Hayden paused, unsure how to answer. Then he offered. “Do you mean were we put on this planet with a higher purpose?”
“Exactly.” Maximus responded with some enthusiasm.
After a moment of serious thought, Hayden replied. “I do and I don’t. In my studies of history, I’ve read numerous accounts of cultures and their beliefs, mostly in their striving for destiny, some even having achieved their lofty goals. But by that same token, I’ve seen those same predictions in others, yet their civilizations fall.” He leaned back. “Rome for instance is one such happenstance.”
“But Rome was great for a very long time.” Maximus retorted. He was enjoying this educational tit-for-tat with someone would could speak to it.
Hayden shrugged. “If destiny was meant to have an expiry date, then I would agree with you, Rome did a great job.”
Danica turned and looked around the room to see what happened to Hayden as the man speaking now is not the same piss shooting, beer swilling, trash talker she met in her camp.
“My sentiments exactly.” Maximus replied with energy.
Hayden gave Maximus a quizzical look, not having thought he had provided any form of mutual agreement.
Maximus resumed. “Destiny can be temporary and easily lost if not properly sought out, pursued and most importantly seized.”
Danica joined the conversation. “What exactly are we expected to seize by the way?”
Maxima entered the discussion. “Something of the utmost importance, which we feel…” Maxima and Maximus shared a look. “…has been around since the dawn of time. And I must clarify, not since the dawn of man, we mean of time.”
Hayden was a specialist in this area, yet he was hesitant to agree. “Treasure hunters have been around for centuries. What makes you so sure your treasure is any more real than another?”
“Destiny.” Maximus replied with such finality, he seemed to feel no other explanation was necessary. But he did offer more. “We’re not looking for gold, sapphires or piles of diamonds. We seek miracles. The kind that can change the world as we see it.”
Hayden chose to add some reality to the conversation. “You’re not the first people to think you can change the world.”
Maximus relaxed, changing the subject. “Did you know most of the staff here fears me Doctor Lattimer?”
Hayden had no idea. Hehad only just met him.
Danica said nothing. She admitted to herself, she was one of them.
Hayden replied. “Well I don’t. You asked me here as a consultant. You can’t have a frank discussion being scared of the answers.”
Maxima leaned forward and spoke to Maximus, loud enough to be heard. “I like him.”
“I absolutely agree.” Maximus never let his eyes waiver from Hayden. “We’re regular people like everyone else. We’re simply better at seizing opportunities and willing to take bigger risks.”
Danica re-asked the question, getting more confident with Hayden at her side. “What risks are we talking about?” Sensing the mentioning of the word ‘risk’ had importance since from the start, Maximus had stated, he was not willing to waste time.
Maxima drew a small cart from under the table, one Hayden and Danica had not seen upon entry. From it, she withdrew two books, both old in appearance, wrapped in cellophane and a third, newer, obviously a photocopy. Maxima introduced them. “The two on the left are the originals. We will keep those. The copy here, we will also keep.” She gestured to Amy as she returned to the conference room with three large pre-printed binders filled with papers and files. “Amy here will provide you a copy of all three of these sources.”
Amy handed all three manuscripts, bound in heavy stock paper, two distributed to Hayden and one to Danica.
Maxima continued. “Your three copies are for you to read. You should have plenty of time on the plane.”
Hayden found his thoughts from the morning resurface. ‘This is why our luggage was returned to the airport I suspect.’
Maxima threw in a small warning. “But do it quickly as all three are copied in ‘Phantom’ ink, a trademark product of Maximum Pharmaceuticals, one which cannot be photocopied in any way and after seventy two hours will evaporate in its entirety, taking all the text with it.” She smiled proudly. “Unrecoverable by any means of scientific reparation. We have a contract with the CIA in the US Department of Defense to provide them an unlimited supply.”
Hayden was surprised at the efforts taken to secure this information. “What are they?”
Maximus turned very serious. “The first is the original logbook of the ship known as Leviathan. Discovered in 1863 adrift in the Southern oceans.” He flipped to the rear of his copy. “As you will see in yours, it is missing several pages, all having been ripped out and destroyed by a former crew member before the ship was salvaged.”
Hayden and Danica moved closer together to review and share the first tome.
