as much sense as anything else that he’d heard about men’s weaknesses.
Loading the truck Jake noticed Bill very carefully placing a case in the bed. “What’s in there Bill, your glass menagerie?”
“Bare essentials, boy, bare essentials.”
“Cruzan Rum, like they say on TV, ‘Don’t leave home without it.’”
Jake laughed. “Did you bring the tobacco and cigarettes?”
“Yeah, I brought the cancer sticks. When did you start smoking?”
“Not for me, it’s to pay a debt.”
It took them almost a week to get back to what Bill called Jake’s little mountain retreat. The arrival at the site had been the proudest moment of Jake’s life. Bill stumbled as he walked down into the ancient city. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the surroundings for even a second. Without saying a word, he searched the entirety of what had been uncovered. When he returned, his eyes were glazed. He put his hand gently on Jake’s shoulder and spoke in a hushed tone, Jake had never heard him use before or since.
“Ya done good boy, Ya done real good.” Then he quickly turned his head away and went into one of the houses.
Everyone seemed temporarily frozen when he spoke. Jake watched him disappear into the building. Then shook his head breaking the trance and turned to the others.
“Let’s unpack the gear, we only have a couple of hours before sunset.” Jake heard the words, but his mind wasn’t on them. His hero had said he’d done good.
Lillian saw his expression. When he looked up from the ground she was standing in front of him holding her hand out. He took it. Her hand was soft, after two weeks in the jungle it was still soft. She smiled and her sea blue eyes flashed.
“If he says it’s so, you can believe it.” She said softly.
The tension dissipated and Jake’s lips trembled into a smile. She told no lie, those words from him had meant more than any scientific award or praise. “I knew it was an important find, but somehow it didn’t hit me until just then.” He said, still feeling a little dazed.
“You’re a special man Jake, I think much more special than you realize.”
“Why don’t you call me Lil like everyone else?”
“Sounds to much like Bill.”
“How about Lilly?”
“Lilly, I think I can handle that. Well Miss Lilly, why don’t we help set up camp?”
“Miss Lilly?” She asked, studying his face.
He chuckled. “Something from an old Paul Newman movie.” He looked around. “Let’s get set up.”
“Please, one John in this camp is enough. Sometimes I want to strangle him for the inflection he adds to it.”
Lilly laughed and they got to work, that was when he noticed that nagging feeling again. Something in Lilly’s gaze had awoken it. Why had she said Jake was more special than he realized? There was something eerie in the way she said it. Jake shook his head of the idea, convinced he’d watched too many episodes of The Twilight Zone growing up.
They settled into a good routine over the next few days. Bill was happier than a cockroach with a Hershey Bar; gnawing away at each new piece of evidence uncovered. At the end of the day they’d gather around the fire and talk over the days finds. Bill would also bless the students with some of his more gratuitous stories. Having worked with him many times before Jake knew most of his favorite tales by heart. The students were fascinated by his exploits through Africa and South America. The adventures had grown quite a bit from the first time Jake been blessed with their telling.
It was during these interludes Jake walked off by himself to look at the city and vast night sky. Without the neon and street lights he was used to at home, it was brilliant with light on a clear night. It was only close to the fire and camp light that it actually seemed like night. Away from the fires the stars erupted around you and he felt he could see space curve around the earth in the sky.
He sat on a boulder, with his lamp turned off, leaning back on his elbows. Brief meteor shower puffed like a loan shot of fireworks after the big show was over. He held his breath as the little fireballs had their brilliant moment of glory before burning up and fading away.
“So much like us.” Jake said aloud.
He felt the tingling in the back of his neck and swatted with his hand, worried their might be a spider crawling on him. There was no arachnid, it was one of those premonitions humans suffer with, yet seldom understand. Being that our over-intellectualized society refused to believe anything not made out of cash and microchips, or published by Time Warner, and sold by Amazon. Jake was missing something, finding this lost city had been for a reason and he’d failed to figure it out.
