Home > Other > Ark > Page 8
Ark Page 8

by David Wood

  “Good point,” she admitted. “What do you need?”

  “Bones and I have made some new friends.”

  Avery sighed. “Of course you have. I thought you left the Myrmidons because you wanted a quieter life with your new fiancée. By the way, tell her no pink or yellow for the bridesmaids’ dresses. I look hideous in both.”

  “I’ll try and remember to tell her that. I’m actually avoiding the whole wedding topic. No hurry.”

  “Oh, Maddock. You’re a mess.” Avery rubbed her temples. What was it about her brother that every time they talked he managed to stress her out. “Tell you what, I’ll call Angel myself. We’ll get these wedding plans moving.”

  “Gee, thanks.” Maddock cleared his throat. “Anyway, these guys showed up out of the blue and they came after Bones’ grandfather.”

  Avery sat up a little straighter. “That’s terrible. Why would they do that?”

  “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you all about it when we both have more time. Anyway, we’re wondering if the Myrmidons have run across a group called the Trident.”

  “The Trident.” Her heart skipped a beat. She knew that name very well.

  “Yes. And I’ve got two names which might be connected: Tyson and Ahmed.”

  “Maddock, you’ve heard of both the Trident and Tyson. When Tam and I went to the Jefferson Memorial, Tyson is the guy who tried to trap us down there. He works for them. He said so.”

  “You’re right. I should have remembered. I’ve been distracted for a while now.” Maddock pause. “So, have you guys got anything on them?”

  “I’m not sure. Tam said she’d put out some feelers but it’s not a priority. We’re all about the Dominion, as you well know.”

  “Feel free to keep them off of our backs. I’ve had enough of those guys to last a lifetime.”

  Avery managed a small laugh. “Maddock, this sounds serious. You really ought to talk to Tam. If anybody knows about them, she does.”

  “I’ll think about it.”

  “She’s not one of the bad guys. You just don’t like dealing with someone who’s as stubborn as you are.”

  “I deal with you, don’t I?”

  “You’re such a jerk. But even if that’s true, you’re stuck with me. I’m your sister.”

  “Tam never does a favor without expecting something in return. I know that from experience.” She heard a muffled voice in the background. She couldn’t make out the words, but she recognized Bones’ voice. “All right,” Maddock finally said. “We’ll touch base with her when we know a little more about what’s going on. In the meantime, see what you can find out, okay?”

  Avery sighed. “All right, but promise me you’ll be careful.”

  “When have I not been careful?”

  “Not funny. I’ll talk to you soon.”

  The call ended and she sat staring at the phone. Sometimes she wondered if having a brother was worth the worry.

  Chapter 15

  “You do realize the guy is going to think we’re nuts, don’t you?” Bones asked as they entered the New Echota visitor center. Formerly the capital of the Cherokee nation and the place where the “Trail of Tears” officially began, New Echota was now an official historic site. Off the beaten path, it drew few visitors to its cluster of historic buildings, and today seemed to be no exception. Maddock had noticed only a handful of cars in the parking lot and no one was in sight on the grounds.

  A young woman with curly, red hair and blue eyes stood behind the counter. When she heard them enter, she looked up from the book she was reading and smiled brightly.

  “Welcome to New Echota! How can I help you?”

  Bones immediately strode to the counter, leaned against it, and smiled. “As a matter of fact,” he paused to glance at her name tag, “Teagan, I have a big problem that I know you can help me with.”

  Teagan adopted an appropriately concerned expression. “Really? What’s that?”

  “I’ve looked and I’ve looked, and I can’t seem to find your number anywhere.”

  She looked surprised, but then let out a small laugh. “You’re funny.”

  “It’s not funny; it’s tragic.”

  Teagan tilted her head and gazed up at him, lips pursed. “No offense, but how old are you? Aren’t you, like, thirty?”

  Bones’ jaw dropped and he stood there blinking, temporarily rendered speechless.

  Though he was tempted to let his friend twist in the wind, Maddock stepped in. “We have an appointment with Ben. Is he here?”

