Author Topic: John DeShane and the Secret of the Lost Ark  (Read 1318 times)

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Offline Þórgrímr

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John DeShane and the Secret of the Lost Ark
« on: December 13, 2010, 07:14:52 PM »
Prologue


Oakland Army Base, Oakland California
23 July, 2012

It was easy to miss the freeway exit for the Oakland Army Base since it appears immediately after the Bay Bridge toll plaza. So it was not until another fifteen minutes of backtracking had gone by that Lieutenant Colonel Derek Hungerford drove into the bewildering maze of buildings that comprised one of the U.S. Army’s remaining World War II storage and shipping depots.

The assignment to this base had been an accident. Derek had been on track for an assignment to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for another six-month tour at the Joseph McCarthy Special Warfare Center, but at the last moment the funding had not come through.

Instead his management officer at the St. Louis U.S. Army Reserve headquarters had offered him a three-month tour with an Intelligence and Security Battalion headquarters at the Presidio in San Francisco. Although it promised to involve nothing more exciting than routine staff operations, he had accepted. He liked San Francisco and had friends out there. As he observed to his wife Katrina, he knew she would not mind a brief respite from the New York weather.

The INSCOM headquarters building - an aging concrete bunker - appeared at first glance to be both unimpressive and uncomfortable. It did hold the distinction of being ‘the last building before Hawaii’, as the duty Captain who greeted him described it. “Glad to have you here, sir. Sometimes we think we’ve been forgotten, particularly now that PSF is slated for closure in the next year or so. Oh, and I was supposed to give you this when you checked in.”

This proved to be a faxed order reassigning Hungerford to a two-week temporary duty as Classified Storage Control Officer at the Oakland Army Base across the San Francisco Bay. Hungerford scowled, “For this they task a Lieutenant Colonel?”

The Captain looked at him uncomfortably. “I guess they couldn’t find anyone else on such short notice, sir. The way I understand it, there was a CWO over there that had to leave on a family emergency. A replacement’s coming, but until he gets here, someone with TS clearance is needed, and we got tasked, and the CO said…”

Hungerford cut him off with a nod. Give the Reservist the odd job. On the other hand, he mused, it might be a pleasant - and quiet - two weeks. Certainly this mournful concrete block on the seacliff didn't have much going for it. He finished his in-processing, then returned to his rented car and headed for the Bay Bridge.

He had never been to the OARB before, and as he drove slowly through it, he decided that he hadn’t missed much. Perhaps back around the time of World War II the base had been a center of activity. Now it was clearly a neglected installation, ready for the budgetary chopping-block. Its most striking feature was a row of seven very long warehouses, originally designed to store material from the nearby docks. Now the docks were little-used, and the giant warehouses, their paint peeling with age, appeared to be simply utilitarian: places to store furniture, old vehicles, and the like. Except, it seemed, for Warehouse Six.

Warehouse Six had a barbed-wire fence around it. The wire was old and rusty, but still quite serviceable. Metal warning signs, also brown with rust, appeared at regular intervals along its perimeter. Hungerford had seen such secure buildings many times in his career and they no longer held any magic or mystery for him.

He parked the car in a grassy lot with only one other vehicle in it, strolled over to the gate, and pressed the buzzer mounted on one of its side-posts.

After a moment or two a door in the warehouse creaked open and a Sergeant came out, walked over to the fence, saluted, examined Hungerford’s ID card through the wire and opened the gate. Hungerford followed him out of the glare of the sunshine into the building.

Suddenly it was cool and quiet. The only light came from a small, glass-windowed office to the right of the door. The rest of the warehouse, unlit, seemed to stretch off into infinite darkness. The Sergeant motioned him into the office and poured two cups of coffee from a small pot on a hotplate.

“What is this place?” Hungerford asked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Deep storage, I guess you could call it,” the Sergeant said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I really don’t know what they’ve got in there - just that it’s old classified stuff. There’s an inventory binder over there,” he nodded at the shelf alongside the single desk, “if you’re curious. But it doesn’t say much, just box numbers mostly. And almost everything is in a box which, at least, will make the sign-over easier.” Plainly the Sergeant was not unhappy at the prospect of relinquishing the claustrophobia of the warehouse to someone else.

Ultimately it took the two of them three days to inventory the building’s contents. There were hundreds of crates, conexes, shrouded and banded pallets, along with assorted containers whose only common feature was a size too big to fit into a filing cabinet.

A few of the items were in fresh metal or plastic packaging, but most were in simple wooden boxes whose steel bandings were as rust-covered as the outside fence.

As the Sergeant had said, no contents were identifiable, Hungerford had hoped for at least one UFO tailfin poking through a boxtop. As he leaned back in the chair in what was now his office, he wondered what sort of hidden treasure he now guarded. Certainly nothing of contemporary importance.

This was obviously a repository for things forgotten or near-forgotten, protected from the incinerator or trash-heap only because some minor bureaucrat had once immortalized them with a security classification in the days before automatic downgrading had been instituted. Probably a good many of the container descriptions themselves, wherever they originated from, had long since been destroyed as unnecessary. He grimaced. He had seen a sight like this at the end of the film Secrets of the Lost Ark, but had never expected to encounter it in actuality.

Well, he mused with a chuckle, maybe I’ve got the real Ark in here somewhere. That at least would be something. He recalled idly that in the movie the Ark had been crated and assigned a serial number. He had picked up the paperback version of the story, perhaps the number was cited in there.

On a whim he picked up the phone, requested an outside line, and made a collect call to his home in Syracuse where his wife, Major Katrina Hungerford, would now have arrived home from her office.