Gazing at one bright star for a long time caused his face to feel a little numb, the star grew brighter and brighter until it consumed his consciousness. He felt a pleasant pressure begin in the center of his forehead, like someone was pulling a string through his brain. A string that turned into a rope and then him. What happen next, was not something you’d want to bring up at your average society social gathering. Unless, of course, you wanted people rolling their eyes and clearing their throats, when you were around.
Jake looked back at the camp, he didn’t see the glow of the few fires he saw what looked like several fires, burning all around the city. He tried to move his arms and legs but they wouldn’t respond. It was like he was lying under a giant water balloon. Movement of his sight line didn’t feel as if he was moving his head and seemed to be the only thing he could do as he couldn’t feel his arms and legs.
Facing in the direction of the cliff, he saw the entrance to a cave. The full moon made it appear to be a large shadowy mouth, as if the cliff was yawning. For a second he felt a rush. It was as though a jet blast of air went right through his face and head, not around, but through. The sound thundered in his ears, then it was quiet. He blinked and instead of a cave, he was looking at jungle vines and weeds. The light emanating from the camp had returned to a dull yellow orange.
Shaking his head, he laughed, for lack of anything better to do. It was better than giving serious credence to the idea he’d been given a vision of the past. Reaching down for his lantern, he noticed something else. There was no shadow behind the boulder. He turned his eyes toward the sky, no full moon, no moon at all. Of course there wasn’t how could there be? He had just been staring up at the sky full of stars.
After a few minutes of contemplation, he decided to keep the incident in the cupboard. He’d fallen asleep and the moon had been part of a dream. Because the moon had been no where in sight during the meteor shower. He nodded to himself. He’d had a little dream while taking his nap. Sighing, he lit the lantern and returned to camp. Bill and Lilly were still sitting by the fire, everyone else had turned in.
“Where you been Jake?” Bill sounded as if he was well on his way to a hangover in the morning.
“Out looking at nature’s drive-in.” Jake sat down and studied Bill. ‘Why was he drinking so fast?’ Jake wondered. ‘Usually when he did get drunk, it would take him most of the night before he would show any effects at all.’
“Must have been a double feature as long as you’ve been gone.”
“What do you mean, I couldn’t have walked for more than an hour.”
“Then you’ve been walking lying down, lad!” He said with a laugh and a smile. “It’s after midnight.”
‘Midnight!’ Jake kept his surprise to himself. So he did fall asleep. ‘He dreamed the whole thing, full moon and all.’ He thought. ‘Why don’t I believe that?’ It sounded right, but his mind wasn’t buying it. He tried to conceal his confusion and returned Bill’s smile. “I guess I did. I did get real comfortable on a big rock.”
Lilly didn’t say anything, she just smiled Jake, in that infuriating way that women do. The way that says, men are little boys, who got big.
“I’m going to cash in my chips.” Bill said standing up. “Good night baby, good night Jake.”
“Don’t let any of these crawly things in bed with you Bill.”
Bill laughed, he had always said that to Jake when he was young.
“What, would you deny an old lonely man his company?” He laughed again and walked to his tent.
Lilly looked hypnotically at Jake and scooted closer to him. “Did you learn any secrets while you were out there walking?”
Jake was suddenly swallowed by that my fly is down feeling. She couldn’t have missed the squirm crawling across Jake’s expression and that damn eight leg tingle went crazy crawling around his neck. It was as if Jake’s noggin was in on something and not sharing the joke. His clutch stopped spinning and he answered.
“Yeah, the night sky can make you dream.”
“Dream?” She smiled slyly. “Hmm.”
Why did she always give the impression she was toying with Silly Putty? As if she knew more about what happened than Jake ever would. Jake hadn’t even given her a clue, but he felt like she was reading him like a neon sign. She knew something had happened, damn it, but he wasn’t bringing it up. “Yeah, it put me to sleep.”
“Oh.” She smiled, as if she were laughing at a poor little boy trying to understand girls for the first time. “I think I’ll get some sleep too. See you in the morning, Jake.”
