The beastly sedan roured into life as Ben-David turned the key. The incident was more akin to waking Frankenstein then starting a vehicle. Bouncing into motion they veered onto the Institute's paved street. Only looking half back at Garrett's inquiry, Ben-David focused on the road.
Caterina turned all the way around and even leaned over a bit to get a good look at the map. Her left arm stradling his right in a far-too-forward gesture, it suddenly became apparent she had not an inkling of personal space. Fortunately the dim lavender aroma that trickled from her meant she had an inkling of personal hygeine.
Blue eyes crossed downward as she finally had a decent look.
"That's exactly where Dr. Ravenswood is digging . . .", her face pained for a moment and fleeted into melancholy before readjusting itself to the business at hand, "where he was digging. I haven't been to the site since the loss, but Dr. Ben-David assures me there should be a clue there to this whole mess."
She went back to a sitting posture, but kept against the door so as to include Garrett in the conversation.
"Dr. Ravenswood believed this was the not only the location of Gibeon, but he was on the path to finding the Tabernacle as well. The week before he passed I was called away by the Institute and so he continued to dig alone. He only made one correspondance. . ."
She reached into her shirt pocket and pulled out a letter and handed it to Garrett.
Dr. Ravenswood wrote:
December 23, 1946
I hope your stay in Istanbul is comfortable. I am jealous that the Institute sent you to the cradle of near eastern civlization. I do hope you have a chance to explore Topkapi, it can be very humbling, especially at sunset.
In the interest of our excavation I do plea you expedite your return. I have made a remarkable discovery and one that is not fit to include in this letter. I have contacted your old nemesis Dr. Ben-David for his own opinion and through my excitement told him over the telephone enough to wet his tastebuds. Perhaps since you are with him, he can tell you more.
Indeed, I have no intention on leaving this site until there is some security. I feel I am being watched.
Please hurry, love.
When Caterina saw he was done reading she said, "We both believe this is the site of Al-Jib and Dr. Ravenswood was exploring a particularly interesting deposit of statuettes on the outskirts of the site. My instinct says that it is there he made his discovery."
--Laveaux 18:44, 10 December 2005 (CST)
Garrett grabbed onto the side panel of the sedan as it started with a rumble and roar, his other hand flying to his hat a moment later. His brow furrowed but he said nothing - some of his ... less affluent ... friends on scholarship at Oxford had scraped together enough cash to buy cars that made this sedan look like his father's Rolls in contrast.
Musn't forget that Bobby and Richard both probably have a greater net worth than the entire Holburn family now...
Moments later, he was distracting himself by fishing out the journal to ask Miss Morelli about...
...A slight flush tinged Garrett's cheeks as Miss Morelli's arm lay across his - he was rarely that comfortable with other people, much less, attractive, young, female peers. To hide it, he turned his head to watch the passing streets as she examined the drawing in the journal.
At her confirmation of the veracity of the map, he nodded and turned to busy himself with putting it away, avoiding looking at her. Garrett struggled with trying to put the book back into the briefcase one handed for a moment, before finally deciding to give up on the hat. Taking it off of his head, he placed it on the floor of the car between his feet, trying to ignore the mess that the wind was making of his recently pomaded and combed hair.
Well, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later - especially as we're heading to a dirt-filled dig site.
Garrett turned back to Miss Morelli just in time to receive Ravenswood's letter. He read through it once, started to fold it to hand back to Ravenswood's ex-assistant, but then thought better of it, and read it a second time, chewing on his lip as he did so.
As he handed the letter back to the young woman in the passenger seat, he nodded, and was silent for a moment before asking her a few questions. "Well, Miss Morelli," he began, "I have to admit that it is an intriguing note. In more ways than one. Would you call this correspondance characteristic of the esteemed Professor? Not commonplace, surely - of course, he stated that he had just made a 'remarkable discovery' - but does it seem to have been written in his voice?"
And later, "And the last passage, about the need for security and being watched... Well, it seems slightly strange to me." Garrett was realizing that he didn't know enough about Ravenswood's death. "I mean - was Ravenswood still in El-jib on Christmas eve? Or had he returned to Jerusalem by then, and if so, what became of the security he presumably had arranged before leaving the dig site?" He finished his question, but then a moment later, gestured suddenly and added, "And if security was such a consideration, why did I find the original of that map that I just showed to you - presumably drawn by the Professor - amongst some notes in the Institute's archives?"
"Perhaps he is not so casual with you Mr. Holburn, but you are also not the daughter of his late sister."
She smiled, knowing full well that Garrett did not know this and a roaring "hah" echoed from the driver's seat.
