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Eye on the Pyramid

In the second volume of his Weird Adventures, Archeologist Charles Winterbottom's desperate quest to find the fable Eye on the Pyramid sets him on a collision course with Baron Frankenstein, Captain Nemo, the Wicked Witch of the West, and a certain famous Wizard on the Yellow Brick Road, in Atlantis, at Graceland Cemetery, and in the dungeon beneath a Mad Scientist's Laboratory. A hilarious send up of Dan Brown and James Rollins, the Oz canon, Jules Verne, and so much more. Steampunk has never been funnier. For lovers of Diskworld, Xanth, the Mythadventures and so much more. Available at Amazon.

EXCERPT

Thursday evening was poker night. Once a week, Charles Winterbottom would get together with his fellow archeologists for a friendly game of ten-dollar-limit seven-card stud. Since the players were meeting at his apartment that particular evening, Charles felt lucky because his hot, but witless, blonde girl friend, Honey Bunn would be present. He considered her and his floppy wide brim leather hat good luck charms.

Everything was ready. He had purchased four brand new packs of cards, vacuumed the apartment including the felt on the poker table, stocked the refrigerator with dark beer and had on hand plenty of pretzels and potato chips. He donned a newly acquired black suit and a string tie, which made feel as though he was the consummate riverboat gambler.

He smashed his hat on his head and stood admiring the affect in the mirror. "What do you think, Honey? Don't I look snazzy in my new digs?"

She snuggled up to him. "Oh, my darling, you're so amazing in that outfit. Are you going to win us lots of money tonight?"

"Of course, my dear. How can I lose with you by my side?"

Moments later someone knocked on their door. "Who is it?" asked Honey Bunn.

"It's Heinrich, sweet thing."

Honey hurried to open the door. Smiling up at her was short balding Doctor Heinrich Schmidt. Behind him stood his servant, Jeeves. Jeeves was an android.

Honey kissed Heinrich on his bald head. "Please come in, Heiny ... and you too, Jeeves."

After the pair entered, Jeeves went directly to the poker table and sat down. It said, "Let us get the game started as quickly as possible. I am anxious to take your money."

Charlie shook Heinrich's hand. "Welcome Heiny, to my humble abode. Your boy must feel lucky tonight."

Jeeves glared at him. "I'm not a boy and can speak for myself. Luck has nothing to do with it. I'm an expert in poker just as I'm an expert in whatever I do. It is all a matter of downloading the proper software."

Heiny said, "And you keep me broke with all those online purchases. I don't know why I keep you around."

Honey said, "Now, now, gentlemen. You mustn't quarrel. Poker night should be a fun night."

"You are quite correct, sweet thing. It would be even more fun if you would join us in a game of strip poker."

She giggled deliciously. "Oh Heiny, you say the naughtiest things."

This flirtatious banter was interrupted by the arrival of Professor Boris Ambitchev. Boris was a stern looking man with bushy eyebrows, a well-trimmed beard and thinning hair and a trace of a Balkan accent. He was reputed to be a genius. He claimed that he gained his intelligence by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Most took this as being a metaphor for studying hard. In truth, he meant it literately. He had bitten into that particular succulent fruit when he and Winterbottom had explored the Garden of Eden.

His host glanced at his watch. "I'm surprised that Aaron isn't here yet. He's usually very punctual. Being involved with time travel, he's extremely aware of the passage of time."

The Aaron he referred to was Doctor Aaron Gamostein, the Noble prize winning physicist who discovered the chronoton and who had built a time machine in which he had sent Winterbottom back to the Greece of Alexander the Great.

Winterbottom's cell phone began to play The Wanderer. "Hello. Aaron? You won't? Okay. We'll miss you. Good bye."

"That was Aaron. He won't be able to make it tonight. Some sort of crisis at his laboratory."

Jeeves said, "In that case, let us get started."

"Might as well."

The men took seats around the table. Honey Bunn brought out chips, pretzels and ashtrays and served each man a bottle of beer. She sat between Charles and Heinrich.

As the men and the android played, they conversed, except for Jeeves, who was silent unless someone directed something to it or to place a bet or show his hand. The men mostly spoke about their adventures in the field as archeologists. Heinrich also had a host of bawdy jokes that he told as well as any standup comedian. Honey Bunn giggled loudly at each punch line.

After had the evening progressed a while, before Heinrich threw a dollar bill into middle of the table to place a bet, he told the following joke: "A man went into a bar and noticed that when other men gave money to the bartender, a fine looking young woman would be brought out for him. The couple would then go upstairs. The man asked the man next to him, 'What's the deal? How come when those guys gave the bartender money, he brought out a woman for them?' His neighbor said, 'It's the way they fold the dollar bill they gave him.' He showed the man how to fold the bill."

Heinrich folded the dollar he had in his hand. He showed it to Honey Bunn. She giggled so hard that she had to hold on to him to keep from falling out of her chair. "That's amazing, Heiny. I love it."

Charlie was getting more and morose, not only was he losing at poker, but Honey Bunn was paying more attention to Heiny than him. "Let me see that."

Heinrich handed him the folded bill and pointed to the area where, due to the way the dollar was folded, the words, "gal tender and private" appeared.

"Ha, ha," laughed Charlie not very enthusiastically.

The bill was passed all around the table. Jeeves was amused but complained that the game was being held up. Boris made no comment and handed the dollar back to Heinrich, who threw it into the pot. Two deals later, he won his dollar back as well as several others.