“Good night, Lilly.” As he watched her walk away, Jake’s tingle was going crazy. Hell, maybe he was going crazy from too much time in the jungles, listening to legends of gods and ghosts. He gave up for the night and went to his cot.
The next morning before breakfast, Jake went to the spot where he had his dream. Hacking his way into the vines and brush he found the base of the cliff. Piles of rock lay along the bottom of the cliff. It looked like the entire face had come down at once, as if it had happened during an earthquake.
He didn’t know how, but he knew, that behind the mass of rock and earth was the secret he’d come to find. He couldn’t wait to go up and tell Bill he wanted to shift an entire crew down here, because he’d had himself a little walk in the clouds. He could almost feel the tugging in his chest, pulling him towards that spot. He stared at the mound of earth. It would take half his crew to dig this out.
“No problem.” He said to himself out loud. “I’ll just tell Bill I had a dream there was a cave here so I want to devote half our labor to dig it out.” Jake grinned in a way that would make Jack Nicholson envious. Instead of worrying about it, he decided to hope the words came to him. Jake found him eating his morning meal with Lilly.
“Good day, Jake!” Bill said in his full baritone.
“Bill. Lilly. I hope you both slept well.” Jake didn’t give them a chance to respond. “Bill would you come with me? I want to show you something.”
“Sure, just let me finish my eggs, something important?”
“I don’t know, I’ve got a feeling I’d like to explore.”
“Found something interesting, Jake?” Lilly broke in. “Mind if I tag along?”
“Well it’s nothing to look at, but I don’t mind your presence, as long as you don’t think I’m crazy when I explain.”
Bill looked up at Jake. “Why would you say a thing like that Jake? You’re one of the most reasonable people I know.”
“You may not think so in a couple of minutes, I might have become scrambled like those powdered eggs.”
They walked down to the spot Jake had cleared away without conversation. Jake told his story when they arrived. Bill scratched his head and examined the wall of rock.
“Now let me get this straight, you had a dream there was a cave here and you want to excavate this pile of rubble to see if it’s there.”
“I know it sounds like I’ve been in your rum case, but I’ve got a hunch, a gut feeling if you will, I can just tell there’s something in there. Look at it, doesn’t it look like there might be a cave there?”
Lilly put her arm around Bill. “Dad are you telling me you’ve never played out a hunch before?”
Bill smiled and kissed Lilly on the forehead. A condescending action she allowed to pass. “You’re that sure Jake?”
“No, then again, I am.”
“OK, let’s dig.”
The project took quite a bit of time and effort. While the digging was going on Jake couldn’t bring myself to leave the site. He would take a break, to drink some water and stretch then get back to work. His anticipation grew with every shovel of dirt. Every rock pulled away. Even though no artifacts turned up from the dig. Two days past, and Bill started to complain it was taking too much time. Maybe they could use a few less people on it.
Lilly always came to Jake’s defense, almost too quickly. He started watching her closely; she had as much interest in his hunch as he did. A thought came to him that she was manipulating him somehow. But why? It didn’t make any sense. He stifled the idea as paranoia. Jake wasn’t a ‘ladies man’ and thought he could easily misinterpret her actions. Maybe she just liked him; he certainly liked her. This didn’t satisfy him. He didn’t know it yet, but deep within his inner mind things were beginning to come together.
These thoughts were whirling through his subconscious, as he was digging away with a pick. He’d fallen into such a rhythm that he didn’t even notice it at first. Rubble had given way to the solid rock of the cliff and he saw what looked like the top edge of a cave opening.
“Bill!” He swung the pick frantically as he shouted. More of the cave became exposed, this was it, it was really there. He stopped when Bill came charging over the rubble pile. He stared for a minute, then looked at Jake with surprise.
“I’ll be damned. A fucking physic archaeologist.”
The work became fast and furious as everybody at the site joined in with renewed enthusiasm. By night fall the mouth of the cave was completely uncovered. Jake was tempted to set up lights and keep digging, but he was exhausted and didn’t want to make everyone think he’d totally flipped his pancakes. It had been there for a thousand years, it would be there tomorrow.
