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CHAPTER SEVEN

“I’m sorry to cut this short,” interjected Laurence “but I have just been informed that your journey to London yesterday did not go unnoticed by the powers that be. A search warrant has been issued and it would be to our advantage that we are not here when they arrive.”

“What?” quizzed Buzz?

“You must have been tracked on your return. I don’t think they know who you are and I’m sure they don’t know that Natalie is here but I have notified Sir Hamish and he will be here soon. We should make our way to the airstrip and then they can search the castle to their hearts content but they won’t find us or what they are looking for.”

“And what might that be?” Asked Nat and Buzz together at the same time

“Stolen artifacts,” replied Laurence “it seems as though you did your job to well Mr. Izzard and I must stress the urgency that we cut this discussion short and head to the airstrip without delay.”

“I’ll just run up to my room and get my computer.”

“That’ll be at the back door by now along with your other things, were I suggest we should be, let’s go.” Insisted Laurie


That was exactly what they did and leaving behind the castle they virtually ran out towards the long, flat and wide driveway just in time to see a small jet plane appearing appear over the hills, landing in spectacular style and pulling up right were they were standing. The hatch popped open and Sir Hamish was there ushering them in with a loud “all aboard.”

By the time they were settling themselves into their seats Hamish was back beside his co-pilot and taking off, this time they stayed low, very low. This time they were slaying under the radar.

“Where are we going?” asked Nat

“We will be crossing the coast of France and without entering their air space, following the border between France and Spain, through the Pyrenees Mountains and into the Mediterranean to pinpoint a villa on the Riviera that used to belong to Sadam Hussain. It has its own air strip even though it’s a bit overgrown now, since he hasn’t been using it lately, but it should serve our purposes adequately.”

“And what is our purposes, just out of curiosity?” asked Nat

“We will be interviewing a man who was the last man we know who saw your father Ms. McHale, before he jetted off to see you in Australia.” Replied Laurence

“So might he know something about the breastplate as well?” asked Buzz

“And why weren’t we told about this before?” asked Nat

“Yes and we have only just managed to track him down to this very villa.” Replied Laurence

“Does anybody else know about this place?”

“Oh yes, it was searched just like our castle is being searched right at this minute.” He replied

“Did they find anything?” Buzz continued asking

“Many priceless artifacts that they considered stolen by the Hussain family, Iraq’s heritage; they confiscated anything that seemed of any value and left the place a mess, it has been idle for sometime.”

“Will there be anyone else there?”

“Only us, it was our security forces that were given the job after the Yanks and that was how Joe McHale got on the job.”

“So there could be some important piece of evidence there that could help us solve this mystery and help get my father back.”

“Exactly Ms McHale, exactly.” Finished Laurence

The small jet came in low over the water and had barely crossed the coastline when the wheels touched down; it taxied towards the overgrown villa and pulled up right behind it, just like parking a car. As they alighted, a crumpled man appeared at the back door and waved a semi-friendly wave towards them. Laurence waved back in what was more of a salute, rather than a wave and then proceeded to enter the villa without any visible luggage. They all ended up in a Mediterranean style kitchen that must have been magnificent in its day.

“This is Andre.” Stated Laurence pointing towards the crumpled man as he directed his comments towards his fellow travelers

Gabriel stepped forward with an out stretched hand to introduce himself, which the stranger accepted and shook as if it was a wet fish. Buzz felt a shiver go up his spine but proceeded with the appropriate discourse anyway.

“My name is Gabriel Izzard, this is my traveling companion Natalie McHale and if you don’t mind me being expedient, did you know her father?”

“Yes I do.” Replied Andre

“What mind or know him?” quickly followed Nat

“I know him”

“Could you tell us about the last time you saw him?”

“About a month or two ago” he said in a slow heavy French accent

Speaking to this man was the equivalent of going to the dentist and Buzz had to spear a glance at Laurence who promptly looked at Andre in such a way that his attitude immediately improved and without further ado he volunteered the next statement.

“We have worked together at various times for over twenty years and the last time I saw him was no different than the rest, he did his thing and I did mine.”

“Where have you worked together?” Buzz interrupted

Andre paused annoyingly and lit up a Gauloise and after a long drawback exhaled “Egypt, Syria, South America, Ethiopia and the heart of Africa.”

“What was the purpose of your business in those places?”

