Larry Correia

The books I’ve enjoyed reading the most the last couple years were written by Larry Correia.

Monster Hunter Nation

Okay, for the many of you who I talked into registering to nominate/vote for the Hugos with my relentless onslaught of sad puppies, by now you should have received an email with your PINs for voting. (I just got mine last night).

Now, obviously I want everybody to vote for what they think is the best in each category. I’m not going to tell anybody what to do. If you think some particular book/story is absolutely amazing, then put it up.

What I would like to do with this post is have all of you post in the comments about what you think was totally awesome which came out in 2012. Tell us why you think some work should be nominated.

I’ll post my actual list once I get it filled in.

I am voting for Monster Hunter Legion for best novel, because I am selfish and entirely motivated by…

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The Horror Beneath Pale Mountain – Part Two

Continued from Part One

Abbasi tucked his revolver into his coat and lead the way out into the hall. The brute shoved me and I followed Abbasi.

I waited until we were in the hallway with my apartment door shut before I drew the derringer from my coat pocket. The Persians had been foolish not to search the garment before putting me in it but likely were lulled into complacency by their total domination of our interaction up until that point. The pistol was small and light enough that neither man noticed it in my stiff, heavy overcoat. While it only carried two small caliber bullets it was quite deadly at close range and would, at the very least, even my odds against them. Being in the hallway offered me two advantages: First, the confined space would give them less area in which to avoid my attack once I produced the concealed weapon; second, the tiled hallway floor would be much easier to clean than the carpet in my room.

I spun and lifted the pistol to the brute’s left eye. His hands were coming up when I pulled the trigger. The crack of the report sounded like a hammer on hardwood and I turned back to Abbasi who himself was spinning to face me and pulling his own pistol free of his coat. The derringer was at his right temple when I squeezed the trigger. After verifying both men were dead I sent for the police.

Detective Dawson’s inquiries regarding Abbasi with local universities and the Iranian embassy in New York were met with firm denials. Both Abbasi and the brute were carrying expertly counterfeit identification and were never positively identified. Each man was also wearing a solid gold pendant around his neck. The design was of a triangle that contained five sets of twin emeralds surrounded by three jagged concentric circles. Local and state experts were unable to identify the design’s significance or place of origin but a professor of ancient history from Miskatonic University named Ferdinand Ashley identified the symbol as being a glyph representing an ancient Mesopotamian proto-cult that was active around 2100 BC called the Guardians of Atlas. As far as he knew, no information about them survived beyond their name and the strange symbol.

I sent word to Dr. Keith about my run in with Abbasi and warned him to be on his guard should the Persian have more accomplices on his trail. Early in April I received word back from him explaining that he knew of Abbasi and the man was no more than a common thief acting above his station. He congratulated me on dispatching the villain and suggested I should not concern myself further with the matter. In his correspondence he included an itinerary and travel bookings for me through to Cyprus. He asked me to make one last go of persuading Hawthorne to join us but Hawthorne would not be moved, and once again, urged me not to go myself.

Three weeks later I was in a breezy open room in Cyprus sipping a local desert wine and meeting the remaining members of our expedition over lunch. Professor Russell, soft and potbellied was our geologist. He had a particularly high pitched voice and loose wisps of corn silk colored hair ringing his otherwise bald head. His assistant De Pinto, whose boxer’s nose took an unexpected turn in the middle, was the youngest of our group. He had an athletic build and was generally the most enthusiastic of our group. He spoke with a Brooklyn accent and was wise enough to listen more than he talked which was not the case for our pinch-faced chemist, Bowers who didn’t have a college degree and was “damn proud of it.” Bowers had worked in his field for over twenty-five years and, by his own account, knew more about it than any chemistry professor anywhere. He was fiftyish, lanky and had a habit of checking his wristwatch whenever anyone else was speaking. Our European climbing expert was a mountainous swede named Tanner whose blond hair was so long it reached down to his shoulders.

