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Dark Dig 10 - A Solemn Day

by Bruce J. Spohn 6 months ago in Mystery
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Ancient Gods and Modern Drama

10 - A Solemn Day

A Solemn Day

“Well good morning you two. You’re just in time for breakfast. It must have been the Gods warning me not to wake you earlier, or maybe it was the unmistakable sounds of passion that persuaded me to let you have some privacy,” Ellen teased.

All the others seated around the great table could not refrain from laughing at Ellen’s jab at Marcus and his disbelief in her contact with the Gods. Marcus was too hungry to pursue the banter and instead concentrated on filling his plate with bacon, fried eggs and hash brown potatoes. Apparently, Carol had worked up a mega appetite as she took her seat next to Marcus with a plate piled high. Soon plans were being made as to how best to deal with the parents. After a short debate Ruth agreed it would be best to let Marcus talk to them first. Being Greek and able to express his concern the feeling of family to them would help get them to cooperate. They decided the Land Rover was big enough to transport everyone. Marcus would drive as he knows the area best and the father would sit up front with him. Carol would sit with the mother in the next row. Ben and Ruth would sit in the last row of seats. At least they would be able to listen in on the conversations. Fronia attempted to get herself invited to come along several times but was ultimately rejected based upon the shortage of space. Even though she made it clear she would not mind being squeezed between Ruth and Ben in the back seat.

“Sounds like you all have mapped out a great plan, but if you don’t get a move on the sun well set before you get started,” Ellen argued.

“You’re right Ellen, come on grab whatever gear you need, I want to get to the hospital before one o’clock and we have to find the girl’s parents house,” Marcus commanded as he drained his coffee mug. Carol sat “shotgun” and Ruth and Ben slid into the back seat.

“I programmed the parent’s address into the GPS yesterday, so we should have no problems finding their home. I also took the liberty of putting the hospital in the system. From what I could see on the map we have to go past the town the parents live in on the way to the hospital,” Carol injected as she buckled her seat belt.

“Great! I know all the villages along here, but of course I have no idea where their house is. The GPS will save us a lot of time. OK, everyone buckled up? Let’s get going!” Marcus announced.

A pleasant conversation spontaneously sprang up. Everyone was in high spirits looking forward to gaining so new information to help crack the case. They continued to contemplate the same issues from the night before, but without new information they could come up with no new ideas. As they all realized the futility of rehashing the topic, they shifted their attention to what they should say to the parents. It was quickly determined to just express their concern and assure the parents everything possible will be done to help their daughter.

The GPS gave directions to the humble abode where Christina Dorphous’ parents resided. It was a small house showing its age due to an obvious lack of much needed maintenance. Carol could not help making a comparison between this humble house and the conspicuous elegance of the Konus estate. She thought about this family struggling to make a good life for their daughter and how the news of their daughter being kidnapped must have been devastating. At least Marcus was bringing the good news that Christina was alive. Unfortunately, they were unable to say much about her condition.

Marcus asked Ben and Ruth to wait by the car while he and Carol went to the door. As the couple approached the door, abrupt motion could be detected behind the curtains. Marcus rapped his knuckle on the bright red door and fidgeted while waiting for a response.

“Έρχομαι,” shouted a male voice from somewhere inside. A few seconds passed before an elderly man stooped at the shoulders with shortcut salt and pepper hair opened the door. He was wearing a white dress shirt and dark gray trousers apparently preparing to go out.

Marcus engaged in a lengthy extremely formal introduction/greeting indicating Carol was his assistant. At the conclusion of Marcus’ introduction, the man called out over his shoulder and was instantly joined by a woman that must be his wife and mother of Christina. At her arrival, Marcus started kissing them both on the cheeks as family and stared speaking in the local dialect. He quickly explained all that he could and told the couple he wanted to drive them to the hospital to see their daughter.

The elderly couple shook his hand and the woman dashed to the hallway closet and pulled two coats out. She handed her husband a jacket that matched his trousers and she pulled a light weight windbreaker over her summer dress. As they moved to the vehicle, he explained the seating arrangement and introduced the FBI agents only as Ruth and Ben. He did not want to scare the couple causing them to think their daughter was in some sort of legal trouble.

Carol sat next to the mother and tried to carry on a conversation with her very limited Greek vocabulary. Ben listened in from the back seat and occasionally gave Carol some assistance in the proper phrasing of her questions.

Mrs. Dorphous reminded Carol of her own mother. Maybe she was like every mother in the world, a woman bursting with pride about her daughter’s accomplishments. Carol learned how Christina was their only child and from an early age she loved to help in the kitchen.

She went on to explain how happy Christina was to be accepted in the culinary arts school and then get to work at Dr. Atonasis’ very important cultural excavation. Then she told of the fear and anguish the entire family suffered when they learned about the attack and the kidnappings. Her joy at learning her daughter was alive was overshadowed by the knowledge that there were so many other girls still missing and so many other families still suffering.

