Authors: KJ Montgomery
The Katie Walsh Mysteries
The Katie Walsh Mysteries
Copyright © 2013 Karen E Johnson
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
In memory of my parents, Ernest and Mary, you truly were the best influences in my life. Growing up with your guidance and your love was truly a wonderful experience.
I would like to thank
friend, J.L. Hammer. You kept me sane through the birthing process, and V.S. Nelson, you were there into the wee hours of the morning when I needed a guiding hand.
I’d especially like to
thank my sister Gayle Johnson for her calm demeanor and encouragement, especially during the “trials and tribulations” stage.
Trove The Katie Walsh Mysteries Book #1
, you are introduced to the characters who will feature in the subsequent volumes, which will center around Celtic/Nordic myths and legends
While this volume provides a wonderful beginning to the world of the Nordstrom Institute, the story does not end here.
Katie, Alec, and the rest of the team are just beginning to venture into the unknown in an attempt to unlock secrets hidden for millennia. This series will entertain you and may actually get you to think about what history is, and how the truth is often obscured and distorted for less than magnanimous reasons.
I invite you to start the adventure here and then follow along in the subsequent books.
Josiah Mason searched the Doctor’s face, hoping to catch a glimpse of any emotion. In the many years he had known the Doctor, Josiah had never once caught any warmth flowing from him. The man could pass for a stern grandfather, but Josiah pitied any child related to this man.
His few smiles had been cold, calculating, almost sneers. Josiah had long ago adopted as his philosophy “the ends justify the means,” yet this credo would pale in comparison to the Doctor’s. Josiah hated that they weren’t equals. Their relationship was more of master and slave. For the time being, they needed each other, though Josiah still did not know who his partner by necessity was. Hell, Josiah didn’t even know if he
truly a doctor or of what.
This was not going to be a good meeting. Josiah felt that he was about to be taken behind the woodshed. The Doctor, with an emphasis on the capital “D,” as he preferred to be addressed, was always in control and always two steps ahead of him.
Ten years ago Josiah was still an up-and-coming celebrity archaeologist, a real-life Indiana Jones. Josiah had approval to set up a dig site in Honduras and was busy with the infrastructure and local hiring when the Doctor made contact. He asked Josiah if he’d be interested in overseeing an excavation that was about to ramp up in Peru. The site held the promise of gold treasures and jewels. The Doctor had reams of data and history supporting his premise, and Josiah just couldn’t resist the fame that would surely surround the find. He jumped at the opportunity, feeling their partnership would change his life forever. If he’d only known.
“You do realize that the return on investment for a treasure hunt is almost always negative,” the Doctor said as he seated the china cup in the saucer, jostling the resting spoon slightly. Josiah watched him as he looked around the room, taking a calculated inventory of everything and everyone in it. The coffee shop full of cloth-covered tables was almost empty, just a middle-aged couple sitting by the front windows gazing through ivory-colored café curtains at the foot traffic on the Royal Mile between sips of coffee.
Josiah mused at the irony of the setting. Here in civilized Edinburgh, so much of the rich history of the Scots was infused with blood and violence. While back on the Isle of Skye, in the remote, wild areas, he was searching for a far more ancient history, one that was elusive, yet one that he felt was tantalizingly close and held the promise of wealth beyond the jeweled treasures protected at Edinburgh Castle.
The older man gazed coldly at Josiah. They were opponents, each sizing the other up. Outwardly, they made for an odd couple. The Doctor was dressed in a custom-tailored navy Armani suit contrasted by impeccably coiffed silver hair and ice blue eyes. Josiah had shaggy dark blond hair and a deeply suntanned face, and work boots encased with mud so thick that it would be anybody’s guess as to what their original color was.
The Doctor smiled, but the smile reached no further than the corners of his mouth. “And I think we are nearing the end of the road, my friend, as your negatives far exceed any positives you have brought to the table.”
Josiah felt a knot grow in his stomach. He looked directly into the piercing eyes and took a deep breath. “We need help… there’s no way around it.”
“Correction. I require no help. You, Josiah, on the other hand, are sadly in the bush leagues.” He shook his head. “So many lost opportunities...”
Josiah bristled. “Look, I never claimed to be an expert in ancient symbols. My expertise has always been in geology and archaeology. By all the empirical evidence I’ve gathered, there should be a way to find the site. I’ve used satellite photos to try and uncover the ancient footpaths that traverse the valley. And any halfway intelligent people would have fled to the mountains for long-term safety. The remnants of Norland, the legendary settlement of the survivors of Atlantis, have to be here—or very near here.”
“Take a good look around, my friend. There are mountains galore where you are searching. Yet you have no idea in which direction to begin. I am done with your ‘needle in a haystack’ searching. It has proven fruitless and extremely expensive.”
There was nothing friendly in the man’s tone. When he said “my friend,” the hair stood up on the back of Josiah’s neck. Each time
the Doctor summoned him to meet, Josiah felt like a recalcitrant student being sent to the principal’s office. Josiah got it. It was a show of power. The Doctor had it and Josiah didn’t. If he didn’t need funding, he would tell the old man where he could shove that Armani suit. If he hadn’t hooked up with him ten years ago, the tables would probably be turned. He, Josiah Mason, would be world-renowned. He’d be giving the orders, making people do his bidding, but with luck he’d soon be there and then… then he’d wipe that smug look off the bastard’s face. Josiah kept a close tally on who’d wronged him and had every intention of making them all pay.
“Sir, all I’m asking is that you fund the project for six months more and let me contact someone I think can kick this project into warp drive.”
“Who is this contact? Why do you require his expertise? Or is this just an attempt to prolong your losing streak for another six months at my expense?”
