The Rise of the Fallen
“The Rise of The Fallen Empire” is a work of fiction. The places and incidents
written in this novel is either the product of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is
The technical details regarding the Archaeological procedures and practises & the inclusion of usage of various related equipment’s and artefacts
mentioned in the novel are all accurate and verified using various
sources from the Internet and data from the libraries.
This work of fiction would not have been possible
without the continuous support of family and friends.
Love Y’all. Keep supporting.
Dedicated To My Family,
The Rise of the Fallen Empire
The view of the sky was enormous as the shining sun slowly peered out of the horizon, from the ground below. The entire sky was scattered with the radiant colours of the rising fireball that perfectly blends into each other closely mimicking a prism.
Things were functioning exactly as it was supposed to be; right from never-ending sirens of automobiles on the near reflective tarmacs to the ear-piercing chattering noise of the people on streets; it just another fine day at Baltimore.
As for the John Hopkins University, or JHU, as they are popularly called, the place was infected with a mere silence, or at least the rule of maintaining Silence was strictly adhered across the campus.
Towards the south of the main campus building, was the block that was famously known by the students of JHU as ‘the dig site’, or ‘the excavation site’ because that’s where the department of Archaeology established their base, a few years back. Of the entire campus blocks of JHU, the excavation site or the dig site always had some special focus.
Many long years ago, probably in the mid – nineties, when the Archaeology department was initially proposed at JHU, there stroke an argument among the authorities in naming the block.
Some members suggested that it be named after ‘William Cunnington’, the father of Archaeology. But apparently in the early 80’s, ‘William Flinders Petrie’ was allegedly called as the father of Archaeology, by the Archaeological community, upon the discovery that led to the uncovering of The Great Pyramid.
This posed a huge disagreement among the various members of the Baltimore’s Archaeological community; finally after which they were able to find some common ground; both had “William” as their first name, so with each passing days, people eventually started calling the southern block, as the “Williams Memorial.”
Dusted inside the William Memorial, was a large glass casing enclosed by an ancient Brazilian ebony wood, which was stacked with a large number of priceless artefacts and pure medieval stuffs belonging to the Egyptians and Incans tribe that included the Staff of Horus, The Chalice of Fortune, Hieroglyphics Engraved Golden Coins, and even The Great Statue of Viracocha – almost all discoveries pre-dated to the 300 – 500BC.
Most of those discoveries have been excavated and discovered by a group of researchers and students of the Archaeology department, led by James Gilroy, an Egyptian Arts & Anthropology professor at the JHU; the remaining discoveries were anonymously donated, sources of which are still unknown to this point.
These priceless artefacts and ancient discoveries attracted more attention among the other Archaeological communities and universities, especially the media, after which the ground floor and the one above it were dedicated for a public visitation, which was later called as the William Memorial’s Medieval Museum.
Directly two floors above the Medieval Museum, was where the Lecture Hall was situated.
A spectator capacity of around one – hundred, a high-end projector equipped with an efficient performing speakers of 87dB capacity in every corners of the hall, a wide fibre pull-down screen for the projector display and a small indoor library stacked with hand – picked collections of scriptures and medieval maps – with all these facilities, the lecture hall made an unique impression amongst any other lecture halls in any other universities.
The entire class room was struck with complete silence with a few students occasionally taking notes and the rest just yawning and stretching and even snoring, as the professor stood in the middle of the hall, lecturing on his sessions, on the techniques being used today to identify the mummified remains.
‘. . . . . . . but today, without loosening a single linen bandage we can examine the carefully preserved bodies of the mummies . . . . .’ he said, and continued, after pressing a keystroke that fired up a new slide on the wide screen, ‘. . . . And the skeletons with exactly the same tools used to diagnose medical problems in modern patients.’
James Gilroy was still a teacher at JHU after all these years. He was a man pushing towards his fifties. The thin copper rimmed glasses on his face and the grown white beard below his chin literally made his face. As for his hair, there was nothing to talk about. He was bald.
He was the kind of professor who takes interest in specifically hand-picking the students for his excavation projects and tours. Even in his fifties, Gilroy had a unique talent of identifying unique minds, like his.
Like minds think alike.
Finishing his lecture, Gilroy pressed another keystroke for the final slide. The wide fibre screen showed four separate and distinguished images that were enlarged to fit the screen, and it was pixelated.
On the right end of the screen, the slide displayed a lateral view of a mummified body with crossed hands, wrapped in a tainted green and a torn linen bandage; on the left was the top view of the same mummified body’s Computed Tomographic images, revealing the rib cages and skeletons. Below that was a three – dimensional CT scan of the abdomen region with partial flesh and drained blood; the last one was a simple skull.
The professor turned towards his students, closely observed everyone’s face for a moment, studying their reactions and thoughts, ‘Male or female?’ he asked, pointing at the images, flashing on the screen.
For almost two longest minutes, there was continuous chattering and murmuring among some of the students, and a few others were just pointing at the picture and discussed among themselves.
Gilroy stared at everyone, annoyed.
‘Male or female?’ he shouted again, ‘I’m still here, waiting for an answer! Not goin’ anywhere anytime soon fellas.’
Gilroy could sometimes be vicious and even dorky. He was always a man who expected people to have at least a little self – respect for themselves and also for others. He always said, ‘Discipline starts right from home, kids.’
‘It’s a male.’ A sudden voice erupted from the back.
The voice belonged to a girl; a bit of rough and fragile at the same time.
Gilroy lifted his head and opened his mouth in an attempt to say something but gave up. Every ones attention was focused towards the last bench.
‘It’s the mummified body of a man.’ She said again. She was patting her head with a pen in her hand. She wore a pair of thick rimmed glasses that were large for her face, but those glasses practically looked perfect, on her face.
Just within a few seconds, Gilroy identified her from his previous lecture sessions on Material Culture and Anthropology, Melissa Porter, third year class of Archaeological Sciences. He was not surprised.
Melissa was an attractive and an independent girl; she was in fact a Forex student, [as in foreign exchange] from London’s Cambridge University. She was a girl who lives with certain principles, which she often keeps within herself. The fact that she was single buggered many guys around her.
While most of the guys always glue around her with the only intention of flirting with her, John proved himself unique, which made their friendship also unique and with Katrina and Tobias around, the gang became invincible and even more fun to hang out with.
