Today I am featured on Lorna Suzuki’s blog. She’s an amazing writer who has had her first book optioned to become a movie! You can read my interview with her here:
By Jaleta Clegg
Her ship crash landed on the feudal planet Dadilan, Captain Dace finds herself at the mercy of corrupt officials, former sabotaging crewmembers, and the Patrol. Not a good place to be. What’s worse is the local officials, some from off planet, are all part of the shara drug trade.
Dace spends much of her time trying to convince a Patrol officer, Tayvis, that she isn’t a smuggler. But it seems everyone is telling a different story, making it difficult for Dace to convince anyone of her innocence. Plus, she and Tayvis get separated many times by capture or battle, making it impossible for him to truly know what Dace is up to.
The author, Jaleta Clegg, knows how to write an old fashioned romp that makes you want to keep reading. Her style is fast and to the point and yet wonderfully descriptive. The world Clegg’s built is believable as are the many characters that live there. Roland, a monk Dace befriends, is a well developed character who you like immediately. And Tayvis…well you’ll just need to get to know Tayvis on your own.
“Nexus Point” is the first in the “The Fall of the Altairan Empire” series. You’ll want to get your hands on it before book two comes out as I predict they will be flying off the shelves.
After a lot of careful consideration, months of it really, I’ve decided against doing “tit for tat” book reviews. What do I mean by that? I mean I’ll no longer trade reviews with other writers. The idea goes like this: I’ll review your book if you review mine.
There are several reasons why I’ve decided upon this course of action. One of the most obvious is that you cannot trust reviews if the person doing the review is held hostage by his own book’s review. This has actually happened to me. A writer said he/she would review my book and afterward suggested I read his/hers. I said I’d be glad to do so only to find that this person would not release a review on my book, until I posted the review of their book, for fear that I might give them a low rating. Expecting a good review, and not receiving it, they might have given my book a lower rating than warranted. Perhaps they wished to give me a bad review, or even a less than stellar review, but were afraid of retribution from me. I’ve even heard of authors going back and lowering reviews they’ve given to others after receiving poor reviews of their own work—payback.
This same system of trading for reviews gives a bad impression of Indie authors. The notion that we may bolster each other’s reviews in order to get something for ourselves makes all our reviews suspect. It’s a messy business.
I don’t want to see this happen, as I know the majority of Indie authors are honest, hard-working writers. Many also review books regularly on their blogs, and for book review websites, and I’ve found these reviewers for the most part to be very honest individuals.
My good friend, Maria Savva, is the perfect example of this. She runs a forum with a couple of her friends, Darcia Helle and Stacy Juba, called, BestsellerBound.com—a wonderful place for Indie writers to discuss their trade. When I first joined, I thought it best to read a few of their books to see what I thought of them as writers. Maria Savva’s, A Time to Tell, is a wonderful read and so I posted a review of it, giving a well deserved five stars. Maria and I had never discussed reviewing each other’s work and so when she decided some months later to review my novel for BookPleasures.com I was elated. Here’s a link to the five star review she posted on Amazon.com.
Maria didn’t owe it to me to give it a high rating, she had no book review that I was holding hostage; she simply liked my writing. I wish I could say all reviews of my book were five stars, but I cannot. Reviewers should be honest and straight forward, without the fear of retribution from their fellow writers, because we all benefit from such transparency.
You might wonder what prompted me to write about this. I had just started reading the novel, Rock & Roll Homicide, by RJ McDonnell, a fellow Indie writer. I had gotten about a chapter in when I decided that I was really going to like this book. I don’t know if I’ll feel the same at the end. Will I love the plot? Do the characters work to the very end? If I make it to the end and thoroughly enjoy it as much as I hope to, I’d like to write a review to tell the world it is worth their time to have a read.
Yet, just before starting McDonnell’s book, I read the first few pages of another Indie author’s book and was surprised by the poor quality of writing. I am not a book reviewer by trade, and I don’t wish to be. So, I’ve no reason to continue to read this book, I’ve no review promised, I’ve no reason to hurt this person’s career or ego by giving them a low review (one star I presume at this point), and frankly I don’t want to suffer reading through it without reason. The only possible reason I might have had to read it would be if I had a book review held hostage by the author; I’m happy to say, I don’t.
