Author: Omar Schleppes
Date: 10-04-09 19:48
Wakanda swallowed the bite she was chewing and picked up the papers again. She could really see no need for her being here other than...
She glanced up from the papers at Mr. Schleppes, tilted her head slightly, then signed the papers and handed them to the butler.
They have piqued my curiosity.
"Your arrangements stink." Wakanda replied "but you have placed this cat on the long trail to its demise. Professor Collins calls me Wendy Smith. Since you are his... associate... I believe that is good enough for you as well."
“Thank you, Ms. Smith, for your insight. If you like we can discuss your objections at the end of this meeting.” Turning his attention toward all in the room Omar stood up prepared to conduct the next stage of the meeting he had called. “First I want to thank you all for responding to my invitation. Now if everyone will please direct their attention to the easel and table I will begin.”
Flipping the cover off the easel, Sam stood between it and the table that was still covered. He handed Omar a long wooden pointer with a rubber tip. Taking the pointer from the butler, Omar slapped its length lazily against his hand as he began. On the easel was now revealed the majority of the Western Atlantic coast of Africa and several of the islands further into the Atlantic.
“Our journey will be a salvage effort off the coast of Africa as well as a safari of sorts into the heartland of the continent. We will be retrieving artifacts as well as Portuguese gold believed to be concealed on an island somewhere along the west coast of Africa. One of my own fleet that had gone in search recently suffered shipwreck during a severe storm. As well as can be determined my vessel lies in less than one hundred feet of water at this time. However it is precariously positioned on an underwater shelf or cliff the depth of which has been estimated to exceed nine hundred feet. I have reason to believe they found the island in question just before the storm hit. Historically the vessel said to have first found the island in question was hijacked at sea and sailed into this area, presumably by pirates to take what they’d captured into hiding for later. That is as far as my own investigation was able to determine. As you can see from the map there are several islands in the direct area of the sunken pirate ship. Part of our hunt will be to retrieve what was stashed on any of the islands and to secure the locations if anything is found.” All while he spoke, Omar was indicating the various areas on the map he was referencing. “In addition we will also be following clues these artifacts contain to locate an even greater collection of historical items believed to be from ancient civilizations. I have brought with me today replicas of some of those things already found. The actual items we seek are said to be of rare workmanship and possessing powers long believed to be lost.”
That was Sam’s cue to now reveal what was on the table under cover. As soon as the cloth was gone nearly two dozen magnificent items of African origin and some of origins unnamed were clearly visible to all there.
Intrigued, Verity leaned forward. Many of the items on the table were quite literally priceless, or at least the originals were, but it was their historical significance that made her grey eyes light up. Not only that, but they were in fabulous condition, far better than she had expected given his tale of shipwrecks and piracy. She glanced across at her cousin. Recognising her excitement, Max raised a brow, although he could feel his own interest kick into gear. The Grangers came from a long line of archaeologists and scholars. Both his parents and Verity's own were well-known in the discipline, and if it were not for the unfortunate accident with a gun that had left him paralysed from the waist down, his own father would no doubt still be joining his brother and sister-in-law on their digs. As it was, Wilbur had turned instead to books and the long-dead languages of the peoples whose ruins he had previously studied.
Wakanda looked at the pile with disdain. She had seen such things in museums, but they meant nothing to her. Not at this distance.
She rose to her feet and started toward the table, trying hard not to look bored.
"May I?" She asked, looking at Omar and making a gesture toward the artifacts.
Gavin perked up and nudged his companion, eyeing the items with obvious glee. More importantly, though, they were off into the wilds of Africa. Any excuse to hare off out of civilization was a good one, as far as he was concerned. Elena nudged Gavin back, but one delicate eyebrow was arched as dark eyes swept over the array of... these were replicas? She gave Gavin a speculative look, noting the wild gleam in his eyes and she found herself biting back a laugh.
"Looks like our jaunt into the jungle could have its benefits," she quietly said to him.
Alison eyed the map as Omar waxed on about where they would be going. She remembered her grandfather talking about the possibility of acquiring some items from Africa. She hadn't paid too much attention as he was always talking about acquiring items from somewhere and having them appear sooner or later. It would have just meant more work and study for her, though she really didn't mind either. But as the cloth was removed from the items she caught her breath. Some were of gold but they weren't the ones that caught her eye. It was the stone items and wooden idols. The intricacy of the workmanship that she could see from where she sat was unbelievable. She looked at Omar and frowned wondering just how he had obtained such perfect replicas.
Max glanced around the room. Most faces showed interest, fascination or simply awe. He turned back to Omar. "Okay, I think it's safe to say you've got our attention," he said. "But what exactly are your plans here? An expedition to Africa is no small undertaking. How do you propose we get there for a start?"
This was the time Omar had been looking forward to. Here is where his keen ability to read people was at its best. The Grangers’ were indeed primarily seeing the archaeological aspects with any gain secondary to their motives. Wakanda a.k.a. Wendy was a little harder to gauge but still her propriety of setting things to rights gleamed in her eyes. Gavin was easy; he was there as much for his gain as he was for the excitement of the adventure. It seemed his companion was as well. The representative of Professor Quartermaine seemed to be waxing nostalgic making Omar curious about her. Pausing as he had when Wendy approached he smiled at her when he answered her.
“Please, examine what you like. Be assured these are just a sample of what has been discovered. I made sure no detail was left out in these display pieces. When we conclude our arrangements here, these will be returned to the Smithsonian for their cultural display.” Omar stepped aside to allow any of his guests who wished to handle a piece the chance to do so.
