Crystal skulls and their famed mystical properties attract all sort of crowds. Will they get their hands on them?
So the Story goes...
Jose Maria stood sadly in front of the plate glass window. He avoided looking in mirrors, tried to forget his disfiguring scars, but occasionally he caught sight of his reflection in a window, and it always came as a shock. He avoided leaving the finca as much as possible, but had felt obliged to visit his frail and aged mother in the Residencia old folks home. His uncle Juan had come trundling up the dirt track to the farm in his clapped out old Citroen van, with the news that Josefina was expected to die within the week, and Jose Maria had agreed to make the trip into town.
A pointless trip really, Josefina hadn’t recognized him, had called him Sally at first, and tried to kiss him; and then later she’d shrunk from him in fear, calling him Pierre.
Three days later Josefina was dead. Jose was required to make another trip into town, much to his dismay, to the funeral. He stood quietly at the back during the ceremony, next to his cousin Paquita, who was attempting to hide a bad case of acne behind her long black hair. Jose Maria smiled at her kindly, and she smiled gratefully back.
Paquita and Jose stayed close to each other for the rest of the day, and Paquita’s family invited Jose to spend the night at their apartment in town. Jose hesitated, but when he noticed Paqui’s hopeful expression, he relented and accepted courteously.
Long after the rest of the family had gone to bed, Jose and Paqui sat on the balcony overlooking the industrial estate and the superstores, in companiable silence. Jose’s scars, and Paquita’s acne no longer visible in the darkness, they had both relaxed, and wondered vaguely why they’d never really noticed each other before.
What do you mean? asked Jose.
Well, Josefina won the lottery, and you’re her only child, Jose, it will all be yours.
Jose’s mouth opened and closed like a goldfish. Lottery? Oh you must be mistaken, my mother doesn’t have any money. WHAT lottery win?
Juan was getting more and more annoyed at his daughter’s boyfriend. A good for nothing who was lazy as a pig.
Paqui was caring for him, and always finding him excuses. Meanwhile, all that Claudio was able to do was to sit in front of the TV and watch the sports channel.
More than once, Juan had been close to burst into a fury and throw the parasite out of the house, but Paquita was so enamored with him that he did nothing out of compassion for his daughter.
If only she could see her own beauty, she wouldn’t stick with such a bum.
Her acne had started at her puberty, and it was like she used it to hide herself… Many, and crazy Josefina too, God bless her poor wretched soul, thought it was such a good thing that she had found someone to love her despite her face full of pimples, but that was all rubbish.
The pig was out of town to run in a rallye, and that was providing some respite for them all. God knows where he got the money for these expensive entertainments, petty trafficking, most likely… At least, that had left Paqui some clearance to reacquaint herself with her family and with her cousin Joselito, without being shut up at every turn of the conversation by Claudio…
Jose Maria couldn’t sit still. It seemed as if more had been happening in the past few weeks than had happened in the whole of his 49 years. His mother dying and unexpectedly leaving him 123,000 euros would have made little difference to him had he not re~aquainted himself with Paquita. She was the real treasure; if he had had to choose between the money or her, he knew he would have chosen her. Thankfully he had both, and now they could both go to Tikfijikoo together. If the treatments worked, all well and good; if not, they had each other, and they would return to a quiet life on the old family farm in the Andalucian mountains.
Beattie and Leonora ordered another two gin and tonics. The longer they had to wait for Bartolo, the less they minded waiting; the generous measures of gin and the friendly banter with the locals in the venta was warmly pleasant and convivial. Bartolo was the ‘runner’, the man who knew about houses for sale, or available to rent in the valley, and he was several hours late.
Jose Maria had been eavesdropping on the conversation, and suddenly had an idea.
What? Oh THAT. No, are you kidding? Only a stranger would agree to live in my finca, Paqui, you know that! Everyone local knows about the… you know…
What if they find it?
They won’t find it, Jose hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. There had been weird goings on at the finca for years; much more so lately: it was increasing. Ever since he’d found that hole in the side of the large pyramid shaped hill, there had been ghostly goings on, odd sounds, peculiar smells, flashes of coloured lights, all manner of strange and disconcerting events.
