Coeds 3: Anasazi Summer

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Coeds 3: Anasazi Summer
By
Julie O
&
Robert Arnold

Edited By Robert Arnold

Menus By Jennifer V (My sister!)

This story features characters from Fresh Start; Change of Course; The Protector series; Ambition and Purpose, Revenge of the Goddesses: Athena’s Assassin; and Corruption.
Jennifer Stevens appears courtesy of Bob Arnold

(There’s a list of characters at the end of the story)

Chapter 1

    “According to the GPS unit we should be at the spa in two hours,” said Alexis Eden as she glanced at the car’s internal navigation system.

    “I make around ninety minutes,” replied Jirra who was driving.

    They had left Philadelphia four days ago and were on their way to the Caldera de Gaia Spa in New Mexico where they had first met.

    “And how did you figure that out?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra pointed to a rock formation to the left. “That’s one of my landmarks. It’s ninety minutes to the spa from there.”

    Alexis glanced at her lover. “Are you sure? It doesn’t look that different from the other rocks.”

    Jirra nodded. “I have a great memory for landmarks. I’ve always had it, even when I was a guy.”

    “Hmm, I bet that comes in handy,” replied Alexis as she leaned back in her seat. “It feels so good to be away from work.”

    Alexis played the title character in the hit cable detective series “Erin Flynn” which had just finished its first season.

    “I’m really looking forward to working with Faith later this summer,” said Jirra.

    Faith Collins was the author of the Erin Flynn series and she maintained tight control on the series. She had been impressed with Jirra’s writing skills and hired Jirra to spend part of the summer working with her on scripts for the show.

    “Not as much as you are to get back to the spa,” noted Alexis after leaning over slightly to get a look at the speedometer. “I know they don’t enforce speeding out here as much as back east, but don’t you think that ninety is pushing it?”

    Jirra smiled and eased off the gas. “Sorry about that.”

    “You’re lucky that I’m with you. I’ve gotten you out of two tickets on this trip so far. The next cop might not be a fan of the show,” stated Alexis.

    “That’s true. I do appreciate what you did back in Texas,” said Jirra.

    Alexis shrugged her shoulders. “It was worth posing with those cops to avoid a big speeding ticket. I just hope none of the shots end up on YouTube.”

    Jirra laughed. “I wouldn’t worry about that.”

    “They were nice weren’t they? I mean considering you were doing close to ninety,” said Alexis.

    “I think the female cop was one of us,” said Jirra. “And it was only eighty-three miles-per-hour not ninety.”

    “Oh, like seven miles an hour makes a big difference!” Alexis replied. “And I thought the same thing about her.”  

    Alexis had recently come out as a lesbian. For the most part this was not a problem as her show was on cable and was adult in nature to begin with. Alexis knew that it might have cost her some offers, but she didn’t care. As far as she was concerned, Erin Flynn would be her last acting contract. She had invested her money wisely and planned on stepping away from show business.

    “I guess I’m a little anxious to get there,” said Jirra, who had just finished her first year at The University of Pennsylvania.  

    “You want to call the spa?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra shook her head. “Mom will know we’re almost there. She has a sixth sense for those kinds of things. She always knew when my dad was coming home. It used to bug him as he always wanted to surprise her.”

    “I wish I could have met him,” said Alexis.

    “I know he would have liked you,” said Jirra.

    Jirra’s father, Major Travis Reid, had been killed in Afghanistan. It was his death that had set in motion the chain of events that had led to Jirra’s transformation into a young woman.

    “What do you think of Dan?” asked Alexis.

    “I like him a lot, more importantly Mom really loves him. I’m so happy that she has someone in her life again,” replied Jirra.

    Dr. Dan Montgomery was the lead archeologist for the Anasazi site that was located near the spa and was engaged to Jirra’s mother.

    “Have they set a date yet?” asked Alexis.

    “No…tentatively sometime in the next year or so,” replied Jirra. “I really don’t think they’re in a hurry.”

    “Do you plan on changing your name?”

    Jirra nodded. “Yep, I like the sound of Jirra Eden.”

    Alexis laughed.

    “Mom isn’t sure what she will do…she doesn’t know if she wants to be known as Elizabeth Montgomery,” continued Jirra with a grin. “She joked that she has practiced wiggling her nose.”

    “Well it is sort of appropriate…considering her magical daughter,” said Alexis.

    Jirra glanced over and smiled back.

Chapter 2

    The first thing that Jirra and Alexis noticed when they drove up the road to the spa was the encampment of trailers in the parking area.

    “Those must belong to Jen and her crew,” said Alexis.

    “I wonder how the filming has gone?” asked Jirra.

    “The last I heard from Jen was that they found a canyon near the one with the actual sites. They’ve been using it for scenes. The biggest problem is getting the equipment in and out. There’s no road…only horse trails.”

    “Do you mean they’re using horses to carry in the equipment?”

    “From Jen’s last text message she told me they’ve been using mules for the heavy stuff.”

    Jirra nodded. “That makes sense, they can carry more and are more sure footed.”

    “Jen doesn’t mind that, but she is annoyed that she can’t drive her beast to the canyon each day.”

    “She actually brought her Hummer here?”

    Alexis nodded. “She said that she made some changes to it and that she can’t wait to show us.”

    “Knowing Jen that could mean anything!”

    “I know, it’s frightening,” replied Alexis.

    Jirra pulled into the staff parking lot, stepped out of the car and looked around.

    “Glad to be back?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra nodded.

    “There’s Judy,” said Alexis, referring the owner of the spa.

    Judy immediately hugged Jirra and then did the same to Alexis.

    “Welcome home,” greeted Judy. “Your mom would have been here but she got called away. One of the movie crew slipped and fell, nothing too serious, but she had to go out to the canyon.”

    “That’s okay, it’s part of having a mom who’s a doctor,” replied Jirra, barely hiding her disappointment. “It’s good to see you Judy.”

    “You’re both looking great,” replied Judy. “Do you have your key or do you need me to let you in?”

    Jirra held out her keys, which were attached to a Penn keychain.

    Judy smiled. “I know your mom is excited about having you both staying with her. By the way, Alexis, thanks for being so understanding.”

    Alexis shrugged her shoulders. “It’s okay. I imagine between the movie and it being summer you’re pretty busy. So do you charge more for my usual cottage?”

    Judy laughed. “No, but that’s not a bad idea. I gotta run, but we’ll get together soon. We’re having a little barbeque to welcome you home.”

    “How little?” asked Jirra.

    “Just a little steer roast…nothing too big,” she replied.

    “I’m looking forward to it,” replied Jirra.

    Judy hugged her again. “It really is good to have you back here.”

Chapter 3

    Jirra and Alexis carried their bags over to the cottage.

    “It’s strange, even though I never really got attached to any place I lived when I was growing up, I’m really glad that I’m back here,” said Jirra after they stepped inside.

    “How many times did you move?” asked Alexis.

    “Five that I remember and two that I was too young to remember,” replied Jirra. “My parents said that home is where you make it. Your parents still live in the same house you grew up in, right?”

    Alexis nodded. “I’ve offered to buy them something bigger, but they’re content there. It’s nice to have some stability in the family.”

    “Hopefully we can do that some day,” said Jirra.

    Alexis slipped her arms around Jirra and gave her a kiss. “I know we will.”

    They put their bags in the bedroom and headed to the kitchen. Jirra reached into the fridge and pulled out a couple of sodas.

    They sat down at the kitchen table to drink.

    “So, are you upset that your mom isn’t here to greet you?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra shook her head. “I’m an adult now and I realize she has a life and a career. I know she would have been here if she could have.”

    Alexis nodded. “I don’t believe you.”

    Jirra smiled back. “It’s no big deal…seriously.”

    Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of the front door opening.

    “She’s here!” exclaimed Jirra, who jumped out of her seat and rushed to greet her mom.

    Alexis smiled as she watched Jirra and Liz hug. 

    “It’s good to see you too, Roo,” said Liz, who nodded at Alexis.

    They stopped hugging and walked together to the kitchen.

    Liz and Alexis hugged.

    “Good to see you, Alexis,” said Liz.

    “Likewise, Liz. Thanks for letting me stay here,” replied Alexis.

    “It’s my pleasure,” said Liz. “Sorry I was delayed.”

    “No problem, Jirra was telling me how grown up she’s become,” stated Alexis who grinned at Jirra.

    “Yes, I noticed,” replied Liz, who hugged Jirra again. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m also ecstatic that you’re here, Roo.”

    “It’s great to be home again, Mom,” replied Jirra.

Chapter 4

    “So what happened on the movie set today?” asked Jirra.

    “One of the crew tripped and fell. He has a fractured ankle, but it was a clean break so he probably won’t need surgery,” replied Liz. “I swear that Jen must have hired every clumsy crewman in the state. They’ve kept me busy the last few weeks.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Alexis. “Accidents do happen while shooting on location.”

    “Maybe you’re right, but so far I’ve treated six fractures and two snakebites. I also have treated several burns and two mild cases of electric shock,” stated Liz.

    “And all of these have happened in the canyon where they’re shooting?” asked Jirra.

    Liz nodded.

    “They haven’t gone near the actual site have they?” asked Jirra.

    Liz shook her head. “They’re not allowed at this time. I know Jen wants to do some shots of the real site for the closing credits and for the DVD.”

    “Why can’t they shoot there?” asked Alexis.

    Liz shrugged her shoulders. “Dan doesn’t know, but he suspects it’s because the feds are worried about grave robbers. When Dan and his team opened up the site this spring, there were signs that someone had been digging up there, the good thing is that nothing appears to have been damaged. Since then, they’ve had twenty-four hour security.”

    “This is the first time that I’ve heard about this,” said Jirra.

    “Dan didn’t want you to worry. Besides, you were dealing with enough things back in Philly. By the way, your grades arrived yesterday,” said Liz. “It’s on your desk, with the rest of your mail.”

    “Really? What did I get?” asked Jirra.

    Liz shook her head. “You know that I wouldn’t read your mail. But if you don’t go and open it up immediately I will!”

    Jirra laughed and got up to retrieve the letter. She waited until she returned to the kitchen before opening it.

    “Well?” asked Liz.

    Jirra just handed the letter to Liz.

    Liz broke out in a huge smile as she read it. “Roo, you made the Dean’s list!”

    “Nice going,” added Alexis.

    “Thanks,” replied Jirra.

    “I’m so glad you didn’t let all those distractions affect your studies,” continued Liz. “Your Dad would be so proud of you.”

    Jirra nodded. “Thanks, Mom.”

    “Do you mind if I post a copy of this? The rest of the staff would love to know how well you’re doing.”

    “No, not at all,” replied Jirra. “It’s weird, but the people here are more like family than our real relatives.”

    Liz nodded. To explain Jirra’s change of gender, her family was told that she was transgendered. Many of their relatives, on both sides, had since cut off all contact.

    “Oh, Judy mentioned something about a steer roast, when is that happening?” asked Jirra.

    “Probably Sunday night, that way everyone can attend. However, Judy, Tara, Cari, Cody, Hannah, and of course Jen, are coming over tonight, I hope you don’t mind,” said Liz.

    Jirra shook her head. “Not at all.”

    “Hannah made a pot of her famous chili just for you,” continued Liz.

    “I can’t wait,” replied Jirra. “Will Dan be coming?”

    Liz shook her head. “He spends the whole week out at the site. He will be here this weekend. Why don’t you two relax and get unpacked. I have to head back to the clinic and finish up some paperwork concerning the latest accident.”

Chapter 5

    As they unpacked, Alexis asked Jirra about the accidents.

    “Obviously you think that there’s something going on,” said Alexis.

    Jirra nodded. “I wonder if I should contact Killara…but I’ll wait until after I talk to Jen.”

    “Can you bring me along next time you take one of your spirit journeys?” asked Alexis.

    “To be honest I have no idea. We can talk to Tara. “Oh and it’s called a vision quest.”

    “Same thing,” replied Alexis. “I’m serious about this; I mean if we’re going to be a couple we should share experiences.”

    Jirra smiled back. “It would be pretty cool if we could. I wonder what form your spirit guide will take?”

    They were interrupted by the sound of someone knocking on the door.

    Jirra walked out of the bedroom and opened the front door. Before she could speak, she was locked in a tight bear hug by Jen Stevens.

Chapter 6

    “So can I get you anything, Jen?” asked Jirra as Jen followed her into the living room.

    “Just the largest glass you’ve got full of water and ice, please. I fainted from the heat about two days after I got here and your mom has been after me ever since then to keep drinking lots of water. So far it’s worked but I’m beginning to feel like a damned camel. Too bad these humps of mine don’t work like a camel’s do.” Jen was pointing at her breasts as Alexis came out of the bedroom.

    “Just wait a few years, Jen. They’ll start sagging.” A big smile crossed Jen’s face as she gave a duplicate bear hug to Alexis.

    “Good to see you, too, Alexis. Hey, why did you two travel by car across the country? I could have sent a jet to get you here sooner!” said Jen as she got comfy on the couch.

    “Like Jirra and I told you, Jen, we wanted some time to ourselves and traveling by car was the easiest way. We also got to see a lot of the country up close too. You can’t do that from thirty-five thousand feet.” Alexis settled onto the couch on the other side of a low coffee table.

    “Well, just remember that I own three jets now since I started Stevens Air Transport Services a few months ago. I arranged so many flights with leased jets that I decided it was cheaper to buy my own. I can get you from anywhere to anywhere if you ever need it.”

    Jirra re-appeared a few moments later with a tray with three glasses and a large pitcher of water and a bottle of soda. Jirra filled a huge glass with water and handed it to Jen then watched in amazement as she downed at least half of the contents of the glass in just a few gulps.

    “WOW! You weren’t kidding, Jen. Want more?” said Jirra as she held up the pitcher.

    “I’m fine, Jirra. Maybe after I finish this. So how are things at Penn?”

    Jirra put the pitcher back on the coffee table then snuggled close to Alexis. “Pretty quiet now thanks to almost everyone involved with Todd winding up in jail.”

    Todd was a bigot that had started trouble on campus by assaulting trans-gendered students. His eventual arrest and prosecution had forced anyone in his gang not already in jail deeply under ground at Penn. One of the gang members had almost shot Jirra and Alexis while they filmed an episode of Erin Flynn in Philly.

    “I’m glad that whole mess is behind you now. I stopped by to see your mom about our latest mishap on the way here and she showed me the letter. Congratulations on making the Dean’s list!”

    Jirra smiled as her face blushed a little at the compliment. “Thanks, Jen.” A more serious look then spread across her face. “Speaking of mishaps, Mom was telling me about some of the problems you’ve had. Are things that bad out there?”

    Jen shrugged. “I wish I had a good answer for that, Jirra. I’ve paid several visits under Dan’s supervision to the canyon you discovered with Barrett. I know we can’t film there and I agree with Dan and the feds after learning about the site disturbances over the winter. That’s why we found a similar canyon a about mile away. The canyon we’re using is sort of “Y” shaped with two legs splitting off of the feeder canyon a couple of hundred yards from the main opening. We’re using about half of the shorter left leg for our filming since it fits the script and the plot line quite nicely. It looks different enough that we shouldn’t be exposing the other canyon to discovery by someone that wants to rob the site after seeing the film. In fact, we’ve been very careful to make our canyon layout different from the original.”

    “I know. Dan’s been keeping me informed when he has the time. I know he’s explored the canyon you’re using to be sure there’s nothing there.” Jirra poured a glass of soda for herself then took a long sip.

    “The right side canyon and the parts of the left side canyon we’re not using for filming are off-limits for the cast and crew since it hasn’t been cleared by Dan yet. He’s been so busy with the real site that he hasn’t had the time.” Jen sipped some water then put the glass back on the table. “I don’t have a good explanation for all the little accidents either. I know that working on a live movie set has its own set of dangers but we usually don’t see this level of problems. Even allowing for working in the desert we still shouldn’t be seeing the injuries we’ve had.”

    “Has anyone been seriously injured, Jen?” asked Alexis.

    “Not yet but I’m wondering just how long that’s going to last. We’ve had two snakebites so far and both were dry bites. That by itself is a small miracle. We’ve got a base camp set up within a mile and a half of the canyon entrance since we can get that far with our vehicles. We have to go the rest of the way using horses and mules since the terrain is so rough. I suppose we could have simply bulldozed our way in there but, like Judy, I respect the land too much to do that. Anyway, we’re far enough away from easy access that we’d have a real problem if someone got seriously hurt. I checked into getting a chopper into the canyon we’re using but it can only land at our base camp because of the surrounding terrain.”

    “Sounds like you’ve been lucky so far” commented Jirra. “Do you think it’s our ‘friends’ at the original site causing this? I’m sure Dan has told you about the crew trying to stay overnight in the canyon.”

    “I guess we have been lucky, Jirra and no, I don’t think it’s the spirits of the Anasazi causing the accidents. I’ve talked at length with Dan’s crew and they tell me from time to time that they sometimes get an antsy feeling that they really aren’t welcome but are tolerated at the site. I’ve been there almost a dozen times and never felt like that. All I’ve ever felt in their canyon is love and approval.”

    Alexis smiled. “Going all spiritual on us, Jen?”

    “Maybe, Alexis, just maybe. If you can both keep a secret I’ll tell you something I’ve never told anyone else. You both promise?”

    After getting promises from both of them Jen continued. “Well, first I told you a kind of fib when we talked about me never being on a vision quest, Jirra. A few weeks after my transformation I had an experience I have no logical explanation for.”

    “I was attending a race at a friends track for the weekend and I was staying in the back of my pickup truck in the middle of a forest. I’d gone to sleep for the night but woke up in the middle of a shaded area next to a small waterfall at the edge of a pond. I was completely naked and in front of me sat a cougar licking its paw. Well, I freaked out big time and tried to back away from the cougar until it looked at me then smiled before it spoke to me.”

    “I learned that the cougar was my sprit guide and we had quite a talk as we explored the area around the pond. While I was exploring I found some pebbles that had some quartz imbedded in them. They’d been smoothed by the spring that bubbled up at the top of the low hill at one end of the pond. The spring created a waterfall about fifteen feet high that fed the pond.”

    “To make a long boring story into a short boring one, I fell asleep snuggled up next to the cougar near the waterfall. When I woke up I was back in the pickup with wet muddy feet and hands. The pebble I’d been carrying was next to me too. When I checked there were no muddy footprints or handprints in the tent, the back of my truck, or on the tarp I used as a floor for the tent.”

    “It’s a little different but that sure sounds like a vision quest”, said Jirra.

    “The cougar called it “dream walking”. Whatever it was, I later bought a home south of Syracuse in upstate New York. On the property I discovered an area that resembled the place I’d visited in my dream. When I climbed to the top of the small hill next to the pond I found some more of the pebbles that matched the one I found exactly. I also found some hand and foot prints in the rock of the hill, rock that in my dream was mud. They matched my own hands and feet perfectly. I get the same feeling as when I was talking to my spirit guide there and it’s become my own special place. I always feel so comfortable when I’m there.”

    Alexis was nodding. “I know, Jen. Remember when we went skinny dipping in that pond? I felt like that too there.”

    Jirra looked a bit annoyed as she stared at Alexis. “You two went skinny dipping in Jen’s pond?”

    Jen laughed. “Jirra, while I’ve been with another woman I can assure you that Alexis and I have never been together as anything more than best friends. The woman was my old high school crush. She was a lesbian that I dated back when I was a guy so others wouldn’t suspect her secret. Nothing ever happened between us back then but after my transformation we did have a very brief fling together. Just as nothing happened between Alexis and I when we went skinny dipping in the pond. Our friendship is much too good to jeopardize by turning it into a love relationship. Besides, it was way too cool for much more than a quick swim then get out.”

    “I can vouch for that. It was ninety in the shade and the water felt like it came off a glacier.” said Alexis as she hugged Jirra tighter.

Alexis kissed Jirra deeply. Jirra looked a little flushed as they broke for air. “Always remember that you’re the one that won my heart, Jirra. Never doubt my love for you, okay?”

    Jirra was smiling. “A few more kisses like that last one would go along way toward proving that!”

    Jen made a motion as if she was about to toss the glass of ice water she was holding on both of them. “Get a room you two. Hey, that’s an idea! If you two want to um… you know… and you’re not comfortable about doing it with your mom around, Jirra, I’ll be glad to swap cottages with you for the night whenever you want some privacy. In fact, you two are welcome to use my cottage whenever I’m staying up at the canyon we’re using for filming.”

    “Thanks, Jen. Jirra and I just might take you up on your offer later.” Alexis hugged Jirra tightly.

    “Hey, that’s what friends are for, right? You are special people to me and I enjoy the company of both of you. I feel the way I feel back at home whenever I’m here. That’s why I spent the money to have a cottage built just for me here. I know that the people here have a lot to do with the way I feel but there’s just something more. I can’t put it into words yet but I know that I will one day. Whatever the cause of the way I feel, I accept now that there are things beyond what modern science can explain. Both of us are prime examples of that, Jirra.”

    “So what about the accidents in the other canyon. Do you get the same ‘feeling’ there that you get in the Anasazi canyon?” asked Alexis.

    “I really don’t get much of a feeling at all. I did notice that before the accidents I got a sense that something was going to happen but nothing really strong. What worries me more is the fact that I often get the feeling we’re being watched. I went the extra step of having Rebecca Stewart’s security agency give everyone a complete background check. Nothing turned up though. Everyone was who they appeared to be. I’ve been contemplating having the Boudicca folks do a more extensive check but I haven’t had the time to talk to them yet.”

    “Could it be the tabloids watching?” said Jirra.

    “Possibly. Our security teams do patrol an area around where we’re filming and they’ve reported some footprints now and then. They’ve never been able to catch anyone though. We’ve been shooting long enough that there would have been some pictures published in the rags or posted on the web if it was paparazzi. No, I doubt that the tabloids are going to invest the kind of money they’d need to in order to cover this. It would just cost too much taking into account what I’m spending to get this film made. ”

    “You might be right about that, Jen. Back to your ‘dream walking’ experience for a moment. You said you learned a lot from the cougar. Care to share with us?” commented Alexis.

    Jen just smiled. “Too young this one is, the ways of the force to learn,” said Jen in her best Yoda voice. “To get serious, what little I learned was about my own life and isn’t something that I’ll share with anyone else just yet. All I can share was that my transformation was not an accident. I have a role to fill in this world and things I have to do. Like your own spirit guide, Jirra, mine left me with as many questions when we were done as I had before the dream started.”

    “Do any of them involve Alexis and I” asked Jirra.

    “Directly, no. I really did need that vacation that brought me to the spa the first time. Meeting Alexis in the green room at Around Midnight would have happened anyway. I really can’t say what would have happened otherwise. There is no roadmap for me to follow or for the people I meet. As a writer yourself you should understand that your book of life is just a series of empty pages, Jirra. The story of your life will be whatever you make it as far as I’m aware.”

    “Really, Jen?”

    “Yes, Jirra, really. It feels as though my mission is to offer opportunities that the people I meet might not have had otherwise. The ultimate decision is entirely theirs to make and there are no penalties if they don’t take the life path that I offer them.”

     The conversation lasted another hour or so. During that time Jirra learned that the final shooting script followed her story pretty closely. Only minor things were altered to make the shooting go smoother or for technical reasons. Richard Thorn had agreed to co-produce the movie with Jen leaving Jen to direct the film. Jen wasn’t happy about having to both direct and star in the film but she seemed to be handling things well. Jirra also learned that Hallie, Richard Thorn’s daughter would be arriving for a visit within a few days. Since Hallie was an archeologist herself she had a special interest in the discovery and would be going to the site for a few days of exploration. While Hallie was staying at the spa she would share Jen’s cottage since the spa was a bit tight on space due to the filming activities.

    One bit of good news was that the scenes she had written into the script of a stable boy taking some serious comic abuse had survived the final script alterations. The character represented Randy, the young man that had attacked Jirra, as her way to work out her frustration with him. The stable had been constructed as a part of the recent additions to the spa at Jen’s insistence and expense. Jen had even arranged for the horses from a local farm and a long-term deal was set up to provide the stable staff and training to the guests that wanted to try riding them. The new stable also served to house the horses and mules that were rotated in and out of service from the movie canyon campsite.

    The meeting broke up and Jirra and Alexis followed Jen back to the trailer city near the main parking lot. The Hummer that Jirra had driven around back in Los Angeles was sitting next to a large fifth wheel type trailer marked ‘production manager’. It looked pretty much like Jirra remembered it until Jen started it up. It was much quieter than it was before and a smell like French fries filled the air.

    “Must be the wind is in the right direction, Alexis. I think they’re doing French fries in the dining hall,” said Jirra.

    “That’s Jen’s problem.” Alexis just smiled and pointed to Jen with a look on her face that said ‘I told you so!’

    “Yeah, it seems to be a running joke wherever I go with this thing now. I was taking so many hits in the press for driving this gas hog that I had it converted to a diesel-electric hybrid. It can run on standard diesel fuel, bio-diesel or recycled cooking oil. It has two tanks; one for standard diesel and the other tank is full of used cooking oil. It’s using the cooking oil right now so it smells like whatever they cooked in the oil. Hannah is giving me her used oil while I’m here and I have a small kit with me to treat the oil for use in this beast. I don’t know what is worse, getting ragged on in the press for driving a gas hog or the jokes I get now about the smell around this thing.”

    Jen turned the Hummer off and locked the door then looked at her watch and frowned. “The life of a producer is never easy. I’ve got to make a few calls and do battle with the suits in Lala land. I’ll see you both for supper later. Gotta get going, Jirra.”

    Alexis just shook her head after Jen disappeared into the trailer. “Take pity on those poor suits for they may not know who they’re dealing with.”

Jirra looked bewildered. “What?”

    “She might look like a bubble headed blonde but never underestimate what that woman is capable of. She’s one of the sharpest business people I’ve ever met, Jirra. She’s helped me to invest some of the money I’ve made so far. She even caught someone trying to cheat me on a deal. All I can say is never try to pull the wool over her eyes in any business dealings with her if you don’t want to get your head handed to you on a platter. Just be fair and treat her like you want to be treated and you’ll get along fine with her.”

Chapter 7

    Dinner was held outside on the deck of Liz’s cottage.  As they finished dinner, Cody started a fire in the firepit as Hannah prepared dessert.

Jirra sat back after dinner reveling in the company of her friends at the spa. As the sun set, there was a stunning display of color in the western sky. In the distance a coyote began to howl and was answered by the rest of the pack. It all felt so familiar that it almost felt like she had never been away and she again recognized what a special place the spa was.

    She brought out her bag of goodies, consisting mainly of Penn T-shirts and hats and passed them out.

    “So how long will you be out here, Jirra?” asked Tara as she slipped on her ball cap. “Perfect fit by the way, thank you.”

    “A few weeks,” she replied. “Faith wants me in Boston by mid-July.”

    “I think it’s so great that you’ll be working on the show. We never miss an episode,” stated Cari. She then turned to Alexis. “You really bring the character of Erin Flynn to life. I usually dread movies or TV shows based on books l love, but they’re doing this right.”

    “Thanks, Cari,” replied Alexis. “To be honest, I’m just really lucky. I’m blessed with great writing and a superb crew.”

    “Always modest, that’s what I love about you, Alexis,” said Jen. “I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear someone thank other people…other than at an awards ceremony.”

    Alexis laughed. “Well I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that.”

    “Don’t sell yourself short Alexis. I wouldn’t be surprised if the show gets a lot of nominations for both the Emmys and the Golden Globes,” said Jen.

    “Whatever, I’m just playing the role because I love it…awards don’t mean that much to me,” said Alexis.

    “Oh, that reminds me… Alexis, would you like a role in my movie?” asked Jen.

    “Nope…I’m on vacation,” said Alexis.

    “What about an uncredited role? No lines, just a small scene to see how observant the fans are,” continued Jen.

    “Do it,” said Jirra.

    Alexis rolled her eyes “What sort of role is it? I mean, I know you already have something in mind.”

    Jen laughed. “I’ll tell you later…don’t worry, you’ll love it.”

    “What about you, Jirra?” asked Judy.

    “I was surprised that you didn’t join your friends in the show shot at Penn,” added Hannah as she prepared dessert.

    “I’d rather be behind the scenes,” said Jirra.

    “You can pull an Alfred Hitchcock. Remember the scene in ‘North By Northwest’ where he tries to get on a city bus only to have it pull away in front of him?” said Cody as he passed out slices of apple pie.

    Jirra shook her head as she passed a plate over to Judy. “It was pretty funny but I think I’ll leave the acting to the professionals.”  She then smiled at Alexis, who winked back.

    “Oh, Jirra, I got a long email from Lindsey,” said Hannah, referring to her daughter. “She loves working at your friend’s restaurant and says that she has learned so much. Diana and Kari are treating her so nice. By the way, I got this recipe for Dutch apple pie from Kari.”

    “They’re great people,” said Alexis.

    “We’re trying to work out a time where they can come out here,” said Cody. “And we’re thinking of taking a vacation out to Pennsylvania sometime this fall.”

    “Cool,” replied Jirra. “I’d love to show you around Philly.”

    “We’d like that. Diana and Kari have taken Lindsey into the city for dinner several times. She mentioned that they’re even going to Le Bec-Fin this month,” said Hannah.

    “I bet that Lindsey is more interested in seeing the kitchens than actually eating dinner,” said Jirra.

    Cody nodded. “Just like her mother.” He then leaned over and kissed Hannah.

Chapter 8

    Jirra and Alexis cuddled next to the fire that burned in the firepit outside of the cottage. Everyone else had gone off to bed.

    “I’m really glad you came back here with me,” said Jirra.

    “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” replied Alexis. She looked up at the night sky and smiled. “Living in the city you can forget how many stars there are.”

    Jirra nodded. “I also forgot how quiet it is out here.”

    “I know what you mean,” replied Alexis as she pulled Jirra closer.

    A large bird flew over them and disappeared into the darkness.

    “What was that?” asked Alexis as she turned to look where the bird went.

    “It looked like a barn owl. Judy mentioned that they have a nesting pair in one of the storage barns. She says that she likes to see them as they keep the rodents in check,” said Jirra.

    “That’s pretty cool,” said Alexis.

    “Oh, I talked to Tara, she said that she would be glad to talk to us about trying a dual spirit journey,” said Jirra.

    “Really? That would be great,” said Alexis. “Does she think it will work?”

    Jirra nodded. “She said that she’s done it several times with Cari.”

    “Cool,” replied Alexis. “What do you say to heading inside? The fire is dying out and I’m also ready to call it a night.”

    Jirra nodded. “Sounds great.”

Chapter 9

    Tara was sitting in her office when Jirra and Alexis arrived the next morning.

    “Good morning, did you sleep well?” asked Tara as she greeted them. She was dressed in khaki shorts, and a Caldera de Gaia spa t-shirt.

    Jirra nodded. “I did wake up a few times…too quiet.”

    Tara laughed. “We hear that all the time. Judy is thinking of putting a machine in every room that simulates sirens and car traffic so you unfortunate city folk can feel more at home.”

    “Funny,” replied Jirra.

    “Gunshots, don’t forget the gunshots,” added Alexis with a grin.

    “We’ll add that to the tape. So how can I help you?” asked Tara.

    “Well, I’d like to check in with Killara, my spirit guide, and I’d like Alexis to join me,” said Jirra. “What are the chances that we’ll make contact?”

    Tara nodded. “I can’t promise anything as it’s up to the spirit guides. Alexis, have you met your guide yet?”

    Alexis shook her head. “Is that a problem?”

    Tara shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, but both Cari and I had taken many solo journeys before we tried one together. Your guide might want to meet you alone for the first time. However, the worst thing that can happen is that you don’t make contact.”

    “We’d like to try tomorrow morning,” said Jirra.

    Tara looked at Jirra. “What’s so important? Is there something you haven’t told me…or Alexis?”

    Jirra looked at both women. “It’s nothing solid…I just have a feeling that something big is going to happen. The feeling has increased since I got back to the spa. I didn’t think it was important at first…but the sensation has gotten much stronger.”

    “In what way?” asked Alexis.

    “I had a dream last night…it’s probably nothing but I think there’s something in both canyons and that we need to protect it,” said Jirra.

    “Tell me more about the dream,” asked Tara.

    Alexis shook her head. “I can’t remember details…just snippets of info. I just know that something is going to happen in the canyon where Dan is working…and possibly another site near by. Does this make sense?”

    Tara nodded. “I think you should go with your feelings. If you want, you can use my office. The last thing we need is for you to get lost again.”

    Jirra laughed. On her first spirit journey she had gone up into the hills alone. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going and it caused a minor scare at the spa. “I wasn’t lost…I just didn’t tell anyone where I was.”

    “Still, you can get privacy here. Do you do it in the nude?” asked Tara.

    “Yes,” replied Jirra. “It seems to make contact faster.”

    Tara nodded. “I know what you mean.”

    Jirra turned to Alexis. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about my feelings…I didn’t want you to think I was crazy.”

    Alexis leaned over and kissed Jirra on the cheek. “Don’t worry about that…I know you’re crazy. But you never have to worry about sharing your thoughts with me.”

    “So when will you do this?” asked Tara.

    “I figure after midnight,” said Jirra.

    Tara nodded. “Make sure you tell Liz first, okay?”

    “We will,” said Jirra.

Chapter 10

    “So tell me about these premonitions,” asked Alexis as they walked back to the cottage.

    “They’re hard to describe as it’s just flashes of info. I’ve also got them when someone mentions something. For example, I got one when Jen told us about the problems at the canyon and another when she told us that Hallie is coming here,” explained Jirra.

    “Why Hallie?”

    Jirra stopped and looked around. She then leaned closed and whispered into Alexis’s ear. “I think she may be like Jen and I.”

    Alexis cocked her head. “Really?”

    Jirra nodded. “Remember how I told you that I got a strange feeling when I first met her? I also don’t think her trip here is chance. Something seems to be drawing us all here.”

    “Do you think you should tell Jen about these feelings?” asked Alexis. “I mean, if you’re right, she’s involved.”

    Jirra shook her head. “Not until after I talk to Killara. She has enough things on her mind as it is. However, if Killara confirms my feelings then I’ll definitely talk to her.”

    “So, if you’re right about Hallie, that makes three of you,” said Alexis.

    “There’s more.”

    “Who else?” asked Alexis with a surprised look on her face.

    “Well, Beth also had a rather unusual transformation,” said Jirra. “I mean, it’s rather strange that we became neighbors and friends out of chance.”

    “Okay, I’ll buy that…anyone else?”

    “Do you remember Tessa; she was at the premier for the show back in Philly?”

    Alexis nodded. “What do you know about her?”

    “Nothing…I just got a feeling when I met her…very similar to the one I had when I met Hallie.”

    “Now that you mention it I do remember your reaction. Anyone else?”

    “I think there may be another…Beth once made a strange statement about a friend, but I didn’t think about it too much until now,” said Jirra. “Anyway, I have lots of questions for Killara now…hopefully he’s in the mood to give me a straight answer for a change.”

    “Well, whatever happens, you can count on me,” said Alexis as she took Jirra’s hand into her own.

    “Thanks,” replied Jirra.

Chapter 11

    Jirra stopped by her mom’s office. Liz was typing out a report on her computer.

    “Hi Mom,” greeted Jirra.

    “Hi Roo,” replied Liz without looking up. “I’m just working on the latest report concerning one of the injured people from Jen’s movie. They had another accident this morning. A horse he was riding in the canyon got spooked by something and threw him. Nothing serious, just some bruises and a few scrapes.”

    Jirra sat down next to her mom. “Can we talk?”

    Liz turned around and looked at her daughter. It must be important she thought as Jirra would never interrupt her work just to chat. “Sure, dear, what’s on your mind?”

    Jirra told her about the planned vision quest and her premonitions.

    “I know it all may be nothing…but I need to make sure, does that make sense?” asked Jirra.

    Liz nodded. “I’ve learned to trust your intuition concerning your friends.”

    “So I can tell Tara that it’s okay with you?”

    “Of course, Roo. And I do appreciate that you told me this time.”

    Jirra laughed. “You’re not going to let me forget that are you?”

    Liz shook her head.

    “I know I was wrong about that and I’m sorry. I’m also sorry for not being…normal,” continued Jirra.

    Liz leaned over and hugged Jirra.

    “Jirra, you have nothing to apologize for. I want you to know that I admire the way you’ve handled how drastically your life has changed in the past few years,” said Liz.

    “But what if I’m right…about this? What if this is the start of some life changing event?”

    “Trust your instincts, Roo. You’re a good person and that hasn’t changed. If you are meant to do something with your life because of your transformation then I know you’ll do the right thing. I also like the idea that you’re meeting others who have had similar sort of life changing events. Jen is a great role model and obviously Beth is a great friend. I don’t know who these other people are, but I’m sure they’re also good people,” said Liz. “You know you can trust me to share your secrets. I want you to be able to talk to me anytime you need to.”

    Jirra smiled. “Thanks, Mom.”

    “So, while we’re on the general topic of your transformation. I would like to do a physical on you while you’re home.”

    “Sure, Mom, that would be fine.”

    “Has your body continued to show fast healing?” asked Liz.

    Jirra nodded. “I’m just glad that I’m aging normally. I can’t imagine staying young and seeing the rest of you all age.”

    “That’s understandable,” said Liz.

    “Mom, I’m so in love with Alexis. When you met Dad, did you know he was the one?”

    Liz smiled. “Yes.”

    “Do you feel the same about Dan?” asked Jirra.

    “Yes, I got that same sort of feeling. I’m blessed to have another special person in my life.”

    “I’m happy for you,” said Jirra. “Dan’s great. Um, you two don’t mind if I call him Dan?”

    Liz laughed. “Of course not, Roo. You’re an adult now. I’m just happy that you accept him into the family.”

    “I’m glad that he knows the truth about me and accepts me,” said Jirra.

    “I know what you mean…just so you know, he promised me that he would never tell anyone your secret,” said Liz.

    “There must be a slight urge to expose me… considering my ties to the canyon and his discoveries,” said Jirra.

    “We talked about that. He said that it would be cheating and that a true archeologist would want to find the truth without being told the secrets. He has found some very interesting things up there and I know he can’t wait to show you,” said Liz.

    “Cool. I can’t wait to see it. Oh, have you seen Barrett?”

    Barrett was one of the graduate students working on the site. Jirra had first met him when he was working in his family’s coffee house in town. She considered him one of her best friends, especially how he had stood up for her against some of the less-open-minded locals.

    “He’s Dan’s right hand man. You haven’t told Barrett about your change have you?”

    Jirra shook her head. “No I haven’t. I’d like to some day.”

    “Well, you’ve done very well in selecting the people you’ve told,” said Liz.

    “Thanks. By the way, I can’t wait until you meet Faith, Max, and Diana. They’re really great people,” said Jirra.

    “Well, I suppose that I can come back east this fall,” said Liz.

    “I’d like that a lot, Mom,” said Jirra. “It’s strange, I love my life at Penn, but I think most of that is my friends…but I really love it here…I never was attached to a physical place before.”

    “This is a very special place,” said Liz.

    “It’s magical,” said Jirra.

    “Maybe we should have Judy put that in the next advertisement,” said Liz.

