/ Language: English / Genre:adv_maritime

The Spanish Helmet

Greg Scowen


Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

Prologue

Monday, December 30, 1529

This was the wrong harbour, the wrong land. It was even the wrong hemisphere. But that didn’t matter any more. Francisco de Hoces would die on this beach. Destiny had decided that for him.

The San Lesmes struck a rocky reef as they entered the harbour. The fragile wooden vessel could not be saved, but they had been blessed enough to limp closer to the coast as it went down. A few of the men had made it to shore, Francisco among them. The rest had gone down with the ship and all of their supplies, somewhere in the harbour. Their fleeting joy of reaching dry land was short-lived, however, since they were immediately taken upon by the local Indians. Some of the men ran to hide, but that was fruitless, these cannibalistic murderers would find them in minutes. Their noses were well trained, they were hunters. Francisco stood alone on the beach and stared into the eyes of three fearsome looking Indians. He knew death was before him.

This land had been his home for four years, he knew the people. He had been welcomed by the tribes of the south, those he now called family. But this tribe, the tribe at the southernmost point of Isla del Norte, they were different, they weren’t his family. Francisco stood strong. His duty as one of the king’s men was to be steadfast and fight for his nation, even though he hadn’t seen Spain for so long. Today, home was on a quiet beach on the southern part of Isla de Sur. He and his crew had built simple homes in the ways shown to them by their tribal family. They built their lives in this land and hoarded treasures, expecting more of their countrymen to come and join them.

One of the Indians leapt toward him, he grunted and panted, a long club dancing between his hands. With the same pace, the Indian jumped back into place. They were taunting him, death would have to wait.

Their treasures, worthless, he realised. The gold and stones were as valuable as dust now. Only his journal might hold some worth. It revealed an incredible journey. A wondrous truth. Someone had to find this treasure. They could keep the gold too, but his legacy was his most valuable possession.

In a flash, another of them jumped at him. He stared into the huge white eyes which bulged out of dark skin. That was the look of death and Francisco was ready to die. He saw the blur of movement. Then nothing.

CHAPTER 1

Warren Rennie had dirt embedded under his nails again. It wasn’t a new sensation for him, far from it, nevertheless it was a sensation he didn’t enjoy. It came with the job though, not that you could call it a job — archaeology was only a hobby for Warren because he wasn’t the university type. Unfortunately, this meant he was not a qualified archaeologist, which in turn meant he was a hack, a wannabee, at least in the eyes of the people who could make a difference. No, Warren would likely never be taken seriously. He was a committed amateur, nothing more.

He had excavated this farm-site near to one of his best friend’s holiday retreats ever since he gained permission from the landowner. Warren had taken great care in calculating the location of this dig based upon alignments he had identified in standing stones in the area. In his mind, exactly on this spot — well, within a two or three metre radius — he would find something that would make people stand up and take notice. Some artefact that proved Celts had inhabited New Zealand before the Maori.

It was not an uncommon theory in some circles, but it was despised in most. Academia of New Zealand would never accept what he and his colleagues suggested, and certainly the government had no interest in such ramblings of madmen. But the existence of megalithic stone alignments in this region left no doubt in the minds of Warren and a handful of other amateur researchers that the Celts had been here. All he and his co-theorists needed was some concrete evidence and the backing of a real archaeologist. All they needed was…

Wait a second, that looks interesting.

Warren stole a look around himself before continuing. He knew all too well that the authorities, the Department of Cultural Identity, were aware of his movements and his work. He was certain he was being watched by them and knew he needed to be very careful if he actually found something as interesting as… what was in front of him.

Feeling wary, Warren carefully used his hand brush to dust away the last of the sands around the object that emerged piece by piece in the hollow. In the dirt he found two small coins. They were embossed on one side with a horse. The reverse featured the moon-god. But these were insignificant in comparison to the prize object that sat with them. This was exactly the sort of proof Warren had searched for. It was a thing of beauty. A bronze mirror, the size of a dinner plate, adorned with a pattern of swirls and loops on its reverse.

With gentle hands, Warren lifted the mirror from the soil and stared at it. A mirror like this, buried with two coins, was a powerful suggestion that the site where Warren crouched was a burial site, a Celtic burial site. He realised more objects were probably buried within the area. But that would have to wait, he would have to be shrewd and act fast for this find to prove his theory of a Celtic discovery of New Zealand.

With precise movements, Warren placed the two coins into a little cloth pouch and replaced the dirt where the mirror had been. He brushed the dirt around so it was no longer obvious something bigger than the coins had laid there. Then, without hesitation, Warren wrapped the mirror into some cloth, stashed it in his bag, and took off over the farm as quick as his feet would carry him.

Behind a line of Macrocarpa trees, on the other side of the same field, Warren crouched down and built up dirt under his nails once more. When he was satisfied with the depth of his hole, he removed the mirror from his bag, unravelled the cloth, and buried it. He returned the dirt to its original place to cover his traces, and brushed away the tell-tale signs of digging. Warren smiled at his completed work. He noted his location, and strolled back to his dig site. Now Warren had to make two phone calls. The first one would be to the Department of Cultural Identity, to report he had found two coins at his dig site, as was required by law. The second phone call would be much more pleasurable. Warren had anticipated making it for ten long years.

CHAPTER 2

University of South-West England

Dr. Matthew Cameron removed his yellow mug from the coffee machine, took a sip, and grimaced.

‘They really should invest in a better coffee machine.’

‘The coffee was much better in Spain,’ Julia said.

‘Switzerland too.’

They returned to Matthew’s office on the third floor and took seats opposite each other at the round table in the corner.

‘Let me just find my notes,’ Matthew said. Still seated, he stretched his long torso around and shuffled through papers on his work desk. ‘What have you been looking at?’

Julia talked, and Matt listened while he found his notes. He looked up and continued to listen to her describe the artefacts that she had been studying. Both of them were working on treasure that had been recovered from a Spanish Galleon that was recently located on the sea-floor in the Bay of Biscay. It was a frequent occurrence that Matt and Julia worked together. He liked it that way. Julia was like a sister to him. The fact that she was an academic at all was a wonder. Julia had to go against the wishes of a very powerful man to get here; her father. It was his intention she worked for him. Sir Alan McKenzie was one of Britain’s most successful businessmen, the northern lad who made good. He had developed tourism ventures in Spain and Portugal and had become the largest UK tourism provider in both countries. Matt admired that such a petite woman packed enough punch to stand up to him.

‘So, I thought perhaps I could head home and have a look at the archives there to see if I can’t find something concrete,’ Julia said, drawing Matt’s attention back to the conversation.

‘Sure, that makes sense. When will you go?’

‘Not till the summer break.’

Julia continued to explain her ideas.

The home Julia referred to was not the one up north. She had lived more than half her life in Spain. A consequence of this was that Julia was schooled in an exclusive private school that shared campuses between Spain and England. This made her fluent in Spanish. It also made her fluent in Matt-speak, as it had become known around the department. He too had been schooled in an elite private school, though he didn’t come from money like Julia. His schooling had been paid for through a trust fund that a generous family friend had set up.

Reality interrupted his thoughts and Julia’s rhetoric in the form of the sharp ringing of the telephone.

‘I’m positive I asked for my calls to be fielded. How are we supposed to get any work done? Hold on a sec.’

‘Hello?’ Matt broke a department rule and answered the phone without announcing his name.

The voice at the other end of the line was not immediately recognisable. ‘Matthew… is that you?’

Matt hesitated. ‘Yes, this is Dr. Cameron, Matthew Cameron.’

‘Matthew, it’s me. Warren.’

‘Warren?’ Matthew straightened. Warren’s voice sounded different. A little shrill, almost childlike.

It wasn’t like him to lose his composure. He usually called on Friday evenings, not on a Tuesday morning. Matthew frowned.

‘Warren, how are you? What’s going on? It’s late evening there, what are you doing calling at this time of day? Are you alright?’

‘Don’t panic, everything’s fine, more than fine, it’s good as gold. Matt, it’s finally happened!’

‘What’s happened?’ Matt asked. He stole a glance at Julia who twirled a finger in her light brown hair and tried to look like she wasn’t listening.

‘I’ve found evidence, Matt. I finally have proof the damned government can’t deny. No specifics on the phone but it’s Celtic. You know what I mean. It’s brilliant, but I need your help. I need you to come and confirm my findings. I need an archaeologist or historian, someone qualified. You’re all of these. Will you come?’

Matt was perplexed. ‘To New Zealand? Why me, why not a local archaeologist?’

‘You know why, Matt. We’ve been through this.’

Matt did know why. Warren had explained it many times before. Warren had a theory that Celts discovered New Zealand long before the Maori. Apparently, such wild thoughts were taboo in New Zealand and no academic interested in their reputation would have anything to do with it. Unless it was to negate the theory, that is.

‘Is there really no one there who could do it?’

‘If I approach anyone here with this, the government and the Maori will step in and destroy my evidence. I can’t take that risk. Without the documented evidence of a qualified archaeologist or historian, New Zealanders will always live in the shadow of the lies they’re being taught in history classrooms. I need you to come and qualify that evidence before it can be destroyed, and to help me show that further sites confirm what I’ve found. I know I’m asking a lot, but you can come, can’t you? You could take some sabbatical perhaps.’

Matt was stunned. Warren was asking a lot, God, he talked so fast and had so much to say that Matt struggled to keep up. At the same time though, Warren presented Matt with an awesome opportunity, the chance to become famous for changing a piece of taught history. On the other hand, it was a chance to make a complete fool out of himself if it all turned out to be nothing of real substance. Matt was torn. He could take a sabbatical and the semester break was approaching so he could spare a few weeks on all fronts.

‘Are you there?’

‘I’m here, Warren, you’ve just taken me a little by surprise.’ As Matt looked across at Julia he noticed she no longer feigned disinterest and was clearly wondering what was going on.

‘It could give you a chance to find your father.’

Matt felt a fist plunge through his chest and take a hold of his heart. He hadn’t seen his father since he was four years old. Matt knew that Warren was familiar with the situation, so when Warren now suggested Matt could use this opportunity to try and track down his father, he knew Warren was playing his trump card. This obviously meant a lot to him, and come to think of it, Matt relished the idea of finding his father just to give him a piece of his mind, finally.

‘OK,’ Matt answered, after his thoughtful pause, ‘I’ll come to New Zealand.’

Julia raised her eyebrows.

‘But I can’t come until after Friday, I’ve got to give an important lecture. It’s the end of the semester and the final lecture of my third-year paper is open to the public, it’s kind of a big deal.’

‘No problem,’ said Warren his voice unable to hide the excitement, ‘I’ll arrange a flight for you for Saturday and have the tickets sent to your e-mail.’ There was a pause. ‘This is the chance of a lifetime. Have a good flight, and try to sleep on the plane, it’s a long way and the time zones get real messy during your twenty-four hours in the air.’

‘Will do Warren, thanks.’

‘And Matt — be careful who you talk to. Don’t tell anyone you can’t explicitly trust about this. I know the government is watching me and will cause problems if they find out about what I’ve found. I haven’t told them everything. Just… trust no one. OK?’

‘Mum’s the word.’

‘See you later.’

Matt hung up the receiver and sat back in his chair, realising he had been edging forwards for the last few minutes.

‘What was that all about?’ Julia asked, her face full of expectation.

Matt wanted to talk. He knew he had to explain the situation to Julia, to someone. He could explicitly trust her, she was his closest friend. They had met on their first day of university and had worked through their Bachelors and Masters together. They only parted ways when he did his Doctorate in Switzerland, and she hers in Spain. It was only natural that they had looked for work together too. They had found it at the University of South-West England.

‘That was Warren, an old family friend. He and my mum were close after my father left, when I was a boy. He’s a hobby archaeologist if you like… not trained, but certainly thorough and committed to his work all the same.’

‘Oh, is he the one who got you interested in your study? You’ve told me about him.’

‘Exactly. Got me interested and paid for my bachelor degree.’

Matt looked at his bookshelf and considered the impact Warren had made on his life. Warren had looked out for Matt and his mother. He was always involved in some get-rich-quick scheme or another and occasionally had a little success. Eventually, he took off to New Zealand on some adventure. Unlike Matt’s father, though, Warren had kept in touch and told him all about his adventures. Matt looked up to him like a father and had been very proud when he told Warren he would study archaeology.

‘Anyway, Warren believes that New Zealand was settled by someone other than the Maori,’ Matt said, ‘his particular studies follow the theory that the Celts discovered New Zealand some thousands of years ago. He’s struggled to find evidence to support his theory and believes the government is out to stop him, but now he thinks he has something and wants me to go and look.’

‘Sounds great.’

‘Can you cover for me? You’ll have twice as much Galleon loot to study and it might hinder your visit to Spain.’

‘No problem at all. I can go any time,’ she said. ‘Besides, it’ll give me a chance to party with the students.’

Matt knew she was joking. He imagined she would spend the time he would be in New Zealand sat at a dimly lit desk somewhere with her head deep in the books. Either that or labouring over the restoration of some artefact for the university museum.

‘You be careful over there, Matt.’ Julia said.

Matt smiled. ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

CHAPTER 3

Friday, July 24, 1525

With blue skies and favourable winds, we set sail out of La Coruna in the early hours of the morning. The first port of call during this journey to the Moluccas is La Gomera in the Canarias, where we will take on supplies. Our fleet consists of seven ships. Mine is the San Lesmes, a caravel of 80 tonnes. She is a fine craft with a shallow draft. Quick and easy to manage. The scent of her timbers combining with the sea air makes me feel at ease. I am home aboard her. The fleet crew numbers 442 men. My crew is 36 strong. All have confessed and taken the sacrament before our departure, as ordered by Loaisa, the commander. He sails on the 300 tonne Santa Maria, the flagship.

The master of arms and gunner have armed the San Lesmes with six culverins and four falcon cannons. It is presumed that this smaller caravel can be used well in defence situations due to her manoeuvrability and pace. Aside from our weapons, armour, and crew, we have on board a wide range of stores. These include: biscuit, beans, chickpeas, lentils, oil, anchovies, dried fish and pork, cheese, sugar, garlic, rice, flour, dried fruits, wine, and a cow. I am also keeping two spaniels. They make good companions and are accomplished at retrieving game.

All of the captains have been provided with a set of instructions, approved by the king. A summary of these follows:

The expedition is not to discover or touch any land within the limits of the king of Portugal. We are to watch every night for the flagship, which will flash a lantern once and expect a reply of one flash from us. Two, three, and four flashes from the flagship mean we are to go on another tack, shorten sail, and strike sails respectively. Many flashes is the signal for disaster. Pilots, masters and mates are not to drop anchor without first sounding and ascertaining that the bottom is clean and safe. If any inhabited islands are discovered within the Spanish line, communication should be developed with the inhabitants and a sign left to show that they were discovered by order of the king. If any religious crew are willing to remain voluntarily, we should make arrangements for them to land.

In the event that a ship parts company from the fleet, she is to make the best of her way to the Moluccas and wait there for a month. If the fleet does not arrive, we are to place a signal on the ground consisting of five stones arranged as a cross, set up a wooden cross, and leave a document in a jar giving our date of arrival and other particulars. We should leave the same signals if other lands are met.

As we sail further from the coast of Spain, the blue of the sea is deepening. We have been blessed with a gentle swell though this could change at short notice. The situation will be different around the southern reaches of the Americas but the men and I are prepared for this. I anticipate that we are going to have a fruitful and exciting journey. I pray to Jesus and his holy mother Mary that they watch over us in the next months.

CHAPTER 4

Hemi waited. He had waited for four and a half years, so waiting was nothing new. Waiting was what undercover agents do. Until his prey took the bait, Hemi had to occupy himself with other tasks, so while he waited Hemi had built up his own little business from home. He had further developed his army communications training and now repaired computers and maintained websites. It suited him perfectly. He lived alone in a small, two-bed home he had saved up for. From the window of his home office he could see the tip of Rangitoto. He knew that with another floor on top of his house he would be able to see the water too. He had discovered that when he climbed on the roof to install a satellite dish.

Hemi was preoccupied with changing some room prices on a local hotel website when the little red mobile phone that never rang, did. He picked it up with nervous anticipation.

‘Hemi Davis,’ he said, clearing his throat. It wasn’t his real name, of course, but the alias the agency had created for him.

‘Good morning, Hemi, do you know who this is?’ Hemi recognised the voice immediately. ‘We have some work for you.’

‘Yeah… I know who you are, I’m available.’ Hemi smiled. His wait might be over.

Hemi couldn’t believe his luck. He had hoped he might get to work with this particular man ever since he realised who he was during his early work with the agency. As soon as Hemi saw him it was clear a destiny was being fulfilled: fate had placed the man responsible for his father’s death directly in his sights. That fate worked its wonders again when Hemi was assigned an undercover mission to penetrate the Clan of Truth, the very organisation that this creep was involved with. The Clan of Truth had an agenda; they were considered racist activists, out to prove that the Maori were not the rightful natives of New Zealand. Hemi had infiltrated the group and involved himself with Website work for them. He had made it clear he would go to any length to help their cause. Finally, after all the waiting and hinting, he was being called into action, by the top man himself. It was perfect in every way. Maybe the opportunity would arise to get a little justice, the legal way. His nerves intensified. Hemi loved a challenge. He wouldn’t have signed up for work like this if he didn’t.

‘What’s the job?’ Hemi asked.

‘A British academic is coming to New Zealand to do a little foraging in history. We need you to keep an eye on him. Don’t worry about hiding yourself too much, we want him to know he’s being watched. Make yourself look like the GSCB or some government agency. Use whatever techniques necessary to keep him on the path we have predetermined for him. Do you understand what I mean?’

‘Yes, I know which path you mean.’ Hemi smiled at the thought of pretending to work for his own agency.

‘Good. Dr. Cameron will arrive on Sunday on the 2pm flight from Singapore. Be at the airport to welcome him. Have you got a car that fits the appropriate profile?’

‘Yes, a black Corolla.’

‘A pleasure working with you, Hemi, we’ll be in touch.’

Hemi listened for the click and watched as the phone returned to its former standby state. The polite final comment rang in Hemi’s ears. Lip service, he mused. Hemi knew better than to think this bastard actually gave a damn about him. Hemi was just there to do some dirty work.

He saved the page he was working on, uploaded it to the server, and closed Dreamweaver. That was work for the next few weeks, he thought, his customers would have to wait. Hemi grabbed a Coke from the fridge and pulled up a fresh browser session. The Internet was his friend, he spent hours online every week and was a self-professed web-guru. He punched ‘Dr. Cameron’ and ‘United Kingdom’ into the Google toolbar and sifted through the results, quickly identifying his target.

You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, Mr. Matthew Cameron. By contacting Hemi, the Clan of Truth had revealed themselves as people not to mess around with. But then, they didn’t know what kind of man they were dealing with either.

Hemi smiled and spoke to himself. ‘Let the games begin.’

CHAPTER 5

Matt opened and closed every kitchen drawer. He checked the bedside cabinets and the shelf in the little lounge. As he went over the same routine three times and still came up empty, his muttering got louder. In a modest little place like his, Matt knew that he should be able to keep on top of things with ease, but he tended to get somewhat disorganised. Matters were worsened by Rose, his loving landlady, who regularly let herself in and cleaned up Matt’s place for him. She thrived on it.

‘Well Meridian,’ Matt said to the ball of fluff at his feet, ‘I guess Aunty Rose is the only living entity that knows where the camera is.’

He squatted down and gave Meridian an affectionate pat on the head. Some years earlier, when Matt was finishing up his doctorate, he lived in a beautiful home with ocean views that he had been lucky to rent when the owner needed tenants at short notice. He would stare out the living-room window and get inspired by the deep blue canvas and the lines left in the wake of passing boats. From the little outcrop of land where the house sat, Matt’s view was a perfect, sunny, due south.

One cold and windy November afternoon, Matt almost fell off his chair when an adorable short-haired tortoiseshell cat appeared at the window and frantically scratched at it, threatening to wear the glass away. Matt jumped up and hurried to let it in, expecting it was a neighbour’s cat. For three weeks, Matt pinned up notices on power-poles and the board in the local supermarket, but no one had come to claim the now familiar little cat. Despite all of his sensibilities telling him not to, Matt couldn’t ignore his affection for the little man, and so he kept him. He had called him Meridian, in honour of where he appeared, directly on a Meridian line. The direct result of keeping the cat was eviction. Matt packed up Meridian and together, they found Rose.

Matt dragged himself away from Meridian’s warm, fluffy chest, which had been enjoying a tickle, and pulled on his jacket. Leaving his apartment and bracing himself against the chilly dry air, he walked the little path between his and Rose’s front doors. Although Matt’s apartment was a part of the main house, there was no internal access between the two. Some people might like to call his apartment a granny-flat, but that wouldn’t make sense, since Matt was no granny!

Rose opened the door and ushered Matt inside before he could even ring the bell. ‘Get out of the cold you foolish boy,’ she said, ‘You’ll catch the death!’ Matt loved the way Rose spoke, with authority but with love. ‘What brings you here on a day like this then?’ She continued.

‘I’m off on a little trip. OK, I’m off on a big trip, an adventure.’ Matt smiled despite himself and decided to tell Rose all about his call with Warren. ‘I leave on Saturday morning. I have to give my semester-end lecture tomorrow, but after that I’m a free man. At least for two months anyway.’

‘Two months!’ Rose complained, ‘Who’s going to look after me for two months?’

‘Actually, I hoped Meridian might look after you while I’m gone.’

‘I’d love to have him Matthew, you know that.’

Matt smiled at Rose calling him Matthew, something very few people did any more. As he took in the warm vanilla aroma of the coffee that had appeared from nowhere, Matt looked around at the inviting living-room. Well-worn and well-loved furniture filled Rose’s house. From the brown fabric on the sofas to the fading terracotta carpets, the earth tones made Matt feel enveloped, safe.

‘Drink your coffee ‘fore it goes cold.’ Rose interrupted his thoughts. ‘It’ll make you strong.’

‘So it’s the coffee that does it, then?’ Matt dodged the orange cushion that flew at him. It was amazing, and embarrassing, that although she was thirty-odd years his senior — Matt had never asked — Rose was fitter than he was. While Matt preferred to sink into his bed with a good novel or the TV remote control, Rose was out walking or jogging every other night. In the winter, he knew she used an exercise bike in front of Eastenders and Coronation Street. An hour of solid pedalling every day paid off, and Rose was definitely one healthy old duck as a result of it all. She loved telling him he should keep in shape. That, and he should clean up his apartment and finally organise everything more efficiently. That reminded him.

‘I almost forgot. Have you seen my new camera anywhere? I need to take it with…’

‘Of course I have. It’s in the top drawer of the cupboard by the front door, with your little red music thingee.’

‘Oh right, thanks.’ Matt couldn’t remember when he had last seen his MP3 player. In fact, when had he last gone into that drawer? Never mind, he could finish packing now and would be all set for Saturday.

‘The airline’s going to hate you. You’ll fill the plane with all your mod-cons.’

‘Not likely, my laptop’s gone on the blink again. It needs a technician, so I’ll leave it here. But I’ll take some of my other little gadgets.’

‘Leave the laptop with me, I’ll get it looked at for you.’

‘Thanks Rose, I appreciate it.’

‘No problem, ulterior motive really. If I have your laptop you won’t be able to forget me with all that excitement you have in store.’

‘You know that won’t happen,’ Matt said as he slipped out the door into the wintery air again, ‘I’ll be thinking of my favourite little man and my best girl and the times they’re sharing every day while I’m in New Zealand, I promise you.’ And he meant it. Matt adored Rose, she was everything his mother wasn’t any more. She was warm, positive, and caring, all traits his mother seemed to have lost. They had become distant when Matt went to University. She hooked herself up with a new boyfriend and before long she was married. The distance between them grew wider than the strip of water and few thousand miles that separated them when he completed his doctorate in Switzerland.

As he walked the familiar path home, Matt thought about how Rose and Meridian were his closest family now. Sure, he visited his mother and Jack at least once a year and they still shared the close bond that had developed when it was just them for so long, but the daily contact he had with Rose and the unconditional love, OK the conditional-on-continual-feeding love, he got from Meridian meant more to him now than anything else in the world. Matt didn’t see that changing in a hurry.

CHAPTER 6

The Wallis Memorial Theatre was an imposing building from both the outside and from behind the podium on the inside. In fact, Matt considered it much more imposing from the latter. He fiddled with the computer mouse as he watched students, who probably had no idea who Samuel Wallis even was, meandering in and finding seats. As usual there was a degree of chaos as the students typically chose to take seats on the aisle, leaving the small collection of curious public visitors and academic staff without anything better on their schedules than to squeeze past student knees and trip over student satchels. The air smelled of a blend of carpet, air-freshener, cigarette-breath, and the awful odour that attaches itself to winter jackets that haven’t aired out for a few weeks. Matt felt sick. But he would have to get past his nerves.

The problem wasn’t public speaking. Matt felt like he was unimportant, unknown. An anti-hero. His dream job would be Head of the History Department, but that belonged to Professor Pick, a man who hated Matt with every ounce of his squat body. He accused Matt of being lazy, young and having had everything handed to him on a silver platter. All this, merely because Matt was a private school boy. Professor Pick had apparently had it hard. Tough comprehensive school and all. Matt hoped his trip to New Zealand could give him the opportunity to prove himself to Pick.

As the last straggler came in, Matt flicked the projector on and checked the green light. A girl up in the back row wore an ugly purple woollen pullover, a distracting eyesore. Promising himself not to look that way again, Matt cleared his throat. The resulting croak filled the room when amplified through the radio-microphone. With an embarrassed grimace, Matt clicked the mouse and the first slide of his presentation appeared on the monitor in front of him and the cinema-sized screen behind him. Matt’s lips moved in the same way he had seen them do in the mirror for the past week. He delivered a coherent and logical lecture. He left the stage to a spattering of polite applause.

‘Can I have a word with you Dr. Cameron?’ Came the unmistakable two-cats-fighting-over-fish voice belonging to Matt’s head of department as he walked through the auditorium door.

Matt worked up his friendliest smile and turned to face him.

‘Yes Dr. Pick. What can I do for you?’

‘It’s about this trip of yours to New Zealand.’

Shit! How the hell does he know about New Zealand? Matthew racked his brain but could only come up with two people he had discussed it with. Julia and Rose. As far as the department was concerned he was just on leave. There was no way Julia or Rose told Dwight Pick anything about the trip. Certainly Julia hated him as much as Matt did. The jokes in the department were relentless. Dwight Pick, the right prick. No one liked the short balding bastard.

‘What about my trip?’

‘My understanding is that you’re going to New Zealand to do some work on a pseudo history theory. You know the department’s stand on issues like this.

‘Where do you get your information from, Dwight?’

‘That isn’t important, since your lack of denial confirms it’s true.’

‘I don’t have to justify what I do in my own time.’

‘Nothing you do during this journey of yours will escape my attention. If you step one foot out of line and embarrass this school, it’ll be your job. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t on the clock, your name is associated with me, and I won’t accept any foolish witch-hunts.’

‘I think you’re blowing this out of proportion.’

‘You have no idea what sort of trouble you’re delving into, do you? Be very, very careful what sort of ideas you play with. You’ve been warned.’

Matt watched, as with his final words, the right prick turned on his heels and shuffled off back towards their office block, his comb-over clinging to his head like six lonely strands of spaghetti on an upturned bowl in a cheap Italian restaurant.

CHAPTER 7

Thursday, August 13, 1525

We made good time to La Gomera. The winds and saints are in our favour. We have taken on food stores for the expedition and depart for South America tomorrow. During the two weeks here I have enjoyed the company of the master and pilot. They are good men in both their navigational skills and their attitudes. Between us, I am confident we have a crew capable of making a safe passage through the Estrecho de Magallanes. Tonight we will go ashore together and toast our pending journey. A last drink on land before the long weeks that lie ahead.

Tuesday, January 12, 1526

We have reached a safe haven at the Santa Cruz River, about forty-three leagues from the Estrecho de Magallanes. It is a great relief to have made it here alive. We are now but five ships. The flagship, Santa Maria, has rejoined the fleet, since we were all separated in a storm that struck us south of the Rio de la Plata. The rest of us found each other within a few days. However, the San Gabriel went astray went astray. I fear deeply for the men that sail her. They remain in our prayers. We have sent the pinnace, the Santiago, to a small island near the mouth of the river to erect a cross and to leave a message for our kinsmen. It tells them we are going to continue to the Estrecho de Magallanes to refit and collect wood and water, and that we will wait for Loaisa at the port of Sardinas.

These southern climes are warm at this time of year. The air is fresh and standing on dry land again has brought immense joy to myself and the crew. The coastline is beautiful and would surely make a wonderful home for any fellow Spaniards who choose to come. Fresh water and food are available in abundance. We will all make the most of the time we stay here, for the journey ahead promises to be harder yet.

CHAPTER 8

Matt wasn’t a good flyer. Once he was up it was basically all right, but take-off and landing made him bloody nervous. It was something about not being in control. He had the same problem with heights. Walking along a cliff without a railing or travelling in an aerial cableway in the Swiss Alps always made his palms sweat like this. Regardless of how much he looked forward to skiing back down. To calm himself, he would slip a couple of pieces of chewing gum into his mouth just before the aircraft would taxi off down the runway. He felt calmed by it. It gave him something else to concentrate on.

Matt stole glances at the attractive young woman sitting next to him, by the window. Her clothing was quite a contrast to his own. While he was dressed in his staple of trousers, collared shirt, and brown leather shoes, she wore the ever-casual and popular sneakers, jeans and T-shirt. Just before executing his chewing gum manoeuvre he worked up the courage to use her as a distraction from his lack thereof.

‘Where are you off to then?’ he asked. He cursed himself for not being witty enough to come up with something exciting and original.

‘Home,’ she replied, looking happy for an excuse to close her in-flight magazine, ‘Auckland, New Zealand.’

‘Oh really? Me too.’

Matt was genuinely surprised the person in the very next seat was also transferring to the same connecting flight as him when they reached Singapore. He wondered if they would be seated near each other on the second leg of the journey. Hold back, he thought, she might yet turn out to be a real fruit loop, better get to know her before you decide you want to sit with her the whole way.

They sat in silence again as the aircraft tore off down the runway and pushed them back into their seats. Matt concentrated on chewing and covertly wiping his palms dry down the front of his beige trousers. He hoped she didn’t notice the faint marks his sweaty hands left on the light fabric. He seemed to be safe, since she appeared to be engrossed in an article about a resort near Singapore. But it was her who looked up and broke the silence.

‘I’m Aimee,’ she offered.

‘Matthew Cam… Matt.’ He reached out his hand.

‘Wait a second,’ she said, with such gusto his hand leapt backwards in shock, ‘you’re Matthew Cameron, aren’t you?’

Matt was confused. He was one hundred percent convinced he had never met Aimee before, yet she seemed to know him. He wasn’t sure whether he should be honoured or terrified. She must have sensed his apprehension because she softened a little and relaxed.

‘Sorry,’ she said, ‘I’m just amazed that of all the people I could sit next to in plane, I get seated next to someone whose lecture I attended yesterday.’

‘I beg your pardon? You were at my lecture?’

Matt racked his brain. He had used all fifty minutes of his lecture to look around at who was in attendance. He had noted to himself which of his students didn’t turn up and also which of the academic staff did. There had only been about thirty members of the public in the theatre, and Matt was convinced he would have noticed a pretty woman his age. Then it hit him.

‘You weren’t by chance wearing a purple pullover were you?’ Matt asked, hoping he wasn’t giving away his feelings about that monstrosity.

‘You don’t like my jumper?’ she asked with a cheeky grin, ‘my mum knitted that for me I’ll have you know.’ Her smile told him he didn’t have to defend himself.

‘So what brought you to my lecture?’

‘I’m a Post Graduate student at Auckland University. I’m working on a doctorate in history. I’d been attending a workshop at the department during the week and had the afternoon off. I thought it might be interesting.’

Matt decided not to press his luck by asking if it was.

‘So what takes you to New Zealand?’ she asked.

‘Actually, I’ve been asked by a friend of mine to come over and look at some revisionist New Zealand history. He has a theory New Zealand was discovered prior to the Maori or British and wants the opinion of some outside sources.’

Aimee smiled at him. A smile that almost seemed to apologise.

‘You’re going to have a tough time doing that,’ she said, ‘I’ve studied history for six years now and have only occasionally heard mention of the alternative history theories in official study material.’ She wiggled her legs. Perhaps trying to avoid DVT, Matt thought. ‘It’s something that’s only ever denied in official circles.’

‘And in unofficial circles?’

‘It interests me. I’ve never looked deeply into any of the theories, but I’m aware of half a dozen or so. One day I may even take the time to research one or two of them. But I haven’t had any real call to until now.’

‘Half a dozen? I didn’t realise there was so many ideas out there.’

‘For sure, every madman and his dog has a theory of alternative history and a couple of pretty sane people have one too.’

‘And what are the ‘madman’ theories then?’

‘Maybe it’s a bit strong to say a ‘madman’ theory. It’s rather a case of some people that support them being too… keen.’

‘How so?’

‘Take for example the theory that the Celts discovered New Zealand,’ Aimee said. ‘You should like that one.’

She had no idea. It was a perfect place for her to start. Matt wanted as much info as he could get.

‘The idea that Celts discovered New Zealand centuries prior to the Maori has been around for a while. Some farmers to the north of Auckland, on the Kaipara Harbour, found some large stones that they decided — in their professional opinion — were megalithic monuments. Henges and circles.’

‘So why haven’t I heard of these?’ Matt lied, remembering all of the conversations he had with Warren about New Zealand’s standing stones.

‘Probably because they’ve never been taken seriously by anyone with a qualification,’ Aimee said, ‘the whole situation is confounded by some of the people that stand behind the theory. Some of the supporters go way beyond what’s appropriate.’

‘Ah, the madmen.’ Matt laughed. ‘What is it exactly that they do wrong?’

‘The main problem is their approach to it all offends too many sensitivities. One or two groups even run big websites spouting their theories all over the place. That would be OK in itself, but the content of the websites is often overtly racist against the Maori. They suggest that Maori are impure and inferior, that God will smite them for their evil ways. They accuse the Maori of blocking access to the sites they want to study and think the government helps to cover it up. Political correctness.’

‘But what do they have to gain from proving their theory, why are they so stubborn?’ Matt asked.

‘Money.’

Matt was about to ask how a change in the history of New Zealand could possibly provide some sort of payout to these theorists, but just as he opened his mouth, dinner arrived.

‘Chicken or Beef?’

‘Chicken’ Aimee said.

The steward passed a foil covered tray over Matt to Aimee.

‘Mine’s the beef,’ Matt said.

The moment had passed and so Matt and Aimee made small talk as they ate. Matt intended to continue where they left off after dinner but when he returned from a post-dinner bathroom trip, he saw Aimee’s head sandwiching a pillow to the window. He would never disturb someone who could actually manage to get sleep in one of these tin cans, so he popped his headphones on and resolved to finding out more in the morning.

Relaxing in his seat and staring at, but not seeing, the images moving past on the little screen in front of him, Matt wondered what he had got himself into. Clearly, Aimee and other historians in New Zealand didn’t give much credit to the theory of Celts being the first inhabitants of New Zealand, yet here he was going there to study it. Matt wasn’t sure if he might be setting himself up for an embarrassing fall. He knew of other academics who had made the mistake of supporting unpopular theories and didn’t want to suffer the same fate as they had. Conversely, he may also be able to prove something here. What Aimee didn’t know is that Warren had found tangible evidence of the Celts having been in New Zealand. At least that’s what Warren had said on the phone and Matt knew with certainty Warren was genuine. It would be an interesting, if not exciting, few weeks.

Two hours before arrival in Singapore, Matt was roused from his film by the cabin lights coming on. It was officially morning in the aircraft, and everyone should slowly wake up to the smell of coffee brewing and breakfast coming up the aisle. Matt watched Aimee as she stretched her hips forwards, forming a light arch with her body. Her eyes still closed, she brushed a few strands of her beautiful golden brown hair away from her face and yawned. He was impressed that she could sleep for a solid seven hours while on a flight. It would be a dream for him to be able to sleep on a plane, but no matter how often he had tried, it never worked. He was wired now. Two and a half films on a tiny screen will do that to you. Even worse, he knew that he would get to see a few more before he finally slept in New Zealand.

‘Morning,’ Matt said, in as bubbly a voice as he could raise, having not spoken for an eternity.

‘Morning.’ Aimee echoed his words and followed them with a sleepy yawn.

Matt made another obligatory trip to the back of the plane and Aimee followed suit. It would be nice to be able to go without toilet stops for twelve hours, Matt thought, as he smiled uncomfortably at all the folk who watched him squeezing through the aisle. At least the walk back to his seat didn’t present him with so many watchful eyes, but he felt them on his back. A few minutes later, Aimee returned looking refreshed and wide awake. Breakfast followed shortly behind. Matt grabbed at the coffee and gulped it down.

‘Thirsty?’ Aimee asked, laughing.

‘I can’t sleep on these things. If it weren’t for the coffee, I’d look even worse right now.’

‘You don’t look so bad.’

‘Thanks.’ Matt felt himself blushing. She looked damned good too. A response failing him, Matt decided now was as good a time as any to continue last night’s conversation.

‘I was thinking about what you said last night, before dinner came. You mentioned a half a dozen theories. Aside from the Celts, what other theories are there?’

‘Some are more questions than theories,’ Aimee said, as she chewed on some scrambled egg. If Matt’s breakfast was anything to go by, hers was also rubbery and flavourless.

‘Like?’

‘Like the Tamil Bell,’ Aimee said. ‘A missionary, Colenso, found a bell that was being used as a cooking pot by some Maori. It was eighteen hundred thirty-odd when he found it. The Maori said they’d been using it for many generations. Scientists studied it and say it’s a ship’s bell. It has Tamil script embossed in it. Nobody knows how or when it got to New Zealand.’

‘Is on display somewhere?’

‘I think it’s at Te Papa Museum in Wellington. The national museum.’

‘That’s a shame. I doubt I’m going far from Auckland. What else has there been?’

‘Another Brit published a whole tome on how the Chinese discovered the western world, New Zealand included.’

‘You mean Gavin Menzies?’

‘You know him?’

‘I’ve heard about his book, but I didn’t realise New Zealand was in there.’

‘For sure. He goes into quite a bit of detail about New Zealand. Evidence of his Chinese discovery in New Zealand includes some buried Junks, the Chinese boats, and the Moeraki Boulders.’

‘The mow racky boulders?’ Matt asked, looking confused. He thrust in another mouthful so he could eat while she answered.

‘The Moeraki Boulders,’ Aimee said, ‘large, round boulders that lie embedded in a sandy beach north of Dunedin, in the South Island. Scientists say they were formed, over millions of years, under the ocean. Then they were slowly exposed by erosion. They’re popular with tourists.’

‘How does that relate to the Chinese then?’

‘Menzies reckons the Chinese were beached at Moeraki and needed to lighten their load. So they threw their ballast, large round stones, overboard on the beach. Chinese ballast equals Moeraki Boulders.’

‘Sound s a bit of a stretch. It would be fun to see them and make an opinion for myself. Not that I’m one to argue with science.’

Matt was amazed at how many theories there were about the discovery of New Zealand, and even more impressed with having met Aimee and getting the chance to learn of them.

‘Then there’s questions about the origin of some of our plants and animals,’ Aimee said. ‘Like Kumara, you know, sweet potato. It seems to have come from South America sometime. And the rat bones, there are rat bones from European rats that have been carbon-dated to long before Tasman and Cook visited.’

‘I can’t believe there are so many questions. Why isn’t more work being done to investigate these theories?’

Aimee didn’t answer him, but Matt didn’t care. She was so animated and carried away with the conversation and her enthusiasm was infectious.

‘There’s also a tradition among some of the Maori tribes of the fair-haired, tall people. And then, of course, there’s the Spanish Helmet.’ She finished.

‘The Spanish Helmet?’

‘A Spanish Helmet was dredged out of Wellington Harbour, sometime around 1880. It’s quite controversial, coz it’s been dated to the early fifteen hundreds. Some folk argue it’s a sign of Spanish visits. The officials say it was probably a gift to Maori from a later European explorer, or a part of someone’s private collection.’

Matt smiled at Aimee. ‘New Zealand seems to be suffering from an identity crisis, it’s going to be interesting looking around. But I don’t understand. If there are so many questions about your history, why don’t more people bring forward information that might help sort things out?’

‘Probably ninety-nine percent of them don’t even know there’s a question in the first place. It just doesn’t interest them,’ Aimee said. ‘Even I hadn’t thought about this stuff for a while. But now you’ve got me interested again. I’ll probably spend the next few days immersed in pseudo-history websites.’

‘Really?’ Matt thought she was joking, but he couldn’t be sure.

‘Yeah, and it’s all your fault,’ she said, laughing and thumping him gently on the thigh.

‘Sorry.’

Matt grinned and watched Aimee place her knife and fork together, take a last sip of the juice, and sit back in her chair looking thoughtful. He sat thinking, perplexed by what he had learned. It amazed him there could be so many questions about the history of a country, yet so little information about these theories was publicised. He thought about his own England and was convinced if there were serious questions regarding her history, these would be addressed as thoroughly and as quickly as possible. What was standing in the way of the New Zealand government? Or the people for that matter?

After breakfast, Matt and Aimee talked about various tourist sites he might like to visit while in New Zealand and also about a few beaches where he might relax. They also compared their boarding passes for the second flight and saw they would be in different parts of the aircraft. During the descent and transit time in Singapore they made polite small-talk and got to know each other a little better. She even surprised Matt by giving him her contact number, in case he wanted to get in touch for more info. As they boarded the second flight they said goodbye and wished each other a good flight.

The second take-off and landing both went off without a hitch, or a wink of sleep.

It was only as he walked the through the gangway between the aircraft and the Auckland terminal building that Matt remembered he had wanted to ask Aimee how a change in the history of New Zealand could possibly provide some sort of payout to the alternative history theorists. That would be a perfect excuse to call her. He felt in his pocket and confirmed the little piece of paper with Aimee’s phone number was there. Matt smiled to himself. If he continued to meet incredible girls like her on flights, he might have to fly more often.

CHAPTER 9

As he walked through the sliding glass doors that led him out to the bright and airy arrivals lounge, Matt saw Warren immediately. They shook hands, exchanging warm hellos, and Warren took control of Matt’s baggage trolley, insisting that Matt must be tired.

‘You’re right, it was a long flight,’ Matt said.

‘And it’ll be a long few weeks. I’m sure you must be excited about finding your father.’

Matt looked at Warren, confused that the first item on his agenda seemed to be his father. But when he saw the imploring look in Warren’s eyes, he realised there must be a reason why he didn’t want to talk business.

‘Yes,’ Matt said, hoping that the look he gave Warren in return would reassure him that he understood. ‘It sure is great of you to have done everything you have to find him.’

Warren’s smile confirmed they understood each other.

‘That reminds me,’ Warren said, as he stopped the trolley to pull a piece of paper out of his trouser pocket, ‘I found the last known address of your father too.’

Matt hesitated for a moment but reached out and took the paper from Warren. Opening it, he saw a three-line address in a town with a name he had never heard of. It could have been anywhere for all Matt knew.

‘Thanks Warren. Where is this… Devonport?’ he asked, wondering how he would feel when he actually made it to the door of his father’s house.

‘It’s on the North Shore, the northern part of Auckland. Sort of in the direction of where I live in the East Coast Bays. I can take you there, or show you a bus. No worries.’

As they had been talking, Warren had led Matt out into the humid summer air and across a sprawling parking lot. They had come to a stand-still next to a big red Toyota Hilux. Matt had seen these on some of the farms in Cornwall too, and figured they were probably popular out here. Warren tossed Matt’s bags into the back part of the double-cab and they climbed in.

‘Sorry I couldn’t talk back in there,’ Warren said, ‘but the boys from the NISO and the DCI are all over the place.’

‘The Detective Chief Inspector?’

‘The Detective what?’ Warren looked really confused.

‘You said the N-something and the DCI… Detective Chief Inspector.’

Warren laughed. ‘I see where you got it wrong. The DCI is the Department of Cultural Identity. They’re the part of the government responsible for how we identify with our culture.’

Matt laughed too. ‘Sounds complex.’

‘In all seriousness,’ Warren said in a mood-changing tone as a traffic light turned green and they started on a motorway, ‘the DCI are trouble. For you and me anyway.’

Warren pulled into the right lane and put his foot to the floor. Matt noticed him make repetitive glances in the rear-vision mirror.

‘The DCI will confiscate the site if they decide that my findings there are too threatening. I had to call them, of course, and let them know what I found, but until now they haven’t interfered directly. But I’m convinced that they’re watching my every move, as if trying to catch me out or something.’

‘Catch you out with what?’

‘With anything that might throw question over the original inhabitants of New Zealand, or cause changes in New Zealand history to be considered.’ Warren checked the mirror again.

‘Don’t they think that a Celtic burial site raises some fascinating questions?’ Matt asked, not believing it could possibly fail to.

Matt watched as a sly grin appeared on Warren’s face. ‘I haven’t exactly told them the whole story yet. But if we don’t shake these NISO boys, we may lose our little advantage sooner than I’d like.’

‘There it is again, NISO. What is that? And what do you mean. Lose them?’ Matt asked, as he turned to look out the small back window. Behind them was just standard commuter traffic.

‘NISO. It’s your lucky day, Matt. I can answer that question, but many other folk wouldn’t be able to. Most New Zealanders don’t even know they exist.’

