Summary: A certain rather famous archaeologist receives a request for
consultation from a big LA law firm, and is startled by what he finds.
Disclaimer: All of these characters remain the property of their
owners/creators. . .I'm just borrowing them for a spell. . .
Rating: PG-13, for themes
Time Frame: A few days after "Just Rewards." (spoilers up to that date
for "Angel," and for all three movies of the Indiana Jones series).
Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me
know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see
what else you've got.
THE BEST MAN IN HIS FIELD
The young man in the business suit who had picked me up at the airport led
me into the elevator, and we started going up. Elevators look less elegant
in this day and age, but they make up for it by being complicated--this
model had doors on both sides, like at some hospitals. I remembered seeing
one of those for the first time when Dad was in for his final hospital stay
back in the late seventies. He had just worn out at the age of one hundred
and ten, and he was still alert enough to be irritated that his son
couldn't openly visit him--since he had been declared dead ten years
before. He kept his peace, and we were able to say our discreet goodbyes.
His funeral was a national event--the beloved master of understandable
texts for generations of undergraduate archaeology students was mourned by
many across his nation, and his eulogy--delivered by a sitting US Senator--
expressed regret that he had failed in his lifelong dream to discover the
resting place of the Holy Grail.
Dad always could keep a secret--whether it was mine or his.
The elevator door opened, and the man gestured in the direction of a pair
of closed oak doors. I nodded and thanked him before following the carpet
towards my destination. There was a young woman sitting at the secretary's
desk, and she perked up upon seeing me. She saw a man of ordinary height
and weight, apparently about sixty years old, with neatly trimmed gray hair
and a beard. * Appearances can be deceiving, child * I smiled at her.
"Good afternoon. I am Doctor Walter Sullivan, and I have an appointment
with the chief executive officer of this firm."
"An--er, I mean Mr. Angel is expecting you, Doctor." The young lady
pressed a button on her desk, then smiled at me and added, "You can go
right in, sir. Please ask if you want anything to drink."
I nodded and dismissed the secretary as I opened the polished doors and
walked in. I saw a luxurious office with elaborate furnishings and a large
desk in the back as I closed the doors behind me. Behind the desk was a
wall with various examples of ancient weaponry--I raised an eyebrow as I
recognized specimens that would turn the complexion of any museum curator
in the world green with envy. * This trip was worth making, but where's
the--ah * A large, dark-haired man who didn't look much older than the
young secretary outside was off to the side, mixing a martini. He turned
to me and smiled, and I immediately had a sense that I had seen him
somewhere before--a sense that only grew as he smiled, extended his hand
and said simply, "I'm glad you decided to make this trip--I've been a
follower of your work for a very long time--Dr. Jones."
I felt a surge of irritation. Mere money would never have caused me to
make the trip--I've never been particularly motivated by it, and I've got
plenty, between my own investments and what Dad left me. The invitation I
had received three days before had come in a crate containing a Ming vase
with a rather unique quality--it had been chipped and stained in a fit of
pique by one Napoleon Bonaparte. Whoever sent it knew that I would be able
to ascertain its authenticity in a very short period of time--I got a phone
call less than two hours after its delivery wanting to facilitate travel
plans, and I was receptive, since the vase had been a simple courtesy gift
to sway me to come--no one in their right mind would use it for such
purposes if they didn't have a huge quantity of other such items to work
with. I hadn't expected game playing, though. Again, I don't spend much
time thinking about money, but I spent a lot of it establishing this new
identity thirty years ago, and I'd just as soon not have people I don't
know ignoring the efforts on my part to bury an old lifetime and ignore the
new one that I've created for myself. Very well--I was going to make him
work for it. I ignored the extended hand, frowned, and replied, "Young man-
-you have me mistaken for someone else. I am Walter Sullivan, former
curator of the New York Museum of Antiquities--retired. You should know
this, as you sent me an invitation to come to this place to discuss a
matter which you described as being of great importance, and punctuated
with a unique blending of the cultures of France and China. If I am
mistaken, perhaps I should be on my way."
The young man smiled at me and said simply: "1939. The Florida
Everglades. A moonlit night in the depths of a swamp twenty miles away
from the nearest town."
I don't have an eidetic memory, but I had a very good reason for
remembering that night. "I was being chased by two men working for a
"Two of Himmler's best men, if I'm not mistaken." The apparently not-so-
young man smirked--they hadn't been good enough.
"Nazis." I muttered.
"I *hate* those guys." We both spoke at the same time, and paused before
breaking out into laughter. I reached out and clasped the offered hand. I
shook my head and commented, "I found you standing over their bodies--I
never did find out how you killed them, or why you chose to intervene. You
just smiled at me and left."