Occasionally during the often long, awkward pauses, Carol could catch a phrase or two from the conversation in the front seat. Her limited Greek vocabulary and the blazing burst of the local dialect restricted her comprehension, but again she saw a father deeply concerned about the safety of his daughter. They were not wealthy. This was just a typical working-class family, much like her parents and all the other proud parents around the world. They had nothing that some terrorist would want. This only added to the great mystery. WHY WERE THESE GIRLS KIDNAPPED?

Even though Carol still had many unanswered questions she was relieved to see they were pulling into the hospital parking lot. The hospital was small but more than adequate for the area. Most of the staff were born and raised within a few miles of the facility. In fact, that was the main reason they chose to work at this back-water clinic.

Carol was hopeful Christina would be able to provide more information to answer the questions she still needed resolved. Carol literally vaulted out of the car. She wanted to find Dr. Stephanous so she could give Marcus a proper introduction. The woman at the reception desk paged Dr. Stephanous. He must have been nearby as he appeared within seconds.

Dr. Stephanous, I’m Carol Dunmore, I talked to you yesterday about Dr. Atonasis visiting Christina Dorphous,” Carol announced just as Marcus approached. The two Doctors cordially greeted each other and shook hands

“Dr. Stephanous, this is Zwith and Emiram Christina Dorphous’ parents. I hope she is able to receive visitors today,” Marcus ventured. Dr. Stephanous shook everyone’s hand and lead them to a quiet corner away from the desk.

“Please call me David; I’m Christina’s primary doctor. Yes, I talked to your assistant on the phone yesterday. I’m very happy you could bring her parents, I’m sure they will have a positive effect on her prognosis,” David replied.

“Thank you, David, you can call me Marcus. So, Christina is awake? Can we see her now? You must realize her parents are very eager to see her and make sure she is being taken care of,” Marcus advised.

“Well then please follow me. Christina is on the third floor. That is my floor; I was only down here because I was told to expect you and her parents around this time. As it turned out I just stepped out of the elevator when I heard the page. Here is her complete medical file you might want to look it over to satisfy yourself that we are giving Christina the best possible care even if we are not as big as the hospitals in Athens,” David continued while he accompanied the group to Christina’s room.

“Thank you. Before her parents see her, is there anything they should be prepared for? Is she covered with bandages?” Marcus inquired.

“Oh, no she does have an IV, but that is just due to being dehydrated. All things considered, she is in very good health,” Dave observed. “Here we are, this is her room.”

Marcus turned to the parents and said they should go in first and comfort their daughter and he would enter in a while to talk to her to see if there is anything she needs. At that, the couple opened the door and rushed to their daughter with exited cries of joy. Marcus closed the door behind them to provide a few moments of privacy.

“Well, if you will excuse me now, I have other patients and I must make my rounds,” David explained as he shook Marcus’ hand.

“Of course, I know you must be very busy and I want you to know how grateful I am for everything you have done so far. I assure you we will remain in touch.” Marcus intoned, before David turned and sauntered down the long corridor in route to his next patient.

While they waited Ruth asked, “how did you get hold of her complete medical record?”

“He must think I’m a medical Doctor. In hospitals where they only deal with medical doctors, they tend to assume everyone with a Dr on their name is a MD. If I did not really think these records might help you in the investigation, I would have let him know, but under the circumstances I think I can be forgiven,” Marcus confessed.

“We will have a team of experts go over the report to see if there is any reference to drugs in her system and any forensic evidence that might have been on her like soil, pollen, or some chemical residue she might have come in contact with,” Ruth assured.

“Excellent! Now, before we enter the room, we need to set some ground rules. First, aside from her parents I will be the only one to talk to her. I can speak her dialect and be like family. I do not want her being confused and feel intimidated by a lot of question from strangers,” Marcus explained.

“That makes perfect sense. I know my language skills are limited and even more important we must avoid making her feel like a suspect – she is a victim and we need to get whatever information she can give us,” Ben agreed.

“That is important to remember she is a victim, but I need you all to exercise your non-verbal communication skills. I know Carol had a class last semester on non-verbal communication and I’m sure the FBI must have even more sophisticated programs for agents who conduct interrogations. So, While I talk to her, please employ all your observational skills,” Marcus concluded. Then without any further comment he opened the door.

In a gushing flow of local dialect, Marcus quickly introduced himself and the rest of the visitors. Then he explained they were there because everyone was very concerned about her and he wanted to make sure she was taken care of. He paused a moment for her parents to tell her about him and how he drove them here to visit. After a long moment Marcus broke in and asked point blank if she could tell him anything about what happened over the past few days,

He listened very closely as she shook her head and proclaimed that she could remember nothing. She swore the last thing she remembered was being pushed into the back of a big truck.

Then she said that this morning she was trying to figure out where she was and had no idea of where she was until a nurse came in the room and told her she was safe in a hospital and when she told me the name of the hospital, I knew I was close to home. She concluded by saying the doctor came by her room this morning and told her that her parents were coming to visit.

