Welcome to The Book of Bones, a weekly adventure story. If you’re just joining the story, click here for Chapter 1.
The offices of the Santa Fe Sun overlooked the plaza in the center of the old part of town. Tourists milled about, exploring the art galleries and examining the wares of the Native American vendors set up along the sidewalks. Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, Santa Fe, at least the older sections, carried upon it the weight of history and a strong sense of Southwestern culture.
Bones paused at the door and turned around.
“What are you doing?” Jessie asked as she tried to follow his line of sight.
“Just taking in the scenery. Nice place.” He closed his eyes and breathed in the strong aroma of meat, beans, and chile wafting from a food cart nearby. “We should get a Navajo taco. Those things are awesome.”
Jessie laughed and took his hand in both of hers. “Quit stalling. We’re supposed to meet Amanda in five minutes.” She raised an eyebrow. “Are you really that nervous about seeing an ex-girlfriend?”
“Not really,” he lied. “I just like to keep things chill, and Amanda isn’t known to be a chill person. At least, not when you get on the wrong side of her.”
“Based on our time spent together, I’m having trouble putting you and ‘chill’ together.”
“You caught me on a weird day.” He opened the door for her and followed her inside. A young Latino man greeted them at the front desk and buzzed Amanda, who appeared all too quickly. She’d probably been waiting in the hall, ready to swoop.
Amanda hadn’t changed a bit. She was still the raven-haired, statuesque beauty he remembered. She stood, hands on hips, gazing imperiously at Bones. Though she was several inches shorter than he, it felt as if she were looking down at him.
“Bones.” She somehow managed to speak his name as if it simultaneously amused and disgusted her. “It only took you how many years to return my last call?”
Bones flashed his most roguish grin. “You know how it is. Maddock and I…”
“I know exactly how it is. You’re a jerk.” She shot a glance at Jessie, her eyes taking the young woman in, assessing her. “I was going to let you have it the moment I laid eyes on you, but I’ll cut you some slack in front of your girlfriend. I suppose one of us ought to have a little class.”
“We’re just friends,” Jessie said to Amanda’s back as the reporter stalked away down the hall, motioning for them to follow.
Her office was small and neatly appointed. A laptop and desk calendar sat atop a polished wooden desk. Behind her hung a shelf lined with Dia de los Muertos-themed figurines. The skeletal figures, garbed in the traditional attire of the Spanish colonial era, danced, played instruments, or went about ordinary tasks. Bones found it a macabre yet somehow engaging scene.
“That would make one hell of a Christmas village,” he noted.
“I have a Santa, but I don’t bring him out until the day after Thanksgiving.”
Bones nodded, not sure how to begin. A framed photo in the windowsill, a shot of Amanda standing atop a red rock formation, caught his eye. “Hey! You cropped me out of that picture.”
Amanda smirked. “It’s a good shot of me.”
Bones nodded. “Every picture of you is…”
“Don’t!” Amanda held up a hand. “I don’t want any of your banter or flirtatious crap. I don’t want to hear about how Maddock dumped Jade for your sister.”
Jade Ihara was an archaeologist and a former girlfriend of Bones’ partner and best friend Dane Maddock. A few years earlier, the four of them had been caught up together in one of Maddock and Bones’ adventures.
“How did you know about that?”
“Jade calls me every now and then.”
Bones scratched his chin. “I thought you two didn’t like each other all that much.”
“We discovered we have something in common. We’re both attracted to jerks.”
“So you are still attracted to me.” Bones flashed another grin which did nothing to crack Amanda’s icy exterior.
Beside him, Jessie let out an exasperated sigh. “Is he always like this?”
Amanda regarded her coolly. “You mean you haven’t figured it out yet?”
“We only met yesterday. I’m sticking with him because I think I might get killed if I don’t. Somebody’s after him… after us.”
“That sounds all too familiar.” Amanda rounded on Bones. “Can’t you, for once, solve one of your little mysteries without getting innocent girls caught up with you?”
“Hey, you love a mystery as much as I do and you know it.”
Amanda held up her hands. “Whatever. This is a waste of our time. You wanted to know about the incident at Halcon Rock?”
“Or anything related to it. Here’s what he have.” Jessie gave Amanda a quick overview of their research and the conclusions they had drawn thus far.
“I can’t add much,” Amanda said. “A few stories told to me in confidence by Los Alamos employees. All seem to agree that some sort of human-like creatures live underground, but there’s no evidence. No one could show me a single photograph or artifact. Nothing. Before I met Bones, I would have thought it was all a bunch of crap, and I’m still leaning in that direction, but I can’t dismiss it entirely.”
“Why are you gathering information if you don’t buy into it?” Jessie asked.
“It’s because of the article I wrote. I thought of it as a fluff piece, but ever since the newspaper ran the story, I’ve gotten a steady stream of conspiracy buffs and self-described ‘informants’ knocking at my door. She turned her gaze onto Bones, who shifted in his seat.
“So, if you don’t have anything for us, why did I make the drive up here?” Bones asked. “Just to give me a hard time?”
“I know you, Bones, and you haven’t put all your cards on the table yet.”
“Look, we had a good time together, but the long distance thing isn’t for me.”
“You know what I mean. A single Native American legend isn’t enough to set you on a search, and it certainly isn’t enough for you to yet again run afoul of dangerous people. Now, are you going to sit here blowing smoke signals up my ass or are you going to tell me the whole truth?”
“That’s racist,” Bones muttered. That didn’t get a rise out of her. “Fine. I found a hidden passageway beneath Halcon Rock.” He went on to describe the door he had found and the chamber in which it was located. “I’d like to get back there, and maybe I could, but right now the sheriff is watching the place and I suspect he’s the reason these other guys are after me.”
Amanda stared at him for the span of three heartbeats. Finally, she nodded. “Okay, I believe you. And if there really is an alien doorway…”
“I’d call it a high-tech doorway,” Bones said. “We can’t say for certain it’s alien.”
“If you say so. Anyway, I’ve got a few leads I’ve actually considered following up on but I didn’t want to waste my time. If you’ve seen this doorway, that’s good enough for me. There might be a story in it, maybe even a book.”
“Cool. Just give me the leads and I’ll follow up on them for you.”
Amanda laughed. “Not a chance. Like it or not, you and I are working together again.”