"I just happened along--I was rather anti-social in those days--and they
decided that I was an obstruction." The man spoke softly, but I could hear
the note of satisfaction in his voice when he added, "They were right--
broken necks are a bit of an obstacle to even the elite soldiers of 'the
I chuckled, and commented, "From your appearance, I assume that you found
what I was looking for?"
"You mean what you *found*, don't you?" The man replied, looking at me
intently and obviously seeing through the disguise I use to maintain my
current identity. He shook his head and added, "No, Dr. Jones--my
longevity is based on a rather darker power." He inclined his head towards
a nearby mirror--which looked as if it had been placed on the wall
recently, and I noted that he had no reflection. He looked back at my
surprised expression and explained, "I desire a good working relationship
with you, Dr. Jones--I wished to let you know up front what I know to be
true about you, and for you to know who it is you are dealing with, in case
you might find the circumstances intolerable."
I shrugged--I had seen far stranger things in my time on this Earth than an
apparently well-mannered vampire. "I tend to assume that you could have
obtained take-out archeologist far less expensively than the means you used
to bring me here, sir. I will therefore assume that you have a genuine
venture to present to me, and that you will do so in good faith--until I
have reason to assume otherwise." I stepped back and stated simply: "I'm
ready to start the discussion whenever you are, Mr. Angel."
"Angel will do just fine, Dr. Jones." Very polite, this one--he still
treated me as the senior individual in the room, though I suspected that
for the first time since Dad died, I was in the presence of someone
substantially older than myself. He gestured at a comfortable looking
client chair, and I availed myself of it as he handed me the martini and
moved to sit at his desk. He frowned, and began, "You're still active in
the field, Dr. Jones--how successful have your recovery efforts been
"Not very, I'm afraid." I sipped the martini--finding it excellent--and
elaborated: "Oh, I've found any number of notable pieces--some would make
the career of any archaeologist who hadn't already found even rarer pieces.
. .but in the last five years, I've started to run into dead ends when I've
sought out certain significant items. Empty pedestals, bare gem sockets,
other such annoyances. Someone's been getting to places ahead of me, and I
just wish I knew whether it was five days before I got there, or five
"The Mantle of Ra--the Eye of the Scarab--the Urn of the Ages--the Scepter
of the Myrmidon. . .and the Monocle of St. Percival." Angel spoke softly,
and I almost dropped my martini. He noted my reaction and nodded before
adding, "Someone's been watching you, and cheating a bit to make sure they
got to where you were going first."
"I see." My voice was cold, and I put the martini down before continuing,
"So, is it going to be a matter of 'work for us, or never see another
significant piece for as long as you live?' Mr. Angel--I don't deal with
"I understand your reaction, Dr. Jones--but please hear me out." Angel
looked at me with a concerned expression, and I relented, picking up my
martini and listening as he continued, "I can explain what has been going
on, but it will require a bit of explanation as to the activities of my
associates and myself. I would appreciate it if you would grant me the
time to tell you the story properly."
I hesitated, then nodded. Angel sighed, then spoke softly for twenty
minutes, and I listened in fascination, my only other activity being an
occasional sip from the martini. When he had finished, I blinked, then
commented, "You've certainly picked quite a tightrope to walk--I take it
that you found my name and recent activities when you reviewed the files
that the main office left with you?"
Angel nodded. "There are a number of clients of this office who benefit by
thwarting your acquisition of certain pieces--the files were quite clear on
that point. The senior partners certainly didn't go out of their way to
point that fact out to us, but they didn't count on our computer expert and
the search programs she was able to write--your name popped right up." He
looked at me intently and added, "Dr. Jones--the artifacts I named are
powerful, but none of them threatens the very existence of the world:
we've been lucky up to now. I would like to sponsor your activities in the
future--to both enable you to find items that you never would have located
otherwise, and to conceal your activities from dark powers that would seek
to exploit your abilities for the cause of evil. I'm willing to spend as
much time as it takes to convince you, or to let you leave here right this
moment to consider my proposal, if that is what you wish to do." I
blinked, and he concluded, "The Fountain of Youth has granted you long
life, Dr. Jones--it would be a great honor for myself and this firm to
assist in your continued efforts for the betterment of the human race while
that good fortune continues for you."
I looked at the young man--who was neither young nor truly a man--and
wondered at the conviction in his voice. For all of the wonders I've seen,
I've gotten cynical in my somewhat old age--I've seen too much human
decadence and corruption not to be. This one still believed in fighting
the good fight, regardless of the cost, though I sensed a burden of pain
and weariness on his shoulders that would have stricken many a good man.
