Disclaimer: These are not my characters, they belong to Renaissance Pictures. The situation is new for them.
WARNING: Adult themes. No sex, no real violence.
When he looked inside the amphora, his heart nearly stopped. There was just enough light to see the crumbling edge of the scroll. Right place, right layer...now if he could just open the pot without damaging the scroll inside any more than it already...
A shadow fell across his light. He ignored it. Whoever it was could wait.
"Pop. I need to ask you something."
"Not now, Jan. There's a scroll inside." He pried a fist sized chunk of the pottery off.
"Pop. It's really important. Remember when you told me all about the birds and the bees?"
"NOT NOW!", he thought. Then he glanced up to his daughter. Now when did she get to be so-female? She was thirteen, he guessed. And dirty. Her reddish hair flopped in her eyes. She was wearing an old shirt of his, which was too big for her, and a pair of his shorts, cinched around her skinny waist with a belt. Hiking boots and wool socks completed the outfit. He pushed his fedora out of his eyes. He'd have to take the time to get the kid some decent clothes.
Her green eyes pleaded with him to pay attention. He mentally sighed, and waited.
"Didn't you say I'd bleed every month?"
"Well, something must be wrong with me, cuz I missed my last two times."
Harry Covington's tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. He unstuck it and swallowed, praying to whoever that what he suspected wasn't true.
"Jan, have you been...um, been with boys?", he asked.
"Well, just Mahmoud. Hey, I'm fourteen. Almost fifteen, and I wanted to know what it was like to be a woman."
Her chin was set on defiant mode. Her arms were crossed over her chest, but her mouth was trembling. He bit back his comment about her just being a kid. His mind was whirling. She had no idea how dangerous their situation was. This was Turkey, a modern country-if you lived in a big city. But they were out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the members of the most fanatical sect of Muslims he had ever met. Mahmoud was the son of one of their leaders. If anyone ever found out that his daughter was unmarried and pregnant, she would be killed on the spot. Harry put the amphora down, walked over to his daughter, and put both hands on her shoulders.
"Jan, this is serious. You are probably pregnant."
Her green eyes filled with tears.
"I didn't know."
"That's my fault. I should have been more specific. I messed up."
"So did I. Pop? Do I have to have a baby?"
He clutched her close, afraid she would be taken away and killed if anyone even suspected.
"Jan, you can't tell anyone. NO ONE. Got it?"
"Yeah. But what am I going to do?", and her voice was small and far away.
"I don't know. I just don't know."
There were ways to deal with such matters-if you were local, and part of the women's network. Harry first had to figure out how to plug into that network. He went to Ahmad, his foreman, saying he wanted to find a woman who could help him get a love potion for his own use with an Englishwoman he knew in the next village. Ahmad grinned, and supplied directions to a woman's healer. If he was very lucky, she would help-or knew someone who could.
He drove his old Ford truck through the dusty hills until he reached a remote hut. Sheep grazed in front of the wooden structure. The sun was setting, and if circumstances had been different, he would have enjoyed the beauty of this peaceful place. His mind reached back to check on Janice, then forward to mentally kick himself. He waited in the truck until a woman in a black dress and scarf motioned for him to come in.
It was a bit dark inside. The smell of olive oil assaulted his nose. The lamp in the corner only raised strong shadows across the rough hewn table and chairs. The woman smiled. He almost laughed at himself for being happy she had all her teeth.
Her brown eyes reflected the fire and her strong features added to his confidence.
"I came because I need help. Is there someone who can help my little girl?"
She looked him in the eye. She was suddenly very serious.
"If she needs my help, perhaps she isn't so little?", she asked.
"She needs help very much. I...how much to help her? Does she have to come here? I'm afraid for her." Harry caught himself scratching his arm. He stopped.
"Five hundred Dinar."
Harry's throat constricted. How were they going to finish the dig? How were they going to eat? He opened his wallet, and took out the money. He handed the bills to the woman, she took them and put them down the front of her dress. Then she got up and went into the back of the hut. He could barely see her putting herbs into a burlap sack. When she came back, she was frowning.
"Do you have the stomach for this?", she asked.
"There will be a lot of blood-your child's blood. Do you know how to stop bleeding?"
"Yeah, I was in the war-Ambulance Corps. How will we know if this worked?"
"It will work. You must be careful that nobody sees or discovers what we are doing. If anyone finds out, we are all dead." Her voice was flat, serious, holding the bitter truth. Why had he dragged his teenaged daughter out into this dangerous place? And why had he practically ignored her? Yeah, the, "Destroyer of Nations"-important archeological discovery, and all that. But tonight, his priorities had been rearranged. He had to help Janice.
He drove back in the dark. Except for a few guards, the site was deserted for the night. He knew her could administer these strange herbs to Janice, and risk losing her now-or wait, and let her be killed outright. He got out of the truck and dragged himself into the tent. He had read about people having a heavy heart, but they didn't know the half of it.
