© 2011 By C. J. Wells
Disclaimers: See Chapter One.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
Rejeanne looked on in horror as she handed to Lindsay the slip of paper with the message from her ex-girlfriend Ingrid. Lindsay read the slip:
Jeannie – I made a huge mistake.
Please please call me.
She looked up at Rejeanne in bewilderment.
“How in the hell does she know that you're here?” Lindsay asked in a menacing tone that wasn't lost on Rejeanne.
“How the fuck do I know?” Rejeanne replied, equally alarmed. “I haven't spoken to that bitch in almost a year.”
Realizing that they were still standing in the lobby of the inn, Lindsay took a deep breath and quickly told herself not to jump to conclusions. “Who did you tell about our trip?” she asked in a more sedate tone.
Rejeanne took a deep breath as well. “Only my parents,” Rejeanne responded. “No one else knows where we're staying
“Would either one of them tell her?” Lindsay asked.
“Oh, hell no,” Rejeanne replied. “My dad loathes Ingrid and Mom… her attitude about my love life is don't-ask-don't-tell.”
“How could she have possibly found out?” Lindsay asked as she again read the note and felt her heart sink.
“I honestly don't have a clue,” Rejeanne said before considering. “Wait a minute,” she continued. “I called my editor when we were still at Heathrow.”
“Yeah, but does he have any contact with her?”
“Not that I am aware of, Lin,” Rejeanne said. “I mean, he knew her through me, but when we broke up, she moved back to Chicago . She married her brother's best friend back in August of last year.”
“Did you attend the wedding?”
“Uh, hell no” Rejeanne responded appalled. “I heard all of the info on her engagement and wedding second-hand from mutual friends. I cut all ties with her back in March of last year when we broke up.”
“And this is her very first attempt to contact you since then, right?” Lindsay inquired almost as a demand for honesty.
Lindsay's tone was again not lost on Rejeanne, who put her hands on her hips in defiance. “Yes, ‘Conqueror,'” she responded. “This is the first time I've heard from the bitch since March of '02.”
Lindsay lowered her head, realizing that jealousy, insecurity and her inner Xena were getting the best of her. “I'm sorry, Jeannie,” she said. “I'm just honestly worried when the love of my life gets a message from her ex that says, ‘I made a mistake.'”
Rejeanne reached up and ran her fingers through Lindsay's lush dark hair. “I understand, my love,” she responded. “But the note said that the mistake was hers, not mine. Breaking up with her and then subsequently meeting you were the best two things that have happened to me.”
Lindsay nodded as a tear escaped her. “I don't know if my editor told her or not,” Rejeanne continued. “And if he did, I don't know why he would. What I do know is that I am here with you, and we are on our journey together, and Ingrid can… she can suck dick.”
Lindsay burst out in laughter. “You have a way with words, my bard,” she said.
Rejeanne took the note from Lindsay, balled it up and threw it in a garbage pale. She then grabbed her partner's hand in hers. “We have an appointment with Sir Robert,” she said. “Let's not keep him waiting.
* * * *
As the two women stepped up to Sir Robert's front door, Lindsay looked over at Rejeanne. “You have everything in your shoulder bag, right?” she asked.
“Yup,” Rejeanne replied.
“Good, because I have a few tricks up my sleeve as well,” Lindsay responded cryptically as the door opened and the two were greeted by Paul.
For their second meeting, Sir Robert guided the two women into his study. As with every other room that the two women have seen, this room was also furnished with antiques. The only contemporary items in the room were a desktop computer with a keyboard, mouse and monitor, a printer, a fax machine and a TV. “May I borrow your computer?” Lindsay asked.
Sir Robert nodded as he invited Rejeanne to be seated on a textile-covered settee that faced the TV. “Paul will be in momentarily with tea and cakes,” he announced.
“Thank you,” Rejeanne said as she opened her shoulder bag to dig out a couple of items. Finding what she needed, she handed one of the items to Sir Robert.
“This is a dream journal written by my friend, Jo Clark,” Rejeanne started. “I have placed a sticky-note on the specific page where I want you to start reading.”
As Sir Robert read Jo's dream journal, Rejeanne looked over at Lindsay, who was pulling up a website on the computer. After reading the journal entries, Sir Robert could only stare blankly at the booklet in utter astonishment, until Rejeanne placed a photograph on top of the book. “This is a picture of Jo and me that I grabbed off my fridge,” she said. “It was taken when we were both students at DePaul. Please excuse the bad mullet.”