Matt caught Warren’s eye and nodded to let him know he was listening. As Warren talked, he turned and looked out at the scenery passing by on the left. A small harbour, a disused road bridge, and what looked like a small sea-side factory.

‘NISO stands for ‘National Information Security Office,’ Warren said, ‘they’re the New Zealand equivalent of an ultra-secretive secret service, similar in some aspects to the National Security Agency in the United States. The NISO has the power and legal right to tap your phones, listen in on satellite transmissions and radio frequencies, and intercept your e-mail. Stuff like that. Basically they’re government spies.’

‘But isn’t that illegal?’ Matt asked, looking back at Warren, who was again looking in the mirror. ‘Don’t you have some sort of privacy law here, like in the UK?’

‘Sure,’ Warren said with a grin, ‘but it’s worthless. The Privacy Act stops anyone from intercepting your communication, but a special clause gives the NISO rights to intercept again. They

basically just have to say that you might be a terrorist, and voila, they can do whatever they want. Nothing is sacred. It’s the same in the US and UK.’

‘But they need a warrant?’

‘No. They don’t even have to show evidence as to why you’re suspected.’

Matt caught Warren glancing in the mirror again. When he turned to look himself, he still only saw bog standard commuter traffic. He started to think Warren was maybe a little too paranoid. Matt hadn’t seen him like this before and felt a pang of concern.

‘Do you see them?’ Warren asked.

‘To be honest with you, I don’t.’ Matt answered. He searched about, desperate to spot a large black SUV or V8 sedan, like in the movies.

‘Two cars back. Watch what he does.’

Warren pulled from the fast lane into the left-hand lane and off an exit, all in one sweeping movement. Matt watched in silence as the black car Warren had pointed out changed lanes and accelerated behind them up the off-ramp.

‘But that’s just a Toyota Corolla. Surely not government spies.’

Warren laughed. ‘That’s the beauty of it, Matt. They drive the most common car on New Zealand roads. They blend in.’

Matt thought about this. It made sense. Maybe all those American films were a little cliched.

‘So how are we going to lose them then?’ Matt asked, getting a little excited by the situation, but at the same time, a tiny bit nervous.

‘We don’t have to, really. They know where we’re going. We just have to bore them into leaving us alone.’

‘And how do we do that?’

‘We go home, and when we get there, we do nothing. We’ll lie low for a day or two. Give you a chance to get some sleep. Then we’ll go up to my friend’s place and take a look at the site.’

Matt smiled. Maybe things weren’t going to be dangerous after all. Perhaps Warren was pulling his leg about the occupants of the Corolla. He looked around and saw the black car, still a couple of cars back, but on the same road which led past a sign pointing to One Tree Hill. Matt looked up at the hill. No tree hill, he thought. Looking back at the black car, he could only make out one occupant. A darker-skinned man. A Maori, Matt guessed.

He started to get hungry. Less than two hours later, they had crossed the harbour bridge and made their way to Warren’s house in Campbell’s Bay. They had dined on Pizza and fries and Matt fell asleep in what felt like the world’s most comfortable bed. He hadn’t seen the Toyota since he looked back while passing One Tree Hill. In fact, he had all but forgotten it.

Hemi had done everything the man on the phone told him to. Up until now that was. But earlier, he was obedient young Hemi, the Clan of Truth’s go-to guy.

He had arrived at the airport early, using the time to his advantage to find a good spot from which to view the arrivals area from, without being obvious himself. That wasn’t always easy. Although he was not especially tall, Hemi had a commanding aura. Sitting with his back to the wall of the cafe, his muscles rippled as he lifted his coffee cup to his lips. The waitress came over and offered him another free refill. He declined and watched as she returned to the counter, ignoring the other customers who were practically begging for her attention.

Hemi waited. Bloody customs were far too zealous in their work. A man walked past the cafe and took a look at the arrivals board. Hemi spilled his coffee. What the fuck are you doing here? Confusion set in. Hemi couldn’t think of a logical reason why Warren Rennie, his prey, and now employer, was at the airport. Wasn’t it Hemi’s job to watch Dr. Cameron? Had he misunderstood? He watched as Rennie turned his head and scanned the room. Their eyes met and Warren gave a slight nod of his head. OK, Hemi was meant to be here. He could see that Rennie was nervous. Nervous and excited. The man paced like a husband waiting outside the delivery room while his wife had triplets. Thank God Dr. Cameron finally emerged and put him out of his misery. It looked like Rennie was playing host to Dr. Cameron. They appeared to be great friends. This is getting interesting. What was that bit of paper Rennie passed him?

Hemi watched as the two men meandered out to a red Toyota Hilux. After they climbed in, he hurried to his own vehicle, another Toyota, but in black and smaller. He patted the steering wheel as he turned into the exit booths approach, keeping his eye on the Hilux two cars in front. As soon as he had paid and driven onto the two-lane road leading away from the terminal, Hemi set his task into stage two. He pulled up behind the Hilux at the lights, and from then on, all the way to the North Shore where they stopped, he made sure to follow them obviously enough to be seen. It worked. He saw Dr. Cameron turn around a number of times. They even made eye contact. Well, Hemi did in any case.

When they arrived at Rennie’s place, Hemi parked his car a couple of houses away and watched patiently. He didn’t have to sit here any more. His task wasn’t to watch Dr. Cameron right now, it was just to follow them, and to be seen. But with the new development of Rennie’s direct involvement, Hemi had further work to do. His only guess is that Rennie was using Dr. Cameron as his fall guy. It made sense. Bring in a foreigner to justify the claims that no one else will touch. He would have felt sorry for Cameron, but the good doctor was probably as crooked as Rennie.

This was personal as much as it was business. He knew what he had to do. He pulled a manila folder from the satchel that sat next to him on the passenger seat. This was Leigh’s work, the best resource in the business. Leigh got everything Hemi ever needed, and in record time to boot. Best of all, Hemi was one hundred percent sure of Leigh’s confidence. She supplied him information and left no paper trail. The agency had no idea of the quantity of information that Hemi possessed. He momentarily glanced at the label which Leigh had stuck on for him some years earlier. Warren James Rennie, it read. He opened it and reviewed all that she had collected on the man. Hemi knew he had his work cut out for him.

CHAPTER 10

Friday, January 22, 1526

We have finally made it into the entrance of the Estrecho de Magallanes, but not without drama. On reaching the straits, a violent storm blew up and we were again thrown into confusion. The Sancti Spiritus was driven ashore. Nine souls were lost. She was under the command of our chief pilot, Elcano, who is also second in command of the fleet. The following day she broke up in a severe gale which destroyed all her bread and much wine and merchandise. Elcano transferred to the Anunciada to resume his acting command of the squadron, leaving his crew to live on shore as best they can.

Elcano has clearly been affected by the loss of his vessel and, I doubt not, by the loss of his men. I would not like to fall victim to the same circumstance.

But all is not dismal. We have been greatly blessed by the return of the Santa Maria and San Gabriel. As a fleet of six ships now, we are feeling optimistic about the journey ahead through the straits. The spirits of the men remain high. There has only been some minor disciplinary action needed to date, that for men who have fallen asleep during their watch or used foul language in the hearing of the officers. For the most, the journey is one of the most pleasant I have partaken in.

Saturday, February 13, 1526

Our joy at the reunited squadron was short-lived. Another gale blew up and forced me to put my little caravel to sea to avoid being wrecked in the straits. I remained there the next few days, along with the other caravel, drifting south into the coldest seas I have ever known. We travelled fifty-eight leagues south of the straits in all, and had to battle our way back. The men and I are tired and miserable, but there has been something good in our misfortune. When we were at the 56th parallel, our lookout informed me of open waters to the west of a land’s end. This would mean there is a passage between the Oceano Atlantico and El Pacifico. Upon rejoining the fleet, I reported this discovery to Loaisa, who has had the cartographer add the passage to our charts. Loaisa has bestowed a great honour on me and named it after my family, el Mar de Hoces. My father, God rest his soul, would have been very proud to have seen this day.

During our absence, the Anunciada also put out to sea and hasn’t since been seen. The flagship, Santa Maria, has also now run aground and although she has been refloated, is in need of repairs. We are so battered that Loaisa has decided we will return north to the Rio Santa Cruz for a complete overhaul. This decision has greatly displeased the captain of the San Gabriel. He has chosen to depart from the expedition and is heading back to Spain. We keep getting smaller. We are now a fleet of just four ships, three of us less than 80 tons a piece. Our total tonnage has been halved. It means we have taken on some of the supplies of the wrecked vessels, but we are also running heavier, having taken on extra crew. My 36 berth ship is now home to 52 men.

I am starting to question if we can continue our journey. Will we make it through the Estrecho de Magallanes with our lives?

CHAPTER 11

The sunny Wednesday morning moved backwards past the car window as Warren and Matt drove north out of the Auckland suburbs into the countryside. A refreshing breeze blew in through the open car windows. It brought a tang of the sea and the trees that lined the road. This was much more pleasant than Auckland, which had so far proven to be humid a lot of the time.

The previous two days had been a perfect welcome to New Zealand for Matt. He had a chance to overcome the lack of sleep he experienced during the flight and had already been introduced to a few lovely little bays around the North Shore of Auckland. Warren had also taken him to a great restaurant in a little shopping area beginning with T. Matt had no chance of pronouncing that name again though.

As they drove, the world blurred past at 100km per hour.

‘The motorway here was extended a few years back,’ Warren said, ‘before that the on-ramp where we came on was the end of the road. From there it used to be a slow half hour drive just as far as Orewa, a little beach town up ahead. Many years back it was a quiet beach holiday destination for Aucklanders. Now it’s just another off-ramp twenty minutes up the road.’

‘That’s progress for you, I suppose?’

‘Yeah. Still, I don’t mind. The whole journey up to my friend’s place is less stressful with this motorway extension. Knocks a bit of the trip off anyway.’

‘Does your friend work the farm?’ Matt asked.

‘No.’ Warren laughed. ‘It’s just a hunting haunt for him. Man’s got too much money to know what to do with it all.’

Matt watched the family in the car in front of them pull off to a service centre. No doubt they were making a bee-line for the Burger King.

‘The land is leased out to one of the local farmers,’ Warren said. ‘He’s the owner of the land where our site is.’

It all came together in Matt’s head. He had wondered how Warren had managed to arrange permission to dig all over someone’s land. He figured the owner got a sweet deal on the friend’s land rental. A few minutes later Warren pulled the car off the motorway at the Silverdale off-ramp.

‘Here’s our first spot.’ Warren said as he stopped at the entranceway to a fairly modern looking suburban development.

Matt spotted their target immediately. Off the side of the road, a few large round boulders were nestled in the ground, looking as out of place as an elephant in a goldfish bowl.

‘They look like concretions.’ Matt got out of the car.

‘Yes, they do, but concretions form in mudstone, not the yellow clay that abounds on this hill. Moreover, how did it happen that a collection of them appeared at the top of this hill?’

Warren made a good argument. Looking closely at the boulders, Matt could also make out reliefs etched in the rock. Whether this was natural, or made by ancient or modern man was merely speculative. But overall, the rocks bore some thought.

‘Now I want you to remember this location as the Silverdale trig,’ Warren instructed. ‘Sometime this week I want to show you the Auckland Alignments, and this trig is a part of them.’

‘Understood.’

They climbed in the car and continued up the road, passing through the beach town of Orewa that Warren had mentioned. Three hours later the car slowed down and Warren pointed out a valley on the left.

‘This valley, Waiotapu, is one of the most concentrated points of megalithic remains in the country.’

‘Are we going to stop and have a look?’

‘No, unfortunately not. The local Maori are causing trouble again. Anyone they find on the land gets threatening notes put on their car. I don’t want to drag you into trouble like that.’

Matt watched as the valley disappeared behind them, wondering what wonders it had in store. It seemed a bit odd that the Maori would threaten visitors. Maybe Warren was exaggerating. Not more than a couple of kilometres later, Warren pulled the car off the main road on to a smaller country road that led off to the right.

‘My friend’s place is just on the other side of the Donnelly’s Crossing settlement,’ Warren said, as they drove towards a spattering of farm houses. ‘But before we go there, let’s go straight to the site first.’

Matt was pleased Warren wanted to go to the site directly. He was nervous with anticipation of what he was about to see. This could be a life-changing moment.

‘Thanks for bringing me in on this, Warren.’

‘It’s me who has to do the thanking, mate. Without an academic on board, there’s no way I’ll ever be listened to. I need you more than you can imagine.’

Warren turned right onto an even smaller gravel road and right again down what was nothing more than a track. Ahead of them a little farmhouse and some outbuildings came into view. As they rounded the corner of the house to where there was a large dirt parking area, Matt let out a surprised gasp. He looked to Warren for reassurance but saw he, too, had turned white as a sheet. Parked near the house were a Ford Transit cargo van and two white sedans with wording on the sides that read, in an unmistakably proud fashion, Department of Cultural Identity.

‘Bugger!’ Warren said. ‘I sure as hell hope we aren’t too late.’

Warren led Matt across a field in the direction of some clumps of trees. As they got closer, Matt realised a stream cut a winding path through the field, and that some of the trees he had seen were lining it. A short distance before the stream, about 500m from the farm-house, a sail was suspended on four poles. Underneath the sail were the tell-tale signs of a small dig surrounded by eight or nine men and women who were busy scratching away at the dirt.

As they approached, one of the hunched up balls of man stood to meet them. Matt looked up a few inches at the hard, unsmiling face attached to the six-foot plus body.

‘Good morning Mr Rennie, Dr Cameron,’ he said, as he shook their hands with a vice-like grip. ‘My name is Colin Wolfe. I have been given charge of this site by the DCI.’

The agent’s hands felt coarse and unfriendly to Matt’s touch. It unnerved him how this man knew both of their names. Matt had certainly never met Agent Wolfe, he would be impossible to forget.

‘Nice to meet you, Wolfe.’ Warren smiled. ‘I wasn’t sure you guys were going to be interested enough to look at this site. It’s great you’ve spared the time.’

Matt caught a sideways glance from Warren when Wolfe wasn’t looking, and realised that Warren was putting up an act.

‘No, no, we’re very interested in the site,’ Wolfe said, his voice cold and void of further niceties. ‘Have you got the coins that you notified us about?’

Matt looked at Warren and hoped that his confusion wasn’t visible to the austere DCI agent. Hadn’t Warren told them about the mirror?

‘Sure.’ Warren pulled a small cloth pouch out of his satchel. ‘I’ve kept them with me since the find.’

‘We’ll be needing those.’ Wolfe took the pouch from Warren’s hand before it could be formally offered. He removed the coins from the pouch and studied them briefly. ‘You didn’t find anything else at the site then?’

‘No, we came back today to make further diggings in the hopes of finding more artefacts.’

That was an outright lie. But watching the exchange before him, Matt could see why Warren was withholding information. This government agency had literally come in and taken over Warren’s dig without any consultation or warning, and now they were even taking hold of his findings without documenting anything. The lack of ethics made Matt cringe.

‘We won’t need your further service on this dig,’ Wolfe said. ‘We have a team of eight here now and the dig has officially been appropriated by the DCI. You will, of course, be sent a copy of our official report when our work is complete.’

Warren nodded. He looked disappointed.

‘It was nice to meet you Dr Cameron,’ Wolfe said. Something resembling a smile twitched his lips.

‘You too,’ Matt said. He doubted that the comment or the smile held any meaning whatsoever.

As they retraced their steps across the field, out of earshot of the surly figure that was retreating to the trenches behind them, Matt let out a sigh of relief. ‘Nice chap.’ He said. ‘Are they always so friendly?’

‘Yep. He was a shining example of a DCI agent. Exactly what I expected.’

‘You surprise me Warren. You lied about the mirror. They don’t know about it do they?’

Warren smiled. ‘They haven’t a clue. But I had to hide it from them. If I hadn’t, we would have no chance to study it.’

‘I see that now. I didn’t really believe it could be as bad as you had told me, but now I see it is. These guys are like vultures on a freshly killed lion.’ Matt looked back over his shoulder at the site which was shrinking in the distance. ‘Do you think they will find anything else there?’

‘I don’t know, but if they do we can be assured we’ll never hear anything about it. So can the rest of the country. It’ll be another of the DCI’s dirty little secrets.’

They arrived at Warren’ Hilux and climbed in.

‘So where is the mirror?’

‘Just around the corner. Let’s go.’

With that, Warren turned the key and they sped off up the bumpy driveway back to the small country roads.

Warren turned the Hilux onto the road that led back to the small settlement of Donnelly’s Crossing. When he arrived back at the junction and turned left back towards the main highway, Matt spoke up.

‘Isn’t the mirror at your friend’s place?’

‘No, that would be too obvious. I’m sure the DCI or NISO would search there if they got wind of it. I hid it right where I found it, well almost.’

Matt was intrigued. Warren seemed to have thought this out thoroughly. He must have made some quick decisions when he found the mirror. Several minutes later, Warren pulled the car out onto the main road and turned back towards Auckland. ‘I thought you said it was just around the corner.’

‘It is. Unfortunately if we had gone overland to it, we would have been in direct line of sight of that overgrown moron back there.’

‘So we have to take the long way round?’

‘Bingo,’ Warren said as he looked in the mirror. ‘There’s sort of a track that we could otherwise use. A disused railway in fact. The lines were ripped up long ago. But like I said, direct line of sight.’

They turned left again, on to another smaller road that headed back east towards the stream. Soon they had parked the truck beside another farmhouse and Warren was leading Matt over fields again.

‘We’ll cross the stream up here. There’s an old tree that has served as a bridge for the farmers’ kids for many years. I used to play around here when I was a kid. Not much has changed, except the trains have gone.’

‘Was it a freight line or something?’

‘Forestry and passengers. But that’s all ancient history now. Trains in New Zealand are a thing of the past. Few and far between. A couple of tourist numbers that run to a very irregular schedule, and some commuter stuff in Auckland and Wellington. Of course a bit of freight here and there, but the lines are limited in their reach, and everything is diesel. Almost.’

Matt was a bit shocked. A country as big as New Zealand should surely have a huge transit system to get everyone from A to B. He found it hard to imagine Britain without trains. Anywhere for that matter.

‘I can see why you chose to hide the mirror here,’ Matt said, as Warren stopped near a large stand of trees to kneel and start digging. ‘That forest there completely blocks out the other site. How far away is it?’

‘I reckon on a good kilometre.’ Warren answered, his words fighting to be heard through his shortness of breath, as he pulled a bundle of cloth out of the ground. ‘Right where I left you. Little beauty.’ He passed the mirror to Matt.

Matt turned the mirror over, dumbfounded. This mirror was older than the British settlement of New Zealand. There was no question of its antiquity. Matt trembled, the excitement of holding such a beautiful and important object propelling a tingle up through his arm and down his spine. He gazed at his distorted and faint reflection. ‘How did you get here?’

‘Have you seen anything like this before Matt?’

‘I’ve seen similar items of course, in museums and in literature. But I haven’t actually studied one close up. I can’t determine its age or anything, not without help from some specialists.’

‘Then help from specialists we shall get. Just not in New Zealand. Maybe you’ve got some friends back home?’

‘Definitely. I’ll take some pictures and get them off to Julia tonight. This is right up her alley.’

CHAPTER 12

It had been a long day, and Hemi was more than just a little pleased to sit down at his computer to do some research.

He had watched Warren Rennie from a safe distance today. Oh, he had watched Matthew Cameron too, but it was what he saw Rennie doing that intrigued him. Hemi had realised early in the trip north that Rennie must be taking Dr. Cameron to the dig site. Confident that he wouldn’t be recognised by anybody in his borrowed car, Hemi happily overtook the duo on the motorway and got a head start on them. Rennie hadn’t requested Hemi to observe today, probably because he could do it himself. But Hemi decided to watch anyway and he was glad he did. He arrived at the site with ten minutes’ lead and used the opportunity to find a spot in some scrub slightly above the site, about seven hundred metres away. Happy that he was out of sight, Hemi set up his spotting-scope and made himself comfortable. With his right eye to the lens, Hemi counted nine workers clad in DCI field-uniforms. An amused smile cracked his normally composed visage.

When Rennie and Dr. Cameron arrived and left so quickly, Hemi thought it had been a waste of time. But he didn’t immediately get up and leave because he was captivated by the DCI activity on site. Much to his surprise, Rennie and Cameron appeared again about an equal distance away on his right. They got out of the Hilux and hurried to a cluster of Macrocarpa trees. Hemi turned and looked at the DCI agents, then back at Warren. He realised that the two groups could not see each other. He continued to watch Warren Rennie to see what surprises were in store. What he saw certainly fitted into that category.

From where he was lying, it appeared that Rennie was being a little less than truthful with the DCI about his dig site. Through his scope, Hemi watched as Rennie crouched on the ground and pulled another object from underneath a shallow layer of soil. That hadn’t been chance, Hemi had realised immediately. He must have planted it there. He took his little Lumix camera with the powerful zoom and snapped up an image of the object. Now he wanted to look at it on the big screen. You couldn’t see anything on those bloody tiny preview screens the cameras have. Hemi removed his laptop from his backpack and transferred the camera contents to it. The last photo he took soon sprang to life in his favourite photo viewer. Hemi studied the bronze object, a dinner plate perhaps, and could make out some sort of pattern on it.

That looks like much more than a coin or something, Mr. Rennie. I see I’m going to have to keep a close eye on you.

The little piece of paper sat in front of Matt on the dining table. It was great that Aimee had given him a phone number instead of an e-mail address. Ever since he had discovered the Internet, Matt had slowly lost contact with most of his good friends. It seemed that everyone wanted to e-mail to keep in touch. But over time the e-mails became less frequent and the emotional context was lost, through the lack of vocal expression. More recently, the invention of social applications had made it all the worse. Now your friends were people you had never met, that you sent a one line text to, in public, saying you had seen a good movie. All the tangible benefits of relationships were disappearing and Matt hated it. But now, looking at the phone number, he wished it was an e-mail address instead. Then he could simply forget to e-mail, or at least not have to talk… you know, out loud.

Why did a string of seven simple digits make him so nervous? It wasn’t like Matt hadn’t talked to girls before. He had even been on dates and had what some might refer to as a girlfriend. But this was different. She was interesting and she was good-looking. At least Matt thought so. Likely a thousand other guys did too, and he would never stand a chance. Good, he decided. He doesn’t stand a chance, so it can stay strictly professional. That made it easier. He dialled the number.

‘Hello?’ The ringing tone was replaced by a sweet but unsure sounding voice. An equally unsure voice squeaked out of Matt’s mouth. He didn’t even recognise it.

‘Ah, hi, is this Aimee?’

‘Yes.’ There was a pause. ‘Oh, hey, British accent. Is that Matthew?’

She remembered him!

‘Yes, yes it is.’ Matthew was relieved not to have to explain who he was. ‘How are you?’

‘I’m good, thanks. Even better now. I didn’t think you’d call.’

‘Well, I had to. I want to make sure you spent the last few days immersed in pseudo-history websites.’

‘A promise is a promise. You wouldn’t believe how diverting this stuff is!’

Matt couldn’t believe it. Not only had he managed to pull off a witty line with a beautiful woman but she had actually been interested enough in their previous conversation to follow through. This was incredible.

‘Seriously? What have you found? A long lost tribe of Celts?’

Aimee laughed. ‘No. I’ve been much more interested in the Spanish stuff. It goes deeper than the helmet, you know?

‘Go on.’

‘Well, right now I’m looking at a Pohutukawa tree, that’s a New Zealand native. Lovely big green trees with red blossoms, they grow on the coast.’

‘Ok.’

‘I’ve got a picture on my screen of a real beauty, it’s about 500 years old.’

‘Uhuh.’ Matt wasn’t sure where this was going.

‘That would all be good… if it was in New Zealand.’

‘Ah, OK. Where is it?’

There was a pause. Was she pausing for effect? It was working. Matt hung on every word she said. All right, maybe that wasn’t because of what she was saying, but rather because she said it to him.

‘In the gardens of the police station in La Coruna, the capital city of Galicia.’

‘I’ve not been there,’ Matt said, although he had no idea why he said it. ‘Been to the Costa del Sol a few times though.’ What a klutz Matt. Leave it out.

‘You’ve got one up on me, we don’t get to Europe all that much from here.’

Matt felt like a moron. It was one thing for hordes of Brits and Germans to flock to Spain every year, but New Zealanders? Where do they go?

‘The million dollar question,’ Aimee continued, ‘is how it got there. I found out that La Coruna was a popular port in the 16th century because it was cheap and the pirates didn’t cause much grief. The Spanish Helmet is a 16th century close helmet. So I figure, maybe someone took a Pohutukawa seedling and dropped their helmet in the harbour all at the same time.’

‘Sounds like an eventful trip. Wouldn’t there be records of something like that?’

‘Maybe the tree is the only surviving record?’

‘I guess it’s possible.’

‘Well, I also read a bit about Kumara and Hangis.’

‘You’ll have to translate that for me,’ Matt laughed.

‘Kumara, c’mon, we talked about it on the plane. The South American sweet potato. And a Hangi is a Maori earth oven. Well, in South America they use ovens that are almost identical. And you know what else…?’ Aimee’s voice rose with excitement, ‘the Kumara store-houses, traditional Maori ones, are built above the ground and look just like South American store houses.’

‘That’s pretty damned interesting.’

‘Then there was the so-called Crosshouse.’

‘Crosshouse?’ Matt was flabbergasted by the amount of research that Aimee must have done over the past days. This really was some girl.

‘A Maori meeting house or school that was burned down in the Eighties. Its design was strongly influenced by sun, star and moon movements. Like the Celts did. Where did the Maori get these ideas from, did they develop them alone, or were they taught?’

‘I don’t know,’ Matt said.

They continued to discuss the questions that Aimee’s research had raised for a few more minutes and made small talk about catching up again while Matt was in town. He promised that if he had questions, he would get in touch. Surprising himself, he made the light-hearted suggestion they maybe meet for a meal before he left the country. He just about squealed when she agreed. Hanging up the phone, Matt promised himself to find an excuse to get in touch with her again before the week was over.

CHAPTER 13

Tuesday, March 24, 1526

We are ready to attempt the Estrecho de Magallanes again. The ships have all been repaired and are again seaworthy. Unfortunately, I cannot report the same of our poultry. We have but one rooster and one hen to share for the whole fleet. I offered the commander of the caravel Santa Maria del Parral a very good trade for these, but he refused me. I guess my men will go without eggs. We have been lucky, though, to find a good supply of the sweet potato that grows in these parts. Some of the men come from farming families and believe they could cultivate this species on board and back home in Spain. I have given them permission to establish a small nursery on the foredeck, for I admit that I would be happy to devour the mellow creamy-white flesh of this vegetable every day. While in the river’s safe harbour, we have watched the natives cooking their food in earth ovens and have practiced the same method. The result is a flavourful feast fit for kings. We will all be sorry to return to boiled food.

Our respite here, although we were busied with repairs to the San Lesmes, has served as a good opportunity for the men to lift their spirits and regain their strength. I am pleased to depart on our new attempt of the straits with a strong and happy crew.

Wednesday, May 26, 1526

We have reached the Mar Pacifico. I cannot put into words my joy of having made it through the straits alive. It is the day of St. Alifonso and the eve of Trinity. Our journey to the Moluccas continues with new hope.

We are riding on a south-east wind. It is extremely cold. There was much ice to be seen in the straits and looking south. The winds are carrying this cold to us. The beauty of the region leaves me awed. Daily we have been greeted with views of glaciers and snow-covered mountains. I doubt that many could survive in these climes but every man should be blessed with this scenery once within their lifetime. Sadly, we now draw further away from the coast and will not see land again for some weeks.

CHAPTER 14

Sunlight streamed into the window and bathed Matt in its warmth. He pulled himself out of bed and shuffled over to the window, barely alert at all. He was greeted with Warren’s beautiful view of Campbell’s Bay and beyond it, the broad conical form of Rangitoto, the volcanic island whose history Warren had explained the night before. Matt was impressed to learn that Auckland was built on about fifty volcanoes, and that a new volcano could appear at any time. Surely there are more logical places to build your city, he mused, awed by the spectacle. Deciding to leave the curtain open and not to crawl back under the covers, Matt instead went into the ensuite adjacent to his room and showered before breakfast.

Warren had left Matt a note telling him to help himself to eggs, bread and whatever else he needed. He had explained to Matt the night before that he needed to go in to see his editor about a story he was working on. He would be gone all day. While Matt ate his breakfast of toast smeared with a particularly good honey, he flicked through the pages of the magazine that Warren was freelancing for, Observer. It was clear that the magazine specialised in investigative pieces. The sort of articles that might spark a controversy, or at least challenge the status quo. A good fit for Warren. Matt chose an article about a shampoo product and read about the nasty ingredients as he finished up his breakfast.

After putting his dishes in the dishwasher, Matt grabbed the car keys that Warren had left for him and collected the cordless phone from its cradle. Before diving into his uncomfortable mission to visit his father, he would call Julia to get her to do some research on the mirror at the university museum. As he dialled the number, he considered the 13 hour lead he had on her and hoped she would still be up and not mind the distraction from the Spanish Galleon.

‘Hello?’

‘Hi Julia, it’s Matt.’

‘How’s New Zealand?’

‘It’s beautiful and I’m having a really interesting time. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back, but right now, I need your help.’

‘Fire away.’

That’s what Matt loved about Julia. No messing around. Just professional and straight to the point. As he spoke he removed the mirror from its safe-keeping and sank into the big soft sofa.

‘I’ve uploaded some files to our server. I want you to have a look at them. They’re photos of a mirror that Warren has found. It’s clearly of Celtic origin, but could you tell me more about it? Maybe see if someone at the museum or in the department can shed some light on it for me?’

‘Sure,’ Julia said. ‘I’m just bringing up the pictures now.’

Matt waited until Julia confirmed she had the files.

‘Someone at the museum can definitely help with this. I’ll let you know as soon as. Will a couple of days be all right?’

‘That’ll be perfect.’

Julia sounded distracted to Matt, so he thought he would leave it there and take the conversation elsewhere. He folded the mirror back into the cloth and returned it to its hiding place, before returning to the sofa. He continued on his new topic as he moved about.

‘So, how’s your analysis of the recovered galleon loot going?’

‘Good. Getting plenty done since it’s so quiet around here. But that’s not interesting. How’s New Zealand?’

Matt smiled. OK, if she was going to ask twice he had better at least give her something, besides he had a lot to tell and welcomed the opportunity to tell someone he knew about what he had seen and done in the last few days. He explained the different sites that Warren had shown him and discussed the pretty scenery and how odd it was to have summer in December. Then, for reasons unknown to him, he mentioned meeting Aimee on the flight.

‘She’s a Kiwi history student and was able to enlighten me with stories about New Zealand history. Actually, I asked her about the alternative theories of New Zealand history and she was a wealth of knowledge.’

‘So she told you about the Celtic theory?’

‘That and much more.’

‘More?’

‘There are lots of theories thrown around. There’s even one where New Zealand was discovered, or at least visited, by the Spanish.’

‘The Spanish?’ Julia sounded more alert now.

‘Yes, the Spanish.’ Matt was pleased with himself for exciting the conversation. He could tell that Julia wanted to know more. ‘A Spanish helmet was dredged out of the Wellington Harbour about 130 years ago. It’s been dated as 500 years old which puts the Spanish here long before the Dutch or English.’

‘Sounds interesting. I’d love it if you could find out more about that. But don’t forget that you’re there to help Warren with this mirror.’

‘I won’t forget. But I’ll find out more about the helmet if I can.’

‘Sounds good. Don’t do anything stupid though, Professor Pick was around here yesterday fishing for information.’

‘Seriously?’

‘He rabbited on about how you must have too much time on your hands if you’re able to go off gallivanting around New Zealand playing with history. Maybe the department isn’t working you hard enough or something.’

‘What a git. Hasn’t he got anything better to do?’

‘He has. He’s decided to look into your friend Warren and his theories himself. He’s asked me to give him Warren’s details. What should I do?’

‘Give them to him, it can’t hurt. I don’t have time to worry about Dwight and his damned insecurities right now. So much to see and do.’

‘Alright, I’ll take care of it, forget I mentioned him.’

‘OK, I will. I have a father to go meet.’

‘Oh God. Are you nervous?’

‘Nervous isn’t a strong enough word. It’s a mixture of feelings. I don’t really know what to feel.’

‘Good luck, I hope it goes well.’

‘Thanks, Julia. I reckon I need all the luck I can get. Take care, alright? I’ll get in touch if I have more news. Otherwise, I’ll just wait for you to e-mail me with anything you can tell me about the mirror.’

‘OK, Matt. Bye’

Matt pressed the little red button on the phone and watched as the screen dimmed. Looking out the window, he wondered if going to see his father was a wise move. It might just dredge up the past. An unwanted past. Like a Spanish helmet, better left undisturbed.

CHAPTER 15

It was 10:46am when Matt pulled the car over to the side of the road in what had to be the prettiest little area in Auckland. Devonport was laden with beautiful wooden-clad villas and seemed to carry with it some history. Matt couldn’t help but notice the small naval base as he came past the wharfs, but this part of the village, tucked around the side of a volcano and away from the main street and noise was lovely. It struck Matt that his father at least had some taste. But leaving his mother and him, well, that just wasn’t on. She had never talked about it, except to ensure Matt his father had abandoned them. She never told him his father’s name, he had to learn that one from his Grandmother during her last days. It was her that begged Matt to find his father. And now, here he was. He decided during the drive that he would be open and listen to the excuses he was expecting to hear, but he was also determined to be steadfast in his conviction that his father had done them wrong.

Locating the correct house number on the wooden letterbox out the front, Matt pulled up the car on the kerbside. As he did so, he noticed a black car parking on the road not more than one hundred metres behind him. Matt released his seat-belt and eased himself out of the car, turning to look at the black car as he did. Yep, it was a Corolla. And bold as brass, in the driver’s seat sat the same man that Matt had seen on the airport road. The cheeky bugger was smiling at him! The fact that he was so clearly not trying to hide himself made Matt nervous. In all the films and books, if the bad guy lets you see him, it was because it didn’t matter. He was going to kill you anyway. Oh, don’t be silly Matt. He’s a government agent interested in protecting the cultural identity of their country. Not a killer. Matt smiled back. He even surprised himself by raising his hand slightly in a sort of half-wave. He quickly took it down again though, not wanting to provoke that killing instinct.

Putting thoughts of his chaperone as far to the side as possible, Matt made his way up the path to the front door of the house with a mixture of nerves and determination. It was one of the nicer looking villas. His father had done well for himself. He lifted his shaking hand to the doorbell, rang it, took a step back, and waited.

***

Hemi laughed to himself as he watched Matt waiting at the door of the house he had stopped at. You think you’re pretty clever, don’t you Dr. Cameron? We’ll see about wiping that bloody smile off your face.

The door was answered by a woman. No one Hemi knew. He needed to find out who she was. He waited until Matt had entered the house and started the car. Driving at a snail’s pace past the letterbox, he noted the house number. At the end of the street, he looked up at the white sign and confirmed the name. Armed with just these details, Hemi dialled Leigh’s number.

Hemi was impressed with her speed in answering.

‘Is that you Hemi?’ Leigh asked.

‘Yeah. Nothing escapes you, does it?’

‘What can I do you for, gorgeous?’

‘Got an address I want you to run.’

‘Fire away.’

Hemi gave the details he had and waited as he listened to typing in the background. It only took a few seconds.

‘The resident would be one Nadine Robertson. House ownership is under the name Andy Robertson though. Maybe the husband. Gimme a sec.’

‘Take your time,’ Hemi said, as he scrawled down the two names.

‘Ah, not the husband. It’s the father.’

‘Thanks Leigh. Could you put together a file on them and get it across to me ASAP?’

‘I’ll get it done this arvo.’

Hemi disconnected the call and turned the car around. Driving back past the house, he glanced briefly at the front windows. Who are you? He put the car into second gear and sped away. He had some more research to do.

Matt stood, glued to the doorstep, transfixed by the young woman looking back at him. She was beautiful. So familiar. It was a strange feeling.

‘Ah, excuse me?’ She interrupted his thoughts.

‘S… sorry.’ Matt stammered for the first time he could recall and realising that he had ignored her when she opened the door, he added, ‘I was expecting somebody else.’

‘Oh.’ She looked almost deflated. ‘Maybe I can point you in the right direction?’

Matt was unsure if it was worth taking this any further. Oh, what the hell. ‘I’m looking for Andy Robertson.’ Matt rushed the words out. ‘This was the last known address that I found for him.’

‘Andy Robertson?’ She looked concerned. ‘What do you need him for?’

‘He’s my father, I’ve come to find my father.’

The woman trembled and steadied herself by grabbing the door frame.

‘Matthew?’

Matt was stunned. Who was this woman? How did she know his name?

‘Yes.’

‘I don’t believe it. All these years.’ The shock on her face eased into a calm smile. ‘I’m Nadine, your half-sister. You’d better come in.’

All of a sudden the familiarity registered with Matt. Her deep brown eyes, the broad nose, the dimples that formed with her smile. It was like a feminine reflection in the mirror. Matt followed her into the house in a state of absolute shock. He had a sister. Matthew Peter Cameron had a sister. You might as well have just presented him with a million pounds, he was so stunned.

‘How old are you?’ Matt asked, realising too late that this wasn’t the time or place.

‘I’m thirty-two, a couple years younger than you.’

Someone just handed Matt another million pounds. He sat down on a chair at the dining table without asking. If he hadn’t he might have fallen over.

‘But that means…’ Matt wasn’t sure he wanted to think about what it meant.

‘We have a lot to catch up on. I can tell from your reaction that you knew nothing about me, but I’ve heard about you my whole life. Have you got time for a coffee?’

She spoke Matt’s language. Not a tea drinker. ‘I’ve got all day.’

‘Good. I’ll tell you everything I know before I take you to meet Dad. That will make things easier for everyone.’

‘He’s alive?’ Matt stood up. ‘I’d just assumed…’

‘Yes,’ Nadine said, pushing him gently back into the seat with her trembling hand. ‘But he’s not the man he used to be and he’s probably not the man you expect him to be either.’

‘What do you mean?’ Matt asked. He felt transparent.

‘If you don’t know about me, chances are you don’t know anything about your father, right?’

‘Of course I know nothing about him, he walked out on us when I was a four.’

‘He didn’t walk out.’ Nadine corrected him like a disappointed school-teacher. ‘He was pushed.’

The emotions swirling around in Matt’s head overwhelmed him. What did she mean he was pushed? His mother had told him for years that his father had walked out. Just not returned from one of his trips to New Zealand. It couldn’t really be any other way, could it? He blurted out his story a little uncontrolled. ‘He went to visit his parents. Every year. When I was four, he didn’t come back.’ Fighting back tears now. He didn’t know how to confront this. At the same time, he didn’t want to appear weak.

‘Dad isn’t perfect,’ Nadine said, handing Matt a box of tissues, to which he nodded without taking one. ‘He loved Grandma and Granddad though, and he came to visit them every year. On his second visit, he met my mother and-’ she paused ‘-he fell in love for a second time. They had a holiday affair. The last thing your father expected a few months later was a letter telling him Mum was pregnant.’

The thought of his father cheating on his mother didn’t make things any better for Matt. Even worse, the thought of his father choosing his New Zealand family over him and his mother made him angrier than ever.

‘How does your telling me this make my father look any better? Not only did he walk out on us, he cheated on my mother and chose you over us!’

‘He didn’t choose us!’ Nadine cried, as she sat down at the table. ‘He chose you. He did what was right and stayed put in the UK. He visited us the year I was born, when he visited his parents, but he went home to your mother. The next year, before he came out to New Zealand, he felt so guilty about what he was doing that he told your mother what had happened. She told him to go and never come back. She decided you’d be better off without him.’

Matt sat perplexed. If what Nadine said was true, his mother had lied to him. Could his mother really be capable of maintaining her story that his father had left them for thirty years?

‘He never contacted me. He never wrote a letter. Not even a birthday card.’

‘Yes he did. He tried for years. At first he just got the letters and cards back. You mother returned them unopened with a note refusing receipt. We still have them all somewhere, you wanna see them?’

‘That’s not necessary.’ Matt didn’t really want to have tangible evidence of his mother’s deceit. It was bad enough thinking about it. He calmed down a little ‘Why did he stop trying?’

‘He never stopped trying. But your mother moved and stopped using the name Robertson. Your address wasn’t published and Dad had no clue where you were. He sent letters to your Gran but she wouldn’t say either. She took money from him though. He set up a trust fund for your education.’

‘He what?’

‘Did your grandmother pay for your schooling?’

‘Yes,’ Matt said. ‘All except my bachelor degree.’ He sat thinking about the implication of this knowledge. This changed everything. He had always assumed his Gran got the education money from Warren, but now he realised his father had tried to do the right thing.

‘And then he couldn’t even try to contact you again. His stroke saw to that.’

Matt sat bolt upright. ‘A stroke! How bad is it? Can he walk and talk?’

‘It was a right-hemisphere stroke. He’s alert and coherent but he has trouble walking and doing things as simple as tying his shoes. You also sometimes have to repeat yourself to him or tell him what he did yesterday. His short-term memory is shot, but he can remember everything from his past better than I can. He remembers you and will be so happy to see you. You’ll still get a chance to get to know your father, our dad. We can go and visit him in the care-home on Sunday if you’d like.’

Matt hesitated, only briefly. ‘Yes, I’d like that. The least I can do is give him a chance.’

‘Brilliant,’ Nadine said, pouring Matt a refill and smiling widely, ‘in the mean time, I’d love to finally get to know my brother.’

Matt grabbed a delicious looking chocolate biscuit from the tin Nadine had placed in the middle of the table. Comfort food. He leaned back into his chair, and wrapped his hand around the warm coffee mug.

‘Well, you can start by calling me Matt.’

Matt sat in the car looking across to the city from the top of Mount Victoria. The peaceful vista helped to slow down his rapid heartbeat. Still, five minutes after leaving Nadine’s house, his breathing and pulse hadn’t returned to normal. It was as if he had just run up the volcano, rather than come by car. The city glistened in the sunlight. The water in the boat-filled harbour was calm and green. The car windows were down and the fresh air that greeted his nostrils had a calming effect. A stroll was in order. Noticing the group of drinking youths nearby, Matt tried to remove the GPS from the window. They looked harmless enough, but this was Warren’s car. Better safe than sorry and all that. His efforts were fruitless. All Matt succeeded in doing was putting a big scratch on the device’s metal frame, beside the power button.

Sorry Warren, I was trying to help. He left the GPS where it was, stepped out of the car and carefully locked it.

Matt walked by a large Disappearing-Cannon, submerged in a concrete bunker beside the car-park. Red and white concrete mushrooms filled the small field behind it. They looked like an odd art installation, but Matt realised these could be the air vents of an underground bunker. It was the first time he had considered the preparations New Zealand must have made for threats like the Russians in the late 19th century, or the world wars in the last one. Amazing, the distances that war travels. It creates divides and crosses them too. He walked further across the hillside, passing by a harbour signal station, and eventually came to the edge of the volcano. He sat down on the roof of a concrete gunning bunker. As he gazed out at Rangitoto, the island that Warren had told him about, he compared the dormant volcano to the dormant relationship he had with his father. Who knew when either could spring back to life? His pocket started to vibrate and ring.

Matt jumped a little, the ringing phone having rudely interrupted his daydreams, and pulled the vibrating monster from his pocket. A quick glance at the screen told him that it wasn’t Warren or Julia. Is that Aimee’s number? It was someone in New Zealand. He could tell from the +64 that showed up on the display. He answered hesitantly.

‘Matthew Cameron.’

‘Hi Matt.’ There was a brief pause as if she was waiting for him to guess. ‘It’s Aimee.’

‘Oh… hi Aimee.’ Matt sat up and brushed the sand off his pants.

‘I thought I should give you a call to make sure you don’t forget me when you’re famous,’ Aimee said, laughing.

‘Pardon?’

‘You seem to be a bit of the talk in the town right now.’

‘What? I am? How so?’

‘Well, the kind of people who are interested in proving that the Celts were here before the Maori are definitely talking about you. It seems like word has got out that you and your friend have found some sort of Celtic site that has been taken over by the DCI. The conspiracists are running wild.’

‘I hope we aren’t causing any trouble.’

‘Not at all. I think everyone’s enjoying the situation. The conspiracists for obvious reasons. And the DCI are, of course, always interested in any advancement we can make to New Zealand history.’

Matt smiled. He didn’t really believe the DCI were interested in advancements at all anymore. Only cover-ups. ‘We?’ Matt asked.

‘We, you know, New Zealand.’

‘Ah right, of course, but I don’t know how much of an impact our finding these two coins will make,’ Matt said, attempting to plant Warren’s story firmly with Aimee.

‘Is it only two coins?’ she asked, sounding a little disappointed. ‘With all the work in the rumour-mill, I thought it might be more than that. Perhaps I could help out. I’d love to get away from my study, it’s so boring always doing the same thing. If you like, I could look into your find for you. Anything I can do to help is good with me.’

Matt though about her offer for a minute. On the one hand, he was slightly unsure of why she was so eager to help. Warren telling him to trust no one played over in his head. Until now, he had only discussed the true nature of his trip with Julia. On the other hand, Aimee seemed like a nice girl and Matt wanted the opportunity to get to know her better. Besides, her input and unbiased opinion would be a welcome addition. ‘Tell you what,’ he said, ‘why don’t we meet up on Saturday? You could show me about a bit and then I’ll buy you lunch to say thanks.’