The man who rounded out our party, and was to become my closest friend during the expedition, was a middle aged medical doctor named Martin Baker. He had a well-waxed moustache that curled up neatly at each end, was graying at the temples and looked to be very fit for a man his age. I knew we would get on famously when, during Bower’s first impromptu lecture to the group on why higher education was a waste of time, Baker looked me in the eye then looked over at Bowers and shook his head ever so slightly.

After lunch Dr. Keith informed us we would be delayed in Cyprus for a week or so while he secured final approvals for our expedition from the central government of the Soviet Union. Bowers grumbled about the inconvenience and we were all assured we would be remunerated for our time and told to enjoy the opportunity to get to know Cyprus and rest before we continued on.

Mr. Norman arrived a day later by way of England accompanied by his granddaughter Evelyn. She was twenty one, beautiful with long black hair and sapphire-blue eyes. She had a cultured air about her and a casual disregard for others that only comes from growing up with privilege. Dr. Keith informed us individually that she would be accompanying us on the expedition as Norman’s personal secretary and biographer. He also told us to keep away from her and that any transgressions would have “serious consequences.”

Dr. Baker and I decided to make the best of the delay by spending our time in cafes indulging in the local fare and enjoying each other’s company. We dined on kebabs and calamari. He drank Ouzo with water while I preferred imported beer. He’d served in the Great War but did not wish to talk about it. Instead, he told me of his exploits in Paris and Amsterdam and how friendly the women were to Americans after the war. He was greatly interested in my shooting skills and we discussed my training methods at length. He enjoyed hunting and was hoping to take part in a big game hunt in Africa after our expedition.

Four days after Keith received final approval for our expedition from the Soviets we were in Azerbaijan in the village of Kuzun which was eight miles north-east of Mount Shahdagh. It was there we completed our party with the addition of several locals who served as guides, porters, cooks, laborers, and translators. In foreign countries, the more locals you have on your payroll, the easier your life will be and they all seemed to be good, hardworking men, many of whom had families of their own. We set up camp west of the village, as there was no suitable lodging available among the native dwellings, and began our final preparations for the expedition.

The peak of Mount Shahdagh was clearly visible from the village. It loomed up over the other mountains in the range and looked like an enormous clenched fist ringed by thick white clouds. The villagers called it “solğun dağ,” – Pale Mountain purportedly because of its light limestone color but after our first supper together, and a good deal of wine, one of our translators confessed the mountain was so named because “pale is the color of death.” The mountain was nearly inaccessible and no one had ever reached the summit which was estimated to be close to thirteen thousand feet above sea level. Higher elevations were only accessible during winter when the many waterfalls that ringed the peak’s sheer cliffs would freeze solid allowing climbers to make their way up the walls of ice.

Dr. Keith’s map showed the mountain surrounded by a large earthen moat and our guides confirmed Shahdagh was encircled by two rings of tall sheer cliffs separated by a deep craggy depression. They explained the mountain was further surrounded by three more nearly concentric rings of marble and limestone outcroppings that demarcated two naturally occurring moats which had long ago been filled in with soft earth. Native folklore warned of ancient gods who slept beneath Pale Mountain and said they had carved the moats into the earth to keep the villagers from disturbing their divine slumber. While none of the natives in our group actually believed these bedtime stories, many in the village were apprehensive about our expedition and refused to trade with us, take our money, or aid us in any way.

After two days of planning and preparation we were ready to begin our expedition proper. We set out for Mount Shahdagh just after dawn the following morning and our caravan reached the outer cliffs around noon. It took us the rest of the day to make our way down into the wide ravine then up the other side. By sundown we had established a base camp at the foot of the Pale Mountain. Our party was in grand spirits and we celebrated the completion of our first day with dinner and much wine. The natives sang us songs from their land and danced around the large campfire. I still remember the faces of the four men we left behind to tend the base camp. They were happy and laughing and full of life and the thrill of adventure as we all grew closer that night, bound by our shared experience. I am truly grateful my final memories of them are happy ones.

