Welcome to The Book of Bones a (mostly) weekly adventure serial.
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If you haven’t been reading along, start here with Chapter 1.
“Are you there? I said, there’s a problem at the hospital.” This time, Amanda’s words struck home.’
“What kind of problem?” Bones asked.
“Mari’s already checked out. None of the staff would tell me anything, HIPAA rules and all that. I asked around and the patient across the hall saw her leave with a guy.”
“A guy?” Bones chewed on this new turn of events. “Did she leave voluntarily?”
“I guess so. I mean, she definitely checked out of the hospital. She wasn’t hustled away or anything.”
“She must have gone back to Matthew.” Bones wanted to hit something. Rather, he wanted to hit one very specific someone.
“That was my thought, too,” Amanda said. “It happens in these situations. The same personality traits the get you into that kind of relationship make it almost impossible to get out.”
“I know, but still…” There wasn’t much else to say.
“I’m sorry, Bones.” The words hung there for a long moment. “What do you want to do?”
“Nothing. If she went back to him voluntarily, there’s nothing I can do except hope the guy meets with an accident; preferably a grisly one.”
“What do you know? We actually agree on something.”
“Don’t get used to it. Anyway, we found what we were looking for. I’ll fill you in when we see you again.”’
He ended the call and turned back to Jessie and Padilla. Sadness painted the young woman’s face. She’d obviously been listening. Padilla wore a concerned expression.
“That doesn’t sound good,” the rancher said.
“Some people don’t want to be helped.” Returning to his seat, Bones focused his attention on his beer. While Mari and Padilla chatted about legends of underground dwellers, he sat, drinking and reflecting on his last conversation with Mari. He’d been so certain she’d turned the corner. As he ruminated, snatches of conversation drifted through.
“According to the Zoroastrians, the god Ahura Mazda instructed his people to build underground cities to protect themselves from what he called ‘evil winters’…”
“He soared through the skies on a ‘divine chariot.’ Some people think he was an alien…”
“Look at Derinyuki. Thousand-pound doors that only open from the inside…”
As Padilla shared his extensive knowledge, Bones found his interest piqued, and his thoughts drifted back to the mystery they hoped to solve. The rancher knew his stuff. Perhaps he could be of help.
“Mister Padilla, have you ever heard of the Book of Bones?”
Padilla jumped like he’d sat on a scorpion. He gaped for an instant, and then laughed.
“So that’s what’s going on. All right, what’s the story? You heard I keep an eye on the mountain so you went up there hoping to meet me? You played it off as a coincidence, then worked the conversation around to the book?”
“I don’t understand,” Jessie said.
Padilla fixed her with a hard look and then did the same to Bones. “Lay your cards on the table or get the hell out of my house.”
Bones wasn’t sure what had brought about this sudden change in their host’s demeanor, but he knew it would be a bad idea to hold anything back. He started with his first visit to Halcon Rock and then traced the chain of events that had brought them to Hidden Mountain. “That’s the truth,” he concluded. “We held back because we don’t know who’s after us or how dangerous they might be.”
“Why don’t you give up the chase, then?” Padilla asked. “Get the hell out of their way and let them do what they’re going to do?”
“I’m not sure that would work. They have no way of knowing what information we might have unless they extract it from us, if you know what I mean. I’ve been in situations like this before, and I don’t believe they’ll stop until they have what they want.”
“Or until someone beats them to it,” Padilla said. “Is that the only reason?”
“That, and I don’t run away.” Bones took another swallow of beer.
Padilla nodded. “I can believe that.” He cleared his throat, looked around for his wife, and then began speaking softly. “Mama doesn’t like it when I mess with this stuff, but I’ve been interested in the Book of Bones for a long time. I agree with you; Gregory Glade found it and included it with his treasure. I’ve got some ideas about its location, but nothing solid.”
“If you’ve got somewhere private we can talk, we’ll take a look at Mari’s father’s work.”