  “Sure. I’ll get him for you.” She disappeared down a narrow hallway at the end of the counter and returned a minute later, followed by a short, stocky man with blue eyes who introduced himself as Ben.

  “I assume you’re Bonebrake?” he said as he shook hands with Bones.


  “I’ve come across that name many times in my studies.” He turned to Maddock. “And that makes you Maddock. Come on back to my office.”

  He led them to a small room crowded with shelves crammed full of books, and boxes of papers and magazines. A bulky desktop computer and monitor sat atop a coffee-stained calendar on the small, metal desk. Ben took a pair of folding chairs from the corner behind the door and handed them to Maddock and Bones.

  “Make yourself as at home as you can in here. Sorry about the clutter. I’d make an excuse, but I’m an unrepentant slob.”

  “I would be too if the Navy hadn’t drilled it out of me,” Bones said, gingerly easing himself into the chair until he was certain it would support his weight.

  “Thanks for meeting with us on such short notice,” Maddock said.

  “I’m happy to. The lore of the Southeastern tribes is my specialty. I’m part Cherokee, you know.”

  Maddock took in the man’s fair skin, round face, and light-colored eyes, and managed to nod gravely.

  “But the Irish in me is winning, as you can see,” Ben added. “Sorry, just a little joke. My wife says it wasn’t funny the first thousand times I told it, but I’m hoping it will age like wine.”

  “Keep hoping,” Bones said, adding a wink.

  “Will do.” Ben sat down behind the desk, folded his hands, and adopted a businesslike manner. “You said you had some questions about an artifact?”

  “Correct,” Maddock said. He and Bones had debated about how much to tell the man beforehand. They wanted word to get out that they’d located the artifact, but they didn’t know what sort of resources the Trident had at their disposal, nor how quickly the organization could act. Consequently, they’d decided to meet with Ben first and try to get the jump on their enemies before spreading the word of their discovery. “Are you familiar with any legends about men who are able to control animals?”

  “That’s a pretty common theme, actually,” Ben said. “Well, not exactly controlling animals, but native lore is filled with stories of people who can talk with them.”

  “Not talking,” Bones said. “We’re looking specifically for stories about men who can control their behavior.” He glanced at Maddock. “Or legends about an object that gives a person that kind of control.”

  Ben’s eyes widened. “Funny you should ask. I know of exactly one such story. It’s not commonly known. I actually collected that story myself from an elder of the Chicora tribe during my grad school days.”

  “Chicora?” Bones asked. “I’m not familiar with that tribe.”

  “A small coastal tribe down in South Carolina. They’re considered Catawban. What remains of them are petitioning for recognition. They don’t have an official reservation, but I found a cluster of them living in a rural area not far from Myrtle Beach. Hold on a minute.” He rolled his chair into the corner, took a box from a bottom shelf, and began rummaging through it. “Believe it or not,” he said as he shuffled through old papers, “I have an organizational system. It just isn’t readily apparent to anyone but me. Ah, here it is.” He took out an old composition book, replaced the box, and rolled back to the
desk. “Let me find it.” He thumbed through the notebook. “Got it.”

  “The Chicora tell of a white man dressed all in white who swam to shore on the coast of South Carolina many years ago. He said he had come from across the sea along with others of his like, and their numbers were seven, seven, and seven.”

  “So, like seven hundred seventy-seven?” Bones asked. “Or twenty-one?”

  “I can’t say for certain, and the storyteller didn’t know either,” Ben said. “But, if we assume the story is based in fact, we can assume twenty-one men would be a better fit for an old sailing vessel.” He returned to his notes.

  “The man carried with him a stone which he said wielded great power and that its sister stones had been lost. To prove his claim, he raised the stone and called out to the creatures of the forest. One by one, two by two, and seven by seven they came and circled around. The bear and the rabbit, the cougar and the deer all sat calmly and waited to do his bidding. The man called again and birds settled on his shoulders, the eagle on one and the dove on the other.