‘. . . . Well, how do you explain it?’ he asked, looking at her.
Without any hesitations, she pointed towards the second image on the left using her laser pointer. ‘Ummm… There we can see that the body structure has a relatively shorter pubic bone and a narrow sub – public angle . . . .’ in between she shifted her pointer positions on various parts of other images, as she spoke, ‘. . . . . Uh, a triangular pelvic inlet and . . . . . . A narrow sciatic notch.’
‘So?’ asked Gilroy, expecting an explanation. ‘How does this prove your point?’
‘Those are actually some of the features that prove with a higher degree of certainty that the mummified body could be a male.’ She said, in an authoritative tone.
He nodded with a satisfying smile. ‘Anyone else, except Melissa?’ he asked
Another girl from the front row raised her hands. ‘Prominent brow ridges, big cheek bones, sloping fore head and a squared – off projecting chin.’ She said, pointing at the image of the skull.
Without giving the opportunity of another question being raised, she continued, ‘These are also some of the distinguishing features indicating that the mummy is of a male.’
Gilroy nodded with a proud smile and began with his own version of deduction.
‘Kids . . . . When this mummy was received it was partially unwrapped.’ He said. ‘As I mentioned earlier, we used 2D and 3D computed tomography’s and deduced that the brain and some major organs were removed and that the rolls of linen used to wrap the body filled out the abdominal cavity.’ He pointed at the image on the screen with partial flesh and drained blood.
The students carefully observed and some of them even took quick notes.
He continued, ‘So, The crossed arms, as you can see . . . . .’ he pointed to the lateral view of the wrapped mummy, ‘. . . . . And the tainted green wrappings were usually a common mummification practises beginning about 500BC.’
‘As for the gender of the mummy . . . . ‘, He pointed at the skull of the mummy, ‘. . . . . . We used casts and images of male and female pelvises and skulls to compare.’
He clicked off the projectors display. ‘That’s all for today’s session kids.’ He said, waving his hands, as the screen slowly faded to black. That concluded that day’s sessions.
He turned away and started wrapping up his table. ‘Class dismissed. Y’all can leave.’
Gilroy slowly walked out of the lecture hall and disappeared out of sight.
Across the lecture hall, near the cafeteria was a man with a mouthful of his early brunch of the day; a grated cheese topping double margarita pizza. He was wearing a thick black leather jacket on top of faded flannel shirt and a navy blue denim jean.
His gaze was fixed on Melissa and her gang as she exited the lecture hall. He looked at her through his cold grey eyes, till she disappeared out of his sight. He had a completely grown peppered beard below his rounded chin and a dark fluffy hair, on top of which he wore a JHU cap and a distinguishing thin frameless glass; altogether he looked Enigmatic.
The adventure is about to begin my dear, play along – those were his exact thoughts, as he saw her slowly fade away from his sight.
He quickly grabbed his small cellular device, pressed some key strokes and finally hit the ‘send’ button and put it back in his jacket.
Melissa, John, Katrina and Tobias were on a long and casual walk across the campus lobby as they discussed their assignment, assigned to them by Professor Gilroy, a week before; something to do with a passive remote sensing, for an excavation site, few miles up North. Their deadline was almost up close but no progress so far.
Just as their conversation was getting heated up, a sudden vibration was set in motion, followed by a short tone.
A text message.
They exchanged looks for a brief moment. ‘Melissa! It’s probably your phone.’ Katrina said.
With a puzzling expression bugging her face, Melissa opened her backpack and peeked inside; grabbed the big brick shaped PDA. One New Text Message, it said.
‘It’s not my phone.’ Melissa said. ‘Someone must’ve slipped it or accidentally dropped it in my backpack.’
An awkward silence enveloped the thick and warm air as Melissa swiped the flat, wide screen of the PDA.
Tobias broke the silence. ‘What’s it Mel?’
She held the PDA, so that her friends could see.
They all looked at the screen, expressionless.
The faded display showed two separate combination of alpha – numeric; Latitudes & Longitudes, indeed.
39.1891^o^ N and 76.7639 o W
Melissa immediately hit a few key strokes in her own smart phone’s real-time mapping application and entered the co – ordinates which triangulated the exact location.
They had a hit.
‘The Meadowridge memorial park?’ asked Katrina.
Melissa nodded, still puzzled. As soon as she entered the co – ordinates, Melissa’s mapping application triangulated them to the Meadowridge memorial park, across downtown indicating it with a small blue dot on a specific spot on the satellite map.
She stood motionless, not sure what to do next, neither were the others.
‘So, the Meadowridge memorial park.’ An assertion; this time it was Tobias.
‘Guys! It’s like what? A seventeen mile ride, at the least?’ asked John. ‘We should definitely go, check out the place; it’ll be totally fun.’
Katrina was totally opposed. ‘Check out for what? We don’t even know for sure what we’re gonna be looking for and in fact, like Melissa said, someone must’ve dropped the phone accidentally.’
‘Or someone must’ve have slipped it in purpose, also said by Melissa.’ John said, with a sarcastic intonation. ‘Maybe their intention was to make sure the message reaches us.’
Katrina and Tobias looked at each other and turned towards Melissa.
‘You watch too much movies.’ They all said in unison, pointing at John. ‘This is not anything even remotely close.’ Tobias concluded, as John sighed in a complete disappointment.
‘Guys just stop.’ Melissa shouted. ‘Let us think.’
Every single word they spoke shot back at them like a boomerang; they echoed through the walls of the campus’ lobby. The air outside was thick and warm.
None of them had even the faintest idea as to what struck Melissa’s mind as she spoke again, with the carefully chosen words and thoughts. ‘Guys! I guess we should take this to professor Gilroy.’
Dumbest idea, Melissa ever came up with, they thought.
‘That’s lame and insane.’ John screamed. ‘I feel bad for you, coz’ this idea really sucks and for a fact I know it isn’t gonna work.’
John was completely pissed off with the thought and, Katrina and Tobias agreed with John for the first time in a very long time. He had a point.
The heated up conversation lasted for another ten longest minutes, by the end of which, they all came up with some common grounds.
‘Okay! But . . . . . . .’ Melissa paused, looking directly into each other’s eyes. ‘. . . . . We don’t do anything stupid. Just observe and survey.’ She said, and continued with the same tone. ‘Is that perfectly clear?’ she asked.
