Flash of Fiction Friday: Chapter 7 of The Unspoken Game

Welcome to another edition of Flash of Fiction Friday! Guess what?? This is FINAL chapter of The Unspoken Game: Mummy Maneuver! That’s right, the entire short story has now been posted, totally free, here on my website. The first novel in the series, Art of Deception, is currently in final rewrites and I’ll start posting those chapters next. In the meantime, my new erotic serial, Tease, is out and The Storm Inside is FREE on iBooks and Amazon for a very short time! It’s a great time to try out my books. Happy reading!

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6


Chapter 7

The security guards checked everyone in the truck and it made Antonia nervous.  She had nothing to hide, but the situation was so odd, and there was something about guards with guns… it definitely upped the nerves.

Once they were cleared to enter the property it was a long winding drive through woods and up a hill to the house.  The mansion was breathtaking—stone and gothic with beautiful architecture.  The research building was less graciously designed.  It was more functional, but an effort had been made to make the building blend in with the mansion.  Several other much smaller buildings were visible in the distance.

It was interesting and striking and Antonia felt a little thrill inside.  It was the same one she got when her mother was hired at The Smithsonian and it was the same sensation when she first walked down the streets of Oxford.  There was a vibe that surrounded places filled with people sharing a single focus—and this place had it too.  Antonia could feel it in the air.

Donovan pulled the Suburban into a covered breezeway and parked.

The breeze blew Antonia’s hair out of her face just as the door opened revealing the inside of the mansion.  A massive dark wood staircase covered in a deep blue rug dominated the middle of the house.  Once she walked inside, Antonia realized the rest of the house was just as impressive.  Antiques and art covered every shelf and wall.  It was dark but beautiful.

“This way,” Donovan said.  He led them down the right hallway and into a room that might as well have been a library.  Two walls were covered in built-in bookcases and every shelf appeared to have a sequential set of books or encyclopedias.  The far wall was a massive bank of windows overlooking the gardens outside and the right wall contained a massive fireplace.

Standing in front of the fireplace was none other than Theodore Seleron.  He turned the moment they walked in the doorway, dressed exactly as Antonia had seen him on television.  Today the three-piece suit was a very dark grey, almost black, with a faint pinstripe.  His shirt was light blue and his handkerchief matched the shirt.  His tie was the same shade of grey as his suit and the trademark pocket watch hung from the vest inside, peeking out as he moved.  He was very well-dressed man, but the hard look in his eyes told Antonia that he was as brilliant and involved as he was described.

“Thank you all for your assistance with my little problem,” he said as he nodded and Donovan closed the door.

It was a little like being shut in a cage. The room was cold despite the fireplace, and she really didn’t know or trust anyone standing beside her. Maybe she’d made a terrible mistake agreeing to leave the bar with Donovan.

None of them took a seat. Sophie crossed her arms and thrust out her chin.  “This was a pretty open and shut case. Did you really need to hire us? Because you seem to have plenty of help around here…”

The Old Man smiled and mirrored Sophie’s crossed arms, widening his stance and settling in as he looked around the group.  “My money and connections only get me so far.  Each of you have ties I will never have.  That being said, you are also right, Miss Reynolds.  I probably didn’t need to go to such extravagant lengths.”

“So why did you?”  Sparks asked.  The depth of his voice still surprised Antonia.

“Because,” Seleron replied, turning to face Jonathan.  “I needed to get you all here.  I’ve been watching each of you with great interest for some time now.  This incident was the perfect occasion to ask you all here at the same time.”  He walked across the room to the sitting area.  Two long sofas faced each other over a massive oriental rug.  Matching armchairs stood at each end.

“Please,” he said turning.  “Join me.”

Antonia glanced at Sophie who shrugged.  Everyone then watched as Donovan walked across the room and sat down opposite The Old Man.  “We’re not going to bite.  If we wanted to hurt you, we would have done it by now.  We just want to talk.”

Self-control was one of Antonia’s largest assets, but her biggest weakness was curiosity.  It served her well in her occupation, but in the real world it was more often a burden.  And right then, Antonia couldn’t resist the urge to sit down and find out why Theodore Seleron had gone to so much trouble just to talk.

As soon as her butt hit the chair the others joined her and Seleron took a deep breath.