Katrina chuckled sympathetically as Derek told her of his surprise assignment, and then asked him to hold on while she went into the next room to rummage in the bookcase. A few minutes later she was back on the line. “Here it is,” she said. “Let’s see ... O.K., here on the last page - Got something to write with?”

Hungerford jotted down what she recited to him: TOP SECRET, ARMY INTEL, 2859301, DO NOT OPEN. “Doesn’t sound very promising,” he commented with a sigh. “MI used to be ‘Army Intelligence and Security’, which was ‘AIS’, not ‘Army Intel’. On the other hand, I do have a number of entries in the log with seven-digit numbers. I will let you know if I come across anything that hums or glows in the dark.”

“If you do,” she remarked, “don’t open it, it’s probably one of the Manhattan Project’s early failures.” He laughed, gave her a telephonic kiss, hung up, and turned to the binder.

The number was there. Next to it, however, was the phrase “Lockheed P-38 components (exp).”

Hungerford looked again, just to be certain. He started to call Katrina back, then hesitated and replaced the receiver on the cradle. Better take a look at the container first before calling her back.

He ran his finger over the chart showing the number sequence breakdown by location, then threw on the light switches for the warehouse and walked out into the central aisle and down the seventh branch aisle to the left. He peered down into the dusty stacks of containers. And there it was: 2859301. It was an aging wooden crate about ten feet long by four feet wide and high.

There was additional stenciling on the crate, partially obscured by the surrounding clutter. Hungerford tugged three other boxes aside, grimacing at the cloud of dust raised in the process. He brushed off the lettering with a hand and read: WARNING-VIBRATION SENSITIVE and, on the top, ONLY THIS SIDE UP.

Hungerford stared at the crate for a few moments then walked back to the office. He made himself a cup of coffee and thought about what he had found. Then he dialed the number of Steven Simonson in Oakland.

Simonson was home. He listened without interruption while Hungerford told him about the crate. “This is weird,” He finally said. “What are you going to do now?”

“Any ideas?”

Simonson thought about it for a moment. “Well... I guess we could try to find out whether there’s anything factual about the Secrets story. Why don’t I do a little research and maybe meet you for lunch somewhere?”

“Treasure Island Officers Club? How about twelve-thirty?”

“You got it.”

***

By one o’clock Derek Hungerford had dispensed with two Perrier’s and several handfuls of popcorn before Steven Simonson strode into the O-Club’s bar and threw himself into the next chair. “Sorry I’m late,” he said. “I’ve been on the phone, more-or-less, constantly since we spoke.”

Hungerford signaled the waitress and ordered fruit salads for them both. Then he turned back to Simonson. “So… find out anything?”

“Yes and no. Call Kingsfilm and start asking questions about ‘Secrets’ and they quickly decide that you’re just another kooky fan. Then they refer you to fan clubs and such. On the third call I got a different operator and told her that I was a grad student at Berkeley doing research on Hollywood imagery. That got me to another lady who had apparently worked as an assistant to the ‘Secrets’ screenwriter.

“First thing she told me was that ‘Secrets’ was wholly and purely fictional. She said that the basic plot had been brainstormed by Lawrence King and Carl Kaiser in Hawaii in 1987. Then the screenwriter - Carter, I think his name was - made up most of the names and fleshed out the scenes. King had a dog named Johnny, and the character was originally going to be ‘John Smith’. Someone pointed out that was too close to ‘Nevada Smith’, so ‘Smith’ became ‘DeShane’.”

“Did King have a relative named John, or DeShane?”

“No.”

“So why did he name the dog Johnny?”

Simonson shrugged. Then he took the point. “You think that there might be a real John DeShane somewhere, someone whom King had in mind as a model for the film?”

“Let me think this through. Now... almost certainly there’s not going to be a real person by that name, or the press would have picked up on it at some time during the publicity for the four movies. But let’s suppose that ‘Johnny’ is a nickname. Suppose that there’s an actual professor of archaeology somewhere named ‘DeShane’. Suppose that there’s some truth to the story and that he told it to King at some point and said that it was O.K. to use it as the basis for a film as long as his privacy was preserved.”

“So what now? You can’t very well call every college in the country asking for ‘Johnny DeShane’.”

“I won’t have to. Still have a card for the UC library? Good. They can access the National Technical Information Service database link there. Get them to do a name search by campus for anyone named ‘DeShane’ in an archaeology department.

“Archaeology is a small field; not too many places have a department like that. We can rough out his age bracket as being, um, perhaps 65-80. We might take a chance cross-referencing with ‘Cathy’ as a wife’s name, assuming that he might indeed be married to the Cathy Talley of the film.”

“Not much hope there, if he ever existed he is probably dead by now, from old age,” Simonson said with a sigh. “Kingsfilm said that ‘Cathy Talley’ was the name of Carter’s grandmother-in-law. But I’m going to Berkeley later on today, so I’ll drop by the library and run the other stuff. Call you tomorrow if I get anything.”

They turned their attention to the salads they had waiting.
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Offline Þórgrímr

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Re: John DeShane and the Secret of the Lost Ark
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2010, 08:14:43 AM »
Chapter One


Two days later Steven Simonson found a message on his answering machine from the University of California library. A small roll of computer paper was waiting for him at the office. He trotted across Spool Plaza, perched on the edge of Ludwig’s Fountain, and read impatiently through a list of useless Deschain’s. Following them were only four ‘DeShane’ responses:

DESHANE CURTIS S ALASKA STATE U AGE 52
DESHANE JONATHAN N IOWA STATE U AGE 65
DESHANE PAUL J DARTMOUTH COL AGE 47
DESHANE SUSAN F U CHICAGO AGE 58

Well, what do you know, Simonson thought with a slowly widening smile. He headed for the ASUC building and a pay-phone.


