Dr. Henry Latimer stepped out of the Limousine and onto the wet pavement. It had rained lightly a few minutes before but all that was left of it were patches of quickly drying water on the sidewalks and the smell of damp coolness. It was a spring evening in Iowa and even in the city you could practically hear the plants grow around you. It was a far cry from the oppressive dampness of the Irish highlands.
Henry took in a deep breath and savored the freshness of it and it distracted him momentarily from his task at hand. But he soon brought himself back to the moment. He tugged at the sleeve of his brown dinner jacket which was a little too small for him but it had been the best he could do on short notice. He straightened his tie. He was used to wearing field clothes designed for the rigors of field work and wearing finery was definitely not his style, but the occasion called for it.
Dr. Latimer had just arrived back in the states that very morning from Ireland. He had been on an excavation of a newly discovered crypt south of Dublin that had been exposed by a cave in and it had been extremely successful but only from an archaeological standpoint. The trip itself was an utter disaster. Two of his field assistants had been in a car accident in Ireland and one of them had been severely wounded but to make matters worse the one that was wounded, Logan Sullivan, had disappeared from his hospital bed the very night of the accident. For the next two weeks Dr. Latimer divided his attention between managing the dig at the grave site and providing police with information as they searched for Logan. He had been a wreck the entire time. He was responsible for his students and they were all a long way from home and for one of them to disappear was his worst nightmare. But at the end of 2 weeks of frantic searching and tracking down leads the police called an end to the search. There had been no explanation given and they had acted as if the boy had never gone missing. A day after the police called off the search Logan called him. Dr. Latimer had been overjoyed at hearing his voice but Logan wouldn’t reveal where he was or what had happened but had called to let the professor know that he was alright and that he had let relatives know as well back in the states. This had been a huge relief but the end result had been unsatisfying. Finally, tired, emotionally drained, and having finished up the final packing stage to send the contents of the crypt complex back to Iowa State University he decided it was time to come home. Logan didn’t want to return with him and he couldn’t force him. That was out of his hands now.
With thoughts of Logan still weighing heavily on his mind he arrived at Des Moines International and was back on firm ground less than 10 minutes when he got a call from Marit Gaimster. Marit was the director of the PCA (pre-construction archaeology) team that had been responsible for the details of the excavation including the extraction and packing of the items to be sent back to Iowa. Marit had also been Dr. Latimer’s former boss and colleague in London for 3 years in what seemed like another lifetime ago and the two shared a strong friendship. Henry knew that much of his success was riding on the back of Marit and had always willingly and publicly acknowledged Marit as a big part of his success as an Archaeologist.
The phone call, however, had not been typical. Marit wanted Henry to meet someone that night at the Ames Metro Restaurant and Resort Club which tailored to the more well-to-do denizens of Ames and the request had been most insistent. Marit had not been his usual conversational self on the phone and was very cryptic about who it was that he wanted him to meet but did say that the man Henry was to meet represented the primary backer of the Irish Archaeological Society. Despite his exhaustion, Dr. Latimer knew he would have to meet this man. The Irish Archaeological Society, IAs, had been his primary funding source for his digs in Ireland for the last 15 years. How he had become the beneficiary of grant money from IAS with never having solicited it was a source of amusement and amazement amongst Henry’s colleagues at the University especially after 15 years where the funds had amounted to tens of millions of dollars.
And so here he was stepping out of the Limousine that had been sent by his mysterious benefactor to retrieve him from his modest home on Ashmore Street. Despite his weariness and jet lag his curiosity was getting the better of him and so the insistence by the unnamed man to meet tonight and that it couldn’t wait another night mattered little.
Dr. Latimer walked into the high rise restaurant and could hear the music and running water immediately as it helped to soften the murmur of people seated around the large dining area. The carpets and table cloths were the color or red wine and the atmosphere was soft but dark. The dim lighting seemed to put everyone at ease and calm the nerves. The matradee came up to him and greeted him. “Dr. Henry Latimer, I presume?”
Dr. Latimer paused a moment not knowing what to make of the fact that the matradee knew who he was. “Yes”, he answered.
The waiter half turned in a gesture for the professor to follow. “This way please.”
Henry followed the matradee to the back of the dining hall to the elevator bank along a back wall. The matradee pressed a series of numbers on the number pad next to one of them and the elevator door opened. In the elevator along with the plush carpet and wooden sitting couch was a large man wearing dark glasses. “To 5 please”, addressing the man that Dr. Latimer could only imagine was a bouncer of some sort or maybe a bodyguard. The large man in the elevator nodded and gestured for the Dr. to come in.
The ride to the 5th floor was quiet until it stopped and opened to a similar room as the first floor but without all of the people. “He’s at the tables behind the fountain”, the large man said in a baritone voice as he gestured for Dr. Latimer to exit. Henry stepped out of the elevator and it quickly closed behind him. There was no music but the running water splashing around the pool around the fountain was soothing nonetheless. As he came around one side of the fountain he saw a man sitting at a small table. Upon Dr. Latimer coming into view the man stood and greeted Henry. “Dr. Latimer, it is good to finally meet you in person.” He extended his hand.
