Jeweled History: A Creative Writing Series - The Golden Bowl, The Presentation (Chapter 4)
|Gold & Lapis Bowl looted from the National Museum of Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.
Chapter 4: The Presentation
“We’re here Sleeping Beauty,” Adam announced. “Wipe that drool off your chin and let’s go.”
Even though the drive to the Saruq Al Hadid Archeology
Museum only took a few minutes from the café; EJ couldn’t help but wish it had
been both longer and shorter at the same time.
Shorter to get this all over with sooner and longer to buy her more time
to try and figure a way out of it.
Either way, time did not appear to be her ally.
“Hrumphf,” EJ snorted as Adam pulled his car into one of the
reserved spaces near the museum entrance.
“Come on, Red,” Adam snickered. “You might as well plaster one of those fake
television smiles on your face and get this over with.”
“Have you watched any of my broadcasts,” EJ asked rhetorically. “I never smile. Kind of hard when bombs and bullets are
flying in your direction.”
Adam laughed and bit the smart retort down before turning in
his seat to look at EJ, “You’re going to be
fine. You’re going to do fine. No one – and I mean no one
– is going to get within ten feet of you if you don’t want them to. Give your speech. Take a bow and then hand the seals over. You’ll be headed home before you know it. Where, I might add, I will have a team
deployed on your six until this threat is over,” he emphasized.
“I don’t need a team of babysitters, Adam,” EJ snapped
“I know you don’t need
them but you’re going to have them until we are both satisfied that the
potential for someone to do you harm because of this story becomes a non-issue. Now tell me what’s really got you twisted.”
EJ knew he was right.
It wasn’t just the threat on
her life or the feelings of being followed.
It was something else entirely and she just couldn’t put her finger on
it. It was like her mind would not
cooperate with her. And never mind the
intuition or gut feeling that was currently threatening to make her breakfast
come up. She just could not seem to
shake the foreboding sense that was looming large all around her.
“Adam,” she started, “it’s more than that. I can’t pinpoint it but something just feels…Off. My gut is screaming at me. It feels like I’m standing at the edge of
some mystical cliff waiting for either the next shoe to drop or for my brain to
tell me the next step. I feel like I am
stuck and falling all at once. Very
little scares me but for some reason I feel terrified.”
It was all EJ could do not to start sobbing. She was sure that Adam would think she had
lost her mind. She could barely meet his
eyes. All her life, she’d been the
fearless one. The brave one who pushed
forward – sometimes to her own detriment.
But now…it was different. It felt different and she didn’t know
why. And that scared her even more than knowing there was a price on her
“You’ve always reported the story, Red. You’ve never been a part of it before. It’s a new role for you,” Adam said
softly. “And this story is
different. It’s not a one and done. Being embedded in a war zone is a very
different kind of danger than knowing that someone or some group has
essentially put a hit out on you. That
kind of knowledge and stress is bound to make you feel a little unbalanced.”
“I know. But I feel
like there is more to it,” EJ whispered.
“It’s not the threat of harm that has me feeling off. It’s this feeling of a change on the wind
that I just can’t place.”
Adam reached for EJ’s hand across the console. His hand dwarfed hers and using the pad of
his thumb, he began making small, deep circles on her palm. Within minutes, her breathing had evened and
she looked a little more like her normal, and slightly ferocious, self.
“Besides,” he said softly, “you never know where this story
may continue to take you. It could be
exactly what you’ve been searching for, Red.
You’ve spent the better part of the lifetime I’ve known you in a
near-constant state of upheaval - whether you want to admit and acknowledge it
or not. Whatever it is you’ve been
searching for in your life might be down this path that you seem so resistant
explore. Who knows, it could be the man
of your dreams at the end.” Adam winked.
For the first time in what felt like years, EJ laughed so
hard her ribs ached by the time she was able to compose herself. She looked at Adam with a proud grin on his
face and nearly doubled over in a fit of laughter again. Several deep breathes later, she could
finally look at him without becoming hysterical.
