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Wind Raker -- Aloha

After I posted the Numinous World piece the other day with Beatrice in 1902, a number of people asked me what happened to her next. Well....

This the other side of the picture -- this is from Wind Raker, the Order of the Air book that Melissa and I are currently working on.

Dr. Jerry Ballard has arrived in Hawaii in the summer of 1935 for his first field job in years, supervising a vanity dig sponsored by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. But there's something odd about the job, and it's just getting odder.

Dr. Peter Buck was not white. Tall and broad shouldered with graying hair, he stood up from behind his desk at the Bishop Museum and offered his hand, which Jerry shook with enough alacrity that he hoped his surprise had not shown. There had been nothing in the curriculum vitae that Jerry had looked up that suggested that Dr. Buck was other than as British as his name.

"Dr. Buck is a native of New Zealand, a graduate of the University of Otago, and incoming director of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, of which he has been a Fellow since 1925. He is a former member of the New Zealand Parliament and held the rank of major in the Commonwealth New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, in which he saw action in France and Belgium. Dr. Buck is also qualified as a medical doctor. He returns to the Bishop Museum following four years as Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of The Evolution of Maori Clothing and Material Culture of the Cook Islands, as well as more than forty articles."

"Welcome to Honolulu, Dr. Ballard," Dr. Buck said. "I hope your trip was pleasant?"

"Very much so," Jerry said. He hoped he didn’t appear flustered as he took the offered seat in front of Dr. Buck's polished teak desk. "The weather has been perfect."

"It always is in Hawai'i," Dr. Buck said with a smile. "Except of course when it isn't. Dr. Karl-Maria Dietrich, the other visiting archaeologist on this dig, arrived on Saturday. I imagine you'll meet him tomorrow. He's the expert on East Asian material, and you will be our dig director. The Bishop Museum is glad to extend all assistance to your task for the next twelve weeks."

"I'm very pleased to be here," Jerry said. Of course he'd looked up Dietrich's curriculum vitae too -- a distinguished graduate of the University of Heidelberg, recently on the staff of the Neues Museum in Berlin, veteran of digs all over Asia, including a recent expedition to Tibet. Factually speaking, his record was far too good for a job like this. Frankly as these things went, a twelve week dig on a Pacific island site of dubious value was far beneath him. It was very strange.

"I've got a few sturdy graduate students for you," Dr. Buck continued. "And I imagine you have some questions for me." He fixed Jerry with a singularly penetrating gaze.

"I do," Jerry said. There were perplexing questions all around, and he'd had ample time on the boat to consider how best to ask them so as to both elicit answers and not seem supercilious. "I was wondering if you might tell me how exactly this dig came about."

Dr. Buck leaned back in his chair, his face creasing into a rather inscrutable expression. "Just the facts, then. In 1925 a pineapple farmer named Ed Collins found a jug in his pineapple grove. It was attractive and unusual, and so he dug around in the mud a bit more. A vase came to light, and a bowl as well. He thought they were pretty, so he washed them and put them on his mantelpiece. And there they sat for two years until one day the Reverend Mr. Jones came for dinner. Jones is something of an amateur artist, and he recognized them for what they are -- Ming Dynasty porcelain from China in extremely good condition, probably fifteenth century!"

"An extraordinary find," Jerry said.

"Certainly. The good Reverend urged Collins to bring them here, which he did a few months later. It was my opinion, and that of others I consulted with at the university, that they were indeed Ming Dynasty and a singular find for Hawai'i. And this of course is where it gets murky." Dr. Buck shrugged. "By the time I examined Collins's pineapple grove, two years had passed. During that time the soil had been repeatedly disturbed by cultivation. An immediate examination of the site revealed nothing -- no fragments or further pieces, and no other artifacts or material that would allow dating. The cultivation had disturbed the surface irrevocably to a depth of twenty inches."

"I see," Jerry said.

"A proper and thorough excavation might yield more information, but the Bishop Museum, like every other museum in the world, doesn't have the funds to investigate every interesting site. In the absence of anything more promising, Collins's porcelain would have remained an interesting oddity, and the site would have remained uninvestigated, which it did until this year."

"What happened?" Jerry asked. There was something strange about this entire business.

Dr. Buck's expression was carefully neutral. "An anonymous donor made a substantial gift, most of it earmarked for funding a dig in Collins's pineapple grove to determine the origin of the Ming porcelain. The donor suggested that Dr. Dietrich be in charge of the dig."

"I see," Jerry said. But he didn't.

