They were in their dorm room, the blonde kid was reading a letter from home, the other one was studying. The reader laughed in surprise as he lay on the bunk bed: “My grandpa just became President.”
“Of the US?” asked the dark haired kid from his desk.
“No, you silly gunkie, of T.J. Reynolds.”
“I thought you said he didn’t have a chance”
“Apparently the other guy croaked”
There was a long pause. Then, “Does that make you a gazillionaire?” the question was asked seriously.
“One day, I’ll be rich” promised the dark haired boy intensely.
* * * *
They stood in the semi darkness, silently, patiently, waiting their turn.
The moment approached.
And each of the three voices blended their part of the sacred word into one glorious name.
* * * *
He came to the door and rang the doorbell. There was some muffled talking behind the door. Suddenly it opened up and his friend said “Ah, late as usual” and sprayed him full in the face with a very large water gun. He took off after his fleeing friend. The girl behind the video camera squealed in laughter and raced after the two of them, still filming.
He was happy to be back.
* * * *
A note to the reader
(this is not a Preface nor an Introduction, because most people never read those).
While the characters in this story are fictitious, the organizations, the societies and their rituals, the religious facts and the historical documentation is 100% true and can be authenticated using original manuscripts. References and sources of all manuscripts, quotes and most facts are listed in the Bibliography. I encourage all readers to supplement and increase their reading pleasure with some personal research into the topics discussed in this novel.
A word about the Religious People portrayed
In most modern fiction or movies, characters almost never run into ‘normal’ religious people. I say ‘normal’ because the few times when religious characters are portrayed in the average movie, they are usually portrayed as fanatics who have twisted views of the world, alcoholic priests, or sexually repressed schizophrenics. At best, people with religious convictions are shown as wimps. These representations are not only unrealistic but they are also inaccurate and do these individuals a disservice. They certainly seem to forget that the great doers of this world, the Mother Teresas, the Bonhoffers, the ten Booms and the other Germans and Dutch who sheltered the Jews from the Nazi’s at great peril to their own lives were all men and women of strong Christian convictions. They cast away without consideration the Livingstons and the great missionary doctors, the Jim Elliots and also the people who first fought against Slavery like Wilberforce of the English Parliament back in the 1800s. They do so never realizing that these individuals had only one reason for their sacrifices and their life’s work, their faith and conviction in Jesus Christ. Far from being wimps these religious people were individuals who were characterized by their willingness to fight for truth and die for their beliefs. Beliefs that resulted in actions primarily based on meeting the needs of the oppressed.
For the most part however, movies and TV shows of the 1990s, pretend that no religious people exist, relegating all life to be devoid of the anything to do with a God or ‘supernatural moral codes.’ Thus life takes on a bland non-absolute face. Nothing is defined as bad except what the masses (or the media) define as bad at that particular period in folk culture.
Then there are the purely fantasy movies, like ‘Heaven can Wait’ and ‘Ghost’, which are so full of the supernatural that if we were to find anyone who totally believed all that these movies portray, we’d think they were daft. Somewhere in between lies the truth about the supernatural and the truth about what kind of people believe in Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
In this story I have attempted to portray life as accurately as possible. Religious people do exist, and almost all of the time they are quite normal. Sometimes however they lack any depth of knowledge of what they believe and yet at other times they are intense theologians who can debate and defend their faith and except in some cases they usually love their neighbors the best they can.
Sometime in 1990.
Varella ducked as the second bullet skimmed off the top of his car. Oh god! He thought, Carl is trying to kill me!.
Varella had never been shot at before. He ducked down, taking cover behind the Porsche and sat down with his back to the rear wheel. He had to catch his breath and he had to think hard. He was, needless to say, very scared.
This was a joke, wasn’t it? He tilted his head up and yelled out breathlessly “Carl, is this your idea of a joke? That was a real bullet and it put a real hole in my window!”
There was no answer. He twisted around and poked his head up over the rear window. Then he got a response. The far front window starred up and he heard a crack of the gun again. This was not a joke. Some one was trying to kill him.
Cover he thought, I’ve got to find cover. He had parked at the top of the driveway. He looked around. Twenty yards up the stony path was Carl’s front door. The shots seemed to be coming from the window next to the door. His Porsche 911 sat at a right angle to the walkway, Varella always parked like that. Now he was glad he did. To the left and right of the driveway were groves of trees. If needed, they could protect him down to the wall at the bottom of the driveway, but the closest tree was a good ten feet away from the tip of his hood.