    Jirra laughed and then glanced at her watch. “Speaking of Judy, I better get going. She wanted to show me the expansion.”

    Liz stood up and hugged Jirra.

    “I’ve missed our talks, Roo,” said Liz.

    “It’s good to be home, Mom,” replied Jirra.

Chapter 12

    “This is where the museum will be,” said Judy as she pointed to a half-finished building.

    “Are they using real adobe bricks?” asked Jirra as she looked at the construction site.

    Judy nodded. “Although the interior will be state of the art, the outside will reflect the cultures of the area. Originally it was going to just show off some of the finds at the canyon, but I decided to expand it and show off the entire region. I’ve been in contact with some of the locals and we’re accumulating quite a collection. I’m also digging out a lot of the Ramone family collection. It was either that or have a yard sale.”

    Jirra laughed. “So what are you going to donate?”

    “Well, you’ve seen a few of my Georgia O’Keeffe paintings. It’s a shame that more people don’t get to see them. Also there are some other artifacts that have been in the family, like a pair of original Colt Peacemakers that belonged to my great grandfather.”

    “Cool,” replied Jirra. “Those must be worth a lot.”

    Judy nodded. “We’re going to have great security for the museum. By the way we’re going to name it after Dr. Margate.”

    Dr. Randolph Margate was an expert on the Anasazi. He was also a man of mystery. His background was a mixture of fact and fiction. Even his real name was a mystery as it turned out that Margate was a pseudonym. He was also the man who had originally discovered the local canyon. He apparently died in an explosion designed to seal off the canyon. Dan had gotten federal approval to have Margate’s remains buried in the canyon.

    “That’s great,” said Jirra.

    “I don’t think he would mind,” said Judy. She then pointed over to where more cottages were being built. “We hope to have those open by next season.”

    “I’m so happy the spa is doing well,” said Jirra.

    “Me too. I originally planned to expand in five years, but we’ve been so successful that I can’t put it off. Thanks to Jen’s movie, I have the capital to start the expansion now.”

    “How’s Jen’s cottage coming along?” asked Jirra.

    “It’s done and she’s staying in it now. I gave her a piece of land next to my cottage to build it. I mean, if I have to have a neighbor it might as well be someone I like,” laughed Judy.

    Jirra chuckled.

    “It’s so good to have you home again, Jirra,” said Judy. “You and your mom are closer to me than most of my real family.”

    “Thanks, you mean a lot to me too,” said Jirra. “Um, Judy, I have a question and if you don’t want to answer it…that’s cool.”

    “What is it?” asked Judy.

    “Well, just how many times have you been married?”

    Judy laughed loudly. “So you caught on to the inconsistencies in my life-story?”

    Jirra nodded. “Since the change…my memory is much better.”

    “I’ll have to watch my lies then,” said Judy with a smile. “Officially, I’ve been married four times, but I only count two of them.”

    Jirra just stared back.

    “Come on over to my office and I’ll tell you everything,” said Judy.

Chapter 13

    Jirra smiled softly as she followed Judy into the main building.

    “This place brings back great memories. Who is doing the newsletter these days?” said Jirra.

    “A girl named Helen. She works here part-time and does nature walks. I’ll have to introduce her to you at the barbecue,” said Judy as they walked into her office. “Please sit down, Jirra.”

    Jirra sat down in one of the plush chairs that sat across from Judy’s desk.

    “Like I said, I was officially married four times,” said Judy as she handed Jirra a bottle of water.

    “What’s the difference?” asked Jirra. “Thanks for the water.”

    “Well, two of my marriages turned out rather poorly and I don’t really count them. I caught one of them cheating on me and the other tried to steal from me. The only good things that came out of those marriages were the settlements when we got divorced,” said Judy. “They forgot about the old saying that ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. There should be an addition to that statement about a scorned woman with a great divorce lawyer.”

    Jirra almost spit out her water as she stifled a laugh.

    “The other two were interesting. I married a man named Harry when I was in grad school. He was a closeted gay man who needed the cover of being married.”

    “Why?” asked Jirra.

    “He was due to inherit a large amount of money, but he needed to be married in order to get it. So I was more than happy to play the wife. We had the marriage annulled a year later after he got the money. We’re still great friends and we still get together occasionally on our wedding anniversary.”

    “Where is he now?”

    “He’s living with his lover in Seattle,” replied Judy.

    “Okay, so that’s three,” said Jirra.

    Judy nodded. “The last one was a very sweet man. I knew him since we were kids.”

    “What do you mean by knew?”

    “He died six months after we married,” said Judy.

    “I’m so sorry,” said Jirra.

    Judy shook her head. “It’s okay, Jirra. Reggie and I were old friends. We knew each other when we were kids. I ran into him in Vegas…I was up there celebrating my second divorce. Anyway, he joined the party and it was later that night that he told me he was dying. He had just been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. He said that he wanted to live life to its fullest in the time we had left. Well, one thing led to another and we were married by a guy dressed up like Elvis the next night.”

    “Elvis?”

    Judy laughed. “It seemed appropriate at the time. Reggie and I had four wonderful months together. He was the reason I decided to open the spa. He left me his rather sizable fortune with the stipulation that I use it to fulfill a dream. He said that life is too short not to go for your dreams.”

    “Wow,” replied Jirra softly. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

    “You’re welcome, dear. I’m so pleased to see that you have someone in your life.”

    “Thanks,” replied Jirra. “I really love her.”

    “And she obviously loves you.”

    Jirra nodded. “Mom said that you’ve been seeing someone.”

    Judy grinned. “He’s a businessman out of Tucson. He comes to the spa every now and then. It’s nothing serious, but it is fun.”

    “Good for you,” said Jirra.

    “He’s supposed to come up here soon. I’d like you to meet him,” said Judy.

    “What’s his name?”

    “Morgan Browning,” said Judy. “He’s a businessman and investor in Arizona and New Mexico.”

    “How did you meet him?” asked Jirra.

    “He was a guest here at the spa. We met during one of the dinner events and just hit it off,” she said. “Since then, we’ve met for dinner in Santa Fe and Tucson.”

    “Do you think it’s serious?” asked Jirra.

    Judy leaned back in her chair. “One can hope, dear.”

    Jirra laughed.

    “So, how have you been doing?” asked Judy.

    “Life is interesting,” said Jirra.

    “You seem to be more comfortable with being a woman,” said Judy.

    Jirra nodded. “I still have my moments, but overall I am more at peace with my life. Of course it helps to have some great friends.”

    “Never underestimate the strength you can get from friends. If you surround yourself with good people you can never go wrong. I hope you listen to them…I know you can be a little hard-headed,” said Judy.

    Jirra pointed at her chest. “Who…me?”

    “It takes one to know one, Jirra. It isn’t always easy to listen to people when they tell you the truth, especially when that truth hurts. But you must find the strength to accept the truth and move on.”

    “I don’t have to worry about that…my friends aren’t shy about sharing their opinions,” said Jirra.

    “Do most of them know the truth about you?”

    Jirra nodded. “There are a few that I haven’t told yet, but I will eventually.”

    “And obviously the ones you have told have kept the secret,” said Judy.

    “Just like those here at the spa,” said Jirra.

    Judy nodded. “Can you believe it’s been almost two years since it happened?”

    “No…and yes…sometimes it feels like it just happened, and other times it feels…well it feels like I’ve always been a girl. Does that make sense?”

    “Yes it does,” said Judy.

    Jirra looked at her watch. “I need to get going. Alexis wants to go for a hike before dinner.”

    “Have a good time dear,” said Judy.

Chapter 14

    “How long does it take for this to happen?” asked Alexis as she locked the door to Tara’s office. It was a little after two in the morning. The only light was from the moon that was shining through the window.

    “It varies. The strange thing about a spirit journey is that time doesn’t behave like it does here. On average the whole thing takes a couple of hours, sometimes longer…at least that’s what I’ve been able to tell from looking at the clock after it’s over,” said Jirra as she positioned two Navaho rugs on the floor of the office.

    “I wonder what form my spirit guide will take?” asked Alexis, as she started to undress.

    “I hope it’s a chipmunk,” said Jirra with a grin, referring to Alexis’s nickname that she had as a kid.

    “That would be my luck,” said Alexis.

    “Just remember that they really aren’t animals. They just pick the form of an animal,” said Jirra.

    “So if my guide is a predator there’s no danger that it will eat your guide, right?”

    Jirra nodded. “That’s what I’ve been told.”

    Both women undressed and sat down on the rugs.

    “Now, close your eyes and clear your mind. Try not to think of anything,” said Jirra.

    “How long do we wait to see if this works?”

    “Long enough,” replied Jirra. “Damn, that sounds like something Killara would say.”

    Alexis smiled slightly and then closed her eyes. Jirra did the same.

Chapter 15

    “Alexis,” said Jirra. “Open your eyes.”

    The first thing that Alexis noticed was that it was daytime and for a moment she figured they had just fallen asleep. Then it hit her that they were in the Anasazi canyon.

    “What happened?” she asked as she stood up.

    “Apparently we made contact,” said Jirra.

    Alexis looked around. The front of the canyon was clear of rocks. “It looks so different. Are we in the past?”

    “I guess so,” said Jirra. She looked around. “I wonder where Killara is?”

    “I’m over here, little one,” said a kangaroo rat, which had just hopped up on a rock, a few feet away from Jirra.

    Jirra smiled. “Good to see you again, Killara. Thank you for meeting us. This is my…my lover Alexis.”

    Killara appeared to nod. “It is good to finally meet you, Alexis.”

    Alexis walked cautiously closer. “Um, pleased to meet you too. Roo has told me so much about you.”

    Killara scratched his head with his large hind foot. “And she has told me much about you. Now, are you ready to meet your guide, Alexis Eden?”

    Alexis nodded. “Yes…yes I am.”

    “Then turn around,” he said.

    Alexis and Jirra turned to see a large orange and black cat leap gracefully onto a nearby boulder.

    “Greeting Alexis Eden, I am pleased to finally meet you,” greeted the jaguar, as it sat down on the large rock. “My name is Taima.”

    The voice coming from the cat was female.

    “Hello, Taima,” replied Alexis. “What a beautiful name.”

    Alexis immediately felt an overwhelming feeling of trust towards Taima.

    “It means crash of thunder in some human tongues,” said Taima.

    Alexis looked at Jirra, and smiled. “That seems appropriate.”

    “Jirra, I would like to talk to Alexis in private. I hope you don’t mind,” said Taima.

    Jirra shook her head. “I understand. I have some things to discuss with Killara.”

    Alexis leaned over and gave Jirra a kiss, and then followed the jaguar off towards the canyon.

    Jirra sat down next to Killara. “Thank you.”

    “There’s nothing to thank me for, this was destined to happen. Now, tell me what’s on your mind,” he said.

    Jirra told him about her premonitions concerning the canyons and her friends.

    “You are right…something will happen…actually several things will happen,” he said.

    Jirra sighed. “I need a little more than that. Can I trust Hallie and Tessa?”

    “Yes, they are closer to you than you can imagine…in some ways you are sisters, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.”

    “And what about the canyons? There’s something there, right?”

    “Yes, and it will take all of you to protect it and to protect the others.”

    “What do you mean? Is someone I know in danger?” asked Jirra.

    “Events are about to happen that will put people you know at risk…you too will face danger…trust your feelings and your friends and you will get through this task,” he said.

    “Task…you make it sound like I’m on a quest or something,” she said.

    “A quest, yes that is a suitable term. Your actions so far have been noticed…by others…and they have decided it’s time to test you.”

    “What does that mean, Killara?” asked Jirra.

    “Remember when you asked if your transformation had a purpose?”

    Jirra nodded.

    “Now is the time to see if it does,” he said.

    She stared at the kangaroo rat for a moment.

    “That’s it?”

    He moved his head and it looked like a nod. “Trust your feelings, little one. I have great faith in you.”

    Jirra was about to speak when it ended and she found herself back in Tara’s office.

    “Damnit!” she muttered as she stood up and looked around.

    Alexis was still sitting down. “That was amazing,” she said.

    “You have no idea,” said Jirra as she opened her laptop and began to type furiously.

    “Aren’t you going to get dressed?” asked Alexis as she stood up and stretched.

    “No, not until I get all this down,” said Jirra without looking up. “I recommend you do the same thing if you want to remember what just happened. The details from the vision quest fade quickly.”

    Alexis nodded and sat down and opened up her laptop.

    Other than the sound of typing, the only other noise was the sound of the birds greeting the sunrise.

Chapter 16

    Over a hearty breakfast of huevos rancheros and coffee, Jirra and Alexis talked about their vision quest.

    “I now understand why you’re so frustrated after each vision quest,” said Alexis as she added a few drops of Cholula hot sauce on her eggs. She took a taste and then added some more hot sauce. “For every answer Taima gave it raised two more questions.”

    “Just two?” replied Jirra as she reached for the basket with warm tortillas. “Just once I would love a straight answer from that little rodent!”

    “If your spirit guide gave you straight answers…what fun would that be?” asked Tara as she sat down across from Jirra and Alexis.

    “It might take away the fun, but it would make things a bit more clear,” said Jirra.

    “Do you want to talk about it?” asked Tara as she poured some cream into her coffee.

    Jirra told Tara what Killara had said, leaving out the names of Hallie and Tessa.

    “I don’t want to create a panic or anything…not until I know more about what’s happening,” said Jirra.

    Tara nodded. “I think you should tell Jen.”

    “I plan on doing that the next time I see her,” said Jirra.

    “What about the others?” asked Tara.

    “I’ll talk to them when they get here,” said Jirra. “I trust you Tara, but I need to talk to them first…does that make sense?”

    “Perfect sense, considering if the connection you have with them is what I suspect,” said Tara. “It’s pretty amazing when you consider what is happening. I always knew that there was a world beyond the human world, but now I am starting to see proof. Don’t worry, Jirra you know you can trust me to share any secret.”

    “I know that, Tara and appreciate it. I hope to tell you more soon,” said Jirra.

    Tara smiled as she sipped her coffee. “So, you have a jaguar for a guide…that’s very impressive.”

    “She’s so beautiful,” said Alexis. “She’s also as evasive as Killara. Do they teach all spirit guides to speak in riddles?”

    Tara nodded. “I know what you mean. It may be time for me to contact my guide…all things considered.”

    Alexis looked to her left and saw Jen walk in. “There she is.”

    Jirra nodded and waved. “I suppose there’s no time like the present.”

    “Wait until after breakfast,” suggested Alexis as she looked around. “The tourists are up and starting to file in and Jen’s gone into her ‘hostess’ mode in self-defense.”

    Jirra looked around. “I guess you’re right.”  She then finished her breakfast.

Chapter 17

    After breakfast, Jirra and Alexis told Jen about their vision quest. They were sitting around the kitchen table in Jirra’s family cottage.

    “I had a hunch something like this was going on,” said Jen.

    “So how do I approach Hallie?” asked Jirra. “I mean I can’t just walk up and tell her that I was transformed into a woman and that I know the same thing happened to her because my kangaroo rat spirit guide told me so.”

    Jen laughed. “I wouldn’t put it exactly like that, but there’s no reason to beat around the bush either. If Hallie is like us, then she probably has sensed a connection too.”

    “What about Tessa?” asked Alexis.

    Jen shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, but if she’s connected to all this then we’ll see the way.”

    “So what do we do about Killara’s warning?”

    “We wait,” said Jen. “I don’t think the threat he has alluded to is supernatural. If it was he wouldn’t need us to do anything. Spirit guides have great power in the supernatural world…no I suspect that we’re tasked to protect something in the canyons from something far more dangerous than the mystical world…man.”

    Jirra nodded. “I know one thing…I need to get up to the canyon this week.”

    “Well, Dan’s supposed to be here soon, you can ask him,” said Alexis.

    “I definitely plan on it,” she replied. “I know that there’s something up there…I mean I feel so sure about it….if I close my eyes I can almost picture where to go.”

    “What do you think it is?” asked Jen.

    Jirra shrugged her shoulders. “I haven’t got a clue!”

    Jen laughed. “Well, you can count on me.”

“When does Hallie arrive?” asked Jirra.

    “I think today,” said Jen.

    Jirra sighed. “It’s all coming together.”

Chapter 18

    Dan’s jeep arrived just before lunch. Liz was standing in the doorway of her office and smiled as the sun tanned man stepped out of the jeep and stretched. She then walked over to him and gave him a hug.

    “Be careful, I haven’t showered all week,” he said.

    “I remember what life was like in the field,” she replied. “I’m just so glad to see you.”

    Jirra watched her mom and Dan kiss. She waited before walking over.

    “Hi Jirra,” said Dan.

    “Hi,” she replied. “It’s good to see you.”

    She also gave him a hug.

    “Be careful, I don’t want to get you dirty,” said Dan.

    “Like mother like child,” said Liz with a smile.

    “I don’t look at it as dirt…rather it’s history,” said Jirra with a grin.

    Dan laughed. “I’ll have to tell my crew that when they complain about the lack of showers at the site.”

    “Is Barrett coming down?” asked Jirra as she looked around.

    “No, he’s staying up at site. We’ve had some more visitors and he wants to make sure nothing happens,” explained Dan as they walked towards his cottage.

    “What do you mean?” asked Liz.

     “We’ve found fresh footprints near the canyon,” he replied.

    “Maybe it’s the movie crew,” said Liz.

    Dan shook his head. “No, they’ve been really good about obeying our rules. Jen has also threatened to fire anyone who trespasses. No, this is a strange one. It’s like we’re being watched.”

    “You have security, right?” asked Jirra.

    Dan nodded. “They’ve found the prints, but haven’t seen the person leaving them. We do know it’s only one person as the boot prints are the same. Whoever it is, they’re very good. It’s forced us to take precautions like removing anything important as soon as possible.”

    “Under guard?” asked Jirra.

    Dan nodded. “Unfortunately the demand for Anasazi relics is very high among private collectors. A small intact piece of pottery could be worth thousands of dollars. Even pottery shards are worth hundreds of dollars. Some sites have been robbed at gunpoint. I doubt that will happen as we’re federally protected…but anything is possible.”

    “Can I still come up?” asked Jirra.

    They entered Dan’s cottage, which also doubled as his office.

    “Is that a smart thing to do, Roo? I mean it could be dangerous,” said Liz.

    Dan nodded. “It might be best to wait.”

    “Please…look, I have a strong connection to the canyon…in some ways I have more of a right to be there than anyone else,” she said. “And I have survived a few brushes with danger.”

    “Has she always been this stubborn?” asked Dan as he looked at Liz.

    Liz shrugged her shoulders. “Just like her mother. Okay, you can go if Dan says it’s okay, Roo.”

    Jirra stared at Dan. “Please… pretty please?”

    He sighed. “Why not? You’ve obviously perfected your big eyed puppy dog look.”

    Jirra hugged him. “Thank you!”

    “Uffff! You’re …welcome, Jirra,” he replied. “Now…can you let go so I am breathe!”

    Jirra stepped back and smiled. “Sorry about that. Well, I’ll leave you two alone…thanks again!”

Chapter 19

    “So he’s letting you go up to the canyon?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra nodded.

    “How long will you be there?”

    “A couple of days, why? Aren’t you coming along?”

    “Well, while you’re there, I can do that scene for Jen,” said Alexis. “It will be less of a distraction if I’m not there and if you do discover something, we won’t be that far away.”

    “That makes sense,” said Jirra barely holding in her disappointment. 

    “Hey, we can make up for it later,” said Alexis with a grin. “Jen did offer us the use of her cottage.”

    Jirra’s frown immediately disappeared. “I can’t wait.”

    There was a knock on the door and Jirra got up to see who it was.

    Jen was standing outside with another woman. Jirra immediately recognized her as Dr. Hallie Thorn Pappadimos.

    Hallie was wearing a green skirt, a white short sleeve blouse, and sandals. A silver labrys was hanging on a silver chain around her neck. Even though she spent months at a time working at an archeological site in Crete, her complexion was perfect, thanks to her Minoan heritage.

    “Look who I found,” announced Jen.

    “Good to see you again, Jirra,” said Hallie, as she greeted the others. “You too, Alexis.”

    “It’s good to see you again, Hallie,” said Jirra. “Please come on in.”

    Jen and Hallie stepped inside.

    “When did you get in?” asked Alexis.

    “Thirty minutes ago. My dad had a meeting in Santa Fe and won’t be here until later…if at all. The man doesn’t know how to take a vacation! I didn’t want to spend what little vacation I get in a city. Besides, Jen has been bragging about this place…I must admit that it exceeds even her descriptions.”

    They sat down in the living room.

    “How long will you be here?” asked Alexis.

    “A week or so, then I’m flying to Crete to work on the dig. Kim is already there with Annie our daughter,” said Hallie.

    “How old is she now?” asked Alexis.

    “Almost three and a real handful.” said Hallie. “They’re staying with Stefanos at his home near the site.”

    “Who’s that?” asked Jirra.

    Hallie smiled. “I’m sorry; he’s a very dear family friend…actually he’s closer than family. Have you ever been to Crete?”

    Jirra shook her head.

    “We should go some time,” said Alexis.

    “You’ll love it and I’d love to show you the dig,” said Hallie. “Anyway, Stefanos is an old family friend and is actually closer than some of my actual family.”

    “I’d really love that,” said Jirra. “I’ve looked at your site many times on your website. It looks fascinating.”

    “Speaking of fascinating, I hear you helped discover a pretty remarkable site here,” said Hallie.

    “I just followed some clues,” said Jirra. “It was just dumb luck.”

    Hallie smiled. “Don’t be so modest, a major part of being a successful archeologist is dumb luck. I’m very impressed what you did. I also heard you were the one who discovered the remains of Dr, Margate.”

    Jirra nodded. “I just stumbled across them. How do you know about him?”

    “His book was one of the reasons I studied archeology. I still have a very dog-eared copy of his book. Now, if I remember right, you’re a writer.”

    “I want to be,” said Jirra.

    “She already is,” corrected Alexis.

    “Damn right,” added Jen who then told Hallie about Jirra’s writing accomplishments.

    “Very impressive,” said Hallie with a smile.

    Jirra thanked her and then looked at Alexis and Jen. She then took a deep breath and decided to go for broke. Hallie, can I ask you something?”

    “Sure, Jirra, what is it?”

    “Do you feel something…like something has drawn you to this place?” asked Jirra.

    Hallie stared back as if she was in shock.

    Jirra bit down on her lower lip for a moment. “Judging by the look on your face I know the answer. Do you remember when we first met?’

    Hallie nodded. “Yes, it was at a party following the Oscars... I was rather pregnant with Annie at the time.”

    “It felt like we knew each other, didn’t it?”

    Hallie nodded again. “So you felt it too?”

    “I don’t know how to say this…it’s really strange…but I…I used to be a guy,” stated Jirra. “I was transformed here at the spa.”

    Hallie stared back. “What do you mean by transformed?”

    “I was in a mud bath and was struck by lightning. There was something about the mud that changed me into a girl,” said Jirra.

    “It’s all true,” said Alexis.

    “You mean she’s like you, Jen?” asked Hallie.

    Jen shook her head. “No, not exactly, but we share some common traits.”

    “This site was used by the Anasazi to change men into women. We don’t know the reason, but we think it was part of a fertility ceremony,” said Jirra.

    Hallie nodded. “That would make sense. I now know why I feel close to you Jirra. I underwent a similar experience. I was originally named Harry Thorn.”

    “How did it happen?” asked Jirra. It was so amazing to meet another person who had undergone a similar experience.

    Hallie laughed. “My change wasn’t as simple was a mud bath and some lightning. A rather zealous fellow grad student raped me with an ancient Minoan object that we were studying.”  She then explained how she had been transformed.

(For Hallie’s story read Purpose and Ambition)

    “My god…that explains your looks,” said Alexis. “I’ve always thought you looked Minoan.”

    “Actually you should have said ‘my goddesses.’ I was transformed by three Minoan deities,” said Hallie. “They molded my body like it was clay…”

    “What?” asked Jirra. “Maybe we do have a connection!”

    “You were transformed by a combination of lightning and the mud, right?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra nodded. “There are even petroglyphs in the canyon that show it.”

    “This cannot be chance,” said Hallie.

    “What do you mean?” asked Jen.

    “When the Minoan civilization was devastated by the volcanic eruption of Thera, some of the survivors scattered. They were a great seagoing race so it’s possible they eventually made it to the Americas. The Anasazi have long been considered different by the other Native Americans…it’s very possible that some of the Minoans had contact with them,” said Hallie.

    “Maybe that’s what you’re looking for, Jirra,” said Alexis.

    “What do you mean?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra told Hallie about her vision quest and premonitions.

    “What do you think? Do you think I’m crazy?”

    Hallie laughed. “No Jirra, I don’t. After what I’ve experienced in the past few years I’ve learned not to discount anything.”

    “Tell her the rest,” said Alexis.

    “My spirit guide alluded to danger around the site,” said Jirra. She then told Hallie what Dan had said.

    “I can confirm what Jirra has said,” added Jen. “There are just too many unexplained things going on around the canyon I’m using for the filming and the Anasazi canyon.”

    Hallie rubbed her chin. “I think I know what to do. Can I use your phone?”

    “Who are you calling?” asked Alexis.

    “Tessa Barnard, you remember her from the premier of the show this past spring, right?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra nodded and cast a glance at Alexis.

 “She’s sort of an expert in these types of things and she’s also part of the sisterhood. But you already suspected that didn’t you, Jirra?” asked Hallie.

    “My spirit guide sort of confirmed it,” confessed Jirra.

    “They must be more talkative than my goddesses,” said Hallie as she dialed the phone.

Chapter 20

    “She’ll be here as soon as she can,” said Hallie as she hung up the phone.

    “So what’s Tessa’s story?” asked Alexis.

    “I think she should tell you,” said Hallie. “But I will say that it’s even more amazing than mine.”

    “I can’t wait,” said Jirra.

    “Okay, so, what’s the plan?” asked Jen.

    “Well, I think that Jirra and I should check out the canyon. Do you think Dr. Montgomery will mind another visitor?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra shook her head. “He has your book and I know he’d love for you to see the site. He knows about my change…but no one else at the site does…well not yet anyway.”

    “I’ll remember that,” said Hallie. “Anyway, Jen you said that Alexis is going with you to the movie set?”

    “That’s right,” said Jen. “After we do a few shots here at the spa first.”

    “Tessa will be arriving tomorrow. Jen, do you think you can arrange for her to have some credentials to be on the set?” asked Hallie.

    “Sure, that won’t be a problem,” said Jen. “If even a tiny fraction of what I’ve heard about her is true I’ll feel a whole lot more comfortable about this.”

    “So just what have you been up to Jen?” asked Alexis.

    Jen smiled then shook her head. “All I’ll say is that I’ve developed a lot of connections since my transformation. I do have worldwide business interests you know.”

    “Good, she’ll check out the area and see what she can learn about our visitor,” said Hallie.

    “Dan said that the guy is very stealthy,” said Jirra. “She might know how to find him.”

    “I doubt if he’s a match for Tessa,” said Hallie. “Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting hungry.”

    Jirra looked at her watch. “We can grab a light lunch.”

    “I need more than that,” said Hallie.

    Jirra shook her head. “You don’t understand. There’s going to be a steer roast this afternoon and trust me you want to come hungry.”

Chapter 21

    Jirra, Alexis, Hallie, and Jen headed to the steer roast together.

    “I hope they start serving soon…the aroma of that beef cooking has been driving me wild,” said Hallie.

    “I know what you mean,” said Jirra.

They sat down at the picnic table where Liz and Dan were sitting.

    Jirra introduced Hallie to Dan.

    “I’ve read your book on Crete, very exciting discoveries. It’s a real honor to meet you,” he greeted.

    “The feeling is mutual,” replied Hallie. “I’ve read your papers on this site; quite remarkable to locate a totally new Anasazi site.”

    “Actually there are probably dozens, if not more, undiscovered sites…and to be honest, I didn’t discover it, Jirra did,” he replied.

    “I just found the canyon, you did the hard work,” said Jirra.

    “Well, what’s important is the site is being studied and protected,” interjected Hallie.

    “Good point. Now, I have one question, Jirra told me that your father is the movie producer Richard Thorn… yet you use the last name Pappadimos, are you also related to Alex & Carla Pappadimos?” he asked.

    “It’s rather complicated so I’ll give you the short version. My mother was Alex’s niece.  My dad met her when he was filming on Crete and they fell instantly in love. She died when I was born and my dad realized that he wasn’t the best person to raise a baby. So I grew up with Alex and Carla in Columbus Ohio. I took their name to honor them as they passed on their love of the past to me. I take it you know them?”

    “Only professionally, although I did take a course one summer under Alex, he’s a remarkable man,” replied Dan. “It’s a small world.”

    Before the two archeologists got too much into talking shop, Liz interrupted them.

    “While you two are becoming acquainted, we’ll go over and grab some of the appetizers,” she said. “What can we get you two to drink?”

    Hallie looked over at the serving area. “Is that sangria?”

    Liz nodded. “It’s Hannah’s own recipe and it’s excellent, would you like some?”

    “Yes, please,” replied Hallie.

    Liz nodded and looked at Dan. “And the usual for you?”

    Dan smiled “That would be great.”

    “What’s the usual?” asked Jirra.

    “Dos Equis Amber,” replied Liz as they headed to the appetizers.

    They ran into Tara and Cari as they reached the line.

    “We have a table if you want to join us,” said Jirra.

    “We’d like that,” said Cari.

    “How did all of you get out of helping Hannah?” asked Jen.

    “We have an arrangement, she doesn’t interfere with our jobs and we don’t aggravate her by offering to help,” replied Tara with a smile.

    Tara nodded. “When Hannah is producing this sort of feast, she gets rather…how do I put this…”

    “Easily agitated?” asked Jirra.

    “That’s a polite way of putting it,” said Cari. “Jen, when the spa first opened we all helped, but now that we’ve gotten bigger Hannah has a much larger staff. She likes to do things her way and she has trained them to her standards… considering the results who can argue with her.”

    “Even Cody knows to stay out of her way,” added Tara with a grin.

    Jen laughed. “I can relate to that. Believe it or not, I have been accused of being over demanding at times.”

    Alexis’s eyes opened wide. “Just a little?” 

    Jen just smiled back. “Anyway, I hope she finds some time to relax and join us.”

    “I know she’ll try,” said Liz.

    They walked over to the tables that had the appetizers. There were fresh home-made tortilla chips, guacamole, and a variety of salsas, including mild, medium, and hot. There was also a fruit salsa made up of pineapple, sweet red peppers, sweet onion, and a small amount of jalapeno, cilantro, and also lime juice.

    “I love how Hannah has all the ingredients listed for each item,” said Alexis.

    “We have to do that for the dietary considerations of the guests,” said Liz.

    Hannah walked over and smiled. “Sorry I haven’t stopped by sooner, but you know how I get during these things.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Tara with an innocent look on her face. “Just because we include you on the list we give the guests of animals to avoid?”

    Hannah pretended to pick up a bowl of salsa and throw it at her.

    “Seriously, I’ll try to come over after we get the meal served,” said Hannah as she set the bowl down, and then repositioned it slightly.  She then looked over where they were preparing the beef and gritted her teeth. “Excuse me.”

    They watched her walk swiftly over towards the roasting steer to correct what was being done wrong.

    “She’s definitely a perfectionist,” said Jen. “She should learn to relax and trust her staff…like I do.”

    Alexis almost dropped her plate. “Okay, now you have got to be kidding!”

    Jen just turned around and smiled. “Gotcha!”

Chapter 22

    They carried over enough of the appetizers for the whole table and sat down. Liz and Dan were drinking beer and the rest had sangria. Jen had one glass of sangria then stayed with water since she was still having some problems with the heat.

    “This is all locally prepared?” asked Hallie as she ate.

    Tara nodded. “Hannah tries to make the menu at spa both seasonal and regional. This way the spa is respectful to the people who have lived and cooked in this area for generations. We have a great mixture of Native-American, Mexican, and western cultures to select from. She does make some concessions for some ingredients...like the pineapple in the fruit salsa.”

    “It also makes the local farmers happy as we now buy a lot of their produce,” added Cari.

    “Don’t forget the ranchers, they love Judy now,” said Tara. “The steer for this party came from a nearby ranch.”

    “That’s wonderful,” said Hallie. “When I’m over in Crete we buy almost everything at the local markets. It’s also a great way to improve on my Greek.”

    “Liz has helped on the spa menus too,” added Cari.

    “I wouldn’t go that far; I’ve just made some suggestions concerning health and diet, but Hannah is usually one step ahead of me. I do let her know when we get a guest with dietary concerns like allergies,” explained Liz. “Trust me, the last thing I want to do is treat some one for an allergic reaction.”

    “Well, it’s all wonderful,” said Hallie. “Thank you so much for making me feel at home.”

    “It’s a pleasure to have you here,” said Liz.

    A member of the serving staff stopped by the table and set down copies of the menu. Other members of the staff began to place sauces, condiments, and baskets of bread on the tables.

    Hallie picked up one of menus and began to read it. The main meal was of course the roasted beef, with three choices of sauces, including Chile Colorado, which was a red chile sauce, Chile Verde, a green chili sauce, and traditional barbecue sauce.

    Hallie asked about the sauces and Tara described each one.

    “The BBQ sauce is very special. It’s from Judy’s family and it’s excellent,” said Tara. “I keep telling her she should sell it.”

    “Maybe I can get her to bottle some up so I can take some back to Columbus for the football season,” said Hallie as she continued to read the menu. “I’d ask her for the recipe, but I know how protective some people are about their family recipes.”

    In addition to the beef, there was roasted chicken for those who didn’t like beef.

    As with the appetizers, the menu had all the ingredients listed for each item so the guests would know what was in each one.

    There were two salads. The first was a chilled gazpacho salad. It contained chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, green peppers, lime juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and olive oil. The other salad was a grapefruit and orange salad.

    “The citrus salad lists mint as an ingredient, is it fresh?” asked Hallie.

    Cari nodded. “Hannah has a great herb garden. She’s even having Judy build her a green house so she can grow things year-round.”

    “Judy must really want to keep her,” said Hallie.

    “Since she’s been here, at least ten restaurants have tried to poach her from the spa,” said Tara.

    Hallie went back to reading the menu.

    For side dishes there were Southwest pinto beans, roast vegetables with goat cheese, and corn on the cob.

    The Southwest pinto beans were listed as vegetarian and were served with sour cream & lime wedges.

    “The pinto recipe is one that I passed onto Hannah. It was one my grandmother taught me, although I must admit that Hannah has made some great modifications,” explained Tara. “The pintos are soaked and then stewed with sautéed onion & garlic, green chili peppers, tomato puree, cumin, oregano, salt, black pepper, cayenne, coffee, and brown sugar.”

     “They sound delicious,” said Hallie. She then pointed to the vegetables. “Um, can I get the vegetables without the goat cheese?”

    “I would think you would love goat cheese, Hallie,” said Dan. “I mean, it’s a staple in Crete, right?”

    Hallie nodded. “It is, but…I sort of have a bad experience with goats. I have sworn off goat cheese.”

    Jirra made a note to ask Hallie about that later, as she suspected it was probably a very interesting story.

    They’re conversation was interrupted by the ringing of a dinner triangle being rung by Hannah.

    “Okay, for those of you who are new to this, it’s pretty simple, come on up and fill your plate. If you want more, come on back! Just keep in mind there will be dessert and my staff has prepared some very tasty treats,” announced Hannah. “So in the words of the old west…come and get it!”

Chapter 23

    Throughout the meal, Hannah’s serving staff made sure that the baskets were kept filled with fresh tortillas and cornbread. They also ensured that there was enough butter at each table.

    Jirra let out a contented sigh as she took a bite of a piece of cornbread that was covered in green chili butter.

    “This is one thing you can’t get back east,” she stated.

    Hannah worked her way around the tables, both greeting the guests and at the same time ensuring everything was okay.

    “How is everything?” she asked.

    “Hannah, it’s wonderful as always,” said Jirra.

    The others all agreed.

    Jirra introduced Hallie to Hannah.

    “I’d love to trade some recipes with you. I have some great ones from Crete,” said Hallie.

    Hannah’s eyes lit up. “That sounds like a good deal, I love Mediterranean food.”

    “Great,” replied Hallie. “By the way, this barbecue sauce is wonderful.”

    “Thank you. Oh, Dan, I sent a load of food up to the dig,” said Hannah. “They’ll have to reheat it, but it still better than the MREs that they eat.”

    Dan laughed. “They’ll definitely appreciate that, thank you. Although they actually like some of the military meals.” 

    Hannah rolled her eyes. “I don’t understand why,” she replied. She then looked out at the guests and staff as they ate. “It is very satisfying to see that everyone is enjoying the meal so much.”

    “Anyone who doesn’t like this meal is crazy,” said Jirra. “This meal by itself was worth the drive cross country.”

    “Thank you very much Jirra,” said Hannah.

    “Hannah, can you duplicate this meal for my crew?” asked Jen. “We’ll be wrapping up filming soon and I’d like to throw them a nice meal as a way of wrapping up the shoot. Oh, is it possible to have some of that wonderful chocolate dessert that Lindsey made the first time I was here at the wrap party? ”

    Hannah nodded. “That can be arranged. Just give me the numbers and the date of the meal. And if Lindsay is back from Boston by the time you have your party I’m sure that she’d want to make it again just for you, Jen.”

    “I will,” said Jen.

    Hannah looked at her watch. “Excuse me; I need to make sure that the dessert is ready to go. It was nice meeting you Hallie. I hope we can talk later.”

Chapter 24

    Hannah rang the triangle again to get everyone’s attention.

    “Now for dessert…assuming you left some room, we have several choices. First there is fresh made Margarita ice cream. Next we have homemade cinnamon oatmeal cookies, and last we have Mexican chocolate-pinon brownies. These are a local treat. The pinons are like pine nuts and they come from our state tree, the single-leaf pinon. We also have fresh watermelon. So please come on up.”

    The ice cream was served in small waxed paper cups, which made serving much easier.

    As the guests and staff filed through the line, Cody and some of his staff lit the fire in the large stone circle that the tables surrounded. Several local musicians came out and began to play.

    “This is wonderful,” said Hallie. “Thank you so much for including me.”

    “You’re welcome, Hallie,” said Liz.

    “You’re part of the family now,” said Jirra.

    “Thank you. My dad is going to be bummed that he missed this,” she replied. She then turned to Dan. “So, when you head back up to the dig, can I join you?”

    Dan nodded vigorously. “I would be honored. We’re going back tomorrow; you and Jirra can share a tent together. I’m sorry but we don’t have great accommodations at the site.”

    Hallie smiled back. “That sounds great and don’t forget that I’ve spent many summers roughing it.”

    “Are you sure that you don’t want to come along, Alexis?” asked Dan.

    Alexis shook her head. “No, Jen has plans for me.”

    He looked confused.

    “She wants to give me a small role in the movie,” explained Alexis.

    Jirra then saw Judy walking towards them. She was with a tall distinguished looking man.

    The man looked to be in his late forties, as his black hair was starting to have a touch of gray. He was tall; almost six-two thin, but appeared to be in excellent shape. He had a well groomed moustache that sort of gave him the appearance of an old western gunslinger.