He was right about the gift I had received--after the Nazis had been slain
and Angel vanished into the night--I had stumbled along without my supplies
for hours, desperate for water that was not foul or otherwise tainted. As
the pre-morning light began to break over the eastern horizon, I stumbled
upon an ancient fountain that had been long since abandoned. A small
amount of water was still inside the cracked base. I was heedless of
potential risks and drank deeply. I felt a surge of energy, but my senses
fled for some time. When I came to my senses, I was at the edge of the
swamp and the sun was high in the sky--I couldn't have retraced my steps in
a thousand years. When I returned to my hotel and looked into the mirror,
I was startled to see that I looked ten years younger. I had found my goal
and lost it, all in one night.
It was years later--after explaining away my sudden transformation to
better tailors and a gifted beautician--that I realized that I was no
longer aging noticeably. I began resorting to makeup, and began to
research for a cause for this change in me. Nothing was forthcoming, and
it took Dad to point out the obvious. "You've partaken of both of the most
legendary mystical youth bestowing artifacts in history, you damned fool!
You're just lucky that you didn't regress to being an infant after the
Fountain. Someone has always been looking out for you, my boy--but you're
going to have to take the good with the bad this time."
He had been right--I was the same apparent age as I sat in Angel's office,
pondering what he had told me, as I had been for the sixty odd years prior
to that moment. I had cheated death many times before that night in the
Everglades, and now it seemed that I was cheating mortality itself. I do
not live in fear that the gift will be withdrawn and that I would die--I
have seen more wonders than almost anyone who has walked this Earth, and my
friends are mostly long dead: death is the one great adventure that I have
yet to experience. But Angel's offer intrigued me--he offered me a chance
to use my abilities not just to discover and preserve the lost treasures of
humanity, but to help preserve the human race itself. I had done such work
in the past largely by happenstance and sheer stubbornness: this time I
would do so with full awareness and sense of purpose. . .along with
thwarting those who had cheated me out of some damned good finds. It was a
challenge worthy of the name and identity I had abandoned out of necessity,
and I stood up and extended my hand. "Angel--I don't need time to decide,
but I would like to hear some of the details, and to meet the people I will
be working with."
Angel blinked--visibly surprised and pleased--and pressed a buzzer on his
desk before reaching out and shaking my hand firmly. We both sat down and
nursed our drinks for a few minutes until the doors opened and two people
walked in--a man in his early thirties, and a woman a few years younger
than that. Both looked bright and attentive, and I stood as they
approached me and stared. I smiled and commented, "Let's see--you would be
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce and Winifred Burkle? Pleased to meet you--Angel here
has told me of your credentials, and I'm looking forward to hearing about
what projects you have in mind for me."
Wyndham-Pryce straightened slightly and extended his hand--which I shook as
he commented, "It's a rare honor, Professor.--I'm quite familiar with your
work." He paused, and commented, "I believe that you have worked with a
former colleague of mine--Rupert Giles."
The name definitely rang a bell. "Yes, quite a good man in his field--I
haven't seen him in about seven years. What's he been doing?"
"Saving the world." The answer came from Angel, who had come around to the
front of the desk and joined us.
I looked at Angel's face and saw no sign of deception, and nodded in
response. "That sounds about right for Rupert." I turned to the young
woman next to me--who was visibly nervous--and commented, "I've worked with
a few talented physicists in my time, Miss Burkle--Oppie in particular was
rather fond of discussing the connections between his chosen field and my
own, before he got caught up in government programs. If you'd like, I
could tell you a tale or two."
Winifred's eyes widened and she smiled as she replied, "I'd love to hear
those stories, Dr.--" She hesitated, then asked, "What are we supposed to
call you--Dr. Jones or Dr. Sullivan?"
I thought for a moment--grateful for such a trivial problem to resolve
before more pressing issues intruded. I frowned, then replied, "In public--
Dr. Sullivan, since he is alive and well as far as the world is concerned.
In private, Dr. Jones will do nicely." I reached out and took her hand,
and grinned wolfishly as I kissed her hand before releasing it and adding,
"And *you* may call me Indiana."
Winifred blushed, and the other two men in the room chuckled. For a
moment, I thought I heard a derisive snicker that sounded a lot like Dad,
but I've learned to live with ghosts over the years--even the rude ones. I
looked over at the bar and called out, "Angel, I think more martinis are in
The vampire smiled and went to comply, and I turned back to the two younger
people. This was going to be fun.
As always, comments are welcomed and desired