John dropped his jaws, in an attempt to say something but hesitated, and they all stared at each other for a few moments and at last everyone nodded their heads in agreement.
‘So we have a deal.’ Melissa said with a wide smile with her teeth popping out. ‘That’s great.’
A few miles away, the man in the thick black leather jacket with the Enigmatic looks was listening to the conversation on the other side thru’ his hidden microphone that was transmitting the audio directly to the wireless earphones plugged inside his ears.
‘Okay! But . . . . . . . . We don’t do anything stupid. Just observe and survey.’ A few seconds of complete silence and the voice continued. ‘Is that perfectly clear?’
A few static disruptions, but still the voice was perfectly clear with no mistakes in identifying them.
The voice of the woman from the other end of the device trailed off, but not before saying this. ‘So we have a deal . . . . . That’s great.’
The man finally threw a crooked smile with a complete satisfaction lit in his face; after all the kids are playing the game exactly the way it was supposed to be played, the game started by the man himself – The game for which the climax was already written.
The Chevy 67’ Impala swept the road ahead, at an average speed of around sixty miles an hour, fighting off the mighty wind. The Impala’s paint was rusted and scratched on the outside but on the inside it was new and untouched. The rugged construction of the suspension system and the side skirts protected the vehicle from mild bumps as the tires hit rough tracks on the narrow road.
‘We need to hit the highway before it’s too dark.’ John said. ‘I guess we would never make it in this old piece of junk.’
Tobias looked back and shrugged, in frustration and let-down. ‘I prefer calling it Vintage, rather the old.’
The Chevy 67’ Impala was a kind of a sentimental value, used by the Tobias’ family for generations, over almost five decades, and its previous owner was a fine old man, who went by the name of a, Luke ‘Tobias’, Tobias Jr’s granddad, before it finally ended up with Tobias Jr. The family was a weird kind of sentimentalists; they Chevy was never even allowed for a paint remodelling or any other reworks for that matter.
A few minutes passed by in an awkward silence and when the clock ticked 0645 hours, they already crossed a milestone that read, Meadowridge Memorial, 5 Miles North. It was just a few more minutes until they would finally reach the destination.
Things were going just fine until suddenly and quickly, Tobias hit the worn-down brake pads, so hard, that the tires squealed for a few metres ahead, leaving clumsy tire marks behind. The rest of them lurched forward and then back again, as the Chevy finally came into a resting position.
Damnit Tobias, Melissa’s inner voice cursed him, as she leaned back on her seat.
‘What’s up buddy?’ Katrina exclaimed.
‘It’s a cat.’ Tobias said, pointing his fingers outside the window. The cat’s eye was shining like a Lost Incan Golden Coin; like the colour of a highlighter marker. The cat’s eyes met John’s eyes in a straight field of view. It was like the cat was a warning, to make them stop whatever it is there are about to do; or wherever it is they’re going; like the Ancient Hindu belief says.
No reactions of any kind, from John. He looked calm and plain, and his face, pale and motionless, filled with a pure horror.
As they all stood clueless, Melissa was trying to shoo away the cat and indeed succeeded in her attempt within just a few seconds.
The cat left and the ride continued and no one spoke for the rest of the ride. As they finally reached the Meadowridge Memorial, the hands of the clock hit 0700 hours and at the same time, the cemetery’s giant clock dinged exactly twelve times and stopped.
The brightness of the sky slowly faded away as the darkness gradually started enveloping the entire sky, leaving the Meadowridge Memorial, suffering in the dark.
The place smelled like something that could never be explained with words. The cemetery was entirely built-up with stone structures, up raised from beneath the dead sand. Everything around the grave stones looked so dead and lifeless. Every grave stones were carved up with some ancient Latin or Hebrew writings that none of them recognized.
There was nothing possibly or even barely human like in the visible sight around the Memorial. Katrina remembered the exact lines from the horror flick, she keeps watching all the time – The dead should never be disturbed.
‘We are making a big mistake, by stepping on holy grounds.’ She said. ‘The dead should not be disturbed. In fact, the dead should remain dead.’
Tobias made a silent giggle and he couldn’t control it; it went on forever.
‘Are you even suggesting that we are raising back the dead? Like in those horror movies?’ questioned John, in a rather frightening tone.
Just before she could counter-attack him with words, Katrina noticed John, carrying a backpack, and with the way he was carrying it, she guessed that it must be heavy.
‘Errr… John?’ she called. ‘Why do you have a backpack with you?’
Melissa and Tobias stopped moving and looked at John, confused.
‘Well, I’ve brought my thermography device and computer, and also a LIDAR.’ He said, mentioning the Light Detection & Ranging Device. ‘We’re on a quest for something, god knows what; wouldn’t miss it for life. Would I?’
Melissa frowned at John. ‘We agreed to do nothing stupid, just observe and survey. What do you think you’re doin’ John?’
‘Come on Mel, it’s just some ground surveying equipment’s, what do you think I’m gonna do?’ John shot back. ‘Besides, we don’t even know what’re we’re looking out for.’
John was absolutely right; he had a point, again. They had to be ready for whatever it is they find. The clock was ticking fast and the place was getting even darker and they were still clueless.
Melissa picked up her phone and opened up the satellite map again and kept looking at the terrain, a little closer this time. She used her thumb and index finger to swipe on her screen and the map enlarged, showing a more accurate point of the co – ordinates in the vicinity.
‘Guys, look.’ She called out and everyone inched forward. They were just a few steps out from the exact point. Holding the phone right ahead, they started walking towards the blue dot on the map until they were literally standing on it.
The blue dot then suddenly vanished with a short beep tone followed by a quick popup on the screen – You have successfully arrived at the destination. Thanks for using our application. We’ll always at your service. It said in an auto – recorded robotic voice.
‘What’re we looking for, Mystery Man.’ Katrina uttered in a hushing tone, as they scattered around and kept looking for whatever it is, they were looking for.
They wandered around clueless for almost an hour until finally Tobias stumbled upon something that he found quite strange.
‘Fellas, I guess I found something.’ Toby called out. ‘Over here.’ He shouted, pointing at the gravestone resting in front of him.