  “When all had seen that he spoke the truth, the man dismissed the animals and made a gift of the stone to the chief in exchange for his life. From then on, the tribe was always blessed with good hunting.

  “The chief sought to carve it into a pleasing shape but found it to be the hardest stone he had ever encountered. Every night he worked at it, but managed only to make etchings upon its surface.”

  “What sort of etchings?” Bones asked.

  Ben shrugged. “No one knows.”

  Maddock and Bones exchanged a quick glance. They thought they knew what the etchings were.

  Ben returned to his notes.

  “When the chief died, his sons contended for possession of the stone. The eldest son wished to use it as a weapon of war. He vowed to command the fierce creatures of the forest to do his bidding, and would thus destroy his enemies. The second son sought to control the people through use of the stone.”

  “You can control people with it?” Bones interrupted.

  Ben shook his head. “He figured with the stone he could drive away all the game or call it to him. Controlling a large portion of the food supply is an effective way to control a population.” He glanced back down at his notebook.

  “To save her people from the inevitable conflict, the chief’s daughter stole the stone and made away with it. From that day, the tribe has prayed for its return.” Ben closed the notebook. “Not exactly poetic language but that’s pretty much the size of it.”

  “Are there any other legends about the stone?” Maddock asked.

  “A few, but this,” he tapped the notebook, “is what I believe to be the source of all those stories. I spent a lot of time tracing it back. All the elders I spoke with told the same tale in the same way. The elder with whom I spoke insisted that the tribe still possesses some of the white man’s belongings. He wouldn’t show them to me so who knows?”

  “The story mentions sister stones,” Maddock said. “Any idea about them? What they were, what they could do?”

  Ben shook his head. “No clue, sorry.”

  “No problem. We’d love to talk with the elder if he’d be willing to meet with us. Could we trouble you to give us his name?” Maddock asked.

  “Sure thing. It’s Archer. I don’t know if that’s a first name or a last name, and as far as I know, he’s never shot a bow and arrow. He did, however, give me permission to share his information. He’s the oldest of the bunch and highly respected in his community. He knows his stuff.” Ben consulted his address book and then jotted down a name and address on a legal pad, tore off the sheet, and handed it to Maddock.

  Maddock thanked him, pocketed the paper, and rose to leave.

  “You know, it’s weird,” Ben said. “I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me about the legend of the stone and then I hear from two people in the same day.”

  Maddock froze. Had the Trident gotten ahead of them? “Really? Who else is interested? Maybe it’s someone we know.” He hoped he sounded casual.

  “A professor from Atlanta. Dima Zafrini is her name. I only spoke to her on the phone but she sounded hot.” Ben flashed a lopsided grin at Bones who returned the smile.

  “Maybe we’ll cross paths with her,” Bones said. “Always happy to make a hot new friend.”

  “May I ask why you’re interested in the legend? It’s not a well-known story.”

  Maddock tensed. He and Bones made a practice of keeping their secrets close, but they needed to get the Trident away from Bones’ family, and maybe Ben could unwittingly help them do that.

  “I know it’s hard to believe, but we think we found the stone in question.”

  “You’re kidding.” Ben gaped at him.

  “I’m serious. We don’t know much about it, which is why we wanted to speak with an expert such as yourself. It’s an interesting find, but has potential to be a controversial one, as I’m sure you can imagine. We don’t want to publish until we know more about it.”

  “Can I see it?” Hunger burned in Ben’s eyes.

  “I’m afraid we don’t have it with us. We’re keeping it somewhere safe for now.” Actually, somewhere safe was a pocket inside Bones’ leather jacket, but no one needed to know that. “We will definitely give you a call when we’re ready to publish our findings. You’ve been very helpful.” He extended his hand to shake.

  “Wait a minute.” Then sprang to his feet. “How did you find it? Where? What makes you think it’s the stone?”

  Maddock glanced at his watch and made a face. “I’m afraid that’s a much longer story than we have time for. We’re going to be traveling but we really want to follow up with this contact you gave us before then.”

