Two hours later, Dr. Karl de Cardi came bursting through into Ida's office. He didnt look too pleased, an unpleasant scowl on his normally serine features.
"What the bloody hell is going on around here?" he demanded of Janice as she stepped out of the kitchenette.
"Coffee?" she asked, hoping to calm the man down.
"No I dont want any damned coffee! I want you to tell me Janice, why I was just ordered to shut down my site by a handful of Nazi pricks?" he stormed.
Janice sighed. "You'd better sit down Karl."
Karl began to protest but took the chair Janice pointed to with a surly grace.
"What's happened?" he asked, trying to sound more relaxed than he felt.
Janice moved over to sit on the corner of Ida's desk, much to the annoyance of her secretary, and sipped at her coffee.
"This morning I was handed an order regarding the distribution of artefacts to the SS. It was from Heydrich. Captain Eric Vogt has been put in charge of the museum, and is following orders to excavate previously identified structures on the Acropolis, specifically the tumulus structure. It appears that he is shifting you and your workmen to the new site. There's nothing I can do Karl, and that means there is nothing you can do, except comply."
"I will not consort with these fools Janice." he said, shaking his head angrily.
"You have no choice Karl."
Karl nodded, slumping in his chair. "Maybe I will have that coffee." he said, pulling a packet of cigarettes from his shirt pocket.
Janice patted him on the shoulder as she walked back to the kitchenette.
"Ah Dr. de Cardi?" Mel asked from her chair.
De Cardi swivelled, he'd completely forgotten about the woman. "I'm sorry Melinda, how are you? I guess I was a little preoccupied." he said, feeling faintly embarrassed.
"Why thankyou for asking, I suppose I'm alright, considering. But what I was going to say, was that I finished the translation yesterday. It proved quite interesting."
"Really?" he asked as he lit his cigarette, squinting through the smoke.
"Why yes, it talks of the death of Penthesilea. It also adds another piece to the myth, claiming that the heart and strength of the Amazon Queen were placed in her spear head by Artemis, and that whoever carried the spear would be as one with the Amazon."
Karl nodded, "Interesting, guess they'll have to amend a few mythology texts huh?"
Mel smiled and snickered. "I suppose so." Taking advantage of Janice's temporary absence, Mel leaned towards de Cardi conspiratorially. "Janice seems to think the thing is real and she's desperate to go looking for it. Claims it is in some kind of danger and that she's on a mission from Artemis to protect it."
De Cardi choked on his cigarette smoke. "She what!?"
Behind her desk, Ida was chuckling softly. "Dont worry." she said after a moment. "Janice is always getting obsessed by something, it's in her nature. She'll snap out if it."
"Snap out of what?" Janice asked as she returned, placing a cup of coffee on Ida's desk for Karl.
"Ah nothing Janice, thanks for the coffee." Karl said, grasping the mug and taking a careful sip.
Mel looked guilty, but Janice said nothing as they exchanged glances.
All four turned as the door to Janice's office opened revealing SS-Hauptsturmführer Vogt.
"Ah " he began, stabbing Karl with his clear blue eyes. "You must be Dr. de Cardi, so good of you to join us. Perhaps the three of you would like to come in here, we have some business to discuss."
"Are you the man responsible for the closure of my site?" de Cardi demanded as soon as they were through into Janice's office.
"Yes I am, but I think you will agree, that the excavation of the tumulus will yield some interesting finds." Vogt gloated, happy in his little victory. He couldnt see that excavation was not about the recovery of artefacts, but about the recovery of information.
"You, Captain, have disrupted my research. I cannot go running around the country side digging things up just because some some Kraut wants me to!" de Cardi fumed.
"I see." Vogt stated icily as he leaned over into de Cardi's face. "If this 'Kraut' as you put it, did not want you to, I can assure you that your brains would be splattered all over Dr. Covington's office wall by now. Is that understood?"
Karl paled visibly at the inference and nodded mutely before backing away from Vogt's unrelenting glare.
"Good. You, as will Dr. Covington and Miss Pappas, report to the site of the tumulus in the morning. Your workmen and heavy machinery will also be there. My men and myself will be in authority. Nothing will be done without my express permission. You may go, all of you." he dismissed them rudely.
"Where are we going?" Janice sat slumped in the passengers seat of Mels car staring out the window as they moved slowly down the street.
"No idea, but Im getting you as far as possible away from that man."
Janice smiled weakly, "Trying to protect me?"
"I think its Vogt wholl need protection if you get mad Janice." Mel glanced over at her passenger.
"You dont know me Mel."
"Thats not true, Ive known you for what, a day?"
"Exactly, thats not very long."
Mel nodded, licking her lips thoughtfully. "I know where this is headed, you want to know why I kissed you."
"Well, yeah itd kind of help me get my head around it. It was quite sudden, I mean I...I liked it, wanted you to and all that, but I wasnt really thinking youd " Mel shot Janice a look, "Im babbling arent I? I never babble Ill just shut up now."
"Look, Janice," Mel pulled the car over to the verge of the road and turned to the small archaeologist, "if you have something to say to me, just say it will you?"
Janice smiled and clasped her hands in her lap. "I guess Im confused Mel."
"Well that makes two of us, I dont usually throw myself at women either."
"No, This is different. Ive never really felt like this. Before it was all a game, a chase, I just used them Mel. Huh, it wasnt even that great. But Mel, you made me feel something back there, something I can't explain, something undefinable, it just is."
"Like Ive known you forever?" Mel asked softly.
"Thats it, like an old shoe."
"Ha! Well thankyou very much, now I know how you feel, lets get going shall we?" Mel said haughtily, baiting the archaeologist. She moved to release the hand brake.
"No! No, no, no, no, thats not what I meant." Janice grabbed the womans hand and held it. "I meant that you felt like home."
Mel met the archaeologists sincere eyes with her own and nodded ever so slightly.
Mel picked Janice up again the next morning, Bessie still being out of commission, and drove to the Acropolis. Janice was not happy with the turn of events and her anger was only freshly fuelled when she saw two heavy excavators moving around on top of the supposed tumulus, pushing mountains of dirt off the sides. She jumped out of the car as soon as Mel pulled it to a halt and grabbed hold of the first person she saw, an SS Private.
"Where is Vogt?!" she demanded of the startled man.
"Was?" he replied staring blankly at the deranged woman before him.
Janice swore and racked her brain for a moment. "Vogt, wo ist Hauptsturmführer Vogt?"
"Ach ja" the man responded, pointing in the general direction of the mound.
"Thanks very much." Janice said sarcastically, being none the wiser before she dashed off to the mound, Mel right behind her.
"Vogt!" she screamed at the top of her lungs as she neared the mound and found the man standing to the rear, legs apart and arms crossed, looking like he was commanding the world.
"Ah, doctor, I see you are here, and Miss Pappas." He turned to greet them, speaking loudly over the roar of the heavy machinery.
"Vogt! What the bloody hell do you think you are doing? Get those damned excavators off there right now!" she fumed.
"You said you needed to remove the soil from the top of the tomb, I am removing it." he said simply.
"Not like that you idiot. It has to be monitored. You can't just get rid of the dirt any which way. Two of them? You must be insane! I dont care if the order has come from Goddamn Hitler, I will not make this into a treasure hunt! There aren't even any grid markers or survey points. How the hell are we supposed to know where we are?"
Vogt looked a little confused. "Does it matter?"
"For Christ's sake, this isnt the 1880's, there is a method to excavation." Janice growled as she moved away from the man and grabbed a shovel before stalking up the side of the mound directly into the path of the moving machinery.
Janice stood in the middle of the half-decimated mound and held both her hands above her head, shovel and all.
"Stop!" she screamed, then realising that the drivers were Germans and probably thick as two short planks, she rephrased. "Halt!"
The two men driving the heavy excavators stared at the crazy woman yelling in English and German on the top of the mound. Each brought their machine to a stop a few feet away from the figure. Engines idling, the noise level dropped somewhat.
"Vot are you doving?" yelled one of the men in heavily accented English. "Get out ov zee vay you fool!"