When all the dirt had been removed, about mid-afternoon on the following day they had uncovered a flat stone slab. Bill and Jake did a close examination. It had been dropped from the ceiling or rather cut from the ceiling. The puzzling thing were the scorch marks on its face at the bottom edge. They couldn’t figure any logical reason for it.
As they dug away the floor of the cave to make room for jacks to raise the slab, they discovered another oddity. The bottom of the slab had been molten at one time, something had been hot enough to melt solid rock. That explained the scorch marks. The floor underneath the slab was the same way. If it hadn’t only been in the vicinity of the slab, it would have appeared to be volcanic. But it was just the slab and the floor underneath it. Neither Bill nor Jake could think of an explanation.
After the jacks had been used to raise the slab they could see that the entire bottom surface area of the slab was similar. Jake laid on the ground with a flash light shining under the rising slab. The first thing he could clearly make out was a skeleton lying unceremoniously against what looked to be the far wall of the cave. As soon as sufficient space had been cleared, he rolled under the slab.
“Jake, we need to test the air…” Bill tried too late to stop Jacob. He couldn’t wait to see what was hidden in his dream cave. “What do you see?”
“Not much. The inner chamber is mostly empty. Just bones here.” Between the fallen bones that had once been flesh covered legs he found a clay pot. “I got something here.” He reached out to touch the lid and found the pot was sealed. The moment he touched the hardened clay, his fingers tingled. “This is what I was searching for.” Jake whispered.
“What?” Bill was looking under the door at him.
“Nothing.” The feeling of air rushing through his forehead hit him again. In his mind he could see the contents of the pot: Folded animal skins with ancient writing. He froze not able to take his eyes off the artifact sitting between his out-stretched fingers. The room filled with light as Bill entered the chamber carrying a lantern in each hand.
“Doesn’t look like there’s much here lad.”
“Yes there is, right here.”
Bill looked at the pot, he bent down and gently took off the lid. It was snug, but it came free with a slight twist. “Hey now. What have we here? It’s filled with animal skins.” Bill moved one of the folds. “They’re covered with writing of some sort.”
Jake closed his eyes and clinched his teeth when Bill reported the contents. He had known, without looking, he had known.
Back at camp he carefully pulled the skins from the vase. The seal had been tight and they were in good condition. Bill studied the pot while Jake looked over the scrolls.
“About a thousand years old I’d guess.” Bill said half talking to himself.
Lilly leaned over Jake’s shoulder as he searched the written characters for something recognizable. Nothing made sense. He had never seen anything even remotely similar to the scroll.
“I can’t make a rat’s ass from a kangaroo’s head here, Bill.” Jake looked over the writing. “It doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before.”
Bill looked closely at the scrolls and shook his head slowly.
“Got me kid, I’ve never seen anything like it either. Lil’s the language expert.”
“Tongues.” Lilly said leaning to take a closer look. Bill and Jake both stared at her.
“What?” They replied simultaneously.
“Have you ever heard of some one speaking in tongues?”
Jake looked at Bill and glad to be the one with the poor child expression on his face for once. “I really don’t know…”
Lilly moved closer. “I’m not sure, but I think this is a written version of some one speaking in tongues.” She looked up at the twisted expressions on the faces, of the men of her life, and smiled, almost laughing at the gawking expression.
“I once knew a mute, when he meditated, the words would come to him, but he couldn’t say them, so he wrote them down. That was what it looked like.”
“Can you decipher it?” Jake asked, his voice pleading with her to say yes.
“I don’t think so, if Peter was still alive, I’d ask him.”
“Well at least you’ve given us a clue…” Jake never finished his sentence, there was a scream from the direction of the cave, which sounded as if someone was having their scrotum pull through their throat. Jake was off and running before thinking about what might be happening.
When he got there, a semicircle had formed around two students trying to hold down one of the workers. Parts of his clothing were burnt and still smoldering as if they had just been extinguished. Jake pushed his way to the man. He was talking too fast for Jake to understand a word of what he was saying.
John tried to interpret for him. “He says, that’s the tomb of the devil’s son! He saw Juan burned alive when he picked up a bone from the floor beside the slab!”
Jake turned to one of the students who was trying to hold the worker down. “What the hell happened here?”
“Just what he said, sir.” The boy was obviously badly shaken. “I still can’t believe it. Juan said “That looks like a finger bone.” He picked it up and it started to glow. He screamed, the bone was burning in his hand!” The student’s eyes were glazed with the truest fear Jake had ever seen. “He turned into a ball of fire and turned to ash! That’s the only, way I can describe it.”
The student pointed at a pile of ash. “That’s him!”
“What caused his burns?” Jake asked, pointing to the fallen man.
“He was standing close to Juan.”
“Get him back to camp and try to calm him down, then I want you back here. Do you understand?”
Bill had been standing over Jake during the exchange of words. They swapped blank stares, but no great flood of information occurred to either of them.
“Don’t ask me son, it’s your dream cave.” Bill said looking at the pile of ash.
One of the other workers came up and said something to John. “Boss, he says there’s an ancient story that the devil’s son is buried here. He thinks the bone must belong to him.”
“He said the devil’s son?” Jake asked confused.
“He’s Catholic that’s how he sees it. The story says the son of darkness.” John looked uncomfortable. “He says we need to leave. We have awaken the evil.” The man nodded vigorously in agreement with John’s statement.
Bill finally spoke up. “I think we had all better get the hell away from this cave until we figure out just what the fuck is going on!”
Jake signaled the rest of the group. “I want you all to go back to the camp and write, or have someone write for you, a description of what you saw. John help them with translations.”
Before John could leave Jake put his hand on the guide’s shoulder. “John pick someone to watch the mouth of the cave, keep a rotating guard on at all times.” Pausing Jake looked back at the cave. “At a distance.”
John smiled. “I’m glad you added that last part, Boss.”
As Jake sifted through the reports collected from the eyewitnesses, he realized nothing was turning any spot lights on the problem. He finally gave up and tried to sleep. Tossing from side to side with his eyes artificially closed was about the best he could manage. Sometime, during the night, he tossed himself to sleep.
When his eyes opened the next morning he was looking at John’s face looming over him.
“What is it John?”
“We have trouble.”
Jake sat up and rubbed his face. “What is it now? Did Satan appear and say we had opened the gates to hell?”
“No, half the porters left last night.”
“That’s not all, the cave is closed again.’
“The slab is back in place.”
“Damn! Go wake up Bill, tell him to meet me there.”
“He’s already up, he sent me to get you.”
“Great,” Jake pulled on his khakis and ran to the cave.
Bill was standing a few yards outside the closed mouth. He saw Jake coming and called out.
“Some bastard’s dropped it down.” He said and rubbed his neck, looking at the slab.
“What do you mean?” Jake asked catching his breath.
“The jacks have been knocked out. The last one is still half under the wall. The others were thrown over there, so it didn’t fall.”
Jake turned to John. “Who was on guard?”
“One of the men who’s missing, Boss.”
“Damn, well let’s jack it back up.” Jake said facing the cave.
“Jake, can I talk to you in private for a moment?”
“Sure, Bill.” They walked a little ways away from the cave and Bill put his hand on Jake’s shoulder.
“I don’t think raising the slab again would be the best idea right now.”
“The only reason we have any porters left at all is probably because the wall is back in place.” He paused for a deep sigh. “And we don’t know what killed that man yet.”
Jake nodded his head slowly. He wanted to argue, but there was no point. Bill was right of course, they didn’t know what had killed the man. They didn’t have clue. He didn’t want to be knowingly responsible for a second man’s death. Jake frowned. They also hadn’t had much of a chance to take a close look at the cave walls, there could be other chambers, undiscovered passageways. He felt an arm slip around his waist. It was Lilly.