“He’s an expert in Celtic and Nordic archaeology. Plus, he has access to a vast database of information.”
“What is his name, Josiah? I must know his name.” The Doctor kicked the table leg.
Josiah might have struck out on this project so far, but he had a reputation for persevering and getting results, however unorthodox his methods. At forty, he had learned a thing or two about playing poker in the big leagues. If he offered up the name, the Doctor would cut him loose immediately without so much as a ticket back to the States. He refused to surrender any more information.
“Surely you must realize that we’re so close to discovering Norland. All I need is six months of funding and your agreement to let me contact my colleague.”
The Doctor smiled, but again it did not reach his eyes. “Very well, Josiah. I will notify you next Friday of my decision. In the meantime, please hand over your latest notes.”
“You’ll have them tonight. I’ll send them by encrypted email as I do every Friday.”
The man rose and turned to leave. “I wish you well, my friend.”
Josiah’s skin crawled. What the hell kind of goodbye was that? “Goodbye, sir.”
As he was pondering the cryptic words, the waitress presented him the check. “Ten pounds for two coffees?” He shook his head as he paid the bill.
I’m getting too old for this. I’m due for a win. Hell, overdue actually
Josiah returned to the hotel, where he finished typing his latest update for the Doctor then hit the “Send” button. Then he updated his personal notes. The difference between the two was night and day. The notes sent to the Doctor were brief, totally on
point, and contained no suppositions, no theories. They were strictly business.
His personal notes, besides the facts, included conjecture, theories based on fact, but theories nonetheless, and tangential suppositions. They were
ripe with color of a people long gone, but a place he was convinced that still existed in some form: Norland. It remained hidden, just out of reach, calling to him, but still masked. If the myths were true, there were riches to be had. He was close—too close to withdraw; too close to fail. He had no choice, he needed help.
He picked up his cell phone and called his old friend, Alec MacGowan. Alec’s expertise would fill in the gaps in his knowledge. Josiah was convinced that with Alec on board, they’d find Norland. Alec would be able to get his brother involved. And Alec’s brother, Robert, had access to the databases and personnel of the Nordstrom Institute.
The call went straight to voicemail. “Alec, it’s your good buddy, Josiah. I’ve been working on a project and I need your help. I’ll be sending my notes for you to review. The only thing is I need a response from you before Friday of next week. My funding is about to run out, and unless I can bring some ‘meat to the table,’ I think I’ll be back to square one. Anyway, have a read and let me know your thoughts. Thanks! Talk to you soon.” After ending the call, Josiah sent the files to Alec then packed his bag and went to bed alone. Ten years and he was still a pariah.
Damn them all
, he thought.
I’ll show them. I’ll make them pay for shunning me, stifling me, thwarting me at every turn.
Josiah checked out of the hotel early Saturday morning. He needed to head back to his latest dig site near Duntulm. It would take most of the day to drive from Edinburgh to Skye and he wanted as much daylight as possible.
By the time he reached Uig on the western coast of Skye, it was dusk. The sunlight still dappled in the western sky, but the night would soon overtake it. He needed to be through the mountains before darkness descended completely. The mountain roads here were far narrower than in the States, and guardrails were few and far between. Moreover, he was heading north, which meant he was driving on the outside lane. He could feel the tension biting in his neck, shooting twinges across his shoulders.
He was about three-quarters of the way through, winding among densely concentrated switchback turns when he came out of a curve and faced an oncoming truck bearing down on him on the wrong side of the road.
“Move over, you asshole!” he yelled, his heart nearly bursting as it plummeted to his stomach. The truck swerved back into the correct lane, but it clipped the fender as it passed, pushing the car to the outer edge of the road. He hit the brakes, willing the car to veer away from the edge. His heart raced. His knuckles turned white from the pressure. In what seemed like forever, he felt the car swerve back to the lane. Sweat dripped from his brow. He waited until he was on one of the brief straight parts of the road before wiping the sweat off his face with his sleeve.
Lord, get me out of this nightmare
. Another five miles or so and it would be over.
He pulled over on the layby and got out of the car. He needed to relax. It felt like the tension wound through his muscles tighter than a watch spring—if modern watches even had springs.
did people even wear watches anymore or did they just use their cell phones?
He really needed to get back to civilization. He twisted and turned his body in some grotesque form of tai chi, freeing his muscles from the tension.
He reached into the car, retrieved his phone, and checked for any response from Alec. “Dammit. No reception.” He tossed
the phone onto the passenger seat, got back behind the wheel, and continued north.
He was in the gloam now, the time when the shadows dance through the mountains, hovering at the corner of one’s eyes. Skirting along the edge toward the next curve, he glimpsed the water below. “Witch’s Brew” the locals called this place, the waves boiling and frothing before slamming into the mountains, then retreating and roaring inwards again. The wisps of spray spewed high in the air and reminded him of a witch, her hair splayed around her face. This was the worst part of the trip, as far as he was concerned. Heading into the curve, he started to brake. There was a momentary resistance and then nothing.
He pulled his foot up and pounded the brake pedal. He pulled on the emergency brake, fighting to keep the car on the road. He slammed his foot on the pedal again, willing it to fight back, offer resistance. Momentum kept the car racing toward the cliff edge.
Oh my God!
Josiah froze, stunned and helpless, as the car headed over the edge. His body hung in the brief weightlessness, suspended in space, before it slammed forward into the steering wheel, and then snapping his neck back as the shoulder restraint locked him in place.
“Son of a bitch! You’re not getting rid of me! You hear me, old man? You’re not getting rid—
The car crashed into the seething maelstrom below.