Sir Robert studied the photograph, focusing his attention on Jo's face. “Have you ever seen that face before?” Rejeanne asked him.
Without saying a word, Sir Robert stood and left the office.
“Where did he go?” Lindsay whispered to Rejeanne.
“I have no clue,” Rejeanne whispered back as Paul entered with tea and cakes. Several minutes passed before Sir Robert returned, carrying a wooden box that was slightly thicker than a briefcase, and a framed photograph resting on top of the box. Returning to his seat next to Rejeanne, he handed back to her the photo of Jo before giving her the framed picture.
“The Woizero, Alemnesh Tesfaye,” he announced.
“Wow!” Rejeanne exclaimed upon looking at the photo. Lindsay jumped up from her seat at the computer to look as well.
“This is beyond belief,” Lindsay said under her breath as she looked upon the tintype photo of a lovely light-skinned African woman in her late-thirties. Seated, she was wearing a traditional Ethiopian kemis, or dress, made of what appeared to be woven cotton. The kemis had borders of elaborate embroidered woven crosses and the woman had what appeared to be a silk scarf softly draped around her neck and the back of her head.
“This is what Jo will look like in about ten years, if she's lucky,” Rejeanne whispered to Lindsay warmly. “I would love to scan this and email it to her.”
As Lindsay knelt down next to Rejeanne to eye the photo of Alemnesh, she briefly looked over at Sir Robert. “Please have a look at the woman in the picture on the website that I pulled up,” she said to him.
Sir Robert stood and walked over to the computer and let out a frightful gasp. “Who is this!” he demanded to know.
Lindsay stood. “That is Heather Courtney,” Lindsay responded as Rejeanne leapt to her feet to see the picture on the computer as well. “She was one of my best friends in college,” Lindsay continued. “She's an anthropologist who has been working with a group from the US , Canada and Australia on an archeological study for the past two years. She's in Syria now.”
“Callisto with a buzz-cut,” Rejeanne chimed in jovially.
Sir Robert sat down at the computer. “This is so overwhelming,” he said as the two women sat down next to each other on the settee.
“Let me tell you a little story,” Rejeanne started as Sir Robert turned to face her. “A long time ago, there was this beautiful woman named Xena of Amphipolis. She was very tall, and had black hair, olive skin and piercing blue eyes. Sadly, she was also destined for great and unfortunate things. One year, while she was leading an army of mercenaries across Thrace , Macedonia and the Peloponnese, she sacked the small village of Cirra . Most of the villagers were killed by her men or died in the massive fire that swept through the town. One of the few who lived was a young girl named Callisto. Callisto was a teen at the time. Xena wasn't much older. A few years later, when Xena was well on her way of becoming The Conqueror, she and Callisto met and hooked up… er, uh, dabbled in the Sapphic arts with each other… because each of them had an agenda. Xena's agenda was to recruit Callisto's husband to join her army. Callisto's agenda was much simpler. She wanted revenge for Cirra and her murdered family. Vengeance, however, would elude Callisto for years, until it was almost realized in a Roman coliseum during a gladiator bout with Xena. That bout also included a beautiful woman named Bahri of Napata. Bahri was a sleek and strong southern Egyptian woman who was loyal to Xena and best bud to Xena's consort, Gabrielle.”
“How do you know these things?” Sir Robert asked.
“Please let me continue,” Rejeanne responded. “Anyhoo, Callisto met her end in the coliseum, but neither by Xena or Bahri's hands. Regardless, at the end, Xena and Callisto were enemies, but not in the same vein as those who desired to overthrow Xena from power. It was the tragedy at Cirra that forced these two women at odds, the same way that the existence of slavery in the culture at the time caused the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle to be so stunted for so long. But simple evolution was at play too. Because when you fast forward eighteen-hundred years, you get Maggie, Lady Harry, Alemnesh and Bronwyn, and fast forward 140 more years and you get Lin, Courtney, Jo and me.”