Everyone gathered around him and looked at it, puzzled with tonnes of questions floating around in everyone’s mind. Unlike the other gravestones, this one had no name on it but something else was carved beneath the marble stone; ‘In Loving Memory 1930 – 2011, R.I.P . . . . . . . ilr . . . ., Ja . . . Sr . . . . ‘
The name was scratched off with a just few trace marks behind and the grave stone’s lid surface appeared slightly disturbed. Whoever did this, never wants anyone to find out the person beneath these stones.
‘Things are getting strange by the minute.’ Melissa sighed. ‘So what do we do now?’
John was already unpacking his backpack, setting up his gears as Melissa spoke. Everyone stared at him, as he set up his laptop on top of the disturbed surface of the gravestone. ‘What? You wanna help me or not?’ John asked, and the next moment, they all were helping John, setting up his instruments.
With everyone working together, it only took around five minutes to set up everything that they needed to find out the thing buried under ground.
‘You guys ready?’ he asked, for which everyone nodded.
John hit a few keystrokes in his computer and he connected the broad end of the LIDAR’s wire to the computer’s USB port, switched the screen to the imaging software that they all immediately recognized from the lab, back at JHU.
He stood in position and hit the small red, rounded button on the LIDAR device; a short-pitched groan, and the image slowly started appearing frame by frame on the screen of the computer’s imaging software from top to bottom.
A few minutes were all it took to derive the high resolution image. Everyone came closer and studied it together. ‘Wow! Just a few meters down is it?’ Tobias said. ‘Twenty – Eight Meters, it says.’
‘A GPR sweep must show us what’s under.’ John said, with the Ground – Penetrating Radar in his hands. A GPR sends a highly polarized radar pulses, deep under the ground and as the pulses hit something solid, it scans them and traces the object and its constructional details. They all were familiar with it.
Melissa did the deeds by initiating the GPR device, a high-pitched pulse radiated deep down as Mel hit the button on it. There was no time lag; each frame started appearing in a linear sequence, carefully building the final image.
Everyone leaned closer as the image started appearing. It was something metal, and mostly rusted by the looks of it, and rectangular, and it had some carvings of an ancient hieroglyphics; Egyptian. It looked like a priceless artefact – A treasure chest.
‘Is that what I think it is?’ said Katrina, in bewilderment, as the others looked at the Hi-Res image on the computer screen in astonishment.
‘We should excavate the site.’ John said. ‘Get that thing out and take it back to our lab, for further processing. We wouldn’t know anything about its origin as long as it’s buried in there. For all we know, it could be one of the missing artefacts, professor Gilroy talks about.’
A mild hesitation filled with millions of questions, and slight fear shrouding their faces, but finally they all nodded in approval.
John had only the surveillance and monitoring tools, but nothing that fits for excavating the ground below, at least he didn’t feel the need to bring those kinds of tools, after promising Melissa that he wouldn’t do anything stupid, which in itself was a stupid thing, that he added to his long lists of wrong doing.
Clearly knowing that standing still won’t work, they decided to spread around and expand their search radius; A few more minutes vanished into thin air, which brought the clock close to 0800 hours, with no luck of ever finding tool to dig the place.
They finally ended up with a few thick long rusted metallic rods with a sharp pointed edge, scattered around the cemetery office on the corner of the Memorial. Each of them picked one of their own and started jabbing around the perimeter of the gravestone with a hard blow to loosen the soil around it.
‘Strike slowly, don’t penetrate the rod too much further, could damage our object.’ Melissa spoke.
It worked out.
The grip around it loosened and the grave stone started shaking vigorously; just one more blow and it would all come down tumbling. Tobias made the final hit and several million cracks erupted upon the big, wide marble stone, travelling at several hundred miles at once, cracking it open.
Everyone stood motionless, blunt and shocked, in rather surprise than disappointment.
‘Ummm… She’s a beauty.’ Katrina slowly uttered each word, as plain and possible as she could put them. ‘Isn’t she?’
Melissa nodded, staring at it, so did the rest of them.
‘It’s dark, we shouldn’t be here anymore. Let’s grab this thing and get the hell outta here.’ Tobias claimed.
John shook his head. ‘No, wait.’ He said, lifting his hands. ‘We should check for any possible radiations. It might be here for ages, so it’s only possible that there must be some radiations. Let me get my thermography kit.’
They waited alongside the grave, as John fled the place to grab his kits. As they were guarding the tomb, a sudden thought striked Katrina. ‘Guys! Where’s the body buried here? There must be one right?’ she asked, and the others shot a glance at her.
Why didn’t they think of that? The quest has completely blinded them of any further thoughts.
Melissa immediately peeked inside the grave without wasting anymore time. She lended a flashlight from Tobias and inspected inside it. The treasure was placed right in the middle of the tomb, with sediments of soil and rocks covering it, and the edges of the box were slightly disturbed, confirming Melissa’s suspicions; the object was buried only recently, but that doesn’t make sense, she thought.
There was no doubt that the box was an antique, the hieroglyphics that were carved looked ancient but legit, and the style of the carvings itself was old enough to prove that it pre-dated for at least a few centuries back.
This was definitely not an object to be hanging around in an antique collectors place. It almost cost a fortune, wouldn’t want to hold on to it, with the fear of being robbed every single day.
But finally she saw what she needed to see. There was a very mild but visible trace marks of skeletons, the sand was slightly pressed and shallow.
Someone stole skeletons? The world around her was getting weirder.
John returned back with his laptop and his kits, already set-up and ready to go. ‘You ready?’ he asked, looking at them, and they nodded.
Like the last two times, John hit a few key strokes on his computer and the device finally whirred and came to life. He instructed Mel to slowly move the device from top to bottom and again in the opposite direction.
She did exactly like he said and it went on for a few minutes, after which an image appeared on the screen. It was multi – coloured consisting of patches of green, orange, red, yellow and also some very mild patches of several other colours. The bright red and orange indicated the presence of radiations; but it was very mild and harmless, handling it with a small pair of gloves would suffice.
They couldn’t possible know the contents and the weight of the object, so John handed a pair of gloves for each one of them, in case he needed an extra set of hands. He carefully cleared off the soil sediments on top of the box and wiped off the stones in a similar manner.
He inched towards the grave and slowly traced the soil around the object and placed his hands carefully beneath it, and Melissa did the same. They slowly and carefully started lifting the object.
As soon as they started lifting it, they realized that the box was not nearly as heavy as they thought. It was particularly light in weight but stuffed with something inside it; about that, they were completely sure.