The following morning we began our ascent stopping briefly to investigate a cluster of caves at the foot of the mountain. From there we climbed straight on until near sundown when we discovered the high exterior cave entrance that was marked on Dr. Keith’s map. It did our spirits good to be out of the stinging winds that buffeted the mountain. Our guides made camp around a turn in the cave so we were protected from the elements. We opened tins of kerosene and quickly built two camp fires. Professor Maxwell and Dr. Keith busied themselves with studying the artifacts collected from the lower caves earlier in the morning. De Pinto and the natives gathered pails of snow from outside the mouth of the cave. Two were set over the fires and a hasty stew was assembled from dried meat, beans and a few fresh vegetables. Four other pails were set aside to melt so we could refill our canteens in the morning.

After an hour’s rest and two cups of stew I collected and cataloged three vials of cave scrapings. Dr. Keith called an evening meeting of the expedition’s principals to discuss our future. Both Maxwell and Keith were highly animated and the heretofore irritable Norman looked positively giddy which seemed odd to me considering his age and strenuousness of the day’s climb.

Once we were all seated around the fire, Keith spoke. “Gentlemen, our course is set. Professor Maxwell has translated the runes discovered in the lower anterior caves and they confirm what I expected months ago. We are standing above the ruins of the richest and most famous lost city in all of antiquity. Tomorrow we continue on the most important journey in ten millennia. The next leg of our expedition leads us into the very heart of Atlantis.” There was silence as we each pondered his announcement.

Professor Russell cleared his throat then said “Dr. Keith, I’m no expert in Atlantean legend, but wasn’t Atlantis presumed to be somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean?”

Keith nodded. “Plato thought it was west of Gibraltar at the gates of the Mediterranean Sea. Other scholars postulated it was in the middle of the Mediterranean, but their knowledge came from stories passed down orally for over nine thousand years. In Byblos, I discovered written documents from 2000 BC that spoke of this place, and the god of the oceans, and his human bride, and much more.”

Maxwell spoke up pointing to a glyph carved into a round stone. “Look, we found this in the caves this morning. It’s the symbol of Atlas encircled by another symbol that means island – the island of Atlas, known to the modern world as Atlantis.”

“Let me see that,” I said. Maxwell handed me the stone and I regarded the markings carved into it. “Back in the states I was attacked by a Persian man who called himself Abbasi. He wore an ancient symbol similar to this signifying membership in a group called the Guardians of Atlas…”

Keith interrupted, “In 9600 BC Atlantis was the ultimate power in this hemisphere. It had technology rivaling that of our own today, weapons of pure energy, means of transportation the likes of which we can scarcely imagine. Atlantis, where legend has it Poseidon carved a mountain into a castle for his human lover Cleito and ringed it with three giant moats, two eroded away over the millennia but the innermost remained and we ourselves traversed it yesterday to reach this very mountain.”

“But Atlantis was an island. How did it end up under a mountain?” asked Russell.

“We don’t know,” said Maxwell. “It’s one of the mysteries we hope to solve in the caverns below us. But the mountain was mentioned prominently in both Plato’s account, and the scrolls from Byblos.”

“What else haven’t you told us?” said Bowers.

“What?” said Keith. “What do you…”

Bowers stood and took a step towards him “You kept Atlantis to yourself, what else are you keeping?” He turned to Maxwell, “Exactly what else was in those scrolls of yours?” He looked around to the rest of us. “What did they tell you…” he pointed to Russell, “or you?” he pointed to Baker.

Dr. Keith spoke up, “I told each man why I needed him and nothing more. If you’d like an inventory Bowers, then here it is. I told Baker we needed a doctor, Tanner we needed a mountaineer, Russell, I needed an expert geologist because the scrolls speak of vast deposits of gold and emeralds, Strong is here to study the hordes of creatures that reportedly thrived under the mountain ten thousand years ago, Maxwell can read a dozen dead languages, you are here, Mr. Bowers, because of your knowledge of both chemistry and physics which I will need should we discover any ancient weapons or other amazingly advanced artifacts, Mr. Norman is here looking after his investment and I am here, in my capacity as an archeologist to discover the most import lost civilization of all time, and in my capacity as the leaders of this expedition, to make each and every one of us richer than you can possibly imagine.” The two were nearly nose to nose.