"You know," said Boris in his ponderous way, "there's much archaic symbolism on a dollar bill. Many believe that either the Masons or the Illuminati had a lot to do with that. One side of the Great Seal shows an ancient Egyptian pyramid, beneath a triangle that contains a glowing eye. The shining eye in the triangle is a common Masonic symbol, although some Masonic sources deny this. George Washington, who was a Freemason, wore the All Seeing Eye emblazoned boldly on his Masonic apron. The front of the Great Seal displays an Eagle, which is also an important symbol in Masonic traditions. The use of the blazing eye in the triangle motif, surrounded by rays of light is the official seal of the paranormal organization Ordo Templi Orientis, which confirms the occult significance of this symbol.

"The sacred number thirteen is encoded in the Seal, in the bundle of thirteen arrows, the thirteen stripes on the shield, and the thirteen stars of the constellation that can be joined to form the Star of David shining above the Eagle's head. The reverse, sometimes referred to as the spiritual side of the seal, contains the thirteen-step pyramid with the year 1776 in Roman numerals on the base, heralding the beginning of the new American era."

Charlie yawned.

Honey Bunn said, "How amazing. I love hearing about the occult. It's awesome that paranormal stuff is on a dollar bill."

Heinrich said, "I once heard that the Eye on the Pyramid is more than a symbol, that it's an actual ancient magical artifact hidden somewhere by a secret society so secret that very few even know its name."

Honey Bunn clapped her hands together. "Wouldn't it be hoot to find it? You guys are archeologists. Why don't you go looking for it?"

Heinrich chuckled. "How would we know where to look? It may be simply a myth and doesn't really exist."

Jeeves said, "Are we playing poker or gassing about some mythical eye on a pyramid? I bet two bucks."

Winterbottom had a busted straight and folded. The other two men threw in their two dollars each.

Boris's forehead crinkled, and he got a faraway look in his eyes. After a couple of minutes, he said, "Y'know, that myth is so prevalent that it might be worthwhile to look into it. Any archeologist who found that particular item would have his fortune made. It would be like finding the Ark of the Convenient."

That statement perked up Charlie's ears. His fortune could use a little perking up. He was slowly losing what little that was left of it in the poker game. "Why don't the three of us go after this Eye on the Pyramid?"

"What about me?" asked Jeeves. "I could load software to make myself into an archeologist too. In fact, I think we should make a contest of it. Let us wager a thousand bucks each. The one who finds this mythical Eye on the Pyramid first keeps the proceeds."

Charlie thought, easy for you to say. You've just beat our asses off at poker.

Heinrich said, "I'm in."

Boris said, "I agree to the wager."

Honey Bunn said, "What about you, Charlie? Don't you want to win a grand each from these guys."

"Sure, sure. I'm in." He began to sweat. What if one of the others actually found the thing? I don't have a thousand dollars in the bank and no way of making it. In fact, I'll probably have to declare bankruptcy when the credit card companies catch up to me. But then he thought, I don't have anything to worry about. The whole business is simply some kind of urban myth spread by conspiracy theorists.

After a while the conversation was forgotten as Jeeves piled up ones, five, tens and twenties. The trouble with playing poker with an android was that it had an absolute perfect poker face, knew the exact odds of getting a card to make a hand, and instantly memorized every card dealt. In addition, it handled the cards like a stage magician, shuffling and riffling them expertly when it was its turn to deal. Who would know whether it was able to manipulate which cards went to each player.

By two in the morning clouds of smoke hung over the table. Jeeves stack had grown to the point it threatening to spill over, while Charlie was down to his last ten singles. The current pot contained a couple of hundred dollars. Boris was the dealer. All the cards except one had been dealt. Jeeves had four cards to a straight showing, seven through ten. The way he was betting, it was almost certain that he had filled. On the other hand, he was an expert bluffer. Boris had a pair of aces and king showing. Heinrich's four cards were all diamonds. Charlie had two deuces showing and another in the hole. Hence, the betting had been lively.

Boris dealt the last hole card. Charlie flipped up a corner. He held back from smiling. It was the fourth deuce.

Heinrich tossed in two dollars. Charlie saw the bet. Jeeves raised five dollars. Boris folded. Heinrich saw the five and raised two. To call, Charlie needed to put in seven of the eight he had left. Jeeves raised another five dollars. Heinrich threw in another five. Charlie said, "I'll have to write an IOU. I don't have any more cash in the house."

Jeeves said, "No IOUs. That goofy hat of your must be worth six bucks. Throw in the hat and that last dollar, and we'll see who has the best hand."

Charlie hated to part with his hat. He'd had it for many years. It had been on many adventures with him through rain and sun and snow and fog. Nonetheless, he was confident that he had the winning hand. "Okay." He tossed his last dollar into the middle of the table, took off his hat and covered the pot with it.

Jeeves said, "Very well, gentlemen, time to show your cards. You first, Heiny."

Heinrich showed that he really had a flush.

Charlie showed his four deuces and reached to rake in the pot.

"Not so fast. I haven't shown my cards."

"So what. Even if you filled your straight, four of a kind beats."

Jeeves smiled. He turned over his hole cards slowly one at a time. Seven of spades, seven of diamond, seven of clubs. With the seven of hearts that was showing, it made four sevens -- the winning hand. He snatched Charlie's hat and stuck it on his own round dome and pulled in the money.

Charlie's mouth dropped open, stunned. Not only had he lost all his money, but his lucky hat.

The men got up from the table. Heinrich said, "It seems Winterbottom has no more money. Besides it's very late. See you fellows next Thursday."

Boris said, "What about the Eye on the Pyramid?"

Jeeves said, "Since it is to be a contest about who finds it first, I think we need to each search for it in our own inimitable way."

"I agree," said Heinrich. He turned to Honey Bunn. "It's been a great pleasure sitting near such a lovely as you, my dear."

"Oh Heiny, you say the nicest things." She kissed him on the lips.

Charlie noticed that he patted her fanny at the same time, and she did not object. He wondered what was going on between those two. She had been flirting with Heiny all evening.

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