The Eden Factor (Kathlyn Trent/Marcus Burton Romance Adventure Series Book 2)

BOOK: The Eden Factor (Kathlyn Trent/Marcus Burton Romance Adventure Series Book 2)
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THE EDEN FACTOR

 

By Kathryn Le Veque

 

(Book 2 in the Kathlyn
Trent/Marcus Burton Romance Adventure Series)

Copyright 2003 by
Kathryn Le Veque
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any
manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Printed by Dragonblade Publishing in the United States of America

Text copyright 2003
by Kathryn Le Veque
Cover copyright 2003 by Kathryn Le Veque

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

October 2011

Zubayr, Iraq

 

 

It was hot, excruciatingly so, in
the midst of the Basrah wilderness. Five thousand years ago, this had been part
of the Fertile Crescent, the area in which the ancient rivers of the Tigris and
Euphrates fed the infancy of civilization. Now it was barren and dry, bled of
its fruitfulness and lain to waste. Though people still lived here, worked and
died in this place, it remained as it had for centuries with very little
change. 

The village of Zubayr huddled in
this desolate land, a cluster of whitewashed mud homes and unpaved roads. It
had taken a beating during the gulf wars and was only now recovering. A hive of
activity swirled near the edge of the town as a woman and a man were led by a
group of villagers towards one of the small white dwellings.

The woman wasn't like the rest of
the residents; she was Caucasian, with long, honey colored hair and stunning
green eyes. Her porcelain beauty was sorely out of place among the
molasses-colored people. Yet she strangely blended in, her manners very
respectful and her disposition deeply submissive.

The woman’s translator was a
young man with big yellow teeth. She asked him question after question, making
sure she understood the village customs. Her translator, however, told her that
she offended the village by her lack of modesty; dressed in khaki shorts, a
white tee shirt and massive work boots, she was something of a scandal showing
so much skin. When he wanted to dress her in the traditional black veils of the
chador
for her meeting with the elders, she didn't argue. She needed to
do everything possible in order to please these people who had gone to so much
trouble to contact her. They had something she desperately wanted to see.

Dust was in layers between her
skin and the
chador
. Mixed with perspiration, it was genuinely
uncomfortable and she tried not to scratch too obviously. Standing inside the
doorway of the small mud-brick home, her male companion scrutinized everyone
who went in or out. He particularly scrutinized those who touched her, even the
women who helped her dress. He was glad when they finished fussing with her and
finally left them alone.

"Now how long do we have to
wait?" he asked with veiled impatience.

The woman shrugged. "I'm not
sure. Usually villages like this are one of two ways; they either shun
outsiders and want you in and out as quickly as possible, or they draw it out
into a three day long celebration." She grinned. "We could find
ourselves partying for several days before they decide to show us what they
brought us here for. Then we may be so drunk we won't even care."

The man cocked an eyebrow; he was
as handsome as the woman was beautiful, Caucasian himself, with short dark hair
and cobalt blue eyes. His well-fed American size had thoroughly intimidated the
peasants, standing several inches over six feet and weighing in at around two
hundred fifty pounds. Dr. Marcus Burton had never been to Iraq; his field of
expertise was Egyptology. But this country wasn't much different from the Egypt
he was used to; sandy, dry, hot, with poor villages spotting the countryside.
Like white-bread America, the rural areas of the Middle East countries, for the
most part, all seemed to look the same. The only difference had been in the
difficultly coming here. Iraqis didn't like foreigners, and they especially
didn't like Americans. Only their translator's quick thinking and a substantial
bribe had propelled them across the border from Saudi Arabia. Marcus had no
idea how they were going to get back. He tried not to dwell on that at the
moment.

"I'm not going to go on a
three day drinking binge if that's what you're thinking," he flatly
informed the woman. "We came here to see what they've got, and that's
exactly what we're going to do. We didn't risk life and limb to get plastered."

The woman gazed at him, her clear
green eyes twinkling.  He was always so gruff that it was great sport to tease
him.

"They may not have alcohol
here, but they have a fermented milk drink that has thrown me over the edge on
a couple of occasions," she said.  "A couple of shots and we're off
to Happyland."

He crossed his thick arms.
"Kathlyn, if that's what you think this whole excursion is about, then we
might as well have stayed in Egypt."

Dr. Kathlyn Trent rose from her
chair. Even in the
chador
, there was no mistaking her sweet feminine
lines. She knew this trip wasn't about some exotic liquor spree, but to keep
the mood light was her way of dealing with the heady atmosphere. The
anticipation was thick enough to stop traffic; it had been that way since they had
left Egypt two days before. Little sleep and little food had compounded the
ambiance. She went over to her husband and put her arms around his waist.

"Have more faith in me than
that," she said. "But I've learned over my many years of travels that
when in Rome, do as the Romans. If they want to feed us, then we eat. And if
they want us to drink, we drink."

