The Golden Fleece Affair 2

Last Tuesday I gave you all chapter one of The Golden Fleece Affair for your reading pleasure. This week, I give you chapter two. Tomorrow, you get the entire book for your reading pleasure.

I hope you enjoy the sample.

TWO

The Golden Fleece

The House on the Enchanted Hill
Afternoon
Thursday, 8 April 1954

“Lady Hurley-Drummond, Karl, good to see you,” Mr Hall said, while shaking our hands. “Sit, eat, you must be hungry. While you eat, I’ll tell you a story.”

He looked quite frail. Granted, he is ninety. Last year, however, he seemed so much more robust. I wondered if he was ill. From the baskets, I helped myself to cold ham, cheese, olives, bread, and wine. Karl helped himself to a cold sausage instead of the ham.

While we ate, Mr Hall began. “I assume you two are familiar with the story of the Golden Fleece.”

“Well enough,” Karl said.

“Right,” Mr Hall replied and continued, “Jason, to take back his father’s throne, had to retrieve the Golden Fleece from Colchis. Which just so happens to be modern day Georgia on the east coast of the Black Sea. With the help of Medea, Jason captured the fleece. Medea, under Eros’ influence, had fallen in love with Jason. After Jason had possession of the fleece, he and Medea made their escape in the Argo and eventually arrived in Greece. The funny thing about the story, at least what I find to be odd, is that the fleece disappears once Jason and Medea are in Greece and King Pelias, who took the throne from Jason’s father, is killed by Medea’s machinations and magic. The fleece suddenly has nothing to do with anything. Ever wonder what happened to the Golden Fleece?”

Karl and I looked at each other. I spoke, “I never thought about it.” Karl voiced agreement.

“Doctor Wilbur Franzen and Doctor Elise Rodman have posited the novel theory that the fleece Jason got was a fake to throw off potential thieves from the real fleece.”

“What about the dragon and the skeleton soldiers?” Karl asked. “Why have them if the fleece was a fake?”

“Double protection, probably,” Mr Hall said. “Scare the hell out of any potential thieves and if they happen to get through and nab the fleece all they get for their efforts is a fake.”

“Medea must not have known the fleece she was helping Jason steal was a fake,” Karl pointed out.

“I agree,” Mr Hall said. “Probably only the king and a very trusted advisor knew. So imagine Jason’s and Medea’s surprise when they get to Greece and find the fleece to be a worthless rug. Since there was nothing special about the fleece, it simply disappears from the story and history.”

“I suppose that makes some measure of sense,” I said.

“Is there a reason, sir, you mention this myth?” Karl asked.

“There is indeed, Karl, there is indeed. For you see, the true Golden Fleece has been discovered. It exists. In modern day Georgia.”

“What?” Karl and I chorused.

“Yes. It has been found. A treasure hidden and discovered by accident. Something akin to those scrolls found by the Dead Sea some seven years ago. This discovery will be even more earth shaking when made public.”

“How so, sir?” I asked.

“Because, my dear Lady Hurley-Drummond, the fleece has power. Real power. Power to heal and power to grant authority and kingship to its possessor.”

“Who has it or where is it?” Karl asked.

“You are aware of the Italian invasion of Crimea and their push east along the coast of the Black Sea,” Mr Hall began.

Karl and I nodded.

“You are also aware they are presently trying to secure the coast of Georgia.”

Again we nodded.

“Good. What you are probably not aware of is the discovery of a cave by a company of Italian soldiers and in that cave of a brilliant golden fleece. So brilliant it is as though it were actually made of gold. With the Italian company were John Gortman, one of my reporters, and Felix Axelson, one of my photographers. Felix took photographs and John wrote up a detailed description. These were sent back to me. I ran both the photos and the description by Doctors Rodman and Franzen for corroboration. They are convinced it is the real McCoy that has been discovered.”

“What did the Italians do with it?” I asked.

“That’s the rub, Lady Hurley-Drummond. The Italians were routed in a counter-attack by the Georgian Liberation Army, or GLA as they’re referred to for short, and lost control of the area and the fleece. Neither the Italians, nor the Georgians have made any official announcement of the discovery. But anything that looks like gold, well, word spreads. The public is still largely ignorant of the find; however, enough people know and word has gotten back to a host of governments. Now the area is being flooded with military, para-military, secret agents, you name it. The most important players trying to nab the fleece from the Georgians are the Soviets, the Czarists, the Italians, the Germans, the British, and even the US government.”

“I still don’t understand why these governments want the fleece,” I said.

Mr Hall explained, “The power the fleece has. The GLA thinks the fleece will help them win independence. The Soviets think it will keep them in power. The Czarists, that it will put a Czar back on the Russian throne. The Germans, so Hitler can rule his thousand year reich until its end. The Italians, so Il Duce can achieve his dream of a new Roman Empire. The Brits, so Britannia still rules. We want it so democracy can be kept safe and secure from all the bad guys.”