“Let it go Jake, there is always another day.” Lilly said, showing concern in her voice.
Gazing into her eyes, he noticed they had turned a shade of green. They gave him comfort. Suddenly he knew, he had already gotten what he came for. He could hear a voice in his head, ‘The scrolls, your search lies in the scrolls.’ Lilly smiled at him and he rubbed the back of his head.
“Sure… sure. We can’t afford to lose any more of our crew.” Lilly’s hand found Jake’s and gave it a squeeze. His little neck alarm was screaming. He could feel Lilly’s eyes piercing through his mind, like she was stirring his brains with a knitting needles. Then his thoughts were whitewashed, completely blank.
“Jake? what is it?”
“Nothing Lilly, nothing, let’s go back to camp.”
Walking back to camp, Jake couldn’t stop thinking about the way Lilly had looked at him. There had been a thousand thoughts in his head and now there were none. He tried desperately to remember a fraction of the whirlwind of information that had buzzed through him, moments before, but there was nothing there. He looked again at Lilly’s soft features and couldn’t shake the feeling that she knew more about what was going on than he did. Even though that made absolutely no sense at all. Yet he didn’t know why he felt that way, or how she could know anymore than he did.
Bill and Jake spent the day taking inventory on what they had found. Little was said about what had happened earlier. No one seemed much in the mood for conversation. It wasn’t until that night, when they were sitting around the campfire, staring into the flames like zombies, that Bill broached the subject that had been playing on his mind all day.
“Jake,” He paused as if his speech had been premature and took a deep swallow from his cup, added more rum, then passed the bottle to Jake. Jake poured some in his coffee and handed it back. Bill took another drink before continuing. “Jake I think we should pack it in, we haven’t got the help we need to carry back what we have now and if any more of the porters leave, well…” He let his voice trail off.
“Bill…” Jake started to rise in protest. Bill held up his open palm toward Jake. A signal he knew well. Jake sat back down reluctantly.
“We can get more porters.” Jake said not really believing it would make any difference in his next statement or the final outcome of the discussion. He’d been thinking the same thing himself.
“Jake I’ve been on quite a few digs, some of them in pretty rough spots like the Middle East. My gut feelings have kept me alive on more than one occasion.” Bill paused to take another drink. “The old man who found this place, came to me and got his pay today. He said he would have left last night if his family didn’t need the money so badly. I gave him the pay for the porters that left as well.”
Jake nodded and stared into his cup, swirling the coffee and rum mixture around in a whirlpool. His mind trying to block out what Bill was saying. He didn’t want to accept that this find, the objective of his life’s work, was under such a dark cloud. It wasn’t fair. He’d worked too long.
“What did you say to him?” Jake asked still not looking up from his cup.
“I asked him why. He told me, this place has an ancient evil surrounding it. He had heard the story as a boy, but never thought it was true until now.”
“Apparently battle took place here. Not the sort of battle we might think of, men facing off with weapons, but a kind of spiritual battle, between good and evil.” Bill was noticeably uncomfortable with what he was saying. He had never gone in for spooks and such. “The story says the The God of all Evil impregnated a human woman. The details are vague, but it came down to the child, having grown to manhood, battling with a priest in this city. Lilly and I talked about it and to her it sounded like what the Greeks thought of as a half god like Hercules, or what might be Biblically called a Nephilim.”
“Are you serious, Bill? Hercules? A Nephilim? What’s next you going to tell me the Tooth-fairy stuck quarters under my pillow?”
Bill wouldn’t meet Jake’s eyes. He looked down at his own cup. “The story goes, they both disappeared one night. There was an earthquake in the early hours of the day before sunrise. The people didn’t know if it was a sign of victory or defeat. They didn’t wait around to find out. By nightfall everyone had left the city. The jungle reclaimed it and everything was quiet…”
“… until now.” Jake said finishing the sentence, his voice barely a harsh whisper.
“You got it.”
“Are you telling me I have to leave?” Knowing the answer, there was little strength to his words.