The hands of the clock hit almost 0900. It was the closing time of the Meadowridge cemetery. Within five minutes and the combined effort of all four of them, they cleared the place and set it as nearly as how it was an hour ago.
There was a sudden noise; the sound of the tree’s twigs cracking. Probably the guard, they thought, but it was the local law enforcement, patrolling the area.
They quickly snuck through the rear and powered up the Chevy 67’ Impala and rode away as far as they could.
A few miles up North, in an expensive hotel suite, the man in the thick black leather jacket looked much cozy than he appeared to be, bumping up on his expensive couch, while the Air – Conditioning unit was cloaking up the remaining heat in the suite. At the same time, he was listening to the conversation on the other side.
He knew it was time he spoke to his boss. He grabbed his phone resting on the small wooden teapot and dialled a number he knew from memory.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
A nearby cell tower picks up the call request from its service area and transfers it to the destination cell tower, after which the target mobile number’s service area is triangulated and the call is transferred to it, then the phone starts ringing.
A very huge set of processes, but altogether, a very few seconds is all it takes for the overall process; but the man didn’t have any concerns nor interest in any of this, as long as the call came through.
‘Yes?’ The voice from the other end was rough, and windy.
‘I think they took our bait.’ The man said. ‘They have the box with them and they’re taking it back to the JHU’s research lab, as we’re speaking.’
‘Good.’ The voice from the other side said. One word, one syllable, four letters; as short as it may sound, but the more powerful it is, coming from the man from the other end of the call. ‘Keep pursuing. Do not engage, unless necessary.’ He said and the line went dead.
Back at JHU, nothing had changed since their last visit. The same infected silence, routine lectures, occasional public visits at the William’s Medieval Museum, and a small brunch break, things sounded normal.
The research lab was on the third floor; which was on top of the Museum by two floors and the lecture hall by one floor.
‘If we need to keep this from Gilroy, we need to avoid any traces of us ever being inside that lab. Agreed?’ Melissa asked everyone.
‘What’s your plan? You wanna sneak inside without authorization?’ Tobias said. ‘It’s against JHU’s regulations. We could be expelled, if someone finds out; let alone find out about the box.’ He said, mentioning the antique they just uncovered.
Melissa expressed a wide smile. ‘I have an idea, but you might not like it.’ She said, searching for something inside her bag. It was a regular sized plastic laminated ID. She held it up close for the others to see. ‘There we have our authorization.’ Mel said, with her teeth widening.
‘Shit! Its professor David O’ Brian’s ID. You stole them?’ Katrina asked in surprise. David O’ Brian was Archaeology department’s History professor and a fine man in his fifties; he was also in-charge of the research laboratory of that specific block.
Katrina caught her off guard. ‘Well, I think so . . . . Yes, but . . . . . Purely with the intention of returning it back . . . . . No offense.’ She said, mumbling.
‘He’ll kill us if he finds us.’ John said, for which Melissa replied, confidently. ‘No he’s reported in for sick leave. He won’t be around until after next week, probably.’
They paused a beat, exchanged looks and finally rushed to the third floor, to the lab.’
They climbed up the stairs to avoid the sound of the elevator. The third floor corridor was almost empty. It was break time and most of the students would probably be at the cafeteria, and so do the professors, so no surprises. Each of them slowly approached the lab, in an orderly fashion, with their heads faced down the floor, trying to avoid being captured by the surveillance cameras.
When they finally made it to the lab area, Mel picked up the stolen professor’s ID to gain access to the laboratory.
Then suddenly the sound of an approaching footstep echoed through the empty corridor, gradually increasing with each second and each step. Katrina patted on Melissa’s shoulders in dismay and Mel nodded and quickly swiped the ID on the lab’s entry pad after which the door slid open emitting a loud beep with the red LED’s switching its colour to green.
They rushed inside the lab as the door immediately closed behind them. They ducked across one of the windows within the next second, waited for the passer-by to disappear away from the area. It was Albert, the Economics professor, they recognized from the University’s year book, some kind of freak, was the impression they all had on him.
After he left, the place was back to its normalcy and the gang started their initial phase of work by setting up a work space and grabbing the necessary tools. The research lab of JHU was like any other usual laboratory stuffed with the general items like bottles of various kinds acids, devices for performing various kinds of dating’s on antiques, file cabinets and dossiers, computers and other necessary tools.
Melissa dusted off the work space and laid out a thin, wide piece of a fibre cloth and carefully placed the antique box on top of the piece of fibre and she picked up some brushes in varying sizes and thickness and spread them out on the table, near the box.
In a battle between choosing the right brush for the work, she finally chose one of the brushes with a thin hair and started off by cleaning the visible contaminants slowly and carefully while the rest of them prepared sample acids and Spectrometry devices for carbon dating the sample inside it.
Once she cleaned the visible contaminants, she wore a pair of gloves and picked up the tweezers from the draw below, to unlock the mystery box. The rest of the crew gathered around Melissa, waiting for the final surprise, as she unlocked the mystery box. A few metallic clanks and a slight struggle and the box finally clicked open.
They all came closer and sneaked inside the chest. They wouldn’t believe their own eyes.
A bunch of Skeletons? They all dropped their jaws in disappointment. They thought it would be a real antique with priceless possessions inside them, but they still didn’t lose hope; coz’ they liked good mysteries.
‘Why would someone go for all the trouble by disturbing the grave, scratching off the name on it, antique box and co – ordinates and all those stuffs?’ Tobias questioned, and nobody spoke. They had no answer for his enquiry.
John and Katrina slowly removed the contents of the box and placed it inside the small bath filled with a moderate level of Alkali acids to remove the invisible contaminations like humic acids and carbonate contamination, presence of which will not yield a proper carbon date result.
John spoke. ‘Guys, these bones don’t look like an antique.’ He said. ‘Look at the shape of the skull, and the jaw area. It’s protruded and the wide cheek bones and brow ridges.’
‘What about them?’ asked Tobias, staring at the bones.
‘Well, to me it looks like 21st century stuffs; at least dating back only a few years.’ He said, in a puzzling intonation. ‘We must first find out whose grave stone it was.’
‘Okay but let’s finish what we came for, let’s not waste all the efforts we made so far.’ Katrina asked them and they nodded in approval.