‘Sounds great to me.’

Matthew made arrangements to meet Aimee in front of the Britomart station at ten on Saturday morning and ended the call. As he sat on his army bunker, he watched yachts and ferries travelling to and from the city’s wharfs. His thoughts mirrored their organised chaos. Despite being nervous about meeting his father on Sunday, Matt looked forward to the weekend.

CHAPTER 16

Tuesday, June 1, 1526

We have struggled for the last few days, sailing under sunless skies in bitterly cold conditions. The whole crew, I include myself, have lost the joy we had felt after our successful navigation of the straits. We are approximately 157 leagues from Cape Deseado, where we left the straits behind us. Earlier today, a gale once again took hold of us and separated us from the rest of the fleet. The watch briefly spotted the pinnace Santiago in the far distance, but we have lost sight of her since. We are now alone in a lonely and cold ocean. Even the fine wines which I enjoy with the pilot and master in the evening are doing little to restore warmth to us. At least I have the companionship of these two men, who have become my friends. Without them, I fear this would be a spiralling journey into a personal hell. We pray we will meet with our fleet again soon.

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

Sunday, June 6, 1526

It is the fifth day since we have seen any of the rest of the fleet. I can only presume that they are either in front or behind us and that we will find each other again on our arrival at the Moluccas. Our instructions tell us that if we are to be separated from the fleet we should sail on to the Moluccas and await the others there. Accordingly, I have set a course for the Moluccas. On arrival there, we will wait one month for the others. If they do not arrive, we will assume them lost and continue home to Spain.

Provisions are good. We have plenty of biscuit and wine from our original supplies, and have also a number of seal, preserved fish, and other preserved meats that were transferred from the Sancti Spiritus when she foundered. Among the men who have joined us from other ships are a carpenter, a cooper, and a steward.

The weather is improving as we continue north-west. The sun is warming our bodies and our souls. The winds are light and favour good sailing onward to our goal.

CHAPTER 17

Matt sat at the breakfast table munching on a bowl of muesli mixed with berry yogurt — one of his favourite breakfasts and midnight snacks.

‘How did it go with your father then?’ Warren, sitting opposite, asked through a mouthful.

‘Hmm.’ Matt swallowed; speaking with your mouth full wasn’t the done thing. ‘It didn’t go, actually. I met my half-sister though.’

Matt went over the details of his afternoon in Devonport, leaving nothing out. He knew that Warren was interested as both a friend and a father-figure. He made sure not to make Warren feel that his place in Matt’s life was diminished in any way.

‘I’m sure your mother will be pleased to hear it’s going well for you.’ Warren said.

‘She doesn’t know yet. I didn’t even tell her I was coming to New Zealand.’

‘Oh.’

Warren looked like he was at a loss for words. Matt saw his cue and changed the subject.

‘So, what’s on the agenda for today? You’ve got the day off, right?’

‘I do,’ Warren said, looking up and smiling, ‘I thought maybe I could take you on the grand Celtic tour of Auckland and her surrounds.’

‘Sounds great.’ Matt was pleased he might get his hands dirty some more. Aside from the mirror, he hadn’t been presented with any compelling reason to believe that Warren’s theory was correct. He really hoped that today might put a change to that.

‘I want to show you the Auckland Alignments.’

‘Sure, you mentioned those. The trig in Silverdale. It sounds interesting.’

‘It is. Some committed researchers have located a number of trigs, tor mounds and the like. Sighting stones, small henges. They line up perfectly with the equinoxes and are quite impressive when properly observed.’

Matt was genuinely interested. If there were indeed some fine examples of henges and alignments like the ones Warren was describing, it would raise the question of previous habitation of the area by Celts or another ancient civilisation. At least, whoever created such features was likely to have had contact with someone like the Celts or Mayans at some point in their history.

An hour later, Matt and Warren walked around the crater rim of Mount Wellington, one of Auckland’s many volcanoes. Warren stopped Matt as they approached a small wooden footbridge that crossed an unlevel part of the rim.

‘What do you see there?’ Warren asked, pointing at the V-shaped indentation in the rim.

‘I’m not sure. Is it man-made or natural? I’m no volcanologist.’ He laughed.

Warren remained deadly serious. ‘That’s a sighting trench. From over there, on that hill to the east, the sun sets into this trench on the days of the vernal and autumn equinox.’ Warren was clearly proud of his knowledge.

Matt looked over to the hill Warren had pointed out and back at the trench beneath him. He had to admit it was interesting, though he saw a slight flaw in the theory.

‘Supposing you didn’t discover the sun setting in the trench from that vantage point, you could just choose another marker to better suit, right? Like that little knoll there, or the outcrop of rock there.’ Matt pointed to two other features.

‘Yes, but if you look over there to the west, see the hill just to the left of that big road running through there?’

‘Uhuh.’

‘From there, Mt Albert, where a trig stone was discovered by a British surveyor a few decades back, you see the sun rise through the trench on the equinox days.’

Matt turned to look at the hill to his east, and back to the one at the west. ‘It’s a perfect line?’

‘It’s a perfect line.’

‘Are there more like this?’

‘I could drive you around Auckland sites all day. The north-south alignment, which goes beyond Silverdale and way to the south of us here, is over eighty miles long. What’s more, there’s a couple of perfect examples of tor mounds on the southern part of that alignment.’

‘It’s compelling stuff, but alignments like this are too hard to confirm. You know that from all the work in France and back home. Without the evidence of the mirror, you would never get this theory off the ground.’

‘I know. I’ve been trying for years.’

Matt felt sorry for Warren. But the truth remained. If Warren hadn’t been in possession of the mirror, Matt would have also laughed off his theory as wild speculation. A theory like this, without hard evidence, was a non-starter. Theories with some concrete evidence, evidence demanding an investigation, like the Spanish Helmet, the Tamil Bell, and now the Celtic mirror, those were the kinds of theories you could sink some investigative teeth into.

They returned to the car and wound down the hillside. ‘What about Maori tradition, do they talk about an earlier people?’

‘They do. Well, they did. It isn’t necessarily kosher to discuss them anymore, but there was a race of red-haired, fair-skinned people. The Maori called them the Patu-paiarehe. Now they’re referred to as the mountain fairy tribe. Many deny they ever existed at all, but other elders and tribal leaders remember the stories their parents told them. They know they existed.’

‘Is there documented evidence of their existence, or of Maori talking about them?’

‘Many of the early settlers wrote about them. These writings are still to be found in the libraries and archives. Of course, the early settlers were quite ready to listen to oral tradition. They had no reason to make things up, or to try and hide what they learned behind untruths.’

‘Uhuh, and what about more recently?’

‘There’s a recent document from a borough council outlining a brief history of an old mill in the region. The mill was used to crush bones into fertiliser in the 1860s. The bones were apparently taken from the Auckland burial caves, caches of ancient Maori bones. The Maori, at the time, reportedly had no issue with the bones being taken because they were ‘not the bones of our people.’

Warren drove them back over the harbour bridge. Matt thought about what he had seen and learned today. It was a lot to take in.

‘There are certainly a lot of questions surrounding your history Warren, I’ll give you that. I just hope that we can find some solid evidence in one direction or the other. The mirror is a good start, but I can’t help but think we need something to support it. Something to really set the theory in concrete and build a decent foundation.’

‘We’ll work on it, Matt. Let’s call it a day and go home. We’ll go to a few more sites in a couple days time, see if I can convince you it’s worth sticking with this.’

Matt let the words sink in. He wondered about sticking with this himself. The last thing he needed was an embarrassment. He hoped that Warren could convince him. At the moment though, Warren wasn’t quite there. It was a concern. If Dwight Pick was privy to what Matt had seen today, or hadn’t seen, Matt wouldn’t hear the end of it. Dwight would tear him, Warren, and the theory to pieces. Maybe when Julia came back with some promising information about the mirror things would be different.

Hemi was bored. Following Warren Rennie and Matthew Cameron around while they looked at stones was not his idea of a fun day out, but Hemi only had himself to blame for this because he chose to follow them. Rennie had given him the day off, again. It was obvious why.

You don’t need me when you can feed him your bullshit and keep an eye on him yourself, do you?

Hemi could imagine Rennie also used more of his scare tactics, telling Cameron they were being watched by the Government. If only he knew. Hemi had to smile at the irony of that thought but couldn’t get over the cheek of the bastard. Fancy inviting someone you had fooled into believing was your friend to a country on the other side of the world to take part in a wild goose chase. No doubt Rennie was setting up Matthew Cameron to take the fall when his absurd bloody theory didn’t come to fruition. An innocent man goes down in place of Warren Rennie. Bile rose in Hemi’s throat and he tapped the steering wheel in time with his racing pulse. The situation was all too similar, memories came flooding back.

Hemi was a happy seventeen year old finishing high school. His future wasn’t paved with gold but it was promising enough and he made his father very proud. Dad was the local mean cop, Robo-cop they called him. He wasn’t a much liked man, but he was honest and fair. Hemi loved him to bits. It was just the two of them.

Hemi killed his mother during childbirth. Dad never said it like that, but Hemi knew he was to blame so he held on to his Dad with all his might. But that year, it all changed. Hemi’s father got involved in a case investigating some racist crime. Thanks to his efforts, two Pakeha went down for the crime. But a man named Warren Rennie stuck his head in, accusing Hemi’s dad of tampering with evidence to make sure the local Maori got the result they wanted. Rennie’s efforts paid off. A suspension and quick trial followed and Dad ended up behind bars, albeit only for eight weeks. He was dead within one. Tough cops don’t last in common jails.

Hemi went off the rails when he learned of his father’s death. Dad’s words from a week earlier rang in his ears. ‘Whatever happens, I’ll watch over you. I’ll always be there.’ Where was he now? Was he watching over Hemi? None of it made sense. All Hemi knew was that Warren Rennie caused his father to be in jail. He was certain Rennie knew nothing about him, and wouldn’t have cared anyway. So Hemi decided to make it his life mission to get revenge, or justice as he preferred to call it.

The problem was, Hemi would never break the law. If there was one thing his father had thoroughly stamped into that head of his, it was that you never break the law, not for any reason. So if you can’t break it, you get yourself above it. That meant you need to be a top cop or an agent for the NISO. Those normally get selected from the best of the best.

Hemi joined the army the day after his father’s funeral, a sad affair with just fourteen attendees. He didn’t even get to see his poor Dad’s body; it was so mangled and beaten. He watched with a hollow heart as the coffin was lowered into the ground. As it sank down, Hemi made his decision to visit the recruitment office the next day. He signed up for communications training and made a real effort to be the best. Not only did Hemi lose weight and get in shape, he was at the top of his intake and was approached by the NISO within six months of joining up. He was given agent status and inducted into an elite undercover squad investigating the radical cells that posed potential terrorist risks. His job was to infiltrate the groups, gather information, and to take them down if necessary.

The delight he felt when he discovered, by some sheer chance, that one of his potential targets was Warren Rennie was immense. And the absolute joy that he had when he realised Rennie had no idea who he was, matched it, and then some. Now, last week, when Rennie called him, woke him, and painted a target on himself with a big red brush, Hemi almost died from happiness. Finally he had a chance to work towards his legal justice. Nothing would get in his way.

Matt had just settled into bed when his mobile rang. He looked at the caller ID and groaned.

‘Good morning, Dwight,’ Matt said, answering the phone and compensating for the time difference.

‘Good morning, Matthew.’

‘It’s ten at night here.’ God, this man’s hopeless.

‘Oh, right. I didn’t stop and think.’

‘It’s alright. How are things back at the department?’

Dwight dodged the light talk.

‘Matt, I’m calling about your friend, Warren Rennie.’

Matt sat up properly and turned the bedside lamp on. He had a bad feeling about this.

‘What about Warren?’

‘There’s no easy way to put it, Matt.’

‘Just give it to me straight, I can handle it.’

Matt thought he heard Dwight chuckle.

‘Did you never bother to check him out before you jumped in on this foolish errand? He’s a fraud.’

‘What do you mean, a fraud?’

‘He’s not qualified. He just runs around with crazy conspiracy theories, trying to convince the world that New Zealand was discovered by the Celts!’

‘Where do you get this stuff, Dwight?’

‘Colleagues in New Zealand. Qualified historians and archaeologists.’

‘Did you stop to consider they might be wrong?’

Dwight laughed. ‘Wrong? Don’t be naive Matt, they’re professionals. They’ve done their research.’

‘Have they? Could you send me a copy of their work then? Like a report of a complete archaeological investigation that shows emphatically that the Celts weren’t in New Zealand?’

Dwight was silent.

‘Do you have any reports like that, Dwight?’

‘No. But if academics are saying it isn’t so, then it isn’t so. You’re talking about your peers, Matt. Do you really think you can rely on some hack fool more than you can on qualified scientists?’

‘If the qualified scientists have been compromised by the status quo, yes.’

Matt smiled. It felt good to stand up to Dwight.

‘Argh. Matt, you’re acting like as big a fool as your friend. I’m more than disappointed in you right now.’

‘I’m sorry, Dwight. But I need to do this. Don’t worry though, I’m being careful not to bring the department in to any ill repute.’

‘Don’t be daft, just going there and hanging about with Warren Rennie is already seeing to that.’ Dwight sighed. ‘I’ll only ask you once again, Matt, will you leave this investigation alone and get back here before doing any further damage to my reputation?’

Your reputation? What an arrogant prick. Matt hesitated. He didn’t want to jeopardise his job at the department,

‘No. I have to see this through, at least until I’m satisfied that someone qualified, me in this case, has actually considered the possibility properly.’

‘Then you leave me with no choice. You should accept this conversation as an oral warning. Your first written warning is in your letterbox.’

‘You’ve got to be kidding, Dwight. That’s over the top.’

‘If you decide to take my advice and leave this Celtic tomfoolery well alone, come back home. Then I’ll retract the warnings. Goodbye, Matt.’

Dwight was gone. Matt put the phone on the bedside cabinet and lay down to stare at the ceiling. Some of the paint was cracking and peeling off.

Someone must have got to Dwight. He can’t be shallow enough not to question his peers, can he?

Matt leaned over and slapped the lamp’s switch. He rolled back into bed and tossed and turned until he finally found what seemed like a comfortable position. It wasn’t, but after a while, he fell asleep anyway.

CHAPTER 18

Matt looked down at his watch when he saw Aimee approach him. Three minutes late. Not bad at all.

‘Hey,’ Aimee said when she stood in front of him. ‘Sorry I’m late.’

‘You’re not late.’

‘I saw you looking at your watch, silly.’

‘Sorry. Old habit. Picked it up in Switzerland.’

‘You’ll have to tell me all about it sometime.’

‘I will.’

‘So I thought we could go to Mission Bay for lunch. It’s a nice little spot just around the harbour from here.’

‘OK. We’ll walk then?’

‘Don’t be daft. C’mon, the car’s parked in the Downtown Shopping Centre,’ Aimee said, pointing over her shoulder at the building behind her.

Twenty minutes of fighting a steady stream of traffic along the coast later, Aimee had squeezed her little hatchback into a spot that Matt thought was suitable for a motorbike. The girl knew how to manoeuvre a car, that much was certain. They climbed out and walked along a row of restaurants, many of which had outdoor seating overlooking the road, a park, and beyond that the harbour. Matt would have been happy with any of them.

‘Shall we just grab something from McDonalds?’ Aimee asked.

Any of them except for McDonalds that was.

‘Sure,’ Matt said, not wanting to rock the boat.

‘OK. We’ll get something to take away and go and sit up at the Savage Memorial.’

Matt agreed, despite having no idea what Aimee was talking about. They went into the burger joint and Matt randomly picked out a burger. He wasn’t vastly experienced in McDonalds dining. He hadn’t been since he was a kid. He had to admit though, it did smell good. Fries always did.

They walked up a path of stairs and onto a large green parkland area. As they strolled over the headland towards the coast, a monument and long pond came into view. Aimee explained that this was a memorial to Joseph Savage, New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister. Being built on a gunning placement from the Russian Scare, it had good views of the harbour and made a nice place for a picnic. Matt had to agree.

They sat and ate lunch, making small talk about the view and weather, but Matt had something else on his mind. It had eaten away at him all night. He had hardly slept a wink. The guilt of hiding an archaeological find was more than Matt had bargained for. Combining that guilt with the worry that was building about being exposed was even worse. Then there was his last conversation with Aimee. Were people talking about him? Really? Was he coming off in a good or bad light? What did the DCI know about him? All of these questions span around in his head, demanding answers. Worst of all, though, was something else. It was the doubt that had plagued him since yesterday. The concern that he was in New Zealand on a wild goose chase. That Warren was too deeply entwined in his theory to see what was significant and what wasn’t. Up until now, the only really significant finding that Warren had shown him was the mirror. Everything else was speculation. Great supporting evidence, but everything hinged on the mirror, and for now, Warren wasn’t revealing that. Matt had to play his waiting game, out of respect. Warren was clearly a man who knew what he was doing. He knew the New Zealand ways of things. But it didn’t make him feel any less uneasy. He needed an ear. Someone to give him a bit of guidance. Someone who could give him some answers. He hoped Aimee was that person.

‘I did a little more research into those theories we discussed the other day, even the Celtic one,’ Aimee said. ‘Actually, I looked up New Zealand pseudo-history and found out a bit more about some of the stuff that goes on in those circles. It’s interesting, to say the least. A lot of crackpots, but also some valid stuff. You ain’t all nutters!’

‘Glad to hear it!’

They briefly discussed the Kumara and Hangi again, followed by the Pohutukawa tree in Spain. It appeared that it had never been aged professionally, but was estimated at 700 years old. Matt would love to get it aged by an arborist. But this wasn’t what he was here for. ‘We should look into it if we get a chance. Maybe a colleague of mine can contact Spain.’

‘Yeah? That would be cool. I love a mystery. I should stop babbling.’

‘Actually, I came to lunch with you because I wanted you to babble a bit.’

‘What do you mean exactly?’ Aimee asked, sounding a little offended.

‘I need your advice.’

‘Independent ears?’

‘Yes,’ Matt said.’ You see, I’ve been out for a day or two with my friend, Warren. He’s shown me a lot of sites that he believes could be of ancient Celtic origin, but I still have my doubts. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so I hoped maybe you had some ideas or opinions on the situation.’

Aimee sighed. ‘To be honest, I don’t give the Celtic theory a great deal of support. I’ve had a bit of a look into it, and it really does seem to be strongly based on mere speculation.’

She nailed it on the head. Speculation. Exactly what Matt had decided. But could he push her towards more than speculation?

‘Warren has found a couple of Celtic coins, and… ‘ He hesitated.

‘And?’ Aimee asked, sounding thoroughly interested.

‘I guess I can tell you. I need to talk to someone.’

‘Talk to me,’ she said, with authority, but remaining soft and comforting.

‘He also found a mirror, an ancient Celtic mirror. That together with the coins signifies a burial ritual.’

Aimee gasped.

‘He hasn’t told the DCI,’ Matt said, ‘about the mirror, I mean. In fact, he hid it from them.’

‘He did what?’ Aimee voice was full of shock and anger, surprising Matt. But it softened with her next words. ‘I’m sorry, but that’s dangerous. He’s breaking the law and could get in trouble. He could get you in trouble. Imagine if news of your involvement in this got back to your university back home. I don’t know how things are in the UK, but if I tried that here, I’d likely be thrown out.’

‘I know, it isn’t a good situation, but I trust Warren. He really believes he has his reasons.’

‘The mirror and the coins do make a difference to the credibility of the theory. Why have you got doubts?’

‘It just seems a little empty. I mean, the mirror and coins is one thing, three things actually, but there really should be more evidence that supports the theory the Celts were here. Aside from some possible alignments in Auckland and rumours of more in some valleys up north, I haven’t seen or heard of anything else.’

‘There was that one interesting place I read about,’ Aimee said, ‘the Crosshouse.’

‘You mentioned that the other day.’

‘Yeah. It was a Maori meeting house near to Rotorua. It appeared to have been built in a design that afforded it perfectly aligned equinox sun and moon rises. Maybe we could visit the site while you’re here.’

‘It would be interesting. I suppose the observation of alignments makes it a possible link to Warren’s Celt theory. But then, a lot of other ancient civilisations studied the heavens too. The Mayans, Egyptians, etcetera. I think it would be great to see the site.’

‘What will you do about Warren? You should be careful, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the DCI’

‘I have to wait and see. All I know is that I don’t want to do anything that’ll affect our friendship. It means too much to me. But if I need some help, or more information, or if I have time to visit the Crosshouse site, can I call you?’

‘I’d love that.’

The subject changed again. They discussed friends and family and some of their past embarrassments and successes. They discussed work colleagues and their bosses too. It brought back some of the nervousness to Matt, wondering how all this would go down with Professor Pick. But generally, Matt felt better. Aimee was exactly what he needed. Someone interested, but distanced from the theory. The Crosshouse sounded fascinating. It had potential to be good supporting evidence to Warren’s theories. Matt wondered if Warren knew of it, and decided to ask him that evening. At least now, he felt like he could go on with the investigation with some renewed hope. Maybe there was some credit to the theory after all. He promised himself to visit the Crosshouse as soon as he had visited his father.

CHAPTER 19

Tuesday, July 6, 1526

We have been sailing for almost five weeks since we last saw the fleet. Our course should have taken us to the Moluccas by now. The weather has been very pleasant. The ocean here is calm and peaceful. I understand why Magallanes named it the Mar Pacifico. My body feels at ease and refreshed. The crew are in good spirits. The wine tastes better here too. The skies are mostly fine, filled with good breezes for sailing and a clear sightline to the distant horizon by day and the stars by night.

But despite the conditions, we have yet to sight the Moluccas. I am concerned that we may be too far north in our bearings.

Friday, July 9, 1526 — 07:00

Early this morning, shortly after midnight, we struck a reef. The impact has caused considerable damage and the lives of seven crew were taken. In the morning light we have seen that we are wedged on the eastern shores of an atoll. We gave our departed men a sea burial and threw two of the Falcon cannons overboard. I had hoped the lesser weight would help to refloat the vessel but as yet it hasn’t worked. We will need to jettison more of our stock to avoid damage to the ship from the rising tide. Our effort in refloating the San Lesmes is a blessed distraction from the thoughts of losing so many men.

Friday, July 9, 1526 — 16:30

We have successfully refloated the ship after throwing a further two falcons and some low-quality shot over the side. We are now left with just the culverins and some light weapons and armour. The ship is in need of repair but there is nowhere on this part of the flat island to do this. Over to the western side, however, I can see a sheltered area with some trees. We will make our way there for repairs.

Now that we are again afloat, the loss of those men is weighing heavily on my soul.

CHAPTER 20

The care home looked like a care home, but it was in a beautiful location, on a gentle hillside overlooking a pretty bay. Matt decided it would be an OK sort of place to live, if you didn’t have another choice, at least.

‘Dad’s got a little unit over here in the north wing,’ Nadine said, as they walked up a broad concrete path that curved parallel to the curved building.

‘I like what they’ve done to maximize the views.’ Matt turned to his right to admire the beach and park that the large picture windows afforded. ‘It must be nice waking up to that.’

‘For sure. Dad insisted that he got to come here if he wasn’t able to stay at home. I couldn’t look after him, it’s too much work for me.’

‘I can’t even imagine.’

Nadine stopped in front of a door. ‘Here we are. So, like I said, I haven’t told him you’re coming. He may get a shock or mightn’t understand who you are. Be patient, he doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but this is your Dad.’

Matt stood still and stiff as a board as Nadine tapped on the door. A grunt came from inside. Nadine opened the door and stepped in. Matt caught his first sight of his father, who faced the other direction and looked taut from this side. Nadine greeted him and said that she had brought a visitor with her.

‘What did you do that for?’ Matt’s father growled as he turned to see what intruder Nadine had dragged in.

Matt prepared to turn on his heels and run, but it was too late. His father’s face changed from a gruff frown into a glowing mass of smile, and then it changed again, into a screwed up mess of tears and shaking.

‘Matthew!’ His father cried. ‘You’ve finally come.’ He turned to Nadine. ‘I told you he’d come, didn’t I? I told you, and you all never believed me.’

Matthew was glued to the spot, uncomfortable as hell but overcome by the emotions his father showed and those that flooded over himself. His father was actually happy to see him. His father loved him. Matt took a deep breath, walked over, shook his father’s hand and took a seat next to him at the small round table. It was a good place to start.

They talked about family for the next hour, about what went wrong and why they had been apart so long. Andy Robertson never blamed Matthew’s mother for any of what happened, only himself. As Matt listened to his father, he felt himself getting lighter. A tingly warmth trickled through his body, leaving him feeling giddy. He knew, that with some effort from both sides, they could build a relationship. There was a lot of ground to make up.

‘So what do you do Matt? Why are you in New Zealand? You didn’t just come to find me?’

Matt wanted to lie, but would never deceive someone like that. ‘I’m here on business. A bit of research I guess you would say.’

‘You’re a researcher too? I used to dabble in academics.’

‘Dad,’ Nadine said, teasing him, ‘you didn’t just dabble. You spent hours in that shed of yours chasing down one theory or another.’

‘Right you are dear. Right you are.’ He turned back to Matt. ‘So, what’s your study?’

‘I’m a Professor of History at the University of South-West England. I double majored in History and Archaeology, and then continued with a doctorate in history, mostly in Switzerland.’ Matt looked at Nadine and his father. They stared at each other, smiles dancing between them.

‘When did you say your relationship with your mother got strained?’ his father asked

‘About when I went to Switzerland. The distance, it put a strain on things.’

‘Explains a lot.’ Nadine directed her comment at Matt’s father.

‘Indeed.’

‘What?’ Matt was perplexed.

‘Your mother never told you what I did for a living?’

‘No. She barely ever mentioned you.’

‘I’m going to hazard a guess here, Matt. Your mother didn’t become distant with you because of the physical distance. She became distant with you because you followed in your father’s footsteps.’

Matt was perplexed. His father was a historian?

‘It must have damned near killed your mum when you left her to study the same subject that I pissed her off so much with.’

‘Ah.’ Was this guilt he was feeling? He felt guilty for upsetting his Mum by following his passion? This was silly.

‘What are you studying in New Zealand?’ Matt’s father asked, pulling himself up with his good arm, as if to hear better.

‘Something a little controversial.’

‘I’m all ears.’

‘Dad’s no stranger to controversy,’ Nadine said.

‘What do you mean?’ Matt asked.

‘I tended to buck against the norm a little with some of my research.’

‘Revisionism?’

‘You could say that. Though I never actually got to prove any of my theories. But nuff about them, what’ve you got?’

Matt could see his father was clearly interested, and heck, he was in a wheelchair in a care home. He couldn’t cause any trouble. Besides, Warren’s theory had worn a little thin and Matt could do with any help he could get.

‘A colleague of mine has found a Celtic burial site, up north.’

Matt’s father appeared to be instantly healed. He virtually launched himself out of the wheelchair with excitement. ‘He found what?’

‘He found two coins and a mirror.’

‘Ritualistically accurate,’ Matt’s father said. ‘Has the site been properly sanctioned?’

‘Kind of.’ Matt was a little embarrassed. ‘The DCI has taken over the site, but they only know about the coins.’

‘How so?’

‘My friend moved the mirror.’

Disappointment registered all over Andy Robertson’s face. Matt saw the change in mood and had a sinking feeling that what he said had serious relevance to the success of the research. ‘Your friend has ruined any chance you had of proving anything with the burial site. What a bumbling idiot.’

Matt was about to defend Warren, but thought better of it just in time. ‘He was worried the DCI would sanction the site and destroy the evidence.’

‘The DCI is many things, Matt, and yes they’ve been guilty of some pretty shoddy work. But I don’t reckon the DCI would ever actually destroy a valid theory.’

‘Surely not.’ Nadine agreed with their father.

Matt grew uncomfortable with this conversation and steered it back to his father’s work. ‘What theories were you working on?’ That was a bit obvious, but it seemed to have the desired effect.

‘Mostly I dabbled with the theory that the Spanish discovered and populated New Zealand around 1536.’

‘You have it pinpointed down to a year?’

‘It’s a theory. If my theory is correct, then yes, they arrived here around 1536. It’s not as exciting as your Celts beating the Maori here, of course, but it’s still fascinating stuff.’

‘Did you get far?’

‘I was really close. But I had to give up. My stroke.’

‘Dad got so emotionally involved in his work and the DCI gave him so much grief. Basically all of academia gave him a hard time. I said for years that they caused his stroke,’ Nadine said.

‘Yet you defend them?’

‘They’ve done a lot of good for the country. I could have gone about my research a little more quietly.’ His father answered for her.

‘What did you have, exactly?’

‘I had some concrete leads. It’s so long ago and I haven’t thought about it since.’ His father turned to him and beamed a huge smile. ‘Buy hey, why don’t you have a look at my notes? See if they’re of any interest to you?’

That was an idea worth some thought. Though in fact, it took Matt only a few seconds to decide. He already had his doubts about the strength of the evidence pointing to the Celts and they were now added to by his father’s and Aimee’s opinion that the mirror would become irrelevant due to non-disclosure. Now, with so much to support the Spanish theory, such as the helmet, the Pohutukawa in Spain, questions about hangis, kumara and kumara storage houses, gaining access to his father’s notes was just enough to push Matt to the tipping point.

Matt straightened up in his chair. ‘I’d be very interested to look over your notes.’

‘You can go and get them.’

‘Where are they?’

‘Home,’ Nadine said, ‘the shed out the back.’

‘Your place?’

‘No, our place. Where I grew up. Down in Nelson.’

‘Nelson? That’s in the South Island isn’t it?’ Matt asked, hoping his memory of the in-flight magazine map served him well.

‘At the top of it, yeah. Three hours ferry from Wellington, and two hours’ drive.’

‘It would be a good excuse to see the country,’ Matt said, ‘and I have to admit things are drying up a little on the Celtic investigation.’

‘I think you’ll find that the Celtic investigation goes nowhere,’ Matt’s father said. ‘Will your friend by upset if you change tack, or are you a free agent?’

‘Free agent. Besides, Warren is a great guy. He’s just out to make sure that New Zealand knows her true history, whatever that may be. He’s bound to want to tag along for the ride, he’s an enthusiast.’

‘Sounds like my kind of man.’

‘I guess I better write down some details then,’ Matt said. ‘Where is this shed exactly? How can I get access to the property? It isn’t yours anymore, is it?’

Nadine explained to Matt how their father had gifted the property to a lady who had lived next door to them for twenty years. She was more than happy to agree to his conditions and swap rental life for home ownership. The house was transferred into her name, on the condition that she keep the shed out the back intact at all times and leave Andy’s stuff in there in storage. If anyone ever came with the key for the shed, she was to give them access. It was Andy’s way of hiding his research in a property that wasn’t in his name. Besides, Nadine was in Auckland and Andy wanted to be near her.

Matt was impressed. His father and Nadine had concocted a clever arrangement to ensure their house and work was loved and looked over for years to come. The lady and her family would pass the house down as long as they kept breeding. It was not allowed to be sold for a profit.

‘Take these two keys, Matt,’ his father said, handing him a key ring he had retrieved from his bedside drawer. One of them opens the shed. The other…, well, I don’t want to say anything here. The walls have ears you know. After you’ve gone through the contents of the shed, you’ll know what to do.’

Matt clutched the keys to his chest. This felt important. Very important. It wasn’t just about getting in on a new theory and investigation. Something about this felt like it should be done, almost by way of penance, for all the hatred he had felt towards the man sitting in front of him. A man that obviously had love overflowing, and deserved the same in return. Matt knew what he had to do. He would start planning in the morning.

Hemi sat outside the care home, enjoying the view. He knew that Andy Robertson was in residence in the home. Leigh had pulled through, as always, and supplied Hemi with a full dossier on the Robertson family. Two parts of the information were particularly interesting. Unfortunately, that meant putting in a call to Warren. He picked up his mobile and dialled.

‘Good morning, Hemi.’ Warren seemed particularly chirpy today. That will change, Hemi thought.

‘Good Morning Sir,’ Hemi said, flattering Warren. ‘I have some very important information for you.

‘Go ahead.’ He still sounded as happy as a box of birds.

‘I’m sitting outside a rest home in Browns Bay. Dr. Cameron is inside the rest home, visiting with a terminally ill man by the name of Andy Robertson.’

‘Yes?’

‘Andy Robertson is Dr. Cameron’s father.’

‘That’s nice for him,’ Warren said, in a voice that made Hemi feel momentarily small. I’ll teach you, you old bastard, he thought as he took a breath for his second revelation.

‘The name doesn’t mean anything to you then?’ Hemi asked, eating up the moment.

‘What name?’

‘Andy Robertson.’

‘No. Why? Should it?’ The worry started to show. Hemi went in for the kill.

‘Andy Robertson was what some at the government might refer to as an annoyance. A pseudo-historian.’

‘Are you serious? What theory was he pushing?’

‘The Spanish theory.’ Hemi said it as bluntly as he could, pushing the knife all the way home and twisting it a little for good measure.

Warren didn’t respond. He wasn’t silent though. Hemi heard him curse at the other end of the phone. There was also the sound of something thumping repeatedly and a keyboard being finger-bashed like there was no tomorrow.

‘Where did you get your information? God, I should have bloody looked him up when I found out his name.’

‘My sources remain private. You wouldn’t have employed me if I was in the habit of revealing my contacts. It’s a matter of integrity, you know.’ Hemi loved every second of this. He knew that there was probably no worse news that he could give Warren than the titbit he had just delivered. There was a minute of silence as Warren caught up with Hemi.

‘We have to be very careful,’ Warren said, ‘and we have to hope that Andy Robertson doesn’t have too much influence over his son.’

‘My understanding is that they’re estranged.’

‘Not anymore,’ Warren growled. ‘Fuck it! This is all we bloody need!’

Hemi stifled an amused laugh.

‘So the father had a stroke eh? Care home in Browns Bay. Well, if things get out of hand he shouldn’t be too hard to take care of.’

‘What are you suggesting?’

‘Stroke victims are forever getting nasty illnesses. Don’t worry about it Hemi, I’ll take care of things if it comes to that, I have my ways. In the mean time, you keep watching Dr. Cameron. If he starts going too seriously down this Spanish track, I want to be the first person to know. You understand?’

‘Yes.’ Hemi hung up the phone. He understood. A little too well for his liking.

CHAPTER 21

Butterflies were flying special formations in Matt’s stomach. He had rehearsed numerous variations of the first line of this conversation in his head, but when push came to shove, he couldn’t execute the way he had planned.

‘I was thinking about taking a bit of a sightseeing tour down south.’ No, that didn’t sound right after all. Too late now though.

‘Oh yeah?’ Warren turned to him, looking interested. ‘Getting sick of me already then?’

‘Not at all.’ Matt started defensively, before realising from the grin on Warren’s face that he was joking.

‘It isn’t a problem, Matt. I want you to get to know New Zealand. Where are you heading?’

This was it. Matt had to take the bull by the horns and tell Warren what he was up to. He wasn’t going to mention that he had heard from Julia. The mirror had been confirmed to be Celtic and the type of object that would be associated with a burial site. But, as Matt had expected, the museum and the department had suggested that he proceed with caution. Professor Pick was apparently having a field day after he heard the news. He knew that an item such as this mirror had no archaeological context. For it to be taken seriously, there needed to be a lot more evidence suggesting a Celtic occupation in New Zealand. Either that evidence didn’t exist or, as Warren believed, it was well concealed. Matt had to go with his gut on this. He took the plunge.

‘I’m heading in the direction of Wellington. I want to look at a Spanish Helmet that I’ve heard about. Then I thought I could go to Nelson and have a look at my father’s work.’

‘The Spanish Helmet, as in the one found in Wellington Harbour?’

‘Yes, the very one.’

‘And your father’s research? What is that?’

Matt filled Warren in on the events of the day and his father’s research. It felt good to get things out in the open.

‘It isn’t that I don’t want to look further into your work Warren. I just feel like it isn’t going anywhere fast and that while we have some downtime, as it were, I could use it to look at some other angles of New Zealand history while I’m here.’

‘I think it’s great,’ Warren said, bringing the butterflies out of formation and rapidly to a gentle landing.

‘You really don’t mind?’

‘Of course not. The most important thing is that we find out the truth about New Zealand’s history. Whatever that truth may be.’

Trust Warren to be so understanding.

‘Will you come with me then?’

‘Me? No, I can’t. I have too much to do here, what with the mirror and all. You can take the car though. At least then a part of me is with you.’ Warren laughed.

‘Oh,’ Matt said, trying to hide his disappointment. It wouldn’t be the same without Warren. ‘I hope I can do this without your expertise.’

‘Why don’t you get that wonder-colleague of yours to come out? She could tag along.’

That wasn’t a bad idea at all. Matt could use someone like Julia at his side. So reliable, straight-thinking. He would give her a call after dinner.

‘Good idea. She can spare the time from her work too. No problems for Julia.’

‘See, everything works out for the best,’ Warren stated, beaming a happy smile at Matt.

They ate the rest of dinner in silence. But Matt’s mind was far from silent. He was worried about going on an excursion like this in a foreign land, with no locals in tow. He had an idea though. He could ask Aimee to come. She would be an asset. He thought about it a lot. Two good options. Eventually, he came to the decision himself. He didn’t want to bother Warren with little technicalities. He knew who he would call and ask to come with him.

Matt hung up the phone and smiled to himself. Julia was, of course, none the wiser that she had narrowly missed out on an adventure to New Zealand. She seemed, as he expected, to be interested to hear that he would follow up the Spanish theory as well as the Celtic one. Matt hadn’t mentioned that he was going to invite Aimee along. He didn’t want to put a jinx on it.

‘Right,’ Matt quietly spoke to himself, ‘time to find out just how prepared this Kiwi girl is to spend time around me.’

His mouth filled with sawdust as he dialled the number. Pathetic, he thought. She said she wants to help. She probably does. Besides, it’s just research. It isn’t like she could be interested in you. Keep it professional.

‘Hello?’ The ringing tone was replaced by the ringing voice.

‘Hi Aimee, it’s Matt.’

There was a loud thump somewhere at her end of the line and Matthew held the phone away from his ear momentarily. As he brought it back he heard cursing.

‘Oh fuck. Shit. Sorry, Matt. Not you. I whacked my knee. Dammit, that hurts. How are you? Good to hear from you.’

‘I’m good,’ He said, laughing. ‘At least my knees are super.’

‘It’s no joking matter. I ought to sue this lot. What sort of decent university provides its students with such crummy furniture? Sorry you heard me swear though, I honestly don’t swear a lot.’

‘I believe you, honest I do.’

‘Sure, sure,’ she said, clearly enjoying his teasing. ‘So, you called?’

‘Yeah, I wanted to let you know I’m leaving the Celtic theory alone for a bit.’

‘Oh?’

‘It’s a long story. Cutting it short, I’m going to go down south to look at the Spanish Helmet and to follow up some theories of the Spanish settling New Zealand.’

Another thud. Even louder this time. No swearing though.

‘Are you kidding? Can I come?’

Matt laughed. One of those exhaled I-don’t-believe-it laughs.

‘What’s so funny?’

‘I was calling to ask if you would come. You just saved me the effort.’

‘Glad to help.’ Her words were rushed. ‘When are we leaving? You’ve got no idea how excited I am to have an excuse to get out of here, and to look at the Spanish Helmet. Since last week… well…’

‘I was thinking Wednesday.’

‘Sounds great.’

‘I knew you were interested in the Spanish Helmet and stuff and I thought you could show me around a bit too.’

‘I don’t know the whole country myself, but at least I speak the same language as the locals.’

‘Exactly. You’re a Kiwi and understand your ways.’ He paused and added, ‘Surely better than a whinging Pom.’

‘Oh, you aren’t all that bad. So, how tight is your schedule? Have you got a plan? Accommodation booked? Where exactly are we going?’

Matt explained his father’s research and that they would go to Wellington and then on to Nelson. From there they would see where his notes led them.

‘It sounds like a true adventure. Maybe we can stop at a few other sites on the way? Like the Crosshouse I told you about. Or at least the site where it stood.’ Aimee said.

‘Sure. Warren has also given me a list of a few places we might want to check out. Celtic sites, of course.’

‘Actually, would it be possible to make a visit to my hometown? It’s kind of on the way.’

‘We could. Why, are you homesick?’

‘No, I was thinking about the teacher that got me so passionate about history in the first place. He was one of my dad’s friends when I was growing up. Anyways, I recall him telling us some stories about the Maori saying that ships had come. It would be cool to ask him about it, and to see him again.’

‘OK, that sounds good. I’m keen to see a bit of the country anyway.’

‘Awesome, I can hardly wait. Let me give you my address. You’ll pick me up, right? I need to go pack.’

Aimee couldn’t disguise her excitement from Matt. The butterflies started to fly in formation again. No matter how often Matt told himself she was excited about the research, he couldn’t get his stupid boyish hopes for more out of his head. He wrote down Aimee’s address and said goodbye, telling her that he too looked forward to Wednesday. He put the phone back in his pocket and checked himself in the mirror. His reflection smiled back proudly.

‘Smug bastard,’ he told it. ‘You’ll probably be a huge disaster.’

CHAPTER 22

Monday, August 16, 1526

We are finally under full sail again. Our repairs to the damaged hull have waylaid us five weeks. Thank God that our carpenters and shipwrights are still in good health. Without them, we would have been doomed to die on the atoll.

On leaving the island, I have set a course west. The Moluccas must lie in this direction. If I am wrong, perhaps we will discover the great continent, Terra Australis. Yesterday, two days after we set sail, we encountered an inhabited island. The natives there were friendly and happy to trade some beads for food and water. Ten of the crew wanted to remain on the island to try to convert them to the teachings of Christ. I believe their true reasons for abandoning their posts is a fear of what lies ahead on the journey to come. Having no wives at home in Spain, they look lustfully at the native woman and will try to win them. Or take them by force. Some of these men were brawlers so I am not displeased to see them gone.

With the departure of these ten men, and the fateful loss of the seven when we struck ground, my crew numbers 35. This is one less than the original crew assigned to the San Lesmes in La Coruna. I sail with a heart full of hope because the men gained at the misfortune of the other ships are of higher rank and knowledge than the seamen who have been taken from us. We should make the Moluccas as planned.

CHAPTER 23

‘You have arrived at your destination. Your destination is on the left,’ the GPS stated matter-of-factly.

Matt leaned over the passenger seat of the car and looked at the front window of Aimee’s house, just in time to see a gap in the curtain close. Aimee was waiting for him. He checked the clock. No, he wasn’t late. As a matter of fact he was fifteen minutes early. She was keen! Very professional, Matt corrected himself. Walking up the garden path he inhaled the fresh aroma of the garden. Thyme. Blending with something he couldn’t quite place. It smelt wonderful though. He racked his brain trying to think of what it was as he waited for her to answer the doorbell. The opening door snapped him back to reality. Aimee, standing in the hallway, wearing beige shorts, loafers, and a buttoned blouse took his breath away. The aroma of the garden was replaced with something even better. Matt smiled.

‘Good morning.’ She returned his smile.

‘Morning. Nice looking place you have here,’ Matt said, sweeping his arm and trying not to look at her legs.

‘Thanks. I’m always a bit embarrassed that I live in a granny-flat but it beats putting up with flatmates.’

‘I live in a granny-flat too, nothing to be embarrassed about at all. I love my privacy.’

Aimee’s smile widened.

‘So you like your privacy? Not a big party animal then?’

‘Not really. OK, not at all.’ Matt hoped he didn’t put her off by being so boring.

‘That’s great! It’s refreshing to meet a man who doesn’t feel the need to waste all of his waking hours boozing with friends and watching rugby.’

‘Oh, that’s definitely not me,’ Matt said, excited by the prospect that Aimee found his style so acceptable.

‘Cool.’ she said, looking over her shoulder and indicating her single bag. ‘I think I have everything. Shall we go then?’

Matt looked down at her luggage. She travelled light. Her bag was smaller than his.

‘We might be gone a week or more.’

‘No problem, I’ve got enough here to get me by for at least a month.’

‘Impressive.’

Matt reached through the doorway to take Aimee’s suitcase before she could protest. She didn’t anyway. He waited while Aimee slung a little day-pack over her shoulder and locked the door. Walking back down the path, Matt enjoyed the blend of Thyme, mysterious aroma, and Aimee. He could definitely get used to her. Definitely.

His high crashed down to the ground as he walked towards the back of the car and saw the black Corolla parked a hundred metres up the road. It was occupied. Just one man. Matt said nothing, and loaded Aimee’s bag into the boot.

‘Fuck a tar knee.’ Matt said, taking care to pronounce the name of Aimee’s hometown exactly as she had taught him. The sign at the beginning of the bridge spelt out the Maori name more politely: Whakatane.

‘Home sweet home.’

They drove over the bridge and turned left towards the main part of town, as Aimee guided Matt with plenty of pointing. She directed him through a shopping area and past her high school before taking them over a large hill to a beautiful long beach on the other side.

‘My parents only moved here after I left home. Not fair really. I grew up back in town. The beach kids were one of the cooler crowds.’

‘They all would have moved on now though, right? Like you.’

‘Some. But a lot of them stayed here too. Those that managed to get on the property ladder are laughing their arses off now. The value of a place here has gone up massively. Ten-fold in most cases.’

Matt pulled into the driveway of a tidy looking two-storey place that Aimee pointed out. Getting out of the car, he was relieved to stretch his legs again following the four and a half hour drive they had just undertaken. He turned to look from the gently sloping hill the house was on and was greeted with a view of the ocean and the familiar scent of salty air. When he turned back to the car to see what was taking Aimee so long he had to stop himself from laughing.

