Archaeologist Dr. Lou Fitzgerald is used to unexpected happenings, and they don't usually faze her. After surviving a childhood disability, and dealing with an unfair boss, Lou has learned the art of rolling with the punches. But when she arrives at Dark Lake, what was supposed to be a simple archaeological dig is beyond even her wildest imaginations.
Land owner Evan Close has his own reasons for keeping the secrets of Dark Lake, and this attractive interloper is a menace. Her precious dig threatens to bring his house of cards tumbling down around him, and he feels helpless to stop it.
It soon becomes apparent there are dark forces at work, and Lou's simple assignment turns into a mystery. Solving that mystery comes with a steep price.
After the brightness of the afternoon sun, it took Lou Fitzgerald’s eyes several moments to adjust as she stepped inside the communications van on the far side of the archaeological dig. More than a little irritated that she’d had to break off what she’d been doing for this interruption, she tucked her sunglasses over her shirt pocket and strode to the desk. It had better be important, or the person on the other end of the phone would get the full force of her wrath. She picked up the phone, tossed her cap to the desk, and glanced at Bill. “Which line?”
The communications tech didn’t look up from what he was doing. “Three.”
Lou punched the button. Hopefully, this wouldn’t take long. There was only one person she could think of who’d ring and declare it urgent enough for her to stop work. “Dr. Fitzgerald speaking.”
“You’re a difficult woman to get ahold of, Lou.” A cheerful male voice echoed down the line. And definitely not the one she was expecting. “Did you lose your phone again?”
Lou grinned. “Jim, you know very well you’re the one who loses phones, not me.” She tugged over the computer chair and sat. Captain Jim Kirk, all joking about the TV program aside, was one of her best friends. She’d always hoped they’d end up together, that her teenage crush would be reciprocated and progress into something more, but that hadn’t panned out.
The friendship however had remained, cemented by their teenage jaunt across the world.
“Hah,” Jim snorted. “You still haven’t answered yours in days. Did you drop it overboard a ship?”
“Again, I repeat myself, dropping phones overboard a ship is your habit, not mine. It’s a good thing you joined the Air Force and not the Navy after all.” She shoved down the giggle. “To answer your question, no, I didn’t lose my phone. I know exactly where it is, and that’s in my bag under the desk, thus out of my way on the dig site. Work’s been hectic and I can’t afford a distraction. I’m barely getting five minutes to myself these days, and I’d rather use those to catch forty winks. Besides, the phone signal out here can be rubbish at times.”
Jim snorted. “You’re in Wales, not Egypt. Hardly the back of beyond.”
“And that makes a difference because…?” Lou left the question hanging. “You know as well as I do that lots of things affect phone signal. Mountains for example, of which we have a plethora in Wales. The lack of phone towers. Distance between the phone and said phone towers. And I know you didn’t call because I haven’t written, because I know you too well.” She glanced at her watch. “What time is it where you are?”
The line crackled and Jim yawned. “It’s almost eleven at night. I’m about to go to bed. Paul is up to no end of mischief. You taught him well with that saucepan trick.”
Lou chuckled. “It’s what aunts do. And how is Ailsa?” Despite the fact Jim’s affections had gone elsewhere, Lou was very fond of his wife.
“She’s pregnant. Baby’s due in five months. We’re hoping to be back stateside for the birth, but if not, the base here will do just as well. She’d prefer to have Nichola and Mum around to look after Paul when she’s having the baby.” He paused. “And admittedly, as good as the Air Force docs are, I’d prefer to be back at home as well.”
“Congratulations.” A surge of jealousy flooded her before she tamped it down. She’d always imagined a family of her own by the time she reached her mid-thirties. But some dreams were never to be. Choices made early on in life put paid to that.
“Thanks. And speaking of Nichola—have you spoken to your mum recently?”
Lou shook her head, knowing he couldn’t see her. “Not for a few days.”