Jose Maria was glad he was leaving. He’d miss the goats, but well, he could hardly take them with him. The goats would be ok without him.
He couldn’t venture to say the same about the two English dears though. Time would tell.
I know! And right next to the entrance too, cool creating, Bea!
They clinked their glasses together in celebration.
I can’t believe we created DSL Internet cover as well! Heheheh… Too f’kin’ cool, Beattie!
And a lemon tree right outside on the patio, how perfect is that! Let’s have another G&T, eh?
WHOA! woohoo, did you see the lights flash?
Valparaíso, Chile, November 1997
Cillian Mc Gaughran was finding that dying was longer than he expected. Since Fidelma’s death, twenty years from now, he would have vouched pain would get him on the other side quickly. But it was as if every object his wife had touched was letting him know of her presence. Perhaps they were holding him here…
He couldn’t wait to be reunited with his dear wife. Sixty six year-old wasn’t old enough to die for many people, but it was enough for him. The world was changing too fast. He decided he had to let go of all these objects. By and by, he had released every one of them… But one.
Of all of them, this one was very dear to him. An old family artifact that was handed down in the family for as long as he could remember. It was said to have been the property of a famous dancer during the Gold rush period and was rumoured to bring good luck… Lord knows how it came into the family…
It was dear to him because he had given it to Fidelma when she was having her chemotherapy, battling the blood cancer she had been diagnosed with. It looked wonderful on her delicate features. The wig had not aged since all these years.
It would surely finish him off to release that last object.
Cillian had heard some exuberant stories of a new company named eBargey where things were auctioned on the Internet. New technology he was finding a bit hard to follow the progress though he was not ignorant of it due to his years spent as a high rank officer in the US Army.
That could be a great way to release the wig. Auction it off, and see how high and how far away it could sell… Perhaps it would find a perfect match.
Chris Bronkelhampton had always loved to cross-dress since he was a child. He was a fine collector of wigs and had many lined up in his secret closet.
He had just managed to do a risqué plastic surgery operation on a kingpin that would grant him all he had ever dreamt of. He leaned comfortably on his chair, rubbing his hands gleefully.
Something on the computer screen caught his eye. On the newly auctioned items there was something that he wouldn’t have dreamt of acquiring in his wildest dreams.
That last business trip in British Honduras had proven fruitful to Aldous. It had almost made him forget about the blue bull of the Disperso family.
Because Aldous was a collector. No one truly understood what were his motivations, but he was driven by the highest ideals. Some treasures weren’t deserved by the profane, he was thinking as he was munching on a tender juicy turkey leg.
He belched with profound depth.
Yes, he was doing everything with utmost depth and dedication.
Take that blue bull for instance… A gift from Indian officials he had managed to have them bring here. Its real place was in a zoo, with a small fee at the entrance of course, but most importantly some information on how it was acquired and by whom. Definitely not in the farm of some hillbillies just because they have happened to win that stupid rodeo contest.
In any case, he would put that right again in due time.
Let’s think of more pleasant things. Like these mahogany traders who had came into contact with remote Mayan tribes. Mahogany was nice, but Mayan treasure were even more interesting.
What are we going to do with them, Bea?
Hmmm? Beattie looked up from the computer. Oh, the bloody skulls. Well, not on the mantelpiece that’s for sure! We’ll have to hide them again. How about in the old bread oven outside?
Claudio rubbed the grimy dagger on his shirt tail. There was a row of jewels along the hilt, ruby, emerald, sapphire, amethyst…
SOLD! To the lady in salmon! shouted the auctioneer as the bidding for another crystal skull reached an unprecedented sum.
Claudio was rich beyond his wildest dreams.
Home, at last… Bernie Eleonara Mynd, Viscountess of Shropshire sighed, dropping her hairy salmon coloured hermine fur coat to the butler.
— Now, leave me alone Vigor, I don’t want to be disturbed.
— Madam, Vigor bowed deferentially
A smoking teapot of fine herb tea was prepared on the glass coffee table just near a black silk pouch. With a greedy look on her face, she untied voraciously the pouch to reveal the crystal skull she had just acquired.