“Jake this is your find, you’ve spent years working on this project. No matter what the University thinks, I say that makes you in charge. With that position comes a responsibility for your crew. I leave it to you and will abide by your decision. But if someone else dies, I don’t think you’re going to be able to live with yourself.”
Without looking up, Jake reached out his hand and Bill slapped the bottle of Cruzan rum into his palm. Bringing the bottle to his lips, he took a deep swallow. He shuddered as the sweet rum went down his throat it burned with the truth. Jake turned his eyes back to the fire. His belly felt warm as the liquor settled in.
“It was a hell of a find.” Jake said, then took another swallow of rum.
“Hell of a find.” Bill said and took the bottle when Jake offered it to him. “I knew I could count on you Jake.” Bill said, letting out a breath of air.
“You could have made the decision yourself and I wouldn’t have had any choice but to obey.”
Bill smiled. “I was glad to let you decide, I knew you’d do the right thing. Hell man, I want to stay as much as I think we should go.”
The smile was contagious and Jake raised his own. After all, they could always come back. It meant a lot to Jake that Bill thought of him as an equal instead of his fledgling student.
Lilly came over and joined them, sitting down next to Jake. She had just finished showering and Jake could smell the light scent of shampoo and baby powder. Putting her arm around him she reached for his cup. “What are you drinking? It smells horrible.”
“Coffee and rum,” Jake flung the contents of the cup out on the ground. “But I think I’ll skip the coffee on this cup.”
“So did you boys decide what you’re going to do?”
Before Jake could speak up, Bill cut him off. “Ah we’re staying here, well at least the men are.” Bill winked at Jake. “But we’ve decided it’s too dangerous for the women folk, so we’re packing you all up in the morning and shipping you home.”
Lilly’s eyes blazed like twin halogens. “You chauvinistic dinosaur! And you Jake, I could understand this kind of nonsense from Daddy, but from you!” She punched Jake in the arm with her pointed knuckle, the pain only made him laugh, which infuriated Lilly more.
“Relax Honey,” Bill said, fighting to control his chuckles. “Don’t beat the poor lad, we’re all leaving, as soon as we can pack up.”
Lilly had her hands around Jake’s throat, in a mock attempt to assassinate him. “Is he telling the truth? Speak now, or you die swine!”
“Yes, yes, we’re all going home.” Jake said suddenly feeling sad again.
“Why so glum?” Lilly said, brushing the hair out of his eyes. “You’re going to have one heck of a welcome when you get back.”
“She’s right Jake, you’re quite the hero on campus.” Bill said agreeing.
“Do you think we’ll make it back next summer Bill?”
“I think that’s something to work on. We can talk about it later. Besides, I thought your self-proclaimed specialty was finding things.”
Jake nodded, feeling a twang inside. There was something different about this site, something that made him feel good to be here. He couldn’t explain it, he just felt it.
By noon the next day they had broken camp and packed what they could carry. Jake took one last walk around his city, the tugging in his chest was so intense it hurt. His throat felt as if it would close shut. Turning to Bill he said. “Let’s get out of here before I change my mind and run off into the jungle.”
As they topped the edge of the ravine, Jake let everyone go ahead and stood there, looking down at the city. He knew, he would never see it again. It was only a feeling, but he’d learned to put trust those feelings, when his gut tightened as if someone had pulled a drawstring around the center. He felt a soft hand slip in his.
“Time to go Jake.” Her voice was soothing and sweet. Jake put his arms around her waist and she responded in kind. “Ya done good boy,” She whispered softly, echoing Bill’s words. “Ya done real good.”
Jake’s eyes stung and he pulled away from Lilly, he smiled. “Thanks Lilly, you always seem to be right with me when I need you the most. Did God send you down to watch over me? Are you my guardian Angel?”
She smiled with a peculiar twist to her lips, then kissed him gently on the lips. Something she’d never done before. “How did you know?” She winked, then looked in the direction of the expedition. “We better get going before they get too far.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Jake took her hand and they started down the trail after the rest of the group.