That left only one other possibility, get in the car and drive away as fast as possible. But that was a stupid idea, he’d have a bullet in his Armani jacket in 10 seconds. Besides they might have a machine gun in there and also he seriously doubted his Porsche doors would stop a bullet. He was already worried that one would penetrate both doors and hit him as he sat there.
He cursed and wished he’d bought a cellular phone from that obnoxious salesman. It would have to be the trees.
Varella pulled out his keys and crouched down low. Prof. Porsche in his wonderful wisdom had retained the eccentricity of putting Porsche 911 ignitions on the left side of the steering wheel. A concept dating back to the days when car races were started by the drivers running for their cars. By having the ignition on the left, the drivers could jump into their vehicles, start their engines with their left hands and shift with their right, saving valuable seconds. The car was already in gear and from his position by the open car door, Varella easily started the car with his right hand,. The man with the gun responded by decimating two wonderful Pirelle tires. The car lurched forward and jumped into the ditch at the side of the driveway. Varella cursed as he tripped in his fear and haste, and fell into the open Porsche door. His knees started to smart.
Looking around he figured that he’d gained about five feet. That left five feet between the tip of the 911 and the first tree. I hope that jerk with the gun doesn’t realize that all he has to do is hop out of the front door and put a bullet through my skull. Varella waited, maybe he thinks I’m armed too.
Varella started to shiver. Maybe I’m going into shock he thought. Nah, that’s stupid, if I was going into shock, I wouldn’t be able to ask myself if I was going into shock. He slithered past the front wheel and braced himself for the launch. Ready one two three, go, Varella’s legs didn’t move. I’m scared stiff, get a grip man, he thought as he shivered again. He looked towards the house, and saw some movement in the front curtain. He was moving….that meant he may be momentarily off balance or he may not be paying attention. Varella launched himself across the gap.
The tree bark scraped his face and the skin on his arms but Varella was too busy to notice the blood that was coming from his lip and face. The gunman had just realized what had happened and had put two bullets into the Porsche and one into the tree trunk.
The tree trunk was about four feet wide and gave him ample cover. There were a few more trees to his left and right but the next tree he needed was about ten feet behind him. Keeping his first tree between him and the front window, Varella walked sideways to the second tree. He kept a wary eye on the second front window. Nothing moved.
Varella was now in the thicket of trees, for now, no gunman could see him from the house. Back here was an old familiar path, but Varella ignored it and made a beeline for the brick wall he knew was at the bottom of the property. The bushes and trees grabbed and tore at his clothes and face but now that he had his back to the house and was in flight, the panic was in his blood even more than before. The adrenaline surged though his system making him rash and causing him to abandon all caution. The instinctive portion of his brain was focused on flight and putting as much distance between himself and an indefensible death. When he reached the 9 foot wall, Varella unhesitatingly jumped for the top it, pulled himself up with his hands and clambered over the top, hesitating only momentarily before he jumped down into the bushes and the ditch onto the other side. He dimly remembered scratching and cutting himself some more but the same adrenaline that gave him energy had numbed him to pain.
There was a thick clump of tall bushes alongside the outside part of the wall of Carl’s little mansion. He had jumped down right in between these and as he fought his way through the bushes he saw a car on the other side of the gate. Good he thought with sudden hope, help is at hand. Then he froze, the reckless abandonment replaced by immobilizing fear again. The car had come from the other direction and had stopped right in front of Carl’s front gate. And it wasn’t Carl’s car.
The car was about 50 feet away from Varella right next to the Mansion Gate and two men were getting out. One was taller than 6 ft, big, blonde, and wore dark glasses. He was carrying a walkie-talkie. The other, Varella couldn’t see, because some branches were in his face, but he could hear them both. They were looking for him.
“Careful” said the unseen one, “he may have a gun.”
They’d been patrolling the road thought Varella, They must have seen me drive up.
He bit his hand in an attempt to stop breathing so hard. He was dead meat. They would surely see the bushes moving. Suddenly Varella realized that they had started sneaking up along the wall, but on the inside of the wall, he could hear their footsteps in the brush. Varella waited a few minutes, removed his Gucci shoes and carefully tiptoed on to the road, trying to avoid rustling the bushes as he did so. 300 feet away, Carl’s wall and the bushes ended and the road beyond it was lined with trees. If he could just make it that far he could hide behind the trees as he walked to the nearest house. The nearest house was actually in the other direction, but he was on this side and he had no intention of walking past that gate. The closest house on this side of the gate was at least mile away. Varella sprinted in his socks to the end of the wall. Then he put his shoes back on. His shoes and jacket were tattered and he looked terrible, he’d have to risk scaring the home-owner half to death. He was trembling.