After a few seconds of beholding the priceless possession, she lifted the teapot lid with a stiff face which eventually smiled blissfully at the smell of the fine Earl Fuchsia crop which was infusing.
Good Lord, that trip was exhausting!… she growled in a very deep voiced that suddenly sounded more male than before.
Didn’t know I had to go as far as Spain to get that darn skull!
Bernie suddenly ripped her fine chignon from her head, revealing a bald head with a few short black hair on the top. She spitted her false teeth, peeled off some wrinkled patches of latex skin, smeared the mascara around her globular eyes and scratched her crotch…
A ruffled sound and a “mmm mmm” suddenly caught her attention off the itchy body parts.
She went to the cupboard, drew a key dangling from a necklace deeply buried inside her ample bosom, then stopped for a moment, and muttered a “bugger” before unbuttoning her tight blouse and removing the corset that was constraining her breath.
Smiling wickedly, she proceeded to open the cupboard, but recoiled at a pale tied and muzzled figure who looked much similar to whoever she was impersonating.
Oh, Lordy, what a stench! There’s no point in making such a fuss Viscountess, this will soon be over… I just needed a few things, and will soon be off, tonight to be precise…
The pale figure whined with pleading eyes.
Oh, just don’t make these eyes at me…
Bugger! I can’t bother with her now, she said to herself, closing the cupboard’s door oblivious to the plaintiff whines. Now, got to move on real quick, before they realize something was wrong with the transaction.
Juan had insisted that they all spent Christmas together before Paqui and Joselito went for their trip. He felt that there was more to this trip that he could grasp, and wanted to share these precious moments now, not wanting to live on regrets.
Now, the new year was here, and he was alone. At least, he’d been more than glad to see Claudio move out. It had all been a lot easier than he’d thought at first. Obviously, when Paquita had said to that maggot that she was going to accompany Joselito to his trip on the whachaname-Kikkoo Island, Claudio had been outraged, probably thinking a good playing victim act would soon make things right for him.
But he’d been wrong altogether. It was not about love for him or the other. It was all about freedom and being what she wanted. And emotional blackmail very quickly proved besides the point.
His father had been proud at Paquita. Her decision obviously was made, and it had been the first time he had seen the frail girl unwavering at the arguments.
The situation had soon proved unbearable for Claudio, who had no longer any reason for hanging around Juan and Paqui’s house, and one day he’d moved out, rather discreetly, not to be heard again. Somehow, Juan was aware of the town’s gossips, that he had acquired some unexpected sum of money, not sure if all very legally, but the thing was that he had decided to take his chances by going some said to Nicaragua, others to Brazil or even to the US…
But who really cared?
On his plane for Valparaiso, Claudio was looking at the letter he’d found in the family trunk. It was a brief correspondence between his grand-father and a certain Cillian Mc Gaughran, and it was linked to the skull he had sold such a handsome price. Perhaps he could get more information about them, if the recluse old man was still alive, that is…
Before leaving the castle, the fake Viscountess needed to check something on the skull…
Was it a genuine one? She had almost trusted the so-called experts of the auction room, while she knew perfectly well that they only could see what they knew. And they didn’t know as much as her.
To her knowledge, there was only a handful of genuine old crystal skulls. But counterfeits were legions and a plague for such a skillful cat burglar as she was. Well, cat-burglar,… perhaps not as acrobatically as she used to… As a matter of fact, her life-long search for these skulls had suffered the competition of a little embonpoint… — the good thing being that those few sticky superfluous pounds had been perfect to impersonate the Viscountess.
In the past, she had come across a few of these fake skulls and most of them bore very similar indications leaving her to think stakes were high that they were coming from the same con-artist.
She methodically drew a little dagger from a scabbard at her belt. Going to one of the window, she drew one of the curtains a few inches to reveal the pale sun of Shropshire which was already fading.
Then, she turned the jeweled hilt in such a special manner that a soft clicking sound was heard, and a beam of light started to converge from the sun rays into the dagger. She directed the ray coming from the tip of the dagger’s blade into the bottom of the skull, and hold her breath in expectation.
Soon the skull started to glow a bluish light, and light poured out of the skull onto the walls in dancing symbols, while a soft buzzing sound was being heard around, started to drown her in a slightly dissociated state.