Janice speared her shovel into the ground and leant on it. "Get this machinery off here." she demanded.
Vogt came running up behind her and signalled to the drivers. "Do as she says." he said in German.
Both men shook their heads at the same time and revved their engines. The excavators lurched into motion. Janice felt the earth tremble ever so slightly beneath her feet. She cast a long look to Vogt and let her shovel fall to the ground before she flung herself off the mound. An instant later all was chaos. Mel ran over to Janice as she was picking herself up off the dusty earth.
"Janice, Janice, oh my! Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." she said, looking up at the cloud of dust billowing from the top of the mound as she dusted herself down. "No! Mel! Dont go up there." She tried to pull the woman back, but the translator yanked free of the smaller woman's grasp and bolted up the side of the mound. Janice cursed and followed, having to work double time to keep up with the Southerner's long strides.
"Oh Sweet Jesus." Mel muttered when she reached the top.
One of the excavators was lost from site and the other teetered precariously on the edge of a huge cave in. The driver clung, frozen, to the supports of the cabin. Vogt was nowhere to be seen.
"Don't move!" Janice ordered the remaining driver. The man wasn't about to argue. He nodded, but even that slight movement caused the vehicle to rock, so hazardous was its position.
"Mel, stay back, the whole thing might go." Janice warned.
"Oh dear Lord, that poor man!" she gasped, locking eyes with the driver.
"Don't worry Mel, I'm sure we can get him out. We've gotta get that excavator off there too. Shit!" she swore. She sounded so sure of herself, but she had absolutely no idea how they were going to do it. What about the other excavator? Where the hell was that? And what the fuck had happened to Vogt?
That last question was answered when a pair of scrabbling hands appeared over the edge of the gaping hole. A black booted foot slung its way over the top followed by a decidedly grimy SS uniform. SS-Hauptsturmführer Vogt dragged himself to relative safety before standing and limping awkwardly over to the two women.
"My God," he said, "you should see what's down there."
Janice and Mel gaped at him, amazed he had survived. "Are you hurt?" Janice asked, scanning the soldier despite her dislike of him.
"Just a twisted knee I think, nothing too significant, but Covington, I've never seen anything like it, it's wonderful." he glanced back over his shoulder, barely containing his excitement.
Janice snorted in disbelief, what did he think this was the tomb of Tutankhamun?
"Where's the other excavator?" she asked, trying to get his attention.
"What? Oh, it's down there, the driver's dead. Smashed open the sarcophagus, stupid fool."
Mel gasped at the detachment of the man.
"It's hardly his fault Captain."
"That's right, it's yours Covington. If you had not got those machines to move, the structure would not have collapsed." Vogt gazed coldly at the archaeologist.
"How dare you!" shrieked Mel, "If Janice hadn't moved those 'dozers, you'd have both of them down there right now, two dead drivers and a completely ruined sarcophagus. You should be thanking her, not accusing her."
"Well, Miss Pappas, I see there is a heart pumping away inside that lovely chest of yours." he sneered.
Mel saw red and lashed out with her fist, catching Vogt with a beautiful right cross that sent him sprawling to the earth.
"Jesus!" Janice gasped as she stared back and forth between the unconscious Vogt and the shocked Mel, who was shaking out her fist and desperately trying not to let the pain of the impact register on her face.
"How'd you do that?"
"What do you mean 'how'd I do that?' I punched him Janice, that's all, and oh God, Sweet Jesus it hurt." she groaned, flexing her fingers. Janice was still looking at her. "What? You think I'm made of sugar or something?"
Janice snorted. "No! I wasn't well, you're just full of surprises arent you Melinda?"
Their eyes met for a moment before they were both dragged from their abstraction by a woefully insistent voice.
"Help? Oh dear God! Help me!"
"Shit!" cursed Janice as she ran down the side of the mound calling out for de Cardi.
"Karl! Where the hell are you?" she screamed as she searched around the base of the mound. She saw his vehicle parked over near Mel's but couldn't find the man. A few moments later she spotted him, over by one of the tents that had been erected.
"Karl! Thank God!" she blurted as she ran up to him, grabbing him by the shoulders.
"Hey Jan, good to see you too, what is it?"
"You mean you dont know?"
"The roof of the structure has collapsed, taking down one of the excavators. That stupid fool Vogt thought he could go up there with two of the things. The other one looks like it's about to go in too and there's an idiot Jerry up there hanging on for dear life. We gotta get some heavy stuff out here now and secure the site." She finished, panting.
Karl looked over her shoulder and saw the problem for the first time. "Dear God! I'll get right on it. I'll head into town to see what I can organise and be back before you know it. You hold things here." he said as he began to run to his car.
"Karl?" Janice yelled to him and he half turned, jogging backward. "Thanks." she said sincerely. Karl smiled and saluted before turning and sprinting the rest of the way to his vehicle.
Karl de Cardi returned within the hour leading a procession of vehicles including a crane, a truck and an ambulance. He jumped out of his car and ordered the crane to back up against the mound.
"That was quick." Janice said as she walked over to him. He motioned for the driver to stop the crane and swivel the arm out to the stricken excavator.
"Yeah well, you're not the only one who's owed favours in this town Jan." he grinned and held up his hand to halt the arm of the crane and lower the hook. After several minutes, the excavator was relatively secure and a very grateful SS soldier jumped clear and staggered down the side of the mound. He was promptly taken over to the ambulance to be looked over.
"Okay, you can lift it now." Karl ordered.
The engine noise of the crane whirred higher as it took the weight of the heavy vehicle and strained as it swivelled the excavator to a safer position by the side of the tumulus. It took somewhat longer for the retrieval of the second excavator.
Finally Karl called over his workmen who had been sitting idly for most of the morning. He pointed over to the truck and then up at the site, explaining what he wanted done. Most of the men nodded and moved over to the truck to begin unloading various pieces of scaffolding.
"Karl, you really are a genius, I couldnt have done it better myself." Janice said jumping up and giving the man a kiss on the cheek.
"Hey, calm down, people'll start to talk! Besides, cant have the rest of the thing collapsing when you're in there now, can we Jan?"
Vogt had re-emerged some time earlier and had been tactfully avoiding the two women. He had watched the removal of the excavators from the safety of a tent, nursing a dislocated jaw. It wasn't until one of the ambulance personnel actively sought him out on Mel's insistence that his jaw was returned to its correct position. He was fuming that a woman had floored him. He tried to tell himself that her would not of gone down if it had not been for his injured leg, but his injured pride hurt worse at the moment, after all, he was an officer in the SS.
It took the better part of the day to secure the site, so it was not until late after noon that Janice, Mel and Karl found themselves on the edge of the collapsed structure, looking down.
"It's pretty beat up down there Jan. There's a hell of a of rubble and dirt. It really should be cleared first. I can get my workmen on it in the morning." Karl said, hoping to dissuade Janice from entering the structure.
"No way Karl, we've gotta check the 'wonderful things' Vogt insisted he saw. We can't leave the site open at night. God knows who'll get into the thing."
"We could post guards." Mel suggested, eying the hole.
"Uh-uh." Janice shook her head. "It's not the locals I'm worried about. I'll not have those Nazi dogs dragging off the contents in the middle of the night and not know what they've got."
"She does have a point." Karl said. "Shall we?" He unhooked a flashlight from his belt and stepped backwards over the edge, climbing the scaffolding down to the floor of the tomb. "C'mon guys, it's safe enough." he yelled up.
Janice and Mel quickly descended and stood in the vaulted chamber.
"No wonder the bloody thing collapsed, look how high it's vaulted." Janice mumbled as she picked her way through the rubble.
The interior was nondescript, large, spacious, the walls decorated in relief sculpture. By far the most impressive thing in the tomb was the sarcophagus, even if it was damaged by the fall of the excavator. The capstone had been broken in two and lay partially collapsed in the sarcophagus. One corner had been crushed beyond recognition and lay in a powdered heap on the ground.
"So much for the 'wonderful things'." Janice muttered, surveying the tomb. She shook her head. Well, Vogt didnt know what her was talking about. Maybe a tomb like this constituted 'wonderful things' to him. She shrugged and moved over to examine the relief sculpture. They depicted battles and legends. Janice made out the figures of Herakles, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite and Zeus as she walked along the walls. 'Typical' she thought as she wandered along, casually tracing her fingers over the cold marble. She felt sorry for the poor soul who would be responsible for drawing this lot. She snorted, it would probably be her. Hang on. Janice stopped dead. Did that particular figure look remarkably like her or was she imagining things? She moved closer. It was difficult to tell in the half-light filtering down from above. She motioned for Karl to join her with the flashlight. He gasped when he saw the figure Janice was standing beside.
"What the hell?" he asked, shining the light alternatively between the sculpture and Janice.
"Hey, cut that out!" Janice warned, swatting the light away from her face.
"I'm sorry Jan, but that could be your sister." he said, lowering the light.
"Yeah right, and you could be Herakles over there." she laughed it off trying not to sound troubled. The figure was Gabrielle.
"Ah Janice? Can you come over here for a moment?" Mel's voice wavered out to them from beside the sarcophagus.
"What is it?" Janice asked, trotting over. Mel had cleaned the top of the slab to reveal a series of carved letters across the top.
"Do you know what that says Janice?"
Janice stared at the letters for a moment before giving up. "No idea, you tell me."
"It says," Mel moved forward and underlined each word with a finger as she read, "'Xena, Warrior Princess of Amphipolis'."
"Where are they?" Eric Vogt grabbed the lapels of one of his men and shook, fire burning in his eyes. The soldier tried to shrink into his uniform, but unfortunately it was a snug fit.
"Who?" came the shaky voice.
"That meddling archaeologist and her companions you fool." Vogt shouted into the man's face, spittle flecking the younger man.
"I I think they went inside Captain."
"Idiots!" Vogt exploded, shoving the man from him and heading up the side of the mound, unholstering his Luger as he went.
"Holy shit! You're kidding me?" Janice asked, the astonishment clear on her face.
"That's what it says Janice. It's Xena."
Janice grinned. "You realise what this is?"
"Dont tell me," said a voice from above, "it's the greatest archaeological find of the century?"
"Shit! Vogt!" Janice swore as her eyes locked on to the German, then flicked down to the gun in his hand. She licked her lips nervously as he began to make his way down the scaffolding.
"You have upset me Fraulein. First, your Amazon bitch here hits me, " He let his gaze fall coldly on Mel. "and now you come down here, to my tomb, uninvited." He reached the floor of the tomb and limped over, fingering his jaw. "How do you think I should react to that?" he asked, running the barrel of his pistol down the side of Janice's cheek.
Janice hoicked and spat, hitting Vogt in the face. Vogt turned his head away and wiped at the offending substance with his fingers. "Now that wasn't very lady-like Dr. Covington." he glared at her out of the corner of his eye, flicking the material to the ground.
"I'm no lady." she shot back.
Vogt threw his head back and laughed maniacally. "Indeed." He became serious. "The three of you, lift the slab, now!" he gestured with his pistol.
The three friends looked at each other warily for a moment before moving to remove the slab. They carefully eased one portion of the heavy stone back and let it slip to the floor on the opposite side as carefully as they could. They moved on to the other half and repeated the task. When they had finished, the skeleton of Xena lay before them. Janice cursed silently as she noted the skull and right shoulder had been damaged by the impact of the excavator. The rest of the skeleton was, however, in pristine condition. A few scraps of leather still clung to the body. By the right hand lay a corroded sword, and some kind of metal disk lay on the pelvic region. On the left side of the body, between thigh and forearm lay the remains of an alabaster box, complete with inscription.
"It's magnificent!" shrieked Vogt, staring into the casket. He reached in and pulled free the corroded sword. Janice gasped as the small bones of the hand immediately disarticulated.
"What do you think you are doing? You're destroying the evidence!"
"What evidence? It's a skeleton, not a murder scene Covington." he growled, reaching in again for the metal disk. The pelvis collapsed. Janice silently fumed, Mel and Karl looked on in disbelief.
"Ah, the weapons of the ancients!" mused Vogt. "Puny things really, in comparison to what we now have." He brandished his Luger. "But these, I'm sure, once cleaned will make a petty picture in the Pergamom. Don't you agree?" he asked, casting a chill glance at the three figures. He noticed Mel was staring into the sarcophagus.
"What are you looking at?" he demanded, following her gaze. "Ah, something I missed, with a story to tell too." He said as he noted the inscription on the top of the alabaster box. "You are the translator Miss Pappas, please, indulge me?" he asked, indicating the box with his pistol.
Mel cast a nervous glance to Janice and then back at the box. "Ah, the text is difficult to read in its current position Captain."
"Then remove it Miss Pappas."
"Remove it!" Vogt thundered, wildly waving his gun.
Mel jumped and reached with shaking hands into the sarcophagus. She managed to pull the box free and set it on the side of the casket.
"Is that better Miss Pappas? Can you read it now?" Vogt asked derisively.
"Ah yes, yes I can." Mel sent a warning look in Janice's direction. The archaeologist gave her a questioning glance in return.
"Then read it Melinda."
Mel had no choice but to comply when she felt the cold steel of the Captain's Luger against her temple. Mel flicked nervous eyes to the man staring at her with hatred and cleared her throat. She looked down at the box and frowned before she began to read.
"Ah. They buried my warrior in winter, as the first snows came to comfort my grief. I bury with her this spearhead as a gesture of my devotion, and in hope of its eternal rest. This is my heart, my strength, and I can think of no greater protector. Gabrielle, Amazon Queen."
"Goddamn " breathed Janice as Mel finished reading.
"So much for eternal rest. Open the box Miss Pappas."
For some bizarre reason, Mel grinned, "Of course Captain." she said with good grace. A slight look of confusion fluttered across Vogts face, before he was struck in the side of the head with a heavy piece of alabaster. He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.
"That's twice in one day Vogt." Mel sneered as she pulled the spear head free of it's casing and shoved it into her belt, not even bothering to look closely at it.
Vogt groaned in response on the floor.
"C'mon Mel, quit talking to your victims will you, we gotta go." Janice shouted as Vogt stirred on the floor.
They made it as far as the base of the scaffolding before they heard an outraged scream from behind the sarcophagus. Janice glanced back. Vogt was mobile and weaving around holding a hand to his bloodied head.
"You!" Vogt yelled as he focussed on the fleeing figures. "I'll kill you all!" he aimed his pistol haphazardly and peppered a few rounds in their general direction as they scrambled up the scaffolding. The shots ricocheted off the metal beams, sparks flying. Vogt screamed again when he realised that the three were still moving. Taking more careful aim, he fired again.
Janice cried out when she felt a lancing pain through her upper right arm. She involuntarily let go of the scaffolding above her and would have fallen had Karl not reached out to grab her.
"C'mon Janice, we've gotta climb."
Janice nodded, ignoring the throbbing pain and blood that trickled down her arm. She clung on as best she could. Somehow the three of them made it to the top without further injury. They dragged themselves out of the hole and stood breathing heavily on the top of the mound as Vogt raged below. Janice bent over, gasping for breath. The pain in her arm was making her feel dizzy.
"My car." said Mel.
"Hang on, give me a minute will you?" Janice mumbled as she looked up and tried to focus on the translator. Why couldnt she focus?
"Oh Sweet Jesus! Janice! You're hurt." Mel said, rushing over to the woman.
"It's nothing really." Janice said. Her voice sounded far away in her ears. She squinted at Mel before collapsing to the ground.
"Dear Lord, Janice!" Mel screamed, sinking to the dirt, shaking the archaeologist. "Karl? We've got to get her out of here."
"Oh God, no." the burly man howled as he swept Janice over his shoulder and raced down the mound, Mel mere inches behind him.
