Crystal Skull

Volume Three in the Discovery Projects Series

Prologue

“Echo, baby, you gotta wake up now.” Cody patted Echo’s face. “Come on. It’s gone.” A cold blast swept through the cabin as Faith came in the door. She was dirty and swaying a little. Or Echo’s eyesight was getting worse.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“I…” Faith looked down at her mud covered hands. “I don’t know.”

“Go get me another blanket,” Cody ordered, returning her attention to Echo. “Echo come back.” Cody lightly slapped her face. “Please baby open your eyes.”

Chapter 1

48 hours earlier

Cody rechecked the instrument panel, the engine didn’t sound quite right for the cruising speed. But it had been awhile since she’d flown a twin engine. “You want to tell why I have to pilot instead of lounging around and why I’m landing on some tiny out of the way strip?” Cody asked.

“We have to keep this trip quiet,” Echo answered, not looking up from her notes.

“Who do you think is watching?”

“Everyone. If it gets out what we’re doing here.”

“And what is it that we’re doing in Iceland?”

“I told you. Doctor Jenne thinks she might have found something.”

Cody let out a loud sigh. “Seriously Echo, don’t make me drag everything out of you.”

“She may have found a crystal skull. So we’re going to verify.”

“As in …Indiana Jones?”

“I don’t watch those movies.” Echo went back to reading her notes.

“Oh come on they’re right up your alley.”

“Man saves the world in ninety minutes and does it all with a ridiculous hat and whip. Not my thing at all.”

“I though you said you didn’t watch. Tell me you at least watch the Tomb raider movies?”

“Please.”

“Okay so the non Hollywood version of the crystal skull is?”

Echo closed her folder. “Human skulls carved from rock crystal. One theory is that they were handed down from aliens.” Cody raised an eyebrow. “It’s not my theory. The ones in the British and Paris museums are possibly fake and made in the nineteenth century rather than by pre Columbian American civilisations.”

“Mayans?”

“Close. You really do listen.” She patted Cody on the leg. “One was found at a Mayan site but may actually be Aztec. Native Americans believe they hold the collective of ancient wisdom.”

“Which means?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. Everything has been attributed to them from paranormal and psychic abilities like premonitions and visions to healing powers and the power to kill.”

“So Doctor Jenne called in the boss to check out the booty?”

“I kind of invited myself. You remember Katherine, she was at the strategic planning meeting in Berlin last month.”

“You don’t seriously think I pay any attention in those meetings do you?” Cody teased. She had assigned herself the role of Eco’s bodyguard and studiously checked out every person at the meeting. Doctor Katherine Jenne stood out because of her obvious disdain for Echo.

“Don’t play dumb with me. Be nice. We’re on her turf.” Echo pointed to a tiny ploughed strip on the crest of a mountain. “There. You see it?”

Cody shook her head. “I know you don’t want me to get bored but seriously I don’t need extreme sports built into my day.” Cody wasn’t bothered by the narrow slippery makeshift landing strip but the drop off at the end was a worry. “This is not going to be pretty.”

“I have complete faith in you.”

The small plane groaned under the pressure but came to a complete stop in front of the parked vehicle. A young woman waved at them as if she was a fan greeting a rock group. Her long hair whipped around by their landing, engulfed her tiny frame.

“Doctor Tait I’m Faith Murphy. Doctor Jenne’s assistant. Welcome to Iceland. You must be Cody Bass.” She held out her hand. Cody hated a limp handshake. “Let me get your bags.”

“It’s Echo and our bags are pretty heavy,” Echo said, putting the first one in the back of the land cruiser. Cody did the rest of the lifting.

 

 

 

Chapter two

The trip through the tiny village was accompanied by a monologue from Faith detailing her admiration for every archaeology paper ever written by Echo. Cody sat back and concentrated on memorising the windy route back to the plane. She was relieved when they stopped in front of a small cottage. A woman stood at the front door her arms crossed.

“Doctor Tait come in,” Katherine said, stepping aside. She nodded at Cody as her only greeting. “It’s in here.” She led them to the lounge room. The sofas and arm chairs were all pushed up against the wall. The skull sat on the middle of a table. Monitors and computers sprawled all around it.

“It’s beautiful,” Echo whispered.