“That must be it. I
have been looking for my dream guy to come and whisk me away from the career I
love and turn me into his trophy wife,” she chuckled. “No, I’m certain that is not it.”
Adam waggled his bushy brows at her, “Don’t knock it. Some young buck may just knock your socks off
and have you rushing to leave all this behind!”
“Highly unlikely,” she smiled.
“Come on, you feeling ready to go inside now,” he raised
those same bushy brows in question.
“Yea, but no more talk of mysterious men sweeping me off my
feet or I may run away from you just to avoid the conversation,” EJ retorted as
she climbed out of the car. She did have
to admit, he had set her mind a little more at ease than it had been only
“Let’s get this show on the road,” she said with a renewed
sense of optimism and confidence. Adam
guided her to the front door, pulling it open when she stopped mid-step to face
him, “Thank you.”
“I got you, Red,” he grinned down at her.
The smile on Adam’s face brought a flood of memories back as
they walked into the museum lobby. She tried
not to think about how that one wrong decision to sneak out into the Afghani
night decades ago was and how very different her life could have turned out had
it not been for Adam’s kindness – even if it was, perhaps, motived by a bit of
guilt. He could have had her prosecuted or
at the very least shipped back to the United States with her mother. Instead, he had convinced the MP to let him
take her, kicking and screaming, all the way back to his dorm where he had sat
her down and let her spend the next several minutes calling him all sorts of
names and berating him for leading her mother on. When she had finally been out of words, he
had taken a deep breath and sighed before telling her she was right. Young EJ had no retort for his admission –
especially since she wasn’t expecting him to admit wrong-doing in any fashion
to a teenager. But he did. Adam agreed that he shouldn’t have given her
mother false hope. He should have been
more honest and upfront. He should have explained
his situation for the word “Go” with Sarah.
Then he had apologized and told her the real truth. The truth about his brother’s wife and “their”
baby on the way. How Elliott had been
killed. His wife and baby left with no
way to make ends meet and no medical care.
By the time he was done with his apologies and explanations, EJ was
ready to go back to her mother and defend him.
She had tried to persuade him to let her convince her mother to give him
another chance. Adam had told her it was
too late and that it was better (and easier) for her mother to hate him. He had said that he could never be what her
mother wanted so long as his brother’s wife and child still needed him. He couldn’t divorce her and leave her and the
baby with no insurance and support. “One
day, maybe,” he had said to her.
EJ had continued to sneak out each night to visit Adam. He had put her on his “Authorized Visitors”
list. Eventually she was able to visit
him during the day. Her mother had continued
to wallow in the room they rented; trying to find a way back to the
States. She was determined not to let
EJ’s grandmother know the trip had ended poorly and she didn’t have money to
pay for the airfare home. EJ’s mother
never did like admitting when she had made a mistake and would certainly never
ask her grandmother for help. The
‘I-told-you-so’ would have been too much too for her to bear…again. So until her mother caved and asked for help
or found another solution, EJ was free to roam and learn what she could on this
Adam taught her how to shoot. Gave her pointers on what to look out for when
she was wandering on her own. He had
said her red curls and pale complexion were a dead giveaway that she wasn’t a
local. They made her a target for
thieves, bullies and any number of people with “less than gentlemanly
intentions,” he had said.
EJ chuckled in her mind and gently shook her head at the
memory as they entered the museum lobby, “He would have known.”
Once inside, there was a group of mainly men standing in a
group, talking amongst themselves.
Several wore the familiar olive green uniform of the Dubai Police
Force. A small handful were in suits,
studying something on tablets and occasionally looking up to give direction or
instruction to those gathered. Then,
there were the other men in the group, all of above average height and built
like a brick house. All were dressed
similarly in dark, sand colored tactical pants and matching shirts, black
shoulder holsters and black boots. A
single woman caught EJ’s attention. She
was dressed similarly to the men in the sand pants. Something about her seemed to command respect
“Those must be your ‘friends,’” EJ chided Adam. “They don’t stand out at all.”