“Can you remember where they took you?” Marcus queered.

“No, just the big truck,” Christina replied.

“Did you recognize any of the men who took you?” Marcus questioned.

“No, No, they all had masks and . . . and they blindfolded us,” she answered with a trembling voice.

“It’s ok Christina. You have gone through a lot, but you are the first person we have recovered and we were really hoping you might have some clue that would help us find the other women. I’m sure their parents would be as thankful as your parents are to see their children again. I think you need to talk with your parents and get some rest. I only ask that you write down anything that might pop into your mind, no matter how trivial it might seem to you. It might be the piece of the puzzle we need to find the other women,” Marcus continued. Spontaneously, he bent forward and kissed her on both cheeks like a brother. Then he kissed both of her parents and assured them he would ensure her safety.

“We will be waiting in the cafeteria for you when you are finished talking to your daughter,” he said as he led his group out of the room in rout to the small cafeteria where he paid for a round of coffee.

“Well, what do you think?” Marcus inquired.

“Amnesia after a traumatic experience is very common,” Carol ventured while toying with her coffee cup.

“While it is true, many people suffer from some sort of memory loss it is not normally totally blank. At least in the few cases I have had personal contact with. They tend to have bits and pieces that they have trouble putting together. When they were asked questions, they would pause and try to put the pieces together. Christina was a bit too fast to reply with her ‘I can’t remember anything’ so that concerns me,” added Ben frowning at his doubt about the girl’s sincerity.

“I have to agree with Ben. I have interrogated thousands of people. Christina appears to be working from a script. Like an actor playing the part of a person with Amnesia. I did not see any of the typical hesitation and the searching of her mind to make sure she could not remember. I’m not sure about her mental health, but I’m sure she is holding something back. I just can’t think of a reason why. At the moment the only possible explanation I can think of is some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion, but that still does not help us. I do have a suggestion. Being a better than average agent I try to always be prepared. I always have a radio bug handy just in case I need to listen to what is going on when people think no one can hear. This would let us know what she says to any friends who might call her. If we were back home, I would be able to get a warrant based upon the situation, but I don’t know how much red tape we have to go through here. Inspector Campus’ ‘Colombo’s’ behavior does not impress me and we really need to act fast. I did not want to take any action without consulting with you, Marcus,” Ruth confided.

“I’m glad you did not take matters into your own hands. We are dealing with international issues and we must be careful not to do anything that could cause legal problems later. With that being said I think we should use whatever device you have to see if Christina is hiding something. I say this because I remember Ben showed me some images taken the night of the attack and it did not look like the girls were blindfolded. I would like to review those images again, but I remember thinking when I saw them the first time that it looked like they were going along of their own free will. So, listening in on Christina might prove interesting. And a closer examination of those imagers might be useful,” Marcus asserted.

“Ok, when we go back to her room, I’ll plant the bug under the night table near the head of her bed. Then I will place a booster outside so we can receive the signal anywhere. I can call our HQ and have them send all the imagers of that night so we can do a detailed evaluation. I’m sure they have more than they originally sent. I want to see every image they have in HIGH DEFINITION. Somehow, I just think the girl is not telling us everything and I want to find out why and more importantly WHAT she is holding back,” Ruth offered.

As if on cue, Marcus’ cell phone rang. With a quick gesture of excuse, he moved a few feet away to answer. After a few grunts and barked comments, he hung-up and returned to the group.

“Well, looks like we now have an excellent excuse to go back in the room. The call was from my team that I had working on a difficult problem. They just called to say they need me back at the site ASAP. So, Ruth, get your bug ready and then let’s get out of here,” Marcus asserted.

Ruth silently took a little jewel box out of her purse and checked out the tiny device within to ensure it was working. Then she expertly cupped it in the palm of her hand and nodded to Marcus indicating she was ready. Ruth took a second device and attached it to the top of the door frame. At Ruth’s signal, Marcus knocked on the door to Christina’s room and walked in.

“Excuse me, but I just received an urgent call and I must leave immediately. At least you had a chance to see your daughter and see she is doing well,” Marcus interrupted as he rushed to the bedside, thus providing cover for Ruth to plant the bug. He kissed Christina on both cheeks and then turned to the parents and assured them that Christina was in good hands and he would take them home now. As he led them out of the room, he looked at Ruth, who smiled and nodded back.

Once back in the car, Ruth suggested that Marcus would be happy to pay for a new cell phone to replace the one that was lost. After all no young girl can live without a cell phone she pointed out. Marcus was a bit surprised by Ruth’s magnanimous offer, but saw she wanted to get a phone to the girl so they could tap into it and see who she called and what they had to say.

The distance between the hospital and the Dorphous’ home was filled with many family stories about Christina as a girl growing up in a remote village far from all the excitement of a big city. Marcus walked Zwith and Emiram Dorphous to the door of their humble home, he assured then that either he, or one of the people present will come by tomorrow with a new phone to give to Christina.

