It was well past seven p.m. Most of the galleries and shops in Mineral Point were closed but one had the lights on and its door was open. Mary and Sean walked in. With the exception of a very old German Shepherd, it seemed to be unoccupied.
“Hello? Is anyone home?” said Sean.
“Yes, I’m here... ” came a voice from behind a counter.
The couple looked around but couldn’t see anyone.
“I’m down here, I’ve fallen.”
“Can we help you?” Sean said, seeing a woman who was sitting on the floor, wedged between a stairway and a wheelchair.
“No, I can do this. It happens all the time. I’ll be with you in a minute.”
“You’re quite sure you don’t need some help?” asked Mary.
“No, no, I’m alright,” The woman said, fiddling with her wheelchair, moving it into position, then locking the wheels. It was clear that her resolve was firm. Mary and Sean began to look around the shop. From behind the counter she began to ask the usual questions:
“Why did you come to Mineral Point? Where are you from?”
“We’re from Seattle, we’re on our honeymoon,” Mary answered.
She began to converse with the woman on the floor, turning around so as not to embarrass her. After a few minutes the shop owner rolled up in her wheelchair, evidently none the worse for wear. Mary asked about the enormous looms which sat in the back of the shop: yes, she was a weaver. From the general disorder around the looms, it appeared that they had not been in use for some time. The woman spoke of the shop, of her ex-husband who had once been part of it—his wood-working sign was still hanging on the wall. Evidently, it was a touchy subject with her but not one she was yet ready to relinquish. Mary and the woman talked for a while; Mary asked the woman where was the best place to eat. The woman snorted as if in disapproval of all the local restaurants but did say that ‘the Japanese place’ was alright. Sean, who had been browsing during this discussion, had picked up an old book: The Lost Treasures of Wisconsin. He bought it for the title, without understanding the reason why.
“Gentlemen of The Brotherhood. As you are all aware, this meeting is being held due to the untimely passing of our brother, Roger Ramsen. Roger will be missed, his efforts in preserving the plan and its assets had been unwavering. His work is, however, unfinished. Senator Clarkson’s bastard son, Sean Carroll, who is also the grandson of Emily Carroll, remains a threat. How much of a threat? It remains unknown. Roger’s attempts to neutralize him had been vigorous but ineffective. To date, Mr. Carroll has shown no evidence of any special talent as to divination or the allied arts, nor has he made an attempt to capitalize on his relationship with the Senator. He is not without resources, however. He was employed at the ‘data miner/cryptologist' at the firm of Applied Diffusion Research, commonly referred to as ‘ADR,’ which has recently been acquired by a major internet marketing firm. ADR was involved with the unfortunate series of events which culminated in the death of Senator’s Clarkson’s legitimate son, William Jr., in Iceland a few years ago. The president and founder of ADR is one Mary Robinson, a woman of unknown African-American heritage. She is reputed to be brilliant in her field. Roger was in the process of trying to discredit her when he died; he felt she was also a serious threat. There is another potential connection: a young child in Iceland, who may have been fathered by either William Clarkson, Junior or, possibly, Mr. Carroll. Legal efforts to connect the child’s mother with Sean have been fruitless. Due to the insular nature of Icelandic society, we have only limited means at our disposal to deal with this aspect of the situation. Until parentage is decisively determined, there is little we can do at this time about this potential threat to the plan.”
The five elderly men who sat around the conference table listened impassively to the man who stood at its end.
“Where is Sean now, and where is this Robinson woman?” asked one of the men.
“Currently, the location of the two is unknown. They were last seen in Seattle a week ago. Our intelligence has uncovered no trace of their whereabouts since then.”
“This has gotten completely out of hand,” said another man, “When they do show up, why don’t we just have them eliminated? It should have been done long ago.”
The leader of the group shook his head slightly and said:
“There is already too much information about the plan in the documents Harold Shallbetter leaked. We’ve managed to cover it up so far, but someone could connect the dots. The deaths of Carroll and Robinson, even if it appeared to be an accident, would have conspiracy theorists crawling out of the woodwork. What amount of information Carroll has about the plan is unknown as well. The fact remains that Sean Carroll is the son of Senator Clarkson and the grandson of Emily, and as such is an inherent threat to The Brotherhood.”
There was no response from the gathered men. The leader continued:
“As far as the plan is concerned we will, as is our custom, meet at the Chamber House for the laying on of hands. Gather here at 11:30 P.M., Saturday. The ritual will commence at Midnight.”
At the restaurant, after ordering, Mary examined the book Sean had purchased:
“Treasure hunting? I didn’t take you for the Indiana Jones type,” she said, opening the book. A yellow scrap of paper covered with handwritten text fell out. “Why, it’s a poem!”
“Read it to me, would you?” said Sean.
After first reading it through in silence, Mary began to speak:
The sun, sinking behind a hill
A dagger thrown in a sightless face
Pierced from the assassin’s attack
Blood, red flowing, turns to black
Then vanishes in disgrace
The sun, sinking behind a hill
Descending to a deep dark place
The Negress witch turns her key
And the secrets of eternity
Are locked inside her secret space
The sun, sinking behind a hill
Who will hear nature’s call?
Muffled inside her mossy walls
Is the treasure of Satan's whore
“Ominous doggerel,” said Sean.
“Doggerel? Yes. An omen? I hope not, although it seems that everything that happens to me these days is a portent of some kind.”
Mary continued to look at the book but paused on the table of contents. She handed it back to Sean, pointing to the last story in the list: The Lost Treasure of Nigger Hill.
“Really. Isn’t that just a bit much?” she said.