I hope my friends in the Indie community understand this, it’s not meant as a reflection upon any individual writers, but rather on the seemingly unethical approach to reviews it may portray to our potential readers. It’s important in these changing times when the author has become his/her own publisher that the Indie community is viewed as above reproach. It’s equally important that the cream-of-the-crop can rise to the top because reviewers feel they can be completely candid. And so I will no longer write “tit for tat” reviews and I hope others will follow suit.
Someone once said that you should only read the best books in order to be a great writer, allowing only superb prose to affect your writing style. That, in my book, is a huge vote against “tit for tat” reviews.
Angie Cooper dragged herself out from beneath the warmth of her down comforter with great reluctance. The house felt cold, especially for Pennsylvania in June. Her rose print pajamas were twisted and bunched up around her waist and she left them that way, tripping her way across the clothing strewn floor headed to the bathroom down the hall.
The master bedroom and its en suite bathroom collected dust as Angie slept in the room where she spent much of her childhood and trudged her way to the hallway bathroom instead.
Brooding in the mirror she thought, Why am I such a loser? Her brows furrowed over her pale blue eyes. Four years out of Columbia and she was writing human interest fluff for the Pocono Record, the local newspaper. A double major in archaeology and anthropology flushed down the john, along with her dreams of a fulfilling career.
Her clear acrylic hairbrush made prisms dance on the wall, which she ignored like so many tiny rainbows vying for her attention. Instead she concentrated on untangling strands of her shoulder-length ginger-blonde hair that wove in and out like misery through her life. The blame for her failed career was clearly on her shoulders and she wanted to smash the mirror until glass slivers rained down into the sink.
“You’re an idiot, Angela Cooper,” she said, putting down her brush and staring deep into her own eyes. “Anasazi . . . damn it! You know better than that.”
The phone’s shrill ring distracted her from her depressing reverie. She listened for a few moments before dashing down the hall. It had been nearly two years and yet she still hesitated as if her mother might call out, “I’ll get it.”
Pushing aside the National Geographic with the Mayan ruins on the cover from her nightstand, she lifted the receiver of her pink, circa 1985, princess phone.
“Digger, is that you?”
“Thank God . . . thank God, holy shit—”
Tarek “Digger” Rashid, her best and perhaps only friend left in the world of archaeology. She hadn’t heard from him in at least a year, a very long time for him to be out of touch. They were students at Columbia on their first real dig when they met. They hit it off immediately. Digger’s quirky sense of humor kept Angie from becoming too overly serious, she helped him to buckle down and do some of his best work. From then on when Digger found work, so did Angie. They worked digs as a team and gained in reputation by doing so. That was until she screwed it up.
Angie sat down on the bed and uncurled the phone cord with her free hand. “Digger, what’s wrong?”
“Angie, listen to me,” Digger said, “I need you to come to Washington.”
“Yeah, I need you to come today. I have to talk to you, it’s urgent.”
After a year out of touch Angie wondered what could be so urgent that Digger would need her to fly to Washington without notice; something was definitely awry. “Digger, what’s going on?”
“Meet me at the CityZen, 6:00 . . . please be there Angie.” He hung up.
Angie made reservations at the Willard InterContinental, her favorite D.C. hotel. She packed enough clothes for a couple of days not sure what Digger had in mind. Fantasies of ceremonial clay pots and hidden chambers played in her mind’s eye, but she knew in her heart those days were over. Besides, Digger’s tone was upsetting and she wondered if he had made some sort of career ending mistake, not unlike herself. Still, her boots and khakis made their way into her suitcase, just in case.
The wall of wine, the heavy granite pillars reflected in the stone and wood floors, the cathedral-high ceilings, all added to the CityZen’s light and lively atmosphere. Angie slowly sipped her Apple Martini she ordered while waiting for Digger. She looked good, all five-feet-four-inches of her, dressed in a silky short black skirt—designed to show off her athletic shape—and a classic red v-neck sweater. She hadn’t worn two inch high heel sandals since college; they felt good dangling from her feet.
