Solomon’s Ring All throughout the ages the mystery had remain a secret.
Raymond Beresford Hamilton
7 I received the call Monday morning, just after I arrived back home following my two mile jog around the track in nearby Overbrook Park. I took off my sweaty red-and-white sweat-suit— the colors of my Alma Mata, Ohio State University—and my worn out running shoes. I hopped into the shower and relished the soothing steamy water as it massaged my aching shoulders and back. Despite myself, my mind shifted toward my ex-wife, Amanda. How are you doing? Why couldn’t you have a little more patience with me, Amanda? You knew my responsibility to the Bureau. It was my job, and our only source of income. Snapping out of my trance, I shut off the water. I shook my head side to side and tiny drops of water splattered against the shower walls and curtain. I really miss Amanda. But this is one of the things we disagreed on. I really don’t mind the drops of water in the shower. But she did. She made a big fuss about it. If she was here now, I’d have to wipe down the shower walls and curtain. But since she isn’t, I stepped out of the steamy shower, grabbed a towel and dried myself. Feeling rejuvenated and fresh, I walked over to the closet, found the dark blue suit, white shirt and pin-striped-tie that seem more suited for a cheap used car salesman than an FBI agent—I like it that way— and dressed before heading down stairs. I grabbed the newspaper from the slim oriental table, Amanda had picked up from a garage sale a few years before, at the bottom of the stairs. I took a quick glance over the news headlines—Tsunami in Puget Sound, last Friday evening—before folding it and placing it under my arm. A dead presidential cabinet member and a tsunami, both at the same time…what’s this world coming to?
I continued into the kitchen, sat at the circular table, and swallowed a bowl of soggy Kellogg’s Raisin Bran. Then I headed out the front door and drove to the office. On the way a bright ray of light flashed through the windshield of my vehicle, straight into my eyes, I was blinded. I couldn’t help it when I cursed and put a hand up to block the glare from the rising sun. It alerted me to my approaching destination, as I was about to drive by my turn into FBI field office parking lot. I entered the building via my usual route—through the underground garage—and when I arrived this morning, I immediately sensed a strange presence. I stood in the cubicle laden space just outside my office door and took considerable note of my lonely presence in this usually crowded space. At 8:30 am, the corridors were dimly lit and the lights flickered. Strange, that never happened before…huh. Something must be wrong with the lights. I shrugged it off. I unlocked my office door and settled in behind my desk. A large stack of files to be reviewed lurked on the corner of my desk. With a sigh, I plucked one off the top—the discovery of Secretary Cheney’s mummified body. This separates the men from the boys, I thought to myself.
“Sir? Sir,” a soft Australian accent filtered through my ear. “It’s 12:15 and you have a one--o’clock appointment at the Seattle morgue.” It was Ms. Tompkins, my assistant. Her voice jerked my mind off what I had been reading and back on to my most pressing issue—-my appointment with the medical examiner Dr. Anthony Martin. “Oh, yes. Thank you, Ms. Tompkins, I almost forgot.” I checked the clock. I was going to be late. “If we receive any information on Secretary Cheney’s case, while I am away, please leave it on my desk.” “Yes, sir,” Ms. Tompkins replied, “Now hurry you can still make it there on time.” I rose to my feet, grabbed my keys resting next to the picture of Amanda and Carla, and hurried out the door. I met my partner, Agent Nelson, in the hallway. I call him Nellie. His name is Jason Nelson. He’s slightly shorter than I am, but he’s burly, and his face is more long
than round with deep blue eyes, and silver hair. I remember when his hair was jet black. “What’s the hurry? We going somewhere?” Nellie grinned. He was dressed in the same school-boy suit and tie like I was. “Just me, Nellie. Director said I should handle this one alone. Call you later.” I picked up my pace. “Alone? That’s not standard procedure,” Nelson shrugged. “Partners cover each other’s back. We don’t go out alone.” “That’s what I told him.” I shrugged. “We’re spread a little thin right now. Maybe he just wants to cover more cases. If you get an explanation out of Morris, let me know.” I hurried down the stairs, out through the tall double glass doors, and into the underground garage. I unlocked my car door, got in and drove away. Nelson stood at the tall glass doors and watched as my car sped away. I watched him through my rear view mirror. I knew he wasn’t pleased with this situation. I wasn’t either. ***
The midtown temperature was chilly. The thermostat read forty-seven degrees, and a light fog thickened the atmosphere. Seattle was busy as usual. People hurried in the city. Drivers stood still in heavy traffic and jammed the roadways. Tsunami clean-up efforts were under way. National Guard, Regional Homeland Security, Red Cross, and Salvation Army vehicles choked the roads as they transported medicine, food and personnel across the city and south to Olympia. Employees trying desperately to return on time from their lunch breaks made things even worse. My Lexus was trapped in traffic only blocks from my destination—the city morgue—where the coroner was scheduled to meet with me. I glanced down at my wrist and checked the time on my Swiss Burberry Stainless Steel time piece, with the chronograph dial and the words “To my beloved husband” engraved on its reverse—a 45th birthday gift from Amanda, who left me for a man who had more time for her. I’d be quicker on foot. I pulled over and into a parking spot as a silver Explorer vacated the space. On foot, I hurried down the worn-out walkway.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” I said as I tried to make it on time.