As soon as he was back on the main road, Marcus told Ruth that since it was her idea, she should be the one to get the cell phone and have Ben assist her in presenting it to Christina. Ruth agreed that would be a good plan. She could give the cell data to their cyber unit for monitoring and Ben could exercise his Greek skills making the presentation.

“I’m really needed back at the dig, but won’t be there very long. You all might want to hook up with Todd and get an up-date on the cyber security scan he said he was conducting,” Marcus shouted over his shoulder.

“Great idea,” Ruth said.

“Great idea,” Ben agreed.

Within a few minutes they pulled to a stop near the main office. Marcus excused himself and dashed off to change clothes. Carol accompanied Ruth and Ben to the security team’s office to check with Todd.

Discoveries

Todd jumped up from his ergonomic swivel chair and greeted the group as they entered, the room was crowded with tables loaded with multiple monitors and cyber techs were hunched over consoles, fingers flying, firing off salvo after salvo of digital commands. The only sound was the clicking and clacking of keyboards over rode the hushed hum of the A/C fighting to maintain a comfortable 75 degrees.

“I was just going to call Marcus,” Todd announced as he shook everyone’s hand.

“Marcus is very busy with some big break through. So, if you have something important tell me and I will ensure he is informed,” Carol replied.

“Ok, Great! I told you we were going to do a very deep total security sweep on the system. We are almost completely done and we did discover a strange code hidden in some invoices on the main server. We developed a fence around it to prevent it from spreading, but we did not remove it yet. I wanted to talk to Marcus and the FBI before we destroyed any evidence,” Todd recounted.

“Todd, that is very interesting. The cyber geeks at HQ were talking about the possibility of putting a code in a file that would make it better than a Trojan horse. It would let someone send and receive special coded messages without anyone seeing them. The face message would be a part of the normal flow of CYBER GARBAGE would make it impossible to detect. Do you think that is what you discovered?” questioned Ruth.

“We have not done much analysis on what the code was intended to do, but we can start working on it. Maybe your CYBER GEEKS can join in with this they might be able to crack the code faster. I assume the FBI has access to better minds than my crew,” Todd commented.

“Great! I see you all have a lot of work to do. I’ll get out of your way and give Marcus a briefing on what we just discussed,” Carol intoned.

Carol scurried across to the little living quarters to change into something she could wear out in the dirt. She was surprised to see Marcus was still there. It was clear he was about to rush out as she dashed in so she didn’t say anything.

“Carol! Why are you here? I thought you were going with Ruth and Ben to talk with Todd,” Marcus asked.

“Oh, sorry dear. I did go with them and I do have an update for you when you have time to listen. I know you are in a hurry to find out what this big break through is about. I just need to hop into some ‘NASTY’ clothes and I will accompany you,” Carol replied.

“That’s great! Then I will just wait for you. Maybe you can brief me while you get changed,” Marcus chided.

Carol started repeating what Todd said about finding some strange code attached to some invoices, and how Ruth and Ben got really excited about the discovery and that they were now getting the FBI CYBER GEEKS involved. She managed to impart all this information while she stripped off her skirt and blouse and tug on a pair of desert tan BDUs and a light brown T-Shirt.

“Ok handsome take me to your dig,” Carol crooned and batted her eyes like some Betty Bop cartoon character.

“Ok but let me warn you the place really stinks. That was the source of my putrid stench the other day,” Marcus cautioned as he led the way across the open field.

The sun was just past the meridian and the horizon was lost in a blinding haze. The air stood motionless holding aloft copious amounts of dust and pollen, making breathing difficult. By the time Marcus reached the bream of the new excavation, dark blotches of perspiration were visible on his brown T-Shirt. Carol hurried up the slop behind him and stood holding his arm panting for breath from so much exertion in the heat of the day. Standing on the brink, the putrid stench coming from the pit enveloped her in the toxic fumes. Carol’s cough was spastic trying to fight off the toxic fumes.

“Maybe you better stand back a few feet, until you get used to the smell,” Marcus suggested.

“Oh God! You mean you can become immune to this odor? I thought you smelled bad the other day when you came in the office. I could not imagine that it could smell worse. What the hell is down there that is worth inhaling these fumes?” Carol asked.

“Well hopefully that is what we are about to find out,” Marcus replied.

Looking down into the pit, Marcus called out, “Ok, what was so urgent?”

Marcus was half way down the ladder before he heard a reply.

“Hey, Boss! Glad you got back so fast. We found the answer to the problem, but wanted you to be here when we open the door,” Sam shouted from the bottom of the pit.

Coughing and gasping, Marcus made his way to the smooth faced stone that blocked their progress. Instantly he noticed that the stone was cleaned and polished with any trace of dirt carefully removed. He ran his hand over the surface to give a closer examination. During this examination he noticed there were a few scratch marks around the strange symbols.

“I see you guys have been busy cleaning things up, but the place still stinks. So, what is all this excitement about,” He inquired.