***


That afternoon Derek Hungerford called information in Ames, Iowa and asked for the number of Jonathan N DeShane. He dialed it and got no answer. He tried again an hour later and decided to let the phone ring longer than usual. After about twenty rings it was indeed answered by an obviously irritated voice: “DeShane. What is it?”

“Professor DeShane?” Hungerford asked. “John DeShane? Derek Hungerford. I am a Lieutenant Colonel with the Army out in California. I’ve found a crate out here with the number 2859301 on it. Would that mean anything to you?”

For a moment there was silence on the other end of the phone. Then: “How do I know that you’re who you say you are?”

“Easy,” Hungerford said. “Just call the Oakland Army Base and ask for Warehouse Six. I’m the only one here.”

“I’ll do that,” DeShane said and hung up.

A minute later the phone on Hungerford’s desk rang. This time the excitement in the voice from Iowa was barely concealed. “Where is it? How big is it? Are there any other markings on it?”

Hungerford described the crate to him. “I have a problem of sorts. This is a classified storage facility...”

“That’s not going to be a problem. I’ve got the clearance. I’ll have Langley pass it on to you. Listen, I’m coming right out there. Whatever you do, don’t open it. Have you told anyone about this?”

“A friend of mine. He traced you through the NTIS. For awhile we thought you were Lawrence King’s dog.”

“The dog was named after me,” DeShane said with a chuckle. “But that’s not the best part. Would you believe that Carter hit on Cathy’s name by accident? Waltzed into San Angelo and said ‘Cathy’, where Lawrence thought he had found out about us. But it was just a coincidence. So far just Lawrence, Carl, and Jason know. And now you, but I would appreciate it if…”

“It’s not going anywhere with me,” Hungerford said emphatically. “I’m not even sure this is really happening.”

“It’s happening all right,” DeShane said curtly. “Well, maybe it’s happening. First I need to get a look at that crate. Can you pick me up at the San Francisco Airport tomorrow?”


***


Derek couldn’t get away from OARB the next morning, but Steven volunteered to drive to the airport. He did a double-take when he saw a man and a woman walk into the terminal who might have been doubles for Jason Davenport and Kelly Link, except that they were visibly older. They smiled at his discomfiture.

“Derek is stuck at the base for another hour, but he’s going to meet us at my place if that’s ok with you.”

“That will be just fine,” Dr. John DeShane said.


***


Over coffee in Steven’s loft apartment DeShane elaborated on his comments over the phone. “You guessed right about my telling the story to Lawrence King when he was a kid, but of course there’s a lot of stuff in ‘Secrets’ that has nothing whatever to do with what actually happened. The Indonesian temple bit, for example, and most of the general running around.

“But we did find the Ark in Tanis, and we did get jumped by an Ahnenerbe team, that’s the research branch of the SS, which had several archaeological expeditions under way in the late 30’s. And they did tie us up and open it up. But there was no one named Mortain, he was just another dramatic device for the film. The second, third, and fourth movies were pure fantasy. Made me wish I had gone after the Incan Lost City of Gold. I do have some ideas about it, though.”

“But our run-in with the Ahnenerbe was very odd,” Cathy broke in, “because we don’t know exactly what happened back then. We both remember becoming light-headed and then blacking out. When we woke up the Germans were gone, we were untied, and the Ark was just sitting there. But… the weirdest part was that we were twenty-five years younger. Otherwise we would, in all probability, be dead by now.

“Johnny wanted to open it, but I asked him to wait until we got it back to the museum. And of course we never got it past Washington. But no, we never saw the Ark actually ‘do’ anything.”

John took up the narrative, “We assume we were given some sort of hallucinogen at the time. But we’re still not sure why we regained our youth.”

DeShane stood up and walked over to the window of the loft. Then he turned around and stabbed a finger at them. “Some things just don’t add up. If the Ark was the real thing, and if we - the Allies - got it and this was before the war, mind you, then why was there the Axis successes and Allied defeats in the first several years of the war? Why, if we had it, would we just crate it up and bury it in a warehouse? And here, listen to this ...”

He went over to the table, rummaged in his old leather briefcase he had brought, extracted a battered book, thumbed through it impatiently, and then began to quote:

“When one says that God provokes the lightning that’s true in a sense but what is certain is that God does not direct the thunderbolt, as the church claims. The church’s explanation of natural phenomena is an abuse, for the church has ulterior interests.

“True piety is the characteristic of the being who is aware of his weakness and ignorance. Whoever sees God only in an oak tree or a tabernacle, instead of seeing him everywhere, is not truly pious. He remains attached to appearances, and so when the sky thunders and the lightning strikes, he trembles simply from fear of being struck as a punishment for the sin he has committed.

“From now on, one may consider that there is no gap between the organic and inorganic worlds. Recent experiments make it possible for one to wonder what distinguishes live bodies from inanimate matter. In the face of this discovery, the church will begin by rising in revolt; then it will continue to teach its ‘truths’. One day, finally, under the battering ram of science, dogma will collapse. It is logical that it should be so, for the human spirit cannot remorselessly apply itself to raising the veil of mystery without people one day drawing these conclusions.

“The Ten Commandments are a code of living to which there’s no refutation. These precepts correspond to the needs of the human soul; they’re inspired by the best religious spirit, and the churches here support themselves on a solid foundation.”