‘Are you cold or do you have other motives behind your special fashion choices?’

‘Other motives, of course. My Mum will be so proud that I’m still wearing her purple creation. You’ve got no idea how special it can be to a knitting addict to see your grown children proudly wearing your pullovers.’

She was right. The front door of the house opened and Aimee’s parents warmly greeted them, her mother commenting on the pullover and how lovely it looked on, before inviting them in.

As Matt walked through the door, he confirmed that indeed the Corolla was still parked within line of sight. There was no question they were being watched. He smiled at himself as he imagined how bored the occupant must be.

Hemi was far from bored. Arriving in Whakatane had been a trip down memory lane. A trip that started when Matthew Cameron stopped to pick up his travelling companion. It was when he saw Aimee come out of her house that it hit him, his realising just how small a place New Zealand can be. Bloody hell, Aimee Kingsbridge. Don’t tell me you’re tied up in this mess.

He hadn’t seen Aimee for years. Since their days together at Whakatane High School in fact. She wouldn’t remember him, but he remembered her. Hemi had a massive crush on Aimee for years. They were in English and History together. She was a real history buff, so maybe she went on to University. Hemi, on the other hand, was the fat Maori kid in the back corner of the room. No one noticed him, except for a couple of his cousins. Of course the army had changed him. Even if she did remember little fat Hemi, she wouldn’t be able to pick him out in a line-up. Not in a million years. Had Warren set this up too? Hemi decided to keep it to himself to see how it panned out. If Warren didn’t already know, he didn’t need to. Until she proved otherwise, Hemi would treat Aimee as an innocent bystander.

When they drew closer, Hemi realised he would have to confront his hometown. He tapped the steering wheel faster with each mile. Fifteen years stood between Hemi and Whakatane. As they drove down King Street it fully struck him. His old haunt. As a kid, he would hang about with friends outside the Kope Four Square dairy, stuffing themselves with lollies or greasies from the fish and chip shop, where the 20 cent spacies were. But then the Maori Wardens came along and ruined all of that. Bloody wannabe cops. It was even more embarrassing for Hemi though, when his dad would come along. The other kids hated him. As he drove past the Four Square his eyes flooded with tears. Thank God he knew this place like the back of his hand. Otherwise he might not have been able to continue driving. Seeing his school pissed him off even more. If it wasn’t for his father’s death, Hemi would have gone on to greater things. He could have gone to uni. Instead, here he was working as a spy. Not that he minded, it gave him a chance to seek his justice. Now, as he sat on Pohutukawa Ave and watched Matthew and Aimee enter her parents house, he couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Mr. Kingsbridge had been Hemi’s favourite teacher. He would have loved to have gone up to say hello. But he couldn’t. Having realised who Matthew Cameron was travelling with, Hemi now had another dimension to his mission. Aimee had to be protected, and that probably meant protecting Dr. Cameron too.

Satisfied that they weren’t coming out again that night, Hemi got to work. He needed to know where they were if he lost sight of them. That meant a bug, and not just any bug, a special one hand-made by Leigh. He knew the model of navigation system that Warren had in the car he lent to Matthew and had asked Leigh to put together a special version of the same model. Only this Navigon had a few added features and an extra unit that would be fitted under the car.

Hemi carefully released the locks and climbed in to the passenger seat. The first part was easy. He simply unplugged the USB cord from the GPS device and removed it from the window suction holder. The replacement unit went into place and you couldn’t tell the difference. He closed the car and lowered himself to a lying position to move on to part two, installing the relay transmitter which would receive the weak signal in the GPS unit and re-transmit it over much bigger distances. He fastened it to the undercarriage with some cable ties and connected it to a twelve volt supply. The red LED lit up, telling Hemi that it would receive signals, sent from the minute transmitter in the replacement GPS device, and relay them up to three kilometres away. With ease and in just two minutes, a standard car navigation system was sending all audible content from its microphone, along with the current position of the vehicle, on a government limited frequency. Hemi loved this work. Standing up again as he finished, he rubbed the bum of his pants and removed the dust he had collected. Back in his own car he confirmed that a signal was available. It was. Leigh was owed a box of chocolates.

Dinner at Aimee’s parents’ had been great. Mr. Kingsbridge, as he was referred to not just by his students but also by his wife, was a riot. The evening had been filled with laughter as he regaled everyone with his school tales. Aimee’s face had turned red more than once. She seemed to have been quite the spectacle in school. Matt couldn’t help but be drawn to her. Mischievous and fun, yet sensible and studious.

Half way through dessert they were joined by Mike, the history teacher Aimee had liked so much. Matt understood the attraction. He was one of those examples of everything a teacher should be. Funny, interesting, passionate, wise, and approachable. When they talked, Matt felt an immediate sense of chatting with an old friend. With everyone at the table actually. It was homely.

‘Aimee said she recalls you talking about ships arriving long before the commonly accepted discovery of New Zealand,’ Matt said, prompting Mike.

Mike’s face grew serious. Mr. Kingsbridge also sat forward and mirrored Mike’s expression.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Mike said.

‘Oh. I’m sorry.’ Matt looked at Aimee for help. ‘I just thought…’

The room was filled with laughter. Mike had to practically hold himself on his chair he was shaking so hard.

‘Sorry Matthew. It’s just too irresistible not to have a little fun with you. I’m guessing you know that these subjects can be treated with some trepidation here.’

‘So I’ve heard.’

‘Seriously though. It’s incredible Aimee remembers the story. As it happens, it only really came to light in 1991 right when she was in my history class. The story had been around for a lot longer, but it was printed in a Maori newspaper. When it was translated and published as a small segment of a book by one of New Zealand’s most important historians, I first heard of it. It was an important book, full of history, but of everything in that book, it was the page about some mysterious fishermen that grabbed my attention.’

There was a pause. Matt used it to make himself more comfortable. The mood could only have been improved if the dining table had been replaced with a campfire and their chairs with logs. He was hanging on every word that Mike spoke.

‘The story was told by Mohi Turei, a respected scribe and clergyman from the Ngati Porou tribe,’ Mike continued. ‘The Ngati Porou are from the east cape, that’s the area to the east of us. Not more than a good half day’s drive away.’

Matt watched as a far-away gaze fell over Mike’s face.

‘One peaceful night, the men went out fishing. The sea was calm. There was no wind as the canoes floated in the pre-dawn light waiting for a land breeze to carry them to their fishing grounds. As the dawn glow bathed the ocean in its warmth, the canoes were whisked to their chosen spot and the fishermen dropped anchor and began to fish for Tarakihi. When the sun lifted into the sky, it illuminated the waters and revealed a boat in the far off distance. The boat, which was bigger than any they had ever seen, paddled toward them. The paddlers sat on each side and there were more rows of people who sat in between them. They could also see a man standing at each end of the boat. Such was the boat’s greatness that the men were afraid, for a boat this big must be a war canoe.’

Mike looked at each person in the room. Matt glanced around too. He wasn’t sure how often the others had heard this story, but they all appeared to be as eager to hear it as he was. Mike looked at him directly and continued.

‘They watched, afraid, as the boat floated toward them. Closer and closer it came. Then, before it reached them, the paddles were lifted out of the water and the boat turned as it floated where it lay. As it turned, her true size became apparent to the fishermen. The number of the crew and the measure of the boat were far greater than they had at first realised.’

One of the dining chairs creaked. Matt didn’t know who had shifted their weight. No one said a word. Only Mike’s voice broke the silence again.

‘As the fisherman watched, the men on the boat started to do something familiar. They were baiting fishing lines and throwing them into the sea on either side of the boat. The fisherman watched in awe as the newcomers hauled in huge numbers of fish. Each line carried a dozen or more and there were lines all up and down both sides of the boat. This excited the fisherman and their fear was forgotten in their greed. Their leader gave a signal and they raised the anchors and hurried in the direction of the biting fish. As they got closer, the people on the large boat collected up their lines, giving the Maori a chance to see them closer up. These men were different, appearing very strange to the locals. As a team, the newcomers raised their anchor, everyone in the middle of the boat chanting and pulling on a rope in harmony. The language of their chant was not one that the Maori knew, but the words sounded like this.’

Matthew caught Aimee’s eye. It was obvious from the look in them that this was the part she remembered from school. She was mesmerised and hanging on to Mike’s words. Mike cleared his throat.

‘Ka whakatakotoria… Ki te ika te wa o tu… E ko te tae o tu… E kore rarii. That was the chant as they pulled on the rope. When the anchor was on board the newcomers took up their paddles and chanted as they moved about. Their words sounded like… Pakepakeha, pakepakeha… Hoihoi hii, hoihoi hii… Hiho hoo, hihi hii.’

Aimee stifled a laugh. Her father glared at her. But Mike just smiled, oblivious to the disturbance. Finished with the chant, he relaxed a bit again and sat back to continue.

‘The Maori could now plainly see the occupants of the boat. They were turehu, fairy people. They were punehunehu, misty looking. Ma, which means fair or white and ma korako, which means pale like albinos. The boat turned and the newcomers retraced their arrival route, leaving by the same waters. As the Maori watched, the boat seemed to rise up on the sea as if they were paddling in mid air and they were lost in the billowing white clouds. The Maori knew that these must be fairy people, evil gods, or stillborn and whistling spirits. They were sighted many times before and after that day. Their chants are still remembered and the place where they chanted was called the Haka of the god. Mohi Turei tells that this boat of fairy people was seen long before the arrival of Captain Cook.’

Matt waited to be sure that the story was finished.

‘They chanted pakepakeha?’ Aimee asked, confirming the story was over.

‘Yes.’ Mike said. ‘It’s suggested that this could be the origin of the word Pakeha in its usage in context of white people.’

‘And who do you think the people in the boat were?’ Matt asked.

‘Your guess is as good as mine. But the historian who published the story in English suggested that it was probably remembering the visit of Abel Tasman. I think it’s older though.’

‘Fascinating. I wonder if it could have been the Spanish.’

‘Some say that Fernandez made it here. There’s also plenty of speculation about other Spanish ships, not to mention Portuguese. Until now though, any evidence is only circumstantial.’

‘We hope to change that, don’t we Matt?’ Aimee said.

Matt smiled. If he was able to find real evidence that the tale he just heard was true, it would be the proudest moment of his life.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘We do indeed.’

CHAPTER 24

The countryside scrolled by the car windows at a comfortable 100km per hour. Aimee had busied herself studying a map, attempting to find their way to the site of the Crosshouse of Miringa Te Kakara. Now she was trying to explain what it was about the Crosshouse that should be interesting to them. Warren, upon hearing of their visit to the site, had been kind enough to supply Matt with a website printout that provided information of the theories of the house. More than could be comfortably consumed it seemed. Aimee held out a diagram briefly so that Matt could take a glance. She paraphrased some of the description of the house.

‘Two wings actually lay along the observable rise-and-set line of the winter solstice sunrise and summer solstice sunset at 60-degrees and 240-degrees respectively. The other two wings lie, therefore, at azimuths of 150-degrees and 330-degrees.’

‘That would be hard to fluke. When was it built?’

‘Wait a sec.’ Shuffling of paper from his left. ‘Oh. No-one’s sure, but they reckon it was completed about 1865. Bishop Thomas Herangi, guardian of the Crosshouse up until the 1980’s, cited evidence of the star temple having been built in 1682, with renovations occurring in 1788 and 1887.’

‘Uhuh.’

‘Bugger.’ Aimee changed the subject. ‘This is Atiamuri junction. We’ve gotta turn left here and soon we turn back on 30 again, to Benneydale.’

‘Got it,’ Matt said, turning left at the T-junction they had just arrived at.

‘It’s probable,’ she switched back without pause, ‘that the winter solstice sunrise and the summer solstice sunset were observed from the centre pole or secondary poles through the open doorways. It’s also highly likely that the northern-most lunar standstill rise and the southern-most lunar standstill set could be observed through the elevated windows, with the observer seated to the front or side of the centre pole.’

‘That’s getting complex,’ Matt said.

‘The Crosshouse was described as a place for conducting the rites as in old times. The mathematical attributes of the Crosshouse show us very clearly what many of those rites were. Maths also shows how these traditions replicate the astronomical and navigational knowledge of the great civilisations of the Northern Hemisphere. The knowledge coded into the Crosshouse at Miringa Te Kakara has a direct pedigree back to Egypt, Great Britain and North America.’

‘It’ll be interesting to see if my compass can confirm any of that. I wonder where the Maori folk that built this house got such knowledge. Did they stumble upon the same lunar charting as other great civilizations by chance?’

‘You mean like what Jung called the collective unconscious?’

‘Exactly.’

Twenty-five minutes later, they left the car at a farmhouse near the settlement of Tiroa and made their way on foot to the remains of the Crosshouse. There was really nothing left except for the clear footprint of the building. Matt pulled out his pocket GPS receiver and set it to compass mode.

‘The website is right, you know, the axis of this wing is directly along the solstice. That is really interesting.’ Matt stared at the figures on his screen.

‘The website goes on to dissect the dimensions of the building in excruciating details, Matt. Do you want to see them?’

‘I have to admit I’m intrigued, but what does it all prove? We can only speculate where the knowledge to build this came from. Even the website agrees that these sorts of measurements were used by a multitude of civilisations.’

‘They apparently have a lot of correlations with the measurements made in Rennes-le-Chateau,’ Aimee added.

‘That’s more Warren’s sort of thing. Fascinating as it is, I don’t know enough to go much beyond being curious. It would be damned interesting to have some real research done here though. I wonder if that DCI mob would ever let it happen.’

‘I don’t think the DCI would have anything against looking into this,’ Aimee said. ‘They probably just don’t have the time or resources to follow up every theory touted online.’

‘Fair enough too.’ Matt agreed. ‘I don’t have the time or resources either. You need a lot of equipment and specialists in all sorts of fields to get to the bottom of this. If the DCI can’t manage it, then I’m far from being the right man for the job. Shall we go then?’

‘Yes. I’ve seen enough. Much more interested in getting to the bottom of the Spanish stuff anyway.’

Back at the car, Matt suggested that they best find somewhere for the night. It was getting on in the afternoon and he didn’t want to wear anyone out. Besides, they were still a solid number of hours drive from Wellington because they weren’t on the main road.

‘Go back to the direction of Te Kuiti,’ Aimee said. ‘I know a place a couple hours south of here. I think you might like it.’

Aimee was right. As Matt manoeuvred the car out of the forest and saw the Grand Chateau hotel emerge in front of him, he immediately approved of her choice. The hotel was a commanding structure resting up on the hillside in front of them. To their left lay a sweeping golf course. Behind the hotel was a smattering of more forests, towered over by a beautiful mountainscape. You didn’t get scenery like this in the UK.

Matt parked the car and walked up the drive to the hotel entrance with his suitcase and Aimee in tow. His eyes were fixed on a volcanic cone in the distance.

‘That mountain looks so familiar,’ he said.

‘Mt Ngauruhoe.’ Aimee smiled at him. ‘But you might know it as Mt. Doom of Lord of the Rings.’

That was it, of course. Matt was almost embarrassed to have recognised it. He hoped that Aimee didn’t think he was a hopeless geek.

‘And that one behind the hotel is Ruapehu. It erupted a bit back in 1996 and practically destroyed the ski season up there at Whakapapa.’

‘Fuck a what?’ Matt asked.

‘Whak-a-papa.’ Aimee drew it out, causing Matt to cringe and Aimee to giggle. ‘It’s spelt W-H-A-K at the beginning, just like Whakatane. The Maori pronunciation is like… fuck. So yes, it sounds like fuck a papa.’

‘These Maori place names keep getting more offensive,’ Matt said. He hoped his smile would show Aimee he was teasing.

They checked in at the hotel in two separate rooms and walked through an awkward void of words to the stairs in the lobby. Aimee broke the silence.

‘Shall we meet for dinner?’ she asked.

‘Would love to,’ Matt said. ‘See you back here in an hour?

It was agreed. Matt and Aimee climbed the stairs to their respective adjoining rooms. Matt discovered his suitcase already laid out on a little stand in the room. He grabbed some fresh clothes and took a white towel off the bed and made for the shower. He was out to make a good impression.

It had been a long day, and the last thing Hemi was worried about as he flopped down on the cheap motel room bed, was the insects flying and crawling around the room. He even dismissed the orange curtains and dingy old bed-spread. Who has polyester bed-spreads these days? It was a wonder a dump like this could do business.

Hemi’s business of the day had been more monotonous following and watching. He had watched them leave the Kingsbridge residence. He had followed them through the country-side. As he put his hometown and the memories further and further behind him, he realised he wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on Warren Rennie anymore. But he could deal with him later. He thought it would get interesting when they pulled off onto some small country roads but he didn’t see the attraction of the farm where they stopped, despite their incessant babbling about the old Whare Wananga. Hemi put in a call to Warren.

‘I’m in the North Manuatu, on a farm where there used to be some old Maori School. I thought we were worried about these folk looking into the wrong kind of history. But I don’t see how this can be threatening.’

‘Are you just off state highway 30 by chance?’

‘Yeah. How’d you know?’

‘That’s the site of the Crosshouse of Miringa Te Kakara. It’s a site sometimes discussed by Celtic theorists because the building displayed indications of having been influenced by the heavens. Solar and lunar rises, and all that.’

‘But there’s nothing here.’

‘It was burned down in the Eighties.’

‘So not much of a threat then.’

‘Not at all. I sent them there, it’s Celtic. But it can’t have taken you two days to get there. Where else have you been?’

Hemi had already planned a story for this.

‘They stopped for a night at Taupo. They went and had a look at some sights there too.’

‘The Kaimanawa Wall?’

‘Yeah,’ Hemi said. He knew that this would please Warren. The Kaimanawa Wall was a collection of stones that appeared to be a man-made wall dating back thousands of years, at least if you were into those sorts of crazy theories.

‘That’s great,’ Warren said, bringing a smile to Hemi’s face. ‘Matt will see the potential of the wall being from the Celts too.’

‘Maybe, yeah.’

‘Which might just stop him from wasting his time going to Wellington.’

‘I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure they’re heading there in the morning.’

‘You know what you’ve got to do then.’

‘What?’

‘Stop them. If not before they get to Wellington, at least do something to scare them off the Spanish trail once they get there. Give them a fright somehow.’

‘I’ll see what I can do. I’ve got to go. They’re coming back my way.’

Hemi had hung up the phone before he got any angrier.

As the trip left the Crosshouse, Hemi had followed them to the Grand Chateau hotel. He admired Aimee from a distance as they entered the hotel. Perhaps a girl like her could persuade him to rethink the single life. Snap out of it Hemi, he thought. She’s probably changed a lot. You aren’t a schoolboy any more.

Before driving back down the mountain in search of some lower budget accommodation, Hemi took a drive up to the ski resort at Whakapapa. If he was in the area, he might as well have a look around. Not a lot to see though. In summer everything was well locked up and there was no one about. He had turned back down the mountain and driven past the Grand Chateau, settling for a cheap motel nearby, to wait. Hemi always waited, and waiting was what he was doing now. He set his mobile phone alarm for six in the morning. The early bird catches the worm, that’s what his father said. He closed his eyes and let his back sink into the soft bed. A spring prodded at his back as he imagined what it was like for his ancestors, sitting in a Whare Wananga, and learning of things that have since been lost. As he sank deeper into his imaginings, he sank deep into a much-needed sleep.

CHAPTER 25

Matt walked in circles around the huge billiards table. Pacing calmed his nerves. Or maybe not, but it gave him something to do. He was early. It was difficult to know whether he was better off being early or making a big entrance. But to make a big entrance you had to be late, and that didn’t look good, did it? In Switzerland, when he studied there, he learnt to never be late. The Swiss are very particular about punctuality. When the train didn’t arrive on time, people started tapping their watches. Surely their watch was broken; the trains always ran on time. Aimee descended the staircase on time too. Sublime. Matt couldn’t take his eyes off her. She floated lower and lower as if her feet weren’t even touching the ground. Matt couldn’t find a breath. He hadn’t seen her in a dress before.

‘You look stunning,’ he greeted her, self-consciously brushing his hands down his beige pants. ‘I hope you haven’t dressed up for me.’

Liar.

‘It’s just such a nice place, I had to do it.’

‘Where did you get the dress though? I mean, your tiny suitcase.’

‘I told you I have a month’s worth in there.’

‘I’ll never doubt you again. You obviously have packing skills beyond my comprehension.’

‘Don’t worry about it.’ Aimee laughed. ‘Plenty of men can’t pack to save themselves.’

Matt laughed and reached out his arm in a half-mocking, fully-hopeful gesture and was relieved when Aimee took it. She felt perfect on his arm. She smelt wonderful. She looked beautiful. The royal blue dress accentuated her eyes in a dangerous way. He filled with pride as he escorted her into the Ruapehu restaurant. A smartly dressed waiter seated them at a smartly laid table. The decor was classical. Had Aimee planned her visit here? Her dress fit in perfectly. Matt felt a little underdressed, but he was seated with the most beautiful woman in the room. Nothing else mattered. They enjoyed a good meal and chatted amiably the whole way through. Conversation remained fairly light, centering on their plans for the next few days. Dinner was finished far too soon. Matt looked at his watch as he waited for his change. Way too early.

‘Would you like to go for a stroll around the golf course?’ he asked, feeling his cheeks warm a little.

‘You challenging me to a game?’

His cheeks warmed some more.

‘I’m just kidding,’ she said. ‘I’d love to go for a walk.’

The air outside was refreshingly cool. Not too cold, but no longer sticky or humid. Matt preferred this weather to that in Auckland, and besides, it was the perfect opportunity to make a romantic gesture. You know, give her his jacket or something.

‘Does New Zealand remind you of England at all?’ Aimee asked, before he had decided what the gesture should be.

‘The scenery?’

‘Yeah, or the food, the language — I don’t know — just generally?’

‘The food does. Restaurants here are almost like Rose’s home cooking. Not up to her quality though.’

‘Rose, is that your girlfriend?’

Matt looked at Aimee and laughed.

‘No, Rose is in her seventies. That’s beyond even my desperation, Rose is my landlady.’

‘What do you mean by desperation? I assumed you had a girlfriend, maybe even Julia.’

‘Julia!? Don’t be daft, we’ve been best friends for years, it would be utterly wrong and she’s far from my type.’

‘I’m sure she’s very fond of you.’

Now Matt knew he was blushing. Similar accusations had been made before.

‘I’m not interested in Julia though,’ Matt said, maybe a little too defensively. His next words surprised even himself. ‘You, however… well.’

Aimee spun around and faced him, her face covered in shock.

‘What?’ she asked.

‘I think that you’re very nice.’

Oh, Matt, that was just bloody weak.

‘Are you serious?’ Aimee looked at him with an expression he couldn’t read. Matt knew he had to go on. The next few minutes would make or break this. Either he would have said his bit and Aimee accepts it, or she goes home and he has to continue the rest of the journey alone with his tail between his legs.

‘To be honest, I’ve never met a woman like you before. One who makes me feel so good. One who makes me relax and at the same time seems relaxed around me.’

‘I’m relaxed around you,’ she said. ‘But you wouldn’t like me if you knew me better.’

‘I’d like the chance to determine that for myself.’

‘I don’t want to disappoint you.’

‘How could you disappoint me?’

‘It’s such a lot to explain.’

‘I have all night, all week, my whole life.’

Aimee turned and looked at him. He could see the emotion in her eyes. It looked like she was hurting. Was he doing this to her? God, he hoped he wasn’t.

‘Do you want to sit down?’ he asked, looking around and seeing no seats. Aimee nodded and also turned to look about. Matt saw his cue, this was better than offering her his jacket. He took it off, and spread it out on the ground.

‘Wow, you’re serious about this, aren’t you?’ She asked him, smiling broadly.

‘I am.’

They sat down closely together so they could both fit on their tiny makeshift blanket. The cool air enveloped them, but neither of them grew too cold.

‘I’m no good at relationships,’ Aimee said. ‘The only one I had turned out disastrously.’

‘Can I ask what happened?’

‘It was a car crash.’

‘What?’ Matt recoiled.

‘We met in a car crash. I had just moved to Auckland for uni and a truck clipped the back of my car one morning. I got out all prepared to scream down the driver, and fell in love instead.’

‘Oh, thank God. I thought you meant he died in an accident.’

‘No. He was a trucker. Actually, his Dad owned a freight company and Russell kept it in the family.’

‘Tell me about him. At least then I can avoid his mistakes.’

They talked for more than two hours. In that time, the sun completely set and they could scarcely see each other. The hotel glistened somewhere behind Matt, and the lights reflected in Aimee’s eyes. Occasionally, as Aimee told Matt about her long relationship, which ended a couple of years earlier, the glistening of the lights travelled down her cheeks in a tear. Matthew had to fight himself to not reach over and wipe the tears away. She opened herself up to him. He didn’t want to overstep an unknown boundary and cause her to close up.

‘A week before the wedding, I discovered the rumours were true. He really did have a bird in every town up and down the country.’

‘So how did Emma know before you did?’ Matt was worried he knew the answer already.

‘She was one of them.’

‘Ouch, some bridesmaid.’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘Thanks for telling me about it. I mean, I understand how a relationship like that could make you cautious. But you deserve happiness, and shouldn’t let one bad experience deny you that happiness. There are plenty of men in the world who would never treat you the way he did.’

‘And you’re one of those men?’ Aimee asked, smiling.

‘I’d like to be given the chance.’

The silence lasted an eternity. Longer. Matt didn’t break it though, he waited patiently for her to gather her thoughts. He could hear his heart beating. Could she?

‘I don’t know, Matthew.’ Her voice was no more than a whisper. ‘I like you too. Honestly.’

‘But?’

Matt heard all the lines going through his head. I just think of you as a friend. He had heard that one before. You’re just too nice for me. Blah blah.

‘I need time. I need to think about this. Can you give me some time?’

Matt just about jumped up on the spot to dance a little jig. Are you kidding? This was better than any response he had imagined to a situation like this. It was beyond his wildest dreams. She was going to actually consider it!

He smiled at her warmly. ‘Take all the time you need. I’ll be here.’

‘Thanks Matt.’ She returned his smile. ‘Shall we head back?’

He stood and reached down to help her up. For the second time that evening, Aimee and Matthew were connected. As she took his hand, electric shocks ran through his body. Matt had never felt like this before. He wanted the night to last forever. He wanted to hold her forever. She walked back to the hotel holding his hand the whole way. He floated. As they said goodnight, Aimee leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek, thanking him for being so understanding. It might never be washed again. He told her he would sit in the lounge bar for a while, and watched her ascend the stairs as gracefully as she had arrived. When she disappeared out of sight, he walked out of the hotel and across the ever-cooling golf course. It took him forever to find his jacket.

CHAPTER 26

Saturday, October 2, 1526

We have not reached the Moluccas, but we have sighted land! A lot of it. It lay directly in front of us on our wind-forced south-westerly heading. We approached closer, but kept a safe distance from the coast, being unsure about reefs and having sighted natives on the headland. We were becalmed and used the opportunity to collect a good bounty from the sea under the watchful eyes of the natives. The wind having picked up, we have tacked to the north and will follow the coast for a few days and see what we can find. We are in need of fresh water and it would be good to get vegetables or fruit if we can find a suitable harbour. It is very exciting to be here. I think this land may be the edge of Terra Australis. My quadrant suggests that we are somewhere around 38 degrees south.

Friday, October 8, 1526

After five leagues of northerly coasting, we followed a large cape around to the west. The coast then sunk to the south-west in what appeared to be a huge bay. However, a pillar of smoke directly to the west drew my attention and so I had the master steer us towards it. As we got closer, it became apparent that there was an island in the middle of the bay, an erupting volcano. These are unpredictable and so I ordered a change of course to the south, to the coast again, about eleven leagues away. Due south from the volcano, we found a safe harbour and have anchored there yesterday. The fishing is good and fresh water in plentiful supply. Because our sweet potato plants are suffering, we have planted them here and hope to return to collect the vegetable at a later time. Some men ventured a short distance into the thick forested hills, but returned without fruit. They did manage to capture some birds and they collected the eggs of these. They have made a tasty treat. The exploration party report no sighting of any natives.

We will stay here for a few days to replenish our supplies and energy. Then we will set off on our continued exploration of the coast to the west.

CHAPTER 27

Te Papa Museum of New Zealand loomed over them. Matt stood with Aimee in a large open plaza. The museum was modern and attractive. To the left, it was a large curvy stone structure, to the right the building was composed of triangular structures of stone and glass. The entrance fell between them and was a large wall of glass. Inside, the building was just as airy as it appeared from outside.

Matt asked a guide where they would find the Spanish Helmet.

‘Oh, you mean the Iron helmet,’ the guide said, after checking in a computer terminal. ‘Item number ME000841. It’s part of the Taonga Maori collection. You’ll find it here.’ He made a little circle on a map and handed it to Matt.

They made their way through groups of school children and tourists until they located the correct room and stood in front of a glass cabinet containing the helmet.

‘I’m going to have to believe them that it’s Spanish,’ Aimee said. ‘I’m no expert.’

‘It’s in fairly good condition, considering it spent so much time in the water.’

‘Actually,’ Aimee said, pointing at the information plaque under the helmets display cabinet. ‘It says here it can’t have spent long in the water. Here, let me read this out loud.’

She crouched down in front of the cabinet and started reading.

‘An iron helmet dated to 1580 and previously thought to be Spanish was found in Wellington Harbour some time before 1904. It has since been repeatedly cited as evidence of European contact with New Zealand prior to Abel Tasman in 1642. It is a ‘close helmet.’ Though the style is European, it is not necessarily Spanish. It could have been made in England or northern Italy. Its state of preservation suggests it was immersed in seawater for only a short time. It shows no signs of marine encrustation, although it could have been cleaned. Archival material in the Museum shows that so little is known about the helmet that it cannot be used as evidence of European contact with New Zealand before Tasman. The helmet may have been used as ship’s ballast — obsolete armour was often used this way. It may have been a souvenir brought out by an immigrant. The helmet may have also been given as a presentation piece or as trade to local Maori in much the same way as armour was presented to Hongi Hika, Titore, and a sword to Te Rauparaha. The helmet was first recorded in the museum’s collections in 1904–1905. It has been dated to approximately 1580 and is of a type known as a close helmet. Close helmets were used in the sixteenth century. There’s no evidence to suggest Te Papa’s helmet is actually of Spanish origin. It is not known when or how the museum acquired the helmet. It was recorded as ‘found in Wellington Harbour.’

‘Do all New Zealand museums document their artefacts so poorly?’ Matt said, taking his camera out of its pouch and taking a few photos.

‘It’s not well written, is it? I don’t think I understand. They are saying it’s not Spanish and it didn’t spend long in the water.’

‘Apparently.’

‘Then where has it been since 1580?’ Aimee asked.

‘Can I help you perhaps?’

The voice from behind them made Matt spin around on his heels.

‘Is there some further information I can offer about the helmet?’ the prim looking museum attendant asked.

‘Do you know much about it?’ Matt asked, lifting his camera again to get a shot from another angle.

‘Of course, but first, I must ask you if you’re aware of our photography policy.’

Matt lowered his camera. ‘Sorry, is it against the rules?’

‘No, no. For personal use it’s fine, but you can’t use the images commercially or publish them anywhere. I’m sorry, as a curator it’s my job to make sure you know.’

‘You’re the curator?’ Matt asked.

‘Of this collection, yes, which is why I can tell you some more about this helmet. What would you like to know?’

Matt was impressed. She was young, attractive, and clearly well accomplished to be a curator at such an important museum. She also seemed to be genuine about helping.

‘There appears to be a lot of confusion about when the helmet was found, and what sort of helmet it is,’ he said.

‘The problem,’ the Curator said, ‘is that two reports were made about the helmet find. Originally, the director of the Colonial Museum recorded the helmet in 1904. He said it wasn’t known when it was found, but it was found in Wellington Harbour. Then an ethnologist wrote a report sometime in the forties or fifties which said the helmet was found in 1926 or 1927.’

‘Why’d he do that?’

‘No one knows. But it’s possible that he didn’t have access to the original record and, in discovering that the Wellington Harbour was dredged in the twenties, decided it must have been found then. His dates are wrong though. We know that.’

‘So is that where the whole theory of it being dredged out of the harbour comes from?’

‘Yes. For all we know, it was found on the shore by a fisherman.’

‘What about all the chat online? Some people say it’s a Morion, some say it’s a close helmet, some say it was dredged in 1880, others argue that it’s definitely proof of a pre-Tasman visit. What are we to believe?’

‘It’s all speculation. Unless somebody finds something concrete to give the helmet archaeological provenance there can only be speculation. It’s a little like the Ruamahanga skull.’

Matt had no idea what the curator was talking about now. He looked at Aimee.

‘Oh my God,’ Aimee said. ‘I forgot all about the skull.’ She turned to the Curator. ‘Is it related to the helmet?’

‘Not so far as we know. But I certainly wouldn’t suggest it was.’

Aimee turned to Matt to fill him in.

‘A couple years back a skull was found in the Wairarapa, over those big hills behind the harbour.’

Matt nodded to show he was listening.

‘It made the news because testing showed it belonged to a forty-something European woman.’

‘And?’

‘She could have been living in New Zealand before Tasman arrived. Half a century before Cook made the first recorded landing.’

‘Mitochondrial DNA analysis has shown she lived sometime between 1619 and 1689,’ the Curator said. ‘There’s no denying that the skull raises many questions. But again, no provenance. We really need to know more of her story. Perhaps an isotope analysis could give us more information, but I doubt one will ever be done.’

Matt was just about to ask why not when he was distracted by a movement on the other side of the hall. When he looked closer, he saw a tall man standing off to the side, appearing to study some Maori weapons in a nearby display unit. Studying his features, Matt was convinced it was the occupant of the black Corolla. He motioned Aimee to look at the man and pulled her towards himself and quietly said it was time to go. They thanked the curator and excused themselves before slipping out the nearby entrance back into the main corridors of the museum. It was time to lose their tail.

Back in the main halls of the museum, Matt realised they wouldn’t be able to hide in a broom closet to evade their unwanted escort. Te Papa was too modern and open plan for that sort of movie magic. Instead, he indicated to Aimee the direction to go and they hurried along, weaving in and out of people who were shuffling from one display to the next. Looking back over his shoulder, Matt saw the Maori had followed them out of the room and was pounding down the floor behind them. At the moment they had about a thirty second lead, but the gap would close fast.

They rounded a large display and Matt homed in on the potential saviours: tourists. About 60 of them. From the noise and accents, he knew they were American. He grabbed Aimee’s hand and yanked her into the middle of the sweaty, shuffling group. They huddled in the centre. Matt could barely see out to the side. Perfect. He felt like a midget in the middle of a Roman army formation, like something out of an Asterix comic.

Aimee smiled.

‘Nice work,’ she said, in an accent that matched the crowd around them.

Matt smiled. It was one of his proudest moments. He could pull off some movie magic after all. A minute later the front of the crowd stopped moving but the back half kept going. Everyone crushed up against each other in front of ancient fish hooks. Matt wasn’t sure if the bulge pushing against his groin was the huge woman in front of him, or her fanny-pack. He didn’t stick around to find out either. Jostling though towards the edge of the crowd, he was able to confirm that their unwanted escort was hurrying off in the other direction, assuming no doubt that they must have gone to the next floor. Matt and Aimee broke free from their confines and made a walking-dash to the descending stairs and got out of the museum as smartly as their legs could carry them, without breaking into a forbidden run.

Out on the plaza, Matt and Aimee took up camp behind a statue and watched the museum entrance.

‘I realised we were being followed in Whakatane. I just want to confirm it though,’ Matt said.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, the tall Maori emerged from the glass doors, scanning the plaza. He couldn’t see Matt and Aimee and walked toward the car-park.

‘Wait here, I’m gonna go find out what his problem is.’

‘Wait.’ Aimee tried to stop him, but it was too late.

Matt marched over to the Maori, catching him off guard. He grabbed his arm and spun him around.

‘Who the hell are you and why are you following us?’

The Maori looked down at Matt’s hand on his arm and then stared coldly into Matt’s eyes.

‘If you know what’s good for you, you’ll let go of my arm.’

Matt held on. ‘Not until you tell me what’s going on.’

‘If I did that, I’d have to kill you.’

Matt let go.

‘Who I am isn’t important. I’m just doing my job.’

‘And your job is?’

‘Making sure that you don’t stick your nose in where it doesn’t belong.’

‘Why me, why us?’

‘You keep the wrong friends. If I was you, I’d give up this madness and go home before someone gets hurt.’ With this the Maori turned on his heels and hurried off.

‘Who’s doing the hurting?’ Matt called after him.

He didn’t get an answer.

‘I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.’ He said to Aimee when he rejoined her.

‘No,’ Aimee answered. ‘Did he admit he’s spying on us?’

‘More or less. He first followed me with Warren in Auckland the day I arrived here. Warren said he must be NISO.’

Aimee made an alarming choking sound.

‘NISO, are you serious? Why would they spy on us? They’re anti-terrorism for the most part, I don’t imagine they’re interested in us.’

‘Warren says they work together with the DCI, protecting New Zealand’s cultural interests.’

‘No, I don’t think so. They do satellite spying and stuff. I’ll show you their spy base if we get a chance, it’s near to Nelson. Always wanted to see it.’

Matt wasn’t convinced. He was sure Warren knew what he was talking about. There was no other logical explanation for anyone to be following them. Whatever was going on, he was worried. His professional integrity was at stake. If the NISO and DCI were interested enough to follow his work and if they can arrange for facts to be ‘lost’ where it comes to historical archives in museums, then what could they do to the reputation of a historian who goes against the status quo? Matt, he thought to himself, if you’re not careful you may just find out.

It was pointless trying to avoid it, and Hemi knew it. So when his mobile rang that evening, he answered dutifully.

‘Evening.’

It was a nice evening too, or at least it had been. He had checked into the same Holiday Inn as Matt and Aimee. He had started to like them, listening in to their conversation whenever they were in the car. He didn’t need to bother watching them all evening, since they were surely not going to run off. Besides, they wouldn’t get far before he caught up. Such was the helpfulness of the GPS bug. Instead, Hemi had gone for a relaxing stroll along the waterfront, devoured a quarter piece pack of KFC and now he relaxed in his room with a couple of cans of Tui. His favourite beer.

‘You haven’t called in,’ Warren said, his voice rising with a questioning tone.

‘I’ve been busy.’ Hemi semi-lied.

‘What did our friends get up to today? Where are you?’

‘I’m in Wellington. We made a nice museum visit.’ There, he said it.

‘Te Papa?’

‘Yes.’

‘Any particular exhibit?’

‘The Spanish Helmet.’ No point denying it, Warren would find out anyway.

‘Damn it, Hemi! At least tell me you scared them into returning to Auckland without taking this mess further.’

‘I gave chase through the museum. It would have scared the crap out of me if I was them.’

‘And did it work?’

‘I don’t think so. I’ve got a bad feeling it didn’t.’

‘Why?’

‘They went to an agency and bought ferry tickets for tomorrow’s early sailing.’

‘Bugger!’

‘Is it such a big deal? It isn’t likely to lead them anywhere, is it?’

‘That all depends on how much that bloody father of his is going to tell him. I have to stop this.’

‘What are you going to do?’

‘I’m going to undo all the damage that has been done by Dr. Cameron meeting his father.’

‘Meaning?’

‘I’ll take care of things. His father is a very sick man. He could die at any time.’

Hemi cringed. ‘His father is innocent.’

‘Not any more.’

The line went dead.

Hemi closed his eyes and counted to ten. A wave of nausea swept through him and he had to hold his breath to avoid throwing up. It just wasn’t right to drag Matt’s father into this mess. Warren’s problem was with Matt, not his father. Hemi’s problem was with Warren, not with Matt. The agency had a problem with all of them. He decided that he had to deal with the situation himself. It was time to take things to the next level.

CHAPTER 28

The wind carried a light ocean spray into Matt’s face. The saltiness of the water left a tingly sensation on his tongue. There were few things more refreshing than enjoying the deck of a ship on a hot summer’s day. Matt took a deep breath; the sea air filled his lungs with vigour. He smiled. Last night, Matt had e-mailed Dwight Pick. It was good news, or so he thought. He told Dwight that he had dropped the Celtic investigation, from here on out he would follow up on the Spanish theory. It reassured him to know the warnings would be withdrawn, that his job was no longer on the line.

Wellington was ten minutes behind them. Picton, at the top of the South Island, was almost three hours away. The ferry was rumoured to go through some beautiful sounds later in the journey, but right now, they pushed their way through Wellington Harbour. A patchwork quilt of housing tumbled down towards the water on the starboard coast. To port, things were sparser. There was a large range of hills. Not a lot of activity over there.

‘Just think,’ Aimee said, ‘maybe Spanish explorers were here five hundred years back. I wonder where the helmet was dredged from.’

‘The records don’t tell you,’ Matt answered. ‘Maybe there are some more records somewhere, but where are they?’

He looked down at the water the ship threw out in its wake. ‘I wonder if the helmet could be remains of a shipwreck.’

‘That’s not a bad theory,’ Aimee said. ‘Actually, the Wahine, one of these ferries went down near here about forty years back.’

‘What happened?’

‘There had been a big storm overnight. It gets really rough here in storms. Early in the morning, when the ferry was coming in, the captain had to decide whether to risk it or stay out at sea. He took the risk.’

‘But it was too rough?’

‘Way too rough. When he realised it, he turned back and tried to get back out but it was all too much. He ended up hitting Barrett Reef. 53 people died.’

Matt turned his head back down to the water. ‘So it’s altogether possible that a Spaniard met the same fate, and voila, a helmet was found on the harbour bed.’

‘Yeah, but Barrett Reef is still a fair way out in front of us. I don’t know if they’d have dredged out there.’

‘Ok, but like the curator said, it may have been found on a beach or something. I think we’ll never know.’

The ferry pushed on through the harbour and Aimee pointed out the area where the Wahine had gone down. On the other side of the ship, Matt was mesmerised by a lighthouse that marked the harbour entrance. As he fixed his gaze on the lighthouse, he allowed himself to get immersed in a daydream. Matt lived in a disused lighthouse on the Cornwall Coast. He was out in the garden, landscaping. He lifted his eyes from his work and saw the lighthouse’s striking red door open. He was proud of his work. The once run-down lighthouse now shimmered white in the sunlight. The door, window frames and the lantern room were painted bright red. The lantern was gone; its room now an observation lounge, a cosy nook with a couple of reading chairs and a coffee table. He whiled away hours in there with his lovely wife. He watched her now, as she came through the door. She carried a tray with two tall glasses of water garnished with a slice of lemon. She floated towards him, her summery dress fluttering in the sea-breeze. The air was filled with the joy of children playing. His two angels appeared from behind their mother, running about, playing gleefully. His throat was parched. He licked at his lips. His wife arrived at his side.

‘Would you like a drink darling?’

‘Thanks Aimee, I really need one.’

‘Are you alright Matt?’ Aimee asked, bringing him back to reality. ‘You look like you’re miles away and you’re licking your lips.’

Matthew looked at her, his face going red. She wasn’t wearing a flowing summer dress and she didn’t look at him lovingly. She looked at him like he was a madman.

‘Sorry, I was miles away. I think I need a drink, you want one?’

‘Love one, should I go?’

‘I’ll get it.’

Matt took Aimee’s order and made his way back into the ship and downstairs. He found the cafeteria and picked out a couple of bottles of Coke to take back on deck. He noticed that there were other customers hard behind him in the queue, but didn’t give them a second glance. Matt paid for the drinks, breaking a large note and was handed the change. He walked out of the cafeteria and fiddled about putting the change back into his wallet, simultaneously staring off into space out the window. His daydream was sneaking back. Before he had a chance to realise what was happening, a strong hand grabbed his arm. The grip was firm and there was no way he could fight it. Shit, I’m being robbed.

Matt turned to look at his assailant, ready to make a scene.

‘You again?’ He asked, when he saw his attacker.

‘We need to have a chat.’

‘Here?’

‘No, come with me, to the starboard deck. Can I trust you to come peacefully and casually?’

‘I’m not a child.’

‘Good. Let’s go.’

Matt was intrigued but wary of the situation. He followed the tall man outside and glanced in the direction he knew Aimee was in. He couldn’t see her, a fact which made him happy. He didn’t want her involved in any violence, if that’s what it came to. But the whole situation was completely new to Matt. He didn’t know how these government types operate.

They made their way out onto the deck, which Matt noticed was deserted.

The Maori spoke. ‘You obviously know that we’ve been following you. I don’t see any point in playing games, so I decided we could get to know each other.’

Matt looked around, but saw no one else. ‘We as in the NISO? What’s your name?’

‘My name is Hemi.’

Matt didn’t want to believe it was his real name, but who makes up a name like that?

‘Who I work for is not important, except to say that he’s an evil, nasty man. A man who could make your life a misery.’

One man, Matt wondered. Is he just referring to his immediate boss?

‘But you work for the government right? The NISO or the DCI?’

‘That isn’t important. The less I tell you, the safer you’ll be.’

‘You want to protect me?’ Matt asked. ‘Don’t you just want to protect your culture, your history? Some government plot to stop anyone researching alternative theories of New Zealand history?’

‘You’ve got some funny ideas Dr. Cameron, and you’re treading on dangerous ground. You need to stop looking into the Spanish theory of yours. Before someone gets hurt.’

‘I thought you didn’t want to hurt anyone.’

‘I don’t.’ Hemi snapped the words out. ‘But the man I work for does. You looking into your father’s theory is really pissing him off. I dunno what he’ll do if you don’t leave it alone.’