It was getting dark and it looked like it would rain.
Wordlessly, in a maze of confusion and unanswered questions, his mind worried about Carl. One thought hit him hardest though. They knew I was coming!
“They didn’t know you were coming,” said Captain Brinks, “if they had, you’d be dead by now. In fact they probably didn’t even see you go in….they must have missed you when you drove up”, He paused thoughtfully, “Something down the road must have caught their attention…..anyway, had they seen you go in, you wouldn’t have caught the gunman by surprise. And in that case he would have either shot you at the front door or have been long gone by the time you got there.”
Varella had met the police at the neighbor’s house and driven with them up the deserted driveway. There was a very dead expensive Porsche sitting in the ditch. The officers had shouted a few times with a megaphone and then they “SWAT teamed” the house and broke in. They did quite well considering the fact that they weren’t a SWAT team and that they weren’t really used to this sort of a thing. But then considering that no one dangerous was in the house anymore, it didn’t really make any difference what the cops had done. They found nothing, that is nothing except for Carl. The house was a mess, someone had systematically gone through every scrap of paper and every book in the place, and that someone had left.
Brinks, the police officer who seemed to be in charge sent someone out for Varella who had waited in the driveway, “Are you Josh?”
“No, I am Dare’ Varella,” said Varella, he hesitated, “who’s Josh?”
“We found your friend,” said the messenger cop, ignoring the question, “he’s been injured badly, but he’s still alive.”
Varella ran up the path with the officer, the front door opened to reveal the mess in the hallway, the place had been ransacked. As Varella followed the officer into Carl’s study he noticed that there wasn’t anything still in place. The gunmen had been looking for something and they’d been very efficient in their search. But who knows if they’d found what they’d been looking for?
Carl lay on what used to be a very nice carpeted floor in the study. Someone had covered him with a blanket and the medics were sticking tubes and stuff into him. His normally gleaming blond hair was now dark and matted with blood. Varella could tell that they already had a stretcher under him.
“We need to know who did this” whispered Brinks to Varella, “We can’t understand what he is trying to tell us.”
Varella knelt next to Carl, and looked down at his friend, 30 was too young an age to die. The officer had said injured, it wasn’t the half of it, Varella could see that Carl’s throat had been cut, not slit completely, but certainly cut open. It was a wonder he had vocal cords left. It was a wonder he was still alive.
“He shouldn’t talk” said the medic. They were busy preparing him to be moved.
“He has to talk” said the police captain. Varella looked up at the captain angrily. But in retrospect, it wasn’t an unfeeling statement, it was just a statement of fact. Carl was dying, and despite the grim reality of death, there was a commitment to society that he as a police officer had.
Varella squeezed Carl’s hand. “Carl!”
Carl recognized him, “Dare’,” he said, “rate as rusgual”, then a convulsion shook his body and a trickle of blood started to drip from his mouth, it didn’t seem to stop even when the medic tried to swab it up. Varella stared in horror at it.
“Not,…Ankh,…free,…my son”, the words turned into a bloodied gargle, Carl tried again “…my son…gram key elseeba….” he said, then to Varella’s amazement, Carl smiled, it was a bloodied grimace of a smile, he squeezed Varella’s hand, “further..in..tour…hands…” he said almost peacefully.
Then he slept.
Varella looked up at the medic. The medic gestured to him palms down and nodding, as if to say.. it’s alright. Carl was still alive, but barely. The medics loaded him onto a gurney and out to the waiting ambulance. Down the driveway the cop cars waited, sirens off, bright lights silently flashing, blue and yellow and red.
There was a moment of deep stillness, then the ambulance siren broke the silence and they took Carl away.
It started to rain.
Varella waited in the Hospital waiting room with Mrs. Wassau and Cynthia, Carl’s mother and sister. Mrs. Wassau was a tiny little woman who had welcomed Varella into the family as a second son. There were a lot of happy memories with this family. And a few sad ones.
It should have seemed unfair to him, that this strong tiny wonderful lady should have to endure so much agony. It was hardly a year since Carl’s father had passed away. Yet at the moment Varella was too involved in his own pain to consider her.
Varella wished he could pray to someone. Varella and Carl had been pallbearers at Mr. Wassau’s funeral. He didn’t want to be a pallbearer again. He didn’t really know who to pray to. A long time ago he had known. But not anymore.
Nobody it seemed, had called Carl’s separated wife.