Cody thought it looked like an oversized paper weight. She left to check out the rest of the house. Katherine obviously claimed the largest bedroom. Her doctorate certificate was hanging on the wall next to a photo of her with Condoleezza Rice. Condoleezza didn’t look as happy as Katherine. Faith seemed to be lodging in a room the size of a broom closet. Two small sleeping bags lay on the floor in the back room next to the storage crates. Cody groaned and headed for the kitchen.

“You hiding the food someplace else?” Cody asked Doctor Murphy who was cleaning crumbs off the kitchen bench. Cody pulled out a tin of tuna and a half full packet of crackers from the cupboard. “We’re not cats so this isn’t going to cut it.” She sniffed the coffee still brewing in the machine and put it back.

“Oh my gosh. I’ve been so busy setting up all the equipment for Doctor Tait I forgot to go shopping.” Faith snatched the tuna out of Cody’s hand. “This is for Doctor Jenne. I’ll have to go get something else.”

“It’s okay. You go do your scientist thing and I’ll go get some real food.”

“Doctor Murphy will go with you,” Katherine said, coming up behind them. “She knows my preferences as I’m sure you know Doctor Tait’s.” She poured herself a coffee and returned to the living room.

“Does anybody have a first name around here?” Cody asked.

“Doctor Jenne prefers to be formal. Plus my first name is Faith and she thinks it ridiculous to have scientist named Faith.”

“Well Faith I prefer to be friendly. Let’s go. Back soon.” Cody called to Echo who was still staring at the skull.

“Sure,” Echo said absently.

****

Faith maintained a constant one sided dialogue since leaving the cottage despite Cody’s lack of response. She insisted on going down every aisle in the shopping centre but added very few items to her basket.

“Do you come here often Faith?” Cody said, quietly as they left the store.

“Well obviously not often.”

“Do you go elsewhere to buy groceries?”

“This is the only store in town.”

“Get in the car and start the engine. I’ll be back in a minute,” Cody said, sprinting over to a man about to get in his car. She grabbed the car keys out of his hand, yanked his wrists behind his back and slammed his body against the car. His shoulder length hair flopped over his face. “Just for future reference your covert skills need a lot of work. You look as cold as I do and you only bought something at the register despite following us all the way around the store. ”

“Please. Please,” he said, in a mixed European accent.

“It’s nowhere near begging time yet. Just tell me why you’re following us?” Cody wrenched his arm a little more. She knew she didn’t have much time. There were two police officers across the car park. They were currently engrossed in their food.

“You don’t want to mess with me. I have many friends,” he said.

“There’re not here right now. Start talking.”

“You’re here illegally. Surely you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.” The police had finished eating.

“It’s your lucky day.” Cody relocked his car, pocketed the keys and ran back to her own car. The man made no move to shout to the police. It was clearly Cody’s lucky day too. “Drive,” she ordered.

“Doctor Jenne is not going to like this.” Was all Faith said the whole ride home.

****

“Somebody want to tell me why a long haired, tall, dark and not so handsome man was following us,” Cody said when they got in the door.

“Did he have a French accent?” Katherine asked.

“Yeah but he’s obviously been spending a lot of time in Italy.”

“Who did you tell Doctor Murphy?” Katherine glared at Faith.

“I…I…”

“Who’s this guy?” Cody asked again.

“Was his hair curly and did he have a really long face?” Echo asked. Cody nodded. “It’s probably Philippe. He’s a scout for the hunters. He’s got diplomatic ties everywhere. He’s untouchable.”

“I only told John we found something big. I didn’t say what.” Faith blurted out. “I promise. And he wouldn’t tell anybody. I didn’t see anyone following us.”

“He was waiting outside when we arrived,” Cody said.  “I think he was just staking out the joint hoping to get lucky.”

“Well I hope you haven’t bought them right to our door,” Katherine scowled.

“Obviously I made sure he didn’t follow us back,” Cody said.

“It’s understandable. That you wanted to tell someone,” Echo said, patting Faith on the shoulder.

“Who exactly is Philippe?” Cody asked.

“Your reaction to him would confirm we have something of interest to protect. There will be others coming soon. We’ll have to work faster now,” Katherine said, returning to the table.