Sam jumped forward and pointed to the strange symbols, “these are the answer! Remember the language geeks could not identify these symbols? We did not think much about it at the time as we have had a lot of times when we found things no one could understand. Then the other day when we were using the pry bar, I thought I noticed one of the symbols wiggle.

That was just after you had to take off with some security issue. At any rate I got the crew to clean the stone off and do a close inspection around the symbols. It took a lot of time and effort, but we found the secret. The symbols are like a combination lock. You know - like the goofy ‘Indiana Jones’ films.”

“WOW! You got to be kidding me! That really does sound like a really bad movie. Ok, so you say it is a combination lock. I sure as hell hope you have figured out the combination before you called me,” Marcus exclaimed.

“Now come on Boss. You know us better than to think we'd send for you if we were not sure we had this problem licked. In fact, we have already got the lock open we were just waiting for you to have the honor of being the first to see what is behind this puzzle door,” Sam boasted.

“Better put on the masks. There’s no telling what is in the air behind this door. Dealing with the stench down here in this hole has been bad enough,” Marcus cautioned.

As everyone started pulling the protective gas masks over their heads, Marcus shouted to everyone above to move back and to put on breathing filters. Marcus quickly positioned his mask and checked it to ensure there was no leakage. With great effort he pulled at the edge of the door, but it didn’t budge. Sam stepped up and grabbed the door just below Marcus’ hands and together they put all their combined weight into a tremendous jerk. Their effort was rewarded with a grinding sound and the movement of the door a few millimeters. The door did move, but less than an inch. Again, the two men heaved. This time the door groaned and moved about one inch. The other men in the group moved forward and everyone had their hand in place. Marcus counted to three and everyone thru their weight into the “heave-ho” and the door rumbled as it slowly swung open.

An electric lantern was thrust into the darkness beyond the huge stone door. The glaring blue/white light brought into view a vast treasure trove of unbelievable art work. At first glance Marcus could not fathom the extent of this find. He took a few steps into the chamber. He was struck by the number of statues and earthen ware housed within. Marcus stood motionless trying to make a mental survey of the room before venturing further. He was only vaguely aware of the other team members pushing to get a better view.

The gas mask mouth piece made conversation extremely difficult. So, Marcus kept his comments brief. “Apparently this was built as some sort of vault and that door was their equivalent of a bank vault. It is amazing how much is stored in here and I can’t even see the back wall. We need to get the hazmat team down her ASAP to check the air quality and then get the catalogers busy recording everything and making as many photos as we can to document as much as possible,” Marcus apprised.

Marcus struggled to push the heavy door back, but was careful not to let it latch again. As an added precaution he slipped a large rock in the opening to serve as a door stop. Carol was waiting for him at the top of the ladder when he climbed out. He took her by the arm and they trotted a few yards before he paused to remove his gas mask. When Carol saw him remove his mask, she assumed it safe to take her filter off.

“Oh GOD! Every time I have to wear one of these things, I have to wonder how the solders can survive wearing their bulky chemical protection equipment and carry out their missions. I just had this mask on for not even half an hour and I’m worn out,” panted Marcus, bent over at the waist, running his fingers through his sweaty hair.

“Marcus, are you ok? You look really terrible! Please take it easy dear. Take a few deep breaths of fresh air. Here is a cold bottle of water you can have,” Carol soothed. She had her arms wrapped around his waist and started to rub his hair with a tissue.

Marcus looked up and motioned to the rest of the team to go on back to clean up. He took the offered bottle of water from Carol and drank deeply. Then he held the bottle over his head and let about half of the remaining contents splash on his head, face and chest. After he shook his head like a wet dog trying to dry off, he drank the remaining water and let out a long sigh of relief.

“Carol, you will have to see it to believe it. It took a lot of time and way too many man hours of back breaking work, but it looks like it was all worthwhile. I only took a little peek, but it was like we just broke into the Louvre,” he whispered in her ear, still gasping for breath.

“Are you ok? WOW! When can I see it?” Carol stammered.

After taking a few more deep breaths, Marcus stood upright and held Carol close. With a grand sweeping gesture of his free hand Marcus announced that this new discovery has changed the entire concept of what this place was used for. Before he could explain to Carol what he thought was the nature of the site he was interrupted.

“Marcus – Marcus, the two inspectors are on the phone and they want to have a video conference as soon as you can get to the office. I already told the FBI agents and they will be waiting for you in your office. Sorry I don’t think you will have time to clean up,’ shouted Simona as she ran across the sun-baked field.

Marcus waved his hand in acknowledgement and turned to Carol and kissed her with more passion than she expected before he replied, “I wonder what those two have that is so important? Looks like you will have to endure my retched condition a bit longer. I promise to shower and change right after the conference.”

Ruth and Ben greeted them as they burst thru the door. The video feed was just being connected as Marcus flopped down in the big chair directly in front of the monitor.

