An injured Lara Croft must track down a missing amulet.
|Author's notes: Sorry for the extra long post. I've combined two short chapters into one post. My novella is 13 chapters long and I'm trying to fit it into 10 posts. Most of my chapters are around around 2,500 words long.
Lara fidgeted with a Grey Wolf’s Heritage Museum brochure as Anna drove them into the city. According to the first panel, the museum was close to Downtown Fargo.
“How many people live in Fargo?” Lara asked loudly.
Anna turned down the radio. “Around 130,000, I think.” She turned left onto 12th Avenue and continued straight for several blocks, toward the Red River. Anna pulled into a parking space in front a three-storey building that was nestled between two older buildings. The sign above the door had light grey text on a dark wood background. “We’re here.” She smiled and slid the keys out of the ignition.
“Thanks for getting us so close to the entrance.” Lara undid her seat belt.
Lara got out of the passenger seat and collected her crutches from the back seat. This time, her knee only protested with a small pain. It would still need ice soon.
She followed Anna to the top of a short flight of stairs and through the entrance.
The lobby was spacious. A row of chairs sat in a line against the left wall. The medium-grey linoleum floor reflected light from clusters of ceiling lights. Lara moved deeper into the room. A Visitor’s Services desk sat at the end of the lobby. Beyond it, the walls were covered with aboriginal artwork. Several wooden display cases held leather clothing decorated with intricate patterns of colourful beads. The Crow Tribe was known for its amazing beadwork.
“It’s impressive,” Lara said.
“My family worked hard to get it to look good,” she said. “My father’s office is over here.” She headed toward a door on the right and gave it a brisk knock. “Dad, I’m back.”
A man of about sixty answered the door. He wore a dark-brown suit without a tie. His shoulder-length black hair was streaked with grey and tied back at the neck.
“Hello Anna,” he said, “I see you brought Lara with you.” He extended his hand. “Welcome Ms. Croft. I’m Viktor Grey Wolf.”
“Thank you. It’s good to meet you,” Lara said. “Your brother filled me in on everything but I have a few questions.”
“Well, let’s discuss this in my office,” he said. “Anna, would you mind checking if yesterday’s order came in?”
“Sure, dad.” She turned and left.
Lara followed Viktor into the office and dropped into the chair in front of his desk. She leaned her crutches against the second chair.
For a minute, Viktor was silent as he gathered some papers and tucked them inside a folder. “So, what questions can I answer for you?” he asked.
“Does your private investigator have any leads yet?” Lara asked.
“I got rid of the investigator,” Viktor replied. “There wasn’t any evidence left behind.”
“My best guess is that someone will use the amulet of the dead to commit crimes,” he continued. “I would go to the police but the police would think I was nuts if I mentioned that the amulet was magical.”
“Also, an officer might put it on and find out what it could do. It’s best kept as a tall tale.”
“I have several contacts who might know something.”
“That’s what Jack told me.” He shifted in his chair. “The amulet could cause a lot of suffering in the wrong hands.”
“I’ll do my best to get to the bottom of things.”
“We appreciate your help and I have something that might help you find the amulet.” He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled an amber amulet on a string of leather. The larger, centre piece stone held a small, blue butterfly. “This is another amulet that has been in my family for generations. It was empowered by a wise-woman called Wyuma.”
Lara’s heart did a funny flip-flop. “Who was Wyuma?” she asked.
“She was a prophetess and wise woman,” he replied.
“What is she best known for?”
“Predicting an earth quake. A tribe moved everyone to another location on her word alone. When they returned there were huge cracks everywhere.”
“So Wyuma powered the amulet that was stolen?” Lara had the urge to mention her dream but kept silent.
“Yes,” he replied. “This here is the amulet of past-seeing.”
“It’s beautiful.” She took the amulet and put it on. Nothing strange happened. There was no humming current associated with magical objects. “How do I use it?”
“That’s the tricky part,” he continued, giving her a faint smile. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
“Maybe I’ll be able to get it to work.” Lara tried to be polite and grateful for the amulet.
“I almost forgot: you’d probably like a photo of the stolen amulet of death.” He passed her a photo. The amulet’s centre piece was amber, like the amulet of past-seeing, only it contained a small feather. Round beads of turquoise chrysocolla formed rows on both sides. Their power was said to enhance wisdom and communication.
“Thank you, Mr Grey Wolf.” Lara put the photo into her purse.
“I’ll call Anna and get her to drive you to my nephew’s car dealership.” He picked up his phone and hit a button.
Lara collected the crutches and got to her feet as he talked to Anna.
He hung up the phone and said, “Good luck, Lara. I wish you the best in finding the amulet.”