“Who said that?” Simonson inquired with rising curiosity. “Is that one of your books?”

John glanced at Cathy, who smiled. “Hardly,” he said. He closed the book with a snap and tossed it on to the table. “This is ‘Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-1944’, translated by Cameron and Stevens from Martin Bormann’s own transcripts. What you just heard were Adolf Hitler’s private remarks to Lieutenant General von Witzleben on the evening of 24 October, 1941.”

Derek let out a low whistle. “Well, what do you know? That’s something the history books seem to have omitted. This from the mastermind of the final solution? Why would he say that about a Hebrew artifact, particularly if it were already in enemy hands?”

“And why,” Cathy added, “did the United States never announce its possession of the Ark, which, presumably, would have given Washington the same prestige and spiritual authority, or whatever, that Berlin was seeking to acquire? And why did the Germans abandon it, if they did? Why leave it to us? Why leave us alive?”

“Why indeed,” Hungerford said. “Unless...”

“Unless?” Cathy prompted the man.

“Unless there’s something wrong with it,” he answered slowly. “Unless when the AIS people got their hooks into it, they found something they didn’t expect or didn’t like.”

“Or maybe it was something that they didn’t find,” Cathy said, warming up to the topic. “Well, Derek, now it’s up to you. Are you going to let us have a look at it?” She paused, and then added, slowly and deliberately, “We have waited for over sixty years.”

Hungerford stared at her. “I received both of your clearances today, yes. Yes, indeed. What about this evening unless the two of you are too tired from the flight?”

Derek turned to Simonson. “I hate to tell you this, Steven, but there’s a security problem. Whatever the crate may be, it’s still classified. And the whole warehouse is a restricted area. I can’t get you in.”

Simonson laughed. “That’s O.K. I’ll just go up on the roof here and wait for the explosion and the light show. But I’ve got something here which might come in handy...”

He went into the next room then returned with a camera and two metal containers of film. “Got this from Jim Felgar last week,” he explained to Derek. “Infrared-sensitive film.”

Simonson was interrupted by a knock at the door. He hesitated a moment, then opened it, where upon a girl darted by him into the room. “Hi, Rebecca,” Steven said to the space where she had been a moment before.

“Listen, I’m sorry to be in-and-out so quick,” she said as she examined his bookcase, “but I only have a few moments and wanted to pick up that tape you had for me, ah, there it is. Hi, Derek! See you guys later.”

As she was almost through the door, she noticed Steven’s two visitors. She stared at them for a moment, then shook her head slightly at the crazy notion that had passed through her mind and waved goodbye to Steven. He closed the door and shrugged.

Derek laughed. “Yeah, try to explain this!”

“We’ve had that problem before,” Cathy said, “Particularly at the time when the first movie came out. Our son, Norman, would only give his permission for King to use our names if he used actors that were spitting images of us.”

John took over from his wife, “since then we have gotten pretty good at amateur disguises. And Iowa isn’t exactly where you would expect to find, umm, celebrities either. But then I guess we’re not real celebrities, because no one thinks that we actually exist as real people.”

“Let’s keep it that way,” Cathy said to her husband. “Well, since we’ve some time to kill before this evening, let’s do lunch at the Berkeley Faculty Club and then stop at the library. There are some items there I’d like to take a look at.
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Offline Þórgrímr

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Re: John DeShane and the Secret of the Lost Ark
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2010, 11:43:35 AM »
Chapter Two


Shortly after eight that evening, after dropping Simonson back at his home, Hungerford took the DeShanes down to the base. It was already dark and the entire post seemed to be deserted, save for an occasional passing car or truck.

There was no moon, no nearby streetlights, and Warehouse Six was visible only as a looming shadow behind the barbed-wire fence as Hungerford punched the code into the alarm system and led them inside. Once in the building he threw the switches to turn on the inside lighting and led the way down the vast main corridor. A moment later the three of them were standing before crate 2859301.

Hungerford handed the bandcutter he had brought from the office to John DeShane. “Seems to me that the first cut ought to be yours,” he said.

Unexpectedly there were misty tears in the old archaeologist’s eyes. “Thanks,” he said awkwardly. Then he addressed the rusted bands with the pincers. One by one they snapped apart, and then - with an apprehensive look at one another - the two men set to work more carefully with crowbars.

There were wrenching, tearing sounds as the wooden slats gave way, suddenly the top came free from DeShane’s crowbar and the sides fell to the dusty concrete floor with a crash that echoed throughout the cavernous warehouse. Waving the cloud of dust away, the three of them stared at the sight before them.

The oblong box that rested quietly amidst the slats of the crate bore only a remote resemblance to the dazzling artifact from the ‘Secrets’ movie. Its sides and top were, indeed, covered with what appeared to be gold, although the surfaces were plain and unpolished.

There was no ornamentation, save for two massive gold rings on one end panel and a rather crude filigree design worked into the center of the lid. At each end of the lid were indentations as though, at one time or another, something had been attached to them.

The impression Hungerford received was of very rough workmanship - and some rough handling, as evidenced by the absence of the other two carrying-rings and points on the corners and sides where the golden sheets had been cut through, revealing a brownish-yellow grained wood beneath. He looked questioningly at DeShane.

The archaeologist nodded back at him. “That’s it all right. That’s the Ark. The real one.”

“Johnny,” Cathy said, “what about the statuettes - the ones on the lid? Someone has taken them off.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” DeShane said as he bent over the box, peering around it and finally lifting up one end to look underneath. “Not there either,” he said with mounting irritation, but as he set the Ark back down there was a dull clang from the inside.

