Children of the Anunnaki
The car flew out of the night, taking aim at the stranger crossing the street. It made no effort to stop. In one horrible, grotesque instant, car and body met. The victim tumbled like a rag doll over the hood of the still accelerating vehicle. The awful thud of metal impacting flesh and bone was followed by a second softer muffled sound as the now misshapen form came to rest by the side of the road. Barely audible moans could be heard, interrupted only by the sound of squealing tires as the car fled into the darkness.
Dallas could do nothing but watch from the opposite sidewalk, his body frozen in the shadows. His mind struggled vainly to absorb what he had seen. Across the street from where he stood he saw a crumpled bundle of humanity lying in the gutter and, off in the distance, the car’s taillights growing dim.
Rousing himself to action, he ran to the body. The mortally wounded man tried desperately to speak—but the words came slowly, every word coming only with great effort.
“Listen,” the man said, between gasps, “beware … they … are … watching. The … Order … must … find …”
“Beware? Who’s watching? Order?” Dallas was amazed the man could even speak.
“Briefcase?” he said as he moved his bloodied hand in a futile gesture. “Where’s … brief …?” “Here, here it is,” Dallas said, retrieving it quickly. He could already see the man wouldn’t have the strength to once again take possession of it.
“Look … inside. Find … le gren … find … the … fisherman. You … must … find … them … the … Order … beware.”
Then there came the sound of air escaping, like the opening of the valve on a tire, followed by silence as the body lay still.
With the briefcase still in his left hand Dallas knelt motionless over the corpse. He was so stunned that he failed to see the approaching police car until it screeched to a stop only a few feet away from him, its rapidly flashing red and blue lights illuminating the darkness. Instinctively he looked up, only to have to shield his eyes from the glare of the cruiser’s headlights. He returned his gaze to the now brightly lit but lifeless body. What he saw haunted him: the dead-eye stare of a man with a story that would never be told. Dallas clutched the briefcase’s handle a little tighter.
“Step back on to the sidewalk, please,” one of the officers called out matter-of-factly as he climbed out of the car. “An ambulance is on the way.”
Dallas immediately obeyed while the second officer exited the cruiser and made his way to the nameless victim. “Tell ’em to take their time,” he said, leaning over the corpse. “No need to rush for this one.”
“Sir,” the first officer began robotically, without a hint that he was bothered by the scene, “Is, um … was this man a friend of yours?”
“No, I don’t know him. I was just walking that way,” Dallas said, pointing across the road, “and this gentleman here was crossing the street. The car just came out of nowhere. The poor man had no chance to react. The car drove right through him.”
“Through him?” the officer repeated.
“Yeah. It didn’t swerve or slow down. It just hit him and drove off.”
“Did he say anything before he died? Did he give you anything?” His shock subsiding, the scientist in Dallas began to take over. His mind filled with suspicion at such an odd question. Give me anything?
His eyes darted between the two officers. The interrogator was shorter than his partner, with pasty white skin and a belly that hung over his equipment belt. To Dallas the second officer, a large and wiry black man, seemed to be nothing more than a silhouette owing to the cruiser’s lights. Dallas discreetly shifted his gaze up and down the street. It was only then he saw that all the shops were closed. The road was empty. There was no one in sight; no one at all. At that moment he realized he was holding the briefcase as if it were his own.
“How did you get here so fast?” Dallas asked.
“We got a call,” the interrogator said as his partner moved away. “Let us ask the questions, Okay? Now, did he say anything?”
“No.” Dallas paused, perhaps a moment too long. “He must have been dead when I got to him.”
“Hmm.” The policeman sounded skeptical. “Got any ID?”
“ID? Sure,” Dallas said, reaching for his wallet.
“Your name is Dallas Roark?” The police officer sidestepped his way over to his partner and showed him the license. Dallas could have sworn the black officer cocked one eyebrow in a gesture of recognition, but the policeman said nothing. Instead he turned and moved back toward the crime scene. Dallas decided it was best to be friendly and engaging.
“Yes, that’s right. I’m an archaeology professor at—”
The officer cut him off. “Still live at this address?”
In a few minutes, having exhausted his supply of questions, the policeman returned Dallas’ ID and turned to face in the direction of his colleague. Dallas stepped back slightly as the second man returned from a second inspection of the body. They began speaking to one another in low voices.
“It’s not on him,” Dallas heard the second one mumble.
“What do you mean?” said the other. “It must be here somewhere.”
The distracted officers began shining their flashlights around the area. Dallas instantly saw that what they were looking for must be in the briefcase.
“Am I free to go?” he asked somewhat nervously. Receiving no reply, he backed slowly away with his hand still clutching the case’s smooth leather handle.
