The Crystal Skulls of Halsinar
Part 1 : Death of a Thief
The cold breeze blew drizzle into the eyes of Joe Hannigan as he climbed onto the top of the garden fence and dropped down the other side. He was shortly followed by his friend and accomplice Steve Fletcher, a dark-haired and rather overweight youth of nineteen.
"This is daft Joe. I mean like how do we know there's anything worth 'avin' in there?" Steve moaned.
"Shut it whingin'. All you ever like do is bloody whinge an' whine. We're doin' this job because I'm sick of playin' it small ok? This could mean some serious dosh as well as gettin' one over the gownies of this shit hole town" Joe whispered back angrily.
"You an' that chip on your shoulder" Steve moaned.
"Fuck off, I ain't got no chip just a whinging great slob next to me" Joe spat back.
However Joe Hannigan did have a massive chip on his shoulder and he knew it. A tall, slim youth with cropped blond hair, he burned with the strange, unfocused hatred of doomed youth. His father, whom he had met only once, was gas boiler fitter who had walked out before Joe was even born. His mother worked for a food packing company. Joe had a quick, agile mind yet his short temper had prevented him from aquiring the skills and discipline necessary to use this intelligence to get on. He had been expelled from one school for fighting, having glassed a boy in the corridor, and later from college for punching a Maths teacher. Joe hated the academics and university students of Oxford, where he lived. He despised their privileged backgrounds, assured confidence and aura of success. To Joe these people had never had to struggle or to cope with and real problems or issues in their lives. Joe was a loner, prefering the certainty of his own company to the compromises necessary to form friendships with the coseted and the shallow. The one exception to this was Steve. Bullied at school for being overweight, lacking in social skills, Steve was his comrade in outsiderdom. Steve was a highly skilled petty thief and Joe admired this greatly, despite Steve's lack of ambition and imagination.
Slowly they crept towards the house. One of thee downstairs lights was on, although the curtains were drawn.
"What if they ain't out after all?" Steve asked.
"Look, you said yourself that they'd probably leave lights on to make it look like someone's in. They do it in these posh houses right? I know what I overheard like. Waiting on the posh cunt and his snotty wife while all the time listening to them planning their weekend break in Rome. Dr Jeremy Lenton of Corpus Christie College Archaeology department. Married to the actress Brighette Jones. Didn't take much research on the net to find out where they live. No kids, no live in housekeepers from what I've like overheard. Dream job. She must have masses of jewellry and shit" Joe replied. It took Steve very little time to prize open the back door with a crowbar and his skill ensured that this made only a little noise. They searched around downstairs:
"Told you they were out" Joe said grinning. He picked up a bronze statuette off a side table and threw it at a large picture of Dr Lenton and his wife, smashing the glass.
"Hey what you do that for?" Steve exclaimed.
"Oh stop whinin'. Search upstairs!" Joe instructed.
Steve went upstairs and searched the main bedroom. He found a safe within one of the cupboards and fixed a small explosive device to it from his toolbag. He soon had the safe open and Brighette Jones' valuables in his bag, Meanwhile Joe had found Lenton's office and was searching around. He found a locked wooden cabinet in the corner:
"Hey, Steve, get here will ya!" he shouted. Steve arrived quickly:
"Get that cabinet thing open."
Steve prized the door open and they saw inside, arranged in a neat row, three crystal-glass skulls.
"Hey its only a load of crap Joe, we've got the jewellry, lets leg it", Steve said.
"Get them in the bag, I've read about these sorts of things. Something to do with lost civilisations in South America, Probably worth loads" Joe replied.
Steve reluctantly loaded the skulls into the bag and they left the house. They ran down the leafy close and took a shortcut through the park, arriving out onto the grounds of Balliol College, Joe throwing his arms around and laughing:
"Yeah that stuff will fetch a lot of dough. We'll pass it on to Flannigan sell through his Amsterdam connections" he shouted. Suddenly Steve dropped the bag and started to stagger.
"Hey Joe... I feel... faint....."