“Thank you.  Do you know what the Great Pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge of England have in common?”  Seleron cocked an eyebrow and intentionally avoided Antonia’s gaze.  It was obvious he didn’t want her professional assessment; he wanted the group’s uneducated opinion.

She sat back and let them all stare at each other.  Finally Jonathan shrugged his shoulders and gave the reply that made every archaeologist cringe.  “Proof that aliens have been on Earth for thousands of years?”

Antonia tried not to give a reaction, but she must have done something—maybe she made a face or flinched—she didn’t know, but Sophie’s eyes shot over to Antonia’s at the same moment Seleron smiled and turned in her direction.

“Didn’t like that answer, did you Dr. Warren?” he was grinning like a fool.

She hated Jonathan’s answer.  It was a ridiculous cop-out.  One she’d had to suffer through a hundred times.  “Nope.”

“Neither do I,” he replied.  “Care to explain to the group why that answer is so offensive?”

She glanced around the room wondering more about each of their backgrounds for the first time.  Who exactly were Sophie Reynolds, Gerard Patterson, and Jonathan Sparks?  What made them tick?  What did they care about?  Was anything she was about to say going to matter to any of them at all?

She shrugged her shoulders and gave her standard answer.  “The human brain is one of the most creative and ingenious things ever to exist.  We are more than capable of creating awe-inspiring pieces of monumental architecture, complex language, and mathematics.  And yet, when we look at the past it is easier for most people to believe aliens created all of that than believe it was our own ancestors.  We doubt our own capabilities.  You know why?”  Antonia took a breath from her tirade for a moment and looked right at Donovan.  He was still wearing those damn sunglasses, but Antonia could read his expression just as easily as if she could see his eyes.  He was hanging on every word she was saying.

She continued.  “Because we are every bit as self-destructive as we are creative.  Throughout human history we have made massive breakthroughs and built amazing civilizations, only to be our own worst enemy and destroy it all.  We look back and wonder how people so long ago could have possibly created so much without divine intervention or extraterrestrial help, but we did.  The explanation is simple and the evidence is always there, but we have trouble accepting we’ve done such horrible things to ourselves.”

The room was incredibly quiet for several minutes before Jonathan broke the silence.  “So… not aliens then?”

Seleron smiled.  “No, not aliens.”  He stood up and started to pace with his hands clasped behind his back.  “The pyramids, the stone monuments, and everything else have something in common: they were ahead of their time.  Each one, and many others around the world, are examples of achievements we have rarely, or never, been able to duplicate in the same way.  They hold secrets to technology and methodology we have lost.  I want to bring them back.”

He let that final sentence hang for a moment before he stopped beside Donovan and tapped him on the shoulder.  Donovan looked like he had been deep in thought and was surprised to find Seleron so close.  “Sorry,” he apologized and cleared his throat.  “Dr. Warren possesses a unique set of skills and background knowledge that Mr. Seleron would like to utilize in order to move forward with several special projects he has slated.  The three of you possess connections and skills that will help her succeed.”

That wave of curiosity Antonia found hard to ignore was crashing down around her.  If Seleron and Donovan were saying what she thought they were saying, she was going to have a hard time saying no.  “What kind of special projects are we talking about?” she asked calmly.

“I’m glad you asked,” Seleron replied.  “The kind that I have teams working around the clock to figure out.  We’re talking cutting-edge technology.  These are things my teams will eventually decode but…”

Antonia really liked where this was going.  “But,” she finished for him, “Why reinvent the wheel when the wheel was already invented once?”

“Exactly,” he replied.  “The answers already exist; we just have to find them again.  That is what I want you to do for me.  I’ve set up a lab on the second floor and created a division for the five of you.  Donovan will serve as my liaison.”

“What do we get out of this deal?” Antonia had nearly forgotten Patterson was there.  He was slumped into the back of the couch with a scowl on his face.

“You get what I promised you.  In your case, Mr. Patterson, that means the chance to find and integrate each of these pieces of technology and information.  You will be the greatest inventor of our time.  Which I know from personal dealings with you, is what you want more than anything else.”

They traded a long look.  There was so much history between Patterson, Seleron, and Donovan.  As soon as they were done Antonia was going to do her homework on each and every one of them, starting with Patterson.

“You’ll get me Redemski?” The look on Sophie’s face was nothing short of focused hate.

“I will,” Seleron promised.

She nodded.  “Then I’m in.”

