Archive for October, 2013

For the remainder of 2013, my posts will be from Layla Daltry’s perspective.  She’s the hero of The Compass Master, a daring antiquities hunter, and while on the trail of a rare, precious artifact is living undercover in Denver as Helena Soister…

My Chicago trip was a success, but not without danger.

As planned, my good friend Annie (her last name is a secret) met me at the airport and took me to an undisclosed location an hour by train from the city.  I spent the night on a comfortable air mattress, but all I could think about was that Gnostic papyrus scroll.  The one the Egyptian minister accuses me of smuggling out of his country.

Luck was with me: my old professor at the University of Chicago agreed to meet with me.  “Sunday.  Three O’Clock.  The architectural tour boat on the river,” he said to me on the phone.  He hung up before I could ask questions.

I started the day having fun with Annie around the city.  But when it was time to go to the boat I warned her we might be followed by unsavory underworld figures.  The ones who had stolen the scroll and framed me for the theft.

“We’ve been friends since we were freshman in college!” she protested.  “I won’t abandon you now!”

I wiped a tear from my eye, and together we got on the boat.

But the professor was nowhere to be seen.  I enjoyed the tour anyway (it lasted about an hour), and only as we pulled back up to the dock did he suddenly appear at my back.

“Don’t turn around,” he whispered.  “And don’t look in the men’s restroom. I left a body in there.”

“I usually don’t go into men’s restrooms anyway,” I murmured.  “What happened?”

“He was an unsavory underworld figure who only told me about the scroll after I stabbed him.  This is the rendezvous point where his colleague is leaving it for the buyer.”  I could feel the professor slip a folded piece of paper into my bluejeans’ back pocket.  And cup his hand over my shapely ass in the process.

“You would have made a terrible pickpocket, Professor,” I said.

“I know.  But I’m a very neat killer.  Even with a bloody body, that restroom is now cleaner than when I entered it.”

And with that he vanished.

I pulled out the crumpled slip of paper and read aloud the few words on it.

“The rendezvous is tomorrow afternoon at the the Art Institute of Chicago.”

Annie looked at me with alarm.  “But… We were going to go there anyway!”

“I know,” I mumbled. “What a suspicious coincidence…”

For her sake, I shrugged off my concern.  “Let’s go take some glamorous photos of each other and post one on my blog,” I said.  And off we went.


It’s tough writing these reports when I have to leave town.  But I have no choice.  I may be treasure hunting here in Colorado, but a minister in Cairo now suspects I smuggled an ancient Gnostic papyrus scroll out of his country.  I told him I rescued it from the black market.  He told me I stole it by raiding a tomb.  I told him I handed it over to an expert on Egyptian Antiquities.  He told me the expert was murdered.

Only an old professor friend can help me now, and he’s at my alma mater — the University of Chicago.  His contacts with the Egyptian underworld are legendary.  If I can meet with him and he can help me track down the scroll, I won’t be arrested.  I’ll write more in a couple days…

Stay tuned.  And stay safe.

For the remainder of 2013, my posts will be from Layla Daltry’s perspective. She’s the hero of The Compass Master, a daring antiquities hunter, and while on the trail of a rare, precious artifact is living undercover in Denver as Helena Soister. Here are the latest details of her mission…

I was stunned the moment I saw the photograph and read the online news story.

In an instant, my brain made the connection.  I could create a firestorm in the world of archeology, was my reaction.  One that just might blow my cover as I lay low here in Colorado.

According to the article, my friend, Larisa Vodolazhskaya (gad, those long Russian names!), a study researcher at the Archaeoastronomical Research Center in Russia, has rendered her judgment on some Bronze Age petroglyphs.

They had been carved on a slab of stone discovered by archeologists in 2011 in a burial mound in the Ukraine.  The mound has been dated to the 12th or 13th century B.C.   After studying the angles of the carvings and making calculations, Larisa has now concluded that the slab was likely used to mark the hours in the day at that particular latitude.  In short, it was a sundial, perhaps the most ancient sundial ever discovered.

