The Oracle Philon

Published 6/15/2016

Chapter One

“Can you please stick it in a little further,” the throaty female voice said provocatively. “I’m almost there.”

“I’m out my full length. Maybe if you change your position,” an equally excited male voice responded. “You’re the contortionist, not me.”

“I always have to do all the work,” the millennial aged woman — meaning she was under thirty — complained in a whine as she attempted to change her position by untying the ropes around her body and turning over.

“But you wouldn’t have it any other way,” the male answered in a knowing tone.

“Are you saying that I’m a dominant woman? That I require the upper hand?”

“Well, you do wear lots of leather,” the man behind and above her responded. “Oh, and did I mention that you attempt to boss me around whenever you think you can get away with it. Yes, you deliberately try to dominate men.”

“Uh-oh, you’re breaking up,” Kaley Wells said into her earpiece. “I can’t understand what you just said,” she responded playfully and tapped her earpiece. “Can you repeat it?” She and Malcolm Short often traded indelicate innuendoes when they were working together. It made their efforts less stressful. It did provoke Malcolm in a different way.

“Do you ever take anything seriously?” The much older Malcolm asked. He was over forty.

“Only when there are a lot of zeros involved,” she quickly answered. “But, don’t push any more of my buttons right now, okay. I’m going to have to use the rope that was tied around me and rappel down to the car. This could take some skill and I need to concentrate.”

Malcolm left the chugging engine of the rented boom crane running and jumped down out of the cabin. He rushed to the edge of the sinkhole in the middle of the abandoned Winn Dixie parking lot. He wanted a clearer view in case Kaley needed some help. But then he thought, who am I kidding, she never needs my help. It’s like she anticipates everything.

He dipped under the yellow crime scene tape that surrounded the huge hole before any of the guards could protest. He knew that it was dangerous to get too near the wet edge, but he had to keep her in his line of vision. This mission had to go smoothly. The pair was allowed into the unstable sinkhole area only because their boss had promised the mayor of the city that he would pay for the filling in of the hole.

The rain had stopped as abruptly as it had begun ten minutes earlier — it was southern Florida after all. As he looked into the sinkhole, the looming questions were: how much bigger would the hole get before it stopped growing, how much deeper would the three cars be buried. He hoped that Kaley could get there before they disappeared in the soft earth. Malcolm figured she had only a few minutes left. He didn’t like her chances.

“Keep the rope tied to your waist in case I have to drag you out of there,” he said into his earpiece knowing that she probably wouldn’t listen to him, she never did. She would do whatever she wanted. Kaley was strong willed in that way. She had total disregard for any concern voiced by anyone else. When she was focused on making money that’s all that mattered and she was remarkably successful.

Malcolm knew that if one of the cars hadn’t contained a valuable artifact, Kaley wouldn’t be facing imminent danger. But, one did, at least according to the owner anyway, and Kaley, the untamable daredevil, was after it.

Malcolm had been lucky and thrilled at the beginning of the assignment. He looked forward to working with the alluring Kaley again and maybe making some extra money to boot. But she scared the hell out of him with her antics and kept him and everybody else around at an arm’s length. Nobody knew much about the secretive beauty. It was part of her mystiquee and she kept it that way. He knew very little about her.

Kaley told Malcolm that she had been fortunate to be working the case. She had been only about twenty-five miles away from the sinkhole. She had actually been soaking up some Palm Beach sun on the local beach when she got the call from Simon Stone. He was the CEO of Aurora Insurance Company. She promised him that she would get to Jupiter, the next town over, as fast as she could and would be prepared to go directly to work.

Malcolm knew that Simon was aware of where all of his freelance field researchers were located at all times, especially his captivating charge Kaley Wells. He told her it was an emergency and he needed her there within the hour. She agreed and hung up the phone.

Kaley was one of his four special researchers who tracked down antiques and antiquities that had gone missing or stolen. The Aurora Insurance Company held the policies for many artifacts. The policies were all worth at least a minimum of a million dollars. When one of the insured articles went missing, at least one of the special field researchers was sent after it. In addition to their salaries, they earned a ten percent recovery fee. It was a lot of money and because of the potential income the researchers were all uniquely skilled.