“So why are we here, Mr Hall?” I asked.

“Good question, Lady Hurley-Drummond. You and Karl are here because I want it. You see, I’m very ill. In fact, I’m dying. I know. I’m going to be ninety-one in a couple of weeks. I’m an old man. But who in their right mind wants to die? No one. Certainly not I. I want the fleece because it will heal me of my disease. Owning it will let me live many more years. You and Karl are here because I want you to get the fleece for me.”

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Eight Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #17

I am presenting a new character and a new story. A dieselpunk adventure set in 1938. The character’s name is Rand Hart. He’s a professional gambler who spends most of his time on board the great zeppelins, crossing the North and South Atlantic, on the great Pan Am clipper seaplanes, flying from North to South America, and in Europe. His games are poker, Chemin de fer Baccarat, and backgammon.

Today’s snippet takes up where last Sunday’s left off where we left Rand Hart going through the probability tables in his head.

He looked at the German, in his black suit, his blond crewcut, gold ring on his finger, and the stack of chips in front of him. Hart looked at his own chips.

“I think it’s time, Mr von Osler, we see who’s bluffing.” Hart pushed all of his chip into the pile in the middle of the table. “That’s thirty-five thousand dollars. And I call.”

The German counted his chips. “It seems, Herr Hart, I’m short two thousand. Perhaps I might write a check?”

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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The Golden Fleece Affair

I’m getting ready to publish The Golden Fleece Affair, the second novel in the Lady Dru dieselpunk series.

So for today’s blog post, I’m going to let you all sample chapter one. Without further ado, here it is. Enjoy!

ONE

Hall Castle

Northern California
Early Afternoon
Thursday, 8 April 1954

I pushed the throttle and watched the speedo needle cross the one hundred miles per hour mark and pulled back on the stick. The nose of my Puss Moth rose and continued rising. Up, up, up we flew until we were upside down. I pushed the stick forward and down we went; pulled back and leveled off, completing the loop.

Karl started awake and I put my little baby into a displacement roll (something like a corkscrew). Once, twice, thrice. Karl started screaming, “We’re going to crash!”

I brought the plane back to level just as Karl grabbed an airsickness bag and threw up. I was laughing so hard, tears ran from my eyes.

“Goddamn it, Dru! You know I hate flying in these little planes. What the hell did you do that for?”

My laughter under control, I said, “You were nodding off. I figured you must be bored and might appreciate a little excitement.”

“This is the last time I fly in this death trap. A perfectly good sandwich is now in that bag.”

I started laughing again and my sides were aching.

“I don’t know what’s so funny. I can’t wait to get on the ground and stay on the ground. Flying. Pshaw!”

Laughter once again under control, I said, “I’m sorry, Karl. I am.”

He gave me a sidelong glance and said, “I’m only in this contraption because I love you. The least you can do is let me keep my lunch.”

“I’m sorry. Just a little over an hour and we’ll be at Hall Castle.”

“Good.”

Karl von Weidner, Hall Media’s top journalist and my lover, is okay in an airship, tolerates a large aeroplane, and barely endures a small plane. Out of the past twenty days, only five did not involve some mode of traveling. The remainder of the time we were flying or on a train.

The Soviet Civil War was a year old. Italy, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Britain had intervened on behalf of the Czarist cause and at long last the League of Nations had decided to take up the issue and try to broker peace. Walter Ramsey Hall, owner of Hall Media and our boss, dispatched us to cover the proceedings.

We arrived in Geneva on the 25th of March, after a five day trip by Boeing Clipper and train. On the 29th, we received an urgent telegram to meet Mr Hall at “the ranch” as soon as possible. “The ranch” being his name for his grand California estate. The next day we boarded a train for Frankfurt, where we bought tickets for a flight on the LZ-156 Richard Wagner. We crossed the Atlantic in style, as can only be had on a zeppelin, and, once back in America, took off for California from New York in my private plane.

One hour in the Puss Moth is too much for Karl and today is our fourth day of puddle jumping across the country. I don’t blame him for being cranky and upset at my little joke. He truly was sitting beside me only because he loves me. Our puddle jumping hasn’t been all bad, though. Each night we land, I get to make love to Karl and sleep with him. Now that I’ve let that slip, you can probably figure out why I chose to fly my little plane across country. Just don’t tell Karl.

Below us spread the Los Padres National Forest in all directions for a hundred miles or more. In places, the mountains are over three thousand feet. I said to Karl, “I’m sure you don’t want us crashing into some tree-clad peak.”

He gave me a puzzled look, touched with a hint of fear.

“Just warning you I’m going to climb up to six thousand feet. Okay?”

He nodded.

