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.
A tiny room at the corner of the house served as Padilla’s office. Stacks of papers covered the simple wooden desk. A battered file cabinet, a heavy-laden bookcase, and two folding chairs completed the furnishings. Padilla cleared off his desk to make room for the documents Bones and Jessie had recovered.
Some of the work was dedicated to topics other than the Glade Treasure: cryptids, aliens, and local legends. Bones would have dearly loved to read them all, but first things first.
“Here’s the info on the treasure,” Jessie said. She quickly scanned each page, summarizing its contents, then passed each to Padilla.
The first page listed the clues Glade had provided. Different colors of ink indicated that the list had been added to each time the eccentric millionaire had released a new clue. The subsequent pages, which she passed over quickly, consisted of listings of possible locations, hand-drawn maps, newspaper clippings, and summaries of failed attempts to find the treasure.
“How about we flip to the end?” Bones suggested.
“Philistine,” Jessie scolded. “We’re almost there. I want to make sure we don’t miss anything important.”
“You do that. Meanwhile, I’ll cut to the chase.” With deft fingers he slipped the bottom page out of Jessie’s hands and laid it in the center of the desk.
“Oh, Jesus,” Padilla grumbled. “It’s in code.”
The page was filled with lines of number pairs. Clearly, Mari’s father had been confident enough in his conclusions that he sought to protect them from anyone who might get their hands on his research.
“How are we supposed to translate this?” Padilla asked.
“I’ve actually got some experience with this sort of thing.” Bones thought back to a trip to London that eventually led him and Maddock into the Amazon. “When you see number pairs like this, it’s usually referring to a line number and column number on a source document. You count down and over and it gives you the letter.”
“So, what’s the document we’re supposed to refer to?” Padilla turned to Jessie. “Anything in there?”
“This is why I said we should go through the papers in order,” Jessie said, riffling through the last few pages. “No documents. Just research, journal entries, and finally a photo of the Decalogue Stone.” She held the image out for the two men to see.
Bones and Padilla exchanged knowing grins.
“Okay, so it’s not a document,” Bones said.
“You think this is the source?” Jessie asked.
“It makes a certain amount of sense. Mari did say Hidden Mountain is one of her father’s favorite places.”
“And when you were going through those papers,” Padilla added, “did you find any mention of the stone or the mountain?”
“I didn’t,” she said. “So there’s really no reason for the picture to be in here.”
“And there’s the added safeguard that the source will have to be translated from Hebrew,” Bones said. “Not much of a safeguard, but it’s something.”
The inscription on the stone was not a perfect match for modern Hebrew, so they used a translation of the stone as a reference guide. Jessie had only transcribed a few letters before she laid her pen down.
“It’s not working. We’re not forming words here, just a string of letters.”
Bones glanced at the transcription and grinned. “Keep going.”
Jessie’s eyeroll was worthy of a junior high student, and not a woman in her middle twenties, but she kept going. When she finished, she slid the paper over for Bones to see.
“There you go, smart guy. Do you see a single word there? Except for this one, which might be ‘pygmy’, but nothing else.”
“Sure do. Lots of them.” Bones grinned against her withering stare.
“I got it!” Padilla pounded his fist on the desk. “There’s no vowels in Hebrew. We have to figure those out ourselves.”
“You could have told me that from the start, and not let me think I was wasting my time.” Jessie’s pout was a sight to behold, and attractive.
“But that wouldn’t have been any fun for me. Usually, in situations like these, it’s my friend Maddock who gets to be the smart guy. I just wanted to see what it felt like.”
“And was it everything you hoped it would be?” The pout was gone, replaced by a blank stare.
“So far, so good. Now, let’s figure this thing out.”
“Fine.” Jessie took out the list of clues and set them beside the translation. “If we assume that the translation goes in the same order as the clues, then ‘Through the window’ becomes ‘lvntn’. Any ideas?”
“Lava nation,” Bones said.
“Lav.. la ventana?” Padilla asked.
“The answer to ‘Through the window’ is the Spanish word for window?” Jessie tapped the end of the pen against her chin. “I’ll write it down for now.”
They spent the next thirty minutes working at the translations. Some sets of letters, such as “ccv”, defied their best efforts, but others came quickly. “Where God looks down” translated to big skylight” and “Where small secrets are hidden” became “pygmy forest.”
“Okay,” Jessie said, “for ‘Where the moon stands in line’ we’ve got ‘chnfcrtrs’. Thoughts?”
“Chain of craters,” Padilla said immediately. “And ‘Esau and Jacob’, that’s ‘Twin Craters’.” He pointed to another line. “And now that I think about it, ‘ccv’ is ‘ice cave’.” He folded his arms, rocked back in his chair, and smiled.
“You seem pretty sure,” Jessie said.
The old rancher nodded. “I am. Because I know exactly where it’s hidden.”