Receiving no objection to his initial retreat, he turned quietly and left. Moving deliberately and, he hoped, inconspicuously, he turned left at the first corner then quickened his pace.
Dallas knew he had committed a crime in taking the briefcase, and while he didn’t know what was in it, he knew something was not right about those two cops. No one else was around to witness or even hear the hit-and-run. Who could have called? How did they show up so fast? With all their questions, they never asked him to describe the car or if he had been able to read the license plate. What were they really looking for, and why?
Like most scientists, Dallas was a curious and observant man, introspective by nature. He was typical of those in his profession—more comfortable with the gentle pace of thorough intellectual inquiry than the unexpected abruptness of tonight’s tragedy. He was usually content with the role of scientific observer. This time, involvement had been thrust upon him.
He surprised himself in not surrendering the briefcase to the police. Of course he couldn’t be certain, but from the first moment he’d seen them he felt those cops just could not be trusted. One thing, however, was certain; those men, whoever they were, now knew where he lived. If they didn’t find what they were looking for, they’d probably come for him … sooner or later, they’d come.
All these thoughts only made Dallas quicken his pace. Arriving at his apartment building, he sprinted across the lobby to a waiting elevator. Eleven floors up, he dashed off the elevator, hurried down the corridor, and flung his six-foot-five-inch frame against his door as he fumbled for his keys, desperate to get inside. Once inside, he locked the deadbolt and collapsed on the couch with the briefcase on his lap.
He looked down at the dilemma resting on his thighs, wondering what he should do next. He conceded silently there could be only one choice. Dallas rubbed his hands gingerly across its fine ostrich leather construction. It felt firm, yet supple, and obviously expensive. Slowly, his thumbs slid the latches. It was well made, constructed of solid, heavy, brass fittings that yielded silently to his touch.
The mystery only deepened as he examined its scant contents. Inside he found an unsigned, typewritten manuscript, a supermarket tabloid, and a pocket-sized daily diary. What caught his eye immediately though was a smooth, green, crystalline object about the size of a man’s hand.
It seemed at once translucent and solid, like tiger’s-eye but without the bands of varying color, yet it shimmered through many levels. The object was tapered and faceted. Its triangular shape was without fault or flaw, totally unblemished, and smooth on one side. On the wide base, only a pair of small notches interrupted the otherwise straight lines.
The reverse contained many small rows of carefully etched symbols. Grabbing a nearby magnifying glass, he began studying the markings, which bore an uncanny similarity to hieratic or sacred script. There were also alternating rows of a cuneiform-style script so small that their very presence demonstrated the remarkable craftsmanship of its engraver. Its polished surface reminded him of a river stone. Laying it aside, he turned his attention to the other items. He flipped through the diary and discovered what he reasoned to be the dead stranger’s name: Montgomery Todd, Ph.D. He turned to the F section of the addresses, hoping he might find some clue about the fisherman. No luck. He chided himself for thinking the mystery could be so simply resolved.
The tabloid was folded to an article dealing with the most recent in the long series of missing Martian space probes. The string had now run to six straight lost ships, and NASA was unable to explain why. The article hinted at several “unofficial” reasons, including UFOs and aliens. These unofficial explanations made no more sense than that the space agency’s own musings.
The manuscript appeared to be a report or academic paper on some obscure aspect of Mayan civilization. Dallas glanced at it briefly and found it vaguely interesting. The plentiful handmade corrections suggested that the stranger knew the author, or might in fact be the author. Dallas wasn’t sure which. He put it aside. The diary was, save for one obscure entry, empty. That entry, an appointment for tomorrow, was noted in a code or shorthand he could not readily decipher. The day and time were plain enough; the diary’s calendar format had seen to that. But the meeting’s location and subject were nonsensical: a single cryptic notation, “CFatAker.” What could it mean—“CFatAker”? All the letters ran together. Was it an anagram? Did the capital letters stand for something? Or was it just poor penmanship?
His mind toyed with natural combinations: C Fat Aker?
“Was that,” he asked himself, “see someone named Fat Aker? CF at Aker? Maybe CF was someone’s initials. Okay, meet CF, whoever CF might be, at Aker. What the hell’s an Aker?”
Dallas decided this seemed as meaningless as Fat Aker and so went back to the initials CF. He reminded himself what the dying man had said, “Find the fisherman.” Was F for fisherman? Could CF mean “see fisherman”? That would mean note could be read as “see fisherman at Aker.” That exercise in logic brought him back to question of what Aker meant.