She was asleep, her hair wildy spread on her pillow. She was pale beneath her tan, and she was still dirty, but to Harry she looked like an angel. He opened the sack and brought the herbs to his nose, sniffing them. They smelled like a thousand other herbs. He closed the bag, and started a little fire for the hot water they would need. Then he set up the clean rags, cool water, and soap. He washed his hands carefully, and leaned over to touch his daughter's shoulder. Her eyes flipped open.
"Hi Jan. I went to a healer. She gave me some herbs for you. I want you to know that this is dangerous, and...if I had any other choice..."
Her face registered surprise, then fear.
"You mean, I might die? What if I just went ahead and had my..."
Harry put his finger on her lips.
"Janny, these people don't think like we do. If they ever found out you were pregnant, they would kill you.", he whispered.
Her eyes went hard.
"Damn them. What business is it of theirs anyway? I guess I have to get rid of it then. What do I have to do?"
Harry had to admit that his daughter was far more of a trouper than he was. She drank her dose, and waited, her jaw clamped tightly. When her gut hurt, he only knew how much by how tightly she gripped his arm. He would have deep purple bruises there for weeks. When nothing happened, he gave her another dose. She clamped his arm in her vise-like grip and sweat covered her face. She started to shiver, then blood at first seeped, then flowed from between her legs. Harry got to work, using the cool water, then the rags and pressure. His heart sank as rag after rag was soaked with blood. Finally, the bleeding slowed, as the woman had said it would, and Harry fixed Janice up with a rag like she used monthly. She sank into an exhausted sleep, while Harry slunk off into the night to burn the evidence of the procedure.
The next morning, he made an excuse for her and let her sleep. He forced himself to be nice to Mahmoud, while mentally picturing himself torturing him. Harry had taken a trip down the Rhine River once, visiting the castles. At the time he had been horrified by the torture chambers, but now, he saw the instruments as useful.
Harry looked at the scroll, and wasn't even all that excited to read it and discover a heretofore unknown hero who went by the strangely unGreek name of Joxer. His heart was no longer in it until he had Janice safe. Feeling like the world's worst father, Harry wandered over to the makeshift bazaar the workmen's wives and other family members had set up at the dig site. Some dresses that would fit Janice caught his eye. And sandals. He got both, and was turning to go back home when he looked up into blue eyes.
A tall man with European features stood in front of him. He was well dressed, and stood as if he thought he owned the world.
"I say, aren't you Harry Covington?", he asked.
"Reginald Smythe. I work for the British Museum, and I wanted to talk with you."
Ordinarily, Harry would have booted the man out on his butt. This was not an ordinary day. He was beginning to get an idea as to how to keep Janice safe.
"Well, this must be your lucky day. I'm in a talking mood. Come with me.", said Harry and he lead Smythe up the hill to the collections tent.
The tent was cluttered with all sorts of items they has uncovered. It was mostly things every museum or collector had, and its main value was in telling the history of the site. The items were all cataloged, because the Turkish government was very strict about what items were allowed to leave the country. But, Harry had set aside certain items of particular interest, and due to the emergency, had never cataloged those. Smythe was drawn to them like a moth to the flame.
"My, what fine examples of Pre-Mycenaean weaponry. And a scroll? Is it anything new?"
"From what I have been able to tell, it is the adventures of a hero named Joxer."
"Joxer? Never heard of him.", said Smythe.
"It's an autobiography."
"Oh, how unusual. Are these all accounted for?"
Harry knew what he meant, and what he planned to ask next.
"All I want is enough to get Jan out of her and back to the states.", he thought.
"I haven't had time. Too busy.", said Harry as he mentally crossed his fingers.
Smythe fingered the scroll lovingly. He turned to Harry, and opened his wallet.
"Do you think five thousand pounds...might help you with your research?"
If he took the money, he would be nothing more than a thief. If he didn't, he left Janice in harm's way. Harry swallowed.
"I could do a lot of research on five thousand pounds." And he reached out for the pound notes.
Harry drove Janice to the docks himself. Ankara was a booming port. He made sure she was clean this time, and gave her some money, with explicit instructions on how to hide it. He also had given her a long lecture on the uses of condoms, just in case. He wanted to cry, but not in front of the kid. She was having a tough enough time as it was.
"You have the address for your Uncle Ike-right? And tell your Aunt Theda hello for me. Make sure you behave, and study hard, because I want you to come back and work with me, and we'll find this, "Destroyer of Nations" together-okay?"
"Pop, I don't want to go. Can't I just stay? Please? I'll be good."
"Janny, it isn't safe. If it was, I would want you right here. But...ah hell, I'm gonna cry."
It felt good to break down. The tears flowed as he held his little girl in his arms and wondered if he would see her again. He felt her tears trickle into his collar. He kissed her cheek and watched as she boarded the ship and then until the ship was a tiny dot on the water. Then he stood there wondering what kind of woman she might grow up into.
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