  “How about we buy you a beer and tell you the story once we get back into the country?” Bones asked.

  “Of course,” Ben said. “It’s probably overly dramatic to call the stone my life’s work, but it certainly a passion. I’d like to be involved in any way I can.”

  He had taken the bait. Now it was up to Maddock to set the hook. “There is actually something you can do to help. We’re going to be working on a different project for a few weeks but we’d like for someone to lay the groundwork for a documentary were going to film about the stone. If you could put out feelers for people who have any knowledge about the stone or similar legends that would be great.”

  Ben nodded eagerly. “I’ll hit a couple of the message boards that I frequent and also touch base with some of my colleagues. Is it okay if I tell them someone has found the stone?”

  Maddock and Bones pretended to consider this. “I think so,” Maddock finally said. “Well, we really do have to be going but we really appreciate your help. Will be in touch soon.”

  “By the way, I forgot to tell you what the Chicora tribe calls the stone,” Ben said. “It’s a goofy name but you’ll want to use it or else Archer will think you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  “Great. What’s the name?” Maddock asked.

  “They call it the Noah Stone.”

  Chapter 16

  The CRV bounced and jostled along the rutted dirt road. Dima’s GPS had lost its signal about a mile back. As far as she knew, she was on the right road. Archer’s house should be somewhere close by.

  Her cell phone vibrated, making her jump. “Sure. Now you get a signal.” She glanced at the caller ID. It was Addie.

  “Hey, what’s up?”

  “What’s up?” Addie scolded. “Seriously? You leave me a message telling me I have to take over all your classes for the rest of the semester and you want to know what’s up?”

  “The semester’s over in two weeks, Addie. I’ve already made up the exams. You can handle it.”

  Addie let out an exasperated sigh. “That’s not what I’m trying to say. I’m worried about you, you idiot. You’ve never taken a day off of work, and now you take an indefinite leave? What’s going on?”

  Dima bit her lip. She wanted to explain to A
ddie, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Suddenly this trip to meet Archer felt foolish in the extreme. She was freaked out, to be sure, but the stronger motivating factor was her desire to follow the clue Robert had sent her. Her fascination with Noah and the flood myths had taken hold, and this legend of a Noah Stone seemed the best way to start, at least until Robert showed up again. If he showed up again.

  “I’m okay, I just need some time to myself,” she lied. “It’s a long story and I promise I’ll tell you as soon as I can, but it’s not a phone conversation.”

  The silence on the other end of the line lasted so long that she thought the call had dropped.

  “Addie, are you there?”

  “I’m here. I just wish you’d tell me what’s wrong.”

  “Don’t worry about me. I promise I’ll be okay. I just need a long-overdue vacation. When I’m back in the swing of things we’ll have another night out and I’ll tell you all about it.”

  Up ahead, the drive opened up into a clearing. A tiny, well-kept house stood on the other side. This must be the place.

  “All right,” Addie said. “Stay safe and keep in touch.”

  “I will.” She was about to end the call when a sudden thought occurred to her. “Say, do you remember that Tyson guy that stopped by the office?”

  “Tall, dark, and handsome? Of course I do.”

  “That’s him. Listen. If he shows up again, be wary of him.”

  “Really? Why?”

  “I can’t explain. Just trust me.”

  Addie didn’t like it but she agreed with just a hint of reluctance. Dima pocketed her phone, pulled up close to the house, and stopped. She took a deep breath. Archer wasn’t expecting her, and she wondered if he’d consider her sudden appearance an intrusion. It suddenly occurred to her that the man might not even be home. If not, she’d just have to wait for him. She had to see this thing through.

  She cut the engine and stepped out into the humid South Carolina day. It wasn’t as bad as Atlanta, but still the damp air felt like a steam room after the blast of her car’s air conditioning. The scent of pine hung heavy in the air and it made her nose itch. Just her luck to discover she had a pine allergy only after moving to the Southeast.


‹ Prev