She almost sat at the bar, more to be seen than anything, but the stools just seemed a bit too high. So instead she sat at a table in the back that had a wonderful view of the place. A smile found its way to her lips for the first time in what seemed like years. That’s when she saw Digger moving quickly across the room, his usual neatly combed black hair tousled, his clothes and jacket in disarray, a Manila folder with its contents spilling out pressed tightly to his chest.
“Professor Rothschild’s dead.”
“There isn’t much time,” he said as he sat down across from her. “Just listen carefully.” He looked back over his shoulder as if he were expecting someone to be following him.
“You’re scaring me, Digger.” Angie whispered, seeing the tension in his jaw from his tightly clenched teeth.
“Just listen. Remember the kiva at Bandelier?” He continued without waiting for her to answer. “The spot in the wall where we found the hidey-hole? You need to go—”
Suddenly, a thin man wearing a dark blue Armani suit, a blue shirt with its collar unbuttoned, and expensive looking loafers, sat down beside Digger. Digger leaned back pulling the folder closer to his chest, desperation in his eyes. The man’s arms were crossed, his left hand within his jacket, the other holding the opposite elbow. He smiled at Angie, a broad smile that didn’t hide his arrogance. His tufted white hair and black eyes made him look like some sort of bird, a predatory bird.
“Tarek, who’s your lovely friend?” The man asked as his eyes moved up along Angie’s body.
“She has nothing to do with this.”
“Is that right?” he asked, staring at Angie, his right foot bouncing against his crossed leg.
“Do with what?” Angie asked indignantly. “Who the hell are you?”
He twisted his head toward Digger. “She’s got fire. I can see why you’d bring it to her.”
“Bring what to me—?”
Even in the boisterous CityZen Angie heard the faint “pfffaat” of the man’s silencer. It was a sound she was entirely unfamiliar with. She didn’t put it together until she realized Digger’s head had fallen back and to the side and the man was relieving him of his folder. Still, it took catching a glimpse of his pistol before real terror set in.
“So . . . what were you two chatting about?” he asked.
Angie trembled, words caught in her throat as she labored for breath.
He smiled his arrogant smile, baring his teeth at her. He lifted his hand, covered by the Manila folder, onto the table. Her heart pounded loudly in her ears. Her breathing became rapid, nearly out of control.
“I suppose it’s not important really,” he was saying, “I know as much as I need to.”
“Is he okay?” A waiter carrying a tray of drinks startled the gunman. He turned quickly to see who had spoken. Angie took it as a cue to make her escape. She stood, stumbling on a chair, knocking into the waiter, the drinks crashing down upon the table and the gunman. The waiter falling against the table caused the candle to ignite the alcohol. The gunman’s sleeve burst into flames. Angie ran for the door. People began screaming hysterically. An enormous mirror crashed to the ground as she passed; she didn’t hear the muffled shot over the din of the fleeing crowd.
Angie was out the door and into a cab before she could quite grasp what had happened. A throng of patrons erupted from the CityZen in panicked terror. She peered out the back window to glimpse the gunman emerging from the building, crushed by the frenzied wave of people, his predatory eyes following the cab as it sped down the street.
In honor of “Read an eBook Week” from now until March 31, 2011 get the Digger’s Bones eBook, available at Smashwords.com, for only $2.99. Use coupon code: TT55Q. That’s $4 bucks off the normal price of $6.99—so if you’ve been thinking of checking out the adventures of Angie Cooper, now’s the time!
His eyes, blue as the reflected sky, gleamed of the unknown. They fell away . . . down, down, down, seemingly forever. His hand reached out. Terror flamed in his eyes. His eyes!
A scream choked in her throat. She sat up, breathing heavily, her sheets soaking wet, her heart beating like a war drum, as she woke from her recurring nightmare. So many nights she woke to those eyes, her father’s eyes, staring at her through night’s darkness. She wept.
Angie’s father left her and her mom to fend for themselves when she was only a small child. It hadn’t been easy. Her mother had never quite gotten over the accident. Everything in her mom’s life had been planned to evoke a feeling of his still being there, still in their lives. Nothing in their home had changed over the years, not the furniture, not the artwork, everything still in its proper place.