He moved to his computer and logged on to the Internet. If there was a word “Aker,” he’d know soon enough. He stared at the search’s response and realized it would take more time than he thought. Let’s see, there’s an observatory in Arizona named after someone named Governor Aker. That might tie in with the article on Mars or not. The first search engine offered some thirty sites. Some, like those directing one to Pooh’s “100 Aker Wood,” could be instantly eliminated.
Dallas tried to remember the old man’s dying words: Was it, “Beware, find the Order”? Or was it, “Beware the Order”? He typed in the Order, and the results were less than exciting. The first hundred entries had something to do with Harry Potter, then various religious orders, and book orders … too broad of a search.
Returning to his original thought he entered “Aker” again, this time using a different search engine. He immediately hit an even bigger roadblock. This one offered over twenty-eight hundred different choices. Dallas let out a sigh and leaned back in his chair, thinking while his hand continued to work the mouse. The first choices seemed to be duplicates of the other search engine, so he clicked quickly past the first few pages. Suddenly an entry caught his eye.
He rolled the cursor over the entry, “Egyptian god.” When the screen popped up the subject, he sat upright. “Aker,” Dallas finally remembered, was the Egyptian lion god, guardian of sunrise and sunset. Was that a link to the manuscript? Could the dead man have been talking in code? Was a lion somehow involved in the mystery? He bookmarked the page and moved on to other possibilities.
Several hours and lots of coffee later, Dallas had viewed almost a thousand entries, mostly personal Web sites or Rotary Club chapters or some other damned thing. He decided to return to his two most interesting possibilities: the observatory and the Egyptian god. He considered the two options.
Logically, the observatory made more sense, especially given the article. He could even stretch the argument to suggest that “fisherman” was code for Pisces, a constellation, as well as an astrological sign. That could mean “Dr. Todd” was going to Arizona to see the constellation Pisces from the observatory. It didn’t seem like something worth dying for, if the accident were not in fact an accident. Besides, according to Dallas’ Internet browsing, Pisces would not be visible in Arizona until November. Seeing as it was only April, with Todd’s meeting seemingly just hours away, the stargazing scenario fell short. Without any notation in the diary of a plane reservation or a ticket voucher, there was even less to support this notion.
He focused again on the lion god theory. As he read the notes, he corrected himself: Aker was a double-lion god, a pair of lions sitting backto- back … a pair of lions! The university’s museum had a huge pair of antique bronze lions sitting in front of it. Could it be that simple? Was the dead man meeting the fisherman at the museum?
All right, Dallas thought, if that was the answer then tomorrow he’d be at the museum for the meeting. He looked at his watch. Tomorrow … no, today; it was well past midnight. Saturday had already arrived. Where had the night gone? The sun would be coming up soon. Still, he had to admit this was the most exciting thing to happen to him in years. The last exciting thing sent him into professional exile.
He slowly sipped his coffee and gave an accounting of himself … to himself. It was a bad habit of his, especially late at night when he was tired and alone with his thoughts. He couldn’t help it. He’d done it for years. It was almost obsessive, measuring his life against his own expectations. Not surprisingly he always came up short; a fact that he was always quick to bring to his own attention.
Forty years old, he chastised himself; what had he accomplished? Nothing! He felt empty and small. Surrounded by fossilized trophies of decades’ worth of work—careful, meticulous effort aimed at discovering some greater truth, but a truth that had eluded him. The relentless pressure of middle age had begun taking its toll. Mortality stared him eagerly in the eyes. Dallas darkly pondered his own accomplishments; measuring himself against the yardstick of eternity, and not surprisingly coming up short.
Dallas ran his left hand through his ample salt-and-pepper hair, slid his hand down his forehead, over his eyelids and hawkish nose. He was tired, too tired to have this inner debate one more time.
He put his coffee cup on the table and rose to his feet; they tingled from lack of movement. It was only then he realized how long he been working. He stumbled into the bedroom and fell diagonally on the bed.
He slept fitfully, dreaming over and over about the moment the car hit the old man. It was like a slow-motion instant replay from a football game. The dream seemed to take in more and more of the details of what had happened around him during those tragic moments. Each time it played, more of the puzzle’s pieces fell into place, with some new detail remembered. Or was it imagined?
When he awoke, Dallas had an even more vivid recollection of the event than when it happened, but he couldn’t be sure how much of what he now remembered was fact, and how much was fiction. Something about the mystery car kept pulling at him, a shard of memory that haunted him.
Sitting in his kitchen, he played the scene over and over in his mind, all the details … the old man crossing the road, the fast approaching headlights, the terrible crash, the squealing of tires, and that terrible sound of the body as it hit the pavement. Something was still missing. He couldn’t say what; not yet.