Echo pulled out a packet of chips from a shopping bag. “Philippe uses his contacts to get unique access. He’s contracted by hunters to validate rumours and gain Intel.”

“I get the concept of a scout,” Cody said, tipping out the stale coffee. “What’s a hunter?”

“They hunt down rare antiquities and lost treasures for black market and private buyers.”

“So the crystal skull would be worth a lot?”

“If it’s real. Practically priceless.”

Cody gave Echo a kiss on the cheek. “Its okay baby. You get back to work. I’ll bring you a coffee and start on dinner and then protect you from the big bad hunters.”

“Butler and body guard. I’m a lucky girl.” She gave Echo a parting kiss on the lips.

****

“Break time. Dinners ready,” Cody called.

“About time,” Katherine said, stumbling a little as she strode to the kitchen.

“You okay?” Faith asked hovering behind Katherine.

“Fine,” Katherine said, leaning heavily on the table. “I just got up too quickly.”

“You’ve gone really pale,” Faith said.

“It’s too cold to go out now.” Katherine ignored Faith. “But I have a job for you in the morning Ms Bass.”

“I may as well do it tonight. It’s not like those little sleeping bags are going to keep me warm,” Cody said, handing Echo a plate.

“No. Tomorrow will do,” Katherine said, turning her attention to Echo. “You didn’t have to come. I could’ve done the tests myself. And then brought it to HQ.”

“We can’t leave the country with it,” Echo said. “It doesn’t belong to us. We shouldn’t even be doing this. But it’s too big an opportunity to pass up.”

“I found it,” Katherine said.

“That doesn’t give you ownership rights. Something like this has to be handed over to the museum.”

“You’re the boss.” Katherine piled mashed potato on her plate.

“After dinner should I accelerate beta testing or just continue with the sectional analysis?” Faith directed her question to Katherine.

“You should be monitoring the sectional analysis right now.” Katherine took her plate full of food back over to the computers. Faith grabbed a bread roll and joined Katherine in the lounge room.

“I know you want to join them,” Cody said. “We came to work. You don’t have to sit with me.”

Echo squeezed her hand. “Sorry, we just need to monitor the read outs in real time otherwise the tests are useless.” Echo stood up. “Leave everything. I’ll clean up later.”

“Sure,” Cody said, knowing Echo wouldn’t be back. Cody pulled a small notebook out of her coat packet. The sweeping stokes of her pen occupied her as completely as the scientists and their precious tests. Cody wasn’t sure how much time passed before Faith returned to the kitchen with three plates.

“What are you writing?” Faith asked, peering over Cody’s shoulder.

“Nothing,” Cody said, slamming the notebook shut before returning it to her coat pocket.

Chapter three

The temperature in the back room finally rose to a tolerable chill as Cody dragged herself up from her bed on the floor. She had gotten far too used to comfortable living since meeting Echo. Padding into the lounge room Cody found Echo slumped over the computer, asleep. Katherine was lightly snoring on the couch while Faith stoking the crackling fire.

Cody lightly kissed Echo on the cheek. “Morning,” she said as Echo opened her eyes. “I’ll put the kettle on.”

Echo stretched her aching muscles. “All nighters aren’t as fun as I remember. Damn it,” she said, staring at the computer screen.

“What’s wrong?” Cody asked.

“There’s nothing here.”

“Still no results?” Faith asked, scraping her hair into a pony tail.

“Not one single blip,” Echo confirmed.

“We need to start again. Repeat the experiment,” Katherine said, shaking her head as she sat up.

“You don’t look so good,” Cody said, looking into Katherine’s blood shot eyes.

“Says the only person who slept instead of working,” Katherine replied. “It’s also rude to flaunt your youth. For some of us it takes a splash of water to look fresh faced. Now about that little errand.”

“Actually Katherine if it’s not urgent I need Cody to get some things to jury rig some extra tests. I think we’ll get more out of trying something new than doing the same thing again,” Echo said.

There was a long pause before Katherine nodded. “Make it quick then.” Katherine slowly walked to the bathroom. Everyone had returned to their respective jobs and didn’t notice that she had to stop several times to steady herself.