“I’ll keep you updated on my progress,” she said.
“That would be good.”
Lara met Anna in the lobby.
“Ready to go?” Anna chirped.
“As ready as I can be.” She glanced at the crutches and smiled.
“The amulet of past-seeing looks good on you.”
“I suppose it does,” Lara agreed. But would it be of any use? She had seen her share of magical jewelry so maybe it would. The biggest obstacle was finding a lead.
They left the museum and headed to Anna’s car.
“Could you take me to the hotel instead of the car dealership?”
Anna furrowed her brows in confusion. “I guess…”
Lara realized that Anna might be offended that she didn’t want to get a used car from her relative. “I may end up taking another plane if I get a lead that says the amulet is in another state.”
“Oh,” Anna said, the sharp note had vanished from her voice. “That makes sense.”
Lara put her crutches in the backseat and sat in the passenger seat.
“Which hotel?” Anna asked.
“Got it.” She keyed the ignition and pulled into the street. “It’s close to the airport.”
Lara braced herself for the country music but Anna didn’t turn it on this time.
“I think someone’s following us,” Anna said in a hushed tone.
“Really?” Lara forward to peek in the car’s side mirror.
“He’s really far back,” Anna continued. She made a sharp turn onto another street, picked up speed and then did another sharp turn.
“How do you know it’s a ‘he’?” Lara asked.
“I think it’s the same guy I saw when I went out to grab a coffee during your meeting with my dad.” Anna slowed her car down to a speed less likely to attract cops. “He was sitting in a Chevy, pretending to be looking at an old map.”
“You have eagle eyes,” Lara said.
“Ha! That’s what my grandfather used to say.” She turned on the radio to 104.7 Duke FM, but not as loud as before. Soon, a song from the Johnny Cash filled the car. “I think I lost the bastard.”
“Great job.” Lara let her shoulders relax. “Did you get a good look at his face earlier?”
“Dark brown hair, mustache, in his forties, also in great shape,” she replied with an emphasis on the last words. “Be careful.”
“I’ll watch my back.”
They stopped by a local drug store where Lara bought a cane. She wouldn’t need the crutches forever. The next stop was the Hilson hotel. The curved lane in front of it was empty when Anna pulled up to the entrance. A hotel worker came out and helped Lara with her luggage. The Chevy was nowhere in sight.
“Give me a call if you find anything,” Anna said.
Anna waved goodbye and then pulled away.
Lara headed to the entrance, to check in.
“This is wonderful,” Lara said.
The hotel room Lara rented was spacious and decorated in calming shades of blue, green and grey. On one side of the room stood a tall dresser, a flat-screen TV and a bathroom. Light from the afternoon sun streamed in through a large window.
“All our rooms are well-decorated,” the hotel worker agreed. He was a short man with trimmed black hair. “Where would you like me to put these?” he asked.
“Near the closest bed, thank you.”
He lined them up at the foot of the bed and left.
Lara grabbed a cola from a small fridge near the TV and took a long sip. The suite was a medium-priced one that wouldn’t draw attention. It had two twin beds.
She lay back on the closest bed and shut her eyes.
An hour later, a knock on the door made her bolt upright and reach for her pistols. She grabbed at empty space. Panic surged through—she hadn’t brought them with her. It was too risky to carry arms in the US. At the time, it seemed like the wisest decision. She wasn’t so sure now. How she hated feeling so vulnerable.
Another knock sounded.
“Coming!” She grabbed her crutches and made her way to the door. “Who is it?” she asked looking through the peep hole. The man on the other side of the door had light blond hair and thick-rimmed glasses.
“Acme Courier,” the man said.
She let out the breath she’d been holding. Bryce and Hillary were the only ones who knew where she was staying. She propped her crutches against the wall, undid the lock and opened the door. “Good morning,” she said.
“I just need you to sign here.” He held out an electronic signature pad and a pen. She scrawled her name and gave it back to him. He handed her a thin package and left.
Lara locked the door, grabbed the crutches and went to sit on the bed. She tore the package open and pulled out a smartphone. A North Dakota private investigator license sat at the bottom of the package. This made her feel uneasy. She studied it for a moment and decided to use it only if absolutely necessary. She slid the card into a secret pocket in her purse and turned on the phone. A single phone number appeared with the name Edgarsaurus in front of it. She let out a laugh. It had to be Bryce’s brother, Edgar. It was hard to believe they were brothers. Edgar was 6’4” and a rhino of a man. The name suited him perfectly. He was currently living in San Francisco, California as a computer security expert.
She dialled the number and waited.
“Edgar here,” a man’s deep voice answered.