He bundled Janice into the back seat of Mel's car and jumped in after her, cradling her limp head on his shoulder. Mel dove into the driver's seat and gunned the engine. She could hear shouting from the top of the mound and assumed Vogt had surfaced.
"Go!" shouted Karl from the back seat and Mel floored the accelerator. They flew off in a cloud of dust. Exactly where they were going, Mel had no idea. She just drove. Her mind was reeling from the recent events, and Janice was lying in the back seat, bleeding.
"C'mon Jan, you're going to be okay." Karl was saying in a shaky voice as he ripped off Janice's bloody sleeve. "See, look, it's only a small wound, bullet went right through." He stripped off his own shirt and ripped a few strips off the bottom. He cleaned Janice's wound as best he could and tied it tightly with the makeshift bandage. The small archaeologist groaned in unconsciousness as Karl tied the cloth off.
"Dont mean to hurt you Jan. What did you have to get in the way of that bullet for?" he asked.
Mel checked them quickly in her rear vision mirror and did a double take as she saw tears sliding down Karl's face. She took a sharp turn at speed, slamming them into the side of the car.
"Jesus woman! Be careful would you?" Karl yelled at her.
"Dont yell at me!" Mel shot back. "Where are we going? Vogt'll be after us in no time. Is Janice all right?" she asked more softly.
"I'm sorry Mel. Head to the port, I'll wrangle us a boat. Jan'll be fine, it's just the pain, I think." he said stiffly.
Mel nodded, but inwardly broke into tears, Janice was going to be okay. She checked her mirror again. She sighed as she took another corner.
"Karl," she said hoarsely, "You and Janice ?"
Karl sniffed and flushed, wiping tears from his face. He glared into Mel's eyes through the mirror. He snorted. "Stupid fool I am, I love her." He brushed Janice's fringe away from her eyes. "But, she could never want me the way she wants you Melinda."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Karl, I had no idea " she trialed off.
"No, nor does she. We're friends Mel, that's all, and that's the way it's gonna stay, okay?" Mel flicked her eyes back to the road and nodded. She felt terrible, but her response was cut short when an armoured vehicle pulled into her line of sight in the side mirror.
"Oh my! I think we've got a problem." she said, feeling the spearhead grow hot against her thigh.
Karl turned to stare out the back window and immediately ducked down behind the back seat just as a hail of bullets punched into the rear of the car. Mel swerved the vehicle to from side to side.
"Don't worry, Argo's built like a tank." she shouted over the din of squealing tyres.
"Argo?" Karl shouted back.
"I'll explain later. Under the seat, there's a box. Daddy always did like to be prepared."
Karl carefully set his unconscious charge to the side and reached under the back seat. He pulled out a sizeable wooden box and opened it. He stared mindlessly at two Browning 9mm pistols nestled in the case.
"That's not going to stop an armoured vehicle Mel."
Suddenly the back window blew out with a terrifying crash. Karl threw himself over Janice as shattered glass rained down on them.
"Then again, I can always give it a go." he muttered as he righted himself and slapped the magazines into the weapons. He cocked each in turn, loading a bullet into the chamber. If these things were fully loaded, he figured he'd have about thirty rounds. Twisting in the seat, he crouched low and off to the side, using as much of the car for cover as he could. He fired off several rapid shots, but they bounced harmlessly from the encroaching vehicle. Didnt even leave a dent.
"Shit!" he cursed, aiming higher. Maybe he could get the driver. His next shots shattered the windscreen of the vehicle. The driver ducked and the unwieldy vehicle swerved left. Karl had a clear shot. Aiming carefully he pulled the trigger. The surprised driver clutched at his chest, and for a moment their eyes met. Karl realised with shock that it was the man he had saved earlier from the excavator, then the vehicle ran off the road and crashed into the side of a house.
"What the bloody hell is going on around here." Janice said as she pushed herself upright in the back seat, flicking discarded bullet casings and bits of glass from her chest.
"Jan!" Karl yelled, grabbing hold of the woman and kissing her soundly on the mouth. "You're okay!"
"Arghh! No, I feel like shit, and what did you have to go and do that for?" she asked, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Sorry, guess I got carried away." he blushed.
"You back with us Janice?" Mel asked from the driver's seat, flicking her gaze into the rear vision mirror.
"Yeah, you bet you're ass sweetheart." The archaeologist grinned.
"Good, because there's another one coming up behind us.
"Duck!" Karl shouted as several bullets whistled through the back window and embedded themselves in the front seats.
"Mel! Are you okay up there?" Karl yelled noting with horror the bullet hole in the driver's seat.
"I'm fine, but you gotta get him off me, we're almost at the port." she yelled back, trying not to notice the thin plume of smoke that wafted up from the dash directly to her right.
Karl handed Janice one of the pistols and the two of them set about trying to dislodge the insistent vehicle behind them.
"I'm out." yelled Karl as his last shot blew a tyre on the vehicle behind. It swerved dangerously but the driver managed to wrestle it back under control. Janice took out one of the gunmen, sending him cartwheeling onto the road. She aimed again but suddenly realised the breech was in the open position. She swore, flinging the gun to the seat.
"Shit! So am I." she shouted, ducking fully behind the back seat. All they could do now was wait.
Mel shrieked as one of the back tyres was blown out, and the wheel wrenched from her grasp. Gritting her teeth, she managed to regain some control.
"We're almost there, hang on!" she yelled as she floored the accelerator and the car burst out into the dock area. She swung the wheel sharply and slammed on the brakes. They spun to a halt just ahead of the armoured vehicle.
"Everybody out!" she yelled, clambering from the car.
"This way!" Karl shouted, pulling Janice in the direction of one of the piers.
The three of them bolted down the pier and Karl jumped on to a fairly sizeable boat.
"C'mon!" he gestured to the two women who jumped in quickly behind him. He glanced up to see the armoured vehicle slam into the side of Mel's abandoned car with a deafening crash, pushing it over the side and into the water.
"Jesus!" Janice gasped, taking in the sight.
"I can get another one made." the Southerner said absently. "This your boat Karl?"
"No, we're just borrowing it from a friend of mine." he said, untying the boat from the side of the pier. "Hang on guys." He dashed to the helm, started the motor and sent up a shower of water as he sped out into the Aegean Sea.
"Where the hell are we going anyway?" he asked after they had put a reasonable distance between the port and themselves.
Janice looked up from where she was sitting on the deck and glanced at the spearhead still secured in Mel's belt.
"We've got to get that spear some place safe."
Karl laughed. "Dont tell me this is the mission from Artemis?"
Mel looked guilty and Janice glared at her. "You heard Mel's translation of the case Karl, and look at how she acted back there. The strength and the heart of the Amazon Karl."
Karl snorted. "Dont you think you're over reacting?"
"Janice has a point, I do feel a little empowered." Mel said softly.
"That's called adrenalin Melinda, not the power of the Amazon."
"Here," she said, "take this." She pulled the spearhead out of her belt and handed it to Karl. His eyes widened when his fingers touched the corroded metal and he cleared his throat, letting out a long breath.
"Okay, I see what you mean." he said nodding, handing the weapon back to Mel quickly. "But I ah, Jesus, think it's a women's only thing." he said in a small voice, turning away embarrassed. Mel blushed furiously and Janice burst into laughter despite the pain in her arm.
"Strength and heart of the Amazon all right!" she laughed, amused by Karl's rather obvious predicament. "No wonder Achilles got shot with an arrow if he was running around in that state." she doubled over, holding her sides.
"Why dont you two go down below and rest or something."
"Sure Karl, and by the way, we're going to Ephesus."
"Ephesus? No, it's alright, I don't want to know."
"Ambition is a worthy attribute Captain, if it is for a worthy cause." SS-Standartenführer Müller glared down at the slumped figure of Vogt sitting opposite.
"Yes Colonel." the man muttered.
"And now, I have been forced from my regular duties to come here and deal with your incompetence." The Colonel leaned forward, dark eyes darkening. He slammed a fist down on Vogt's desk. The Captain jumped. "This is not acceptable Captain." he shouted.
"Sir!" Vogt tried to straighten up.
