Welcome to The Book of Bones a (mostly) weekly adventure serial.
Click here to download the chapter in digital format.
If you haven’t been reading along, start here with Chapter 1.
“This looks like the place.” Bones pulled his truck over to the side of the dirt road and cut the engine. All around, the rich, brown hills, dotted with patches of green, shone beneath the clear, cornflower blue sky. It was hard to believe that only a twenty minute drive from Albuquerque could put them in a place that felt like the middle of nowhere.”
“I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of Mari’s directions.” Jessie held up the paper on which Bones had jotted some notes. “Bear right at the railroad tracks, turn left at the railroad storage area, head toward the landfill until you see the gate on your left.” She chuckled.
“Sounds like something out of a bad comedy movie,” Bones agreed. “Well, let’s get moving. She said it should be easy to find where she hid the box, but who knows?”
They stepped out into the warm day. A gentle breeze stirred the dust that seemed to pervade this part of New Mexico.
“It’s so dry here,” Jessie said. “One of these days I want to move somewhere that actually has water.”
“I like it,” Bones said. “It’s not Key West, but it’s not bad in its way.”
“You’ll have to show me Key West sometime.”
Bones smiled but didn’t meet Jessie’s eye. She wasn’t quite hitting on him, but she was definitely testing the waters, and he wasn’t ready to deal with that just yet. As they headed for the gate, he wondered what his problem was. When had he ever passed up an opening, even a small one? The girl was cute, smart, clever, capable, if inexperienced. Normally he’d be all over her. What made this different?
On the opposite side of the road a double gate barred the way. To its left, a narrow stile afforded passage beyond the fence line.
“So, what’s the deal with you and Amanda?” Jessie asked as they passed through, Bones ducking beneath the bar overhead.
“Nothing for a long time. I guess we’re friends…maybe.”
“I thought I sensed some kind of spark between the two of you.” Jessie’s face reddened as she spoke.
“Friction causes sparks.” Bones was proud of that turn of phrase. Too bad his friends weren’t around to hear it. “She’s got her reasons to be pissed off at me, but that’s all there is.”
“Mari seems to like you.”
The girl was definitely fishing.
“I’m no expert, but I think Mari needs to stay away from men for a long time. She’s got some things she needs to fix in her own life.” Bones grimaced. He didn’t need this distraction right now. Wait. What was he thinking? When did he ever consider a hot girl, much less three of them, a distraction? Who was he? Maddock? “Look, I grew up a broke, troublemaking Indian kid in the middle of redneck heaven, so I know how it feels to be treated like you’re nothing. That’s why I feel bad for Mari. If I can help her out, cool, but I’m that last guy who’s going to tend to the bird with the broken wing, or whatever they call it.”
“You like the independent type?” Jessie said.
“I like the type who doesn’t expect you to call her back.” It was harsh and a wave of guilt hit him like a slap the instant he’d said it, but it was for the best. He needed to focus, and this intrusion from his…feminine side, or whatever the hell it was, was unwelcome.
“Sure you do.” Jessie smirked, then held up the paper again. “Two miles that way.” She pointed to rutted, overgrown dirt track that led off to the right. Beyond it, a solitary mountain loomed in the distance. “You take the lead, tough guy.”
A short, silent walk later across parched ground strewn with thistles and sage, they came to a gate, actually more of an opening in a barbed wire fence, and passed through. They followed the fence line until they spotted the first marker stone: a black rock with an arrow scratched in the surface. After a short, silent walk, they came to their destination.
“I’ve wanted to see this for a long time,” Bones said. “The Los Lunas Decalogue Stone.”
Located near the base of Hidden Mountain near Los Lunas, the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone, or Commandment Rock was a controversial artifact— a boulder engraved with a truncated version of the Ten Commandments, it was written in what some called Paleo-Hebrew, a form of writing much like Phonecian, and dated by experts to 500 BCE.
“The natives call this place The Cliff of Strange Writings,” Jessie said, “not only because of this stone, but because of what’s at the top of the mountain.” She examinec the large stone. Nestled against the cliff face atop a pile of smaller stones, the eighty ton boulder stood at a forty-five degree angle, the top of it reaching just above her head.
Bones moved in for a closer look. The lines of white text were carved deeply, with a subtle geometric precision to the lines, the top of which had been defaced by vandals years before. Its surface was shaded by the gray-green foliage of a tamarisk tree— the very same type of tree planted by Abraham at Beersheba at a site known to this day as Abraham’s Well. Bones had done his share of reading about this and similar “pseudo-archaeological” finds, like the Kensington Runestone, the Bat Creek Tablet, and the Newark Holy Stones, and had brushed up on it after talking with Mari. While many considered it an obvious forgery, perhaps even a hoax perpetrated by two University of New Mexico students, a number of researchers believed it to be a genuine Pre-Columbian artifact.
“What exactly does it say?” Jessie asked.
Bones took out his phone and opened the browser where he’d bookmarked some articles about the site, and began to read.
“I am Jehovah your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. There must be no other gods before my face. You must not make any idol. You must not take the name of Jehovah in vain. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Honor your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that Jehovah your God has given to you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not give a false witness against your neighbor. You must not desire the wife of your neighbor nor anything that is his.”
“Okay, so literally a shortened version of the Ten Commandments. I guess I was expecting a little something extra thrown in there.”
“It’s still pretty cool,” Bones said. “My kind of stuff.” He glanced up toward the top of the mountain. “I guess we’d better get a move on. From what I understand, this isn’t half as cool as what’s waiting for us up there.”