“Hello, Edgar,” Lara said. “It’s Lara Croft.”
“Lara! What can I do for you?”
“I need some information.”
She filled him in on the story of the missing amulet and the legend behind it.
He whistled and said, “Wow, that thing’s got some serious mojo.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Would you talk to the dead if you had it?” he asked.
“Absolutely.” Her parents would be the first people she talked to depending on how the amulet worked. But what would she say to them? She would want them to know that she loved them. Moisture filled her eyes.
“I wouldn’t want that kind of power,” Edgar said. “Imagine me seeing all the spirits of the fish I forgot to feed. I don’t think I could handle that.” He let out a deep laugh.
She smiled. “Getting back on track, I need you to help me find any clues to the amulet’s current location.”
“I’ll do some work on my own end.”
“Great, I’ll get on it too.”
“Thank you.” She hung up.
Lara stayed up until 10 pm, calling every American contact she thought would be helpful but no one knew anything about the theft. She turned on her laptop and, using the hotel’s wi fi, she surfed the dark web, looking to see if anyone was selling an aboriginal amulet. Nothing turned up. The thief probably wouldn’t want to sell it—most likely, they were using the amulet to talk with the dead.
Edgar called her back at midnight. She hit the talk button, expecting that he had run into a dead end too.
“Hey Lara, I found something!” Edgar said.
“Really?” She sat up straighter.
“A friend of a friend of a friend of mine said that they saw footage of a burglar who was wearing a strange amulet during a burglary in Oregon. The suspect left a fake pearl necklace at the scene of the crime. Isn’t that odd?”
“Pearls? That is a strange calling card.” She wondered if the suspect was a woman. “How close is Oregon to Fargo?” she asked. There were many states in the US and Lara found it hard to remember where all of them were.
“It’s west of where you are. Just go through Idaho and you’re there.”
“Thank you, Edgar. You’ve been a huge help.”
She said her good byes and hung up. Deciding to book a plane to Oregon, she turned on her laptop and surfed for a flight. There was a small plane heading from Fargo to Oregon the next morning, the 7th of June. She ordered a ticket and then got ready for bed.
Satisfied about the new lead and her new destination, Lara let herself drift off to sleep. Visions of sun-lit, flowering meadows swept past her, relaxing her body and soothing her mind. Snow clung stubbornly to the ground in places. Then, she was standing someplace much darker. A gentle breeze, from the open flap of a tipi, ruffled the loose wisps of her hair.
Wyuma stood in front of her, looking down at the man who had, in the previous dream, tried to comfort her about her dead children. His face was ghastly pale. It was a noble face mapped with numerous of lines, evidence of a life of hard work. A heavy sadness clung clawed at Lara’s senses and she walked over to the young woman’s side.
Streams of tears ran down Wyuma’s cheeks. Her eyes were red from crying. “My whole family is gone,” she said to no one in particular. Her voice held a bitter edge that cut through Lara’s heart.
“I’m sorry,” Lara said. “I wish I could help.”
Wyuma spun to face her. “Who are you?” Her eyes glistened like hard diamonds from the light of the small fire in the middle of the tipi.
Lara said nothing. She lowered her head in shame. Intruding on such a private moment was wrong. But wasn’t this just a dream?
“Why are you here?” Wyuma asked, her voice more controlled.
“I—” Lara averted her eyes, unable to withstand the raw pain in Wyuma’s face.
Wyuma gasped. “Who made you that amulet?” She took a step closer.
“I think you did,” Lara replied.
“I don’t remember making it.”
“But you will make it.”
“You’re from tomorrow.”
Wyuma’s eyes went wide with fear. “A demon has come!” She backed away from Lara, almost tripping over a bowl of uneaten stew that had been left on the floor.
Lara looked around in confusion. Then she saw it: The shadow of a figure moved across the inside of the tipi but no one else was in the space except for Lara and Wyuma. Was it the dead man’s ghost? Some of the light inside the tipi vanished, leaving Lara straining to see. She shivered from a sudden gust of cold. Her breath left her and she fell to her knees.
There was no air! Something was covering her face. She managed to throw the covers off her and scape her fingers into the arms of the man pressing the pillow over her face. Her nails did little good against the intruder’s leather jacket. He kept pressing down.
She reached for the cane she had bought from the drug store, hoping it would still be propped against the bed—and that the goon hadn’t spotted it. Her fingers grasped the handle and she swung it in an arc toward the area above her. It hit the man in the side though Lara couldn’t be sure if she clocked him in the head. The pressure of the pillow lessened and she reached up with the other hand to tear it away. The man cursed.