A few minutes later, they retrieved the bones from the bath and positioned it inside an oval shaped aluminium tray and put it back inside the oven like device, which they call as the Beta Tester Box, for performing the accelerometer mass spectrometry.
It was a one of the modern methods used in Archaeology, which directly measures the carbon – 14 content of the specimen that has been emitted, in relation to the remaining carbon – 12 and 13 present in the specimen.
This gives an accurate time – frame of the object.
After the indication appeared that the process has been completed, they all came closer together, to study the result; which completely disappointed them. All the hope they had, were gone.
The bones dated to only two years back, which was 2011; the exact year that was carved on the grave stones.
The bones belonged to the person whoever was in that grave. Somebody had been playing them with some stupid games and they had taken the bait.
When they made it back to Katrina’s place across the University, Tobias said that the entire cemetery records are maintained in a card file index and that he could call the cemetery office and talk to them.
‘Yeah sounds great, like they would even give you, since you ask them nicely.’ John said, sarcastically.
‘I can get what I want.’ Tobias said. ‘Just wait and see.’
Tobias asked for the telephone directory and Katrina said she’ll go get them in a minute and she disappeared out of sight. She came back in a minute like she promised.
The directory was a big book containing some of the most important numbers like hospital, police, and hotels and so on, which also included the cemetery office at the Howard County, Maryland as well. It took almost a minute for him to locate the number and then he dialled the number from the book.
A few beeps and then the phone ringed.
‘Howard County cemetery office.’ The coarse voice said, probably drunk. ‘What can I do for ya’?’ he asked.
Tobias cuffed the bottom of the phone, adjusted his voice and spoke in a tough voice. ‘Yeah, Officer Dwayne speaking from Howard County Sheriff’s Department, I need some information from your index file.’ he said.
The others looked at him in surprise. Tobias was impersonating a police officer.
‘Happy to help in anyway. Spit it out buddy.’ He said.
Tobias recited the grave’s unique number from his memory and the year mentioned on the grave and waited.
‘Let me get back to you in a few minutes.’ He said and disconnected the line.
Everyone kept staring at him for a few minutes without uttering even a single word, and then the phone started ringing again.
‘Yeah.’ Tobias said and the man from the other side spoke.
‘I’ve found the file you requested for.’ He said, and paused for a dramatic effect. Then he said the name, which came as a complete shock for Tobias. He disconnected the call and sat still.
The others found his face filled with pure horror and chaos. ‘What’s it Toby?’ Katrina asked. ‘Whose grave was it?’ asked John. Melissa didn’t utter a word.
Tobias spoke. ‘James Gilroy.’ Two words, eleven letters altogether, but it was totally chaotic.
So who was the guy at JHU, they call “James Gilroy”??? They started wondering.
The man in the black leather jacket, enjoying his expensive suite, kept listening to the conversation on the other side, never stopped.
‘James . . . . . Gilroy.’ The boy had said.
He picked up his phone, hit the redial button and called his boss again. He had said, ‘Do not engage unless necessary’. He thought it was time he engaged, couldn’t let it go any further.
‘Yes Lowrey.’ He called the man in the black leather jacket. ‘Go on.’ He said.
‘The kids confirmed our suspicions.’ Lowrey spoke. ‘The skeletons were James Gilroy’s. Our target is still on the loose. We must engage before the kids confront our target.’ Lowrey said, for which his boss gave his approval.
Lowrey threw a wide smile. Show Time, he said to himself and clicked off the line.
Back at JHU, the mysterious man who claims to be Professor James Gilroy was walking back to his cabin after a very tiring session. He looked weak and fragile and he thought he needed a good night’s sleep to recover; but before that he needed to be somewhere else, something more important to do.
Down across the parking lot, John and Katrina were in a quest searching for the so-called Gilroy’s car. They’ve seen him drive to the University; a silver ford hatchback with a distinguishing Pyramid key chain hanging on the front mirror and a wobbling Egyptian princess toy placed directly below it.
‘John, make it quick.’ Melissa’s voice pierced through John’s wireless earpiece, as he slowly cat walked around the lot with Katrina. ‘I think Gilroy is on his way.’ She said.
All four of them were connected in a conference call, as John and Katrina were inspecting the parking lot, Melissa directly across Gilroy’s cabin and Tobias on the rear entry point of the cafeteria, crossing which will lead straight to the parking lot.
‘Mel, when are you goin’ to stop calling him Gilroy?’ John screamed. His face wrinkled, in anger, frustration. ‘He’s a poor pathetic bastard, for all we know.’
‘No argument here.’ Katrina added after him.
Melissa sighed. ‘Not a perfect time for argument. Plant the bug and get the hell outta the place.’ She said. ‘Don’t let him find you. We don’t need him to get suspicious. Let’s play his game in his own way.’
‘Agreed.’ They both said in unison and went radio silent.
With just a few miles out, Lowrey picked up his phone and hit the redial button once again. So far that was the only number he had dialled in the last few days. After three rings, a firm voice from the other side spoke.
‘What’s it Lowrey?’ The boss asked.
‘I guess the kids are planting a bug in his car.’ He said, and continued. ‘The kids would probably tail him back to his place; wait and then engage, so I need to tail the kids to avoid the scene.’
A few seconds of silence followed by a cough, and the man spoke. ‘Tail them, and wait for my Go – Sign. I’ll have a team back you up and I, myself will be there; I’m just thirty minutes out.’ He said.
He said ok and disconnected his line.
The man claiming to be Gilroy slowly climbed the stairs to the third floor and within the next few seconds he was standing right outside, staring at the research laboratory they were using. He slid his hands inside his coat pockets, looking for his ID’s to access the lab.
‘Guys did we clean up the lab alright? Coz’ he is standing outside the lab, looking for his ID’s inside his pockets, as we speak.’ Melissa questioned them.
There was a few minutes of silence from everyone, probably recalling the events from two days back. Just before Melissa started speaking again, John interrupted.
‘. . . . . Ummm, we cleaned up well but he might notice the alkali bottle, it’s almost out and . . . . .’ he dragged the words and continued, ‘. . . . . the Beta tester oven’s heat hasn’t gone zero yet.’ He said.
‘The beta tester’s core heat takes up to three days to get back to its normal level. So it’s the third day.’ Tobias said. ‘So we are still not sure about anything.’
The old man came out of the lab after a few minutes and looked around the floor, slowly started walking towards the stairs and then eventually he started rushing through the stairs. He was so quick on his feet.
