About your Book:
The Yellowstone Supervolcano explodes, devastating the Northern Hemisphere. A ghost ship, the abandoned real Lyubov Orlova, becomes the floating battleground between protagonists from Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea, Book 2.
After the Cataclysm is a dystopian action-adventure novel that plunges straight into this desperate post-apocalyptic world. But there is money to be made; many an art treasure from looted galleries and museums to be exchanged for rotting fruit from South America. If that fails, blackmail can be exerted on those willing to barter for a new life where the southern tradewinds blow.
Egyptologist Naunet Wilkins and her scientist husband Jonathan flee their lawless homeland in a small sailboat. They accept an uneasy offer from Egyptian archaeologist Jabari El-Masri, a fugitive from his own country. He was given refuge on Venezuela’s Isla Margarita, owned by the fanatic art collector Lorenzo Dominguez. Did El-Masri barter his Golden Tablets and the expertise of his American friends for his own exile?
Once again, Naunet is torn between translating the ancient curses for the ruthless South American billionaire, and saving a hopeful future world from the dire prophecies.
As another ill-wind blows, she finds her answer.
* * *
(Also see Excerpt from Khamsin, The Devil Wind of The Nile – Book 1)
(Also see Excerpt from Sirocco, Storm over Land and Sea – Book 2)
Targeted Age Group: General Adult
Genre: Dystopian, Action-Adventure
The Book Excerpt:
Excerpt from After the Cataclysm
Their late afternoon arrival into Praia Harbor did not cause undue attention. Many ships used the islands these days as a waypoint to a safer life, taking on fuel and local foodstuffs shuttled in from the African continent by profiteers. As poor as the offerings were, they were still better than what most of the fleeing Americans had come from.
Captain Stavros expertly eased the ship into its tight berth and then supervised the crew dropping the immense hawsers onto the crowded pier where helping hands, hoping for a meager reward, secured them to the huge dockside bollards. After crushing a couple of carelessly moored boats, the ship settled in next to the long pier. The remaining luckier vessels ranged from former luxury yachts to battered sailboats. The Bucanero II blanketed them with her long shadow like a ravenous vulture, and wise skippers planned to be out of her way as soon as they had taken on provisions.
* * *
That first evening, a man in an impressive uniform with an even more impressive military hat that made him look like an admiral, boarded the well-secured vessel. It was the Praia port captain. After showing the self-important man into a shabby cabin that held two grimy overstuffed chairs and a small sofa, Lorenzo offered his guest a glass of stinging Greek ouzo. The port captain briefly thought that it tasted a bit too much of aniseed—or was it licorice—but who was he to complain. He gratefully let Lorenzo refill his glass and savored the liquid’s burn if not entirely its taste.
When Lorenzo reached behind his chair and placed a beaten-up case onto the table between them and snapped the lid open, the gleam in the official’s eyes at once matched the gleam of Kruger Rands tightly packed ten-high in round styrofoam chimneys. An ensuing deal was sealed. The bill of lading was to show forty-eight lead slates purchased as ballast for the Bucanero II. With the ancient black pitch still encasing the tablets, it was easy to persuade the greedy man to let it go at that, and overlook the fact that the ship’s papers still showed the vessel as the Lyubov Orlova.
Finally, Lorenzo suggested that such a high price should include provisions as well as fuel. The suitcase changed hands. Suddenly, the port captain found himself a private dealer not only in tropical fruit and slaughtered goats, but in contraband bunker fuel as well. He had hundreds of abandoned containers stashed securely in an overflow yard adjacent to the main terminal. These days, it was a good thing to be in charge of a large port where his main function was to create confusion and reap the gratitude and payment of desperate people.
Four giant fuel trucks rolled up and replenished the Orlova’s new stainless steel tanks.
* * *
The following day, the Bucanero’s dockside loading porthole creaked wide open. It was close to the waterline so that its gangway could be lowered straight onto the dock. Lorenzo stepped out and scanned the length of the pier. It did not take long for him to recognize his man, even though the two had never met face-to-face.