The Colonel continued. "You were beaten twice by a woman Captain the same woman. Are you trying to make a laughing stock of the SS?"
"No Colonel! They they have stolen a valuable artefact belonging to the Reich, Colonel."
Müller leaned back in his chair. "Then I suggest you find it Captain, before I decide to make you a Sergeant."
Mel was poking around in the small cabin below deck.
"There has to be some alcohol in this place somewhere?" she was saying, shoving her head into a cupboard. Janice was sitting on the side of a small bed glaring at the woman.
"Mel, it's fine, its a clean wound."
"Dont be silly Janice, I'll not have you dying of some stupid infection, and that bandage will hardly do." she muttered opening another cupboard. "Ah, just what we need." she pulled out a half empty bottle of scotch and waved it triumphantly.
"Oh yeah, just what I need!" Janice yelled, a grin plastered to her face as she jumped up and grabbed the bottle from the Southerner. She unscrewed the cap and took a healthy swig, letting out a guttural sigh of pleasure.
"Janice! It's to clean your wound, not to get you pickled."
"Cleaned, pickled, it's all the same." Janice said taking another drink before Mel wrenched the bottle from her grasp.
"Now sit down over there!" Mel said sternly, pointing to the bed.
"Yes ma'am!" Janice grinned, raising an eyebrow as she sauntered to the small bed.
Mel found some clean towels and ripped one into several strips as she moved over to the archaeologist and removed the temporary bandage.
"Now I suppose this is going to hurt some." she said, up-ending the scotch bottle and pouring some of the amber liquid onto the towel. She gently dabbed at the entry wound and Janice winced, hissing through her teeth.
"No kidding." she breathed.
"Dont be such a baby." Mel said, working now on the exit wound.
"Mel! Ow! I've been shot, ow! Not grazed my knee."
"I know." Mel discarded the bloody towel and wrapped a fresh strip around the wound. She gazed into the archaeologist's eyes. "And dont you ever do that again."
"Yes ma'am." Janice mumbled before she felt the translator's lips brush against her own. Mel pushed her slowly back against the bed, mindful of Janice's injured arm.
"Because you know," Mel kissed her softly again, "I never want to lose you Janice Covington." Mel could taste scotch on the woman's lips.
"Jesus. You dont know that Mel."
Mel grasped the smaller woman's lips more firmly in her own as she knelt over the prone woman, probing gently with he tongue. Janice parted her lips and entwined her tongue with Mel's. Slowly Mel pulled away, biting lightly on Janice's lower lip. She smoothed hair from the archaeologist's face and smiled down at her.
"I do know, I know it in my soul. Still need to think?" the Southerner asked.
Janice stared at her for a moment. "I I..."
"I want to be with you Janice. Do you want to be with me?"
"Yes but Mel, it's Karl. I think he "
"I know, he told me."
Janice sat up, pushing the Southerner away slightly. "Dont you see? I could be..." she trailed off.
Mel sniggered and shook her head, "Normal? Is that what you were going to say?"
Janice nodded, turning her head away from the translator. Mel dragged the archaeologists gaze back to her.
"Janice, nothing you ever do will be normal. You are the most remarkable woman I know. I'd rather be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons Janice. Karl knows that too, and he's made his peace. He knows who you are and what you feel."
"He told you this?"
Mel nodded, stroking the side of the archaeologist's face. "You dont honestly think he sent us down here so we could sleep do you?" she smiled knowingly.
"Good." Mel whispered as she leant down to seize one of the archaeologist's earlobes between her moist, warm lips. Janice groaned as she felt Mel pushed her back on the bed, her tongue sliding behind the back of her ear and down her neck. She gasped as the Southerner bit lightly down on the strong vein throbbing in her neck, a shudder of desire running straight to her groin.
"Oh God!" Janice clutched at the translator above her pulling her down into a strong embrace. Their lips locked one more as Janice twisted a leg over Mel's. Mel broke the kiss and began working on the buttons of Janice's shirt, planting feather-like kisses on the woman's neck and further down to the top of her breasts as she went. The shirt open, Mel pulled back to view the archaeologist. She cupped Janice's breasts through her bra and massaged them gently. Janice groaned and pushed up into Mel's caressing hands, feeling the hunger run between her legs.
Mel bent back down and took one of Janice's nipples in her mouth through the fabric of her bra, while still massaging the other breast with the palm of her hand. She raked her teeth lightly over the soft cloth and felt Janice shudder. The woman's erect nipples were straining painfully against the fabric in their sensitised state and Janice thought she would lose her mind for wanting to feel all of Mel's mouth.
"Take it off." she moaned.
Mel did more than that, she literally ripped the brassiere clear of Janice breasts, causing the smaller woman to cry out and arch upward from shock and passion. Mel smiled wickedly and descended once more on Janice's breasts, sucking one nipple and then the other alternately into her mouth. Janice could feel the pulling sensation right to her core and she writhed beneath the woman above her, calling out in harsh whispers.
Mel slicked the underside of Janice's breasts with her hot tongue and glided downward, pinching the small woman's nipples between her fingers as she went. She lavished attention on Janice's ribs and hard muscles of her abdomen before stopping to undo Janice's belt and buttons of her pants. Sometime during this, Mel felt the archaeologist's hands pawing at the buttons of her shirt, desperate to get them undone. Mel left the pants to help her, stripping off the confining fabric and quickly discarding her own bra.
Janice groaned when the soft globes of flesh were revealed to her sight. She reached out a hand to caress them and felt Mel tremble at her touch. She smiled as the Southerner continued to work on her trousers, delighting in the feel of Mel's flesh.
The smile disappeared from her face to be replaced by a look of pure lust when Mel slid a hand beneath her boxers to cup her sex.
"Melinda!" she groaned as she felt one of Mel's fingers slip between her outer labia and run her slick length. She arched off the bed and pulled her trousers and boxers to below her knees. She couldnt get then off because of her boots, but she didnt care, Mel's touch was all she needed right now.
Mel, however, had other ideas. She removed her hand much to the disappointment of the archaeologist and kissed the curly blond hairs of Janice's mound lightly before running her tongue down the inside of Janice's right thigh. Janice grunted in frustration. Mel quickly unlaced Janice's boots and discarded the unwanted pieces of hide before peeling off the archaeologist's trousers and underwear. She let them fall to the floor of the cabin and franticly removed her own boots and pants.
Both now naked, Mel pulled Janice to a sitting position facing her and cupped one of her breasts as she moved in to devour the archaeologist's lips. Mel felt hands on her breasts and the two women pushed in closer to each other, desperate for more contact. Mel snaked a hand down between Janice's legs, and felt the small woman mimicking her action. They each shuddered at the connection.
"Mel, I I...oh Jesus!" Janice gasped as Mel encircled her clitoris with a smooth finger and began to stroke slowly back and forth. Janice arched into the woman, her hips moving of their own accord. She in turn stroked at Mel's own nub.
Mel emitted a low cry and rested her head against the archaeologist's shoulder as they rocked in time.
"Oh my! Janice, arrghh what you do to me." Mel moaned, stroking more furiously, feeling her own need rise fiercely with her. Her breath was coming in short gasps, but she needed to be inside Janice before she released. Moving her hand down, she circled Janice's opening with a finger, barely concentrating as the responses of her body tried to take over from her mind. She heard Janice cry out as she inserted two long fingers into the soaked opening and thrust lustily into the archaeologist. Her own release pending, it was all Mel could do to keep time with the archaeologist as she slammed her hips down ferociously onto Mel's hand. A few strokes more and Mel had it, she exploded, shuddering violently, her sex throbbing with release as her essence flowed. She grabbed hold of the archaeologist's shoulder with her free hand and screamed. Janice was right behind her, clamping down on Mel's fingers and jerking uncontrollably.
Twitching from the after shocks, Mel was struck by the overwhelming desire to taste Janice. She left the archaeologist no time to recover as she pushed her back roughly on the bed. She dove between the woman's legs, lapping of the sweet elixir.