Rejeanne took Lindsay's hand in hers. “Lin and Courtney are friends,” she continued, “Jo and I are friends, and Lin and I are totally, er uh, special friends.” Rejeanne winked at Lindsay
Sir Robert smiled at the two women. “Please,” he said, “open the box.” Both women looked over at the box that Sir Robert had brought into the room with the portrait of Alemnesh. The box was on the settee next to Rejeanne. Reaching over, she lifted the rather heavy box and placed it on her lap. She then slowly lifted the latch and then both women grabbed the box top to raise it. Inside of the box was a flat hoop throwing weapon with a sharp outer edge approximately 12 inches in diameter. The weapon was mostly steel with a unique ornately engraved pattern of what appeared to be nine flames of fire, inlaid with gold and silver, and with blue diamond nail heads within each flame. Lindsay carefully lifted the weapon out of the box to inspect it.
“Be careful, it's sharp,” Rejeanne whispered.
“I know,” Lindsay responded.
“Do you know what it is?” Sir Robert asked.
“It's a chakram,” Lindsay responded. “But is it Xena's chakram?”
“What do you think?” Sir Robert asked.
“I don't know,” Lindsay said. “The only way to tell for sure is to throw it.”
Rejeanne shot Lindsay a look. “Wait a minute,” she spoke up. “Xena could catch that thing, but do you honestly think that you can?”
“I don't see why not,” Lindsay replied.
“But dude, if you can't, you'll be lucky if it only severs your hand.”
“I'll wear my gloves,” Lindsay said in jest.
“This isn't funny,” Rejeanne replied concerned. “That thing can do major damage.”
“Oh, come on,” Lindsay said. “How difficult can it be? It should have cut my hand to pieces already and it hasn't. It'll be like throwing a Frisbee…”
“…That comes back to you like a very sharp boomerang,” Rejeanne chimed in. “Now who's acting irresponsibly?”
“What do you mean?” Sir Robert inquired.
“Oh, Lin was pissed off that I smuggled a couple of joints into the country. Joints can't kill, however. That thing can.”
“Well now, you like to smoke a little wacky-backy, do you?” Sir Robert asked.
“Yeah, do you?” Rejeanne asked.
“Jeannie!” Lindsay exclaimed. “Sir Robert is a man of position.”
“Yes,” Sir Robert agreed. “And a gay man who came of age in the 1950s, when it was very counterculture and cool to listen to underground music and poetry whilst partaking in the shared pleasure of cannabis sativa.”
“My man,” Rejeanne declared as she and Sir Robert joined in laughter.
Lindsay rolled her eyes in disgust. “I'm going outside to see if this is the real deal,” she announced as she stood and headed for the closest door that would let her outside. Rejeanne jumped up and ran after her, protesting all the way.
Exiting a door that took Lindsay out to the rear of the home, she looked out at a clearing next to the apple orchard. “This looks good,” she stated as she raised the chakram to hurl it into the clearing.
“Please, Lindsay,” Rejeanne pleaded. “At the very least, if you don't think you can catch it, duck.”
At that moment, Lindsay confidently threw the chakram, with precision and skill, into the cold English air. The weapon made a whipping sound as it traveled at a fast rate of speed several hundred feet before making a sharp u-turn and returning, just as fast, toward Lindsay. As the weapon got closer, confidence was replaced by doubt as it gripped her and she found herself falling to her knees to avoid being beheaded. She heard the whipping sound grow nearer as she went down, but at the very moment that her knees hit the snowy ground below her, the noise stopped. She looked up to see a hand gripping the chakram. She then looked at the shocked face of Rejeanne as she too looked at the hand, her hand, holding the weapon.
As Lindsay stood, Sir Robert placed his hand over his mouth utterly astounded. All three were silent for several seconds as what took place began to filter in them.
“Is your hand okay?” Lindsay finally asked.
Rejeanne opened her fingers to release the chakram from their grip. Lindsay carefully grabbed it from Rejeanne's palm so that she could inspect her shaking and reddened, but otherwise unscathed hand. “It's the real deal,” Rejeanne said softly.
* * * *
Paul placed an ice pack on Rejeanne's aching palm as she nestled comfortably on the settee in the study. Lindsay sat down next to her and threw her arm around Rejeanne's shoulder to draw her closer.
“What happened out there?” Sir Robert queried after Paul departed.
“I don't know,” Lindsay said. “I panicked. I felt very comfortable in throwing the chakram, but when it started coming back to me, I started envisioning that thing slicing my skull in half. I just… ducked.”
Sir Robert looked at Rejeanne. “How were you able to do that?” he asked, referencing her catch.