Angie wasn’t that different. Her father was a well respected archaeologist, and Angie followed right in his footsteps. Deep down inside she felt like she owed it to him to continue his legacy. But her failure at Hoi Oidak put a halt to that. She had failed him, she was guilt ridden, and the nightmares grew in strength.
After a nightmare such as that, she wouldn’t easily get back to sleep. She rummaged around in her purse and pulled out an old weathered photograph. Happiness played in her parents’ eyes. The photo was taken at a dig in Jerusalem at the Tower of David; she standing with her hand on his shoulder, he seated, reaching up to lightly clasp her finger tips. They weren’t much older than Angie was now.
A distant memory flashed before her, her father smiling brightly, laughing loudly. She could still recall herself in the backyard, five years old, digging with her pail and shovel, her father, squatting down, asking, “What are you doing, honey?” She looked up from her work and answered, “Digging for bones.” She touched the photo, sighing.
Putting the photo away she got up and quietly made her way to Dr. Lausen’s living room. Reilly was fast asleep on the couch, a pool of drool on his pillow. Angie, against every fiber of her being, found it cute and looked at him affectionately.
A good book, she felt, might help her fall back to sleep, or at least keep her entertained. Picking up her Sue Grafton novel she had picked up at the airport, she opened to the third chapter. Realizing she was just too depressed to read she put it back on the end table. The memory of Digger was only a heartbeat away and pictures of him flooded back into her consciousness.
If he were here, he would know what to say to cheer her up.
But, like her father, he wasn’t here. And he would never be here again. He was only a memory, fading with every hour, a ghost in her awareness. She missed him deeply. The memory of the CityZen shot into her mind like a bullet from the killer’s gun. Gasping out loud, she pictured Digger’s head falling to the side. Tears poured from her and she muffled her sobs with her hands.
One bad memory leaped to another and she found herself back at Hoi Oidak, fingers pointing at her, friends turning their backs. She cried harder, this time for herself. Then she saw Digger in her mind’s eye cursing out reporters, telling off PhDs, and tearing into anyone that looked at Angie cross-eyed. She found herself smiling through the tears. He really was like family, her truest friend. And now he was gone and she had lost her touchstone to the past.
Then she remembered Reilly turning his back on her when she needed him most. She had given so much to him. She would have given up everything and moved down to Tennessee with him. She would have gladly worked as a waitress, forgoing her own career, if it meant they could have been together. She loved him and wanted nothing more than to make him happy—to be a family. And he turned his back on her. Anguish overwhelmed her and she kicked the sleeping Reilly hard.
“Ow! What the hell?” Reilly shouted, almost falling off the couch.
“Oh, sorry,” she said dryly, “I had a cramp.”
She got up and went off to the bathroom to take a shower before going for a morning jog. It was the only relief she could hope for from the onslaught of such dreadful memories. Running always helped to clear her head. There was just enough time for a quick run before they left for Israel.
Once showered and dressed, Angie made her way down Ferry Landing Road, headed for Old Mt. Vernon Road, on a short one mile run.
She ran track and field in high school and college and simply loved it. At Columbia, she ran the 400m but was nearly always dead last. Her teammates didn’t seem to care, they were just glad that she gave it her all. Besides, none of them were of Olympic caliber; they ran for the love of the sport.
Willows wept sadly upon the ground as she ran. Images of her college friends flipped through her head like photos in an album, stopping on Digger. She had to sit on a curb for awhile to hold back her tears. The harsh reality of losing her best friend tore at her and she realized she may never get over his death.
Digger was the one guy that had always been there for her, the one person that stood up for her in Hoi Oidak. A reporter for Scientific American asked him how his colleague could have made such a momentous mistake. Digger read him the riot act. He went too far, as anger pushed him beyond common sense. He said Dr. Lausen was a fool if he didn’t listen to Angie. That she was ten times the archaeologist of any of them, and other such outrageous claims. He soon lost face as Angie’s ship began to sink, drawing him down with her.