    “Hi everyone, are you having a good time?” asked Judy. “This is my friend Morgan Browning.”

    A round of introductions was made

    “I’m sorry that we can’t stay and talk longer, but Morgan has to head to Santa Fe for a morning meeting,” apologized Judy.

    They then walked away.

    Jirra cast a glance at Jen who subtly shook her head as if to say I know what you mean, but this isn’t the time or place to bring it up.

Chapter 25

    Alexis, Jirra, Jen, and Hallie sat out on the deck drinking coffee and enjoying a pleasant evening.

    “That was a wonderful feast. When you two come to Crete I will ensure you’ll get one in return,” said Hallie. “Stefanos can roast a lamb so that the meat is so tender; it virtually melts in your mouth.”

    “That sounds delicious,” said Jirra. “So, please tell me something…what’s the story with goat cheese?”

    Hallie laughed. “My goddesses are rather protective of the site and when some men came and threatened to kill me…they were turned into female goats. They were rounded up by a local goat header. He milks them and makes cheese, which he gives us as a gift.”

    Jirra looked at Alexis and then back at Hallie. “Okay, that’s a good reason to not eat goat cheese.”

    She was also amazed how casually Hallie mentioned that she had almost been killed.

    “Oh, have you heard back from Tessa?” asked Alexis.

    Hallie nodded. “She had a different idea and instead of working for Jen, she’s just going to come here as a guest. She’s supposed to be here in a few days, so when you see her pretend that you don’t know her.”

    “Does she think that it’s that serious?” asked Jirra.

    “She has a sense for these sorts of things,” said Hallie. “Oh, she said that I can tell you about her… since we’re sort of related now.”

    Jen sat up. “Please, I’ve been wondering about her.”

    “As you suspected, Jirra, Tessa was also once a man. In fact she was a retired US Navy SEAL. As a man, he was betrayed and murdered while working with a team that had excavated a temple to the Goddess Athena. It was Athena who picked her to seek revenge,” said Hallie, who then went on to tell them about Tessa.

    (For the entire story read Revenge of the Goddesses: Athena’s Assassin)

    “By the way, Tessa had the same sort of feeling about you that you had about her,” said Hallie.

    “This isn’t chance. I mean our coming together,” said Jen seriously.

    “I was thinking the same way,” said Jirra.

    “I was about to say the same thing,” added Hallie.

    “I think you all should form some sort of organization or group,” said Alexis.

    “What… like the Justice League?” asked Jirra.

    “I think the X-men would be more appropriate,” said Jen with a grin.

    Alexis rolled her eyes. “Seriously, when this is cleared up, you need to sit down and talk about this.”

    “That might not be a bad idea,” said Jen.

    “Well, let’s solve one mystery first,” said Jirra as she stretched and yawned. “It’s getting late and we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”

    “I agree,” said Hallie. “But, I also think that Alexis’s idea is something we need to consider.”

Chapter 26

    Hallie ate breakfast with Jirra the next morning.  She was dressed in shorts and a gray T-shirt that said “Property of The Ohio State University Athletic Department” on it.

    “Where’s Alexis?” asked Hallie.

    “She left an hour ago with Jen,” replied Jirra as she poured some honey into her tea.

    “I take it you two are really close,” said Hallie.

    “We plan on getting married,” said Jirra.

    Hallie nodded as she took a bite of her omelet.

    “I have a question for you, Hallie, what’s your status…I mean legally?” asked Jirra.

    “Legally and for all other purposes I am a woman. My goddesses took care of that,” said Hallie.

    Jirra let out a sigh. “I wish that would happen to me. I have to pretend that I’m transgendered. It makes life rather difficult as I’m completely female…if you know what I mean.”

    “So, that means you can get pregnant?”

    “So, I’ve been told…and it scares me,” replied Jirra.

    “Having a child is a wonderful experience, Jirra,” said Hallie. “I love my daughter.”

    “It’s not that. How do I explain that I’m pregnant? I mean they’ve done wonders with SRS, but so far they haven’t included reproduction. If I get pregnant…I’m scared what will happen to me.”

    “Do you want to get pregnant?”

    Jirra nodded. “I get…urges…when I see a baby or a pregnant woman. Alexis knows this and we’ve talked about it and how we will handle it. I just wish I could be like you or Tessa or…um, never mind.”

    Hallie stared back. “So do you know someone else…someone like us?”

    Jirra looked around before replying to make sure that no one else in the dining room was listening. “Yes…she was changed by…science.”

    “What do you mean… and don’t worry, I won’t ask for her name or anything like that.”

    “She was changed by a DNA process. It’s a long story but the government gave her a new identity.”

    Hallie nodded. “I always suspected that would be possible some day. Do you think she would be willing to meet with me some day?”

    “I’m sure of it…but I would have to ask her,” replied Jirra. “She’s a great friend…one of my best friends.”

    “You can never have enough of those,” said Hallie. “So our sisterhood continues to grow.”

    Jirra glanced around again. “There might be another. I’ve never met her…but my friend has hinted about it.”

    “Any idea what caused her change?” asked Hallie in a near whisper.

    “I have no idea, but anything is possible. Maybe it’s magic?”

Chapter 27

    Hallie and Jirra sat in the open jeep as it made its way along the trail to the camp. Dan was driving. It was packed full of food and water.

    “How many people are at the site right now?” asked Hallie who was now wearing a well broken in boonie hat.

    “Only a few right now. We’re limited due to water and food,” he replied. “We have two grad students, Barrett and Jimmy, along with two security guards.”

    “Barrett is one of the grad students, he’s an old friend,” said Jirra.

    “Barrett’s a real hard worker. The other one is new this year. His name is Jimmy Vasquez, nice kid,” said Dan. “They’ll be taking the jeep back tomorrow for a few days off.”

    “What about the security?” asked Hallie.

    “They’re contracted out by the federal government. They stay up here for two weeks at a time and then shift. For the most part they keep to themselves and don’t seem all that interested in the dig. The good thing is that they keep away the lookyloos and the thieves.”

    “But you still have someone or somebodies stalking the site, right?”

    “That’s right,” replied Dan. “As you know, the market for artifacts is huge right now. The thing is that we haven’t found a lot of relics here. We suspect that it’s because this site wasn’t occupied year-round. Oh, we’ve found potshards and things like that, but nothing major.”

    “So why do you think it’s so important?” asked Hallie as she glanced at Jirra.

    Dan hesitated. “Um, we’ve found some rather interesting petroglyphs….among other things.”

    “Dan, you obviously know what I’ve helped uncover in Crete, right?”

    Without looking over he nodded. “Yes, I’ve read the journals. I’m very impressed with your accomplishments.”

    “You must be shocked that someone as young as I am was able to not only decipher one Minoan language but to discover a totally new one, right?”

    He looked over and smiled. “To be honest…yes. But I’m also very happy for you as it’s every archeologist’s dream,” he replied.

    Hallie turned and nodded at Jirra, who was in the back seat.

    “Dan…you might want to stop the jeep,” said Hallie.

    “What do you mean?” asked Dan.

    “Dan, I think you should do as she asks,” added Jirra.

    Dan stopped the jeep and put it in park.

    “Okay, what’s up?”

    “First off, I know about Jirra,” admitted Hallie.

    Dan turned around and looked at Jirra, and then he turned back to Hallie.

    “Well, she must trust you then to share such an important secret with you,” he replied.

    “I also told her about the things we’ve found at the site,” added Jirra.

    He just nodded.

“Dan, the reason Jirra told me was that in many ways we are very similar. I was also transformed into a woman, but my transformation was done by Minoan deities. They also gave me knowledge into their society and culture.”

    Dan stared at Hallie and then he turned and looked at Jirra.

    “She’s telling the truth, Dan,” said Jirra.

    “You must admit that I bear a rather striking resemblance to the Minoans,” said Hallie. She then pulled a silver chain out from around her neck. It held a small double-sided ax. “I wear the labrys to honor my connection to the Minoans.”

    Dan just stared back in shock.

    “It’s okay to shocked Dan,” said Hallie. “I just wanted to be honest with you and you can ask me anything you want.”

    He took off his hat and wiped his brow. “Okay, I do have a few…thousand questions…but the first one is…why are you here? There must be more to it than just your connection with Jirra.”

    “I suppose the best answer is that I was drawn here,” explained Hallie. “I don’t know exactly why, but something is going to happen…something big.”

    Dan nodded as he rubbed his chin. “Well… I guess that means one thing.”

    “What’s that?” asked Jirra.

    “It means we need to get up to site and figure it out,” he replied with a laugh. “Look, I’m not taking what you’re saying lightly…in fact it only confirms some of my own beliefs, rather it just makes me even more eager to uncover the mysteries that exist up here.”

    “Dan, if I’m right, we may not be able to publicize all discoveries up here,” said Hallie. “Many of the things I’ve uncovered in Crete will never be made public.”

    “I’ve always suspected that, Hallie. When we found Dr. Margate’s remains I suspected that he had uncovered something remarkable…something so amazing that he knew that it must remain both hidden and protected.”

    “Cool,” stated Hallie. “I knew we’d get along the moment I met you.”

    “I think we’re going to get along famously, Hallie…even if our fame is kept secret!” he replied as he put the jeep in gear.

Chapter 28

    As they drove towards the site, Hallie told Dan about her transformation and the site back in Crete.

    “I might have to make a trip there some day,” said Dan. “Just seeing the bath would be worth the trip.”

    “And it still fills with hot water?” asked Jirra.

    Hallie nodded. “One of the benefits of being in charge of the site is that I get to use it occasionally.”

    “I’m impressed that the Greek government has bestowed such an honor on you. They’ve been burned so many times by outsiders over the years,” said Dan.

    “Well, Stefanos has had a lot to do with that. He has a lot of connections with the Ministry of Culture and I’ve become good friends with the director, Dr. Peter Roussos,” said Hallie.

    “Yes, I read how he officially designated the new language you discovered Linear H in your honor.”

    “It was very nice of him,” said Hallie modestly. “He also had a deal with Ohio State to allow them to set up an academic program, which is part of the reason that I was awarded my position. So, Jirra told me that this site now belongs to the Federal Government.”

    “Yes, it was deal that Judy made to trade the canyon for some other land. We also worked out a deal and it gave my school, The University of New Mexico, the exclusive rights for excavation. The good thing is that there are other sites that are more impressive than this one so no one has challenged us.”

    “What about the Native Americans?” asked Hallie. “I know that they have protested digs at others sites, considering how their heritage has been abused I really can’t blame them for being upset.”

    “We’ve had no problems with them; in fact they’ve given us their blessings. Part of it is that they don’t consider this particular site part of their culture, in fact they seem to stay away from it,” he explained. “We haven’t found a single sign that any of the native tribes have ever used the canyon, which is rather strange.”

    “Why? Do they think it’s cursed?” asked Hallie.

    Dan shrugged his shoulders. “I wouldn’t exactly put it that way, let’s just say that it’s a place they want nothing to do with.”

    “Are people still having strange dreams?” asked Jirra.

    “Not at our camp site. Although some of the new grad students will sometimes want to sleep in the canyon. They only do that once,” said Dan. “Actually they’re not dreams…they’re rather frightening nightmares.”

    “Oooh, tell me about them,” asked Hallie excitedly.

    “They’re sort hard to describe, but everyone who has had one has had the same impression that we’re welcome to study the site, but we’re not allowed to sleep in the canyon,” said Dan.

    “Sounds like a security system. It’s probably why the native people around here want nothing to do with the canyon,” said Hallie.

    Dan nodded. “That’s my theory too.”

    Jirra pointed ahead. “There it is!”

Chapter 29

    They were met at the site by one of the security officers. His name was Mark and he was dressed in desert fatigues. Jirra immediately noticed the holster with the automatic pistol in it.

    “The others are in the canyon, do you want me to call them, Dr. Montgomery?” asked Mark.

    Dan shook his head. “That won’t be necessary. We can unload the jeep ourselves.”

    “I’ll give you a hand,” said Mark.

    It only took them twenty minutes to unload the supplies.

    Mark noticed the stone kangaroo charm that Jirra wore around her neck.

    “Now I know who you are! You’re the one the camp was named for!” he exclaimed.

    Jirra nodded.

    “What does he mean?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra pointed to the sign that showed a kangaroo drinking coffee. It hung over the entrance to the mess tent. “My name means Kangaroo and I met Barrett when he was working in his family’s coffee house.”

    “That’s so cool,” said Hallie.

    A stocky man stepped out of one of the tents. He had dark suntanned skin from working in the outdoors. He looked over at the new arrivals and rubbed his goatee.

    “Hey, look who finally made it here!” shouted Barrett Chisholm as he put on his ball cap.

    “Barrett!” exclaimed Jirra as she ran towards him.

    He easily scooped her up and gave her a big hug.

    “How’s my favorite Ivy Leaguer doing?” he asked as he put her down.

    “Great thanks,” said Jirra. “I have a T-shirt for you.”

    “Cool,” he replied. “So who’s your friend?”

    “Barrett, this is Dr. Hallie Pappadimos,” said Jirra.

    “Not ‘The Dr. Pappadimos’…who translated those Minoan languages?” he asked.

    “I don’t see my self as ‘The Dr. Pappadimos’…just the latest in a long and distinguished line,” replied Hallie as she extended her hand. “And please call me Hallie, Barrett.”

    “I’m honored to meet you, Doctor…I mean Hallie. I read all about your discoveries in Crete,” said Barrett.

    Dan walked up and shook hands with Barrett.

    “How’s everything Barrett?” asked Dan.

    “Well, dinner was appreciated yesterday,” he replied. “It was a nice change from MREs and canned food. The bad news is that we didn’t leave any for you.”

    Dan laughed. “Make sure you tell Hannah that when you get back to the spa. Anything new to report concerning the dig?”

    “We found a few new potshards and our visitor has been around,” said Barrett.

    “I was going to tell you that, Dr. Montgomery,” interjected Mark.

    “We found more boot tracks that headed off towards that the mesa to the right; Jimmy and Victor went to go take a look around there,” said Barrett.

    “Who’s Victor?” asked Jirra. She had heard Dan talk about Jimmy Vasquez the other grad student who was working at the site.

    “He’s my partner and he should know better than to go off like that,” said Mark, barely holding in his irritation. “Don’t worry; I’ll have a talk with him, Dr. Montgomery.”

    “I’m not upset, Mark. You know that I leave the security matters to you,” said Dan.

    “Our job is to be visible here and at the canyon, not off tracking down phantoms,” continued Mark. “I’ll make sure he knows that.”

    “It’s okay, Mark. I know it must be frustrating for you guys to just stay at the site,” said Dan.

    “I just get the feeling that our visitor is studying us and I would like to know why,” said Mark.

Chapter 30

    Forty minutes later Victor and Jimmy arrived at the campsite. Hallie was talking to Barrett and Jirra when she saw Jimmy.

    Jirra noticed how the expression on Hallie’s face changed. It almost as if Hallie knew the young man entering camp with the other security guard.

    “Is that Jimmy?” asked Jirra.

    Barrett nodded. “Yep. Hey did you get lost?”

    Jimmy shook his head. “We found more prints, but nothing else.”

    He was of light build and average height, with short brown hair, in all very average looking. Jirra estimated he was in his early twenties.

    Barrett introduced Jimmy to Jirra and Hallie.

    Jirra was a little surprised when it appeared that Jimmy had no idea who Hallie was. Barrett chided him for not knowing one of the top archeologists in the country.

    “Dude, you need to actually read some of those notices and articles that the Doc gives us,” stated Barrett.

    “I’m sorry, but I tend to get a bit of tunnel-vision in my studies,” said Jimmy.

    “It’s okay,” said Hallie.

    After Barrett and Jimmy left to meet with Dan, Jirra turned to Hallie.

    “Okay, what just happened? I saw the look on your face when Jimmy came into the camp, yet he obviously didn’t know you,” said Jirra.

    Hallie let out a sigh. “I now know part of the reason why I’m here. I’ll tell you later when we’re alone.”

Chapter 31

    Over at the production trailer at the spa, Jen was talking to Alexis about the role she wanted her friend to play.

    “You’ve got to be kidding?” asked Alexis as she read the script.

    “Hey, it’s just like you asked for…a small role without dialog,” said Jen, barely holding in her amusement.

    Alexis laughed in spite of herself. “Okay, I’ll do it.”  Alexis started laughing again.

    “What’s so funny?”

    “I was just remembering the look on your face when that car drenched you from the mud puddle in the un-credited scene you did for me on Erin Flynn. Designer dress… three thousand dollars, Hair and makeup … five hundred dollars, the look on your face… absolutely priceless!” Alexis was holding her sides as her laughter subsided.

    “Yea, that scene was the talk of the water cooler crowd the day after that episode aired.  I gotta admit that I had fun doing it too.” Jen wiped away a tear or two since she was also laughing.

    “I think I’m getting a better deal in this one though.”

    “Well, just remember that I owe you another one.”

    “I know that the writers can find something for you, Jen.”

    “I can’t wait. Anyway, I figured that this was a role that any actor or actress could pull off from heart,” said Jen.

    “I have to admit that you’re right about that. Okay, where do you want me?”

    “Just head over to wardrobe and they’ll send you over when we’re ready,” said Jen.

    “You’re lucky I really like animals,” replied Alexis.

Chapter 32

    Meanwhile back at the spa a young woman with dark red hair checked in at the front desk.

    “I’m so grateful you were able to slip me in. My husband is at a conference in Santa Fe and I so wanted to spend some time at a spa,” she stated to the woman working the front desk. She noticed the woman’s name tag. “I really appreciate this Sally.”

    “Well, we’re usually booked full this time of year but we had a cancellation,” replied Sally. “I’m just glad you’re so flexible about the room.”

    “I don’t mind a single as I don’t plan on spending much time in it. I’ll be spending most of my time outside,” replied the woman. “I’m really interested in seeing some of the wildlife. I’m from Boston and the wildest thing we have there are pigeons.”

    “I’ll have some maps dropped off at your room along with a copy of our own nature guide,” said Sally.

    “That would be great.”

    “We do ask that you register before you head out…we’ve had a few people get lost out there. Oh, there are two areas off limits,” said Sally. “They’ll be clearly marked on the maps. One is a movie shoot and the other is an archeological area.”

    “A movie shoot? Anyone famous?” asked the woman curiously.

    Sally leaned over. “Have you heard of Jennifer Stevens?”

    “Wow! Really, she’s here?” asked the woman, barely holding back her star stuck excitement. “I absolutely love her movies!”

    Sally nodded. “She’s usually out with the crew all week, but if you stick around to the weekend you’re bound to see her.”

    “Thanks for the info.”

    “Okay, Mrs. Barnard, here’s your key and a map to your room,” said Sally. “By the way, I love your first name…it’s so exotic.”

    “Thank you again,” replied Tessa Phoenix Barnard.

Chapter 33

    “How did it go?” asked Jonathan Barnard. He was calling from their home on Cape Cod.

    “Perfect, I’m sure they all think I’m some housewife from back east,” replied Tessa. “I’m just glad they didn’t look in my bags. It would be hard to explain some of the things I brought along.”

    “Do you think it’s that serious?”

    “Hallie wouldn’t have asked me if it wasn’t,” she replied.

    “That’s true,” he said. “What about the other girl…what’s her name again?”

    “Jirra, Jirra Reid,” replied Tessa. “When we met back in Philly last spring I had a strange feeling about her. I don’t know what it is, but I suspect she might be like Hallie and I.”

    “Well, you just be careful,” he said.

    “I will. I wish you could be here with me,” she replied.

    “I feel the same way, but we’ll go there together some day,” replied Jonathan.

    “How’s Lisa?” asked Tessa.

    “She’s sleeping,” replied Jonathan. “We spent the morning out at the beach. She really loves the ocean.”

    “I would certainly hope so,” said Tessa.

    “Yes, she definitely takes after her mother,” said Jonathan.

    Tessa laughed. “Well don’t spoil her too much. I love both of you so much.”

    “I love you too, Tessa.”

Chapter 34

    “How far away from this site was the closest Anasazi settlement?” asked Hallie as they walked along the trail that led into the canyon.

    “We estimate at least three days away. When you’re dealing with this sort of terrain actual distances aren’t that important,” said Dan.

    Hallie nodded. “And how many settlements did this site serve?”

    “We’ve found potshards that we’ve traced to four fulltime sites,” replied Dan. “We also have several that we haven’t been able to identify yet.”

    “Have you found any outposts nearby?” asked Hallie.

    “No, and that’s surprised me. Most of the fulltime settlements have observation posts nearby. We have conducted a search of the most logical positions and have found nothing. There’s a structure in the canyon that we’ve named the barracks as it seems to have been used by guards, but again it appears to be have only been occupied when the ceremonies were being conducted.”

    They continued to walk towards the canyon.

    “When do you think that the canyon was used?” asked Hallie.

    “Well, Jirra has told me that it occurred in late spring or early summer, which makes sense as there would have been enough water for the mud and thunderstorms would have also occurred,” he replied. “But we don’t have any physical proof.”

    “Jirra, you know this from your vision quests?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra nodded. “I know it sounds strange and not exactly scientific.”

    “No it doesn’t sound strange,” replied Hallie. “I fully believe that the mystical beings have the ability to bend time. In some ways, your spirit guide isn’t that different than my goddesses.”

    “So does that mean you’ve been in the past too?” asked Dan.

    “Several times,” replied Hallie. “I’ve been blessed to be shown the Minoan society at its peak, which was incredible…and when it ended…which was horrible.”

    “I hope we eventually reach a time when we can talk openly about these sorts of things,” said Dan. “Okay, we’re just a short distance away from the canyon’s back entrance. “

    “There’s Victor,” said Hallie as she waved.

    The security guard was sitting under a tarp that had been positioned to give him shade. He had a camping chair, a cooler, and a two-way radio.

    “How’s it going Victor?” asked Dan.

    “Quiet,” he said as he looked up from his book. “I thought I saw something over that way this morning, like the sun reflecting off a pair of binoculars.” He pointed off to his left to a nearby mesa.

    Jirra looked in the direction and could only see hills and scrub brush. “Is that where the tracks were heading that you and Jimmy followed yesterday?”

    Victor nodded.

    “Looks like a great place to hide,” said Hallie.

    Victor nodded. “Too big of an area for us to search with only two people. You know, Doc this doesn’t make sense. I mean, why stake out a site that doesn’t have a lot of artifacts? I grew up two hours from here and there are lots of sites that aren’t guarded. Heck I used to find stuff as a kid that was bigger than what you’ve found…no offense. Does he know something we don’t?”

    Dan shrugged his shoulders. “If he does, I wish he’d come over and tell us. However, the importance with this site isn’t in artifacts, it’s in the site itself. And there’s no way that someone can steal a canyon.”

    “So how long will you be down there today?” asked Victor.

    “A few hours,” replied Dan.

    “Okay, Doc,” said Victor as he returned to his book.

Chapter 35

    Dan walked Hallie and Jirra around the canyon. Jirra was amazed how much had been excavated since the last time she had been there.

    “And you only bring up two others with you?” asked Jirra.

    “Only during the summer, we have a big crew in the spring,” explained Dan. “The road has been graded slightly, but it won’t be until this fall that they do the rest. We’re limited on the amount of food and water we can bring up.”

    “Thankfully that’s not a problem with our site in Crete,” said Hallie. “We currently have twenty people working the site.”

    “I’d like to have ten up here fulltime next summer,” said Dan. “We’ve been working on a grant that would even give us a permanent building.”

    Jirra walked over to a large bolder that had a bronze plaque mounted to it.

    “Is Dr. Margate actually buried under this rock?” asked Jirra.

    Dan nodded. “It took us all day to position it over the grave. We wanted a fitting headstone to him…whoever he really was.”

    “So no one has been able to identify him?” asked Hallie as she looked at the monument.

    Dan shook his head. “We do have dental impressions and a DNA sample...not that I ever expect to find a match. Oh, we also made a cast of his skull and we’re having a forensics expert recreating what he may have looked like.”

    “Do you think he would have approved of that?” asked Jirra.

    “I don’t think he would have minded. He was an archeologist and I think he would have been honored that we’re studying his remains,” said Dan. “Besides, I think he would see it as a small tradeoff for preserving this canyon.”

    “To be honest, I hope you never identify him…certain things should remain a mystery,” said Hallie.

    Dan nodded. “In many ways I agree with you.”

    “Have you been able to get any information from his notebook?” asked Jirra.

    “What notebook?” asked Hallie.

    “When we found his remains, there was a small leather-clad notebook in his backpack,” said Dan. “It was pure luck that it survived at all.”

    “So what’s in it?” asked Hallie.

    “Some sort of code,” said Dan with a shrug. “It sort of looked like chicken scratching.”

    “Can I see it? I sort of have a knack with things like that,” asked Hallie.

    Dan nodded. “I can show you a copy when we get back to the spa.”

    Jirra began to look at the canyon walls. She looked for anything that appeared out of the ordinary.

    “You see something?” asked Dan.

    Jirra shook her head. “I knew it wouldn’t be this easy.”

    “Well, we can come back tomorrow and look around. We should be heading back to the camp now,” said Dan.

    “What prevents someone from coming in at night?” asked Hallie.

    “We have an alarm system. It works on motion sensors and it does go off a lot due to the local wildlife, but there are also camera traps so we can identify anyone who does come in. We’ve made this fairly common knowledge and combined with the fact that this is a federally protected site keeps always the curious…with the exception of our spy,” explained Dan.

    “And so far he or she hasn’t actually set foot in the canyon?” asked Hallie.

    Dan nodded. “Whoever it is, they seem just interested in watching us…for now.”

Chapter 36

    Tessa studied the maps that Sally had given her and compared them to the topographical maps that she had brought with her. The canyon that Hallie had told her about was only seven miles away, but the terrain would make travel slow, especially at night.

    She studied three ways that looked the most promising and decided to check them out in the morning. During her reconnaissance she could mark the trail with special devices that would allow her to move faster at night. She also planned to wear night vision goggles would her to move safely. 

    While she was aware that the area had various species of rattlesnakes, she wasn’t that worried about them. Her experience as a SEAL had taught her that most animals preferred to be left alone. Unless she stepped on one, the snakes wouldn’t be a problem. No, the only animal she was worried about was the two legged type. If the person who was observing the site was as stealthy as Hallie had described then there was the possibility of booby traps.

    The more she thought about it the more likely it was that whoever was out there was ex-military, most likely Special Forces and that made her planning even more important.

She then pulled out a notebook and began to write. Whoever was out there couldn’t be working alone. They had to have at least one other person helping them. Tessa suspected that a spa employee would be the perfect cover. She also wanted to check out the background of the security personnel.

Tessa then looked at her watch and saw it was almost time for dinner. As she headed over to the dining room she wondered what sort of dinner Hallie and the others were having.

Chapter 37

“I can’t believe they ate all that food that Hannah sent up,” said Dan as he sorted through the stacks of MREs. ”Sorry about the selection, but we’re limited until we get a reliable source of power up here. The generator is okay, but it does have a tendency to break down, that’s why we only use it for the cooler for non-perishables like soda and water.”  

“I don’t mind, this reminds me of when I camped,” said Hallie as she picked out a meal marked ravioli. “What about you Jirra?”

“I grew up an Army-brat so I kinda like them,” she replied as she picked out a box that listed its contents as spaghetti with meat sauce. “What are you having Dan?”

“Beef stew,” he replied.

“Where are Victor and Mark?” asked Hallie.

“They’re on patrol. They’ll be back in an hour or so,” said Dan as he opened up his box of food.

Each meal had its own heater called a flameless ration heater, which was activated by a small amount of water. The exothermic reaction caused by the addition of water was sufficient to rapidly heat up the meal.

“So, what do you think about the site, Hallie?” asked Dan.

“It could have been used in a similar way as the Minoan site. The transformed male would have been picked to fill a religious or some other ceremonial position. If the site was only used for a short period of time a year, then the number of transformed males would have been very small,” said Hallie. “It may have also been a cult, separate from mainstream society. We believe that the site in Crete was an off-shoot of the main society and that it started as Minoan society shifted away from a matrilocal society.”

Dan nodded in agreement. “The problem is that we know so little about the Anasazi society. If this was a cult then it will even harder to place into the history of the Anasazi.”

“Why would a cult like this start up?” asked Jirra.

“There are many reasons, Jirra. One could be religious or that it was used to settle arguments concerning royalty,” said Hallie.

“You mean if there was a fight between two men as to who would lead, the loser would be transformed?” asked Jirra.

“We’ve found evidence of this in Crete. It was peaceful and strictly voluntary. The male who would not become a leader would accept transformation. This would ease tensions among rival groups and ease the chance of civil war. If there was a sense of honor and status connected to the transformed, then tensions would be lowered,” said Hallie as she ate her dinner.

“And this might have been the reason for this site?” asked Jirra.

“We don’t know. However, from what we have determined from the petroglyphs, the male who was about to be transformed appeared to be doing this willingly,” said Dan. “It might have been a way to become a shaman or some other form of religious figure.”

“Many cultures throughout history have tried versions of this, however it looks like the Anasazi may have succeeded, much like Minoans,” added Hallie.

“But how did the Anasazi discover the mud?” asked Jirra. “I mean was it accidental like my transformation was?”

    “It might have been like that, but the odds of it happening must be astronomical,” said Dan.

    “So you don’t believe that it happened by chance?” asked Jirra.

    Dan shrugged. “I suspect that there’s more to it than luck. I mean, most people struck by lighting are killed. The people out here would have known the dangers of lighting and would have taken cover.”

    “That’s true, the Anasazi didn’t have golf courses,” said Hallie with a laugh.

    Dan and Jirra laughed.

    “All kidding aside, I agree with Dan. The mud came from a stream in a canyon. A lightning strike is very unlikely…unless…”

    “What?” asked Dan.

    “Have you checked the canyon walls for copper or iron deposits?” asked Hallie.

    Dan shook his head. “No, we haven’t…but we haven’t seen anything that even looks like it.”

    “It’s possible that’s there could be a vein of copper or iron that would transfer the lighting strike to the stream below,” said Hallie. “I imagine that those that controlled this site would have kept this fact hidden to prevent others from mining the metal.”

    “What do you suggest?” asked Dan as he started a fire in the firepit.

    “Tomorrow, Jirra and I will take a look up on top of the canyon above the site of the dig.”

    “What about our visitor?” asked Jirra.

    “We’ll act like we’re doing a survey and taking photos of the canyon,” said Jirra.

    “Sounds like a plan,” said Dan.

    They all turned as they heard the sound of Victor and Mark returning.

“How’s everything?” asked Dan.

“Nothing unusual,” said Mark as he sat down.

Victor sat down and took a long drink from his canteen.

“When does your shift end?” asked Dan.

“Tom and Kevin are supposed to relieve us in a day or so,” said Victor. “They’ll bring up more supplies for us too. We’re providing our own food and water so we’re not using your resources all of the time.”

“How long do you stay up here?” asked Hallie.

“Usually five to ten days at a time, sometimes longer if we’re short handed,” said Victor.

“We always have two guards,” said Dan. “Unfortunately sometimes someone calls in sick. This isn’t the most exciting position.”

“I don’t mind it,” said Victor. “Besides, I like getting overtime.”

Chapter 38

Alexis was back at the cottage that evening having finished her shots for Jen. She treated herself to a mud bath before going to dinner.

As much as she was getting tired with the industry, she loved helping Jen. She wondered how many of her fans could spot her as she mucked out the stable. She was in the background of the scene of Jirra’s “Randy” character taking a header into a huge mound of horse manure. Fortunately it was only lumpy mix of mud and straw over a mound of foam rubber that the stuntman fell into while Alexis was shoveling the real thing. Her mind turned to what sort of scene she would have Jen do. Then she thought about Jirra. She really wasn’t worried about her, but she wished they were together.

After her mud bath, she changed and headed to dinner.  She joined Liz, Tara, and Cari at one of the tables.

“How did it go?” asked Liz.

“It was fun working with Jen again,” said Alexis as she ate her salad. She then saw a familiar face sitting at a table across from them. It was Tessa.

Alexis was slightly surprised as she didn’t think that Tessa was already at the spa. She also was very curious about Tessa and she couldn’t wait until they got a chance to talk.

Chapter 39

Jirra and Hallie settled into the tent they were sharing. It was small, but there was room enough to stand up. There was a wooden floor raised about a foot off the ground and enough room for two cots, which would make sleeping much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.

“Can I ask you something, Hallie?” asked Jirra as she slipped into her sleeping bag.

“Sure,” replied Hallie.

“What happened with you and Jimmy today?”

Hallie sighed. “Well, I suppose you might as well know everything. I’ve been given a gift by the goddesses. I can sense men who are transgendered and if they so desire it I can transform them…using the artifact.”

“And does that mean that Jimmy’s TG?”

Hallie nodded.

“So what are you going to do?”

“If I get a chance to talk to him I’ll offer him a job in Crete. When the time is right I’ll talk with him and see if he wants to be changed.”

“How many times has this happened?”

“So far?  Fourteen times,” replied Hallie. “Most have been people that I’ve met in Crete. Many seemed to have been drawn to the site there.”

“And once they’re changed…everything is changed, I mean their identity too?”

“Yep,” replied Hallie.

“Too bad that won’t work on me,” she stated with a sigh.

“I know what you’re going through, Jirra. I went almost a year before my identity was permanently changed by the goddesses,” she explained. “The good thing was that my closest friends and family still remember the old me.”

“Maybe you can put in a word with your goddesses for me,” said Jirra. “I mean, if I was exposed, I could deal with it…but it would affect so many others. I mean what would happen to the spa and all the people who work here? Also, it would make Alexis’s life very complicated.”

“I wouldn’t worry about her, she’s pretty strong and obviously deeply in love with you,” said Hallie.

Jirra nodded.

“Okay, my turn. Before you were changed, did you ever want to be a girl?”

Jirra shook her head. “Nope. I was very happy as a guy. I’m happy with my life now… with the exception of the whole identity thing. What about you?”

“I was the same way. When Lane changed me I was furious at her. I thought my life was over. Thankfully I found it was just the start of a new path for my life’s journey. One of the best things that has come out of my change is that my father and I are now close.”

“Does he know?” asked Jirra.

Hallie shook her head. “He was totally out of my life when I was changed. The strange thing was that for a while when I was passing myself off as transgendered he became closer to me. Now that he thinks that I’ve always been his daughter he’s been wonderful. He absolutely loves his granddaughter.”

“What about your mom?”

Hallie scratched her head. “That’s a totally different story and a rather complicated one. My birth mother…back when I was a guy totally abandoned me after I told her I was a girl. After the goddesses changed me, she was out of the picture completely. My female birth mother died when I was born.”

“Wow,” replied Jirra. “That’s so amazing.”

“Oh, if you think that’s cool, listen to this, the first guy I helped to transform also fathered my child. She’s now the godmother of Roxie.”

“Really? That’s so cool,” replied Jirra.

“Tracey’s currently serving as an officer on a destroyer and she couldn’t be happier,” continued Hallie. “Anyway, I suspect that things will work out for you too, Jirra.”

“I hope so,” replied Jirra. “Good night.”

“Good night, Jirra.”

Chapter 40

The next morning, Dan, Jirra, and Hallie headed towards the canyon.

“I wish we had some aerial photographs of the area,” said Hallie.

“I can get some if you want,” said Dan.

“Hopefully we’ll find what we’re looking for without them,” said Hallie.

“So when we head up to the canyon’s rim, what will we be looking for?” asked Jirra.

“Good question, it will probably look perfectly normal and part of the environment, but we’ll know what it is as soon as we find it,” replied Hallie.

“Oooh-kay, that was clear as mud,” quipped Jirra.

Hallie laughed. “Trust me, if we’re meant to find it then we will.”

They stopped at the trail that headed down to into the canyon and talked. It was more of a show for the visitor, assuming that he or she was watching.

Victor walked up as Hallie and Jirra headed off along the rim of the canyon.

“Where are you two off to?” he asked as he sat down on his chair.

“We’re just going around the rim to take some photos,” said Hallie. “I want to see the site from above.”

“I’m also hoping to get some photos of the local wildlife,” added Jirra.

“Waste of time if you ask me,” he said as he opened his book. “I’ve walked along the rim dozens of times and you care barely see anything of importance in the canyon. And as for wildlife, you should look down over towards that canyon, there’s a permanent source of water there. I’ve seen signs of Bighorn sheep there…and also cougars.” He pointed to the west.

“Thanks, but we have nothing better to do,” said Hallie.

“Maybe later you can show me that water hole,” said Jirra.

Victor shrugged his shoulders and started to read his book.

Chapter 41

Tessa was already two hours out on her hike. She could have made better time but she needed to look like a person looking for wildlife and not someone on a special operations recon mission.

Along the way she placed her trail markers. They were small and camouflaged to look like rocks so that no one would notice them.

She walked up the trail until she saw a fence with signs mounted on them that placed the area off limits. She stopped and read the sign before stopping to take a drink of water. If someone was watching her they wouldn’t have seen anything that looked out of place. However, what she was doing was looking for sensors. She immediately spotted a sensor half buried in the dirt just on the other side of the fence. Tessa made a mental note of the sensor and headed back to the spa.

She figured that she could make it back up to the fence in a little over an hour. From the fence it was another two miles to the canyon. From what she had learned from studying the maps there were three likely places for the visitor to make camp. She estimated that she could check out all three that night. There was one was almost halfway between the canyon and the movie shooting site and that would be the first one that Tessa would look at.

Once the campsite was located she would come back the next night and do her own surveillance. She suspected that whoever it was, that they might get careless at night. The canyon had been watched long enough for the visitor to know the routine of the guards. Also, the visitor probably didn’t think that they would be hunted themselves, especially at night.

Tessa was concerned about booby traps and sensors, but she also suspected that the visitor might not use any so as not to give away their presence.

What Tessa was hoping for was that she could get a photo of the intruder.

Chapter 42

As they walked along the rim of the canyon, Hallie told Jirra about some of the hidden features she had found back in Crete.

“The important thing to remember when looking for things like this is that while they’re hidden, they also have to be accessible to the people who hid them,” explained Hallie.

“That makes sense,” said Jirra. “So what do you think it is?”

“From what Dan told me about this area, I would suspect copper. Also the fact that your transformation took place in a copper vat makes me suspect that copper plays a part in the transformation process.”

“That makes sense,” said Jirra.

“Okay, we’re almost there. Remember if you find something, be calm, there’s a good chance we’ll be watched. Don’t shout or point, okay?”

“Can I jump up and down and shout eureka?” asked Jirra.

Hallie laughed. “Oh, you and Tessa and going to get along famously.”

Chapter 43

Jirra and Hallie spent an hour walking around the rim that was above the end of the canyon. Just as Hallie had said, nothing initially stood out.

Jirra took a lot of photos, knowing most of them would be deleted. She did get a good shot of a young golden eagle that was sitting on a rock.

“It’s amazing how hard it is to see into the canyon,” noted Hallie as she carefully peered over the edge.

“Hallie, I think I can get a good shot if I climb up on that cluster of rocks,” said Jirra.

