Flagstaff, AZ

21 Years later

Jackson Lostrunn awoke with a start. His body still drenched with the cold sweat that had enveloped him last night even though his room, number 509, in the Drury Inn & Suites was cooled to compensate for the usual head of the Arizonian sun.

He checked the room's standard alarm clock, 2:17 am.

He ran his hand through his still damp, thinning dark hair and tried to think. After a while, Lostrunn decided there was no point in trying to go back to sleep so instead he pushed himself off the sheets and trudged over to the room's desk to check his laptop.

It was still on for he had been sending today's lesson and notes to his substitute teacher to preach about back home in Stanford University. The progress bar brightly displayed 100% Completed, and he closed the lid.

Lostrunn opened the curtains and was greeted by the dark shadows that he knew to be the far off Kachina Peaks of Arizona. He sat in a comfortable reclining chair that he had repositioned to face the window's grand view.

He must have dosed off again because when he rechecked the clock it was 8:42 am. Even though the hotel's great breakfast area with buffet style self-service and great staff in the kitchen, he wasn't hungry so instead he decided to look at the photos he'd taken yesterday while venturing around the famous Grand Canyon National Park. Ho powered up his laptop once more and opened the Windows Photo Viewer.

Lostrunn had always wanted to see the Grand Canyon as a little boy and when Stanford offered him an all-expenses paid trip to anywhere in the United States he knew exactly where he wanted to go.

How now stared blankly at the picture currently on the screen. It was a superb vertical shot into the canyon with a greenish yellow banana cactus in the lower left-hand corner at sunset. As he continued to gaze into the image, Lostrunn noted the warm colors of bright orange and rusty red splattered across the canyons ancient walls. The sun's rays cascaded down the cliffs and the sheer drops and intense head reminded tourists that out there they were at the mercy of Mother Nature. However, the Park Rangers that continuously patrolled the rims and trails took pride in helping those who needed it and conversing with and informing those who didn't.

Thinking back now, Lostrunn wondered what the rangers would have said about his little escapade the previous day when he had ventured into the canyon.

He smirked as he let his mind imagine how they would have reacted had they known that he was repelling down and then climbing back up the rocky walls. While remembering the excitement and the adrenalin rush, Lostrunn allowed himself to be thrown into a flashback to the day before.

Jackson Lostrunn was staring death in the face as he dangled precariously off the cliff near Hermit's Rest. He had experienced situation similar to this one but never one exactly like it where he clung to the rock face by only his right hand. He considered calling out for help but this far from Hermit's Rest no one would hear him. Plus even if they did the only ones who might be able to do something would be the Park Rangers and he had no intention of answering to them about why he was down there. He was also not in the mood to let someone raise all hell on him especially if it were a woman as he recalled Shakespeare's famous line, "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn."

His only other option would be to somehow climb his way out which was going to be no easy task.

He now thanked God for the countless times he traversed through the open doorway to get to Stanford University's climbing wall where he so often joined the ambitious student climbers in ascending the wall and experiencing death defying situations under controlled circumstances even after the continuous friendly taunting and teasing of his fellow faculty.

Lostrunn was then whipped back to reality when a strong gust of wind shook his well-toned body. Then, summoning all the strength he could muster, Lostrunn flung himself up and tried to grab hold of a rock jutting out from the cliff face. The rock must have been loose and his hand sweatier than he had previously thought for just as he started to put his weight on it, the rock snapped and tumbled down the canyon.

He then stared back at his opponent and summoning his adrenalin and strength one again he hurled himself up and grabbed hold of another rock. It jostled around slightly in its niche, but held as Lostrunn placed his full weight upon it.

As he hauled himself up and over the cliff edge and back onto solid ground, Lostrunn took off his backpack and fished out his water thermos to quench his burning thirst.

He noticed a small rock outcropping where shade was present and lumbered over to it. As he sat and harvested the shade in silence, for there was no one to talk to but himself, and gulped down his deliciously cold water, he adjusted his Indiana Jones-style fedora on his sweaty head.

After he was freshly watered, Lostrunn refilled his pack with all the assortments of objects he had used for repelling and climbing. Then, after being sure that it was all there, he swung his pack onto his shoulders and began the long trek back to the shuttle boarding area. Once there he would take the blue line shuttle bus back to his rented Jeep Rubicon parked near the stone visitor center.

Along the way he spotted several small lizards spying on him from under and sometimes on top of their thin rocky homes. He also had to be weary of the occasional cactus that would sneak up and jab him in the leg.

H could now see the shuttle loading area. He began walking towards it as the sun gleamed across the sk-

Lostrunn's hotel room phone rang. Picked up the receiver and answered, "This is Lostrunn."

"Mr. Lostrunn? Good morning, sir. You have some mail down here with a return address to Harvard University," said the desk clerk.

No doubt it's Stephanie trying to suck up for more extra credit even when I'm on vacation; Jackson thought to himself, not like she actually needs it. Lostrunn rolled his eyes and smiled.

"Mr. Lostrunn?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, yes?"

"I asked if you wanted me to bring it up for you."

"Um, sure. Thanks."

Stephanie Persimmons had been Lostrunn's best student for all four years that she had attended Harvard. Always acing quizzes and tests and then asking for extra credit even though she knew full well that she had 100% in his class. He supposed that she planned to become a professor of archeology herself because as he remembered, she became his best student her first day.

Lostrunn had never married and he prided himself with that, however he had to admit that Stephanie had a few qualities that some might find attractive. With her long, auburn hair; her soft, kind green eyes; and her tall slender figure with light, but always slightly tan skin; she had the makings of a woman of beauty and power.

There was a soft nock on the door. Lostrunn stood and padded his way across the floor to it. He checked the peep hole even though he knew who it was. Force of habit he supposed.

He unlatched the door and let the clerk in.

"Here you are, Mr. Lostrunn."

"Thank you very much," replied Lostrunn as he accepted the envelope.

"You have a great day."

"You too. Thanks."

The clerk gave a curt nod and then turned and strolled down the hallway back to the elevator. Lostrunn closed the door. He walked across the room and sat at the desk where his laptop still displayed his best picture of the Grand Canyon from the day before. Then, from his toiletries bag, Lostrunn produced his Swiss Army Knife and flipped out the blade. He then slid the paper-thin knife under the envelope flap and cut it along the top.

As he finished he took out the short letter that the envelope contained. He unfolded the paper and read:

Dear Professor Lostrunn,

I am writing to you to inform you that the assignment of yesterday, May 17, was very well constituted and a challenge for many of the students. Many of them complained that the questions weren't descriptive enough, but I for one thought that they were perfect in every way.

On another note, I have heard wind of a dig going on in a place called Oak Island in Canada. I just thought you might wish to know.

~ Sincerely,


P.S. Your substitute teacher isn't as good as you and I miss your teaching.

Lostrunn smiled as he finished reading. That was Stephanie for you, always making you smile.

He then decided that it was prudent to get out to go hiking around and, even though it was prohibited, in Sunset Crater Volcano before the day got too hot.

After a quick breakfast of toast, eggs, sausage, bacon, and some orange juice, Lostrunn pack up his gear and headed for his Jeep.