THE TREASURE TRADE
The world was filled with many lost treasures, but few men who could find them. Of that few, there was only one man who could always be relied upon to retrieve them, no matter what the circumstances: Gulliver Crow.
Crow had only been in the treasure-hunting business for four years, but already his name was infamous. Gruff in nature and ballistic in method, Crow had long ago ensured his place in the annals of those who got results without giving a crap. His stark difference to his deceased father, the legendary archaeologist Dr. Humphrey Crow, only furthered his infamy. Whereas Humphrey had been structured, respectable and academically-minded, Gulliver was chaotic, anti-social and had very little interest in academics. Compared to his father, Crow was something of a thuggish mercenary. The ‘prodigal son’ would have even bet half his fortune that his legend was just the result of this contrast.
Still, it was impressive enough a legend to have attracted the interest of one Jeremiah Carson.
Now, interestingly enough, Carson seemed like just the type of man that Crow would refuse to look at, let alone do business with. Carson was high up the social ladder, ridiculously wealthy, and greatly reverent to the ancient world and its enigmatic treasures. From an early age, he had gravitated toward his history classes, immersing himself in long-dead cultures, fabled objects and legendary lands. Upon entering college, he threw himself into his studies, and quickly gained PhDs in Norse Mythology, Mongolian Calligraphy, and Ancient History. When he graduated, Carson immediately began travelling the world, seeking out the long-lost artifacts he had read about. Within a few years, he had accumulated a vast personal collection, which he stored in the basement of his mansion in Washington D.C.
Now Carson was an old man – in his early seventies at least – and had long since stopped his globe-trotting adventures. He was content to hire other men, younger men, to do the work for him. Carson had the money to pay for the best services possible, and as it happened, Gulliver Crow was usually the best. He was Carson’s number-one pick for assignments ever since the old man had first hired him about two years after Crow’s father had passed away. At first, theirs was a very tense, rocky relationship, but over the next three years Crow continued to accept missions from Carson, thanks to Carson’s generous payments, and in that time, both came to quickly gain respect for one other.
Carson was presently sitting in his study inside his D.C. home, awaiting the arrival of Crow, whom he had called up a few days prior and requested an audience. He sat in his chair, waiting patiently as he watched the grandfather clock in the corner, which read ten fifty-six. Crow was to arrive at roughly eleven o’clock. And just as Carson picked up his leather-bound copy of Herodotus’ The Histories, planning to skim it over until the man appeared, there was a loud ring from the doorbell that echoed through the building.
Carson grabbed his cane, and made his way down the staircase, eventually arriving at the front door. He opened it, and standing there was Crow, looking the same as Carson remembered him: unkempt long blonde hair, scruffy beard, muscular build, wearing a brown short-sleeve shirt and lighter-shade brown pants with dark black boots, and with a tired expression on his face. Crow gave Carson a weak smile, and extended his hand, mumbling, “Jerry. Good to see you again.”
Carson shook the hand, as he said in his raspy voice, “Good to see you too, Gulliver. Come right in.”
Crow did so, stepping into the mansion, and closing the door behind him. Carson gestured for Crow to head upstairs. As the two moved upward, Crow said, “Boris says hello, by the way.”
Carson chuckled. “Ah, Mr. Palenik. I haven’t seen him in a long time. Tell the good man I give my regards.”
Crow nodded. “Sure.”
They arrived at the study, and went inside. Crow took a seat in front of the large mahogany desk and Carson sat in his chair behind it, setting his cane aside. He smiled, and said, “So, Gulliver, we better get straight to business. I take it you know of the legend of Andvarinaut?”
Crow thought for a moment, before saying, “Isn’t it a ring from the Norse myths, with the power to produce gold?”
“Precisely. A weapon of Loki’s and an inspiration for Richard Wagner.”
Crow nodded, and then said, “So, I’m gonna take a wild guess as to what I’m doing here. You want me to find that ring?”
Carson shook his head, as he leaned back. “Of course not, it’s mythological.”
“So you’ve already found it?”
Carson smirked. “Yes”
“So what do you need me for?”
Carson sighed heavily. “I have never told you about my…competitor.”
“You haven’t needed to. I’m hired by your ‘rivals’ frequently.”
“Not this one. She has been a thorn in my side for many years. Her name is Lydia Rath. Once, a long time ago, she was my wife. We both shared a passion for antiquities, and would work together to find lost treasures. But…all good things come to an end when you find time to talk about things other than business.” Carson looked despondent, as he continued, “We separated a few years ago, and now she has become my primary competitor.”
Crow rubbed his bearded chin thoughtfully. “You’re right. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for her before.”
Carson continued, “But recently she has gotten her hands on what she claims is Andvarinaut, found in a small casket within an underground cave in Iceland. Of course it’s not the real thing, presuming there is a genuine article somewhere out there, but it’s old enough to be. More important, though, is the fact that I’ve been trying to find it for years, and good ol’ Lydia has just waltzed onto the scene and taken the damn thing!”
Crow smiled. “Ah, now I get it. You want to regain custody of your dignity.”
Carson shook his head. “Actually, I’ve succeeded in negotiating with Lydia. She is willing to trade Andvarinaut…for an item in my personal collection.”
Crow rolled his eyes. “Must be a worthless item, if you’re willing to trade…”
“Actually, it is the Ark wood.”
Crow looked stunned. “W-What? You’ve gotta be kidding!”
Carson had known Crow would not like this. “I’m sorry, Gulliver, but that’s the item I offered her. And she accepted.”
“You have any clue how much work it took me to get that damn thing for you? I should have died three times over! And now you’re giving it away?”
“Look, you said yourself that the thing was worthless. Hell, if there was even the slightest morsel of evidence to suggest that my prized piece of rotting timber was from Noah’s Ark, Richard Dawkins would have had me killed by now.”
“You could say the same thing about half of your collection, Jerry!”
“I haven’t needed to. You say it all the time.”
“Carson, I couldn’t sit down for a month because of that wood.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry, my old friend, but it’s the only thing she’s willing to trade.”
Crow let out a frustrated moan. After a moment of grumbling, he finally said, “What’s my reward? Thirty million, as usual?”
Crow sighed, and shook his head, muttering, “This is unbelievable…”
“We have arranged a meeting at the Romano Blanc restaurant in Paris. She will be there, with the ring, and you will be there, with that plank. You will trade, and bring Andvarinaut here. Then, and only then, will you get your reward.”
Crow looked about ready to say no to the entire endeavor, but to Carson’s satisfaction, he nodded, and grumpily muttered, “Gulliver Crow, at your service…”