“Those are just the ones you see,” he smirked. “They’re meant to be seen. Call them a psychological deterrent. The others are the ones who will blend in unless
shit hits the fan.”
“Good to know,” EJ shook her head. “And here I thought you were going to pull
together something subtle.”
“Subtle isn’t really my thing,” Adam smirked as they
approached the group. EJ smiled and
shook her head. Nope, nothing about Adam
As they got closer to the group, one of men in suits looked
up and spotted EJ. His smile was large
and welcoming; it immediately put EJ at ease and she breathed a sigh of
relief. This must be the Archeology
Museum’s Director. He clicked his tablet
off and walked through the group to meet them, an air of excitement following
“Ms. Anne, I am so pleased to finally meet you in person,”
he exclaimed. “I’ve heard so much about
you that I feel, a bit, as if I’m finally getting to meet a celebrity! Sarek speaks so highly of you.”
“Thank you so much, that’s very kind of you to say, Mr……”
“Oh! I’m so sorry. I got so excited that my manners seem to
have completely left me,” the man replied.
“William Devontine, Director of the Saruq Al Hadid Archeology Museum. Sarek and I studied together at Cambridge
many moons ago.”
EJ turned to Adam to explain, “Sarek is the Director of the
National Museum of Iraq, Sarek Abdel. He
was one of the individuals who got me thinking and inspired me to keep digging
into antiquities black market.”
“Ah, I understand,” Adam said before continuing, “Mr.
Devontine, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
I’m Adam Richter and I see you’ve already met most of my team.”
“Yes, yes. They are
quite impressive,” William said. “But
you don’t have to be so formal. Please,
you may all call me William. Shall I
show you around?”
“Absolutely, I would love a quick tour.”
“Red, if don’t mind, let me introduce you to my team
first. Then while William is giving you
a tour, I can ensure the appropriate coordination is happening between the
security staff and law enforcement before the presentation begins” Adam
“Oh yes, of course, I forgot. Thanks Adam.
William, if you wouldn’t mind giving me just a few more moments before
we kick off the tour?”
“Of course, I’ll be out in the gardens making sure the
set-up is going as planned. Just have
one of the security officers radio me and I’ll come right back to show you
around our museum,” he replied.
“Thank you, so much,” EJ nodded. “Adam, which intimidating young man would you
like to introduce me to first?”
Adam laughed before gently taking EJ’s elbow and guiding her
towards the very obvious group of armed men.
Adam bent down and quietly whispered in her ear as they made their way
towards the group, “You never know, Red…A few of them are single….”
Just as they got within earshot of the group, the lone woman
stepped forward and the group turned towards them. She was slightly taller than EJ. Standing maybe 5-foot-nine, she had a seriously
imposing aura about her. Her dark brown,
almost black hair and dark eyes created a striking contrast against her
abnormally pale skin. In fact, EJ
thought she would make an exceptional Morticia Adams for Halloween.
“Stephanie Rice,” the woman said as she stuck her hand out,
“you must be EJ.”
"Rice here is going to be with you every step of the
way,” Adam said. "Don’t let her
fool you though. She knows her shit and
is the best I’ve got. I’d put money on
her against any man here."
“Adam talks about you constantly,” Rice said. “I don’t think I’ve heard him brag about
“It’s nice to meet you, Stephanie. I’m looking forward to having you here.”
“My pleasure and call me Rice. Everyone else does, I wouldn’t know who you
were talking to if you said, ‘Hey Stephanie!’” Rice laughed. “Let me introduce you to the rest of the Team
and then we’ll go over some basics. I
heard the Museum Director is going to give you a tour so we’ll be quick about
it and then I’ll be next to you every step of the way.”
Rice led Adam and EJ deeper into the circle of men all
chatting, huddled over their tablets.