At 2 a.m. Brinks sent Varella home in a ‘souped’ up, tank of a police car, with a shotgun up front. It was not as expensive as the Porsche, but a lot safer. The officer stayed and kept watch outside Varella’s apartment. “This had not been an ordinary break-in” they had explained, “somebody might want to eliminate the only witness.”
At four o’clock in the morning they called Varella, “I’m so sorry,… Mr. Wassau died ten minutes ago, without regaining consciousness.”
Varella sat beside the phone for what seemed like hours, outside the rain had stopped. Inside he felt very empty.
When he finally went back to bed he was numb, very numb, maybe when he woke up it would all have been a dream.
Why did he feel so very, very cold?
It wasn’t a dream.
The next morning Varella gave the police his statement. The hot shower hadn’t been able to remove the deep chilling cold from his bones.
Captain Brinks looked across the table at the dark haired almost Italian looking man. 6′ 3″, medium build, looks like he runs to keep in shape, tan skin. A face that looked like it was more used to smiling than it was to frowning. Prominent jaw, high cheek bones. His name was Dare’ Varella. That is Dare’ spelled with an apostrophe and pronounced “Dar-ay.” Yes, he was a good friend of Mr. Carl Wassau.
Varella told Brinks what had happened last night. It was brief and to the point, relating what had transpired since he had driven up Carl’s driveway. Once that was done he gave them a description of the tall man he’d seen from the bushes. It was an OK description, but they both knew it wasn’t going to be enough to catch the man. Varella knew he’d recognize the man again but that didn’t help the police very much.
After it was done Brinks had some specific questions, which was good because Varella had some questions for Brinks in return.
Brinks was the cop, so he got to go first. “So how were you related to Mr. Wassau?” He asked in an East Coast type of accent. With a bit of prodding Varella, explained his friendship.
“We’re old school buddies”. It hadn’t occurred to Varella to use the past tense. “We met as juniors at the University of Washington. We were roommates. We sort of lost touch after he graduated, I moved down here, and he stayed up there. But then a few years later he moved down here, where his folks lived, to start a new branch of his company. He liked it so much here, he bought out the local paper, a house and then settled down.
“Mr. Wassau was a publisher. How well was his business doing?” asked Brinks.
“Quite well, you can tell by the way he lives,” Varella hesitated, “lived…..” his eyes started to smart. “He was the publisher of a number of well known business papers as well as periodicals and books. You of course are well aware that he was the owner and editor of The Slate Times.”
“Isn’t 30 a bit young to be the owner of a such a large publishing company?”
“Not if you are an entrepreneur and a Wassau!” Varella said sourly, he didn’t like this cop’s attitude very much.
“Did he have any connection with Egypt?
Egypt!? Varella wondered how Egypt fit into the picture, why ask about Egypt of all things. “Not official business, but he always had an affinity for antiques though. African antiques mainly. He did have this close friend called Abdel Aziz in Cairo, who helped him collect antiques and the lot.”
“Oh yes Egyptian artifacts were always his favorite.” Varella had a very puzzled look on his face. What was the deal with all the interest in Egypt?
“I thought you said African?”
Varella’s looked at him quizzically and mockingly, “Egypt is in Africa”
“Oh,” there was a pause “Isn’t that illegal?” said Brinks recovering.
“Oh no,” Varella rolled his eyes, “Carl had too much of a conscience and was too intelligent to risk smuggling pharaohs out of Egypt. You know, he was after things like, a 3000 year old sword which was used in battle, pot shards and so on. Apparently the Egyptian Ministry of History, sold these to raise the Museum budget. He once tried to buy a mummified cat from the Museum but it turned out that that was being coordinated illegally by a crafty museum employee looking to make himself filthy rich. ”
“What do you do Mr. Varella?” said Brinks switching tracks.
“Me? Well, I’m what you call an investor?”
Brinks looked puzzled.
“Stocks” explained Varella exasperatedly,
Brinks didn’t say ‘Oh’ but he nodded with his mouth open and Varella’s mind registered an “Oh”.
“Legalized gambling” Varella added after a pause. “But I have an account manager worry about all that, after a while it gets to be ulcer causing and I wasn’t really into stocks and bonds. It just so happens that it’s better paying than most jobs, ….if you have the right account manager”
“Oh!” said Brinks raising his eyebrows, “So how do you occupy your time?”
“Well, I did do stuff for Carl, he was my employer.”
Brinks already knew that, he hadn’t been the one waiting at the hospital last night, but he didn’t say anything. He merely raised his eyebrows as if to say “What sort of ‘stuff’?”