****

Her shopping list complete Cody wandered back down the narrow lane way that led back to her car. She had no idea what Echo was going to do with the extra electrical wire, batteries and magnets. Echo’s MacGyver like skills were not a surprise to Cody but they were always impressive. Cody knew she should really try to learn how Echo did what she did. But her desire to acquire more survival skills had been dulled by being part of a duo instead of a single entity against the world.

Just as Cody was reaching the end of the lane way an elbow shot out from around the corner. The blow narrowly missed Cody’s rib s. Grabbing the offending arm she used the force of the strike to pull her attacker towards her and swing their body around. Slamming her foe into the wall.

“You people really have to get better at this,” Cody said, pushing her forearm against the stranger’s neck. “Though you do look more the part.” Cody looked the woman up and down. “With those big brown eyes, long dark hair and leather coat. Really all you need to do is put your hair in a long plait. It’s a big improvement on the last guy who tried this.” Cody shifted her body weight. “I’m guessing you’re one of those hunter people I’ve been warned about.”

“And you must be the bodyguard ,” she said. Her English accent not as lilting with Cody’s arm still pressing against her throat.

“As you can see I’m pretty good at it. So why don’t you tell your other little hunter buddies to back off before someone really gets hurt.”

“You’re fighting on the wrong side of this.”

“This isn’t a fight yet.”

“If you reach into me left pocket you’ll find a card with my number on it.” Cody didn’t move. “I’ve been known to cut people in. If you want to do this the easy way give me a call. I’ll make it worth your while. Otherwise you can tell your little science buddies that what they have belongs to the world. More people will get to appreciate the treasures of the world in private collections than in the basement of some museum. Or being studied by some geeks.”

“And who shall I say is giving such unsolicited advice?”

“My name is Cardinia Wildson. But they would know me better as Wild Card.”

“Wild Card? It’s a little cheesy don’t you think?”

“I earned it,” she said, delivering a swift blow to Cody’s kidneys followed by a kick to the side of her knee. Before dashing back down the lane and disappearing into the myriad of side streets. Her card lay on the ground a few paces up the laneway. Cody picked it up and limped back to the car. Chiding herself for letting her guard down. A tight outfit and pretty eyes shouldn’t have been enough to distract her.

****

The lights in the tiny cabin flickered under the strain of the extra power output. At this rate Echo thought she was going to have to send Cody out for an extra generator instead of just batteries. This could hardly be considered true field work but it was still a long way from her lab. When she was back at home surrounded by her pristine state of the art equipment Echo yearned for the romance of the rugged digs. Right now she was somewhere in between rugged and well equipped and she wasn’t feeling the romance or the comfort.

“All this equipment and I can’t find a single thermometer.” Echo kicked another box out of the way.

“I don’t think we need a thermometer any more. She definitely has a fever,” Faith said, carrying another wet cloth over to Katherine

“Who has a fever?” Cody asked striding in the door.

“Katherine seems too.”  Echo answered taking a package out of Cody’s full hands.

“And now she’s nauseous,” Faith added.

“Probably just something I ate,” Katherine said, popping her head up over the couch.

Cody ignored the jibe. “Well I seem to be meeting a lot of people who aren’t from around here.”

“Who now?” Echo asked.

“Wild Card.”

“The Wild Card?” Echo stopped unpacking the new supplies.

“You know her?”

“Just by reputation. Actually I know her father. He used to be a curator for some of the best museums in the world.”

“Daddy issues. That explains the anger.”

“He can’t get a job anywhere because she has a habit of raiding where he works. She ruined his career. It’s a real loss.” Echo crinkled her nose. “Did you say anger?” She looked Cody up and down. “Are you ok?”

“I think she was just testing her skills. Or my skills really. She wanted to see what she was up against. She got away very easily which means she let herself get bailed up. She was good. Good enough to go for a full frontal attack. Why are these hunters just testing the waters? Why aren’t they just getting what they came for?”

“You don’t get paid if you get caught,” Echo said.

“Getting an artefact across international borders is harder than you’d think,” Faith added.

“So, what? She hasn’t got an exit plan yet.”

“Most traders won’t pay up until you have proof,” Echo said. “She might be waiting to see if we can prove the skull’s worth before making her frontal attack.” Cody absently rubbed her knee as she considered strategies to improve their security. “You okay?” Echo moved closer to Cody.

