A mysterious coin leads two strangers on a daring journey to an uncharted island.
I am being followed…
That was the cryptic note that accompanied the ancient coin Zachary Selmon examined in his campus office. An archeology professor by day, and a numismatist, or collector of coins by night, Zach was puzzled by this piece of silver and worried about the old friend who sent it. Before he could even begin his inspection, a woman's scream pierces the empty halls of the university.
Art grad student, Gretchen Koter was too engrossed in studies to worry about the snowstorm that shut down Summerlin University. She had no life. Nowhere to be. But when an armed man appears in the doorway, demanding to know, "Where is the coin?" she did what she had to…screamed and ran.
Zach and Gretchen collide in the halls, an encounter that pits them together in a race to determine the origin of the coin. They are being followed. They are being hunted. And the only recourse is to rely on each other and embark on a daring journey to an arctic island that is not supposed to exist.
Ice pelted the window. The shrill whistle of wind hinted that Professor Zachary Selmon should have paid closer attention to the weather forecast. All those threats of a nor’easter were coming to fruition.
A green glass banker’s lamp cast a burnished glow across the oak wood desk of his cramped office in the Department of Art and Archeology at Summerville University. No matter the lashing the window took, this tiny space recycled the same stale air previous professors had shared since its construction in 1816.
Zach reached for the yellow envelope with multiple polar bear stamps on it, staring at the hastily written return address.
What a divergent path he and his childhood buddy, Tim, had taken. Both did their time as students in archeology. Both faced some pretty dicey challenges. But when their primary education was complete, Zach went down the academic wormhole until he finally achieved his Doctor of Philosophy degree. At the relatively young age of 36, he obtained a teaching job at the small, but established, Summerville. Tim, on the other hand, quit halfway through his graduate program. He opened his own firm, of which he was the sole employee, working as a freelance archeologist. From time to time he would send Zach items in the mail from all around the world to seek provenance on them.
Zach palmed the envelope from Greenland and spilled out the contents. A single coin rattled atop his blotter before falling still.
He grabbed the note he’d read at least ten times already.
I’ve found a shitload of these. Can’t identify them. Gold? Tell me it’s gold. I didn’t want to mess with them so that you can find out the deets. You’re the only person I trust. I’m being followed. I’ll contact you as soon as I get somewhere safe.
It was postmarked nearly three weeks ago. In that time, there was no further communication from Tim and Zach had been unable to track down his friend.
Zach pulled over the long arm of his magnifying lamp and switched on the bright LED ring. As fascinated as he was with numismatics, there weren’t any degrees offered in the field of coin study in the United States, so it remained a hobby.
A gust of wind rattled his window as Zach glanced up at the syphon of snow outside. Massaging the ridge of his nose before his glasses fell back into place, he stood up and gazed out at a world that had turned into an over-shaken snow globe. None of the stone-clad buildings were visible and the closest parking lot was consumed by frosty oblivion.
A clatter sounded out in the hallway.
Zach snapped away from the window and shuffled around his desk to the office door. Students had been dismissed because of inclement weather. Based on the empty parking lot, he figured he was the only one here.
The corridor smelled of musty cinderblock. All doorways were closed and nighttime lighting was implemented.
“Hello?” he called out.
There was no sound—only the ice pelting the window behind him, and an overall groan as if this ancient hall had been swallowed by a hungry whale.
Shaking it off, Zach slipped back into his creaking chair for a better look at the coin. He had been more concerned with the words, someone following me, and reaching Tim than paying attention to the coin itself. Yeah, it had intrigued him, but he hadn’t had an opportunity to give it more than a few minutes observation between classes.
All he could suspect from the hand-struck raven with outstretched wings was that it might be Nordic in origin. Ravens were classic Viking symbols, and there was the simple fact that Tim had mailed it from Greenland. A quick scan from his handheld X-Ray fluorescence analyzer revealed the alloy to be primarily silver, also indicative of a period he loosely estimated at around 1400AD.
Sorry, Timmy, not gold.
There were none of the telltale signs of a counterfeit. No casting bubbles. No seam. Only mild crystallization that muddled the ancient monogram.
A scream reverberated in the hallway.
Zach dropped the coin and vaulted towards the door. Swinging his head in each direction, he found both ends of the corridor locked in shadows.
It had sounded like the shriek of a female—not the wind.
Zach stepped out into the hall, listening. This wing was an isolated offshoot of the main artery running through the Department of Art and Archeology. Only because everyone was gone could he hear the distant squeak of shoe against linoleum. That scuffing sound picked up its pace and burgeoned into a full-out sprint as a figure blasted out of the shadows at the far end of the corridor.
“Help!” a female voice cried out.
Long raincoat lapels wafted at her sides like dragon wings as she raced towards him. Zach tried to look past her for who or what might be in pursuit, but the hall was empty.
Lurching to a halt, the woman stooped over, her hands on her knees as she angled her head to look behind her.
“Is there somewhere we can hide?” she whispered.
Anywhere in the university. It’s empty.
Her back rose and fell under rapid breaths. A pointed chin tilted as she gazed up at him from beneath unruly brown waves. In that brief second he tried to assess whether she was a student or teacher. He would have recognized faculty, so that left student, but she looked older. Grad student, most likely.
“Hurry,” she urged.
Zach snapped out of his stupor and extended his arm towards the open door of his office. The woman wasted no time and darted inside.
One last glance down the corridor revealed no demons. No sound of pursuit.
Shaking his head, Zach followed her into his office.