Bowers shook his head. “Nice speech, but I don’t buy it. I told you in Chicago I don’t like surprises. I don’t like secrets. It’s a sign of mistrust, or worse, disrespect.”

“You have my respect Mr. Bowers. Each of you does. If you prefer to divorce yourself from our expedition, if any of you do, you can go in peace in the morning. I’ll send a guide to take you back to Kuzun.”

“No more secrets,” said Bowers staring down Dr. Keith.

“I have none,” said Keith.

But the mountain had secrets, deep, dark, and ancient, and we were all at its mercy. Unfortunately for us, it had no mercy for the living. One man alone would make it out of that cave the next morning and he would never be seen again.

Continued in Part Three

First, Climb the Mountain

Want to get better at getting things done? ‘Course you do!

First, climb the mountain.

Do you do the easy stuff first?  STOP IT!!! Climb the mountain first and you’ll get more done. If you begin with the hard stuff and finish it, then you’ll get rewarded with the cherry on top of doing all of the fun and easy stuff afterward and completing the project, then gloating at your co-workers/competition as they struggle to reach their own summits after 4:00 PM –HA!

The problem with doing the easy stuff first is you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something and will often call it a day. Maybe the next morning you’ll move on to something new that’s also easy thinking you’ll come back to climbing the mountains from yesterday later because you just want to get a bunch of stuff done – it feels so good! Eventually you have nothing left to do but climb mountains (stress out), or you’ll get so accustomed to living in the valleys that you just stay there with your head in the lilacs and you abandon your projects without ever making it to their summits.

I hear those of you who read my previous post Thou Shalt Not Plan pointing your fingers at me and yelling “Hypocrite!” And you are absolutely right. The deal is, these amazingly powerful lessons (or worthless opinions – you decide) I’m generously sharing with you require that you apply them in the right context. If you want me to do it all for you, and are willing to pay my punitive (but oh, so worth it) consulting fee, message me.

Now dear friends, what  tips do you have for getting the job done? Leave them in the comments section and help others on their way to happiness.

Ciao

LBE

PS: If you want great advice on building your brand and online platform, check out The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise? in hardcover by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Or, get it for your Kindle.

Thou Shalt Not Plan

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

“Success is what happens in other peoples’ lives while you’re busy making plans.” – L. Britt Ervin

When you listen to successful people talk about how they made it, they usually talk about hard work and overcoming obstacles, making the right connections, trying, failing, trying again, and equal parts luck and labor. What you almost never hear them talk about is finally figuring things out, planning everything, and then succeeding. Usually, they succeeded, and then, if they think about it, they can see how it all fell into place.

Many of us stall out at the planning stage. We feel like if we just had a little more information, if we could just figure out the tricks, and the secrets and the game plan, then we could take a really good crack at being successful, but its hogwash. It’s the success killer. Unless you are embarking on a military invasion or launching a multi-million dollar mass-market product, success comes from doing not from planning.

When I was in college I wanted to be in a band. Starting a band is one of the easiest things in the world to do, especially if you’re at college. I knew hundreds of musicians who all wanted to be in a band but weren’t. Why not? They never said “I’m starting a band. Do you want to be in it?” I said it the first day I moved into the dorm and we had a band up and running before classes started. I didn’t wait to figure it out because it didn’t matter. Starting a band is about deciding and doing not about figuring and planning.

A couple years ago I knew a guy who was making all these plans for how his band would be successful. He was working on the website. He was planning to play at the Palyboy Mansion and have a live webcast that would make them famous, and his band would break big because of all of his plans. At that time his band was just him.

“How many songs do you have written?” I asked.

“Ummm…”

“If Rick Rubin called you today and said he wants you in the studio next week to cut your record, how many songs could you record?”

“Ummmm, none.”

The problem is you can’t make a hit out of a song that doesn’t exist no matter how much you plan ahead of time. You can’t figure out a way to make something happen with art without first making the art.