"There wasn't time to disclose the particulars," Dr. Ben-David said, "but I'll be you thought she was entirely Italian."
"Halfway so, anyway," she said smiling, "but, in any case, Dr. Ravenswood was my uncle. I tend to keep that information quiet when on the job with colleages. I wouldn't want his reputation to be accuse of nepotism.
"I was the only woman that received a doctorate in Near-Eastern Anthropology at Cambridge."
Ben-David snorted, "You were the only woman to get a doctorate from there at all."
"My mother would have me washing diapers if it weren't for my father. But, this story isn't about me."
Back to the note she reread it and also found herself biting her lip, "Well that is just it, Mr. Holburn I don't know if he was on the site or in Jerusalem the night of his death. Obviously he ended up in Jerusalem, but the police believe he was moved."
"If he was murdered at the site no one would have found him for weeks," Ben-David said, "it is almost as if the killer wanted him to be found."
She rolled her eyes, "Ben and his conspiracies. . . we shouldn't theorize until we've seen the site."
"Theories built this civilization, Caterina," Ben-David bantered.
Now they were steering north on a lone highway heading away from the irrigated plumes of Jerusalem into the rocky scorched landscape ahead.
"I'm not sure why you found the map," she said ignoring Ben-David, "perhaps he was being sloppy. But my uncle was never that."
--Laveaux 18:44, 10 December 2005 (CST)
Garrett blinked and stared wide-eyed, silent, at Miss Morelli's rapid-fire confessions. First, Dr. Ravenswood's neice - one he had never mentioned amongst the halls of Oxford, at least never by name... And second, a Cambridge graduate - a doctor in Anthropology, no less. He made a quick re-evaluation of Miss Morelli. He had assumed she was either currently a graduate student, or hade her masters, but was working as Ravenswood's assistant before she went back to school to receive her doctorate (presumably at Oxford, if she was working with Ravenswood). Apparently no so. Garrett would also hazard a guess that his first estimate of twenty-four years old was a bit to low. A doctor at twenty-four? Not impossible, but improbable.
And besides, some of those mediterraneans keep their youthful looks for quite some time.
Garrett was gripped by a momentary feeling of inadequecy, sitting in the back seat (which, apparently was his appropriate position, as the only current student amongst them) behind Dr. Ben-David of the Institute, and the woman he now knew as Dr. Morelli, Ravenswood's neice and Cambridge graduate... This was quickly followed by a sensation of being in over his head.
Well, and it certainly explained the familiar tone of the note... I suppose thats one misgiving crossed off the list.
"Yes, well, um... Miss - er.. " Garrett sputtered for a moment, trying to remember how to speak, glancing away for Miss Morelli's blue eyes to gather his wits, "Pardon me, Dr. Morelli, I can understand why one might want to avoid the stain of the nepotism label, but surely a Cambridge doctorate speaks for itself?"
"Yes, thats exactly what I thought when I discovered it. It hardly seems the mark of Professor Ravenswood to have left documents laying about in the archives - much less documents that reveal the direction and scope of his current project." He raised a cautionary hand, as if to warn that what he said next was not to be taken as gospel, "Perhaps if Dr. Ben-David is on the right track, then someone also wanted this map to be found. Which raises the possibility of the dig site being tampered with in the last week and a half."
Garrett watched the landscape slide past (or rather tumble by, in this jalopy), his mind chewing over several things he had just heard, and over some things yet unsaid. After a few minutes of silence, he leaned forward cautiously, raising his voice to be heard above the wind, and said, "Dr Morelli, you raise an excellent point, though I think a certain amount of precautionary theorizing may prove beneficial, no matter how unfounded - as long as we remain open to the idea of those theories being proven false." He pause to swallow and take a breath, looking neither right nor left, but straight ahead down the road as he continued, " However, it seems that I find myself operating on sparse foundations. Would the two of you mind filling me in on the details of the project? I am well familiar with the basics of El-jib and Gibeon, but would love to hear of the specifics of this operation, and the groundwork that Ravenswood and Dr. Morelli laid before begining the dig..." At the end, he glanced left and right at his two new companions, gauging their reaction to his request for information. Historians and archaeologists often played their cards close to their chest - like many other professions in which one's career was partly founded on first publication. This was an unusual situation, and Garrett hoped - no, expected - that these two would open up to him, a as-of-yet relatively unknown quantity.
She giggled at his stammer, a girlish twang echoing in her blue eyes.
"Please, don't call me doctor. It's so ... stuffy."