She cut the dagger’s beam very quickly, her heart pounding at the validation. It was a genuine skull. One of the six.
She had to hurry, she needed to proceed on her investigations to find the missing ones.
The trunk was there. She took another key that she had around her neck, leaving the first one on the cupboard’s lock for the Viscountess to be freed as soon as she would be out.
With the key, she proceeded to open the high-tech lock of the armored trunk which opened with a blow of air.
Her jumpsuit was here, along with the two turbo-reactor powered condor-wings that she strapped on her jumpsuit in very professional movements.
A few moments later, with her big dark sunglasses that gave her the appearance of an obese fly, Carla was flying high over the countryside of England, enjoying the soft gliding on the slightly damp air.
Hmmm? Leonora wasn’t really listening, she was engrossed in the Yurara Fameliki website.
With a sigh, Leonora turned to face Bea and said, I’ll never bloody catch up with that Yurara story now. Three weeks with no internet, as fast as I’m reading a chapter, another three have started, it’s doing my f’kin’ ‘ead in.
Well I don’t know what your problem is all of a sudden, Leo, since when did you ever read anything in the right order?
Oh, bloody good point, eh, Leonora felt instantly cheered. I forgot that, it’s true. Matter of fact, she chuckled, I just got lost roaming around all the first chapters, Heh…..wasn’t even trying to get the latest lot straight.
What did you say it was called? asked Bea.
What was what called?
The website you were just going on about. Bea rolled her eyes.
Oh! heh….Yurara Fameliki; why?
There was an article in the Reality Times about them yesterday. Some batty old woman left them a fortune, apparently. Circle of Eights or something….
Circle of Eights? Leo had an image of interlocking circles that felt strangely familiar, meaningful somehow…
Yeah, this old lady was 88 when she died, and she was reading the 888th entry when she saw the ‘Buy A Drink’ link…she lived at 88, Faraway Close, too, Nottingham…..
How much dosh did she leave them?
F’kin’ ‘ell….ooof! It could be that easy, eh. I want a ‘Buy A Drink’ link, too.
Well, a website would be a start, eh. Where you going to stick your ‘Buy A Drink’ link, on yer arse?
She was beginning to catch a few sparkly glimmerings of an idea.
Paquita and Jose Maria had boarded an hour ago, and the plane had just taken off Heathrow airport where they had their connecting flight to Sydney (with a stopover at Tokyo) where they would finally take a tourist plane for the main Pacific island of the Tikfijikoo Archipelago.
There had been some fuss about a lady who was called to the gate. No wonder she got lost, Jose was thinking, with that strange numbering of gates… Any sane person would lost his or her bearings…
By a strange coincidence, the lady was seated on their row, and Jose Maria and Paquita had exchanged a surprised look when they had heard the name. At first they had thought that the “Ms Mavis Staples” the air-hostess was calling every minute was the same singer they were very fond of…
She had finally arrived, a plump sweating embarrassed woman, apologising at every steward, and looking at her sandals in a sheepish look… As soon as she had taken her seat, she’d said “excuse me” to the couple, apologising again that it was her first time in a plane and that she would likely be sleeping through the trip. A few seconds afterwards, she’d been putting on her eyes a huge yellow hand-knitted blindfold drawn from the depths of her behemothic wicker handbag with pink cats and roses decorations, and in a matter of minutes had been snoring loudly.
— Oh look! whispered Paqui
— What? mumbled Jose who was starting to doze off
— A brochure of Tikfijikoo… Here, in her handbag…
— Oh dear… I guess we’ll be traveling together for another bunch of hours… sighed Jose
— There you are! said the man to the dark figure who had just landed on the wrought iron railed balcony I believe your trip was good!
— Absolutely, Sir. Everything went as you said.
— Good, very good.
The Baron was a tall man with an impressive build and a broad chest due to his lifelong passion for boxing. With his grey waxed moustache on his round rubicund face, he was giving the impression of a perfectly refined gentleman, but his disarrayed hair and his blue twinkling eyes behind his monocle were contrasting sharply and suggesting either a genius or a madman.