“Yassou, Dr. Atonasis,” greeted Inspector Campus.

“Yassou, Inspector Campus. I hope you have some really important news for me,” Marcus grumbled.

“Let me assure you we did not call you just to interrupt your day Sir. I know the FBI agents have been very busy as we have not seen them for a long time, but I see them standing behind you so they must have updated you on our progress as of Ben’s return from the FBI HQs. With his new input and the sketchy evidence on this new mystery cult we have, in close coordination with INTERPOL, been able to get some additional information about the spread of this new drug. So far, we have only seen reports of this cult activity around the local area. There have been a few more incidents of strange sexual behavior around universities and some of the tourist locations that attract a lot of young people. We are starting to get a lead on this mysterious leader. From what our reports show the leader is not Greek. It seems he is most likely from the Middle East and only speaks to his followers in very poor English. Were you able to get any information from the girl when you went to visit her?” Inspector Campus concluded.

“Thank you for the update. It does look like you are making progress on locating this cult leader. I would like to add that the FBI is working with my security team to determine the nature of a strange computer code segment they discovered on some of the computers used here. Maybe Ruth or Ben can provide an update on that. Yes, we went to see Christina at the hospital. I brought her parents along because I thought it might make her feel more at ease. After I asked her a few questions about what she could remember I got together with Carol, Ben and Ruth to see what they thought. We all agreed, she was not telling us what she knew. Ruth and Ben are going to stop by tomorrow to give her a new cell phone. We hope she will start calling friends and during her conversations inadvertently divulge some clue to where she was, or maybe some clue as to who is behind the attack. We are also having her medical records reviewed to see what was in her blood when they admitted her to the hospital. So, gentlemen, it looks like some very positive progress has been made,” Marcus exclaimed.

Inspector Borga stepped forward to comment, but Ben beat him by stating, “As Marcus alluded to, we have detected a computer code segment that we believe may answer many questions about how the group communicates. We have all of our CYBER GEEKS working to analyze exactly how it works but from what I overheard they think it might be a way to invisible encrypt text on social media so it can be lost in the ocean of data flow and then the code can filter out the encoded message at a computer with the same program. The person sending and the person receiving would only have to run the secret program and that would be pass word protected to prevent accidental use. The chief of FBI CYBER TERCH said the program is resident on only two computers here at Marcus’ site indicates someone working here is involved. We will be concentrating on finding out who is responsible but it might take a few days.”

“Yes, this is a big break because just like when the ALLIES captured an ENIGMA device during WWII, they were able to know what the enemy was up to. Once we have this code under control, we will be able find the missing girls and hunt down the leader,” Ruth added.

Inspector Borga coughed to clear his throat and said, “Well it seems I have nothing to add. It is getting late and with all these actions pending tomorrow looks like it will be very busy. I do expect a report from INTERPOL on any similar incidents throughout Europe by noon tomorrow. I can send a copy to you. So, if there is nothing more to report we will adjourn until we have reason to re-convene.” The monitor went blank as he terminated the conference call.

Marcus turned to the two FBI agents and demanded, “Who do you think is the person responsible for the computer virus on our system?”

“We are not sure, but I think we should put Christina at the top of the list. The computers that are infected are computers that she would use in her daily duties. The fact she seems to be withholding information make her look suspicious. Our CYBER GEEKS said they want to leave the virus in place but they have added an alarm code so whenever someone tries to use the encryption device it will report who is using it and copy the information being sent before it is encrypted. Once we have the log in protocol then our agents can send information that will enable us to capture them,” Ben assured.

“Great work, both of you! It is getting late and I think you can afford to spend the night at the Konus shack. Ellen is expecting you. But if you will excuse me, I know I need to clean up before we leave,” Marcus commented.

“Yes, I think I will join you in getting cleaned up. I’m sure Ellen would be shocked to see and smell me in this condition,” Carol chirped.

“Ok, that will give me and Ben a chance to go over a few points with Todd,” acknowledged Ruth.

“Good, we will stop by the security room when we are ready. I promise we will not take long,” Marcus advised. And lead Carol to their quarters.

Once in the sanctuary of their tinny living quarters, they both stripped rapidly, as they were eager to rid themselves of the filthy garments. Carol warned Marcus not to start anything she was only sharing the shower to expedite the process. Being careful not to discourage the possibility of later events she added that if she got started now, they surely would be late for diner. Marcus laughed and agreed that at the moment all he was interested in was getting clean. Then with a big lecherous grin he made it obvious that he too was looking forward to late night delights.

Contemplating The Mystery

True to his word, they did not take long to shower and change into clean clothes. Marcus laughed and agreed that they need to get home soon and have a good meal and some fine wine with the two agents to review the events of the day. He also wanted to give Carol a briefing on what he saw when he peeked into the strange vault.

After about thirty minutes Carol poked her head in the Security office door and said, “Come on you guys, I’m hungry and we have a long drive ahead and you should realize Ellen does not like people to be late.”