Janice shrieked, gasping for breath as she felt Mel's mouth on her.
"Mel stop can't breath!" she rasped and let out another cry as the translator moved to her still aching clitoris, nipping it lightly between her teeth. Mel continued her assault, sucking at the sensitive flesh. Janice tasted so good and she couldnt stop. The archaeologist's hips were rocking against Mel's face. Despite Janice's attempts to slow herself down and regain some semblance of control, she found her body more than willing to respond to Mel's actions. She cried out as a wave of desire shuddered through her. She was building again and all she could do was grunt wantonly as her head thrashed from side to side on the narrow bed. Finally she arched desperately into the Southerner and bellowed out her second release as her body collapsed back onto the bed. Her breath was harsh in her throat and her heart pounded in her ears. She could still feel Mel's mouth as her sex pulsed with satisfaction.
At last Mel pulled herself up to lie half on Janice and half on the bed. She kissed the archaeologist thoroughly, smearing her with her own scent.
Janice gasped, chest heaving. "Oh God, Mel insane never felt oh God!" she whimpered, smothering her face in the Southerner's shoulder.
"I know, I know, it's okay." the Southerner crooned, stroking Janice's back lightly.
Spooned together, as they were they both fell into a satisfied sleep.
Mel awoke she knew not how much later in the pitch dark to the sound of loud groaning. She felt for Janice, but the woman was not next to her as she expected.
"Janice." she whispered, "Where are you?"
He question was met by the slap of an arm against her face as she sat up. She grunted, but followed the arm to the rest of Janice who was bent double on the side of the bed.
"Did I ever tell you that I don't travel too well on boats?" Janice husked.
"You seemed okay before." Mel said, rubbing her hand over the archaeologist's back.
"Yeah, well I was kinda preoccupied." she groaned again. "I think I was sick in one of your boots. Sorry."
Mel blanched in the darkness. "I'm sure it'll wash right out Janice. Can I get you anything?"
"Maybe some water?"
"Sure." Mel rose and stumbled around for a while trying to locate her clothes in the darkness. She pulled on a pair of trousers only to realise they were Janice's. "Darn it!" she cursed stripping the ill-fitting garment off. She eventually found her own clothes and headed out the door and up the small set of stairs to the deck.
She found Karl lounging at the wheel smoking a cigarette.
"You know, you two could have been a little quieter down there for my sake." he said as he spied Mel. The woman blushed in the artificial light of the helm.
"Sorry." she said.
"And you could have at least buttoned your shirt correctly."
Mel looked down to see the uneven arrangement of her shirt. She tugged at it but let her hand drop by her side.
"Look Karl, I really am sorry. I I know how you feel about her, but it was going to happen." she hoped she didnt sound too cold.
Karl took a final, harsh drag on his cigarette before flicking the butt over the side. He blew smoke out in a plume and looked at Mel sideways.
"I know. I just wanted to beat myself up about it for a while."
Mel dropped her gaze to the floor and shoved her hands in her pockets. She felt like jumping overboard. This man was hurting. How could he even look at her?
Karl rose and walked over to the stricken woman. "Hey Mel," he said, lifting her chin with a finger. "I know it sounds stupid, but I'm happy for her, and you." he snorted in amusement and shook his head. "If you can make her Jan being happy is what makes me happy okay? It doesnt matter so much that it's not with me."
"Karl " Mel choked and wrapped him in a fierce hug. "You're too good to be a man, where'd you come from?"
He laughed and returned the hug. "New York, and I like being a man."
Mel smiled and pulled away wiping a tear from her eye. "Uh, have we got any water up here? Janice isnt feeling too well."
"I think there's a barrel some place. Here we go." he said, locating the supply of water and dishing some out into a nearby container. "I forgot that Jan gets sea sick."
Mel grinned, "In my boots." she looked down at her bare feet and wiggled her toes.
"No!" Karl said scandalously.
Mel nodded and became sober. "You know a lot about her dont you?"
"Yeah I know a lot about her." he handed the water to Mel. "You take this down to her, and here, take the flashlight, must be dark down there."
"Thanks." she mumbled as she took the items.
"And Mel, we've got to stop at the next port for fuel. Vogt knows we have to stop sometime and that we've gone east. He may have called ahead."
Mel nodded, crashing back to reality. "How long?"
"About an hour."
"Shit!" swore Vogt as he heard the words through his field radio. "When were they last spotted?" A pause, "I see, well get the damn officer in charge on the goddamn radio and tell him to stop them!" he yelled before slamming the receiver back in its' cradle.
"Frans!" he called and a pimply looking youth immediately appeared in his office.
"Yessir?" The youth saluted, standing at attention.
Vogt rolled his eyes and returned the salute. "What ships do we have operating in the Aegean between here and the coast of Turkey?"
"I don't know sir, I can find out. But if the fugitives are in a small craft sir, they'll be hugging the coast. We cant get a destroyer or even a cruiser in there."
"I know that you idiot! Ever heard of radar?" The tenacity of youth disgusted him.
"Yessir. I'll radio the relevant vessels and locate the exact
position of the fugitives sir."
"You do that Frans, you do that."
"Yessir, Heil Hitler!" the boy saluted again.
"'Tler." Vogt said, giving a half-hearted salute before waving the boy out.
"C'mon Janice, we've gotta get you dressed. We'll be stopping soon to refuel, can't have you running around on deck naked now can we?" Mel pleaded, trying to motivate the decidedly green archaeologist.
Janice retched into the bucket Mel had found and stabbed her with watering eyes.
"I'm not running anywhere sweetheart unless it's off this goddamn tub!" she heaved again.
"Here, you put this on." Mel draped Janice shirt over her shoulders and helped the archaeologist slip her good arm through as she clung to the bucket with her injured one.
"And now the other." she crooned.
"Ow! Shit! Mel, that's my arm." Janice protested.
"I know dear, just trying to get your mind off your stomach."
Janice retched. "Thanks for reminding me."
This battle ensued for some fifteen minutes until Mel finally had Janice pretty much dressed. The trousers were a little difficult, but the lower extremities were a cinch until Mel got to the woman's boots.
"You were sick in your own boot, not mine."
"Fuck! You're kidding me?"
"See for yourself." Mel shoved the offending item under Janice's nose and she reeled back.
"Arghh Mel, get it out of here!"
"I'll just go up on deck and give it a clean shall I?"
Janice glared at her and the Southerner had a hard time keeping a straight face as she stumbled up the stairs.
Mel returned momentarily with a rather sodden boot. "Sorry it's so wet Janice, but I had to sling it overboard." she apologised.
"I'll live." Janice said, holding out the corresponding foot.
Janice's footwear dealt with, Mel decided to deal with her own.
"Oh dear." Janice heard a disappointed voice from over the top of her bucket. "You were sick in mine."
If Janice had not felt so rotten she would have laughed.
Up on deck, Karl throttled down on the engine and brought the boat to a gliding stop. He pulled the vessel around so they were lying parallel to the nearby shore. Water slapped idly at the sides of the boat. Janice and Mel were sitting near the helm when the boat came to a stop. Mel had the spear once more stuck in her belt.
"That's where we have to be." Karl said, turning to them and pointing to series of lights in the distance. "It's the last stop on the Greek mainland before we head into really open water and across to Turkey."
Janice nodded, the fresh night air was clearing her head somewhat, but she still looked a wreck.
"We'd better get going then." she croaked. It was risky, but they had no choice, they'd never make it across to Ephesus without refuelling. Being stranded in he middle of the Aegean Sea was not an option as far as she was concerned.
A small, swarthy man came rushing up to secure the boat as they pulled in to the dock.
"You are de Cardi?" he asked Karl as he looped the rope around the iron post.
"Who wants to know?"
"They know you will be here. The SS are coming." He threw a fuel line over into the boat and Karl shoved it in place.
"You must take extra barrels." The man said and motioned for a couple of men to load the items.
"You were waiting for us?" Karl asked in disbelief at the activity raging around the small craft.
"Yes, I intercepted a radio call. You got here just ahead of them."
