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Ark Page 4

by David Wood

  After a few more passes turned up nothing, he was on the verge of declaring the cave a myth when his light fell on an odd rock formation just beyond the area he had been searching. Behind an upright stone formation lay a dark, vertical gash in the wall. His heart pounding, he slid behind the rock and into the crevasse. The way was narrow and his shoulders almost touched the sides, but after a few feet, the fissure opened up again and he came to a sheer wall. He changed direction, followed his bubbles upward, until at last he broke the surface inside a pitch-black cavern.

  He had found it!

  Chapter 7

  Dima’s office was small but today it felt like a prison cell. Ever since she’d begun working on Robert’s mysterious document, she’d battled the overwhelming urge to go off on the sort of adventure she’d fantasized about since she was a child. If this document were the real thing, she might even do it. Leaning in closer to her computer monitor, she typed another term into the search engine.

  “My, you look intense. Let me guess, updating your dating profile again?” Addie leaned in to look over Dima’s shoulder. “Noah’s Ark? That’s not going to get you a guy. At least, not a hot guy.”

  “What are you talking about? Hot people can’t like ancient mysteries?”

  “Please, I’ve seen those shows. That guy with the alien theories? Where did he get that hairstyle?”

  “If you say so.” Dima kept her eyes locked on the screen.

  What are you working on, exactly?” The perky redhead was Dima’s assistant and the closest thing she had to a friend in Atlanta.

  “It’s sort of my hobby. Always has been.” That was imprecise. Her interest lay not only in the Noah tale, but in all the various flood myths and legends throughout history. She’d been fascinated with them since childhood when she watched a rerun of “In Search Of.” She’d only tuned in because Leonard Nimoy, aka Mr. Spock, was the host. By the time the show ended, she was hooked.

  “I thought they found the ark years ago.” Addie drew up a chair and sat down beside Dima. “You know, up on a mountain in Turkey? There’s a formation of a fossilized boat, or something. I don’t know. My knowledge of Noah is limited to Sunday School when I was a kid.”

  “You are thinking of the Durupinar Structure. It’s probably the best-known site associated with the Noah myth, but it really is just a rock formation that happens to be vaguely shaped like a boat. There’s another, similarly-shaped site on a mountain in the same region, but it’s not the ark either.”

  “Bummer.” Addie frowned, but her face brightened almost immediately. “That means it’s still out there, and you could be the one to find it!”

  Dima smiled. She had certainly entertained that fantasy enough times in her life. “Maybe.”

  “What did you mean by Noah ‘myth’? Why are you looking for it if you don’t think it’s real?”

  “A myth isn’t necessarily untrue. It’s what we call a traditional story, usually one about the early history of a people. Sometimes it explains a natural phenomenon, something about their culture, and it typically has a supernatural component.”

  Addie pursed her lips. “Okay, I think I remember something about that from high school English. So you think there really was a guy who built a boat during a big flood, but just without the God stuff?”

  “I don’t know what I think. I’m trying to have an open mind. I do believe there was some sort of event, and perhaps an individual, that inspired the flood stories, including that of Noah. Maybe it happened exactly like the Bible says, maybe not, but I believe there’s something there worth exploring.”

  “So what’s got you barking up the Noah tree today?”

  Dima hesitated, but Addie was trustworthy, and she wanted to tell someone about this.

  “Have you ever heard of the Book of Noah?”


  “It’s a lost book. We know it existed because there are references made to it in extra-biblical texts, and it’s even quoted in some of them.” Dima paused to see if Addie scoffed at this proclamation. When her friend did not, she continued.

  “Here,” she clicked on a tab to open a browser screen, “is a passage from the book of Enoch.” She gave her friend a moment to read the passage. “A friend of mine, a guy I used to work with, sent me a fragment from an old manuscript that contains this material, but it also contains a reference to three stones. Aside from not being mentioned in the Bible, there’s no reference to three stones in any of the known surviving bits of the Book of Noah. That tells me that the bit he sent to me pre-dates anything we have from that book.”

  “Maybe it’s from the original?” Mischief twinkled in Addie’s big, green eyes. “And then you’d be the most famous Noah researcher in the world. No more teaching history to spoiled college brats. Am I right?”

  Dima smiled. She couldn’t deny having entertained that fantasy once or twice since she’d made the connection to the Book of Noah, but what were the odds?

  “Why don’t you ask this friend of yours where he got the fragment? That would be a good place to start, wouldn’t it?”

  “I can’t get in touch with him. What’s more, the note he attached was…weird.” She made a face, knowing she sounded like a drama queen or conspiracy theorist.

  “I’ll work on it for you.” Addie took out her phone and opened the note-taking app. “Look for,” she whispered as she typed, “Noah Stones and Book of Noah.”

  “You don’t have to do that.” Dima couldn’t escape the uneasy feeling about the manuscript fragment, but what could the harm be if Addie did a bit of checking? People researched Noah all the time.

  “I’m your grad assistant. I’m assisting you with a project related to world history. Besides, if you find anything, you’ll publish, won’t you? That makes it connected to your job.”

  “I guess so, just…” Dima was about to tell Addie to be careful, but that seemed a touch too dramatic. “Just don’t feel like you have to make it a priority.”

  “No worries. There’s a cute guy in the religious studies department I’ve been wanting to meet. You’ve just given me an excuse.” Addie sprang out of her seat and bounded to the door, her red curls bouncing as she walked.

  “Of course I have,” Dima mumbled. She returned to her work, searching through websites dedicated to the Noah legend. The deeper she probed, the crazier the sites became. After thirty minutes of searching culminated with an essay explaining that Noah was an alien and the Great Flood was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis, she decided to take a break. “I have officially entered the sketchy part of the internet.” Staring at the screen as if it had given offense, she picked up her now-cold cup of coffee and took a sip.

  A sharp knock at the door startled her, eliciting a yelp and causing her to slosh coffee on her lap. “Oh my…” she growled. “Unbelievable.”

  “I’m so sorry,” came a deep voice with a pleasant Caribbean lilt. “I didn’t intend to startle you.”

  “Forget about it.” She grabbed a handful of tissues and dabbed at the wet spot on her thigh. At least her cup had been almost empty. “What can I do for you?” She turned and was surprised to see a tall man with a shaved head and umber skin standing in the doorway. He had an athletic build, friendly eyes, and an easy smile. Not bad. “If you’re looking for Addie, she just left.”

  “Are you Dima Zafrini?”

  Dima blinked twice and nodded. “Yes,” she finally managed, lurching to her feet and rubbing her legs as if smoothing a skirt. Did she always have to make an ass of herself around good-looking guys?

  “My name is Tyson.” The man closed the distance between them in two long strides and handed her a business card that read, Daniel Tyson, Purchasing Agent, Trident Antiquities, N’Djamena, Chad.

  “I’m Dima, but you already know that.” They shook hands. His grip was strong but not forceful. “How can I help?”

  “I’m trying to find someone, and I’m hoping you can assist me. It’s someone you know.”


  “Robert Crane. I understand the two of you were colleagues.”

  Suddenly, Tyson’s smile didn’t seem so pleasant. Dima managed to keep her own grin firmly in place as she replied.

  “Yes, but it’s been a few years. What do you want with him?”

  “I had negotiated on behalf of my company to buy something from him. He didn’t show up for our meeting and hasn’t returned my calls. I won’t deny that my primary concern is to conclude our business, but I am worried about him. He’s a good fellow.”

  “He is.” Thoughts exploded in Dima’s mind like fireworks. Robert wouldn’t sell antiquities. Would he? Maybe he was desperate for money? In any case, why would anyone come to her for information about Robert? And then it hit her. Tyson was after the document. Why hadn’t it occurred to her in the first place? She realized she’d been silent for far too long. Tyson continued to smile down at her. “Forgive me, but if you’re looking for Robert, why come to me? We’re friendly, but we aren’t exactly close.”