"Six years of school and sleepless nights. You should embrace the title," Ben-David said.
"I prefer you simply call me Caterina," she said, "and you would think a doctorate from Cambridge could be a shield, but this is a man's field and the presence of women like me can be threatening. No offense to you two, of course, I am speaking generally. But, in my experience, credential goes out the window in favor of criticism and cynicism."
The two considered Garrett's point about the site being tampered with for quite some time. Finally Ben-David responded, "It is possible, Garrett, I submit that. I also think it is possible he was leaving clues . . . should something happen to him. He had a distinct feeling of danger, we know that much."
Ben-David through out a Yiddish curse all of the sudden, as he suddenly swerved around a stray sheep. A coule hundred meters off to the side of the road a shepherd slowly moved the flock onward.
"To be truthful," Caterina said, "there's not much to tell. Oxford wanted a sound study to disprove tall tales about the Templars. In his research regarding the original tabernacle, he came to this location to explore some inscriptions on statuettes that referenced Gibeon. We never thought we would find the place itself.
"We uncovered the foundation for a fortress wall and beneath it a cemetery. We found only two tombes, but there was enough there in our first week of digging to convince us it was Gibeon."
--Laveaux 18:44, 10 December 2005 (CST)
Garrett nodded at Miss Morelli's preference for using her first name and not her title. It was not unknown to him - even now he called his fellow doctoral candidates by their first names. But his time in the army and his slow ensconcement in the academic establishment had also ingrained into him a habit of address anyone outside your rank or station with their appropriate title and by their last name - a habit that had started with a childhood in a very status-concientious household.
"Very well, Doc -" he cleared his throat to hide his embarrasement at his second slip-up in as many minutes, "Pardon me - Caterina." He said her name slowly, feeling its exotic sounds on his tongue, filled with foreign Roman influence. A simple Italian name sounded stranger and more magical to him than words in ancient Akkadian, a language unspoken for thousands of years. "Please excuse me, I fear my use of rank and title is rather ingrained. It may take some time break myself of the habit..." A moment later, he remembered his manners, and quickly added, "And of course, you must call me Garrett - or, for that matter, any of the other appellations I seem to have acquired..."
Garrett let out a loud yelp as Dr. Ben-David swerved around the errant sheep. Thrown back from the small space he had been leaning forward into, one hand flung out and landed across the stacked crates, while the other grabbed the edge of the car, steadying himself and the boxes of equipment. He turned to stare in amazement at the shepherd tending to his flock a few hundred feet away. The sight of the lone man with his attendant army of wool took Garrett's breath away. In that moment he fantasized that the car had somehow traveled back in time, that they were traveling to the Gibeon of centuries ago, and that this shepherd was but an ancient Isrealite, out moving his flock to pasture. This ability of history to evoke the magic of ages (along with its illumination of cultural, and more recelnty, religious evolution) had attracted Garrett to its study.
Garrett raised his eyebrows at the mention of their discoveries. "A cemetary and tombs? Well, that is exciting!" Garrett's speech began to accelerate as he asked questions about the dig, "Did you find the tombs intact when you arrived - and was there any evidence of burial conditions or rituals? Corpses? Accompanying burial possessions?" He leaned forward in his seat again, in order to speak to Caterina more directly, heedless of any danger in his growing excitement.
She laughed and then smacked his nose with her index finger. Looking over at Ben-David she said, "He's like a schoolboy!"
"He is a school boy, Caterina."
To satisfy his eagerness, the young doctor proceeded, "I've the entire thing memorized, I spent 4 weeks there. Two burials adjacent to each other. Middle Bronze. One and a quarter meters in diameter and about 2 meters below the surface. It was perfectly sealed. The southern-most burial is almost entirely undisturbed save for a missing skull, but the northern is missing a great deal of its remains. They bodies were laid in a fetal position.
"We found five large pots, two decorative head bands, two lamps, a javelin and dagger.
"At the time I left there was no new information save for the inscriptions on the pots. They were clearly written in Hebrew and identified the location as Gibeon. Our initial evaluation placed it right around 1400 BC.
Ben-David turned back with zeal on his face, "Under the reign of Joshua, perhaps that burial was from the great battle itself! The day the sun stood still. Hah!"
He fanatically drove the jeep forward, now on a completely deserted dusty road, the sun rose high enough in the Palestinian wilderness to begin baking their exposed skin.
"That is a metaphor of course, professor," she said with a cocked grin.
"Of course," Ben-David responded.
"And of course, 1400 is only an educated guess. It could have been as early as 1700."
--Laveaux 18:44, 10 December 2005 (CST)
Garrett blushed as Caterina smacked his nose, and ducked his head, muttering under his breath (in frightening syncrhonicity with the Doctor), "Well, I am a schoolboy..."
Garrett chuckled slightly when he heard the Doctor speaking at the same time, but his brief amusement turned to quickly to slight resentment.
Its fine for me to joke about it... Garrett thought, frowning slightly, but I hope thats not how he considers me. I mean, if not for the war... The doctoral candidate paused, well aware that he was treading tricky moral waters. He didn't want to resent the work he had taken part in for the war effort - work that he firmly believed was very important to the Allies' success - but at the same time, it was a large chunk of his life gone. He would have received his doctorate years ago, and would have now been well on his way to becoming ... well, becoming whatever awaited him in the future. I've got to let it go. What's done is done. Turing and the rest were right - Bletchley Park would leave you changed, but you must move on as if it had never existed. Technically, it still didn't.
Garrett was brought out of his moody reverie - quickly noting that he had become very liable to similar mood swings in the past few weeks - as Caterina began recounting the contents of the burial site.
He nodded in excitement as Caterina concluded her list, Ben-David echoing Garrett's thoughts from earlier in the day.
Metaphor or no, the image came from someplace, he thought. Aloud, he asked, "Do you feel the specimens died peaceful deaths - I mean, were the missing body parts evidence of injury, or something else? And, were you able to use the Hebrew writing to help date the site? I'm guessing that at least one of you is skilled in Ancient Hebrew... Did you find any other written artifacts? Everything was in Hebrew?" Garrett trailed off in thought as his mind tossed the complex interweave of Caananite languages back and forth.
Aramaic and Akkadian were both widespread, and in use throughout the Levant (and much of the Near East) for long periods of time - why he chose to study them in the first place - but if it was a Jewish burial, then all the text may well be in ancient Hebrew. According to the current records, Moabite wouldn't show up for another several centuries, and even then, would be too far north-east to have made an appearance in El-Jib. Ugaritic? The time period was right, but... Well, probably not that, either.
Garrett sorted through his memories, trying to remember what he knew about language usage and the lingua franca of the second century BC Levant.
"It was clear these two were soldiers," Caterina explained, "the one with a missing skull had fractures all the way down the spine. The skull is likely missing because there wasn't much to bury. The other suffered extensive chest damage, probably from a javelin.
"Dr. Ravenswood was the Ancient Hebrew officianado, but we found no other languages at the site and the vernacular was certainly around during the time of Joshua.
"If it was a military burial there is bound to be others yet uncovered."
The convertable sedan pulled off the main road, if it could be called that, and ventured deep into a barely recognizable road on into the desert. Limestone cliffs and mountains spotted the landscape, but it was barren apart from that.
Eventually they came upon a parked military sedan. As the car approached, a British soldier stepped out, cigarette hanging from his mouth. He flagged Ben-David down and came around to speak with them, rifle strapped to his back.
"Hello there, what's all this then?"
"The Institute of Archeology has sent us. Here are my papers," Ben-David showed the soldier his credentials, quite clumsily.
Skeptical, the soldier looked it over and then into the sedan before meeting eyes with Caterina, who coyly leaned forward.
"Do you have another one?"
"What?" The soldier stammered for a moment before realizing that she was referring to his cigarettes.
Just as clumsy as Ben-David he pulled one out and handed it to her before lighting it.
"Well then, carry on. Good luck to ya."
He tapped the car and stood erect watching them as they continued into the desert.
"Bloody crown's here already," Caterina said passing the cigarette back to Garrett, not interested in smoking.
"Maybe just a precaution," Ben-David said, "the police cannot know about this site yet and certainly the British government doesn't know either. Might be something else going on."
"Uncle bloody broadcasted it, I'm sure of it."
She snatched the cigarette back, stress suddenly forming in her eyes.
--Laveaux 18:44, 10 December 2005 (CST)
Soldiers, yes... Garrett nodded silently again as Caterina explained the findings at the dig. I can't imagine the type of world that would include violence resulting in such damage to the skul that the spine itself fractures... Then again, the idea of being killed on the battlefield by the very air you breath would probably seem equally as foreign to them.
"More, you say? Why is that - do you think that they may actually date from a larger conflict? Joab and Abner's conflict, or perhaps Joshua's army?" Garrett didn't understand where these statistical inclinations came from - he was more used to reading about statistics that others had discovered and drawing conclusions from them.