Most of the world, as it had once been, was familiar with Egyptian’s own Indiana Jones as he used to expound about his new discoveries during many televised National Geographic programs. Even now, he still wore his trademark fedora. Three men stood slightly behind him and Lorenzo correctly assumed that they were the pilots who had ferried the tablets out of the Kharga Oasis. Rotten luck that bad fuel from Senegal had forced an emergency landing on Santiago. Damn, Lorenzo swore to himself, Puerto Rico would have been a lot more convenient. Still, lucky for me that they made it to here at all.
He gestured that only the Egyptian ascend the short gangway to where he stood. There was no need to endanger himself by inviting several men onto his ship, nor by stepping onto an unknown pier even with his guards who waited behind him, their concealed guns at the ready. Besides, he liked to play on his own turf.
The archaeologist stepped forward and hauled himself up the unstable platform by hanging heavily onto the ropes.
It looked to Lorenzo as if the once prominent man was either dead tired or very old. “At last, we meet.” He held out his hand and hoped he would not look like that when he got to be sixty-seven. “Welcome aboard, my dear Dr. El-Masri. Please, come and revive yourself with a glass of champagne. We must celebrate the salvage of your great heritage.”
It was not so long ago that he had proudly told one of his many interviewers, ‘I am Egyptian antiquities.’ Such confidence had always served him well while controlling his country’s treasures on his ousted president’s behalf. He had single-handedly steered Egypt’s economically critical Supreme Council of Antiquities toward the billions reaped annually from tourism and international exhibitions. What had happened to this man? Forced from office, he was left not only without friends, but without a country, suddenly depending on the tenuous goodwill of a man with a ship, a former buyer of a few negligent items from the Cairo Museum’s stores.
“Egypt is grateful to you,” he mumbled. As he shook hands with the South American, he managed a smile. To be beholden from now on to this pretentious third-world pirate turned his stomach.
“Please, call me Jabari. After all, we are both lovers of priceless art.” To get the awkward moment over with, he looked down at his companions and told Lorenzo that they needed to get back to the airport hanger to supervise the unloading of the goods.
Lorenzo could not have been happier with the speedy transfer of his promised loot. In his mind, that’s what it was no matter how patriotic the Egyptian tried to disguise his get-away. As far as Lorenzo was concerned, the man was simply paying for his freedom, no matter how tenuous.
* * *
If the shabby exterior of the Lyubov Orlova was a shock to Jabari, the grimy passages made him wonder if the ship would even float after taking on his ton of gold. He was therefore stunned as he followed Lorenzo into a salon that could only be described as sumptuous. It was obvious that the vessel’s exterior was purposely deceptive. The cunning devil. This man was someone not to be crossed without dire consequences. Considering the situation in which he found himself, Jabari was glad that he had had a change of heart. At the last moment, he had thought it prudent to bring the real tablets.
Lorenzo had poured out two snifters of a golden liquid. He handed one of the crystal goblets to his guest and then lifted his own with a happy smile on his face. “Cheers, Jabari. You will like South America. Once you have finished cleaning and translating my tablets, I can find lots more for you to dig up. Although you may want to change your major to Pre-Columbian art.”
“Ah, I meant to talk to you about the cleaning. Forty-eight tablets will take some time. The ancient pitch is almost impossible to remove. I have had several experts try and fail.”
“Not to worry. As it turns out, I have my own cleaning expert on board. He has a failsafe formula and will help you. But mostly, I am extremely anxious to have the slates translated. Wouldn’t want to miss preparing for another prediction, eh?”
“Another prediction? What do you mean?”
Lorenzo leaned closer to Jabari and tapped his nose with his index finger. “I have it from an authenticated source that the ancients predicted this latest eruption.”