“Beats me,” Rejeanne replied. “I don't think that Xena ever taught Gabby to throw the chakram. At least I don't think so.”
“Not in her lifetime, I don't believe,” Lindsay chimed in. “But according to the history books, Gabrielle lived another twenty-plus years after Xena died. Maybe she learned to wield it later.”
Sir Robert eyed both women intensely. “You both seem to know so much about the lives of Xena and Gabrielle, yet there seems to be so much you don't know. How is that?”
“We can't explain it,” Rejeanne said. “We didn't know diddly-squat until we were both visited in a those dreamscapes by the people from their lives. The dreamscapes jump-started our memories, so to speak, and we're both able to recollect certain facets of both women.”
“And it's just certain facets and just Xena and Gabrielle,” Lindsay added. “We had no knowledge of the existence of the subsequent incarnations before our collective dreamscapes, and then after the dreamscapes, no info beyond names and the eras in which they lived until we started researching them on the internet.”
And as for Xena, what we definitely don't know is how she died and under what circumstances,” Rejeanne added.
“According to history, she was defeated by Caesar Augustus,” Sir Robert said.
Lindsay folded her arms. “Yeah right,” she smirked. “That's a crock of shit. There's no way in hell that toad had anything to do with Xena's demise.”
“Spoken like a true Conqueror reincarnate,” Rejeanne jested before returning her attention to Sir Robert. “We believe that she was betrayed by someone much closer to her. We just don't know who. Octavius simply took the credit for it. ”
“That's why we're here,” Lindsay said. “We believe that the scrolls have the answer. And we were hoping that you, uh, have the scrolls.”
Sir Robert smiled. “Are either of you a fan of James Bond movies?”
“I saw ‘Die Another Day' last year,” Rejeanne said. “But that was mainly because Halle Berry 's in it… and she's totally hot.”
“I'm partial to the old Sean Connery ones,” Lindsay said as she raised her eyebrow and shot Rejeanne a “Xena” glare. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, if you were true devotees of James Bond novels,” Sir Robert started, “you'd be familiar with the role that honeypots have played in the espionage plots in several of them.”
“Honeypot?” Rejeanne asked. “Ain't that just another word for, uh, a woman's nether region?”
Sir Robert chuckled. “It very well might be,” he said, “But honeypot is also a term used to describe a spy or agent that uses sexual seduction to recruit new agents or procure information. It is my understanding that Xena was quite the master at it during her formative years.”
“Unfortunately, yes she was,” Lindsay agreed.
“Well, I suspect that she wasn't the only one,” Sir Robert continued. “Several groups and individuals were motivated in overthrowing Xena from power, and according to some historical accounts, many used the power of seduction to get close to those around her.”
“And you know this because you've read the scrolls?” Lindsay asked, somewhat annoyed at Sir Robert's evasiveness to her earlier question.
Sir Robert closed his eyes and lifted his head slightly. “When I look at you, Lindsay,” he said with eyes still closed and head still raised. “I picture in my mind the mighty Maggie Needham… a woman who always demanded straightforwardness when in confrontation.” He lowered his head and turned his gaze on Lindsay. “To answer your question, no, I do not possess the scrolls. I have never possessed them.”
“But you know where they are, don't you?” Rejeanne chimed in.
“Somewhat,” Sir Robert replied. “But before I divulge what I know, I ask that both of you indulge me as I reveal to you the importance of the role of honeypots, so that you are not blindsided in your endeavor to find them.”
Lindsay and Rejeanne looked at each other before returning their attention to Sir Robert and nodding in unison their compliance.
“So let me start with your friend's dream,” Sir Robert said. “It ended with Maggie, Harry, Alemnesh and the Orthodox priest beginning their dig in that cavern. The knowledge that you gain from what happened after that is paramount in your success in not only finding the scrolls, but preventing them from ending up in the wrong hands.”
“What makes you believe that that's going to happen?” Lindsay asked.
“Because it has before, starting with Gabrielle,” Sir Robert replied.
“So, what do we need to know?” Rejeanne asked.
“My response to you is a question,” Sir Robert said. “And that question is whom do you trust?”
Before Rejeanne could open her mouth, Lindsay had her answer. “Besides Jeannie, no one,” she said bluntly.
“Good,” Sir Robert. “Well then, let us begin.”
CONTINUED IN CHAPTER 23
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