“Okay, but be careful,” said Hallie.

Jirra climbed on a large group of rocks and discovered that it gave her a nice view into the canyon. She took several photos and about to climb down when she felt something run across her feet. It startled her and caused her to let out a curse.

“What happened, are you okay?” asked Hallie.

“Yes. A damn kangaroo rat ran across my feet and scared the crap out of me,” she replied. She then stopped and looked down. There was a small hole in the dirt that had filled in between the rocks. At first she suspected it was a burrow, but then she saw that the hole was actually carved into the rock. She bent down as if to tie her bootlace and snapped several photos of the hole.

“Are you okay?” asked Hallie again.

“Yes, I’m just tying my laces. I’ll be right down.”

When Jirra climbed down she acted as if nothing had happened.

“Well, it looks like this was a pointless trip,” said Jirra. “Oh, before we go, do you want to see the photos?”

Hallie nodded. She scanned through the photos and then saw the photos of the hole. She smiled as she noticed that Jirra had taken several with her boot next to it to give a frame of reference.

“Do you want any more?”

Hallie shook her head. “No. It was a long shot, but at least we got some exercise. Let’s head back.”

As they turned to head back, Jirra thought she saw a flash on a nearby mesa. Hallie saw it too, but ignored it and Jirra followed her lead.

*****

On the mesa, a figure in a camouflaged blind watched the two women walk back. He wished he could have heard what they were talking about, but it obvious that they didn’t find a thing.

Another day and nothing important to report to his boss, he noted. The good thing was that he was getting paid either way. He would continue to watch and wait. At least they now had some girls at the site. The redhead with the big tits was pretty hot he thought and he would love to get his hands on her. Maybe when this job was over he could grab her and have his way with her. Just the thought of this gave him an erection.

Chapter 44

“These pictures definitely show some promise,” said Dan as he scanned through the photos of the hole.

    “Do you think that your spirit guide tipped you off?” asked Hallie.

    “I wouldn’t put it past him,” replied Jirra with a laugh. “He probably got a good chuckle out of the way I jumped when he ran across my feet. So what do we do now?”

    Dan pulled out a map and asked Jirra and Hallie to point out the location of the rocks.

    “It was right here,” said Hallie.

    “Okay, so tomorrow we’ll look below this spot for copper or iron deposits,” said Dan. “I would love to go look at the hole, but I want to wait until after the visitor is gone. You really think you saw something?”

    “It was definitely the sun hitting the lens of a pair of binoculars,” said Hallie. “Um, Dan, this is just a feeling and no real proof, but I would be careful about letting the guards in on this.”

    “Go on,” said Dan.

    “Victor just seemed too nonchalant as we headed off,” said Jirra. She looked at Hallie as Hallie nodded.

“I got the same feeling. When we headed towards the end of the canyon this morning he was acting as if he didn’t care, yet he was watching all the same. It may be nothing, but anything is possible.” said Hallie.

    “They all have background checks, but it might not hurt to be careful about any discoveries,” said Dan.

Chapter 45

    A little after sunset, Tessa headed out on her first recon hike. She had to admit that she enjoyed doing this. As much as she loved being a wife and mother, there was still a part of her that craved this sort of thing. Maybe this was what Athena had meant when she had last spoken to her back in Crete.

    Tessa was dressed in dark utilities and had on a military tactical vest to hold her gear. It wasn’t exactly a good disguise, but she figured no tourist would be out in the bush after dark. So if she was detected she would have to rely on her military training to get out of trouble. Before she left her cottage she had loaded her ten millimeter Glock, just in case she thought. She had vowed never to be caught unprepared again as she rotated the silver ring with the ruby mounted in it around her finger, the ring that she had once given Lisa Barnard.

    Once she was clear of the spa, Tessa used her night goggles and found that she had no trouble following the trail. The markers she had planted that morning gave off a slight glow that was only visible with the goggles.

    In addition to the goggles, she carried a camera that was mounted with a night scope.  Hopefully she would get a shot of whoever was staking out the canyons.

    Tessa walking quietly along the trail, carefully listening for anything that was out of the ordinary. Thankfully all she heard was the sounds of the night life.

    When she reached the fence, she carefully crossed it so that she wouldn’t set off the sensors. She figured these were the ones set by the canyon security forces, as they were too sloppily set to be have been down by a real professional.

    She slowly headed towards her first objective. Tessa hadn’t bothered to bring a map; instead she had the coordinates loaded into a small portable GPS receiver that she wore on her wrist. It was one of the many gifts from Armando, her gunrunner friend back in Palma. 

    Tessa was halfway up the mesa when she realized that she was on the right track. She could smell a cigar; it was amazing how far the smell of tobacco could travel. Her quarry had made the first mistake and had given away his position.

    Tessa slowly worked her way up through the brush. When she was almost to the top she found a sensor wire. It was very thin and had been expertly run through the brush. If someone hadn’t been expecting it, then they would have probably never even noticed it, even after it had been broken.

    She slowly worked her way around the perimeter of the site. The sensor wire had been expertly laid down and she couldn’t find a way through it.

    Tessa sat and listened and she could hear someone walking around. Whoever it was wearing military boots, judging by the sound they were making in the dirt. It was a small thing, but when she had been a SEAL, it was little things like this that had saved her ass many times.

    The smell of the cigar was vaguely familiar. It was obviously a good one, there was something very distinctive about it, but she couldn’t place it. She knew that it would come to her eventually.

    After an hour, Tessa slowly slipped back down the mesa. She would have to come up with another way to figure out who was up there. But at least she knew where he was, so the surveillance mission hadn’t been a waste of time. 

It came to her on the way back to the spa and she immediately began to work out the details in her mind.

Back at the spa, Tessa was pleased to see that her plan would work. As she reviewed the maps she verified that the mesa was actually just outside the security area. She could legitimately head up there…with the right excuse, and for that she would need help. She picked up her phone and hoped she could reach Hallie.

Chapter 46

    “So, why can’t we just turn this guy over to the security guards?” asked Jirra.

    “According to Tessa, it wouldn’t accomplish anything. We need to figure out who the man is working for. If we have him arrested then he would only be replaced by someone else…and we will have tipped our hand that we know something is going on…those are Tessa’s words by the way,” said Hallie.

    “I really can’t wait to meet her,” said Jirra.

    “I feel that you’ll get along famously. Now, do you think that your friends will go for this plan?”

    Jirra nodded. “I just wish I was in on it.”

    Back at the spa, a small group headed out in to the hills. Tara was leading them out on a nature walk, which would include a hike up a mesa that promised to give them a great view of the canyons.

    It was a small group, consisting only of Tara, Tessa, Alexis, and Jen.

    Unlike the previous night’s journey, this one was far less stealthy. To all the world they looked like people on a nature hike. The only things out of place were the handgun hidden in Tessa’s fanny pack, and a special camera that would allow her to take pictures secretly.

    The hike had been announced that morning, but due to the “arduous” nature of the hike, no other guests signed up for it, which was just fine as far as Tessa was concerned.

    Hopefully when they reached the top of the mesa her quarry would be seen. Tessa had briefed the others that the man would probably have a good cover story and say that he was part of the archeological security. She also explained that they would go along with the story and apologize for “trespassing.”

    “This is pretty cool,” said Alexis. “Thanks for including us.”

    “I’m just glad that Tara was so nice to agree to this at such short notice,” said Tessa.

    “Hey, who am I to turn down one of Hallie and Jirra’s friends,” replied Tara. “Thank you for trusting us.”

    Tessa had told them her story of transformation.

    “You’re welcome,” replied Tessa.

    “I just feel a little better today knowing that Athena is real,” said Tara.

    “I have to agree,” added Jen. She had given the cast and crew the day off at the spa as they were ahead of schedule on the shoot. “I’m also glad that I get to play this time.”

    “I’m glad we have both you and Alexis along,” said Tessa. “The guy will be even less likely to do something threatening around celebrities.”

    It took them nearly three hours to reach the mesa. Tessa figured that unless the man up there was drunk or blind, he would have seen them for the past hour. It would give him plenty of time to react as the last thing she wanted was to surprise him.

    They were halfway up the mesa, when Tessa first saw him. She couldn’t quite make out his face as his hat was covering his eyes. He was dressed in the same security uniform that she had seen in the photos that Tara had shown her.

    “Excuse me, but are you aware that you’re trespassing on federal property?” he asked in a friendly, but official manner.

    Tessa positioned herself so she could get photos of the man. She had to admit that he was pretty authentic, even though she knew he was a fake.

    “Sorry, but there must be some mistake,” said Tara. “I’m one of the employees at the Caldera de Gaia Spa and according to the maps this area isn’t part of the exclusion area.”

    She pulled out her map and showed it to him.

    The man walked down and pushed his hat up in a non-threatening manner. “Hmm, I guess the word didn’t get out completely. The exclusion zone was just expanded yesterday. We’ve had some reports of trespassing and we’ve been using this mesa as an observation site. It’s temporary and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

    Tara nodded. “Okay, I guess they don’t tell us peons everything,” she replied with a laugh. “Thanks for letting us know.”

    “No problem,” replied the man. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone you saw me up here. We’ll let the spa know when it’s okay to come back up here.”

    “Thanks again,” said Tara. She then turned and looked at the others. “Sorry about this, but at least we got some good sightings today.”

    As they headed down the mesa, Tessa smiled to herself as it had all worked according to plan.

Chapter 47

    Back at the spa, they gathered in Tara’s office for something cold to drink.

    “So…did you get the photo?” asked Tara. “I’ve been meaning to ask you the whole way back!”

    Tessa nodded. “I got several, although I don’t need them; I know exactly who he is.”

    “Well?” asked Jen. “Don’t keep us in suspense!”

    Tessa took a long drink of water. “His name is Thomas Boyer. The last time I saw him he was working for a private security company in Afghanistan. I think he had once been in the marines, but left to make more money as a contractor. Not the smartest guy I ever met, but capable.”

    “He’s a mercenary?” asked Jen with disgust. “I thought he was just stupid because he didn’t recognize us, now it turns out he’s a solider of fortune.”

    Tessa nodded. “I doubt he recognized you because the only movies he ever watched were X-rated. He’s a real sonofabitch, has a very distorted view of women.”

    “So he’s not the type to be interested in Anasazi artifacts?” asked Alexis.

    “Hardly. As I implied, he’s not exactly into cultural pursuits. He only cares about being paid. He’s also not the type to think of something like this himself. We suspected him of being a player in the black-market when I was there; it was believed he was working for someone else,” said Tessa. “He was later fired and kicked out of the country.”

    “Okay, I’ll bite, what got him fired?” asked Tara.

    “He raped several women; unfortunately none of the women would come forward to press charges due to cultural beliefs. They were afraid of bringing shame on their families and that bastard Boyer knew that,” replied Tessa with disgust. “My team caught him right after one of his ‘exploits’. I should have shot him myself for that… or at least turned him over to the tribal elders…they would have castrated him on the spot. Unfortunately due to his connections, he was only deported and fired. I’ll try and see who he’s working for now.”

    “Are Hallie and Jirra in danger?” asked Alexis.

    “I doubt he would try anything right now, but I think I should join them out there, just in case. I’ll call Hallie and see if that can be arranged,” said Tessa.

    “So, if you head out there, who is going to track down who Boyer is working for?” asked Jen.

    “My better half,” replied Tessa with a grin. “He’s the brains and I’m the muscle!”

Chapter 48

    Tessa joined Barrett and Jimmy on their trip up to the canyon. They drove two jeeps this time, to bring up the additional supplies and water.

    Tessa was dressed in shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. On her head she wore a military surplus boonie hat.

    “So you’ve worked for Dr. Pappadimos in Crete?” asked Barrett.

    “Yes, I’m no professional like Hallie, but I have some experience in the field,” she replied.  “I was surprised to hear she was here. Thank you so much for allowing me to join you.”

    “No problem, it’ll be great to have some help,” said Barrett. He looked over his shoulder as if to see how Jimmy was doing. He then looked over at Tessa. “By the way, nice tattoo on your shoulder.”

    Tessa smiled back. “You mean my owl?”

    “Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like it.”

    “I got it in Greece to honor Athena,” she replied.

    “I thought it looked Greek,” he replied. “It’s one of the best looking tattoos I’ve ever seen…so detailed.”

    “I like it,” she replied.

    “Okay, we’re almost here,” he said.

    Jirra and Hallie waved from the camp.

    “Did you miss us?” asked Barrett as he got of the jeep.

    “You were gone?” replied Jirra with a laugh.

    Barrett laughed and gave her a big hug.

    Hallie greeted Tessa and introduced her to Dan.

    “Thank you for allowing me to help,” said Tessa.

    “Well, we can always use some more help,” he replied.

    “Good to see you again, Tessa,” said Jirra.

    The two women hugged.

    “I’m glad you remembered me,” replied Tessa.

    “Well, let’s get started on unloading the jeeps. It’ll be dark soon,” stated Dan.

Chapter 49

    Dinner was a treat prepared by Hannah’s staff. It was a Cajun meal called gumbo ya-ya with white rice. Hannah had provided the meal along with instructions.

    Hallie and Jirra set about preparing the dinner, which mainly consisted of warming up the food.

    “It smells wonderful, what’s in it?” asked Dan as he leaned over the pot cooking over the gas grill.

    Hallie looked at the recipe. “It’s stewed chicken, andouille sausage, onions, celery, green peppers, cayenne, bay, salt, pepper and parsley for garnish.”

    Dan nodded. “I love how she always lists all the ingredients, just in case someone has an allergy. It also makes it easier to identify a particular flavor.”

    “What’s in the other boxes and coolers?” asked Tessa.

    Hallie read the list. “Italian bread, butter, cucumber salad with a sweet and sour dressing, a Muffuletta salad, lemon cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers…cool smores!”

    Dan looked in one of the other coolers. “Ahh, Dose Equis, she does think of everything. Who else wants one? There’s also sodas.”

    “What’s a Muffuletta salad?” asked Barrett as he took a beer.

    “I don’t know about the salad, but a Muffuletta is as a sandwich of meats, cheeses, and olive salad, stuffed into a loaf of Italian bread, weighted, and then cut into wedges,” explained Tessa. “It can be a meal just by itself.”

    “Well, according to the notes that Hannah provided, it’s a salad with cubed salami, ham, provolone cheese, black olives, green olives, celery, onion, garlic, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, salt & pepper, in a vinaigrette salad dressing,” said Hallie.

    “Everything sounds great,” said Jimmy. “Can we do anything to help?”

    “Just break out the plates,” said Hallie. “It looks like it will be ready shortly.”

After dinner, Jirra, Hallie, and Dan were briefed by Tessa. Barrett and Jimmy joined the guards on the evening patrol.

    “How’re you going to find out who this guy is working for?” asked Dan.

    “My husband is a reporter and has some rather good connections,” replied Tessa. “So, have you found anything of interest that would cause someone to hire a man like Tom Boyer?”

    Dan looked at Hallie.

    “She knows about me, Dan,” said Hallie. “She’s also like me…and Jirra.”

    Dan shook his head. “Okay, I’m game, how were you transformed?”

    Tessa got up and filled her cup with coffee. “Do you remember the murders of an archeological team on a small Greek island a while back?”

    Dan nodded. “Yes I do. It was the site being investigated by Dr. Peter Fox of the British Museum. I met him once, a bit arrogant, but very intelligent.”

    “I was there,” replied Tessa. She then told them how Jason Blackthorn had been killed and was resurrected as Tessa Phoenix by Athena.

    “Hallie was right, your story is amazing,” said Jirra.

    “By the way, I still would like to hear more about your transformation, Jirra,” said Tessa.

    “I’ll be glad to,” replied Jirra.

    “So that’s why you were called in, Tessa?” said Dan.

    Tessa nodded. “I still have the skills and knowledge of my old job. So back to my question, have you discovered anything that would attract the interest of someone who could hire Boyer?”   

    “Not yet, although Hallie and Jirra made a rather interesting discovery,” said Dan. He then told Tessa about the carved hole.

    “So, someone could put a metal pole up there to act as a lightning rod,” said Tessa.

    “That’s what we think,” said Hallie.

    “Okay, but something is still missing,” said Tessa. “Someone must know something about this site and is waiting for you to uncover something very valuable.”

    “I wish they’d let us know what it is,” said Dan.

    Jirra listened to the conversation and then snapped her fingers. “I got it!”

    The others turned to her.

    “Okay, what is it?” asked Tessa.

    “Dr. Margate obviously found something here and told someone. When he realized his mistake he came back and tried to hide it. That’s why he blew up the canyon’s entrance,” said Jirra excitedly.

    “That could be it,” said Dan.

    “Who is Dr, Margate?” asked Tessa.

    Dan told her about the mysterious archeologist who had discovered the canyon.

    “So, there might be something really mysterious hidden in the canyon,” said Tessa.

    “That’s right,” said Dan. “The campus library has copies of all Margate’s books, along with a collection of his private papers. I’ll send Barrett and Jimmy back there tomorrow.”

    “I take it neither of them knows about us,” said Tessa.

    “That’s right,” said Jirra. “Although Barrett is really cool; I’d like to tell him some day.”

    Hallie also mentioned their suspicions about the security guards.

    “I’ll have a check done on them too,” said Tessa. “Can you provide me with their complete names?”

    Dan nodded. “I have them in my notebook.”

    “Good, can you get them for me now?”

    “Cell phones don’t work very well down here, you’ll have to go up somewhere high,” he replied.

    Tessa laughed as she pulled a phone out of her backpack. “I have pretty good coverage with this one.”

    “What is that?” asked Dan as he looked at the phone.

    “It’s the latest in secure satellite phones. They’re not sold on the open market yet,” she replied with a wink.

    “Where did you get one?” asked Jirra.

    “I have a friend who’s a gunrunner and he provides me with all the latest toys,” she replied.

    Dan just shook his head in disbelief and smiled. “God I love my job…you meet the most interesting people.”

Chapter 50

    The next morning Barrett and Jimmy headed back to the spa.

    “Call us immediately if you find any reference to this site in Margate’s publications,” said Dan.

    “We will,” replied Barrett.

    Victor walked over shaking his head in anger.

    “What’s wrong?” asked Dan.

    “Both our reliefs got assigned elsewhere for the next couple of days,” he replied.

    “Really?” asked Dan.

    Victor nodded. “Look, I don’t mind staying up here and collecting some overtime, but we both could really use a shower.”

    “Go down to the spa for the day,” said Dan as he looked at his watch. “Just be back before dark.”

    “Um, that would leave you unguarded,” noted Victor.

    “We’ll be fine. We haven’t found anything of value worth stealing anyway,” said Dan.

    Victor looked at his partner, who nodded.

    “Okay, Doc, we’ll be back by seven,” said Victor.

Chapter 51

    “Do you believe him?” asked Hallie as they walked to the site.

    Dan shrugged his shoulders. “I called and confirmed his story. They do want us to call in every hour.”

    “I’ll stand guard if you want,” said Tessa.

    “If you want to,” said Dan.

    “Besides, I want to see what I can see of that mesa where we saw Boyer,” she said.

    Hallie headed down the trail into the canyon with Jirra.

    “You seem quiet this morning, what’s up?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra adjusted her hat and wiped her brow. “I had a weird dream last night. It was about the canyon.”

    “What about it?” asked Hallie.

    “I think we’re looking in the wrong place. I’m going to poke around at the front of the canyon while you and Dan look in the back, okay?”

    Hallie shrugged her shoulders. “Hey, who am I to go against dreams. Call us if you find anything, okay?”

    Jirra nodded and headed to the rock slide.

Chapter 52

    Hallie inspected the canyon wall. She started up high and slowly worked her way down. It was slow work, but she was used to it.

    Dan studied the petroglyphs, looking for clues.

    After two hours, Hallie noticed something near the base of the canyon wall. She bent down and began to carefully dig into the rock.

    “Dan, come here!” she said excitedly.

    He came over and she pointed to the wall.

    “Does that look like copper to you?” she asked.

    “I’ll be damned,” he exclaimed as he examined it.

    “Um… I just found something,” said Jirra as she walked up to them.

    “So did we, look, it’s copper,” said Hallie.

    “That’s great, but I think I can top that,” said Jirra.

    “What did you find?” asked Dan.

    “I…I’m really not sure how to describe it…but it doesn’t look like it belongs here,” she said.

    “What are you talking about?” asked Hallie.

    “Follow me,” said Jirra.

Chapter 53

    “I was climbing around the rocks when I saw a crack in the canyon wall. I checked it out and there’s something shiny inside,” said Jirra. “I can reach it, but I decided to wait until you were here.”

    “Shiny?” asked Dan.

    “I think its gold,” she continued.

    “Where is it?” asked Hallie.

    Jirra began to climb up the rocks, followed by Dan and Hallie.

    “It looks like there was a recent slide here,” he noted.

    Jirra nodded. “It’s in there,” she said as she pointed into a fracture in the canyon wall.

    Dan pulled out a flashlight and shined inside. “There’s definitely something in there, but I can’t reach it.”

    “I can, if that’s okay,” said Jirra.

    “See if you can get it, but don’t try and force it,” said Dan as he handed her a pair of gloves.

    Jirra reached inside the fissure and was able to grab the object. “I got it.”

    She carefully pulled it out.

    “What is it?” she asked as she held it out.

    The object was a thin square plate, roughly four inches by four inches. There were markings on the plate.

    Dan shook his head. “I have no idea, but it’s definitely not Anasazi.”

    Hallie gasped and the others looked at her.

    “What is it?” asked Jirra as she carefully held the small golden plate.

    “It’s Minoan,” she replied fighting back her excitement. “The writing…it looks like Linear H.”

Chapter 54

    There was nothing else in the fracture and Dan, Hallie, and Jirra retreated with the gold plate back into the back of the canyon.

    “Can you read it?” asked Dan.

    “It will take time,” said Hallie. “The problem with Linear H is that it doesn’t flow as easy as the others. It’s not like picking up a book and reading it.”

    “So, does that mean that this site is connected to your’s back in Crete?” asked Jirra.

    “Too early to say, but the cult that ran the temple in Crete used Linear H. We haven’t found it at any site that wasn’t connected to the cult,” said Hallie as she stared at the plate. “I know that when the Minoan society collapsed after Thera some of the people fled, taking their knowledge with them. We’ve found some connections with other cultures, but they’ve all been in Europe, Asia, and Africa. This is the first proof of a trans-Atlantic migration by the Minoans.”

    “Dr. Margate must have found this and then hidden it,” said Jirra.

    “That would be my guess. He may not have known it was Minoan, but he would have immediately deduced that it was from some ancient culture that wasn’t native to the region,” said Dan. “And someone knows about it and obviously wants it. We need to keep this a secret for now.”

    “Agreed,” said Hallie as she stared at the plate. “I can make an etching of it and study that.”

    “Where do we hide the original?” asked Jirra.

    “We keep it with us for now and when we return to the spa we lock it up,” said Dan.

    “In your office?” asked Jirra.

    Dan shook his head. “No, too obvious… no, we put it in your mom’s medical safe.”

Chapter 55

    “Any sign of Boyer?” asked Hallie.

    Tessa shook her head. “No, but I got a call from Jon. He found out that Thomas Boyer is currently an employee of Thunderbird Security Agency. They’ve have offices in both Arizona and New Mexico and provide a variety of security services.”

    “I’ve heard of them,” said Dan. “They started out as a bodyguard company…mainly for executives who traveled into Latin America, right?”

    Tessa smiled. “You get an A+, Dan. Anyway, Jon is going to send me file on them.”

    “So how easy will it be to find out who hired Boyer for this job?” asked Jirra.

    “It won’t be,” replied Tessa. “We’ll have to do some old fashioned detective work. Jon will continue to look from his end and we’ll see what we can turn up.”

    “Well, we found something too,” said Hallie. She then told Tessa about the plate.

    “And it’s in your bag?” asked Tessa.

    Hallie nodded.

    “This must be what Boyer’s been looking for,” said Tessa. “Hallie, I think you should head back to the spa as soon as the others return. It will allow you to study the plate without interference.”

    “Wouldn’t Hallie leaving the dig look suspicious?” asked Jirra.

    “No, in fact we could work it into our plan,” said Dan. He then told them his idea.

    “I like it,” said Tessa. “So when will the others be back?”

    “Hopefully in a day or two,” said Dan. “So in the meantime we go on like nothing has changed.”

    “Yeah, like that will happen,” replied Jirra.

Chapter 56

    “Look at this glyph,” said Dan as he pointed to one of the stone carvings.

    It appeared to show lightning striking the top of a hill.

    “I see what you mean,” said Hallie.

    “When I first saw this, I thought the vertical line was part of the lightning, but it must be the lightning rod that was stuck into the rocks,” said Dan.

    “So what happened to the rod?” asked Jirra.

    “It could be anywhere. It was probably a very sacred item and I doubt they would have left it here between ceremonies,” said Dan. “Still, let’s search the structures, there might be something there…like a place they stored it.”

    To Dan’s surprise, they found a carved hole in the building they had named the barracks.

    “Maybe we had this wrong,” said Dan. “This wasn’t a barracks to provide security for the site; rather it may have been used to guard the rod.”

     Hallie bent down to inspect the hole where the rod would have been mounted. “Look, there are some carvings here. Can you get me a brush?”

    “I’ll get it,” said Jirra. She returned a few moments later and handed the brush to Hallie.

    Hallie carefully brushed away the centuries of dirt. She then stopped suddenly.

    “What is it?” asked Dan.

    “Looks like more Linear H,” said Hallie. “I recognize this one. It’s a blessing that we have found in many of the sites back in Crete. It honors the goddesses that cause transformations.”

    “How many people can read Linear H?” asked Jirra.

    “Not including me? Maybe ten others,” she replied. “To the untrained eye it often looks likes scratches. I sometimes think that was the reason the cult used it so much. Dan can you get me some paper, I’d like to make a copy of this.”

    “Okay and I’ll get my camera,” he replied.

    Tessa and Jirra headed out into the canyon.

    “This is so amazing,” stated Tessa.

    “I know,” replied Jirra. “I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the surviving Minoans to cross the ocean and end up here. I wonder how many other cultures they came in contact with.”

    Tessa just nodded. “I’ve always suspected that the ancient people had contact with each other.”

    “Can I ask you something?” asked Jirra.

    “Sure, Jirra,” replied Tessa.

    “How old are you?”

    “As Tessa, I’m just twenty-three. However, I was forty-eight when I was transformed,” she replied.

    “So I take it you have a real identity then,” said Jirra.

    “I kinda have to. According to the Navy, my ashes are in an urn at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego,” she replied. “Hallie told me about your situation, I wish I could tell you how it will work out, but that’s not up to me. The good thing is that you’re surrounded by people that care about you. That won’t change if you ever are exposed. In some ways I envy you. I’m cut off from my old life completely. Don’t get me wrong, I love who I am now, but it would be nice to see old friends.”

    “Hallie said that you have a daughter.”

    Tessa nodded. “It’s so amazing. As a man, I was never interested in having a family and now…well, having Lisa was one of the greatest experiences in my life…or should I say lives.”

    Jirra smiled. “Alexis and I plan on having kids some day.”

    “I wish you all the best,” said Tessa. “I found that giving birth was an incredible experience.”

    “One more question, our getting to be friends, and I mean you, me, Hallie, Jen… it can’t be chance, right?”

    “I’ve been thinking about that myself,” said Tessa.

    “I know of at least one other,” said Jirra. “She was changed by a DNA process.”

    “I think I can tell what’s on your mind; you’re thinking that we’re destined to come together for some bigger thing, right?”

    Jirra nodded. “Not full time or anything like that.”

    “I know exactly what you’re thinking, Jirra. It makes sense. Well when this mystery is solved we can talk about it,” said Tessa.

    “I’d like that,” said Jirra.

Chapter 57

    Dinner was the leftovers from the night before.

    “Thank god the generator didn’t crap out,” said Victor as he scooped some of the food onto his plate. “I was looking forward to this all day.”

    “It is good,” said Tessa. “So, tell me about you guys, is that what you want to do for a living?”

    “I want to get a job with the Secret Service,” said Mark as he ate some of the gumbo.

    “I’m transferring to the Border Patrol,” said Victor. “I love the outdoors too much to be behind a desk.”

    “I know how that feels,” said Hallie. “I teach half the year, but what I love is being out in the field.”

    “What about you, Jirra?” asked Victor.

    “I’m currently a college student at Penn,” she replied.

    “Whoa, a real Ivy Leaguer!” stated Mark.

    “She’s also a writer,” added Dan.

    “Really?” asked Victor. “Have you had anything published?”

    “Not exactly…I’ve helped on a few scripts including the one for Jen Steven’s movie and have written a screenplay for a TV show.”

    “No shit!” said Mark. “Oops, I mean, wow that’s cool.”

    They all laughed.

    “What show, Jirra?” asked Victor.

    “I wrote an episode for Erin Flynn,” she replied.

    “Really? I love that show. Which episode?” asked Mark.

    Jirra described the show.

    “You wrote that one? Now, I am impressed,” said Mark. “Have you met Faith Collins yet?”

    Jirra nodded. “I’m due to go work for her in a few weeks.”

    “Jirra, can I ask you a favor?” asked Victor.

    She nodded as she ate some gumbo and rice.

    “Can you get me her autograph? My girlfriend loves those books,” said Victor.

    “Me too,” added Mark.

    Jirra smiled. “Sure, that won’t be a problem. Just give me your addresses.”

    “Thanks a lot. My girlfriend, Lucia, will love that,” said Victor.

Chapter 58

    “Do you think that’s really necessary?” asked Jirra.

    Tessa nodded. “It’ll give us some piece of mind concerning both of the guards. I promise that they’ll never know we did a background check on them.”

    They were sitting outside by the fire. The others had gone to bed.

    “Okay. I used to suspect Victor, but tonight he seemed so nice and normal,” said Jirra.
    “He can be nice and normal and corrupt at the same time, trust me on that one,” said Tessa.

    Jirra nodded. “I really want to get to know you better; you sound like you have so many great stories. I also admire the way you’ve adapted to your new life.”

    “You haven’t done so badly yourself,” replied Tessa.

    Jirra laughed. “I can’t imagine why you think that.”

    “Don’t put yourself down, Jirra. It was easy for me, I was given a whole new life, and you have had to overcome many obstacles. It would have been very easy for you to avoid the real world…I doubt that anyone would have objected if you had just stayed here at the spa. Instead you’ve gone to a very prestigious university and have sought out a very public life. That’s very courageous…to be honest I don’t know if I could have done the same thing.”

    “I’ve had a lot of help,” replied Jirra.

    “Yes, you’re surrounded with many wonderful friends, but friendship goes both ways. Do you think that these people would support you if they didn’t get something back?” asked Tessa.

    Jirra listened and contemplated what Tessa was saying.

    “I see your point,” said Jirra.

    “If the worst happens and your transformation becomes public these people will stick with you…as will I,” continued Tessa.

    Jirra nodded. “Thank you.”

    “Good, now if you don’t mind, I need to change and take a little walk,” said Tessa.

    “Walk? Where are you planning on going? It’s pretty dark out there, just in case you haven’t noticed,” said Jirra.

    “I want to check out the mesa where we saw Boyer. I suspect he’s already moved to another site. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” said Tessa.

Chapter 59

    Even though she was understood the importance of keeping the Minoan plate secret, Hallie couldn’t resist looking at the etching she had made.

    Initially she suspected the plate was some sort of prayer or offering to the goddesses, but as she began the slow translation, it was becoming clear that part of the purpose of the plate was to provide directions to another location. From what Hallie could deduce, the other site was very close.

    She folded up the etching and thought about this monumental discovery. It could mean that the Minoans discovered the canyon and may have introduced the properties of the mud to the Anasazi.

    Hallie suspected that it may have only been a few survivors of the shattered Minoan culture that reached this canyon. They may have tried to resurrect the cult with the Anasazi and either died out here, or moved on. She suspected the plate was a signal to other survivors. Most likely it had probably been prominently displayed in the canyon, until it had been removed by Dr, Margate.

    It this was true, that meant there might be other sites located around the world. From what she had learned of the Minoan cult, it seemed to thrive on contact with other cultures, especially with those that had similar beliefs. This sent a wave of excitement through her.

    Granted, this was all a theory, but that was the nature of her chosen career. She also knew that like some of her discoveries back in Crete, these may also be kept secret. She also knew that there were still secrets back in Crete waiting for her to discover.

Chapter 60

    Tessa arrived back a little after three in the morning and quietly slipped into her tent.

    Jirra had heard Tessa return, but she decided to wait until the next morning to ask her what, if anything she had found.

    When they sat down for breakfast that morning, which consisted of scrambled powdered eggs and biscuits, Dan received a call from Barrett.

    “The reception was pretty bad, but from what I could make out, he’s back,” said Dan as he sat down and poured himself a cup of coffee. “He said he’ll be up here in a few hours as soon as he loads up the jeep. Oh, bad news, Victor, Barrett said that your relief has been delayed a few days.”

    Victor nodded. “I thought that would happen.”

    “Um, who made the biscuits? They’re delicious!” commented Jirra as she put some honey on one.

    Victor put up his hand. “My dad taught me to make them when we used to go hunting.”

    “Well he did a great job,” added Hallie. “They’re wonderful. They more than make up for the powdered eggs.”

    “Thank you,” replied Victor. He truly seemed pleased that the women liked the biscuits.

    “Doc, I need to head back down to the spa,” said Hallie. “I really need to check in with my site back in Crete.”

    “Will you be coming back?” asked Jirra as she followed the plan.

    Hallie nodded. “I just need a few days down there to make sure my teams aren’t running amuck back in Crete. I also need to check up on my dad.”

    “I can drive her down,” said Mark. “I’ll bring up another run of supplies.”

    Dan nodded. “Just call in as soon as you get into the spa.”

    Mark nodded. “We’ll leave as soon as Barrett gets here.”

    “I’ll be ready,” said Hallie.

Chapter 61

    Barrett arrived two hours later and everyone helped unload the jeep. He explained that Jimmy was staying back at the university to continue doing research.

    “We didn’t find much…it seems that most of the university’s papers on Dr, Margate are missing,” stated Barrett.

    “Missing?” asked Dan.

    “They’re hoping that they’re just misplaced,” replied Barrett. “But it looks like they might have been stolen.    

    Tessa and Jirra watched Hallie and Mark drive off towards the spa. Dan and Barrett had gone to the dig site and Victor was on guard duty.

    “What did you find last night?” asked Jirra as they walked slowly towards the front of the canyon.

    “Boyer’s gone. That either means he’s gone for now or more likely he’s moved to another campsite, that’s what I would have done,” she replied. “When I did surveillance I always had several fallback positions.”

    “That makes sense. So why are we off to see the front of the canyon? There’s nothing to see other than a rather impressive rockslide,” said Jirra.

    “I just want to see it…I also want to make a phone call. I want to see if Jon found out anything,” said Tessa.

    “Aren’t you worried that Boyer might see you make the call?”

    Tessa shook her head. “No. He couldn’t be able to tell the difference unless he was real close.”

    It took them twenty minutes to reach the front of the canyon. Tessa stared at the rock slide.

    “From what I’ve seen on both sides it’s pretty obvious that Margate was in a hurry,” said Tessa.

    “What do you mean…besides the fact that he killed himself in the explosion,” said Jirra.

    “That’s one clue, no it’s the fact that he used a lot of explosives and he set them on both sides of the canyon. The rubble tells the story. He was in a hurry, possibly he was even being shot at,” explained Tessa.

    “Whoa, what makes you think he was being shot at?” asked Jirra.

    Tessa pointed to the right side of the canyon’s entrance. “Those marks are faded, but they’re obviously bullet marks, most likely from a high-powered rifle. Margate would have been just on the other side of the rocks. I imagine if we looked carefully enough we’d find some cartridges around here.”

    “Assuming those marks are from bullets. Couldn’t they have been from someone who was doing some shooting?”

    Tessa shook her head. “From what you’ve told me about this area that seems very unlikely. It sounds like Judy’s family didn’t allow trespassers and if someone just wanted to do some shooting there are plenty of other places to do it that are a lot easier to get to.”

    “Well, you’re the expert,” said Jirra.

    “I’m going to make my call now,” said Tessa as she pulled her phone out of her bag.

    Jirra nodded and walked away. Mainly she wanted to give Tessa some privacy, but she wanted to see if she could find some proof to support Tessa’s theory.

    She knew that it was very unlikely that she would find anything, but it beat just standing around doing nothing.

    She walked along the long dried out creek bed turned and looked back at the rockslide.

    Her father had taught her to shoot, so she knew the approximate distance someone would have to have been. She tried to picture what the canyon would have looked like back then and then based on where she had found Dr. Margate’s body she moved to her left. She remembered that the there was a slight outcropping in front of where Dr. Margate’s remains had been located, which meant, if there was a shooter they would have been positioned more to the left, which also meant they had to have been closer to the rock slide.

    Jirra walked towards where she theorized the shooter had been and looked around the ground. It was littered with rock shards, which meant that it was likely that the shooter had been hit by the rocks, some of which were quite large.

    Tessa walked over to where she was standing.

    “What did you find?” asked Tessa.

    “Okay, based on your experience, if the shooter was standing here, could they have been injured by the rocks from the explosion?”

    Tessa nodded. “Why do you think they were here?”

    Jirra explained her theory.

    Tessa stared at the rockslide. “You’re right. This is a very likely shooting location.”

    “If the shooter had been tracking Dr. Margate, then why didn’t they find another way into the canyon?” asked Jirra.

    “That’s obvious…they didn’t survive to get back and tell anyone what they found. You can’t imagine the damage that shards of rock can do to the human body,” said Tessa. “Lets head down this trail and see if we find anything else.”

    “Why?” asked Jirra.

    “If someone was hit this is the most logical way to go. It’s also a creek bed and water tends to move things around,” explained Tessa. “This is pretty cool, it’s like doing CSI on a seventy year old mystery.”

    They walked down the trail together, studying the ground.

    “How did the call go?” asked Jirra.

    “Lisa wants a kitten,” said Tessa with a laugh.

    Jirra smiled. “Okay, but what about Boyer?”

    “He’s currently listed on special assignment,” said Tessa.

    Jirra stopped and looked at Tessa. “How did you find that out?”

    “Jon has a friend who is good at hacking computers,” said Tessa.

    “So what sort of special assignment?” asked Jirra.

    “The file was encrypted,” said Tessa. “Jon’s friend is good, but not that good.”

    “Ask Jen Stevens,” said Jirra.

    “The actresses?” asked Tessa with a bemused look on her face.

    “She helped us when we had some problems back at Penn. Don’t forget Jen was a computer expert before she was transformed. From what I’ve seen she loves a good challenge.”

    “Do you have her number?” asked Tessa.

    Jirra nodded.

    Tessa handed Jirra the phone. “Just punch in the number like you would a regular phone.

    A short time later Jirra was talking to Jen.

    “Now this is something I can sink my teeth into!” exclaimed Jen.

    “So that’s a yes?” asked Jirra.

    “Of course.”

    “Um, it’s not exactly legal,” said Jirra.

    Jen laughed. “What fun is hacking if it’s legal? Besides, I’ve learned there are many shades of what’s legal.”

