The Simeon Chamber
eyes narrowed and he stared motionless at Nick. “My God! Do you have any idea of the value of these pages if they’re part of the journal?” There was an instantaneous pause, and then as if a light had suddenly flashed on in his head, Jasper said: “You have the rest of it don’t you—the journal? You can tell me. Your secret would be safe with me.” The words carried all the assurance of a thimblerigger at a county fair.
    Nick wished he could recall the question, but the damage was done. Holmes knew more about Drake and his travels than Nick realized, and now he had planted the seed of curiosity. He would have to kill it before it could germinate.
    Nick laughed. “Jasper, I don’t have a damn thing other than what you see here on the table, and that was given to a friend who is naive in the extreme by a woman who purchased the pages at some tourist trap in Chinatown.”
    A look of incomprehension clouded the expression on the Englishman’s face. Nick moved quickly to maintain the momentum and turned over the pages of parchment until he located the one bearing the stamp of the Jade House on Old Chinatown Lane. He pointed to the stamp on the back of the page and looked up apprehensively, uncertain whether Holmes had accepted the explanation. Sam would kill him if the Englishman leaked word of a new Drake find on the academic grapevine. It would be embarrassing if the documents were bogus, but worse—
    immeasurably worse—if they were authentic.
    “I haven’t been entirely truthful with you, Jasper, in part because I was embarrassed. You see, this woman is trying to sell these documents to my friend at an exorbitant price, on the assurance that they are part of the Drake journal.” He paused and winked across the table at the Englishman. “Between you and me, I don’t think the woman knows shit from shinola, or else she’s just flat-ass trying to take my friend to the cleaners.”
    The Englishman was still trying to unravel the idiom when Nick popped the question again.
    “What do you know about it—the journal?”
    “Well,” he stammered, “there are a number of theories concerning the fate of the journal.”
    Holmes adjusted his glasses. “I
    think the better reasoned view is that the book was seized by the French when Drake landed at Belle Isle near La Rochelle in France on his way back to England. According to some letters that were found in the archives in Seville, Drake is reputed to have stashed a quantity of gold and silver on the island, not sure that he would be welcomed back home by his monarch.” Holmes raised his heavy gray eyebrows and looked over the top of his bifocals at Nick. “You see, he’d created quite an embarrassment for the British Crown by sacking Spanish ships and towns in the New World, supposedly without the knowledge or approval of his queen.”
    Nick breathed easier, sensing that Holmes’s speech had returned to the cadence of a lecture, and his interest, at least for the moment, to the abstractions of history.
    Suddenly Nick looked at his watch.
    “Damn! I have a seminar tomorrow morning and I have at least an hour of preparation to do to get ready.”
    Jasper, sensing that he was about to see the last of the parchments, leaned heavily on the edge of one of the pages. “Well, you can leave these with me and I can have a translation for you in the morning.”
    “No, I’m afraid I just can’t do that. My friend made me promise that I wouldn’t let them out of my sight. If anything happened to them he’d have to pay the woman’s asking price, and believe me, neither of us could raise the sum on our meager salaries, not unless you’ve got something going on the side.” Nick gave a nervous laugh.
    “Well, if you want to stay it won’t take long.” Jasper’s tone conveyed the confidence of a rug merchant who, having rejected a final offer of purchase, was relegated to begging.
    “I wish I could, but not tonight. I really have to get my materials together for

Similar Books

Ninepins

Rosy Thorton

Mitch

Kathi S. Barton

The Hungry Tide

Amitav Ghosh

By Your Side

Candace Calvert

Play Nice

Gemma Halliday

House of the Sun

Nigel Findley