She claimed it was all her fault, of course, trying her best to protect the others caught in her wake. But Digger had said awful things about Lausen and soon found himself jobless. As luck would have it, Professor Rothschild had been looking for someone and had previously spoken with Digger about joining his team. Digger asked the professor how he felt about what happened between himself and Dr. Lausen, Rothschild answered with a typical “c’est la vie.”
Soon her thoughts strayed to another important person from her college days, Reilly. He was probably the reason she stuck with running in college. After all she had a busy academic schedule. But she got to run with Jack Reilly five days a week, so she made time. Now Reilly had come back into her life as suddenly as he had left it. It was true that she was the one that shut him out, but the emotions felt the same. He was back and he moved her in those same nearly forgotten, or at least denied, ways.
But she was angry with him. Even though three years had passed since the incident, she just couldn’t let it go. He had abandoned her. He could have stood up for her, but he wasn’t willing to take the risk. When the chips fell on Hoi Oidak, he threw his in with the others. He claimed Angie wasn’t cautious enough and that they had all told her to slow down. He had not. The others had, but not Reilly, at least not to her face. She remembered what he had said to her. “Ang, you know what you’re doing. Go for it.” She did, and it cost her everything.
Yet, it was her fault; there was no use in denying it. How could she blame him for wanting to protect his career? After all, she was the one who told the press the others didn’t agree with her findings—an obvious lie after Digger’s tirade with the reporter. So, Reilly had stuck with the story, keeping himself at arm’s length from her. So what? Could she really blame him? After all, it was her mistake, not his. She was the one that had let them down with her rush to publish. With her overwhelming need for recognition.
Idiot, she thought, mouthing the word. She got up and continued her run, noticing just how out of shape she had let herself become.
And now Jack Reilly was back and it felt as if he had never left, and when she looked into his eyes, all the days between simply washed away like a hard rain in a desert gully. She was back in Tennessee, talking with his mom while they cooked up some wonderful southern meal. Staring out into the backyard, watching the two men, Jack and his dad, smoking cigars and pretending like they didn’t know the woman were watching them. She missed those days more than ever. The life she knew she was meant to live. A life she was ready to live now.
But mostly she missed Reilly. The intense chemistry between them just couldn’t be denied. It burned deep within her.
As she rounded the final corner of her run, and Dr. Lausen’s house came back into view, she made her decision. She would forgive Jack Reilly. She would forgive herself. And she would convince Jack Reilly that he couldn’t live without her.
Maria Savva is no wanna-be-writer with a blog pointed wildly into the wind. She is a focused author and book reviewer who understands what it takes to write a novel. Years of pouring her own heart and soul into her work means she gets it.
I feel very fortunate to have been one of her first interviews on her new Goodreads.com blog. She asked insightful and poignant questions that got me thinking. I hope you will check out my interview with her and leave her comments as well.
Oh, and between now and March 31 you can get the Digger’s Bones eBook for only $2.99, that’s $4.00 off, with a coupon code at the end of the interview. But be sure to read the interview first, there’s going to be a quiz!
The wheels of Angie’s 727 touched down on the western most runway at Dulles International. She would take her find, left at the top of Bandelier, directly to Dr. Lausen. She didn’t miss driving the Capital Beltway from her days working in D.C.; it’s the worst traffic in Virginia. The Mt. Vernon Parkway is a far more picturesque, scenic drive. It meanders along the beautiful Potomac River, flowing with its natural curves. Angie made her way into one of the many sprawling neighborhoods of Mt. Vernon. She found the house she was looking for, a place she hadn’t laid eyes on in many years, and pulled into the driveway.
The house—and the hefty mortgage that came with it—belonged to Dr. Christopher Lausen, Professor of Mythology at Georgetown University, Angie’s former mentor during his tenure at Columbia as Professor of Archaeology, a multi-talented man with a diverse interest. Angie rang the bell; half hoping he wouldn’t be home after all that went down in Hoi Oidak.
The door opened, “Angie!” Dr. Lausen’s eyes brightened as he saw her standing on his front steps. He grabbed her, hugging her hard.
“I came directly here,” she said.
“Yes, yes, come in, come in.” He ushered her into the foyer. “Reilly’s already here.”