    Jirra laughed. “Here’s Tessa, she can give you the information.”

Chapter 62

    “I had no idea Jen Stevens was so devious, I knew I liked her!” exclaimed Tessa.

    Jirra just smiled. “She’s pretty special.”

    They walked a bit further down the trail when Jirra suddenly froze.

    “What is it?” asked Tessa.

    “I saw something dart into the bushes,” said Jirra. She then paused a moment before continuing. “It was a kangaroo rat and my spirit guide appears to me as one.”

    Tessa nodded and walked slowly to the bushes, followed by Jirra.

    “Look, there’s something there,” exclaimed Jirra as she pointed to the ground behind the bushes.

    Tessa slipped behind the bushes and pulled out a knife from her bag. She began to pry a rusted metal object out from the ground.

    “What did you find?” asked Jirra as she leaned closer.

    “It looks like the old barrel of a rifle…and it looks like some human remains too. There’s several human bones back here.”

    “Really?” asked Jirra. “How did they get there?”

    Tessa came back from around the bush. “I would imagine that they washed down here in a flood. This is a low spot and it has collected what’s left of someone…most likely the man who was shooting at Dr. Margate.”

    “What do we do?”

    “We call Dan on the two-way,” said Tessa.

    “Won’t that expose everything to the world?” asked Jirra nervously.

    Tessa shook her head. “No, we just found some remains. It happens all the time; it would look more out of place if we did nothing. There’s a good possibility that Boyer may be watching us.”

    Jirra nodded and took out the two-way radio.

Chapter 63

    Dan, Barrett, and Victor all showed up together.

    “Where are they?” asked Dan.

    Tessa pointed to the area behind the bushes.

    Dan crouched down and examined what Tessa had excavated.

    “I have to agree with you Tessa; it does look like human remains. Judging by the condition and location, they’ve been here for a while. How did you find them?”

    Before Jirra could speak, Tessa told him that they were walking along the trail when they saw something dart into the bushes. She said that she saw the rusted rifle barrel and got curious. She left out the whole connection to Dr. Margate and Jirra suspected that she would tell Dan about this later.

    “Well, we’d better call the authorities,” said Dan. “Victor, I think we’re off federal land now, so I’ll call the sheriff.”

    Victor nodded. “Good, let him handle it,” he stated. “I don’t want to deal with the paperwork.”

    “Who do you think it is?” asked Barrett.

    “We’ll let the sheriff work on that, he can check missing persons. This area is pretty unforgiving, so bodies turn up all the time. Judging from the look of the rifle barrel, it’s fairly modern so I doubt it’s from the old west,” said Dan. “Once the sheriff gets here we can excavate the site and see what we can find.”

    Jirra noticed that Barrett was about to say something when Dan gave him a look as if to keep quiet. Maybe Barrett had found something important after all.

Chapter 64

    The sheriff arrived an hour later in a helicopter. It circled the canyon twice before setting down near the base camp.

    “If you keep turning up bodies out here Dan the county’s going to make you pave the road,” said Sheriff Harold Cross. “Helicopter transportation is getting expensive.”

    Dan laughed. “Send the bill to the feds.”

    Harold looked at the remains. “I can see what looks like several ribs, definitely human. Dan can you excavate the remains for me?”

    Dan nodded. “I thought you’d ask me that so I had Barrett bring out our gear.”

    “Before you start, I need to deputize you…to make this legal, so raise your right hands,” said Harold.

Dan and Barrett did as he asked.

“To save time, just say ‘I do,’ as it’ll be dark in a couple of hours,” said Harold.

Chapter 65

Jirra and Tessa watched as Dan and Barrett worked. Victor was pleased that he didn’t have to get involved so he headed back to the canyon.

Harold walked over to Jirra and shook her hand. “How’re you doing, young lady?”

“Good thank you. This is my friend Tessa, she’s been helping out here,” said Jirra.

“Pleased to meet you, Tessa,” said Harold. “Oh, Jirra, just so you know, Randy is still in prison. He has applied for work release. However, if he gets it I will let you know.”

“Thank you, Sheriff,” said Jirra.

“Who’s Randy?” asked Tessa.

“Some local idiot who attacked me last year,” said Jirra. She then told Tessa what had happened in town.

“Sheriff, come here,” said Dan.

“What did you find?” asked Harold.

Dan was holding a rubberized sole from a boot. “You can still make out the company’s name, so identifying the boot should be easy.”

“What else have you found?” asked Harold.

“A few coins, all dated in the 1930’s, a few more bones, and some buttons…not much else,” said Dan.

“Okay, that will give us a start, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we never ID whoever this was. Probably some dumb hunter. I’ll talk to Judy Ramone about this. She knows all the legends of this area,” said Harold. “Let’s bag up what we have.”

******

On a nearby mesa, Boyer struggled to get a clear view of what was happening in the dried out creek bed. The arrival of the helicopter had forced him to take cover so he wouldn’t be seen from the air and the only available location was far less than ideal to see what was going on. He silently cursed the bad luck of being discovered by the tourists a few days earlier as his old location would have given him a better look. Still, he figured that he would have to report this to his boss.

Chapter 66

After dinner, they talked about the remains that they had found while Victor was on patrol.

Tessa told them the real story about how they found the remains as they sat around the campfire.

Dan looked at Barrett. “Tell them what you found.”

“Well, not much as most of the stuff on Margate was missing, but we found a real strange notation written in one of Dr. Margate’s textbooks that was in your office. It mentioned that he was heading out to protect something extremely valuable, and that he felt he was being followed,” said Barrett. “Do we tell the sheriff about this?”

Dan shook his head. “No, not right now, Barrett.”

“Why not?” he asked.

Dan glanced at Jirra, who nodded.

“There’s more to this site that hasn’t been made public,” said Dan.

“Well, I know that there are a lot of strange things happening around here,” said Barrett.

“You have no idea, Barrett,” said Jirra.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Barrett, you and I are friends, right?”

He nodded.

“And you know that I’m …different,” she continued.

“I know you’re a lesbian, but that’s your business,” he replied.

“There’s more,” she continued. She then took a deep breath and let it out quickly. “I used to be a guy.”

Barrett’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Really? That’s cool. So you’re transgendered, if you’re happy that’s all that matters.”

“It’s not that simple, Barrett. I was transformed, via a lightning strike, by the mud that comes from this canyon,” she continued. She then told him about how she was changed.

Barrett stared back. “And you obviously trust me enough to tell me this….thank you, Jirra. You have nothing to worry about concerning me.”

He then gave her a big hug.

“Thank you…but this means that this site has mystical powers,” she continued.

Dan then told Barrett about their discoveries.

“So, is that’s why you’re here Tessa?”

“I’m a security expert,” she replied.

He thought about her reply for a moment. “Were you transformed by the mud too?”

Tessa shook her head. “No, the goddess Athena transformed me…but that’s another story.”

Chapter 67

After everyone else went to sleep, Barrett and Jirra sat up and talked.

“I can’t imagine going through such a dramatic change,” he said. “How long did it take?”

Jirra scratched her head. “The physical change happened pretty fast. I was stuck in the copper kettle for a couple of hours. The mental adaptations are still a work in progress. For the most part I accept who and what I am, but there are still things I’m working out.”

“The first few days must have been rough,” he said.

“You have no idea,” she replied.

“Well, just so you know, I never suspected a thing. I mean, I liked you from the get go, and I wasn’t shocked when I heard you were a lesbian, but I never…and still can’t imagine you were ever a guy,” said Barrett. He then laughed. “I hope that came out like I meant.”

She laughed. “It came out perfectly, Barrett. I’m really glad I’m able to talk openly with you now. I’ve always valued our friendship.”

“You’re one of my best friends too, Jirra. I do appreciate your trust in me. So how do you feel about knowing there are real supernatural things in the world?”

“I like it. I mean, it’s really cool to know that there are things going on that most people are oblivious to,” she answered. 

“Tessa’s story is totally amazing too,” he said. “I never would have suspected she had been a guy either.”

“Well, her transformation was a little more extreme than mine,” replied Jirra.

“And is Hallie like you two?” he asked. “I mean, she looks so much like a Minoan…”

Jirra wasn’t sure how to answer as she didn’t feel it was her place to expose anyone’s secrets.

“It’s okay, Jirra, you don’t have to say anything. So what do we do about the guy who’s watching us? I mean, we could get so much done if he was out of the picture,” said Barrett.

“I know, but it’s up to Tessa and Dan,” she said.

Barrett nodded and then looked at his watch. “I’m going bed, what about you?”

“In a moment,” she said. “I just want to soak in the night for a while. Don’t worry; I’ll put out the fire.”

“Good night, Jirra,” he said as she got up and walked over to his tent.

“Good night,” she replied.

Watching from a distance, Boyer couldn’t make out what Jirra and Barrett had been talking about. He really didn’t care was he was more interested in looking at Jirra anyway.

He had sent off his latest report and had been disappointed with the response. His employer had replied that things were getting too hot and that Boyer should be ready to pull out. He’d left out that he’d almost been spotted by the chopper knowing that his boss would close down the operation for certain.

Boyer knew that his boss was pissed that the tourists from the spa had discovered the observation post, but what was he supposed to do, kill them? Granted, that’s exactly what he would have done in Afghanistan. Of course, he would have had his way with them first.

Boyer looked at his watch and decided it was time for him to move out. He took one last look at the girl with the big breasts before he left.

Chapter 68

“Are you sure?” asked Dan.

Tessa nodded. “I suspected he might come closer and I took a little walk last night. He was on that small hill just over my shoulder last night.”

“I don’t like this,” said Dan. “Why is he coming closer?”

“Most likely he was interested in why the sheriff was out here. He was too far way to hear anything and he wasn’t carrying any sort of amplification device,” she continued.

“Just how close were you to him?”

“If I had wanted to, I could have taken him out very easily,” she replied in a very matter of the fact way. “But until we know who he’s working for he’s safe…but as soon as Jen cracks that code he’s fair game.”

“I hope she does it quickly, I hate looking over my shoulder all the time,” said Dan.

Chapter 69

Boyer woke up and read his latest messages on his PDA.

“Pull out at first opportunity. Site surveillance is terminated due to discovery of observation post.”

Boyer stared at the message and seethed. He had explained to his boss that it was a risky location in the first place, how could this be his fault. Besides, he had been promised that the spa would not be an issue! If anyone was to blame it was the contact there.

Boyer replied to the message and stated that he would depart that evening. It would be too risky to pull out in the daylight.

He sat in silence and debated what he would do next. He then saw some of the girls walking around the camp area and decided that maybe the last few weeks hadn’t been a total waste of time.

Chapter 70

“Where are you going, Jirra?” asked Dan.

“I just want to walk over to the canyon before dinner and hopefully see some of the local wildlife,” she replied. “I want to take a few photos.”

“Okay, but take a radio with you,” he said.

Jirra held up the radio. “Got one, thanks.”

She walked up the trail in late afternoon heat. It had been a warm day, but not unpleasant. She reached the guard post and looked around for Victor. His book was on his chair so he couldn’t be far. She picked up his clipboard and wrote him a note saying that she was going for a walk along the rim of the canyon.

Tomorrow they would be heading back to the spa and she wanted to get some good photos for Alexis.

She walked along the trail, stopping occasionally to take a shot. She was almost to the spot where they had discovered the hole when she heard someone coming up behind her. She turned around expecting to see Victor and gasped when she saw a man in camouflage rushing towards her.

The man tackled her and pinned her to the ground. He then placed a knife against her throat.

“Okay, bitch, keep quiet and you won’t get hurt,” he whispered.

Jirra froze in fear as she felt the steel blade press against her neck.

“Good girl,” said the man. “I’ve been watching this dusty shit hole for weeks and you’re the best thing that I’ve seen.”

Jirra realized that this man must be Boyer.

He grabbed her radio and threw it into the canyon.

“My dick is so fuckin’ hard that this won’t take long,” he whispered as he reached down and tore open Jirra’s top. “Oh, don’t worry about us being interrupted…that so-called security guard is a little tied up…”

Boyer began to chuckle at his own joke.

“Please don’t do this,” pleaded Jirra softly.

“You want it bitch…all you sluts want it,” he snapped. “Now, I’m going to tie up your hands, and if you try anything I’ll hurt you.”

He lifted the knife off her throat and pulled a strand of rope out of his hip bag. 

Seeing this might be her only opportunity, Jirra punched him in the nose several times. The shock of her attack allowed Jirra to slip away, she was on her feet and running away when Boyer tackled her and knocked her down, landing on top of her again.

“So, you like it rough…good, so do I,” he snapped. He then slapped her hard across the face. “You like that? Here’s some more bitch!”

He was about to hit Jirra again, when he heard a voice coming from behind him.

“Well, well, I see you still like beating up girls,” said Tessa. “Are you still a rapist?”

Boyer turned around and stared at the petite woman standing a short distance away. “Who the fuck are you?”

“Your worst nightmare, Thomas Boyer. See I know who you are and you don’t know who I am,” replied Tessa. “I know your weaknesses and…well, I’m a total mystery to you.”

He felt his anger growing. It was bad enough the girl with the big tits had fought back, but now some other bitch was threatening him. She also knew his name…how the fuck did she know that?  He decided that he had to take care of both of them and so he punched the girl who was struggling in the face and knocked her out. He then stood up to face the other woman.

“Who the fuck are you?” he demanded as he approached Tessa.

“Repetitive aren’t we? I’ll repeat what I said and say it slower so you can comprehend it. Like I said before… Tom Boyer, I’m your worst nightmare,” replied Tessa. “Oh, and you’re going to pay for hurting her.”

“Did he send you here? I can’t believe this! I do my fucking job and he sends out someone to threaten me!” he snapped.

“Who do you think sent me, Boyer?” asked Tessa as she tried to get some intell out of him.

She was standing a few feet away from him with her arms crossed. To the casual observer she looked totally at ease, but she was prepared to spring like a jungle cat.

Boyer stared at the woman. She didn’t have a weapon and he must have outweighed her by seventy pounds. He recognized her from the site…but there was something else familiar about her.

“Where have we met?” he demanded.

Tessa shook her head in mock disgust. “Damn, for a so-called intelligence operative you’re not very observant. But then again considering you were once a jarhead it’s to be expected.”

Boyer stared back, feeling his rage grow. “Wait, you were with that group from the spa!”

 Tessa nodded. “Very good.”

“You were supposed to keep those fuckin’ tourists away…not join them!” continued Boyer.

Tessa cocked her head and smiled.

Boyer realized that he might have slipped up and tried to change the topic. “How the fuck do you know me?”

“I remember you and that was five years ago…of course it’s very easy to remember a big bag of shit like you,” answered Tessa. “You might want to take your Cuban cigars out of your pocket so they don’t get damaged when I beat the snot out of you.”

Her reply caught him completely off guard. Five years ago he had been in Afghanistan, there’s no way she could have been there.

“Now, tell me who your boss is,” she ordered.

“Or what?” he asked. He flashed a wicked smile. All he had to do was kill these two and everything would be okay. “What’s a little girl like you going to do to me? I’m going beat the shit out of you and after I rape you…I’ll do your friend.”

The words had barely left his mouth when Tessa attacked.

He was caught completely off guard by her swift attack and had no time to defend himself.

She threw a flying kick to his solar plexus that knocked the air of his lungs.

Boyer felt backward and landed flat on his back. He looked up at the woman, who was in a fighting stance a short distance away.

    “That was for being so rude, watch your mouth, stay down and I maybe won’t hurt you…again,” she stated. “If you get up it will very painful for you and that’s not a threat…it’s a promise.”

    Boyer struggled to his feet. “You’re… going to… pay for that, cunt” he gasped. 

    Tessa didn’t wait for him to get his breath back as she struck him immediately with several swift blows to the face. Boyer collapsed back down to the ground, clutching his now broken nose.

    “Christ! You broke my nose!” he screamed.

    “You’re lucky that’s all I broke, now stay down,” she ordered. “Jeez you’re stupid… and if you call me a cunt again this time I’m going to break something more substantial and far more painful.”

    This can’t be happening, he thought. The idea of a mere woman beating him up was inconceivable. What was worse was that she was actually taunting him! The idea that she might be a better fighter than him sent a wave of panic through his body.

    Tessa was ready when he made his next attack. He was barely off his knees when she kicked him in the side of the head. He immediately fell back to the ground moaning in agony.

    “Stay down, Boyer,” she ordered.

    Boyer gasped in pain as he tried to regain his strength. He cursed himself for leaving his gun with his backpack and to make matters worse he had tossed the agent’s gun in the canyon. But then he saw his knife on the ground; he immediately grabbed it and lunged at Tessa.

    She had anticipated this move and easily sidestepped the awkward attack, much like a matador would dodge a bull. 

What she hadn’t expected was that his momentum would carry him over the rim of the canyon. There was nothing she could do for him as he plunged head first over the edge, screaming the whole way down.

    She looked over the rim and saw his inert body lying on the canyon floor. It was obvious that he was dead and she felt no remorse for his death.

    Tessa immediately turned her attention to Jirra. She crouched down next to her friend who was starting to come to.

    “Take it easy, Jirra,” said Tessa as she stroked Jirra’s head. She also closed Jirra’s torn top.

    Victor came hobbling up, looking like he had just gone twelve rounds of boxing with Mohammed Ali and had lost badly. He still had rope on his right wrist.  One eye was closed and his lip was swollen and bleeding. He was also clutching his side. “Are you both okay? The bastard jumped me…thankfully he didn’t find my knife…I was able to cut myself free…”

    “We’re okay, he’s dead,” interrupted Tessa. “Victor, sorry to cut you off but Jirra needs immediate help.”

    Victor nodded. “I saw what happened. What do you want me to do?”

    Tessa looked at the young security officer and quickly assessed his injuries. 

    “Do you okay enough to go get help?” asked Tessa as she positioned Jirra’s head into her lap.

    “Yes,” he replied. He glanced over the rim and then limped off to the camp. “I’ll be back soon. You can count on me.”

    Tessa couldn’t help but admire Victor as he limped down the trail. She then turned her attention back to Jirra.

    “How’re feeling, Jirra?” asked Tessa softly.

    “My face hurts,” she complained as she looked up at Tessa.

    “It’ll be okay,” comforted Tessa as she reached for her water bottle. “Here, take a sip.”

    Jirra winced slightly as she swallowed some water.

    Tessa inspected Jirra’s injuries. Jirra had cut lip, and her right cheek was swollen. Tessa wasn’t sure but she suspected that Jirra might also have a broken nose. There was also the chance she might also have a concussion. Tessa also noticed some bruising on Jirra’s side from where Boyer tackled her when she closed Jirra’s top.

    “Where is Boyer?” Jirra asked.

    “In the canyon,” replied Tessa.

    “You mean…”

    “That’s right. He’s dead, unless he can fly. It wasn’t the three hundred foot drop that got him. It was the sudden stop at the bottom,” replied Tessa. “Just relax, Victor went for help.”

    Jirra nodded. “He said was going to rape me.”

    Tessa shook her head. “He may have wanted to, but it wasn’t going to happen.”

    “Thank you, Tessa.”

    “Your welcome, now try not to talk, okay?”

    Jirra nodded.

Chapter 71

    “I called my superiors and they’re scrambling to get a team out here, they should be here in an hour,” said Victor as he held an icepack against his eye. “They said that they’d come in by helicopter and have a follow-up team a couple of hours after that.”

    “How’re you feeling, Victor?” asked Dan.

    “My pride feels worse than my face,” he replied. “I heard a noise and when I went to look, the bastard was on me before I do a thing. I’m so sorry that he attacked Jirra.”

    “Don’t beat yourself up about it,” said Tessa.

    Victor smiled slightly. “Poor choice of words, Tessa.”

    “I still think you need to see a doctor,” said Dan. “You may have a broken rib or two.”

    Victor winced as Dan touched his side. “So who was that guy? Was he the one watching us?” asked Victor.

    Dan continued to see to Victor’s injuries.

    “Maybe, but one thing is for sure, he’s not going to hurt anyone ever again,” said Tessa.

    Victor nodded. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help…not that you needed it. You really kicked his ass. Who taught you those moves?”

    “I’ve taken a few courses, a girl has to know how to defend herself,” replied Tessa with a wink.

    “I couldn’t hear what you said to him, but you sure pissed him off,” said Victor. Victor flinched as Dan dabbed some antiseptic on some of his scrapes and cuts.

    “Victor, sit still,” said Dan.

    “I had to do something to distract him,” said Tessa, relived that Victor hadn’t heard the conversation.

    “Well you definitely did that. I’m amazed how you beat him so easily,” continued Victor.

    Tessa smiled back at the young agent. She felt a pang of guilt over her suspicion that he had been in with Boyer. She had to admire that he had hiked all the way back to the camp, even though it was obvious he had been injured. “Can I give you some advice, Victor?”

    Victor nodded.

    “I was able to ‘beat him so easily’ as you put it because at first he didn’t see me as a threat. By the time he realized that I could fight his emotions had taken over. Never ever underestimate a potential opponent and never lose your temper,” she stated. “Always treat an adversary with caution and never judge someone by their size or gender.”

    Victor nodded again. “Thanks.” He suspected the woman was more than she appeared, but he didn’t say anything. It was a lesson he would never forget.

    “You should rest now,” said Tessa. “I’m going to check in on Jirra.”

    To Tessa’s surprise, Jirra was sitting up on her cot. She was holding an icepack to cheek.

    “You should be lying down, he knocked you out and you might have a concussion,” said Tessa. “I saw some bruises on your side too.”

    “I’m a very fast healer,” replied Jirra as she looked up at Tessa.

    “This is no time for joking Jirra, he hit you really hard,” said Tessa. “You might have some fractures. I really want to get you to a doctor.”

    “I’m not joking. Ever since the transformation I heal quickly,” she replied as she pulled back the icepack. “See, I’m almost better.”

    Tessa noticed that the swelling had gone down dramatically.

    “Wow, that’s a cool side effect. So maybe we should call you Wolverine,” said Tessa, who sat down on the cot across from Jirra.

    Jirra laughed slightly and winced from pain.

    “Or not,” said Tessa. “Just lay back and rest, okay?”

    “I’ll be fine in a little bit.”

    “You need rest,” said Tessa as she reached into her bag, pulled out a flask, and handed it to Jirra. “Here, take a sip of this.”

    “What is it?” asked Jirra as she sniffed the flask.

    “Just take a small sip,” said Tessa. “It will help you relax.”

    Jirra did as Tessa said and felt the warm fluid enter her mouth and go down her throat. She coughed several times. “What is this stuff?”

    “Tequila,” replied Tessa. “The good stuff, now take another sip…a smaller one this time.”

    Jirra sipped the flask and coughed again.

    “Okay, now lay back and rest okay? I’ll be right outside if you need anything,” said Tessa.

    Jirra nodded. “Thank you, Tessa. I will never forget this.”

    “It was my pleasure,” replied Tessa. “I sort of see you as a sister, Jirra. I mean, other than Jon and my daughter, I don’t have any family. I’ve been accepted into Hallie’s family and now yours. This means a lot to me and I know what it’s like to lose everything. I can promise you this, Jirra, that I will always do everything in my power to protect you and the others.”

    Jirra stared back. “I don’t know what to say…other than I’m proud to consider you my sister.”

    Tessa smiled back. “Good, now lie down and go to sleep. I’m going to see of Victor wants a drink.”

Chapter 72

    Tessa told Dan what Boyer had said.

    “Too bad we didn’t find out who he was working for before he took a header into the canyon,” said Tessa. “However, I’m hoping that Jen comes through with whoever hired Boyer.”

    “What do you think will happen when the word gets out that Boyer is dead?” asked Dan.

    “Well, first they’ll have to identify him and that may take a while,” said Tessa. “I can’t exactly tell the feds how I knew who he was.”

    Dan nodded. “That’s true.”

    “This might give us a small window to work without being spied on. Whoever hired Boyer won’t be able to get someone else in quickly,” said Tessa.

    “That’s also true,” said Dan.

    “I wonder if Hallie has made any progress,” said Tessa.

    “Well, you can ask her when you go back to the spa. I think you should go back with Jirra,” said Dan. “Thank you for saving her.”

    Tessa nodded. “It was my pleasure; I like her a lot too.”

    “So do you think that there’s a spy at the spa?” asked Dan.

    “Boyer seemed to think so,” said Tessa. “I imagine it’s one of the summer hires, it would be easier to slip someone in.”

    “Talk to Jirra’s mom, she’s the spa doctor and she can give you a list of all the new employees.”

    “I will,” said Tessa. “Hopefully we’ll all be back in a few days.”

    The steady beat of a helicopter getting closer ended any further discussion.

Chapter 73

    Almost two hours after the chopper landed a huge red Hummer pulled into the base camp. A frazzled Jen Stevens stepped out followed by four men.

    “Jen, what’s going on?” asked Dan as he walked up the Hummer.

    “My beast was the only thing big enough that was readily available to bring these guys and their gear up here.  Anything larger is up at the movie canyon site. They’re the follow-up team that the Feds promised, more guards to watch over the site. I already checked their credentials, Dan.”

    “Thanks, Jen. Need a hand unloading?”

“Nope, these guys can handle it. They got it all in the beast, they can get the load out. As soon as they’re unloaded I’m heading back to the spa. Tell everyone that the bus will be ready to go in about twenty minutes or so. How’s Jirra?”

“She’s doing pretty well considering what she went through, Jen. I’m more worried about the guard that got hurt. He may have a broken rib or two.”

“That was the other reason I came up in this thing. I installed a special suspension system that should soften the ride a bit. Didn’t think it would be too good an idea to bounce anyone injured around in a normal jeep on that miserable excuse for a road you’ve got.”

    “Well, it’s the best we can do until the grading is finished in the fall.”

    “I hope that it gets better, Dan. It’ll take a lot of concentration to get Jirra and the security guard back without hurting them any more. That road is bad enough in the daytime. At night it’s going to be a real challenge.”

    The Hummer pulled out of camp as the darkness started to fall. The brilliant headlights of Jen’s beast lit up the terrain letting Jen do her best to avoid the potholes and rocks that lay ahead.

    An agent rode back to the spa with Tessa, Jirra, and Victor to take their statements.

    “And neither of you have seen him before?” asked the agent, whose name was Ramon Martinez. He had been working out of the Santa Fe office for seventeen years and had seen a big jump in violence at protected sites, but this was the first time that someone had tried to rape someone. Personally he was glad that the suspect was dead. He was also relived that his agent and the archeologists were okay.

    “No, but he might have been the guy who has been spying on the dig for the past few weeks,” said Victor.

    “We found a backpack near the canyon that was loaded with surveillance equipment, pretty high tech stuff…all with serial numbers removed, and several weapons, also without serial numbers,” said Ramon. “I’m surprised that he attacked you. It doesn’t make sense.”

    “Maybe he was frustrated that we hadn’t found anything worth stealing,” said Jirra.

    Ramon nodded. “I hope we have his prints on file. We didn’t find any ID on his body and his face…well….you can imagine.”

    “Um, I’d rather not,” said Jirra.

    “Sorry,” replied Ramon. “Well, we’ll run his prints and see what turns up. In the meantime we’ll increase security near the site.”

    “I hope you provide enough agents this time,” said Victor.

    Ramon nodded. He had read the frustration in Victor’s reports about not having enough agents to protect the site. “Agreed, that was our fault. What we’ll do this time is use more agents and we’ll pull back a bit further. Having a guard at the site isn’t necessary.”

    “I hope this means that Victor isn’t in trouble,” said Jirra.

    Ramon shook his head. “No, he did all he could.”

    Jirra nodded. “Good.” She also felt guilty over suspecting him of being in with Boyer.

    “Well, here we are,” said Ramon as they pulled into the spa’s parking area.

    “There’s my mom,” said Jirra. “She’s the doctor here too.”

    “Good,” replied Ramon. “I’ll help Victor into her office.”

    Jirra was also happy to see Alexis standing next to her mom.

Chapter 74

    Liz examined both Victor and Jirra and recommended that Victor be transported to the nearest hospital.

    “What about Jirra?” asked Alexis.

    “I think she’ll be okay. Let’s put her in a wheel chair and help her over to her bed,” said Liz.

    “Mom, I can walk,” complained Jirra.

    “Shut up and listen to your mom,” ordered Alexis with a grin.

    Liz leaned down and kissed Jirra on the cheek. “I’m so relieved that you’re okay, Roo. But you’ve been through a lot so listen to me, okay?”

    “Thanks, Mom. Oh, you can thank Tessa for saving me,” replied Jirra.

    “Alexis and Hallie have been telling me about you, Tessa. Thank you so much for looking after Jirra,” said Liz.

    “I just wish I had been up there faster,” said Tessa. There was something very familiar about Liz, but Tessa couldn’t put her finger on it. She began to search her memory as she was sure she had seen the doctor before.

    “Well, you did what you could and we can’t ask for more than that,” said Liz.

Chapter 75

    Alexis wheeled Jirra over to the cottage.

    “I feel like a total idiot,” said Jirra.

    “Hey, just sit back and enjoy the ride,” said Alexis. “I wish I had been there.”

    “I’ve missed you too,” replied Jirra.

    “Thanks,” replied Alexis. 

    They reached the cottage and Alexis wheeled Jirra inside.

    “I could really use a long hot bath,” said Jirra.

    “You’re telling me!” quipped Alexis as she playfully held her nose.

    “You know for a nurse your bedside manner sucks,” said Jirra.

    “Hey, not only am I not a nurse, I’ve never even played one on TV,” replied Alexis.  She leaned over and kissed Jirra on the lips.

    “How’s that?” asked Alexis. “Does that make you feel better?”

    “Much better,” replied Jirra.

    “Good. Now let’s get you into the bathroom… and then into bed.”

Chapter 76

    At the same time Tessa was briefing Liz, Hallie, and Jen on what had happened.

    “Thanks for the ride back, Jen. That’s quite a toy you’ve got there.” commented Tessa.

    “Just the right tool for the job, Tessa. I’m sure you have similar ‘toys’ available for the tasks that you need to do.”

    All eyes turned toward Jen as Tessa asked, “So what was in that encrypted file?”

    “It took a while to break the coding but with a bit of help I managed. I had to pull in a favor and borrow some computing time on one of the Agency’s supercomputers to do it though. Ally Burns is one of the department heads and she was quite helpful in getting me access to the system. It took almost ten hours of computing time but it was well worth the effort.”

    Jen put a stack of paper over two inches high on the table. “About half an inch of this stack is the contents of our snooper’s file; the rest is additional data from the Agency.  Turns out that Thunderbird is just one of a number of companies run through a network of holding companies. All are controlled by Morgan Browning.”

    “Morgan Browning? Isn’t he the one dating Judy? Didn’t we met him briefly at the steer roast?” asked Hallie.

    “Yes, that’s him. There’s a picture of him in the file. It’s a match. I thought I got a bad vibe off him. I think Jirra sensed it too.”

    “I thought I saw something between you and Jirra, Jen.” said Hallie.

    “I’ve had enough dealings with weasels that I can smell them a mile away,” replied Jen.

    “So why would Morgan Browning be interested in the site?” asked Liz.

    “I read enough of the file the Agency has on him to know that he’s a collector of rare antiquities, especially those related to the Anasazi. He’s a nut when it comes to rare and mystical objects and he doesn’t care what he has to do or who he has to hurt or kill to get them either.  He’s also an avid collector of anything to do with Dr. Margate. He buys anything that’s even remotely associated with the man. What he can’t buy he probably steals. I imagine when he heard about the discovery of Dr. Margate’s remains, he began to check out the canyon…he might even know about the plate, although he probably doesn’t know what it is.”

“But that still doesn’t explain why the Agency is interested in him, Jen.” said Hallie.

    “Ally Burns referred to him as ‘The Teflon Don’. They know that he’s a major player in the world’s illegal arms trade and he has his fingers into the sex slave trade and prostitution as well. They’ve tried several times to take him down but they’ve never been able to make anything stick. They’ve been trying to get him off the streets and behind bars for at least ten years now. He’s very good at setting multiple layers between his illegal activities and his legitimate ones. Also, most of his worst offenses occur across the border.”

“But why is he here and involved with Judy?” asked Liz.

“Coincidence maybe but I strongly doubt that, Liz. It’s more likely that he’s playing her in the hope of getting more information about what’s been discovered in that canyon.”

“If he’s just leading Judy along she’ll be furious with him, Jen.”

“I know that. You know her better than I do, Liz so if you think she should know about him I’ll leave that up to you. All I know is that if he’s sniffing around here then it means that whatever he’s into this time is big enough that he’s willing to risk personal involvement in it. His usual style is to let some of his hired help take all the risk while he sits well away from the action.”

“So what happens now?” asked Liz.

“Well, as far as I know we just keep on doing things as normally as possible. We don’t want to tip anyone watching us that we know anything.”

“Jen can you run the names of the new summer hires for me? I think we might have a mole in our midst.” said Tessa.

“Sure. Now that we know the encryption that they’ve used at Thunderbird it won’t take very long to find out if they’ve got someone planted here. If they have maybe we can use them to our own advantage. Information leaks work both ways you know.”

    “Sneaky, very sneaky. I knew there was something about you that I liked! Let me know when you get anything back please.”

    “My pleasure, Tessa. Oh, Liz, Ally Burns said to pass along to Jirra that her friend Beth would be coming out in a day or two. I’ve made one of my jets available on short notice to her. Anyone tracking it can trace it back to me and it’ll help reinforce her cover story that she’s just paying Jirra a visit. Can you let Judy know that we have one more coming? No special treatment and be careful who you’re around when you tell Judy. She can set Beth up with a room in my cottage if there isn’t any other space available.”

    “So if the Agency is sending someone does that mean that they’re taking over?” asked Tessa.

    “No, not at all. This is close as they’ve ever gotten to putting him away. They’ve taken down parts of his organization before but he’s always been resilient enough to start them up again. This is the best chance they have of killing off the brains of the operation so that the rest of the body dies. I talked at length with Ally on a secure line and Beth will be here to support us with whatever we need to get the job done. We can work in the ‘gray areas’ of the law that they can’t.”

    “Secure line? Just how did you get a secure line out here, Jen?” asked Tessa.

    “You’re not the only one who has connections. I’ve got a satellite phone too although I suspect that mine has a few features yours doesn’t. We’ll compare them later.”

    “But why just Beth? Why not a whole crew of people, Jen?” asked Liz.

    “Beth is an unknown to Browning’s organization. She hasn’t been very active as an agent yet. We’re all unknowns to them too. They’ll take all of us at face value I hope and not think of any of us as a threat. If it looks like we have a case, Beth will bring in local agents to make the arrests. The Feds get the credit and our names are kept in the clear. I really don’t want to have any issues with anyone in his organization that’s pissed off because their boss is in jail.”

    “I think you’ve got something there, Jen,” said Tessa.

    “Well, that’s all I’ve got. Tessa, I’ll leave this file with you. You may be able to get more out of it than I did. I’ve got to get back to work on the movie. I’m much more interested in where this is all headed but I do have to keep up appearances now.”

    “Thanks, Jen. You’ve been a big help.” said Hallie.

     “Good. Now I have just one question for all of you. Is it just me or does it feel like we’re all involved in an episode of ‘Charlie’s Angels’?”

All at the same time, Liz, Hallie and Tessa said, “Thank you, Bosley!”

Chapter 77

    Liz was up early the next morning. She had not slept well that night and had been up several times checking on Jirra. In addition to worrying about her daughter, she wondered how she would tell her best friend that the man she was seeing was using her.

    “Good morning,” said Jirra as she walked into the kitchen.

    “How’re you feeling, Roo?” asked Liz as she got up and hugged her daughter.

    “I’m fine,” replied Jirra. “There’s almost no pain where he hit me.”

    “That’s good. Do you want some coffee?”

    Jirra nodded.

    Liz filled Jirra’s mug and topped off her own before sitting down.

    “What about the rest?” asked Liz. “And don’t tell me that it’s okay.”

    Jirra smiled as she poured some milk and sugar into her coffee. “It was pretty frightening. If Tessa hadn’t arrived I don’t want to think what would have happened. He was so much stronger than me...I really tried to get away, but I couldn’t. I really tried to get away from him Mom.”

    “There’s nothing to ashamed about, Roo,” said Liz. “The one thing I don’t want you to do is keep this locked inside. I think that you should talk to a therapist.”

    Jirra nodded. “I’m planning on it.”

    “Where’s Alexis?”

    “She sat up all night keeping an eye on me so I let her sleep in. Oh, and thanks for checking in on me.”

    Liz smiled back. “So you heard me?”

    Jirra nodded as she sipped her coffee. “It made me feel safe…thank you.”

    “I have some other things to talk to you about,” said Liz.

    “What?” asked Jirra.

    Liz then updated Jirra bout what Jen had discovered.

    “And you’re the one who’s going to tell Judy?” asked Jirra.

    Liz nodded. “Just as soon as your friend Beth gets out here.”

    “Poor Judy, she deserves much better than this,” said Jirra.

    “I know…she’s going to be devastated and furious all at the same time.”

    There was a knock on the door and Liz got up to see who it was.

    Tessa was at the door. “Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to see how Jirra’s doing.”

    “Please come in,” said Liz.

    Tessa and Jirra hugged and the three women sat down at the kitchen table.

    “Tessa, do you want some coffee?” asked Liz.

    “Please,” replied Tessa.

    “Milk and sugar is on the table,” said Liz.

    “I only drink it straight…old habits die hard,” said Tessa. She then turned to Jirra. “I’m glad to see that you’re up and about.”

    Jirra nodded. “Thanks to you.”

    Tessa smiled back. “I just wish I had been there five minutes sooner.”

    “How did you overpower him, Tessa? From what I was told he was a large man,” said Liz.

    Tessa looked at Jirra, who nodded.

    “It’s a long story, but I’ll give you the short version,” said Tessa.

Chapter 78

    A pot of coffee later, they were still sitting at the kitchen table.

    “I’ll have to say a prayer of thanks to Athena for saving Jirra,” said Liz.  “So you recognized the man who attacked Jirra from your time in the service?”

    Tessa nodded. “It was when I was in Afghanistan. I was with a SEAL team there and he was a contractor.”

    She then explained how she had known Boyer.

    “You sound like you had a very interesting life as a man,” said Liz.

    Tessa nodded. “It wasn’t a bad life…then again this one is pretty good too.”

    “Still, this man, Boyer could have won,” said Liz.

    Tessa shook her head. “No, I have to disagree with you Liz. Boyer wasn’t ever hired to be an assassin…I was. He was here just to observe. When he attacked Jirra he thought it would be easy, all he saw was a young woman…that caused him to underestimate me too, which is why he’s dead and we’re alive. The next time they might send someone better trained and better prepared. The next time I will also be armed. I’m not trying to scare you, but to just let you know how serious this is.”

    Liz nodded. “Well, I’m just glad you’re both okay.”

    “Tessa, did you say you were in Afghanistan? I know it’s a big country and all, but I wonder if you ever ran into my dad,” said Jirra.

    “Your dad?” asked Tessa as she sipped her coffee.

    “Major Travis Reid, he was with an army unit there,” said Jirra.

