Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chapter 5

The Proposal

John didn’t call until almost check out time the next morning. Chris had been anxiously awaiting his call, not knowing what to expect. When it got to be so late, he began to think that John had changed his mind.

“Good morning Chris. How did you sleep?”

“I slept fine, but I had begun to think you weren’t going to call.”

“I’m sorry. It just took me longer to check out my sources than I had thought it would.”

“Check out your sources---you mean you’ve been checking up on me?” said Chris, a feeling of indignation welling up in him.

“Yes. I have to be sure that I can trust you, and that you can do what you say you can do. Nothing personal.”

“I’m not sure I like all this. You better have something real good to offer me. Come to think of it, you know a lot more about me than I know about you. How do I know I can trust you?”

“You don’t yet, but let’s get together for lunch and I’ll tell you all about the proposition, and throw my history into the bargain. Deal?”

“All right.” Chris felt himself calming down, but still felt a little manipulated.

They lunched in the Marriott dining room. One thing Chris had to admit, when John treated you, it was the best. He had prime rib, one of his favorites, with a glass of wine. He noticed that John only drank water—unusual he thought. When they finished, John got down to business.

“I’m on the trail of the biggest treasure left on earth. I need a partner to help me find it. I would like to invite you to be my partner. I need someone with your expertise in working in the jungles of Central America--someone familiar with ancient sites and ruins. From what I can determine, you are one of the best. I will provide all the expenses and we will share 50-50 in anything we find. What do you say?”

“Well it sounds good” Chris was cautious but interested, “but I would like a few more details. What are we looking for? Where are we going to be searching, and what do you expect of me?”

“We will probably be looking at southern Mexico or Guatemala to begin with. I still haven’t narrowed it down yet. That will be part of the challenge. I would expect you to join in the research, and then lead the way in the field, organize the expeditions, logistics, etc. I’m not ready to reveal the object of this search yet, but will tell you soon. What I’d like you to do is come and stay with me for a month and get a background of everything, then you can make your decision. Oh, by the way, even if we don’t find anything, I’ll still pay you $100,000 a year for your time, and of course, I’ll be covering all the expenses.”

“That sounds fair to me. You must be loaded to be able to afford all the expenses and my salary too. But I’d still like to know up front what we’ll be looking for. Why won’t you tell me?”

“I’ve got my reasons. I’ll be glad to tell you once you’ve got a little more background and I’m able to educate you on it.”

“It’s not some flaky extra terrestrial type thing is it? I don’t believe in anything like that.”

“No. It’s solid--something very exciting and worth your while. But I’ll tell you later. Now, I told you I would give you some background on me, so here it is. I’m a widower. My wife was killed in an auto accident two years after our marriage. I used to work as a geologist for Barrick Gold Corporation, but I’m now retired.”

“You’re kind of young to be retired aren’t you? How old are you anyway, about 40?” Chris broke in.

“Forty six to be exact. I’m retired because I can afford to be. I made a lot of money in the stock market, and don’t have to worry about such things any more. But just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I’m inactive. I’m busier now than I ever was while I was working. I’ve always had a lot of interests and hobbies and now I have the time and the means to pursue them. I don’t have many obligations. I don’t have a family. I was an only child, but both my parents are dead. Oh, by the way, I’m a Mormon if that makes any difference.”

That explains the not drinking thought Chris. “No, not really. I’m not prejudice. I’m a Catholic myself, but I haven’t been inside a church for over 10 years.”

“OK. Anything else you want to know?”

“No—just what the project is, but I guess I can wait if you insist.”

“All right. Well, I have a flight to catch in an hour, so I’d better hurry. How soon can you come to Utah so that I can orient you?”

“I’ll fly back to Houston and get my affairs in order. I can meet you in Salt Lake City in a week. Is that soon enough?”

“Sure. Give me a call when you’re ready.”

John caught a taxi and was on his way, leaving Chris to wonder what he was getting himself into.

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