Angie froze in her tracks. She was overtaken with emotions. Emotions she successfully buried for the past two years.
It was him, Jack Reilly. He moved toward her with the same confidence and natural swagger that attracted her to him in the first place. Dark brown hair rested across golden brown eyes only to be flung back with an easy toss of his head. He hugged her, and she melted into his hug, a comfortable and familiar feeling. The days she spent in his arms came rushing back into her head like the bursting of a dam. Three years she wished had gone on forever. Three years that ended with her once promising career. Her mind flashed back to that awful day, the day of his betrayal. She pushed him away, but he held her at arm’s length.
“Let go of me,” she managed to whisper, not sure how much she meant it.
“I heard about Digger.” The tears welled up in his eyes and Angie let go as well. How could she still hate him after all this time? After what had happened to their friend, Digger? She remembered how close Reilly and he were, and she simply broke down and sobbed. He held her tightly, letting the emotions drain away as spring’s thaw in a mountain stream. She felt whole again.
Pushing him away a final time she rubbed her nose and sniffled, starting for the kitchen. “He left a flash drive.”
“Angie, you know Madison.” Dr. Lausen bent his head toward the mousy girl in the black jeans and t-shirt leaning against the kitchen counter.
“Madie!” Angie ran to her and hugged her like she was a long lost child. And, in some sense, she was. Madison Rothschild, eighteen year old daughter of one of Angie’s mentors, murdered by a white haired hired gun. They had known each other since Madison was a kid. The professor would bring her on digs hoping to peak her curiosity for his beloved profession. Angie filled the void of the sister Madison never had and the mother she never knew.
Angie pushed the bangs of Madison’s black hair that had fallen from her loose French twist out of her face. “I’m so sorry, Madie.”
Tears flooded Madison’s eyes until the levy broke and they rolled down her cheeks like tumultuous rivers. Her body shook and convulsed violently with every sob. “I still can’t believe it.”
Angie held her until the shaking ceased. Quieting her with gentle shushes.
Red, swollen eyes turned up to Angie. “I can’t believe he’s gone. What am I going to do?”
“I don’t know. But you know that I’m here for you. I promise, anything you need, Madie, I’m here for you.”
Madison pulled away from Angie. It had been several years since Angie last saw her; she was no longer a child and had become far more independent.
“You lost your father didn’t you?”
“Yeah.” Angie swallowed hard. “But it was a long time ago. I was only a kid.”
Between sobs Madison asked, “Do you miss him?”
Although it would seem the wrong thing to say to a grieving daughter, it had a positive effect. Madison wiped at her nose and dried her tears, smiling at Angie in a way that expressed their kinship. Reilly set up his laptop in Lausen’s dining room and Angie sat down beside him. Madison and Dr. Lausen peered in over their shoulders. After a few moments Reilly had the flash drive loaded onto the desktop.
“Looks like photos.” Digger was a bit of a photography nut, a self-proclaimed artist. Reilly double-clicked the first one and it opened into his photo viewer. It was a picture of Digger. He quickly clicked the next button only to be shown a photo of Professor Rothschild. He clicked again before it seared its way into Madison’s fragile psyche. A photo of a young woman none of them knew came next. He clicked again and again, the rest of the photos were a mix of odd subjects, a large cross within a church, a stained glass window, a sconce lamp on the side of a building, a white portico, an orange locker key, a car’s windshield, two hands shaking, several photos of a tomb.
The most interesting photos—somewhat grainy from low light, but still clear enough to make out—were of a rolling-stone tomb door and a skeleton in a sitting position. The stone looked large, maybe six feet from edge to edge, flat on the front and back like an enormous wheel. It was rolled to the side revealing the dark of the tomb beyond. The skeleton’s legs and arms were crossed as if in meditation.
“Weird,” mumbled Reilly. “It’s just an ordinary dig. No pottery. No real architectural interest. There’s nothing of significance that I can see, other than the rolling-stone door.”
“Even the door isn’t that unique,” added Dr. Lausen.