Marcus gazed down at his wife, a
good twelve inches shorter than him. He knew she was far better traveled that
he was. She trotted all over the globe in search of her interests while he had
spent the last twelve years in Egypt poking around in piles of sand. With a
doctorate in Biblical Archaeology and a host of cable programs to her credit
touting the joy of discovery in the study of historical science, Kathlyn Trent
was a very popular educational celebrity with the public. With her fellow
scientists, however, she was considered something of a farce. Marcus had
thought so too, once. But he had learned throughout the course of their one and
a half year relationship that the woman was many things, but she was not a
sham. She just liked to do things a little differently than convention.

"If I didn't have any faith
in you, I wouldn't be here," he meant their current situation, their
relationship in general. "But you need to have a little patience with me
as well. This is the first time I've gone myth-hunting with you. It's sort of a
new experience."

She smiled and kissed him.
"Hold on to your hat, buster. This is where the fun begins."

He laughed softly and shook his
head. He'd never met anyone so enthusiastic about their work. But this venture
was perhaps more than any other she had ever been on, one that was so bizarre
in nature that it had been difficult to convince him to come along with her. He
still had trouble comprehending it, but he wasn't about to let her go anywhere
without him. And she was determined to go.

The door to the small house
opened and the translator appeared, followed by three elderly men in flowing
robes of rough fabric and dust.  Kathlyn understood immediately that they must
be the village elders and put the veil over her mouth and nose as a sign of
respect. The translator bade them all sit on the hard, dirty floor, which they
did.  With the only light in the room that from a small square cut window,
Kathlyn and Marcus wait in pregnant silence for the commencement of the long
anticipated meeting.

A very old man with thin, willowy
fingers spoke first. His Arabic was soft and raspy. The translator listened
carefully before turning to Kathlyn.

"This is Hamid Mosket Ibn
Kander," he said in his halting English. "He is, how you would say,
our Presidence. He comes from a long line of Presidence. His family is very
old. He wishes you good peace, Dr. Trent."

Kathlyn was sure the translator
had meant to say 'president' but she didn't correct him.  She bowed her head in
a gesture of thanks and submission.

"Thank him for his
hospitality for myself and my husband," she said. "Tell him we are
very honored and excited to be asked to come here."

The translator rolled off her
words. The old man barely acknowledged him; his coffee brown eyes with yellow-colored
whites were focused on Kathlyn. When the translator was finished and the silent
moments ticked away, he lifted a gnarled finger in Kathlyn's direction. The
words that came out of his mouth almost sounded angry.

"He wants to know why God
has chosen you," the translator said.

Kathlyn wasn't quite sure what he
meant. "I'm afraid I don't understand."

The translator chatted with the
old man. A lot of gesturing went on. The translator finally turned back to
Kathlyn. "In Egypt you found a king. In Anatolia it was an ark. In
Scotland it was a grail. Why has God chosen you as the finder of things of the
past and of things holy?"

It was evident they had been
watching the cable programs she made for one of her sponsors, The World of
Exploration Channel. Kathlyn hadn't noticed the massive satellite dish as she
came into the village; they kept it well concealed in some camouflage netting
left behind in the Gulf Wars. In spite of their primitive appearance, they
apparently had the modern convenience of television.

She had to be very careful about
answering him. These villagers were very devout and she didn't want to come
across as blasphemous. She hoped the translator would do her caution justice.

"Tell him that God has given
me a gift," she replied softly. "I do not presume to know His purpose
for me. All I know is that I must use this gift. To ignore it would be to
offend God."

The translator relayed the reply.
The old man seemed to study her a long, long time. He said something and the
translator turned back to her.

"He was told that you have
power."

Kathlyn shook her head. "I
don't know what he means."

"I think he means that you
divine. That you are an oracle."

"I'm not an oracle. And I
don't magically divine. But sometimes I sense things, an Intuition that has
helped me locate many wonderful things. That is the gift from God that I speak
of."

The translator conveyed her
response. The three old men conversed rapidly and Kathlyn found herself wishing
she understood more Arabic than she did. It seemed that they were arguing. She
couldn't believe they would call her all the way here and not let her work. 
Finally, the head elder said something to the translator.

"Hassan told you of this
wondrous treasure," the translator said to her.

Kathlyn nodded. "Hassan
works for us on my husband's dig in Egypt. His cousin told him of the treasure
you have. It was through Hassan that I understood you wanted me to come here
and look at it."

"Do you understand what he
told you?"

"Enough to prompt me to come
to Iraq. That should say a lot."

"But do you understand what
this treasure is?"

Kathlyn took a long, deep breath.
"I understand what he told me. And if it's what he says it is, then the
world as we know it is going to be turned on end."

"Destroyed?"

"No," she said quickly,
hoping he wouldn't translate that. "What I mean to say is that the world
will be very excited. It will only cause their faith in God to grow, and that is
a very good thing. God needs His children to be faithful and believe."

The translator relayed her words.
The three elders chattered among themselves again, seemingly indecisive.
Finally, the chief elder spoke to the translator with a hint of irritation in
his manner.

"He wants to show you
himself, but you must take no," he made a clicking gesture as if he held a
camera, "photos. And no drawings."

Kathlyn's heart leapt with
excitement. "Tell him I promise."

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