“You should give her a call while you have a signal.”
“Sounds mysterious. Is something wrong?”
“She’s just forgotten what you sound like.”
Lou scoffed. “Yeah, right, of course she has. OK. I’ll ring as soon as I get home tonight. Well, back to the hotel anyway. She should be up by then. Las Vegas is eight hours behind me. I get confused with the date line as to where they are compared to you. Is it strange not having Dad as your CO now?”
“A little, but most people agree that he’s one of the best generals out there. People fight to get posted to Nellis these days.”
A lot of noise came from outside, and Lou frowned. They knew she preferred silence on a dig. Rowdiness led to mistakes and precious objects being damaged. Running footsteps crossed to the van and the door flung open, letting the heat and light into the darkened room.
One of the archaeological team stood silhouetted against the sunlight. “Dr. F.?”
Lou glanced up. She’d long given up trying to stop the nickname and went with it. “What’s up, AJ?”
“Sorry to interrupt. But we need you. You have to come and see this. Now.”
His enthusiasm was catching. “Be right there. Jim, I gotta go. I’ll leave my phone on tonight. Call me when you get up, and we can chat properly. Yes, there is a phone signal in town before you ask. Give Ailsa my love. Bye.” She put the phone down and stood, tugging her cap on firmly. Reaching behind her neck, she tugged her long ponytail through the gap at the back of the hat.
She headed outside in several rapid strides, putting on her sunglasses. “So what’s up, AJ?” She pulled her cap down over her eyes, the peak shading them from the bright sunlight.
“We found something you need to see.” He set off at a trot towards the trench.
Lou hurried after him, grateful this prosthesis was a better fit than the last one she’d had, and she could keep up. No one on her team knew about the disability, and she intended to keep that information to herself. The last thing she needed was to be called Long-Lou-Silver or Hop-a-Long Louisa. Her stomach churned, and her mind whirled. There was an underlying current to the dig site that hadn’t been there ten minutes ago.
Had they finally found what they were searching for?
AJ pointed to the trench. “Down there.”
“This had better be good,” she teased. Resisting the urge to jump, Lou climbed down the ladder, her breath hitching with every step. She crossed to the uncovered stones she’d been working on the past few weeks and dropped carefully to her knees. She pushed the last remaining earth away and stared in wonder.
Then she closed her eyes.
This was it. Her very own ‘Eureka!’ moment.
Joy bubbled through her, and it was all she could do not to leap ten feet in the air and punch the sky. “This is it,” she whispered. Tears pricked her eyes. “We did it.”
“You did it, boss.” AJ grinned. “You were right.”
Lou blinked hard. “Team effort, AJ. We did it.” She sucked in a deep breath, forcing herself to think logically through what would be the next steps. “OK. I want this whole area cordoned off and tented. It’s essential we keep the place dry. I need my camera and case. We have to record everything. And someone get ahold of that local councillor, Jordan Brown. This should change his mind about developing the area.”
An hour later, Lou scowled as someone blocked her light. “Do you mind?” she grumbled.
“No, actually I don’t.” Varian Sparrow’s voice made her jump.
She glanced up to find her boss standing behind her. “It’s nice to see you too, Varian. Your timing is impeccable. I planned to call you later. You should take a butcher’s at this. It’s amazing. It proves everything I’ve been saying.”
“Lou, we need to talk. Is there somewhere we can go?”
“Sure, there is, but it’ll have to wait. I need to get on with this while we still have daylight.”
“This can’t wait. I need to talk to you now.”
Lou resisted the urge to roll her eyes. He may be her boss, but he sure knew how to pick his moments, and nothing he ever said was that urgent. “So talk while I work. What’s up?”
He jerked his head and held up a hand. “Not here. It’s important.”
“For this it had better be.” She accepted his hand up and brushed the dirt off her jeans. “Fine, you can have ten minutes.” She glanced at the other members of the team. “No one touch this while I’m gone.”