At the appointed time, he headed out to test his hypothesis that Todd was meeting someone at the museum. Except for carrying the briefcase, the walk was pleasant enough until Dallas began to worry that someone might recognize the case and want its contents. As he neared his destination he took a slight detour to his bank and went straight for his safety deposit box. He worked quickly, removing all of the briefcase’s contents and locking them away. Now if anyone approached, he had some measure of protection. They needed him alive to get what they wanted, if, he reminded himself, they even bothered to ask.
Leaving the bank, he glanced up and down the tree-lined street. It was a beautiful early spring day with a blue sky dotted with cotton-ball clouds and a slight breeze that reminded him winter had not completely surrendered its grip. The empty case hung from his left arm.
Reaching the museum, Dallas sat on a nearby bench in the shadow of one of the building’s massive bronze lions. He opened the case and stared at the empty interior, examining every seam, every snap, wondering if he’d missed anything. He was so immersed he failed to notice a young woman exit a black SUV parked on the road that ran beside the building.
She moved with lynx-like silence, sitting down on the bench directly opposite him. She was conservatively dressed with short, neatly cropped blonde hair. Her large, dark sunglasses covered the upper half of her face, giving her the ability to view the object of her attention with total anonymity. At this moment, her attention was focused entirely on Dallas.
Fifteen minutes past the appointed meeting time, he was having doubts about his museum lion theory. He took note of only one man who had been waiting as long as himself: a large, wiry, black man with closely cropped silver hair loitering in a line of trees on the other side of the museum’s massive plaza. Dallas judged the distance between them to be about two hundred feet or so. The man leaned idly against one of the trees, his fingers rolling a freshly lit cigarette back and forth, its blue smoke drifting upward through the tree’s bare branches.
While the man was at too great a distance to make out his features, Dallas read from the man’s body language complete indifference to his surroundings, seemingly lost in his own world. Dallas suddenly felt very foolish. Perhaps the police were really police, perhaps the old man was hallucinating, and perhaps the last twelve hours had been a total waste.
Dallas was feeling very Walter Mitty about the whole affair when the young woman suddenly left her seat and began moving toward him. He slapped the case closed as she approached. She stood before him, her navy trench coat fluttering in the chilly spring breeze. He stared at her, taking in her essence, a work of art whose comprehension took less than a second. She stood before him straight and sure, with a posture that some might describe as cocky, but which Dallas considered quiet confidence. She was not thin, but lean and, despite the coat’s effort to conceal her, clearly well muscled.
“Who are you?” the young woman demanded, destroying the moment. “Where is Dr. Todd?” she added, threateningly. “You have five seconds.”
Dallas blinked in surprise and then decided the personality most definitely fit. “Your Dr. Todd, was he an older gentleman, gray hair, balding, wears—or wore—gold-colored, wire-rimmed glasses?” “Yes,” she said.
“Well, I’m sorry to tell you this but … he’s, well, he’s dead. Hit-andrun last night. He gave me this briefcase before he died, and he told me to find the Fisherman.”
“He told you—a stranger—to meet me here?” She was incredulous.
“No, not exactly. He had coded an entry in his diary. I deciphered its meaning and came here. Before you walked up I was beginning to think I had imagined the whole thing,” Dallas added with a chuckle. Her stern expression revealed no hint of amusement.
“I’ll take that case now.”
“Are you the Fisherman?”
“Let’s just say I am.”
“Let’s just say you’re not. Look, lady, I spent most of the night trying to figure out where to go, I lied to the police—”
“The police!” she interrupted, with the first show of emotion he had seen. “You fool, they weren’t police. If they know about you, you’ll have led them right to me.” She shot glances over her shoulders in both directions. “Get up! We’ve got to go; NOW!”
Her body language gave her away, and at that moment, Dallas, glancing around him, saw three pairs of neatly dressed, expressionless, plainclothesmen lounging in the tree line around the plaza. Aware that they’d been seen, the men began to move toward the couple.
“What’s going on?”
“You want to meet the Fisherman? Fine. Looks like you’ll get your chance.” She looked at Dallas with barely concealed rage. “Let’s go.”
She quickly hustled him into her waiting SUV parked at the curb nearest the benches. One of her associates leapt out of the vehicle to open the door as they approached and the trio jumped inside. They had barely closed the doors behind them before the six men converged on the car. The driver paid them no heed as he sped away, leaving the dark-suited men with clenched teeth. From the line of trees, the old black man watched all the activity with a bemused expression, his fingers rolling the cigarette back and forth absentmindedly.
Looking back at the men in dark suits told Dallas all he wanted to know
about not wanting to meet them. Were they FBI, CIA, maybe Secret Service? If they were, then who was he with, terrorists? Dallas shook his head. What had he gotten himself into?