“To answer your question Mr. Granger, you are quite correct in your estimation of this undertaking. As we speak two steamers fully stocked with supplies and provisions are currently making way to our destination. I convened us here in New York to facilitate departure for those committed to this undertaking to depart from here by plane in two days time. We will be flying from here to Miami and from there out across to Caracas then to Cape Verde Islands, to the Ivory Coast then to the coast of the French Congo where we will connect with our ship. There are several islands we will be surveying before we head into the mainland of the Congo. In addition you can do what you need to arrange any personal affairs in the two days before we leave. I also have made an advance stipend available to anyone requiring it for personal preparations. There will be no time for anyone to return home prior to our going so now is the time to decide to stay or go.” As Omar recited the itinerary he was once again pointing out the spots on the map where each stop over would be.
“If there are any more questions please address them now.” Omar sat back down to allow the others time to examine the copies of the artifacts and to discuss anything on their minds.
Zack got up from his seat to take a closer look at the map, eyeing the replica artifacts on the table as he walked past. Representative, indeed. If the stories he'd heard were true, the treasures hidden in the jungles of the Congo would make even the items the replicas duplicated seem nothing more than quaint curios. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. He smiled and traced his finger along the Congo River from its mouth on the west coast into the heart of Africa.
Wakanda touched several of the items with a slight frown.How far had these traveled from their place of origin to be on this greedy man's table. One or two she recognized as things meant to accompany a person into the afterlife.
She studied the route on the map for a moment then returned to her seat. There WERE arrangements to be made. And she had to have them finished in JUST two days.
Omar spent the rest of the time talking to the various guests he’d invited as well as those he had not specifically. He answered many of their questions as he could and advised them how to get their passports updated quickly in the passport office located here in the public area of the club. Omar had taken steps to make sure the passport office located there had the entire itinerary he expected pre-approved so the necessary stamps and visas could be applied to their passports without charge to them.
There were those in the mixed company he knew he would need to keep his eye on and those he thought would be a bigger asset than he first thought now that they had met. There were some that amused him and some than gave him great pause for concern yet he knew all of them were needed for this adventure if it was to be a success. He just hoped any of the obstacles sure to arise were able to be dealt with acceptably.
Tristan, standing quietly against the fire mantle with his tall champagne glass in hand and vibrant sea-blue eyes gazing around the room, had been listening and observing everyone as Mr. Schleppes made his introductions and expounded upon the details of their exploit. He had noticed that, unlike himself, most of the individuals in the room were either going into this for the fame of a new discovery, the fortune that such treasure would be worth, or both. That’s if there really was any fame or fortune to be found. After all the things in front of them weren’t even the real thing, they were merely replicas. Along with that there was something about Mr. Schleppes that had Tristan completely on edge. He was usually really good at reading people and figuring out their motives but he was having a hard time deciphering Schleppes. It had him a little worried because over the years he had learned that if someone was difficult to read then that usually meant they were hiding something or up to no good.
Unfortunately Tristan didn’t have the option of rejecting Mr. Schleppes offer to come on board as the Medical Advisor for this trip. His reputation for having graduated top in his class from the University of Cambridge had given him the invitation and the means to travel to Africa to find the relic he would need as explained by an old man he’d met in a pub down in Sydney. His sister was counting on him and he couldn’t afford to pass up the chance that everything he had been told was real. Tristan had glanced at the table in front of the group and hadn’t noticed anything that looked at all close to what his informant had described to him, the reason this voyage had piqued his interest, so it could still be out there.
While everyone examined the replicas and the map provided the young lad gulped the remains of his third glass of champagne and pushed himself away from the mantle and taking a step closer so he could be seen and heard more clearly. “My only requests,” He began in his usual Aussie accent, “is that I get this mob’s medical papers so I can quickly have a squizz at them so I can see if I need to take a walkabout town to pick up a few extra things before we bail.” Tristan tipped his empty glass toward Omar Schleppes direction as he proceeded to inquire about his previous request, the champagne giving him some added confidence to speak up, “I assume your office has received my request of supplies for this little outing of yours and everything is in order Mr. Schleppes?”
“You are quite right, Mr. Kincade. I have a room set aside here for your medical interviews. Everything you have requested has been obtained and is also enroute via the steamers. In addition a smaller sampling has been gathered for use if needed for the connecting flights. Sam will see to whatever you need at this moment.” Omar then turned slightly so he was directing his next words to everyone there.
“Now if all of you will be so kind as to give Mr. Kincade one of the copies of your medical history you were requested to bring with you we can get that business taken care of so all of you will be able to get on to the business of getting your passports updated and validated. The Customs Officials in the passport office will need the medical information as well.” Instructions given, Omar then showed Mr. Kincade and the others the private room he had arranged for the medical interviews. All of them had been sent a list of the various inoculations they all would have had to have seen to at least two weeks prior to this meeting. This was nothing more than the final collecting of information in case there was any special health arrangements still needed that might have been overlooked to this point.
“When we are finished here later, all of you will find accommodations have been arranged at the Waldorf for you. Simply sign in at the desk and the clerk will let you know what time dinner is scheduled for.” Omar then spoke with Sam for a few minutes to see to the business of lunch following Mr. Kincade’s requested interviews.
Each one in turn had their moment with Mr. Kincade. Lunch followed for anyone that wished to stay for it. Shortly following that they had all gone from the Explorer’s Club to see to whatever preparations they still needed to arrange before the scheduled departure in two days.