“That could very well be, Lorenzo. But what do you mean by authenticated source? Even I have not translated these slates yet. Mainly, because—as I said—they are covered with some unknown black unguent.” Jabari was uncomfortable addressing the man by his first name. He took a breath. “As you know, I am more of a hands-on archaeologist than a bookish Egyptologist. Don’t misunderstand me. While I do know my hieroglyphs, I am not an expert at deciphering the more ancient hieratic writing.” He tried to gauge the knotting of Lorenzo’s forehead.
“I have a thought,” he rushed on. “There is a slight chance that we could get someone I know. She is the best in her field. And, if still alive that is, she might be eager to get out of the States.” The idea had come to Jabari some time ago but he had been unable to follow through. Due to certain events he had lost contact with the Cambridge Institute.
“She? Are you talking about someone I might have heard of?” Lorenzo steepled his fingers in front of his lips. Now, there was an amusing prospect. A little charade of desperate puppets; with him pulling all the strings. If Jabari could pull this off, it could be fun.
“How would we get in touch with this expert of yours? This communications breakdown is the pits, isn’t it.”
“Do you have a shortwave radio on board?” Jabari asked knowing it was a silly question. It was precisely how his pilots had been able to get a hold of Lorenzo in the first place, after they had overheard another transmission in which Lorenzo’s name was mentioned. Through that miracle, Jabari had contacted the South American asking to help him getting out of his country; at a price, of course. A very high price: a ton of gold. A metric ton, to be exact.
“Of course,” Lorenzo stood up to refill their glasses. “But we hardly want to broadcast to the whole world why we would need this expert of yours. You do realize that you’ll have to persuade the lady to come down to my island? Unless, of course, I could bring her onboard during my next foray to the States. I plan on sailing up to New York sometime next year. Though I’d much prefer her to join our little endeavor as soon as possible. Too bad your Gulfstream is in that hangar with engine trouble. Oh, I keep forgetting. Still too much ash in the air to be flying. So, what do you suggest?”
Jabari took another swallow. The quality of the cognac was equal to anything he had drunk in his heyday of prominence. It revived his sagging spirit. He could feel the energy flow back into him. This could work out well after all, if … Then he sat up. How did Lorenzo know this expert was ‘a lady’?
“You seem to know who I am talking about,” Jabari tried to feel the man opposite him out.
“I am thinking of a certain Dr. Naunet Klein,” Lorenzo said nonchalantly. “Aren’t you?”
“Well, yes.” By Horus, how did he know? Jabari felt the hair on his neck stand up. “She got married, you know. Her name is Wilkins now. A former colleague of hers. I know them both. They are the best.”
Lorenzo leaned back and took a long sip from his glass. “Then it’s a deal. The question is, how can we get her down to my island? I don’t want to wait until we sail this old bucket back up to New York next year. Besides, she may not have a way to meet us there anyway.”
“I agree. The sooner the better. Here is what I suggest: First, I’ll make inquiries about her husband, not her. He is—or at least was—an avid sailor, well-known in racing circles. Some of his old buddies should still hang out on the ham nets. At least one of them is bound to know how to get in touch with him. Then, we’ll entice the two of them with starting a new life on your island. They’ll love the chance, I am sure. Just as I will. Jonathan should be able to scrounge up some old boat that’ll make it down there.” Then, Jabari had another idea. “Couldn’t we meet up with them in Bermuda?” He thought it was an excellent suggestion.
“First, let’s see if you can get a hold of your people,” Lorenzo said. “Then, see if they can make their own way down to Isla Margarita. I am already behind schedule since I still need to have some sort of steel scaffolding constructed for my tablets. I can’t just stack them willy-nilly in the hold. Besides, that delay will give you time to clean them.”
Jabari’s blood boiled as he became aware of Lorenzo already calling his own country’s most valuable treasure ‘my tablets.’
Lorenzo made another toast: “To your success with your expert. She owes me.” If it had not been their third round of cognac, Jabari might have picked up on the remark. As it was, he was busy hammering out a plan that would change the course of several lives.
Only time—and Lorenzo—would tell if it was for the better concerning the unwitting participants.
* * *