Maximus pointed to the second one, the copy and quickly proceeded. “The second is a digital copy of the ship’s log of the Serenade, written by the one who discovered the Leviathan at that time. One Captain Rios. The original logbook is in Belfast, with a museum that refuses to part with it.” He provided that last statement with a snarl under his breath. “Irish Idiots.” He clenched his fists and released. “There was really no need to copy it in ‘Phantom Ink’ since you can still order a copy online for less than ten dollars, but for continuity’s sake, we did.”
Hayden looked at the cover and slid it to the side for Danica to examine.
Maximus ended with. “The third and final one is the partial journal of a madman from the end of the century who is rumoured to have been the Leviathan’s sole survivor and the destroyer of the Leviathan’s logbook pages.”
Hayden drew the three books together, stacking them one atop the other. He carefully asked. “Not to repeat myself, but what does this have to do with the chamber?”
Maximus replied. “The same reason I asked my first question. I believe for every cause, there is a cure. And God has tasked mankind to find it. I believe your chamber and these books will lead me to one of them.”
Danica sat idly by, watching their exchange, unsure what she could offer at this point. They were debating history, for which she was not as well armed as Hayden.
Maximus continued. “Did you know Maximum Pharmaceuticals funds over three million dollars annually into the expeditions around the world, from oceans to jungles, from mountains to ravines, all searching for such secrets?” He spoke with proud satisfaction. “If there is something to be found, I want Maximum Pharmaceuticals to be the one to find it.”
Hayden and Danica shared a quick look.
Danica motioned for Hayden to hold the lead.
“I’m not saying I believe or not, but how can you be so sure it even exists?” Hayden asked kindly, turning to face Maximus, not knowing what ‘it’ is.
Maximus took a deep cleansing breath. “God helps those who help themselves.”
Hayden interjected with. “Hezekiah 6.1”
For a long moment, Maximus was very quiet. Finally he spoke. “I underestimated your knowledge of the Bible Doctor Lattimer.”
Hayden brushed it off.
If you asked, most archeologists knew the Bible. It was considered standard reading for anyone who researched the past as no other book has lasted the test of time as well.
With the exception to the Quran, but Maximus had not referred to it.
At least as of yet anyway.
Hayden knew the Quran as well. It spoke to equally great stories, with just a different view of the world in its interpretation.
Good archeologists read them both.
Great ones supported them.
In fact, during his studies, his professor demanded, out of respect for those who worshiped the Quran, it only be read wearing cotton gloves. The reason was clerics and worshippers alike in the Middle East felt it was disrespectful to read it with your bare hands. Hayden may not share their faith, but he understood their desire for respect and honoured it.
Hayden added. “My mother was a Catholic, as were my grandparents. They taught me that one cannot choose to disagree with something unless they understand it first. While I don’t agree with all its views, I also don’t disagree either.”
Maxima looked impressed. “They sound like smart people.”
Hayden replied proudly. “I think so.”
Even Danica found herself looking at Hayden in a different way.
Maximus took a breath and resumed. “So I need the two of you to help me find one of God’s secrets.”
Hayden turned to Danica and back to both Maximus and Maxima. “Sounds like a daunting task?” He offered. “What makes you think we can really help?”
Maxima took over at this point. “Your discovery of the Tribal chamber for one. It describes an island we believe has been discovered before, but for some reason, is now lost.”
Danica, knowing she was a part of this team, asked again. “Okay? But why us?”
Maximus stated. “Destiny.”
As a scientist, Danica had no response to that statement.
Hayden did. “Destiny notwithstanding, how?”
“We have a specific mission in mind.” Maximus offered carefully. “But before we get to the specifics, have either of you ever heard of the ship called Leviathan?”
Both Danica and Hayden exchanged looks of confusion.
Neither had a clue.
Hayden did not keep himself apprised of European history, least of all, Maritime history. It rarely conflicted with his work in tribal South America.
Danica on the other hand, avoided history altogether. Not because of the subject matter, but because, if it was not under a microscope or analyzed by dissection, she never needed to look.
Maxima explained. “It was an American ship found adrift in the late 1800’s, 1863 as my husband said to be exact, with all crew lost with the exception of one.”