DeShane’s expression changed immediately. “Bureaucrats,” he spat out, scornfully. “They didn’t want the crate any bigger than necessary, so they took the cherubim off and put them inside. I can’t stand them!”

He bent down again and grabbed one end of the lid. “Get the other side, will you?” he nodded at Hungerford. “Let’s slide it off and set it down over there.”

Seeing Derek’s hesitation, DeShane suddenly burst out laughing. “This isn’t that damned movie. Nothing’s going to happen...” he suddenly turned and winked at Cathy “...I think!”

Hungerford still hesitated. This was too much, too fast for him to fully grasp: it seemed like a kind of crazy nightmare. And the ghostliness of their surroundings didn’t help the matter, at all. But a moment later nothing had changed and it was still very real.

He sighed and took hold of the other end of the lid. Gingerly the two men raised it, it was lighter than it appeared, due, apparently, to the age and dryness of the wood, and set it carefully down on one of the nearby crates. Then the three of them turned back to the Ark and peered inside.

No explosions or other worldly manifestations of an angry Hebrew god rose up to annihilate them, the Ark was as tranquil as before. Its inside was also covered with the plain, beaten gold sheets, although within the cavity were two objects wrapped in white cloth.

Their shapes were too irregular to be those of the famed stone tablets. DeShane carefully lifted one of them out of the Ark, unwrapped it, and suddenly there was the glitter of an entirely different order of gold craftsmanship.

The object that he held up before them was about two feet long and one foot high, it was a crouched, semi-humanoid figure with its head and face concealed by its two outstretched wings. It was evidently fashioned from pure gold and was carved and polished to jewel-like perfection.

Noting the sudden expression of confusion on Hungerford’s face, DeShane held the statue towards him and nodded with evident pleasure: “I think you have just noticed what we did seventy years ago.”

“That’s not Mesopotamian,” Hungerford said with a shout of surprise. “That’s Egyptian! The wings, the kilt… What’s an Egyptian statue doing on the Hebrew Ark?”

“We asked ourselves the same question in Tanis,” Cathy said while her husband set the first statue down and began to unwrap the other one. “But, like you, we weren’t expecting such a discovery. And, unfortunately, we were interrupted by the Ahnenerbe before we could try to come up with an answer. Johnny, show him their faces.”

DeShane tilted the statues back so that Hungerford could see beneath the canopied wings. Once again he shook his head in surprise. “Horus and Ra! Those are Horus and Ra! What does this mean? You knew about this and didn’t say anything about it and didn’t write it up or make any statement? Do you know…”

“Of course we do,” Cathy said, cutting Hungerford off. “But we didn’t have the Ark or the cherubim. Who would have believed us?

“After the Army took the Ark away it was as though a door was shut in our faces. No one would tell us anything about it, or even admit to having it at all. I can’t tell you how many people we tried in to contact Washington.”

Hungerford shifted his gaze back to the Ark. “What about the Ten Commandments?” he said. “Weren’t they supposed to be inside? Where are they?”

“Not here at any rate,” DeShane said in frustration. “Unless you’ve got another box here labeled, um, 2859301-A.”

Hungerford laughed. “I’m afraid not.”

“One of two things must have happened, assuming that the tablets were in the Ark when Cathy and I got it out of the Well of Souls: Either the Germans got them while we were out cold, or the same people who took our two little friends off the lid stored the tablets in some other place.”

“But it doesn’t make any sense that they would separate the tablets from the Ark, which is equally important,” Cathy objected. “They wouldn’t have removed them from the Ark just to be able to put the statues inside.”

“I’m going out to the car,” Hungerford said. “I’ll be right back.”

Moments later he returned, carrying a socket adapter, a small DC transformer, and two long electrical cables.

The DeShanes watched with interest while he connected the transformer to the nearest overhead light socket then attached one end of the cables to the transformer and the other to one of the metal attachments at each end of the Ark. He switched on the transformer after cautioning them not to touch the Ark while the current was on.

Then with Steven Simonson’s camera he took a series of infrared photographs of all of the outside and inside surfaces of the box. Finally he switched off the current, and disconnected the apparatus. “Well,” he said. “What now?”

John scratched his chin. “For the time being the Ark might as well stay here. But first I want to take some measurements of it. And I want to take the cherubim with us. I’ll go ahead and sign a receipt if you want.”

Hungerford laughed out loud. “A receipt for some Lockheed P-38 parts? O.K., I’ll write it up.”

It was the work of a few more minutes to nail the crate together again around the now empty Ark and re-band it. Just for good measure Hungerford smeared a little oil on the shiny new bands and then sprinkled some dust from the floor on them.

“Instant age,” he said with a chuckle. Finally crate 2859301 was restored to its niche.

The three of them made their way out of the warehouse into the unknown future awaiting their arrival.
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Offline Þórgrímr

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Re: John DeShane and the Secret of the Lost Ark
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2010, 01:05:08 PM »
Chapter Three


The next morning Hungerford picked up John and Cathy DeShane at their hotel, passed by the one hour photo to collect the prints of the film he had taken, and continued on to Steven’s apartment.

To Simonson they recounted the events of the previous evening. DeShane had brought along the two cherubim statues in an old leather suitcase and when he unwrapped them Simonson let out a low whistle of awe. He reached out to touch one of them and then drew back his hand at the last moment.

Hungerford smiled at his friend, “Me too,” he said with a laugh.

Cathy DeShane was carefully taping four of the photographs together. “Look at this, Johnny, hieroglyphs on the inside of the Ark.”