I gently pulled back on the stick and the little plane started gaining altitude.

Karl looked out the window. “The scenery is beautiful; isn’t it, Dru?”

“It is. California is such a beautiful state. I hope it doesn’t become overrun with people like New York.”

“That would be a pity.”

“I’m sorry, Karl, for being such an imp.”

He reached over and took my hand. “You are forgiven.”

“Truly?”

“Truly. I love you too much not to forgive you.”

I started wiggling the wings.

“Dru!” His hands gripped the seat.

I giggled and returned the plane to the level.

A year ago I almost gave up Karl for someone who was willing to marry me, even though I was and still am madly in love with him. Karl’s sense of duty binds him to his mentally ill wife. He will not leave her. I grew tired of being “the other woman” and in the process almost lost my soulmate. Things between us worked out, though, and we remain lovers.

I reached out and took his hand, gave it a squeeze, and said, “Thank you for loving me.”

“Thank you, Dru, for putting up with me and loving me back. Believe me when I say, I wish I’d met you first.”

“I do.”

We leaned towards each other, our lips meeting.

When we parted, I said, “Too bad my baby doesn’t have autopilot, because we’d be back there right now and I’d be ripping your clothes off.”

Karl laughed. “Sometimes, Dru Drummond, I think you are a cat in heat.”

I let out a loud, growly meow and Karl laughed all the more. I so love this man. He makes me feel alive. If someone makes you feel alive, don’t ever let him go.

“Look, Karl, there’s the Castle.”

“The House on the Enchanted Hill.”

“It’s so beautiful. Looks like one of those European fairytale castles.”

“Yes, it does.”

Before we took off from L.A., I sent a telegram to The House on the Enchanted Hill to inform Mr Hall of the estimated time of our arrival so someone would be at the airstrip. With the Castle in sight, I radioed our position and the time I expected to land. Someone at the airstrip confirmed my message. And in no time the fifty miles were behind us.

I circled the strip once to get a feel for the wind and air currents and to get a visual on the strip itself. I brought the plane in, cutting speed, letting the wind aid in slowing her down, and made sure I kept the nose up. The wheels touched earth, we took a little hop, I slowed more, and we were down. I braked and then taxied to where a man in jeans and a flannel shirt directed me. When parked, I cut power, and Karl and I climbed out of the plane.

The man in the flannel shirt and jeans put chocks to block the wheels. When done, he introduced himself, “I’m Jake Branson. You must be Lady Hurley-Drummond and Mr Weidner.”

We acknowledged we were.

“They’re waiting for you at the house. I’ll take you up there. Do you have luggage?”

We said we did, and Branson helped us get our bags out of the plane. Then he led us to a Willys Jeep. Between the three of us and Karl’s and my bags, we looked like an overflowing tin of sardines. Nothing, however, was lost on the short drive up to the Castle.

Branson stopped in front of the main door. Waiting for us were two men and Branson introduced us to Reynolds, the butler, and Jepson, one of the footmen.

“They’ll take your bags in and get you settled,” Branson informed us.

We didn’t enter the Grand House, however. Instead we followed the servants to the Mountain House, which is one of the guest houses.

“Mr Hall will be with you shortly,” Reynolds informed us. “In the meantime, there are four bedrooms and you may each choose the one most suitable for you. Is there anything you might need?”

We told him, no, and he and Jepson departed.

“I get the Cardinal Richelieu bed,” I promptly informed Karl.

“Be my guest,” he said, laughter in his voice.

The clock showed two-thirty by the time Karl and I got settled in the guest house. The April sun was beginning its long descent to the horizon, but the day was far from over. I stepped outside to enjoy the warm California spring. The temperature was in the seventies. The air was dry with only a slight breeze stirring. The view of the mountains was gorgeous. Karl joined me and we stood on the patio, holding hands, looking at the rugged peaks.

Karl rarely shows any public display of affection. He doesn’t want to risk word getting back to his wife. I don’t blame him, although I do miss his touch once we are outside of four walls and drawn drapes. I shan’t complain. I have his love and it is the best love for me. Never will I let it go.

We heard a noise. Karl let go of my hand and we turned around to see a servant girl with a basket, followed by a second girl, also carrying a basket.

The first girl said, “We’ve brought you lunch, in case you’re hungry. Mr Hall is on his way and he said to go ahead and start eating. He’s already had his lunch.”

The two young women set the baskets inside the guest house and departed. Karl and I had followed them in and were taking out the contents when there was a knock on the door. Karl called out “enter”, and in walked our boss, Walter Ramsey Hall.

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #16

Today we meet a new character: Rand Hart. He is the main character in a new story I’m writing. My intention for the Eight Sentence Sunday is to simply put out for review and comment successive 8 sentence snippets of the first chapter of the story.