The lamps from the street outside faintly lit the room. Her target was much more visible. She took quick note that he wore a ski mask and black clothing. Using all her strength, she grabbed the cane with both hands and slammed it into his stomach. He grunted. Lara slid off the bed and smashed him in the jaw with a high kick. The man gave up and bolted out the door, clutching his stomach.
“Get back here!” Lara took chase. She ran halfway down the hall before her knee screamed with pain. “Blast this bloody knee!” she hollered.
The intruder barrelled down the stairwell.
Other hotel guests opened their doors to see what the commotion was about.
“Are you alright?” A middle-aged man asked.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.” Lara turned to find five people had come out of their rooms.
“I heard yelling,” a young man said. “Hey, your face is really red.”
“What happened?” a woman asked.
“I’m okay,” Lara said. “It was just a burglar. He’s gone now. There’s nothing to see.”
“You should call the cops,” the middle-aged man said.
“I’ll do that.” It was times like these when Lara was glad that she always slept in a jogging suit. Sometimes she had to be ready to pack and go. Carefully, she limped back toward her room. The pain in her knee bit at her like an angry pit-bull. Who was that thug? How did he know where she was staying? Only one answer came to mind: Anna’s car must have been bugged. Or worse, maybe she was bugged.
She reached her room and examined the door. The man had used something to tear it open, probably a crow bar. Her crutches stood against the wall. Carefully, she examined them for several minutes. A small, round GPS or bug sat under the top bar. “Ah ha!” She held it up to the light. It looked like expensive technology. Someone must have stuck it on at the airport. There had been a few times she left to go the washroom when she was on the plane. She pried it off with her fingernail and dropped it into the half-full can of cola. There was a sizzle and then silence.
The hotel responded quickly to her predicament when she phoned its emergency line. Fifteen minutes later, she had a new hotel room—and a roommate, one of the women who had come out into the hall during the commotion. It was very late when the police came to ask her a few questions. She told them she didn’t know who would want her dead, which was the truth. The room was very dark and he had worn a ski mask.
She tried to sleep but worry for the new roommate, kept her staring at the ceiling into the early morning.
Morning came too fast. Lara struggled out of bed, totally unrested. In the bathroom, someone was showering. Momentary confusion clouded her mind and then the events of last night rushed in. Belinda was the name the woman. Lara had worried all night that the thug would make a second attempt but nothing eventful had happened after the police left. She was grateful the woman wasn’t overly interested in her. Belinda had spent a good deal of last night talking about herself. In a way, it kept Lara’s mind off the dream and the attack. A shudder passed through her and she shook it off. Fear wasn’t going to get the best of her.
Her plane would leave in an hour and she had to be ready. Quickly, she French-braided her hair and applied some plum-coloured lipstick and black eyeliner. The owners of the mansion would need to take her seriously if she were to get any information out of them. She went through her luggage and chose a pair of navy dress pants and a white tank top which she covered with an expensive, caramel-coloured leather jacket. Something was missing though. The amulet of past-seeing. She pulled it out of her purse and put it on.
Once she put on her running shoes, she settled back on the bed with her smartphone. Edgar had left her one message. It was the address of the house that had been burglarized: Twenty-four Meadow Drive, Portland, Oregon.
Next, she dialled Viktor’s number.
“Viktor Grey Wolf here.”
“Hi Viktor, I have a question.”
“Sure Lara,” he said. “What is it?”
“Does anyone else know that your brother Jack hired me?”
“Only Jack, Anna and I know,” he replied. “All of us have kept it a secret from the rest of the family.”
“I was attacked last night,” Lara said.
“Shit.” There was an edge of worry in his voice. “Do you know who attacked you?”
“He wore a ski mask.”
“This is disturbing news,” Viktor said.
“It’s possible someone trailed me from the UK,” Lara continued. “I’ve found many treasures and made it into the newspapers many times. Perhaps someone thinks I’ll lead them to treasure. If not, it would be a good idea if you checked your office for bugs.”
“Thanks for the warning. I’ll do that.”
“Good.” Lara hung up and begun to pack the few things she had removed from her luggage yesterday afternoon.
The shower stopped. Shortly after, the bathroom door opened and a woman with flushed pink skin came out. She was fully dressed with a bright orange shirt that fought for attention with her fiery orange hair. “Morning Lara,” she said in a New York accent.
“I’m going to catch a plane soon,” Lara said. “You should lock the door behind you.”
“Okay.” Worry flickered momentarily in her eyes. “You were attacked for a reason weren’t you?”
“Yes, but it’s unlikely he’ll come after you.”
“Oh.” Belinda’s face went pale.
“Thanks again for letting me room with you.”
Lara called the front desk to get help with her luggage and then hailed a cab to the airport.