‘What can he do?’ Matt asked, wondering if threats like this scared off other researchers.

‘I think your father’s life may be in danger.’

‘C’mon, seriously? That’s a bit over the top isn’t it?

‘I wouldn’t risk my job telling you if I wasn’t serious.’

Matt briefly considered what it would mean if this guy was telling the truth. Were he, Aimee, Warren, his father all in danger? Would Hemi’s boss really do something desperate to stop their work? And why would Hemi, if that was really his name, want to protect them. Then again, if he was telling the truth…

‘OK,’ Matt said. ‘We’ll be on our best behaviour. But we’re still going to Nelson to look at my father’s work.’

‘Are you hard of hearing or do you just like to pretend that you don’t believe me?’

‘I do believe you.’

‘Of course you do. You know I’m telling you the truth. It’s a bit like collective unconsciousness.’

‘Pardon?’ Matt wasn’t sure he heard that right.

‘You’ve had your warning, if you don’t want to take me seriously, it ain’t my problem.’

Hemi turned and walked away. That was it. Matt needed a stiff drink. That or a good chat with someone who could boost his spirits. Remembering the two Cokes in his hands, he decided it would be the latter.

CHAPTER 29

She looked beautiful. It was almost as good as his lighthouse daydream. Those shorts, her legs and when she turned and saw him approach with the Cokes, her smile.

‘Did you swim back to Wellington for those?’

‘Almost as unbelievable. But no, I didn’t. Instead, I had a chat with an old friend.’

‘Who?’ Aimee turned her back to the sea and leaning against the railing, took her Coke from Matt.

‘Apparently his name is Hemi. The one from the museum.’

‘The one following us?’

‘Yup.’

‘I didn’t see that coming. What did he want?’

Matt told Aimee about the encounter, replaying the whole conversation for her.

‘What do you make of it? I mean, if he works for the NISO, it stands to reason that he doesn’t want to hurt you. But why would his boss be a dangerous man? It doesn’t make sense,’ Aimee said.

‘I know, although admittedly he seemed like a nice enough guy. He was sincere. I think he was telling the truth, but I’m not convinced that the NISO or DCI are out to protect anyone. They only want to protect themselves and their interests.’

‘I don’t think that’s true. I’m sure they’re only doing what they think is right.’

‘Why do you always defend them so stoically?’ Matt stood back and waited for an answer. It took a few seconds coming.

‘I just don’t think they’re as far into this as you do. These government departments are all paperwork and pen-pushing. I doubt they’ve got the resources or get-go to chase us around the country making threats.’

Matt thought about that a little. It made sense; Matt and Aimee were little people. Why would the government waste resources of them? But then, Warren seemed so convinced.

‘You’re probably right and I’m blowing this all out of proportion. I’ve read too many rumours and theories from people who have too much invested in the other side.’

‘So what are you going to do with Hemi’s information? Are you going to forget your father’s work?

‘What can I do? It isn’t like I’m going to roll over and go home without at least finding out what my father was onto. I have to keep going, at least as far as Nelson. But I’ll call Nadine and tell her to look out for him.’

‘Good for you. Good for us, in fact.’ Aimee smiled and gently brushed his arm for a second. Matt thought he saw something like pride in her eyes. He couldn’t be certain though; such was the distraction of her touch.

As the ferry continued across the Cook Strait, the pair chatted amiably about the little things in life. Coke, caffeine, coffee, late nights, TV series and old films. Matt felt like he was with an old friend. It was comfortable. Normal. Over an hour passed this way, and Matt felt like he was getting to know a lot about Aimee, just from hearing the way she talked about unimportant stuff. They were passing through the Marlborough Sounds, on a beautiful calm sea, when Aimee grabbed his arm to let him know the subject was changing. She looked excited.

‘I just remembered something; it was something from the journals of Captain Cook.’

‘Go on.’

‘On his third journey, I think it was, he came here to Queen Charlotte Sound. If I remember right he was told a story by his Maori guide that a ship had arrived here many years before. The white captain of the ship took a Maori wife and she bore him a son.’

‘Cook wrote about this?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Wouldn’t that have been a pretty big suggestion that there had been other Europeans before him? Why haven’t I heard of it before?’

‘Dunno, but it’s no different to that story of Mike’s. You know, about the Ngati Porou on the East Cape. There’s plenty more Maori stories that get ignored.’

‘There are just so many questions. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a country with such an identity crisis as New Zealand!’

‘I know.’ Aimee laughed. ‘Let’s hope we can do something about it, eh?’

‘We can but try.’

Matt leaned against the railing of the ship and enjoyed the scenery that scrolled smoothly past. The rolling green hills tumbled down into small bays with golden sandy beaches. Native timbers covered the hills in many places, and small boats sat in the bays waiting for their owners to come out and play. In his mind’s eye, Matt saw a Spanish Caravel sitting in one of the bays. Beyond it, a small red and white Maori dwelling sat just above the high-tide line, where the grasses met the sand. Out the front, a Spanish man worked on a small wooden boat. A young boy, with coffee coloured skin sat nearby, playing with some stones. From the porch of the house, a beautiful Maori woman watched them, her eyes filled with love and pride.

Matt had to take control of his daydreams. He was going to get himself in trouble. He looked at Aimee, convinced that she didn’t get lost in stupid thoughts like his.

‘You dirty bastard,’ Matt said, straightening his body.

‘I showered this morning.’ Aimee laughed.

‘Not you,’ Matt stifled a laugh, ‘that Hemi guy. He said something about collective unconsciousness. I couldn’t think why it was familiar, it was like deja vu.’

‘The Crosshouse.’

‘Exactly. What are the chances of someone mentioning collective unconsciousness the next day?’

‘That’s what collective unconsciousness is all about.’

‘Nah, I don’t buy it. I think we’ve been bugged. How else did he know which ferry, where we’ve been and where we’re going? I’m going down to look at the car. I’ll be back soon.’

‘You can’t go down there, it’s locked during the crossing.’

‘I’ll find a way.’

With that, Matt took off in the direction of the stairs to the car decks.

Aimee was right, the door to the parking deck was locked. He had to find a way in. If access here wasn’t allowed, it might be the only chance he had of getting a good look at the car without Hemi knowing what he was up to. He looked around for a ship employee. The perfect victim came his way.

‘Excuse me,’ Matt said to the pimply young man who looked very proud of his uniform, ‘I need to get down to my car.’

‘Sorry sir, the vehicle decks are out of bounds during sailing.’

‘I know, I understand. It’s a safety thing. But my friend is sick and needs special medication. We didn’t think to bring it up.’

‘Oh.’ The crewman looked around, panic coming over his face. ‘It’s my first week, I don’t know who to talk to.’

‘We don’t have time,’ Matt said, sounding as exasperated as he could, ‘every second counts till she gets those meds.’

‘Shit, follow me.’

He raced down a hall and around a corner before opening an unmarked steel door. Matt was hard on his heels. The door opened to a narrow staircase that led steeply downwards. Matt shut the door behind himself.

‘Go down these stairs and you’ll be on the vehicle decks. Be as quick as you can and come back up this way. If you get caught, I never saw you. I like my job.’

‘Your secret is safe with me. And hey, you just saved a life.’

The young man smiled and slipped back through the door and off to whatever task he was interrupted from. Matt descended the stairs and entered the car-deck through another steel door. He looked back at it and took a mental picture so he could find his way out.

At the car, Matt lay down in the foot-well of the driver and passenger seats and searched for a bugging device. In the movies they were always little plastic boxes, so he knew what to look for, but came up empty. The glove box, dashboard, seats, under the seats, in the pockets and behind the sun-shades — everything looked normal.

Under the car. It must be a locator device or something.

Matt climbed out and lay on his back to slide under the car. Bingo. There it was, plain as day. Quite a large plastic box with a little light glowing on it. This was just like the movies. It was secured with cable ties, impossible to remove with bare hands, but Matt never left home without his Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. He opened the blade, cut the ties, held onto the device and crawled out from his uncomfortable confines. He looked at the transmitter and thought about throwing it overboard or drowning it in the toilet, but then he had a better idea. If it stopped working, Hemi would realise something was wrong. It would be better to relocate it, as it were, and send the Maori off on a wild goose chase. The very next car was a good host candidate, a hatchback with every last inch of the back window stuffed with luggage, a baby-on-board sticker completing the image. Matt got to work and attached the bug to the hatchback.

Don’t worry, he told the driver in his head, you’re not going to notice the extra weight.

His work done, he went and rejoined Aimee to enjoy the rest of the cruise.

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

CHAPTER 30

Monday, October 25, 1526

I must write in this journal more sparingly, as I risk running out of space. I have few pages left here and only one blank volume available. Unfortunately, the rest of our cloth parchment, those from Xativa, and ink were lost with the Sancti Spiritus.

After leaving the harbour that I spoke of in my last entry, the coast continued along the large bay in a west-north-west direction. Some twenty odd leagues beyond the harbour, we found another much larger harbour where the coast took a sharper turn to the north-west and we skirted around a beautifully forested peninsula. The trees to be seen here covered the low mountains in a spectacular fashion, reaching heights beyond belief. We rounded the peninsula, noting a large island to the north, and crossed the southerly basin about half-way down its length. What we thought was the continued coast of the land, we discovered to be a further group of islands. To the west of these was yet another large and very calm harbour. The entrance to it was small and hid the secret of its size well. We could well have chosen to stop here for a while, but I prefer to make short stops for replenishment and then to continue exploring all that this land has to offer before setting a return course for home.

We have set up wooden crosses and laid five stones on the ground in each place we have dropped anchor. We still have a good supply of jars for leaving messages in, but parchment is in short supply and I want to keep some jars for preserving foods and samples to take home.

We left the peaceful harbour and followed the coast for a further hundred leagues north, before rounding a cape and finding ourselves on a south-east course. There are long beaches in these parts. The one almost immediately after the northern cape here is over eighteen leagues long. I expect that the cape we have rounded belongs to a large peninsula, and that we will eventually be turned to the west again, although even with the clear weather we have today, no land is to be seen on the western horizon.

Thursday, October 28, 1526

We sailed another twenty-two leagues after seeing the long beach, and found ourselves still skirting beaches and cliffs. The coast slowly turned in a more southerly direction, so I decided to steer due south, expecting that the land would remain in our sight. My presumption was not wrong. Directly in front of us a mountain rises out of the sea. We will sail on toward this landmark and again look for a harbour or anchorage where we can replenish our supplies. The men are eating well and in are superb health, such is the bountiful ocean of this land.

CHAPTER 31

Hemi didn’t know what had gone wrong with Leigh’s transmitter, but it didn’t seem to work anymore. As he drove out of Picton, the signal from Dr. Cameron and Aimee had been lost. It started with a crackle and then the signal got weaker and weaker, until it almost completely disappeared about five hundred metres up the road from the ferry terminal. He turned the car, drove back towards the ferry, and it reappeared again. The blinking icon on his receiver showed that his targets were still at the terminal. Hemi knew that if he got signal at this range but not further away, the relay transmitter he installed under the car was either broken or out of the GPS bug’s range. The second possibility didn’t bear thinking about. Now he was just picking up the GPS bug transmission itself. The five hundred metre range limitation meant that he would have to stay a lot closer to his prey. No problem at all. He waited for them to drive past.

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

Matt pulled up the car outside his father’s old house. It had taken twenty minutes to get there from the hotel in Nelson, because it turned out to be in a small town nearby. A pleasant-looking spot called Richmond. The GPS had taken them on a scenic route along a harbour and past a beach, before they drove through a short stretch of farmland being eaten by urban sprawl which ended at a roundabout where the main road of the township crossed the road they were on. They had turned left, and not more than a couple of hundred metres further, they had arrived.

‘Prime spot he had here,’ Aimee said. ‘Richmond appears to be quite the up-and-coming place to live and this close to the centre, on the main street, with this big a section… it must be worth a bit.’

‘Generous man, to give it to his neighbour.’

‘Seems like your dad must be a good sort after all?’ Aimee’s words reassured him.

‘I hope he’s OK. It worries me that I can’t reach Nadine.’

‘I’m sure you’ll track her down and that your dad’s all honky-dory. Maybe her phone’s flat or something completely normal like that.

‘I guess.’ Mat continued to worry though. He hated not being able to reach someone, despite them having a phone in their pocket. That always made him nervous. But Aimee was right. He often went days without charging his own mobile.

They left the car on the roadside and walked up the driveway that ran along the right-hand side of the house. Front doors were for special invited guests, Matt had always felt. They would go to the back. It was just as well they did, because as they walked past the hydrangeas that lined the drive, a lady hanging clothes on a rotary clothesline came into view. She looked up without surprise at the footsteps, but had a look of non-recognition on her face.

‘Can I help you?’ she asked, her voice very friendly.

‘My name is Matthew Cameron. My father, Andy Robertson, has sent me here.’

‘Oh my Lord!’ She dropped her bucket of pegs. ‘You best come in for a coffee.’

Matt liked her immediately. As she served them fresh coffee, she raved on about how wonderful a man Matt’s father is and how nice it is to meet his son. Muriel, as she introduced herself, had always wondered if anyone would ever arrive with a key for the shed out the back.

‘I admit, I painted the shed two years back. It was just getting so old and I felt like it needed a bit of sprucing up.’

‘I’m sure my father will be pleased to hear you’re looking after things.’

‘You’ve got no idea how many times I wanted to break down that door. I’m just so curious about what mysteries he’s hiding in there.’

‘I’m not exactly sure myself. Notes, I guess. The research my father worked on. Nothing valuable to anyone but himself or anyone who wants to continue his work.’

‘And you’ll continue his work?’ She looked expectant. Aimee carried the same questioning look.

‘I have to see what he has first. If it’s good, then yes.’

Matt realised for the first time just how immersed he had become in his father’s mystery. He hoped it wouldn’t affect his relationship with Warren. Best go look at the spy base and the bullaun bowls to keep Warren on side, he decided.

‘Let me take you out to the shed,’ Muriel said with an air of importance as she cleared the empty coffee cups. ‘We don’t want your Dad being let down by me after all he’s done for me and mine.’

Muriel stood and led them out of the house and down a path to a small clump of ferns at the back. Tucked in amongst the miniature forest was a freshly painted red and white shed. It had a certain Scandinavian barn feel about it in this colour combination. Matt liked it.

‘I’m gonna leave you to it son,’ Muriel said, before turning and walking away. There was no disguising the curiosity on her face though. He knew she wanted to see inside.

‘OK,’ Matt said, pulling the keys from his pocket. ‘Let’s have a look in here and see what all this fuss is about.’

He placed the key into the lock and tried to turn it. It didn’t work. The other key was too small. He placed the first key back in the lock and tried again. Still nothing, it wouldn’t turn at all. He was about to scream with frustration when Aimee reached over and took the key, pulling it slightly from the lock and turning it without trouble.

‘Used to happen on my bike lock all the time.’ She mused.

‘You ride a lot?’

‘Back in school, yeah. One of the pleasures of growing up in a small town out here.’

The door swung open and the two of them stared into the shed’s interior.

‘Awesome,’ Aimee said.

‘This could take a while.’ Matt laughed.

Aimee replied with her laughter. The shed was small, perhaps ten square metre. But three of the walls were crammed with floor to ceiling shelving, all of it piled with papers and books. The other wall had the door, a small window, and a large framed photograph of a small boy in front of a lighthouse. A piece of paper stuck in the corner of the frame said it was Penninis Head on St Mary’s Island in Scilly. Matt didn’t need to be told it was him in the photo. Apart from that, only the desk and a chair broke the pattern of papers. The desk too was covered in piles of notes.

They gave each other an understanding look, and waded in. Papers got shuffled, read and sorted into piles as rapidly as their eyes and heads could process it all. There was at least two days work ahead of them.

Hemi was in a bind. On the one hand he didn’t want to tell Warren that Matt was fishing around in his father’s old shed, most likely looking for something to do with the Spanish. On the other, however, Hemi wanted to draw Warren in. To get justice for his ruined life, he needed Warren to throw the first punch. Thinking about it like this, it made sense to try and piss him off a little so that Warren would show his hand. He dialled the number.

‘It’s about time you called.’

This will be easy. Warren already sounded angry.

‘Sorry. It’s been a busy day.’

‘I take it you’re in Nelson then?’

‘Yeah. I couldn’t stop them. I tried to give them another scare on the ferry, but they seem to be made of harder stuff than you expect.’

‘What are they doing in Nelson then?’

‘It turns out that Dr. Cameron’s father still has property here. They’re searching through a shed on the back of his property.’

‘Do you think he’s got anything in there, or is this just going to blow over?’

‘I couldn’t say for sure.’ Hemi prepared his bait. ‘But Dr. Cameron appears determined, like he knows to expect something big.’

‘Shit Hemi! That’s all I need. I’ve worked too hard on this for it to be bloody ruined by some lunatic’s Spanish dreams. This needs to stop now.’

‘What do you want me to do?’

‘Nothing. You’ve been a fat lot of good up until now. Just keep an eye on them. I’ll take care of this mess for you.’

The phone slammed down with enough force that Hemi had to hold his mobile away from his ear. Shit. Warren was really pissed, maybe he had overdone it. He had hardly even pushed, yet Warren was hooked. It worried Hemi a little. Someone who can so easily go to the edge must be somewhat unhinged. Still, Warren surely wouldn’t do anything too rash. Now Hemi had to wait. Again.

CHAPTER 32

It was the second day of sorting through the papers in the shed. It was also the second day without successfully contacting Nadine.

Yesterday, Matt and Aimee had spent over eight hours there to no avail. Sure, they had read a lot of information about the Spanish Helmet and about other aspects of Spanish theory, but they hadn’t come across anything that helped them progress further. Matt needed something new. Something that hadn’t been pursued by other enthusiasts and turned out to be nothing, or even worse, destroyed or hidden by the government. Matt needed…

‘What’s this?’ Aimee interrupted his thoughts.

Matt took the paper Aimee held out to him and studied it.

‘It looks like a scan of three old tickets. Can you make out what that says there?’ He pointed to the large print on the least faded of the images.

‘Scillon something,’ Aimee said. ‘Means nothing to me.’

Matt squinted at the paper and ran over possibilities in his head.

‘Scillonian.’ Matt slapped his thigh. ‘That says Scillonian III, that’s the ferry to Scilly.’

‘Wow, you’re good. I could never have figured that out.’

‘Well, I’ve been on it a few times. I wonder when these were for.’ Matt located the date and with some more effort, deciphered it. ‘Oh my God, these tickets are for my 3rd birthday.’

‘How cool is that? Your Dad kept them all these years.’

Matt wasn’t sure of the tickets importance to what they searched for, but he liked the connection to his father and placed the paper to the side, in the ‘possibly important pile’, which was very small. Three documents now.

‘What we really need to find is a folder of notes specifically related to my father’s progress.’ Matt pondered aloud. ‘A diary or journal would be great.’

‘Something like this?’ Aimee asked, turning to face him with a huge smile on her face.

Matt grabbed the red, A4-sized, hard-cover volume she was holding. He opened it and flicked through the pages to get an idea of what it contained.

‘Something exactly like this!’ He leaned over and surprised himself by kissing her firmly on the lips in his excitement.

The two of them pulled uncomfortably apart. Aimee looked thoroughly embarrassed. Matt felt it.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he blurted. ‘I got carried away in the moment.’

‘It’s OK, Matt. I understand. What’s in the book?’

Matt opened the book again and summarised what he read as he flicked from page to page. Much of the content was notes about documents his father had sourced, or theories and what he made of them. But there was one section that was thoroughly interesting. Matt read it out to Aimee.

‘I have finally identified the operator of the dredge that found the Spanish Helmet in the Wellington Harbour in 1879. He is long since dead; however I have been able to trace his family to his Granddaughter who still lives in the suburbs of Wellington. I have contacted her and she has invited me to come and visit her as soon as I have the opportunity. She says she may have interesting information for me.’

‘Wow!’ Aimee said. ‘Did he visit? What did she tell him?’

‘Wait a moment, I need to flick forward here,’ Matt said, flipping over pages until he found what he was looking for.

‘Here we go… have visited Miss Ruth Borlase in Wellington. Amazing news, her grandfather didn’t just find the Spanish Helmet; he also found a sword and some other armour. He provided half of his find to the Museum of New Zealand, but he kept the sword and some of the artefacts for himself. I saw the sword! Definitely Spanish!’

‘This is incredible,’ Aimee said.

‘It goes on… Mr. Borlase was furious when the museum claimed they didn’t know the exact details of the helmet, since he had been present when it was catalogued into their collections. He claimed cover-up and swore to keep his relics hidden, only to reveal them when the time was right, when people would listen. His granddaughter hopes that the time is now.’

‘Does this get us any closer to finding out where the helmet came from? Where is the sword now? Is there anything else written there?’ Aimee rolled out a series of rapid-fire questions.

‘The information about the visit with Miss Borlase ends there,’ Matt answered, flicking further through the notebook. It was only on the last page that he saw the information that would lead them to the next step.

‘Matt.’ Matt read aloud from the diary. ‘If you are reading this you will know how important the information I have is. You will also know that it needs to be hidden until the time is right. The time is now right. You hold the key to my favourite place. Find it.’

‘The other key your Dad gave you.’

‘Yeah, but what does it unlock.’

‘You hold the key to my favourite place…’ Aimee repeated the words.

Matt didn’t hear her; he was in a trance, that same line echoed in his head. He glanced up at the photograph on the wall. Matthew, the little three-year-old boy, standing in front of the little lighthouse on St. Mary’s.

‘Oh my God. It’s there,’ Matt said, pointing to the photo.

‘What? On that island?’

‘No.’ Matt stood up and reached out to take the picture off the wall. It concealed a small wooden cupboard. Matt took the key from his pocket and placed it in the keyhole. It turned with a click and the door eased open. He looked at Aimee. She smiled at him.

‘Your father’s favourite place was his memory of you,’ she said.

Matt held back the tears which he fought with his blinking eyes. Through the slight blurring, he could see another red notebook, identical to the one they already found. He took it from the cupboard.

‘I guess this is what we’re looking for,’ he said.

They sat at the desk and read the contents of the notebook together. When they were finished, Matt closed it and looked at Aimee. A grin lifted the corners of his mouth.

‘Are you up for a trip to this Otago place?’

‘Of course I am!’ Aimee answered. ‘I can’t think of anything more exciting. It sounds great, and I’ve got colleagues at the University of Otago.’

‘That might be a good place to start,’ Matt said. ‘If anyone should know about the local Maori, then it should be the local university history department. I knew I brought you for a reason.’ Matt paused. He didn’t want to look dumb, but he had to ask. ‘Where is Otago anyway?’

They locked the shed and said their goodbyes to Muriel.

‘Found what you were looking for then?’ She asked.

‘Sure did,’ Matt answered. ‘Thanks.’

His father’s notes had been very thorough. They explained how he had seen the sword that was found by Mr. Borlase along with the helmet in Wellington Harbour. He was intrigued by the Maori pattern that appeared to have been meticulously embossed into the blade of a distinctly Spanish weapon. Upon further investigation into the pattern, it was determined that this belonged to the style of a Maori in the Otago region. He had intended to continue on with his investigations by travelling to Otago and seeking out more information about the pattern and to research oral histories of white people visiting. He though some local elders might be able to help. That was the last of his notes.

CHAPTER 33

Matt took his phone off the charger and selected Nadine’s number from his phonebook. He couldn’t wait to tell her the great news. He was sure that his father would be excited for them.

‘God, I hope I can get through this time,’ he said, turning to Aimee, who sat at the table looking through page upon page of archived journal articles. She nodded, clearly absorbed by her reading.

He smiled at her profile and pressed the call button. It rang for quite a while.

‘Hello?’ Came an unsure sounding voice.

‘Nadine, fantastic, I’ve been trying to reach you.’ It was great to hear her voice.

Silence.

‘Nadine?’

A sniff, then the heart-wrenching sounds of a woman bursting into tears. Matt knew instantly something was seriously wrong. He tipped his way down to the edge of the couch, took up residence next to a cushion and waited. He saw that Aimee had looked up from her papers to see why he had gone quiet. She didn’t look away.

‘I’m sorry Matt.’ Nadine finally managed to utter between her gasps for breath. ‘I’m so sorry.’

‘What is it?’ Matt asked, fearing and expecting the worst.

‘You only just got to know him.’ Nadine sobbed again.

‘Dad?’ Really expecting the worst now. Aimee got up from the table and came over next to Matt.

‘He’s gone, in his sleep the night before last.’

‘He’s… dead?’ The worst it is. He felt something touching his knee and realised that it was Aimee’s hand.

‘They said it was peaceful. He was given extra morphine for his pain. His body couldn’t cope with it. I’m sorry, I completely forgot you were here…’

Matt felt the sensation of bile rising in his throat and heat rushed into his head.

‘I’ve been trying to call. I can’t believe it, even after… are you alright?’

‘I’ve got friends here, I’ll be OK. It’s almost a relief for me, after so many years of him in pain. But you only just got to know him.’

The world span around Matt and was on the edge of losing control. From a massive high to the lowest of lows in but a few seconds. He was supposed to be calling to tell Nadine to look out for his Dad, and his exciting news. Instead, she was breaking her terrible news. He really felt for her right now. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that he hadn’t yet had the chance to develop a full relationship with his father. But Nadine. This must be torture for her.

‘I’m just happy to have had a chance to meet him,’ Matt said. ‘And having done so, I’m going to make sure that I complete his work down here. I’m going to find the answers he was looking for and see that he gets the respect he deserves for his contribution to New Zealand.’

Aimee smiled at him. Her hand on his knee brought Matt an amount of comfort that she was probably unaware of. It also helped to hold down the anger that twitched through his legs. He forced a smile back.

‘Have you had any luck?’ Nadine asked.

‘We have. In fact, I was calling to tell you we have some good leads and are going to head to Dunedin to follow up on them. I thought Dad might want to know.’

‘He would have loved to have known. He was so excited that you were here. So happy that you would continue his work. He talked about nothing else the last few days.’

The anger twitched beyond Aimee’s hand. As it rose through his gut it evolved into a wave of determination. Thankfully it escaped his mouth in that latter form.

‘Then we’ll continue in his honour.’

‘That would be great, Matt.’

‘But first I’ll come back for his funeral.’

‘No, don’t worry about it. We’ll have a tiny service, probably only a handful of folk. You don’t need to come out of the way. He would have wanted you to go on with the investigation down there.’

Matt felt guilty, but he understood what Nadine was saying.

‘Alright, we’ll do just that,’ he said. ‘Look after yourself. I’ll get in touch again when we have more information.’

Matt hung up the phone and looked at Aimee. She sat, looking back at him with a comforting expression on her face. Not smiling, not frowning, not angry, or even sad. Just an expression that made Matt feel at ease. He needed that. Everything was so confusing. Meeting your estranged father after thirty years, and then losing him again a week later. The whole situation was beyond bizarre. Questions whirled around Matt’s head. Why did he have to die now? What sort of luck did this family have? How on earth did Matt end up in the south island of New Zealand investigating a pseudo-history that his father had worked on? Was Hemi right? Was his father murdered?

‘I don’t know what to do…’ He pondered out loud.

‘Just do what you do best, Matt.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Absorb yourself in your work. Find the answers to your father’s questions. You can respect him that way.’

‘How come you know me so well?’ Matt asked her, pleased that she was able to understand his misgivings.

‘Don’t know,’ Aimee said, looking down briefly. ‘Fate, I guess.’

CHAPTER 34

Wednesday, November 10, 1526

After coasting the cape which housed the large volcano we had sighted, we sailed south-east and then south-west again, for about thirty-five leagues each stretch. What appeared to be another large bay, which I expected to sail north-west away from, turned out to be the entrance to some straits. The weather here was not in our favour, so although we could see a welcoming-looking harbour on the northern land-mass, we did not make an attempt to enter it. Instead, I put out to sea on the eastern side of the straits and we slowly drifted south-east along the coast of the southern land-mass. We are now about ten leagues from the entrance to the straits. I have decided to continue on south along this coast now. This land has, so far, offered plenty of opportunity for anchorage and safe harbour, so I do not doubt we will find more soon. I have named the land Galatas Nueva, because it reminds me so of Galicia, from where we departed.

CHAPTER 35

The Waihopai Spy Base was not in the Navigon GPS as a point of interest. No surprise there. But Aimee wanted to see the base, and Warren had mentioned it to Matt too. So Aimee was giving Matt directions the old fashioned way.

‘You need to continue on state highway 6 as far as Renwick,’ she said. ‘Then, turn right on 63, and then a kilometre later, left onto Waihopai Valley Road.’

Matt drove silently and watched the country-side roll by as he made his way to Renwick and followed the other instructions. Perhaps Aimee had noticed he was quieter today. He had noticed it too. Definitely not his usual bubbly self, but Aimee would understand why. Truth be told, Matt was furious. Furious and determined. Not to mention overcome by guilt. What if his father hadn’t died naturally? What if Hemi’s warning had been serious and his father had been killed. If he could have warned him, maybe he would still be alive.

The guilt had given Matt a new resolve. Drive. He didn’t really want to waste time anymore, but it was only fair that Aimee got to see something that interested her on this journey too. It would be a short stop though. Matt wanted to get on with his father’s work. Nothing else mattered anymore. He had to prove something, although he wasn’t sure what it was.

On the right, the rolling countryside gave way to two large white golf-ball-like objects in the fields. Surrounding the complex was a high fence with barbed wires running along the uppermost parts. A sign warned that this was a defence area.

‘It doesn’t look like much, does it?’ Aimee said.

‘No.’ Actually, Matt was quite disappointed for Aimee’s sake. ‘But looks can be deceiving. Warren says that the satellite receivers here are capable of intercepting every telephone call, every radio communication, and every e-mail or Internet transaction that travels through the south pacific skies. But who can listen to all that?’

‘Computers in that building there filter the whole lot for keywords. Every time a phrase or word triggers a match the conversations or messages are recorded.’ Aimee handed Matt the notes that Warren had given them. ‘It doesn’t bear thinking about. I find it hard to believe that New Zealand would be involved in something like that.’

‘It’s a US operated base, in cooperation with the NISO. Some worldwide project called Echelon.’ Matt said, continuing to explain with the aid of the notes. ‘Although that’s denied by the NISO. Actually, by practically everyone.’

Aimee reached for her camera and took a couple of photos of the base.

‘I’ve seen enough, let’s just call it paranoia and get going to Kaikoura. I want some of that famous fresh seafood for lunch.’

The idea of a good lunch was enough to encourage Matt’s lips to turn up in to something resembling a smile. He turned the car and started down the road. As he passed a driveway on the left he recognised a familiar black Corolla that was parked behind the shelterbelt.

‘Looks like your friend’s still with us,’ Aimee said, the sarcasm clear in her voice.

‘I don’t get it. Unless he never lets us out of his sight, how does he still know where we are? Oh, speaking of which, I should turn the GPS back on.’

Matt pulled off to the side of the road and leaned over to press the power button on the GPS. A little smile decorated his lips. It took perseverance to not say anything to Aimee, but Matt had just realised where Hemi was getting his information from. It would also be a relief to not have to tell Warren that he had damaged his GPS. Miraculously, the scratch by the power button was gone. Matt worked up a plan; he needed to casually feed information to Hemi for it to work.

‘So after Kaikoura, how far will we drive today before stopping for the night?’

‘Christchurch.’

‘Where they had the earthquakes, right?’

‘Yeah. Brave lot. We had a pretty big one in Whakatane when I was a kid. Scared the living crap out of me. We had a lot of quakes there.’

Matt finished punching it in the GPS.

‘Alright. I’ve got it in the Navigon. Let’s get us to that lunch.

He pulled the car back out onto the road and turned off towards Kaikoura. In his mirror, Matt confirmed that Hemi stuck with them. Matt was going to revel in every minute of his cunning.

Hemi watched as Matt and Aimee drove past. He saw Matt look his way again. He felt sick to his stomach. His heart pounded through his chest. He couldn’t believe where he had just watched Matt and Aimee go. His boss would be furious. Beyond furious. Hemi just wouldn’t tell him. But that wasn’t the worst of it. It had been a torturous drive this far. Having to listen to the pain that Matthew Cameron was suffering at the loss of his father brought too many bad memories. It was all Hemi could do to keep driving. Hating Warren Rennie was nothing new, but realising he was capable of murder was something else altogether. Hemi tried to minimise the emotions he faced by telling himself it hadn’t happened, despite being convinced it had. Even so, it wasn’t the same as his father being killed, because Matt’s father had been at deaths door. Hemi had seen the medical records. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.

He waited for the Mazda to almost leave his line of sight before pulling out of the driveway where he had been waiting. He knew he didn’t have to hide himself and of course since he listened in on their conversations through his GPS bug he also knew where they were headed. In fact, the bug had been revealing in more ways than just where they were going. Hemi learnt a lot about New Zealand history. He had only once heard the story of a pre-Tasman ship being seen by Maori. That was in school. But now Hemi was being immersed in a fascinating world where the Spanish perhaps found New Zealand before the Dutch or British. He found himself rooting for Matt and Aimee, actually hoping they would find the evidence they needed to prove the theory once and for all. At the end of the road, he turned right in the direction of Kaikoura, keeping within a 500m range of his prey. Kaikoura was a logical lunch stop. He hoped they picked somewhere where he could get some fresh crayfish. Hemi loved nothing more than a good fresh cray.

The coastline between Blenheim and Kaikoura was rugged and stunning. Matt constantly had to drag his eyes back to the road to prevent an accident. But no matter how many times he scolded himself for being irresponsible, he found himself looking out at the rocks and rough seas. He also found himself wondering about the Maori place names and asked Aimee what Rakautara meant as he saw a sign whizz by.

‘No idea,’ Aimee answered. ‘They didn’t teach us anything like that at school. We only learned some token words here and there. Words for apple, house, food, family. Stuff like that. I could never string together a single sentence in Maori.’

‘That’s a bit sad isn’t it? Shouldn’t you try to maintain such a unique language?’

‘Nowadays there’s more emphasis on it, they even have rules about how much Te Reo has to appear in local TV.’

They passed a large billboard advertising a hotel in Kaikoura, apparently just minutes away.

‘I can tell you what Kaikoura means though. Kai is the Maori word for food and Koura is the word for crayfish. Kaikoura basically means the place of eating crayfish. Stacks of them around.’

Matt read another billboard as they went past. ‘You can go whale watching and swimming with dolphins too?’

‘The Whale Watching is owned and operated by a Maori tribe,’ Aimee said. ‘The Ngai Tahu tribe was awarded a large amount of land, some businesses and the usage rights a while back. They’ve established a very successful industry out of it all.’

‘Awarded? In what way?’ Matt asked.

‘As redress. Basically, some people don’t think the treaty of Waitangi was fair. Several Maori tribes have claimed that they were not present at the signing of the treaty, therefore their land cannot have been given over to English sovereignty. The government set up a tribunal to settle claims from the Maori. The Ngai Tahu claimed back many parts of the South Island and were given redress in the form of a lot of land and businesses in the tourism sector. Now they do whale watching, jet-boating, scenic boat trips, the works. They even own some police stations and council buildings.’

‘They’ve done well for themselves then.’

‘Indeed. Which is why some disillusioned folk, who call themselves the Clan of Truth, dream up theories of a pre-Maori discovery of New Zealand so that they can claim the land back.’

‘Clan, as in Celts, the Celtic theories?’ Matt asked, cringing. ‘Surely that wouldn’t work to their advantage though?’

‘Of course not. It’s a fool’s dream. They can no better prove that they’re the rightful owners than the Maori can today. Even if the Celts were first, where is the bloodline? The land would of course go back into Crown or Government ownership if the theory was proven. Which makes you wonder why the government would want to hinder research into such a theory.’

‘Good point, the Government stands to win, at least in the property stakes.’

‘It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The Clan of Truth may occasionally bring an interesting idea to the table, but they damage their credibility by injecting blatant racism and religious rot through their work. Anyone with a sense of balance in debate steers clear of them.’

‘Well, we’ll have to steer clear of the whale watching too. We don’t have time for that.’ Matt laughed, breaking the tension. ‘We can definitely spare a few minutes to find some fresh seafood for lunch though.’

He drove the car into the main street of town and found a parking spot. They went by foot around a few local eateries and settled on a place with some outdoor seating that offered a view over the coastline. Both of them ordered the fish of the day with chips. Crayfish couldn’t tempt them, it seemed. But then, Matt didn’t really have an appetite at all. He was too busy chewing over what Aimee had been saying. Some disturbing ideas came into his head, but Matt knew he was being silly. Warren wasn’t that disillusioned. Matt put his paranoia aside and stuffed a handful of piping hot chips in his mouth.

CHAPTER 36

Matt eased open the room door and entered the hotel hallway. He was just about to gently tap on Aimee’s door, when she opened it.

‘Your timing is impeccable,’ Matt whispered.

‘Thanks. I wanted to make sure you didn’t have to knock.’

‘I’m sure he can’t hear us. I think he’s on the other side.’

‘Better safe than sorry.’

‘Let’s go then.’

Matt wheeled his case along the hall and out the hotel’s small back door. This place was perfect. It was a big sprawling building on two levels, with a garden courtyard in the middle. The small car park was out the back, which meant that Matt and Aimee could make their run for it without having to go through any lobbies or up and down lifts. They were as quiet as mice.

Out in the car park, their feet made crunching sounds on the fine gravel that was scattered about.

‘Shh,’ Aimee said, ‘don’t you know anything about being stealthy?’

Matt stifled a laugh. They threw their gear in the boot and climbed into the car as quietly as possible. It was ridiculous really, since early-morning noise in a city isn’t exactly unexpected. Matt started the car and crept out of the car park. When they had turned a few more corners and were on a main road south out of town, they finally let out a breath. Matt looked over at Aimee and saw her smiling. Both of them cracked up.

‘I think we’ve lost him for good now. What did you do with the GPS?’ Aimee asked.

‘I took it out of the car when I went and paid the hotel and dumped it in the skip bin out the back.’

‘How are we supposed to know where to go?’ Aimee asked, laughing.

‘There aren’t that many roads in New Zealand. I’ve no idea why anyone would need it anyway.’

‘Which road are we taking, then?’ Aimee asked as they reached an intersection with one road pointing to Dunedin and another pointing east to the Banks Peninsula.

‘It’s too dark to go and look at Warren’s bullaun bowls out at Taylors Mistake,’ Matt said, referring to yet another of the items on Warren’s list. ‘But I’m not interested anyway.’

Matt was no longer driven by his original reason for coming to New Zealand. Now, he was driven by the need to fulfil his father’s destiny. As if somehow that would make up for not finding him sooner or cancel out his death.

‘I’ve only ever heard about stones with hollows and cup marks, never seen any except for in pictures. It might be interesting,’ Aimee said.

‘I doubt it. Truth be told, after what you told me about the Clan of Truth, I’m feeling a bit stupid for not looking into Warren’s ideas more carefully before I came out here.’

‘You think Warren’s involved with the Clan?’

‘No. I doubt it. But there’s just too much speculation and not enough fact. I was naive to come here based on Warren’s word alone. After reading some of the websites that are going on about all of these places, I get the impression that if we go trotting off to all of them, we’ll get painted with the same brush that I’ve painted most of those authors with.’

‘What brush is that?’ Aimee asked.

‘The fruit-loop brush. The Clan of Truth brush. Most of these theories turn from slightly realistic into ridiculous about four hundred words in. Just as you start to get interested in some website or other, the authors decide to throw in that the alignment of rocks vaguely resembles a zodiac or something, or that they have the same measurements as the great pyramid. It’s bloody embarrassing. Even worse, running around looking at these sites of Warren’s without doing some proper research first is far beneath what any decent academic would do.’

Matt felt a bit guilty for slamming Warren’s theories, but he wasn’t directly referring to Warren of course. Rather, he meant the people behind the Clan of Truth, those responsible for creating websites about the supposed Celtic history of New Zealand. He had looked up a few now, and sure enough, as Aimee had said, the same small group of activists were behind most of the pseudo-history websites. Matt wondered how much reach they had. One thing was certain, the way they touted their theories was counter-productive. The racism, the extreme religious views; they took things too far. Matt didn’t want to believe that Warren was deceived by this foolishness or that he was consumed by the hype, but he also had to be realistic. He couldn’t afford to ruin his chance of a good reputation by getting involved in such things. Dwight Pick would love that. Matt refused to give him the satisfaction.

‘So we’ll just head straight to Dunedin then?’ Aimee asked.

‘Not quite. I’d like to stop and have a quick look at the Moeraki Boulders.’

‘Oh yeah, of course, I’d completely forgotten about them. They’re near Dunedin, right?’

‘Practically on the road there,’ Matt answered. He had studied a road atlas while he waited for 2 a.m. to roll around. ‘I think we can be there in about three hours.’

‘Should be about getting light then. Well, not long after. Could be romantic.’ Aimee said. Matt loved the way she teased.

They took the road that led south. The sky was clear, with hundreds of stars to be seen in all directions.

Hemi paid the hotel cashier and trekked off down the long halls to the rear car park exit. He looked down at his watch. 07:30. Good, he still had time before their usual 8 a.m. departure. He knew Dr. Cameron and Aimee were still in the hotel because the GPS was still in range.

‘Oh, fuck me.’ He said. He was the only person to hear it.

Hemi raced over to his car, threw his bag in the back seat, and opened his laptop. The signal was still there. Still strong. Where the hell have you got to? Hemi studied the image on the screen. According to this, you’re right… he lifted his eyes up… there. A skip bin.

He jumped out of the car and charged over to the bin, opened it, and confirmed his fear. The stupid bastards had given him the slip. It almost amused him but he was a little too pissed off for that. Ashamed for allowing two amateurs to get one over on him, Hemi grabbed the GPS and returned to his car. It was bloody obvious that they were going to Dunedin, so Hemi would too. He also knew Aimee intended to get help from her mate at the University of Otago. What better place could Hemi find to make camp and await them? He knew he could get to Dunedin in four hours. Hopefully he wouldn’t be too late.

Matt manoeuvred the car around the little gravel road and into the broad car park at the Moeraki Boulders tea rooms and souvenir shop. The buildings’ roofs were made to look like rounded boulders.

‘Kitsch.’ he said.

‘I love a bit of kitsch. Especially on Wednesday.’

They walked between the two buildings and onto the large wooden terracing that surrounded them. A path lead down to the boulders and a steel post in the middle of it invited them to donate two dollars. They obliged willingly, and started off down the short walk to the beach. A couple of minutes later they stood alone among the boulders. Matt imagined that later in the day they would be surrounded by tourists.

‘What do you think then?’ he asked.

Aimee laughed. ‘Geologists will tell you they’re spectacular examples of septarian concretions. Gavin Menzies and his followers will tell you it’s Chinese ballast.’

Matt remembered his first conversation with Aimee on the flight to New Zealand. She had mentioned Gavin Menzies then and, unbeknownst to her, he had picked up a copy of his controversial book “1421” while in Auckland. He pulled it out now.

‘Menzies refers to some geologists who took samples from the outer rims of the boulders and analyzed them. They say the material is extremely hard in constitution and consequently very difficult to break.’

‘Yeah, and what else?’

‘The sample was much coarser than on natural concretions. They tested to see whether it was close-grained limestone and found that it isn’t carbonate, which is what’s expected in natural concretions. They believe the Moeraki boulders are man-made.’

‘Rightio.’ Aimee smiled, as she pulled some papers out of her bag. ‘I also came prepared.’

‘Two scientists, Boles and Thyne, say that the Moeraki Boulders are composed of calcite-cemented mud with septarian veins of calcite and rare late-stage quartz and ferrous dolomite. That, according to my little bit of research, means that they fit in perfectly with the composition of concretions found in various locations.’ She smiled ferociously now, clearly proud of her little coup.

‘Yet Menzies suggests that these Boulders are far larger than any other such boulders found, with some being two metres in height, and more perfectly spherical than others found anywhere else in the world. Why are similar boulders not found along the complete length of coastline if the conditions and minerals are conducive to producing such forms?’

‘That’s a good question,’ Aimee said.

Matt smiled proudly. He was winning.

‘But I’ve got a better answer.’ Aimee laughed as she flipped to another page of her research. ‘There are even bigger, beautifully spherical boulders to be found in the North Island, on the Hokianga Harbour. The Koutu Boulders. Look at these pictures.’

Matt took the pictures and looked them over. Aimee was right. The pictured concretions were clearly larger than the Moeraki Boulders and were impressive in every way.

‘Have you been to these?’

‘Nup, I’d never heard of them before.’

‘Why aren’t they better known? I’ve seen plenty of references to the Moeraki Boulders in the tourism brochures, but nothing about these,’ he looked at the page, ‘Koutu Boulders.’

‘They’re out in the wop-wops, on a road from nowhere to nowhere. A few hours from Auckland. You can only get to them at low tide, and even then it’s an hour’s walk. You couldn’t drag most tourists there if you paid them.’

‘That explains a lot. So, what’s it to be then? Chinese ballast, or natural wonders?’

‘My vote goes to natural wonders. A game of Geologist’s Petanque,’ Aimee said, smiling.

‘I’m with you.’

They turned and walked up the beach and up the signalled return path to the tea rooms. It was different from the one that brought them down, running through woodland on top of the sand-dunes. Small fan-tailed birds flitted around them and the air smelled of the sea mixed with the freshness of the forest. Satisfied with their brief stop, they jumped in the car and departed for the final hour or so to Dunedin. The view as they came around a corner on the crest of the hill high above the small city was very promising. Matt hoped that the events of the afternoon would be just as promising. But first, they needed to find the nearest hotel and catch up on some sleep.