‘Toby he’s up to you now. He’s literally running down the stairs.’ She screamed in panic. ‘I think he made us.’
‘Wait . . . . . He’s what?’ Tobias line cracked, but whatever it was, he knew it was no good news.
‘We found it.’ John said. ‘We found his car. I’m placing the bug under the car. We’ll meet you at the rendezvous point in five minutes.’
Within the next minute Tobias’ voice filled the earpieces. ‘Fellas! He’s past the cafeteria. With the speed he’s running, I guess a minute tops.’ He said. ‘Get out quick or just abort.’
Live to fight another day, he thought.
It was already too late, Melissa thought. The mystery man had just reached the parking area and quickly disappeared out of sight. It was like he vanished into the thin air. An awkward silence filled the warmth of the dense air.
There were no activities for another couple of minutes, just then, the earpieces of Melissa and Tobias picked up the sound of a car’s tires screeching; a speeding vehicle.
Melissa rushed to the main gate only to find the tire marks on the tracks ahead her but whoever he was, he was too good in covering his tracks. He was already gone by then. Suddenly the thought of John and Katrina struck her mind and she immediately brought her hands close to the earpiece. ‘John? Katrina?’ she shouted. ‘Are you guys there?’
‘Mel we should probably check out the lot.’ Tobias called out.
They hustled across the street to the parking area, and then a sudden static disruption filled their earpieces. ‘. . . . Are . . . . Fine . . . . .’ some coughing noise in between and then again, ‘. . . . . See you out front . . . . . .’
A few minutes later Katrina and John walked out of the parking lot with greased shirts and their face filled with soot and dusts. Melissa stood there watching them in a relief. Thank god you guys are not dead, her inner voice spoke, but she refused to utter them out load.
‘We hid behind his car and his engine roared on us.’ Katrina explained, wiping off the soot on her face with her kerchief. Without any sudden thoughts, tears trickled down Melissa’s cheeks and she hugged them tightly and kissed both of them on their forehead. ‘Melissa, relax. We’re here.’ John said, and Katrina nodded, patting on Melissa’s head.
The blaring noise of a horn took their attention; it was Tobias’ Chevy 67’ Impala, roaring on the pavement. ‘Get in guys. We don’t wanna miss him.’ He said and they all got in and started chasing the guy. No more hiding, he already knew.
Almost a twenty minute drive, chasing the so-called professor Gilroy, brought them to a private garage around the Howard county area. The place was so quiet; except for the sound of the waves kissing the shore line, and taking back with them, the sand dunes mounted up on the shore.
Around four or five garages were lined up across the shore and two of them were opened – they noticed some automobile components packed and taped, ready to be shipped; probably a loading dock for transportation.
The mystery old man was at the last garage on the extreme left. He opened the garage doors, partially and casually looked around him. When he made sure no one was watching him, he ducked inside it and pulled down the garage’s shutters slowly, trying not to attract any attention.
The kids got out from the Chevy and they followed him to the garage. Each of them took a separate corner and rounded up and gathered near a window they found, alongside the garage. The panes were totally dusted, and nothing was clearly visible from the outside but they were able to make out the shape of someone walking inside, right and left across the garage; a fainted shadow was all it was.
Then the shadow figure disappeared the next second.
‘Where did he go?’ John wiped the glasses hard, puzzling.
‘HERE . . . . ‘ A rough, huge palm touched John’s shoulders, and as John quickly turned around, they all started screaming. They all were motionless and sweat started rolling down their cheeks.
He was holding a black metallic pistol; seemed real for them. He pointed them and signalled them towards the garage at gun point, and the next second they were all inside a locked garage, hands and legs tied.
‘Man, who the hell are you?’ Mel shouted.
The old and fragile figure turned around stared at her. ‘Oh dear.’ He said. ‘Don’t you dare scream at me’ His voice gradually rose louder, and Melissa’s head ducked between her tied legs in fear.
‘Stop it. You’re scaring her.’ John shouted.
‘Ahh! Look at Mama Boy.’ He said sarcastically. ‘I never liked you John, NEVER. So don’t think that I’m gonna listen to you, or any of you.’ He was packing his backpack as he spoke; his hands were trembling and his legs were shaking.
The garage was plain and empty. Is this where he was holed up? They started thinking. There was nothing there except for an old dusted Benz sedan with its trunk open. Inside the trunk were few rusted iron rods, rock sediments – looked like grey marble stones. They immediately realized they were the same stones from Professor James Gilroy’s Grave back at Meadowridge Memorial.
‘Who are you? What did you do to Professor Gilroy?’ Katrina shouted at him.
He dropped his backpack, clutched his fists in frustration and grabbed his pistol and started loading the 9mm bullets in the magazine.
‘I know you like good mysteries.’ He said, loading the magazine back in his pistol. ‘Die with one.’ He pointed the gun at Katrina’s temple, and she tightly closed her eyes.
They heard the gun cocking and reloading and the pressure on the trigger handle and for one brief moment, Katrina’s world flashed in front of her, as the rest of them closed their eyes in fear.
She felt the blood rushing through her veins.
And the gun fired.
The world around them went blank.
Then they opened their eyes. Everyone’s face filled with pure horror and surprised. Katrina was wimpy and she was crying, and her breath was short and fast. Her heart was pounding.
The things their eyes saw, the mind refused to believe it.
The man claiming to be Gilroy was lying flat on the floor with his hands stretched and a bullet hole centred his forehead. He was lying still, motionless. He was no longer breathing. He was dead already.
The entire area filled with sirens blaring and chattering noise of the crowd surrounding the area; the garage was entirely rounded up by cops. The four of them looked ahead, as a man with peppered beard below his rounded up chin was approaching them.
He was wearing a thick black leather jack on the inside with a FBI windbreaker on the outside. The ID’s wobbling around his neck called him “Stan Lowrey”. He picked up a Swiss knife and cut them all loose one by one, and finally they stood up on their feet. They were shaking, still in shock.
‘What’s goin’ on here?’ John asked, in a more calm and polite tone.
Lowrey said nothing but smiled at them.
Lowrey collected individual statements from the each, about the incident, right from the start; the day they received the co – ordinates till they ended up in the garage. Lowrey was accompanied by another man in suit, wearing thick framed glasses and he looked smart and calm and the tag on his ID revealed his name: David Stenson.