Reilly was right, it was an ordinary dig. A small cave with a slab or bed in the back, dug out from the side of the hill. A weathered stone rolled most of the way over the entrance. The photos seemed rather ordinary.
“There has to be something here,” Angie said. “We’re obviously missing something. Digger and the professor were killed for a reason.” She rubbed the side of her face where Tek had kicked her and looked anxiously at Madison.
“Wait,” said Madison, pointing at the stone door, “is that writing?”
Reilly zoomed into an area of the stone door at the entrance.
Dr. Lausen put his reading glasses on and leaned into the computer’s screen. “It’s an Aramaic inscription, Hebrew.”
“Can you read it?” Angie bit her lip as she waited for his reply.
“My Hebrew is a bit rusty but, I think it says ‘Judah’.”
“Judas,” Angie said, lifting her head off her hands excitedly.
“Yes, of course,” said Dr. Lausen. “The professor had a lifelong interest in looking for the burial tomb of Judas. I didn’t know he was actively pursuing it. But then again, I guess he always has been. At least as long as I’ve known . . . knew him.”
Angie pointed at the screen. “But, I thought Judas would have been buried in a mass grave? That is certainly a single tomb, maybe large enough for a family, but that’s about it.”
“Well,” Madison chimed in, “no one knows for sure, Angie. My father certainly didn’t believe in a mass grave. The Gospel according to Matthew says that Judas committed suicide and the thirty pieces of silver were used to buy a field as a burial site. But the Acts of the Apostles claim he bought the field himself and then he simply burst apart . . . I don’t know, something like that.”
Lausen studied her over his glasses. “Quite right, Madison. It would seem an unlikely ending of course, but perhaps more an exaggeration of the circumstances of his demise not of the location.”
Reilly, who hadn’t said much up to this point, added, “The Field of Blood.”
Angie looked fondly at Reilly. She thought back to when they first met, how impressed she was with his in-depth knowledge of seemingly archaic matter. He had a head for details that made him shine in her eyes. She realized she was starting to warm to him; not ready for that yet, she forced down a smile and turned away.
“Yes,” continued Dr. Lausen. “The Field of Blood, Akeldama, but there’s no tomb at Akeldama. So the question is: where were the photos taken?”
“And more importantly,” Reilly said, “where is the ossuary?”
Reilly hit the nail on the head, it was an important question. Where was the ossuary? Jerusalem was filled with tombs just like this one. But the deceased were buried in temporary graves, left until the flesh was gone from them. Then their bones were transferred to an ossuary. Made from wood or limestone they served the purpose of collecting the bones of the dead, mostly to make room for more. Whole families might share a tomb over generations, placing their loved ones bones into many ossuaries. Many believed the ritual of moving the bones to an ossuary was the only way to ensure the individual would be resurrected when the Messiah came to usher the righteous to heaven.
Angie looked down, deep in contemplation. “There’s no ossuary because no one intended to collect his bones!” The others looked at her bewildered. “Don’t you see? An ossuary is a container used to collect the bones of the dead to make room for more; that’s common knowledge. But many believed an ossuary was essential to being resurrected. And Judas wasn’t exactly on the path to heaven.”
“Very good, Angie,” said Dr. Lausen, he smiled proudly at his former student. “I think we can assume this is one forgotten soul. And therefore it is likely, at least it would seem so in the professor’s mind, that these were the bones of Judas. And this tomb, his final resting place. So, at least that puts us in Israel, most likely Jerusalem.”
Madison pulled at her face. “I can get all his old research on Judas, it’s at the house. I mean, if you want me to.”
Angie held her hand, “Do you need me to go with you?”
Madison pulled her hand back. “No, I’m fine. I can do it. I’ll bring it back in the morning.”
They flipped through the photos several more times, but found nothing new in them.
“Go back to that photo of Digger,” said Dr. Lausen. Reilly thumbed back through the files until he came to the first. Angie looked away suppressing her anguish.
“Just as I thought,” he said, “that’s Jerusalem.” The other three turned toward him questioningly. “It’s the David Citadel Hotel, there in the background. I’ve stayed there on occasion.”
Lausen pulled off his glasses and turned to Madison. “Madison, you have a passport, correct?”