“Security, I have saved your father’s life many times Ms. McHale, that was my job and it allowed him to go about doing his. The visit he paid here a few months ago was similar but was without incident; he went about his business in his usual way.”

“What was it he was doing here, precisely?”

“He was systematically going over all the artifacts that are still here, cataloging, making diagrams, photographing ruminants and making many notes. I will show you.” He said extinguishing his cigarette and walking off with a purposeful stride.

Laurence spoke up and said to Nat and Buzz “you go with him, I will check in with Sir Hamish.”

They quick stepped together to catch up with the disappearing Andre and soon found themselves in a very interesting part of the villa; it was a large room like a library that had been converted to contain pottery fragments and many small intricate items of no obvious value. In one corner there was a desk with open manuscripts and pieces of paper strewn all over it.

“This was where he was working, when one day he just jumped up saying he was leaving.” Intoned the Frenchman

“Did he take anything in particular with him?”

“Just the folder he had in front of him at the time.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“No, he just got in his Cessna and took off; I thought he would be back because he did not take all his belongings.”

“Where are his things?”

“In the room where he was staying, I will take you.” He said as he turned and strode off again

After a few twists and turns they ascended a very wide marble staircase and entered a corridor of mirrors and doors, it was hard to distinguish which one was which. Andre didn’t seem to have any trouble picking out the correct one and after pointing it out he told them they could look around as much as they liked. He abruptly informed them that if there were any more questions he would be in the kitchen where there is coffee.

Nat and Buzz stood in the middle of the one time beautiful room now decorated only with the essentials of a traveling academic. They were feeling quite stunned that they had come so far, so fast and were looking at the pieces of the puzzle manifest in real time. Natalie walked over to the French windows that opened onto the veranda that overlooked the big blue of the Mediterranean; she stared in the direction of Egypt.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find him” reassured Buzz

“If only I could dream the moments of his abduction we could know exactly where he is” wished Nat

“Don’t fret; I know we are going about this in the right way. If you want to dream something up just grab a piece of the past that he was so interested in and go there, that’s where the answers lie. Think of the big picture and where it fits in, while I go downstairs and rustle us up some of that coffee. Start to make yourself comfortable, get over our rushed trip here and before you know it the answers we require will become so obvious you’ll wonder why we didn’t think of it earlier.”

He was standing quite close to her as he was speaking and she was still staring vacantly out to sea; she pivoted on the spot, kissed him squarely on the mouth and just as quickly pushed him away saying,

“I’ll be a good girl and do exactly as you say” and pointing to the door she finished with “now go get yourself a cup of coffee.”

He immediately left the room, closed the door behind himself and headed back to the kitchen where he must have beaten Andre to it, that and the fact that there was no Laurence or Sir Hamish in sight, had him brewing up for himself. When he was at coffee in hand stage he wandered off to the artifact library, sat himself down at the desk in the corner and started to go through the paper work that Joe had left strewn upon it. It had to hold the clues that he required, he made himself comfortable in the swivel chair that laid back in a way that you could easily put your feet up.

Outside Andre had teamed up with the others to hook the jet up to a forklift and drag it into the well camouflaged hanger. After they had achieved their aim, the four men seated themselves in the plane and began a discussion that if Nat and Buzz were there would have shone some light on their dilemma

“What do you think they will do when they find out?” asked James

“If all goes to plan they won’t have to find out.” Answered Hamish

“Nat will never believe that her father is a criminal.” Said Laurie

“He is not a criminal.” Chipped in Andre

.

“According to the C.I.A he is”

“They’re not saying anything to anybody, don’t forget they have broken international law by renditioning him.”

“They don’t care if they break the law”

“They are the law”

“If this thing in Zürich doesn’t work out, we could all end up in the same boat and up shit creek without a paddle.”

“It’ll workout, that boy’s got a head on his shoulders, none of you would have thought of it.” Said Laurence

“That’s right I told you so.” Chipped in Sir Hamish

“When do you think we will know?” asked Andre

“It’ll be a day or two before all the pieces fall into place and in the meantime let’s hope we don’t have to hightail it out of here. Now James I want you to fuel this baby up to the max, just in case and Andre, you can keep a constant watch on the radar to make sure we don’t have any surprise visitors. Hamish I want you to entertain the needs of our guests while I keep working on the Zürich plan to make sure all the chips fall our way.”