They each looked up and nodded a greeting as Rice made the individual
introductions. Next, she introduced EJ
and Adam to the on-site Commander for the Dubai National Police Force and the
Museum’s Security Director. Both men
shook Adam and EJ’s hand.
“Mr. Richter, I’ve heard a lot about you from our Chief,”
the Commander said. “It’s an honor to
get to work with you and your Team today.
“The pleasure is mine,” Adam replied. “We’re happy to assist. Let me bring you both up to speed on some of
our latest intel and you can run me through your security plans and emergency
Adam nodded to Rice who radioed William, the Museum
Director. “Let’s get ready for that
tour, shall we?”
“While Mr. Devontine heads in, let me give you a couple of
ground rules for today. Adam did warn me
you’re not to fond of rules but I promise that I’m not here direct or interfere
in your choices – just keep others from doing it,” Rice smiled.
EJ found it hard not to like the woman – even if she was
both reassured and annoyed by her presence; or rather, the presence of an
entire team of people. Rice seemed like
not only did she know her job well but she also seemed to have an uncanny grasp
of people and their personality types. So,
EJ smiled back and encouraged her to continue.
“First, you go nowhere without me. Bathroom, bar, grip-and-grin, nowhere. Second, I always enter a room first –
especially if you’re alone. Third, try and
have some fun today. Just think of me as
your shadow or an annoying little sister, if it makes you feel better,” Rice laughed.
“Well, I am an only child and I did always want a sibling,”
EJ quipped. “I guess you’ll do.”
Rice laughed before replying, “We’re going to get along just
fine. No worries today. I’ve got your back and Mr. Richter brought in
all his top players for this. No one is
going to get to you. I promise.”
EJ smiled at Rice and nodded her thanks as William strode up
to the pair.
“Ladies, shall we,” he motioned towards a set of doors at
the far end of the main lobby.
“Lead the way, William,” EJ responded as Rice fell in beside
and just a half step ahead of her on the diagonal.
The Museum Director led them through room after room,
explaining the history of key artifacts.
Somewhere along the way, EJ had actually begun to tune the man out until
it became obvious he had asked her a question.
“I’m sorry,” she blushed.
“I missed that?”
“I was just saying how excited the Museum was to participate
in the repatriation of the seals to Iraqi National Museum and how generous
Sarek and his team have been by letting us display them here before sending
them on to Pakistan and Turkey before their return to their permanent home at
the National Museum. It’s really quite
exciting for us given the history of the seals and their association with the
Golden Bowl,” he repeated.
“The Golden Bowl,” EJ questioned.
“Ah yes, the Golden Bowl,” came a familiar voice from the
far end of the room. Sarek Abdel strode
exclaimed. “I didn’t know you were going
to make it today.”
“When Carl called me and we negotiated the repatriation of
the seals, I just couldn’t stay away. I
hope it’s a good surprise?”
“Always!” EJ hugged
the older man and noticed Rice relax – but just a hair. “I’m just glad we could find something out of all those photos of the
looted antiquities that you had shown us to actually return. I wish we had found more.”
“Nonsense,” Sarek shrugged.
“Your efforts led to the return of dozens high-value originals to
several museums which have been targeted over the decades. Any history we can get back for our people is
better than none.”
William nodded his agreement and shook his old friend’s
hand. “Shall we run through the program
of events,” he asked as he led the way back towards the main lobby.
“Indeed,” Sarek replied.
William recited the event schedule and after a quick glance
at his watch, noted that CPAA Agent Carl Rickman should have arrived and that
they should all start assuming their positions for the presentation and
event. The group made their way to the
gardens where the presentation and mingling was slated to occur. Once outside, EJ saw Carl standing on the
podium with Adam and several others.