“The pay was meaningless, but the job was fun. I do some investigative business reporting here and there, business leads are plentiful when you have all the contacts. Plus I used to be in the engineering field so I know people there.”
“So on Sunday when you went over to his home, was this a business call?”
“Carl and I were friends” Varella’s response was clipped. “We’d just decided to get together this Sunday…” His voice trailed off and he was silent for a few moments.
“I’m sorry” said Brinks knowing what Varella was feeling.
“That’s OK.” Varella changed the topic, ashamed to be showing weakness to this man he didn’t like. “Last night, you said that he had been stabbed, but I saw his throat had been slit. What the hell really happened in there last night?”
Brinks waited a moment before answering. “It wasn’t a robbery, we haven’t noticed any valuables missing. Unless some antiques are missing, or unless they were after a single special item. We noticed that they had gone through every one of Mr. Wassau’s Egyptian artifacts. The larger ones had been split in two. Interestingly, it looked like it was a ritualistic cult like killing. Because, when we found him, Mr. Wassau had a knife slit along his abdomen, and another along his chest, his throat was pretty much cut from ear to ear. On his chest was carved this!” Brinks drew a ‘T’ on a pad and then drew a teardrop on top of it. It looked like a cross with a loop in it.
Varella knew that sign. He had never personally been to Egypt, but he knew the sign. “An Ankh.” He said pronouncing it “aanck”
“An Ankh” said Varella soberly. “Carl was trying to say something about it before he lost consciousness. It’s an old Egyptian symbol.”
“What does it mean?”
“I’m not sure, but I’ve seen it in hieroglyphics and the such” he’d been hoping that Brinks would have known what an Ankh was doing on Carl’s chest, what was the use of having policemen if they were more clueless than you? But at least now he saw the connection with Egypt.
“Did Mr. Wassau go to Egypt a lot then?” Brinks asked suddenly, taking the role of interrogator again.
“Now and then, … Carl obviously went there to get his antiques.” Varella added after a thought “But I myself have never been there.”
Brinks looked at Varella, he wondered why Varella had added that, then he wondered whether Varella was telling the truth. Ah well, it was easy enough to check. “So what else do you know about this Ankh thing?”
“Not much, but last night, Carl said ‘Not something Ankh, free something’ then ‘my son, my son.'”
Brinks had already taken this information the night before, but he made another note of it anyway.
“Where is Mr. Wassau’s son?”
“He doesn’t have a son” responded Varella irritably, not making the connection for some reason. “He and Sandy had decided to wait to have kids, and in the end it just never happened.”
“How curious” muttered Brinks. He was silent as he scratched this information into his notes. He was wondering if Wassau had a fathered a son somewhere in his past, that was certainly common enough these days. He looked up “Had Mr. Wassau done anything to anger any group of people?”
Varella knew immediately what Brinks was thinking about. “You mean like a mummy’s curse?” his voice very skeptical.
“Not necessarily a curse, but maybe a group of individuals who symbolically wanted to make an example of him. It has happened before you know, in fact it happens all the time. Especially with gangs and creeds, I don’t need remind you of what’s happening in LA right now with street gangs, or even with the Mafia type families.”
“That’s ridiculous, Carl would never mess with anything like that.”
Brinks tilted his head and raised his eyebrows in an “If you say so.” The phone rang, Brinks answered it, spoke momentarily then stood up, it seemed like a good way to end the interview.
“Mr. Varella, you’ve been a lot of help, and I hate to cause you any more painful memories by asking you a favor. But apparently you knew Mr. Wassau best so I’d like to arrange a time for us to visit Mr. Wassau’s home. Maybe you could notice something that we missed.”
“Have you talked to his wife?” asked Varella.
“His ex-wife?” asked Brinks in return.
Varella winced, they’d already gone through either Carl’s background, or his personal letters. “He and Sandy are not divorced yet”, responded Varella slightly angry.
“I see” said Brinks, he paused “We haven’t been able to get in contact with her yet, we have our department looking her up.” He led Varella to the door. “Perhaps you might know how we may contact her?”
Of course he knew. Varella supplied him with the phone number.
During the next two days Varella looked every where for information on Ankhs. They were not listed anywhere in the library or in any of the Encyclopedias he looked at. Whenever he looked under Egypt or Hieroglyphics, there were pictures of creatures that carried Ankhs, but not a word seemed to be written on the topic, even in a passing reference. Finally Varella called San Jose State University to find out if they had a resident expert on Egypt. Not specifically on Egypt, but they certainly had someone who’d know enough. Varella got into the rented car and drove over.