‘So it was you who sent the co – ordinates?’ John asked.
Lowrey nodded, and said ‘In fact it was me who dropped the phone in Melissa’s bag in the first place.’ That came as a shock to Melissa, that she had been so careless. She thought she was perfect but she had indeed set a poor example, for the first time in her life.
‘If you knew about the co – ordinates, then you could’ve arranged a search party all by yourself, why pick us?’ Melissa frowned, in disappointment.
Lowrey eyed them carefully. ‘We didn’t have any hard facts at first, and about the co – ordinates? We received it from an anonymous source and it was not good enough to get a warrant, let alone arrange a search team, for that matter. So when I went through the University records . . . . .’ he said, pointing individually at all the four of them, ‘. . . . . . . I found you guys; brightest and brilliant minds of JHU, so we thought of playing a scavenger hunt with you, as our bait or you can say players.’
John, Katrina, Melissa and Tobias rolled their eyes and started staring at each other like they were fools and it had lasted for a few seconds.
‘So how did you get a warrant now?’ they asked. ‘Did you even get a warrant?’ John questioned him with crossed hands, anger enveloped his face, as he spoke.
‘The phone I dropped in Melissa’s bag,’ he said and looked at them, expecting someone to finish the answer but none of them did, they were in pure shock, so Lowrey continued. ‘I planted a bug on it. I got what I needed from you people, to get my warrant. Physically I was not there but I was with you guys all the way through. I wouldn’t have let this son-of-a-bitch hurt you.’
‘Well . . . . . . You almost did.’ Katrina said in a low mumbling voice.
‘That was a test actually.’ The man standing near Lowrey spoke. ‘We’ll get back to that soon.’ He was saying, as he signalled Lowrey to continue.
‘So, the man claiming to be your Professor Gilroy, his real name is Mahmood Ron Patrick. He’s an art thief and a forger, and he was on D.C Art Crime Divisions wanted list for a very long time but we couldn’t get to him and . . . . . . .’ He stretched, ‘He claimed to be the last bloodline of the Fallen Empire – The Pharaohs. It said that in his Psycho Profile Analysis.’
‘What a weeeeeeeeird dude.’ Tobias stretched. ‘So what happened to the real Professor and how did the bones end up in an antique box?’
‘Professor Gilroy was killed in a road accident a year ago, after which their family moved up to states. So literally they didn’t break the news to anyone, no obituary column in paper, or anything. They kept it within a very close circle.’ He said and continued. ‘So Mahmood somehow found out about it and decided to impersonate Professor James Gilroy, and I must say, he almost got away with it because he didn’t fake his ID’s, but he used Gilroy’s actual ID’s to cover his identity and also the fact that he had the looks of Professor Gilroy.’
‘He is old but smart and equally stupid.’ Tobias said.
‘Not smart enough, at least not as smart as us.’ Lowrey showed-off, with a proud smile lightening up his face. ‘And about the bones in the antique box; it’s just one of our little trick to add up spice to your game, but the box was a real antique from Art Crime Division’s evidence room.’
. . . . . Add up spice to your game . . . . What game?, John was wondering as they spoke.
‘He’s being charged with degree one murder attempt along with that put together his art theft and forgeries, probably he’s going away for a very long time. He might not see the light of the day.’ The man called David Stenson spoke.
After a minute’s silence, the kids shook hands with the officers and then they smiled and started walking back, as the medical coroners and crime scene unit chalked up the scene.
‘Hey wait!’ Melissa called them back.
David Stenson asked Stan Lowrey to give them a minute and turned towards the kids and waited in his place with his hands crossed. The kids rushed towards David Stenson.
‘You said something about a test . . . . . .’ she asked. ‘. . . . . . And you also said that we’ll be getting back to it later.’ John asked him. ‘What’s that Mr. Stenson?’
Stenson started smiling at them, without even a slight change in his pose. ‘I thought you would’ve figured it out by now, smart kids.’ He mumbled.
‘What?’ Katrina blurted.
He cut off Katrina’s reaction and spoke. ‘Call me David.’ Stenson said and continued. ‘After all we’re going to be working together.’
‘Working together? What’re you talkin’ about man?’ John questioned in a puzzling tone.
‘We officially welcome you to D.C. Art Crimes.’ He said.
They eyed each other and shot a glance back at Stenson without any words to speak. ‘Do you work there?’ Katrina asked him, for which his reply threw everyone in astonishment. He said, ‘I don’t work there . . . . . . . . . . I am the one running the Art Crimes Division in D.C.’
He spoke again before they raised the next question. ‘I have the legal power to hire anyone I like, anywhere I want. . . . . .’ he said and added. ‘. . . . . and as of now you four are officially appointed as official consultants for D.C’s Art Crimes Division.’
They jumped in excitement and thanked him and then Stenson said that they’ll be receiving the official appointment orders very soon and left the place.
The four kids eyed Lowrey, who was standing outside the garage near the police vehicle. He signalled a good luck sign to the four of them and they reciprocated it back with a fulfilled smile.
The next few days were quite dull and John Hopkins University has once again become a victim of media controversies but in the end the ‘Mystery’ remained unsolved. Nobody knew what Mahmood Ron Patrick was after.
In fact, a Good Mystery is the one that could never be solved. A few weeks passed by, after which things were back to normal like nothing had ever happened; but the kids kept on working with their own version of the Mystery, and exchanged their stories each day, hoping one day they would solve it.
Accomplishing the impossible task was one of their specialties.
The clouds were once again bright and clear and the sun shone through it like a gleaming fireball, falling towards the earth.
Yet another new day was born.
The mystery may continue if you wish to.
Post your feedbacks and a dynamic & a promising plot for the next Archaeological thriller if you like “The Rise of the Fallen Empire”. Person with the best plot will be selected and special credits and dedication will be given to the selected plot in my next fiction.
3… 2… 1… Let The Game Begin…
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When a group of curious Archaeological students receive a text specified with co-ordinates, they immediately begin their own quest by following the trail, ultimately leading them into a trap; they stumble upon, what they think, is an age old buried scripture, but it doesn't stop there. Now they must dig deep to unravel the mystery, which would shake the entire Archaeological community of Baltimore. Their every single move are being watched. A mystery that's worth killing. Some things are always meant to be buried in the past.