Music was EASY for me. I didn’t have to plan. Punk Rock and New Wave had been around for years so I had no fear that I had to be as good as Rush or Van Halen. I just had to write cool songs and not give a fuck. So I did. Here’s the secret knowledge you need to be in a successful college band in Indiana circa 1988 in case you want to make your own plans:

A)     Start a band

B)     Write three songs and record a demo

C)     Take the demo to every bar in town and book a show

D)     Play a dorm dance or two and be different

Not much of a plan, is it? When other people were putting together their plans of how they were going to have a band, we just put our band together and started. When everyone else wanted to sound like R.E.M. our only rule was to never sound like R.E.M. We were all strangers, four very different people who just jumped in and did it and within a few weeks we had gigs. Within a year we were packing local clubs about once a month and ended up playing in front of thousands of people. My band was a hit and we did not plan it. Neither did the other popular bands in town.

But like I said, music was easy and I felt no shame in just going for it before I got good. I knew doing it was how you got good.  I did not, however, remember this lesson when I moved into different mediums. Then, I was sure I had to plan it all out. There was something I needed to know and if only I could figure it out, then I could be successful. So I learned and I planned and I figured and I created at a snail’s pace. I wrote and rewrote a screenplay and short stories and I even shot and directed a pretty good pilot for a web series that I ended up not putting on the web for folks to see because I hadn’t figured it all out yet so I waited, of course.

I had to figure out how to get my film financed, I had to figure out how to make everything perfect before getting it out in front of anyone who could say “yes” or “no.” I had to make plans and solve the mystery of it all. But the only mystery was what the hell happened to me and why wasn’t I treating my writing and directing like I treated my band?

It’s simple really. It’s because now, it mattered. I cared how people would react to my stories and my screenplay and web series. I felt like my work wasn’t good enough yet, but someday, with more time and planning, then, I’d be ready and – it was all in my head. Self sabotage. I went from being the guy whose scrappy bar band would not feel intimidated opening for the Stones, to being the guy so worried about failing that he never got his work in front of anyone who could do anything with it.

Earlier this week I posted part one of my series “The Horror Beneath Pale Mountain.” I was planning to wait until the story was done, then I was going to edit and rewrite and polish it. I woke up one morning and said “fuck it, get it out there.” If people like it, I can polish and rewrite it later, or not. If they don’t, then it’ll be a good thing that I didn’t waste any more time on it. I threw out the plan and put my art out there. People showed up, many liked it enough to follow my blog.

Planning to finish your work is very important. Figuring out a time when you can work on it every day is very important. Beyond that, planning and figuring is just waiting for the stars to align and they probably never will.  Plan on finishing and releasing a project every two-three weeks, or months even and your likelihood of making a hit will go way, way up. The more chances you give people to say yes to your work, the more likely you are to get that yes.

Thou shalt not plan. Thou shalt do.

So go and do and let me know what you did.

All the best,

Lad

The Horror Beneath Pale Mountain – Part One

By

L. Britt Ervin

I know you won’t believe my story. No sane man would, unless he too suffered the misfortune of beholding those wretched creatures I saw with my own eyes – and their monstrous god, lurching out of that boiling emerald lake under Pale Mountain.

I can’t say if anyone else survived but I’m certain Doctor Keith is dead and Professor Maxwell along with him, and there were others who met terrible ends even before them. I fled for my life at the apex of the terror and I alone exited on the far side of the mountain. Days had passed since I entered that cursed place and I emerged dehydrated and starving to find our base camp and its inhabitants had vanished without a trace.

“Don’t go,” was Professor Hawthorne’s advice to me last spring. He’d seen Dr. Keith’s map himself and charted the ley lines that intersected under the ancient peak. “Something so powerful buried so deep is not the work of men, nor should they seek it.”

Would that I had heeded his fatherly advice, but Dr. Keith was a skillful persuader and Maxwell’s expert translation of the ancient Akkadian scrolls discovered with the map told of wonders locked away for ages in the subterranean depths.