CHAPTER 37

Saturday, November 13, 1526

The coast continued in a south-west direction. The seascape here was more dramatic than in the north. We stayed further out from the shore in order to avoid any reefs that may be hiding under the choppy seas. The rocky beaches are backed immediately by a range of mountains. Much of the shoreline is steep cliffs. Among the rocks there were many seals to be seen. This made the men restless, as they would desperately like to have stopped to take a few, but the weather and the coastline did not permit it.

I took the decision to steer more directly south again. As we continued over the last few days, we gradually lost sight of the mountains in the distance to the west. I have ordered a change in course back to the south-west and hope that we will see our land again in the next days.

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

Monday, November 15, 1526

Disaster! We have been wrecked. Last night a terrible gale blew up. It was one to contend with the forces of those we encountered around the Estrecho de Magallanes. The winds drove us harder to the west and in the darkness we could see the land looming upon us. There were a few rocky outcrops around us, and some cliffs could be made out in front of us. We saw a beach out to the west a bit further, but couldn’t gain enough control to push towards that. I thought we were going to be smashed against the rocks and all be killed. But God has granted us some favour. We have been beached, and beached hard, on a small stretch of sand near to the larger one we saw. Unlike our previous beaching on the atoll, this time we are not going to be able to merely refloat after disposing of some weight. We are stuck fast on the beach. The carpenters and shipwrights have told me that the damage can be repaired, but that we will be here for at least a month or two before we can refloat the ship. In the meantime, they want to try and bring the ship further up the beach, so they can get better access to work on her. We are not sure how we will do this yet.

Only three men were killed. I do not know how we have been so lucky not to have lost more men, but maybe their good health and strength has played a part. We are all, for the most part, bruised and battered from the ordeal. Our spirits are sinking with fear of what awaits us in the forests. The beach is backed by a small gully. There is a village in the gully and we have already seen natives looking out at us. We have six men on guard, but unfortunately have very little functioning weaponry left. We have to pray that God will stay by our sides and that the natives are friendly.

CHAPTER 38

Matt and Aimee walked to the University from their hotel, which was located opposite the botanic gardens. The walk only took a few minutes and despite the clear, sunny skies, the mild climate made walking a pleasure. Arriving at the campus, they approached a striking modern theatre building and found an information board.

‘History, history, history…’ Aimee muttered as her finger ran down the alphabetical list. ‘History. There you are. F5.18. The Burns Building.’

‘Robbie Burns is my guess.’ Matt smiled, pleased with himself for knowing Dunedin had a strong Scottish heritage.

They memorised the path they would take. It ran alongside a stream which was directly outside the building they were in. Matt liked the look of the cafe that was located between the two, but what caught his eye was the beautiful stone building and clock-tower on the other side of the stream. A sweeping lawn in front of the clock-tower was occupied by summer-school students lazily chatting under weeping willows.

‘That’s pretty,’ Matt said. ‘Old England, Oxford or Cambridge.’

‘We don’t have this in Auckland.’

‘If you like this, you should come to England to study,’ Matt said, sweeping his hand out above the lawn but feeling a little naughty since his university didn’t look quite like this either.

‘Maybe.’ Aimee giggled and looked at Matt with warm eyes. There was a spark in them.

They followed the path past a few ugly seventies’ or eighties’ era blocks before arriving at the impressive glass and concrete library. It was also attractive, but in a different style altogether from the clock tower. Old meets new. A perfect harmony. Shame about the other monsters between the two. Turning to their left, Matt realised with a groan that the ugliest building on campus was their destination. As they walked in and found a lift, Matt mused that it looked more like a hospital or a council estate than a university building.

The directory by the lift listed Aimee’s friend on the second floor. Matt and Aimee took the stairs. Aimee had never met Mary before, but they had communicated at length via e-mail on various projects. Mary specialised in social history of the Pacific and had been a valuable resource for Aimee on more than one occasion. Reaching the door to her office, they peered in and saw the back of a woman wearing a red pullover. Aimee knocked lightly and waited.

‘One moment.’ Mary’s voice carried to the door.

A few seconds later, she turned and faced them.

‘Sorry about that, how can I help?’

‘Are you Mary Easson?’

‘Yes.’

‘Sorry to come unannounced, I’m Aimee, Aimee Kingsbridge. From the Auckland University, History department.’

‘Oh my God,’ Mary said, standing up and reaching out her hand. ‘What a pleasant surprise, what brings you here? Would you like a cuppa?’

‘Sure,’ Aimee answered, watching Mary reach for the kettle regardless of her answer. ‘I’m here on business actually, we need your help. Oh, sorry, this is my friend Dr. Matthew Cameron. He’s British.’

Matt smiled and shook Mary’s hand. He wondered if he’s British was like a warning or something. The thought made him chuckle inwardly.

‘Must be serious for you to come all this way. Normally you just e-mail.’

‘Not serious. Well, not problem serious if you know what I mean. More, fun, interesting serious.’

‘Colour me intrigued,’ Mary said, sitting down pointing to a second chair for Aimee. ‘Tell me more.’

Matthew leaned against a filing cabinet and nodded at Aimee and the chair. She took the offered seat and explained the situation to Mary. She started right from the start, telling Mary about meeting Matt, his friend Warren, Matt finding his father, his father’s research, everything they had agreed upon as they walked here. Mary sat and listened to her intently. She asked all the right questions. Matt could see that Aimee had been right to have placed confidence in help from Mary. She seemed like just the right kind of person.

‘It certainly is interesting,’ Mary said, after Aimee had finished. ‘But you need to be careful, you’re treading on some dangerous ground, especially with the Celtic line of questioning. It’s one thing to suggest that the Spanish made it here before your lot…’ she nodded at Matt. ‘…but completely another to say that someone beat the Maori. Ouch.’

‘I know,’ Aimee said. ‘But we’re definitely putting the Celtic theory right to the side. Matthew is dead keen on finishing his father’s research.’

‘No point in committing career suicide, that’s for sure.’ Matt added.

Mary looked thoughtful.

‘I can’t help you directly myself since I don’t know a lot about any oral histories that the local Maori may have. Most likely ninety-nine percent of them don’t either anymore. But if you can get to talk to some of the elders, the Kaumatua, there would surely be someone who can remember the stories of their fathers. Would you like me to arrange a meeting with some of them?’

‘Can you do that?’ Aimee asked. ‘That would be amazing.’

‘Not by myself, but let me have a chat with one of my colleagues.’

Mary picked up her phone and dialled an internal number. She chatted with whoever answered and explained that she had a colleague here from Auckland who would very much like to meet with some Kaumatua to discuss the Maori history of the region. She implied that the two researchers wanted a really authentic feel for what the Maori believed, not just the standard text-book stuff. Could she set something up? Mary went quiet as she listened to her friend.

‘Ok,’ Mary finally said into the receiver. ‘I’ll hear from you in five then.’

Matt joined Aimee in looking at Mary imploringly as she hung up the phone.

‘She’ll call someone and call me back.’

‘That’s brilliant. Thanks, Mary.

‘We’re a close-knit bunch down here. Honestly, everyone knows everyone around this place. The advantage of a smaller city.’

‘Yeah, I like the look of Dunedin and I’ve only been here 40 minutes.’

‘Give it a few days and you’ll love it. I used to live in Auckland too, fifteen years in all. I’d never go back now. I live out in a lovely wee village on the harbour with views of the water and artists for neighbours. There are a few little restaurants and cafes and occasional cruise ships. It’s perfect.’

‘Sounds like my kind of place,’ Matt said.

The small talk continued until the phone interrupted them.

‘Mary Easson,’ she answered. There was a pause as she listened to her colleague. ‘Sure. Thanks Jo, you’re a legend. Yeah, I’ll let them know. I owe you one.’

Mary hung up the phone and smiled at Aimee.

‘You’ve got an appointment here at the cafe in the library building at 10am, the day after tomorrow. How does that sound?’

‘Perfect,’ Aimee answered.

Perfect, Matt silently agreed. It sounded absolutely perfect.

CHAPTER 39

Matt woke with a start. The fire alarm was going off. He leapt out of bed and raced towards the door. He had to get Aimee out of there. Then he came to his senses. That fire alarm sounded an awful lot like his mobile phone ringtone. He looked back at the bedside table. Next to the clock, which stated 5:03 in bold red illumination, his mobile was ringing, glowing and vibrating it’s way perilously close to the edge. Matt walked back, still shaking with adrenaline, and picked it up. Bloody Dwight Pick!

‘Good morning, Dwight,’ Matt said, through gritted teeth.

‘Good evening, Matt.’

‘Not here it isn’t. You gave me a damn heart attack. Don’t you ever think checking what time it is here?’

‘Huh? That’s not important. We need to talk.’

Here we go. Matt sat down on the edge of the bed and prepared himself for another lecture. Dwight didn’t sound like he was going to leap in with praise for Matt’s work.

‘Talk away. I’m listening.’

‘I’ve been looking into this theory that the Spanish discovered New Zealand. It’s diverting stuff.’

‘What?’ Matt wasn’t sure he heard that right. Was Dwight telling him he was interested in his work?

‘Well, I found some books in the library and read through some issues of the Journal of Pacific History, and like I say it’s diverting stuff.’

‘Diverting?’

‘Yeah. The theory has been well investigated, and by some serious academics, no less. Compared to your Celtic stuff, this is much more viable.’

Matt let out a big breath.

‘That’s great, Dwight. I’m glad you’re OK with what I’m doing now. It’s a relief to know that my job isn’t in jeopardy anymore.’

‘I said it’s more viable than the other lot. I didn’t say you’re off the hook.’

‘What?’

‘All but a handful of the scholars who studied the Spanish theories have refuted them as nothing more than a fancy. The couple that support them, or created them no less, don’t have a leg to stand on.’

Matt stared at the wall. This couldn’t be happening again.

‘I’ve also looked into those theories and I’m happy that what I’ve seen is evidence enough to take a deeper look.’

‘Don’t be silly, Matt. Nearly every New Zealand academic worth his salt has confirmed that the Maori were first, the Dutch came but left, and then the English settled. Why whip a dead horse?’

Dwight was asking for it.

‘I’m going to whip a dead horse, because there’s a chance I can bring it back to life. You should try it sometime, Dwight. Real research. It doesn’t mean sitting on your laurels relying on everyone else’s work to find the truth. Sometimes, you have to get off your ass and actually dig a hole.’

Matt knew he was digging a hole, right now.

‘I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. But keep it up and you’ll be coming home to that second warning and your final pay slip.’

‘You can’t do that and you know it. You’ve no grounds for dismissal. I’m doing my job, conducting research out on the field. It’s what the university pays me for.’

Matt pressed the end button on his mobile as hard as he could. That was the problem with mobiles; you couldn’t slam the phone down in someone’s ear anymore. He remained on the edge of the bed and took deep breaths. He hoped he hadn’t made the situation worse, but he knew he was right. He looked at the clock again. No point in going back to sleep, he couldn’t anyway. Instead, he pulled on some sneakers and a tracksuit and went for a jog around the university campus.

It was Matt’s first day off in over a week. OK, the whole trip so far had sort of been like a holiday, but today was even better. Today, they were literally going to do nothing. That is, nothing to do with researching a pseudo-history. No Celts, no Spaniards, and no visits to the university. Well, aside from his one hour phone call with Julia this morning, where he had updated her on everything and discussed the Dwight incident. But now it was leisure time.

Aimee sat on the sofa in Matt’s room, and was doubled over, tying her shoes in the most complex fashion Matt had ever seen. Making two loops and creating a bow by crossing them through each other. Somehow.

‘Where did you learn to tie your shoes like that?’

‘No idea. My parents deny it was either of them, so maybe it was a school teacher.’

‘I’ve never seen shoes tied that way before.’

‘I get that a lot, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they stay on and we can go for our walk.’ Aimee sprang up from the couch and announced she was ready to go.

The phone rang.

‘Matthew Cameron.’ Matt said, wondering who would be calling him here.

‘Good morning Dr. Cameron, it’s Janice from reception here. We have a package for you to collect at the front desk when you have a chance.’

‘Thanks. I’ll be down in a minute.’

Five minutes later, Matt and Aimee locked the car and walked in the direction of the botanic garden.

‘It’s a bit creepy, isn’t it?’ Aimee asked.

‘I guess so. He was bound to find us though. Just how he found our hotel and all… I’m not sure. But it goes to show that he’s a decent guy after all.’

‘What, how so?’

‘He wouldn’t have returned the GPS if he wasn’t worried about us getting lost.’ Matt laughed.

Aimee thumped him on the arm. ‘Or if he wasn’t worried about losing us!’

As she got closer when she thumped him, Matt couldn’t ignore the fragrance that followed her. It was subtle and very pleasing. Even as they entered the botanic gardens, and walked amongst the roses near the entrance, that fragrance was still present. Matt couldn’t help but be drawn back to the daydream he had about Aimee and the lighthouse. He hadn’t really thought about it since he heard of his father’s death. It was as if he was trying to be respectful or something. But now, it came rushing back, complete with beautiful rose gardens around the lighthouse.

‘Oh look, they have an aviary,’ Matt said, trying to distract himself as they walked past a group of signs pointing in all directions. ‘Let’s go have a look up there.’

The path crossed the gardens passed a small stage and climbed up a steep hillside through an alpine-style garden. Much of the hillside was tiered, affording visitors the chance to sit and observe whatever might be on the stage below. Huge conifers towered over them, splattering them with shade and softening the paths with fallen needles. It was all that Matt could do not to take Aimee’s hand. But he held back. He should wait for a sign.

The aviary complex was quite large. A chorus of diverse squawks and whistles greeted them as they went from cage to cage. It made Matt smile. Just like people, some of the birds were very showy, ruffling their colourful feathers and loudly staking their places. Others were quiet and subdued in their beauty. Aimee was like the latter. He liked that.

‘There was a cafeteria down the bottom. Should we head around the Rhododendron Dell and then get something for a picnic?’ Aimee asked.

‘I’d like that.’

‘Alright, I think we have to go this way then,’ she said, taking his hand, and leading him along a path.

Matt looked down at his hand. It felt so right, he prayed she wouldn’t let go. As they continued walking, Matt noticed that he kept giving involuntary squeezes. Aimee squeezed back and stopped.

‘Are you alright, Matt?’

Guilt kicked in. He was over-squeezing.

‘What do you mean?’

‘With your father.’

‘Oh.’ Not the squeezing then.

Aimee was waiting for an answer.

‘Yes, I guess I am.’

‘You’ve been quieter since you heard. You weren’t interested in going to the bullauns near Christchurch, you seem down. I’ve been worried about you.’

Matt felt Aimee squeeze his hand affectionately. She was still holding his hand!

‘I’ll be alright. Sorry if I’ve been a bit distant.’

‘Don’t apologise, it’s natural. I just want to make sure you’re OK.’

‘I’m OK when I’m with you,’ he said, looking her straight in the eyes.

She held his gaze. ‘Good, talk to me. Let’s see these rhododendrons and we can talk as we walk.’

They walked on through the Rhododendron Dell as Matt opened up with his thoughts. He was relieved to get things off his chest, and the walking helped too. Double the therapy. It was very pretty. Up on the hillside, nice green lawns, and more variety in colour than Matthew could comprehend. Rose would have loved it. The path that led back to the cafe dropped gently down the face of the wooded hillside. The shelter it provided from the sun, and the breeze, made it a lovely stroll. They arrived at the cafeteria and picked out some sandwiches and a bottle of juice each, and went in search of a quiet place to sit. They found an uninhabited tree alongside the water gardens. It was perfect.

‘It’s probably easier to accept, since I didn’t know him,’ Matt said, as he sat down on the freshly clipped lawn.

‘Did you really have no contact with him at all, your whole life, up until two weeks ago?’

‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And now I have to ask myself if my mother is to blame.’

‘I can’t imagine growing up without my Dad.’

Matt welcomed the chance to change the topic slightly. ‘Were you ever in one of your Dad’s classes in school? Or do they try to avoid that?’

‘It’s not encouraged. But yeah, once I was in Dad’s class. Sixth form Geo.’

‘It must have been great seeing him in action. I mean, you get to know your Dad as a father and as a professional.’

‘It was interesting, but we had to remain distant. No favouritism or anything. I called him Mr Kingsbridge like everyone else. It was probably easier for him, because he was always dealing with the bad kids at the back.’

‘You had trouble in the school?’

‘Our fair share of it, yeah. There are a few poorer Maori communities in the school’s catchment area. Unfortunately, with the really sweet and good kids that you found there came a handful of tough warrior types. Dad always had to go to the back of the class to deal with them… oh my God!’ Aimee sat bolt upright.

‘What?’ Matthew asked, frantically looking around him to see what had alarmed her so.

‘I’ve just realised where I know him from. Hemi, our Maori guy, the one following us.’

‘From school?’ Matt asked, scarcely believing it could be possible. ‘Hemi was one of those rough Maori kids?’

‘No. Well yes, but no. Yes, he was at school with me, in my geography class. But no, he wasn’t one of the tough kids and his name isn’t Hemi. It’s Drew, Drew King.’

‘And he wasn’t one of the tough kids?’

‘Not at all. He was a chubby little Maori kid. Really sweet and quiet. You hardly would have noticed him if it wasn’t for the other Maori kids giving him a hard time. But he just took it all on his chin and worked hard on his schoolwork. His Dad was a tough cop. He got killed. I can’t believe I didn’t recognise him sooner.’

‘He doesn’t seem like the chubby quiet type to me,’ Matt said, nodding across the water, and watching Aimee as she followed his gaze and also spotted Hemi, Drew, as he ran by for the umpteenth time.

‘No, he’s changed a lot, I hardly recognise him anymore. But that’s definitely Drew.’

‘Do you think he’s dangerous?’

‘I can’t imagine it. Not unless he pent up a lot of anger over the years of bullying. Nah, I reckon Drew is one of the good guys.’

‘I guess we have to wait and see.’

‘Yeah.’ Aimee nodded and took another bite from her chicken sandwich.

They finished their meal and watched the ducks aimlessly float from side to side. Matt decided he really liked Dunedin. It was peaceful, pretty, green, and boasted history that he hadn’t seen elsewhere in New Zealand. That, and his hand still tingled from Aimee’s touch. With any luck, they would stick around for a few days.

CHAPTER 40

Matt and Aimee scanned the comfortable looking chairs trying to identify the men they were to meet. It was the summer break in New Zealand. But despite there not being all that many people in the large atrium that neighboured the university library, no one looked up to greet them.

‘Could it be that couple over there?’ Aimee asked, indicating in the direction of the cafe counter near the other end of the hall.

‘I don’t know, I was expecting two older Maori men, lots of tattoos and really hard faces. You’re the Kiwi, what do you think?’

‘We better ask. It would be terrible to miss them based on a silly prejudice.’

Aimee led the way across the room and approached the laughing couple that they had observed.

‘Pardon me.’ Aimee started. ‘We’re meant to be meeting some…’

Before she could finish, the lady, perhaps in her sixties, leapt out of her chair and reached out her hand.

‘You must be Aimee. My name is Matawai Blake, you can call me Matawai.’

Then, much to Matt’s confusion, Matawai leaned in and touched her nose to each side of Aimee’s. She must have seen Matt’s confused look. ‘What’s your friend’s name, Aimee? He looks like he’s about to cry.’

Aimee laughed.

‘Matawai, meet Matthew Cameron. He’s British.’

‘Ah right. We’ll forgive you then, eh Andrew?’ Matawai turned to her friend and let out a laugh like Matt had never heard before in his life. Sort of like a subtle foghorn that increased in tone four times. She reached out her hand and shook Matt’s. Then, pulling him in, she said ‘It’s called a Hongi, Matthew, it’s one of the ways we greet friends.’

‘Oh, thanks,’ Matt said, doing his best to return his first Hongi.

The greetings continued between Matt, Aimee and Andrew. Then everyone took a seat at the table.

‘Your name is Andrew?’ Matt asked. ‘Were you not given a Maori name?’

‘No, no, no, yeah… I got a Maori name alright. It’s Anaru, Maori for Andrew.’

‘Oh right. I hadn’t realised that there were Maori equivalents of English names.’

‘There’s a lot. Rawiri for David, Tipene for Stephen, Erihapeti for Elizabeth. Plenty of original Maori names to choose from too, but.’

Matt found this very interesting, but he knew he had to get away from the small talk before it got uncomfortable and move on to the reason they were here. He also didn’t want to waste Matawai and Andrew’s time. He wasn’t sure how to change the subject without looking rude, so he was relieved when Matawai did it for him.

‘So I don’t reckon you got us to come in here to talk about Anaru and Maori names. What can we do you for?’

Matt looked at Aimee, hoping she would start things off. She would surely know how to go about this tactfully. Certainly, she was better equipped to tackle this than he was. She took her cue.

‘We want to discuss the history of the region and the local Maori with you. We would like to hear about your oral traditions. What stories have you had passed down from your fathers? Stuff like that.’

‘What sort of stuff in particular?’ Andrew asked, leaning forward and looking interested.

‘It might be a bit of a touchy subject,’ Aimee said, a nervous twinge to her voice.

‘Don’t worry about us girl, we’re big kids, touch away.’ Matawai said, as she glanced over to Andrew.

Aimee looked at Matt. His turn. He now leaned forward a little closer too, he didn’t really want everyone else in the atrium hearing what he was about to say.

‘We want to know if there are any oral traditions of white people living amongst you, or visiting, before the British came.’

Andrew sat bolt upright, sucking in his breath with shock. The look on his face said it all. Horror. Matawai also sat back, exhaling and looking thoughtful. Matt looked at Aimee, who looked like she was holding back tears. He didn’t even want to know how pale he had turned at their reaction. He felt sick. Five or six seconds passed, then Matt got the shock of his life when Matawai and Andrew glanced at each other and burst out laughing. Two foghorns repeating their merry scales for a good thirty seconds or more. Matawai composed herself first.

‘Oh God,’ she said, through lighter laughs and visibly struggling to catch her breath. ‘We love doing that. You white fullas fall for it every time.’

Andrew was still laughing, but he held up his hand to signal to Matt his agreement. He clearly needed longer to get his breath and seemed to relive the joke every few seconds and started up again and again. Eventually he settled.

‘We’ve got no problem talking about these stories, Matthew. There are some born-again Maoris who would rather not know about them, but us older folk haven’t forgotten.’

‘Born-again Maoris?’

‘Some of the young’uns. They don’t give a toss for Maoridom their whole lives, then they go get a degree and decide that they want to make a difference. They become a born-again Maori and start fighting for our rights. But mostly, they don’t represent us at all, they don’t even know what it is to be a Maori. They just want to be important somehow. A whole lot of noise. Mostly a problem up north, Wellington, Auckland.’

‘Oh. I see.’

‘So what stories have you got?’ Aimee asked. ‘Anything about earlier visitors?’

‘Yeah,’ Matawai answered, turning to Andrew. ‘Your Dad told you the same stories too? About the ones out on the peninsula?’

‘He did. They came a long time ago on a big canoe, that’s how the story went. Now we know it was a ship, of course, but we tell it like our ancestors told it. So, a big canoe.’

‘What happened?’ Matt asked.

‘Don’t know exactly,’ Matawai said. ‘My uncle told me that many years ago, maybe four or more generations before Cook came, a big canoe arrived on the Peninsula. The white men on the canoe were friendly and came to stay with the people here. They were welcomed into the tribe and had families. They lived in a village near a beach and there was a cave above the beach with their special things. After many years, they wanted to take their canoe and look up and down the coasts. They left their wives and children behind and sailed away, promising to come back. They were never seen again.’

‘And their wives and children?’

‘Lived among the Maori, as Maori. Their wives were Maori anyhow. They didn’t come with woman, only men.’

‘That’s amazing,’ Matt said. ‘Do you believe it?’

Matawai laughed. ‘Of course I believe it. We don’t make up stories like this. This is our people’s history.’

‘Why isn’t stuff like this more known? Why don’t you tell the stories to others?’ Aimee asked.

‘We have. This was all common knowledge years ago, but people forget. No one is interested. All they have to do is come and ask.’

Matt sat there bewildered. They had merely met with two Kaumatua and already they had been told of white people living amongst them before Cook. How many others must there be? What would possess a country to not speak with their natives and find out their version of events? It beggared belief.

‘So this happened out on the peninsula?’ Matt asked. ‘You mean the Otago Peninsula then?’

‘Not many others out here,’ Andrew said, laughing. ‘I reckon if you go out there and ask around, you’ll find out even more. We’re from a little further south of here. It wasn’t our people’s story.’

‘We’ll do just that,’ Aimee said. ‘Tomorrow.’

Matt and Aimee said their thanks and goodbyes to the friendly Maori pair. He wondered if they were married, or just good friends from the same place. It didn’t matter. They were obviously as close as family. He was struck by the affection that he had witnessed and by how friendly the Maori were. He hadn’t known what to expect. His constant incidences with Hemi had put him on guard. But now he knew, despite a minority of bad examples, there was a fantastic group of people in New Zealand that he would love to have the chance to learn more about. Maybe tomorrow would bring him that opportunity.

***

Hemi had observed the meeting between Matt, Aimee and the Maori couple from the mezzanine floor of the atrium. This time, he had gone unnoticed. Or so he thought. The problem with the whole GPS scenario was not losing his prey, but being unaware of their plans. When he saw the Maori couple that met with Matt and Aimee, he had to ask a student if she knew who they were. Thankfully he had spotted a Maori girl at a table upstairs and she immediately recognised them as Kaumatua from her tribe. Hemi had too much respect for his elders to get in the way of a meeting like that. He wanted to lay low and let things take their course. Hopefully Matt and Aimee could learn something valuable to their research here today. Thank God Warren Rennie wasn’t about to witness this. Speaking of which, it was time to touch base with Warren again. He had managed not to contact him since Nelson so Hemi knew that Warren would probably be pissed. Hemi still wanted to suck Warren into a trap by getting him mad, but likewise he hoped that nothing would get in Matt and Aimee’s way of successfully completing their research. He had to play his cards carefully. Watching Matt and Aimee leave the building, he took his mobile from his pocket and selected Warren from his contacts list.

‘Hemi!’ The phone was answered by an angry and blunt voice. ‘Decided to get back in touch, did ya? I wondered how long it would take you.’

‘Yeah, sorry. I’ve been rather busy.’

‘Not half as busy as I have son. Doing all your work for you. Where are you? What’s happening?’

‘I’m at the University of Otago. Observing Dr. Cameron.’

‘What’s he doing in Dunedin? Did he go to Moeraki? What about the Banks Peninsula? Waihopai?’

‘He went to Moeraki and Waihopai,’ Hemi said.

‘Uhuh, and now he’s in Dunedin, eh? And what’s he doing there?’

‘I’m not sure exactly.’ Hemi lied. He didn’t like the sound of Warren’s voice. He was mocking him. Hemi wasn’t mocked.

‘He wouldn’t be chasing up his father’s theories would he?’

‘I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. He could be looking for more Celtic stuff. Big Scottish community you know.’

‘Then why was he having morning-tea with two Maori elders?’

Shit. Hemi spun around and scanned the lobby. Warren had to be here, or had been here. He couldn’t possibly know that Matt had been with the Kaumatua, could he?

‘Why so quiet, Hemi?’

‘Where are you?’

‘That’s not important boy. You haven’t been taking care of your part of the bargain so I’ve come to sort it out for you. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

‘Where, when?’ Hemi asked, continuing his room-scan but still coming up empty.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll find you.’

The line went dead.

Hemi slipped the phone back in his pocket and lifted himself off the chair. As he walked out of the building, trying to look as relaxed as possible, he stole glances in every which direction that he could. Warren was here. Somewhere. Either that or he had someone else in his employ. That was a possibility Hemi didn’t want to have to consider. But he knew he had to now.

CHAPTER 41

Wednesday, November 17, 1526

Our fears were unfounded. The local natives have proven to be friendly and welcoming, although wary at first. It would seem they have never seen a ship like ours. Their canoes are much smaller and certainly wouldn’t be suitable for crossing an ocean. The colour of our skin is also of much amusement to them. The native men have strong looking bodies wrapped in a very dark brown skin. They have black hair, often a black beard, white teeth, and a few have markings upon their faces. The older men appear to have more markings. Most of the men have none at all. The women mostly appear to wear their hair long, though a few of the older woman have it cut short.

The natives go about in an array of clothing or with none at all. The clothing they do wear is often basic, made out of a broad leafed grass that we have seen much of. They all wear pieces of shell or stone hanging from the ears and in chains around their necks. Some of the men wear two or three long white feathers in their hair when they are clothed. The women often wear a comb in their hair. The combs are made from bone or wood. There seems to be much respect for the older men from the younger.

We are struggling with finding a common language for communication. I tried Spanish, a few words of French, some English too. But the natives don’t appear to have had any contact with Europeans before, as I expected. We have, therefore, fallen back on signals. A lot of pointing and the slow pronunciation of words, that we might come to understand each other.

We have given them some of the sweet potato plants that we brought with us and these have been quickly planted, along with a few other specimens we had on board. The women were delighted with this gift. In return, we were rewarded with some very good fish and we have been shown where we can take water from the stream.

I think we will be able to get the ship onto the beach here and make repairs in a safe haven. At least for now, we have a good neighbourly relationship with the land’s people. I hope to be able to observe them more and to learn more about their ways.

Thursday, December 2, 1526

Communication with the natives is getting much stronger. The people call themselves Waitaha. Their leader, a stout man who has spent much time with me, patiently showing me around his small valley and beach, goes by the name ‘Tane.’ It has been made clear by his actions that we are welcome here. Not only have they invited us to eat with them by the fire, but Tane also had his strongest men help us to bring the ship up onto the beach. This was achieved through the cutting of some round logs and using some ropes and levers accompanied by the brute force of a huge group of men to move the ship on the highest tide.

We are now in a position to properly set to repairs. The carpenters and shipwrights have assembled a team of ready and able men for this job. The other men and I will go about exploring the surrounding forests and beaches with our new friends. We will go hunting and fishing and build up a good stock for our onward journey. Some of the men have agreed to bring the natives to our Christian faith. The people will be better and happier with our God than without him. I have been told to expect to be here for two months.

CHAPTER 42

‘So, the elders said these white people lived out on the peninsula?’ Aimee asked, opening a local tourism map out on the breakfast table.

‘Yeah. Let’s go to this Otakau marae,’ he pointed at the map, ‘and see if anyone can shed more light on it.’

Matt repeated their conversation with Matawai and Andrew in his head. It was exciting stuff. His father would have been rapt to hear they’d found out more about the rumoured white people.

‘It looks like this road is fastest,’ Aimee said, pointing to Highcliff Road on the map. ‘But the one around the waterfront looks prettier.’

‘I’m with you, let’s make the most of it.’

They finished their breakfast and got straight on the road. As they drove behind the railway station, Matt admired the pretty building.

‘It’s a Dunedin landmark,’ Aimee said. ‘Only that yellow tourist train runs through now though. It goes through some local gorge.

Matt was distracted from the station by the Chinese garden. He made a mental note to visit that if he had a chance. Matt loved Asian gardens. After these two pretty sights, the potential beauty of the harbourside was marred by an awful industrial area.

‘I can’t think of many cities with such a beautiful harbour that have managed to do so little with it,’ he said. ‘There’s so much potential here.’

‘Yeah, they could make some nice parkland, apartments, a few cafes and restaurants, maybe even a promenade. It would be stunning.’

They continued on in silence until they reached the edge of town. Cliffs rose over them on the right, and the harbour hugged the curvy road on the left.

‘This is more like it,’ Aimee said.

What a great road.’

Thirty minutes later Matt fell out of love with the road. Not the scenery, that was perfect. But he had to concentrate so hard on the narrow, winding road that it was a little tiring. After the small village of Portobello, the road straightened out and before long they drove across open countryside beside a golf course. As they arrived back at the water’s edge, Matt saw the sign for Otakau Marae. He turned the car into Tamatea Road and parked at a little gravel area by the marae’s entrance.

‘Let’s go see if we can find someone,’ he said.

They walked around the marae for a while but didn’t see anybody. They even knocked on the door of a nearby house, but there was no answer.

‘Looks like no one’s home,’ Matt said. He felt deflated.

‘They might be at work.’

‘Well, we’re out here now, let’s have a look around and see what we can find on our own. Maybe we can find a beach with a cave above it! If not, a little sightseeing never hurt. We can try here again later.’

Aimee’s face answered his suggestion without a need for words.

Matt and Aimee studied their Otago Peninsula tourist map.

‘There’s too many beaches. Let’s stick to the ones that are close to the roads.’ Matt said.

‘Rightio, and I’d like to see the lighthouse and albatross colony. It’s close to here.’

‘My picks are these cliffs; Lovers Leap and the Chasm, they sound ominous,’ Matt said, grinning cheekily.

‘What about Larnach Castle?’ Aimee asked.

‘I’ve seen plenty of castles before. Besides, this one doesn’t even appear to be old. But if you want to see New Zealand’s only castle, we can go.’

‘Dunno really, how much does it cost?’

Matt read from the brochure. ‘Twenty-five dollars for the castle and gardens. Just the garden is ten.’

‘What?’ Aimee said, her face full of shock. ‘The botanic gardens were free, let’s skip it.’

Matt laughed and agreed. Seems like Kiwis were as inclined to complain about the price of tourism as the English were, and he understood Aimee’s point. If you had the chance to visit castles in England, Scotland, Wales, France… oh the list goes on… why would you pay so much to visit a one-hundred-and-forty year old building in Dunedin? Especially when the university clock tower building was just as old?

They drove off to their first destination. A lot of the roads weren’t sealed. Instead, big gravel stones rolled around under the tyres and a huge dust cloud followed them. It needn’t matter though, since they met no oncoming traffic once they left the main roads. The peninsula was an explorer’s dream. Virtually no one about, beautiful windswept scenery, stunning beaches, and good views. They parked next to one other car and climbed out in preparation for a short signposted walk through the forest.

‘Oh God, wait a sec,’ Aimee said, ducking her head back into the car. She withdrew herself with her hands firmly gripping a familiar purple pullover.

‘Are we meeting your Mum out here?’ Matt asked, smiling from ear to ear.

‘Sometimes it comes in handy for keeping warm too.’ Aimee poked her tongue out at Matt and put the pullover on. Matt couldn’t help but tease her, but he had to admit the wind was crisp and brisk. He locked the car and they walked off in search of Lovers Leap.

‘What a beautiful alley,’ Aimee said, as she walked next to Matt through the forest. Her hand brushed against his with every sway back and forward. If he wasn’t such a wimp, Matt would have caught it and held on forever. They broke free from the trees and were greeted by a beautiful little wooden woolshed on their right. But it was the view to the left that captured Matt’s attention. Long tussock grass, sheep roaming the fields, and beyond a handful of trees that were bent over ninety degrees from the enduring winds, a beautiful and completely empty beach.

‘We’re so going there next,’ Aimee said.

They hurried over the hillside towards two wooden platforms which hung over dramatic cliff-top locations. The Chasm was particularly impressive, and made you wonder how many sheep, or people, had fallen off. Only a thin wire fence stood between the fields and certain death. But the cliffs couldn’t hold them anymore, that beach was calling.

‘I guess at least we can enjoy a walk,’ Matt said, thirty minutes later, as he pulled his sock back on to warm his now freezing toe.

‘I tried to warn you,’ Aimee said, laughing. ‘We aren’t exactly on a tropical island.

‘I should know better. It’s the same back home.’

They walked along the beach and studied the cliffs above them. No caves here. Not up high anyway. There were a few nooks and crannies down at the beach level though and in one they found some penguins. They also walked past a few sleeping sea lions. Aimee warned Matt to keep a respectable distance. Eventually they returned through the lupine-covered sand dunes to the car and drove to the Albatross Colony. They parked and took a quick look at the view over the cliffs and towards the lighthouse before heading into the visitor centre.

‘Should we do the tour?’ Aimee asked.

‘I’d quite like just to sit on the beach down there,’ Matt said, pointing down to a beach near the car park. ‘But you go on the tour.’

‘Nah, let’s just hang out down there.’

They followed the sign to ‘Pilot Beach.’ Close to where the water gently lapped on the shore, two kayakers paddled around in circles.

‘Stop.’ Aimee threw her arm across his chest.

Matt looked down. Another step and he would have caved in a hole in the ground. A rabbit’s burrow, perhaps.

‘That’s a penguin nest,’ Aimee said. ‘We need to keep our eyes open here. The young may be in there while the parents go fishing.’

‘That’s incredible,’ Matt said, bending over and peering into the hole, and indeed seeing and smelling the penguin occupants.

‘I don’t know who’s having more fun out there,’ Aimee said. ‘The kayakers or the seals.’

‘Seals?’ Matt asked, looking up, and then he saw them. Playing among the kayaks were three or four, yes four, seals. They twirled and twisted around like synchronised swimmers, amusing Matt with their fluidity. Aimee pointed at a patch of grass sitting up on the rock-walled edge of the beach.

‘Looks just right,’ Matt said, as they collapsed down to a sitting position where they could relax and watch the seals play.

They took up their places on the grass and Matt was just about to start a meaningless conversation when Aimee came to the party with a dreaded line.

‘I’ve been thinking, Matt, and we need to talk.’

Matt felt the blood drain from his face. He had been waiting for this. The moment where Aimee would tell him that it couldn’t work. Him in England, her in New Zealand, I just think of you as a friend, you’re like my brother. All that stuff. He propped himself up in preparation, ready for the blow.

‘It just feels… right. Being with you. It’s… comfortable. I like you.’

The warmth crept back to Matt’s cheeks. Had he heard that right?

‘You do?’

‘Of course! You’re a sweet guy.’

Blood-cheek restoration complete.

‘I fell in love with you on the flight.’ Matt felt his cheeks overfill with blood as he let that line slip. What a charmer.

‘I think I did too. You I mean. You know what I mean. But, I don’t know how it could work. You know, the distance thing. I don’t think distance relationships are for me.’

Plug pulled. Blood rushes out again.

‘Is there a way we can make it work? What if I moved out here?’

‘No. You can’t move out here, your job is too important. If anyone’s going to think of moving, it’s me.’

‘Are you serious?’

‘I’d have to be, and that’s what I want to talk about.’

‘OK.’

‘If we were going to give this a try, I mean a serious try, then I’d have to move out to the UK. I assume I can transfer my studies there.’

‘That would be no problem.’

‘But I wouldn’t be lifting my roots for a fling. I need to know that you’re serious, one hundred percent. I want you to think about this too. If you’ve got any doubts, I need to know.’

‘I can assure you, one hundred percent. Right now, I have no doubts. If that changes you’ll be the first to know.’

‘OK.’

Matt looked at Aimee blankly.

‘OK what?’ he asked.

‘OK, I’m going to really think about it. I’ll look into transferring my studies. I’ll talk with my parents, get advice from friends, and if it all pans out right I’ll come to the UK.’ She paused. ‘But if I come it’s the real deal, a serious commitment, are you prepared for that?’

‘Aimee,’ Matt said, grabbing her hand, finally making the first move. ‘If you come out to England to be with me, for us, I’d marry you.’

‘You’ve only known me a few weeks!’

‘I knew the day we met.’

Aimee said nothing. She reached over and ran a finger down his cheek. Then, leaning in to him, her lips met with his in what was the most beautiful kiss Matt had ever experienced. The kayakers and the seals all vanished into the background. All that Matt could see now was a restored lighthouse, a rose garden, Aimee and their child running towards him.

Snap out of it Matt, she has to decide to come first. Just enjoy the bloody kiss.

And he did.

With dinner out of the way, and a good dinner it was too, it was time to go back to Otakau Marae and see if they could find someone to talk too. Matt led the way to the marae’s buildings and could fairly quickly see that there was no one about.

‘Let’s try that house again. Maybe someone is home and they can help,’ he suggested.

They walked the few steps to the neighbouring green weatherboard house and knocked on the door. There were sounds of movement, banging, and the shuffling of feet. They waited. Eventually, the door was opened by a beautiful old Maori woman. She stood a good forty centimetres shorter than Matthew. Yet she had the look of someone that could run rings around the best of them.

‘Good evening,’ Matthew said. ‘I hope we aren’t disturbing you.’

‘What are you lot doing here?’ The woman asked, her voice impatient and angry. ‘It isn’t even Saturday for God’s sakes. How many times do I have to tell you religious lot that I ain’t interested?’

The door was closing in a swift movement. Aimee blurted out her words just before it met the frame.

‘We aren’t religious, we’re interested in the marae!’

The door opened slightly.

‘The marae, you say?’

‘Yes,’ Aimee said. ‘I’m from Auckland and my friend is British. We saw the beautiful marae on our way out to the Albatross place and just had to ask about it.’

The door opened fully.

‘Why didn’t you say so? Come in, come in.’ She stood aside and waved her arm to show them into the hall. ‘Why didn’t you stop by earlier? More light, you would have seen more when I give you the tour.’

‘You’ll give us a tour?’ Matt said, trying to sound like an excited tourist, but most likely failing miserably. ‘That’s great, thanks.’

‘We tried, but no one was home.’ Aimee answered.

‘I was here all day,’ the lady said, looking confused. ‘Oh… it must have been when I was up the back picking wild berries for my pudding. My name’s May, anyway.’

The introduction round followed and small talk about a holiday in New Zealand was discussed. It seemed they were going along with this plot. Maybe Aimee figured it would go down better with May if they don’t mention their real reason for interest in the marae.

‘You best come and have a look around the place before it starts getting dark,’ May said, leading them out of the house.

The tour was thorough. May knew every part of the marae as if she was born there. Turned out she was. During the next hour they learned about the meaning of the carvings on the church and the meeting house. They looked at a blue stone in the church wall and heard how it had been removed from the first white man’s house of the area. Aimee was interested to hear that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by two of the local chiefs on a ship just off-shore. Despite having not intended to get the grand tour, Matt thoroughly enjoyed it and was not at all impatient to get to the point of their visit. But when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped for the chance.

‘You said the first building on the marae was the old church, and that it was built in 1864. Did your people live on the peninsula before then?’

‘Of course, there was many villages all over Muaupoko, our name for the peninsula.’

‘Was everyone who lived among you from just your tribe? Or did different groups live together?’

‘What do you mean exactly?’ May asked, looking a little more serious now.

‘We heard from some Kaumatua that there were stories of white people living on Muaupoko long before Cook arrived,’ Aimee answered. She managed to be tactful even with that information.

May laughed. ‘Oh, them, that wasn’t on Muaupoko.’

‘It wasn’t?’ Matt was shattered.

‘Nah.’ She laughed again and pointed over Matt’s shoulder, towards the harbour. ‘That was over there, over past Port Chalmers, down at Murdering Beach.’

‘Murdering Beach? Who was murdered?’

‘Some Pakehas, back in the early 1800s. They were sealers.

‘Oh.’

‘They’re not your Pakehas though. The ones you’re on about are the ones from way back. I know the story well. Koro told me all about them. They must have been there too, cause Koro never lied.’

‘Koro?’ Matt asked, feeling dumber every minute.

‘Grandfather,’ Aimee answered, garnering a smile from May. ‘And they had a cave there? We heard that they married into the tribe and all.’

‘Don’t know anything about a cave,’ May said, looking curious. ‘Why are you so interested?’

‘Just fascinated,’ Matt answered, half truthfully. He was fascinated. He could see that May wasn’t someone to lie, she really didn’t know anything about a cave. But Matawai and Andrew were sure about that part of the history, just their location was wrong. Now, with the two pieces of information, Matt really felt like he had something to go on. Tomorrow, they would go and find this Murdering Beach and they would search for the cave. Who knew what adventure the new day could bring?

CHAPTER 43

Hemi decided that Warren had broken his promise. Despite being on the lookout all day, Hemi hadn’t seen Warren anywhere as he trotted around all over the Otago Peninsula in the wake of Matt and Aimee. He had only been back in his motel room for about ten minutes when there was a knock on his door. He walked over to the peephole and peered through. Bastard keeps his word, Hemi thought as he opened the door and greeted Warren. The two of them sat at the little two-seat breakfast table and exchanged stares. Warren spoke first.

‘I’m a bit disappointed with your work, but we’re not going to let that get in the way of our mission. Tomorrow we’ll follow Matthew Cameron together.’

‘No problem’ Hemi answered, caught off-guard by Warren’s friendliness.

‘Do you know where they’re going?’

‘They questioned a local woman over at the Otakau Marae today. She mentioned Murdering Beach to them. According to the information I got from her after they left, they had been particularly interested in finding a cave over there.’

‘A cave, huh? Doesn’t really strike up images of Spanish. Maybe of cave-dwelling Celts though.’

Hemi thought he detected a twinge of amusement in Warren’s voice.

‘Ah yeah, anything’s possible I guess.’ he said. Anything to keep his thoughts away from the Spanish investigation. Warren seemed to really hate the whole scenario any time it went down that road.

‘I don’t expect they will head out there tonight though,’ Warren said. ‘So we can settle for a quiet film or something and then we’ll track them from a little bit behind in the morning. Unlike you, I don’t want them to know we’re following them until the time is right.’

‘Alright,’ Hemi answered, feeling a little uncomfortable about sitting down for a film with the man responsible for his father’s death. But if he could discover anything incriminating about Warren, it would be worth it. ‘Should I go get us a feed? Some KFC sound good to you?’

‘KFC will be perfect, my shout though.’