“Aye, aye Captain” came Sir Hamish’s broad reply

“Yes Sir.” Sounded the others at the same time

Gabriel wasn’t sure how much time had passed since he had finished his coffee; when he clapped his hands together, leapt out of the chair he had been sitting in and started running in the direction of the room he had left Natalie in. He burst through the door, startling her and almost yelled “He’s left us a map.”

“What?” Questioned a still startled Nat

“I think I can work out exactly what he was working on when he left here by following the notes and the method being used to catalogue. That’s got to tell us something about where he disappeared to and what it’s got to do with the breastplate.”

“Excellent, now you must listen to what I have learnt.”

“Go ahead I’m all ears.” Said a settled Buzz

“Remember when we first started doing this, we travelled back in time to Noah and the flood and the place we alighted at was called Nin-nar-mah or what we assumed was Nineveh; that place became the capital of the Assyrian empire. Ninmar was always their main deity, she and the two brothers Enki and Enlil split the world up between them, Enki had the south, Africa or Kish as they knew it back then and Enlil had the north ruling out of Nineveh. Ninmar was always going to fluctuate between the two; when she resided in the south Egypt flourished and when she resided in the north Babylon did.

The Breastplate was the symbol of she who carried that authority; some people have always been aware of that fact while others haven’t or have forgotten. In the past the rulers of Egypt knew it, the Babylonians did too. The sea peoples called Phoenicians knew it and the Greeks found out about it when Homer wrote of the search for the Golden Fleece.

When Troy was in its prime that’s where she and her breastplate resided, when Helen of Troy moved to Grease they went on to become world leaders. When Julius Caesar wanted to rule the world he moved to Egypt and married Cleopatra V11, a Greek Ptolemaic Queen who ruled from Alexandria. You can bet she had the Breastplate because she certainly had the appropriate temples, first in Alexandria with Julius and then in Jerusalem with Mark Antony.

The broad spread of information that has been made accessible to me has the power to overwhelm; the clarity that comes from focusing on one period is like a pressure release in a boiler that has been fully primed. Tempted as I am to leap forward to solve our problem, Mr. Izzard, I think what we have to do is focus on what is right before our eyes. Here we are thousands of kilometres away from home sitting in a modern day Mesopotamian despots abode surrounded by artifacts and fragments of the very past that we have been exploring. We have done the hard yards, we have studied the facts of the job at hand but what we have neglected is the heart of the matter. By seeking the actual breastplate of authority we have limited our end to being in a particular place and by concentrating on my father we have bowed to time constraints. What we have learnt already is sufficient to understand the association between the breast plate and ultimate physical power regardless of what time or place it is in. I assume it is not a magical power and that it is subject to the normal laws of physics. A rational explanation of the phenomenon is required if we are not going to slip into primitive superstition and that is precisely what I intend to devote my time to.”

I, for one, am impressed professor McHale, you have journeyed well; can I be of any further assistance or should I just beetle back to Australia and leave you to it?” asked Buzz

“Don’t be like that,” said Nat “you know I need you; in more ways than one.”

“What? Like a baker kneads the dough”

“Very funny,” she said whilst moving towards him “we are in this together Gabe whatever happens; besides I think I am falling for you.” She continued closing the gap between them.

They melted into an embrace and finally, lost for words, he kissed her with an intensity that had been pent-up since their first meeting; she met his intensity with some of her own but before it became embarrassingly long, Sir Hamish appeared at the door saying. “Will you be joining us for dinner or would you like room service?”

“No,” replied Buzz as he broke apart from her embrace “It’s a bit hot up here we’ll be joining you in the kitchen.”

“Arch, man, we’ll be on the terrazzo barbequing up a load of fresh seafood with some very friendly local fisher folk that I’m sure you’ll be impressed with. It’ll be yet another delight for your mouth, hee-hee.” He said as he turned and marched off down the hallway.

“Shall we?” asked Nat

“I’m looking forward to it.” Replied Buzz as he took her arm and walked side by side to the door, where he bowed and allowed her to take the lead.

By the time they ventured out on to the terracotta tiled veranda, the food was well and truly on the boil and the fisher folk that Sir Hamish had mentioned turned out to be very attractive people indeed. It was obvious they intended to stay on as not only did they have a bucket load of seafood on the grill but also a bucket load of local wine decanted into very large goblets. The music that was playing seemed to be theirs as well and Sir Hamish was trying to teach them how to do the Highland fling to the sounds of a very modern Ultravox beat.