Carl caught her eye and smiled at her before smirking and tapping his
“Yes, let’s get the seals in place before more of the
dignitaries arrive for the hand off,” William noted as the group headed towards
the podium. “EJ, Agent Rickman will make
a speech after I welcome everyone and thank them for their attendance. He will then reach into the podium to pull
out the box in which the seals will be located before presenting it to Sarek. Sarek, you will then accept them and pause
for a photos before saying a few words thanking the Americans for their
repatriation of the seals and explaining their viewing tour before I will close
out the formal portion of our event and inviting everyone to partake in the
afternoon’s festivities. Questions?”
“Crystal clear,” Sarek responded as they made their way up
the steps. EJ nodded, reached into her
messenger bag and handed the three carefully wrapped seals to William. Sarek lifted the mahogany box from the podium
and held the lid open. William carefully
unwrapped and placed each seal in its specially designed cushioned slot before
taking the box and putting it back into the podium. He then nodded at the two security officers
flanking each side of the stage who then assumed new positions by the podium.
“I see you and the seals made it safely. I guess this is where I get to say ‘I told you so,’” Carl chuckled.
“The day isn’t over yet,” EJ smirked. “There’s still time. William, now that the seals are safely tucked
away, is there someplace where I might put my bag?”
“Oh yes, we can put that in my office until after the
event. I keep it locked,” he replied.
“Carl, catch up in just a moment?”
Carl nodded as William led the way to his office for EJ to
stow her bag.
To say that the Museum Director’s office had a stereotypical
appearance would have been to minimize the work an Indiana Jones set
decorator. ‘Cluttered’ was a word that
was not even remotely adequate in describing the amount of stuff being housed within those four walls. Paperwork strewn about and taped over every
surface. Pens littering the carpet. A pillow and blanket covered the overstuffed
leather sofa along one wall with books piled precariously on one arm and
stacked haphazardly on the floor. EJ
looked at Rice. Her face said it all. She was wondering if the room had been
The Director must have caught the look between the two women
because he blushed before explaining, “A messy office is a sign of an organized
Both women smiled. “Mine isn’t much better,” EJ encouraged.
“Yes, well, you can put your bag in here and then I’ll lock
the door before we head back to the gardens,” he said as he pulled open a full
length cabinet door peppered with hooks and shelves inside. One hook was occupied by a light jacket,
another had several ties strewn from them.
The upper shelf had a briefcase on one side leaving plenty of room for
EJ’s bag at the other.
“Perfect, thank you so much,” EJ hoisting her bag onto the
shelf and turning back towards the door.
As promised, on their way out, William locked the door and pocketed his
“Whenever you’re ready to leave, just let me or one of the
security officers know and they can let you in to get your bag,” he said as
they returned to the gardens.
Several hours later, the seals where safely tucked into a
display case in the main hall of the museum and the VIPs were mulling about
enjoying hors d'oeuvres and champagne.
“EJ,” Sarek began, “do you have a minute? There’s something I’d like to discuss with
“Certainly,” she replied as Sarek guided them towards one of
the bar top tables scattered throughout the gardens with Rice close behind.
Sarek began to recite the history of a gold and lapis bowl
that had been looted from the National Museum of Iraq during Operation Desert
Storm – the same time the seals had been stolen. The bowl was made from solid gold and
decorated with a pair of rich, deep blue lapis lazuli stones. From Ur, not much was known about the
bowl. Sarek suspected that it had been
used as some sort of ceremonial vessel in antiquity. He had been studying it when the war broke
“There was always something that fascinated me about it,” he
said. “When I discovered it was one of
the items which had been stolen, I was devastated.”
“I can understand that,” EJ sympathized.
“I only hope it wasn’t melted down and was sold to a
collector so that one day we might get it back,” Sarek smiled. “This is where I was hoping you might be
willing to help.”
“The CPAA and Iraqi Intelligence Services have yet to find
the bowl – like so many of our artifacts,” he continued. “I thought that perhaps you might have better
“Sarek, I’m sorry but to my knowledge, it was not one of the
items recovered in the New York warehouse raid,” EJ replied.
“I know, but I was hoping you might be willing to see if you
can track its location? You seem to have
the tenacity, resources and connections that just might find it,” he pleaded.