Quickly good-byes were exchanged and the group left Todd with his crew of cyber techs and headed to the Land Rover. Marcus had the motor running and was already getting the interior cooled before they climbed in. Soon, a joyous conversation erupted and the long drive seemed only half as long. Marcus excitedly talked about the big breakthrough he had and how he could hardly wait to be able to do a more extensive examination of the contents of this secret vault.

“You say this vault was filled with artifacts. So, that means they are like new condition. I guess what I’m trying to say is, WHY?” Ben pondered.

“I really can’t answer that question now. I’m sure once we start a detailed examination of the items and catalog everything, we will have a better idea of why they were all sealed off in this manner. Right now, I just can’t get over the fact I have a room full of artifacts that look like they were made yesterday. In fact, that might become an issue as no one will believe they are not fakes. At least I do have video footage of us opening the vault and the first peek inside,” Marcus replied.

This topic dominated the conversation until Marcus pulled to a stop in front of the massive veranda. Everyone was in a festive spirit as Jason greeted them at the main door. Hearing the commotion Ellen hobbled out and kissed everyone on both cheek in a cordial family greeting. The sun was still up, but low in the western sky. The air was still super-charged from the heat of the day and pungent with the combined fragrances of the flowers in bloom. They all followed Ellen through the house to the garden where tables were filled with trays of finger food and a wide selection of wines. The sound of water splashing in a small garden pond sets a relaxed atmosphere. Ellen laid her cane on a low retaining wall and took a seat as she gestured the others sit down.

Ever the perfect host, Jason hopped up to offer wine to everyone. After the last glasses were filled, Ellen proposed a toast to the day and everyone's continued good health.

Ellen sipped her wine slowly to appreciate all the fine nuances of the vintage, before she smiled and asked, “So how did it go with the young girl?”

Marcus was slow to speak, but he seemed to be the only one willing to provide Ellen with a response. “Strange you should ask, but then maybe not so strange after all. I mean I’m sure the Gods have given you some signs,” Marcus quipped.

“As a matter of fact, I have been getting all kinds of disturbing signs today. Even the wind is blowing the wrong direction for this time of year. I sense confusion and deceit. So now tell me what you all actually learned from her?” Ellen challenged, and then leaned back in her big, high backed, chair and took a sip of wine.

“Ellen I’m beginning to think you might really have some inside source of information, or did Carol call you while my back was turned? You are right, there is a great deal of confusion, and we all think there is a lot of deceit. When we talked to the girl, Christina, she seemed to be withholding information. Ruth suggested she might have been hypnotized and then given some post hypnotic suggestion that she is now compelled to give as answers to any question relating to what happened. At the same time the security team discovered a strange computer virus on a few of the computers at the site that could have been used by this strange cult to pass information. All the infected computers were computers that Christina would use during her daily duties,” Marcus explained.

Ellen sat quietly with her eyes closed for a long moment reflecting upon what Marcus reported. It was clear she was pondering the information Marcus relayed. She took a very long sip of wine and inquired, “So what do you think?”

“Well Ruth said she was not sure about the responses so we bugged her room and have the local FBI office monitoring her conversations and we are going to give her a cell phone that we can track and monitor. The FBI thinks that now that we know about this strange computer virus, we might use it to track the cult and find the other missing girls. So even though there are some unresolved questions it looks like we are finally making some progress. Oh, and there is some other great news. We opened up a strange vault that is filled with artifacts in really incredible condition,” beamed Marcus like a young boy talking about his new toys.

“Yes, the Gods have been elated. Now the world will once again see the grandeurs of the time when the Gods were respected,” Ellen intoned. Then she laughed loudly and stood up and announced that dinner must be ready. She grabbed her cane and proceeded to hobble toward the dining room.

Fronia came from her room to join the group at the massive wooden table. She hesitated a moment before taking a seat. She waited until Ben took a chair and then discreetly slid into the chair next to him. Ruth looked in Carol’s direction to see if she noticed this flirtatious behavior. When Carol smiled and winked back Ruth was satisfied, she was not the only one who noticed Fronia’s actions. It seemed like Ben was the only person at the table who was oblivious to the situation.

Ruth filled her plate with the delicious offerings before she started talking about the busy agenda schedule for the morning. Ben agreed that they would be out on the road most of the day. She mentioned the need to visit Christina and how important her cooperation was. Marcus eagerly explained he was going to be too busy to accompany them to visit Christina to deliver the cell phone and pointed out that Carol’s language ability was only sufficient for rudimentary greetings. Ruth took this as the perfect opportunity.

“Well Ben, I know you have a better depth of Greek than I do, but do you think you can talk to Christina like Marcus did? I’m sure she is feeling like she is in a fish bowl. We really need to develop a family like relationship with her to win her over,” Ruth observed as she looked directly at Fronia.