DeShane took the photos from her. “So that infrared trick really worked, incredible. You…” he addressed Hungerford and Simonson “…have a great future in archaeology. Cathy, have you got some paper handy?”

John sat down at the dining-table and, peering carefully at the photographs, began to make notes. After watching him for a few moments Cathy tugged two books from the satchel she had brought with her. “While he’s working on the translation,” she said with a grunt as she lifted the huge books, “we found some tidbits at the UC library yesterday and we thought that you might be interested in hearing.

“We, of course, knew about the Egyptian design of the cherubim from our original discovery of the Ark. Until now there seemed to be little use in pursuing the matter but your call,” she nodded at Hungerford, “made the difference. So yesterday we were looking for the link, as it were.

“This first book is ‘Religion in Ancient History’ by Jeremiah Doctorov, Religion Department at the University of Manchester. He’s a very bright man. Johnny knew him in graduate school. Listen to this:

“Seraphim are mysterious beings; they clearly derive from a very primitive stage of Hebrew culture. The word ‘seraphim’ means ‘burning ones’, and it is evident that originally they were supernatural serpents with a burning bite. Indeed, as the curious episode in Numbers 21:6 indicates, they were once worshipped. The bronze serpent that was then made was called a seraph, and it continued to be a cult object in Judah down to the reign of Hezekiah (716-687 BC).

“Equally mysterious are the cherubim. According to ‘Psalms 18:10’, they transport Yahweh: ‘He (Yahweh) rode on the cherub and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.’ Their association in this passage with stormclouds appears more clearly in Ezekiel’s account of his vision of Yahweh, which he had when he was exiled in Mesopotamia (593 BC):

‘As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming bronze. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: They had the form of men, but each had four faces, and each had four wings. As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man in front; the four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle at the back. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. (Ezekiel 1:4-5, 10-11)

“In the instructions given in Exodus 25:18-20 for the construction of the Ark of Yahweh, which was the chief cult-object in the original Temple of Jerusalem, Moses is directed: ‘You shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.’

“Specialist opinion today is inclined to think that the cherubim were similar to the winged sphinxes found in Phoenician art, their images adorning the Ark are also reminiscent of the winged figures of the goddesses Isis and Nepthys that protect the shrine of Tutankhamen.

“It would seem, therefore, that in the pre-exile period, as Hebrew religion emerged gradually from its primitive polytheism, many supernatural beings, of diverse origin and status, were recognized alongside of Yahweh. Since at this stage the idea of the Devil had not emerged, these beings were sometimes regarded as emissaries of Yahweh to bring evil as well as good on men, which they did, most notably on Saul and Ahab.”

“You see the problem here,” Cathy said, “We’re actually trying to make sense out of a religious artifact that, at least where the cherubim are concerned, is not Hebraic at all, but rather Egyptian in origin. Also dating back to a historical period before Yahweh or Jehovah became a single god for the Hebrews.

“Then there is the secondary problem of the Exodus itself. Archaeologically it never happened, at least not in the way it is described in the Bible.”

She set the Doctorov book down and took up the second one. “John Romer’s Testament, a brilliant piece of work. He’s a British archaeologist who spent most of his professional life in the field in Egypt and Mesopotamia. He wrote this as a study of how the present-day book we know as the Bible came to be assembled over the centuries.”

She flipped through the pages and then quoted a passage to them:

“Hard evidence of the Exodus event in the preserving deserts of the Sinai, where most of the biblical wandering takes place, is similarly elusive. Although its climate has preserved the tiniest traces of ancient Bedouin encampments and the sparse, 5,000-year-old villages of mine workers, there is not a single trace of Moses or the Israelites. And they would have been by far the largest body of ancient people ever to have lived in this great wilderness.

Neither is there any evidence that Sinai and its little natural springs could ever have supported such a multitude, even for a single week. Several 19th-century vicars recognized this fact within a day or two of the start of numerous expeditions in search of Moses’ footsteps. ‘Escaping from the rigors of an English winter,’ as one of them said, ‘in a land of the flock and the tent to which our only guide was the Bible.’ They quickly realized that the biblical Exodus was logistically impossible as described, and that the Bible was a most ambiguous guide to that desolate region. The biblical description of the Exodus, then, flies in the face of practical experience. Indeed the closer you examine it, the further it seems removed from all of ancient history.

“Fortunately it is easier to discover the age of the book of Exodus than the route of an Exodus journey, and all the indications are that this was a very long time before Ramses’ City had descended into ruin. For running alongside the ancient theme of creation and re-creation is the no-less-powerful theme of liberation from slavery and of Yahweh's revenge upon the slave masters. It is in this account of Israel’s enslavement that the Exodus story departs from the reality of the world of Genesis and Exodus.

“Slavery on such a scale and of the type described in the Book of Exodus did not exist in ancient Egypt, only the middle east, where mankind was set inside a holy order in which everyone from a pharaoh to a bonded peasant was at the disposal of the gods and the state.

“In such a world modern conceptions of slavery and freedom, even of ownership and buying and selling, have little meaning. Furthermore, explicit documentary evidence from ancient Egypt shows that foreigners who lived in that country, either as prisoners of war or as peaceful immigrants, were carefully and quickly integrated into the general mass of the population. Ancient notions of race and culture were very different, and Exodus’ theme of liberation from oppression is entirely inappropriate to ancient reality.”

Cathy closed the book. “So not only do we have an Ark of extremely mysterious design. It is also supposed to be one of the central features of an event which, as far as we can tell, never took place. Yet here it is. Now…”

“Got it!” John shouted out, pushing back his chair and walking over to join them. “Fantastic. Some of the glyphs were too blurred or indistinct, but enough came through. This is just fantastic,” he said as he waved his notes at them. “Are you ready for this?”

