Linda had waited with baited breath outside the small hotel that she and David had called home for the past few days, not at all certain that the promise of $30,000 would convince the owner to get her a truck. It was then a great surprise to see such a vehicle trundle down the beaten up road toward them, and better yet, it wasn’t simply some old, rusted contraption, but instead a clean, red lorry. The hotel owner had even organised a large trailer (probably wants to impress me).
The driver waved a hand at her and Dave as the truck came to a stop. Unlike the man in the hotel, he was clean-shaven, with short black hair and a look of pure delight to be in the company of westerners, which became all the more obvious when he jumped down from the cab.
“Greetings, I am Hassan! Wherever you need to go, whatever you need moving, I will do.” The young man took Linda’s hand and shook it vigorously, before doing likewise with Dave.
Linda smiled. “We need to go here.” She slipped her map from the pocket of her khakis, pointed to a spot in the desert. “About fifty miles south of here.”
Hassan turned his chocolate eyes upon her with a view of confusion. “My lady, there is nothing there but scorched sand and rock.”
“I have some friends out there who need something moved, no questions asked. Can you help us?”
Wariness replaced enthusiasm on the man’s face. “I don’t handle drugs or weapons.”
“Don’t worry, it’s neither of those. It’s an archaeological dig.”
“I don’t know this word, my English… it’s okay, what is, archaeological?”
“We look for bones.” Said Dave.
“Ah, I see… wait, why does he have a gun?” Concern re-entered Hassan’s voice.
“For protection. If it helps…” Linda took a wad of dollars from a pouch on her waist. “Will this serve as enough danger money?”
The promise of hard currency on top of whatever cut he was getting from the hotel changed the look on Hassan’s face once again. “Yes, yes, that will cover any risk.” Linda grinned. He hadn’t even counted it, though there was roughly $2,500 there.
“Can we leave right now? My friends are anxious to load something up and move it on.”
“Yes yes, please, get on board, I have cold drinks!”
To Linda, with the sun rising higher as midday approached, that was going to be a godsend.
Mark felt reasonably confident that the specimen could now be moved, but he could feel himself shaking. He wanted to keep it concealed as much as possible, but sooner or later, this discovery would go global, and he knew what would happen.
Studying the pictures as best he could on the small display of the camera, Mark had come to realise that his first conclusion was shaping up to be correct. The little ‘device’ the remains held was no mere stone or rock used by a primitive ape. There were criss-crossing lines and circles all across the surface. Symbols of some kind.
Closer study of the skeleton had changed his outlook still further. The large skull, the small body yet long arms and legs… it seemed absurd, it was absurd, and yet, the more he looked, the more his brain made the connection.
Jeremy had not yet figured it out. He’d loaded the jeep up and was now sat in the driver’s seat, eating a sandwich. If he’d been bored before, he was positively weary now.
Right now, Mark’s greatest fear was someone else arriving to claim the discovery for their own. The site wasn’t unknown for intriguing finds of human civilisation, so there was always the chance someone might show up, stumble upon Mark and Jeremy, reach the same conclusions and make a grab for the prize. Mark was therefore spending half his time keeping an eye on the horizon, whilst willing the phone to ring.
“I guess this thing is pretty fragile if we need a truck to move it.” Remarked Jeremy. Mark didn’t reply. Statements of the obvious annoyed him.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to worry about an awkward silence. Jeremy took another bite of his sandwich and carried on looking into the distance.
Time seemed to move slowly. It always did when things needed to happen urgently. Mark resisted the urge to return to the remains, instead drinking some more water. It never ceased to amaze him that even on the edge of the Sahara one of the most inhospitable places on earth, humans had managed to build lives for themselves.
“Professor, over there!” Jeremy’s voice punctured his thoughts. Following Jeremy’s finger, Mark saw in the distance a trail of dust and dirt, that almost certainly signified an incoming vehicle. He was about to get Jeremy to hide their find, when his phone started to ring.
“We’re on our way, not too far out now. Switch on your GPS and we’ll zero in.”
“Got it. Jeremy, switch on the GPS please. Linda, do you have us?”
“We have you. See you soon.”
“Jeremy, do you mind driving the jeep? I need to stay with the specimen.”
Jeremy’s eyes lit up. “Not a problem Professor!”
“Drive carefully Jeremy. It’s not a sports car.” Mark could almost hear his eyes rolling in response. “Are we all packed?”
It took a few more minutes of waiting, but the arrival of the bright red truck (that seemed to direct yet more sunlight straight at Mark) and a big, spacious white trailer was very welcome. The big rig seemed to snarl as the driver slowed down and stopped, and then one of nature’s greatest miracles stepped down from the cab.
Even in long khaki sorts and desert camo shirts, and despite the intense heat, and even after being rattled around in a truck for the past hour or two, Linda managed to look radiant. Not a lock of her wavy blonde hair was out of place, and she looked beautiful. No time for regrets Mark…
“Welcome to the dig site.” He said, smiling. Behind Linda came ‘Dave’, and a young local man who he didn’t know.
“Nice to see it, would be nicer if I knew what the hurry was. This is Hassan, he drove us here.” Linda gestured in the direction of him and Mark stepped forward, shaking his hand.
“Thank you for getting here on such short notice.”
“My pleasure. Your colleagues have been pleasant travelling companions. We had an enjoyable journey.” Linda shot Mark a look that suggested the exact opposite was true. Dave just looked impervious to anything.
“So Mark, let me see what the fuss is about.” Linda was direct as always.
“Here, follow me.” Together they strode past the jeep and toward the little area marked off with a small barrier. Mark waved a hand at it. “Take a look.”