Patterson stared at Sophie but didn’t say anything.  In fact, he didn’t look away for several minutes.  Sparks, however, was shaking his head.  “You’ve got nothing for me, Seleron.  What makes you so sure I’ll stay?”

Seleron glanced back at Antonia and it made the hair on her arm stand on end.  “Donovan does one helluva a job, but you and I both know he needs help for what I’m asking Dr. Warren to do.  You are the best and you want to stay on the straight and narrow—I’m giving the chance to utilize all those talents you have for something positive, while keeping people who might be looking for you off your back.”

Sparks lowered his eyes and nodded as he thought, finally looking up at Antonia.  “If she says yes, then I’ll give it a go.  But one hiccup and I’m out of here.  Sorry, Doc.”

Antonia held up her hands, “Don’t apologize to me, I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.”

Seleron was hiding something, Antonia could feel it.  She had no idea what it was or why he was keeping it a secret when he was being so open about everything else, but she had absolutely no doubts that there was more to his story.  She wanted to take The Old Man’s offer.  Tracking down the mysteries of the past was exactly why she’d chosen to follow in her parent’s footsteps.  Seleron was giving her the keys to the car and telling her to drive, all she had to do was take them.

He was hiding something, but she really didn’t need to know what it was.  All she really needed was to decide if she could trust him.  Everyone had their secrets, she certainly had plenty, and a secret wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Antonia looked into his keen blue eyes and saw a lot of things: blind ambition, brilliance, shrewdness—but she didn’t see evil.

He walked toward her.  “Whatever it is you’re looking for, I will help you find it.  My resources are your resources.”

“How do you know I’m looking for something?” she asked. No one knew what she was looking for.

The corners of his lips turned up in a faint smile.  “It takes one to know one, Dr. Warren.  I’ve spent many years looking for things I wasn’t meant to find.  I know what someone looks like when they’re on the hunt.”

He studied her just as carefully as she studied him.  Trust and mutual need.  That was what their relationship was going to boil down to.  She could help him find what he needed and he would help her in return.

“I’m in,” Antonia said quietly before glancing at Donovan.  His jaw was set and his face was like stone.  Maybe earlier was a fluke because right then Donovan was unreadable behind his dark lenses.

Sparks nodded his agreement and Seleron rubbed his hands together.  “Excellent! I was hoping you’d all say yes.  I have something that could use your attention right now, actually.”  He grinned and started for the door.  He looked like an excited child, not a stoic technology billionaire.  “Anyone in the mood to visit Rome?  I hear the aqueducts are beautiful this time of year!”

“Aqueducts?” Sophie asked.

“C’mon,” Donovan said with a reluctant sigh.  “He’s headed up to show you guys the lab.”

Antonia let the other three filter out the door first so she could get closer to Donovan.  He was out the door last.  “You don’t look too happy with my decision,” she said quietly.

He stopped and looked down at her.  “I’m not.”

That was a surprise.  “You’re the one that came after me, remember?  I was happily doing shots of tequila before you walked in.”

He touched her elbow and pulled her to a stop at an alcove out of sight of the rest of the group.  “I was just doing my job.”

“Are you telling me to get out now, before I sign anymore contracts?”  She really wished he’d take off his stupid glasses and let her see his eyes.

As if he could hear her thoughts, Donovan spun his glasses around to the back of his head and looked her dead in the eye.  It was just as overwhelming as it was the first time.

“I’m not telling you anything, Antonia.”

“I think you and both know that’s a lie,” she whispered.

He swallowed and leaned in closer so that their noses were nearly touching.  His entire frame took up the alcove and Antonia could feel him everywhere.  Cole Donovan was an imposing man.

Donovan was following his orders and bringing you in.  Donovan thinks you will be the perfect asset for this team… But Cole,” he paused and took a breath.  “Cole kind of wishes you’d run for your life while you still you can.”

He turned and stormed off for the massive staircase before she could reply.  At the landing he glanced back at Antonia just long enough for her to catch his eyes one last time before the dark lenses covered them once again.

Did she stay or run?

She barely knew The Old Man and she sure as hell didn’t know if she could trust Cole Donovan.

But then again, Rome was very nice at this time of year…


 

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Posted on June 13, 2014, in Archaeology, Book, Excerpt, Flash Fiction, The Unspoken Game, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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