“Yes, I was thinking about that myself. Yes, Ruth I agree. We really must try to build up a rapport with Christina. I do have a good amount of background in common Greek dialects, but I’m sure Christina would consider me an outsider. Until I learned of Marcus’ new discovery, I assumed he would be the one to accompany us tomorrow,” Ben reflected with a concerned frown on his youthful face.

Carol quietly sat eating her meal and looking around the table watching this mini-drama play itself out. Ellen offered to fill everyone’s glass and calmly offered, “Well if you need someone who speaks the local dialect, Fronia might be able to help. You did not have any big plans for tomorrow did you dear?” coaxed Ellen.

“HUAH – What, are you talking to me?” stammered Fronia.

An explosion of laughter filled the dining room. Fronia looked totally confused as she tried to comprehend what was so funny.

“Fronia, you must be daydreaming. You have been sitting there all evening and yet you haven’t heard a word that was said,” Ellen chided.

“I’m sorry, but you know I don’t get excited about Uncle Marcus’ dusty relics. So, when I hear about him finding some ‘new’ old stuff my mind drifts,” pouted Fronia.

Carol was still giggling behind her palm when she injected, “Yeah, I think we all know where your mind was wondering, but this might catch your attention. Now pay attention! Ruth and Ben need someone who can speak the dialect to help them tomorrow. Do you know anyone that fits that description?” Carol teased.

Fronia blushed, rendering her cheeks a deep red and diverted her eyes to the floor. Again, laughter filled the room. Ruth took Fronia off the hook and reached across the table and patted her on the hand.

“Well, Fronia, would you be willing to sacrifice your free time to assist the FBI in solving this case?” Ruth inquired.

“Why didn’t you just ask me in the first place? Of course, I want to help any way I can,” Fronia assured Ruth with a perplexed expression on her face as she continued to wonder why everyone was laughing.

“Great! Thank you Fronia, I’m sure Christina will be more willing to talk to you than two FBI agents. We will have to get an early start tomorrow, as we have to go to Athens to pick up a cell phone and then give the cyber team the phone data then drive out to the hospital,” Ben enumerated.

“You could get a cell phone in the city where the hospital is located. Can’t you transmit the data to your cyber guys? That would cut three hours off your busy schedule,” Fronia advised looking around to see if her suggestion was received positively.

“Thank you Fronia, yes we can send a text to the cyber team and they will send a text to her phone with the Trojan horse attached. They send a text that says ‘click here’ for free service and that launches the virus. The saved time will let me check with the embassy agent who is monitoring Christina’s bug so we can learn if she has had any conversations that might provide some clues,” Ruth added.

Marcus jumped up to re-fill everyone’s glass and the conversation evolved into a babbling flow of common interest events and various likes and dislikes of books, movies, and cultural differences. The discussion was very animated and yet non-aggressive. Marcus talked briefly about the mystery of the newly uncovered vault and how he could hardly wait to get more information collected on exactly what was lurking in the vast storage room.

Just as Marcus was taking a deep breath to continue his rambling dialog he felt a sharp pain, as Carol had kicked him in the shin. His momentary hesitation was all Carol needed to jump in and proclaim that it was getting later and if Marcus really was so eager to get into the vault, he might want to get into bed first so he would be rested and ready for the new day. Carol then took Marcus by the arm and tugged him in the direction of his living quarters. Once they were out of hearing range, Carol reminded Marcus of the for-shortened shower, at the camp, and how she felt really “DIRTY” and needed him to tend to that burning situation.

Marcus nodded in agreement and he rushed pulling, Carol along, to the bed room where they both quickly undressed and fought to see who was going to get into the shower first. Marcus soon realized Carol’s state of being DIRTY was more a state of mind than body. When Marcus entered the large steaming shower, Carol instantly attacked him with wild passionate kisses. She was thrilled that Marcus accepted her advances and was giving in return.

Passion burned hot as their lithe bodies frolicked in the hot jets of water. With loving devotion, copious amounts of shower gel were whipped into frothy lather providing an additional erotic element to the game best played by two. Kisses were exchanged with wanton abandon and their combined state of sexual arousal was like electricity in the air just before lightening strikes. The flames of their passion drove them onward until they dashed to the king-sized bed without even pausing to attempt to dry off.

With a gleeful leap they flew onto the bed, their wet bodies slipped and sided, rubbing bare skin against all their erogenous zones. They kissed deeply and passionately while their hands explored every inch of their partners exposed flesh. They no longer felt doubts or reservations about their actions; they now knew exactly how to satisfy their partner and they uninhibitedly rushed to achieve that goal. All the pent-up sexual arousal of the past few days exploded with earth shaking orgasmic shock waves that catapulted the two lovers into a private universe of eternal bliss. Eventually the physical bodies could no longer maintain the erotic demands of the unbridled spirits of the lovers. Exhausted, drained of the all-consuming lust, they floating on the waves of ecstasy. They drifted through the timeless space, bathed in the warmth of sexual afterglow and were soon engulfed in a deep sleep.

Mystery

About the author

Bruce J. Spohn

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