As if the man's words were prophetic, Karl heard the roar of machinery in the distance.
"Can't this thing pump any faster?" he asked as several armoured vehicles rumbled into view. "Oh shit! Jan! Mel! Get below." Karl screamed as the lead vehicle swung it's machine gun in their direction.
"I'm staying just where I am Karl." Janice shot back as she helped one of the men roll a barrel of fuel onto the deck.
"Dont be an idiot! What are you going to do Janice? Piss on them?" he hit the deck as a hail of bullets spattered into the wooden dock, splinters flying. "Jesus, if they hit us, we're gonna blow!"
"And you think I'll be safer below deck?" Janice screamed as another volley of bullets hit, closer this time. "Mel! Stay down!" she yelled to the Southerner as she scrambled about on the deck.
"C'mon, c'mon, fill Goddamn you." Karl ordered the tank as men piled out of the armoured cars and ran in their direction, spreading out along the dock. Fuel bubbled up and Karl shut off the valve, ripping the line clear of the tank. He threw it back over the side with one hand and closed the tank with the other as the swarthy man untied the vessel.
"Move de Cardi!" the man yelled as Karl gunned the engine. He pushed the throttle full forward and sped out of the dock, hearing the whistle and slap of bullets hit the water around him.
"Arghhh!" Vogt screamed, throwing the field radio across the room. What was this, The Keystone Kops?
"Frans!" he bellowed and waited for the youth to enter his office.
"Yessir?" The boy paled at the site of his commanding officer's enraged expression and flicked an uncertain glance to the broken field radio lying by the door.
Vogt took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. "Do you have their position?"
"Uh, yessir, if they hold their current route ." the boy trailed off seeing Vogt's face turn a darker shade of red. "They are heading for Ephesus sir." he said weakly.
"Ephesus " Vogt breathed. At least he had a final position. If he couldnt catch them, he'd wait for them, with a bargaining tool in case they tried to escape.
"Excellent." He leaned over his desk, spearing the pimply youth with a fierce gaze. "Now you, get me a plane."
Karl de Cardi sat motionless at the wheel of the small boat, his head lolling to the side in sleep. Consequently he didn't hear as Mel came up behind him and began to knead his shoulders.
"C'mon big guy, you've got to get some sleep."
"What? Where's Jan?"
"She's below, sleeping, which is what you should be doing. I can point us in the right direction for a while."
Karl pushed himself upright in his chair and took a deep breath, scrubbing his hands through his hair. He looked at Mel with bleary eyes.
"You're right, I do need sleep." He rose. "Just keep the compass on this heading and you should be okay. Thanks Mel." He patted her on the shoulder as he headed below.
Karl took one look at the narrow bed and the sprawling figure of Janice and shook his head. He pulled his boots off, suddenly conscious of his still naked chest. 'Bugger it!' he thought as he curled up next to the woman, he wasn't going to sleep on the floor. He almost changed his mind however, when Janice shifted in her sleep, wrapping her arms about his waist and resting her head on his shoulder. He sighed, "Mel's right, I'm too good to be man." he mumbled, turning out of Janice's embrace to fall into a fitful sleep.
"You seem to have handled things pretty well up here Mel." Janice heard Karl say as she stumbled up the stairs onto the deck the next morning. She still wasn't feeling so great, but maybe she had found one of her sea legs.
"Why thankyou Karl. She's refuelled, and if I'm not mistaken, that's the coast of Turkey." she said pointing into the rising sun. "Sea was a bit choppy last night but I managed her okay."
"Well, I used to with my Daddy, but no, not recently." a sadness washed over the blue of Mel's eyes, but it was quickly gone when she spied Janice. "Janice! You sleep okay?"
"I would have," she said moving over to wrap Mel in an embrace, "if that lummox over there didnt try and squash me."
"What do you mean? I was the one who had to untangle myself from your arms." he said good-naturedly.
"Oh really?" Mel looked down at Janice who bore a sheepish grin.
"Must have thought he was you."
The Southerner smirked and glanced at Karl. "An easy mistake to make Janice." she managed before bursting into laughter.
Karl cleared his throat and headed to the wheel.
Karl pulled the small boat in to shore a little way from port just before midday. Even if they didn't see any Nazis he wanted to play it safe. They'd have to hike wherever they were going, but it was better than being caught.
"Jesus I'm starved." muttered Janice as she stumbled over the side of the boat onto solid ground.
"Well, when this thing is over, I'll take you both out to dinner." Karl said with a grin as he jumped out, making the change from rolling boat to earth smoothly.
"Janice? Where are we going?" Mel asked, ignoring the two of them. If she as much as thought about food right now she'd become a cannibal.
Janice looked around for a moment before pointing. "That way, to the Temple of Artemis."
"I might have known." Karl grumbled.
After what seemed like an eternity to Mel of scrabbling and stumbling, they finally made it the three miles inland to the ruins of the Temple of Artemis. Only a single column and a few foundations remained of the once magnificent structure. The Christians in 401 C.E. had literally torn down the temple. Yet it was not until the late nineteenth century that it was plundered by archaeologists, with bits and pieces of it now residing in various museums.
Mel shook her head, "So much for one of the Seven Wonders of the World." she mumbled, fingering the Amazon spearhead at her waist. This was the temple of the Amazon's protective deity, supposedly founded by the Amazons themselves. Janice had obviously figured that if the spear was going to be safe anywhere, it would be here. Strange how Janice hadn't even as much as layed a finger on the thing since they escaped from Xena's tomb. Strange how Gabrielle buried it with Xena. Strange how all of them were willing to put their faith in this ancient goddess
Mel shook herself from her musings and focussed on following the other two to the ruins.
"Where is she?" ask Vogt for what seemed like the hundredth time. He had two sharp shooters placed in the undergrowth around the temple remains, and they were getting restless. So was he. He paced about sneering.
"You looking for me Vogt? Or are you looking for this?" Janice asked, holding out her hand to Mel for the spearhead as she stepped over some rubble behind Vogt. She felt a subtle shudder run through her as her fingers locked around the weapon.
"Covington!" Vogt exploded after whirling to greet the archaeologist. "And the rest of the rabble." he cast a rabid eye over the other two.
"Hope we didn't put you out or anything"
"Give me the spear Covington."
Janice laughed. "It would appear that powers of negotiation are not a requirement for entry to the SS."
"Give me the spear." Vogt repeated, a little more harshly.
"Uh-uh. What's to prevent you from shooting us all after you have the spear? You call off the goons first."
Mel and Karl jumped in shock, not realising they were targets. They scanned but could see nothing.
"What's to prevent me from shooting you all now and picking the spear from your bullet ridden corpse?!" Vogt shot back.
"No, no Vogt, that would be dishonourable. I assume you joined the SS for honour, to have people look up to you? A soldier above soldiers. What would they say if they found out you shot two defenceless women and a man for a bit of metal? Yet then again you had no qualms about dragging poor Hector's corpse around for twelve days. Was it merely the thrill of the hunt? I'm afraid the swiftness of your feet has done you little good this time. The situation is bad enough as it is, isnt it?" she teased, walking up to the remaining column and caressing it. "You were usually quicker to comply with the wishes of the Gods than this. What changed?"
The man glared at her wildly but raised his arm, indicating his men should put up their weapons. He squinted at the archaeologist and laughed.
Janice shook her head. "You dont who you are? You are the runner Vogt, dont you remember? What of all the others you have loved? What of Deidamia, Briseis, Polyxena, Medea, and Iphigenia. Why is it only Penthesilea you remember?"
"What are you talking about?" he husked, silent and unmoving.
"Ligyron, Pyrrha Achilles." Janice said slowly as she walked around the Ionic column. Mel and Karl stared at her in disbelief.
Vogt smiled and let out a nervous laugh, suddenly he didnt feel so great. "Achilles?" he shook his head. "Enough of this stupidity." Vogt cocked his head to the side. "Shoot them!" he ordered.
Janice's eyes grew wide and she flung herself to the ground. Mel and Karl threw themselves in opposite directions in search of cover behind scattered pieces of rubble.