    Tessa froze and then stared at Liz. “My god, now I know where I know you from! I kept trying to place your face when we talked last night.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Liz.

    “I knew Major Reid. My team was operating out of the same base and we did some joint ops together. I remember seeing your photo prominently in his quarters,” explained Tessa. She then looked at Jirra. “That means that handsome young man in the photo was you, Jirra.”

    “Really? You knew Dad? Wow, this is so incredible!” exclaimed Jirra.

    “He was a damn fine officer and an even better man; I was honored to have known him,” continued Tessa. “I was sorry to hear about his death.”

    “Thank you,” replied Liz. “That means a lot to me.”

    “I know that he really loved both of you,” said Tessa. She then shook her head in disbelief. “I guess our friendship isn’t chance after all, Jirra.”

    “Do you think that…”

    Tessa shrugged her shoulders. “I try not to think about it too much. I already suspect that meeting Hallie wasn’t chance either... we have some rather interesting connections too. No, I think we were all destined to become close friends.”

    She then hesitated as she realized she had said too much about Hallie.

    “Don’t worry, Tessa, I know about Hallie,” said Liz. “She told me everything.”

    “So that’s four of us,” said Tessa.

    “There’s at least one more,” said Jirra.

    “You mean Beth?” asked Tessa. She then winked at Jirra. “It’s okay, I sort of suspected when Jen told me about her. The Agency recruits them early, but not that early. Don’t worry; I won’t say a thing until you’ve Okayed it with her. I wonder what my ties are with her?”

    Jirra nodded. “Thanks.”

    “I just have one last question before I leave,” said Tessa.

    “What is it?” asked Jirra.

    “Why does your mom call you Roo?”

    Liz immediately broke up laughing. “Do you want to tell her?”

    Jirra rolled her eyes and sighed. “Please Mom; embarrass me in front of Tessa!’

Chapter 79

    Dan showed up around lunch with Barrett.

    He immediately stopped in to see how Jirra was doing.

    He ate lunch with Liz, Jirra and Alexis. After they updated him on what they discovered he told them what had happened at the canyon.

    “The feds have closed the dig down for a few days to investigate what happened so I figured there was no reason for us to stay there. They promised not to touch anything at the dig,” said Dan.

    “What about Boyer?” asked Jirra.

    “They seem to believe our story. It definitely helps that Victor saw the fight. By the way, how’s he doing?”

    “I called this morning, he’s got a concussion and they’re keeping him in the hospital for another day for observations,” said Liz.

    Dan nodded. “I’m sorry I suspected him.”

    “You weren’t the only one, Dan,” said Jirra.

    “Oh, Dan, speaking of blame, I don’t hold responsible you in any way for what happened to Jirra,” said Liz. “I also have no objections to her going back to the dig.”

    “Really?” asked Jirra.

    Liz smiled. “Roo, I’ve accepted that your life isn’t going to be routine so why fight it?”

    “Thanks Mom,” replied Jirra.

    “So where is Hallie working?” asked Dan.

    “I’m letting her use the medical center. I’m the only one on the staff, but Judy had it built with two offices,” said Liz.

    “Good,” he replied. “Oh, when you tell Judy, do you want me to be there?”

    Liz shook her head. “No, although I appreciate the offer.”

Chapter 80

    Alexis, Jirra, and Dan, and Liz headed over to the medical office.

    Hallie was hard at work trying to decipher the plate. She was working from her etching and had several notebooks spread out over her desk.

    “How’s it going?” asked Jirra.

    Hallie looked up and smiled. “I was going to ask you the same thing.”

    “I’m fine…thanks to Tessa,” said Jirra.

    “I know all about that, she saved my life once,” said Hallie.

    “Hallie, aren’t you worried if someone sees this?” asked Alexis.

    Hallie shook her head. “No. Tessa came up with a plan. I drove out to Santa Fe to see my dad and when I came back I had a stack of paperwork. I mentioned that my colleagues back in Crete had sent me some new data.”

    “What if someone looks at your notes?” asked Dan.

    Hallie laughed. “Good luck with that. I write all my secure notes in one of the Minoan languages.”

    Dan smiled. “So what have you uncovered?”

    “The plate gives directions to another site,” said Hallie. “It was a message to any other Minoans that made it this way. The hard part is figuring the distances.”

    “Maybe I can help,” said Dan.

    Hallie nodded. “Great, pull up a chair and I’ll show you what I have. Oh, those markings that were in Margate’s notebook… apparently he thought they were some sort Anasazi written language. He had discovered the markings all over the canyon…and in some other places…so maybe he discovered our mystery place.”

    “That makes as much as sense as anything I’ve been able to come up with,” said Dan. “Now, let’s see your notes.”

    “I think that means we’re not needed,” said Alexis to Jirra.

    “That’s fine, I could use some relaxation.”

    “How about a mud bath?”

    Jirra smiled. “Why not?”

Chapter 81

    Beth Williams arrived right before dinner and was greeted enthusiastically by Jirra.

    Beth was dressed like a college student on vacation and it would have taken an extremely sharp eye to realize she was actually a federal agent.  She was wearing shorts and a University of Pennsylvania polo shirt.

    “So you finally made it out here,” said Jirra.

    “I’m glad you invited me,” said Beth.

    “Well, you’re just in time for dinner,” said Jirra. “Tonight we’re having a quesadilla bar.”

    “What’s that?” asked Beth.

    “They have all these of ingredients and you just tell them what you want,” said Jirra.

    “Sounds great, I haven’t eaten anything since I left DC this morning,” said Beth.

    “After dinner I’ll introduce you to everyone,” whispered Jirra.

    Beth nodded. “I’m looking forward to it.”

    Alexis met them just outside the dining facility.

    “Hi Beth, good to see you again,” she said.

    “Thanks, Alexis,” replied Beth. “Is Jen around?”

    Alexis shook her head. “She’ll be here tomorrow; she wanted to get a shot of a sunset and Jen doesn’t want a digital one. She’s been trying for days but it hasn’t come out just right.”

Chapter 82

    After dinner, Jirra, Alexis, Beth, Dan, Liz, Hallie, and Tessa all met for what looked like coffee and dessert at Liz’s cottage.

    “Jirra told me that you all know her secret,” said Beth.

    “We have a lot in common with her,” said Tessa with a smile.

    Beth nodded knowingly.  “So who goes first?”

    Hallie raised her hand and she was followed by Tessa.

    If Beth was shocked, she didn’t show it. “My transformation is less mystic and more science. “

    She then told them how she had once been a Lieutenant in the navy until she was infected with a DNA changing process invented by Dr. Martz, who was trying to recreate his deceased daughter.

    “By the time the transformation was over I was a teenager,” said Beth.

    “And this all happened in less than twenty-four hours?” asked Liz.

    Beth nodded. “It was pretty painful and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Some of the people who underwent the procedure died.”

    “So how did you end up as an agent?” asked Dan.

    “I was adopted by the woman who had been initially assigned to my case. She later married another agent and he also adopted me. I was also involved in some agency related cases and well, it just seemed liked the thing to do… I really like it and not to sound egotistic or anything, I am pretty good at it,” said Beth.

    “So Williams is your adopted father’s last name?” asked Tessa.

    Beth nodded. “Hey, he was a SEAL once, maybe you met him, Tessa, his first name is Steve.”

    Tessa replied with a description which matched Steve perfectly.

    “And does he have a ‘slight problem’ with authority?” asked Tessa with a sly grin on her face.

    Beth laughed as she nodded.

    “So you know him?” asked Jirra.

    Tessa nodded. “I could tell you some wild stories about him. He’s a good man, I’m glad he has a family.”

    “Okay, this has officially crossed over into ‘Twilight Zone’ territory,” stated Jirra.

    “Apparently there’s a reason for our union,” said Hallie. “I sort of feel better knowing that higher powers have brought us together.”

    Beth nodded. “I agree; so tell me what had been going on.”

Chapter 83

    Beth refilled her mug of coffee. “The evidence we have against Morgan is circumstantial at best and also some of it won’t be admissible into a court. While I appreciate Jen’s skills, she did it without a warrant.”

    “Does a private citizen need a warrant?” asked Alexis.

    “No, but the courts consider that breaking and entering,” said Beth with a smile. “Jen isn’t in any trouble though. She’s worked with the Agency before and her discovery, while not admissible in court, gives us key pieces of information to put Browning away.  We know he’s involved in a multitude of illegal acts, but never in the United States. In this country he’s squeaky clean…except when it comes to dealing in antiquities.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Dan.

    “When artifacts come on the market he immediately buys them, he’s been known to outbid others by amounts well beyond the market price,” said Beth.

    “Bad business isn’t a crime,” said Dan.

    “True, but in cases when someone won’t sell to him, accidents seem to happen,” continued Beth. “He then swoops in and buys the artifacts from the estates.”

    “You mean he has killed to get artifacts?” asked Liz.

    “We suspect he has ordered the killings of at least five other collectors,” said Beth.

    “Why?” asked Jirra.

    “According to our therapists they think he has an obsessive behavior concerning his collection,” said Beth. “I don’t think that the death of Thomas Boyer is going to scare him off. He knows that Margate discovered something important…something so valuable that it had to be hidden. We know that he’s been looking for this canyon for years.”

    “But the artifact that was in the canyon isn’t Anasazi,” said Jirra.

    “Yes, but he doesn’t know that,” said Tessa as a smile grew on her face.

    “You’re thinking of something devious, Tessa…what is it?” asked Hallie.

    “It’s going to involve setting a trap… and it will involve all of us….including Jen,” said Tessa.

    “Okay, let’s hear your plan,” said Beth.

Chapter 84

    “Well, Jen’s in,” said Alexis as she closed her cell phone.

    “Do you think this will really work?” asked Jirra.

    Beth shrugged her shoulders. “Stranger things have happened. If we play it right we should get his attention. What we have going in our favor is Morgan desperately wants what’s in the canyon.”

    “Won’t Boyer’s death scare him off?” asked Jirra.

    “Officially, no one knows who the man who was killed in the canyon is. The body has been turned over to forensics and so far they haven’t been able to identify him. But Morgan knows that it’s just a matter of time until Boyer’s identity is discovered.”

    “So that means that Morgan might feel the need to act quickly?” asked Jirra.

“Exactly! Now, did Jen say how soon she would be ready?” asked Beth.

    “She said that she can provide the bait tomorrow morning,” said Alexis. “She’ll hide it on the trail. I know exactly where they’ll hide it.”

    “That’s fast,” said Tessa.

    “She said it was a prop from her movie,” said Alexis. “I’ve seen some of the props that were used and they look very realistic.”

    “I have to agree, I gave her some photos to be used by her special effects department,” said Dan. “When I saw their final efforts I was very impressed. Granted, anyone looking at them up close wouldn’t be fooled for long.”

    “In a photo, how hard would it be to determine if the items were real or fake in a photo?” asked Beth.

    “Almost impossible,” said Dan.

    “Good,” said Beth. “Now, all we have to do is plant the artifacts in the canyon, take some photos, and then leave the photos out so that Morgan’s mole sees them,” said Beth. “Dan, I trust you can make the ‘discovery’ of the artifacts look authentic.”

    “Absolutely,” he replied.

    “But we don’t know who the mole is,” said Jirra.

    “Yes we do. Jen called me on the flight here and gave me a name. The mole is a member of the maid staff. Her name is Carmen Valverde, actually Maria Padilla, and she’s currently assigned to work cottages that include Dan’s cottage. She’s been with Thunderbird for five years,” said Beth.

    “So she’ll tip off Morgan when she sees the photos,” said Jirra.

    “The trick will be to make it so Morgan will come out himself,” said Beth.

    Dan smiled. “I think I know the way. We make it appear that the artifacts are in a very precarious location, that way Morgan won’t be able to risk having some thug like Boyer come out here.”

    “Thug, you’re starting to sound like me,” said Tessa with a laugh.

    “Sounds like a plan,” said Beth.

Chapter 85

    The next morning, Dan led two jeeps up the trail to the canyon, followed by the second jeep driven by Barrett.

    Beth as the honored guest sat next to Dan, and Jirra and Alexis sat in the back seat, while Tessa sat next to Barrett in the second jeep.

    Hallie stayed back at the spa and worked to decipher the directions on the plate. They were a combination of geographical references, combined with astronomical references. She had a stack of topographical maps and star charts along with her reference books. It was the type of puzzle that she loved working on.

    As promised there was a box hidden just off the trail that contained the prop Anasazi pottery.

    As they drove to the canyon, Tessa briefed Barrett on the plan.

    “This is pretty cool. I mean, I’ve always been a fan of Clive Cussler books, and now it feels like I’m in one,” he said.

    “Just remember that this isn’t fiction. We’re dealing with dangerous people, so don’t try to be a hero,” said Tessa.

    “I won’t,” he replied. “Tessa, thanks again for trusting me and bringing me along.”

    “Jirra speaks very highly of you and that’s good enough for me,” replied Tessa.

    “She’s pretty special. I sort of think of her as a sister…if that makes sense. I mean even when I first met her I knew that we would be close friends…but not in a romantic way,” he said.

    “Those are the type of friends you treasure your whole life,” said Tessa.

****

    Back at the spa, Liz wondered how she would tell Judy about Morgan. It had been decided to wait until after the trap had been sprung. While every shred of evidence they had pointed to him they decided not to tell Judy until there was absolutely no doubt left that Browning was behind what was going on.

    While Liz understood the reason for this, she didn’t like the fact that Judy was being deceived. She knew that Judy would be devastated when the truth came out and Liz planned on being there to help her friend.

Chapter 86

    Two days later a jeep driven by Dan sped into the spa parking area. He immediately rushed to his cottage.

    A short time later he was back in the jeep and heading back to the canyon. What seemed strange to spa employees who saw him was that he hadn’t bothered to load the jeep with supplies.

    He arrived back at the canyon just in time for dinner.

    “How did it go?” asked Jirra.

    “Well, I’ve never considered myself an actor, but I think my performance was quite believable,” he replied as he sat down at the camp table.

    Barrett handed him a chilled Dose Equis.

    “Thank you,” he replied.

    “Now we just wait for the rat to take the bait,” said Tessa.

    “How long do you think that will take?” asked Alexis.

     “Well, Hallie said that Maria usually stops by my cottage every morning around eight,” said Dan. “I left the photos of the pots next to my computer. There’s a fake unanswered message on my answering machine stating that the university will send down a team to pick up the pots in three days.”

    “If Morgan does show up and tries to steal the pots, what happens then?” asked Alexis.

    “It will give us the opening we’ll need to search his home and businesses,” said Beth. “The Agency and several other law enforcement organizations have been waiting for such an opening for years.”

    “Can’t he claim entrapment?” asked Alexis.

    Beth shook her head. “Not if he comes here; it would be entrapment if we came to him and offered to sell him stolen artifacts. Besides, just the fact that he was caught trespassing on protected federal land opens the door for us.”

    Alexis nodded.

    “All we can do is wait,” said Beth.

Chapter 87

    The next evening as they sat around the campfire, Beth made an announcement.

    “Hallie called me and said Morgan just arrived at the spa an hour ago,” she said. “She also said that Judy is away at a meeting in Santa Fe.”

    “Okay, so that means that he’ll probably be making his move this evening,” said Tessa.

    “I agree,” said Beth. “The important thing is to follow the plan we’ve discussed. There’s a possibility that he might not be alone.”

Tessa nodded. “Morgan probably knows about the security perimeter and most likely will feel he’s home free as long as he can avoid it. According to the records, he’s an avid outdoorsman who was raised in the Southwest, so walking around the area at night won’t be a problem. He’ll probably have night vision glasses too.”

“Like yours?” asked Jirra.

“Probably, but not as good,” she replied with a wink.

Chapter 88

Morgan Browning walked quietly towards the canyon. The federal security guards were not a problem and he had easily slipped past their camp. While he was still angry at Boyer for attempting to rape that girl at the canyon, his death did serve a useful purpose. The guards and probably the archeologists at the canyon would have never suspected that someone would risk trespassing so soon after the death of Boyer.

Morgan knew this was a risky plan, but the chance to steal the pottery from the site was too important to pass up.

He had studied the copies of the photos and noted that the pots were sealed, which meant that something precious and rare could be inside them. He had obsessed about the canyon his entire adult life. What had been so important that Dr. Margate had sacrificed his own life to protect it?

Morgan had inherited his obsession with the canyon from his grandfather. The rumor was that Dr. Margate had discovered something of great value, no one knew just what. Morgan’s grandfather had financed Margate’s research and had suspected that the crazy archeologist had found something of immense value. To try and find out what Margate had discovered, his grandfather had sent out a man to trail Margate, when neither returned the mystery only deepened.

When he heard of the recent discovery of the human remains, it confirmed that this was the place.

Morgan suspected that the pottery held a map of some kind, possibly to a hidden sacred place or a mine. It really didn’t matter as soon it would be his. The last thing he wanted was to have some academic know-it-all discover Margate’s secret.

     The pots, while valuable would have to be sacrificed, as it would be impossible to carry them out alone. After Boyer’s failure, he decided not to bring in anyone else to help him. It was the same old story; if you wanted something done right, do it yourself.

    Morgan entered the canyon, after watching the archeologists’ camp for an hour. He found the location of the still partially buried pots under a rather precarious looking rock outcropping with little difficulty. He did appreciate the thoroughness of Dr. Montgomery, who was more interested in preserving the pots. Morgan suspected that the reason why Montgomery didn’t open the pots was the fear of damaging the contents.

    Morgan looked at the partially buried pots for a moment before picking up a rock.

    He signed for a moment, before smashing the pots. He quickly reached inside and pulled out what felt like metal plates.

    His heart was beating rapidly as he examined the plates. They were very heavy and he wondered if they were gold. Even in the dark, he could make out some sort of marks on them.

    He knew he should wait until he got back to the spa, but he couldn’t resist taking a quick look at them. He pulled out his flashlight, which had a red filter on it, and shined it on one of the plates.

    At first he was confused as the marks didn’t look like anything the Anasazi would have done. He turned the plate around and stared at the markings. A combination of rage and fear swept through his body as the plates dropped through his hands and hit the canyon floor.

    He quickly turned around and started to leave when he was illuminated by several high-powered flashlights. The lights instantly blinded him and he yanked off his night vision goggles and threw them to the ground.

    “Freeze!” ordered a voice out of the darkness. “Lie down on your stomach, hands out in front of you! You’re under arrest.”

    Morgan glared at lights and debated making a run for it.

    “This is your last warning. You are under arrest for trespassing on a protected federal site,” ordered the man.

    Morgan glared in the direction of the voice and lifted his hands up into the air. He dropped to his knees and then lied down on his belly. He would let his lawyers get him out of this.

Chapter 89

    Morgan Browning was cuffed, frisked, and read his rights. He sat on a rock as the federal guards questioned him. He just told them that he wanted to speak to his lawyer. He figured that at the worst he would be charged with a minor transgression and that he would do some community service. It was embarrassing to be caught and his pride was hurt.

    He watched as the uniformed guards briefed a young woman, woman…she was a kid, a young girl! He wondered why they were talking to one of the college kids who was working at the site. He then saw that the girl had a badge hanging on a chain around her neck.

    The woman walked over and showed him the badge.

    “I understand that you’ve requested a lawyer,” she said. “I just want to inform you that we know who you are.”

    Morgan didn’t reply.

    “Morgan Browning, you are facing several federal charges and you will be transported to our office in Santa Fe,” said the woman.

    Morgan looked at her badge and froze. He then looked up at her face.

    The woman smiled. “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Special Agent Beth Williams and I work for The Agency.”

    For the first time since he had been arrested, Morgan felt fear. If The Agency was involved in this that could mean that trespassing on federal property was the least of his worries. They didn’t get involved in minor cases over the theft of a few artifacts. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

    Her phone rang and she answered it. Morgan noted that she had a very high-tech satellite phone.

    “Really? Excellent, I will let him know,” said Beth. She hid her smile as she saw him reach up to wipe away the sweat from his face. “Mr. Browning, that was my supervisor, I just want to inform you that a federal judge in Tucson has authorized search warrants for your home, car and office. The searches will be conducted immediately. While it is your right to wait until you talk to your lawyer, I have been advised by my supervisor that if you want to make a deal you better do it before we find anything.”

    Morgan glared at her and was about to open his mouth but stopped and slowly shook his head.

    Beth just smiled back and looked at her watch. “The clock is ticking.”

Chapter 90

    Dan, Jirra, Alexis, Tessa, and Barrett didn’t enter the canyon until after Morgan had been removed.

    Beth greeted them and told them about the warrants.

    “I take it that the guards weren’t the same caliber that has been guarding the site,” said Dan.

    “The Agency brought in one of their teams yesterday, just to play it safe,” replied Beth. She then told them what had happened.

    “So what was on the plates?” asked Alexis.

    Beth laughed and held them out. “This was Jen’s idea and I have to admit that it was pretty funny. She had her special effects personal make them.”

    Jirra and the others looked at the plates and began to chuckle.

    The gold colored plates read “You have the right to remain silent” in pig Latin.

    “So what happens now?” asked Dan as he chuckled .

    “Morgan is being transported to Santa Fe and soon teams of agents will start searching his home and office,” said Beth. “The federal attorney will meet Morgan and see if he wants to make a deal. He won’t walk away free, but he could help us prosecute many others and avoid a much longer sentence. The goal when dealing with anyone involved in the international sex trade is to get as many convictions as possible.”

    “So what sort of deal is he going to be offered?” asked Jirra.

    Beth shrugged her shoulders. “It all depends on what is found. I can’t tell you everything, but The Agency has suspected that Morgan has maintained his database in his home. We know from the blueprints that his home has a large vault built into it. The problem has been that while we’ve suspected Morgan of being involved in a variety of crimes; he’s never even had a speeding ticket in this country. So our warrants will allow us to search it…initially for stolen artifacts, but everything else will be fair game…within reason.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Barrett.

    “Well, if we find any stolen artifacts and there are computer drives in same vault we have the right to examine them for additional information regarding stolen items,” replied Beth. “We added those missing documents from the University of New Mexico to the warrant.”

    “And if you find something regarding sexual slavery it would be admissible in court?” asked Alexis.

    Beth nodded. “But I doubt it would ever go to trial as the last thing Morgan would want is to be on trial for international sexual slavery. There would also be the additional threat of extradition. I know this may sound harsh, but sexual slavery is a horrific crime. We want to get both the buyers and sellers. From what we’ve heard, Morgan only sees sexual slavery as a way to make money…however that doesn’t make him an less of a scumbag than the pervert who pays thousands of dollars to go on a sexual vacation.”

    The other nodded.

    “Beth, can you call my mom and let her know what’s happened? She should let Judy know that Morgan has been arrested,” said Jirra.

    Beth nodded and handed Jirra the phone. “Here, you can call her yourself. When you’re done, I’ll talk to her too.”

Chapter 91

    Judy was stunned when Liz told her that Morgan was currently in federal custody.

    They were sitting in Judy’s office back at the spa. Liz had contacted Judy as soon as Judy had returned to the spa.

    “I can’t believe that Morgan would steal artifacts,” exclaimed Judy. “He’s wealthy enough to buy anything that goes on the market.”

    “Apparently he thought that Dan’s excavation was going to discover something extremely rare and valuable,” said Liz.

    “And they set a trap for him?”

    “It wasn’t set for Morgan, it was set for the person who hired the man who attempted to rape Jirra,” countered Liz.

    “So…what is he being charged with?” asked Judy.

    Liz shook her head. “I really don’t know. The agent who briefed me told me that there were other charges pending…but that’s all I know.”

    Judy stood up and stared out the window.

    Liz watched her best friend for a moment before getting up and seeing if Judy was okay.

    Judy turned around and wiped tears out of her eyes. “God damnit!” she exclaimed. “The bastard used me.”

    Liz moved closer.

    “The son of a bitch used me to get close to the dig,” declared Judy. “I feel like such an idiot.”

    Liz nodded and wrapped her arms around Judy, who accepted the hug and began to weep.

Chapter 92

    Morgan Browning sat in the examination room at the Federal holding facility in Santa Fe. His lawyer had briefed him on the search warrants.

    “Morgan, I need to know what’s going on,” stated the lawyer.

    His name was Lawrence Keating and he had been working for Morgan Browning for ten years. He knew of his employer’s obsession with Anasazi relics and had even helped Morgan obtain numerous artifacts.

    “This can’t just be about a few pots of questionable ownership,” said Lawrence.

    “Have they told you anything?” asked Morgan. “I mean about what they might have found?”

    Lawrence shook his head. “It must be something big. Look, if you’re hiding something, it would be best if you told me.”

    “Why?”

    “I might be able to make a deal,” said Lawrence.

    Morgan’s eyes stared at the table and his shackled hands. “We wait until they make the first move. If all they find is a few stolen pots and some documents stolen from The University of New Mexico, I’ll pay the fine and do some community service.”

    “What are you hiding, Morgan?” asked Lawrence. “I want to help you, and if you tell me I can start planning your defense.”

    Morgan lifted the paper cup that held some lukewarm coffee with both hands and took a sip. He then set down the cup. “I have invested…some substantial funds in some rather lucrative international investments…unfortunately the feds…and others might consider them illegal. They are not the type of things that I am personally interested in…other than the money they generate. They allow me to indulge in my collecting of artifacts.”

    Lawrence pulled out his notepad. “Tell me about them.”

Chapter 93

    Beth rode back to the spa with Jirra, Alexis, and Tessa, who was driving the jeep.

    “Thanks for inviting me out here…it was a lot of fun,” said Beth.

    “I wish you could stay out here longer,” said Jirra.

    “Me too, but I have to make my report,” replied Beth.

    “What do we do about the mole at the spa?” asked Alexis.

    “I would tell Judy to immediately fire her,” said Beth. “Our agents will want to question her, and they will probably try and get her to turn in Morgan in exchange for walking.”

    “Do you think that this is over?” asked Jirra.

    Beth shrugged and looked at Tessa, who shook her head.

    “Why don’t you think so, Tessa?” asked Jirra.

    “Morgan obviously knows that something important was hidden in the canyon…granted he doesn’t know what, however this doesn’t mean that he won’t try to discover what it is. The man…the man who ordered my death was like that, he was obsessed with the thrill of owning precious artifacts.”

    “I tend to agree with Tessa,” said Beth. “The people Browning hired aren’t likely to give up either if their potential reward was high enough. The Agency kept his arrest quiet to maximize the potential for other arrests so they don’t know he’s in jail.”

    Jirra looked out over the rolling hills as they approached the spa. “So what do we do?”

    “That depends on Hallie,” said Tessa. “If she discovers that there’s something hidden around here we need to find it.”

    “And protect it?” asked Alexis.

    “If it’s connected to the Minoans that may not be necessary,” said Tessa.

    Beth glanced back at Jirra. “You have some very interesting friends.”

    “Tell her your idea,” said Alexis.

    Beth turned around and asked what Alexis meant. Jirra told her about the formation of a group of the transformed woman.

    “That sounds rather interesting,” said Beth.

    “It makes sense too,” said Tessa. “This case has shown that we can do great things with our various skills.”

    Beth nodded. “I would be interested in joining. I mean, as long as it doesn’t violate any rules of being an agent. I’ve always felt that my transformation had a deeper meaning and purpose.”

    “That means there are five of us, along with our friends and families,” said Tessa.

    “I imagine we could use Celeste,” said Beth.

    “Who’s she?” asked Tessa.

    “A great friend,” said Jirra. “You met her back in Philly.”

    Beth then told Tessa about Celeste Farnsworth.

    “And would she be willing to help us?” asked Tessa.

    “I can ask her,” said Beth. “But I think she will do it.”

    “Good,” replied Tessa. “We can definitely use someone like her.”

    “There might be one more,” said Beth. “But I have to talk to her first…can I tell her about the rest of you?”

    “Can you trust her?” asked Tessa.

    “Like a sister,” replied Beth.

    “It’s okay with me,” replied Tessa.

    Jirra nodded. “I know that I can trust you, Beth.”

Chapter 94

    Jirra and Alexis headed over to find Liz and see how Judy was doing. Tessa tracked down Hallie.

    Liz was in her cottage when Jirra and Alexis found her.

    “How’s Judy?” asked Jirra anxiously.

    “Very upset…and also extremely angry,” replied Liz. “I would say that it’s a very good thing that Morgan is in custody. Judy talked about using one of those Colt peacemakers on him. With the mood she’s in right now she’d probably neuter him with a single shot.”

    “I can’t blame her,” said Alexis.

    “What’s really going on with him? I know it’s bad,” asked Liz.

    Jirra told her what Beth had told them.

    All Liz could do was shake her head. “He’s one of the biggest contributors to social programs in the region Are they sure he’s into all those horrible things?”

    “Beth seemed pretty sure,” said Jirra.

    Meanwhile over at Hallie’s cottage, Tessa was being shown a map.

    “I think this is the location of the site described on the plate,” said Hallie as she fought back a yawn.

    “When did you sleep last?” asked Tessa.

    Hallie shrugged her shoulders. “What day is it?”

    Tessa laughed. “Well, you know what this means?”

    Hallie nodded. “It means we head out to this canyon,” she replied as she pointed at the map.

    “Yes, but not until you get some sleep,” said Tessa.

    “I’m… fine,” replied Hallie as she fought back a yawn.

    “Yeah, sure you are,” said Tessa. “Let’s lock this up and get you into bed.”

Chapter 95

    The following day, Hallie led a small group consisting of Jirra, Alexis, Jen, and Tessa up into the canyon that matched the coordinates on the plate. It turned out to be the right side of the ‘Y’ canyon that Jen had been using to film her movie. Fortunately Jen had given the crew another day off since the filming was ahead of schedule and the recent spell of abnormally hot weather in the area had broken. With the enhanced security in place at the Anasazi canyon, even the security staff was given the day off to recover back at the spa.

    “So how did you figure out the location?” asked Jen.

    “It was a combination of references to celestial bodies, Minoan religious references and dimensions used by the Minoans,” said Hallie. “Only someone familiar with all three could have known how to read the plate. It was definitely left as a maker for other displaced Minoans.”

    “Do you think that any of them read it?” asked Jirra.

    Hallie shrugged her shoulders. “No real way of knowing. From what I was allowed to see from the dream visits that the goddesses gave me, I know that an exodus of Minoans occurred after the volcanic eruption of Thera. The cult that I’ve been studying took part and sent out approximately 100 ships. Just how many made it across the Atlantic Ocean is anyone’s guess.”

    “I’ve seen the replicas of the Minoan vessels and I find it amazing that even one could have made the trip,” said Tessa.

    “I know what you mean and it’s been on my mind. The Minoans were a seafaring race and they would have recognized the danger of crossing the ocean in a small ship,” said Hallie. “However, I have a theory that they didn’t come here directly. From what Dan had discovered, this site was most likely in use from 400 to 700 AD and Thera erupted around 1650 BCE, so that leaves a long period in between. What I suspect is that as the Minoan refugees moved out from Crete, they interacted with other civilizations, while all the time maintaining their culture and languages. So by the time they crossed the Atlantic they may have been a mixture of other cultures and would have had bigger and better ships.”

    “Have you found any proof to back this up?” asked Jen.

    Hallie nodded. “We’ve found Minoan writing and objects in many sites in Europe, especially in the Britain and Ireland. The common belief is that they were brought there by trade…of course I know better, but it’s rather hard to site ancient goddesses as a source in a paper.”

    The others laughed.

    “Just for the sake of argument, wouldn’t they have been absorbed into the other cultures?” asked Tessa.

    “They might have adapted, but they could have kept their culture. Look at other groups that have maintained their cultures like the Jews and the Roma,” said Hallie. “It’s even happening today with the immigration into the United States. Each culture integrates into the whole but yet they retain most their own culture at their core.”

    Tessa nodded.

    “So, it’s possible that your Minoan travelers may have had contact with many of the native peoples of the Americas,” said Jen.

    Hallie nodded. “They were curious people who thrived on trade…not just for commercial interests, but intellectual pursuits. We also know that many cultures crossed the oceans before 1492. We’re pretty sure that Columbus was even using copies of Chinese charts from 1421. If some group did manage to cross the ocean and return others would eventually find out and try and repeat it.”

    “But why would they keep it secret?” asked Alexis.

    “For any one of a hundred reasons. We know that fishermen from Europe knew about the Grand Banks long before Columbus ever thought of crossing the ocean blue. They kept it quiet to protect their fishing grounds,” replied Hallie.

    “Makes sense,” said Alexis.

    “My dad just bought the rights to a book that includes many of these theories,” said Hallie.

    “Oh, the last time we talked he was raving about a historical book he had just read…something about a sailor who fought in the Armada under Drake and later became a buccaneer,” said Jen. 

    Hallie nodded. “My dad was offered the rights before it was even published. Turns out the main character served on a ship captained by one of our relatives,” replied Hallie. “The book will be published this fall and it will be a best seller, it’s a real page turner, I couldn’t put it down.”

    “Knowing your father it will be a great movie too,” said Jen. “Hmmm… I wonder if he’s found a backer for it yet?”

    “Do you have someone in mind?” asked Alexis.

    “Maybe,” she replied with a smile.

    “Maybe someday you can sell him our story,” said Jirra.

    The others turned and looked at her with disbelief.

    “It was a joke!” she replied as she laughed.

Chapter 96

    “Well, here we are,” said Hallie as they stood outside the front of the canyon.

    “So what do we do?” asked Alexis. She felt a shiver run up her spine and she took a slight step backward to move away from the canyon’s entrance. 

    “If it’s like other Minoan sites, it will be protected,” said Hallie.

    “We found that out during filming,” said Jen. “Too bad we didn’t know, it would have saved Liz a lot of work.”

    “So, like I said, what do we do?” asked Alexis.

    “I’ll go in alone,” said Hallie.

    “Are you sure?” asked Jirra. “We all sort of have a connection to this place.”

    “I know, but it might be best if I go first,” Hallie stated. “If I’m not back in an hour then you can come in after me.”

    “We will. Oh, if you have to enter a cave or something, leave something outside so we can find it. The fact that no one had found it in hundreds of years tells me that it’s pretty well camouflaged,” said Tessa.

    Hallie nodded and looked at her watch. “I’ll be back in an hour.”

Chapter 97

    The others sat down in the shade and counted down the minutes.

    “Did any of you feel something was we arrived here?” asked Alexis.

    Jen nodded as did the others.

    “Well, that makes me feel better, I thought I was the only one,” said Alexis.

    “I suspect that the Minoan deities know why we’re here and have upped the security,” said Jen. “They know Hallie and trust her. Hopefully they’ll learn to trust all of us too.”

    “It really makes you think,” said Jirra. “I mean that descendants of the Minoans made it this far.”

    “I know what you mean,” said Tessa. “It would have been an incredible adventure.”

    “Do you think they looked at it as an adventure?” asked Alexis.

    Tessa nodded. “The Minoans could have picked the most advanced society in the Med and joined them. With their advanced knowledge of arts and science they would have readily accepted. But something drove them on to continue traveling and to maintain their language and culture. Maybe it was something like we’ve experienced.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Jirra.

    “Well, look at what we’re doing? It would be very easy to just establish a routine everyday type of life, yet look at us; Jen is a famous celebrity, Hallie is well known archeologist, Beth is going to become a federal agent, and as much as you worry about your true identity, Jirra, you haven’t exactly sought out a private life. No, we want to do something important with our lives…just like the Minoans.”

    “And how do I fit into this?” asked Alexis.

    “That’s easy, the Minoans had to trust others and share their secrets and knowledge. I’ve noticed that the people that I’ve allowed to know my past have become very trusted and valued friends…and even lovers,” replied Tessa.

    Alexis slipped her arm around Jirra.

    “Do you feel better about all this?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra nodded.

    “So does this mean that this means we’re going to form some sort of group?” asked Jirra.

    “Why not?” interjected Jen. “This is sure a lot more fun than sitting around a studio.”

    “I agree,” added Tessa. “I hope Beth wants in, I like her style.”

    “I just wonder about her friend,” said Alexis.

    Their conversation was interrupted by the appearance of Hallie, who stepped out of the canyon carrying what looked like a very old rod made out of copper.

Chapter 98

    Hallie sat down and asked for a drink of water.

    Tessa handed her a canteen.

    “I found this in the cave,” said Hallie. “I was told I could take it.”

    “Told? Who was in there?” asked Jen as she looked back into the canyon.

    “The goddesses told me that it was okay for me to take it,” replied Hallie.

    “What else was in the cave?” asked Tessa.

    “It’s a tomb,” she replied as she took another long drink. “There were at least thirty tombs in there. Knowing how the Minoans reused tombs, who knows how many remains are in there? I do know one thing…we are not allowed to disturb them, this is not negotiable, that was made very clear.”

    “What else do you know?” asked Tessa.

    “The tomb was in use for nearly one hundred years and was only used by the Minoans. There was a message in the cave that was in Linear H that referred to a natural disaster and that the remaining Minoans were heading north,” said Hallie.

    “What sort of disaster?” asked Tessa.

    “A serve drought,” replied Hallie. “The message was for others to head north and look for signs.”

    “So that means that there was more than one location where the Minoans interacted with the native people,” said Jen.

    “Judging from what I saw in there…there were many other cultures,” said Hallie. “I wish I could take you in…but it isn’t allowed.”

    “What else did you see?” asked Jirra.

    “There were artifacts from other civilizations, including those in South and Central America. It’s times like this that I’m really torn between being a scientist and my ties to the Minoans,” said Hallie. “The artifacts in that cave are priceless and should be studied…but I will honor the wishes of the goddesses. The world isn’t ready for this sort of discovery.”

    “Why?” asked Alexis.

    “There are things in that cave from Europe, Africa, and Asia. It would rewrite history as we know it…and while I’m fine with that…it would be too much for most people to accept,” said Hallie.

    “You mean the people that still think that Columbus discovered America?” asked Jirra.

    “That’s just part of it. It would also upset some of the native people…no, it’s best that we keep this secret,” said Hallie.

    The others agreed.

    “So what do we do with this?” asked Jen as she inspected the rod, which was green with corrosion.

    “We take it to Dan,” said Hallie.

    “What sort of markings are these?” asked Jen as she pointed to the rod.

    “Some sort of petroglyph,” said Hallie. “It’s not Minoan and that may have been done on purpose. The glyphs are hard to read due to the corrosion; but from my experience with these sorts of things, I imagine they are instructions.”

    “Like the ones on the object that transformed you?” asked Jirra.

    Hallie nodded.

    “Are you ready or do you want to rest?” asked Tessa.

    “How far away are we from the Anasazi canyon?” asked Hallie.

    “Two hours, give or take, on foot. The terrain between here and there is pretty rough by the direct route.” said Tessa. “We can also be back at the spa in the same time and drive up tomorrow.”

    “If we go straight to the dig I’ll need to call back and let them know back at spa,” said Jirra. “The last thing we want is for the spa to think we got lost…trust me on that one.”

    “We’d better head back to the spa then,” said Jen. “We also don’t want to show up unannounced…they might not have enough food and water.”

    “What do we do about that?” asked Jirra as she pointed to the rod.

    “We’ll sneak it in,” said Tessa.

    “Um, how do you hide a five foot long copper pole?” asked Jen.

