Here’s a little Christmas gift from me to you: the penultimate chapter of The Dagger of Tiamat. Odds are you have forgotten what has come before, so feel free to refresh your memory here. I would love to close out the year with the final chapter, but let’s take this one step at a time. Enjoy!
The Dagger of Tiamat, Part Five
Summer Wright stared at the computer screen. The lines of code stared back. Mocking her.
She’d been coding since high school, almost a decade, so blocks were nothing new. That didn’t make every single one any less annoying than the one that came before it. Summer had designed websites and apps for everyone from local school boards to large retail chains. She even built a blog for her grandfather, giving him a place to write down all of the stories he had told her growing up, from old Apache traditions to war stories from his time in the Marines.
This new project was just something to kill time. Something silly. It was supposed to guess your favorite ‘90s cartoon based on your beverage preferences, but all of the responses kept coming up Angry Beavers.
“This is so annoying,” she sighed. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes before reaching for the bag of stale tortilla chips she always kept in the top drawer of her desk. “I’ve written code that can hijack the entire infrastructure of a city, but I’ve been staring at this stupid thing for over an hour.”
She stuffed a few chips into her mouth and opened a new window on one of her auxiliary monitors. A funny animal video might be just what she needed to shake this block loose. Leaning back, she let herself get lost in a video of a herd of miniature goats frolicking in some kind of child’s playground.
The video was halfway through its third loop when Summer’s phone rang. The Indiana Jones theme ringtone told her who was calling.
“Brendan,” she said. “What’s up, dude? How’s London?”
“London’s great, Summer,” Brendan Finn responded. “Met my old professor and–” he paused– “and an old friend I was not expecting.”
Summer felt a little tug, like suddenly remembering something that had once been very important to her. “An old friend?” she teased.
Brendan sighed. “An old girlfriend, okay?”
“Sorry, dude,” Summer laughed. “Telepath.”
Brendan filled her in on what had been going on in London, from the reappearance of Gwen Sinclair to the fire at the Pierson house and the sudden disappearance of Malcolm Pierson.
“Tell me about this dagger thing again,” Summer finally said.
“Summer, man, look, we don’t really have a lot of time here,” Brendan was talking fast, like he did when he was trying to come up with a plan. “Malcolm is somewhere in the British Isles, possessed by an evil artifact, and with a giant hard-on to destroy the world as we know it.”
“I’m good,” Summer said, “but I don’t think I can find some random British dude I’ve never met before.”
“I don’t need Summer the telepath. I need Summer the hacker.”
“Shit, dude. That I can do.” Summer sat up straight and pulled her keyboard into her lap. She closed the goat video and minimized the window where she had been writing her code. Three new windows immediately popped up across her three monitors. “Okay,” she said, “Malcolm, what? P-I-E-R-”
“Got it.” She studied the lines of text that filled her central monitor. “Oh, there are a lot of Malcolm Piersons in the UK. We gotta narrow this down.” Her fingers danced across her keyboard. “You said he was born in Hertfordshire, right? And he’d be around your age? So, let’s say your year of birth plus or minus five.”
The other screens filled with data. Birth certificates, banking and financial information, real estate holdings, and education records. As Summer narrowed the parameters she was searching, more and more data disappeared from her monitors.
“I know that boom,” Brendan said. “What have you got?”
“I found a Malcolm Pierson, born in Hertfordshire. He’s three years older than you,” Summer started. “The education checks out. He was hospitalized around the time you did your semester in London. And–”
“And he just used his credit card to pay for a hotel room in–” she tapped a few keys– “North Kessock, Scotland. Wherever the crap that is?”
“North Kessock?” Brendan repeated. He said it again and Summer could hear muttering in the background on the other end. “Thanks, Summer. I owe you. Big.”
“Don’t mention it, dude. Bring me back something cool and we’re even.”
Brendan hung up the phone and looked at Ferguson and Gwen. “So, Scotland?”
Gwen nodded. “North Kessock is a village about two miles north of Inverness. A right proper highland village.”
“More important than that,” Ferguson said, waving the others to join him by the table.
He was standing over an open book, one that looked to be over a hundred years old. When Brendan and Gwen joined the professor, they could see the book was open to a map of Scotland. The map was a copy of a much older, hand-drawn map. A few prominent cities were named: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness. The map’s most interesting feature were a series of lines that crisscrossed the country, seemingly at random.
“According to this map,” Ferguson said, jabbing a finger at the page, “three ley lines intersect in a wooded area just north of the village.”
“That’s where Malcolm is going,” Gwen said.
Brendan nodded. “Let’s go punch that psycho loser in the mouth.”