Black Scorpion

Black Scorpion by Jon Land Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Black Scorpion by Jon Land Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jon Land
mother, a leftover hippie from the 1960s who’d had her at the age of forty-two, was. Hence, the name Scarlett, chosen because of her mother’s obsession with the film Gone with the Wind . But none of that mattered while on a dig where Scarlett was concerned only with the mysteries she was unearthing. This dig in the Retezat Mountains of Romania’s Transylvania region showed some promise, the region no stranger to discoveries dating back to the Roman Empire, like the one she’d come in search of.
    Late that afternoon she’d busied herself with an initial inspection of the ground layered beneath the freshly excavated remains of an ancient Roman temple that was the site’s principal find. Swiping a whisk broom across the flat ground revealed a slight depression, and further clearing revealed a limestone plate laid over what Scarlett assumed was a secret underground passageway, leading to and from the temple. Students rolled the mini-crane apparatus over to hoist the plate from its two-thousand-year-old perch, beneath which lay what she recognized as not a passageway at all, but a secret chamber. She could also tell that the chamber was positioned purposefully beneath the temple, making her think it had never been meant to be found.
    Archaeologists digging here had been systematically uncovering an ancient Roman center that, during its heyday in the second century AD, commanded the countryside as the capital of the conquered Dacian provinces. After the Dacians were defeated in 106 AD by the forces of Trajan’s legions, a city had been built upon the very location where a major battle between the Roman legions and the Dacian troops had taken place. And within that city, this temple and its surrounding monuments had risen, constructed of high quality limestone and marble, no expanse spared as testament to the ever-expanding Roman Empire.
    Archaeological teams had been mining this site for finds for nearly a century now, starting in 1924 and continuing through today. Scarlett arrived on the scene with the full backing of her primary benefactor to find the site barely twenty percent exposed even after such a long period. Yet that in itself wasn’t nearly as surprising as the secret chamber she’d uncovered beneath the ruins of the temple floor.
    â€œWe need to call in some experts,” the project manager, Henri Bernard, said as they stood side by side looking down into the exposed chamber.
    â€œI am an expert, Henri.”
    â€œI mean with real experience in such matters. Until then, I want nothing disturbed. The find is not to be touched at all. Is that clear?”
    â€œYou mean, my find?”
    â€œNo, I mean the team ’s, the team I’m in charge of,” Bernard reminded her.
    Scarlett had never worked with Bernard before, had never even met him until he was assigned to oversee this dig at the last minute as a condition set by Romania’s Ministry of Culture. Having yet to publish a thesis to enable her to join the Register of Professional Archaeologists left Scarlett playing second fiddle to men like Bernard with considerably less experience in the field than she. Bureaucrats who often had their own ulterior motives, interested in claiming the credit more than anything else. Bernard, a professor of Archaeology at the Sorbonne in Paris, was well known to her by reputation, but he’d been dropped here out of nowhere. Enough alone to make her suspicious, even without considering his lack of field experience.
    â€œYou haven’t answered my question yet,” Bernard was saying.
    â€œWhich question is that?”
    â€œAre my instructions clear enough?”
    â€œPlenty. It’s what’s best for the dig, right? You’d never do anything that wasn’t in the dig’s best interests, would you, Henri?”
    He checked his watch, suddenly reluctant to meet her gaze. “I’ve got some calls to make. Where’s Francis? I want him to take

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