He realized that he was trying very hard to keep busy. He was purposely avoiding thinking of Carl. But every so often he would catch himself thinking of Carl as if Carl was just on a long trip. The reality of death hadn’t really hit him yet. But in the back of his mind he felt very lonely despite the activity. Why, it was only last week that he’d talked to Carl. He felt that if he would just go over to Carl’s house, Carl would answer the door a say “Hey Dare, late as usual.” Because Varella was always promising to be over there and always trying to do one last thing before he left, this would always make him 15-20 minutes late to Carl’s house. And once Carl opened the door, all this would be a silly bad dream.
But it wasn’t a bad dream, it was the horrible reality.
He felt like crying, but he was now at San Jose State and he was able to busy himself trying to find a parking spot. It wasn’t easy, to find a parking spot that is.
Professor Bart Smith, was a very old and wrinkled man. He was not completely bald, which wasn’t saying much and that fact along with his glasses made him look like Mahatma Gandhi, but with a potbelly. Varella kept expecting him to say “That only I am telling you, I will fast.” But, as Varella soon found out, like the great man he resembled, Smith was sharp.
“The Ankh, aye, interesting symbol. Very close to a cross. In fact many people thought it was equivalent to a cross. But it’s not, you do know that, don’t you?.” He peered at Varella through his round frames, at the moment looking more like a hobbit than Gandhi. He added “Why’d you want to know about it?”
“I, um, I’m doing a research paper on it” lied Varella a bit uneasily, afraid that the old man would see through the lie and refuse to help him.
“Research paper, hmmm.” The professor turned in his swivel chair and looked out the window. “Research paper, for whom?” He abruptly swung round and got up.
Varella rose too. “For a class.”
“Private matter, huh?” said Smith, as he started to walk out the door. Varella assumed he was supposed to follow and did so into the adjoining room. There were large bookcases on both sides of the room and all along the back wall. They were filled with books. Old books, big books, fat books, thin books, all shapes and sizes. One book, two book, green book, blue book, thought Varella.
“This is our own little faculty library, collected over the years.” Prof. Smith walked over to a section and started pulling books out. “Let’s see what we have here.” He said.
He started to leaf through one of the books, muttered a bit, put it down and picked up another book, flipped through its back pages and said, “aha”. He then flipped to the center, found a page and read aloud.
“The Ankh, spelled here as ‘anx’, is the amulet of life. It’s usually found in some shape or form in every material used by the Egyptians for making amulets. It was a very common ornament for the living and the dead. Necklaces were frequently composed of pendants made in its forms. It is known as the ‘Key of Life.'”
They looked at a couple of other books but there didn’t seem to be much else written on Ankhs.
“You’ll probably notice that there’s not much documentation on this.” said Prof. Smith almost absent mindedly, “but it is a very common symbol, lately widely adopted by the New Age movement.”
Having said this Prof. Smith shut the book. “Now”, he turned away from the window, adjusted his glasses and peered at Varella, “Do you want to tell me what this is really all about?”
Varella looked at Smith for a while trying to decide what to do. It seemed very unlikely that Gandhi could be in anyway connected with the murder of his friend. He also felt that the professor would not tell anyone anything if he asked him not to. Yet it seemed like a silly and dangerous thing to do. The emotion played on his face for a few minutes. But if Carl had been killed by some Egyptian ‘death and revenge of the Pharaoh’ cult, the Professor may be able to help. He threw caution to the wind and explained everything he knew.
Prof. Smith listened intently showing no emotion at all, except when Varella mentioned the Ankh on Carl’s chest. It was quiet for a bit after Varella told his story. Then finally Prof. Smith spoke softly breaking the silence.
“So, you feel that someone or some group eliminated Carl as an example?”
“Actually I thought that was very unlikely, but why the hell would this happen otherwise. I was hoping you could tell me that.”
“What do you think?”
Varella was thoughtful, he’d already covered this ground with Brinks, but in the last few days he’d found out enough to realize that this hadn’t been a robbery. “Yes, but I don’t believe that it was a curse.”
“Why not a curse?”
“I don’t believe in that sort of thing. Do you believe that it could be a curse?”
“Hmm,” there was a pause “of course you know that just because you don’t believe in something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
“Do you think it could be a curse?” repeated Varella.
“I don’t know, I’ve never run into anything like this except in novels. It looks like it to me. But to tell the truth, I wouldn’t know where to go from here, if I was you.”
Varella started to get up, “Well, I’ve taken enough of your time, thank you very much Professor Smith.”