While Carla was getting rid of the cumbersome fly-like apparatus, the Baron was taking deep puffs on his pipe, releasing pink-coloured clouds smelling of vanilla.
The interior of the manor was of grisly aspect, but for all matter and purposes, the Baron seemed completely oblivious, as he was savouring his smoking on the stained worn bottle-green velvet sofa.
In actuality, the manor looked like a total ruin, and that, combined with the habit of speaking his mind which had gained him a reputation of heinous callous grizzly in society, had slowly severed him from all exterior contact.
The Crazy Baron, as the people of the nearby village had called him, was indeed very glad of this state of fact, which allowed him a complete privacy. As he liked to say to a few trusted people, being mad was the surest way of being left alone. Providing him what money, threats and coercion wouldn’t surely have given as surely. It was not completely safe either of incursion, but these, mainly due to a few young and curious daredevils from the village, could be easily thwarted thanks to the motion-sensors that were dispersed along the property and an appropriate anonymous call to the police. Because, unknown of but a few, underneath the old structure, was a room that, despite lacking a view, was not lacking of anything high-tech…
— Do you want to know the details? asked Carla, interrupting the Baron in his thoughts.
— Not really. I suppose you gave that old crone of a Viscountess the fright of her life, but well, I suppose she deserved it… Many would agree of course, though never in private. Ahah!
— Well, now you make me think of it, I reckon she forgot herself a bit in the process…
— Ahahah! If only it could have taught her something… The manic laughter of the Baron was as chilling as it was infectious.
Suddenly regaining his poised demeanour, the Baron resumed:
— Now, tell me, was it a genuine one?
Number Four was dreaming, at least it was what he was feeling. The quality of his vision was blurred and he couldn’t really focus on details. He was in a dark room with another man. Despite the darkness, he could clearly see that the man was very pale. There was a third man, mad eyes and hysterical laugh, and a woman.
The man mad was speaking and assigning them a mission. It was about… skulls? Crystal skulls
All of a sudden his hearing was crystal clear. He had heard the name of the woman… Carla… He was asking her to go and find a Viscountess, find the skull…
Then he turned to the pale man.
“Robert, my dear Robber, hinhinhin! I trust you with the Hawaiian witch. Be careful she’s dangerous and very powerful. Don’t misjudge her words or her deeds. Never accept anything, be it food or liquid. Don’t let them touch you either. But I know you already know that. hinhinhin!!!”
His horse-like laugh was unnerving, and Number Four was so excited, maybe he could learn his own name… why was it so slow!? He was looking at the Baron, watching him laugh showing his immense teeth and gum! Number Four almost lost his grip to the dream imagery.
Breathe he told himself
Breathe… Yes, Breathe deeply, YES, YES…
The Baron had finished laughing and was smiling like a vulture.
When he turned his face toward Number Four, his eyes were swirling like hell, blazing hot red light…
“My dear one 8-}, to you I trust the most difficult one… My old mad friend on his foolish Island. He has a foolish project, and you’ll serve as a guinea pig…”
Number Four felt a strong twinge, his dream eye was blinking out of control.
The Baron’s voice was thunderous and other dimensional.
“hinhinhin! My dear Claude……………………”
The sound of his name was enough, enough of this insanity… all his memory was accessible now, and he began to feel the rage gather inside of him.
He was fully awake now. He was in the middle of a nest, several birds were crying around, trying to raise the alarm.
He gathered his will and released it at once in a fury.
A small impish gnomesque figure wearing a black and white tunic adorned with a silver blazon was standing in front of Claude, formerly known as Number Four.
Claude was reading to fight, and extricate himself of that stinky situation, starting to feel the powerful strength the treatment had given him and feeling virtually unstoppable.
Considering that such a small individual, especially unarmed, wasn’t much of a threat, he stopped in his track, wondering if that was part of a subtle stratagem.
— What do you want?
— We do not want you harm, stranger. We are aware of the experiments which have been done on you, and we are sorry for what has been done…
— Oh, don’t be, I feel better than I’ve been in ages
— Yes, we saw that, though we are not that sure that the treatment effects are permanent either…
— Not permanent? What have you done to me?