“Do you mind? The nerve of some people.” A short middle aged lady, with shopping bags in hand, brushed my hand from her shoulder. “Please, thank you,” I said as I passed her and continued to squeeze my way through the crowd. I’ll never make it on time, I kept telling myself under my breath and ran faster. I’m fairly tall at six-feet-two-inches. Back in my high school days I sprouted four inches between my junior and senior years and developed broad shoulders. I learned to be firm and direct during FBI training at the academy, and now at times I know I seem intimidating to those who don’t know me. I’m always clean shaven, with a certain reddish look to my face, as if I’d just finished running two miles in the hot sun. I rarely appear in public in anything except a suit and my cheap dark sunglasses, and now in my early-fifties, I’m still in good shape. There it is! Finally. I arrived and checked my Burberry: 1:10 pm. 10 minutes late. I hope he’s still here. I entered the building and immediately frowned from the strong odor of formaldehyde that clogged the airway. It’s dark and gloomy in this place and it smells of mildew and death. I used one hand to cover my nose. “Dr. Martin, are you here?” I called. I walked past the vacant front desk and peeked down the long empty corridor that curved to the left. I couldn’t help but to take note of the many closed doors that extended down the narrow corridor. Not a soul in sight. Where is everyone? “Back here, Agent Cole.” I followed the faint voice down the hall to a back room. The man who awaited me had silver hair, gray around the edges of his bushy eye brows, eagle claws around the outer edges of his eyes, thick prescription glasses, and appeared to have been slightly taller in his younger days, since he now slumped slightly. “I’m sorry there was no one there at the front desk to greet you, Agent Cole,” said Dr. Martin. “Our staff is stretched rather thin right now and we’re sharing staff with other morgues in the city.” “No problem.” I tried to suppress a shiver. With the earthquake and tsunami, the local morgues probably were very busy. “What have you found out?” Dr. Martin seemed to think over several possible answers but eventually just shrugged. “Follow me, Agent Cole. You better see this for yourself.”
He led me into a, dimly lit, medium size room off to the left. In its center were six surgical tables, positioned in two straight rows. There was just enough space for a person to walk between each table. On the far right wall were twelve small cabinet doors. They were arranged in three rows, from top to bottom, and had four doors across, from left to right. Dr. Martin dragged on a pair of surgical gloves, before he opened the furthest cabinet door, and rolled a long stretcher out of the cold human storage freezer. He turned back the cover and I saw the mummified body of former Treasury Secretary, Benjamin Cheney, for the first time. “Holy mother of Jesus,” escaped from my mouth. I immediately took two steps back, reached for my handkerchief in my rear pocket and used it to cover my mouth and nose. “What happened to him?” “To tell the truth, I have no idea. I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years.” The coroner adjusted his glasses. It was virtually impossible for a prudent mind to accept that a living human being could, from one day to the next, transform from a man into…this. The former Secretary’s lifeless body lay mummified on the cold metal slab before us. His eyes and mouth were wide open—as if he had seen something, so terrifying, that it had shocked the living life right out of his body instantly. His brown hair stood straight up on his head—like dried needles from a pine tree. His skin had turned a dark bluish color, dried and stuck tight to the skull beneath. I felt a chill in the air—like a strong presence was in the room with us. My perception was of the corpse’s eyes watching us, and its ears earing everything that we discussed. A most peculiar sensation rushed through me—like an electric shock. Immediately, before I heard a faint voice in the back of my head. It was like the body was trying to communicate with me. I heard it say something, but the faint voice faded before I could make out what it had said. “Agent Cole?” “What?” I focused on the doctor. “Sorry. What was that?” “I don’t have an explanation for this. It is a horrible sight, and a more troubling fact is that whatever caused this instant mortification is still out there, and is loose, among us,” the doctor said. “And what could that be, Dr. Martin?” “There have been many unexplained mysteries throughout the ages, Agent Cole, their answers are still hidden in undiscovered science. The answer to this particular mystery is right up there with the best of them. I will try to explain what I know for