For my part, I was widely regarded as the foremost expert in evolutionary biology on the east coast of North America, but I had yet to secure tenure at university, as I fancied travel and adventure more than security and comfort. Keith was a prominent archeologist who contacted me with the blessing of Dean Whitcomb whom he’d met at Cambridge as an undergraduate, and I was introduced to him that Saturday at the shooting club after lunch.

Dr. Keith was tall with an athletic build and thick, wavy black hair. His skin was bronzed betraying the fact he conducted his research in the field rather than the library. He told me he was recently returned from Greater Lebanon where he’d taken part in an ongoing excavation, the fruits of which were a map that Professor Hawthorne was currently researching and five scrolls written in ancient Akkadian.

We shot three rounds of skeet then walked the pheasant course while he told me of the expedition he was organizing. I bested Keith at each event which was to be expected given that I was first alternate on the 1920 US Olympic shooting team. He himself was not a bad shot and we collected six pheasants. It was decided we would meet Professor Maxwell and the financial backer of their group, a Mr. Miles Norman, the following Tuesday in Professor Hawthorne’s chambers. There we would discuss the expedition in detail and the possibility of my involvement with the venture.

Tuesday afternoon I was visited by a Persian man of small stature who introduced himself as Professor Javad Abbasi, from the University of Teheran. He said he was hoping to employ me to consult with him regarding their biology curriculum. He gave me his card and I showed him into my modest office to hear him out. He seated himself and drew a stubby Turkish cigarette from a brass case, offered me one, and when I refused, he lit it. The pungent smoke filled the room as we discussed his proposal.

It did not occur odd to me at the time that he was more interested in my immediate plans than in my scholarly expertise as I ascribed his behavior to cultural differences and professional courtesy. I did however think it queer when he inquired if I was familiar with Pierre Montet’s excavation in Byblos and I demurred explaining there was little a biologist could learn from such endeavors. I listened to his proposal then politely declined his offer. He suggested that if I changed my mind I could contact him either by writing to him care of the University of Teheran, or via the Iranian embassy. I thanked him for his offer and showed him out explaining I was late for another appointment.

Dr. Keith and Professor Hawthorne were speaking in raised voices when I arrived for the meeting. They broke off their discussion and I was introduced to Professor Maxwell and Mr. Norman. Maxwell was younger than I expected. He was pale and bespectacled with a physique that was not quite bookish but rather, indoorsy. Norman had a narrow face, oiled, stark white hair and a thin black mustache. He wore an expertly tailored suit and spotless black leather shoes.

Keith’s map hung on the wall. It detailed a route to deep and vast interior chambers under Mount Shahdagh through a network of caves. The remote mountain was west of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan and surrounded by sheer cliffs that kept the site cut off from the rest of the world.

Dr. Keith informed the group that prehistoric cave dwellings discovered at the base of the mountain indicated human habitation stretching back as much as ten thousand years. No scientific team had yet excavated the site and it was under the auspices of doing such work that he had secured the necessary government approvals for his upcoming expedition.

When I inquired why he believed a biologist would be of value on an archeological expedition, Professor Maxwell explained that one of the five scrolls told of great numbers of unimaginable creatures living under the mountain.

“Imagine, gentlemen, a place isolated, unseen and unspoiled for ten thousand years. What manner of living things inhabit such a place?” said Dr. Keith.

Norman spoke up, “And how much will the world pay to see such things on exhibit, or to sample the delicate flavor of their flesh?”

Hawthorne snorted; Norman pointed the tip of his cane at him and croaked “You scoff sir, but what of the Dodo, eaten to extinction by the Dutch?”

“What of it?” said Hawthorne.

“Had two breeding pairs survived for farming, Dodo, not beef might be the meat of choice on American tables today.”

“Are you expecting to corner the cryptozoological foods market, Mr. Norman?” said Hawthorne.

“I am expecting to realize a sizable profit from this enterprise professor, in any and every way I can,” said Norman.

“This is not science.” said Hawthorne shaking his head.

“It is, professor,” said Dr. Keith, “science, and what comes after it.”