"It's an intriguing puzzle," Dr. Buck said, getting to his feet. "One I'm sure you'll find fascinating over the next twelve weeks. It is rather late in the day, Dr. Ballard. One of our museum volunteers has offered to take you home for dinner and to stay in her guest room. I'm sure tomorrow you'll want to make arrangements that suit you, whether a hotel or a cottage. Mrs. Patton said that she would be delighted to assist you."

"That's very generous." About the last thing Jerry wanted was to be palmed off on a volunteer to whom he'd have to make nice all evening when all he wanted was to rest his leg.

"Then let's go find her." Dr. Buck forestalled any further questions by opening the door and holding it courteously.

The galleries of the Bishop Museum were cluttered. Too many artifacts and too little space resulted in cases of objects down the middle of rooms that should have had room to stand back, precious statuary roped off in corridors. Boxes of labeled potsherds and spearheads were affixed to the walls over shelves of entirely different objects with little explanation or reason. In short, they had an excess of riches and no place to put them. Compared to the spacious corridors of the Met, it was a glaring contrast. Spear tips from Ancient Egypt resided in their own padded boxes at the Met, nestled in cotton wool and properly labeled by an army of graduate students and curators. Spear tips from Polynesia were jumbled together in a box with a handwritten tag. Still, Jerry thought, this was the best collection in the world of everything Pacific, better even than the Victoria Museum in Melbourne. At least these things were being preserved and studied rather than broken up as curiosities to private collectors.

The private areas of the museum were even more confusing. An electric fan turned slowly overhead, moving air from the single open window, and a middle aged woman looked up from a dining table in the middle of the room. She had a cardboard box full of stone fishhooks and was sorting them into seven green cloth trays, a magnifying glass at her elbow. She was perhaps Jerry's age, with brown hair going gray pulled back in an untidy bun and a white shirtwaist dress. She looked up when the door opened, her face lighting with a smile that seemed entirely unfeigned.

"This is Dr. Ballard," Dr. Buck said. "Dr. Ballard, Mrs. Patton."

She got up quickly and offered her hand, which Jerry shook. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Patton."

"It's so nice to meet you too," she said. "I've heard a great deal about you, and I'm delighted you'll be spending the summer in Hawai'i." She pronounced the last word with the ending emphasized, as though it were part of a language other than English, which he supposed it was.

"I will leave Dr. Ballard to your tender care," Dr. Buck said. "How are the fishhooks coming?"

"Slowly," she said. She gave Jerry another smile, inviting him to see. "We've been given a box of fishhooks that a man collected all over the South Pacific on his travels -- lovely, of course, but he could not tell us where any of them came from or when he got them. So I'm sorting them stylistically by island group. There are about two hundred, all total." She picked up the nearest one. "This one is from Easter Island. It's very distinctive."

"If you say so," Jerry said politely. "I'm a Classicist by training, and I'm afraid the taxonomy of Polynesian fishhooks isn't my area of expertise."

"Polynesian, Melanesian, Maori…" Dr. Buck said. "We have a little of everything. At best we hope for context and order, so that future generations may be able to give these artifacts the attention they deserve. Mrs. Patton has been one of our volunteers for the better part of a decade, saving the years when she had to leave the islands." His expression seemed rather warmer than one might expect for a mere volunteer. "And of course a family friend."

Jerry couldn't get over the prickling feeling that he'd met her before. "Why did you leave the islands?"

"My husband is in the service. We were posted elsewhere for a while. And delighted to return last spring!" She got up, putting the fishhook back on the cloth tray, and reached down for an enormous straw handbag under the chair. "You're welcome to stay until you find another place, Dr. Ballard. We've rented this house and it's perfectly enormous for us. You could stay in a hotel, of course, but I must tell you that Honolulu hotels are very expensive and not very good. If you're going to be here for several months you're much better off with a rental. There is an agent I can recommend if you're interested."

"Much appreciated," Jerry said. He wondered if a hotel wasn't better, though. A cottage just for him seemed excessive. And then he'd have to hire someone to clean and it would be complicated….

"I will see you tomorrow then," Buck said, offering his hand again. "Perhaps you could meet me at nine and we'll drive over to the dig together? Beatrice, is nine too early for you?"

"Not at all," she said. "Buddy will be in school, so I'll deliver Dr. Ballard promptly. We have another week until school is out. And then it's just insanity ahead!" She put her purse on her shoulder and led Jerry through a side door to another door labeled "Do Not Open!" She opened it, letting the warm air and sunshine in, showing a tiny staff parking lot outside.