Angie’s face brightened at the thought of adventure, traveling the world in an effort to uncover some long hidden treasure. They would go to Jerusalem, and they would find Digger’s bones. And maybe—just maybe—Angie would get her career back.
When the devil comes to collect my bones
Tell him the marrow has dried and blown to the winds
Tell him you saw my shadow up amongst the stars
Fleeting and quivering like a dying sun
Tell him you saw the oceans form from my tears
My blood flowing down mountain streams
Tell him you heard the wind call my name
Lonely and untamed
And when the sun comes to rise upon my grave
Tell him all the flowers have gone back to the earth
Tell him you saw my shadow up amongst the stars
Playing out one last fleeting memory of my supernova life
Tell him you were my friend and I let you down
And let my spirit live on in perpetual loneliness
Pale moonlight sliced through night’s cold darkness. The eerie rays, colored by the stained glass window—a dove as Holy Spirit surrounded by 12 rays representing the apostles—fell dimly upon the anterior of the Cathedra Petri, The Chair of St. Peter, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s masterpiece. The chair, or throne as many Christians see it, is encased in gilt bronze. St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, considered the fathers of the Latin Church, stand on the right of the chair. Fathers of the Greek church, St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom, stand to the left. The top of the chair, adorned with cherubim, cast grotesque shadows upon five cardinals meeting in secrecy below.
“Cardinal DiMarco, we have already let this go too far.” Cardinal Conti was the youngest, and therefore the least powerful, of the collected cardinals. He was also a sickly man, weighing no more than a hundred and forty pounds at almost six feet tall. He coughed far too much for a man of only forty five.
“How is it possible to go too far to protect St. Peter’s Church? Brother Elias has already found the tomb. He is but one step away from ensuring the future of the Sancta Sedes.” Cardinal DiMarco made no effort to hide his disdain. He did, however, hide the fact that he agreed.
He stood in the middle of the four cardinals, the subject of their ad hoc inquisition. It was up to him to convince the tribunal of four that Brother Elias’ actions were warranted. He had, after all, killed two priests in his quest for answers, murdering them in a most gruesome manner. Killing priests put the cardinals on edge; how far would this brother go to complete his mission?
Cardinal Moretti’s red robes rustled. He was an average sized man with an unremarkable face, the type whose nationality was hard to guess at. “Cardinal DiMarco, I believe what our good friend, Cardinal Conti, is saying is that,” he paused and looked over his shoulder before continuing in a whisper, “the taking of life is simply unacceptable. This brother has gone too far. He could bring us all down. Bring down the Holy See itself. There has to be another way to get the information we seek.”
Cardinal Moretti, only two years Cardinal DiMarco’s senior, had the ear of Cardinal Rossi. Rossi, at eighty nine years of age, had the final word in all such matters. Convincing him to ignore Moretti’s advice would be difficult at best. Cardinal DiMarco needed to collect his wits, to lay out a reasoned summation that was incontestable. After all, he had as much chance as any of them at the next Conclave to be elected the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. He took a few moments to breathe deeply and say a prayer before answering Conti’s argument.
“The Roman Catholic Church serves one purpose and one purpose alone. To ensure the children of God are brought into the fold and are directed down the path to His Kingdom. The job of the Holy See is to continue St. Peter’s mission on earth, a mission given to Peter by Jesus himself. A mission to ensure the path to Heaven remains open. Brother Elias’ job is to ensure that a barricade to the path cannot be erected. Yes, he needs direction. Yes, it could be argued, that less, shall we say, invasive techniques would be appropriate. But he must not be stopped. He must complete his mission or the church—no, dare I say all of Christianity—will fall. Even if we must risk our own admittance to the Kingdom of God, then so be it.” Cardinal DiMarco’s voice rang out upon the empty pews of the chapel.
Several moments passed without comment. Then, Cardinal Rossi wheeled his chair close to Cardinal DiMarco. His pale, liver-spotted head had only a few white hairs that sprouted seemingly randomly. He twisted an arthritic neck to the side so he could look up from his ever declining posture. His tortured face took on an even greater scowl. Then he spoke the deciding opinion.