It turned into a very enjoyable evening, just what the doctor ordered; the break from the hectic schedule was much appreciated and the light banter from the locals was educational as well as entertaining. There was much ado about nothing and nothing to do but have some well deserved fun; Hamish lifted his kilt on several occasions and Buzz managed to do a rap version of Hava-nagila with some pretty spectacular break dancing on the side. Natalie did her bit with a fine version of the chicken dance and even Laurence made an appearance when the 007 theme song was playing. Eventually it was Andre who turned out to be the party pooper when he unceremoniously announced that everyone’s luggage had been placed in their individual rooms and that for security reasons that’s where we all were expected to be in ten minuets when it would be lights out. So it was kisses all around and a very happy and tired crew that went to bed that night.

Breakfast was a continental affair, with a help yourself to a cup of coffee and a couple of chocolate covered croissants; Buzz prepared a tray for Nat and himself and took it to her, looking forward to continuing their conversation from the night before.

“Good morning.” He said all bright and bubbly

“Please don’t be so chipper, my head is a little sore from that wine last night; it certainly had some kick to it.”

“Here you go, this will help with that.” He continued in his chirpiness while pushing the breakfast tray in her direction.

“Are the others up yet?”

“I’m not sure, though I spotted Andre heading off somewhere; after you have showered and are ready for the day would you like to join me in the library of bits and pieces this morning?”

“Yes I would. I am keen to see what daddy was working on and weather it will assist us at all.”

“That’s good I’m sure you’ll be surprised how on the ball he is with his work it’s quite impressive.”

“I’ll see you down there, then.” She said, dismissing him with a wave.

Buzz left her to it, proceeded to the museum like room and began tidying the desk that they would be sitting at for the conversation pending. He then gathered some fragments from the appropriate shelves and put them in order to show Natalie but before she could appear James did.

“Laurence has asked me to show you to him as we have had some advancement on the Zürich situation overnight.” He said

“Fine,” replied Buzz “I’ll just leave a note here for Nat; how long do you expect we will be?”

“Half an hour or so”

Buzz quickly scrawled a note and propped it up where she could easily see it and walked off following James. Laurence had a temporary office made up for him on the top floor of the villa; it had once been a penthouse suite but for now it was relegated to a shadow of its former glory. James announced Gabriel then turned and closed the door behind him, leaving the two associates to their private conversation.

“We have a nibble,” stated Laurence

“Did you manage to get the fake breastplate in place?”

“No; but we managed to deflect the buyer until it is in place.”

“Do you think it will do the trick, will it fool an expert?”

“There won’t be any way to tell without taking it to a fully equipped lab, so to answer your question, yes it will work.”

“What about the tracking device, won’t that be detectable?”

“It has a neutral signal until we switch it on.”

“So what’s the chance that it will lead us to Joe McHale or his abductors?”

“Fifty- fifty at least” answered Laurence “but it’s the best odds we are going to get.

Gabriel finished his conversation with Laurence and after they had gone over some more of the intricacies he excused himself and began to make his way back to the library, hoping to meet up with Nat, sure enough when he got there she was busying herself with the items he had left on the desk for her.

“What do you think any ideas?” He asked

“It’s certainly systematic.” She replied

“I was particularly impressed with his connecting assumptions about the breastplate and the Parthian’s.”

“Do you know much about them?”

“Just that they were occupying Iraq around the time of Christ; they were an empire in their own right and an opposing force to the Roman Empire who fought them for hundreds of years. There were women who married into the royal families of the Parthian Kings as well as the Roman nobles and the Ptolemaic Greek dynasties were interbred with the Egyptian, Jewish and Syrian ruling classes. It seems as though the Parthian nobles had infiltrated all the cultural groups that we have been discussing around this time period and that they may very well be the ones that offered protection to Cleopatra V11 when she was in exile.”

“This is what I was talking about last night, the interconnectivity of this line of investigation passing through so many cultures that we risk upsetting many different religions. Some of the revelations I have been having in my dreams seem so heretical to most religions that I want to go through them with you and explore the spiritual ramifications.”

Buzz pulled up a particularly well padded chair, propped himself up with a couple of cushions that happened to be at hand and indicated that she should proceed with her current line of thought with the words. “Please expound you have my total attention and I couldn’t be more interested in what you have to say.”

On to Chapter Eight

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