He fell to the ground and started vomiting. Blood oozed from his ears and nostrils. As Joe tried to help him, Steve's head seemed to glow and change into a crystalline skull with eyes that glowed red. Joe was filled with a strange, visceral horror and he grabbed the bag and ran.......
In the Mermaid Wine Bar in Cambridge, Ben Chatham swirled the wine around in the glass before downing it . He stared at the empty glass, tears forming in his dark eyes.
"I can't believe that you would do this to me" he said with a mixture of anger and despair. Emma Chatham glared back at him furiously:
"Ben do you seriously think that what we have is a marriage? Really?"
Ben looked up at her and took hold of her hand:
"I've given you a home haven't I? I come and see you whenever I can. You knew when we started this that my work would mean we'd be apart for a fair amount of time".
Emma was furious:
"Your work isn't the damn problem Ben and you know it, its just the excuse. You're the problem. I don't have a husband, I have an absentee landlord. You sleep with men behind my back, and don't you dare try and deny it again, and refuse even to reply to my calls and texts. Look Ben, I know we kind of used each other in this, I know that. But I want out. I thought I could handle it but I can't. I guess I love you too much."
Ben poured another glass of wine:
"Ok Emma, what if I agreed to go on holiday with you and showed you some attention. The South of France maybe."
"I don't want a damn holiday, I want a husband!"
As they argued, Barry Tuck, the waiter, had arrived with their bill. He leaned over to Emma:
"Not gettin' much attention in the bedroom love? How about I help you out there. I bet you're a right little wriggler" he whispered.
"How dare you say that. Go away you disgusting, crude man" Emma shouted. Barry Tuck held up his hands in a gesture of protest:
"Hold on love. Bit of an over-reaction there. Lovely jugs though. Anyway there's you're fucking bill" he said before walking off. Emma became emotional:
"So are you just going to sit there Ben? Why arn't you going and demanding to see the manager of this place to complain about that creature? You heard him insult your wife and you just sit there."
"*sighing* Its only Tuck. He's like that with all the women. Everyone complains but his managers won't sack him. Don't let him get to you."
"Its not him thats getting to me its you Ben. You just don't care do you? Huh? Its all Ben, Ben, Ben, me , me , me."
"Emma you are throwing your toys out of the pram. Overly hostile behaviour on your part is both unfair and unworthy of you. Earlier you suggested that we should divorce. Therefore if anyone has a right to be upset here it is me."
Ben flicked his hair out of his eyes and wiped back tears. He picked up one of the wine bar newpapers from the side table and started to flick through it. Emma was furious:
"I can't believe that you'd sit there reading the newspaper at a time like this" she shouted. Ben ignored her. His eyes focused on a story several pages in:
BURGLAR FOUND DEAD IN ELECTROCUTION RIDDLE
A burglar has been found dead in an Oxford college grounds with all the signs of being electrocuted. Police have revealed that Steve Fletcher,19, who had recently been released from a young offenders' institution had injuries consistent with exposure to a very high voltage however there were no signs of the likely source of this and no overhead powerlines....
A short time later, Ben arrived back at his apartment in Cambridge, without Emma. He threw himself down onto his leather sofa and sighed, burying his head in his hands:
"I'm shattered Kyle. I could just curl up into a ball on here and drift into oblivion" he said, languidly. Kyle grinned:
"Oh cam on Ben. You seen Emma I suppose."
"Yes I have Kyle, more's the pity. She wants a divorce."
As he spoke, the apartment door buzzer went. Kyle left Ben to his melancholy and answered:
"Er.hello. My name's Lenton. Dr Jeremy Lenton of Oxford University. Lecturer in Anthropology. I understand that Ben Chatham lives here."
"Who is it Kyle?" Ben said mournfully.
"Some Dr Lenton geezer from Oxford, says he's a lecturer like in Anthropology".
"Oh I've heard of him. He wrote a book on the Mayans but I didn't think much of it. Tell him to go away, I'm tired." Kyle looked apologetic:
"Sorry mate, Ben gets like this sometimes. Try tomorrer". Dr Lenton frowned:
"Look, I want to see Mr Chatham now on an important matter. I can make him a very rich man indeed......."
.................to be continued.