Welcome to The Book of Bones, a weekly adventure story. If you’re just joining the story, click here for Chapter 1.
As luck would have it, the driver’s next stop was Giovanni’s Pizzeria, Jessie’s restaurant of choice. She and Bones slipped out unseen and worked their way around to the front lot. Located in a rundown strip mall, the savory aromas wafting from the restaurant were, in Bones’ opinion, the only things to recommend the location. He scanned the area, just to make sure their pursuers hadn’t somehow figured out their means of escape and followed them, but all he saw were a few people begging for change, and an obvious drug deal going down in the corner of the parking lot.
Inside, they settled into a booth adorned with a red and white checked tablecloth and ordered up two Dos Equis and a pepperoni and green chile pizza. While they waited for their food, Bones kept an eye on the parking lot while Jessie quietly gave him an overview of her research.
“The hollow earth legend has been around for a long time,” she began. “Basically, there are two competing theories: one is that humans or a species very much like humans live beneath the earth. The other is that aliens live, or once lived, there; maybe observing us, maybe interbreeding with humans to form the modern human race.” She rolled her eyes.
Bones wondered how she would react if he told her about some of the thing he had seen and experience in that regard.
“Come on.” She reached across the table and poked his arm. “No mocking comments?”
“For the sake of argument, let’s say we’re considering all possibilities.”
“All right.” Jessie smirked and returned to her papers. “The Nazis were particularly invested in this theory. They considered several places as likely locations for the entrance to the world beneath, including Tibet, the North Pole, and Antarctica.” She frowned. “This is interesting. They sent large expeditions to Antarctica, tons of scientists, and none of them were ever heard from again.”
“I’m not trying to rush you or anything,” Bones said, “but I’ve heard this before and it doesn’t really help me with Halcon Rock.”
“In that case, I won’t bother covering any of this.” Jessie thumbed through her papers and slid about half of them to the side.
“Sorry, I promise I’ll read them later. What have you got?”
“Have you heard of the Ant People?”
Bones shook his head. “Just the dude from the movie.”
“Good. Then don’t interrupt this time.” She gave him a sly wink. “Hopi legend tells of two cataclysms: fire and ice.”
“Maybe a comet and an ice age?”
“I told you not to interrupt. Both times, the virtuous members of the Hopi were guided to safety, following a cloud by day and a burning star by night. Sound familiar?”
“You said not to interrupt.”
“It’s not interrupting if I ask you a question.”
“Sure, the Exodus story.”
“Very good.” Jessie grinned mischievously. “The cloud and the star guided them to the Ant People, or Anu Sinom in their language. The Ant People took them into their subterranean caves and nurtured and fed them. It’s believed that the kiva, the Puebloans’ underground center of worship, was inspired by the distant memory of the safety their people found beneath the earth.”
Bones nodded and scratched his chin. Jessie had fallen silent so he felt safe speaking. “Interesting that they don’t claim there’s a hollow earth down there, just caves and caverns. That’s much more believable.”
Jessie nodded. “The ant people are memorialized in pictographs. I printed out a couple.” She pushed two sheets over to Bones.
The images were of slender beings with long heads and bulbous eyes. “The shape of the head reminds me of the Paracelsus Skulls,” he mused.
“And what about this one?” She tapped the last image. “Look at what he’s wearing.” Unlike the other images, this figure seemed to be wearing a rectangular box covered in lines, dots, and circles. “It looks like a space suit, doesn’t it?”
“I think you’re reaching, but point taken. What else do you have?”
“The legend extends, in different forms, to other native peoples of the Southwest. The legends vary in the details, but all associate the underworld dwellers with the constellation Orion.”
That got Bones’ attention. Several times in recent years he and his partner, Dane Maddock, had come across compelling evidence that connected Orion with alien visitors to Earth.
“Something wrong? You flinched?”
“No, I’m fine. Go on.”
“There’s not much else here. Unless you care that the Hopi religious leaders refer to the Ant People as “Ant Friends”, or “anu-naki.”
Bones dropped his beer bottle. It hit the table with a crack and he barely caught it before it tipped over.”
“What is your deal?” Jessie leaned back a little, eyes boring into him from beneath a furrowed brow. “Post-traumatic stress?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “The Sumerians had a word for the beings that once came to Earth from outer space. They called them the Annunaki.”
“Really? That’s pretty cool. Anyway, there’s a little more here about possible links to Egypt. The word for ‘star’ is the same in both languages. Stuff like that.” She shuffled her papers. “To summarize, this part of the country has a strong oral tradition regarding contact with aliens or alien-like creatures. Some are UFO stories but many are tales of contact with beings living underground.”
Their food arrived and they dug in. Bones had to admit it was some of the best pizza he’d ever tasted. The chiles were fresh and perfectly cooked, the crust just the right balance between soft and crispy.
While they ate, Bones considered what Jessie had told him. The legends alone would be scant evidence of alien contact, but having seen the door beneath halcon rock, he had little trouble believing it.
“I don’t get it,” Jessie finally said. “This Halcon Rock thing is clearly just another legend. You seem like a smart guy, but you’re taking this stuff pretty seriously. Why?”
Bones took a drink to buy himself some time. He’d been in this sort of situation before, and his options weren’t great. He could let her think him a fool who believed in fairy tales, or he could tell her the truth about some of the mind-blowing archaeological finds he and Maddock had made, none of which he could prove for various reasons, and be thought a liar or crazy.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
Jessie bit her lip and gazed at him through half-closed eyes. Finally, she began to slowly nod. “I do.”
“All right. Will you take me at my word that alien contact, even aliens living underground, is not just possible, but probable?”
“Nope. You’ll have to show me proof.”
Bones shook his head. “Can’t blame you for that, but I can’t do it.”
“Why not? You’re not just giving up the chase, are you?”
“Not at all, but I’m going to get you back to school and Manny’s truck back to him before I do anything else.”
“Excuse me? I can’t go back to school.” She held up a hand before he could interrupt. “Can you honestly say I’m safe from whoever came after us? Do you even know who they are or what they want?”
“No, but I have an idea who sent them.” In his mind, it was a no-brainer that either Matthew or the sheriff was behind this. Anything else would be far too great a coincidence.
“Good for you. Can you promise me they won’t try to get information out of me, or use me to get to you?”
Bones stared into Jessie’s eyes, trying to think of a single point of disagreement, but she was right. He let his shoulders fall and he slumped back in his seat.
“You know, for a college kid you’re really something?”
Jessie’s eyes were immediately afire. “I’m not a ‘kid.’ I’m twenty-four years old.”
“Okay, sorry.” He raised his hands to ward off her flinty gaze. “I’m just getting old, so everybody under thirty looks young to me.” It was lame, but all he could think of at the moment. The girl was pretty, smart, and a lot more tenacious than he’d expected.
“You’re not that much older than me,” she reproved. “Now, I’ll call AAA and have them tow Manny’s car to a dealership I know, then we’ll go get my car and head up to Santa Fe.”
Bones cocked his head. “That’s the wrong direction, chick.”
“Not for what I’ve got planned.” Jessie flashed a wicked grin. “We’re going to talk to Amanda Shores.”