— Nothing. There is nothing to fear from us, we are peaceful. We are a wing of a group of individuals whose primary skills lay in robbing. We are mostly hired to retrieve precious possessions in great discretion and you could consider yourself lucky to have seen us in our true form.
— Us? How many are you?
— A few… We gave you a mixture of plants and magnetite powder to help you stabilize your situation, apparently it has succeeded.
— Mmm, perhaps yes…
— Another thing you probably want to know before we help you get rid of these bandages if you want. During your sleep, you muttered lots of things, one of which was a name: “Sasha”.
— Yes. I’m afraid we believe that the individual you were calling is dead. We monitored the doctor’s assistant when she disposed of the body. It was not pretty. I thought you should know.
Robbers they say… Hope we’re not after the same thing…
Sitting at her desk, Alana couldn’t focus on the document she was reading. A report from one of her companies. She could feel the energy of that French guy Langlade. He was sent by the Baron, and she knew he was dangerous. She was expecting him this morning, and it was almost 5pm. Well she was a bit overwhelmed because of what was at stake. She couldn’t allow him to take it. She couldn’t allow the Baron to use it. And she couldn’t destroy it either.
For the moment the crystal skull wasn’t here. She was aware that Langlade knew it. Though it was not for the reason he could imagine. And she wouldn’t reveal it to him… freely.
She called Mr Isashi. She couldn’t put it off eternally.
— Allow him in, Mr Isashi. Though take your time.
— Very well, Aunt.
— Is Harry here?
— Not yet, Aunt. Do you want me to summon him?
— No. Maybe it’s better if he doesn’t show up.
He looked at her furtively, and she smiled back at him. Her fear well hidden under a dose of confidence. She would never allow it to happen.
Robert was waiting in the living room. He was lounging on a golden couch when the man came back and told him she would receive him. At last…
Well he was not in a hurry. He was patient, and so was the Baron… for now. And apparently he was to need a lot of patience.
The pace of the Japanese boy was slow, and he wouldn’t allow him to speed up. Apparently she was nervous and wanted him to feel so.
The corridor was well lit. Richly decorated with paintings or statues.
He had to admit she had a refined taste.
They stopped before a yellow door. The boy knocked 3 times and Robert could hear that the wood was very heavy. As he opened the door, they could hear a masculine voice.
— You may need my skills.
— Who are you? said Alana. And how did you get here?
Bea! Come and look at this! Blimey O’RILEY, I ‘ave NEVER seen anything like this is me life!
What’s up, Leo? Bea rushed over, rather unsteadily, slopping some gin down her clothes from the ever present glass clutched in her hand. Bloody ‘ell, Leo, what’re you doing looking at them crystal skulls again?
Yeuch! exclaimed Beatrice, who was not particularly fond of insects. Better get the fly spray, hang on, I’ll fetch it.
YOU CAN’T DO THAT! shreiked Leo. They’re symbolic!
Symbolic of bloody WHAT?
Well, I ‘int worked it out yet, ‘ave I? But you mark my words, they’re symbolic!
Symbolic they may very well be, however, I am NOT having them in my bed, she said firmly. What are we going to do?
Google it? suggested Leonora.
Good idea. I’ll google it; now you make sure those bloody things stay in the trunk, eh. If any of them escape and head for the beds, call me!
Bea was drifting off to sleep on the patio, the gentle spring warm on her face. A stork glided past, and she noticed the first amethyst wisteria blossom against the blue sky. Dreamily, she heard a limerick forming in her mind:
There was an old crone called Wisteria
Who was prone to bouts of hysteria.
She fretted and flapped
Til her energy sapped,
And then she made friends with Deliria.
The crone called Deliria hailed from
The unsettled realms of the maelstrom;
But she learned how to float
With the help of a goat
And considered it was quite a brainstorm.
When Wisteria met with Deliria
She said “My! but you seem so familiar!
I admire your hat
So let’s have a chat
About goat floating maelstrom criteria”
One hundred and eighty years hence,
They sat and conversed on the fence.
“We searched far and wide
For what was inside.
I am forced to admit we are dense.”
Blimey, she’s connecting to that laughing monk again, Leonora noted, rolling her eyes. She sat down in an old wicker chair, and sipped her Rioja wine.