    Tessa smiled. “We hide it in plain site.”

Chapter 99

    They arrived back at the spa, just around sunset. They picked a route that had them coming out of the sun and anyone who saw them would just assume that the pole was a hiking stick.

    They took the pole immediately to the first cottage, which was Jen’s new cottage.

    “I had a special security system installed,” said Jen as they entered. “So, it’s very unlikely that anyone will break in without being noticed.”

    “Do you think that Morgan still has people here?” asked Jirra.

    “He’s rich and powerful; so I wouldn’t rule it out,” said Tessa. “I kinda have some experience with these sorts of people.”

    “Well, that means we shouldn’t wait much longer, right?” asked Jirra.

    Tessa nodded.

    “Okay, so let’s call Dan and see if we can head out there,” said Hallie. “I think we should see if the pole fits in the hole and then see what happens.”

    “What can we do? It’s not like we can call up a thunderstorm,” said Alexis.

    Jen made a coughing sound.

    “Well, I guess it’s time I fess up. I do have another secret and this one’s a whopper. I know that I can trust all of you so yes, we can, or I should say I can call up a thunderstorm.”

    “You can control the weather?” Jirra looked confused.

    “In a small way, Jirra. When I was talking with my spirit guide the only thing that was made absolutely clear to me was that I had the ability to create and control lightning and thunderstorms. It’s a power I must carefully control and I’ve sworn not to use it to harm anyone. My anger can be one of the triggers for my ability so I have to carefully control it so I don’t accidentally hurt someone although I can think of a few cases where it might have been useful.”

    Jirra’s face lit up. “I did notice you start to have a red glow around you as you were telling that Italian movie director off at the after-awards party, Jen. I sort of felt that my skin was being pricked by a thousand little ants as I stood next to you.”

    “Sorry, Jirra. That was a build-up of static electricity around me. Had I really let go I could have hurt or even killed him.”

    “So how much can you control this ability, Jen?” asked Hallie.

    “I’ve experimented a little using thunderstorms already in progress. I’ve been able to reduce or strengthen them and even bring them to a halt. I think I can create them as well as make a lightning bolt appear out of a clear blue sky. I never thought that I’d have a use for the gift I’ve been given so I never developed the ability much. I don’t know how accurate I am but I’m willing to give it a try when we get to the canyon if Dan approves.”

    Jirra turned to Tessa. “So if I’m Wolverine, does that make Jen Storm?”

    “Why not? You’re both ex-men,” replied Tessa

    The two women laughed at the joke before explaining what they were talking about.

    “Well, just so you know, if metal claws pop out of your hands I may have to rethink our relationship,” said Alexis as she leaned over and kissed Jirra.

Chapter 100

    The next day Jirra and the others drove out to the canyon in two jeeps. Barrett had driven one down from the dig and Jirra, and Alexis rode with him. Jen, Tessa, and Hallie rode in the second jeep. The copper rod had been disguised by wrapping a tarp around it. The rolled up tarp didn’t look out of place in the jeep loaded with supplies.

    “I have to admit that you did a good job, Tessa,” said Hallie as she pointed at the rod.

    “Thanks,” replied Tessa as she drove the jeep. “It’s sometimes easier to hide something in plain site.”

    “So, what did Dan say when you told him what we found?” asked Jen.

    “Naturally he was very excited and eager to see if the rod fits into the hole at the top of the canyon,” replied Hallie. “I didn’t tell him the rest as I figured it would easier to do that in person.”

    “What do we do about Jimmie?” asked Jen, referring to the other grad student who had returned to the canyon site the day before.

    “We need to include him,” replied Hallie.

    “Why is that?” asked Jen.

    Hallie then explained her premonition and how she had transformed several other males over the years at the site in Crete.

    “It’s nice that you are helping people,” said Jen. “I’m glad to hear that those you assist in their transformation can lead complete lives without conflict. I know from my own experiences how difficult it can be. One day I was a guy fairly happy with the way my life was going then BANG I get hit by lightning and wake up almost three weeks later as a woman. I’m still working mentally on becoming the woman I appear to be. Right now just the thought of getting pregnant scares me and after what I’ve been through so far I don’t scare all that easily any more.”

    “I dealt with for a while myself; thankfully the goddesses gave me the gift of a complete life. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be pregnant without it,” said Hallie. “I think that I could have learned to deal with it…but I would have been petrified of how my daughter would be treated.”

    “I know that’s one of Jirra’s fears,” said Tessa.

    “I know what you mean. Alexis told me that Jirra has talked about the urge to have a family…and I know how powerful that is,” said Hallie. “Eventually she’ll give in.”

    “Well, I know that I’ll do everything in my power to protect her,” said Jen. “I’ve had every record of hers altered to reflect her SRS cover story along with a complete medical history of the operation. The hospital got a new emergency room wing out of the deal on that one. I just wish that there was more I could do for her.”

    “That makes two of us,” added Tessa. “In some ways I see her as younger sister.”

    “I know what you mean,” said Hallie. “Maybe the goddesses can help her.”

    “That’s a possibility, but on the other hand she’s grown so much since I first met her. I sort of like her the way she is,” said Jen.

    “Well, we can’t do anything against her will…and neither will the goddesses,” said Hallie.

    “It would be a difficult decision,” said Tessa. “I was lucky that Athena gave me a complete identity. I also suspect that others may have had a part in my falling in love with Jon and having a child.”

    Jen smiled. “You know, I just find it so difficult to think of you as a mother, Tessa.”

    Tessa glanced over at Jen. “What makes you say that?” she asked with a grin.

    Jen laughed. “You know exactly what I mean. I mean you must be the only mother on the block that can field-strip an automatic weapon.”

    “You don’t know my neighborhood!” replied Tessa.

Chapter 101

    They arrived at the site a little before lunch.

    “We brought some cold cuts and fresh rolls from the spa,” announced Jirra as she stepped out of the jeep.

    “Sounds great,” said Dan as he hugged her. “I’ll call in Jimmy from the dig.”

    “Um, before you do, there’s something we need to talk about,” said Hallie. “We need to tell him everything.”

    Dan looked at Hallie. “Do you think you can trust him? I mean he’s a good kid, but this is a pretty big secret.”

    Hallie nodded. “He can be trusted.”

    After lunch, Hallie and Jirra carefully unwrapped the pole for Dan and the others to see.

    “It’s in remarkably good condition,” remarked Dan. “Where did you find it?”

    Hallie shook her head. “I can’t tell you.”

    “Why not?” asked Jimmy as he stared at the pole.

    Hallie looked at Jirra who nodded. “You go first.”

Chapter 102

    Jimmy sat and listened intently as Hallie, Jirra, Tessa, and Jen told the tale.

    He looked at Alexis. “What about you?”

    She smiled. “I’m just one of the sidekicks.”

    “You’re more than that,” said Jirra.

    Alexis smiled back. “I know that, but it’s nice to play a sidekick again…if you remember it’s how I got my start on TV. However, I was born female…so I guess I am rather unique among this group!”

    Jirra and Hallie both broke up at Alexis’s joke.

    Jimmy looked over at Dan and Barrett. “You both know about this?”

    They both nodded.

    Jimmy shook his head in disbelief. “So…so this means that if there’s a storm and lightning strikes this pole…the mud in the canyon can transform a man into a woman?”

    “I know it sounds unbelievable, but trust me…it’s true,” said Jirra.

    Jimmy looked at Jirra and wiped away tears that were rolling down his cheeks. “I do believe you. I’ve dreamt about this my whole life! You have experienced something that I’ve always wanted.”

    He then realized what he had just admitted and looked at Barrett and Dan.

    “You guys probably think I’m some sort of sissy or something like that,” he stated, barely holding in his fear.

    “No we don’t, Jimmy,” said Dan.

    “It’s your life, you have a right to be happy,” added Barrett. “Hell, I would be the biggest hypocrite in the state if I put you down. I mean, I’m the one who made my dad put up a rainbow sticker on the front door of the coffee house.”

    “Jimmy, just so you know, the change is only physical,” said Jirra. “You’ll have to deal with the fact that you’ll have to explain to others that you’ve changed.”

    “I don’t care, I just want to be a woman,” stated Jimmy.

    “Trust me, it’s not that easy,” continued Jirra. “I’ve adapted to this, but it has caused some problems.”

    “I’ll just tell everyone I had a sex change…I mean I’m a grad student and don’t have much of a social life as it is,” said Jimmy.

    “And what about your family?” asked Alexis.

    “They found out that I want to be girl a while back and pretty much threw me out.” said Jimmy. “I took a bag of my female things home by mistake and my mom thought it was laundry. When she opened it up she freaked out…and it got worse from there. There was a huge argument and I was told to get out, that was six months ago.”

    “Have you been back?” asked Jirra.

    Jimmy shook his head. “I’ve tried to call…but I keep getting hung up on. I got a rather terse letter two months ago telling me that I was no longer welcome and if I showed up they would call the police and have me arrested for trespassing.”

    “I’m so sorry, Jimmy,” said Jirra.

    “I’m over it…more or less. Thankfully I have an aunt who understands me and accepts me. She’s pretty cool and lets me dress when I’m staying with her,” said Jimmy.

    “You should know that once the transformation is complete…you’ll have periods and can get pregnant, how will you explain that?” asked Jirra.

    Jimmy stared back at her.

    “She’s telling you the truth, Jimmy,” added Alexis. “Do you like boys? It’s okay, no one is judging you.”

    Jimmy looked around and then nodded. 

    “So getting pregnant could be an issue,” said Jen. “How will you explain that?”

    “I’ll just take birth control,” said Jimmy confidently.

    “That doesn’t always work,” said Hallie. “Look, we’re not trying to talk you out of this…we just want you to make a smart informed decision.”

    Jimmy nodded.

    “Look, I didn’t have a choice with the whole world knowing what happened to me; granted it has worked out…more or less, but it hasn’t all been good,” said Jen. “While I’ve been generally accepted by the people I’ve met or worked with there are still many more people out there that will never accept what I’ve become. It still hurts a lot inside whenever someone calls me a ‘freak’.”

    “And my greatest fear is being exposed,” added Jirra. “I mean can you imagine how the press would handle this…it would be awful.”

    Jimmy shook his head. “This sucks. I have an opportunity to be the person I’ve always wanted to be…and there are all these complications.”

    “Life is full of complications, Jimmy,” said Jen.

    “There is an alternative,” said Hallie. “How would like to take a trip to Crete?”

    She then explained about the temple site and the object that she had in her possession.

    “The transformation will totally complete…not only will you be a woman, but your life history will be changed too. For all practical purposes it will be as if you were born female,” said Hallie.

    Jimmy listened quietly. He then turned to Hallie. “So my whole family would accept me as a woman?”

    Hallie nodded. “No guarantees, but mine did and many of those I’ve helped transform have reported the same thing.”

    He shook his head. “No. My family showed their true colors when I came out to them…I want nothing to do with them. My Aunt Kelly accepted me and loves me for who I am.”

    “Look, you don’t have to make up your mind right now,” said Hallie.

    “But you’re going to try it now, right?” he asked.

    Hallie looked at Jen. “Assuming the weather cooperates.”

    “Then I want to do it,” stated Jimmy firmly.

    Dan shook his head. “We don’t know what will happen, Jimmy. You might be killed.”

    “What do you mean?” he asked.

    “We can theorize what happened in the canyon, but we don’t know the process, it hasn’t been tried in this canyon for centuries. We can look at the glyphs and try to mimic them, but that leaves a lot of guesswork,” said Dan.

    “How difficult could it be?” asked Jimmy. “You stick that rod at the top of the canyon and let the mud do the rest.”

    “Jimmy, you must be kidding. Imagine looking at glyphs of modern surgery and then try to do it,” explained Tessa.

    “I’m still willing to take the chance,” said Jimmy. “I figure the worse thing that could happen if it doesn’t work is that I’ll need to take a shower.”

    “What about getting electrocuted?” replied Tessa.

    “Oh…I hadn’t thought of that,” said Jimmy softly. 

    “It wasn’t a pleasant experience,” said Jirra.

    ”Jirra’s transformation was closer to what we think will happen than mine, Jimmy. In case we’re wrong I can tell you from my own experience that getting hit by a bolt of lightning is extremely painful and there’s no guarantee you’ll survive it either.” added Jen.

    “It’s my choice, I mean it’s my life, right?” he replied.

    “And if you die, how would we explain that? Your family would want answers,” said Dan.

    “And what happens if the change isn’t complete?” added Jen.

    “Okay, you’ve made your point,” said Jimmy, barely holding back his disappointment.

    “Why not come to Crete with me,” suggested Hallie. “I went through the transformation and it doesn’t hurt.”

    Jimmy let out a sigh. “I’ll think about it. But I’m so tired of living like this; I just want to live my life as a woman. No offense, but none of you wanted to be transformed; you have no idea what it’s like to be in a body that doesn’t match your mind.”

    “We all experienced that after we were transformed,” said Jirra. “I’m happy with my life now, but in those first few months, I would have gladly changed back.”

    Hallie nodded. “The same goes for me.”

    Tessa shrugged. “I didn’t think of it that much…but then again my situation was very different.”

     “The first few months were the worst for me too. In a way I welcomed my change since I had a bunch of health problems that were slowly getting worse. I wound up very healthy and around twenty years younger than I was. On the down side I had practically no time at all to adjust. Everything I did got picked apart in the press so I forced myself to become as feminine as possible in a very short time. Years after my transformation I still have some issues to work through.” added Jen.

    Jimmy nodded. “I guess you do know…I’m sorry.”

    “You have nothing to apologize for, Jimmy. Things have a way of working out, and now that you’re with us the right path will be shown,” said Hallie.

Chapter 103

    “I’ve checked the weather bureau and they say they only have a twenty percent chance of showers, even less for a full-blown thunderstorm,” said Barrett.

    Jen looked up at the sky. “I think they’re wrong.”

    Barrett cocked his head. “So in addition to being a world famous actress, director, and entrepreneur you’re a weather expert?”

    “You left out Formula One racecar driver,” quipped Alexis.

    “I prefer NASCAR and I’ve actually done some dirt track racing,” said Jen. “Trust me on this one, Barrett, it will rain today.”

    Barrett looked up at the sky and shook his head. “It doesn’t look like it, but considering everything else I’ve learned in the past week I guess I better unpack my poncho, don’t want to be caught out in the rain.” He then smiled at Jen before he headed off to his tent.

    Jen looked at Jirra. “I can see why you like him so much.”

    Jirra just smiled back.

    Later Dan called them all together.

    “Hallie and I have decided that we will try this tonight. The glyphs on the rod shows the moon, followed by clouds, rain and lightning,” he explained.

    “It makes sense, the object I use back in Crete had similar instructions regarding using the device at night,” said Hallie.

    “I suggest we eat dinner before heading into the canyon,” said Tessa.

    “I’ll break out the MREs,” said Jirra.

Chapter 104

    “So what’s the plan?” asked Tessa as they cleaned up after dinner.

    “Barrett and I will place the rod into the hole at the end of the canyon. The rest of you will gather at the base of the canyon wall and look for a safe place to stand,” explained Dan.

    “What about the weather?” asked Jimmy as he looked up into the early evening sky. “It looks pretty clear.”

    “Have faith,” said Jirra.

    Just as she finished speaking there was a sudden gust of cool wind and a low rumble of thunder off in the distance that seemed to last for several seconds.

    “Tell me I wasn’t the only one who just heard and felt that,” stated Jimmy.

    “Felt what?” asked Jen as she approached the others.

    “Did you do it?” asked Hallie softly.

    Jen nodded and leaned over and whispered in Hallie’s ear. “Everything has been prepped; if I did it right we should have a storm in one to two hours.”

    “Okay, I guess we’d better get going,” said Dan.

    They were just about to leave the camp when a figure stepped out of the brush.

    “Don’t move,” he ordered.

    It was Mark, but he wasn’t wearing his official guard uniform. Instead, he was dressed in camouflage and was pointing an assault rifle at them.

    Tessa immediately recognized the weapon as a Heckler-Koch G36 assault rifle. The compact weapon carried a thirty round magazine and had a rate of fire of 750 rounds per minute. It was fitted with what looked like a custom silencer. She estimated that he was standing only twenty feet away and at that close range the weapon would be deadly. Mark also looked nervous and Tessa decided not to reach for the hidden Glock ten millimeter handgun she had hidden in a holster on her hip. She would have to wait for the right moment.

    “Mark? What do you want?” asked Dan.

    “I want that pole or whatever it is that you have,” said Mark. “I know someone who will pay me…pay me a lot for it.”

    “So you’re working for Morgan Browning too?” asked Jirra.

    Mark didn’t reply, but the look on his face gave him away.

    “You know he’s in jail, right?” continued Jirra.

    “He won’t be there long,” said Mark. “And when he gets out he’ll be very pleased to get that…whatever it is…and I’ll get a big reward.”

    “This is stupid,” said Dan. “You won’t get away with this.”

    “Give me the pole,” ordered Mark as he continued to point the gun at them.

    “Don’t do it,” said Tessa. “Once he has it he’s going to kill us.”

    Mark glared at Tessa.

    “You do plan on killing us, right?” said Tessa. She could see he was nervous about what he was about to do.  She hoped that if she distracted him enough she could either make a rush for him, or draw her own weapon. 

    “I hadn’t counted on …there being so many of you,” said Mark nervously.

    “And you’ve never killed someone in cold blood before…especially women…no wonder you’re trembling,” said Tessa. 

    “Fuck you…you must think you’re some tough bitch for killing Tom Boyer,” snapped Mark. “He was a good man and you killed him.”

    Tessa shook her head. “No, no he wasn’t a good man, he was a rapist and a thug… and I didn’t kill him, I just dodged his charge and he ended up doing a header into the canyon.”

    “It doesn’t matter, soon you’ll be dead just like him,” said Mark.

    Tessa inched slowly closer. “No matter how much money Morgan will pay you it won’t be enough. You’ll be on the run for the rest of your life. There will be no place you can hide.”

    Mark pointed the gun at her. “Stay back! Jirra you bring me that pole, if you do I’ll let you all live. If you don’t I’ll kill all of you.” 

    Tessa knew they didn’t have much time left and looking for a chance to act; when she saw Hallie…there was a faint blue glow in her eyes. Tessa also saw a faint red glow building around Jen.

    Jirra was standing next to Jen and noticed the glow around her. Jirra gently placed her hand on Jen’s arm and ever so slightly shook her head then nodded slightly toward Hallie. In the time of only a handful of heartbeats the glow around Jen was gone.

    “Mark, if you’re smart you’ll put down the gun and leave,” said Hallie in a soft calm voice.  “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

    “What are you talking about? What the fuck are you going to do to me?” he demanded. He then laughed nervously.

    Hallie shook her head. “I’m not going to do a thing to you…but others will. You’ve angered forces beyond your comprehension. I’m offering you a chance…they won’t.”

    Mark looked confused. “What…what do you mean by that? Who are you talking about?”

    Hallie looked past him and saw three orbs descend swiftly from the sky. They all had the same bright sapphire blue glow that intensified as they approached Mark.

    “It’s too late for you…I’m sorry, but you were warned,” said Hallie.

    Mark turned and looked behind him. He saw the orbs and instinctively fired off his entire clip at them. Of course his bullets passed through the orbs without effect. He screamed with rage as he threw the gun at them. 

    The orbs quickly surrounded him and began to rotate. As they did they increased in size until he was completely engulfed in their light.

    The others stepped back and watched in a combination of fascination and horror as Mark was transformed before their eyes.

    Mark had dropped to the ground and was on all fours as his clothing evaporated. He appeared to be in intense pain as his body began to change.

The first thing they noticed was that Mark’s arms and legs began to lengthen and straighten out. His hands and feet morphed into hooves. He was soon standing on four legs. A coat of glossy brown hair began to cover his naked body and a small tail sprung from his rear.

    He tried to scream, but all that came out was guttural “baaa” sound.

    His head and face was the last part to change. His face began to elongate and formed a muzzle as small horns began to sprout out of his head. His ears changed, growing out and enlarging. His blue eyes turned dark black as the transformation continued.

    In less than a minute Mark had been transformed into a Bighorn sheep.

    The orbs pulled back, hovered about Mark for a moment before shooting straight up into the sky and in a flash they disappeared.

    Mark stared blankly at the others for a moment, before letting out a long “baa” and then bounding off into the dark.

    There was a long silence as Jirra and the others absorbed what they had just seen.

    “Did we just see Mark turned into a goat?” asked Jimmy.

    “Actually he was turned into a Bighorn sheep,” noted Dan calmly. “We have a small herd in the area.”

    “Well, I’m sure she’ll be readily accepted into the herd,” stated Hallie.

    “She?” asked Barrett.

    Hallie nodded.

    “She’s right, Mark is now female,” said Dan.

    Tessa walked over to where Mark had been transformed and found no trace of the gun. Even the brass shell casings were gone as the goddesses had removed all evidence.

    “What was that?” asked Jimmy.

    “Not what, rather you should ask ‘who’ was that?” corrected Hallie. “Those were Minoan goddesses and they protect their sites. I’m sorry you can’t see them in their true form as they are quite beautiful. They obviously knew that Mark was going to hurt us and steal from the site…they will not tolerate that.”

    “So these are the ones who turned those guys into goats back in Crete?” asked Jirra.

    Hallie nodded.

    “Pretty cool,” she replied. “I mean, considering he was going to kill us, it was a fitting end.”

    “I agree,” said Jen. “At least ‘Marla’ can contribute some good to the world.”

    “Marla?” asked Jirra.

    “It’s as good a name as any,” said Jen. “Besides, I doubt if Marla cares one way or another. Her main goal now is to find the herd.”

    Dan nodded. “That’s true, we can use more Bighorns; they are endangered. We also have cougars around here and they’ll make short work of a solo Bighorn, so I hope Marla is careful.”

    As they walked to the canyon, Jirra heard Jen say something that sounded like “Here kitty, kitty.”

Chapter 105

    An hour later they were all standing at the base of the cliff at the back of the canyon. Clouds now covered the nighttime sky, and the sound of thunder began to rumble in the distance. The clouds over the canyon glowed from within with brilliant blue flashes of light. There was no sound of close thunder though. Only the distant thunder could be heard echoing off the canyon walls.

    “Umm, Jen, is that normal?” asked Jirra as she pointed upwards.

    “I’ve seen a lot of thunderstorms but I’ve never seen them act like this one is.”

    “I strongly recommend we take cover over there,” said Dan as he pointed to the small structure that they had named the guardhouse. “We should be able to get a good look, should lightning strike the pole.”

    A few drops of rain began to fall and made slight popping sounds in the dry dust of the canyon floor.

    “Good thing I brought my poncho,” said Barrett. “I told you all it was going to rain.”

     He looked at Jen and winked.

    Jen and the others laughed.

    Soon the rain began to fall harder. As they looked up into the sky, they could hear the thunder growing closer.

    “I’d say the main part of the storm is maybe twenty minutes away,” said Dan.

    Jirra pointed her light at the canyon floor. “Look how quickly the dirt is turning into mud.” She crouched down and felt the mud. “It has the same consistency of the mud used at the spa.”

    “Barrett, shine your light over to the excavated stone pools,” said Dan.

    They had found two carved stone pools that were located near the base of the canyon wall. Over the centuries they had filled with dirt.

    “Look how fast the water and mud is flowing into the pools,” said Hallie. “The channels must have been carved to maximize the flow of the water.”

    “What incredible engineering to design that,” said Tessa.

    The storm grew closer and they could look up and see flashes of lightning just showing over the ridgeline above the canyon.

    “If it’s going to happen, it should be really soon,” said Hallie.

    Just as she finished speaking, a bolt of lightning struck the pole.

    There a momentary flash then an instant roar of thunder, followed by a glowing of the rock face that started at the top and shot down to the base of the canyon.

    “Did you all see that?” asked Barrett excitedly.

    Dan nodded. “It was as if the lightning flowed down the canyon. It must be following the veins of copper in the rock.”

    “The pools lit up for a moment too,” noted Jen. “This is fantastic.”

    They were so enthralled by what was happening they failed to notice what Jimmy was doing.

    He stepped back and quickly undressed. His heart was beating rapidly as he striped. The risks were great, but he was so weary of fighting the duality of his life that he had to take the chance.

    He hesitated for a moment before dashing past the others for the nearest pool.

    “Jimmy! Stop,” screamed Jirra as she began to run after him.

    She was grabbed by Alexis and Tessa. They pulled her back under the cover of the guard shack.

    “Let me go!” she yelled.

    Just after Jimmy jumped into the pool that was filled with mud, the pole was struck again by a large bolt of lightning.

    There was a large flash of light as the canyon wall lit up as though a spotlight had illuminated it.

    Jimmy let out a yell as the pool glowed brightly.

    “Jen! Can you stop the storm?” yelled Hallie.

    “I’ll try, but it’s not like hitting a light switch,” she replied.

    There was another lightning strike and the pool lit up again.

    “We have to do something!” shouted Jirra as she was hugged by Alexis.

    “Not until the storm stops,” said Hallie.

 Chapter 106

    The storm died out and Jirra and the others rushed to Jimmy.

    He was encased in the now hardened mud. Only his face was exposed and it was covered with dried mud.

    “Is he breathing?” asked Jirra anxiously.

    Dan nodded. “Jimmy…Jimmy…can you hear me?”

    There was a soft moaning from Jimmy. “Yes….I’m…I feel…funny.” 

    “The consistency of the mud changes and clings to the body,” said Jirra softly as she stared at Jimmy. “I can remember that I couldn’t feel my own touch.”

    “We need to get him out of there,” said Alexis.

    “Look, the other pool is just filled with water. Do you have a bucket around here?” asked Tessa.

    “I’ll get them,” said Barrett. “I’ll also get some tools.”

Chapter 107

    As Barrett and Dan worked, the others talked to Jimmy and tried to keep him conscious. Jirra remembered how thirsty she had been and told the others. Tessa retrieved a water bottle and carefully gave Jimmy small sips of water.

    It took them nearly two hours to free Jimmy from the pool. The mud was as hard as concrete along the surface and it was very difficult to break through.

    Dan and Barrett carefully pulled him out and laid him down on a tarp. Jirra, Hallie, and Alexis carefully cleaned the mud off his body using water from the clean pool.  Just as Jirra had said, the mud was very difficult to remove, but eventually they cleaned it off, exposing Jimmy’s transformed body.

    “Look at him…I mean her,” stated Jen in amazement. “I mean, I’ve always believed you Jirra, but seeing it with my own eyes is incredible.”

    “Did it…work?” asked Jimmy weakly as she tried to sit up.

    “Jimmy, just relax,” said Hallie.

    “Did it work?” asked Jimmy a second time.

    “It looks like it,” said Jirra as she could clearly see that Jimmy was now physically female.

    “That’s good,” Jimmy replied weakly. “It was worth it then.”

    “Is…she okay?” asked Tessa.

    “I don’t see any burns,” said Hallie. “But we should get her down to the spa as soon as possible.”

    Jirra stared at Jimmy in silence. Jirra’s arms were crossed and she appeared to be tremblingly slightly.

    “Are you okay, Roo?” asked Alexis.

    “I don’t know. This… brings back a lot of memories,” she replied without emotion.

    “It’s okay, Roo,” said Alexis, who put her arm around Jirra’s waist.

    Jirra responded by resting her head on Alexis’s shoulder.

    Jimmy looked up and smiled slightly. “Don’t…don’t be worried….I’m finally whole.”

    Then Jimmy passed out.

Chapter 108

    “We’ll take her down to the spa as soon as it’s light,” said Tessa as she filled a mug with coffee.

    “Yeah, I drove that road at night and it wasn’t much fun. It was bad enough in the Hummer. It’d be downright dangerous in a jeep.” said Jen.

    “I tried to call my mom but I couldn’t get through,” said Jirra as she stared at the fire.

    “There may be a power outage due to the storm. I think I might have overdone that one a bit.” said Jen as she took a mug of coffee from Tessa. “Thanks.”

    Hallie walked out of the tent and sat down next to them.

    “How’s Jimmy?” asked Alexis.

    “She’s okay as best as I can tell,” said Hallie. “She’s asleep right now.”

    “I remember what that was like, she’ll sleep a lot,” said Jirra. She then shook her head. “We should have expected that she would have tried that. I feel like a fool.”

    “There’s no reason to beat ourselves up,” said Tessa as she handed Jirra a mug. “Jimmy made her own choice.”

    “I know…but I just wonder if she knows what she has gotten herself into,” replied Jirra.

    “Barrett told me that Jimmy was a loner and had only just transferred into the program. She should have an easier time adapting,” said Tessa.

    “Dan said he would do everything he could. I also offered to take her into our graduate program at Ohio State,” said Hallie.

    “A fresh start might do her good,” said Tessa.

    Barrett and Dan appeared out of the dark carrying the copper pole.

    “How’s Jimmy doing?” asked Dan.

    “She’s asleep,” replied Hallie. “From what I saw, she appears to be in perfect health. There is no sigh of any burns from the lightning strike.”

    “You guys want some coffee?” asked Tessa.

    Both men nodded.

    “Look at the pole,” said Dan as she set it down on the table. The glow of the Coleman lantern illuminated it.

    Hallie moved closer and gasped. It was looked as if it had been newly created. There was no sign of the centuries of corrosion. The glyphs cast into the pole were easily readable.

    “I don’t know how this is possible,” said Barrett. “It has to be some sort of alloy otherwise it should have melted.”

    Hallie nodded. “That’s very possible, as the Minoans were accomplished in metallurgy.”

    “This is the find of a life time…the question is, what do we do with it?” asked Dan.

    “Study it,” said Jirra. “Look, I know that I’m part of the reason why you can’t go public with it…but there must be things you can learn from it.”

    Hallie nodded. “I agree.”

    Barrett looked at the glyphs. “They’re definitely not Anasazi…although they are similar. Do you think it’s some combination of the Minoan culture and the Anasazi?”

    “It wouldn’t surprise me,” said Hallie. “I see a lot of similarities to Minoan glyphs.”

    “Hallie, how hard is it to learn those Minoan languages?” Barrett asked. “I mean I might as well learn it since it’s connected to this site.”

    “I could teach you,” she replied.

    Barrett smiled back. “I’d like that.”

    Without asking, Tessa got up to make another pot of coffee. She figured that no one really felt like sleeping.

    Dan took a sip of the coffee and whistled. “Wow! Who made this?”

    Tessa raised her hand.

    “Did you learn to make coffee this strong in the SEALs?” asked Dan.

    Tessa nodded. “My first chief made it strong like this. He reasoned that if you could survive his coffee combat would be a breeze.”

    The others laughed.

    “Well, it’s definitely the type that can put hair on your chest,” said Dan as he took another sip.

    “Dear god I hope not!” joked Jen.

    “It’s great, but it’s too bad we don’t have anything stronger,” said Hallie. “After a night like this I could use a little boost.”

    Without a word, Dan got up and went to his tent. He returned with a bottle of Bushmills Irish whiskey and unscrewed the top. “Since it looks like we’ll be up all night, who wants a little high octane in their coffee?”

    Jen, who normally didn’t drink much, held out her cup. “I’ve got to agree with Hallie. Fill it up, Dan.”

Chapter 109

    As dawn was breaking they drove down to the spa. Jirra was able to get ahold of her mom and told her what to expect. She rode next to Jimmy on the way back. Alexis sat next to Tessa who was driving. The others rode with Dan.

    Jimmy, who now wanted to be called Jean, seemed fine, other than the fact she was very tired.

    “You’ll probably be eating a lot in the next few days too,” said Jirra. “I was always hungry for the first few days after I changed. Don’t worry about putting on weight; your body’s metabolism will be off for a while.”

    “Thanks for the info,” said Jean.

    Jean didn’t look that different than Jimmy. She was approximately the same size, although she was a bit thinner. Her breasts were small, but proportional to her body.

    “It’s strange, but you don’t look a whole lot different than you did as a guy,” said Jirra. She then looked down at her chest. “I mean you definitely look female, however my changes were more dramatic…if you get my drift.”

    Jean smiled back. “All the women in my family are small breasted.”

    “That makes sense. So, we were talking last night. Jen will talk to her lawyer about helping you establish your new identity. You’re going with the SRS cover story?”

    “Yes and that’s nice of her,” said Jean.

    “You’ll find that we stick together,” said Jirra.

    “Um, Jirra, I’m not sorry about what I did last night. I mean, I’m so happy to be a woman now…but I am sorry about what I put you all through. It was selfish of me,” she said.

    “It was,” replied Jirra honestly. “But I can understand your motives. Just apologize to the others.”

    “I will,” replied Jean. “Tessa, Alexis, I’m sorry.”

    “No problem, kid,” said Tessa.

    “Kid?” asked Jean with a weak grin on her face.

    “Well, you are the newest and youngest in the group,” explained Tessa.

    “Thanks,” replied Jean.

    “I also accept your apology, Jean,” said Alexis.

    “Thank you,” replied Jean.

    “Thanks to seeing you change, I now understand you better, Roo,” continued Alexis.

    Jirra just nodded. She had other things to talk to Jean about, but they could wait for now.

Chapter 110

    They immediately took Jean to the clinic, where Liz was waiting for them. Thankfully they arrived early enough that most of the guests were still asleep.

    After hearing what had happened, Liz said that she would look after Jean and that the others should go to breakfast.

    The pole was locked up in Jen’s cottage.

    Jen, Jirra, Alexis, Hallie, and Tessa then headed off to get something to eat.

    To their surprise, Beth was back at the spa.

    “This is pleasant surprise,” said Jirra as she hugged Beth.

    “I had to see you all before I left… something weird happened last night,” said Beth.

    Jirra looked confused as there was no way that Beth could have know what had happened in the canyon.

    “We were on our way to eat, why don’t we go to my cottage and I’ll make pancakes,” suggested Jirra.

    “That sounds good,” said Alexis.

    As they prepared breakfast, Jirra told Beth what had happened at the canyon that night.

    “I tried to warn you about Mark, but there was no phone signal,” said Beth. “We learned about him from Morgan’s records.”

    “So tell us what happened?” asked Jen as she set the table.

    “We conducted a search of his home and office, just like I said we would. We uncovered a real treasure trove of stolen artifacts, including the stolen Margate documents; they still had the university marking on them. We also uncovered a lot of evidence that tied him to various illegal activities, including child pornography, and the international sex trade,” explained Beth.

    “So it sounds like he’s in big trouble,” said Tessa.

    “Excuse me, who wants bacon?” asked Jirra as she reached into the fridge.

    Everyone put up their hands. 

    “Okay, thanks,” replied Jirra who went back to cooking breakfast. 

    “So what happened next?” asked Alexis.

    “Morgan offered to make a deal. He would turn in all his partners in exchange for immunity and for keeping his artifacts,” said Beth.

    “Please tell me that you didn’t accept that,” said Jen.

    Beth shook her head. “Of course not, we knew that we could get more than that. We told Morgan it wasn’t enough.”

    “What did he do next?” asked Alexis.

    “Well, his lawyer and the prosecutor met to negotiate a deal. At a minimum Morgan would have to give up his so called collection. He would also have to either do time or give up more than just some minor partners,” said Beth. “We even hinted at the Federal Witness Protection Program if he gave up enough.”

    “So he took that?” asked Jirra.

    Beth shook her head. “No, he never had a chance.”

    Jirra looked at Beth. “What happened to him?”

    “Did he kill himself?” asked Jen. 

    Beth shook her head. “Close.”

    “Did he have a heart attack?” asked Jirra.

    Beth shrugged her shoulders. “That’ll be the official story. He was in his cell in the maximum security wing. His cell was under constant surveillance, both to watch him and to protect us from charges of mistreatment.”

    “So what happened?” asked Jen.

    “There was a flash of bright blue light in his cell last night, just as the storms rolled through. The cameras were knocked off line and the guards were found unconscious. We first though it was a lightning strike.”

    “And what about Morgan?” asked Hallie.

    “He was gone and in his place there was a large peccary,” said Beth. “From what you told me Hallie, I suspect that your goddesses did this…but that’s not the type of thing that can go in a report…thankfully that’s not my headache.”

    “It sounds like something they would have done. I suspect after what Mark tried the goddesses decided that neither the sites or us were safe was long as Morgan was around,” said Hallie.

    “So what did they do with Morgan?” asked Tessa. “Barbecue him?”

    Beth laughed. “There’s a nature park just outside of Albuquerque that will take her,” said Beth. “They run a captive breeding program.”

    “Did you say her? Now I know the goddesses did this,” said Hallie.

    “Well, the good thing is that we won’t have to worry about Morgan anymore,” said Alexis.

    “Beth, what’s the name of that center, I think I’ll make a donation to their peccary breeding program,” said Jen. “How about a large hungry cougar? I’m sorry, but when someone threatens me and my friends I hold a grudge.”

    “The good thing is that we’ve uncovered a wealth of information at Morgan’s home and office. We have evidence that connects hundreds of people to the international sex trade. His ties to the illegal weapons trade were extensive too. In fact, we’ve already stared to make arrests,” said Beth.

    “That’s good to hear,” said Jen.

    Liz and Judy walked into the kitchen.

    “Mom, I hope you don’t mind, but we decided to have breakfast here,” said Jirra. “And yes, we’ll clean this all up.”

    “I don’t mind and those pancakes smell wonderful. When did you learn to cook?” asked Liz.

    “I had to do more than just grilled cheese,” replied Jirra. “How’re you doing Judy, will you join us?”

    “I’m doing better, thank you. And you know what, I think I will join you,” said Judy.

    As they ate, Judy brought up Morgan. She thanked Beth for handling it discretely.

    “It was my pleasure”, said Beth.

    “I heard this morning that he had a heart attack,” said Judy. “Too bad, he deserved to suffer more.”

    “I’m sure he did,” said Jen. “A pig like that should really suffer.” 

    It was all that Jirra could do to not break up laughing.

Chapter 111

    After breakfast and cleaning up, everyone but Jirra, Alexis and Liz had left. Jirra and Alexis were just about to go to bed when Dan arrived.

    The first thing he did was embrace and kiss Liz.

    “How’s Jean doing?” he asked.

    “She’s resting, the transformation takes a lot of energy,” said Liz. “Thankfully I learned a lot from Jirra’s transformation.”

    He nodded as he sat down at the kitchen table.

    “So what is she going to do?” asked Dan.

    “She mentioned something about going to live with her aunt who lives in Albuquerque,” said Jirra. “The good thing is that unlike my transformation, she doesn’t look dramatically different.”

    Liz nodded in agreement. “It will be easier for her to pass off the story of getting SRS.

    “Is it too early to tell if she’s like me?” asked Jirra.

    “You mean the quick healing? I won’t be able to tell for a while. At least I can compare her blood samples to yours,” said Liz.

    “Well, the good news is that we now know the purpose of the site…the bad news is that we can’t tell anyone,” said Dan. “We’ll have to keep the plate and the rod locked up somewhere safe.”

    “I know this would be a monumental discovery for you to announce to the world, Dan. I wish you could get the proper credit,” said Jirra.

    Dan smiled at her. “I don’t care about that, Jirra. I’m content in discovering the truth about the canyon. We’ll continue to study the artifacts and the canyon and see what else turns up.”