“And... Self-Become-One has said... firstborn son of the great house of Men-maat-Ra, son of the Sun, Ptah-meri-en-Pepi, Life! Health! Strength! Bear away from Khem the sacred Sam-taui... preserved by these nomads with... I adjure thee... writing reveals itself, to return the Sam-taui to their most holy…”

“Most holy what?” Hungerford asked, more than a little confused. “Don’t tell me...”

“Afraid so,” DeShane said. “That’s where they stop. The rest of the writing is presumably on the other tablet, which left no impression on the gold. No matter. We will worry about that later. This is tremendous. Do you know what this means?”

“What’s the name of that Pharaoh?” Simonson asked.

“Sorry, I was giving you the literal translation. It’s Pepi II of the Sixth Dynasty in the Old Kingdom. Now let’s see how good a detective you are.” John said as he passed the notes to Simonson, who looked over them carefully.

“Well, the writer refers to himself only as Pepi’s firstborn son, but not by name. Maybe he had some reason to conceal his name? Maybe to pose as a non-Egyptian, to blend in with these nomads he’s talking about? Of course! Merenere - Moses. That’s why he’s come down to us with that name; it’s just the Egyptian hieroglyphic for ‘son’.”

“Like ‘Thutmose, Son of Thoth’ and ‘Ramesses, Son of Ra’,” Hungerford said with a nod. “So this is proof that Moses was not only an Egyptian, but in fact a prince of the royal house, the crown prince in fact.”

“You got it,” DeShane said, beaming a smile at them. “Anything else jump out at you?”

“Hmm,” Hungerford said. “If Moses lived in the Old Kingdom, then the ‘Exodus’ must have occurred a thousand years earlier than what the Bible says. Along with the fact the Sam-taui are obviously those two statues of Horus and Ra.”

John took over the fact listing, “And they weren’t just any statues; they were two unusually important ones. For whatever reason, perhaps a political crisis or threat of invasion, it was felt necessary to get them out of Egypt in some manner that would ultimately preserve them without revealing their actual significance or value. What better way than as ‘ornaments’ for a mock-sacred treasure, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, which Moses also used to record this message.”

John got to his feet and paced back and forth, getting more excited. “He must have carved the commandments on the front of the tablets, which is all that he showed the Hebrews. They never knew what was on the back, nor could they read the message even if they did see it.

“And Moses made certain that they wouldn’t see the hieroglyphs by decreeing that the tablets were to be locked out of sight in the Ark and not touched henceforth. Even the Hebrew priests who were permitted to open the Ark could see only the Hebrew writing as they looked inside. That’s why what was on the back of this tablet impressed itself into the gold lining of the Ark.”

“How about that ‘Self-Become-One’?” Simonson added. “That’s got to be Xepera, the self-created scarab, right?”

“Or,” DeShane said, “you might translate the hieroglyph into ancient Hebrew as ‘I am that I am’ or ‘I will be what I will be’. But let’s not jump immediately to a simple conclusion.”

He rummaged again in the leather satchel, took out a third book. “Massey’s Ancient Egypt,” he explained. “Massey was an interesting guy. Spent years in research at the British Museum around the turn of the century and published six books on his work. He also lectured extensively in both England and the States. Many of this century’s best archaeologists began their careers as students of his. Unfortunately, for him, he more or less stated that Judaism was merely a plagiarism of far-more-ancient Sumerian and Egyptian legends.

“That did not go down too well with the contemporary religious establishment, which is why he’s been, in a word, suppressed. But there isn’t an Egyptologist worth his salt today who doesn’t know of Massey’s work. Here’s the part I was looking for:

“Ages before the Hebrew Pentateuch was written and ascribed to Moses, the one god had been worshipped as Anu, and as Egyptian under the title of Atum-Ra. This is the god who was one by nature and a triad by manifestation: one in the Sumerian mythos as the controller of the Heavens; En-Lil; one in the eschatology as Anu the everlasting father, and the last one En-Ki the ever-coming son as prince of peace; the one god, called the holy spirit, who was founded typically on the human ghost.

“This is the living (Ankhu), self-originating, and eternal god. This is he who was to be lifted up as god alone in his ark or tabernacle on the mount of glory, that is, as Ra, on the double horizon or in the dual equinox; the deity who gave the law on Mount Shenni through the intermediation of Anhur (En-Lil) or Ma-Shu, the son of Ra.

“In the so-called ‘destruction of mankind’ the solar god resolves to be lifted up in an ark or sanctuary by himself alone. This sanctuary is carried on the back of Nut, the celestial cow. ‘There was Nut. The majesty of Ra was on her back. His majesty arrived in the sanctuary. And his majesty saw the inner part of the sanctuary.’

“This creation of the sanctuary for the one god Ra upon the mount is followed in the Hebrew book. Yahweh says to Moses, ‘Let them (the children of Israel) make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the dwelling and the pattern of the furniture thereof, even so ye shall make it. And they shall make an ark of acacia-wood.’

“The two together, the sanctuary and the ark, constituted an ark-shrine of the true Egyptian pattern. As Egyptian, the ark of Ra-Harmakhu represented the double equinox in the two horizons. This was the ‘double abode of Ra’ in the dual domain of light and shade, the model of the Jewish arks or tabernacles that were to be erected equally in sun and shade. The part open to the rays of light was exactly to balance the shade or veil of the covering, and not to have more sun than shade (Mishna, Treatise Succah). This was in accordance with the plan of the Great Pyramid in relation to the luminous hemisphere and the hemisphere of shade at the two equinoxes.