sure.” Dr. Martin sighed as if he didn’t think he knew very much, for sure, at all, but was willing to give it a try. “There are many ways to determine a person’s time of death,” he said. “The major events following death are predictable and well known. First, the stiffening of the muscles, more commonly known as Rigor mortis, becomes noticeable one to six hours after death. This condition normally disappears about twelve to thirty-six hours later, because it is caused by changes in the body chemistry. Then, due to the gravitational settling of the un-clotted blood, Livor mortis sets in. This is the discoloration of the skin that we see, and this is a condition that presents itself about two to four hours after death and reaches its maximum level in roughly an eight to twelve hour time period. The next condition that develops is the change in core body temperature, called Algor mortis, it occurs as the body cools until it reaches the ambient temperature. Only a few hours after death, the corneas begin to cloud up and become opaque in roughly three hours. When a person dies six hours after eating, food will still be present in the stomach. Certain insects infest the body after death, and as the life cycles of these insects are known to us, they assist us in determining the possible time of death.” The doctor paused again, adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. “What puzzles me most in this case, Agent Cole, is that none of these conditions are evident in the former secretary’s body. In fact, there’s hardly anything present in it at all. It’s dry as ash and withered to the core. It could have been left out in a desert a thousand years ago and not look much different. For this to have occurred overnight—I can’t explain it any more than I can explain spontaneous combustion. It is as if something instantaneously sucked the Treasury Secretary’s life out of his body, as if some kind of high energy endothermic heat source entered his body and sucked out every ounce of fluid from it.” “You can’t be serious?” was all I could say, stunned. This information hit me like a ton of bricks, right in the gut. Dr. Martin nodded. “Impossible,” was the next thing that I blurted, and I’m sure my facial expression looked as blankly astonished as I felt. “How can this be possible?” The doctor shrugged. “I have no idea. Before being presented with this case, I would have said it was impossible. Unfortunately, I now have the impossible in my morgue.”
And just how was I supposed to solve a case like this? I thought to myself. Although I respected and appreciated the good doctor’s wisdom, I wasn’t very pleased with the information he had just shared with me. It offered nothing to assist me in my job to find the answers to the unanswered questions surrounding the Secretary’s death. In fact, my job seemed to have gained in complexity—a total unexplainable mystery. “So, what am I supposed to tell my boss?” I asked finally. “Tell him…These developments have opened a whole new area for scientific research. This is a new condition. Not yet discovered,” the doctor answered. After a few seconds I pulled myself together. “Okay then, Dr. Martin. Good work. I am going to have the body transferred to the FBI lab for further examination.” “I’ll be discreet, of course.” Dr. Martin assured me. “Thank you, doctor.” In a state of total confusion I showed myself out. “Director Morris will love this,” I muttered as I dug my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed my boss’s direct line. He answered tersely, “Morris.” “Sir, I’m leaving the morgue now. I think we need to classify this case as suspicious or strange. We don’t have enough evidence to call it murder at this point. Also, we better have our lab guys take charge of the corpse. Something has come up.” “Okay Cole. I’ll inform the Treasury office of the Secretary’s death.” Morris said. “Yes sir, I’ll see you back at the office.”
Raymond Beresford Hamilton is an American multi-plot thriller writer. He grew up in Metuchen, New Jersey, and is the sixth of eight children. He graduated from Metuchen High School and earned his bachelor's degree from Jersey City State College. Hamilton had a passion for electronics and later enrolled in an electronic technician program at Devry Technical Institute. Later, he learned that he also loved traveling and decided to join the Army and see the world. He was promoted fast in his early Army years. He made the rank of sergeant during his first few years of enlistment and he decided to make a career out of serving the American people. He served in various imminent danger areas: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Europe, and Southwest Asia. Among his many job titles are: Instructor/Writer, Re-enlistment NCO, Training NCO, Operations NCO, Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Electronic Maintenance Chief, Communications Equipment Maintenance Supervisor, Operations Manager, and Electronics Maintenance Supervisor, to name a few.
Hamilton also participated in two wars: The Gulf war in 1991 and the Iraq war in 2003. And over the course of his distinguished twenty-two year military career he received numerous awards: The Joint Service Commendation Medal, The Meritorious Service Medal, The Army Commendation Medal (5 Awards), The Army Achievement Medal (3 Awards), The Army Good Conduct Medal (7 Awards), The National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, The South West Asia Service Medal with three Bronze Stars, The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, The Korean Defense Service Medal, The Armed Forces Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (3 Awards),The Army Service Ribbon, The Overseas Service Ribbon (8 Awards), The Nato Medal, The Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), The Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait), among others. In November 2009, he published his first fiction novel Identity Assumption, published by VBW publishing company. His second is Solomon's Ring. Find out more at: http://www.solomonsring.com