The time is Friday, 6 May 1938. Hart is aboard the Hindenburg, playing poker. He is a professional gambler. For those who know a bit about the Hindenburg, you will have already caught the initial alternative history element: the Hindenburg was destroyed by fire on 6 May 1937.

Without further adieu, here is Rand Hart:

Rand Hart couldn’t imagine what the German’s hand was. He was looking at four jacks. Certainly the possibility existed the fellow had something better, but that possibility was slim. Very slim.

The last round of betting saw the other American fold. Now only Helmut von Osler and he remained at the table. The chips in the center represented over twenty-three thousand dollars. Hart ran through the probability tables in his mind.

To be continued!

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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A Change of Location

Often we get into a rut simply due to routine. Routine can be very, very good and routine can be deadening.

I like routine. Knowing what to expect is comforting. After awhile, though, I find it dulls the creative juices. I’m just  not as sharp on the creative front. The remedy? Break the routine. Give myself a change of location.

Life, like music, occasionally needs a shake to generate interest. In music, one can shake things up by syncopation; where the expected strong beat doesn’t happen – it falls, instead on the weak beat. Syncopation pulls us out of the lulling effect of a regular beat. Rather like a clock going TICK-tock-TICK-tock-tick-TOCK-tick-TOCK.

At the moment, I’m in California. My creative juices, I thought, had been flowing just fine during the long Minnesota winter. Suddenly, however, my change of location, as with syncopation has shaken things up. Suddenly, I find the melody far more interesting.

With a new eye, the creative juices are flowing at flood stage. Ideas are coming like those little maple tree helicopters raining down on the lawn.

So if you’re feeling a bit stagnant, a bit dry, you just might want to change your location. Even a small change, from your study to the deck or patio, just might put things into a whole new perspective; just might syncopate the rhythm for you.

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #15

One of the things I love about the time period from 1920 into the 1950s, is the concept of the future they had. What the future would look like, what we would be doing. What might have been. And, yes, I’m still waiting for my flying car.

In the forthcoming The Golden Fleece Affair, I’ve incorporated a couple of those wonderful things imagined by the dreamers of the dieselpunk era. We’ve already met Ernest the robot. Today, we’ll see what a suburb of the the “future” is like. We “meet” the New York City suburb of Grand Futureton. Granted, we only have a barebones description today. In the retrofuture that never was, we’ll learn more about Grand Futureton as Lady Dru pursues yet another story.

The “suburb” covers three square miles and is a two thousand five hundred foot tall building. The shape of the massive skyscraper is that of a domed cylinder. Radiating out from the cylinder are twenty columns which comprise the living units. Each column is one thousand seven hundred feet tall and has one hundred ten floors. Inside the cylinder are places of business, shops, department stores, light industrial establishments, roads, and parks. A rail line enters the cylinder on the ground floor. Airships can dock in the dome. Surrounding the skyscraper is an enormous park.

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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Air Travel – It Ain’t What It Used To Be

Last week I flew to California. Once again, I enjoyed the feeling of over a hundred people squashed into a space smaller than that of the average city bus. Air travel. What a delight.

Having mentioned what air travel was like in the past, I thought I’d post a few pictures to emphasize what was and what we’ve lost. Air travel, 1930s style.

The dining area of the Boeing B-314 flying boat:

b314-dining-color-178-web-385x230

The interior of the Martin M-130 flying boat:

m130-interior-web-550x278

The seating and sleeping area of the Martin M-130 flying boat:

m-130-seating-sleeping-berths-550x262

The interior of the Dornier Do X flying boat:

Dornier-Do-X-interior-2-730x500

Another view of the Dornier’s interior:

Dornier-Do-X-interior-1

Airships were even more luxurious, rivaling the ocean liners of the day. Having seen what we’ve lost in air travel, why do we put up with what we have today?

interior-of-a-passenger-airliner-10340a

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8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks #14

In my post-apocalyptic, futuristic steampunk novel series The Rocheport Saga, the hero, Bill Arthur, is on a quest to build a steam engine. He believes by reintroducing steam power, he will be able to stop humankind’s slide into pre-industrial chaos and by stopping humankind’s technological downward slide he will be able to continue the forward progress the human race was achieving prior to the catastrophic event which wiped out most of the world’s human population.

With the help of his friends, he is finally able to achieve his goal. They build a fire tube boiler and convert a diesel engine to run on steam. In the forthcoming Love Is Little (The Rocheport Saga #3), Bill Arthur concludes his September 1st, Year 2 diary entry with the following lines:

With a steam engine, the sky is the limit. The Industrial Revolution started with a steam engine. Steam powered everything. And today starts the Second Industrial Revolution, which will propel us back into the 21st century.

The advantage we have over our ancestors is we already know their future. We lived their future. For us, the Second Industrial Revolution is a return home.

If you write or read Dieselpunk, join in the fun: 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.

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