“The sanctuary of Ra was a figure of the heavens. The Hebrew ark was a portable copy, a tabernacle fitted for an itinerating deity.

“It was the Egyptian custom to represent the heavens in miniature as an ark of so many cubits. There is an ark of seven cubits, one of eight cubits, another of four cubits, in which the god was ‘lifted up’ or exalted.

“Inside the ark there was a shrine for the deity, with a figure of the god within the sanctuary. As water was the primary element of life, the nature-powers were held to have come into being by water. Hence their images were placed within the shrine that was carried on board the papyrus bark and borne upon the shoulders of the priests.

“These tabernacles, consisting of a boat and shrine, were the sacred ark-shrines of Egypt. Thus the beginnings were forever kept in view. The ark-shrine on the water represented by the boat became a type of heaven as dwelling-place of the Eternal. Thus an ark of En-Ki was constellated in the stars and pictured on the waters of the inundation. The ark of Atum-Ra was depicted with the solar orb on board, which was always red.

“In the religious mysteries, as already shown, an ark of four cubits imaged the heaven of four quarters, or, as the Egyptians phrased it, of four sides. As we have seen, there was an ark of seven cubits for the heptanomis, and one of eight cubits for the octonary. This ark-shrine of eight cubits is to be built for the god to float in after there has been a great subsidence of land in the celestial waters. So likewise in the ‘destruction of mankind’, when Ra becomes the supreme one god, he orders an ark or tabernacle to be made for his voyage over the heavens. The inscription was engraved in the chamber of the cow that was herself a form of the ark as the goddess Nut.”

“So the Ark is an Egyptian device used to transport the Sam-taui,” said Simonson. “So where does that leave us?”

“Jump ahead a few thousand years,” DeShane answered. “What happened to the Ark when Cathy and I first found it?”

“I don’t follow you.”

“O.K., look at it this way: We got to keep the Ark, but without the tablets. The Germans must have drugged us, then opened the Ark and removed the tablets, which are what are supposed to be important about it, remember? Then took just those to Berlin. Presumably the team, it was rather more of a commando outfit than a research group, couldn’t translate the hieroglyphs on site, or just didn’t bother to.

“Why they didn’t take the Ark and the Sam-taui as well I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. Maybe they didn’t have time or the transport facilities. Anyway, by the time the hieroglyphs were deciphered, the Ark was in the United States, out of their reach. There must have been hell to pay in Berlin that day!” John said with a laugh.

“Now we have a most interesting situation. The Germans couldn’t reveal the truth about the tablets, because then the U.S. would know the significance of the statues. As for the Ark, well, my guess would be that it was opened up once we got it to Washington. When nothing was found inside, the powers-that-be decided that revealing that fact might be a bad blow to Judeo-Christianity, or even might be seen as an anti-Semitic scheme to discredit the biblical account. Remember that the whole Western world was pretty touchy about the Jews in the pre-World War II period; it wasn’t just a German trait by a long shot.

“So that’s why the government just buried the Ark in your warehouse. A religious hot potato, if you will.”

Cathy waved her finger in the air. “Now a whole lot of other things are beginning to fall into place,” she said. “Ramesses II, presumably the son of Seti I, moved the Egyptian capital to Tanis during his reign from 1290 to 1223 BC. Tanis remained the capitol through the twenty-second Dynasty begun by Pharaoh Sheshonk, the biblical ‘Shishack’ who raided and sacked Jerusalem in 928 BC. That’s in I Kings 14:26. And if Sheshonk knew about the Sam-taui through court or temple archives that might explain why he went after the Ark, to get the sacred Sam-taui back to Egypt.

“Certainly there’s no reason why he should have gone through all that trouble to enshrine a presumably false, foreign God in the Well of Souls where we found the Ark. That would have been an affront to the Egyptian Gods.

“But what he was actually enshrining was the Sam-taui, together with Moses’ ingenious device to preserve them. And the ‘Staff of Ra’ that you used to find the Well, Johnny; that must have been the ‘Staff of Ramesses’. I’ll bet you anything that the story of the Sam-taui’s concealment was recorded on the original shaft of that staff by Moses’ younger brother, for the eyes of future pharaohs only. Ramesses must have had the Well and the Map Room built in his new capitol against a time when the Ark would be returned. Evidently Sheshonk had reason to think that the time had come to bring it back.”

“So now we have to get our hands on the Ten Commandments, or, more precisely, on the rest of that inscription,” DeShane said with a grunt. “That means we’re off to Germany tomorrow. You interested?”

“I’m afraid I’m out,” Simonson said sadly. “I’ve got too many things holding me in the bay area right now. But I certainly want to know what happens.”

The DeShanes looked at Derek Hungerford. “Right now I belong to the Army,” he said. “But after a couple of weeks…” then paused as John smiled and waved a piece of fax paper in front of him.

“Forgot to tell you. I took the, umm, liberty of having your orders amended. You’re now on casual status, assigned as escort officer to a scholar with a sensitive security background traveling overseas. That’s me. You don’t mind do you?” John said with a embarassed smile.

Hungerford burst out laughing. “Obviously you’ve got what is commonly called ‘clout’.”

“Ha,” Cathy said with a snort. “It’s just that he creates so many problems for so many higher-ups when someone isn’t keeping an eye on him!”

“My reputation must be improving,” her husband commented. “This time I asked for and got two escort officers. We’ll pick up the other one when we change planes at McCarthy in New York.”
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

 

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