Smith walked him to the front office and asked Varella to let him know what developed. He seemed to be very concerned about Varella, almost worried.
The rented Mustang convertible was about 4 blocks away, which had been as close to the University as Varella could find parking. It was disgusting to see how few parking spaces they had on campus.
He pondered slightly on Prof. Smith’s last comment, “of course you know that just because you don’t believe in something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” He wondered if there really were mummies’ curses, carried out by modern day fanatics. Nah, that was stuff you watched in movies. But he did have to admit that just because he didn’t believe in something, it didn’t mean it didn’t exist. Although, come to think of it, he had dated a few women who thought that way. But they’d been into crystals and stuff. He’d have to spend some more time and philosophize about that concept some other time.
Varella, strolled down the pretty walkway wondering what to do next. He was to meet with Sandy and Brinks at 5 p.m. to go over Carl’s house. That gave him about two hours.
Two hours to waste, two hours to try and keep busy, two hours to wonder why Carl was dead, two hours to ponder on whys and what ifs, two hours! Two hours to die – at the hands of the men who had killed Carl. Varella froze in his tracks. Right in front of him was the tall blonde man sitting on a bench along the walkway reading the Campus newspaper.
Varella started to move again. They must have been following me! They obviously don’t realize that I know what they look like. He prayed that the tall man hadn’t noticed his hesitation.
With his heart in his mouth Varella continued walking again until he was past the tall man, who steadfastly ignored him. Varella wondered if the gruff voiced man wasn’t somewhere around too. He hoped again that his abrupt halt hadn’t been noticed. How did they find out who he was? The only possibility was if they already knew who Carl’s friends were. Or his Porsche registration! But that meant they had connections within the Police department or did it? Varella was scared. What if they just shot him as he walked? No, that was stupid, not with 2000 college kids as witnesses. Maybe while he was in his car on the freeway, then the police would think it was just another LA type freeway gunman. Varella started to walk faster.
He crossed one street and as casually as he could glanced back. The park bench was empty, the tall man had disappeared. Varella heart was in his pounding in his forehead, he felt a tick start in his left eye, but he kept walking. Then abruptly he changed direction, the tall man was still nowhere around.
Varella changed direction a couple of times and finally headed towards where his car was. He started to breathe easily, he’d lost them. Maybe he’d been imagining things, after all, he couldn’t swear that the tall man was the same as the one at Carl’s house. Maybe he was just a bit shaky, after all one’s best friend doesn’t get killed every day. Maybe it was just some poor tall student.
Varella turned into an alley that he figured should prove to be a shortcut around the block. He remembered how Carl always used to distrust his shortcuts. And it was with good reason too, most of Varella’s shortcuts ended up by getting them hopelessly lost. Varella left the alley laughing at himself and his over active imagination. Surely the killers didn’t know who he was, why they’d never even gotten a good look at him. He turned the corner and almost walked right into the tall blonde man.
This simple incident probably saved Varella a lot of speculative pain about his nerves and his imagination. If that was any consolation, but then it also settled a few facts. The tall man was following him, and they did know who he was.
Years ago when he was in college, he’d learned how handy sunglasses were for checking out babes. With dark glasses on, no one could tell where you were looking. It worked with killers too, tall, unlike in a movie he had no scars or identifying marks, he had short close-cropped blonde hair, and a straight jaw. Not bad looking for a killer.
Varella tried to ignore the fact that he was five feet away from one of the men who had killed his best friend and did his best to look casual. He heart didn’t feel very casual, he felt his pulse in his head. His temple was pounding to the beat of his heart as he sauntered over to his car and got in.
He was still alive. He just hoped that his silly bumbling around hadn’t told the tall man that he’d recognized him. Maybe they thought he was just paranoid. Which he was, especially since now he knew they were following him.
Someone else must have followed him while the tall man had waited near the car. Varella tried to see what car the tall man had gotten into. He couldn’t tell. Maybe they had two cars following him, so he wouldn’t get suspicious. Maybe he ought to skip town. Maybe he ought to buy a gun. He decided to stay away from the freeways until he could lose them. In LA they shot people on the freeways. This wasn’t LA, but why take any chances.
Varella spent the next two hours in a very crowded mall. Summer was coming up and the mall was full of people buying summer outfits. He didn’t notice the tall man in the mall, but he felt like his every move was being watched. He felt a very evil presence in the air. After weaving in an out of a few stores he walked into one of the bigger stores and walked out the employee entrance. No one followed him. Then he took a city bus to the airport. Like most buses in San Jose, it only had three passengers and the driver. All three were women, none of them got off at the airport. Once at the airport he rented a new car. He told them where the old one was. They were not pleased, but he didn’t really care. He yelled at the lady behind the counter, it made him feel better.