Hemi watched as Warren pulled his jacket back slightly, reaching in to take his wallet from the inside pocket. In doing so, Warren inadvertently gave Hemi a clear look at the concealed handgun that he was carrying. Hemi did a double-take. He looked at Warren’s eyes, they weren’t watching him. Hemi decided that Warren didn’t know he had seen the gun. That was lucky. Warren continued to take thirty dollars out of his wallet and pass it to Hemi, asking for a Works Burger, chips, and gravy. Hemi confirmed the order and went into the bedroom to grab his keys and the bathroom for a quick piss. He used the opportunity to collect his thoughts.

Shit. The bastard’s got a gun. This situation is getting way out of hand. What if he intends to use it? I need to warn them. Hemi washed his hands. He wanted to wash his hands of Warren too. He would. He had too. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would sort this situation out once and for all.

‘See you in a half hour or so,’ Hemi said as nonchalantly as possible, walking through the main room of the unit. The noise of the TV already filled the air. He closed the door behind him and got in the car. Right, KFC it is, but first things first. Hemi drove out of the motel car-park and about one hundred metres up the road before pulling over and parking again. He pulled his mobile from his pocket and dialled a number that he had never used before, the emergency line to the NISO.

Matt’s phone vibrated, causing his ass to lift two inches off the sofa. The ringing noise wasn’t so bad, but the vibration got him every bloody time. He checked the number that was displayed on the screen, but didn’t recognise it. Someone in New Zealand though, he shrugged at Aimee and accepted the call.

‘Matthew Cameron,’ he said.

‘Hi Matt!’

‘Oh, Warren. Hi, how are you?’ Matt blurted the words out in his excitement. He had completely forgotten to make contact for the last few days.

‘I’m good, mate. How are you going down there? Been to the beach? Enjoying sunny Nelson?’

God, Matt had neglected Warren. He didn’t even know they weren’t in Nelson anymore.

‘Actually, the beach is kind of a no-go zone where we are.’ Matt said light-heartedly, hoping he wasn’t going to upset his friend by his interest in his father’s investigation. Oh God, you haven’t even told Warren about your father’s death.

‘Where are you then?’ Warren chuckled. ‘Invercargill?’

‘Not quite, but close enough. We’re in Dunedin.’

‘Dunedin! What on earth would inspire you to waste your time on that town?’

‘What? It’s beautiful. So far, if I had to choose somewhere to live in New Zealand, it would be a fight between Dunedin and Nelson.’

‘I’m just teasing. Us Aucklanders can’t admit to liking a place like Dunedin. So what’s going on there that warrants your attention?’

Matt explained to Warren what had happened at his father’s house. Warren sounded interested and asked lots of questions and was even able to fill in a few details for Matt surrounding oral histories and the Spanish helmet. Then Matt broke the news about his father.

‘Bugger, I’m really sorry mate. Is there anything I can do? Are you coming back for the funeral?’

‘No, I’ll stay down here and keep looking into his work.’

‘That’s also honourable, Matthew. I’d have been blessed to have had a son like you. But God apparently didn’t have the same plans as me.’

Matthew was touched by Warren’s words. A tear formed in the corner of his eye, but he was able to wipe it away before Aimee noticed.

‘Do you want me to go the funeral in your place? Pay your respects on your behalf?’

‘Would you do that, Warren?’

‘Sure, I’d do anything.’

‘That would be great. Thanks, it means a lot to me.’

‘Look, it’s no problem. You don’t even think on it, alright?’

‘OK,’ Matt answered.

‘So where will you go from here?’ Warren asked. ‘Have you got some more direction since you got to Dunedin?’

‘We sure have,’ Matt answered, happy to change the direction of the conversation back to the rumoured Spanish. He continued to tell Warren about the meetings with the Maori elders and on the marae, and how excited they were to have found what they think will be the location where there apparently were Spanish people settled long before Tasman or Cook came by. Warren sounded excited too. He even said he wished he could be there with them, exploring Murdering Beach, seeing if they could find the cave.

‘Will you call me as soon as you find the cave? Will you let me know if you find anything?’ Warren asked.

‘Of course I will,’ Matt answered. ‘You’ll be the first person to know.’

‘I’m very happy for you Matt. Sorry about your father, but happy that you’re having a successful time over here.’

‘Thanks Warren, and thanks for going to my father’s funeral. It’s real decent of you.’

‘I’ll hear from you tomorrow then?’

‘You will.’

Matt said his goodbyes and ended the call. He looked over at Aimee who had quite obviously listened in.

‘That man amazes me,’ Matt said. ‘Even after I leave him in the lurch and go traipsing off with some other theory, he remains the most supportive person I have known in my life.’

‘More supportive than me?’ Aimee’s voice was teasing.

Matt laughed. ‘OK… one of the most supportive people I have ever known.’

‘Let’s hope we have something exciting to call and tell him about tomorrow then.’ Aimee smiled.

Matt nodded in agreement. There was hope. The way things had panned out for them so far had left Matt feeling optimistic. If they could find the cave tomorrow, and find some evidence there of a Spanish settlement, that would be the best phone call that Matt would ever make. He knew that his pride would be shared by Warren and Aimee. If he could make that call, Matt’s life would change forever.

CHAPTER 44

Sunday, February 6, 1527

The San Lesmes is fully repaired and again sea-worthy. She sits on our makeshift dry dock/launch ramp, awaiting her first visit back to the salty waters since almost three months. We, however, are not ready to leave. The people of our village have made us feel so at home that departing from them to attempt a fool-hardy return to Spain is far from our minds. Rather, we will stay here and establish a church and explore these lands. When we are fully settled here, some of us will return to Spain with news of the new colony and bring back more settlers. That is, assuming that we aren’t first joined by further Spanish explorers.

I have been learning the Waitaha language from Hine, the daughter of the chief. Her name also means girl. I have since learned that her father’s name, Tane, is the word for man. But not all the villagers are so simply named. Many of the names are very hard to pronounce.

Hine is very patient with me, and she too has been a good student, picking up our own Espanol with flair. Hardly a minute of waking time goes by without her at my side. I wouldn’t choose it any other way. Some of the hunters from the village look at me a little oddly, but Tane just laughs it off, saying that Hine only has eyes for me now. It amazes me how welcomed we have been. They treat us almost like Gods and we have been given many gifts of the fine jade which the majority of the villagers are involved in working.

Some of the other men have taken women. Two have married into the tribe. They have no intention of ever leaving. I wonder if the same could happen to me, such is the peacefulness of this place. I can imagine a life here, with Hine at my side. But I would also love to take her to my Spain, to show her a world like she cannot imagine.

CHAPTER 45

Matthew felt like he was getting close. He manoeuvred the car up a narrow winding road, leaving the village of Port Chalmers behind them. They passed a memorial anchor by a lookout that watched over the wharfs below them, and continued to climb up through gorse-covered farmland. As they passed a forest on their left, Matthew stole a glance over his right shoulder at the view over the Otago Peninsula that ran parallel to this side of the harbour.

‘Sure is a stunning place.’

‘Yeah,’ Aimee said. ‘I actually feel a little stupid for never making it to this part of the country before. We Aucklanders tend to make fun of places like Dunedin, but now that I’ve seen it, I may never go back to that rat-race.’

Matt slowed the car as they approached a curve where the main road veered off to the right and a smaller gravel road continued straight on. Confirming that the sign pointed to Purakanui, Matt indicated left and continued straight on up the dusty road. Just over 1km later he slowed again as they approached another fork in the road.

‘He said to go straight,’ Aimee said, referring to the man at the little Port Chalmers museum where they stopped for directions. ‘Not to continue to Purakanui, but rather to follow…’

Matt saw papers shuffling out the corner of his eye.

‘…Heyward Point Rd.’

Sure enough, the road to the right had a sign pointing to Heyward Point. Matt accelerated again and continued on the slightly narrower road. There was plenty of farming going on along here, and even a new ranch-like cluster of some lifestyle-type homes was under development. Matt got it though, the views were lovely. It just didn’t seem fitting that their destination had such a foreboding name. He saw the very narrow road leading off to the left and slowed to confirm the name of the road.

‘Murdering Beach Road.’ Matthew read aloud. ‘What do you know about this place?’

‘Only what May told us at the marae and a bit more info about it that I was able to scratch up in the museum back there.’

Matthew glanced across as Aimee pulled a booklet out of her satchel. She started to read it.

‘Murdering Beach is named for events that happened here in 1817,’ she said. ‘A sealing Brig from Tasmania anchored in the small bay here and the captain and some others went ashore to barter for potatoes, having seen smoke rising from the bay. When they got ashore, they were surprised to be greeted by a white man.’

‘A Spanish descendant?’ asked Matt, with mock hope.

‘No.’ Aimee laughed. ‘Another Australian that had been left there a few months earlier.’

‘Go on.’

Aimee continued to paraphrase the history she was reading. ‘It seems that partway through the trading a scream went up from the natives and they turned on the Australians and started attacking them. A few were killed on the beach, the captain… Captain Kelly… made it back to the ship with three other men. They were greeted by about 150 Maori who were trying to overthrow the ship. The chief was among them. Eventually the Maori were defeated, their chief killed, and the canoes destroyed. A lot of people died that day and no one is sure why the Maori suddenly attacked.’

‘Sounds terrible.’

‘Like this pretend-road.’

Matt had to agree. The road, if you could call it that, was now nothing more than a farmers track and as he drove the car down the grade towards the beach ahead of them, Matt couldn’t help but be a little nervous about the drop off to their left. The road was corrugated from channels of water that must form virtual torrents through here when it rained, and it was all Matt could do to keep the wheels from running into ruts and pulling the car from one side to the other. He didn’t want to become another statistic of Murdering Beach and so he concentrated now only on getting to the bottom and parking in a small area that would contain at most three or four vehicles. They climbed out of the car, grabbed their little day packs out of the boot, and looked across the bay towards the cliffs on the other side. There was a pretty little wooden hut, painted in fading dark red, tucked under the cliffs. On their right, the small waves rolled in on the warm golden sands. Birds made noises among the trees that clumped around the cliffs near the hut. Aside from the sea, the birds, and his own nervous heavy breathing, Matt could hear nothing else. He turned to Aimee.

‘OK, let’s do this.’

Hemi slowed the car as he passed the fifty speed limit sign on the approach to Port Chalmers, looking around as he was greeted by a peaceful little town. A handful of shops, a post office-hardware store combination, a couple of little restaurants, and at the end of the road in front of them a container port that played host to two large European ships. With the surrounding stone buildings and the peaceful coastal drive from Dunedin to the port, Hemi had been momentarily taken back in time to memories of a New Zealand he had long missed. Ice-creams in a cone and walks on the coast.

Warren broke his peace.

‘Aramoana is just a bit further along the coast here.’

‘Oh yeah,’ Hemi said, his dream disrupted by the memory of New Zealand’s worst massacre. As he turned up the road that led out of the town, Hemi briefly recalled what little he knew of the events of the 13th and 14th November 1990. He was only in primary school at the time, but the Aramoana massacre was big news and he at least knew that fourteen people, one of them the gunman, were killed.

‘Didn’t they make a movie about that recently?’ Hemi asked.

‘It’s called Out of the Blue,’ Warren answered. ‘Caused a bit of a stir in the village, but in the end it got off the ground. I haven’t seen it though.’

‘Me neither. One day perhaps.’

It was disconcerting for Hemi to hear Warren talk about gun-toting madmen when he knew that he was carrying a gun too. Hemi didn’t have one, of course. That was too dangerous, and illegal. He had a knife, but it was no competition for the fire-power under that jacket.

He manoeuvered the car up the hills that bordered the harbour. It seemed like such a peaceful area and he didn’t want to think of it in terms of violence. Despite his job, Hemi was someone who didn’t like weapons or extreme violence. He would defend himself and his country to the death though. He would try to defend the honour of his father too. Today, he would do everything in his power to ensure a good outcome. He desperately hoped that the NISO armed squad had arrived in time.

CHAPTER 46

Matt jumped over the small stream near where it met the beach. He was followed closely by Aimee, who seemed to be right at home in this environment. They continued west along the beach, towards the cliffs at the other end.

‘Can you make out the ledge up there?’ Matt turned to Aimee.

‘I can. It looks like we could climb up gradually from behind the hut over there in the trees.’

‘What is that, about a fifty, say sixty metre drop?’

‘Looks closer to sixty to me.’

‘I guess we’ll see,’ Matt said, as he veered to the left and stepped over a large driftwood log and up onto the grassy ledge where the beach met the over-grown farmland.

He glanced across at Aimee, hoping that she didn’t sense how nervous he was. He should appear under control, of course, when being accompanied by such a lovely woman in these pretty, albeit foreboding, surroundings. They approached the little abandoned house and skirted around it to where an animal track led steeply up the slope and along the ledge where a cave could very well be. Nervousness was gradually over-ridden by anticipation as Matt, followed by Aimee, edged around the cliff to the left and saw a small dark crevice in front of them. It was almost too hard to believe.

Matt stopped directly in front of the cave and turned to Aimee. ‘Should I throw some stones in there to see if anyone’s home?’

‘No need, at the worst there might be some bats. We don’t have any dangerous wild animals or snakes in New Zealand. Let’s get in there.’

‘Alright then, I’ll go…’ Matt paused as movement caught his eye on the hillside above the other end of the beach.

Aimee followed his gaze, and then turned to him looking confused.

‘First.’ Matt completed his sentence, having realised that it was probably just one of the grazing sheep.

‘Is something wrong?’ she asked.

‘No, no… I think I’ve just let myself get a little caught up in things. All set to go in?’

‘No arguments from me.’

They eased their way into the cave, ducking to avoid cracking their heads open on the sharp ceiling. Turning on a torch he had picked up in the supermarket, Matt paused momentarily to take in his surroundings. About eight metres in front of him the cave turned slightly to the left. He edged his way to the corner, Aimee following closely behind, and marvelled at the wide chamber that came into view before him. It was a rounder space, about ten metres in diameter. The ceiling was between two and three metres from the floor, which was dry and sandy, with rock presumably somewhere a little below.

‘You could fit a small family Christmas in here,’ Matt said.

‘Listen. You can only just hear the hiss of the sea now. It’s like we’ve entered another world. It’s so quiet.’

‘It’s amazing,’ Matt agreed. Adrenaline pumped through Matt’s veins and had transported him to another world. One he was happy to savour, a world where his greatest moment was about to take place. He felt like he was about to make an incredible find, something any historian would die for. A find that would put him up there with the great explorers who had gone before him. Shivers ran through his body. Matt loved every second of it.

There were some small areas of black charring on the ceiling, where fires had perhaps been used in years past. But all around them, despite looking at all the parts of the floor that they could see, there was no treasure chest, no artefacts, nothing to suggest there had been any Spanish here. Matt crossed the chamber to the far side and still found nothing. He couldn’t believe he had wasted his time and effort to come here. Aimee joined him as he slumped down in a frustrated heap and leaned on the wall, dropping the torch on the floor beside him. The torchlight fell on the wall opposite and shivered as the torch found its resting place. Matt squinted across the chamber. He couldn’t believe it. There, on the wall, was the faint marking of a cross. Aimee had seen it too. They both leapt up and rushed over to it.

‘That isn’t natural,’ Matt said.

‘No way, and Maori wouldn’t have marked graves with crosses. Not before European influence anyway.’

Matt searched the wall around the cross carefully for a crevice. Nothing.

‘Should we dig?’ Aimee asked, as she brushed the sand at their feet with the tip of her shoe.

Matt answered by dropping to his knees and scratching at the sand with his hands. Aimee fell next to him and started scraping with a stone she had found. Matt’s hands made poor progress, but there were no more stones handy. Instead, he replaced them with the back end of his torch, throwing light wildly around the top of the cave. He just started to lose hope when it made contact with something. The clink of the torch striking something solid rang out through the cave like a muted g-note on a vibraphone.

‘Glass?’ Aimee asked.

‘Ceramic,’ Matt said, turning the torch and illuminating the side of a jar.

Matt worked the rest of the sand away from the large ceramic jar that he was revealing. It was a simple piece, probably used for storing preserved fruit or liquids. The only embellishment was a small emblem on one side. He worked the gigantic lump of pitch-sealed corking out of the opening and peered inside with the aid of the torchlight. There he saw a pouch made of woven fabric, which he carefully removed and turned over in his hand.

‘That looks like woven flax,’ Aimee said. ‘Most definitely of Maori working.’

‘And the emblem is a Spanish Coat of Arms.’ Matt looked at Aimee and smiled. ‘An interesting clash of cultures, wouldn’t you say?’

The flax cloth was soft in Matt’s hands. He gently opened it, taking care not to rip or damage it in any way, and found inside one single piece of paper. Nothing remarkable. It didn’t even appear all that old. He unfolded it and felt his hopes disappear in a breath.

CHAPTER 47

Monday, July 4, 1527

I feel so guilty. I have not written in my journal for a long time. I will blame it on needing to spare the parchment. The Waitaha do not have parchment, for they need it not. The language is not written. There are some caverns with rock drawings though. But these are not near the village.

Three months ago, in April, Tane gave me consent to marry Hine. The ceremony took place the very next day. A good thing it was too, because we now see that Hine is pregnant. Probably from before the marriage. Such things would not look good.

A house has been built for us. We have moved into our own first home. My first ever real home of my own. We have settled here now. Maybe in a few years we will try for a voyage to Spain, but many of the men would not be likely to come. They will, however, readily come with me to explore this land. We will depart the day after tomorrow. The San Lesmes has been relaunched and is anchored just offshore from the village. We are using the canoes to replenish her holds and are readying ourselves for a voyage of several months. Our excess stores and valuables have a safe-hold in a cave on the cliff-side above the western end of the beach. In this cave, I have also prepared safe-keeping for my journal. This original volume shall be stored there during our explorations and I will fill in details of our journey on my return. Hine understands that I probably won’t be back until after the baby has come, but is happy for me to discover her land. She, of course, has seen little more of it than this valley. I hope to be able to bring back the village much information about the other tribes and animals that we find.

Friday, July 29, 1527

We departed the village, Whareakeake, with the sunrise and high-tide, heading east. The next bay was familiar to us already, from numerous excursions there, but the long beach beyond it was new. At the end of the beach we found an entrance to a long harbour. This would make a good and safe anchorage for the San Lesmes if we need one. Beyond the harbour, the coastline sinks south and then south-west hugging a fairly narrow peninsula that sits between the harbour and the sea. Some of the cliffs along here were quite dramatic. Penguins and seals in abundance are to be found. Also, we have sighted many whales and dolphins the last few days.

About 40 leagues beyond the harbour, we came around to the west, bringing us to a north-westerly bearing. Again, about 40 leagues of sailing took us to our next major course change. We are now on a north-easterly bearing and have been so for several days. Are we rounding a large peninsula on the edge of the great continent? It seems unlikely. Hine said the stories of her people say the land they live on is three large islands.

The coast here is backed by massive mountains. Rivers of ice, glaciers like those in Terra del Fuego reach down to the sea here too. The entire coastline is covered in beautiful forests that are drawing in a driving rain that we have fought with since yesterday. The seas here are also much choppier and hide sharp rocks closer in to the shore. We are staying as wide as possible and will look for an anchorage when we come to more friendly places.

CHAPTER 48

Matt stood on the small flat area of ground in front of the cave, the fall down to the sea just over a metre away from him, the cave about three metres behind. The jar was tucked under his left arm, the paper and the cloth pouch in his right hand. Aimee had retrieved the torch. Matt panted as he caught his breath. He had run out of the cave in a furious mood when he saw what the jar contained, and probably would have gone off the edge if it wasn’t for Aimee grabbing him before he reached it. He had momentarily forgotten how high up they were. As it came back to him, his frustration subsided as it mixed with fear. Fear of losing his reputation, blended with a handful of fear of falling to his certain death, or even worse, a serious injury. At least you don’t have to live with shame when you’re dead.

‘What’s in the jar, Matt?’ Aimee pleaded in his left ear. He turned to see her standing a breath away, looking between the jar and his face with imploring eyes.

Matt turned to face the cave, rather than the cliff edge, and sat down. Aimee sat beside him, facing the path that had brought them up here. He unfolded the piece of paper and read.

‘This jar was found on the 16th day of August in the year 1901 by myself and a travelling companion. The contents of the jar, a journal of a sea-farer, has been removed and will be returned to my place of study for proper archival and conservation. It is fortuitous this artefact has survived thus far. The papers are remarkably well intact considering the exposure to elements they could have received over the years. It is paramount that they are no longer exposed to such conditions and a full study of their content should be undertaken.’

‘You’re kidding me? After all that running around. Has he at least left his name?’ Aimee asked.

‘Yes,’ Matt said, with a slight smile as he read the home location of the author. ‘He signed it; Holger Kirstein, Switzerland.’

As he finished reading, he folded the piece of paper and carefully placed it in his pocket. Aimee said nothing, but she didn’t need to. Matt could see that she too was disappointed. They had come a long way to only have to start again in another country. And what were the chances of them finding the contents of the jar in Switzerland? If they had even made it there. Surely they would have been made public by now — at least if they had any worth whatsoever.

Hemi parked the car next to Matthew’s at the base of the rugged track to Murdering Beach and climbed out to join Warren. As they walked across the bay towards the cliffs on the other side, he scanned the hillsides and cliff-tops that surrounded them. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Just grass, trees, a couple of straggling sheep and sky. They rounded the cabin and found a freshly walked-on path that led up to the cliff-side.

‘I think they’re up here,’ Warren said.

‘Looks that way. After you.’ Hemi waved his hand to show that Warren should lead the way. Thankfully, he did.

Well, Hemi, this is it. If there was ever a chance for Warren to do something stupid enough to give you reason to take him down, this is that chance.

Hemi let Warren get in front of him a few paces, and then followed. His eyes scanned every which way they could. He prayed, for the first time in years. What if his backup didn’t make it in time, if there were no witnesses? If something happened to Matthew Cameron or Aimee Kingsbridge, Hemi would never forgive himself. The rest of his life and the memory of his father hinged on the next few minutes. For the first time he could recall, Hemi felt the stress of the moment.

Matt rose to a standing position in a motion resembling a Jack-in-the-box after a good, solid, winding. Aimee followed suit but looked at him in confusion.

‘I saw something moving,’ Matt said.

‘Oh?’

Aimee turned and followed Matt’s gaze down the path.

They were both surprised to see two figures emerging into view as they climbed the path, one following the other. As they got closer, Matt recognised the leader.

‘Warren!’ he said, turning to Aimee. ‘This is great, Warren can help us for sure.’

Aimee said nothing. She just looked confused.

‘Who’s he with?’ Matt asked.

‘Can’t see yet.’

They stood silently as they waited for them to get closer. As they did, the person at the back came into view as well.

‘It’s Drew,’ Aimee said. ‘Must be a good guy after all if he’s with your friend.’

‘Sure,’ Matt said, now also a little confused. How did Warren know where they were today? Matt hadn’t called him, so Drew must have told him. But then, what was Drew doing here anyway? Then it hit him. Warren must be there under duress. The government had stepped in and was going to take over their research. Matt wasn’t going to allow that. He was ready for a fight.

CHAPTER 49

‘I think you best pass me that jar, Matthew.’

Matt stared back at Warren in disbelief. Warren wasn’t here as Drew’s hostage, or under duress. He was here on his own accord. In fact, he appeared to be the one calling the shots.

‘I don’t understand, what are you doing here? What are you doing with this thug?’

Matthew watched Drew grimace.

‘Hemi’s been working for me,’ Warren answered.

Matt and Aimee looked at each other. They had both noticed that Warren knew Drew as Hemi.

‘You’re Hemi’s boss?’ Aimee asked.

‘The evil boss?’ Matt asked, looking at Drew.

Warren shot an angry glare at Hemi.

‘He’s been keeping an eye on you, trying to keep you on the right path,’ Warren said. ‘But you’ve strayed Matthew, and so now I need you to hand me that jar.’

‘What right path? I came to New Zealand for you. I came here to help you prove that New Zealand’s history needed rewriting!’ The words left Matt’s mouth like a raging tide.

‘That’s right, I brought you here to do my work, but you’ve chosen to work against me. You were supposed to show that the Celts found New Zealand first, not the Spanish. That’s why you now have to give me that jar.’

‘There’s nothing in this jar that interests you.’

‘Everything in that jar interests me if it furthers theories other than the Celts being here first.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I have a lot to gain if I can prove that the Celts were here before the Maori. My investments will see some great tourism revenue.’

The penny dropped, so did Matt’s jaw. He looked at the faces around him, registering mixed emotions on all of them. Even Drew appeared to be overcome with confusion as he shuffled his feet and looked around nervously. Matt decided he had to take control.

‘Give me the jar, Matt!’ Warren demanded in a voice that had lost any friendliness.

‘No!’ Matt stood firm. ‘You’ll never have this jar, nor will you ever touch its contents.’ He continued confidently, feeling the paper pressing against his leg inside his pocket.

‘Then you leave me with no choice.’

In one sweeping movement, Warren grabbed Aimee and pulled her sharply to his side. By the time Matt realised what was happening, it was too late. Warren had pulled a gun and was holding it to Aimee’s chest as he held her tightly against himself. He edged her closer to the cliff. Matt briefly had visions of her being thrown to her death. Or Warren shooting her.

‘Don’t do this, Warren.’ Drew’s voice surprised Matt. ‘This is not the way. You’re only making trouble for yourself.’ Matt could see and hear the effects of adrenaline in Drew. Warren seemed to notice it too and his gun shifted focus on him.

‘You stay out of this boy. You’ve got no idea who you’re dealing with.’

‘Warren, let her go!’ Matt pleaded. ‘There really is nothing in the jar.’

But it was too late. With a pounce that caught Matt off-guard, Hemi threw himself towards Warren in an attempt to remove his gun. He didn’t make it. The shot rang out around the gully. In the few seconds of silence that followed, Matt watched, sickened, as Drew collapsed to the ground like a giant tree being felled. In Warren’s grip, Aimee too was breathing very heavily, her chest heaving with emotion. Warren practically held her up now. She looked up at him with pleading eyes. Fear of being next, Matt guessed. Warren had clearly lost control. The gun turned on Matt. Mere seconds from the first shot had passed when the second shot rang out. Matt felt it simultaneously with the sound.

CHAPTER 50

Friday, August 19, 1527

We have found the straits again. The same as those we came through shortly before the beaching at Whareakeake. This time we have been able to enter the harbour here, on the northern land-mass. So, it seems that Hine is correct about us living on an island. It remains to be confirmed that the northern land-mass is also an island. If it is, where is the third island? Our island, the southerly one, is approximately 225 leagues long, north to south, and has a breadth of about 70 leagues. The coastlines on either side follow a consistent north-east to south-west line, so it appears the island has a fairly regular breadth throughout.

Before we entered the straits, one of the men created a disturbance through violence towards his fellow crew. We knew not a reason for his outburst. Possibly he has gone mad. The master at arms made preparations to put him in shackles but the man threw himself overboard. The last we saw of him, he was madly swimming toward the nearby coast of the southern land mass. I don’t expect he will last long, as there was fairly quickly a canoe heading in his direction. We had neither desire nor possibility to make chase.

We have been anchored in the harbour since yesterday. The men have used the time productively to collect shellfish and catch some of the other tasty fish we have come to know so well. Some gulls and other birds are also to be had here. We are near a river, which is filling our barrels with clean fresh water. We have to press on though. The natives have seen us and aren’t at all welcoming like the gentle souls in Whareakeake. Rather, a group of men came down to the water’s edge and waved their clubs at the ship and started dancing a Haka, the war dance of the Waitaha. We will sail on the tide, which will turn in an hour. Hopefully they won’t attack before that time. We will sail out of the straits and travel north on the eastern coast, since we have previously seen that of the west.

CHAPTER 51

Matt stood on the spot for what seemed an eternity. Why would Warren do this? Why isn’t it more painful? Surely a bullet ripping through your body hurts more than this.

He stared at Warren in shock.

Warren returned his stare with the same look of horror and confusion. Then, as Aimee broke free from his weakening grasp, Warren slumped to the ground clutching at his chest. The ground didn’t catch him. The weight and direction of his fall tipped him over the edge of the cliff. He fell to the rocks below with a muted thump. Matt continued to stare in disbelief at the void that remained where Warren had stood.

Aimee was on her feet, looking over the cliff edge. Hemi lay in a bloody heap on the ground. Sirens wailed as cars bumped down the road towards the beach.

Matt walked over to the cliff, completely oblivious now to his fear. He looked down and saw Warren’s body among the rocks below. His blood spilled into the sea. His head was badly messed up with blood, and his chest was drenched in the stuff. If the shot to the heart hadn’t killed him, the fall would have. Matt felt the tingly sensation of bile rising to his throat moments before he threw up.

The next thing he knew, Aimee was at his side.

‘Are you OK, Matt?’ Aimee asked, her voice calm and assuring.

‘They’re dead.’ Matt said, his voice crossing the border of hysteria. ‘How can I be OK? What the hell just happened?’

‘Warren shot Drew.’

‘I know that!’ Matt exclaimed. ‘But who shot Warren?’

The sirens stopped wailing as the police car and two black 4WDs arrived at the small car park. Beyond the hill above them, a helicopter was approaching. Aimee pulled at something in her pocket and showed it to Matt.

‘I imagine that it was one of our agents,’ Aimee said, as Matt stared at her DCI identity card in stunned silence.

The world was spinning. Voices were muffled and noises blurred together in a muddled mess. Hemi felt like he had been on a drinking binge. He shot me, Hemi thought. Warren, that bastard shot me. Twice. Hemi had counted the shots. He felt sleep coming, but fear told him to stay awake. You sleep, you die. He felt the warmth of the sun on his face. He felt the warmth of the bullet. Hemi had to live. He had to tell Matt what he knew. Matt didn’t know who he was dealing with. That is, of course, if Matt lived through the day.

Hemi tried to hear what was being said around him but couldn’t make out any words. He couldn’t even tell whose voice belonged to whom. There was just that muffled drone. He concentrated on his pain. Why did he only feel the one wound? Did Warren shoot him twice in the same spot or did the second bullet miss? He knew he felt the first one as it ripped into his chest near the shoulder. ‘Drew?’ Hemi’s father said to him. ‘Drew?’

That was it. Hemi knew he was dead. It felt terrible. He punched his thoughts to his father, because he couldn’t speak. I’m sorry Dad. I couldn’t get justice for you. I failed you.

His head thumped. At first it was a gentle thump, but in the minutes that followed the thump got louder and harder. The sleep came on stronger now. The thumping was so present he could feel it on the outside of his body. The world around him trembled and the warmth of the sun disappeared from his face. He started to feel cold. The wind had picked up considerably. Hemi lay listening to the thumping, the only thing he could hear now. His father’s voice was gone. He was alone, again. Thump, thump, thump. He tried to open his eyes, but the sleep came instead.

CHAPTER 52

They came up the path in a steady flow. There was a mixture of uniformed police and men in coveralls that had NISO printed in large writing on them. Leading the pack was the hard, unsmiling and familiar Colin Wolfe, whom Matt had met at Warren’s dig site. He nodded at Aimee and offered Matt his hand, as two of the NISO team ran to look over Hemi and another two set up abseiling gear to climb down to Warren. Matt didn’t know who the enemy was any more, so he took Wolfe’s hand and shook it.

‘Hello again, Dr. Cameron. Are you alright?’

‘I guess I am.’ Matt said, half-heartedly. ‘But I’d love to know what’s going on.’

‘And you, Aimee?’ Wolfe continued, practically shouting now, to be heard over the noise of the rescue helicopter that thumped the air above them.

‘I’m fine Hank, thanks.’ Aimee shouted through a smile.

Matt watched the exchange with interest and distrust. How can he have been so blind and stupid as to let Aimee come along with him? He didn’t know her, and now she turned out to be working for the DCI, the very people who had tried to hinder their research. First Warren, now her… how could he trust again?

‘OK, Dr. Cameron,’ Wolfe said, turning to Matt. ‘Let’s go with Agent Peters from the NISO for a chat. He can debrief you on the case.’

Matt followed Wolfe a few paces away to a group of men that stood around the body of Hemi, guiding his stretcher upwards towards the helicopter which winched him up. Wolfe put a hand on the shoulder of one of the men. The handsomely featured Maori turned and smiled reassuringly as the helicopter veered and thumped away over the hillside, the two bodies now both on board.

‘Will he live, Peters?’ Wolfe asked the man.

‘I hope so,’ Peters responded, his face showing signs of emotion blended with determination, ‘He’s a strong man.’

Matt saw what looked like a real glint of respect in Peters’ eyes when he spoke about Drew.

‘And Rennie?’

‘No, we shot to kill.’

Matt thought he might throw up again. Wolfe turned to Matt.

‘Dr. Matthew Cameron, this is Agent Peters, Deputy Director of the NISO.’

‘Pleased to meet you Dr. Cameron,’ Peters said, extending his hand.

Matt wasn’t sure if the pleasure would be shared, but he took Peters’ hand anyway.

‘And this is Aimee Kingsbridge,’ Wolfe continued. ‘She’s one of ours.’

Peters faced Aimee to shake her hand, but Aimee didn’t take it. She stared at him, horrified.

‘Are you OK?’ Peters asked.

‘You’re Constable King!’ Aimee said. ‘Drew’s father, you’re supposed to be dead.’

Matt watched, bewildered, as a look of sorrow mixed with frustration dressed Peter’s face. Agent Wolfe looked confused.

‘I guess we have some explaining to do,’ Peters said. ‘Let’s go down here to the bay and I’ll fill you in what has been going on.’ He led the way down the path.

Matt glanced across at Aimee. She looked as confused as he felt but it didn’t soften his hurt. She had betrayed him. Was this all a game to her? Did she care about him at all, or was that just part of her cover? They followed Peters, or King, whatever his name was today, down to the beach. When they got down to solid ground again, Matt turned to Peters and waited to be ‘filled in.’

‘The first thing you need to know.’ Peters said, ‘is that Warren Rennie was not what he seemed. We’ve been watching him for over eight years now, waiting for him to make a mistake. He made it today.’

‘But why were you watching him? Just because you don’t want to have to rewrite New Zealand’s history?’

‘No, no.’ Wolfe jumped in. ‘This has nothing to do with rewriting history. I know Warren Rennie pedalled that crackpot conspiracy theory, but believe me, the DCI is just as ready to rewrite history as the next man, if plausible evidence comes to light.’

‘It’s true, Matt, I kept trying to tell you but I couldn’t tell you how I knew,’ Aimee said.

‘Warren believed he had plausible evidence,’ Matt said, not wanting to give too much away about the Spanish Helmet, if his findings weren’t already common knowledge. Aimee had surely seen to that though.

‘And therein lies the problem with Warren Rennie,’ Peters said, rejoining the conversation.

‘How so?’ Matt asked.

‘The mirror.’

Matt was shocked. How did the DCI and NISO know about the mirror? Aimee?

‘What about it?’

‘The mirror, that ancient Celtic relic that Warren used to bring you all the way here on his wild goose chase, is a stolen artefact from a museum back on your home turf, England.’

‘It can’t be. You must be mistaken. Warren would never do something like that!’

‘Would Warren pull a gun on you?’

Matt stood silently in thought. Peters had a point. Matt had no idea what Warren was capable of… had been capable of. Warren Rennie really wasn’t what he had appeared to have been.

‘If you knew he had stolen that mirror, why didn’t you arrest him already?’

‘We didn’t know for sure, not until yesterday when Hemi, I mean Drew, reported in. It was then that he also called us in for backup. He was worried about what Rennie might be capable of and knew you were coming here today.’

‘But Drew, your son, was working for Warren. He told us that.’

‘No, he had to make it look that way, for Warren’s sake. He’s been undercover, investigating Warren. But Agent Davis has also been trying to protect you from him.’

‘Unbelievable, I don’t know what to think anymore. First I discover the man I looked up to as a father for the better part of my life is nothing he appears. Then I learn that the woman I just fell in love with is spying on me for the DCI, and now I find out the guy trying to kill me is actually protecting me from the man I thought I knew and loved. Then to top it off, his dead father is alive and his boss! This day just can’t get any stranger.’

‘This day, anyhow,’ Agent Peters said, with a cheeky smile. ‘But Hemi reported that he had a lot more important information to provide. Trouble is, we have to wait until he regains consciousness to find out what that means, and there are going to be a few other things on his mind when he wakes up.’

‘I don’t understand, Mr. Davis,’ Aimee said. ‘You were killed in jail. I was in Hemi’s class at school, we all heard what happened.’

‘Please, call me Agent Peters. You heard a fabricated story. Warren Rennie was responsible for me going to jail for crimes I didn’t commit. Luckily for me, some people in the right places knew I was innocent. It was arranged for me to take the fall and to disappear into our own little underworld. I’ve been with the NISO ever since and worked my way up.’

‘But what about Drew? Your death, fake death, ruined him.’

‘Did it?’ Agent Peters asked. ‘Would you say that being groomed to become one of the best sleeper agents the NISO has ever seen was a bad thing? Was losing all that weight, getting fit, and serving his country without question, not rewarding? Drew has come out fine. I’ve watched him grow from a boy into a man. My only regret was not being able to share my pride with him.’

‘But he didn’t have his father,’ Aimee said. ‘Without my father I’d be a mess. Everyone needs a father.’

Matt cringed, he had heard enough.

‘Do you think Drew has information about me that he needs to reveal?’ Matt asked, concerned his efforts in the Spanish direction might have been in vain.

‘No, we imagine he just wants to tell us more about what he’s learned from Rennie. It likely has nothing to do with you or your research into the Spanish Helmet or a consequent Spanish discovery of New Zealand.’ Wolfe answered for Peters.

‘You know about my work then?’ Matt felt stupid for asking.

‘Of course we do, both Drew and Aimee saw to that. Not that either of them knew of the other’s agency affiliation. But don’t worry, Dr. Cameron, we’re not going to stand in the way of your father’s work. Of course, we want to know if anything interesting crops up.’

Matt stared at Aimee in disbelief. She had told them everything. He was so angry with himself for trusting her, for loving her. At the same time, he was relieved his research wasn’t jeopardised. ‘Sure,’ he said, ‘as soon as I have anything concrete, I’ll make sure you’re the first to know.’

‘Alright,’ Peters said, handing Matt his and Wolfe’s cards. ‘We’re done here. We’ll be in touch if we need you. Likewise, don’t hesitate to contact either one of us if you need anything.’

Peters turned to Aimee. ‘For your own good, you never saw me. I was killed in prison, just like you always knew. Do you understand?’

‘Of course I understand, but you’ll tell Drew now, right?’

‘Yes, now that Rennie’s dead, it’s safe for Drew to know that I’m alive. If he had known before, chances are it would’ve caused problems with our investigation. Besides, I wanted Drew to hate the man as much as I did.’

‘It seems to have worked. I just hope your son can forgive you. But yes, your secret is safe with me.’

Matt wasn’t sure any secret was safe with Aimee.

With that they parted ways. As Matt walked towards his car, the jar tucked under his arm, he realised that Aimee was still beside him.

‘I guess you’ll be leaving me now?’

‘Is that what you want?’

‘Well, isn’t your work here done?’ Matt asked, hoping the hurt didn’t show in his voice.

Aimee stopped him by gently holding his arm. ‘My work is not my only reason for being here, I want to be here. I’m a part of this, DCI or no DCI. It’s as important to me to get to the bottom of this mystery as it is to you. I also meant everything I said about us. Can’t we continue to work together?’

Matt wanted to believe her. He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and hold her. He wanted to tell her he loved her and everything would be alright.

‘I’d like to work with you,’ he said.

Aimee smiled.

‘But I can’t. I’m sorry. You should go with your boss.’

With these last words, Matt turned away from her before his emotions betrayed him and he hurried to the car. He didn’t look back as he turned the key and drove up the track out of that godforsaken bay.

CHAPTER 53

Monday, September 12, 1527

We have, it seems, been travelling the same coast we landed on all those years ago. This became apparent today when we encountered the erupting volcano again. We anchored in the harbour south of the island once more and located our sweet potato plants, which seem to be thriving in this climate.

So it is confirmed. This land is two large islands, not a continent as we had expected. Could it be that the third island, mentioned to us by the Waitaha, is the smaller island that we passed near at the bottom of the southern island?

I have accordingly named the two large islands on my map as Isla del Norte and Isla de Sur, as befits their placement in relation to each other. The small island at the base of Isla de Sur shall be known as Isla de Loaisa.

It would appear, therefore, that we have now mapped the extent of this land. We will continue around Isla del Norte along the route we previously took, and then return to Whareakeake via the straits. We have the time to explore a little more of the coastline as weather permits. I would very much like to communicate with some of the other tribes. There must be more friendly natives to be found here, and surely much history to learn.

Tuesday, September 27, 1527

We have come around the tip of Isla del Norte and again coasted along the long beaches. A short distance south of these, we have located the entrance to a harbour. There are villages to be seen on both of the coasts of the harbour and also near the entrance. Several canoes have come towards us and then darted off again just as quickly, but the behaviour of the occupants isn’t threatening. They are merely curious. We will enter the harbour and explore it fully, for it looks to be an inviting place.

CHAPTER 54

Seated back in his room at the hotel, Matt stared out the window at the grass field and old stone building that flanked it. Beyond the field, cars streamed in a steady flow into Dunedin, and beyond these, the botanic garden and his memories of the walk with Aimee there. He had to put her out of his mind. He turned his attention back to the note from the jar.

The fact that the jar had belonged to a Spanish explorer from the 1500’s was huge, regardless of the contents. Besides, Kirstein mentioned a journal. It couldn’t be empty. But, it was strange that the contents of the jar hadn’t been publicised. He had to go to Switzerland and find out what happened to the journal. Maybe he could then reveal it to the world. The prospect of being responsible for such an important revelation excited him. A nation’s history would be changed in a breathtaking moment. Matt would go down in history. Professor Pick would have to eat his hat. Matt would still have a job. It was these thoughts that kept him going every time he thought of Aimee.

Matt picked up the phone and dialled a number. He needed help in Switzerland and he knew just the man for the job. It was early morning in Switzerland, so Matt could still catch Andreas at home. Andreas Bosshard was a fellow student at the semi-exclusive ‘Swiss University of History and Archaeology’, or SUHA, in Scuol, Switzerland. He and Matt had hit it off immediately when they worked on a project together, and the two had remained good friends since. Andreas played tour guide and introduced Matt to all the corners of Switzerland. He had ensured that Matt was immersed in Swiss culture. When Matt returned to the UK, they continued to meet once a year for a ski break at a Swiss resort.

‘Bosshard.’ Came the voice at the other end of the phone.

‘Hoi Andreas, hier ist Matt.’ Matt greeted him in high-German. Matt’s Swiss-German was rubbish.

‘Matt! Wo bist du? ‘Andreas switched to English. ‘Your number wasn’t showing up on my screen.’

‘That might be because I’m in New Zealand.’ Matt chuckled.

‘What on earth are you doing down there?’

‘That’s a long story.’ Matt updated Andreas on everything that had happened up until the point of finding the cave at Murdering Beach. By this stage, twenty minutes had passed and he was conscious that this call would cost a fair bit, being a hotel phone and all.

‘So anyway…’ Matt continued. ‘…we went into the cave and at first we didn’t find anything, but eventually we found a Spanish jar, a preserving jar or something. I thought it was my big moment, but then I opened it.’

‘What was in there?’

‘A note from a Swiss academic who had been there before us.’

Matt unfolded the paper and read out the note to Andreas.

‘Holger Kirstein?’ Andreas said. ‘That’s incredible. He was one of Switzerland’s most important researchers, a geolgist.’

‘I’d never heard of him.’

‘Don’t worry. Admittedly, I never knew he had found anything of that nature during his New Zealand travels. It doesn’t make sense.’ There was a pause while Andreas said nothing. ‘Oh, wait a minute, that was Kirstein’s last journey before he died. He contracted a severe illness on his return journey to Switzerland and died in Zurich just weeks later.’

‘What happened to his work?’

‘His works are all in the archives at the ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. They have a large library there that holds many important archival works.’

‘So, is it feasible that the contents of the jar are somewhere at that library?’ Matt asked, a glimmer of hope shining through the phone.

‘If they’re anywhere that they can ever be located, then they must be at the ETH. Goodness only knows where any other work of his might be stored by now. But Kirstein was a stickler for having everything properly catalogued and stored, I’m almost certain that the contents of the jar must be in Zurich.’

‘I guess I’m on my way to Zurich then.’ Matt smiled down the phone.

‘Sounds like an adventure, Matt. When should I pick you up from the airport?’

Matt grinned, he loved that Andreas was prepared to drop everything and make the three hour journey to join him in Zurich. It would, indeed, be helpful for him to have a Swiss there with him to communicate their way through any barriers. He would also call in Julia, he had decided, since she spoke fluent Spanish and could possibly be helpful to have on board.

‘So you’ll come then?’ Matt asked, stupidly, since it was clear that Andreas was coming.

‘Wouldn’t dream of missing it, and besides, I know my way around libraries. My father is director of the library at the SUHA, remember?’

How could Matt forget? Both he and Andreas had worked at the SUHA library in the evenings and during holidays. Andreas’ father had sorted the jobs out for them so that they could contribute to their study costs and enjoy their weekends.

‘Great,’ said Matt. ‘I’ll let you know our flight details as soon as I have them booked.’

‘Our?’ Andreas asked. ‘Who are you bringing?’

‘I’ll get my colleague Julia to meet us in Zurich. She’ll fly out from London.’

‘What about Warren, won’t he come too?’