All well and good.  But it was the photograph that took my breath away, and for good reason.

On the left is the Ukrainian sundial.

And here’s this one…

It’s a photo of a stone petroglyph in Crack Cave in southeastern Colorado.  On only two days of the year—the spring and autumn equinox—they are illuminated when the sun’s rays can reach into the cave at dawn.  Some scientists argue that this Colorado petroglyph is made up of Ogham words from the ancient Celts, likely Irish Christian monks who may have explored a stretch of the Arkansas River, perhaps around 500 to 800 A.D., and left their Ogham writings over an area stretching from Oklahoma into Colorado along the Arkansas River.  The theory is controversial.

These two photos confound me.  Why are these upper and lower vertical grooves transected by a horizontal one so similar in both?  Why are there small “circular depressions” around the Ukrainian sundial, but also a few on the Colorado petroglyph?  Depressions Larisa describes as “hour marks of an analemmatic sundial” that reveal a sophisticated grasp of geometry.

Yes, the native Americans had their own astronomical calendars, but none of them match the style of this Colorado one.  The Celtic connection remains.  But is there now an even more ancient Ukrainian one?

And is the Colorado petroglyph slightly different from the Ukrainian one to account for the change in latitude?

I suspect the scientists are wrong about Crack Cave’s “Ogham” markings.  Yes, it was likely Dark Ages Celtic monks who carved them, but instead of Ogham letters they are the calculations of a sundial.  And these monks learned this astronomical tradition from fellow Europeans who had been using it as far away as the Ukrainian steppes and since at least 1000 B.C.

But how was this knowledge passed down? How did these far-flung cultures meet and exchange their mathematics and sciences?

I hope the answers are not lost in the mists of time.  I hope to make my own discoveries soon.  And then the firestorm of controversy will begin.

For the remainder of 2013, my posts will be from Layla Daltry’s perspective. She’s the hero of The Compass Master, a daring antiquities hunter, and while on the trail of a rare, precious artifact is living undercover in Denver as Helena Soister. Here are the latest details of her mission…

It was a good day.  Sunny and warm with most of the city again distracted by a Broncos’ game.  I could hear happy shouts through open windows whenever the team scored.

The scarcity of people out in the open meant I was free to work on my target practice.  So I went up to my condo building’s rooftop terrace while carrying a silent weapon: my slingshot.

It’s a humble weapon, very Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer and not very Twenty-First Century, but one never knows what skills might come in handy.  I fired the small steel balls at the air conditioning units (covered and padded for the coming winter).  Their impacts were so hard they bounced and rolled off to the opposite edge of the roof.  Never mind that I have a jar full of them:  I climbed over the terrace fence and retrieved them. Better to retrieve and reuse than reorder.  Still, I couldn’t resist seeing how far my trusty little weapon might shoot, and sure enough it sent balls past the farthest edge of the building and onto a neighbor’s roof.

Next up was an important errand to run:  I needed cat food and kitty litter.  But on the way to the store in the cheap little red car Helena drives (I so miss my Jeep and my Dublin penthouse), I couldn’t resist a moment of luxury:  I stopped at the mall and went into Neiman Marcus.

My cover can never shop in such a place and doesn’t much care.  But I care.  With her limited income I restricted myself to a sales rack and found a summer sweater marked down from $100 to $34.  The label on it was practically a short story, full of BS but I still loved it:

SOFT JOIE combines supple fabric blends, softened hues and refined, feminine silhouettes creating a range of effortless staples.

Lavish cotton and jerseys draped organically from the body allow comfort and ease.

Whether it’s just your everyday t-shirt or a layered beach look , SOFT JOIE emphasizes casual elegance and is most worthy of your cool, care-free lifestyle.

At last!  An item of clothing that is “most worthy” of me!  So I bought it.

And in the final two seconds of the game, the Broncos scored a field goal against the Cowboys and won.  That was an ending worthy of a thriller.