Hayden and Danica sipped at their coffees, cooling with each minute they listened.
“To this day, no one knows what happened to that ship, its crew or why?” Maxima pointed out.
Hayden threw in. “The Bermuda Triangle had many such stories. Why is this one so special?”
Maximus leaned forward, his weight pressing on the table until it actually groaned. “The Leviathan’s Logbook of course. From what we’ve been able to procure, it appears the survivor went to great lengths to destroy the path they took before their crew was lost, by eating the last eight pages. So unlike the missing ships from the Triangle, this one did not want to be remembered.”
‘Eaten the pages?’ Hayden was getting intrigued. “But this helps us how?”
“Well, before the pages vanished, the previous ones referred to an Island of Eternal Night.”
Danica now knew why her boss called it as he did.
Hayden took a sip of his coffee. “But we don’t know where it is?”
“Yet…” Maxima let that word trail off. “But we now have a starting point. Admittedly, without the location from the logbook’s missing pages, we chose the next obvious route. The survivor.” She pointed to the journal. “From our research, he was placed in a mental institution upon Rios’ return to England. From there the reports are sketchy, mostly due to records being lost in the fire.”
Danica was deeply entrenched now in the story. “What fire?”
Maximus found himself feeling elated as he could relate to others what he had learned over the years, like a story teller around a campfire telling the scouts about the world they live in, and of course, eventually, the man with the hook. “At the turn of the century, when the facility closed due to a suspicious fire that broke out, it was rumoured the patient had written and kept a complete journal of his survival, including more on this Island of Eternal Night.”
Maxima continued where Maximus left off. “As stories would have it, before the fire, his original doctor finally convinced the patient to provide the location he remembered into his journal. Making real what he feared most.”
Hayden gestured to the journal on the table. “If you have the journal, what do you need us for?”
Maxima smiled demurely. “The patient tore out the last eight pages before he was killed and of course, with it, the location of the lost island.”
Everyone was quiet for a good solid minute.
Hayden looked around the room “And how do you expect us to find an island neither of you can find, with two books missing the directions?” He opened his hands in mock surrender. “Unlike the movies, us archeologists are actually quite tame.”
Maximus laughed. “Yes, but your knowledge is invaluable.”
Hayden leaned on the table. “But these books are written in English right? What do you need me for specifically as it’s obviously not to translate?”
Maximus pointed to the items. “With the journal, we have learned a great deal. Hopefully when you read it, you will also. But with a new set of eyes, you may see something we missed. And with your direct insight into the chamber, maybe even make connections no one else could.”
“Is eight of any significance?” Danica threw in, to be part of the discussion, referring to the pages.
Maxima shrugged. “Likely not. The nut probably got full. Good quality paper at that time was pretty thick.”
Hayden asked the question both Danica and he were thinking. “Where are we flying? Back to South America?”
Maximus smiled. “England.”
Hayden was surprised at that. “What’s in England?”
Maximus looked like the Cheshire cat with his wide smile. “It seems, as of yesterday, in London, there is an auction taking place. A collector has found and offered what is believed to be the remaining eight pages of this very madman’s journal.”
Even Danica was confused. “And you want to send us?”
Maximus’ mood darkened momentarily. “It appears the owner, an eccentric pest, will only sell the pages to a reputable institution of learning.”
Hayden understood now. “And because I’m an archeologist…” He turned to Danica. “A real doctor...”
Danica rolled her eyes.
“And part of a revered institution of learning for Canada.” Hayden continued. “You want me to get it.”
“Exactly.” Maximus interjected. “We will provide you everything you need, including a blank cheque to pay the collector whatever he wants for these pages.”
“What’s on them?”
“If I knew that, you wouldn’t be going.” Maximus smiled. “But if it adds more yellow bricks to the road, I want it.”
Hayden was amused for the first time since they started talking.
Maximus said ‘I’ not ‘we.’
Danica listened intently and she too heard the very same thing, but she was not as amused.
“So all you need to do is fly to London, get us the pages and then when you return, either join us…” Maxima posed the offer. “Or leave and return to your lives.”
Hayden found this too sparse an explanation, flying him and Danica across the world to purchase from a nutcase eight pages written in a century old mental institution, followed by asking them to join their crusade when they did not know what they were after. “You have to at least tell us what these pages lead to.”