At a little past 5 o’clock Varella met with Brinks at the Police station, Brinks was very interested in Varella’s up to date description of the tall man. They’d run an ident-i-kit check on him as soon as they got back from the house.
Sandy was waiting at the bottom of the gate when they got there. Brinks noticed that she was a very pretty blonde lady. Varella had always thought that she was gorgeous, and even though she wasn’t really looking her best right now, it was hard not to notice how attractive she was. He had only talked to her on the phone after Carl’s death. Mrs. Wassau had broken the news to her before that.
Varella could tell that she had been crying a lot. Her eyes were red and she seemed like she was in a daze, but she occasionally managed a brave smile. Varella hadn’t seen her in a while and he’d forgotten how much he used to care for her. He hugged her close. Memories of her flooded his mind and with them came memories of Carl. He willfully put them aside, he had to be strong, at least for her.
The inside of the house was still an utter mess. Though the police had gone through it with a fine toothed-comb they had really found nothing of any significance.
“Was anything missing?” asked Varella.
“Not that we could tell” replied Brinks, “I was hoping you or Mrs. Wassau would be able to tell us.”
Varella looked at the floor of Carl’s den, the carpet area that had been soaked in blood was covered over with a drop cloth. Brinks had been sensitive to Sandy’s emotions, and his as he would later realize. The rest of the den floor was strewn with papers, in here the police had disturbed as little as possible. Varella didn’t know where to start or what to look for.
Fortunately Brinks seemed to know exactly what was to be done “Look, for something that has been taken, like valuables, or certain antiques, or certain papers that are missing. You can also start stacking things up in piles if that will help.”
Varella sat down on the den floor and started putting papers in order. It felt so wrong to be moving Carl’s things without his permission. There it was again, that empty feeling in his stomach. He shook his head as he tried to clear his mind.
Brinks stood there watching him for a while, then he left the room.
At first Sandy spent much of her time noticing how much Carl had changed things in the house since she had left, she walked around touching things longingly, but she eventually got down to the task at hand.
They spent over four hours shuffling through the papers and books and the general mess of an interrupted life, and at the end of it, they came to three conclusions. Brinks wrote them down:
1. Everything on paper about Egypt had disappeared.
2. Many artifacts had been taken.
3. Any artifacts that were left behind had been either cracked in two or were too small to contain anything.
If there had been any evidence of shady business deals, it was gone too. They didn’t know what else to look for. No valuables besides the artifacts seemed to have been stolen. Expensive clocks and vases and electronic equipment hadn’t been taken. Varella made a note to himself to check Carl’s office at work. He wondered if things from Egypt that Carl kept at work had been searched as well.
Varella came back into the study from the back of the house, as he did so he noticed the phone answering machine. Messages! I should check the messages. He pressed the play button but nothing happened. He flipped the lid up. The tapes were gone.
He closed the lid and looked around the desk, Carl’s ancient ‘386 PC Clone sat there looking like an ancient war relic. He looked at the desk again. Something bothered him about it. He couldn’t say what. Something was out of place. But what? I mean everything is out of place because they searched the entire house. But there’s something missing? Something that is here that shouldn’t or something that isn’t here but should be here? But he couldn’t place it. He flopped down on the carpet and closed his eyes. When he opened them Sandy was in the room tidying up.. He lay there for a while watching her. She was indeed a very beautiful woman, but then he’d always known that. Now, as far as he knew, she was also a very rich lady. He had estimated Carl of having a personal worth of over 13 million dollars. Even if the debtors took half of that, Sandy was still set for life. When he looked up he noticed Brinks watching them both. He decided that he really didn’t like Brinks.
They left the house at about 10 p.m., Sandy asked to leave all the lights on. She seemed to want to chase away the demons that lurked around. As they drove back down the driveway Varella wasn’t so sure if there really weren’t demons lurking around. Maybe real ones, maybe humans ones.
Brinks sent Sandy home with police guard, she would get her stuff from home and stay with a friend for the next few days, just to be on the safe side. The tall man might be just as interested in Sandy as he had been in Varella.
As late as it was, Varella did the ident-i-kit on the tall man and Brinks sent it down the wires. Maybe they’d find a lead. Varella didn’t think they would.
When he left the police station, Varella thought that Brinks’ farewell was a bit colder than his hello had been earlier that day. Good he thought, the feeling is mutual. He wished that this empty feeling in his stomach would go away.