"You have children?" Jerry asked, making conversation as he followed her carefully down the two poured concrete steps.

"My son's in fifth grade," she said. She unlocked the door of a sleek blue Packard. "And my daughter's studying physical therapy at the Naval Hospital over at Pearl Harbor. I think every young person should have a means of adequately supporting themselves, don't you?"

"I suppose," Jerry said, easing himself into the passenger seat. It was quite a luxurious car.

"My older daughter is married and back East," she said. "And of course my husband is on the post a good deal of the time, but he should be around later. I think it will be just the three of us tonight. Buddy has some sports thing or another and Ruth will be late at the hospital. It's an excellent program. She should qualify as a fully certified physical therapist at the end."

Jerry rolled the window down, letting the hot air out of the car where it had been sitting in the sun. "Are you an anthropologist?" he asked.

"Only an amateur." Beatrice put on her sunglasses and popped the car into gear with a great deal of stomping on the clutch. "Actually, I'm a writer."

Jerry's eyebrows rose. "Oh?"

"I've published a number of short stories and my first novel is coming out next year." The corners of her mouth twitched. "It's about interracial marriage and gods who act through their mortal avatars and how bloods mingle in the womb. And war and sex and eternal love, of course."

"That sounds ambitious," Jerry said. And not at all the sort of thing someone so aggressively respectable seeming would write.

"Well, I expect Henry Kershaw will buy a copy."

"Henry Kershaw?" Jerry blinked.

She gave him a quick smile as they stopped at a traffic light. "I asked Henry all about you when I saw your name on the list for the dig. I thought you seemed familiar and then I remembered."

"The Great Passenger Derby," Jerry said. That was why she looked familiar. He'd seen her at Henry's launch party in Los Angeles the night the cursed necklace was stolen.

"You're in Mitchell Sorley's lodge," she said, and Jerry winced. Henry had no business babbling about lodges or who was in what. Discretion was the rule, both spoken and unspoken. "I had a good chat with him at the party. And then we found the safe cracked."

"Ah," Jerry said. Now he had her placed. The woman Mitch had been talking to the police with. He didn't think he'd actually seen her for more than a moment.

She shot him a quick glance as the traffic moved on. "I'm Isis and Serapis myself." And that was proper, to expose oneself the same way one exposed the other, mutual jeopardy. "We have a very eclectic meeting here in the islands, a little of this and a little of that, rather than sticking to one formal tradition. There are people from all over, you see. This is a place where people pass through, and it welcomes all travelers with its spirit of aloha."

"Doesn't that mean hello?" Jerry asked.

"What does 'ave' mean?" She downshifted as they went around a dog ear and started climbing a steep hill. "It means hello. And goodbye. And a lot of other things too. But for now I give it to you as a gift and a beginning."

I'd love to hear what you guys think, Numinous World and Order of the Air readers both!



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 7th, 2013 09:02 am (UTC)
She's a writer! I don't know why that makes me so happy, but it does. :D

As usual, this is great and I can't wait for the actual book.
Jun. 8th, 2013 09:28 am (UTC)
Of course she is! And of course it's about how gods act through their mortal avatars. And war and sex and eternal love! :)
Jul. 2nd, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is interesting. Beatrice / Gull in Hawai'i, as the world gears up for the second world war; I like her already, this forthright, friendly woman with occult experience. The notion of this ancient soul (and all her karmic friends) in the 20th century tickles me. Of course her husband is in the military!
Jul. 2nd, 2013 03:27 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you like her! I love Beatrice. She's very...determined. As she describes herself later to Mitch, "Wife, mother, writer, anthropologist. Oracle and eternal Companion." She remembers.

And yes, some karmic friends! I expect you'll be glad to see her husband too! ;)
Jul. 2nd, 2013 04:00 pm (UTC)
:-) Neas/Hephaistion/Michel or Xanthos/Emrys?
Jul. 2nd, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC)

In Wind Raker Lewis asks him, "Do you think there will be another war?" He replies, "If there weren't, I don't think I'd be here."

Actually, I forgot I'd posted that scene! http://jo-graham.livejournal.com/199408.html#comments

Edited at 2013-07-02 05:20 pm (UTC)
Jul. 2nd, 2013 05:36 pm (UTC)
Eh, good grief, what a thing to say. I understand the impulse to war, particularly since you've given Michel such an articulate nature, but - *sigh*. I feel sorry for him.
Jul. 2nd, 2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
I don't think he feels a bit sorry for himself, though. It's not his nature. And he's right that the world is going to need him.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )