Thursday, January 02, 2014

Relic Hunter - A short story..

It probably needs more work, but I think I@m reaching the point of dimishing improvements editing it myself. So I'd welcome some feedback.


He was there when I walked into the pub, sitting with his back to the door, eyes downcast into is pint. His clothes looking crumbled and worn. Times had clearly not been good for Alex.

I had known him for about 25 years, although we hadn't spoken for 10 years or possibly longer. He used to dress well, in a sort of country gentlemen style , but he had let that go. Today , he was dressed in a market stall jeans and rather scraggly woollen jumper with patches at the elbows.

Alex looked up and saw me , draining the remainder of his pint as he gestured to me at the Bar.

“And another of what he's drinking”, I told the barman, indicating Alex.

Once I was served I took both pints over and joined Alex at his table. I pushed his point across the table towards him , asking “So how have you been keeping old bean?”, even though the answer to that question was obvious.

“Work has, well kinda dried up - you know.”
“It been difficult for everyone since that Bank collapsed. Are the New York rich set tightening their belts too?”. Alex got most of his work form amongst the the affluent in new York and occasionally London .

“' 'pose so. “
Odd, Alex was normally well spoken, It wasn't just he wasn't getting work - something was eating at him , whatever it was - his spirit was much lower than I had ever seen it. It was normally enthusiastic about his opportunities and adventures , and boy he had had adventures. “So how did that job in the middle East go, you said it wasn't for the usual bunch ?”. When I last saw him he had told me he had got an unusual commission from an unlikely source.

“Huh,”, Alex looked up a bit surprised, What did I tell you about that. It was supposed to be secret.”
“Not a great dealt to be honest”, I replied. Alex seem relieved.
“But that is what started it all.”
“It all? I'm not sure I follow you”
“My heart's just not it in any more, since then it just hasn't felt the same.”
“Did you not succeed?”
“Oh, I was successful, amazingly wonderfully successful. It's a success I can never top. That's half the problem of course.”

I took a slow slip of my beer, the establishment had it's own microbrewery in the old stable block which still remained from back when this was a coaching inn on the London-Newhaven route. The beer had the clear nutty taste that the CAMRA guidebook recommended. It struck me that whatever Alex problems were he hadn't actually lost his sense of taste. Always one on the lookout for something special . That's probably how he got into the business he was in.

“So what happened, or can't you tell me”
“I shouldn't really but, I doubt it matters much now, between you and me. Just - this doesn't go any further old boy. Ok?”
“Yeah, Ok. Who would I tell anyway ? ”. I'd not seen Alex like this before but then his usual commission was to track lost art works – mainly stuff that went missing during the war. Wasn't particularity sensitive – or at least I was a pretty safe confidant, worked in IT all my life an knew almost nothing about fine art. If it was just me that knew Alex was searching for a Rembrandt it was unlikely to affect the market much, I just didn't have other friends in that market, I could blab to.

“Well there is that. And in this case my client had been searching for the item, for a lot longer than most of my contacts. A lot Longer. But they had mostly given up . Then something changed that and they brought me on board
“Specifically, they got a tip off ,where the item could be found – they couldn't be known to be looking themselves, they need someone discrete , but on their side.”

“So they gave you a contract”
“Yeah, it wasn't paying that highly – but you know it didn't matter - it more than paid for my expenses at the time, and afterwards, well then there would be afterwards..”
“So I guess that bit didn't pan out”,
“Not really. no”

“You still haven't told me what it was”

“Patience. Let me tell this my way”.

I grunted and acknowledgement back to Alex, savouring the beer while Alex took a long drink and seem to settle in to tell the rest.

“My client was a religious organisation, you probably know the one, anyway a new document had turned up following a change in their administration. They had to move some internal walls – luckily they don't have to worry about listed buildings – and had found a private library which looked intact from about 1300AD.”

“Wow.”, What else could I say. On the other hand given my guess as to who the organisation in question was, I can see why they might want to play the game close to their chest. “So you went looking for the...”
“Don't say it's name”, Alex interrupted me.
“Aww, come on, they can't be listening everywhere.”
“No , but this Hotel has historic connections with America, and THEY do listen everywhere.”

“Erm.”, I didn't know what to say, the capabilities of the NSA and Echelon were reasonably well known – but did they really pass information on the the Vatican?

“Well,according to the new evidence the item was moved east during the crusades , around 1100AD. The paperwork showed this information was extracted by torture almost a hundred years later. So at the time I didn't have high hopes for it's accuracy. But actually it turn out to be the break the world was waiting for.

“The information suggested a particular place in Iraq, and getting there could have been a problem. But someone summoned up a war as cover.”

“But, wasn't that about Oil?”
“No, that was the second level cover., for something like this the covers they work go deep, but that's a whole other story. I wasn't comfortable with my working getting tangled up in all geopolitics around this ,but by that point I was committed.”
“So you went to Iraq?”

“Yes, and I found hiding place but the cup had gone, - it resting place had been ransacked. But recently, I recognised the insignia of “Sonderstab F” amongst the debris and bodies left from the ransacking, I can't be sure what happened but I suspect they were interrupted by the British , or even the Native forces. There was a bit of upset between the two at one point, so my money on the British. There probably a bigger story in why some of locals decided to side with the Nazi's. But the important thing was I know how to trace stuff the disappeared during the war.

“So you think the Nazi's found out about it.”
“Yes – I haven't a clue how they found out about I,but something like it was exactly what their occult services where looking for. They may have even organised the local uprising so they could go looking.”

“The Germans really did have occult forces ,then ?”
“They had people trying - and this item has pretty widely advertised abilities.”

“Really? but isn't that just a myth?”

“Occult research tends to be about myths, but there may have been something to this one. - I finally found the item – being kept in a plain self-storage locker by a German civil servant who may have inherited them, or may have found them himself. It not entirely clear. He is an old contact, and one I'm not particularly proud off, but we've done a lot of business to our mutual benefit over the years. He didn't know what he had of course, and he can never be open about his collection , the tax implications are phenomenal. I probably should have told the police about his collection years ago, but his health has never been great and what does it achieve?”

“Allowing the public to see the lost works?”
“Pah. They just go into the vaults of some museum anyway , and hardly ever go on display”

“So you found the ...”
“The cup, yes” ,Alex interrupted“, It was covered in mould, and has been most of it life as far as we can tell. But having found it - nothing will ever seem the same. Finding is what tipped me over, well finding it and then being told I had to keep quiet.”

“The cup was disappeared of course - the public can't be allowed to know. After all it just a plain wooden cup, nothing special about it. Well almost nothing.”

“almost nothing - you mean the myth?”
“Yes , remember I said it was mouldy...”


“We got it tested. Penicillin.”

© Roger Gammans CC-BY-NC-SA 2013.