“Yeah, Wild Card just gave me a little tap.”

“I’m glad she didn’t go for your right knee.” Echo patted Cody’s leg.

“Why do you say that?” Cody grabbed Echo’s arm.

“It’s never properly recovered after Cambodia right?”

Cody pulled Echo over to the corner of the kitchen. “Echo I’ve never told you about Cambodia,” she hissed through gritted teeth.

“Of course you have.” Echo pulled her arm free. “You smashed your knee during egress.”

“That Cambodia trip is an if I tell you I have to kill you kind of deal.”

“Every one of your missions was one of those deals.”

“Echo, I’m serious what aren’t you telling me?”

“Now I’m confused.”

“I thought your memories about my life disappeared.”

“They did.”

“My injury is a weakness I would never reveal.”

“You still think I’m going to exploit any weakness? Seriously, we’re not beyond that? You still don’t trust me?”

“That’s not what I’m getting at. It’s just you knew how it made me feel when you had my life story rolling around your head. I’m asking if maybe you only pretended to lose those memories.”

“Shouldn’t I know those things about you?” Echo sat down heavily on the kitchen stool.

“Echo?”

“Dizzy. Just a little dizzy.” Echo grabbed Cody’s hand. “Don’t get mad but I have this image of you putting lilies on your mother’s grave. Is that real? Am I getting pieces of you back again?”

“Dr Tait.” Faith called from the lounge room. “I can’t wake her up. I think she’s unconscious.”

Katherine’s eyes fluttered open as Cody rubbed her sternum. “I think you need to get the box now,” Katherine mumbled.

“That’s it. No more home nurse. You need to get her to the hospital,” Cody said pulling Katherine up. She glanced over at Echo’s pale face. Echo shook her head. “Faith bring the car to the door,” Cody ordered. “I’m assuming I can’t convince you to go with her.”

Echo shook her head again. “I know something’s wrong with me too. But that’s all the more reason to get the tests done before it gets bad.”

“Fine. I’ll stay here with you. Faith will take Katherine to hospital.” Cody shuffled Katherine out the door. She would have to settle for helping Echo get the job done. It was her punishment for finding stubbornness so attractive.

****

Beads of sweat dripped from Echo’s forehead to her shaking hands. She tried to hide her face behind a computer screen but the sparks flying from the newly configured wires drew Cody’s attention anyway.

“Echo. Enough. We need to get you to hospital too,” Cody said, wiping a cloth over Echo’s forehead.

“Just give me another hour or so.”

“I just spoke to Faith. Katherine keeps lapsing in and out of consciousness. The last time she woke up she couldn’t see. She was blind.”

“Do they know what’s wrong? Is it a virus?”

“They don’t know. I told Faith to get back here and help you so we can get this over with. This thing.” Cody pointed to the crystal skull. “Is giving me the creeps.”

“Actually, right now. It’s giving me the creeps too. I think I know what that job was Katherine had for you. I’ve been looking through Katherine’s notes. When she found the skull there was a case further down the ravine. She didn’t bring it up because it was too heavy for the climbing equipment she had.”

“A case for the skull?”

“Katherine found this native American text that talks about a curse if the skull is taken out of its case.”

“And?”

“The curse starts with dizziness and ends with blindness.”

“You believe in that stuff? Obviously Katherine didn’t or she would have made the case a priority. What am I saying there isn’t anything you don’t believe in.”

“Believing and knowing are very different as are unexplained and deception,” Echo said defensively.

“Hey I’m just saying you have the most open mind of anyone I’ve ever met.”

“Your military, it’s a shoot first asks questions later world for you.”

“How come you just turned protecting people and fighting for your country into an insult?”

“God what are we doing Cody? We keep ending up in fights over nothing. I don’t know if it’s real or not but Katherine’s in the hospital. I don’t feel so good and you’re starting to look pale. If nothing else it’s an artefact that belongs with the skull. I need you to get it.”

Cody placed a hand on Echo’s cheek. “You’re burning up.”

“I know it sounds like a long shot Cody but…”

“Hey it’s okay. I trust you. Looks like I’m off to do Katherine’s job as soon as Faith gets back.” If Cody hadn’t seen Katherine’s progression from arrogant to helpless she would have laughed at the idea of a curse. But if curses were real then Cody was easily convinced she or someone she loved would be besieged by malevolence. It was just another day in a life spent trying to keep evil at bay.