“Professor Strong,” said Dr. Keith, “what is your opinion?”

“I spent two years in the Galapagos studying other men’s findings,” I said. “I must admit, the prospect of being the first biologist in that undiscovered land intrigues me.”

“Quite.” said Norman and he ran a finger across his mustache.

Hawthorne turned and walked toward a world map that was hanging on the wall on which he had charted all known and suspected ley lines. Little pins were stuck in it at various locations and red thread stretched between them marking the tracts of arcane energy. “I will not go,” he said then he pointed at the intersection of over a dozen red threads directly over the center of Mount Shahdgah. “This confluence of power is unprecedented. Whatever is buried under that mountain should stay buried.”

“Is that your ‘scientific’ opinion Professor?” said Keith.

“It is the only sane conclusion a rational man could reach,” said Hawthorne.

Keith shook his head and smiled. “And you, Professor Strong?

“I appreciate Professor Hawthorne’s counsel. He is far more knowledgeable about such matters than am I. But, I have seldom been accused of being a rational man, and if now’s the time for men to discover what lies beneath that mountain, then I would be among them.”

The following morning I was awoken by a police officer knocking at my door. There was trouble at the university and he was there to escort me to my office. Two university security guards were found dead around dawn and my office was ransacked. I discovered nothing missing from my things and when interviewed at length by a detective Dawson, I told him of my strange visit from the queer Iranian Professor Abbasi the previous day.

Upon returning home, I found my apartment likewise ransacked. Whatever it was the perpetrator was looking for, he did not find it, as none of my possessions were taken. My collection of firearms was unmolested in their cases as was the tobacco can full of cash I kept in my pantry. Given the nature of the intrusion, and not wishing to involve the authorities further in my business, I decided not to inform the police of the break-in.

I was setting an end table upright when I felt a sudden draft from the hallway. With it came the pungent odor of Turkish tobacco and I was up in a flash and to my gun cabinet.

“That would not be a good idea for your health Mr. Strong.” I heard Abbasi’s voice from behind me. I turned and saw he was pointing a revolver at me. A much taller, athletic looking man with a dark complexion similar to Abbasi’s, entered and shut the door behind him. He had a full mustache and his face was oily and pitted with deep acne scars.

“Professor Strong, if you please. I’ve worked hard for my credentials.” I said as I raised my hands. “What is all this about Abbasi? What are you after?”

“We saw you with the defiler Radford Keith, and we know he came to you in possession of a sacred map and scrolls he’d stolen from a tomb in Byblos,” said Abbasi. He whistled to his accomplice and the man approached, and pushed me down onto the chaise, then drew a curved dagger from beneath his shirt. “Where is the map?”

The brute smelled awful and I gagged as he towered over me. He held the dagger to my throat.

“Please don’t think we won’t kill you to get what we want,” said Abbasi coming closer.

I suspected they intended to kill me whether I cooperated or not, given they had murdered the university guards simply to gain access to my office.

“Had you asked me about this specifically yesterday it might have saved you some bother,” I answered trying to lean back out of the stench. “I met Dr. Keith for the first time on Saturday past. He was hoping to employ me on a future expedition. I believe I’ve seen the map you’re looking for, yes, but it was not entrusted to me, nor was I asked my professional opinion on it, because, as I explained to you yesterday, I am a biologist and cartography is outside my field of expertise.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to make me believe you,” he said, then nodded to the brute who immediately struck me in the jaw. Stars exploded behind my eyelids and I felt the room spin. A moment later the brute had me by the hair and was yanking my head up.

“Where is the map?”

“I can take you to it,” I said, eyes still closed. I felt the freight train explode into my face again and everything went sideways.

“Where?”

I was pulled up by the hair again. “It’s at the university and you’ll need me to get you through security. The fewer bruises I have the easier it will be.” I heard a whistle and the brute pulled me to my feet. Abbasi took my hat and overcoat from the rack and the brute bundled me into them.

Abbasi sneered at me. “Cry out or betray me and you die.”

Continued in Part Two