  “He mentioned you. You have a pretty name, so it stuck in my mind. If you don’t mind my saying, I think Robert might have a thing for you. His face lit up when he spoke of you. Said you were one of the best in the field of Middle Eastern history, and that you had an interest in ancient literature.”

  Well, that was interesting, since Robert was gay and the last time they’d spoken, he was planning to propose to his partner. Furthermore, Dima was hardly a leading expert in her field. Tyson was lying.

  “Ancient literature? So it was a book you were going to buy from him?”

  “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say. Confidentiality agreements and all that. You understand, of course.”

  “Certainly I do.” Her heart hammered in her chest. How hard would Tyson press her if he thought she had the Noah fragment? “Well, like I said, I haven’t heard from Robert in some time. I have your number.” She held up the business card he had provided. “I’ll call you if I hear anything.”

  “Are you sure you haven’t heard from Robert? Not even an email, text message, Christmas card?” Still smiling, Tyson took a step closer. “Think hard.”

  Now Dima was pissed. Bullying misogynists were one of the prime motivating factors behind her move to the States. She met his eyes with a hard stare. “I’m sure.”

  Footsteps padded in the hallway and Addie appeared in the doorway, followed by Wayne, a fellow grad student who often trailed along behind Addie like a lovesick puppy. Though he was a gentle soul, Wayne was a bodybuilder who looked like a young Mr. Clean. Dima was thankful for the backup.

  “No luck. The cute guy isn’t there today.” Addie froze when her eyes fell on Tyson. “Hello there. I’m Addie.” She swept over to Tyson’s side and offered her hand.

  “I’m Tyson. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He gave her hand a gentle shake, stepped back, and turned to Dima. “Thank you very much for your time, Miss Zafrini. I’ll be in touch.”

  Addie stared, a tiny smile playing across her lips, as Tyson strode from the room.

  “Where,” she said to Dima, “have you been hiding that? He’s tall but it would totally be worth the climb.”

  “It was just business. I don’t know the guy.”

  “Well you should get to know him. He gave you his number, didn’t he?” She pointed to the card Dima still clutched. “I’ll bet he did that for a reason.”

  “Trust me, that’s not the reason.” Dima turned to her desk, reached for the mouse, intending to shut down her computer, and froze. The browser window was still open to the wacky Noah’s Ark theory site. There was no way Tyson could have missed it. She felt a heavy lump form in her stomach. If he had suspected her before, now he knew for certain. What was to stop him following her home, or accosting her somewhere?

  Addie must have seen the look on her face. “Dima, what’s wrong?”

  “Nothing. I’ve just got a few things on my mind.” Dima cleared her internet search history and shut down the computer. She turned to see Addie still staring at her with a look of deep concern painted across her face. Wayne still leaned in the doorway, looking forlorn. Dima had an idea.

  “Let’s go out tonight.”

  Addie blinked. “What?”

  “You’re always telling me I work too much. Let’s go out, have a few drinks, act stupid.”

  “Seriously? Dima Zafrini is going out for a night on the town?”

  “Nothing wild, but yes. Somewhere I can get a beer and a burger. Wayne can come too!” Dima hated crowds, noise, and drunk people, but it was worth it just to see the way Wayne’s face brightened while Addie’s fell. “Wayne, do you still have that king cab pickup truck with the shotgun rack in the back?”

  Wayne nodded, apparently rendered mute by this turn of good fortune.

  “Great. You drive.” She glanced at her watch. It wasn’t close to quitting time, but she wanted out of here. “Let’s go early. Meet me around back. There’s something I need to do before we go.”

  Addie fixed her with a quizzical look but didn’t argue. “Okay, if you say so.” She turned to Wayne. “You heard the lady. Let’s go out on the town.”

  When the two had left, Dima opened her briefcase and removed the box that held the document Robert had sent her. She wanted to keep it with her, but she couldn’t shake her bad feeling about Tyson and, should she run across him or someone else who wanted it, a briefcase or pocketbook would be too obvious a hiding place.