Chapter 4

A guilty conscious would have to wait. Cody had a job to do. She had her reasons for deceiving Echo but it didn’t make false promises any easier to dispense. With any luck Echo was still sleeping believing Faith was working on the skull and going to wake her up at the designated time. Faith was an unwilling accomplice but this time Cody used her passive nature to her advantage.

Standing on the edge of the ravine Cody rechecked her safety equipment. It wasn’t like her, she always did the job once and well. The dizzy spells where making it hard to concentrate. If it was just her risk to take Cody wouldn’t be hesitating on the precipice. Picking up her cell phone she reluctantly dialled the number on the small card. She pushed aside her ego hoping Katherine’s humility at owing her would be reward enough.

“I’m cutting you in.”

“And here I was thinking the bodyguard hadn’t been listening,” Wild Card said.

“You want the skull you’re going to have to work for it.”

“I think given the current circumstances of your little gang the skull is mine for the taking.”

Cody clenched her teeth. “Despite the circumstances I’m still one step ahead of you. You need to get to Lickens ravine now. If you’re not here in the next thirty minutes the deal is off.”

“You’re going to hand it over?”

“No, you’re going to help me get another artefact and then I’ll tell you where the skull is. But it’s now or never.”

“Turn around.”

Cody turned to see Wild Card step out from behind a line of trees. Cody couldn’t remember the last time she’d missed a tail. She couldn’t even remember looking in the rear view mirror on the drive over.

The jagged rocks seemed to be leaping out of the cliff face as Cody descended into the ravine.

“I didn’t realise I’d agreed to climb with a novice.” Wild Card said unhooking her rope.

Cody looked down at her cuts and scrapes as she finally landed on the bottom. “Just not my day,” Cody said, wiping the sweat off her forehead. “Follow me.” Cody led the way towards a small crevice. Katherine had pushed the wood and iron casket into its current hiding spot. Cody dropped to her knees beside the casket. Her stomach lurching as her world spun. She watched helplessly as Wild Card lifted the casket into a makeshift sling. Cody had never let someone win so easily. She used all her strength and focus to get to her feet. Swaying she expected to feel the cold hard rock wall behind her instead she fell into the arms of Wild Card.

“Hey I didn’t expect to be doing all the work,” Wild Card said.

“I…I…” Cody forced her body upright. “We need to go.” She took a tentative step forward.

Wild Card stayed close for the ascent. Her strong arms reaching out several times to steady Cody.

“You could’ve left me down there,” Cody said, resisting the urge to lie down on the soft grass. “You could’ve made more demands.”

“Not my style.”

“It’s not often I’m surprised by people.”

“It’s my turn.” Wild Card stepped between Cody and the casket. “Where is the skull?”

“There’s one more condition. I want to know who your buyer is in case Echo wants me to go steal it back.”

Wild Card smiled. “You really are on the wrong side. Ask your Doctor Katherine Jenne who she called and bragged too when she found it.”

“You just made my day.” Despite the retribution waiting for her when she told Echo what she’d done, calling Wild Card for help had been worth it in Cody’s opinion.

“Time to make mine.”

Cody pulled out the car keys from her pocket and popped the boot. “Turn around.”

“Well your poker face doesn’t need any work.” Wild Card took the skull out of the cardboard box and placed into the casket.

“I suggest keeping it in that thing.” Cody tapped the latch shut. “I needed to get it away from the others, just in case. My next stop was going to be the museum.”

“Well I’m out of her before you start to feel better and change your mind.” Wild Card looked into Cody’s exhausted face. “Take care bodyguard.” Her eyes lingered on Cody’s lips. “You know my number if you want to cut me in again.” Wild Card jogged away her long plait swinging behind her.

****

The embers in the fireplace where the only source of light in the tiny cabin. It was eerily quiet with no humming computers or beeping equipment. Cody flicked on the light calling out to Echo and Faith. “Anyone home? Oh God.” Echo’s limp body was sprawled out on the floor on the other side of the couch.