Maximus leaned back in his chair and took a few long moments to consider. “Okay I’m a fair man. That and I need you. Something most people will never hear from me.” He gulped down his protein drink in one pull. “So let’s get down to it. Quid Pro Quo Doctor. I tell you something, you get me something.”
Hayden smiled. “Done.”
Maximus asked. “As a scholar and specifically an archeologist of South American lore, have you ever heard of the Fountain of Youth?”
Hayden wanted to make a joke, but once he saw the look in Maximus’ face, he knew he was dead serious. He held his control to mock Maximus and answered. “Like as in Ponce de Leon?”
“Yes. But our former Puerto Rican governor never found it.” Maximus retorted.
Hayden waited a few seconds. “But most stories refer to the Fountain being in Florida, or at best, in Bimini in the Caribbean.”
“Yes. But all have proven to be dead ends.” Maximus smiled, obviously having paid a great deal to search out these very avenues. But he was very impressed with Hayden’s intelligence. “But if I had to look to all leads, Hereodotus of Ancient Greece referred to it being in Europe. But we can’t chase all the stories out there can we?”
Hayden could not help himself. “I’ve also heard lots of stories about the Easter Bunny, but I don’t sit up on Sunday with a net in my hand hoping to catch him.”
Danica’s neck snapped sharply in Hayden’s direction, shocked at his remark.
Maximus stared at Hayden and let out a large heartfelt laugh. “Doctor Swift mentioned your sarcastic side. I actually find it refreshing. I truly appreciate when I can speak to someone who sees me as a person, not a CEO.”
Hayden grinned. “I still respect you, don’t get me wrong, but you have to understand, I try to work within the parameter of my studies.”
Maximus asked the question. “But what if?”
“What if what?” Hayden replied.
“What if the Fountain of Youth exists?” Maxima interjected. “Would it not qualify as a part of your studies?”
Hayden was struck silent. He thought about the question and answered. “Technically yes. But these are stories told by soothsayers and dreamers. People’s word passed down through the generations. There has never been any tangible proof of such a thing as the Fountain of Youth. At best, only rumours.”
“Is not all archaeologies the study of the past’s stories as they are passed down, verbal, written or otherwise? As well as its rumours?” Maximus gently prodded.
“And not only that, because none of us were really there at the time, isn’t all history simply the word of another?” Maxima added.
Hayden could offer no argument as both were essentially right. But he did point out. “You refer to this as one of God’s miracles. But I’ve studied the Bible and know it well. And I’ve never once seen reference to the Fountain of Youth.”
Maxima smiled. “Do you know how many chapters were considered for the Bible before it was constructed, edited out for the simple fact the creators knew full well no one would carry around and worship from a fifty thousand page book?” Maxima stated matter-of-factly. “The Catholic community had to choose the best and the brightest stories. The ones to garner the greatest following. While I’m not saying the Fountain of Youth was in those ones either, I’m also not saying it was not. So not having it in the Bible does not speak to its significance.”
Hayden found himself stuck for an answer.
“But let’s look beyond the miracle of youth.” Maximus gestured to move the conversation forward. “What if it also heals all wounds as believed? And I mean ALL? Can you imagine the medical potential?”
‘And the profit margins.’ Danica mused.
Hayden offered up. “The Holy Grail is known to do the same thing.”
Maximus shrugged it off. “Yes, but the Holy Grail is lost somewhere in Europe. I already have a team in Scotland in Kilwinning on that and they have reached a dead end for the time being.”
Hayden would have joked again, but he could tell, Maximus was serious.
All four of them sat and took a drink from their respective beverages, Amy having replaced Maximus`s quickly and quietly.
Maximus took control again. “Do you know how much money Adolf Hitler spent searching out legends and mystical artifacts?” He paused for a few seconds to let that sink in. “Millions.”
“And yet he still lost the war.” Hayden sanswered. “Plus we’re not comparing ourselves to him are we?”
Maximus dismissed the comment with his hand, but still answered the question. “Of course not. All I’m saying is leaders throughout history have also believed in such tales, and on less evidence than we have. So, can all these people be wrong?”