As Garrett saw the military sedan, a small frown of worry crossed his face. What's this, then? He quickly patted his jacket to insure that his passport was still in the inside pocket, and then leaned back, waiting and watching.
He was just about to speak up, niavely hoping that a British voice might help smooth over any difficulties, when Caterina grabbed the guard's attention. He watched with interst as she easily distracted him, allowing them all to continue unimpeded. Idly, and only half-seriously, he wondered, Was she trying to avoid a delay? Or was there a reason she didn't want him to ask for her papers? Garrett gave the soldier a polite nod as they went by, and turned back to the front to see Caterina handing him the cigarette. He looked at it a moment and took it gingerly out of her hand.
A pipe was fine, but cigarettes didn't agree with him. He held it for a second longer, wondering if he should actually take a puff, just to be polite, when Caterina turned and took it back from him, saving him the trouble. Garrett merely gave a resigned shrug, and replied, teasingly:
"He may well have... But I also seem to recall someone reminding us all not to theorize until we have more information..."
Holding back a smile, she smacked him on the arm.
�You�re a pistol, you are.�
She took more of her cigarette in and tossed it into the desert.
�Shouldn�t have those. Not very lady-like. Hollywood would have you believe differently,� she said.
�Nothing wrong with a good smoke to settle the senses,� Ben-David remarked.
�Back to your inquiry,� Caterina continued, �I suspect there are more because wounds like that only come from battle and I�ve never heard of a battle where only two people died.�
There was a patronizing hint and Ben-David said, �Be gentle on the boy, he�s avoiding assumptions.�
�No harm meant,� she said allowing the smile to finally emerge, �I�m just unsettled by the police.
�We�re nearly there,� Ben-David said.
They crested a hill and the familiar site of an archeological dig presented itself. There were five tents, each manned by police officers and inspectors scoured the area like insects on rubbish. Ben-David stopped the car and sat up to get a better view. They were still a hundred meters away and were not yet spotted.
Caterina dropped her face in her hands.
�Bloody hell. They�ve ruined the bloody dig.�
�No need to swear, dearheart, I�m sure they are careful. After all they are investigating a crime. How shall we proceed, I wonder?�
--Laveaux 18:44, 10 December 2005 (CST)
On seeing the heavy police presence at the dig site, Garrett let a noisy breath escape from his lips. He gave Caterina a surprised look at her use of expletives, but said nothing.
Well, so much for doing this without any official record...
Running a hand through his wind-mussed hair, he shrugged and replied to Ben-David's question, "I'm not quite sure, really - this being my first dig and all, I don't have any idea what one should do when the police ransack one's site..." He paused for a moment, and realizing how flippant that sounded gave both the Doctor and Caterina a slightly sheepish look.
Garrett moved his gaze to watch the police and inspectors, and continued, trying to cover for his earlier statement, "One thing I do know, however, is that seeing as how we are all connected with the late ... with Professor Ravenswood, there's no doubt that they'll want to talk to us. We should most likely get our stories straight before going any further..."
Hmmm.. Is that the Israeli police uniform, or one of the British Protectorate's? Garrett was weighing the various reactions that a Israeli, Brit and possible Italian (he wasn't sure yet) might receive from the police force. It wasn't exactly his area of expertise.
Caterina bit her thumbnail as she stared at the scene ahead. Ben-David, less calm, wiped sweat from his brow and said, �Yes. Well, we have the right story. We just cannot tell them the whole story. We are only here to continue the work.�
The investigation was being run by British soldiers. There were some local Palestinian officers, but they were being used as grunts. One officer brought two soldiers into a black sedan with them and they drove toward their location. They were certainly spotted.
�Just act normal, Professor,� Caterina said.
In the next five minutes they were once again being looked over by the authorities. Rolling up to the car door was a strong-jawed officer with a mustache and graying temples.
�You are the archeologists reported at our post?�
�Very well. Don�t let us interrupt your work.�
The British Officer, not bothering to introduce himself, returned to the sedan and drove to a nearby tent set up about 100 meters from the dig site.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Ben-David said, �Let�s get going then.�
�I don�t like it. Keep your eyes open,� Caterina remarked.
Ben-David brought the car to the dig site, still protected by tents, temporary shelters, and supply sheds. Once out, nearby soldiers disregarded them as they patrolled.
�Maybe this is the protection Dr. Ravenswood asked for.�
Caterina only shrugged, �The site is this way,� she said.
Ahead of them was a single open tent with poles above a descending hole in the desert. Unlit lanterns bordered the entrance and without hesitation, Caterina went inside, taking a lantern with her.
--Laveaux 18:44, 10 December 2005 (CST)