“Echo, baby, you gotta wake up now.” Cody patted Echo’s face. “Come on. It’s gone.” A cold blast swept through the cabin as Faith came in the door. She was dirty and swaying a little.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“I…” Faith looked down at her mud covered hands. “I don’t know.”

“Go get me another blanket.” Cody ordered, returning her attention to Echo. “Echo come back.” Cody lightly slapped her face. “Please baby open your eyes.”

Echo’s eyes slowly fluttered open. “What happened?” She asked as Cody helped her up to sit on the couch.

“The skull is gone. I had to give it to Wild Card but it’s in the casket and Faith seems to have amnesia.” Cody summed up pleased to see Echo’s eyes looked brighter than when she left.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Echo asked quietly.

“I grabbed your notebook,” Faith said, pointing to Cody. “I started writing in it.” Faith sat down heavily beside Echo staring at her hands. “It’s like I was digging in the dirt.”

“What notebook?” Cody asked.

“The one you bought on the first day when we went shopping. You’ve been writing and drawing in it since you got here. I don’t think you got anymore sleep than the rest of us.”

“I don’t draw and I think I would remember.”

“What did you write Faith?” Echo asked her voice a little stronger now.

“Um…Numbers. Just on the last page.”

“Can you write them down again?”

“No. I just remember it was a string of numbers.”

“What are you thinking?” Cody asked watching Echo’s nose crinkle.

“You weren’t just digging. You were burying something. It’s the journal. It has to be. Cody you’re the new author.”

“I don’t journal,” Cody said, scrutinizing Echo. She recognised that look. “Oh no you don’t think it’s the journal.”

“The journal that led us to Australia. The journal the led us to the one. Yes I think it’s the latest version of that journal.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Haven’t you had to readjust your definition of crazy a few times since you met me? Can you think of a better explanation?”

“But the journal you had in Australia was old,” Cody said.

“By the time it’s found again, maybe it will be. Faith I want you to wrap things up with Katherine then I want you back at HQ your getting a promotion. Let’s start packing up.”

“Wait. Shouldn’t we go out there and find the notebook, journal thing?” Cody asked helping Echo to her feet.

“It’s not for us to find,” Echo said, making her way towards the piles of equipment.

Epilogue

Katherine waited by the car door as Faith helped Cody pack their luggage into the plane. She still looked pale but her eyesight had fully returned.

“I thought it was a mistake putting you in charge,” Katherine said, closing the door as Echo got out of the car.

“I know.”

“I thought you were the wrong person for the job.”

“Is there a point to this?” Echo asked learning on the car.

“You proved yourself and I proved my judgement is occasionally lacking.”

“Well,” Echo said, shuffling her feet. “I hope this can be a new beginning for us.” Echo shook Katherine’s outstretched hand. Before she joined Cody in the plane.

Her pre flight check almost done Cody was relived to hear Echo close the door on Iceland.

“You feeling better?” Cosy asked as Echo took the co pilots seat.

“Yeah you okay to fly?”

“No problem. Some little skulls curse isn’t going to keep me from leaving this place. But could we get the lecture over and done with?”

“What should I be lecturing you about?”

“Well there’s been no raised voices, no stomping of your cute little feet over me giving the skull to Wild Card so I figure your working on a stern lecture.”

“You did what you had to do.”

“But?”

“But nothing. I didn’t get what I wanted out of the crystal skull but I think we got what we needed. So do you believe? About the curse I mean.”

“The skulls back in the case and we all feel better.”

“Cody I hate the fact that you still can’t let me all the way in. I don’t expect you to tell me everything but…But things like you and your mother used to read Agatha Christies books. I should know these things. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get any more flashes of memory. But I want to know things like that. I want you to trust me.”

Cody took a deep breath. “I’m doing the best I can. You have as much of me as I can bear to give. Isn’t that enough?”

“If it has to be,” Echo said quietly. “I just want you to believe in us. Believe we’re in this together.”

“I believe in you.” Cody leaned over to give Echo a kiss. “That’s about the most important thing you can know about me.”

“Then believe that I’ll be here when you’re ready for more,” Echo said, resting her hand on Cody’s leg. “Now get us out of here please.”

“Yes ma’am.” Cody said taking the controls.

The end

For lovers of words and women.

Advertisements