A Delta flight comes in for a landing at Sea-Tac Airport which had record passenger growth in June. (Ellen M Banner/The Seattle Times)
The day Leon Spencer made bail, he followed the instructions of the lawyer who posted it for him and stopped off at his post office box. Sure enough, there was a cashier’s check for more money than he made in a year as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant. Those days were long gone and so, he thought, was his career until he read the email from Carson Everett. There wasn’t much that fazed him anymore, not after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but he could still be impressed.
“Fuckin’ eh.” The six-foot tall, African-American Marine turned merc, turned “security consultant,” stared at the check in his hand and the note that came with it, which repeated Everett’s instructions to take the first flight to Seatac.
He visited his crappy apartment for the last time to pack a few things, noticing the bales of useless papers, magazines, and other junk he’d be happy to part with. Leon took everything that still had worth to him (which wasn’t much), and beat it out to O’Hare, happy to give Chicago the middle finger.
Passover seder at the home of Rabbi Mayer Hirsch, San Francisco, circa 1920. (Courtesy of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life)
Klaus Buchner was running for his life. One minute, he was a guest at his friend Josef Steinbauer’s home expecting to experience his first Passover seder since he was a child. Now these insane fools were chasing him, screaming terrible insults in archaic German. Where did this damned desert come from? Why couldn’t he get a cell signal?
Martin Frederick had been hosting his family and close friends in his home for Good Friday, mourning the loss of their Lord Jesus Christ, his being betrayed by the damnable Jews some fifteen hundred and thirty-seven years prior, and now they were chasing one of them. He and his kind were no doubt responsible for the disappearances of six-year-old Hans Kruger and his sister Elsa, two years his junior. But this was nowhere near Magdeburg. There was no such terrain anywhere in Germany. How had they gotten here?
Both Klaus and Martin, men worlds and centuries apart, felt as if reality had abruptly changed from light to dark, from liquid to solid. How could they be here and who were the men Martin was following and who were pursuing Klaus?
Among Timbuktu’s places of study is the historic Sankore University – Photo Credit: DBImages, Alamy Stock Photo
Deidra Maher whored her way through France and Spain to earn passage across Morocco, Algeria, and finally to Mali. Since inheriting the cipher from her great-granduncle as his only living relative, she spent the next five years accomplishing what he had failed to do in twenty. Shon Knowles certainly had a keen mind but not a brilliant one, so the secret of the cipher eluded him. However, his great-grandniece was considered a prodigy, though an undisciplined one, yet it still took her half a decade to master the ancient code.
It was unusual for a woman to travel alone, even a European one, in Islamic nations, but she was now posing as a reporter covering the first Festival au Désert to be held in the region since 2013. Making her way through the horde of residents and tourists along Askia Mohamed Boulevard in Timbuktu, Deidra arrived at Hotel Colombe 2, a modest but adequate accommodation. She only planned to stay for a day, two at the most. For the present, comfort was her main interest.
The city had once been a hub of Islamic learning many centuries past, but eventually began to decline and finally collapsed under the heel of French rule. Yet, the cipher contained a map to what Knowles believed were long forgotten tunnels under Mosquée Sankoré. All she had to do was break in.
Young woman pointing a gun (Shutterstock)
“As far from the east from the west has He distanced your transgressions from you, she said. If your sins are frozen like the snows on Kilimanjaro, I will melt your heart like the wings of Icarus, she said. Ha! The best of times, the worst of times and brother, this is the worst of times.”
“Quit your bitching Milo and put your back into it.” The prison guard waved his shotgun vaguely in the young convict’s direction to emphasize the point.
He held up his pickaxe momentarily entertaining murderous thoughts, but even if he could bury the business end of it in that fat pig’s chest before he could react, the others would cut him down in a New York minute. Not worth it. Milo brought his tool down on hard, merciless rock, as hard as his stoney heart.
How had he ended up here? Oh yeah. Her.
Promotional image of the landing module of the USCSS Nostromo spacecraft from the 1979 film “Alien”
“We’re going to have to delay exploring the base of the escarpment until Reggie and Austin repair the lander’s main engines.” I don’t want us to encounter anything out there we can’t runaway from in a hurry if we have to.”
Captain John Weiss was addressing the other four crew members of the freighter “Joseph Conrad” in the galley.
“Well what the screw is taking them so long, John? They’ve been at it for over six hours and if we don’t recover the Company’s lost probe, we’ll never collect our cut of the reward.”
“Calm down, Linda. You know this kind of work takes time.” His first officer was intelligent and competent but impatient which is why even with her service record, she’d never made Captain.
“They’re probably snoozing down in the engineering bay.”
“Not likely, Santiago. I just got a progress report from Reggie fifteen minutes ago. They don’t want to be down there any longer than necessary.”
A representation of the constellation Gemini
“Who are you?” Kas hated that the first thought that popped into his head when he answered the door had to do with looking into a mirror.
“May I come in?” The man looked exactly like Kas except for the clothes which were a hell of a lot more expensive than he could possibly afford.
“What do you want?” Kas had just moved from Newport News, Virginia to Seattle a month ago for a new job and he knew almost no one except a few people at work. He expected to spend Christmas alone but now he had to face it with his doppelgänger.
“My name is Pol. I promise I mean you no harm. I’ll only stay a minute, but I have some presents for you. May I come in please?”
Kas looked down at Pol’s gloved hands and saw he was holding two small wrapped boxes each with a tiny red bow on top.