"I said shoot them goddammit. Fire, damn you, fire!" Vogt screamed.
"My weapon will not fire sir." a hidden voice said, followed by a second repeating the statement.
"What do you mean your weapon will not fire?" he thundered over to the far side of the temple remains and grabbed the rifle from the man emerging from a bush. He checked it, aimed at a scrabbling de Cardi and depressed the trigger. Nothing happened. He checked the weapon again and flung it away as useless. He ran over to the other sharp shooter and tried his weapon, same problem.
"Why are you all just staring at me?" Vogt screamed as he whirled about. Janice had picked herself up off the ground now that the imminent danger had passed.
"You've got your hands haven't you?" Vogt screamed at the sharp shooters. "Get them."
That seemed to move the two soldiers, they rushed at Karl and Mel, while Vogt turned to engage Janice.
The archaeologist had time to register the crazed figure of Vogt flying towards her before she was tackled to the ground, landing heavily on her injured arm. She cried out and tried to squirm out of the hold the man had around her legs. He pulled her to him roughly and straddled her, pinning her shoulders to the ground.
"Hello Covington." he said, back handing her across the face. "You going to give me that spear yet?"
Janice spat blood in the deranged man's face. He wiped at it with the back of his hand.
"Why are you doing this Vogt? Why the obsession? Think. Remember." she said as her own blood ran down his face.
Vogt stared at her with cold eyes. "I am under orders to retrieve the property of the German Reich Covington." He reached down towards the spearhead held tightly in the archaeologists hand. Janice met his malignant stare.
"You are the runner, I know you."
"You dont know me Covington." Dark fear clouded his vision, something was pulling at his soul. Vogt shuddered and grunted, shaking his head against blood coloured images.
"I know you," Janice repeated, "you killed her."
He sneered and nodded slowly, licking his lips "Thats right, I loved her you bitch, and I killed her! Just like Im going to kill you! Dont you understand? Shes in here!" Vogt beat at his chest. "And I cant get rid of her The spear is mine!" he raged as he slammed Janice's head against the stone floor.
Janice saw stars as pain exploded behind her eyes, but she managed to hold on to consciousness as Vogt brought his fist up, giving Janice the opening she needed. She plunged the corroded weapon deep into Vogt's left eye. He let out a blood-curdling howl and scrabbled at his face as the remains of his ruined eye trickled down, mixing with Janice's blood. Janice quickly pushed the injured man off her and thrust the bloodied spear with all her strength deep into the earth. It sunk in to the ground and disappeared from view. Janice managed to wrench her hand clear before it too was swallowed. Time seemed to slow and then to stop. Janice glanced around and saw that Vogt was frozen in the throes of pain. She looked at Mel and Karl who were collapsed on the ground, trying to extricate themselves from the dead weights of their immobile attackers.
"What the hell?"
"Janice! Get him off me, I'm stuck." she heard Mel yell out to her and snapped back to a semblance of reality. She ran over to the fallen Southerner and pulled at the hand clasped around the woman's upper arm. It however, took both her strength and Karl's to dislodge the claw-like appendage.
"What's going on?" asked Karl as he finally helped Mel to her feet. He had a bloodied lip, but otherwise seemed fine.
"Don't know. I shoved the spearhead into the ground and this happened." Janice said distractedly as she was checking Mel over thoroughly for injuries. Finally the translator swatted Janice away.
"There's nothing wrong with me Janice! Stop it. If you want to do something, see to that lip of Karl's." Thinking of how Mel had toppled Vogt earlier, she shouldn't have been surprised that the Southerner was okay.
She turned to Karl but he backed away. "Oh no, you hurt too much." he said, dabbing at his lip with the back of his hand.
"I see you three have found each other again." a voice filtered lazily through the temple.
Three figures turned as one to view a woman dressed in a simple chiton leaning leisurely against the altar.
"Thankyou for the blood offering."
"Artemis " Janice breathed.
The goddess smiled. "You have the same voice. Come here child."
Janice glanced at her two companions, their mouths agape, before she walked on none too steady legs towards the woman leaning casually against the lone column.
"Ah, thanks for whatever it was you did." Janice muttered as she neared the woman.
"It was in my own interest." the goddess said dismissively. "Let me look at you." She turned Janice around as if she was a long lost child.
"You have hardly changed, a little rough around the edges perhaps, but that's to be expected in this day and age I suppose."
"Hecate was right, Im related to Gabrielle?" Janice asked, feeling the warmth and strength of the goddess' hands on her shoulders.
"Of course she was right child, I sent her. I can see the strength of that bard in you little one." the goddess shook her head. "Yet as Queen, Gabrielle disobeyed me by burying the spear with that warrior of hers. Stubborn! She thought it best at the time, yet who knows but the Morrae what lies ahead?"
Janice nodded dumbly.
"The spear was always intended for this temple. It was one of the reasons the Amazons built it." she said, glancing around at the ruins sadly. "You have brought fresh life to this house little one and avenged the death of Penthesilea. Achilles always was a blind fool. Lost love was his punishment. How he ended up in the Elysian fields I'll never know. The Queen is pleased, as am I. Pity the world does not believe as it used." she mused.
Janice frowned. "But Achilles was a hero, how did he ?
The goddess laughed. " fall from grace? You should not believe everything you read little one, you have much to learn of the old ways." Artemis shuddered. "I must go, I cannot hold this form for long these days."
"What about them?" Janice asked, indicating Vogt and the two SS sharp shooters.
"Trust me." the goddess whispered before she paled and vanished.
Janice stood there a moment, glancing at the space where Artemis had been before she reached out a hand and laid it on the column. Where the marble had been rough and chipped, the stone was now smooth and warm to the touch, as if it was alive. She shuddered and turned to face Mel and Karl.
"What did she mean, we've found each other again?" Karl asked staring at the altar.
"I dont know. How long do you think these things will last?" She walked over and prodded at the figure of Vogt, but jumped back coughing as the body collapsed in a pile of dust.
"Jesus!" she choked. "What a mess."
"Maybe we should get out of here?" Mel offered.
"You're on. Karl, dont you owe us a meal? I'm still starved." The archaeologist clutched at her stomach.
"Sure, just give me a minute to get my head around this. We were just paid a visit by Artemis in her temple, Vogt was Achilles and youre descended from an Amazon Queen." he said, licking at his split lip.
"That's right. Told you they were real." she glanced at Mel before linking arms with her two companions and hauling them from the temple in search of food.
"Goddamn Nazi swines, sonsofbitches!" Janice thundered as she stormed into Ida's office.
"Calm down Janice. If you will go spinning yarns to them, you have to expect an interrogation." Ida said, sipping some coffee.
"What do you mean yarns? I told Müller the truth. Vogt came after us in the temple like a lunatic, stole the spear and disappeared off the face of the earth."
"That's not what happened Janice, and you know it."
"Yeah, well that's all those arse holes need to know. They can look for Vogt for all eternity as far as I care because that's how long it'll take."
Ida sighed and nodded. "How's that arm of yours?"
"It's fine. Why?"
"There's someone in your office to see you."
"Oh shit Ida, not now. Can you tell them to go away?"
"Now why would you want to send me away?" asked a playful voice.
Janice spun and stared at the tall figure with the lop-sided grin.
"Indy!" she yelled dashing over to the man and punched him in the arm. "That was for Crete!" She punched him hard in the stomach and he let out a grunt. "And that was for not telling me you were coming." She said before hugging him.
"Gee, nice to know I was missed Janice. How've you been?" Indiana Jones asked, searching her eyes.
"Oh, pretty good."
Ida snorted at her desk as Indy looked over to her and nodded.
"I see. Well," he licked his lips. "I've got a proposition for you "
"Oh Indy, didnt know you cared." she smiled, trying to bat her eyelids quite unsuccessfully. "But, alas, I'm taken."
The archaeologist frowned sideways at Janice before leaning down and whispering in her ear. "Ever heard of the Treasury of Magan?"
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