    “Will there be additional transformations?” asked Alexis.

    Dan looked at Liz and then shook his head. “I think we were lucky last night. Jean could just as easily been electrocuted and how could we explain that. We also have to worry about Morgan.”

    “No we don’t,” interjected Jirra. She then told him what Beth had told them.

    He just nodded. “I’ve always suspected those myths of humans being transformed into animals had some basis in fact.”

    “How do you feel about all this, Dan?” asked Liz.

    He just leaned back in his chair and smiled. “Growing up I was taught to believe in science and that there was a logical explanation for everything. But I always had my doubts…maybe it’s the kid in me that wants to believe in Sasquatchs and UFOs. Now, I’ve seen proof with my very eyes. To be honest, it makes me feel young again, knowing that there is so much out there that we don’t know yet. I don’t know if the beings that Hallie calls goddesses are truly deities or just extremely advanced life forms…not that it really matters. It just lets me know that I have much to learn.”

    “I also admit that I like knowing there are things out there that we can’t explain…it makes life more interesting,” said Liz.

    Jirra fought back a yawn. “Well, I’m going to grab a shower and go to bed.”

    “That’s sounds like a great idea,” said Alexis. She then realized what she said. “I’ll wait until you’re done.”

    Liz and Dan laughed “We know what you meant, Alexis, it’s okay.”

    As Jirra and Alexis got up, Jirra leaned over and whispered. “I wouldn’t mind a shower with you.”

Chapter 112

    Jirra walked into the kitchen talking on her cell phone.

    “Well, I gotta run, I’m looking forward to seeing you next week, Faith,” she said. She then closed her phone.

    “So, everything is set?” asked Liz.

    Jirra nodded as she sat down at the kitchen table. “Alexis and I will head right up to New England after we leave here. She’ll drop me off at Faith’s home in North Stonington Connecticut and she’ll continue up to Boston to start filming the second season. Faith said that we’ll head up to Boston a few weeks later.”

    Liz nodded. “So when are you leaving?”

    “In two days,” said Jirra. “I’m sorry that we didn’t get to spend more time together.”

    Liz smiled back. “It’s perfectly understandable…considering what happened.”

    Jirra sighed. “I’ve sort of resigned to the fact that I’m not going to have a normal life.”

    “All that matters is that you have a happy one,” said Liz.

    Jirra smiled. “It’s pretty good. I have really learned how blessed I am to have so many wonderful friends…and to have you as my mom.”

    “Thank you, Roo.”

    “So, do you think you can get away from the spa?” 

    “Dan and I talked about it. We’ll probably head out in the early fall. He wants to spend some time in Columbus, Ohio so he can review notes with Hallie when she gets back from Crete. I figure that while he’s there I can be with you.”

    “I’d really like that,” replied Jirra.

    There was a knock at the front door and Liz got up to see who it was.

    She opened the door and welcomed in Hannah and Lindsey.

    “This is a surprise, when did you get back?” asked Liz.

    “This afternoon,” replied Lindsey.

    Jirra hearing Lindsey’s voice ran out to greet her friend.

    The two girls hugged.

    “How are you doing, Lindsey?” asked Jirra.

    “Great! I learned so much working at The Drunken Squirrel,” replied Lindsey, referring to the restaurant back in New Hope she had spent the summer interning. “I heard there was some excitement around here.”

    Jirra laughed. “You could say that.”

    “Before you two get going, I want to let you know that I’m cooking a special dinner for you and your friends. It will be tomorrow evening on our deck,” interrupted Hannah.

    “Really? That’s so cool! What are you making?” asked Jirra.

    Hannah shook her head. “That’s a surprise.”

Chapter 113

    When they were told of the impending feast the others all agreed to delay their departures. The only one who didn’t accept was Jean, who decided to leave the spa to go see her Aunt.

    “I called her and told her that I’m now living as a girl,” said Jean. “She’s very excited to see me.”

    “That’s wonderful,” said Jirra.

    “I’ll tell her rest at the right time…I don’t think she’ll be a problem,” said Jean.

    “I’m glad you’re not alone…this can be a little overwhelming,” said Jirra.

    “Your mom has been great. She told me about the healing and my immune system…well at least I don’t have to worry about getting sick this year.”

    “What will you do next?”

    “I’m going to take some time off before going back to school. Dr. Montgomery said that he would help me if I decide to return to New Mexico…and Hallie said that I could transfer to Ohio State,” she said.

    “Any preferences?”

    “I’m leaning to Ohio State. I want to learn more about the Minoans and the chance to study under Hallie is too good to pass up… they also have a better football team,” she replied with a smile. “Oh, I want to thank Jen, I got a call from her lawyer and my paperwork is already being processed. I really owe all of you so much.”

    “Well, I have the feeling we’ll be friends for a long time. The best thing for you to do is just get used to your new life and body.”

    Jean nodded. “I can’t wait until I get my first period! I bet you were excited.”

    Jirra laughed. “I wouldn’t exactly describe my reaction as excited…mortified would be better.”

    “Oh, I keep forgetting that you didn’t want this…I’m sorry.”

    “It’s okay…I’m happy with who I am now…although I still have my days,” replied Jirra.

    “Well, I need to go and see the others before I leave. Thanks again, Jirra.”

Chapter 114

    Before they headed to dinner, Jirra, Alexis, Hallie, Tessa, Jen, and Beth got together at Jen’s cottage to discuss the possible formation of the group. They were sitting around her living room drinking fresh squeezed lemonade. Before they started, Jirra updated everyone on Jean.

    “I’m glad she’s happy,” said Hallie. “So, what about the group?”

    “The more I’ve been thinking about it the more I like this idea,” said Jen. “I think the events of the past few weeks have shown the need for it.”

    “Do you think that we’re attracted to weird events or that weird events are attracted to us?” asked Jirra stood up and picked up the pitcher to refill their glasses.

    Jen shrugged. “Does it really matter?”

    “I agree with Jen, the fact that all of us came together to solve this mystery can’t be chance,” said Hallie.

    “Add to that the connections that many of us have uncovered,” interjected Tessa.

    “It is pretty amazing. So how will this work?” asked Beth. “I just need to know so that it doesn’t compromise my impending career as a federal agent.”

    “Think of it like a club that occasionally comes together to solve mysteries outside of the mainstream,” said Tessa. “We would never ask you to violate your oath, Beth.”

    “In some cases we might even provide you leads for cases,” added Hallie.

    Beth nodded. “That’s acceptable.”

    “So how will this work?” asked Jirra as she sat down.

    “I’ve been thinking about this; I think we’ll just go on with our lives, but should something strange occur, then we use our careers and skills to solve it. My status as a rather public celebrity puts me in a unique position. I have connections to many media outlets. The negative side of this is like I said earlier, I may not be able to take an active role and may have to stay in the background,” explained Jen. “On the positive side, having a celebrity show up somewhere can make a great diversion. And I can also help out with transportation if needed.”

    “That makes sense,” said Hallie.

    “I’ve talked to my friend Celeste and she’s interested in helping us. She has many connections in high society and she is willing to provide us monetary support,” said Beth. “I also have one more person in mind…and I would like your permission to tell her about all of you. You have nothing to worry about as she has an even more interesting past. If she agrees then I will have her contact all of you.”

    “I don’t have a problem with it…my life story is on Wikipedia…granted there are mistakes…I was never the Vice President of the United States,” said Jen.

    “I thought you served under Reagan?” asked Alexis with a grin on her face. “I don’t have a problem with you talking to her.”

    “I’m okay with it,” said Jirra.

    Tessa and Hallie also agreed.

    “Good, I’ll try and get ahold of her soon,” said Beth.

    “The next thing we need to discuss is somewhat related to this,” said Jen. “We all have friends and family who know our past and our secrets. From what I’ve seen here at the spa, I think we can trust everyone here to make the right decision on bringing others in to help. The one rule should be that we need to be told just what they know so we don’t accidentally ‘out’ anyone. For example, Hallie has many connections in Crete, some of whom know about her past and some that don’t. Also, there’s the gun runner in Palma Mallorca who is a friend of Tessa…and by the way I would love to meet him.”

    “That can be arranged,” replied Tessa.

    “I like what Jen is saying,” said Hallie. “We also need to protect our lives and privacy. For example, my own father is unaware of my past life.”

    “So, what sort of cases will be work on?” asked Jirra.

    “I don’t think that we’ll have to worry about that, Jirra. I think that the cases will find us,” said Hallie.

    Jirra laughed. “That’s what I’m afraid of!”

    “There are probably other Minoan sites that have not been discovered and we’ll probably be called upon to protect them,” said Hallie.

    “Well, I’m sure it will be exciting,” said Tessa.

    “Changing the subject; I take it we’re all taking off tomorrow,” said Hallie.

    “I’m staying one more day for the cast and crew location wrap party then I have to head to LA and get back to finishing my movie,” said Jen. “Thanks for telling the Minoan goddesses that we meant no harm, Hallie. The accidents stopped for the rest of the filming in the canyon. And please thank them for me. I don’t know how they did it but I managed to get the most magnificent sunset shots in the canyon just as we were shutting down. The colors were incredible and seemed to go on minutes after the normal sunset should have ended.”

    Hallie smiled. “I suspect that had they known fully what your intentions were the problems would not have started. The sunset may have been a thank you for the thunderstorm you created. It made some wonderful cover for them to transform Morgan Browning.”

Jen turned to Tessa. “What about you Tessa? What are your plans?”

    “I’m actually staying here for a few more days,” said Tessa. “Jon and Lisa are flying out here for a vacation.”

    “I’m heading back to Crete, I want to spend some time out there before I have to head back to Columbus,” said Hallie. She turned to Alexis and Jirra. “What about you two?”

    Jirra told them of their plans. “We’re going to spend a few days with Alexis’s family in Ohio before continuing on to New England.”

    Tessa handed Jirra and Alexis a business card. “Since Jon and I live in Boston, we’ll have to get together for dinner sometime.”

    “I’d like that,” said Alexis.

    “Me too,” said Jirra. “What about you Beth?”

    “I’m heading back to DC for a few weeks before going back to Philly,” she replied.

    Jen looked at her watch. “Well, I think we’d better break this up and get ready for the feast that Hannah is making for us.”

Chapter 115

    Dinner was held on the patio of Hannah’s cottage. Tara, Cari, Barrett were already there drinking Dos Equis Amber.

    Jirra and the others all arrived at the same time and sat down to await the feast that Hannah as preparing.

    “Judy, I was told that that wonderful barbecue sauce was one of your family recipes. I wouldn’t dare ask you for the recipe, but can you ship me a couple bottles of it? I know it would make our tailgates for the Buckeye games a smash,” said Hallie.

    Judy nodded. “On one condition, can you send me some of those damned addictive chocolate and peanut butter buckeyes in return? I’ve tried making them, but I just can’t get them right,” replied Judy.

    Hallie nodded. “How did you get a taste for those?”

    “I once dated a Buckeye,” she replied as she winked at Jirra.

    Hannah stepped out onto the deck and signaled for Lindsey. “I need your help, dear.”

    They both headed into the house. Hannah returned a few minutes later and asked Cody to pour her a glass of sangria.    

    “Hannah, I have one question, if you’re cooking for us, who’s supervising the kitchen staff?” asked Liz.

    “I’m letting one of my assistants run the kitchen tonight,” said Hannah as she took a sip of the wine. “Cody and I want to take a vacation this fall and therefore I need to ensure that the kitchen will be run correctly. I know Lindsey can do it, but she’ll be back in college. I’ve been training several people to run the kitchen and tonight is the first time I’m letting one of them do it. I promised myself that I would let them do it and not check up on them…and it’s driving me crazy!”

    “Speaking from my own experience, I know how hard that is,” said Jen.

    Hannah nodded. “The good thing is that the woman who is running the kitchen tonight is very capable…actually she’s too capable as she’ll be leaving soon.”

    “Who is that?” asked Cari.

    “Is it Jennifer?” asked Liz.

    Hannah nodded. “Yes.”

    “Oh, I like her. Where is she going?” asked Cari. 

    “She’s been working here to prepare her to run the kitchen at a new resort in Bermuda. She says that she can’t wait to combine Southwestern spice with Bermudian seafood,” said Hannah. “She says she already has several recipes in mind for the local lobster.”

    “Now that sounds interesting,” said Dan. “For us…not the lobsters.”

    There was some groaning at the bad joke.

    “It’ll be worth a trip there to see what she comes up with,” said Hannah.

    “How did she get a position in Bermuda?” asked Liz.

    “Well, I know she was born there,” said Tara. “I remember her telling me about how pink the sand is there.”

    “Judy, you want to answer this one?” asked Hannah.

    “It was my idea,” interjected Judy. “I’m a minority owner of the resort. We plan on running some dual promotions. I guess can make this public now, we’re going to have an exchange program. That way some of our employees can work there and vice versa. Oh, all of our staff will get a major discount if they go there for vacation.”

    “Oh, please put me on the list…to cook that is!” begged Lindsey.

    “Why doesn’t that surprise me,” said Judy as she smiled.

    Liz also smiled, happy to see that Judy appeared to be moving on after being used by Morgan.

    “So where do you want to go on vacation, Hannah?” asked Jirra.

“We plan on going back east to visit New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Oh, and I also want to go to New Hope and check out Kari’s restaurant. Lindsey brought back some very interesting recipes…although I don’t know where we’ll get fresh shad out here.”

“I’m sure you’ll find a substitute,” said Cari.

“Excuse me,” said Hannah, as she scurried back into the house.

    “So, Jen when will the movies come out?” asked Tara.

    “In the spring,” she replied. “I hate to wait, but the movie won’t be done with post-production until fall and the earliest they could release it is February which is a dead month for movies, so we’re shooting for an early May release. Judy, if you don’t mind I’d like to arrange to have a preview of the movie here. I owe you all so much for making the filming here such a success.”

“Just let me know when you’re ready, Jen. I’d love to see it.” said Judy.

“Well, I’d like to have the premier here in town,” said Jen. “I’ll talk to you about the details later.”

Judy nodded. “Sounds like a great idea.”

    “What’s your next project Jen?” asked Barrett.

    “I’m going to work for Richard Thorn on his newest production as a director. He loved the footage I did for this film,” she replied. “It’s going to be a real blockbuster and he wants to have three units going at the same time.”

    “What are you getting?” asked Alexis.

    “I’m hoping for the shoot in England,” she replied. “It has the best scenes if you ask me and I’ve always wanted to work there.” She then gave them a short description of the plot.

    “Wow, that sounds great,” said Barrett. “When does the book come out?”

    “In the early fall; I’ll talk to Richard and have him send a few copies this way,” she said.

    “Thanks, that would be great,” he replied.

    Hannah came back out of the house.

    “Okay, please let me interrupt as Lindsey and I will be bringing the food out in a few minutes,” she announced. “For appetizers we’re having Margarita shrimp cocktail. The shrimp have been marinated in lime, tequila, and chili peppers. The sauce is a creamy-lime, made with sour cream, garlic and cilantro. If anyone doesn’t want that, we also have the traditional cocktail sauce. In addition to the shrimp we have cheese quesadillas, and chicken quesadillas.”

    “Oh, I’ll continue to serve as the bartender,” said Cody. “We have Margaritas, cerveza, both white and red sangria, sodas, and water. But first we need some appropriate music.”

    He then turned on the stereo and the early evening air was filled with the sound of Jimmy Buffett.

    Hannah and Lindsey stepped inside and wheeled out a cart with shrimp cocktails, which were served in margarita glasses.

Chapter 116

    “Okay, I hope everyone saved room for the main course,” stated Hannah. “Just put your glasses on the carts, we’ll just wheel them over to the kitchen afterwards.”

    “You mean there’s more?” asked Cari. “I could make a meal just from those incredible shrimp!”

    “They were wonderful, weren’t they,” said Hannah. “Judy had them flown in special for this meal. Now for the main course we have Carne Asada as I know Jirra can’t get that in Philly.”

    Lindsey pushed out another cart that had the meat on two large platters, piled high with beef. Cody pushed out a third cart that had the rice, beans, tortillas, and condiments on it. It also held the plates, silverware and napkins.

    “Okay, as you help yourself, let me describe what’s on the carts. We have both flour and corn tortillas, roasted corn on the cob, rice, refried beans and Caesar salad. To go with the beef we had a wide variety of condiments,” said Lindsey. She then pointed to each container. “We have sour cream, avocados, grilled onions, grilled peppers, chopped cilantro, lime wedges and cotija cheese.”

    “Okay, I’ll bite, what’s that?” asked Beth.

    “It’s very similar to Parmesan cheese,” said Hannah. “It originally comes from the Mexican town of Cotija de la Paz and is often served crumbled over beans, soups and salads, but it adds flavor to almost anything. I think you’ll love it.”

    “Okay, what’s in the last container,” said Jen. “It looks fabulous!”

    Hannah held up the bowl. “This is something that I only serve to my closest friends. It’s modestly called ‘Once in a Lifetime Pico de Gallo.’ It’s made from items that all come from my garden and I doubt you’ll ever get anything like this back east. The peppers and tomatoes are all from plants that grew from seed. There’s no way I could ever produce enough of this for the spa, so this is only for friends.”

    “Thank you so much, Hannah,” said Jirra. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”

    “It’s my pleasure, Roo,” said Hannah. “Now, what are you waiting for? Let’s eat!”

Chapter 117

    After dinner, Hannah Lindsey, and Cody retreated into the house and soon came out with another cart, this one with dessert.

    “Dear god, what are you tempting us with now?” asked Jen as she eyed the food on the cart.

    “We have Margarita lime cheese cake, which is my personal favorite,” said Lindsey.

    “We also have sweet apple turnovers,” said Hannah as she held up a try of small golden flaky triangular pastries. “These are filled with chopped apple and cinnamon sugar. They’re not very big, but the flavor is. Think of them as a two bite apple pie.”

    “There’s also chocolate chip cookies and coffee with a hint of cinnamon. I can also provide a higher octane version if anyone wants that,” said Cody.

    Jen turned to Judy. “I don’t know what you’re paying Hannah, but it isn’t enough.”

    “I know,” replied Judy. “I know how lucky I am to have her…and to have so many good friends. Thank you all for putting up with me the last few days.”

    “Hey that’s what friends are for,” said Liz.

    “Well, I’m so happy to add so many new friends to the Caldera de Gaia family. Beth, Tessa, and Hallie, you are always welcome here. I hope that this isn’t you’re only visit here,” said Judy. “Jirra, and Alexis, you better come back regularly and not just to solve some supernatural mystery. You can just come out to relax you know!”

    “I’ll always consider this place my home, Judy,” said Jirra. “And I’ll always consider the people here my real family.”

Chapter 118

    The departures were put off a day thanks to the wonderful party. No one really wanted to leave, but all good things must come to an end and the following day they split up and hit the road after an emotional goodbye.

    They were two hours east of the spa, when Alexis turned to Jirra.

    “You’ve been really quiet,” she said.

    Jirra glanced over from the passenger seat. “I guess I was just trying to absorb everything that has happened since we got out here. I mean, it wasn’t exactly the calm peaceful trip we planned, was it?”

    “No, but it was strangely invigorating. I feel totally refreshed and ready to tackle the next season of shooting,” said Alexis.

    “It was fun, wasn’t it?” replied Jirra.

    “Look, you got to solve a real mystery and you met some great new friends…and I think you understand what happened to you a bit more,” said Alexis.

    “That’s true. It has always bothered me to think of my transformation was just an accident, and even if it was, I now have a purpose in my life. I like the idea of working with the others to protect sacred sites or whatever comes our way,” she replied.

    “I have to admit that also excites me,” said Alexis.

    “I’m also not so frightened about getting pregnant now. I mean, I have two great role models in Hallie and Tessa,” she replied.

    Alexis shook her head. “I can picture Hallie as a mom, but I have a real problem imagining Tessa as one.”

    Jirra laughed. “I know what you mean…she’s pretty amazing. I mean she’s the closest I think I’ll ever come to meeting a real super hero.”

    “I know what you mean, she’s a remarkable woman,” said Alexis. “So how far do you want to drive today?”

    “Let me see, we’re on I-40…there’s nothing much until we reach Oklahoma City,” said Jirra as she looked at the map.

    “What if press on a bit further?” asked Alexis. “I really see no reason to spend time out here.”

    “Tulsa?” asked Jirra.

    “What’s beyond that?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra followed the route they had picked. “How about Joplin Missouri?”

    “That’s okay with me if you don’t mind,” said Alexis.

    “Hey, you’re the one driving,” replied Jirra. “I know what it’s like to be anxious about seeing my family.”

    “Thanks, so Joplin it is,” she replied. “How about calling ahead and see if you can get us a nice room for the night?”

    “Sounds like a plan,” said Jirra. 

Chapter 119

    Two weeks later, Jirra was taking a break from working with Faith Collins. She had borrowed a bike and pedaled down to the beach. It was late in the afternoon and the crowds were departing, so she soon had it to herself.

    After locking up her bike, she walked down along the waterline thinking about everything that had happened that summer.

    The nice thing now was that Faith kept a fairly strict routine with her writing. She usually ate an early breakfast and then worked straight through to lunch. Faith said that it was important to set goals and to stick with them. In less than two weeks, Jirra learned more about writing than her entire year in college.  She found Faith to be strict, but very fair and always willing to answer any question that Jirra came up with.

    For the most part, Faith let the staff of the show write the scripts. She mainly edited and reviewed them so that they stayed true to her characters. This task was much easier as the show was using many of the same writers from the previous year.

    Jirra was given a plot outline to turn into a script that morning. It included a short summary of the intended plot, plus names and descriptions of the main characters. The story concerned the kidnapping of the fifteen-year-old teenage daughter of a local radio host; but it turned out there was no abduction. The girl had gotten pregnant she had faked her own kidnapping with her boyfriend. An added complication was that a disgraced ex-police officer discovers the truth of the kidnapping and decides to use this information to get revenge against the radio host. The radio host had done a series of shows on police corruption which exposed the ex-cop.

    “Yikes, this is all supposed to fit in a ninety minute show?” asked Jirra as she read it.

    “Don’t worry how I would write it, Jirra, or the length of the show, just turn the outline into a story and then I’ll show you how to turn the story into a script,” explained Faith. “We can edit the time down; the important thing is writing a good story.

    She also gave Jirra a large binder of the previous plots, character profiles and other pertinent information, including map and photos of Boston.

    “This is amazing, did you put this together?” asked Jirra as she paged through the book.

    “No, this was done for me by a friend,” said Faith. “I’ve added a lot of notes in the margins. If you have trouble reading my handwriting just ask me to decipher it.”

    “Thanks,” said Jirra. “So when do you want the story finished?”

    “Five days, and then I’ll help you change it into a script,” replied Faith. “I know you can do this, Jirra.”

    Jirra wasn’t so sure, but she had made good progress that day and figured she deserved a break. Faith’s home was less than two miles from the beach and it was an easy bike ride.

    As she walked along the beach, her thought shifted to Alexis and how much she missed her. In a week they would be together again, but Jirra knew they wouldn’t have much time together, as Alexis would be busy most of the time filming the show. Still, Jirra would be happy for any time they got to spend together.

    Jirra reached a pile of rocks and sat down to watch the birds. She made a mental note to bring her camera next time.

    As she watched the shore birds, she also noticed a woman wearing a silky green dress walking towards her. What caught her attention was how exotic the woman looked. She had beautiful shoulder length dark red hair, which flowed down in large curls. As the woman got closer, Jirra could see that the woman also had deep emerald colored eyes.

    “Good afternoon,” said the woman. “Wow, it’s so beautiful here.”

    “Hi,” replied Jirra. “It is nice.”

    The woman sat down on the rocks next to Jirra, and seeing the stone kangaroo charm that Jirra always wore around her neck smiled. “Um, are you Jirra Reid?” she asked.

    Jirra looked over and nodded. “Yes, I am. Have we met before?”

    The woman smiled back as she shook her head. “No we haven’t. I’m an old friend of Beth Williams and she described you perfectly, including that lovely charm you wear. I stopped by the house and Faith and Max told me I could find you here. My name is Iona Beddau.”

    Jirra smiled and they shook hands. “So, you saw Beth and she told you about me…”

    Iona nodded. “Yes, Jirra and to cut to the chase I know about you and your friends…and in many ways I’m like you.”

    Jirra looked around to see if anyone was close by, thankfully they were alone.

    “And Beth told you everything?”

    Iona nodded again. “I like the idea of having friends who have gone through a similar life changing experience. I also have to admit that I find your proposal of forming a group very interesting; in fact I might need some assistance myself soon with… a little problem I’m working on.”

    “Beth hinted that you had an unusual transformation,” replied Jirra. She also wondered what Iona was hinting at; however she didn’t ask as she figured that Iona would get to it.

    “That’s a good way of putting it,” replied Iona with a gentle laugh. “Do you believe in magic?”

    Jirra nodded.

    “Good, let’s go grab some dinner and I’ll tell you all about it,” said Iona. “Do you like lobster?”

    “I love it, and I know a great place near by. I hope you don’t mind sitting outside on picnic tables though,” replied Jirra. “The fact that lobster just came out of the water makes up for the lack of niceties.

    Iona laughed. “Oh, Jirra we are going to get along so well!”

The End
For now….

Julieverse Characters

Jonathan Barnard- Investigative reporter for the Boston Globe and writer of several bestselling books on crime and corruption. His wife is Tessa Phoenix Barnard, who was once a man named Jason Blackthorn. Jason was killed and resurrected as a woman by the goddess Athena to seek revenge against the killers. (Revenge of the Goddess: Athena’s Assassin.)

Iona Beddau- Originally a man called Roger Lyons; after a short tour in the navy, Roger began a defense contractor. It was on a flight back to San Diego that Roger met Iona, a young sorceress who swapped bodies with him. The switch became permanent when an accident killed “Roger”. Now forced to live out her life as Iona, she also discovered that she had magical powers. Iona currently lives in San Diego with her Aunt Kayla and is currently engaged to a mortal man named Bill Somers. (Turbulence Series)

Max Bowie – Private detective and sometimes agent for the Agency. Married to Faith Collins in the 1980s and for all practical purposes is Diana’s father. (Corruption, Double Jeopardy, Band of Sisters)

Ally Burns – Federal agent and head of The Agency’s Internet crime department, recruited to The Agency by Carol Martin. Ally has recently undergone SRS and lives with Carol and their cat in the Washington DC area. (The Protector Series, Combined Forces)

Barrett Chisholm- Archeological graduate student and friend of Jirra. He is currently working as Dr. Montgomery’s assistant at the Anasazi canyon site in New Mexico. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Faith Collins – Former investigative reporter for the Boston Globe and now an international known mystery writer, best known for her Erin Flynn books, personally selected Alexis to play Erin in the series. Married to Max Bowie. (Corruption)

Lindsey Dylan – Jirra’s best friend back in New Mexico. Lindsey is currently studying to be a chef and follow in her mother Hannah’s footsteps. Her father Cody runs the outdoor activities at the spa. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Alexis Eden – Onetime college student and currently movie and TV star. She is the star of the Erin Flynn series being filmed in Boston. While on vacation in New Mexico, she fell in love with Jirra. They are currently engaged.

Celeste Farnsworth – Originally Jeremy Green; was abducted and feminized by Margo Simon. Celeste was then sold to Sherman Farnsworth, a self-made millionaire.  Instead of using her as a sex slave, Celeste became his wife. Sherman dies of a heart attack and Celeste used his wealth to create a foundation for abused transgendered teens. (Combined Forces, Celestial Awakenings, Coeds)

Professor Hallie Thorn Pappadimos – Born Harry Thorn, he was transformed into a young woman by an ancient Minoan object. She is now living with her lover Kim and their daughter. Hallie spends half the year in Crete working on the Minoan archeological site that is connected to her own transformation. Her father is Richard Thorn the movie producer.  (Purpose, Ambition, Revenge of The Goddess; Athena’s Assassin)

Judy Ramone – Owner of The Caldera de Gaia Spa in New Mexico. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Dr. Liz Reid – Jirra’s mother, she is currently working as the staff physician at The Caldera de Gaia Spa in New Mexico.  Her husband and Jirra’s father was an army officer killed in Afghanistan. Liz is currently engaged to Dr. Dan Montgomery, who is in charge of studying the Anasazi archeological sites located near the spa. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Jirra Reid – Born Josh Reid and was transformed into a girl at age eighteen in a freak accident at a spa in New Mexico.  Josh was taking a hot mud bath in a large copper caldron; a lightning strike transferred him physically into a female.  Jirra is still trying to find balance as she adapts to being female.  Her nickname is Roo, a take off on her new name which means kangaroo. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Dr. Jenna Sullivan – Second generation therapist. Her mother Angela still works out her office in Providence RI. Angela began to assist transgendered teens back in the 1980’s. One of her clients was Diana Bowie. Jenna attended Brown and then went to work for the Agency. She also has assisted many transgendered women, including Beth Williams. (The Protector Series, Change of Course Series, Combined Forces, Celestial Awakenings, Band of Sisters)

Tara – Woman that works at The Caldera de Gaia Spa in New Mexico as a masseuse and other duties. Her partner is Cari, who runs the mud baths. Both women are mentors to Jirra. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Richard Thorn- Movie producer of blockbuster adventures. Alexis starred in his recent movie based on the minotaur legend. His movies are usually hated by the critics, but loved by movie lovers. Unknown to him, his daughter Hallie was born male and was transformed into a woman by an ancient Minoan device. (Perfect Match? Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Purpose, Ambition)

Beth Williams- While serving in the navy, LT Ben Carlson was transformed into a teenage girl by Dr. Martz, through a DNA process. Beth was adopted by two federal agents, Maggie and Steve Williams. Beth has also served as an agent, although she is now currently a fulltime student.  Beth is currently dating a fellow Penn student named Jim Buchwalter. (Change of Course I-IV, Combined Forces, The Protector Series, Coeds)

Jennifer “Jen” Stevens – Born Robert Stevens. Transformed by a lightning strike over a period of about three weeks while unconscious in the hospital. Her transformation was leaked to the public during her hospital stay. Jen left her old job and became a successful TV and movie star and is now producing movies. Substitute hosts the “Around Midnight” talk show. A friend and mentor to Jirra Reid after meeting her a few months after her transformation. Long time friend of Alexis Eden after meeting her while Jen was hosting the talk show. Jen Stevens adventures are chronicled in Bob Arnold’s Zapped! series and she is used here with his permission.

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Coeds 3

A quick note to readers of Coeds 3 -

I want to assure readers that Julie O is the one responsible for the bulk of this story. My contribution to her effort was less than 10 pages in total. Also, any editing errors are certainly my fault. I'm not a professional by any sense of the word.

Bob Arnold

editing on coeds 3

Bob: I appreciate (very much) all that you do and all the stories you will not accept. You're right, you aren't a professional editor. I am one (see my web site at www.write-it-better.com) and I would be happy to edit (or re-edit) Coeds 3 (at no cost whatever) There are a number of errors that slipped by (I suspect that you were pushed for time) and I would be happy to go in and fix things.

For instance, there were several references to a bobby trap, plus one correct one to a booby trap. ( I guess a bobby trap catches bobs), Also, a very common mistake in writing... the phrase "Alexis and I " is used as an object, which would require "Alexis and me". This error is repeated multiple times. Julie's writing, plotting and character development is too good to let these (and other) errors detract from it. I can reread the story and give you more specifics if you'd like.

Maybe

I'll have to leave that up to Julie to decide. If I ever finish Zapped - the Lost Pages I might take you up on your offer if you are willing.

Bob

Flow in Chapter 9

Hi Bob, I think you may want reread Chapter 9. There is a little mix-up between Jirra and Alexis conversation.

Thanks!

With a story this long it was quite possible I'd miss something. I fixed the error on Stardust and BCTS.

Bob

Chapter 93

I found only one more mistake in Chapter 93.
{“Me too, but I have to make my report,” replied Jirra.} I think that Beth line.
It was a great store and looking foreword to the next one.

PS
Bob, are you planning to finish "Lost Pages"?

Thanks number 2

I corrected the error you spotted.

As for Lost Pages I'm still poking along at it. No time frame on when it might get finished. I've hit a rough spot or three in the story line and just have to work my way through them.

Bob

If you're stuck, throw it my way, bob

I LOVE suggesting things to flesh out plots or fix accidentally painting your self in a corner, ask Itinerant.

Um ... on second thought don't, after what I did to him concerning Ma'at ....

Really, if you need a jump-start I find test readers -- or scratch monkeys as I prefer, see The Hacker's Dictionary 2nd edition – are a huge help. They have the advantage of a different and fresh perspective and often spot things that are obvious but I miss. I have returned the favor when asked.

I'm still churning away on the Jen Stevens’s/Joanie crossover, writing bits here and there and just generally letting it ferment in my mind. May have more for you in the near future.

Honestly, if you are stuck ask Karen_J, Grover, Itinerant, myself, or others who have a strong interest in your writing to have a peak *under the hood*.

-- John, are you nuts? Peak under the hood? That’s one tired cliché’. Pick a better one, sincerely your brain --

It couldn’t hurt.

--That’s it, I’m going on strike!—

John in Wauwatosa

But you're not a scientist. Surely you believe in all this superstitious nonsense. (MAD Magazine)

Could be worse, could be raining. (Young Frankenstein)

But you're not a scientist. Surely you believe in all this superstitious nonsense. (MAD Magazine) Could be worse, could be raining. (Young Frankenstein)

Goddesses not so smart

This bit struck me: Jen says: “Thanks for telling the Minoan goddesses that we meant no harm, Hallie. The accidents stopped for the rest of the filming in the canyon.

Then Hallie replied: “I suspect that had they known fully what your intentions were the problems would not have started.

I always thought "omnipotence" was part of the job description for gods and goddesses. They sure seemed able to pull off some other god-type stunts pretty easily.

Other than that a pretty good read, kept me occupied all morning.

Karen J.

"Being a girl is wonderful and to torture someone into that would be like the exact opposite of what it's like. I don’t know how anyone could act that way." College Girl - poetheather

Blame that one on me.

That was one of the few things I added to the story at the last minute to fill a plot hole. Guess it didn't work out as I'd hoped.

Then again, the goddesses are extremely protective of their sites. Anything or anyone even close to them is fair game for trouble.

Bob

Warning shots

Given what they are capable of, I took the incidents as somewhat harsh warning shots, a little nasty in my book but then I don't have the perspective of a goddess. I just assumed they knew what they were doing and why. Just their way of telling the mortals to stay in line, or ELSE! After all, nobody died, no limbs were lost, and there were no new "guests of honor" for the next spa bar-b-que.

KJT

"Being a girl is wonderful and to torture someone into that would be like the exact opposite of what it's like. I don’t know how anyone could act that way." College Girl - poetheather

Not so smart Goddesses

Why must goddesses be omnipotent ?

While they are extremely powerful and definitively not human beings, they might have their own limitations.

Gods and goddesses that are omnipotent and all knowing sound dull to me ;-)

Don't deny them the right to mess up ;-)

Nimrill

Job description

Omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. It says so right on the label.

The above is from The Notebooks Of Lazarus Long, from the novel "Time Enough For Love" by Robert A. Heinlein. Rendered from my memory, so it may not be the exact wording he used.

Karen J.

"Being a girl is wonderful and to torture someone into that would be like the exact opposite of what it's like. I don’t know how anyone could act that way." College Girl - poetheather

For future reference ...

A cornucopia of wit from the Master himself is at: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein

The full quote: "God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent — it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills."

Nicole (a.k.a. Itinerant)

--
"Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely."

- Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, Computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale

Nicole (a.k.a. Itinerant) -- "Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely." - Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, Computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale

I'll add that to my list

I have a site bookmarked already, a different one, but I was just too lazy to bother to look it up. :-) I think the 'omnipresent' bit slipped in from my confirmation classes. ;-)

KJT

"Being a girl is wonderful and to torture someone into that would be like the exact opposite of what it's like. I don’t know how anyone could act that way." College Girl - poetheather

another great story, thanks ;)

heya,

i really enjoyed this story. it seems that all characters of the julieverse come slowly together.
only one minor thing... the persons are not always only good or bad ;)
i hope we'll see coeds 4 real soon...
i just love happy endings.

greetings
chris

P.S.: @Bob: We're all happy that you do write/proofread, but you should only do so, when you really want to.

Coeds 3 Just another amazing read

Julie,

I've placed a review on Fictonmania but want to post one here on Bob's site. Julie, I always look forward to read anything that you put out but when you bring out another chapter of Coeds/Fresh Start I basically drop everything and read it until I finish no matter what time it is.
Despite the spelling errors, I still totally enjoyed this chapter of Coeds and like one of the other people who mentioned it, you are quite a tease. Your plot twists in this chapter was just superb. The bringing together of Jirra, Tessa and Hallie was wonderful. The end of the story was also a wonderful twist (I will not divulge it here for anyone that has not read it yet) and am wondering if you will have at least one more Coeds with possibly Jirra graduating and marrying Alexis.
Again, thank you for the wonderful story. Great end of summer reading.

Barry

Hallie and Anne missing a year?

First let me say how much I really love Julie O's stories, I have been reading them for a long time and I really love when she posts a new story.

I just have one questions
First we know reading the story Jirra's transformation happened two years ago. We also know she meet Hallie when She was very pregnant,and Jirra was Jirra, not Josh.

Alexis asks how old is Annie and she says going on three, and not going on two,
So my questions is this, is this an error, did the Minoan goddesses age Anne for a year, and we missed it, or is she aging faster?

Dawn

Missing stories

I decided I needed to read some of the earlier stories that contribute to this series, starting with the stories of Hallie. I had saved them from somewhere onto my harddrive, but finally getting down to reading them I can see some spots where either the original I copied from was missing some text, or I made a goof when copying them and setting up the .doc files. Well, to make a long story short, neither Ambition nor Purpose are here on Stardust. There are some other JulieO stories not here as well. Bob, think you can get with JulieO and see about adding them?

Karen J.

"Being a girl is wonderful and to torture someone into that would be like the exact opposite of what it's like. I don’t know how anyone could act that way." College Girl - poetheather

RE: Missing Stories

You're probably aware of this, Karen, but just in case, Ambition and Purpose are available on Crystal's StorySite, along with all the Turbulence and Change of Course series. They're also on FM ... if it ever becomes possible to access the stories there again.

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Checked there

I found Ambition & Purpose on FM and Storysite, presumably one of those is the source for the copy I made. However, both places have the same version of Purpose, and there are a couple of lines missing.

She was suddenly distracted by a woman pushing a stroller with a baby
about six-months old.

(Gotta be something missing here)

"Thank you," replied the woman.

"What's her name?" asked Hallie.

A small and probably unimportant bit, but still . . .

I'm completing my collection of JulieO stories, and would really like to have the best available versions. Also, it seems to me as if there should be a central site with all her stories available. For some strange reason, I tend to think of Bob and Stardust when I think of JulieO, so it seems fitting to me that the complete works should be here.

Karen J.

"Being a girl is wonderful and to torture someone into that would be like the exact opposite of what it's like. I don’t know how anyone could act that way." College Girl - poetheather

Reply to comment | StardustR.US

Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.