This artifact, which, was allegedly in the trunk of a car in the sinkhole in Florida, was insured for fifty million dollars. That explained why Kaley was risking her life while nearly naked to get it back. And time had become a grave limitation.

 

Chapter Two

It had been only three hours since the CEO of Aurora Insurance Company had called Malcolm into his office. He said that he had just hung up the phone with a seemingly frantic client by the name of Ben Brown. Malcolm didn’t recall him.

Stone said the client related a version of what had happened. However, Simon Stone didn’t like the client’s explanation of how the artifact went missing. Something seemed out of place and shady, but nonetheless he needed to take action.

“Investing a few million dollars to save fifty was a logical choice for us,” he told Malcolm “Once we secure the artifact and return it to Ben Brown, I’ve decided to cancel the client’s policy,” he added. “I never want to do business with any questionable characters.”

Malcolm Short was one of the company’s lawyers at the corporate offices in Atlanta, Georgia. He was usually in charge of writing the complicated policies for clients and sometimes he served as a logistic person for a recovery. Simon Stone wanted his high priced researchers working and not worrying about how they were going to get someplace.

Stone explained what they were looking for with whom he would be working.

“Can you handle it?” The CEO asked with his bushy eyebrows raised.

“Hmm,” Malcolm responded. “I don’t recall a policy on the item you described.”

“I’ve got the policy right here,” the CEO said as he pointed to a file in the middle of his desk. You’ve read it.”

An old voice inside his head told Malcolm to not press the issue and agree. The voice had been right many times before.

“Yes, sir,” Malcolm responded as his heart beat faster in his chest, mostly because he knew he would be sent to the location in Florida and Kaley would be there.

“Who do we have near Jupiter, Florida?” the executive demanded even though he already knew.

“I believe Kaley is vacationing in Palm Beach,” the lawyer responded expectantly.

“Okay, I need both you and her to get to Jupiter as fast as possible. We need to find the artifact. If not, we could be facing a fifty million dollar loss here.”

“If I took the company jet, I could be there in about two hours,” Malcolm replied.

“Hmm,” the old man responded as he considered the option like he hadn’t thought of that already.

“What’s going on?” Malcolm inquired. “What’s the rush?”

Instead of answering, Simon picked up his phone and tersely told his assistant to have the plane warmed up for Malcolm. He told her to find a rental place near Jupiter that specialized in construction equipment. He also needed the name and phone number of the mayor of Jupiter. He told her to be in his office with the information in ten minutes.

“What’s going on?” Malcolm repeated. He was already standing and was halfway to the office door when he asked. His senses told him to be wary.

“Something is not right. A valuable artifact is missing, but our client’s explanation of how this item disappeared has a lot of holes,” Simon Shoes responded.

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Malcolm snorted. “What did he say happened?

“He claims that someone stole the artifact in broad daylight. He said that he and some men chased the bad guys. They parked his stolen car in the middle of a vacant lot near two other cars. The artifact was in the trunk. Suddenly a sinkhole opened up and swallowed all three cars. He’s looking for us to pay out the policy right now.”

“And he thinks that we can’t get to it in the sinkhole to verify that it’s for real. Sinkholes are notorious for swallowing things up and never giving them back. He believes we will have to pay off the policy, right?”

“That’s what it sounds like to me,” the old man replied. “You’ll need to interview the client after we attempt to find the artifact.”

“Is he stupid, anyone can see that this is fabricated?”

“Hardly,” the CEO responded with a look of concern. “He claims that they had the trunk open and the robbers were taking pictures of the artifact when he arrived at the site. Suddenly the sinkhole developed and sucked the cars inside. It was all recorded on the client’s cellphone.”

“Hmm,” Malcolm the lawyer responded and rubbed his chin. “Can he send us the video? We’ll need some forensic people to analyze it.”

“It’s already being emailed to me.”

“How convenient,” Malcolm the lawyer said sarcastically. “I’ve got a lot of questions about that story.”

“Well, save them up,” Simon ordered. “Our first priority is to get you and Kaley to the site. Call me from the plane so we can discuss your questions.”