Henry approached and shook his hand. The man was of average height maybe 5’ 6” and had long brown hair that was pulled back tight into a stylish ponytail. The man reeked of wealth and power. His suit was impeccable as well as his hair and even his skin. But Henry also noticed as he got closer that his color was pale and that there was a sense of something more, something dangerous about this man, almost feral. It made his speech hesitant. “It is so good to finally meet someone from the IAS and you will excuse me if I didn’t catch your name.”
The man smiled. “You can call me John, John Moore, but just ‘John’ will do. May I call you Henry?”
“Yes, by all means, please do.”
John returned to his seat and gestured for Henry to sit. “Please, make yourself comfortable.”
As Henry sat down a waiter came to the table bringing a glass of wine and as soon as he was gone another came in with a plate of shrimp fettuccini. John picked up his own goblet that had been at the table when Henry got there and he gestured towards Henry. “I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of ordering for you. I am afraid we have a lot to talk about and I didn’t want to be bogged down with a menu.”
“No, think nothing of it, this is wonderful.” In fact shrimp fettuccini was one of his favorite dishes although he had never eaten it at the likes of the Ames Metro Restaurant and Resort Club. Realizing that John was not going to eat he picked up a fork and tasted the dish. It was wonderful. Before he knew it had eaten most of his serving while exchanging some pleasantries about his recent trip. But as they talked his curiosity about this meeting surged again and he decided to be blunt.
“John, perhaps it is jet lag or something else but may I ask why the urgency of this meeting? Surely you didn’t do all of this to hear about a grave digging?”
John leaned back in his chair eyeing Henry. His smile was playful but had the same danger in it that a cat does as it smiles at a mouse. Suddenly he put his cup down and leaned forward over the table. “Indeed, yes, a man of action, I like it. Yes, I believe you are the right man for the job.” With that, he stood and was amused about something that Henry was not privy to. “I want you to join me.”
Henry stood from his chair and followed John over to the 5th story windows that were overlooking downtown Ames. Downtown had been renovated several years ago and now it was a favorite spot to hang out by college students and residents alike. They both looked out the windows and saw the string of lights draped across the road at regular intervals along Main Street. It gave it a carnival feel. John was silent for a moment then he turned to Henry. “You are right. I did bring you here to talk about something greater than your trip to Ireland but you were also wrong. This has everything to do with something you brought back with you.”
It then struck Henry. “Of course”, he thought to himself. He thought he now understood but was now greatly unimpressed with the turn of events. He looked down at his drink. “you are a treasure hunter aren’t you? You want the coffin?” he asked John.
John sized up Henry again as if he was seeing him for the first time. “This isn’t going to be easy,” he muttered under his breath. Then more clearly, “no, I mean yes, I mean sort of. It’s not what you think Henry. What I mean to say is that I do not care about the coffin. It is the contents that I am interested in.”
Henry stared at John dumbfounded. “But”, he stammered, “we don’t even know what is in it. We haven’t opened it.”
John responded matter-of-factly, “You will find one dead male, approximately five feet seven inches in length factoring in tissue shrinkage. He will be wrapped in 49 linen bandages, probably decayed, and clothed in his friar, brown robes, probably also decayed, with a decomposing parchment bible under his left hand and probably only the pommel left of his Jerusalem sword he used to fight in the crusades clasped in his right hand. There will also be what is left of a suit of chainmail at his feet and scattered white glass beads that would have completed a rosary that was with the bible. To finish it off, you will find 49 pieces of gold scattered from their decomposed leather bag all bearing the mark of King Edward II. All of the clothing and leather will date circa 1360 but the remarkable thing will be the state of the body. While all else has decayed to almost nothingness, the body will be almost perfectly preserved, including the small scar on his neck and the open wound on the left side of his chest. Of course there will be some severe dehydration but that can be expected after 650 years”
Henry stared at John really confused. “How in the hell can you know that? How is that even possible? What is this, John, a circus act?” Henry was clearly agitated now and was preparing to leave. “I just flew all the way from Dublin after an exhausting stay in Ireland looking for one of my grad students and come home to some sick game sponsored by the IAS! Now if you will excuse me, I have better things to do than deal with this nonsense.” He began to walk towards the elevators.
“Doctor,” John cried out after Henry. “Once you have looked in the coffin I will be waiting here. I’d advise you do it now. In the morning the coffin will no longer be in your care.”
Henry stopped and came back clearly irritated. “What do you mean it will no longer be in my care?” He demanded.
“Simple my dear doctor, the coffin will be gone. You have until midnight to examine its contents. After that we must make other arrangements.” John turned to Henry. “But do not worry Henry, we need you. Go check on the coffin. You will be back and we will talk then.”
“The hell I will.” With that Henry stormed out of the room.