“I can’t, I have a full time position that takes me all over
the world,” she explained. “I just can’t
go on a treasure hunt right now.”
“The Museum is willing to cover your expenses and with your
travels, you have the opportunity to make connections in locations that I
simply cannot,” he argued.
“I’ll think about
it,” EJ acquiesced.
“That’s all I ask,” Sarek smiled.
EJ nodded to Rice and the pair headed towards Carl, Adam and
William. “Gentlemen, I hope you don’t
think me rude, but I’m afraid I still haven’t adequately recovered from the jet
lag. I think I’m going to head back to
the hotel. Perhaps we could meet for
brunch in the morning before I head to the airport?”
“Brunch would be marvelous,” William stated. “I don’t believe I have anything on my
calendar.” Carl and Adam agreed.
“Let me walk you back to my office for your bag.”
“Red, I’ll meet you and Rice in the main lobby and get you
back to your hotel,” Adam added. “Rice,
I assume you have a hand-off in mind for overnight?”
“That’s not necessary, Adam,” EJ interrupted.
“Of course, Mr. Richter,” Rice responded.
EJ glared at Adam. “I
know,” he said, “we’re going to discuss this in the car.”
William took the hint and began walking EJ back to his
office. He opened the door opening it
for EJ and Rice. Rice went it first, as
she had instructed EJ earlier. Right
behind, EJ stormed to the cabinet to fetch her bag, “I appreciate everything
but neither you nor one of your coworkers needs to stand outside my door all
Rice simply nodded and walked towards the open door. William locked the office behind them once
more, asked if they could find their way to the main lobby and excused himself.
“I know, this isn’t ideal for you,” Rice started. “But Mr. Richter obviously cares about you
and it would bring him a great bit of relief if you just went along with
it. It’s only one night and a brunch.”
“I supposed you’re right.
I’m just not keen on having people follow me around feeling like I’m
under guard,” EJ attempted to explain.
“I get it, but you are
under guard and we do try to be as unobtrusive as possible. Maybe just do it for Mr. Richter? It’s obvious you two have a long
history. Just go along to get along for
his sake, maybe?”
“You’ve been great and have hardly felt like an annoying
little sister,” EJ smiled at Rice. “I
supposed I could do Adam a favor and not complain too loudly at least.”
Rice smiled at EJ as they walked into the main lobby where
Adam was already waiting. EJ smirked and
shot Rice a glance before turning to Adam, “I see why you assigned her to
me. She can be quite convincing and
already knows how to play the mother-like guilt card well.”
Adam laughed and Rice winked. “Did I ever tell you that I am actually
pretty good at my job,” he responded as they all headed towards the entry door
where a similar SUV was already running and waiting with one of Adam’s men
behind the wheel.
He quickly got out and tossed the keys to Adam, “All yours
Adam, Rice and EJ climbed in. With Rice in the rear, EJ in the passenger
seat, Adam pulled out of the museum’s drive and angled the car in the direction
of the highway. Once they were moving,
EJ began fishing through her bag.
“What are you looking for, Red” Adam asked. “Forget something? Do I need to turn around?”
“No, I’m just looking for my room key,” EJ muttered.
Before long, she had everything strewn about the dash. “Found
it!” She shouted triumphantly.
Rice chuckled from the backseat, “And I thought the Director’s
office was disorganized.”
“Hush now or I’ll take back everything nice I said about
you,” EJ chided her as she starting her wallet, Chapstick, extra glasses and
sunglasses, a book and loose papers back in the bag. She stopped on one particular loose paper. A bright yellow, crumpled and partially torn
in the corner.
“FoRgEt aBOUt thE GolDen BoWL. GO HOMe NOW!” scrawled in
crayon across the full page.
EJ stopped in her tracks and stared at the paper before
picking up her phone and dialing Sarek.
“Ok Sarek,” she said as soon as he answered, “I’ll do it.”