  The document was still inside its protective envelope. Inventing wildly, she removed the document from its box, slipped it inside a padded envelope, sealed it, and tucked it in the waistband of her pants at the small of her back. Next, she removed everything she actually cared about from her briefcase and stuffed it all in a desk drawer along with the box.

  She pulled an old book off the shelf—a volume of Mark Twain short stories printed in the early 1900s, tore out a page at random, shredded the edges a bit, and put it inside a protective sheet. Finally, she placed the decoy page inside her briefcase and locked it. It wouldn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny, but it might fool someone at first glance should they try and rob her.

  “Dima,” she said to herself as she stepped out of her office and headed for the emergency stairwell at the back of the building, “I really hope you’re just being paranoid.”

  Chapter 8

  Bones kept a close eye on the calm, dark lake. He tracked Maddock's progress by the bubbles rising to the otherwise smooth surface of the water until, finally, the turbulence around the waterfall hid all signs of his partner.

  “Good luck, Maddock. And hurry in case Eddings shows up.”

  The roar of a vehicle speeding up the dirt road caught his ear. Was it the nosy ranger coming to check up on him? Bones turned his camera on and aimed it at the waterfall, trying to look like a sightseer. Since he’d already voiced his concern that Eddings might make in appearance, he had every confidence that Maddock would be cautious about his return to the surface. They didn’t need the hassle.

  The roar grew louder and Bones realized that, in fact, several vehicles were approaching. A keen sense of vulnerability pierced his heart and he suddenly wished he had not left his Glock in the car. Abandoning any pretense of casual sightseeing, he hurried back around the edge of the lake toward the place they had parked, but he had not gone more than twenty paces when a pickup barreled out of the woods. The truck shot out onto the grassy valley floor, fishtailed as it turned, and then headed straight for Bones.

  An open-top jeep, its driver looking stern and the fellow in the passenger seat hooting like a hog caller, and two more pickups followed behind. The lead truck skidded to a halt right in front of Bones. The driver gave a friendly wave before climbing out of the cab. The jeep pulled up alongside the truck. The young man on the passenger side was smiling and waving as well.

  Bones didn't relax one bit. Rednecks got on his nerves in the best of circumstances, and these circumstances were far from the best. He nodded politely to the firs
t man, a broad-shouldered fellow of early middle years, whose flannel-covered paunch hung down over what Bones just knew was a big silver belt buckle.

  The two in the jeep were ruddy-faced and flaxen-haired, clearly father and son. The driver’s face was lined and his temples dusted with white. Were it not for the added years, the two could have been brothers, even twins. The hunting rifles they suddenly leveled at Bones, however, were identical.

  “Hands behind your head, boy.” The paunchy man who had arrived first drew an old Colt long barrel and leveled it at Bones' head. “You got any weapons on you?”

  “No, but I’d sure love to shoot that revolver of yours.” Though his thoughts were racing a mile a minute, years of training and experience in tight situations allowed him to remain calm. “What model is that?”

  “U.S. Army 1903. But I don't let nobody shoot this 'cept me. Do I, Nathan?” The young man in the jeep shook his head. “Tell you what. We'll wait for the others to get here before I search you. You look like you might could give somebody a spot of trouble if you had a mind to.”

  “Yes he does, Carter.” The driver of the jeep spoke in a deep, rich voice befitting a politician or a morning radio host. “He does indeed.” Oddly, the man seemed to relish the thought.

  “Not me,” Bones said. “I’m a wuss. I take bubble baths and listen to Kenny what’s-his-name. That curly-haired dude.”

  “Kenny Roberts?” Nathan pursed his lips. “Naw, that Footloose guy. Kenny Loggins!” His face lit up like he'd just guessed the answer to Final Jeopardy.

  “He's a funny one,” Carter said. Far behind him, the two pickup trucks had boxed in Bones’ car, and their passengers had unloaded. There were four of them, all carrying rifles and looking decidedly inbred. Bones soon found himself surrounded by seven hillbillies, all of whom looked like they could handle their weapons. What was going on?

  “You gonna' search him, Carter?” Nathan could not keep a tremor of excitement from his voice. “Search him quick so we can get started.”


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