“Doesn’t mean they’re right either.” Hayden shot back.
Maximus nodded. “I’ll give you that. But what can it hurt to look?”
Danica and Hayden shared a quick glance and shared the same thought. ‘It really can’t hurt to look.’
Danica took a quick drink of coffee for a burst of energy. “But in the chamber, it refers to an evil that inhabits the island.”
Maximus took another deep chug from his glass. “Yes. I’ve heard this tale before. I’ve also heard the island is haunted, or cursed or stained by sin. My personal favourite is the devil himself created that which lives on the island and God had to come down from the heavens to make the island its prison.”
Hayden was amused as that was almost exactly how the travelling tribe had put it.
Hayden finally knew Maximus`s mind was set. Hayden threw out the gauntlet. “So what do we have to do?”
Maximus proudly clenched both fists knowing Hayden was hooked.
Maxima pulled from her interior jacket two envelopes. “You’re going to fly to London tomorrow. Inside each envelope is an invitation to the auction, a new corporate credit card without the Maximum Pharmaceuticals logo, in case the collector has any issues with you being with a corporation, a reservation card for the hotel and finally, a one way First Class airline ticket each.”
“One way First Class?” Danica chipped in.
Hayden sarcastically threw in. “You’d be surprised how few people book economy if given a choice.”
Danica shook her head with a glare. “I meant the one way part?”
Maximus smiled. “Your return ticket will be electronic, waiting at the airport for when you leave. Just in case anything happens and you need more time. So we left it open.”
Hayden could not imagine what would delay them, but then again, he was being asked to find the Fountain of Youth too.
Maxima slid the individual envelopes to both of them. “I want you both to procure for us the last eight pages from the madman’s journal and bring it back here immediately. Price is no object and as you can understand, failure is not anticipated.”
Danica grinned with tightly held teeth, not yet understanding her role in this. She finally offered her opinion. “I was planning to return to South America.”
Maxima shook her head. “To a destroyed burial chamber in the midst of a South American mess with lawmakers seeking blame. No Doctor Swift, your skills are best teamed up with Doctor Lattimer. Considering what the two you have accomplished thus far in such a short amount of time, separating you now would be paramount to bad luck.”
Danica crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair. ‘Great. I’m a walking rabbit’s foot.’
Hayden turned to Maximus. “I’ll go. But do you honestly think a few missing pages from a century old journal written by nut-job will point you in the right direction?”
Maximus stood up motioning for them the meeting was coming to a close. “I find a quote befitting this situation: ’In every madman is a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for who delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him”
Hayden retorted. “Tell that to his psychiatrist.’
Maximus smiled. “I don’t need to. I have the files from the institution when it closed down. It included not only his doctor’s assessments over the thirty years the patient remained with him, but his personal theories as well. It included an unexpected diagnosis of one Captain Rios, who though not a patient, visited enough times to be considered as such. According to the good doctor, Rios’ obsession with the dark island and what he believed was a mystical place that healed all wounds was evidently clear. It’s real.”
Danica could understand Maximus’ need to seek out the island, especially if it truly existed.
As a pharmaceutical giant in Canada, a mystical healing source would be worth millions, if not billions, especially if they found it first.
Hayden casually mentioned. “Before we leave, you should know, nowhere in the chamber did I see reference to the phrase the Fountain of Youth.”
Maxima also rose. “But you did see the phrase Eternal Life?”
Hayden shrugged. “Eternal Life to indigenous people means lots of things. The world’s ability to restore itself, the afterlife, and many more.”
“She did not ask for your opinion of it.” Maximus for the first time was hard in his response. “She asked if you saw the phrase Eternal Life.”
Hayden nodded, slightly chastened. “Yes I did.”
Maximus seemed to relax again. “Let’s be honest, I’m willing to fund this little expedition to London, pay you an exorbitant consulting fee, and make a substantial donation to your University towards whatever you deem is needed. What really have you got to lose except a few more days, presuming you don’t join us after?”
Hayden stood and took Maximus’ open hand. His palm almost seemed to vanish in it. “You sir are a salesman. I accept.”
Danica knew in his acceptance, she would be forced to do so. She got up with a small touch of defeat. “I guess you can count me in too.”