‘Warren’s dead,’ Matt said, realising that part of the story hadn’t been reached yet. ‘I’ll explain when I get there.’

‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’

‘Don’t be. It’s quite a tale.’

‘OK Matt, get in touch with the details and I’ll see you in a few days I guess.’

‘Definitely before the week is out. Talk to you later.’

Matt hung up the phone and sat for a moment to recollect the eventful few weeks that he had just had. From the UK to New Zealand, and now on to Switzerland, he thought to himself. A month ago, if you had told him what he was about to experience, Matt would have laughed. He would have liked to now, but something was missing. Actually someone. Matt had to put Aimee behind him. It wasn’t going to be easy.

CHAPTER 55

Many hours — and films on a tiny screen — later, the head steward’s voice came over the intercom and announced the start of descent into Zurich. Matt watched the map on the screen and realised they were approaching from the south-east, meaning they would fly over the Alps before turning into a final approach towards Zurich.

Sure enough, 15 minutes later, the snow-capped Alps came into view. Matt gazed out the window trying to determine which of the many valleys beneath them he had been in. The aircraft gradually descended lower and lower until he could see two small lakes out to the left, a castle topping a hill practically beneath them, and then the edges of a small city just before touching down at the busy airport. Matt buzzed with anticipation. Beyond knowing that Andreas and Julia would be here to meet him, Matt had no idea of what was in store.

Matt pulled his case off the baggage claim belt and set it on its wheels. Looking for the exit, he saw that most of one wall was windows out to the arrivals waiting area, and through them, standing and chatting with each other, were two of Matt’s best friends.

‘You guys have met?’ Matt asked, greeting them both a few minutes later.

‘Just now,’ Andreas said. ‘Quite by chance.’

‘I asked him where I could find a good coffee,’ Julia said. ‘He invited himself to join me.’

Matt grinned at Andreas. ‘Still the ladies man then.’

‘Completely innocent.’ Andreas put his hands up in mock surrender. ‘Come on then. Let’s get you to the hotel.’

Matt was fully at ease. He knew that in Switzerland, everything would be smooth sailing. The Swiss precision and quality, combined with Andreas’ humour and company, and his most trusted colleague who spoke fluent Spanish. What could go wrong?

The world slowly faded back into being. Then it disappeared again. As quickly as it was gone, the blurry images reappeared. Hemi fought to keep his eyes open, but it was a losing battle. The blackness kept on taking over. He slept some more.

Five days passed before Hemi woke up properly again. He found that out from a nurse. He couldn’t remember what had happened to him, so he had to ask that too. He was shot. Who would shoot him?

‘Oh shit.’ Hemi said out loud, the events of the past weeks coming back to him.

He looked around frantically for a buzzer and found one hanging off a cable attached to his bed. He pressed at the button like a drunken geek tweeting his drinks list to a world of uninterested, but bored, surfers. A nurse ran into the room with a panicked expression on her face.

‘What’s wrong?’ She asked, looking him up and down, clearly disappointed not to find a major bleed or heart attack.

‘I need to speak to my boss immediately. I need you to get me a phone.’

‘There’s a phone right there!’ The nurse said, laughing and pointing at a small TV and phone combination that was hovering above Hemi’s head.

‘Oh right, so there is. Sorry, I missed that.’

The nurse turned on her heels, still chuckling, and shuffled off in search of another emergency. Hemi dialled the number for Agent Hope, his superior at the NISO, from memory.

‘Hope.’ Came the blunt answer.

‘Agent Hope, it’s Hemi…’

‘Hemi, you’re awake, that’s brilliant.’

‘Hope, I have to know. What happened to Dr. Cameron? Is he alive?’

‘Yes, yes, of course. Though there was a death.’

Oh my God, Hemi thought. Not Aimee.

‘Who?’ he asked, feeling desperate.

‘Rennie,’ Hope answered. ‘One of our sharp-shooters took him out seconds after he shot you.’

‘He’s dead?’ Hemi felt tears welling in his eyes but a dam of pride held them back. Joy was mixed with disappointment.

‘Yes, Hemi. He’s dead.’

‘I have important information to report. It’s paramount that I talk with you.’

‘We have an agent at the hospital. He’s been waiting to give you some important news too.

Just then, the door to Hemi’s room flew open.

The phone dropped from Hemi’s hand. Damned right that’s important news. The tears broke through the dam as his father reached his side and took him in his arms.

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

CHAPTER 56

Tuesday, December 20, 1527

We have passed through the straits with no events. We made a direct run from the eastern entrance to the western side in only a few hours. Now we are becalmed. Of all the dreaded conditions to have when we are this close to home. I was hoping to be there in time for the birth of my child, but I don’t know if that will happen now. It is hard for me to comprehend that I may be a father already. I cannot wait to see Hine and to tell her all about what we have seen and learned. Especially over the last few weeks of the journey. The men are all equal with me in their excitement. This life of coasting and exploring is far more comfortable than the one we had before. Still, one day we must return to Spain to share what we have learned.

Wednesday, January 4, 1528

I am home. Safe in Whareakeake. Indeed Hine has borne me a son. He has been given the name of his mother’s father. This means that he is in the line of chiefs, those they refer to as Rangatira. My son will one day be chief of the Whareakeake people! It is amazing to write something like this. We have named him Wiremu, determined one. A name that befits a king.

Some of the men have decided they want to try to return to Spain. For this purpose, we have commenced the building of a second Caravel. We have the expertise of the carpenters and shipwright and the materials on hand are second to none. Most of the tools needed are in our stocks and any that we haven’t had have been fashioned together with some of the Waitaha, out of stone they have collected for us. I expect the build will take a considerable amount of time, but time is a commodity we are not short of.

CHAPTER 57

‘And when he woke and looked out of his tent, he couldn’t believe he’d spent the night camped on the university green!’ Matt laughed, Andreas laughed with him.

They’d enjoyed their evening and morning of catching up. Julia had been immersed, like or not, in a full history of their antics and Matt appreciated laughing again after such a strenuous few weeks. He was relieved that he had a chance to quietly tell Andreas not to say anything to Julia about Warren’s death before it came out in conversation. Julia was the sensitive type. It didn’t make sense to upset her with any horror stories. Now things had to get back to business as usual. And business as usual had meant an e-mail from Dwight Pick that morning.

Dwight made it clear that he was unimpressed about losing yet another of his team to Matt’s wild goose chase. But he also hadn’t mentioned letters of warning or pending dismissal, so Matt assumed that he had thought about things and realised Matt was right. Of course he was right. He was really on to something here.

The approach to the ETH was quite exciting. From the hotel, down the famous Bahnhofstrasse, past the main station, over the Limmat River, and now they were on a cute little red funicular up the hill.

‘You’ve not been to the ETH before, have you?’ Andreas asked, turning to both Matt and Julia.

‘No,’ Julia said. ‘This is my first time in Switzerland too.’

‘Me neither.’ Matt answered. ‘But I know it by reputation. Didn’t Einstein study here?’

‘Among many other very notable scholars,’ Andreas said, full of pride. ‘The ETH is one of the world’s leading universities, of course. The library’s also a leader in the field.’

As they exited the funicular station, Matt was struck by the dominance and stature of the ETH’s main building. Spread out in front of the large stone structure was an expansive terrace. The city, lake and mountain views were superb. The Alps looked stunning.

‘How does anyone get any work done in there with a view like that?’ Julia asked.

Inside, the building opened out in front of them into a four levelled lobby with galleries running around all sides. The top floor was closed in behind glass. The mixture of old with new was tastefully done and Matt was pleased to see that this building hadn’t lost any grandeur during its years of serving students. Andreas spotted a directory near the lifts which told them the library was on floor H.

‘We’ll be needing the Special Collections Reading Room,’ he said.

They took the lift and found the reading room, which was quiet. Only a few people were scattered about at desks, engrossed in large old books. At a red counter in the middle of the room a friendly young librarian stood to greet them.

‘How can I help?’ she asked in perfect English. Matt smiled at how some Swiss had a knack for knowing what language to use before you even spoke. He wondered if it was his clothes.

‘We’re looking for the Kirstein Collection,’ Matt answered.

‘Sure.’ she said, pointing to a computer on a large desk to her left. ‘If you use this terminal here, you can browse the collection contents and let me know what items in particular you’d like to see. There are over two thousand items in the collection, you see, so we can only bring up an item or two at a time.

‘Ah, the collection isn’t actually housed here then,’ Matt asked, a little disappointed.

‘It is, but it’s down in the basement archives. It normally takes some time for the archives team to retrieve items and send them up here.’

‘How long?’

‘Depending on the item and the preservation techniques needed to protect it, anywhere from two hours through to four days.’

Matt’s heart sank. Maybe the librarian had seen this in his face, because she added, ‘but have a look at the catalogue, let me know what you require, and we’ll see what we can do.’

The three of them took places at the desk with the catalogue terminal and had soon located the Kirstein Collection section. Thirty minutes later, they approached the librarian again.

‘Have you found what you were looking for?’ she asked.

‘No,’ Matt answered, hoping his frustration wasn’t showing too much. ‘Is it possible there are items in the collection not catalogued?’

She hesitated. ‘Everything is catalogued, but there’s always a possibility that some items are held in the private collection. These are items that are to be accessed with special permission or under certain circumstances.’

‘Who makes the decision of what counts as a special circumstance?’ Matt asked, a glimmer of hope returning.

‘That would be the Special Collections Manager.’ She smiled again. ‘In fact, this is him coming our way right now.’

‘Good morning,’ the friendly looking man said, reaching out his hands to shake those of Matt, Julia and Andreas. ‘My name is Mischeler.’

‘Good morning, Herr Mischeler,’ Andreas said, before Matt had a chance. ‘I’m Andreas Bosshard. These are my colleagues, Dr. Matthew Cameron and Julia McKenzie.’

‘Bosshard.’ Mischeler repeated. ‘Not any relation to…’

‘Michael Bosshard.’ Andreas smiled, glancing sideways at Matt. ‘Yes, he’s my father.’

Matt realised what Andreas was doing. Clearly this was no time to interrupt.

‘I know your father well. We’ve worked together on many a project over the years.’ He looked Andreas up and down. ‘Yes, I can see a family resemblance.’ He paused, and smiled a warm and welcoming smile. ‘Well, master Bosshard, what can we do for you today here at our humble library?’

‘We were hoping to make a visit to the Kirstein Collection.’

‘Anything in particular you’re looking for?’

‘It’s hard to say, we aren’t exactly sure ourselves what we’re looking for, but it would have been an item submitted following Kirstein’s final journey. An item he picked up in New Zealand.’

‘Ah.’ Mischeler nodded. ‘About ninety percent of that submission, the findings of that journey, are part of the private collection. Never been published, and most likely never will be. Can I ask for what purpose you need to find this item?’

‘It’s a long story,’ Matt said, hoping it was OK to put his bit in now. ‘But if what we think is there is actually there, then the history of New Zealand may possibly need a full revision.’

‘Sounds exciting.’

‘It is exciting,’ Andreas agreed. ‘If there was some way we could access the collection, those items, it would be greatly appreciated.’

Herr Mischeler looked down at the red counter. He tapped his lip with his finger. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Matt, he lifted his head again and smiled.

‘Alright,’ he said. ‘Since your father has done me so many favours over the years, I’ll return one now.’

‘Great,’ Matt said. ‘Thank you so much Herr Mischeler.

‘That’s OK, but I want to come with you, it sounds like there might be some adventure hidden in this. Give me two hours to organise things. I need to advise the director that I’ll be taking guests down to the archive and to arrange the appropriate access passes.’

‘Alright,’ Andreas said. ‘We’ll go and find lunch somewhere and see you back here at…’ he looked at his watch, ‘Thirteen hundred.’

‘I suggest you try the Mensa, student cafeteria, down on floor B, under the Polyterasse. That’s the large terrace out front. They have a few meal options on there and it saves a trip back down into the city centre.’

They said their goodbyes and made their way down to the Mensa. The building was a rabbit warren, with stairs and corridors leading all over the place, but eventually, after passing by a sweaty-smelling gymnasium, they were greeted with the smells of food, and joined the queues at the student cafeteria.

CHAPTER 58

Matt placed his knife and fork next to each other across his plate. He wasn’t sure if it was the processed meat in the Schnitzel, or the anticipation of finding some hard evidence of a Spanish discovery of New Zealand that left him feeling a bit sick in his stomach. Either way, it was 12:50pm, time to get back upstairs.

‘Welcome back,’ Herr Mischeler greeted them. ‘Everything’s arranged. If you’d like to follow me, we can make our way to the archives right now.’

Matt, Andreas, and Julia followed Mischeler through a sliding glass door at the back of the collection room. He took a key from his pocket and the group passed through the door he unlocked. It was a different world.

They passed through corridors lined with rolling shelves stacked wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Large steel chests of files and wide drawers crowded another hall. A conveyer system ran overhead, books frequently going past to an unknown destination. There were even yellow boxes running around on an overhead track, turning corners, crossing intersections, and going down through the floor. Matt was suitably impressed. The whole place had a familiar smell of old books. They took a cargo lift down to floor D.

Matt was amazed that anyone could find their way around this building. As they went down a flight of stairs, he completely lost his bearings. Herr Mischeler led them to another small stair against a wall. Here, they passed through a door that Matt would never otherwise have noticed; it was concealed so subtly in the wall panels.

‘This is quite some place you have here,’ Matt said, intending to compliment Herr Mischeler, as they started down a long, narrow, flight of stairs that the door had hidden.

‘Thanks, we make do with the space we can find. It’s an old building and wasn’t designed to house a library. Most of the building is taken up by smaller offices and some auditoriums. It makes squeezing in a library a bit of a challenge, but then this is just one of our many book storage facilities.’

At the bottom of the stairs, the slightly ajar door opened out into a triangular room. Sitting at a desk on the other side of the room, by a large opening into the next room, was a stern-looking, silent man. Herr Mischeler simply nodded at him as they walked past. Matt wasn’t sure if he was a guard of some sort, or just someone having a coffee break. They walked past and through the opening beyond him. Matt’s mouth dropped open but words didn’t come out.

In front of him, Matt stared at a huge space, full of floor to ceiling shelves running in perfectly ordered rows as far as the eyes could follow. Off to the sides of these shelves were further openings into other large chambers which also housed rows and rows of shelves. Continuing along in Herr Mischeler’s footsteps, Matt saw that both Julia and Andreas were also struggling to take in what they were seeing.

‘Is your Dad’s library like this?’ Matt asked Andreas.

‘Not even close.’

‘It’s incredible,’ Julia said.

‘Not many people get to see this,’ Herr Mischeler said with a proud grin. ‘It’s always nice to hear happy reactions like yours. Here we are… the Kirstein Collection.’

Matt looked at the shelves they had stopped at. Nothing here told him that this was the Kirstein Collection. The shelves looked like all the rest. The only thing different was the shelf number, printed in bold letters at the top right.

‘So…’ Herr Mischeler continued. ‘…we’re looking for the content of his last journey, the journey to New Zealand.’

Herr Mischeler pulled a card from his jacket pocket and looked at a number he had written on it. He moved along the shelves, his finger tracing the reference numbers that appeared on each shelf, under each row of books and small carton boxes. Eventually he stopped, four shelving units further along, and looked up at Matt, smiling.

‘The content of these three shelves is everything Kirstein brought back from New Zealand with him. This content was stored days before his death. Everything here was catalogued, but nothing has been made public or properly investigated. We had no reason to believe there was anything special beyond what he had noted in his journals. He certainly never made mention of anything that could change history, but who knows, huh?’

‘Perhaps he also wanted to look into things a little before he went public,’ Matt suggested.

‘And little could he know he would die before the month was out,’ Andreas said.

‘Too true,’ Mischeler said. ‘So where should we start? What are we looking for?’

‘Hopefully, a journal of some sort,’ Matt answered. ‘Something written in Spanish, and probably about 500 years old.’

‘I suggest we work one box at a time then,’ Herr Mischeler said, taking the left-upper-most box from the shelf and opening it.

The four of them worked together in hopeful silence.

CHAPTER 59

Sunday, October 14, 1528

We are having a positive impact on the village and have been rewarded with full acceptance into the tribe now.

The storage of meat and vegetables in the village has improved since the carpenters worked together with the Waitaha, showing them the raised storage huts that we drew plans of in South America. There are numerous examples of these now standing in Whareakeake and I imagine that the idea has been taken up by some of our neighbours.

We cook many of our meals in the ways that we witnessed in South America also. This has been accepted by the villagers, who make a big event out of digging up the ground and burying the food under a pile of heated rocks. The sweet potato, fowl, and fish all have a wonderful taste when cooked like this. When I go about exploring the surrounding countryside now, and find myself thinking of home, it is of Whareakeake that I think and not of Spain. It is for that reason that upon the completion of the Caravel that we built, I did not accompany the twenty-six men who have commanded it in an effort to return to Spain. They have sailed south around the Isla de Sur and will make course for the Cape of Good Hope, by setting a course for her latitude and then following that line to the west. They have taken with them samples of the vegetables and trees found here and also copies of the charts we have made. I will pray daily for their safe return and that they may prove to the King the importance of further expeditions to this land.

CHAPTER 60

They had searched through boxes for almost three hours when Matt heard the gasp escape Herr Mischeler’s mouth. He rushed to his side. In total, they had gone through fourteen boxes. There were only three to go, but now, they needn’t go any further. Herr Mischeler held a very old leather-bound volume. Embossed in the front was a nearly eroded emblem that Matt immediately recognised as being the same as that on the jar. There was no doubt in his mind, this was what they were looking for.

Herr Mischeler turned the book over carefully, and opened the front cover with a gentle, practiced motion. The text, in a beautiful hand, was unmistakably Spanish. Julia explained that she was fluent in Spanish and Herr Mischeler passed her the volume. She read from the front, translating the content into English directly from the page.

‘The Journal of Captain Francisco de Hoces of the Caravel San Lesmes, 1525.’

‘San Lesmes? Ever heard of it?’ Matt asked excitedly.

‘It is familiar,’ Julia confirmed. ‘I think it might have been one of the ships lost during the Loaisa expedition.’

‘Must have really been lost.’ Herr Mischeler laughed.

‘It looks like the Spanish found their way to New Zealand after all,’ Andreas said.

‘This will be great for our library.’

‘This will be great for a lot of people,’ Matt said. ‘But it’s also going to stir up some trouble.’

The four of them stood in silence, admiring the pages of the journal. It was in good condition, considering its age, excepting one part where a page or two appeared to have been lost. Perhaps torn out. The tear was very clean. But that aside, the preservation in the cave, and now the library, had apparently been suitable to the materials.

‘Can we take this with us?’ Matt asked.

‘No,’ Herr Mischeler said.

Matt’s heart sank. Andreas looked disappointed. Herr Mischeler reached out to Julia, who obligingly passed the book to him.

‘But we can make a copy for you right away,’ Mischeler said. ‘We have a very high-end book scanning solution upstairs. I’ll get them onto it straight away.’

He grabbed a yellow box from a pile nearby, placed the book in it, and made his way to the conveyer system at the end of the row. There, he placed the box onto the track, and punched a code into the adjacent keypad. The conveyer sprang to life and the box moved along to a large upward bend in the track, where it disappeared through a hole in the ceiling.

‘Alright,’ Mischeler said. ‘Let’s get ourselves upstairs so that you can pick up your copy.’

‘What will you do with the original?’ Matt asked.

‘Nothing, for now. This is your discovery, Dr. Cameron. We will safeguard the original until you’ve made any announcements, then we’ll make our own reports and make it available for special display. But the credit for this lies with you.’

Matt thanked Herr Mischeler for his professionalism.

Some ten minutes later, they stood in an office near the Special Collections reading room, watching as a lady meticulously operated a huge industrial scanner that digitised the journal. In what seemed like no time at all, she turned to Herr Mischeler to pass him the leather-bound volume, advising him she was finished.

‘Can you make a copy for Dr. Cameron, please?’ Herr Mischeler asked her.

‘Already have,’ the lady said, as another woman entered from an adjacent room with a bound pile of paper. She accepted the work from her colleague and passed it to Matt.

‘Matt, let me take the copy to the reading room and start translating it now.’ Julia pleaded.

Matt agreed, and passing her the copy, he promised to come and collect her after a coffee with Andreas. As Julia closed the door behind her, the lady turned to Matt again and passed him a grey and red memory stick with an ETH logo on it.

‘This memory stick contains all of the text of the volume as recognised by the OCR. You can use this in any word processor. It might come in handy.’

‘Thanks.’ Matt smiled. ‘I may just find a use for that.’

‘Let me take you back out to the public areas,’ Herr Mischeler said. ‘I have to get back to my work, but Dr. Cameron, it’s been a pleasurable interlude to my typical week.’

‘The pleasure was all ours,’ Matt said.

‘It really was,’ Andreas said. ‘We can’t thank you enough for your accommodation.’

‘No thanks are necessary, gentlemen. Just promise to keep me in the loop on this. I look forward to finding out the whole story. I’ll look after this in the meantime,’ he said, tapping the leather of the original.

He led them out to the lobby and they said their goodbyes. Matt and Andreas decided to pop down to the cafe they had seen on the ground floor. Matt needed a strong coffee and there was a lot to talk about. Then, they would go and see how Julia was getting on. Matt pressed the call button on the lift. As the doors slid open, Matt and Andreas were greeted with the view of two uniformed police officers, complete with holstered side-arms and batons.

‘Are you Dr. Matthew Cameron?’ one of them asked.

Matt looked at Andreas, who nodded to him, reassuring him that police here are trustworthy. ‘Yes,’ he answered.

‘Dr. Cameron, we need to talk to you. Would you and your friend here please accompany us to the station?’

‘Are we under arrest?’

‘No, we just need to talk. It will only take an hour or so.’

‘Sure,’ Matt said, feeling the memory stick in his jacket pocket. ‘Let’s go.’

Matt and Andreas followed the officers into the lift. Matt decided not to add Julia to this fray. He just hoped that she wouldn’t go looking for them before they got back. Something told him she wouldn’t. She had plenty to occupy herself.

CHAPTER 61

The officers escorted Matt and Andreas in silence down to the city, across the river, and into the beautiful old stone police buildings. Arriving at a second floor office, they were introduced to an Interpol Agent by the name of Regenbrecht.

‘How did you know where to find us?’ Matt asked.

‘We received intelligence from an agent of the DCI in New Zealand,’ Regenbrecht said. ‘She asked us to give you her best regards and said she hopes you will one day understand what she did.’

Aimee. Is she just doing her job, or does she actually care?

‘Miss Kingsbridge passed on a report from the NISO. One of their agents had been working on an investigation and obtained knowledge of you and your activities which requires your attention.’

‘Yes, we’re aware of the situation.’ Matt responded, unsure which part of this should be new to him.

‘The officer in question…’ He looked at his notes. ‘…Agent Hemi Davis, was shot and sustained serious injury.’

‘Yes,’ Matt answered, trying not to get impatient, but aware that he had life-changing, nay, history-changing things to get on with.

‘Mr Davis has survived his injuries and has been able to give a full report of his investigation to his superiors.’

‘That’s good,’ Matt said, as Andreas also pricked up his ears to see what was coming.

‘It seems that your colleague in New Zealand, Mr Warren Rennie, had been involved in a conspiracy to create evidence of an archaeological nature that would suggest the Maori were not the first inhabitants of New Zealand.’

‘Not illegal in itself,’ Matt said. ‘Just stupid. But it was when he started shooting at us that I didn’t like him any more.’

Regenbrecht smiled. ‘It’s not what he was trying to do that was the problem,’ the agent continued. ‘It was how he went about doing it. Seems like your friend would stop at nothing, which you also learned after all.’

Matt cringed at the use of the word friend now. Warren had been well short of that. He glanced across at Andreas but caught himself. He knew he was safe with Andreas.

‘That’s true,’ Matt said. ‘Warren showed me his true colours this last month. But I still don’t understand what drove him to it.’

‘Greed,’ Regenbrecht answered. ‘It’s always greed or passion. This time, greed wins.’

‘Greed for what?’ Andreas asked, clearly interested in a little background. Matt was also interested in any information he might glean from this inconvenient visit.

‘Money, the tourist dollar. It’s been reported to us that Warren Rennie was one of the founding members of the Clan of Truth.’

Matt felt his mouth drop open.

‘The Clan of Truth openly fought against Maori tribal tourism organisations in New Zealand, claiming that they, as Celtic descendants, should have the rights to tourism-related commercial land that they own,’ Regenbrecht said.

‘The land that the Iwis claimed as Maori land.’ Matt explained to Andreas. ‘The jet-boating rivers, tourism destinations and activities throughout the South Island… even whale watching in Kaikoura. The New Zealand government gave a lot of rights to the Iwis as redress for the loss of revenue the Maori suffered under Britain’s earlier land purchases.’

Andreas nodded, but looked bewildered. Matt would explain later.

‘So Rennie set out to find evidence that the Celts had colonised New Zealand before the Maori,’ Regenbrecht continued. ‘Evidence that wasn’t available to be found, so Rennie had to create some himself. He set about stealing artefacts from a museum in England. He transported these to New Zealand, and planted them where he could later make a chance discovery.’

Matt had heard this part before, but was it really possible that Warren had constructed the entire scenario? Had Warren really stolen the mirror from a museum, buried it on a farm in Northland, dug it up, and called him out to New Zealand to verify his faked discovery? Matt felt squeamish and cheated. Utterly used.

‘I don’t see how Warren would be capable of doing all this by himself.’ Matt said.

‘Neither did Agent Davis, which is what he needed to report back. Rennie had help. Help with a lot of pull.’

‘Who?’

Agent Regenbrecht slid a photo across the table to Matt. ‘The owner of the farm where Rennie buried his stolen evidence. This man, the other founder of the Clan of Truth.’

Matthew looked down at the photo. Waves of emotion flooded over him, like the pounding surf that follows in the wake of a storm. He felt ill. It couldn’t get any worse.

The automatic sliding glass doors separated and Matt walked into the Special Collections reading room, with Andreas at his side. Their informative little visit to the police station had been interesting to say the least, but right now, Matt had other things on his mind. He wanted to know what was in that diary. He saw Julia over in the far corner, hunched over her photocopied version of the journal. She appeared to be about half way through. It had been the right decision not to tell Julia they were going to the police station. It would have been unpleasant for her. It was best she didn’t know about what went on in New Zealand. He glanced at his watch. They had been gone for two hours.

‘That must have been some seriously good coffee!’ Julia said, half-whispering. ‘I’ve been busting to tell you what’s in here.’

‘It was good coffee, wasn’t it Andreas?’ Matt asked, as he turned to Andreas with an instructive look.

Andreas responded as he hoped, with no mention of the police station visit. ‘Yeah, sure was.’

‘So, what can you tell me?’ Matt asked, sitting down.

‘Well…’ Julia said, her voice getting louder with excitement ‘…I’m only part way in, but I can tell you this much, not only did the San Lesmes make it to New Zealand, the surviving crew sailed and mapped some of the coasts and settled in among the Maori. In fact, they even intermarried and had children.’

‘Oh my God, that’s great,’ Matt said, barely containing himself.

‘It’s brilliant, Matt,’ Andreas said, nudging his shoulder. ‘But I think we better keep it down, or take this elsewhere. We’re in the library, remember?’

Matt checked himself and realised he must have spoken too loud in his excitement. Sure enough, as he glanced around the room he saw more than one set of frustrated eyes looking back at him.

‘Let’s go have dinner back at the hotel,’ Matt said, grabbing the copy of the journal and thrusting it in his satchel before Julia even realised it was gone.

Thirty minutes later, they sat at a table in the hotel restaurant over-looking the Limmat River. Small snow flurries drifted into the water and melted on contact. The flakes hitting the ground only lasted a few seconds longer.

‘I think we have enough to go home,’ Matt said, turning to Andreas.

‘You probably do,’ Andreas agreed. ‘Certainly, you already know that there’s revision of New Zealand’s history to be done. The second half of the journal should be interesting to read through too.’

‘Oh for sure,’ Julia said. ‘I could get started on it tonight.’

‘No, I think we have had enough excitement for one day, and we want to be sure to be thorough in our interpretation of the work. We can head home in the morning and spend a few days on the first read and translation.’

‘I guess so,’ Julia said, as she slumped back in her chair, looking distinctly disappointed.

Matt watched out the window as a swan and a duck appeared to fight over a piece of bread. Just as it looked like the swan had won, a sparrow flew down between them, grabbed the bread, and was gone before either of the fowl knew what happened.

‘I’m sorry we haven’t been around for longer, Andreas, I’d have liked to have had a good catch up.’

‘Don’t worry about it, I’ve really enjoyed today. It isn’t every day you get to be involved in such a monumental discovery.’

‘Looks like ours,’ Julia said as she indicated the approaching waiters.

Matt watched, amused, as the waiters placed their meals, concealed under silver food domes, on the table in front of them. Then, as one of the waiters counted to three silently, all three domes were removed with a precision that only Swiss could muster. Julia almost clapped. It was one of the things that Matt had always enjoyed at some of the better Swiss restaurants. He loved the sense of surprise that you still got when you saw the meal that you had ordered. Some surprises in life were great, others not so. Matt hoped that he would get a few less of the bad ones, and that the journal would continue to deliver only pleasant discoveries from now on.

CHAPTER 62

Sunday, September 8, 1529

My son is now two years old. We arrived in Galatas Nueva a year before he was born. Yet no other Spanish have come. Are they no longer searching for Terra Australis? To have given up would have been foolish. Granted, Galatas Nueva is not the imagined great southern continent that we dreamed of, but the land is also not low on resources. The wood grows in abundance and on a scale not to be found in Spain. We have also seen many fine gems and rocks, aside from the jade jewellery that is made in Whareakeake, we have also seen gold.

The sea offers up the best fishing I know, with a wonderful variety of fleshy white fish and shellfish of all sizes. There are whales coming past, not too distant from the land, and seals even sleep on the beaches around us. Any nation that settled here would be pleased with the island’s riches. Indeed, I am more than pleased with my lot.

There has, it must be said, been some brawling among a few of the men. Two were killed. The incidences seem to be isolated however, and for the most part, everyone is settled in and showing no signs of interest in returning to Spain. We are, now, deserters. If we did return, we would likely be executed. A good thing it is then that life here is so good.

CHAPTER 63

Everything was packed and ready to go. Matt’s suitcase sat at the end of the hotel bed but it wasn’t going to be rolled out the door for at least an hour yet. Matt was early. That was a problem, because he had to fill in time, and he had hoped to find an excuse to not do what he knew he had to do. He picked up the phone and dialled.

‘Hello?’ Her voice sounded as sweet as ever. Damn.

‘Hi Aimee.’

‘Oh my God, Matt. Thanks for calling. Are you OK?’

‘I promised I’d let the DCI know if I found anything. So here I am.’

Matt wanted to come off as scathing, and it seemed to work.

‘Oh. What did you find?’

‘We found the journal. The Journal of Francisco de Hoces, Captain of the San Lesmes. He reached New Zealand.’

‘That’s great. Wow, Matt, this will change everything.’

Matt struggled to be angry at Aimee. He continued to tell her about the previous days’ events and what they had found. As time ticked by, the conversation got warmer and warmer. Before long, Matt had all but forgotten about Aimee’s betrayal.

‘I never knew how dangerous Warren was, or I would have told you. Do you understand that I was just doing my job?’ Aimee asked.

‘I guess I do. I was just doing mine too. But I fell in love with you. It hurt so much to find out you were only using me for your investigation.’

‘I wasn’t. At first, I flirted to get closer to you. But then I got to know you. I couldn’t stop myself from loving you.’

‘That only makes it a little better. How could I trust you again? How can I trust anyone?’

‘You would have to give me a chance. Give us a chance. Without trying, we can never go past where we are now.’

They talked for a few minutes about the situation. Matt realised that Aimee was hurting too. She seemed so genuine about her emotions. He thought of the night on the golf course. His jacket still had light grass stains. That night had been real. That was the real Aimee. He loved her, and needed her by his side.

‘I need time.’

‘Take it. But don’t give up on the idea.’

They ended their call on promises to keep in touch. Matt wanted to believe that Aimee meant what she said. He wanted to believe they would be with each other. But he had doubts it would ever be more than words. He needed to sort his own thoughts out too.

The hour had passed. He grabbed the handle of his case and rolled it out the door, in search of Julia.

Greg Scowen

The Spanish Helmet

The short flight from Zurich to Heathrow wasn’t something that bothered Matt too much. But he was fidgety. Nervous. He had his reasons of course. In his satchel, tucked under his seat, was a document that would change his life, his career, forever. Next to him, Julia was also fidgeting.

‘We have another hour, Matt, let’s look at the journal some more.’

‘Not here, not now. I think it’s best to try and keep this private until we have a true understanding of what it means.’

Julia looked disappointed. Matt didn’t care though, this was too important for its value to be diminished through leaks, or worse, espionage. And since Matt’s experiences of the last few weeks, he wasn’t ready to give away too much anymore. You never knew who was sitting next to, or near you, on a plane. Up until now, the only people that had an inkling of the importance of the documents he carried were the Swiss librarian, Aimee, Andreas, Julia and himself. Of those, only three of them knew the gravity of the content. He studied Julia’s face, as she looked out the window. He had to admire how someone so innocent and normal was able to hide such an intelligent, clever, and witty intellect. She never ceased to surprise him.

Time flew along with their aircraft and before long, Matt and Julia walked side by side towards the arrivals lounge. They had cleared European customs in Zurich, so here all they had to do was collect the bags and get to the train station. Matt watched as the gate to the arrivals lounge drew closer to them with each step. His heart raced as they turned the corner through the exits and two uniformed police officers stood in front of them. Different uniforms, same feeling, the second time in two days that Matt was greeted by police.

‘Dr. Matthew Cameron?’ The tall, kindly looking policeman asked him as they approached.

‘Yes,’ Matthew said with as much calm as he could muster. ‘And this is my colleague, Julia McKenzie.’

The shorter, plumper of the two officers turned to Julia. ‘Miss McKenzie,’ he said as he extended his hand.

Julia reached out her hand to shake his but he didn’t take it. The taller officer also turned to Julia now, and continued to speak. ‘Julia McKenzie, you’re under arrest on charges of theft and of conspiracy to induce bodily harm. You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but I must warn you that if you fail to mention any fact which you rely on in your defence in court, your failure to take this opportunity to mention it may be treated in court as supporting any relevant evidence against you. If you do wish to say anything, what you say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?’

Matt watched Julia crumple. Her normally composed expression was replaced with one of shock and dismay. Unlike him, it was crystal clear that Julia had no indication that this was going to happen. She had been taken completely by surprise, which was exactly how it had to have been. The Interpol police in Zurich had said as much.

Julia turned to him and stared pleadingly into his eyes. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said. But Julia wasn’t answering the police officers question, she was directly addressing Matt. ‘What have you done?’

‘You know what you’ve done.’ Matt blurted the words out, struggling to fight back his emotion. ‘I don’t have to explain myself to you. If anyone has some explaining to do it’s you.’

With that, Matt turned to his luggage trolley, catching a glimpse at the multitudes of amused onlookers, and quickly composed himself.

‘But I have important work to do, Julia. I don’t have time for any more of your games.’ He turned to the officers and nodded, thanking them for their duty.

With that, the officers farewelled Matt and flanked the soppy mess that Julia now was and walked her towards the terminal exit and the waiting patrol car.

***

Matt stood and watched, completely struck by the moment, as the three departed looking more like a strange carnival race than three professionals in their fields. The events of the previous day’s visit to the Zurich police station played over in his head.

Matt was overcome with emotion when he first saw the photo of Warren’s accomplice. After composing himself, he turned to Andreas.

‘That’s Sir Alan McKenzie. Julia’s father.’

Andreas looked miserable. Matt felt it.

‘So Julia stole the mirror. She’s been in on this.’ Matt hadn’t said anything more about it. His brain just whirled into top gear.

Julia had been feeding info to Warren. That’s why Warren suggested he take Julia along. She had been in on it all along. How long? The betrayal went so much deeper than Matt had imagined possible. Had their years of working together all been part of a scam? God, she’s got a copy of the journal, I have to get it back.

Everything had only come together when Aimee and Hemi caught up with each other to swap notes following his recovery. They had realised that the only person who could have tipped Warren off, if it wasn’t either of them, had to be Julia. After a bit of digging, they found out that Julia’s father, the honourable Sir Alan McKenzie and Warren were the founders of the Clan of Truth. Together, they had plotted to get their hands on more tourist land for the McKenzie empire. Greed had killed Warren Rennie and resulted in Julia’s career being ruined. Matt couldn’t begin to imagine how it would affect her when she learned that Warren was dead.

As he watched Julia stoop into the back seat of the police car, he pinched himself. He was awake alright. The journal existed. He felt it in his satchel, the memory stick too. Yes, this was reality.

‘First my mother, then Warren, Aimee, and now Julia. How many people have I put misplaced trust in?’ he muttered to himself, as he gave the trolley a shove to move it from its stationary position off in the direction of the train station.

CHAPTER 64

Rose finally leaned forward and lowered her coffee-cup onto the table. She stared at Matt with a dumbfounded expression.

‘I’m so sorry, luv,’ she said. ‘You don’t deserve all the heartache this journey must have caused you.’

‘Thanks Rose, still here I am back at home, safe and sound. My favourite landlady and my loyal friend.’ Matt stroked Meridian’s lovely little head and thought perhaps he should go away more often. Meridian practically never settled down on his knees, but right now, there was no moving him from his perch, dribbling and purring in Matt’s lap.

‘And you got to meet your father and half-sister, so even though you’ve lost some, you’ve won some too, right?’

‘Sure.’ Matt smiled. Typical of Rose to see the best in every situation. ‘I met a girl too.’

‘Aimee?’

‘How’d you know?’

‘Every time you mentioned her, your face lit up.’

Matt was embarrassed to be so transparent. He had only mentioned Aimee as a companion on his search. The romance had been left out. So had the betrayal. Now he explained the whole situation to Rose.

‘Sounds to me like love, Matt. You shouldn’t let go of a chance for love like that. Give it some thought.’

‘I know you’re right, Rose. As soon as I get through this journal and sort out a few changes at work, I’ll get in touch with her.’

‘Then get to work,’ Rose said, standing up to take the empty cups to the sink, where she rinsed them before placing them carefully in the dishwasher.

Matt sighed. ‘Just as soon as I get this lump off my knee, I want to put the stuff on the memory stick through some translation software. See what exactly it is I’ve found here.’

‘I thought that automatic translations were supposed to be shoddy and hopeless.’ Rose teased Matt, reminding him of the French websites that were machine-translated into English, which he always laughed at. They had often chuckled over some of the lost meanings, or odd new ones, together.

‘Oh, they are. But it’ll take a few days for the full human translation to be completed. A trusted colleague from the European languages department is already on it. I just want to get a bit of a preview, as it were. I’m sure I can at least make sense out of what the software will offer me.’

‘Back in a sec.’

Rose took off out of the room. Matt had no idea where she had gone. Less than a minute later she reappeared and proudly put a shiny new laptop in front of Matt on the table.

‘I took your laptop to the repair guy. He said it was beyond help, so I thought I’d treat you to a new one. Everything’s been copied over.’

Matt looked up at Rose full of love. This woman managed to single-handedly renew his trust in mankind. She made him feel like gold every time he saw her. He had no idea what he would do without her in his life and hoped they would be friends, family, for years to come.

‘You shouldn’t have, Rose, you can’t afford it!’

‘Rubbish, your rent for the last month paid for that. I figured, if this little muppet won’t let you get to the computer, I’d get the computer to you.’

Matt smiled and lifted the lid of the curvy Asus computer and pressed the power button. He barely heard a thing as it sprang to life and Windows 7 greeted him. Retrieving the memory stick from his satchel, which thankfully was right next to him, he placed it in a USB socket and loaded Google’s translation tool up on his screen. He copied one journal entry at a time into the text box, and marvelled at the English, albeit imperfect, which greeted him at the click of a button.

‘I’m gonna put some dinner on. I figured you would be hungry, so I got us some stewing beef,’ Rose said, as she walked over to the kitchen bench and clanged stuff around.

Matt continued quietly scanning the entries through the first half of the journal. He had already had this part summarised to him by Julia, so there was nothing new or shocking, but it was nevertheless a riveting read. The journal continued in the same manner most of the way through toward the end. The translation wasn’t the best but it was readable. Only once had Matt thought something was seriously wrong with it, when the journal seemed to spring wildly over a section about the North Island. But then Matt remembered the missing pages. Odd, but not critical. Glancing at his watch as he heard Rose say something about dishing up in a few minutes, Matt realised he had been reading the journal for over two hours.

‘I just have a few pages to go,’ Matt said. ‘It’s great stuff. The Spanish definitely discovered New Zealand before we did. They co-existed with the Maori and all.’

Matt copied the last entries across to the Google translator and read through them. He was very close to the end when it happened. The words flew out of the page at him and nearly threw him off his chair. He must have jumped, because Meridian leaped off his knee like he had been shocked with a cattle-prod. The words on the screen rendered Matt utterly speechless.

CHAPTER 65

Thursday, December 12, 1529

The ways of the Waitaha are interesting. They are a gentle and loving race, yet they are also warriors. Cannibalism is not unknown to us, and we have witnessed occasion when there has been an attack from an outside tribe, and the killed have been decapitated and parts of them eaten. They only eat defeated enemies though. Almost comically, they won’t eat of the lesser men. Only the strong and worthy opponents are worthy of the dinner mats. The people also practice infanticide. Two of the half-cast children were killed before Tane put a stop to it. Both of them were girls. Thankfully, he couldn’t allow it to happen to his own heir.

I want to learn more and to find out about the other people. Particularly, I really want to know more about the race of people described to me by the natives that we met in the harbour we explored on Isla del Norte. So, we have decided to venture on another exploration. This time we will sail north to the straits and take supplies from the harbour there. Then we shall continue up the western coast of Isla del Norte to the long harbour I wrote about at the time. This is, therefore, my last entry before we return to those stones in the north to find out more about the people who were here before the natives. I have removed the three pages from my journal where I wrote about this before. I need them to locate the harbour again. To summarise the content of those pages, in the event that something happens to me on this journey, I will briefly reiterate here what we saw. My journal will, once again, be safely stored in the jar buried in the cave until my return.

Summary of Thursday, October 20, 1527

We have entered the harbour successfully and explored it as deep inland as it goes. There are wonderful forests and many villages throughout the harbour, and the people have all been friendly, trading with us as we explore. Finally, we have returned to one of the villages near the mouth of the harbour. Here, we have anchored and gone ashore. The villagers were very excited to see us. White men, white men, they chanted. They led us on foot down the coast, five or six leagues, where we were shown a field of standing stones. This array of large obelisks is familiar to me. Exactly the same styles of stones can be found throughout Galicia. The natives say stones were erected like this by a race of men hundreds of years before us. The natives seemed to think that the stones would mean something to us. The excitement they had couldn’t be hidden. Is it because we are white-skinned? Do they relate stones like this to fair-skinned people? It was a strange experience. We are back in the village tonight. I want to spend some time exploring the hills and forests around here.

Summary of Wednesday, November 9, 1527

We have explored a great deal. Over this time we have found more and more sites of stones in the forests. Someone had established a civilisation here. I asked the local tribe about the stones. They are from the first people, the ancient ones, they explained. When they arrived here, the mountain or stone people were already here. They learned from them the ways of the moon, stars and sun, though much has been forgotten. Over the years, they have killed most of these people. The ones that remain are feared and respected. The fact that these men live, makes them Gods. They are highly intelligent people. The natives tell stories about the ancients to the children, saying they are fairies. Little Gods. They barely ever see each other now. The stones remain standing.

Matt approached the imposing Wallis Memorial theatre with confidence. He was fifteen minutes early, giving himself plenty of time to get everything set up for the lecture. He savoured the thought of the announcement he was about to make. This was the making of him. Dr. Matthew Cameron would be, from this day onwards, the revisionist responsible for discovering the true history of New Zealand. He smiled inwardly as much as on the surface. Matt felt great.

He took his place behind the podium. He wasn’t nervous, just excited. This was his first official lecture as Head of History at the University of South-West England. The promotion was announced as a response to his discovery. Dwight Pick was furious, and proud enough to resign when offered the deputy head role. The last thing Matt had expected was to be given Dwight’s job. But he wasn’t going to complain. It was his dream job.

He fidgeted with the mouse, trying to calm his excitement, as students, fellows, and members of the public streamed in. There was a purpose about their actions. No one was meandering about looking lost or unsure what they were there for. No, everyone seemed to know exactly what they were coming to hear. The lecture had, after all, been billed as the lecture-event of the year. Posters had popped up all over the campus during the last week, and the announcements all made it clear that some exciting research was going to be revealed. The theatre was packed to capacity and overflowing in a matter of minutes.

Matt stood silently. He kept stealing glances at his watch. He couldn’t bear to look up at the crowds of people, but he could see that the aisles were full, even on the floor immediately in front of the podium students and a couple of press photographers were crouching. Matt understood that there was a TV camera crew up in the AV booth too. His watch ticked over to 1pm. He was allowed to start. He flicked on the projector and looked up to confirm the little green light was glowing. The screen behind him filled with the title slide. It announced: ‘The True Discovery of New Zealand.’ The entire lecture theatre erupted into wild applause. Obviously word had got out. Matt filled with pride and looked up to address the audience. At that moment he saw it. How had he missed it before? A huge smile spread across his face.

Up in the very back row. Right in front of the AV booth. Utterly distracting. That had to be the ugliest purple pullover he had ever seen.